WHEN ALANA BEARD RE-SIGNED WITH THE LOS ANGELES SPARKS THEY CEMENTED THEMSELVES AS CONTENDERS AGAIN.
By Matt Hallett
The Los Angeles Sparks had two big players coming off contract last season. Young guard Odyssey Sims had a breakout season, meaning the Sparks must have made her a priority. However, their second starter who was out of contract, Alana Beard, is probably more crucial for the success of the team.
Beard is not a headline-grabbing player in Los Angeles. She has been in the league a long time having played 374 games which is 29th all-time in the WNBA. On top of that, Beard has been an All-Star four times, was named All-WNBA 2nd team in 2006 and has been named to seven all-defensive teams. She was also the 2017 defensive player of the year.
Beard has always been a good defender. She still holds the record for total steals for the Washington Mystics. She is fourth all-time for total steals (653) and 10th all-time for steals for game (1.75). Her 2.1 steals per game last year helped raise this average.
Beard is the crucial link in the Sparks defense. Her ability to create stops almost at will is becoming legendary. However, what is often overlooked is Beard's acceptance of her role.
Beard was a scorer before she came to the Sparks. In her six seasons in Washington Beard averaged 16.2 points per game. In her six seasons with the Sparks, Beard is averaging less than half this number with 7.9 points per game.
In a world where everybody wants to be the scorer, it is refreshing to see someone accept a role, especially with the amount of games Beard has played. She could demand more of a role in the offense but does not want to mess with a winning formula.
Beard is going to turn 36 prior to the season starting. For a player like Beard this is a bonus rather than a drawback. She is using that wonderful basketball brain to make life harder for younger players in the league.
Beard, while she is not shooting as much is also using her basketball IQ to take better shots. Last season she made 96 of only 193 shots attempted. This is 50 percent from the field. However, unlike a lot of defensive players, Beard cannot be taken advantage of at the line.
She made 37 of only 46 free throws last season, going at 80 percent. It is this multi-faceted ability which makes Beard such a dangerous match-up for any team in the league.
It will be a sad day when Beard does decide to call time on her career. Fortunately for the Sparks and for the casual basketball fan, it is not going to be this season.