WNBA Week 12: The New York Liberty Lastly Look Like That Promised Tremendous Crew

The WNBA is sprinting towards the 2023 playoffs. Simply this week, the New York Liberty have been crowed Commissioner’s Cup champions. As all the time, Natalie and Heather break it down and make some daring predictions about end-of-season particular person awards.

Natalie: All set to speak all issues WNBA?

Heather: I’m prepared! I can not wait to listen to your ideas on the Commissioner’s Cup recreation!

Natalie: That’s an important place to start out: final Tuesday, the New York Liberty confronted the Las Vegas Aces for the league’s third annual commissioner’s cup and gained, 82-63. Not practically as unhealthy a loss because the Liberty had given the Aces again in New York however nonetheless a very good butt kicking…particularly for the Aces who had been enjoying so nicely at house.

I feel the win cemented two issues for me: first, that the New York Liberty are legit. It’s like they’ve lastly come into their “superteam” kind and have all their items working. The starters have gelled and, I feel most significantly, the bench is offering a considerable contribution. Second, the Aces usually are not infallible. It seems like every part we’ve been warning about for the final yr or so — the lengthy minutes being placed on their starters, the non-existent bench — is lastly having a tangible impression on the court docket. What have been your takeaways from that Commissioner’s Cup recreation?

Heather: I feel you might be spot on, as normal! Throughout the recreation, we have been chatting just a bit, and one of many issues that basically jumped out at each of us was that the Liberty’s bench was the factor that was making all of the distinction for them. I had it fully flawed. I believed Stef Dolson can be the game-changer off the bench, defensively — however no! Kayla Thorton had eight factors, 4 rebounds, and two assists off the bench. And Marine Johannes, who appears to exist to troll your fantasy staff, had 17 factors on 5-7 capturing behind the arc. Stacy and I’ve all the time referred to as her Kicky as a result of she pulls up and shoots in probably the most bonkers, cartoon rabbit sort of method. When she’s off, she’s off. However when she’s cooking, there’s nothing you are able to do to cease her. Becky Hammon mentioned as a lot after the sport. It was additionally such a fair effort from the Liberty’s starters, by way of the purpose unfold. AND. As you and I’ve been saying since week one, when Jonquel Jones is enjoying like Jonquel Jones? That’s the stuff of championships. I used to be so thrilled to see her win the Cup MVP trophy.

The Aces quick bench is one thing that’s been worrying you for 2 seasons now, and with Candace Parker out with damage, it’s an much more apparent legal responsibility. One other factor Hammon mentioned after the sport is that the Liberty weren’t even guarding Kia Stokes or Alysha Clark, and that was permitting them to leap off screens and double up on A’ja, Chelsey, KP, Jackie. Kiah wasn’t guarded AND she didn’t rating. That’s going to be one thing the Aces are going to have to determine, and quick, as a result of different groups are going to scout that in a heartbeat.

I used to be so comfortable for the Liberty win as a result of they’re my staff, but in addition as a result of it made me tremendous excited for the playoffs, which I had simply been assuming, up till this week, was going to be a area day for the Aces in route to a different championship.

Nonetheless! It have to be mentioned! That the Aces did flip round and spank the Liberty two days later!

Natalie: As I mentioned throughout our in-game chat, not guarding a participant on the ground needs to be one of the disrespectful issues you are able to do….and I feel it will get into the participant’s head a bit bit. I imply, I don’t assume Kiah Stokes is the best offensive participant however she ought to no less than have the ability to offer you a number of factors, simply by way of putbacks, proper? The Aces must discover a technique to make Stokes right into a scoring menace. They only must. Even in that second recreation in opposition to the Liberty — the precise common season recreation — Stokes doesn’t rating in any respect.

I feel that second recreation was simply Chelsea Grey completely refusing to permit the Aces to lose. But in addition? The Liberty simply appeared gassed…they’d performed a whole lot of video games in a brief interval and hadn’t been in a position to actually get well. Do you are worried about that in a playoff situation?

