June 29, 2015

NEW YORK (AP) Seven games into the season and Brian Agler is still looking for his first win as the coach of the Los Angeles Sparks.

This wasn't what he envisioned when he left Seattle and took over as the coach of Los Angeles this past offseason. The Sparks were coming off another playoff loss and had a roster stacked with stars Candace Parker, Nneka Ogwumike and Kristi Toliver.

Agler's still waiting to see all three of them play together. Parker decided to sit out indefinitely to rest and won't be back until the All-Star break at the earliest. Ogwumike missed the first four games with an ankle sprain suffered in the preseason. Toliver was out for the first six games to play for Slovakia in the EuroBasket tournament. She played in her first game Sunday against New York.

Couple that with an injury bug that has plagued the team and that adds up to an 0-7 start, the worst in franchise history. It's tied for the sixth-worst start in the 19 years of the WNBA, but still well short of the 17 straight that Atlanta lost to start its inaugural season in 2008.

''We are working through a period of adversity right now,'' said Ogwumike. ''We are slowly getting better but at this point it's about closing (games) out.''

Los Angeles got swept on its three-game eastern swing, but was competitive in each game.

Toliver returned Sunday and scored a career-high 30 points, but it wasn't enough as Los Angeles fell to New York, 79-70.

''When I was younger I would be worried about the start we've gotten off to, but while I was away I saw how hard we played and saw how we're not that far out of it that I know we'll be OK,'' Toliver said.

Despite the awful start, the Sparks only sit a couple of games out of the fourth playoff spot in the Western Conference.

While Toliver and Ogwumike are back, Los Angeles is still missing Alana Beard (foot), Erin Phillips (knee), Farhiya Abdi (knee) and Andrea Hoover (ankle). Los Angeles is also missing Ana Dabovic, who like Toliver was playing in the EuroBasket tournament for Serbia, which ended up winning the title and qualifying for next year's Olympics.

The Sparks were so depleted that Agler added Jasmine Lister to the team earlier this week for the three-game road trip in Washington, Connecticut and New York.

Lister was the final cut by Agler last year in Seattle and spent the offseason as a graduate assistant for UConn. Now the rookie, who starred at Vanderbilt, is playing about 15 minutes a game. She had nine points in Sunday's loss.

Before Ogwumike came back the Sparks were averaging under 60 points a game. They've averaged. It's only a matter of time before they get into the win column.

''They definitely are a dangerous team,'' said New York Liberty star Tina Charles. ''They are starting to get their pieces back and will win some games really soon.''

STAT OF THE WEEK: Elena Delle Donne scored a career-high 45 points in the Chicago Sky's 100-96 overtime victory over Atlanta. Delle Donne scored 221 points in the team's first seven games this season - the most ever for any seven-game span in league history. She also has made 48 straight free throws - 18 off the WNBA record set by Eva Nemcova during the 1999 and 2000 seasons according to information provided by the WNBA from the Elias Sports Bureau. Lindsay Whalen holds the record for one year, making 54 straight in 2009. Delle Donne made 50 in a row last year.

GAME OF THE WEEK: Liberty at Sky on Tuesday. The two teams traded guards in the offseason with Cappie Pondexter headed home to Chicago while Epiphanny Prince came home to New York. Pondexter is averaging 17 points a game this season for the Sky. Prince missed the team's first nine games while playing for Russia in the EuroBasket tournament. She's on her way back to the U.S. and may be in Chicago for Tuesday's game.

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