The Coronavirus has now impacted the WNBA as the league announced on April 3 that training camp and the season tip off will be postponed due to COVID-19. While the start of the WNBA season is still shrouded in uncertainty, the WNBA Draft will be broadcasted on ESPN on April 17 at 7:00 EST.
The Los Angeles Sparks are still focused on having a contending season regardless of the obstacles they face.
If other leagues resume their season, this could lead to the Sparks, Lakers, Kings and Clippers hosting games in the Staples Center all at once; the Sparks are anticipating the scenario, according to assistant general manager Michael Fischer.
“Our Team, Coaching Staff and Front Office, is going to be prepared whenever the league gives the green light,” he said. “It’s about being the most prepared team and staying connected.”
In March, Sparks guard Sydney Wiese became the first WNBA player to contract the Corona Virus. Fisher noted that her condition should not slow her preparation for the season.
“She was doing pretty good and in good spirits because that’s who Sydney is,” he said. “Regardless of situation she finds a way to consistently be herself and that’s what we love about her.”
During the free agency period, the Sparks made moves to fill their roster with more experienced players.
In February, the Sparks acquired four-time WNBA champion Seimone Augustus who spent the past 14 seasons with the Minnesota Lynx. She brings a career average of 15.9 points per game and 48 percent shooting from the field. Fisher was looking for a player that understood the importance of winning, leading him to pursue Augustus.
“It was amazing to hear her commitment to being part of something bigger than her,” he said. “We really wanted to put a team together that was in full 100% commitment with what was best for the group.”
After winning a championship with the Washington Mystics, guard Kristi Toliver also signed with the Sparks. She helped the Sparks win the WNBA title in 2016. She shot at 42 percent from the field and behind the arc that season.
“I wanted to make sure I spoke with Candace (Parker) and Nneka (Ogwumike) specifically during this process because those were two core pieces form the past,” Toliver said. “We were on the same page and had the same vision for what could possibly be moving forward and having another shot at winning a championship together.”
The Sparks traded rookie center Kalani Brown for guard Brittney Sykes and center Marie Gülich from the Dream. Sykes averages 11.3 points and 4.1 rebounds per game after three seasons with the WNBA. In 2018, she aided the Dream in reaching the WNBA Semifinals, starting in all five games that series.
“We wanted to have a team that has players that can play at every position but also the right players in terms of balance,” Fisher said.
Gülich played for the Phoenix Mercury her rookie year, she became Co-Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year during her senior season at Oregon State.
“It was hard to lose Kalani but, I feel like Gülich can do the same type of thing that Kalani can do while getting up and down the court,” Fischer said.
While being separated due to the pandemic, the team communicates through group chat and WhatsApp. They plan to send players film and resources to keep the players active.
“The biggest piece of the puzzle is the mental aspect of preparing for a season,” Fisher said. “And that has been majorly disrupted.”