Sparks to start WNBA schedule with L.A. Convention Center as home court

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Thuc Nhi Nguyen
·2 min read
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LOS ANGELES-CA-SEPTEMBER 30, 2019: Nneka Ogwumike is photographed in downtown Los Angeles on Monday, September 30, 2019. (Christina House / Los Angeles Times)
The Sparks have built their 2021 around Nneka Ogwumike, photographed in downtown Los Angeles in 2019, who will get to play with her sister Chiney. (Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

After spending last year in a Florida bubble, the Sparks will return to L.A. for the 2021 season with a new roster and new home court.

The WNBA announced a 32-game schedule Tuesday, starting the league's 25th season on May 14. The Sparks play the Dallas Wings on opening day at the Los Angeles Convention Center, which will play host to the team's first 11 home games because Staples Center is overrun with delayed NBA and NHL games. The Sparks will move back to Staples Center for their final five home games and playoffs.

To accommodate an Olympic break from July 15 through Aug. 11, the WNBA reduced its slate of games from 36 to 32. Teams will play three games against 10 teams and two more against one team from an opposing conference.

The Sparks’ two-game opponent is the New York Liberty, headlined by former Oregon star Sabrina Ionescu, who is coming off a severe ankle injury that cut her rookie season short.

For the first time since 2008, the Sparks will be without star Candace Parker, who signed with the Chicago Sky as a free agent this year. The two-time WNBA most valuable player will return to L.A. on June 5 after the Sparks play in Chicago on May 28 and 30.

The Sparks reunite with guard Chelsea Gray, another key piece of the team's last championship team, on May 21 in Las Vegas. Gray will return to L.A. as a member of the Aces on June 30 and July 1.

With the COVID-19 pandemic in mind, the league built the schedule to include two-game series so teams can play consecutive games in one market and limit travel. The regular season is expected to conclude on Sept. 19, followed by the league's traditional playoff format.

Having lost two of their three top players after getting knocked out in a single-elimination second-round game last year, the Sparks built the roster around forward Nneka Ogwumike. They added all-star guard Erica Wheeler, former No. 2 overall pick Amanda Zahui B. and guard Bria Holmes. Guard Kristi Toliver and forward Chiney Ogwumike return after both opting out of last season.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.