Sparks
Getty Images

After an up and down regular season, the Los Angeles Sparks were swept out of the playoffs last fall by the Connecticut Sun in the semi-finals. Year One of the Derek Fisher era ended in embarrassment, as he made a bizarre decision to bench Candace Parker for much of the final game, and the Sparks were run out of the gym. 

Heading into this season, there was hope they could put the drama behind them. They had a year of experience with their new group, brought back Finals hero Kristi Toliver to stabilize their backcourt and locker room and had hopes of contending once again. 

Then, the pandemic happened. Now Toliver, Chiney Ogwumike and Maria Vadeeva are sitting out of the season, and they have a major depth issue. Still, Parker, Nneka Ogwumike and Chelsea Gray are as talented a trio as exists in the league. Can they lead the Sparks back to the Finals?

Ahead of the 2020 season, here's everything you need to know about Los Angeles. 

Roster

PLAYERPOSITION

Kristine Anigwe

F

Seimone Augustus

G

Te'a Cooper

G

Chelsea Gray

G

Reshanda Gray

F

Marie Gulich

C

Nneka Ogwumike

F

Candace Parker

F

Tierra Ruffin-Pratt

G/F

Brittney Sykes

G

Sydney Wiese

G

Riquana Williams

G

Players sitting out: Chiney Ogwumike, Kristi Toliver, Maria Vadeeva

Schedule

All times Eastern

DATETIME OPPONENTTV

July 25

3 p.m.

Phoenix Mercury

ABC

July 28

8 p.m.

Chicago Sky

July 30

10 p.m.

Connecticut Sun

ESPN

Aug. 1

8 p.m.

Seattle Storm

CBS Sports Network

Aug. 5

10 p.m.

Indiana Fever

Aug. 7

9 p.m.

Las Vegas Aces

ESPN 2

Aug. 9

7 p.m.

Minnesota Lynx

ESPN 2

Aug. 11

9 p.m.

New York Liberty

ESPN 2

Aug. 13

7 p.m.

Washington Mystics

ESPN 2

Aug. 15

4 p.m.

Indiana Fever

WNBA League Pass

Aug. 19

10 p.m.

Phoenix Mercury

WNBA League Pass

Aug. 21

7 p.m.

Atlanta Dream

WNBA League Pass

Aug. 23

6 p.m.

Dallas Wings

WNBA League Pass

Aug. 26

8 p.m.

Minnesota Lynx

CBS Sports Network

Aug. 28

8 p.m.

Connecticut Sun

CBS Sports Network

Aug. 30

8 p.m.

Atlanta Dream

WNBA League Pass

Sept. 2

8 p.m.

Dallas Wings

CBS Sports Network

Sept. 4

10 p.m.

Seattle Storm

WNBA League Pass

Sept. 6

8 p.m.

Chicago Sky

CBS Sports Network

Sept. 8

7 p.m.

New York Liberty

CBS Sports Network

Sept. 10

10 p.m.

Washington Mystics

CBS Sports Network

Sept. 12

8 p.m.

Las Vegas Aces

WNBA League Pass

Key storylines

Big losses: The coronavirus pandemic has affected every team in the league, but the Sparks have been particularly hit hard. Maria Vadeeva decided to stay in Russia rather than traveling to the States this summer, while both Chiney Ogwuike and Kristi Toliver have chosen to sit out the season due to health concerns. 

Vadeeva and Ogwumike were expected to be key parts of their frontcourt rotation, and after dealing with a logjam in the frontcourt last season, they're suddenly very thin down low. Toliver, meanwhile, was their key offseason acquisition and was supposed to be a big boost to their outside shooting. 

There's still a lot of talent on this team, but they're in a much worse position than they were just a few months ago. 

Will the "Big Three" be enough?: Despite the losses of Chiney Ogwumike, Toliver and Vadeeva, the Sparks still have plenty of talent. In fact, Candace Parker, Nneka Ogwumike and Chelsea Gray are arguably the best "Big Three" in the league this season. That's the good news. The bad news is the aforementioned losses have left them with extremely questionable depth. 

Riquana Williams and Tierra Ruffin-Pratt are proven role players, and Brittany Sykes has shown some flashes in her first few seasons in the league. Seimone Augustus has arrived as a big name with championship experience, but it's hard to expect much out of her at this point in her career. 

Even if you count Augustus, you're heading into the season with about seven players you can count on in big games, and four of them are 30 or older. We know they have the top-end talent to compete, but will they be able to hold up without reliable depth, especially with a condensed season forcing teams to play almost every other day for six weeks? It's going to be interesting to watch. 

Relationship drama: The Sparks were bounced out of the playoffs last season in embarrassing fashion, swept aside by the Sun in the semi-finals, with the final loss in Game 3 coming by 22 points at home. If that wasn't enough, Candace Parker was benched along the way, playing just 11 minutes in the final game. 

A clearly frustrated Parker was muttering to herself on the bench as their season slipped away, and in the aftermath of head coach Derek Fisher's bizarre decision, ESPN published a lengthy report about drama inside the Sparks locker room. A key component of the story was Parker's clash with Fisher, who was hired prior to last season under strange circumstances. 

Entering this season, Fisher is eager to leave the incident in the past, but whether he likes it or not, it will be hanging over everyone's head. The best hope for Fisher and the Sparks is that they can get off to a hot start and quell any drama before it arises.