Heather: The Liberty truly performed extra video games than anybody main into that Commissioner’s Cup, largely as a result of they have been making up video games from once we had that wildfire smoke right here within the metropolis that made it not possible to breathe even inside. So I feel that was a contributing issue. I additionally assume, although they did fly constitution and have a number of days to arrange in Las Vegas, they have been the staff touring throughout the nation. They weren’t enjoying at house. So sure, they completely acquired outplayed, however I do assume there have been some further issues contributing to their exhaustion that may doubtless be extra balanced within the playoffs. Do I nonetheless assume it’s doubtless the Aces will pull it out once more ultimately? I positive do. However do I now assume it will likely be extra aggressive? Completely!

One different factor I’m so keen to listen to your ideas on: This rivalry is getting REAL chippy. It began again when JJ elbowed A’ja within the neck earlier than the Cup recreation. It continued of their Thursday evening common season recreation when Kayla Thorton completely throttled A’ja into the bottom with such ferocity that Becky Hammon RUSHED THE FLOOR to maintain A’ja from leaping up and retaliating. What do you consider the simmering blood between these two, and can THAT be an element within the playoffs?

Natalie: I feel the forwards and backwards with Thorton had been constructing all recreation and A’ja’s anger over it (compounded by not getting the calls) practically boils over at that time…such that each one her teammates and Becky Hammon must step in an stop an altercation from occurring. And I ought to say, for our readers who aren’t diehard W followers such as you and I: A’ja Wilson’s not that sort of participant. There are people within the league with tempers however A’ja Wilson’s not usually been one among them…so to see her get that fed up was actually exceptional.

Heather: Sure, I agree — and I actually thought it confirmed simply how shut this staff is, together with how shut they’re with Hammon, as a result of, such as you mentioned, A’ja doesn’t play ball like that. And within the case of Hammon, she solely noticed the again of A’ja’s head earlier than she began speeding the court docket. Simply even seeing her physique language, she knew she was about to behave out of character. One factor you’ll be able to say for absolute certainty about these Aces: you mess with one among them, you mess with all of them.

Natalie: I feel what we’re seeing, although is different WNBA groups believing that one of the best ways to beat the Aces is to play them bodily. You’ve seen that within the 5 video games they’ve misplaced this season, together with the newest loss to the Sparks over the weekend. To have that sustained stage of physicality, particularly if the refs aren’t calling the fouls, goes to empty a staff…and and not using a bench to depend on, the Aces are actually weak.

Heather: A’ja Wilson and Breanna Stewart are each majorly inclined to that funk that comes over them after they’re not getting calls, as a result of they’re so used to getting calls! And a lot of their factors, and their staff momentum, comes from what they’re in a position to do within the paint, whether or not that’s getting offensive rebounds, coming by with ‘and 1s,’ knocking down large defensive rebounds after which main the transition cost down the ground. So after they’re getting overwhelmed up down there, with nothing to indicate for it, it’s acquired to get irritating as hell! I really like bodily publish play, I L O V E I T — however, far more than that, I worth these gamers’ our bodies and livelihoods, so I hope the refs can discover a technique to hold everybody protected as we head into this final a part of the season.

There’s yet one more Aces factor we now have to the touch on. They misplaced to the Sparks. Natalie, what on the planet!?

Natalie: It’s like I mentioned: the physicality is an issue…and the refs simply weren’t calling it.

Heather: I additionally need to shout out Layshia Clarendon. 22 factors, 5 rebounds, 5 assists? That’s a masterful efficiency! I’m all the time rooting for them and it was so cool to see them so comfortable after that recreation!

Natalie: Undoubtedly an important efficiency in that recreation. They’re among the finest bodily guards within the league and it made it tougher for the Aces’ guards to dish the ball or get into the lane.

That recreation additionally featured one other nice efficiency by Jordin Canada who, no less than in my ebook, is main the race for the Most Improved Participant within the league proper now. Earlier within the season, we made our predictions for the WNBA Awards and, for MIP, I predicted Satou Sabally or Shakira Austin taking it when you had Allisha Grey.

With a number of weeks left within the season who’s your choose for Most Improved?

Heather: Oh wow, we had nice picks! I agree with you that Jordin Canada’s within the dialog, however I feel for me it’s gotta be Satou Sabally. Not solely is she having a profession finest yr, personally, her play has elevated the Wings to an entire new stage. ESPN had them third of their energy rankings this morning! It’s clearly very a lot a staff effort in Dallas. Teaira McCowan and Natasha Howard are having the most effective yr’s of their careers too. However Satou is simply on one other stage.

