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Nneka Ogwumike: Sparks seem like ‘professional organization’ for first time

Nneka Ogwumike is excited by the Los Angeles Sparks' transformation. (Evan Yu/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Los Angeles Sparks enter the 2023 season as a transformed team, with a new coach, a new general manager and a new philosophy.

Nneka Ogwumike has noticed the difference.

The 32-year-old forward has spent her entire career with the Sparks, from her 2012 Rookie of the Year campaign to the 2016 WNBA championship season. While she has seen ups and downs in her tenure, she has never seen the organization at this level, she said at the start of training camp.

“This is the first time I’ve really experienced what I believe to be a professional organization,” Ogwumike said.

Head coach Curt Miller and general manager Karen Bryant, who both came to Los Angeles in the offseason, immediately put their stamp on the team.

“That leaves space for me to not have to step into a manager role, which doesn’t leave me a lot of time to do the things that I really want to do, which is play basketball and hang out with my teammates,” Ogwumike said. “I really feel like I’ve relinquished a lot of that because we have some truly phenomenal people that have turned this organization into what it deserves to be.”

In another change, the Sparks parted ways with team president Vanessa Shay earlier this week. She had joined the team last May from the NWSL’s San Diego Wave. Sparks managing partner Eric Holman thanked Shay for guiding the team “through an important transition.”

With the reins now in the hands of Bryant and Miller, the team is prepared to start fresh. And while Ogwumike rejoined the Sparks on a one-year deal, Miller does not feel any pressure for the upcoming season, which tips off on May 19.

Miller cautioned against looking too far into the future. Instead, he wants to work day by day to build toward success, a journey “we think could be very special — and more importantly, sustainable,” he said.

“There’s going to be no more pressure than what we believe in our own locker room,” Miller said.