The Sparks' Curt Miller era will open on May 19 at Crypto.com Arena against the Phoenix Mercury, the WNBA announced Wednesday as it revealed its regular-season schedule.
Each team will play a league-record 40 regular-season games in 2023, and the Sparks, who have missed the playoffs in consecutive years, will play seven teams, including all five Western Conference opponents, four times each. They will play the remaining four teams — Connecticut, Indiana, New York and Washington — three times each.
Miller, who was hired in October, will face the Connecticut Sun, his former team, for the first time on June 18 at home.
With consecutive losing seasons and the lingering effects of the pandemic, the Sparks are struggling to recapture the attention of its once-proud fan base. The team that led the league in attendance for three consecutive seasons before the pandemic shut down arenas in 2020 averaged 5,653 fans per game last year, which ranked sixth in the 12-team league. The Sparks topped the WNBA with about 11,000 fans a game in 2019.
As Miller rebuilds the team on the court, the Sparks hope schedule tweaks can entice fans to attend. They will play a franchise-record 10 weekend home games and tip off on weekdays at 7 p.m. instead of the usual 7:30. The changes will “create more accessibility for our Sparks fanbase,” team president Vanessa Shay said in a statement.
The Sparks play consecutive games against the defending WNBA champion Las Vegas Aces on May 25 and 27, first at Crypto.com Arena and then in Las Vegas. Former Sparks star Candace Parker makes her return to L.A. with the Chicago Sky on June 9 and Aug. 29.
After the Sparks played what then-interim coach Fred Williams called “one of the toughest schedules in the history of the WNBA,” the team won’t have a trip longer than three games in 2023. The Sparks played nine of their first 12 games on the road last year in a 36-game schedule that was compressed because of the FIBA Women’s World Cup in September.
The Sparks’ most travel-intensive trip doesn’t come until the final week of the season as the team plays at Connecticut on Sept. 5, at New York on Sept. 7 and at Seattle in the regular-season finale on Sept. 10.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.