By Mykell Mathieu
Sports Reporter 

Will this season jumpstart the resurgence for the Sparks?

 

George Laase

Zia Cooke, right, of the Los Angeles Sparks, dribbles past a player from the Seattle Storm during a pre-season game a few weeks ago at Loyola Marymount. The Sparks are currently tied for third place in the Western Conference of the WNBA with a record of 1-2. Their next home games at Crypto.com Arena on Saturday against the Seattle Storm at 7 p.m. and Friday, June 9 at 7 p.m. against the Chicago Sky.

The WNBA season is officially back and the Sparks are hoping that this season is the spark that leads this organization back into prominence. The Sparks, are now led by the former coach of the Connecticut Sun, Curt Miller, and some key new veteran additions (Jasmine Thomas, Dearica Hamby, Layshia Clarendon & Azura Stevens) along with the return of five players from last year's team including the Ogwumike sisters (Nneka & Chiney).

The team also drafted the University of South Carolina star guard, Zia Cooke, who will be looked upon to contribute early and develop throughout the year. The new additions has brought some excitement to the team and they are hopeful to make a real push for the playoffs after not qualifying the past two years.

The season started off well a few weeks ago with a big win in one of the most watched WNBA games ever as the Sparks defeated the Phoenix Mercury, 94-71. The game marked the return of Brittney Griner to the WNBA after she was detained in Russia.

An incredible environment and a special night," said Miller, after his first game as the Sparks head coach. "Not only for the new era of the Sparks and the '23 season, but more importantly, big picture-wise, having Brittney Griner back with all of us and how important she is to our league."

Veteran Nneka Ogwumike led the way with 17 points, four rebounds and three assists in 27 minutes to pace the Sparks. Her younger sister, Chiney Ogwumike, chipped in with 15 points to go with seven rebounds and was also the primary defender on Griner throughout the game. "It was just amazing to reconnect and see that she is still BG. The BG that we all know and love is someone that's joyful, that brings a great passion to the game and is just a great human being" said the younger Ogwumike sister. Rookie Zia Cooke was a bright spot in her career debut scoring 14 points in the first half and made her first five shot attempts.

The team have since faced off against the defending champion Las Vegas Ace in back to back games losing both games, 94-85 in Los Angeles and 93-65 in Las Vegas. The second of the two losses came on the home opener and ring night for the Aces.

The team have battled the flu bug early along with players also dealing with injuries from this past season. "Fight. I want to see our fight," coach Miller said before the team's latest game. "Not only are we a shell of what we could be once we get completely healthy but now add on top of it that a percentage of our team is under the weather. I just want to see whoever we roll out there with that we fight."

After the two tough losses, the energy surrounding the team still looks so much different compared to last year's team. The Sparks have a chance to get back in the winning column when they match up Saturday night at home against the Seattle Storm at the Crypto.com Arena at 7 p.m.

 

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