Natalie: I need to go together with Satou…first as a result of I really like her and second as a result of I really like being proper…however I feel the consistency hasn’t been there for me these days. Within the final two video games for the Wings, she’s averaged simply 8 factors. Canada, however, has been such a steadying pressure for the Sparks…and, for me, she’s main in that race.

Plenty of discuss concerning the MVP race. In our pre-season picks, you went with Breanna Stewart and I went with a “if she stays wholesome — and that’s an enormous if — Elena Delle Donne.” I see now that I in all probability jinxed EDD with that assertion and I remorse it.

Heather: I feel EDD is solely cursed.

Natalie: What about you? Are you continue to betting on Stewie to take the MVP trophy this yr?

Heather: I feel it’s going to be A’ja or Stewie, and I can’t argue with both. They’re two of the most effective to ever do it; they’re each shining so shiny this season; All-Star captains; doubtless Championship staff captains. Finest gamers on the most effective groups, such as you all the time say!

Natalie: So, can I be trustworthy and admit that I’m rethinking the most effective participant on the most effective staff factor?

Heather: Ooh, say extra!

Natalie: Clearly, Stewie and A’ja have been nice this season however what Alyssa Thomas is doing in Connecticut this season is simply different worldly. She’s breaking data left and proper. Over the weekend, she grew to become the primary WNBA participant to have 300 rebounds and 250 assists in a single season AND she nonetheless has 9 video games left?! After which the triple-doubles on high of that?

I don’t know the way somebody can have that historic of a season after which we don’t acknowledge that with an MVP trophy.

Heather: You understand what, you’re completely proper.

I’ve been considering these days that if AT was having this type of otherworldly season in Vegas or NYC — I don’t even imply on the Aces or Liberty, actually, I simply imply in both of these cities/markets, so I suppose Los Angeles too — this might be an entire different dialog. Or if she was a male athlete having this type of season. So, yeah, I’ve completely no quibble together with your choice right here. I imply! She’s actually proper now in competitors with Courtney Vandersloot for probably the most assists this season, and breaking the single-season help report! They’re tied proper now for the Third-most assists in a season in WNBA historical past.

Natalie: The factor that basically turned me round on that is, oddly, sufficient the Rookie of the 12 months race. I don’t assume there’s a professional argument to be made that anybody aside from Aliyah Boston goes to take house that trophy….however once you discuss why Boston deserves it, you’re speaking about stats that defy historical past. Over the weekend, she passed Tamika Catchings for the rookie field goal record in Indiana. Her effectivity for a rookie is off the charts. She deserves it as a result of she’s making historical past.

So why deny Alyssa Thomas the MVP trophy when she’s doing comparable issues?

Heather: Welp! You satisfied me! In like three minutes!

Natalie, I simply love speaking concerning the W with you. Simply studying the final two stuff you wrote, I’ve acquired chills throughout my arms. How dang wonderful for us to be witnessing this ladies’s basketball historical past! At a time once we can watch extra ladies’s basketball on TV than ever earlier than!

Natalie: We actually are witnessing greatness on the court docket…and I can’t imagine I get to speak about it with you and receives a commission for it. Don’t inform Carmen however I’d discuss to you concerning the WNBA free of charge!

Heather: Shhh, me too!

I’d like to know who’s acquired your vote proper now for Coach of the 12 months and DPOY.

Natalie: Coach of the 12 months is one other robust one for me. Clearly, Hammon’s within the dialog…and I feel Brondello needs to be as nicely. It took a minute however getting that New York Liberty staff to gel, getting everybody to know their roles and the way precious they’re in making the “superteam” tremendous…it’s been a powerful feat for Brondello. However I feel I’ve to offer it to Stephanie White.

Heather: MY ENEMY FROM 1999?!?!

Natalie: For those who had advised me that the Solar have been going to lose JJ within the low season, lose Brionna Jones to damage in the course of the season and nonetheless be within the high tier of the WNBA…I’d’ve thought you have been loopy. However they’re nonetheless sitting within the higher echelon of the league. That’s a testomony to what White’s dropped at the franchise.

However I feel it’s between White and Brondello…what about you?

Heather: Forgive me Pat Summitt in heaven, however I do agree with you that what Stephanie White has achieved is nothing wanting a training miracle. Particularly as a result of Connecticut isn’t actually well-known for having groups that super-duper love one another. And there are many chips to go round for loads of shoulders, even simply DeWanna and AT getting shut out of All-Star beginning spots this season after they’re each having such large seasons in such illustrious careers.

