The 2014 WNBA preseason has played out like a game of musical chairs, building suspense for what is sure to be an entertaining season.
This year’s WNBA season is officially underway with the 2014 draft marking its commencement and setting the tone for the season. Fans and spectators alike have been privy to a bevvy of player changes – some expected and at least one shocking one, some that took place before the draft, some during the draft and a few are still happening post-draft as training camps wrap up and teams prepare for the 34-game regular season.
Tina Charles, the Connecticut Sun’s franchise player, demanded to be traded to New York for reasons unknown and unwelcome by the Sun organization. Charles, who threatened to sit out the entire season if she wasn’t traded to the Liberty, will join Bill Laimbeer, Cappie Pondexter, who claims she was just as shocked as the rest of us about the Charles move, and returning Essence Carson finally back from injury, for what New York hopes will be a turn-around season.
The 2014 season marked another first for the league with the debut of the first ever pre-season tournment in Orlando. The tournament featured the Minnesota Lynx, Chicago Sky, Indiana Fever and Phoenix Mercury, with the 2013 defending champion Lynx, taking home the trophy in a 76-69 victory over the Sky.
The Phoenix Mercury, who lost its first game to the Lynx 72-64 in round one, fell a second time 75-60 in a consolation game against the Indiana Fever who had been previously beaten by the Sky 73-66.
Pre-season is when rookies are tested and the opportunity for trial and error without penalty is taken advantage of, so it’s tough to say if this pre-season tournament is any indication of what’s to come this summer. One thing is for sure: the Lynx seemed to have picked up right where they left off last year – dominating.
The Los Angeles Sparks is another team coaches and players should be keeping an eye on this year. Not that they shouldn’t have last year, but it’s safe to say Candace Parker and company has a chip on its shoulder from coming so close yet again to the championship that has eluded Parker since her entrance into the league six years ago.
Coach Carol Ross’ Sparks started off strong with a 74-67 win over the Seattle Storm. The Sparks are also under new ownership after spending two weeks during the off season uncertain of where they might call home. An investment group led by Magic Johnson took over the reigns earlier in the year. Sparks vet, Lisa Leslie still remains a minority owner.
Notable preseason debuts include Jamierra Faulkner for Chicago, who helped lead the team to a 73-66 victory over Indiana on May 9, and Shoni Schimmel’s debut on May 11 as a reserve guard for the Atlanta Dream. Atlanta defeated the New York Liberty 63-58. The no. 1 draft pick, Chiney Ogwumike out of Stanford had an excellent debut adding 16 points to a 60-44 win over the Sun.
Chicago center, Sylvia Fowles, last season’s Defensive Player of the Year, is out for at least the first part of the season with an injury, having undergone arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn labrum and impingement of a joint. Last season, Fowles led the league in rebounding with 11.5 boards per game, had a 58% field goal percentage — the highest in the league — and was 10th in scoring. Chicago is supposed to be a frontrunner for the playoffs, but it will be interesting to see how they do without their star center.
Players already waived include two guards: Connecticut’s Kalana Greene and New York’s Meighan Simmons. Greene is a veteran who has seen a good amount of playing with routine starts over the last three seasons. Simmons, a rookie was the 26th overall pick in this year’s Draft in April, was an All-American and Associated Press’s SEC Player of the Year last season at Tennessee.
The tournament was held in conjunction with the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), a U.S. non-profit volunteer sports organization. League president, Laurel Richie said the long time relationship with AAU is due to the league’s acknowledgement of “how important it is to bring young woman into the pipeline and into the sport.” She added the pre-season tournament, which was an effort to bring some early energy to the season, far exceeded their expectations.
Players will be settled into place when the WNBA season begins on May 16 with the Minnesota Lynx facing off against the Washington Mystics and the New York Liberty taking on the Connecticut Sun in Washington, D.C. Also scheduled that day is San Antonio in Atlanta against the Dream, Los Angeles at Seattle and the Indiana Fever resumes it’s rivalry against the Sky in Chicago.
The league is currently running its annual promotion to try two weeks of Live Access free then a discounted rate for those who continue. Live Access is the online medium that allows fans to watch every non-ESPN game during the regular and post season.
For more information on the WNBA visit WNBA.com
(written with KAMMs)