Kristi Toliver ready for second stint in Los Angeles

NEW YORK (AP) — Kristi Toliver is ready for her second go-round in Los Angeles.

The two-time WNBA champion signed as a free agent with the Sparks on Monday, leaving Washington, where she helped the Mystics win their first title. Toliver said the decision to returnk to Los Angeles was partly financial.

“I just wasn’t offered the money I deserved,” Toliver said on a conference call Wednesday night.

Toliver spent seven years in Los Angeles, helping the team win the WNBA championship in 2016. She then played the last three years in Washington, close to where she grew up in Virginia and played in college at Maryland.

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“It was an extremely difficult decision to make. I love the city of D.C. I love Ted Leonsis as an owner,” she said. “The three years I got to spend there were the best times of my life. … When free agency came about, it was difficult to pull the trigger to leave.”

Toliver said she also had conversations with Minnesota, Phoenix, Las Vegas and Connecticut. In the end, the familiarity she had with Los Angeles helped sway her.

“I’m looking forward to round two with this LA group,” Toliver said. “It’s going to be a different experience. The team is going to be different than when I left in 2016. There are a lot of working pieces and great people there. I’m looking forward to the challenge coming back three years later, three years more experienced. Seeing if we can do this thing again.”

Toliver said she spoke with Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike to make sure they had the same vision. She’s also excited about playing for coach Derek Fisher.

“There are a lot of similarities between the two of us,” she said. “I felt comfortable in the decision coming back to LA.”

Toliver averaged 13 points and six assists last season for the Mystics.

“Heading into 2020 free agency, we wanted to add players that possess multiple skill sets and Kristi is at the top of that list,” Fisher said. “Kristi understands the habits and dedication required on a daily basis to build a championship culture. We’re all excited to have her rejoin the Sparks family.”

Toliver will continue to work as an assistant coach with the Washington Wizards. She was excited that the WNBA’s new labor deal allowed her to get paid a competitive salary as a coach, unlike like season when she was only able to be paid about $10,000.

“I’m proud of that. Myself, Ted Leonsis, Sheila Johnson, really fought to get this thing right, moving in the right direction,” she said. “For not just myself but any other players that are interested in coaching and has that passion and desire to do so”

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