For me, although, I do assume it’s Brondello. I might be trustworthy and say that the persistence and gentleness she exhibited with this staff all the best way up till the All-Star break was completely maddening to me. I simply wished to see her get mad! On the turnovers! At giving up offensive rebounds! On the method they weren’t enjoying to their potential! However she simply stored calmly saying that these items take time, that the staff was going to come back collectively, that JJ was going to search out her place, that Sabrina was going to discover ways to play protection. She was infuriatingly peaceable and filled with confidence all that stuff would occur and that the Liberty would peak on the proper time — AND THEY HAVE!

Natalie: I imply, hoping that Sabrina learns tips on how to play protection may be anticipating a bit an excessive amount of however sure, that’s precisely why I feel Brondello’s a lead candidate. I suppose after so a few years with Phoenix, managing the egos in New York appeared like baby’s play.

DPOY is one other robust one for me: who do you’ve got?

Heather: I feel it’s A’ja once more. Not simply because she’s main the league in blocks and defensive win shares, but in addition as a result of simply the very fact of her retains so many individuals out of the lane and likewise retains them from capturing. She is so endlessly spectacular together with her blocking, however I’ve actually solely simply begun to understand how sensible she is off the ball and the way she will make individuals pay — or balk — even when she’s not guarding them.

I can’t inform you what number of occasions I’ve seen Sabrina Ionescu choose up her dribble in a panic and switch the ball over just because A’ja Wilson began shifting towards her.

Natalie: What do you assume offers her the sting over somebody like Stewie? And, are you shocked that Brittney Griner’s not a part of the DPOY dialog?

Heather: That’s two nice questions. I feel the distinction with Stewie is that she’s not guarding the opposite staff’s finest participant each evening. And, in actual fact, Sandy Brondello will go to a second, and even third alternative, earlier than she forces Stewie to actually guard somebody who’s going to get her in foul hassle. Betnijah Laney is, by far, the Liberty’s finest defender, and she or he’s normally guarding the opposite staff’s star, each single evening. With A’ja, you’re simply going to get her regardless of how good you might be. Hammon trusts her to play killer protection and be sensible sufficient to remain out of foul hassle.

So far as BG goes, I’ve simply been so endlessly impressed together with her stage of play this season, after every part, that I’m not shocked she’s not within the DPOY dialog as a result of she’s nonetheless not on the high of her recreation, however that doesn’t take away from what she’s achieved, in fact! (I truly noticed BG laughing at her bobblehead on on the Mercury’s IG the opposite day, saying she needs she might put again on that weight the bobblehead BG is showcasing.

Natalie: Sorry for the delay however I needed to go search for that bobblehead publish on IG, it sounded hilarious…and it’s!

Heather: I really like this video!

Natalie: Her response is totally lovely. I really like BG a lot.

Heather: Each time she smiles — actually each time — I smile again. I’m like a bit child, simply mirroring her happiness.

Natalie: Her pleasure is infectious.

Two fast issues to the touch on earlier than we toss it over to Carmen for the WNBA Suits of the Week: first, WNBA Commissioner, Cathy Engelbert, is on the street visiting potential growth cities for the league. She made a stop in Denver last Wednesday. Are you feeling optimistic about the potential of growth and are you shocked that WNBA gamers don’t appear as thrilled concerning the risk as followers are?

Heather: I feel in the event you’d requested me this at this precise time final yr, I’d have been over the moon excited. However I’ll inform you what, I’ve been so deeply upset with so most of the choices Engelbert/the league have made this season that I truly want they’d get that stuff dealt with earlier than increasing. The weirdness with constitution flights, the bullshit with BG’s safety, the baffling methods pregnant gamers are being handled, the too-small roster limits, the low pay that’s nonetheless going to pressure so many gamers abroad. I don’t see how increasing the league goes to repair any of these points, and I feel that Engelbert’s acquired this nearly trickle-down economics concept that her important job must be advertising and growth in order that the league can develop after which make more cash after which take care of all these very legitimate participant complaints. However that feels increasingly backward to me. I’m so glad you requested this as a result of I’ve been so grasping to your tackle it.

