The WNBA’s 25th anniversary season kicks off Friday, with Breanna Stewart and defending champions Seattle Storm rehearsing and reloading opponents like the Las Vegas Aces and Washington Mystics ready to charge at the top.
After each team played a 22-game schedule in a bubble in Bradenton, Fla., Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the league returns with a 32-game schedule for each team played in home venues with one participation. limited, at least initially.
There will also be a four-week hiatus for the Tokyo Summer Olympics.
Stewart this week became the first WNBA starter in a decade to sign a signature shoe deal. The exploits to help him win it included shooting almost 63% from the ground in the WNBA Finals in October, leading Seattle to a Las Vegas sweep and earning its MVP of the Finals.
Stewart will be flanked by future Hall of Famer Sue Bird and top level guard Jewell Loyd, making Seattle a towering favorite. Storm head coach Dan Hughes is back after he was not medically cleared to coach in 2020 following a battle with cancer.
Teams in pursuit of Seattle will also be filled with former All-Stars returning after churns, including two-time MVP Elena Delle Donne (Mystics), Liz Cambage (Aces), Jonquel Jones (Connecticut Sun) and Chiney Ogwumike and Kristi. Toliver (Los Angeles Sparks).
“I always feel like the most important thing has always been to come up with the best product, and it’s just a beautiful and amazing basketball. We’ve always done that and now I feel like more and more many eyes are on our game. “
Forward A’ja Wilson took home MVP honors for the shortened 2020 season, when she averaged 20.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 2.0 blocks per fight and has led Las Vegas to the final against Seattle. The Aces are further bolstered by the returns of Australian star Cambage and Kelsey Plum – who missed 2020 with an Achilles tear – and the free agent signing of playmaker Chelsea Gray.
“It’s going to be tough, and especially for us, we’re going to have that goal on our backs,” Wilson said. “It’s there, it’s always been there, and like I said in the locker room yesterday, we’re going to have everyone’s A game. So why don’t we come up with our A game, you know?”
Their title aspirations took a hit, however, when winger Angel McCoughtry tore his right ACL and meniscus in a preseason game this month. She has been sent off for the season, the second time in three years that a knee injury will cause her to miss a season. She played a game in 2019.
The Mystics won the 2019 title and signed former league MVP Tina Charles in the next free agency period before the pandemic altered the 2020 season and Charles chose to take time off. Delle Donne, refused by the league a medical refusal for her Lyme disease, still interrupted the season to recover from back surgery.
6-5 Delle Donne and 6-3 Charles finally manage to team up in Washington’s frontcourt, but Delle Donne is stepping up at a deliberate pace and will start the season with a minute restriction.
“It’s not a sprint. It’s a marathon, and I have to be right when we need it,” said Delle Donne.
Perhaps the most eye-catching move of the offseason was the signing of Candace Parker with the Chicago Sky after spending her entire WNBA career, including a championship and two MVP awards, with the Los Angeles Sparks.
The star striker, a native of suburban Chicago, will team up with a top-flight background tandem of Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley and raise the franchise’s expectations to deliver his first championship.
As the Skies seek their first, the Minnesota Lynxes can already point to the makings of a dynasty with four titles in the past decade. Many key players from those great days are gone, with the exception of Sylvia Fowles, 35, and her career average of 15.8 points and 9.8 rebounds per game.
Instead, Fowles said, the Lynx weren’t so much rebuilt as they were reloaded. They drafted the final two WNBA Rookies of the Year: Napheesa Collier (2019), an aspiring double-double machine, and Crystal Dangerfield (2020), who went from second-round pick to starting point guard in a matter of minutes. month.
“Yeah, it’s time to go, and I think we’ve got all the parts we need to get back to where we’ve been for the past two years, and it’s competing for a championship,” Fowles said.
The league will be filled with newcomers alongside those returning from unsubscribing. The Dallas Wings used the top two picks overall in the April draft over Texas center forward Charli Collier and Finland forward Awak Kuier, who will team up with 2020 overall second pick Satou Sabally. .
Live WNBA: Chicago @ Washington 15.05
Saturday May 15 6:00 p.m.
Not all new faces are technically newbies. Sabrina Ionescu, one of the biggest college stars for years, saw her 2020 rookie season with New York Liberty cut short by a Grade 3 ankle sprain. Liberty will look to improve on a 2-20 season. with Ionescu and his compatriot Asia Durr (opt-out) back in the fold. They also added Natasha Howard, a veteran with championship experience, in a trade.
For Atlanta’s dream, the 2021 season marks a new beginning in more than one way. In February, former co-owner and U.S. Senator Kelly Loeffler sold her stake in the team to a group of investors that included recently retired dream babysitter Renee Montgomery. Loeffler had angered the players’ union by criticizing the league’s support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
Mike Petersen will step in as interim head coach after longtime Dream coach Nicki Collen left the team on May 3 to coach Baylor’s women’s basketball program.
The WNBA remains at the forefront of social justice causes a year after dedicating the 2020 season to Breonna Taylor, the black woman killed in her apartment by police in Louisville, Ky. The league’s social justice council plans to continue to promote access to voting, vaccine awareness and LGBT issues.
Check out the full WNBA game schedule on Sky Sports below.
WNBA on Sky Sports – Live Games
|Saturday May 15, 6 p.m.||Chicago Sky to Washington Mystics||Sky Sports Arena and Mix|
|Sunday May 23, 6 p.m.||New York Liberty at Chicago Sky||Sky Sports Mix|
|Saturday June 5, 6 p.m.||Las Vegas Aces @ Washington Mystics||Sky Sports Arena|
|Sunday June 13, 8:30 p.m.||Washington Mystics @ Atlanta Dream||Sky Sports Arena and Mix|
|Saturday June 19, 7 p.m.||Connecticut Sun @ Chicago Sky||Sky Sports Action and Mix|
|Sunday June 27, 8 p.m.||Seattle Storm in Las Vegas Aces||Sky Sports Arena|
|Saturday July 3, 6 p.m.||Washington Mystics @ New York Liberty||Sky Sports Mix|
|Sunday July 11, 6 p.m.||Las Vegas Aces to Dallas Wings||Sky Sports Arena and Mix|
|Sunday August 15, 11 p.m.||Atlanta Dream @ Phoenix Mercury||Sky Sports Arena and Mix|
|Sunday August 22, 7 p.m.||Los Angeles Sparks at New York Liberty||Sky Sports Arena|
|Saturday August 28, 6 p.m.||Las Vegas Aces at Indiana Fever||Sky Sports Arena|
|Saturday September 4, 6 p.m.||Phoenix Mercury @ Indiana Fever||Sky Sports Arena and Mix|
|Sunday September 5, 9 p.m.||Atlanta Dream with Dallas Wings||Sky Sports Arena and Mix|
|Wednesday September 8, 3 a.m.||Washington Mystics in Seattle Storm||Sky Sports Arena and Mix|
|Wednesday September 15, midnight||New York Liberty @ Connecticut Sun||Sky Sports Arena and Mix|
|Sunday September 19, 6 p.m.||Atlanta Dream @ Connecticut Sun||Sky Sports Mix|
|8 p.m.||Minnesota Lynx @ Washington Mystics||Sky Sports Mix|
|10 p.m.||Los Angeles Sparks with Dallas Wings||Sky Sports Mix|