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    Sparks look to avoid franchise-worst 9-game skid
    • July 4, 2024

    TORRANCE — The Sparks are trying to avoid a franchise-record nine-game losing streak. To prevent that, the Sparks must beat the two-time defending champion Las Vegas Aces on Friday night at Arena.

    “We don’t want to lose any games, but obviously trying to work on process and standards,” Sparks coach Curt Miller said. “Take care of the little things that help take care of the wins and losses.”

    Sparks All-Star forward Dearica Hamby always has a bit of extra motivation against the Aces, the team that traded her to the Sparks before last season when she was pregnant with her now 1-year-old son Legend.

    “Yes and no. It’s not the same type of motivation but another game to get better and prove myself,” Hamby said after Thursday’s practice at the team’s training facility at El Camino College.

    Hamby, a 2022 WNBA champion with the Aces, earned her third All-Star selection in four years Tuesday night before a disappointing 82-80 loss to the Washington Mystics.

    “We had (the Mystics) the other night. We had a 14-point lead early in the fourth quarter and Washington outplayed us that last nine minutes,” Miller continued.

    Hamby, 30, has emerged as a go-to player and is having the best season of her career by all metrics. The 6-foot-3 post player is averaging a career-high 18.3 points and 10.3 rebounds in her 10th season in the WNBA.

    “Once again, we’re trying to get the monkey off our back,” Hamby said. “We have some competitive games coming up. We beat Vegas before but also the first game we played them really well. It’s an opportunity to beat them.”

    The Sparks (4-15) are 1-1 against the Aces this season, including a 96-92 win at Arena on June 9. Hamby’s 18 points and 10 rebounds anchored the Sparks’ win against her former team. Aces center A’ja Wilson had a game-high 31 points and Kelsey Plum poured in 24 points, but the Sparks used a strong second-half surge to seize momentum in what would be the last time the Sparks won a game.

    Since the Sparks defeated the Aces (11-6), the two-time defending champions have returned to full strength, adding guards Chelsea Gray and Jackie Young back to the team’s starting lineup. They, along with Wilson and Plum, were named to the U.S. women’s basketball national team ahead of the Paris Olympics, giving the Aces’ franchise one-third of the players on Team USA.

    “They’re a really talented group,” Miller said. “There’s a reason they went back-to-back for the first time since the Sparks did it (in 2001 and 2002). But we’ve played really well against them.”

    “We haven’t seen them with Chelsea, we saw them once before without Jackie, but I think we should have a lot of confidence going into this game,” Hamby said.

    Sparks sign Dangerfield

    The Sparks made a move to get back to 10 active players ahead of Friday’s game against the Aces by signing guard Crystal Dangerfield, the WNBA’s 2020 Rookie of the Year, to a seven-day hardship contract, which includes the team’s remaining three games (Aces, Mercury, Lynx) on a four-game homestand that runs through Tuesday.

    “Just coming in and doing what I do, being confident and rubbing off on others and playing some winning basketball,” said Dangerfield, who flew to Los Angeles from Atlanta on Wednesday.

    “It sounds funny but I’m excited to have 10 people,” Miller said with a genuine smile on his face. “It’s just crazy. You think about my almost 60 regular-season games now (with Sparks) and we have played with a full (12-person) roster. We played a lot of games with 10 or less.”

    The Sparks have three players sidelined who all attended Thursday’s practice: Cameron Brink (ACL), Lexie Brown (Crohn’s disease) and Azurá Stevens (left arm). Stevens, who practiced, told the Southern California News Group on Sunday she expects to make her season debut within the next two weeks.

    Dangerfield, from the University of Connecticut, was selected in the second round by the Minnesota Lynx in the 2020 draft.

    In the 5-foot-5 guard’s best season as a rookie inside the WNBA’s Wubble in Bradenton, Florida, she averaged 16.2 points and 3.6 assists per game.

    Dangerfield is joining her sixth team in five WNBA seasons. She has already played for the Lynx (2020-21), Indiana Fever (2022), New York Liberty (2022), Dallas Wings (2023) and Atlanta Dream (2024), and has started 88 of 135 career games.

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    That would mean she’s played for half of the league’s teams in under five seasons.

    “It sounds ridiculous,” Dangerfield continued with a smile on her face. “But that’s neither here nor there, whatever my situation is I know that there are a lot of people that would wish they were in my shoes being in the league in general, so I’m grateful for every opportunity.”

    LAS VEGAS (11-6) AT SPARKS (4-15)

    When: 7 p.m. Friday

    Where: Arena

    TV: ION


    ​ Orange County Register