The Sparks season ended on Aug. 14 with a blowout loss against the Dallas Wings, 116-88. Immediately after, Brittney Sykes, Nneka Ogwumike, and interim head coach Fred Williams had their exit interviews. The rest of the team had their exit interviews the following day. With such a disappointing and tumultuous season there was a lot to talk about. Here are five key takeaways from those interviews.
This season was difficult
Saying this season was difficult for the Sparks is the understatement of the year. They had coaches step down, superstars bought out, and key players being DNP’d, with the only explanation given being it was a “coach’s decision”. Many players talked about this during their exit interviews but Sykes, a.k.a. Slim, went in-depth on the topic and got emotional talking about it.
“This season was hard, this is probably the first time I cried all season from everything but just making sure I got up every day and made sure I came to work cause I know that my teammates deserve that, and my biggest thing is I’m never going to disrespect the game.”
Slim can rest assured that she did not “disrespect the game.” She ended the season on a high, scoring a career-high 35 points, and now has 2,000 career points and 200 career steals. In a tough season filled with adversity, Sykes found a way to bring her best self to the team.
Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike are here to stay
Nneka Ogwumike is an unrestricted free agent and was the best player on the Sparks in 2022. Given her superstar talent, she likely would have plenty of suitors if she wanted to leave Los Angeles. However, she threw cold water on the notion that she was even considering leaving the Sparks.
“I would love to be back,” she said. “I would describe this season as living in a house you didn’t build. So next year we can build our house. I know the floor plan next year.”
The Sparks offseason is in full swing, but with the WNBA playoffs still in the middle of happening it’ll be a while before the public gets to see those floor plans. Things can always change. N. Ogwumike wouldn’t be the first player to express an intention to stay and ultimately leave, but, for now, Sparks fans can rest easy that their superstar is here to stay.
C. Ogwumike made it clear that she and Nneka will be together regardless next season.
“All I’m saying is I go where my sister goes. We are a two-for-one at this point.”
Given what Nneka has stated, it seems safe to assume both Chiney and Nneka will return to the Sparks next season. There are many question marks on what the Sparks will need to do this offseason, but locking up this sister duo is a great foundation to build off.
Fewer players going overseas
Due to a shorter season and unsatisfactory pay, many WNBA players go overseas to earn a living and play basketball during the offseason. However, this year appears to be different. With Brittney Griner still being detained in Russia, it seems many Sparks players are opting not to go overseas this year. Of the 12 Spark players, only three are guaranteed to play overseas: Jasmine Walker (unsure where), Kianna Smith (South Korea), and Rae Burrell (Australia). Two others are open to the idea but not committing either way (Katie Lou Samuelson and Olivia Nelson-Ododa). This starkly contrasts with years prior when at least half of the team would be playing overseas. We don’t have the final numbers for the entire league, but it will be interesting to see how many WNBA players opt to play overseas this year versus last year. If the Sparks roster is any indication, expect a drop in WNBA players balling overseas in 2022-23.
Lexie Brown and Katie Lou can be Splash Sisters
Lexie Brown and Katie Lou Samuelson were nothing short of spectacular from beyond the arc for the Sparks. Samuelson led the team with 159 three-point attempts and shot an impressive 35 percent. Brown was second in 3-point attempts with 133 and had an even better percentage, shooting 39 percent from deep. Brown mentioned playing alongside Samuelson and what that experience was like.
“It was really fun to finally be able to show people that I’m really an elite shooter … Having an elite player like Katie Lou next to me who’s also kind of going through the same thing as me you know trying to solidify her place on a team in this league you know we were really supportive of each other and with each other and I really love being out there with her.”
With Samuelson already under contract for next season, the Sparks just have to bring back Brown if they want to keep these dynamic shooters together. And with 3-point shooting on the rise in the WNBA, it might be a good idea to keep your two best shooters on the team.
Change is coming
As much as one might like these players, an iconic franchise like the Los Angeles Sparks cannot miss the playoffs twice and run it back. The team only has six players under contract and with interim head coach Fred Williams heading to Auburn, the Sparks have no coach or general manager. Whoever comes in will want to change things up and establish a new identity and culture for the team. A long offseason is now underway and we currently have more questions than answers, but one thing is certain: The 2023 Sparks will look a lot different than the 2022 Sparks and for most fans, that will be a welcome change.