By Gary Montgomery
Los Angeles The Sparks will begin its quest to regain the WNBA championship crown on Friday night in Sacramento.
Hoping to win its third championship in four years, the Sparks have amassed a league best 25-9 season record and claimed home court advantage throughout the playoffs and the finals.
The lack of home court advantage was a big factor in last seasons championship loss to Detroit. Not having home court advantage and the loss of their inside enforcer Latesha Byers, the Sparks managed to win game 1 at Staples but were outmanned by a hot shooting Shock team back in Detroit. This season the Sparks have secured home court advantage throughout the playoffs and the finals.
The Sparks have a number of other advantages going into this years playoffs, biggest of all, the Sparks have the best player on the planet.
Lisa Leslie has elevated her game to stratospheric heights and carried the leadership role as if she were possessed. She is simply the best player in the league right now and will be awarded the this seasons MVP in a few weeks in recognition of her outstanding season.
Leslie either leads or is in the top five in every major statistical category this season. Her leadership in the locker-room and dominance on the floor have propelled the team to the leagues best record.
During a recent game against the defending champion Detroit Shock, Lisa blocked three shots on a single play to turn a closely contested game into a Sparks route. Leslie finished the game with the first ever triple-double in WNBA history. Leslie credits her success to training and preparation.
In July the the team lost coach Michael Cooper to the NBA putting general manager Penny Toler in the enviable position of having to look for a new leader for the last half of the season. Cooper had been the most successful of the teams four coaches with three trips to the finals and two titles in just four years.
Assistants Karleen Thompson and Ryan Weisenberg were installed as co-coaches in the interim and have completed the season with a league best 11-3 record.
Team Thompson and Weisenberg have proven that they are capable of completing the mission and present no weakness for the opponents. Before leaving Cooper said, Karleen will be fine, both she and Ryan understand what were trying to do here. I have given them the opportunity to prepare for this and the Sparks will be just fine.
The Sparks also lost all-star forward Delisha Milton-Jones to a season ending knee injury.
Still no problem, in comes Georgia rookie Christi Thomas to help Lisa out up front. Thomas at 63 is an outstanding leaper and has improved steady with increased playing time.
Now add Nikki Teasley, Mwadi Mabiwa and Tameka Dixon, the best back court trio in the WNBA and you have a championship team. Teasley leads the league with 6.1 assists per game and is shooting 41% from the three point line. Mabika is the best jump shooter in the league and is a leader in three point shooting.
Tameka Dixon playing as well as she has at any point in her career is a slasher with the ability to dissolve defenses. She is averaging over 3 assists per game this season. The Sparks have the most balanced line-up in the league. If they continue to play as well as then have all season throughout the playoffs the WNBA championship will be returning to LA in a couple weeks.
Gary Montgomery can be reached at email@example.com
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