July 29, 2020 

Sparks bench is the lone bright spot in loss to Chicago

Los Angeles has options as it searches for answers

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PALMETTO, FL- JULY 28: Brittney Sykes #15 of the Los Angeles Sparks shoots the ball against the Chicago Sky on July 28, 2020 at Feld Entertainment Center in Palmetto, Florida.

There weren’t too many positives on Tuesday night. The Chicago Sky were just better all game long in the Sparks 96-78 loss in their second game of the season.

But if there was one bright spot, one sign of encouragement going forward, it was the continued strong play of the Sparks bench. The Sparks were considered to be one of the deepest teams in the league even with the loss of Chiney Ogwumike and Kristi Toliver.

There were some questions surrounding the youth of some of the players in the second unit, but they’ve largely answered the call albeit only two games being played so far. On Sunday, it was Brittney Sykes and Seimone Augustus combing for 24 points. Thursday night, it was the bench providing a lift and getting the team back into the game during the second quarter.

Following the loss to the Sky, Sparks head coach Derek Fisher explained how critical a solid second unit will be especially in an abbreviated season such as this when the starting lineup needs a little boost.

“You hope to have some players that can come in and get the energy going, the passion, and really just play with an open mind and some spirit,” Fisher said. “There are going to be nights where they just don’t have it. We’re going to need people to come in and give us good effort.”

Sykes in particular has fit right in with the lineup from the get-go. In the win over the Mercury, she had 10 points while playing tough, physical defense including a huge block on Phoenix star Brittney Griner. In the loss to Chicago, she finished with 16 points, five rebounds, and two assists.

She’s brought a much-needed skill-set to the team with her ability to put the ball on the floor and attack the rim. She plays with a lot of energy and toughness and is sort of filling the Alana Beard role as a defensive stopper and shooter. Before the season began, Fisher had singled her out as being one of the surprises of training camp.

“She’s shown an ability to do some things with the basketball that she showed flashes of in Atlanta,” Fisher said. “She’s definitely more consistent in her ability to do some things off the dribble, her ability to attack and finish at the basket in transition, those are really good things for us.”

Sykes was mentioned by Fisher when she was acquired as a potential candidate for starting small forward, but she’s begun the season as the bench sparkplug who can play either shooting guard or small forward.

“I just know every time I step on the court, I got to be ready to play. I know that I’m an energy player, I know that I can create possessions for my team whether it’s on the defensive end or offensive end,” Sykes said. “I just got to come in and do my job and control my controllables.”

Another player off the bench who was part of the Sparks mini-run in the second quarter against Chicago is Sydney Wiese. Last season was the first in which Wiese was a regular player in the rotation with her three-point shooting and ball-handling ability.

Against the Sky, she hit a few threes in the second quarter that helped the Sparks momentarily get back in the game. Wiese also emphasized the importance of having a solid bench unit in a season that is anything but normal.

“The main thing we all have to stay ready. Everybody is important, especially in a season like this, you never know when your name is going to get called,” Wiese said. “We’ve got to make sure to keep people fresh…it’s our job to go out there and perform, and you never want it to drop off. When your name is called, go out there and do what you do and always bring energy.”

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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