The Connecticut Sun were eliminated from playoff contention yesterday at the Mohegan Sun, falling to the Chicago Sky 96-86.
The loss effectively ended the Sun’s playoff hopes, and forced them to look ahead to next season.
Usually I would publish a game recap, but I figured an editorial peice was more suited to my experience yesterday afternoon.
The contest was drenched in decadence in regards to the annivsary of 9/11.
The Connectitcut Sun also wore snazzy pink uniforms that celebrated breast cancer awareness.
It was a special basketball game, as evidenced by the President of the WNBA, Lisa Borders making a personal appearance at the Mohegan Sun.
More on that later.
In covering the Connecticut Sun for the bulk of the season, I have tapped into the emotional progress of the basketball team.
A former player myself, I often feel like I am on the bench, not in press row.
So when the team endures tough moments, or sensational victories, writing about it can be complicated because the game of basketball goes way beyond the numbers, and the box score.
There is development, cohesion, and matters of chemistry that cannot be appraised by numbers.
When I first started covering the team, they seemed disjointed.
Talented, of high character, but the team seemed to be lacking that transcedant star that any professional basketball team needs to win games.
They also displayed a lack of unity at times, the girls didn’t seem to have issues with each other, but the synergy was not at optimum levels.
This team was doomed by the 2-10 record to start the season, that window of time severely damaged the Sun’s bid for a playoff spot.
That time period was to much to much to recover from, the climb has been too steep, and it seems to have worn the team out to some degree.
That is not to say that this team didn’t accomplish wonders.
After the one of the worst starts in franchise history, the Sun had the good fortune of fielding a trade request from the team’s best player Kelsey Bone.
Bone was also the teams highest paid player this side of Alex Bentley.
Bone is a solid power forward in the WNBA, can she shoot, post, and plays with physicality
Kelsey Bone was traded to the Phoenix Mercury just before the Olympic break.
At the time, SDN Sports was under the impression that the Sun administration had moved her in the interest of building towards the future.
Bone later revealed to SDN Sports and Swish Appeal that she personally asked for the trade for personal and professional reasons.
That seems partially true, but the request was seen as selfish by fans that have communicated with SDN Sports.
The interview was candid, Kelsey made no bones about the fact that she found Head Coach Curt Miller’s system to be a bad fit for her skillset, and that “she enjoyed the previous system more”.
She spoke of being closer to her family, and playing with “the best player in the world Diana Taurasi”.
Kelsey also pointed to the fact that she did not want the burden of leading younger players, that she was “still on her rookie contract”.
Although she has now been relgated from a featured player for the Sun to a reserve that receives limited minutes, Kelsey seemed happy
Which was very telling to this writer.
At times I would into the dressing room to interview her, she seemed unhappy, discontent.
I never got the impression that she was disliked by her teammates, or coaches, but her mode hung over the team, and that extended to the basketball court as well.
Trading Kelsey Bone may have saved the season from becoming historically futile.
Once Bone was moved, Miller’s team philosophy started to take shape, the girls moved the ball more, attacked in transition, and played with a certain freedom that was not a part of the equation prior to the trade.
There was a bounce, a newfound energy about the team.
They also played with speed, the team was faster and much more difficult to mange than before the trade.
Out of nowhere, they became one of the best teams in the WNBA, and they did it with teamwork, and scarifice.
They took the Los Angeles Sparks (should have beat them) to overtime, they defeated the Minnesota Lynx twice, they torched the Phoenix Mercury, and played the type of basketball that has the future shining bright.
They also reaped the fruits of the trade that sent Bone to Phoenix.
Rookie guard Courtney Williams changed the team dynamic even further, she gave the Sun an explosive scorer, and a secondary ball handler.
While only a 1st year player, Williams played like a veteran during this stretch run, and expanded the offensive attack of the Sun.
The team played it’s best basketball once Courtney Williams became a more involved role player, she should be ready to start by next spring.
Courtney Williams is a superstar in the making, the Bone trade looks even more brilliant if you consider her progess.
Which could affect who is on the roster next season because the backcourt is starting to get crowded.
The Sun could have enjoyed even more success if it were not for injuries, they plauged the team most of the season.
Alyssa Thomas missed time with an injury, Morgan Tuck was lost for the season with a knee injury, and sharpshooter Rachel Banham also suffered a season ending injury.
All three of those players are difference makers, and Head Coach Curt Miller still found a way to win basketball games.
After yesterday’s loss, I spent time with Coach miller, and the ballclub.
Coach Miller was not thrilled by the prospects of missing the playoffs, he usually is engaging after games but the sting of this particular loss seemed to really eat at him.
He has done a marvelous job, and even been promoted to general manager, his passion for the success of the team is evident, and bodes well for the franchise moving forward.
The players were upset as one could imagine, it was the first time I had seen the team truly devastated by a defeat.
Camille Little told SDN Sports that the team was looking forward to the next game.
Despite her professionalism in the interview, I could sense the emotional downturn of a tough season.
Another reporter asked Chiney Ogwumike if the loss was the low point of the season
“Oh no, no way, this is not the low point of the season. We just have to keep working, and getting better”
Ogwumike is the spiritual leader of the Conneciticut Sun, her approach to her teammates, and the game have anchored this team through the tough times, and the happy times.
She is always engaging with reporters, and rarely shows any sign of negativity.
Her interaction with the media yesterday is a good sign for this team.
A strong veteran presence will guide the girls moving forward.
They have proven they can win, they have the right coach and system in place to make major strides foward next season.
The Sun are also young, 8 players have been in the league for less than 5 years.
While the playoffs didn’t become a reality this season, the Sun have turned a potentially disasterous season into a respectable one.
They have much to be proud of.