The 2020 WNBA season was like no other season. Despite competing in a bubble and fighting for Social Justice issues, the Los Angeles Sparks finished third in the league with a 15-7 overall record.
The Sparks had an early exit after losing to the Connecticut Sun in the second round of the Playoffs, but members of the team made notable accomplishments. All Star center Candace Parker won WNBA Defensive Player of the Year and a spot on the All-WNBA First Team. Forward Nneka Ogwumike won the 2020 Kim Perrot Sportsmanship award, guard Brittney Sykes earned a spot on the WNBA All-Defensive Second Team, and guard Chelsea Gray helped raise almost $12,000 through her Assist For Equality initiative.
Through it all, Sparks head coach Derek Fisher mentioned how he was proud of his squad and their achievements.
“There was so much more that our players were carrying than basketball,” Fisher said. “I think overall they deserve a lot more credit for what we’re still able to do and get done.”
Although their season is over, the Sparks have not had a group meeting to talk about the season or about the future of the franchise. Fisher noted those discussions will happen in the coming weeks.
“I’ve even tried to allow our players in a lot of ways to leave Bradenton, get home safely,” Fisher said. “Kind of go through the process of transition and decompression that comes with leaving a situation like that.”
The 2020 season brought several challenges; as president of the WNBPA, Ogwumike had to tend to the needs of all players in the Wubble. Most of their games took place every other day, some games tipping off at 10:00P.M. These instances reminded Fisher of his NBA experience when it came to load management and creating shoot arounds.
Early in the season, he had to adjust details like types of pregame shooting drills and workouts as well as the times they arrived for games.
“We went on a nine-game winning streak after making some of those adjustments,” Fisher said. “It really became more of watching video, talking about things, walking through things on the court … saving all our energy for the games only.”
Conserving energy and watching more film helped the Sparks stay healthy throughout the season. Fisher noted how he did not want the players to sustain injuries that could jeopardize their careers. He credited Sparks director of sports medicine Courtney Watson for keeping the team healthy.
“We didn’t really have any of the overuse type injuries that we saw take place around the league this year,” Fisher said. “One of our objectives going into this season is that we had a responsibility to our women to make sure that they did not come out of this season broken into pieces.”
Rookie guard Te’a Cooper contributed 7.0 points and 2.0 assists per game, but the fact that she filled the spot of guard Kristi Toliver makes it uncertain if she will return to Los Angeles next season.
Center Reshanda Gray filled in for Chiney Ogwumike, Fisher considered Gray to be “a high-quality person” who brought a positive disposition to the team. Fisher mentioned how roster construction for next season depends on the free agent players.
“We have a whole lot of spots and spaces to figure out and fill,” he said. “we’re not completely in control of how these things play out in terms of roster reconstruction.”
After finishing his second year with the Sparks, Fisher has a 37-19 overall record. This makes him the fifth winningest coach in franchise history.