Sparks are early pick to win championship

Times Staff Writer

WNBA general managers, in a survey conducted by the league, predict the Sparks not only will win the WNBA title but the top two player awards will also belong to the Sparks.

Five of the 12 general managers participating in the survey picked the Sparks to win their third league championship, while the Seattle Storm and defending champion Phoenix Mercury tied for second with two votes each.

The Sparks, who are coming off a 10-24 season in which they tied for last place, have three-time most valuable player Lisa Leslie back and have added No. 1 draft pick Candace Parker.

A majority of the GMs, two of whom did not participate in the survey, expect Leslie to win her fourth MVP award; she sat out last season after giving birth to her first child. The 6-foot-5 center had 36% of the votes, followed by Lauren Jackson of Seattle with 27%. Becky Hammon of San Antonio and Diana Taurasi of Phoenix tied for third with 18% each.

Leslie, who was MVP in 2001, 2004 and 2006, is the league's all-time scoring leader.

As for the rookie of the year, a majority of the GMs think that award will go to Parker, who last month helped Tennessee to its second straight NCAA title. She received 75% of the votes. The Chicago Sky's Sylvia Fowles, the No. 2 draft pick out of Louisiana State, received the remaining 25%.

Fowles, however, was voted as the rookie most likely to develop into the league's best player in five years, earning 67% of the votes, compared to 25% for Parker. The Sparks, who have won all three of their exhibition games, open the regular season Saturday in Phoenix against the Mercury.


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