Azurá Stevens excited for expanded role with new-look Sparks

LOS ANGELES — Two days after her 27th birthday, Azurá Stevens, happily signed a free agent contract with the new-look Sparks, with her eyes set on the biggest role of her WNBA career.

Stevens, who is entering her sixth season in the league, is excited about playing for her new team, especially since it means playing in Los Angeles in the prime of her career.

The 6-foot-6 forward/center, who has averaged  9.0 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.0 assist and 1.0 blocked shot in 21.1 minutes per game through her first five seasons with Dallas and Chicago, believes she’s ready for an expanded role with the Sparks.

“I want to be a consistent player that this team can really count on me, night in and night out,” Stevens said when asked to analyze what she needs to do to take the next step in her development. “I think I impact the game in a lot of different ways defensively, and offensively. I can play multiple positions. I’m a versatile player. I can guard multiple positions so just bringing that and being consistent in all those areas on a nightly basis and then being a leader, being more of a vocal leader in the locker room.”

Stevens, who signed with the Sparks on Feb. 3, was drafted sixth overall out of Connecticut by the Dallas Wings in 2018 and played a key role for the Chicago Sky for the past three seasons, which included helping the team win the 2021 WNBA championship.

Meanwhile, Sparks general manager Karen Bryant said the team viewed Stevens as a top target heading into the free agency period.

“We believe very strongly and confidently that she is a key piece to what we are building here,” Bryant shared.

“I think (she’s) poised and positioned to blossom into a star in our league,” added new Sparks head coach Curt Miller, who was hired in October after a seven-year tenure and six postseason appearances with the Connecticut Sun.

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Stevens will likely be asked to play small forward, power forward and center, alongside All-Star forward Dearica Hamby and 2016 WNBA MVP Nneka Ogwumike, an unrestricted free agent who is expected to re-sign with the Sparks.

“I think she’s just scratching the surface. She is so so talented at both ends of the floor and we can’t wait to highlight her. We can’t wait for her to have another role model like a Nneka beside her,” Miller explained.

“We’re not done yet,” Bryant said at the conclusion of Stevens’ virtual introductory news conference. “She will be tremendous and already is a tremendous ambassador for the L.A. Sparks as we look to really transform the organization on and off the court. We’re just thrilled that Azurá Stevens is a part of what we’re doing.”

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