TORRANCE — Sparks guard Layshia Clarendon is ready to compete in upcoming back-to-back games against the defending WNBA champions.
Clarendon, a 10-year WNBA veteran who grew up in San Bernardino County and was drafted out of the University of California, Berkeley in 2013, is cherishing the opportunity to play for their hometown team against the Las Vegas Aces, who feature A’ja Wilson, Kelsey Plum and former Sparks great Candace Parker.
“We fear nobody,” Clarendon said. “They’re good, you have respect for people, A’ja, Kelsey, they just have a phenomenal roster across the board of All-Stars and MVPs. But one, it’s fear nobody, and two, it’s you take the fight to them. Bite them on the ankles. That’s how I play. You have to play with aggression and a level of not backing down against people and then respect your opponent but never back down.”
The Sparks will host Parker and the Aces at 7 p.m. Thursday at Crypto.com Arena in the teams’ second game of the season. The Sparks will then travel to Las Vegas for a rematch at 6 p.m. Saturday.
The Sparks are coming off a convincing 94-71 blowout win at home against the Phoenix Mercury in Friday’s season opener, which was Mercury star Brittney Griner’s first regular-season game since being detained in a Russian prison and missing all of last season. Five Sparks scored in double figures: Nneka Ogwumike (17), Chiney Ogwumike (15), Lexie Brown (14), Zia Cooke (14) and Karlie Samuelson (13).
Former Aces forward Dearica Hamby, a two-time All-Star, added nine points in her Sparks debut.
It will be Hamby’s first game against her former team after being traded to the Sparks in January amid her second pregnancy, with Hamby claiming “unethical” behavior by the Aces. A league investigation resulted in a two-game suspension for Las Vegas coach Becky Hammon and the loss of a 2025 first-round draft pick.
Hamby told reporters last week that her motivation to play well this season is for her two children, not to seek revenge against the Aces.
“I kind of want to move forward and focus on where I am today. I’m healthy, I’m happy. My son is healthy,” Hamby said of her baby, Legend, who was born in March. “I’m going to be playing basketball this season. This part of it is over, then me and the union will continue to explore more options.”
Los Angeles Sparks All-Star Dearica Hamby shares her thoughts on the WNBA’s investigation into her allegations of workplace misconduct during her recent pregnancy against Las Vegas Aces. Hamby’s motivation to play this season are her two children. Hamby’s 1st game is May 19. pic.twitter.com/nj4jdduAC5
— John W. Davis (@johnwdavis) May 16, 2023
The Aces won their opener 105-64 on Saturday in Seattle. All-Star guards Plum and Jackie Young each finished with 23 points. Wilson, a two-time MVP, finished with 13 points and 13 rebounds in 27 minutes.
Parker, who is in her first season with the Aces and 16th in the WNBA, including 13 years with the Sparks, had 12 points, five assists and four rebounds in 23 minutes. Former Sparks point guard Chelsea Gray added 14 points, six rebounds and six assists.
Sparks head coach Curt Miller vowed to have his team prepared, in particular via rigorous film study.
“Early in the year it’s a little bit less predictable, but we love the saying. ‘If it’s predictable, it’s preventable,’” Miller shared. “We watch as much film, probably the most film in the league as a team. I have that reputation that I’m a film freak, so we watch a ton of film and we’re always going to be really prepared and the players that have played for me through the years will tell you that they feel comfortable on the floor because there’s less uncertain things or things that they hadn’t prepared for or hadn’t seen. So always a challenge with the cadence of games, but that’s what I’ve built my career around is preparation.”
Miller said although he lost to the Aces in last year’s WNBA Finals when he was the head coach of the Connecticut Sun, the home-and-away series against the Aces won’t be personal for him.
“(It’s) certainly not personal for me. It’s just a great opportunity,” Miller continued. “I love coaching against great coaches. The first night out won’t be Becky, the second game against Vegas will be Becky. The best part of the finals last year was the chess match and I coached Becky in college (at Colorado State), so having that opportunity to now coach against her is such an honor. I really enjoy that, so not personal for me.
“I want our team to know while paper says that we are huge, huge underdogs, paper doesn’t win and we’ve got to go out and do what we can and put the pressure on them, that they’re supposed to win these games and then not get discouraged because again Las Vegas has one of the best lineups that we’ve seen in the modern era. It is what it is. We’ve just got to go do our thing.”
For Clarendon, playing for the hometown team is an accomplishment in itself.
“I’m being gracious with myself, trying to really slow down and celebrate and be proud,” Clarendon said.
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