The Los Angeles Sparks fell 82-71 at Connecticut on Tuesday, and the preseason favorite’s worries got a little more intense. The Sparks are now 4-8 _ um, you may have noticed the 3-10 team behind LA in the West standings just fired its coach _ and so the question has to be asked.
Are the Sparks really going to right the ship when Lisa Leslie returns from injury and Candace Parker returns to her usual self after her maternity leave?
Many of us are trying to figure out why we guzzled the Sparks’ purple Kool-aid despite knowing that there really are some good reasons Leslie is retiring at season’s end, that Parker was going to try to do the ultimate quickie bounce-back, that Tina Thompson would be in a new place with different circumstances, and that the Sparks were going to have point-guard questions that other top teams wouldn’t have.
We knew all this in the preseason and yet still figured the Sparks would win it all. And I think the biggest mistake we all made was the ridiculous assumption that Parker was going to come back very quickly as an impact player the second she stepped on the court.
It was hard not to think that, especially considering how amazing her 2008 was – winning an NCAA title, being the WNBA’s top draft pick, winning an Olympic gold medal, being selected the league’s MVP and rookie of the year. We saw Parker rise to the occasion with every challenge, even when her shoulder popped out in the 2008 Elite Eight game against Texas A&M.
This is Candace, right? Nothing can really stop her. Thus, we all kept saying variations of, “The Sparks will be fine when Candace comes back,” as if she was supposed to not miss a beat since the end of last season. As if childbirth is just another thing to “get past,” much like Parker’s scary-looking dangling shoulder had been against the Aggies.
Parker took four shots Tuesday, making one. She also made one of two free throws and had two rebounds and two assists in 20-plus minutes of time on court. In the context of someone who had a baby two months ago, that’s a good performance. But because it’s Parker, we just expected she would be dominant again.
There is still plenty of time for LA, of course, and Leslie – who has a right knee sprain – will bring much to the Sparks when she returns.Parker very probably won’t have a lot of games where she barely scores.
But to believe Parker is without question going to reach her “standard” level this season _ that’s one of those things that you wonder why you ever just “assumed” would be true to begin with. She’s an amazing athlete … but it’s absurd to expect her to be superhuman.