Sparks’ Liz Cambage and Chennedy Carter expected to play against Dream – San Bernardino Sun

LOS ANGELES — The Sparks are rallying behind All-Star Nneka Ogwumike but are eager for the return of Liz Cambage and Chennedy Carter in order to expand the team’s rotation, interim coach Fred Williams said.

The Sparks (11-14) will host the Atlanta Dream (12-14) at 12:30 p.m. Thursday on Spectrum Sportsnet and NBA TV.

In their only game this season, the Sparks lost 77-75 on May 11 in Atlanta, when the 2022 No. 1 overall draft pick Rhyne Howard, who also made All-Star Game, scored a game-high 21 points. The WNBA All-Star is averaging 15.1 points per game for the Dream and Tiffany Hayes is averaging 16.9 points in seven games after recovering from injury.

Thursday’s game will be a battle for sixth place in the WNBA standings and could have major tiebreaker implications with less than a month to go in the regular season.

“It’s the position we want to be in going into the last phase of the season,” Williams said. “For us, we know every game is important to us going down the stretch.

“We have to take this game as a real meaningful game for us. It’s not the end of the world, but it’s the beginning for something for us to battle against and go against Atlanta, who had a good victory (92-76 win Tuesday) against Las Vegas. We just have to shoot well and play our game and go out and compete and go out for that playoff spot.”

Meanwhile, with only eight active players, the Sparks rallied behind Ogwumike’s season-high 35 points and pulled out a much-needed 86-79 win at home against the Indiana Fever on Tuesday night.

“We all want her to be great. She is great, so just to see that greatness right before your eyes is exciting,” Sparks forward Jasmine Walker said. “We wanted her to push for 40. We were telling her, ‘You got five more (points). You can get 40.’ It’s a good experience to watch her be great in person.”

Sparks center Liz Cambage missed the past two games after entering health and safety protocols before last week’s 80-68 loss to the Chicago Sky.

Cambage practiced Wednesday and Williams said even though he expects his 6-foot-9 center to play up to 15 minutes against Atlanta, she can have a deciding impact.

Sparks guard Chennedy Carter, who was traded to Los Angeles by Atlanta in the offseason, has recently been recovering from a knee injury since July 1. Carter practiced Wednesday and is also expected to be available to play up to 10 minutes against her former team, per Williams.

“I don’t want to push them too much,” Williams explained.

The return of Cambage and Carter would give the Sparks 10 active players, which Williams more than welcomes, so he can expand the team’s rotation and give key players additional rest if necessary.

Walker adapting

Sparks second-year forward Jasmine Walker said she is still adjusting after playing only two games early last season before tearing the ACL in her right knee in May 2021.

“This still feels like my first year,” said Walker, who is averaging 7.7 minutes per game. “I feel like I’m still learning, still getting my body together, my mind together. It still feels like my first year.”

Walker, whose teammates consistently laud for basketball IQ and commitment to watching game film, believes this year’s team is better than last year’s team that finished 12-20 and narrowly missed the playoffs.

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