Los Angeles Sparks preparing for WNBA draft, key roster battles

The Sparks have a few things to iron out in anticipation of the upcoming WNBA season.

With the sports world currently on hold due to concerns over COVID-19, and the start of the WNBA training camp postponed, the Los Angeles Sparks still have business to attend to in anticipation of the start of the 2020 season.

The Sparks hosted a conference call on Monday afternoon with head coach Derek Fisher and interim general manager Michael Fischer, addressing a variety of topics that included preparing for the upcoming draft, mapping out how their new acquisitions will fit with the rest of the team, and keeping in contact with players during this period of uncertainty.

The WNBA draft is still set for Friday, April 17, although it will be held virtually. The Sparks don’t have a first-round pick as part of last season’s trade with the Connecticut Sun that brought Chiney Ogwumike to the team.

They do, however, own two second-round picks and one-third round pick. The Sparks already have the maximum 12 players on the roster, and they can carry up to 15 into training camp. Fischer suggested that despite that, the final 12 players will reflect what they see in training camp.

“Every year I’ve been in this league, there’s always been a few camp surprises. There’s always players who step up or situational things happen,” Fischer said. “We don’t know who our picks are going to be, but they’re going to have every chance to be part of this team. We’ll go ahead with the best 12.”

In addition to contemplating potential roles for the new draft picks, the Sparks have a few new players they’re counting on to make big impacts this season. The starting lineup appears to be set at four out of the five positions.

Chelsea Gray and Kristi Tolliver look to be the starting backcourt, with Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike in the frontcourt. That would leave the small forward spot potentially up for grabs. Tierra Ruffin-Pratt was the starter on the wing last season. She’ll have some competition from newcomers Brittney Sykes and Seimone Augustus.

Fisher acknowledged that all three will get the opportunity to compete for that final roster spot. He also said that backup guard Riquna Williams could see playing time alongside Gray and Tolliver.

“I think that’s the one spot we’ve been honest with all of the players, that we’re going to see what works best for the team,” Fisher said. “We’re excited about being able to do whatever we need to do, whether that’s TRP or that’s Brittney, or that’s Seimone. We’re excited about any direction we need to go to cause our opponents problems preparing for us.”

While the situation is fluid and there is no exact date as to when the season will begin, the team has maintained contact with each player.

“The most important thing is hopefully we can get back together soon and everybody’s healthy mentally and physically,” Fisher said. “That will allow us to have a great season.”

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