Sparks confident as season nears: ‘We’re gonna have a ring at the end’

View Original Notice ? Sparks confident as season nears: ‘We’re gonna have a ring at the end’

  • Sparks players Jordin Canada, left, and Nneka Ogwumike sit for...

    Sparks players Jordin Canada, left, and Nneka Ogwumike sit for interviews during their 2022 preseason Media Day on Wednesday at Jump Beyond Sports in Torrance. (Photo by Chuck Bennett, Contributing Photographer)

  • L.A. Sparks coach/GM Derek Fisher talks to reporters during their...

    L.A. Sparks coach/GM Derek Fisher talks to reporters during their 2022 preseason Media Day on Wednesday at Jump Beyond Sports in Torrance. (Photo by Chuck Bennett, Contributing Photographer)

  • L.A. Sparks player Chennedy Carter poses for photos during their...

    L.A. Sparks player Chennedy Carter poses for photos during their 2022 preseason Media Day on Wednesday at Jump Beyond Sports in Torrance. (Photo by Chuck Bennett, Contributing Photographer)

  • L.A. Sparks center Liz Cambage waits for photos during their...

    L.A. Sparks center Liz Cambage waits for photos during their 2022 preseason Media Day on Wednesday at Jump Beyond Sports in Torrance. (Photo by Chuck Bennett, Contributing Photographer)

  • L.A. Sparks players Jasmine Walker, left, and Chiney Ogwumike talk...

    L.A. Sparks players Jasmine Walker, left, and Chiney Ogwumike talk to reporters during the team’s 2022 preseason Media Day on Wednesday at Jump Beyond Sports in Torrance. (Photo by Chuck Bennett, Contributing Photographer)

  • The L.A. Sparks’ Olivia Nelson-Ododa waits for photos during their...

    The L.A. Sparks’ Olivia Nelson-Ododa waits for photos during their 2022 preseason Media Day on Wednesday at Jump Beyond Sports in Torrance. (Photo by Chuck Bennett, Contributing Photographer)

  • L.A. Sparks players pose for group photos during their 2022...

    L.A. Sparks players pose for group photos during their 2022 preseason Media Day on Wednesday at Jump Beyond Sports in Torrance. (Photo by Chuck Bennett, Contributing Photographer)

  • L.A. Sparks coach/GM Derek Fisher looks on during their 2022...

    L.A. Sparks coach/GM Derek Fisher looks on during their 2022 preseason Media Day on Wednesday at Jump Beyond Sports in Torrance. (Photo by Chuck Bennett, Contributing Photographer)

  • L.A. Sparks player Te’a Cooper poses for photos during their...

    L.A. Sparks player Te’a Cooper poses for photos during their 2022 preseason Media Day on Wednesday at Jump Beyond Sports in Torrance. (Photo by Chuck Bennett, Contributing Photographer)

  • The L.A. Sparks’ Lexie Brown poses during their 2022 preseason...

    The L.A. Sparks’ Lexie Brown poses during their 2022 preseason Media Day on Wednesday at Jump Beyond Sports in Torrance. (Photo by Chuck Bennett, Contributing Photographer)

  • L.A. Sparks center Liz Cambage laughs during their 2022 preseason...

    L.A. Sparks center Liz Cambage laughs during their 2022 preseason Media Day on Wednesday at Jump Beyond Sports in Torrance. (Photo by Chuck Bennett, Contributing Photographer)

  • L.A. Sparks player Jordin Canada talks to reporters during their...

    L.A. Sparks player Jordin Canada talks to reporters during their 2022 preseason Media Day on Wednesday at Jump Beyond Sports in Torrance. (Photo by Chuck Bennett, Contributing Photographer)

  • The L.A. Sparks’ Kianna Smith poses during their 2022 preseason...

    The L.A. Sparks’ Kianna Smith poses during their 2022 preseason Media Day on Wednesday at Jump Beyond Sports in Torrance. (Photo by Chuck Bennett, Contributing Photographer)

  • L.A. Sparks players Kianna Smith, left, Lexi Gordon, second from...

    L.A. Sparks players Kianna Smith, left, Lexi Gordon, second from left, and Olivia Nelson-Ododa, second from right, look on during the team’s 2022 preseason Media Day on Wednesday at Jump Beyond Sports in Torrance. (Photo by Chuck Bennett, Contributing Photographer)

  • L.A. Sparks rookie Amy Atwell poses for photos during their...

    L.A. Sparks rookie Amy Atwell poses for photos during their 2022 preseason Media Day on Wednesday at Jump Beyond Sports in Torrance. (Photo by Chuck Bennett, Contributing Photographer)

  • L.A. Sparks player Nneka Ogwumike finds a seat during their...

    L.A. Sparks player Nneka Ogwumike finds a seat during their 2022 preseason Media Day on Wednesday at Jump Beyond Sports in Torrance. (Photo by Chuck Bennett, Contributing Photographer)

  • L.A. Sparks player Lexie Brown waits for photos during their...

