Sun trade Ogwumike to Sparks for No. 1 draft pick in 2020
Mohegan — The Connecticut Sun traded two-time all-star forward and 2014 WNBA Rookie of the Year Chiney Ogwumike to Los Angeles on Saturday for the Sparks' first round draft choice in 2020.
Ogwumike and agent Allison Galer said Saturday that persistent trade rumors from as early as December precipitated conversations with Sun coach Curt Miller and general manager Amber Cox about a potential trade that reunites Ogwumike with her sister, Nneka, in Los Angeles.
"I know trade rumors happen a lot, but it was kind of everywhere," Ogwumike said in a phone conversation. "I was hearing it from other players. People were texting me about it."
Cox acknowledged that two WNBA teams inquired about Ogwumike.
"Our job is to listen. That's how the league works," Cox said. "We told those teams we weren't interested. We never actively shopped her."
But the fact that the Sun listened, Galer said Saturday, calls into question the franchise's commitment to her. It was the impetus for a conversation in February about perhaps Ogwumike moving elsewhere.
Miller said that on Feb. 17, Galer told him that ESPN, where Ogwumike works in the offseason, asked Ogwumike to work with NBA playoffs through the championship series in mid-June. It was Miller's understanding that under that scenario, Ogwumike wouldn't be with the Sun, who open training camp the first week of May, until later in the season.
The parties met again in March, adding the possibility of a trade to Los Angeles, where ESPN also has studios.
"If that opportunity weren't possible," Miller said, "our understanding is that Chiney would be willing to move to ESPN full time and walk away from her WNBA career. Ultimately, that left us two options: look into trades with L.A. or receive nothing as she departed the league to grow her career at ESPN."
Miller said he didn't like the idea of trading for a potentially "disgruntled" player that could ruin team chemistry and ultimately took the draft choice.
"It's fair to say that through this process that L.A. was also in other trade talks, like with Liz Cambage," Miller said. "So it hasn't always been an easy negotiation. Some of their assets were tied up in other trade talks. Ultimately, we had to weigh the future and the opportunity that the 2020 draft pick helps us. We have five players who are going to be restricted free agents and two other unrestricted free agents. We know our roster will change some going into 2020.
"The move of Chiney frees up tremendous cap space for us heading into the future. Plus, the deal was made easier when (center Kristine) Anigwe dropped to us in the draft, too."
Ogwumike has missed two of her four seasons in Connecticut because of injuries to her knee and Achilles. The Sun kept her on the roster in 2015 despite the injury and paid her. In 2017 while injured, Ogwumike signed a three-year super-max extension, giving her the WNBA's maximum salary.
Ogwumike was named the 2014 Rookie of the Year and 2016 Comeback Player of the Year.