Chennedy Carter happy for fresh start with Los Angeles Sparks after being suspended, traded by Atlanta Dream

WNBA guard Chennedy Carter said she is looking forward to a fresh start with the Los Angeles Sparks after missing much of last season on suspension from the Atlanta Dream.

"The last year for me has kind of been difficult, a little bit depressing, just because the game of basketball [was] obviously taken away from me," Carter said in a video call with media on Thursday from Poland, where she is competing overseas. "But I also got a lot of time to find out different things about myself. Spend a lot more time with my family, do a lot more traveling and also just work on my game. I was able to better my game and grow as an individual."

The No. 4 pick in the 2020 WNBA draft, out of Texas A&M, Carter was limited to 16 games her rookie season because of an ankle injury but averaged 17.4 points per game. Last year, she missed some time with an elbow injury early in the season but averaged 14.2 points in 11 games. Then she was suspended on July 5 for what the Dream described as "conduct detrimental to the team." She did not return the rest of the season, and the Dream finished 8-24.

Atlanta went through a lot of upheaval and change in 2021, including a new ownership group and the departure of coach Nicki Collen right before the season began to take the Baylor women's job.

After the season, it became public knowledge that two other Dream players, Courtney Williams and Crystal Bradford, had been involved in a fight with people outside a club in May. Both were free agents, and the Dream -- who also hired a new coach (Tanisha Wright) and general manager (Dan Padover) in October -- opted not to bring back either player. Williams has signed with the Connecticut Sun and Bradford with the Chicago Sky.

The Dream then opted to trade Carter, who was not involved in that altercation, on Feb. 5 to Los Angeles. The Sparks also got the rights to Li Yueru, a player from China who was drafted by the Dream in 2019 but has yet to play in the WNBA. Atlanta got guard Erica Wheeler, a 2022 second-round draft pick (No. 15) and a 2023 first-round pick.

Carter isn't the only high-profile guard the Sparks have added; they signed free agent Jordin Canada, who won two WNBA championships with Seattle. And it was reported by ESPN's Ramona Shelburne that free-agent center Liz Cambage will join the Sparks, although that hasn't been officially announced.

Neither Carter nor the Dream have stated publicly what led to her suspension last year, nor why it lasted the remainder of the season. Asked Thursday if she thinks she was treated fairly by the Dream, Carter said, "That's a topic that I just really don't feel comfortable talking about. I'm happy with the new move. I'm happy with new situation."

Carter said she is looking forward to working with Sparks head coach Derek Fisher and assistants Seimone Augustus and Fred Williams. Fisher and Augustus were longtime guards, in the NBA and WNBA, and Williams has been in women's basketball since the early 1980s, including time spent as a WNBA head coach.

"I know [they] will do everything possible to make me a superstar," Carter said. "To make me the best player I can be defensively, offensively. So those are the things I'm focused on. I'm focused on L.A., and that's all I can say.

"I want to be one of the top rebounders at the guard position in the WNBA, and I definitely want to be tops in assists. I want to make a playoff appearance. I want to take my game to the next level and play on that stage in front of everybody."

Carter was known for her scoring prowess in three seasons at Texas A&M, where she averaged 22.5 PPG for her career before leaving early as a draft-eligible junior in 2020. Her WNBA rookie year, she became the youngest player in league history to score at least 30 points in a game, getting 35 in August 2020, at age 21 years, 9 months.

Carter -- who is 23 now and whose nickname is "Hollywood" -- said she thinks being in Los Angeles also will help her raise her profile and personal brand.

"I'm going to a way bigger city with a big opportunity for me to market my brand as Hollywood," Carter said. "It is a different vibe. It's really unexplainable how excited I am and how happy I was when I heard the news.

"I am a special player, and I think I'm a little bit misunderstood. I think maybe my demeanor, the way I play on the court sometimes, I'm very emotional. You really have to take the time to get to know me and have a conversation with me off the court to understand me. I think this process will help the whole entire world understand me, the real Chennedy Carter."