One of the most historic franchises in league history is undergoing a metamorphosis of sorts. And while this journey will not be easy, there is a heightened level of optimism throughout the organization. Derek Fisher enters his first season serving as GM and head coach. Though he says those responsibilities sometimes present an internal conflict, trying to decide which good players to keep is an enviable problem to have.
Coach Fisher said this was a transitional offseason for the franchise. There couldn’t have been a more accurate description. In addition to him taking over as General Manager, the team has gone through major personnel changes. Candace Parker returned home to play in Chicago. Chelsea Gray went to the Aces in free agency. And Fisher had to make his first difficult decision by waiving Tierra Ruffin-Pratt. But despite the losses, the Sparks are still in a great spot. They added Nia Coffey, Erica Wheeler, Bria Holmes and Amanda Zaui B this summer. They’ll get Chiney Ogwumike and Kristi Tolliver back this season as well. Like he said in the post draft press conference, trying to cut this roster down to 15 in time for training camp won’t be an easy task.
The Sparks also made out like bandits in the draft. They picked up Jasmine Walker and Stephanie Watts in the first round but the surprise of the night was Arella Guirantes still being available at the 22nd pick. Coach Fisher said he definitely didn’t expect her to still be on the board but his eyes got big when the picks started rolling in. Leaving Guirantes on the board at that point would have been negligent at the very least. Although this definitely changes things in regards to the decision making process for the final roster, getting a first round talent at the end of the second round is a no brainer.
It’s no rest for the weary, as the regular season is pretty much upon us. Neither the draft picks nor the staff have the chance to catch their breath before things really get rolling. Training camp begins on April 25th and the season kicks off a few weeks later. With all eyes on the Sparks, there is definitely a lot of pressure for them to hold their position as one of the premiere franchises in the W.
Derek Fisher is up to the challenge, as I’m sure his players are. This WNBA season will be historic for many reasons. The Sparks reinventing themselves only adds to the profile of an already highly anticipated year for the league. The retooling is in full effect and everyone in the organization from top to bottom is prepared to add to the Sparks legacy. Can’t wait to see what Coach Fisher and company have cooked up for us.