New Sparks players, Brittney Sykes and Marie Gülich, looking to fit right in

Brittney Sykes and Marie Gülich, acquired in a February trade, are ready to get to work for Sparks championship hopes

In the Los Angeles Sparks’ quest for a fourth championship in franchise history, the team shuffled up their roster a bit in the months leading up to the WNBA draft. One of the first offseason moves they made was trading second-year center Kalani Brown to the Atlanta Dream for guard/forward Brittney Sykes and center Marie Gülich.

Both players figure to bring different skill-sets to the team that may have been lacking at times last season. On Wednesday afternoon, the Sparks hosted a media zoom conference during which Sykes and Gülich each took turns speaking with media.

In Sykes’ case, she is a tough defensive player on the perimeter, and that toughness also carries over to the offensive end where she is able to attack the rim and get herself to the free-throw line.

She’s entering her fourth year in the WNBA and she’s proved herself as a capable scorer while in Atlanta. She has career averages of 11.3 points per game and a playoff average of 12.6. Her playoff experience comes from the 2018 season, during which the Dream pushed the Washington Mystics to the brink before bowing out in five games.

On a conference call with media last month, head coach Derek Fisher mentioned that Sykes will have the opportunity to fight for the starting small forward spot. Sykes sounds excited by how she can produce from that position.

“I say it’s going to be so easy getting 20 points because ten of them are just five assists from Chelsea [Gray] on the fast break. The job isn’t easier, the job is still the same, to come in and score, defend the ball, be a two-way player,” Sykes said. “I’m gonna be able to just move freely through the offense, move without the ball. I’m used to not having the ball in my hands so to just know that there’s players on the team, not just the point guard, who can get the ball to another teammate now in a high-IQ fashion is something dope to prepare for.”

Gülich brings something a little bit different than what the Sparks were used to at the center position. Nneka Ogumike is a versatile player but is most effective when she’s around the rim scoring in the paint. Last season, both Brown and Maria Vadeeva were also most efficient when they were playing in the post.

Gülich provides a different sort of skill-set that is tailor-made to some of the changes that have occurred in basketball in recent years. She can space the floor with her three-point shooting, something that she worked on last season. She didn’t attempt any threes as a rookie in Phoenix back in 2018. But she shot 32 percent with the Dream last year.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – SEPTEMBER 03: Maria Vadeeva #7 of the Los Angeles Sparks handles the ball against Marie Gulich #24 of the Atlanta Dream during a WNBA basketball game at Staples Center on September 03, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images)

Gülich echoed Sykes’ sentiment in that the weapons that Los Angeles has both in terms of scoring the ball and playmaking should help her adjust to her new team.

“Their system is very much just play basketball, feel the game,” Gülich said. “That makes me really excited to play with them now, and to be a part of this because I’m really looking forward to just feel the game and play free.”

While the WNBA has made no decision yet on what will happen to the 2020 season, both Sykes and Gülich have remained in contact with their teammates through a virtual training camp and both continue to work out on their own.

“I think for me, it’s one of those things where you stay ready so you don’t have to get ready because we really don’t know what’s gonna happen,” Sykes said. “Of course, play around with the what-ifs, toggle with them, but ultimately staying in the reality zone of alright, any minute they can call us back.”

Gülich agreed that in the face of the unknown, staying prepared for any possible scenario is key at this moment.

“I think my biggest thing is to stay ready and to train, to stay motivated because you don’t really have a window,” Gülich said. “It can be in a month, in a week, maybe not at all, and you don’t really know that. So that has been my point, where I was just really working with the last couple of months just doing stuff for myself and not looking too much at deadlines or season stuff coming up.”

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