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Sparks acquire Gabby Williams after Sky put her on full-season suspended list

·4 min read
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The Los Angeles Sparks acquired wing Gabby Williams less than a week after the Chicago Sky placed her on the full-season suspended list.

Williams appeared not to agree with the Sky's decision to sideline her for the WNBA season with several social media postspointing to her dissatisfaction.

After the trade was announced, she tweeted this:

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Williams is part of the French national team’s preliminary roster for the Women’s EuroBasket 2021 qualifying tournament ahead of the Tokyo Olympics. 

If she was not on the suspended list, she would have been eligible to play in the second part of the WNBA season. The suspended list allows a team to retain a player's rights without taking up a roster spot. She will remain on the list as a member of the Sparks.

The Sky acquire rookie Stephanie Watts and Leonie Fiebich's rights in the deal.

“We’re excited to bring Gabby Williams into the L.A. Sparks organization,” Sparks general manager and head coach Derek Fisher said in a release. “At just 24 years old, Gabby is a versatile player who still has the potential to make a major impact in this league. She fits into what we’re building in Los Angeles and we look forward to the future with her in a Sparks uniform.”

Gabby Williams sets up a play during a Chicago Sky game. She is holding the ball in both hands near her head and looking forward.
The Sky traded Gabby Williams to the Sparks on Sunday after placing her on the full-season suspended list. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Sky, Gabby Williams fallout

Williams’ name was floated in trade rumors ahead of the 2021 WNBA draft, but no deal was completed. Instead, the Sky selected Australian point guard Shyla Heal at No. 8.

Williams recently finished an overseas season with Sopron Basket in Hungary, winning Defensive Player of the Year and making the All-EuroLeague Women first team. She was expected to jump right into her French national team commitments. She would not have been in the U.S. until after the Olympics with less than a month left in the WNBA regular season.

The Sky placed her on the suspended list last week, ending any shot at a partial WNBA season.

Sky general manager and head coach James Wade said Sunday morning before the trade was announced that the decision was made because the team did not want to have that open spot. 

“We needed our group of 11,” Wade said via the Hartford Courant. “We have players like Stefanie [Dolson], who’s going to leave for the [U.S.] national team, and Astou [Ndour], who’s going to leave for the [Spanish] national team, and they made a point of priority to be here. And so that’s our whole thing, is that we need them here. We have a season that we feel can be special.

“We didn’t want to put our players behind the eight ball because we only start the season with eight or nine when we didn’t have to. So that was our whole thinking behind it.”

After a standout UConn career, Williams was the No. 4 pick in the 2018 draft. In three seasons with Chicago, she averaged 6.8 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game, settling into a backup point guard role.

“We are pleased to announce that we have traded Gabby for Stephanie Watts and the rights to Leonie Fiebich,” Wade said in a release. “We thank Gabby for all that she has done in a Sky uniform and we wish her well going forward. We are excited about the possibilities that come with having Stephanie with us and what she will bring to our team. Her activity and skill set have already been displayed with L.A. early on.”

Chicago adds young talent

The Sky acquired two young players in the deal. 

Watts was the Sparks' 10th selection in the 2021 draft. She finished her college career with the second-most 3-pointers (275) in North Carolina history. 

Fiebich was the 22nd selection in the 2020 draft out of Germany. She won gold in the 2018 FIBA U-18 European Championship and her 2016 FIBA U-16 team earned silver.

The WNBA begins its 25th anniversary season on Friday

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