all scores

WNBA season in review: Los Angeles Sparks need ‘harsh reset’

(Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Los Angeles Sparks failed to make the playoffs for the second season in a row, and they enter the offseason facing what forward Chiney Ogwumike called a “harsh reset.”

Los Angeles has missed the postseason in back-to-back years just once before in franchise history. Yet while the Sparks finished just a few wins shy of a playoff berth, the path back to contention seems murky.

Los Angeles Sparks: Year in Review

What went right?

Let’s be honest: Very little went right for the Sparks this season other than the sunny Los Angeles weather.

Sure, they started with lofty goals. The team signed Liz Cambage in the offseason and went all in on Chennedy Carter, trading a first-round pick to Atlanta in exchange for the guard. But then it all went downhill.

An early sign of the Sparks’ strife came in June, when they parted ways with coach and general manager Derek Fisher. Yet this acknowledgment of the lack of fit between team and coach could be considered a positive step, even if it contributed to the team’s sunken season.

After all, sometimes things need to get worse before they get better. And in the Sparks’ case, things certainly got worse.

What went wrong?

A series of problems in the locker room involving Cambage led her and the team to agree to a contract divorce in late July, and the center said Monday she has “decided to step away from the league for the time being.”

The departure of Cambage didn’t bring an immediate turnaround. In a do-or-die game against the Sun on Aug. 11, the Sparks failed to keep their playoff hopes alive, and the postgame comments surrounding Carter underscored the tension surrounding the team.

Carter had missed the previous four games due to a “coach’s decision” before interim coach Fred Williams had what he described as a change of heart ahead of the game against Connecticut.

Carter and Williams both have remained mum on the reasoning behind her absence. The guard had played just 11 games for the Dream in 2021 before she was suspended following a locker room confrontation.

Away from the court, in what seemed like a metaphor for the team’s season as a whole, half of the Sparks’ roster spent the night in a Washington, D.C., airport after experiencing travel problems, which have plagued the league at large all year long.

What comes next?

Nneka Ogwumike and sister Chiney are both free agents, as are Kristi Toliver, Jordin Canada, Lexie Brown and Brittney Sykes.

“Conversations haven’t been had,” Nneka Ogwumike said Monday of whether or not she’ll return to the Sparks. “A lot of times, being the one that scores all the points is a heavy cross to bear. It sounds fun and it sounds like everyone wants it, but for me I am all about having a goon squad. It’s not just about having one player that’s doing it all.”

Still, she said leaving the Sparks hasn’t crossed her mind. She reiterated that she wants to continue playing for the Sparks, and Chiney Ogwumike has described she and her sister as a package deal.

Re-signing Nneka Ogwumike should be priority No. 1 for the Sparks this offseason. While it won’t fix all of the team’s problems, it could be a step in the right direction for the team.