2020 will be Derek Fisher’s second season leading of the LA Sparks on the sidelines. After a 22-12 season in which the Sparks finished 3rd in the WNBA regular season standings, a slight improvement in chemistry and player development could be the difference between an early playoff exit and winning the 2020 WNBA Championship.
“If you’re the same team you were last year, you won’t win,” said the Sparks Head Coach. “The goal is to always win a championship but I think on a daily basis it’s finding a way to appreciate the process and the journey as opposed to just looking at the end result.”
CLEARING THE AIR WITH CANDACE
For some, the season was defined by the lack of playing time for Candace Parker in the Sparks elimination game against the Connecticut Sun. Parker played 11 minutes and 14 seconds before being benched. The Sun went on to sweep the Sparks 3-0, dominating the series in the post and on the perimeter. Fisher was out coached by Curt Miller who was able to game plan against Chelsea Gray, effectively neutralizing the Team USA Point Guard with a barrage of swarming traps on defense.
Fisher’s first offseason task was to make sure that LA’s superstars were happy and on the same page. I asked Coach Fisher if he had meeting of the minds with Parker and clear the air. Fisher provided a thoughtful response and telling response concerning his coach / player relationship with CP3.
“I don’t know if a meeting of the minds would the way describe or try and characterize it. I don’t know if we’re not seeing eye to eye. I think coaches and players have always not seen eye to eye about minutes or opportunities or games, etcetera,” Fisher added. “I think the idea of all of us is again to not allow individual moments to try and define who we are or what we do.”
Fisher said everyone on the Sparks, including himself, needed to be better last season.
“I think we’re all at a point where we can move forward and it’s more about 2020 and what we can do, as opposed to getting stuck in what we could have or should have done. The reality is we all needed to be better and whenever I say we or all, I include myself in that. Until we accomplish our goals and objectives, we’re always going to have questions and we’ll come back next year and find a way to be better and hopefully the ending will be better than it was in 2019.”
If Kalani Brown reaches her potential, the 6’7, 245 pound post player could be unstoppable and provide a huge boost for LA. In a recent Women’s Chinese Basketball Association game, Brown dropped 33 points, grabbed 14 rebounds, while playing 40 minutes.
In the WNBA, her peak is similar. Her ultimate goal should be to average a double-double. A realistic stat line could be 20 points, 10 rebounds and 2 blocks, anchoring a championship offense and defense.
One way for the Sparks to potentially be better in 2020 is simply by using and showcasing Kalani Brown, the 7th Pick in the 1st Round of the 2019 WNBA Draft. Brown, who nicknamed herself the “Baby Enforcer”, has shown herself to be one of the most physical players in the WNBA, even with limited minutes.
During her rookie season, Brown played in 28 of 34 games, averaging 5.1 points and 3.5 rebounds in a sporadic 13.5 minutes a game, ultimately ending the season as the last post player off the bench for the Sparks.
Meanwhile, there’s only a handful of players taller than Brown in the WNBA like 6’8 Liz Cambage, 6’9 Brittney Griner and 6’9 Han Xu, who is currently Brown’s teammate in China on the Xinjiang Magic Deer.
A twin towers lineup with Nneka Ogwumike will allow Brown to develop a post game with playing in more of a confined space with another traditional post player. At Baylor, Brown played alongside Lauren Cox, who often vacated the lane, allowing Brown ample space to go to work on offense.
However, a carbon copy of Brown stature is 6’7, 239 Teaira McCowan of the Indiana Fever. McCowan was asked to help lead the Fever as a rookie and when she started, she delivered. McCowan started 16 of 34 games, while averaging 10 points and 9 rebounds in just 22 minutes a game.
The Mississippi State product finished second in the league in rebounding in 2019. In the Per 36 minutes category, McCowan lead the league with 14.6 rebounds. Kalani Brown finished a respectable 30th with 9.3 rebounds per 36 minutes. Could Brown put up similar numbers if she earns similar playing time a McCowan?
Possibly. However, as of December 2019, the Sparks roster is still stacked with talented front court players like Nneka Ogwumike, Candace Parker, Chiney Ogwumike and Maria Vadeeva.
So the question looms, how does Brown earn more playing time and move up the depth chart with three perennial WNBA All-Stars, two of whom are former WNBA League MVP’s and a Russian National Team member seemingly ahead of her.
The ultimate answer is we will have to wait and see what the 2020 Sparks do to unleash Brown.