July 18 WNBA Preview — Dallas Wings (5-12) at Los Angeles Sparks (9-7)

The short-handed Los Angeles Sparks will try to find a way to move on from the news of Riquna Williams’ lengthy suspension Thursday when they host the Dallas Wings.

Williams was given a 10-game suspension without pay by the WNBA on Tuesday following a league investigation into her April arrest on two felony assault charges, one of which included a firearm. It was the longest ban handed down by the league for domestic violence issues, surpassing the seven-game suspensions given to Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner and Wings forward Glory Johnson.

“Based on the investigation, consultation, and a careful weighing of all the facts and circumstances, the WNBA determined that a 10-game suspension was appropriate,” the league said in a statement, with its investigation including interviewing Williams and witnesses in addition to consulting experts on domestic violence. “Among other factors, the WNBA took into account the nature and seriousness of the conduct at issue, including the involvement of a firearm. The WNBA will also require Williams to participate in counseling.”

The Sparks (9-7) are clearly a better team with Williams, going 5-1 in the games she has started. She has averaged 11.5 points and 2.7 assists in 15 games, but her absence further depletes an already-thin roster that will be without starter Candace Parker, Alana Beard, Maria Vadeeva, and Alexis Jones due to injuries for this contest and run just seven-deep for this contest.

“The Sparks have cooperated fully with the league’s investigation,” the team said in a statement according to the Los Angeles Times. “As an organization, we abhor violence of any kind and specifically take domestic violence allegations seriously. We will provide whatever resources we are allowed to help Riquna learn and grow from this unfortunate situation.”

The WNBA’s Player Association announced it would file a grievance and appeal the suspension, with executive director Terry Jackson telling the Times, “Riquna has not had a fair opportunity to fully defend herself. We are immediately filing a grievance and will seek the arbitrator’s review.”

Dallas (5-12) had its road losing streak dating back to last year extended to 15 games following a frustrating 69-64 loss at Phoenix on Wednesday. Kayla Thornton gave the Wings a 64-63 lead with 40.3 seconds to play, but Griner scored on the ensuing possession for the Mercury and the Wings came up empty on their final two possessions.

Rookie Arike Ogunbowale had 14 points but was 6 for 22 from the floor as Dallas shot 34.7 percent and was outscored 19-7 at the foul line. Johnson, who finished with 10 points and eight rebounds, became the 44th player in WNBA history to reach 1,500 rebounds.

The Wings have lost their eight road games this season by an average of 11.6 points as their drought has stretched beyond a year since a 92-77 victory in Los Angeles over the Sparks on July 12, 2018.

Dallas took advantage of Parker’s early exit due to an ankle injury to record a 74-62 home win July 9. Thornton scored 10 of her 17 points while Ogunbowale and Johnson added 14 apiece for the Wings. Nneka Ogwumike had 15 points and 10 rebounds, but Los Angeles shot just 36.6 percent and committed 21 turnovers.

(Riquna Williams photo courtesy Sporting News NBA Twitter account)

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