Just because the Lakers and the Clippers are in the off-season, playing in the summer leagues in Las Vegas, doesn’t mean that basketball is extinct at Staples Center.
The Sparks, L.A’s representative in the WNBA, which is by far the most successful women’s sports league in the U.S., have been among the elite teams since their start in 1997, and this year is no exception as at the season’s halfway point – the WNBA has a 34-game schedule – they are currently 12-5 and a game and a half behind the Minnesota Lynx in the Western Conference.
Under second year coach Carol Ross, who won the WNBA’s Coach of the Year Award in 2012, the Sparks won in their last outing, beating the Seattle Storm 65-64 on July 20, Alana Beard hitting a jump shot with 10.2 seconds left to win it.
Guards Kristi Tolliver and Lindsay Harding and forward Nneka Ogwimike are among the team’s leading scorers.
Tolliver is averaging 14.8 points per game in the backcourt while at point guard, Harding averages 5.4 assists to go with her 12.2 points.
Ogwimike is doing well with her 14 points per contest at forward, but one other Spark is clearly the leader, star, and face of this franchise…
Candace Parker, the former all-universe player from Tennessee, leads the teams in points (17.7) and rebounds (8.9) per game, and it has become crystal clear over the past few seasons that as Parker goes, so go the Sparks.
Now in her sixth year in the league, injuries suffered by Parker in 2010 and 2011 led to disappointing, sub-.500 years, while 2012 marked a decided improvement as with Parker healthy, the team finished 24-10 and earned a number two seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
As an illustration of her star power, Parker was voted as a starter for the WNBA All-Star Game on July 27, getting the most votes among Western Conference players in the process.
The next game for the Sparks is on Thursday, July 25, when they face Seattle again at Staples Center at 12:30 p.m.
For fans in L.A. who don’t care much for baseball and are starved for basketball in the summer, the Sparks are good providers, satisfying folks with their play as they have won seven out of their last eight games; I certainly recommend that they are checked out.
For information on getting tickets, go to the Sparks’ website, www.wnba.com/sparks/