Los Angeles Sparks head coach Derek Fisher is enforcing a versatile, position-less style of play and built a roster that compliments it. This is the driving force of a new era for the L.A. Sparks.
The franchise recently traded first-round pick Stephanie Watts to acquire Gabby Williams from the Chicago Sky. Due to her commitment to the French National Team, Williams will be put on the suspended list for the 2021 season.
The roster is a mix of youth and experience that made training camp good for several players. Fisher wanted the Sparks to have versatility on the wing, his players not only have a diverse skillset, but compete with speed.
“[Fisher] wanted to continue his philosophy of playing fast,” said forward, Nneka Ogwumike. “We have younger players, we have swift vets and I think that I see that unveiling itself not just in the selection of who we have in training camp, but also in how we play in practice.”
After being named on the 2020 All Defensive Second Team, guard Brittney Sykes has set her sights for a higher honor. With 1.5 steals per game, she came in 15th in the WNBA in the category last season.
“The goal is to get first team and Defensive Player of the Year and I say that with my chest because I believe in myself,” Sykes said. “I know that I have a great team behind me, I had a great team last year behind me when it came to defensive presence.”
Rookie forward Jasmine Walker led the Sparks with 23 points in their final preseason game against the Las Vegas Aces. She sank seven three-pointers in the contest. Walker calls basketball her “golden ticket.”
“Basketball has done a lot for me,” she said. “I’m gonna take it and run with it and I’m gonna be the best I can be.”
Center Chiney Ogwumike has been working on her three-point shot and scored the first three-pointer in the Sparks’ first scrimmage. Chiney noted how she is not afraid to miss shots in the name of evolving into a better athlete.
“The game will force you to grow and those that hesitate, those who are resistant will get left behind,” Chiney said. “Being the only member of the LA Sparks that has been here full time, I’ve been able to build a relationship with [Fisher].”
The Sparks consist of a various group of diverse personalities that have a good chemistry with each other. Guard Te’a Cooper recently developed a friendship with guard Erica Wheeler.
“Me and Erica got the same personality,” Cooper said. “She’s a pleasure to be around, she’s fun, she’s relatable.”
As well as maintaining a competitive atmosphere during training camp, the franchise aims to instill a family environment throughout the season. According to forward Nia Coffey, no one is pressuring her to be anything other than herself, from the coaching staff to the players.
“Walking in our first team workout, you felt the energy, you felt the positivity,” said forward Nia Coffey. “It’s been absolutely amazing, it’s definitely a shift from past training camps that I’ve been a part of.”