The WNBA released its schedule today for the 2021 season, set to tip off in 31 days on May 14. Each team will play 32 games, which results in two games against one opponent, and three games each against the other 10 teams in the league.
The Sparks will play on opening day, just as they did a year ago. Here is everything else you need to know about their schedule.
When does the season start and end?
The Sparks begin the 32-game season on Friday, May 14, with a home game against the Dallas Wings. The regular season ends on Sunday, Sept. 19, with a road game against the Wings.
What’s with the break in the middle?
L.A. has over a month between their July 11 game against the Minnesota Lynx, and their Aug. 15 contest against the Indiana Fever. That’s a designated break for the delayed Summer Olympics. Of the current Sparks, Nneka Ogwumike is projected to play in Tokyo, while the rest of the squad will have the month off.
Where are the Sparks games this year?
Because the NBA season was delayed, it overlaps with the WNBA season more than in usual years. As a result, Staples Center is pretty full with the likely postseason schedules of the Lakers and Clippers. So the first 11 Sparks home games — the games that occur prior to the Olympics break — will take place at the Los Angeles Convention Center, located adjacent to Staples. The five home games after the break will be at Staples.
The Sparks have a special court for this 25th anniversary season. That will be in place at LACC and then move over to Staples following the break.
What’s with the repeat opponents?
You might notice that the Sparks have five instances where they play the same team, at the same location, in back-to-back games. They also have one instance where they play a home-road doubleheader. This is a rarity in the WNBA schedule, and is simply to reduce travel and exposure during the pandemic.
Where can you watch the games?
The Sparks will be locally televised on Spectrum SportsNet. A national TV schedule will be released in the coming days.
Are fans allowed at home games?
Here’s the Sparks statement on allowing fans at games this year:
Pending LA County guidelines and in accordance with all health and safety protocols as outlined by the WNBA and the Sparks, a limited number of fans will likely be able to attend home games starting in June. More information will be provided on this in the coming weeks.
What’s the first thing that jumps out about the schedule?
Brady: This happens every year, so I should know better by now, but what jumps out to me is that there are simply no easy stretches in the schedule. The end to the season is brutal — eight of the final 10 games are on the road, with two home games against title contenders in Seattle and Connecticut — but that stretch isn’t offset by any easy portion earlier in the year.
With just 12 teams in the league, almost every opponent is dangerous, and there’s no time where the Sparks can take their foot of the gas.
Sabreena: I’m a little disappointed that Candace Parker’s return game is so early in the season, because there will only be limited a number fans, and that game will be at LACC, where the 2016 championship banner presumably will not be hanging. I had hoped that her return to Los Angeles would be an all-caps EVENT, but it might not feel that way if the Sparks and Sky are playing each other three times in nine days and in front of a smaller crowd that isn’t at Staples Center.
What game or games feel extra important?
Brady: Games two through four. After starting the year at home, the Sparks embark on a four-game road trip. The first game is against the Las Vegas Aces, last year’s WNBA Finals runners-up, and the new home of Chelsea Gray. And the next two are against the ultra-dangerous Chicago Sky, now led by Parker.
L.A. needs to get out to a good start, and these games will test them. It’s year three for Derek Fisher, and while I think he’s done some good things, it’s safe to say the team hasn’t met expectations. There are new players and veterans alike who have put their faith in the team and the system, but you need to see results or that will fade. If the Sparks look overmatched against the league’s elite in the first week, it could signal a long season ahead.
Sabreena: After losing to the Sun in the playoffs for two straight years, I would assume that Derek Fisher has the matchups against Connecticut circled. Unfortunately, the first one doesn’t come until August 26, and some of the revenge fire may have diminished by then. That being said, I’m looking at the five-game home stand from June 12 to June 24. The end of the season is loaded with road games, so the Sparks need to bank some wins early, and this is their chance.