Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Big News in L.A.

The Los Angeles Sparks are making more news than anyone else in the WNBA this week, with a couple of big stories I wanted to check in on.

On Monday, the Sparks signed forward LaToya Thomas, probably the last big name available as a free agent. Thomas, who spent the last three seasons in San Antonio, was the top overall pick in 2003. She lived up to that billing during her sophomore season, when she averaged 14.2 points and 4.5 rebounds per game, but a shoulder injury limited her in 2005 and Thomas came off the bench behind Sophia Young last year.

Despite the fact that Lisa Leslie will miss the season due to pregnancy, the Sparks still have as much depth up front as anyone after trading for Taj McWilliams-Franklin and signing Thomas to go along with All-Star Chamique Holdsclaw. Given three other players saw time for L.A. in the frontcourt last season (Murriel Page, Jessica Moore and Christi Thomas), Michael Cooper has plenty of options at his disposal. Included, in all likelihood, are lineups with Holdsclaw at the small forward, like former Sparks Coach Joe Bryant used last year in the playoffs against the Storm.

What might be more troublesome for L.A. is the backcourt. I'm still reeling from finding out today in Clay Kallam's Sparks preview that Temeka Johnson has undergone microfracture knee surgery. Johnson is apparently out until mid-June. I think Johnson will probably be okay long-term (check out this story for my NBA microfracture research and conclusions), but the most important thing with a microfracture is to avoid coming back too soon.

L.A. has several other players who can play the point, including Tamara Moore (who started alongside Johnson last year), Doneeka Hodges-Lewis and newcomer Megan Duffy. But Johnson will be missed. The Sparks do have an intriguing addition at guard in Spaniard Marta Fernandez, who scored 16 points in yesterday's exhibition win over Phoenix.

"She’s really opened everyone’s eyes," Michael Cooper told Kallam. "She’s a very good passer."

(Incidentally, I think Johnson might be the first WNBA player to undergo a microfracture. The only other reference I can find so far to "WNBA microfracture" on Google refers to, of all people, the Storm's Sue Bird. I'll have to make a mental note to ask her about that.)

(Update: Sue passes along from Russia that she did indeed undergo a microfracture procedure. Hi Sue!)


Sheila said...

Sue's great rookie year was followed by her 2003 campaign in which she was limited because of her knee pain. She underwent the procedure in the off season and came back in 2004 to lead the league in assists and lead the Storm to the WNBA championship. I think if you ask her about it she will tell you that she is glad she had it done. Take a look at her stats over those three years and you can see the decline and then the resurrgence in her play.

Kevin Pelton said...

Sheila, I definitely still cringe when I hear the word "chondromalacia" (which is, to be fair, not very often).

What I was surprised about was seeing the surgery called a microfracture. I never referred to it as such when reporting on the surgery and I can only find the one reference to microfracture.

Sheila said...

I'm not sure when this procedure became known as "microfracture surgery" but I do know that the idea is to rough up the cartilage on the patella to provide an opportunity for regeneration of the cartilage. As I understand it cartilage does not have its own blood supply or if it does, it is a minimal supply thus the inability to regenerate tissue. CMP is no fun at all. I can't imagine trying to play at a pro level with that type of pain.