Beard’s Return to Offensive Relevance No AccidentAugust 23, 2012
LOS ANGELES, Calif. – When the Los Angeles Sparks opened their 2012 season on the road against the Seattle Storm, an off-season acquisition, still in the prime of her athletic years and bringing with her a superstar’s resume, took the floor for the first time in over two WNBA seasons.
Sparks fans and everyone associated with the team might have held their breath collectively as Alana Beard ran the length of a basketball court in view of the public for the first time. Jumped for a rebound for the first time. Tested her lower extremities, and her opponents’, with a deadly crossover for the first time.
Beard passed all those tests, seemingly with ease.
But it wasn’t until her signature on-ball defense began to actually impact the direction of the basketball game that the entire Los Angeles Sparks world would truly begin to breathe easier.
Alana Beard was back and the many questions, most prominently, would she or could she ever play again; other questions that she let be known had become the bane of her existence, could finally start to recede into her past.
In their place, however, were now new questions: Where in the heck did her offense go and would she ever get it back?
The Sparks won the game off an impressive comeback fueled by defense and Beard’s vaunted prowess on the defensive end of the floor was a integral factor in the win.
She played 35 minutes; which was a fantastic accomplishment for a player who’d missed enough basketball to make people question if she would ever play again.
But she was 2-for-7 from the floor, missed her only three-point attempt, and seemed to not just be rusty on offense, but fundamentally out of sync.
When the WNBA season resumed after the Olympic break, the Sparks returned to Seattle for their first game in over five weeks.
This time out, Beard was 7-for-10 shooting and 3-for-3 from beyond the arc for a season-high 18 points, and L.A. wrapped up their season series with Seattle with a relatively easy 82-71 road win, posting a season-sweep over a western conference rival they could end up seeing in the first round of the WNBA playoffs.
On offense, Beard looks like an entirely different player. Did that happen because of extra-practices and her finally acclimating herself into Carol Ross’s offenses? Did she just need a rest and to use the time off to further heal her body?
“I worked,” Beard revealed after the Sparks’ 79-69 home win over the Indiana Fever Tuesday night. “I got in the weight room, I’ve been in the weight room a lot, with Bruce [Deziel] our trainer. Working on the core, working on the legs.”
“I also worked a lot with [Sparks assistant coach] Sandy [Brondello] and her husband Olaf [Lange] on footwork.”
“I don’t know,” she continued, “When you work, you gain that confidence. And not that I didn’t work before but I finally got to the point where I can break my game down.”
“If you think about it, I came into training camp late. I think I had less than two weeks to train with the team and I just had to sort of ad-lib during the season. But we had a full month to work together, we gained a lot of chemistry as a team and I think that helped tremendously.”
“She’s looked good to us,” Sparks coach Carol Ross said. “Her defense has been there since the get-go, and that’s really where she hangs her hat.”
“But the offense has been coming,” Ross said. “You can see her confidence getting [better]. Two years of rust is coming off, [she’s] getting into a flow, not only back into the game, but back into a new city with new teammates and a new coach.”
“That’s a lot of change,” Ross continued. “And lot of things for her to go through. But she’s just a worker. She’s been persistent, she comes in every day and when you prepare that way and you play that way it’s going to [eventually] come as talented a player as she is."