Dishin & Swishin 6/06/13 Podcast: Sparks aim even higher in year two under Carol Ross and we debut a new segment

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Just two WNBA seasons ago the Los Angeles Sparks were in the lottery, not the playoffs. Having deemed that unacceptable, the Sparks began roster renovations with the drafting of Nneka Ogwumike and placed their team in the hands of longtime college head coach and Atlanta Dream assistant coach Carol Ross.

Year one was a success by anyone’s measuring stick with the Sparks reaching the Western Conference finals before being swept by the Minnesota Lynx. Ogwumike was Rookie of the Year and superstar Candace Parker was a legitimate Most Valuable Player candidate. Alana Beard showed she still had game and Kristi Toliver flourished, becoming the league’s Most Improved Player. For year two, Ross wants more, and even though other competitors in the Western conference made some bold moves and added some outstanding talent, Ross is enjoying the way her team is flying somewhat under the radar.

If there was a troublesome area on the Sparks last season, it was at the point guard, where Sharnee Zoll was signed but missed the season due to injury. Toliver, Beard, and even Parker took turns bringing the ball up. That problem has been eliminated with the off-season signing of free agent guard Lindsey Harding from the Atlanta Dream, where Ross had coached her previously. Harding is exactly the type of player Ross loves: hard-working, defensive-oriented, and high energy. Her arrival also allows Toliver to be more of the shooting guard she thrives at and enables Parker to work the low post more freely.

In their season opener, the Sparks faithful got a glimpse of what could be, as they blew out the Seattle Storm 102-69. The starting five of Parker, Beard, Harding, Toliver, and Ogwumike combined for 67 points, but none played more than 24 minutes.

However, their second game, a week later, showed some of the inconsistencies still exist from last season. Toliver and Ogwumike struggled, hitting only four-of-thirteen shots. Beard sat out the game with soreness. Despite Parker scoring 27 points and hauling in a career high 20 rebounds, the Silver Stars defeated the Sparks 83-78, and left Ross, as she said in today’s podcast “confused, like every other coach.”

In today’s podcast Ross talks about what went right and wrong in the first two games, the team’s bizarre schedule (only three games until June 14, when they play a back-to-back with Phoenix and San Antonio), the importance of Harding, the changes in Ogwumike this season, the success and ability of Parker, the marketing of the “three-to see” versus the established stars and more.

Prior to coach Ross on the podcast, we are debuting a new segment on Dishin & Swishin. Periodically, one of our established Roundtable participants will join the podcast, to go around women’s basketball, and discuss things that are going on in and around the sport.

This week TV analyst Debbie Antonelli is on board. Topics include the idea the league must not forget (in Antonelli’s words) there is not just “three to see but “don’t forget about me, I am an MVP.” Parker, Diana Taurasi, Tina Charles and Tamika Catchings are just four who make the WNBA great, a fact the minds behind the advertising and promotion of the league need to remember. Other topics include the Indiana Fever’s banner raising, Phoenix’s slow start and Atlanta’s great start, the NBA/WNBA player comparison on, and weekend induction of the new class into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. A fast-paced, broad sweeping conversation we know you will like.oy the podcast!

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