March 6, 2021 

Derek Fisher assesses Sparks offseason

In his first offseason as both general manager and head coach, Fisher is pleased with the direction the team is heading in

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It’s been a busy offseason for the Los Angeles Sparks. They entered the WNBA free agency period with about half of the roster set to hit the open market. They retained a few of them in Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike, Brittney Sykes, Seimone Augustus, and Te’a Cooper, but they did lose Candace Parker, Chelsea Gray, and Riquna Williams.

They added some new pieces in Erica Wheeler, Amanda Zahui B., Bria Holmes, and Nia Coffey. They are also set to have Kristi Toliver return to the lineup after she opted-out of last season.

Currently, the Sparks have 15 players on the roster, three over the league maximum. On a call with media Thursday afternoon, general manager and head coach Derek Fisher said the team isn’t expecting third-year center Maria Vadeeva until the second half of the season. Vadeeva also opted-out of the 2020 season and likely has overseas commitments during the first half of the 2021 season.

Even without Vadeeva, the Sparks are only allowed to carry 15 players into training camp. They have four draft picks in the upcoming draft next month (No. 10, No. 22, No. 28, and No. 34). The roster dynamics will likely create some interesting battles in training camp.

“We are definitely creating a highly competitive environment…We were very intentional about the players that we are adding,” Fisher said. “Training camp is going to be different in a lot of ways. We’re excited about getting to that point. I think our players are excited about it. It’s a new era of Sparks basketball, we’re moving in a different direction and I think everyone’s looking forward to the process and the journey.”

While the Sparks roster may look radically different than in recent years, they should still have one of the better frontcourts in the WNBA. Starting, a three-big rotation of Nneka and Chiney alongside Zahui B. is quite formidable and versatile on both ends of the court. Adding Vadeeva to the second half of the season will only strengthen that.

They also have Kristine Anigwe who showed flashes last season of being a capable center. Fisher is eager to see how this frontcourt comes together and how they stack up against the best in the league.

“We definitely have a lot of directions we could go up front. Ultimately we want to have as many tools as possible in our frontcourt,” Fisher said. “We’re intentionally creating an environment in training camp where everybody’s going to have to compete for everything…What’s great about this group and what’s been great about this free agency process is every player we’ve spoken to, wants to be a part of what we’re doing.”

Having navigated his first offseason in the dual role of general manager and head coach, Fisher is pleased with how he sees the roster shaping up. He can see the different ways this roster can play and how to maximize its potential. He can especially see some ways in which the team can be better on the defensive end.

“We’re all excited and happy about the direction that this team is going in terms of personnel and things we’re going to be capable of doing,” Fisher said. “We can play faster, we can give Coach Latricia Trammell some additional toolbox material for some things she wants to do on the defensive end. We really feel like we’ll be able to be even more disruptive with the length and athleticism at the wing position, the speed at the guard spots. We feel good about it, but again it’s all on paper right now. Until we put it all together and most importantly put an organizational culture and energy around who we are every day, that’s what we really have to bring along with where we’re going on the court and put something really special together.”

David has been with The Next team since the High Post Hoops days when he joined the staff in 2018. He is based in Los Angeles and covers the LA Sparks, Pac-12 Conference, Big West Conference and some high school as well.

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