Chiney Ogwumike, Derek Fisher talk Riquna Williams suspension

The Sparks may only have seven players suited up for the next few games.

Not only have the Los Angeles Sparks been hit recently with a wave of injuries, but they received news on Monday that guard Riquna Williams would be suspended for 10 games due to an incident involving accusations of physical violence and threats with a gun before the start of the season.

With Williams out, and injuries to Candace Parker, Alana Beard, Alexis Jones, and Maria Vadeeva who has returned from Eurobasket, the Sparks could very likely be down to only seven active players for the foreseeable future.

While the WNBA’s ruing currently stands, the WNBPA has said it will file a grievance over Williams’ suspension. For the Sparks, they’ll have to adjust without one of their key contributors this season.

“Since it’s still an open league and criminal matter, we can’t say much. We obviously have to respect the decision. We’re going to do everything we can to support Riquna as much as possible,” Fisher told reporters at Wednesday’s practice. “Riquna’s still going to be around our group as much as possible…we know that Riquna’s a strong woman and she’s going to learn and get better from this.”

Losing Williams is sure to be a big blow to the Sparks backcourt where they’re already without Beard and Jones. Williams was recently inserted into the starting lineup, and she gave the team a lot of energy that they needed both offensively and defensively.

While she’ll certainly be missed, for the time being, she does have the support and backing of Chiney Ogwumike, who spoke about the matter as well.

“When people go through personal situations, it’s tough. For her [Riquna] to deal with that, our whole team has really been proud of her, because we have jobs at the end of the day,” Oguwmike told reporters at Wednesday’s practice. “And for her to come ready, be team-first, and be a selfless player and to also help us get wins while dealing with the situation, which is unfortunate, is not easy for anyone to deal with.”

Aside from the loss of Williams, the injuries to the team will leave them short-handed for a while. The Sparks have had several different starting lineups as well as rotations this season and they’re about to get a different one yet again.

“The numbers keep getting smaller, so it simplifies it to be honest. You play the players you have, we don’t really have a choice at this point,” Fisher said. “Sometimes that can be a good thing. Players often times are concerned when it’s so crowded that one mistake can get them put on the bench…When they know that there’s nobody else there that can get the job done, sometimes they’re more free, willing to be more aggressive, take a few more risks.”

Ogwumike agreed, and she believes that despite the key losses at this moment, the Sparks still have enough talent on the floor to be competitive each game and to give themselves a chance to win.

“For us, it’s just one of those things where we have to think about, as a team, ok we’re down another player, who’s going to step up,” Ogwumike said. “That’s the number one thing on our mind. We don’t want to make any excuses. We still feel like we have enough pieces to be successful.”

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