Ex-Portland Fire star mulls championship chance with Sparks

Jackie Stiles is a contract holdout but not the typical kind. She doesn't want more money, she just doesn't want much less.

The champion Los Angeles Sparks, who picked the former Portland Fire guard in the recent WNBA dispersal draft, have offered Stiles less than 90 percent of her 2002 salary of $55,000. Under WNBA rules, it automatically makes her a free agent if she doesn't agree to the Sparks' offer.

As of Thursday morning, Stiles had not participated in L.A.'s training camp.

'It doesn't look good,' Sparks spokesman Kristal Shipp says of Stiles playing for the Sparks.

Stiles had been allowed to be absent from the camp to tend to personal things, such as attending a wedding in Portland, while her agent and the Sparks try to do a deal.

The minimum for veterans is $42,000. Stiles, a WNBA rookie of the year in 2001 but often injured last season, told The Kansas City Star last month that she would be willing to take a pay cut.

'The money really isn't a huge concern,' she says. 'The important thing is just to have the opportunity to play. My first thought when I found out (L.A. selected her) was, 'I'm going to have a chance to win a championship,' and that means so much to me.'

Stiles would enter a crowded L.A. backcourt, although Sophia Witherspoon did not re-sign with the team. It would be difficult for her to get playing time behind Latasha Byears, Tamecka Dixon, Nikki Teasley, Mwadi Mabika and Nicky McCrimmon.

Eleven players will make the opening-day roster, and two could be put on injured reserve. Could Stiles be headed to the Sparks' IR?

The 5-8 guard's star has diminished since her record-setting prep days at Claflin, Kan., and college years at Southwest Missouri State. After averaging 15 points a game as a rookie, Stiles last year had wrist and foot injuries, both of which necessitated surgery.

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