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Column: Sparks’ Derek Fisher aims to push past Candace Parker episode

Sparks forward Candace Parker looks on during a game against the Sky on Aug. 11.
Sparks forward Candace Parker looks on during a game against the Sky on Aug. 11.
(Katherine Lotze / Getty Images)

The final image of the Sparks’ season was Candace Parker fuming on the bench after Derek Fisher played her just seven minutes in the first half and four minutes in the second half of an elimination game in September.

“Physically, mentally, everything’s fine,” she said afterwards. “There’s nothing wrong with me.”

So why didn’t she play more with the season on the line?

“That’s for Fish.”

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At the time, Fisher defended his decision by saying, “I know it’s Candace Parker, and we’re going to try to make it about her 11 minutes, but it was just about trying to do something different that would try and help us win.”

Fisher addressed the situation this week following “The Purple Print,” a team-organized event at L.A. Live, and pushed back on the notion the two needed to repair their relationship.

“I don’t know if we’re not seeing eye to eye,” he said. “I think coaches and players have not always seen eye to eye about minutes or opportunities. The idea for all of us is to not allow individual moments define who we are or what we’re doing. We’re all at a point where we can move forward and it’s more about 2020 and what we can do as opposed to getting stuck in what we could have or should have done.

“The reality is we all needed to be better and whenever I say, ‘we’ I include myself in that. Until we accomplish our goals and objectives, we’re always going to have questions. We’ll come back and find a way to be better.”

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As much as Fisher would like to move forward, it’s hard for the Sparks to do so without a general manager. Penny Toler, who was the team’s general manager for 20 years, was relieved of her duties two months ago after she reportedly used a racial slur in a postgame locker room speech during the playoffs.

Sparks managing partner and governor Eric Holoman has been serving as the interim general manager.

“We’re still conducting business and doing what we think is in the best interest of the organization,” Fisher said. “We’re preparing for free agency and college scouting and most importantly staying in contact with our players and making sure they get the right message about what we’re trying to do.”

Whatever that message is, it will be important for Fisher and the next general manager to be on the same page and make sure the players are as well. Despite finishing with the third-best record in the league, the Sparks were clearly a fractured team that lacked focus and leadership by the end of the season.

“The best way to sum it up is you feel different when you win,” Fisher said. “How people feel about you is always temporary. We have to focus on not only who we are but also what we’re trying to become and know that there’s going to be moments where it doesn’t go well and doesn’t look good and everybody’s not happy but that’s life. Appreciate that and learn from it, accept it for what it is and allow it to motivate you to be better and want to accomplish more.”

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One of the things that make Los Angeles so special is the city’s local artists and the Clippers and Rams have tapped into that space better than other teams.

The Clippers launched their “City Edition” jerseys last month designed by Mr. Cartoon, an L.A.-based artist whose real name is Mark Machado. The black and white uniforms feature “Los Angeles” in Old English font on the front and pays homage to Cartoon’s famous designs that have long been a part of the city’s street culture.

On Sunday night, the Rams will unveil a special collaboration with National Forest, a Los Angeles-based design collective led by artists Steven Harrington and Justin Krietemeyer. The “Los Angeles Rams X National Forest” takeover at the Coliseum will include special rally towels featuring three unique designs and the peristyle entrance to the stadium will be adorned with special flags designed by National Forest.

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Philip Rivers will turn 38 on Sunday and there’s a growing chance this will be his final season with the Chargers. While it would be natural for the team to look for a young successor, the Chargers would be wise to do everything in their power to sign Tom Brady as a short-term replacement.

Yes, Brady will turn 43 in August but he’s the only player available who can make the Chargers relevant in Los Angeles as they move into SoFi Stadium and try to sell season tickets and seat licenses.

Not only is Brady still playing at a high level, but he is one of the most popular athletes in Los Angeles despite winning six Super Bowls with the New England Patriots.

Former USC football coach John Robinson, 84, is in his first year as an offensive consultant for Ed Orgeron at Louisiana State. “It’s been just a fascinating experience,” Robinson says.

Brady is one of the top five-selling players in Los Angeles on the sports apparel store Fanatics and the top-selling city for Brady merchandise on Cyber Monday was Los Angeles. Yes, more people in L.A. bought Brady gear than in any city in New England.

Brady also ranks just ahead of LeBron James in terms of top-selling players in all sports country-wide. No player on the Chargers is in the top 15 and the Chargers are not one of the top-10-selling teams in L.A.

Brady would benefit from being on a team with more offensive weapons than he has in New England, but the Chargers need Brady for reasons that go beyond the football field.


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