When coach and retired professional runner Lauren Fleshman attended the Olympic Marathon Trials in February
The first full week of the WNBA season has officially come and gone, and it's as good of a time as any to be a fan if you're into basketball (or just good people). There have been a few surprises and many close games as the league's teams work to increase their level of play in the most competitive year yet. More fans are taking notice, as well, as the opening game on ABC (Phoenix at Seattle, May 25) had the highest overnight rating since 2012.
It's also Pride Month, something that the WNBA takes very seriously. Fans can once again buy items from an exclusive line of apparel starting today (June 4) with all proceeds going to GLSEN. Teams will also celebrate pride in their respective communities throughout the month. And the league will join the NBA family in marching in the New York City Pride Parade for the fourth straight year on June 30.
The WNBA has improved its social media game this year, including for Pride Month by showcasing three of the league's many out queer players: Chicago's Stefanie Dolson, Connecticut's Layshia Clarendon, and Phoenix's DeWanna Bonner.
But let’s get back to the basketball. Here's a look at the week that was by the numbers.
39: The combined number of points by the Ogwumike sisters in Derek Fisher's first win with Los Angeles
Many expected the Los Angeles Sparks to be stronger after their front office made the move to get Chiney Ogwumike from the Connecticut Sun in the offseason. That was not the case – until the Sparks' home opener against Chiney's former team. She led everyone with 20 points while her older sister Nneka added 19 to help Los Angeles get their first win of the year – and head coach Derek Fisher's first career win – on May 31. Despite the win, it's been a time of somewhat uncertainty for the team. Los Angeles signed training camp attendee Ashley Walker earlier this week after the team received an emergency hardship salary cap exception. Three players are currently gone – Maria Vadeeva with overseas commitments, and Alana Beard and Candace Parker with injuries – which now gives LA 10 available players. Until any of the aforementioned players return, the Ogwumike sisters need to stay healthy and hot in order for the Sparks to stay competitive in the young season.
83-79: The final score in James Wade's first win with the Chicago Sky
A day later, the Chicago Sky hosted their home opener against the defending champion Seattle Storm and gave their hometown fans quite the show. The game was a close contest from the start to finish, as neither team led by more than three at the end of each quarter. But the Sky had the momentum when it counted at the end of the contest, when married couple Allie Quigley and Courtney Vandersloot teamed up for the win. Fitting for the first day of Pride Month, no? Quigley led everyone with 25 points, while Diamond DeShields (one of a handful of players who happily attended her teammates' wedding in December) added 21. Sure, the Storm were playing without a few players including Alysha Clark, but the win for the Sky shows that Wade knows what he's doing in his first head coaching job in the WNBA. His wife is happy, too.
Chicago should be pretty thrilled as well.
12: The number of rebounds DeWanna Bonner had in Phoenix's win over Las Vegas
The Phoenix Mercury spoiled Liz Cambage's debut with the Las Vegas Aces with a close win (May 31). Though both teams enjoyed balanced scoring, DeWanna Bonner's play on both sides of the ball helped her team win their home opener. She finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds, including 11 defensive grabs. She also played a key role in a late Mercury run and an Essence Carson 3-pointer that secured the win for Phoenix late in the game. In her 10th year in the league, Bonner is quickly climbing up the all-time list for total rebounds; she is now tied for 25th all-time (1,832) with former player Natalie Williams, who showed her some love over the weekend. Bonner is expected to continue the climb, as former Minnesota Lynx player and current assistant coach Plenette Pierson is ranked 24th with just two more rebounds. Bonner's two-way play will be important for a Mercury squad that looks to get back into the WNBA Finals this year.
10: The number of points Erica Wheeler scored in Indiana's win over New York
The Indiana Fever opened up their home slate the same way they opened their regular season: with a win over the New York Liberty. While teammate Kelsey Mitchell had a stellar game according to the scoreboard with a game-high 23 points, fourth-year guard Erica Wheeler had a stellar game of her own. She was one of four players in double figures for the Fever with 10 points, which put her above 1,000 for her young career.
After signing as a free agent in 2016, Wheeler has become an important part of the Indiana Fever roster – and the starting five – as the team looks to improve from their league-worst records in 2017 and 2018. With the win even against the winless Liberty, they are already well on their way to doing that; the Fever did not get their second win of the year last season until July 3.
3,248: The number of points scored by Tina Charles in her New York career, good for first in franchise history.
It may be the opening weeks of the season, but it's already time for teams to play their annual school/camp day games to a crowd of screaming kids. The kids in Westchester, New York, were treated to an historic game from Liberty star Tina Charles on June 4. She scored 21 points in a loss to the L.A. Sparks, which put her to the top of the New York franchise scoring list.
As of press time, Charles has scored a total of 5,491 points throughout her nine year career, a mark that's good for 15th all-time among active and inactive players. I would not be surprised to see her score her way into the top 10 list fairly soon. The first obstacle is former Lynx star Lindsay Whalen, whose 5,523 points are good for 14th all-time – for now. While the rest of Charles' team is starting to gel despite their 0-3 record, something needs to change in New York if they want to make sure Charles stays there.
1: The number of remaining undefeated teams in the WNBA
That team is none other than the Minnesota Lynx after two close wins last week against Seattle and Dallas. With four of their five long-time starters not playing right now (guard Seimone Augustus is recovering from knee surgery), not many expected them to do so well so early. But as many said last week, Lynx head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve knows what she's doing.
Reeve and her players highlight a big week of action with a nationally-broadcast match against the L.A. Sparks on Saturday, when they will retire Lindsay Whalen's #13 jersey. The full upcoming schedule is below:
Tuesday, June 4
- Los Angeles Sparks 78 (2-1) at New York Liberty 73 (0-3): 11:00 AM Eastern
- Minnesota Lynx (3-0) at Seattle Storm (2-2): 10:00 PM Eastern [Twitter]
Wednesday, June 5
- Chicago Sky (1-1) at Washington Mystics (1-1): 7:00 PM Eastern [CBS Sports Network]
Thursday, June 6
- Las Vegas Aces (1-1) at Atlanta Dream (1-2): 7:00 PM Eastern [CBS Sports Network]
- Los Angeles Sparks at Connecticut Sun (1-1): 7:00 PM Eastern
- Phoenix Mercury (1-1) at Minnesota Lynx: 8:00 PM Eastern
Friday, June 7
- Dallas Wings (0-2) at Indiana Fever (2-1): 7:00 PM Eastern [CBS Sports Network]
- Washington Mystics at New York Liberty: 7:30 PM Eastern
Saturday, June 8
- Los Angeles Sparks at Minnesota Lynx: 3:30 PM Eastern [ABC]
Sunday, June 9
- Connecticut Sun at Atlanta Dream: 3:00 PM Eastern
- Las Vegas Aces at New York Liberty: 3:00 PM Eastern
- Dallas Wings at Washington Mystics: 3:00 PM Eastern
- Phoenix Mercury at Indiana Fever: 4:00 PM Eastern [NBA TV]
- Seattle Storm at Chicago Sky: 6:00 PM Eastern [NBA TV]
(Photo: @MinnesotaLynx / Twitter)
Filed under: wnba; basketball; los angeles sparks; derek fisher; chiney ogwumike; nneka ogwumike; chicago sky; seattle storm; james wade; allie quigley; courtney vandersloot; dewanna bonner; phoenix mercury; las vegas aces; indiana fever; ny liberty; tina charles; minnesota lynx
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