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Uncertainty remains over WNBA season

Jonquel Jones.

May 29, 2020

Sheldon Longley

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Coming off a season in which they came within a game of winning their first-ever Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) championship, Jonquel Jones and the Connecticut Sun are aiming to take it one step further if and whenever play gets underway this season.

The Sun reeled in arguably the biggest acquisition of the offseason, trading for three-time all-star forward DeWanna Bonner who played a huge part in the Phoenix Mercury taking out the Sun in the 2018 playoffs. With Bonner, the Sun has added some versatility up front and another scorer who could take some of the load off Jones, particularly in the playoffs. They also added Briann January from the Mercury – a four-time WNBA All-Defense first teamer.

With the loss of Shekinna Stricklen and Courtney Williams to the Atlanta Dream, Bonner and January are expected to start right away.

The real issue for the Sun, and the rest of the teams in the league right now, is when will they play. The season, which was supposed to be in full swing by now, has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Sun was set to be in the midst of a western road trip this weekend including a stop in Phoenix to take on Bonner and January’s former team.

The season was scheduled to get underway on May 15 following training camps and a preseason, but has been postponed indefinitely.

WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a statement: “As developments continue to emerge around the COVID-19 pandemic, including the extension of the social distancing guidelines in the United States, the WNBA will postpone the start of its training camps and tip of the regular season. While the league continues to use this time to conduct scenario-planning regarding new start dates and innovative formats, our guiding principle will continue to be the health and safety of the players, fans and employees.

“We continue to send our thoughts and prayers to our players, fans and all of those in the community impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and are grateful to those selfless healthcare workers and first responders who work tirelessly on the frontlines.”

As for Jones, she finished third in voting for the league’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) award last season, and in February inked a four-year deal to remain with the Sun. She led the team in points, rebounds and blocks last season, and proved to be one of the top stars in the league, leading the Sun to within a game of winning the title.

Now she has help up front with the versatile Bonner joining a well-structured unit. Jones, Williams, the Thomas girls (Alyssa and Jasmine) and Stricklen, started all 34 games for the Sun last season. Bonner and January were regular starters for the Mercury.

The Sun’s roster has talent from top to bottom, featuring veterans and newcomers. Jones, who is entering her fifth year in the league, is a bona fide star – now recognized as one of the top female basketball players in the world. She averaged 14.6 points, 9.7 rebounds and two blocks a year ago – 12th in the league in scoring, leading the way in rebounds for the second time in her four-year career, and tied with Brittney Griner in blocks. Jones shot 44.8 percent from the field and 30.9 percent from three-point land. She raised her level of play in the playoffs, averaging 17.9 points, 10.4 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game.

Jones, the Thomas girls, Bonner and January could present a formidable starting five, and players such as Bria Holmes, Brionna Jones, Natisha Hiedeman and Theresa Plaisance add depth. Bonner and January bring championship experience, with Bonner winning with the Mercury in 2009 and again in 2014 and January winning with the Indiana Fever in 2012.

Also on the Sun 2020 roster are guard/forward Kaila Charles and forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis. They are coached by Curt Miller. The Sun lost Morgan Tuck and Layshia Clarendon in free agency.

In the meantime, league executives remain optimistic that the season will take place, even if part of the season has to be canceled. The 24th season was scheduled to conclude in October.

The Sun has advanced to the WNBA Finals on three occasions, losing to the Seattle Storm in 2004, the Sacramento Monarchs in 2005 and the Washington Mystics and league MVP Elena Delle Donne last year.

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