Sparks look for fresh start after parting with Fisher

This week in the WNBA saw the Sparks undergo a major leadership shakeup and an all-time great suffer a possible career-ending injury.

While not much has really changed in the standings, parts of the game have changed both on and off the court through the last week of action that could impact the trajectory for some teams for the rest of the season.

Sparks say goodbye to head coach and GM Derek Fisher

The Los Angeles Sparks made the decision to part ways with head coach and general manager Derek Fisher. The Sparks started their season 5-7, with his last loss coming in the form of a 81-76 setback against the Phoenix Mercury, who have been struggling to start the year.

Assistant coach Fred Williams has taken on the role of interim head coach since, trying to find a win despite having his first game in the role come against the top-ranked Las Vegas Aces while still trying to acclimate a team with multiple new players acquired in the off-season.

Fisher went 54-46 as head coach during his Sparks tenure — coming over from the NBA — and managed to make the playoffs in his first two seasons. But after a disappointing playoff exit in 2020, which Candace Parker had publicly expressed concern about, multiple stars including Parker left the Sparks and they missed the playoffs in 2021 with a 12-20 record.

After picking up Liz Cambage and Jordin Canada in the off-season, the Sparks had higher hopes than to start the season sub-.500. Following the Indiana Fever’s decision to relieve Marianne Stanley of her duties, the Sparks decided that a change in the front office and on the bench was what is needed to get them back to the championship form that they saw just six years ago.

Sky look back on track

The Chicago Sky didn’t have the ideal start to the season, falling to the Sparks, Storm and Aces after winning the WNBA title last season, but they have turned it around and won four of their last five games including wins over Washington and the top-ranked Connecticut Sun.

Their only loss in the last five games was a two-point game against to the Mystics, who also remain a top-three team in a stacked Eastern Conference. But the Sky have a confident rotation of championship starters and a deep bench that can score and will continue to create problems for whoever they face.

In a win over Connecticut, Chicago shot 9.6 per cent better from beyond the arc, but even without the three-point line the Sky dominated as Emma Meesseman notched a season-high 26 points on 11-of-14 shooting.

Candace Parker continued to do Candace Parker things with her home team against the Sun, scoring 18 points including 75 per cent shooting from the three, and had five assists to close out her night. Overall, the Sky showcased the elite playmaking that helped lead them to a title with assists on 25 of 31 field goals that night.

As for Connecticut, who shot just 33 per cent from the arc, Brionna Jones led the team with 20 points and five rebounds, and DeWanna Bonner continued her streak of double-digit games with 18 points. But with only seven players on the court and shots not falling, the Sun didn’t have an answer for a deep Sky team.

Have we seen the last of Big Syl?

We always knew that this season would be Sylvia Fowles’ last, and while the veteran center in her 15th year is still leading the Lynx in scoring, rebounding, steals and blocks per game, her time in the league may have been cut short after an MRI revealed that she had a cartilage injury in her right knee. The team has ruled her out indefinitely.

Fowles, named to the W25 of the greatest 25 WNBA players of all time last season, has put up numbers that will be hard to replicate as an elite defensive big.

Her resume includes:

• Two-time WNBA Champion
• Two-time WNBA Finals MVP
• WNBA Most Valuable Player
• Four-time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year including in 2021
• Seven-time WNBA All-Star
• Three-time All-WNBA first team
• The WNBA’s career leader in rebounds (3,712) and field goal percentage (59.7 per cent)

Not to mention her contributions to USA Basketball as a four-time Olympic gold medalist and a FIBA World Championship gold medalist.

If she doesn’t take the hardwood again, Fowles has left the game in a better place than when she found it.

First All-Star returns bring little surprise

With WNBA All-Star weekend now less than a month away, the first return of All-Star voting has come in and the results are not that shocking as the league’s top players continue to dominate the votes.

A’ja Wilson and Breanna Stewart were the only two players with over 20,000 votes each with Wilson leading the voting, followed by Candace Parker and Kelsey Plum both receiving over 17,000 votes in the polls.

Elena Delle Donne, Sylvia Fowles, Jackie Young, Nneka Ogwumike, Sue Bird and Jewell Lloyd round out the top 10 in voting, with rookie Rhyne Howard trailing just behind in 11th place.

This year’s All-Star format — different than last year’s when the All-Star team played against Team USA — will be two teams hand-selected by the captains, who will be the two All-Star starters who receive the most fan votes.

The captains will draft their respective rosters by selecting first from the remaining eight players in the pool of 10 starters chosen by votes, and then from a pool of 12 reserves who are selected by the league’s head coaches.

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