Los Angeles – The L.A. Sparks announced on Thursday afternoon that they released 13-year WNBA veteran, Cappie Pondexter.
“We want to thank Cappie for her time here in Los Angeles and we wish her nothing but the best moving forward,” Sparks general manager Penny Toler said in a team statement.
The Sparks, who are off to an 12-5 start to their 2018 season, signed Pondexter as an unrestricted free agent this past offseason.
In 13 games with the Sparks, the two-time WNBA champion averaged 10.3 minutes per contest, shooting 34.9 percent from the field.
The Signing of Cappie Pondexter
Back in February, L.A. finalized the signing of the seven-time All-Star, which was a surprising move considering the teams cap space situation. The Sparks were able to secure Pondexter’s move by signing guard Odyssey Sims to a one-year, non-guaranteed contract in the amount of $65,000, which was reported to be well ‘below market value’.
The move made sense at the time with the lack of guards coming off the bench for the Sparks during their 2017 season, and a championship pedigree that Pondexter shared with head coach, Brian Agler.
On May 15th, I met with Pondexter for the very first time for an interview with her during the Sparks’ 2018 Media Day. The 35-year-old recalled her decision of coming to L.A. and explained what ultimately led to her leaving Chicago, after three seasons with the Sky.
“I had made a decision to make a top 5 list and L.A. was in my top 5, but Chicago was ahead,” Pondexter explained.
“They were no.1 and we were going back and forth with my agent and myself and Chicago said, ‘Well Cappie is older, well she’s old. We’re going in another direction’. What? Alright cool, I know where i’m at in terms of my career and what I want to accomplish, I’m like you know, this is a no brainer, i’m going to LA.”
The 5-foot-9 guard averaged 9.6 PPG, 2.9 RPG and 4.3 APG during her final year with the Sky.
Playing under Brian Agler
Another reason for wanting to play for the LA Sparks? Brian Agler.
“Brian is a passionate guy. He’s been trying to get me here for the last, I don’t know, he’s like, ‘You know what? You’re gonna play for me,’ and I’m like, I got you Brian,” Pondexter said.
“And the fact that I’m here now, I’m excited because he has the same pedigree as myself and when you have that coach that believes in you, just as much as you believe in him, then it’s like the sky is the limit.
I’m excited to wear his uniform and I’m excited to learn and grow from him every single day.”
The Release of Pondexter
The California native was averaging just over ten minutes per game. As days went by, and as we fast approached the date where all contracts became guaranteed, L.A. made a bold statement by releasing the veteran from her contract.
A move that according to Agler, simply came down to the inability of providing Pondexter with more play time.
“I think it came down to how well Odyssey (Sims) and Riquna (Williams) are playing,” said Agler.
“You want to get 200 minutes, so you’re thinking okay, you got Alana (Beard), you have Chelsea (Gray) and you have Essence (Carson), you got Riquna, you got Odyssey, that’s five people playing 60 minutes and you add Cappie in there and now you got six people playing 60 minutes, so you can’t give everybody 10 (minutes).”
The Resurgence of Riquna Williams and Odyssey Sims
Williams is indeed having one the best seasons of her career thus far. After being sidelined her first year with the Sparks, in 2016, due to an achilles injury. She also battled an up and down season with smaller injuries throughout the following season too. This is the first time that the 5′ 7″ veteran has been healthy since joining the team.
Williams is averaging 15.2 MPG. She is also shooting the best basketball of her career with 46.6% from the field and 44.3% from the 3-point range.
And then there’s veteran guard Odyssey Sims, who has become an integral part of the Sparks’ bench, averaging 26.8 PPG and 10.6 PPG.
As Agler pointed out, with how well Sims and Williams are playing so far this season in their reserved roles, implementing more minutes to other players was merely impossible. Because of that, it made it difficult for someone like Pondexter to find an identity and role with the current rotation.
Was the decision of parting ways made mutually by both parties or did the Sparks ultimately decide this wasn’t going to be the route they took long-term?
“I think she came here to be a part (of the team) and we were open coming in, we didn’t know how this was going to play out.” Agler told me.
“I feel like she felt her role was going to be bigger and it just couldn’t be provided that way.”
Now with only 11 active players on the Sparks roster, this begs the question, will they look to sign someone under a veteran contract?
“Honestly, we don’t even have a short-list, we have a big list,” Agler said.
“We haven’t gotten to the short list yet, so we’re still really waiting to see because there will be other teams that will make some moves because it’s coming down to that date where all contracts are guaranteed.
And honestly, that played a factor too about Cappie, from both standpoints. If the role wasn’t going to be as big here, was she going to be happy? Or, she could go somewhere else and get what she wants.”
What’s next for Cappie Pondexter?
It’s no secret that Pondexter flirted with the idea of retirement. The veteran has been in the league for 13 seasons and for Pondexter, it was a possible last opportunity to earn one more title.
“To me, it’s special because I want this to be a very special last go around,” she told me back in May.
“I’m 35-years-old, the clock is ticking. I mean, I’ve talked about it. I’ve said that I want to win one and i’m done.”
Upon release, Pondexter became eligible to sign with any other team in the league.
And the Indiana Fever came knocking at her door.
The Fever announced on Sunday that they signed the veteran to a free agent contract. In a corresponding move, Indiana waived rookie guard Hind Ben Abdelkader.
— Indiana Fever (@IndianaFever) July 1, 2018
The signing came only three days after the Sparks announced her official release. She now joins a familiar face in Fever Head Coach Pokey Chatman.
Chatman was Head Coach of the Chicago Sky during Pondexter’s 2015 and 2016 season.
“I’m familiar with Pokey and her system. I played for her in Chicago for 3 years, she’s actually the reason why I didn’t go to L.A. the first time, so it’s funny how things work out,” Pondexter told the Indy Star.
The guard is expected to arrive in Indianapolis Sunday afternoon and has been listed as ‘questionable’ for the game against the Minnesota Lynx.