After guiding the WNBA through the 2020 wubble season, you would believe that the basketball gods would smile on the Los Angeles Sparks’ Nneka Ogwumike.
Instead, the WNBPA president has actually experienced anything however good luck.
She has actually battled with injuries, with last season’s back problems followed by a knee injury early this season. On top of that, she was rejected a chance to play in the Olympics. Despite a shown dedication to U.S.A. Basketball, Ogwumike was not chosen for the 2020 Olympic group. When she then chose to bet Nigeria, the house nation of both of her moms and dads, FIBA declined her petition.
This string of frustration, naturally, has actually endured her. In the Sparks’ interview recently, Ogwumike wrecked as she informed press reporters:
I simply wish to play basketball…I’ve constantly been referred to as durable and I believe I needed to type of inform myself that a lot to make certain that I thought it due to the fact that it’s been a couple of weeks of sensation unvaluable or not worthy….It’s been extremely challenging.
“It’s been very difficult…I’m just grateful to be playing with my team, with people who care about me. I just want to play basketball.” @nnekaogwumike reviews a hard previous couple of weeks fighting injuries and losing out on the Olympics. @LASparks pic.twitter.com/aFFvy356c8
— Spectrum SportsNet (@SpectrumSN) August 9, 2021
On Tuesday night, fate once again appeared to conspire versus Ogwumike. In the 2nd quarter of LA’s house video game versus the Atlanta Dream, she went down with a what appeared like knee injury, needing her to return to the locker space for additional examination.
Fortunately, it was simply a scare. Ogwumike not just would go back to the video game however play 38 minutes. She published a near triple-double, with 13 points, 9 rebounds and 9 helps as she assisted the Sparks protect the overtime win over the Dream.
Finally, Oguwmike was back where she belonged — balling out for LA.
It looks like we ought to anticipate more of this variation of Ogwumike — the previous MVP who makes prompt and effective plays for her group all while working as a calm and positive leader — for the rest of the 2021 season. (Fingers crossed!)
Will it suffice to bring the Sparks, presently in 11th location in the standings at 8-14, back to playoffs for a 10th-consecutive season?
What Nneka Ogwumike indicates to the Sparks
Teammates and coaches have actually regularly made it clear just how much Ogwumike indicates to their group and, in turn, just how much her go back to the court will imply to the group.
In Los Angeles’ Aug. 9 interview, Kristi Toliver stressed:
She’s among the fundamental pieces of this group, her management, her positivity, her athleticism, her IQ, her experience…Just to have her existence back on the flooring will speak dividends for us, whether she’s 100% or not, it actually truthfully doesn’t matter due to the fact that her existence on the flooring is gonna be a game-changer for everyone.
In her 2 video games back, Ogwumike has actually offered evidence of her power.
After contributing 12 points and 7 rebounds in LA’s Sunday win over the Indiana Fever, she kipped down the abovementioned work of art on Tuesday night, ameliorating numerous of the Sparks’ weak points with her practically triple-double.
Unsurprisingly, her scoring effectiveness was MVP-caliber, as she was 6-for-7 from the field. For much of the season, her colleagues have actually struggled to put the ball in the basket. LA is last in the league in points per video game at 73.8 and real shooting portion at 48.8 percent. Although she just has actually played 7 video games, Ogwumike remains in the top-10 in the WNBA in real shooting portion at 61.9 percent.
More remarkably, Ogwumike likewise provided a career-high 9 helps. The Sparks might frantically utilize such playmaking from her. LA has actually balanced the least helps per video game in the WNBA at 15.2. This low number is not always unexpected, as the franchise did lose their 2 finest playmakers over the offseason in Candace Parker and Chelsea Gray. Starting point player Erica Wheeler remains in the top-10 in helps per video game with approximately 4.5, however otherwise, the Sparks have actually struggled to make plays for each other.
Because of her expert-level shooting effectiveness, Ogwumike constantly will draw in the attention of the defense. If she can utilize this attention to establish others for simple ratings, her playmaking can juice a Sparks offense that has the worst offending ranking in the WNBA at 91.7.
Likewise, Ogwumike can buoy LA’s efficiency on the boards. The Sparks likewise are at the bottom of the league in rebounds per video game, balancing 30.4 per video game. In her 7 video games this season, Ogwumike has actually balanced 7.3 rebounds per video game. In her 2 video games considering that her return from injury, this number has actually ticked as much as 8 per video game. Her last completely healthy season, 2019, she balanced 8.8 boards, recommending that, once she completely restores her burst, her deal with the glass can increase.
How far can Ogwumike bring the Sparks?
Critically, the Ogwumike-led Sparks likewise made 2 wins.
Yes, LA needs to look after Indiana and Atlanta, the 2 groups listed below them in the standings, in STAPLES Center. However, dropping either video game would have been an extreme blow to their playoff hopes.
Even with a winning record over the last month of the season, the Sparks will be pushed to to extend their playoff streak, as the Washington Mystics, ideally increased by Elena Delle Donne (and perhaps by Emma Meesseman), and the young and skilled Dallas Wings likewise are defending the 8th and last playoff area.
Yet, frequently recently Nneka Ogwumike has actually been informed, “No.” No, you cannot play due to the fact that of injury. No, you did not make the Olympic group. No, you will not be going to Tokyo.
Ogwumike and her colleagues, nevertheless, are stating, “Yes.” Yes, to increasing above frustration. Yes, to showing skeptics incorrect. Yes, to making the playoffs.
We can’t wait to see.