June 21, 2023 

Dearica Hamby working her way back

The veteran forward is slowly getting back to her former level and finding her role in a new system

Back on June 9, after the Los Angeles Sparks had just pulled off a big home win against the Chicago Sky, Dearica Hamby couldn’t help but get a little emotional.

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Hamby had just put in her best game in a Sparks uniform to that point with 16 points, eight rebounds and five steals while getting the start alongside Nneka Ogwumike in the frontcourt. With what she had gone through in the offseason, coming off the birth of her second child and the fallout from the trade from the Las Vegas Aces, she reflected on arriving at this moment.

“I felt so much more mentally clear today, I’ve had a rough last six or seven months, and I come out every game and I’m like I’m trying, I’m trying,” Hamby told reporters after the game. “Statistically, 6-14 is not great for me, but it was a game that I got some confidence back.”

When the Sparks acquired Hamby in the offseason trade with the Aces, they knew they were getting an All-Star-level forward. They also knew that it might take a little while for her to reach that level as she would be arriving in training camp just a couple of months after giving birth.

Following the trade, Hamby was adamant that she always planned to be ready to play in camp and at the start of the season. Eager to put everything else behind her, she fully embraced this new opportunity with the Sparks. A two-time Sixth Woman of the Year Award winner, Hamby was a starter for most of her last season with the Aces.

The potential was there for Hamby to start from the get-go with the Sparks, but head coach Curt Miller opted to bring her off the bench to start the season. Through the first few games of the year, Hamby’s production started off a little slowly, which was to be expected as she continued to work her way back to full game speed.

Hamby’s level of activity was evident from the start of the Chicago game. It was her second start of the season and she made an immediate impact off her hustle and energy. There was one play in particular in the first quarter that caught N. Ogwumike’s attention. Hamby dove on the court for a loose ball and it was a sign of things to come.

“When D went on the floor, I was like, oh my God, I was like dang, now I got to do it,” N. Ogwumike joked.

But it was that kind of play that set the tone for the rest of the game. Hamby’s effort and energy on the defensive end, the 50-50 balls, hustling and running and up and down the court, while some of those plays may go unnoticed to the untrained eye, they were crucial to pulling off the type of grind-it-out win the Sparks did.

Hamby’s contributions offensively were not overlooked either. In her second start alongside N. Ogwumike, the frontcourt pair displayed a strong chemistry being able to play off each other. They set the blueprint for what the pairing could look like for the rest of the season.

“It’s easy for me when I’m out there with D; she is masterful at running the floor and can bang with the best of them. I think I kind of go as she goes. I have a way of being aggressive in my own way, I kind of know how to play with who is out there based on who is out there. When she goes, it makes me want to go,” N. Ogwumike said. “She’s relentless in that way. One thing I love about D is she goes with the understanding that she might not get the ball and she doesn’t complain. She creates opportunities for other people with her activity.”

There was one moment during the Sparks postgame media availability when N. Ogwumike turned and addressed Hamby directly, telling her that she might not realize how impactful she truly is even when it may seem like she’s at her best.

That type of support and camaraderie from her Sparks teammates has made the past few months a little bit easier for Hamby. It’s helped remind herself that she’s making progress no matter what her on-court production may look like.


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“My teammates are always super encouraging like give yourself some grace,” Hamby said. “That’s been the hardest part for me because before my pregnancy, I was an All-Star. I’m holding myself to that standard still. So it’s been a little bit more emotionally challenging in that way, more mental for me.”

Hamby followed up that performance a couple of games later with a season-high 23 points, eight rebounds, two assists and two steals in a big overtime road win against the Dallas Wings. She followed that up with a 14-point, nine-rebound, three-assist game, albeit in a loss against the Minnesota Lynx.

To this point, Hamby has been averaging 10.2 points per game, 5.9 rebounds and 2.0 assists while shooting 38.9% from the field and 18.8% from the 3-point line. Her percentages may not quite be there yet, but her statistical numbers are close to the past two seasons when she was named an All-Star.

Following the win against Dallas, Hamby acknowledged that while playing at such a high level while being a mother may seem tiring, she insisted that she only knows one speed.

“Maybe in hindsight, I’ll look back when I’m done playing and say it was exhausting what you were doing,” Hamby said. “But that’s the only way I know.”

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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