Interview: Los Angeles Sparks preview with WNBA writer Sue Favor

May 13, 2012 1:43pm

Sue Favor covers the Los Angeles Sparks as a media member. According to her blog They’re Playing Basketball she was “a founding fan of the Seattle Storm” and follows “the Lady Vols like a cult member.” Her outstanding work can be found on such websites as Sports Illustrated, Hoopfeed and Full Court. You can also follow her on Twitter @hoopism.

Sue was kind enough to share her thoughts and insights on what should be a new look Los Angeles Sparks team this season.

How do you think the chemistry of the Sparks will be early on with a new coach and so many new faces on the roster?

Carol Ross told me Wednesday ( that the team is still finding its identity. She has set the tone with her insistence on aggressive play and urgency every time an athlete hits the court, to the point where players are repeating her words in interviews. She’s got the team on the same page. Then the veterans set the tone on the first day by welcoming the rookies and giving them tips. The Sparks have got a huge head start on building chemistry this season, and in both exhibition games they’ve had so far, whomever is on the floor together is operating as unit.

What style of play will we see from the Sparks under new coach Carol Ross? 

Ross is very technical, and is a true teacher in practice. She also expects athletes to play very hard and never take a possession off. Both she and Sparks players keep mentioning the word “aggressive,” which is how they are playing their first two weeks. Ross’ third main emphasis is defense. She especially wants to bring sound defense to the Sparks, because she said they’ve been lacking it for a long time.

What kind of impact can Alana Beard make this season?

Alana Beard is a big question mark, because she hasn’t had one full season in the WNBA since 2009. She just returned from playing in Israel on May 9, and she didn’t play in the Sparks’ exhibition game against Japan the following night. Ross has said that if Beard can stay healthy, she can be a factor. We will have to trust her judgement on that, because fans and media haven’t seen her play for a long time. 

With a front court that looks set, do the Sparks go as far as their guard play takes them?

I’m not sure I’d say the Sparks go as far as their guard play even over the last few years, because Candace Parker was injured in both 2010 and 2011 and missed many games, leaving a hole on the low post. The lack of guards problem that they’ve had in the past won’t be an issue any longer, because they have a plethora of talented guards in camp. 

April Sykes started both pre-season games so far, and has been a force on the floor. Sharnee’ Zoll and Ashley Shields just arrived to camp this week, and both looked great in the Japan game. Zoll, a true point guard, is very fast, and if she makes the roster, will give sharp-shooter Kristi Toliver license to move to the two-spot. Toliver posted double-digit scoring in both games. The challenge for the Sparks will be having to cut three more players from the training camp roster by next Friday.

Can #1 overall pick Nneka Ogwumike have a Maya Moore like impact? What are realistic expectations for her rookie season?

Nnemkadi Ogwumike will have a huge impact this season. Against China, she lead the Sparks with 20 points and 11 rebounds, and against Japan, she again lead the team, with 17 points. She has already proven she can hang with the big dogs before the first counting game.

The rest of the country is starting to catch on to what fans on the West Coast have known for a long time: Ogwumike is an extremely versatile player who develops and maximizes her natural abilities, while playing selfless team ball. She is confident in her skills, while at the same time probing the Sparks veterans for pointers and encouraging fellow rookies. It looks as if she’ll bring the leadership she exhibited at Stanford to the WNBA. Ogwumike is one of those players who make it look easy, which means she’s destined to be a great.

She’ll not only be ROY, but I predict she’ll be one of the Sparks’ leading scorers this year.

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