To Sparks star Tina Thompson, outdoor basketball courts had a bad connotation.
"If you weren't good," Thompson said, "you played outside."
She experienced that firsthand as a young girl trying to play basketball with the big boys. Unable to play in the air-conditioned gym, she spent hours a day shooting under the blistering Southern California summer sun with one goal in mind.
"The whole idea was to get better so I could play inside," Thompson said.
Now a seasoned WNBA veteran with two Olympic gold medals under her belt, Thompson is once again going to be reacquainted with the elements. The Sparks play their first outdoor game in franchise history as part of their "Get Outside and Play LA" campaign on Saturday at 8 p.m. against the Seattle Storm at the Home Depot Center Tennis Stadium in Carson.
"I hope it's not cold," Thompson said, laughing.
Relocating the Sparks' court, baskets and accoutrements is a task that took two trucks and 20 workers. In the end, though, Staples Center operations manager David Edford promised, "There will be no difference in the way the ball bounces."
The Sparks, however, aren't quite sure what to expect.
First-year Coach Jennifer Gillom fears the Sparks, who have a dismal 1-5 record, will be competing against an unforgiving competitor — stiff muscles — during a wind-exposed night game.
"I'm really concerned about the weather," Gillom said. "Especially when you have older players on the team and old injuries."
The Sparks have a bit of both, with four players who have been in the league more than 10 years and two players who aren't at full strength in point guard Ticha Penicheiro and guard Marie Ferdinand-Harris, who are recovering from strained Achilles' tendons and a hurt knee, respectively.
A young and spry Noelle Quinn, however, views the Sparks' trip to Carson as an adventure, one that could even be beneficial.
"Anything you go through as a team," Quinn said, "it helps chemistry."
She imagines the experience will be quite nostalgic too. After all, while growing up she often practiced outside her home in Los Angeles and used to dream of playing basketball professionally.
"Those thoughts are coming together," Quinn said.
She does see one big problem though.
During those outdoor practices on her parents' driveway, Quinn would beg her mother, Golden, to come out and watch. Golden usually did — except when it was cold out. Then she would watch her daughter through the window.
"There's no window on Saturday," Quinn said. "She has to sit outside."