Sparks

Sparks Family Outlasts Determined Fever

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Many baseball fans know of the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates, who used the song “We Are Family” as a fitting mantra for a tough-luck franchise that finally won the championship. True, America has changed tremendously since then. We all know numerous mixed families, and societal approval (finally!) arrived for non-traditional couples.

It’s been two games, and the Los Angeles Sparks are only beginning a quest for their fourth championship. However, even overly cautious fans must acknowledge how quickly the 2022 pride of women’s Californian sports is becoming a 21st-century version of the Bucs. Behind thoughtful coach Derek Fisher (far more than a one-shot wonder!) and dancing queen Liz Cambage, the 2-0 Sparks announced that skepticism, too, is a sentiment best left in the ’70s.

Been There Before

Yes, Indiana has experienced struggles since its most recent, 2016 playoff appearance. However, the Sparks knew that even the worst WNBA team (and it’s far too early to label any franchise with that demerit) is still a threat.

WNBA Lead asked coach Fisher how the Sparks could continue to build on the success of their overtime win to start the season.

“Well, I think our veteran players, their example. Not just a physical performance, but the group that we had out on the floor are a very experienced group; with Liz, Nneka, Lexi Brown, Jordin Canada, Brittney Sykes.”

Those veterans succeed in pressure situations, and Brown, specifically, contributes significantly.

“They’ve been in a lot of those situations before, maybe not as a five-person unit. But they’ve been there before. We’re really happy for Lexi Brown, in particular, having a chance to win a championship in Chicago last year, but maybe not have the type of role that all players want to have at some point in your career.”

Brown assisted LA in overtime, but, as always, it was a multi-woman effort.

“The way she stepped up and helped our team, and they all deserve the credit, but also our young players. We had 37-38 points off the bench; basically, a lot of rookies; Chennedy Carter had 12 points in 12 minutes. That put us in position to be in overtime.”

No one prefers slow starts, but Fisher noted that a total team effort can produce successful conclusions.

“We got off to a slow start, down 12-2 before we could blink, so it was really a total team effort, and that’s something that we hope to build on. It’s why we really tried to put our roster together the way we did, and hopefully, we can have some more of that this afternoon.”

The Sparks had the correct, professional attitude entering the Fever game. How would the team respond after a challenging 45-minute Chicago tussle?

Fever Broken

Kelsey Mitchell started the scoring with a three, and Indiana regained possession after a Nneka Ogwumike miss. Destanni Henderson, playing her second career professional game, tried a whip-around layup over Cambage.

As if!

Nneka and Los Angeles overcame their deficit so quickly that Fever guest speaker Duane Washington Jr. didn’t have time to finish his interview.

And Carter provided her trademark zip with a professional touch (more on her mindset in a bit).

Highlights can never tell the entire story. If the Sparks tweeted every exciting play in 2022, their social media managers would develop calluses! The most remarkable outcome of what became an 87-77 triumph is how LA never let Indiana establish a confident lead. Every time the Fever started a run, LA answered. By the last minute, even though Indiana coach Marianne Stanley called timeouts, her 50 years in basketball couldn’t blunt the light from the WNBA’s brightest franchise.

While the win impressed a new Amazon audience, the postgame reaction proved enriching.

New Team, Same Goal

There may be a few ballhogs in the NBA, not naming names. Too many athletes care excessively about personal accolades at the expense of the team’s success.

Refreshingly, Carter, despite another excellent game (12 points in 21 bench minutes), again refused to assume individual ownership her newfound success. When WNBA Lead asked Carter what she had done to maintain her career dominance, she refused to accept credit, instead complimenting her Sparks sisters (once she shrugged off a hug from Cambage).

Pardon Carter’s French, as a 2-0 start is a suitable reason to let one’s tongue loosen a bit. Note especially her concluding words. “I’m excited, it’s been really fun, and it’s only been two games.” To distant observers, playing in the WNBA seems to be a ton of work. And it is, of course. But for an undefeated team, there’s time for smiles, buckets, and a little Cambage jam too.

The years pass as the calendar turns, with past teams too quickly forgotten. But the Sparks family found a glimmer of joy as the WNBA season tips off in a timeless retelling of the champion’s success story.

About Jeffrey Newholm

"Jammin Jeff" Newholm had been a basketball fanatic since his high school days, and remained a casual fan as a student in Whitewater. Wishing to check in as an active participant, he also completed a writing certificate program at UWM. He loves seeing Bucks games more than any other activity in hometown Milwaukee and especially screaming really really loudly to get someone to miss a free throw. Twitter: @JeffreyNewholm

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