by Chris Camello (@chris_camello)
BRADENTON, FL — After a tough loss to the Las Vegas Aces, one of the issues that the Los Angeles Sparks (3-3) are trying to address is defensive consistency and they are hoping guard Tierra Ruffin-Pratt can help resolve that.
In a starting lineup that includes Candace Parker, Nneka Ogwumike, and Chelsea Gray, Ruffin-Pratt may get overlooked, but her teammates understand her value defensively and more importantly, she embraces that role.
“Defense has always been my role since I came into the league,” Ruffin-Pratt said. “I take pride in it, and I always want to guard the best player or the player that’s going to cause the most problems for us.”
TRP spoke about how her teammates recently challenged her after a loss to Seattle to be a defensive leader.
“They called me out after our last loss and said I had to step up and be more of a leader on the defensive end,” Ruffin-Pratt said. “So in that last game against Indiana that’s what I tried to do. My teammates believe in me, my coaches believe in me, I believe in myself.
“That’s a lot for people to take on, because if you (aren’t) scoring the ball, a lot of people really don’t like to step back and play defense, but that’s what kind of gets me going,” Ruffin-Pratt continued. “If I’m playing well on defense, the offense will come. I’ll take pride in it and continue doing that for my teammates and my team.”
Head coach Derek Fisher spoke about Ruffin-Pratt’s defensive impact.
“She allows us to have some versatility, I think at times, offensively and defensively, because of her mobility,” Fisher said. “Even at 5’11(ish), she’s comfortable getting physical. When we want to make things difficult for opposing teams, even if they’re bigger, she can swing around. She’s comfortable fronting the post; she’s good at pick-and-roll defense. That has helped us in the past.”
The starting lineup has plenty of scorers already, so the Sparks don’t need offense from TRP. What they need is for her to set the tone defensively for the whole game with her intensity, energy, and leadership. If Ruffin-Pratt does that, anything she gives on offense will be a luxury.