Focus Is On 2023 As Sparks Try To Put Frustrating 2022 Season Behind Them
For only the second time in history, the Los Angeles Sparks failed to reach the WNBA postseason in back-to-back years.
One year after finishing with a disappointing 12-20 record, the Sparks finished with an even worse win-loss total of 13-23. Only the Indiana Fever (5-31), finished with a worse record than Los Angeles.
On June 7, the Sparks fired five-time NBA Champion Derek Fisher as head coach. Fred Williams finished the season as head coach, but he left for an associate head coaching position at Auburn University.
The Sparks showed hopes of a turnaround when they defeated the Atlanta Dream 85-78 on July 21 to improve their record to 12-14. But a six-game losing streak followed, including frustrating losses to the New York Liberty in back-to-back days (102-73 on Aug. 2 and 64-61 on Aug. 3).
Those two losses were especially costly for Sparks, because New York (16-20) claimed the No. 7 seed. Had the Sparks won those two games, they would’ve finished 15-21 which would’ve been enough to sneak into the postseason.
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Among the four teams remaining, the DraftKings sportsbook lists the Las Vegas Aces as the +225 favorites to win this year’s WNBA Championship. They are followed by the Connecticut Sun (+250) and then the Chicago Sky (+275). The Seattle Storm have the lowest odds of the remaining four teams at +300.
Seven-time WNBA All-Star and potential future Hall of Famer Nneka Ogwumike was far-and-away the Sparks’ best player in 2022. She averaged 18.1 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game.
Ogwumike was the only Sparks player who averaged north of 14 points per game; center Liz Cambage averaged 13.0 on the year to go along with 6.4 rebounds and 2.1 assists per contest.
Ogwumike is still in her playing prime at age 32, and she knows what it takes to win. She was instrumental in helping the Sparks win the 2016 WNBA Championship over the Minnesota Lynx. So the Sparks’ next head coach can at least take comfort in knowing they have a bonafide franchise star to build the offense around for next season.
The Sparks have a long winning history, so it’d be a surprise if they ultimately dove into a rebuilding phase for next year.
Rather, the goal should be to find a new head coach and general manager that can maximize the remaining prime years of Ogwumike, Cambage and Brittney Sykes. After all, the Sparks were oh-so-close to reaching the postseason despite a down year.
Sparks’ Brittney Sykes Earns 2022 WNBA All-Defensive Second Team Nod
Los Angeles Sparks guard Brittney Skyes turned in one of the best defensive seasons in recent WNBA memory, and her efforts did not go unnoticed.
On Tuesday, the WNBA announced that Sykes was named to the All-Defensive Second Team. Alyssa Thomas (Connecticut), Ezi Magbegor (Seattle), Jonquel Jones (Connecticut), and Gabby Williams (Seattle) were the other All-Defensive Second Team selections.
A’ja Wilson of the Aces was named the WNBA Defensive Player of the Year and to the WNBA All-Defensive First Team. The rest of the first team consisted of Breanna Stewart (Seattle), Natasha Cloud (Washington Mystics), Ariel Atkins (Washington) and Sylvia Fowles (Minnesota Lynx).
The 28-year-old Sykes averaged 3.7 rebounds, 2.0 steals and 0.7 blocks per game in 32 regular season games. Though Sykes is renowned for her strong defense, she was also effective on offense, averaging 12.7 points (second-best mark of her career) and 3.7 assists per game.
The Newark, New Jersey native was also named to the WNBA All-Defensive Second Team in 2020 as well as the All-Defensive First Team last season. For her career, Sykes has averaged 11.1 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game.