Although they did not reach the Playoffs, the Los Angeles Sparks franchise considers this season to be successful as they continue their journey under new management.
Sparks guard Jordin Canada came in second for Most Improved Player voting and was named on the WNBA All-Defense First Team. Canada led the league with 2.3 steals per game and broke the franchise record in single-season steals with 86. She also helped the Sparks lead the league in steals.
“I thought we had potential to be one of the best teams in the league,” Canada said. “I think we did prove that at a certain point in the season going on a six-game winning streak.”
Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike had an MVP-caliber season, coming in sixth in the WNBA in points per game with 19.1. Her efforts would make her reach second in Sparks franchise history in scoring.
Ogwumike noted how happy she was to work with her teammates—calling them a “beautiful group up athletes;” She also admired their work ethic.
“The biggest part of why I love playing is being with teammates and also supporting them,” Ogwumike said. “I’m not able to do a lot of what I do without the teammates that I have past, present, and future.”
Briefly after giving birth to her son Legend, forward Dearica Hamby decided to play this season, ultimately competing in all 40 games. She averaged 8.9 points and 5.9 rebounds per game while shooting at 43.1 percent from the field.
“Things are unpredictable with birth … since the day I found out I was pregnant, that was my expectation honestly to play this season. When the trade happened, I dialed it back,” Hamby said. “Despite how I felt and rather it was to prove me wrong, prove other people wrong, I did it. And even when I sprained my ankle two days later, I was like I’m gonna tape it up and I’m gonna play.”
Sparks guard Layshia Clarendon served as a WNBPA vice president for a stint during Ogwumike’s presidency. She noted how being in leadership during the last CBA was a highlight and how their respective roles in the WNBPA showed their level of character and care for WNBA players.
“You’re working like a CEO sometimes during that CBA negotiation in the Bubble season to really fight for the rights for every player in this league,” Clarendon said. “It’s different to be someone’s teammate and get to be behind the scenes with them and [Ogwumike] is an amazing human being, the most humble leader.”
Injuries and Illness would allow the Sparks to only have 10 players in the lineup for the whole season. Despite this, the Sparks paced the WNBA in defense after the All-Star break and the team was above the 500 mark when Ogwumike and Clarendon competed together. On August 19, the Sparks defeated the Las Vegas Aces 78-72, ruining their perfect home record.
The Sparks are optimistic, and they hope that next year’s season will entail a deep playoff run.
“We went through a lot this season but we stuck together,” said center Azurá Stevens. “I’m proud of the way that our team stuck together with everything, but that’s definitely the goal is for us not only make the playoffs but make a pretty good run in Playoffs next year.”