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Sparks’ Chennedy Carter returns after Fred Williams’ change of heart

Chennedy Carter missed four straight games due to a “coach’s decision” before returning Thursday. (Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Los Angeles Sparks will miss the WNBA playoffs for the second straight season after falling to the Connecticut Sun on Thursday night.

The loss came in the penultimate game of a tumultuous season, and the postgame comments surrounding Chennedy Carter underscored the tension surrounding the Sparks.

Carter had missed the Sparks’ previous four games due to a “coach’s decision,” interim coach Fred Williams said. The guard returned to the lineup Thursday after what Williams had what he described as a change of heart, but her return did not prevent the Sparks (13-22) from slipping out of the postseason race.

After the loss, Carter was asked about what contributed to Williams’ decision to put her on the court.

“I think that’s a conversation for after the season,” she said after a pause. “So, no comment.”

The Sparks fired head coach and general manager Derek Fisher in June, and then-assistant Fred Williams took over as interim head coach.

In July, Liz Cambage left Los Angeles, agreeing to a contract divorce with the team following reports of locker room turmoil.

Cambage joined the Sparks via a $170,000, one-year deal ahead of the 2022 season. The move to acquire the Australian star came after a controversial trade that sent Erica Wheeler and the team’s 2022 second-round pick and 2023 first-round pick to Atlanta in exchange for Carter.

While some members of the Sparks’ leadership team opposed the trade for Carter, Fisher “convinced them to go for it,” The Athletic reported. Carter had played just 11 games with the Dream during the 2021 season, with the team suspending the star guard following a locker-room confrontation.

In Los Angeles, Carter has averaged 15 minutes per game, taking the court for 21 minutes Thursday after being held out of the team’s previous four matchups. Ahead of the game, Williams cited a conversation he had with Carter in his decision to put her on the floor.

“There are certain things that her and I talked about at shootaround that we both came to a comprise on and so it’s time to move on,” he said. “I felt that she’s a player who has shown the last few games to support her teammates and everyone so we will get her out there and see what she can do.”

After the game, while Carter declined to comment on Williams’ decision-making process, her teammate Brittney Sykes had some thoughts on the matter. Sykes shared her takeaways while sitting next to Carter in the postgame press conference.

“I’m very proud of (Chennedy Carter) and the adversity that she’s been through this season,” Sykes told reporters. “She’s a great player, so let’s just leave it that. There is no secret. There is no nothing. That is between coach and that’s between (Chennedy).”

In Williams’ postgame press conference, the coach also declined to give details of his conversation with Carter.

“For me, it’s important for that because those are personal things that Chennedy Carter and I talked about that savors her to continue on her career and so I protect her on that end and probably you’ll never know,” he said. “But all I know is she was out there playing basketball today and having fun.”

Without their 2023 first-round pick after the trade for Carter, the Sparks will look to regroup and rebrand following a season marked by disorder and drama.

Nneka Ogwumike, Chiney Ogwumike, Kristi Toliver, Jordin Canada, Lexie Brown and Sykes all enter the offseason as unrestricted free agents, adding intrigue to Los Angeles’ rebuild.