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April 15, 2009 at 3:29 PM

WNBA Draft Redux: Los Angeles Sparks

Lennox2.jpgThis blog is winding down to a mini-hiatus before the WNBA season by taking a look back at the draft team-by-team. We’ll start with the biggest drama producers of them all — Los Angeles. Although I will shutdown the blog from May 1-10, you can always follow me on Twitter. So, let’s get to it.
The call on Tuesday was nauseating. Former Storm guard Betty Lennox (pictured right with ball) was beside herself, counting the talented pieces she’s suddenly part of. The Sparks signed the 2004 Finals MVP to a two-year deal worth the max ($97,000) ending Lennox’s brief unemployment when Atlanta waived her this offseason.
Still a strong player at 32, Lennox will have to take a backseat on a roster that includes Olympians Tina Thompson, Lisa Leslie, DeLisha Milton, and eventually Candace Parker, who is expecting her first child (a girl) in May. But, as expected, Lennox doesn’t mind, yet.
“I want to learn,” she said from her home in Missouri. “I’m just so excited.”
Lennox said she wanted to play for coach Michael Cooper since being drafted in 2000 to Minnesota. She idolized the former Lakers star as a child and feels he’ll impart more knowledge to her. Lennox talked to Cooper and he said he’ll be part of the Sparks team, despite his discussions with Southern California about the vacant women’s basketball position.
Cooper and GM Penny Toler were the busiest team this offseason between trades, free agent signings and getting the biggest steal in the draft — Oklahoma forward Ashley Paris in the second round. Needing to plan for the future (Leslie is retiring after this season and Thompson is taking it year-by-year) in addition to winning now, Paris could develop into a solid WNBA player, if retained.
Toler and Cooper have some tough decisions to make and training camp doesn’t even open until May 17. The Sparks have 17 players listed on their roster, although Kiesha Brown, Margo Dydek, and Murriel Page are unrestricted free agents. Brown and Dydek are not expected to return. The team re-signed Italian G Marta Fernandez, leaving Marie Ferdinand-Harris as a question mark. Ferdinand-Harris, who also played in San Antonio, could be waived and picked up by the Storm.
Not having Parker until July at the earliest leaves space for another post. But it seems this team only needs to be patient with one another during the regular season, and then turn it on during the postseason to win a championship – an annual theme in LA sans postseason success. The difference this season weighs on whether the current backcourt develops a good chemistry with the Olympic frontline and LA getting past plucky San Antonio and Detroit.
“I think I’m going to have the best two years in LA, I really do,” said Lennox, who didn’t return to Russia and will instead prepare for the upcoming season stateside. She’ll remain No. 22 with the Sparks. “I’ve got to take a backseat to a lot, but I’m willing to do whatever to win championships. Candace is the face of the WNBA and I’m going to be a part of that by being on her team. I mean, I’m playing for Coop! We’re the same type of player. It’s going to be exciting.”



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