    L.A. Sparks player Lexie Brown waits for photos during their 2022 preseason Media Day on Wednesday at Jump Beyond Sports in Torrance. (Photo by Chuck Bennett, Contributing Photographer)

  • L.A. Sparks coach/GM Derek Fisher speaks to players during their...

    L.A. Sparks coach/GM Derek Fisher speaks to players during their 2022 preseason Media Day on Wednesday at Jump Beyond Sports in Torrance. (Photo by Chuck Bennett, Contributing Photographer)

  • L.A. Sparks center Liz Cambage waits for photos during their...

    L.A. Sparks center Liz Cambage waits for photos during their 2022 preseason Media Day on Wednesday at Jump Beyond Sports in Torrance. (Photo by Chuck Bennett, Contributing Photographer)

  • L.A. Sparks player Chantel Horvat waits for photos during their...

    L.A. Sparks player Chantel Horvat waits for photos during their 2022 preseason Media Day on Wednesday at Jump Beyond Sports in Torrance. (Photo by Chuck Bennett, Contributing Photographer)

  • L.A. Sparks players Olivia Nelson-Ododa, left, Lexi Gordon, center, and...

    L.A. Sparks players Olivia Nelson-Ododa, left, Lexi Gordon, center, and Kianna Smith selfie it up during the team’s 2022 preseason Media Day on Wednesday at Jump Beyond Sports in Torrance. (Photo by Chuck Bennett, Contributing Photographer)

  • L.A. Sparks players Chennedy Carter, left, and Rae Burrell during...

    L.A. Sparks players Chennedy Carter, left, and Rae Burrell during the team’s 2022 preseason Media Day on Wednesday at Jump Beyond Sports in Torrance. (Photo by Chuck Bennett, Contributing Photographer)

  • L.A. Sparks player Brittney Sykes finds a seat during their...

    L.A. Sparks player Brittney Sykes finds a seat during their 2022 preseason Media Day on Wednesday at Jump Beyond Sports in Torrance. (Photo by Chuck Bennett, Contributing Photographer)

  • L.A. Sparks player Arella Guirantes poses for photos during their...

    L.A. Sparks player Arella Guirantes poses for photos during their 2022 preseason Media Day on Wednesday at Jump Beyond Sports in Torrance. (Photo by Chuck Bennett, Contributing Photographer)

  • L.A. Sparks player Rae Burrell poses for photos during their...

    L.A. Sparks player Rae Burrell poses for photos during their 2022 preseason Media Day on Wednesday at Jump Beyond Sports in Torrance. (Photo by Chuck Bennett, Contributing Photographer)

  • L.A. Sparks players did a lot of posing for photos...

    L.A. Sparks players did a lot of posing for photos during their 2022 preseason Media Day on Wednesday at Jump Beyond Sports in Torrance. (Photo by Chuck Bennett, Contributing Photographer)

  • L.A. Sparks center Liz Cambage poses for photos during their...

    L.A. Sparks center Liz Cambage poses for photos during their 2022 preseason Media Day on Wednesday at Jump Beyond Sports in Torrance. (Photo by Chuck Bennett, Contributing Photographer)

  • L.A. Sparks player Nneka Ogwumike sits for interviews during their...

    L.A. Sparks player Nneka Ogwumike sits for interviews during their 2022 preseason Media Day on Wednesday at Jump Beyond Sports in Torrance. (Photo by Chuck Bennett, Contributing Photographer)

  • L.A. Sparks players wait for photos during their 2022 preseason...

    L.A. Sparks players wait for photos during their 2022 preseason Media Day on Wednesday at Jump Beyond Sports in Torrance. (Photo by Chuck Bennett, Contributing Photographer)

  • L.A. Sparks player Lexi Gordon poses for photos during the...

    L.A. Sparks player Lexi Gordon poses for photos during the team’s 2022 preseason Media Day on Wednesday at Jump Beyond Sports in Torrance. (Photo by Chuck Bennett, Contributing Photographer)

  • L.A. Sparks center Liz Cambage looks on during their 2022...

    L.A. Sparks center Liz Cambage looks on during their 2022 preseason Media Day on Wednesday at Jump Beyond Sports in Torrance. (Photo by Chuck Bennett, Contributing Photographer)

  • L.A. Sparks players pose for group photos during their 2022...

    L.A. Sparks players pose for group photos during their 2022 preseason Media Day on Wednesday at Jump Beyond Sports in Torrance. (Photo by Chuck Bennett, Contributing Photographer)

  • The L.A. Sparks’ Olivia Nelson-Ododa poses for photos during their...

    The L.A. Sparks’ Olivia Nelson-Ododa poses for photos during their 2022 preseason Media Day on Wednesday at Jump Beyond Sports in Torrance. (Photo by Chuck Bennett, Contributing Photographer)

  • L.A. Sparks coach/GM Derek Fisher speaks to players during their...

