If the basketball court is Chelsea Gray’s canvas, her greatest painting is the no-look pass.
“It’s a bit of intuition. It’s just always how I’ve played since I was younger,” said the All-Star Point Guard. Gray is averaging a career-high 5.9 assists per game this season, which is good for second overall in the WNBA.
Gray seemingly makes at least one highlight-reel play a game. The type of play worthy of an ESPN Sportscenter Top 10 nomination. Gray said that’s because she’s a student of the art of the no-look pass.
“I’ve watched a lot of film on people that do it quite a bit. Ticha (Penicheiro) and Magic (Johnson) a lot, so that’s how I kind of how I learned it at a young age, I just find my own niche and my own way of doing things,” Gray aka the POINT GAWDDDDD told W-Insidr.
The legends that Gray mentioned both spent time in LA. Magic played his whole career for the purple and gold (of the Lakers). Four-time WNBA All-Star Ticha Penicheiro, who most notably played for the Sacramento Monarchs from 1998-2009, also suited up for the Sparks in 2010-11. Penicheiro caught wind of Gray’s shoutout via Twitter.
“Thanks for the shoutout Chelsea Gray but you definitely have added a whole lot of new ‘flavors’ to it,” Penicheiro tweeted before using a winking emoji, as if to pass the no-look torch to the Point Gawd.
However, Sparks Head Coach Derek Fisher, who won five titles as a point guard, often holds his breath when Sparks players attempt extraordinary no look passes.
“Successful no-look passes, whew that one made it. Not successful no-look passes, what the . . . are we doing,” said Fisher recalling what it’s been like to watch Chelsea Gray connect on passes most players would only dream of attempting.
“Chelsea has a feel for the flair and a desire to create that moment. I think Candace has a feel for it and at times a desire to create those moments. We’re not going to take that away from them,” Fisher said. “It makes us a fun team to watch. It’s entertaining, our fans enjoy it.”
Meanwhile, those no-look passes even catch Sparks players off guard admits rookie Marina Mabrey.
“They fake me out too,” shared Marina Mabrey. “I’m like ‘oh yeah she’s passing it to me’ and all of a sudden, (the pass goes to) somebody else on the block and I’m like ‘nice, let’s run back (on defense).’”
“Sometimes they’re a little over my head but it’s awesome just being out there with them (Gray and Parker) because they make everybody else better,” Mabrey added.
Gray’s entertaining behind the back no-look passes are often reminiscent of Magic Johnson’s “Showtime” sizzle that will forever be revered in Los Angeles. However, flashy her passes may seem, Gray also maintains fundamentals by often incorporating the infrequently used bounce pass into her no look repertoire.
“I think it just depends on time, place and who you’re passing to,” Gray said before looking off to plot what could very well be her next highlight, no-look dime.
“I think for both players (Chelsea Gray and Candace Parker), it’s just a matter of understanding when and that sometimes you have to resist that urge to create that flair moment because we worked so hard to own the momentum,” Fisher explained.
Always a coach and a strategist, Fisher role played scenarios for W-Insidr.
In Fisher’s example, he explained how what he calls a “flair” no-look pass might kill the Sparks momentum with a costly turnover. It could give an opponent that’s on the ropes, a chance to catch their second wind and come out swinging.
“We’re one or two possessions from going up 9 to up 15, (that’s) not the time. I think for both players (Gray and Parker) that’s what they need to continue to focus on.”
“We’re going to be hopefully in a playoff game scenario where we’re up 13 in the 3rd quarter and if we just stay disciplined and focused, we could go from 13 to 19 to 20 and start thinking about the next game. As opposed to a flair pass, turnover, three, offensive foul, basket and now we’re only up seven.”
“That’s how quickly it happens so long answer but that’s what I think about when I see those passes,” Fisher concluded.