Natalie: I feel you’re the place a whole lot of the gamers are: Kelsey Plum has talked about this a bit bit, notably because it pertains to the journey piece. There are all these items that want fixing within the league and people issues warrant extra quick consideration. I don’t disagree with any of the problems that you just’ve raised but in addition I hope it’s not an either-or proposition, ? Like I need us to have the ability to have constitution flights for the gamers AND expanded rosters AND new groups within the league. There’s no motive for knowledgeable league to not have the ability to stroll and chew gum on the similar time.

Heather: And amen to that!

Natalie: I feel, because the gamers go into this subsequent spherical Collective Bargaining, associated to the TV deal, hope that they method it with an yes-AND mindset relatively than an either-or.

Heather: I completely agree.

Natalie: The second factor: over the weekend, we additionally noticed Minnesota ahead Aerial Powers take to twitter and clarify that she gained’t be again in a Lynx jersey subsequent season. We’ve each been perplexed about Powers’ play (or lack thereof) in Minnesota this season so I’m undecided her frustration got here as a shock…however what do you assume is the issue in Minnesota?

Heather: I imply, clearly it’s a lot tougher to deal with any sort of drama within the locker room when your staff has a shedding report. The Lynx are having the weirdest season. They’re within the playoff dialog, however they’re 15-17 (6-10 AT HOME). I’m positive there’s been loads of dialog about who the Lynx are going to herald in the course of the subsequent draft, and whether or not or not they’re going to be some sort of savior. It’s not possible to miss what an enormous loss it was within the locker room when Sylvia Fowles retired. I feel they’re having a foul season, I feel any sort of unhealthy blood between gamers, or between gamers and employees might be getting increasingly heated, and I simply get the sensation Aerial feels no less than barely discredited by the group. Her girlfriend tweeted that the staff was “poisonous,” so I don’t actually know what’s occurring there, however I hope she will area a commerce to a spot the place she’s happier. She’s acquired some good years left in her! What’s your considering on her, and likewise simply on the Lynx total as we had towards the playoffs?

Natalie: The poisonous tweets caught me a bit off-guard as a result of, although all of us acknowledge that not all WNBA franchises are well-run, there’s by no means been any indication that Minnesota is a very poisonous atmosphere. If there’s one thing else happening, I hope that we hear extra about it in order that it may be addressed.

That mentioned, I feel the actual situation in Minnesota — and I don’t know that it qualifies to the extent of poisonous given how widespread it has been throughout the league — is that the top coach shouldn’t be the overall supervisor. They introduced AP in for scoring and, notably whereas Phee was out, Powers offered that…however now Phee’s again, Diamond Miller’s stepped up they usually’ve acquired Tiffany Mitchell…and AP isn’t wanted as a lot. They’d commerce her however, as a result of Reeves was so determined for scoring assist, they signed Powers to an inflated contract…so there’s no different staff that may actually afford to take her.

Heather: That’s a very, actually astute remark. This isn’t the primary time you’ve been in a position to see the unhealthy results of getting Reeves do each of these jobs.

Natalie: Completely. Bear in mind the Angel McCoughtry stint in Minnesota?

Anyway, how a couple of Minnesota palate cleanser?

Heather: Okay nicely that’s the cutest factor I’ve seen in a minute! I really like seeing ladies athletes with their infants on the ground and area, I simply adore it!

Natalie: So do I!

Heather: Talking of issues we love, let’s flip it over to Carmen for Suits of the Week!

Carmen: The apparent winner for outfit of the week goes to my fantasy spouse Chelsea Grey for her Commissioner Cup match final week.

Heather: Mmm hmm.

Carmen: There aren’t any phrases. In reality I feel, upon data of this outfit, my precise phrasing was: “what am i imagined to do with this huh WHAT AM I TO DO?!?! i assume simply lie down on the ground.”

I additionally wish to publicly acknowledge that it’s been dropped at my consideration by Natalie that my Aces bias may be influencing my outfits of the week — they’ve been featured greater than another staff — and whereas I stand by my decisions!! I’m going to be conducting an off-the-cuff “Which WNBA Crew is the swaggiest??” within the subsequent couple weeks. And I’ll listen within the feedback for any options!

Proper now if I needed to guess the solutions are: 1) Aces 2) Chicago 3) Dallas 4) LA… however that’s only a first cross at it!

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