Los Angeles, Ca – When you’ve reached the pinnacle of professional basketball earning the coveted championship ring, where do you go from there?
The answer is simple, according to Los Angeles Sparks head coach Brian Agler during the team’s media gathering on Tuesday, May 16 at the Los Angeles Athletic Club.
You don’t think about it. Instead, you focus on the present; what’s in front of you.
As the 2017 WNBA season tipped-off for reigning champion the Los Angeles Sparks on Saturday with a 78-68 win over the Seattle Storm, the newly crowned royalty of professional basketball addressed the media with one goal and one goal only: to repeat last year’s championship feat.
“We get better day by day,” Agler said. “Training camp helped established culture. I’m a firm believer in staying focused.”
With a slew of new faces, Agler and the organization’s long-time general manager Penny Toler knows that the veteran core of 2016 league MVP Nneka Ogwumike, forward Candace Parker, center Jantel Lavender and guard Alana Beard must prepare to lead a new pack of wolves if they want a repeat.
To keep it simple, it’s easier said than done.
“It’s all about getting better,” Toler said, “Everything changes. The work we did last year will not be enough this year.”
With a target constantly on the team’s back for the rest of the season, the Sparks are wary of what’s to come, and it’s not going to come easy. Regardless, the focus will always be on the team in order to accomplish the ultimate goal.
“I see concerns and obstacles as challenges,” Ogwumike said, “I don’t think about anybody else. I just think about us.”
Last year’s team were battle-ready with experience coming off the bench, but this time around, it can get a little tricky with some fresh legs dawning the court for the first time in their careers.
With the move of guard Kristi Toliver to the Washington Mystic in the offseason, the team brought in two seasoned guards in Odyssey Sims and Riquna Williams, the latter coming off a season-ending injury. Both players addressed the team’s tight-knit atmosphere and defensive strengths as reasons why they made the move.
Amongst the newcomers are rookies Senegalese international Maimouna Diarra and Sydney Wiese, the 11th-overall pick in the 2017 WNBA Draft from Oregon State. Diarra brings another post player to guard the basket and score on the other, while Wiese’s sharpshooting abilities adds depth to the Sparks’ bench.
Surely, the additions will accommodate the Sparks for the majority of the season. The team knows it’ll take way more than accommodation for another shot at the title, especially when expectations are not only higher because of what was accomplished last year, but because it is and always will be a Los Angeles team.