The Los Angeles Sparks will look for their first win of the season tonight when they host the Connecticut Sun at Staples Center.
All eyes will be on two-time All-Star Chiney Ogwumike, who is facing her former team for the first time since she was traded in the offseason. Ogwumike was drafted first overall in 2014 by the Sun, but broadcasting obligations with ESPN and a desire to play with her sister, Nneka Ogwumike, resulted in Connecticut sending her to Los Angeles in exchange for a 2020 first-round pick.
After struggling in the season opener, an 83-70 loss to the Las Vegas Aces, Chiney Ogwumike will be motivated to turn in a strong performance against her former teammates.She’s confident that she can move on from her one-of-10 shooting night on Sunday.
“This is a new coach, a new offense, a new defense, a new philosophy,” she said after the loss to the Aces. “So I think, me personally, it’s a lot of second-guessing, because I’m like, ‘Oh, is someone gonna be there?’ And that’s taking away from just finishing the basketball.
“It’s a long journey, and I think we know internally as a unit what we’re capable of. So we’re not worried about it. We’ll just get back to slowly figuring out the puzzle pieces.”
To do so, the Sparks (0-1) will have to overcome adversity. After leading the team with 24 points on Sunday, second-year center Maria Vadeeva departed Los Angeles to join her home country of Russia in the European Basketball Championship, which runs through July 7. Los Angeles will also be without two-time MVP Candace Parker, who remains sidelined because of a hamstring injury.
With the loss of those two, the Sparks’ frontcourt depth has been narrowed to three players: the Ogwumike sisters and rookie Kalani Brown, who missed the entire preseason.
Coach Derek Fisher admitted that the team cannot sacrifice wins in the pursuit of ironing out the wrinkles.
“It’s tough in the W because you can’t have bad weeks,” Fisher said Sunday. “Two, three, four losses in a 34-game season, it just makes it hard to climb up a hill. It’s too short of a runway. It’s not about just throwing games away to figure some things out.”
The Sun (2-0) opened the season with double-digit victories over the Washington Mystics and Indiana Fever. Forward Jonquel Jones is averaging 17.5 points, 11.0 rebounds and 2.5 blocked shots per game for Connecticut. One of the Sun’s top reserves is former California and San Bernardino Cajon High star Layshia Clarendon (8.0 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 17 minutes a game).