While the Sparks sat at a conference table during the team's exit interviews three weeks ago in El Segundo, players dutifully noted the strong possibility that it may have been the last time they would see some of their teammates. After reflecting on what unanimously had been considered a disappointing 2009 season, Sparks guard Betty Lennox was asked to look ahead to 2010. But she couldn't.
That's because this off-season carries a lot of uncertainty.
The Sparks are currently involved with a coaching search after Michael Cooper left to coach the USC women's basketball program. They also are coping with Lisa Leslie's retirement following a 13-year career in the WNBA that included three league and All-Star MVPS, two league championships and finishing as the league's all-time leader in scoring (6,263 points) and rebounding (3,307).
The Sparks also may have to address other departures.
Despite signing a three-year deal in March, Sparks forward Tina Thompson says she will spend this off-season contemplating whether she has the energy and stamina to play in what would be her 14th season. Sparks guard Kristi Harrower, a free agent, says she also will be weighing her options from October through February while playing and serving as player and general manager for Bendigo Bank Spirit, a professional team in her native country in Australia.
Although Sparks General Manager Penny Toler said Harrower was the team's lone free agent, she said that doesn't mean she wouldn't look to trade other players.
"When you don't win [the championship], all bets are off," Toler said. "You see what becomes available. What you think is a need may not be a need depending on what other players are available."
With the league announcing today that the Detroit Shock will relocate to Tulsa, Okla., Toler forsees possible player movement within the organization. That gives her one more reason to move ahead in what she imagines to be a busy off-season.