We have officially reached the All-Star Break portion of the WNBA season. Every team has played more than half of their regular-season slate of games and once again, the standings are close. Just 3.5 games separate the top eight teams from each other, and the four other squads aren't too far behind.
The players and staff of all 12 teams enjoyed a shortened week of play before the official All-Star break began. While some are taking the chance to get away and rest, others are heading to Las Vegas to take part in the festivities in some way.
All-Star Rosters Set
While the two players I mentioned in my previous notebook – Seattle's Jewell Loyd and Washington's Elena Delle Donne – are back playing after injuries, another All-Star has had to bow out of playing in the game because of an injury of her own. Las Vegas' A'ja Wilson injured her ankle in the Aces' 69-66 loss to Seattle (July 19) and has been out since (yet still looking sharp as usual).
As a team captain alongside Delle Donne, Wilson has and will continue to play a role in the weekend's festivities in Vegas – just not on the court. On Monday, the WNBA announced that Minnesota rookie Napheesa Collier will take Wilson's spot in the contest. I personally love this move. We in Minnesota love Collier a lot, but I was pleasantly surprised to see her get so many fan votes especially as a rookie. She's certainly making the most out of a new opportunity; Collier currently leads the league's first-year players with nearly two steals per game, a mark that also leads the Lynx. She averages 11.0 points (3rd) and nearly six rebounds (2nd) per game as well. I expect her to shine in Vegas.
Skills and Treys Set
Collier will join seven other WNBA players, including Phoenix center Brittney Griner, in the return of the Skills Challenge as part of WNBA All-Star Friday Night on July 26. The full roster is as follows, in alphabetical order by team:
- Atlanta Dream: Elizabeth Williams
- Chicago Sky: Diamond DeShields, Courtney Vandersloot
- Connecticut Sun: Jonquel Jones
- Minnesota Lynx: Napheesa Collier, Odyssey Sims
- Phoenix Mercury: Brittney Griner
- Seattle Storm: Sami Whitcomb
I like this list of participants in what looks to be a fun competition ahead of the All-Star Game this Saturday. According to the WNBA, the Skills Challenge is made up of identical obstacle courses that will test players' ball handling, agility, passing, and three-point shooting. And oh yeah, two players will go head to head against each other until a winner comes out on top.
Not to be outdone, the Three-Point Contest returns for another year, this time outside of the All-Star Game. Chicago guard Allie Quigley will look to defend her title after a fantastic three-point contest in 2018. Here's the full roster for that event, again in alphabetical order by team:
- Chicago Sky: Allie Quigley
- Connecticut Sun: Shekinna Stricklen
- Indiana Fever: Erica Wheeler
- Las Vegas Aces: Kayla McBride
- Los Angeles Sparks: Chelsea Gray
- New York Liberty: Kia Nurse
I like this list, too. It won't be easy for Quigley to win her third straight title with how stacked the list is, but as we saw last year, anything can happen. Each player competing in the Three-Point Contest deserves to be there. I'm happy to see Wheeler and Nurse included too; their teams may not be in line for the playoffs right now but both athletes are still having great seasons so far.
So, as you might have noticed, both Quigley and Vandersloot could go home with trophies even before the All-Star Game itself. On a related note, Sports Illustrated published a fantastic profile of the Vanderquigs that I highly recommend.
The Captains Select...
As I mentioned last week, they're not the only married couple taking part in the All-Star festivities this weekend. Phoenix's DeWanna Bonner and Indiana's Candice Dupree are also playing in the game as reserves... on separate teams. The official All-Star Draft was televised on ESPN2 earlier this week and it had some hilarious moments. It also included two trades. Both Delle Donne and Wilson agreed to switch their coaches after Washington's Mike Thibault was set to coach Wilson's team and Las Vegas's Bill Laimbeer was set to coach Delle Donne's. The two captains also traded Napheesa Collier and Tina Charles, putting Charles with Liberty teammate Kia Nurse on Team Delle Donne and Collier with Lynx teammates Sylvia Fowles and Odyssey Sims on Team Wilson.
More importantly, it was a breath of fresh air for women's basketball fans.
How to Watch
The All-Star fun got underway Thursday in Las Vegas with a special "Her Time to Play" clinic, where the kids got a special surprise after hanging out with some of the players.
The fun begins tonight, Friday July 26 with the WNBA Fan Fest in Las Vegas before the Skills Challenge and Three-Point Contest begin as part of WNBA All-Star Friday Night. Coverage of both events will start at 7:00 PM Eastern on ESPN. Then the All-Star Game itself tips off Saturday, July 27, at 3:30 PM Eastern on ABC.
Here are the rosters for both teams in what should be an exciting contest!
(Photo: @LVAces / Twitter)