Unlike Lebron James, whose pricey entrance into the NBA effectively killed the Cleveland Rockers’ existence, Kobe Bryant may have done the Los Angeles Sparks a massive favor.
Of course the superstar wasn’t trying to in scoring a game-high 42 points (and zero assists), in a 106-90 loss to Oklahoma City on Monday. But the defeat kicked the Lakers from the postseason, dropping the Western Conference semifinal series 4-1 to the Thunder.
With the Clippers swept by San Antonio, the massive NBA shadow that normally hovers over the Sparks until late June is suddenly cleared in time for the team’s home-opener Tuesday at Staples Center.
Longtime WNBA prognosticators have felt LA needs to succeed in order for the league to prosper. It’s a big market that has fans stretched across the nation just because it’s LA. While I believe Seattle can carry the flag with its passion and leadership in technology, I see the point.
Once moved to make room for the boys (LA was supposed to open Sunday), the Sparks (1-0) now have a clean slate to really shine. And who better to help show, again, what the zenith of the WNBA can be than Seattle as an opponent?
The teams square off at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday. While Minnesota had 12,611 fans at its season-opener on Sunday, of the weekend debuts, LA-Seattle had the most entertaining game. The Sparks rallied from a 21-point deficit to defeat the Storm 72-66 before a sold out crowd (9,686) at KeyArena. Reserve Kristi Toliver had 10 of her game-high 25 points in the fourth quarter, nailing all five of her team’s three-pointers overall.
In the rematch, expect Seattle (0-1) to have more of groove with each other and play more physical. At least that’s what coach Brian Agler has worked on the past two practices before traveling Monday to LA.
The Sparks also made some adjustments, opening the win down 11-0 and looking like the disappointment of old. Well, Tuesday’s a chance to steal a few fans looking to feel a sudden void left by the Lakers and Clippers, who’s going to nab them — Seattle or Los Angeles?
In addition to the Storm-Sparks matchup, there are three other games in the WNBA on Tuesday. The defending champs in Minnesota (1-0) play at New York (0-1). The Lynx received their championship rings on Sunday, above is G Candice Wiggins’ shot of the bling as tweeted on her Twitter account.
Phoenix (0-1) plays at Tulsa (0-1) on Tuesday. The Mercury lost to the Lynx on the road Sunday, playing without All-Star Diana Taurasi (strained hip flexor) and Penny Taylor. While Taylor is out due to tearing her ACL in overseas play, Taurasi is expected to return after looking good in practice on Monday.
For a round up of the WNBA’s opening weekend, please click here.
If you haven’t been to the WNBA’s site in a while, check out the new design. The backdrop is orange (my favorite color) and the tag to buy tickets is based on your location. Oddly dormant during the offseason, even laying off a few people who ran the site, the league is doing a good job at staying connected with fans online as the season begins.
The WNBA still needs work on the “Center Court” mobile app, however. There’s nothing listed under game archives and it would be nice to get a blurb preview for each game in addition to the stat leaders. But I’m late to the party and must say sitting on the beach and clicking between Chicago holding off Washington and Connecticut muscling New York on my cell phone was, in a word, awesome.
Today’s games are also on LiveAccess, which can be streamed on select mobile devices.
*PHOTO CREDIT: Minnesota G Candice Wiggins shows her championship ring in self portrait posted on Twitter.