WNBA releases schedule

The Los Angeles Sparks will tip off their 16th WNBA season on Friday, May 18 on the road against the Seattle Storm in the league's only opening-night game, the team announced Thursday.

The Sparks' home opener is set for May 20, also against Western Conference rival Seattle. They will play the defending WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx four times, including the regular-season finale Sept. 20 at Staples Center.

The Sparks, under the direction of new head coach Carol Ross, are scheduled to play in four games televised nationally on ESPN2: June 13 against the Connecticut Sun, June 23 against the Phoenix Mercury, July 7 against Seattle and July 12 against the Indiana Fever.

The WNBA will be on a 33-day hiatus from mid July to mid August while players compete for their respective countries at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Following the break, the Sparks will play seven of their last 12 regular-season games in Los Angeles. The WNBA playoffs are scheduled to begin on Sept. 27.

Los Angeles, which missed the playoffs last year after going 15-19, recently won the WNBA Draft Lottery and received the first overall selection for the draft. It marked the second time in franchise history that Los Angeles earned the No. 1 pick. The Sparks drafted Candace Parker first overall in 2008. Parker has recovered from her knee injury that limited her performance last season to just 17 games.