    L.A. Sparks coach/GM Derek Fisher speaks to players during their 2022 preseason Media Day on Wednesday at Jump Beyond Sports in Torrance. (Photo by Chuck Bennett, Contributing Photographer)

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TORRANCE — Last summer, the Sparks’ first season without perennial All-Stars Candace Parker and Chelsea Gray, the team went 12-20, finished last in the league in scoring and whiffed on the playoffs for just the fifth time in the franchise’s 25-year history.

So the Sparks retooled.

Or, as they’d put it: reloaded.

On Wednesday morning at Jump Beyond Sports, this summer’s practice spot, the Sparks opened their preseason media day by announcing a new multiyear, seven-figure financial sponsorship with UCLA Health.

And then Coach/General Manager Derek Fisher’s swashbuckling new-look crew took turns, two at a time, telling reporters, well, basically that they’re going into the season opener on May 6 in Chicago feeling like a million bucks.

“Coach Fish went crazy in the offseason, bringing in talent,” said center Liz Cambage, a four-time All-Star who had long wanted to play in L.A.

Her signing this offseason – for a discounted $170,000, a sacrifice intended to help Fisher load up – represented both a dream come true and the biggest catch in WNBA free agency.

The Sparks also brought in Chennedy Carter, a talented though embattled guard who was suspended 11 games into last season by Atlanta for “conduct detrimental to the team.”

Also aboard: Two-time WNBA champion and former UCLA star Jordin Canada and fellow Southern California native Katie Lou Samuelson, a sharpshooter who won a national championship at UConn. And Lexie Brown, a guard who was a part of the WNBA champion Chicago Sky last season, as well as rookie Rae Burrell, whom L.A. drafted ninth overall earlier this month.

Add Jasmine Walker – last year’s No. 7 overall pick – after a torn anterior cruciate ligament cost her almost all of her rookie season, plus healthier veteran stalwarts Nneka Ogwumike, Chiney Ogwumike and Kristi Toliver and, well, the Sparks’ expectations are so obviously steep there seemed no point in downplaying them Wednesday.

Brittney Sykes, an All-Defensive first-team selection for the past two seasons, recounted waking up in Australia (where she played this winter) every morning for a few days to news of another substantial signing or acquisition: “It was like, what we doing? And not even in a bad way, but like, ‘What you tryin’ to do?’

“’Cause we got pieces now in the sense in every spot,” Sykes said. “Whether they’re younger, whether they are seasoned, it’s one of those things where this is something that can turn into a dynasty. … This can be something very, very crazy in a great way. Teams are not gonna be able to prepare for as much scouting as they’ll have to do to prepare for our team.”

Cambage had a word for how she expects it will play out this summer at Crypto.com Arena: “Lit.”

“Crowd’s gonna be lit, building’s gonna be lit, women’s basketball gonna be lit,” said the 6-foot-8 Australian, who also has a foothold in fashion and music. “It’s gonna be the most wild summer WNBA’s ever seen – that’s how I think this summer’s gonna go.”

“Nah, for sure,” Sykes concurred.

“And,” Cambage continued, with a smile and a shrug, “we’re gonna have a ring at the end of it.”

Cambage famously brings a big personality to a Sparks roster that already included Chiney Ogwumike, a regular presence on ESPN, giving smart basketball insight, and which now also features Carter, the flashy 23-year-old who had the nickname “Hollywood” before even arriving in L.A.

“I’ll have a major role,” said Carter, who has averaged 16.1 points on 46.6% shooting so far in parts of two WNBA seasons. “Every night I go to sleep, I know I’ll have a major role on this team, and that I need to bring my sneakers laced no matter what, ’cause I’m one of the players that for sure will make this team go, and I can change momentum, for sure.”

Chiney Ogwumike’s expert analysis: “It’s almost like the get-with-it-or-get-lost, right? That’s the mentality we have. … I wanna win, we wanna win, we want to compete at the highest level. And every person in this room has a chip on their shoulder, and is out to prove something.”

That includes Walker, the 24-year-old forward from Alabama, who might be among the more mild-mannered of this Sparks contingent, but who has tuned all the way into the team’s frequency.

“We want to send out a message (that we’re) looking to be on top,” she said. “Just to let everybody know we here – because we will be.”

“Period!” exclaimed Chiney Ogwumike, enthusiastic in her agreement. “Period!”

Fisher – a five-time NBA champion as a member of the Lakers – cautioned it will take some time for the team he put together to gel, though he welcomes any additional “interest and intrigue” that this version of the Sparks could attract.

“It gives us a different interest level, by fans, by media, people are more curious about what our team is gonna look like – is it gonna be great? Or is it gonna implode?” he said. “… we need more people peeking behind the curtain to see, ‘What are the Sparks about?’ I think that’s good for business, I think it’s good for the W, and hopefully, we can blend the on- and off-court pieces and turn this into something really special.”