Category Archives: Chris Sienko

Mohegan Sun Wants To Be AAC’s Longtime Home (As Long As UConn Stays)

by Categorized: American Athletic Conference, Chris Sienko, Connecticut Sun, Mohegan Sun Arena Date:

After lobbying so hard for the chance to host postseason women’s basketball, the Mohegan Sun Arena isn’t about to let it go after one season.
Chris Sienko, general manager of the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun, reiterated Saturday the facility wants to remain the home of the American Athletic Conference – for as long as UConn is there.
The tournament is here for just this season; the AAC has the option to renew for next season.
“It’s more of a mutual thing, but if they don’t want to return it’s their right,” Sienko said. “I’m sure they will assess the tournament after its completion [Monday] and make a decision [about the future] in a short period of time.”

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Saddened By Jones Injury, Sun Prepare To Move Forward

by Categorized: Asjha Jones, Chris Sienko, Connecticut Sun Date:

Connecticut Sun forward Asjha Jones suffered a torn left Achilles tendon last week while playing for her Russian professional league team, Spartak.
Jones, 33, did not play in the WNBA last season after telling the Sun she wanted to rest nagging aches and pains. And now she obviously will not play this season, making it even more likely Connecticut will use the first pick in the 2014 WNBA Draft on Stanford senior Chiney Ogwumike, a mobile 6-3 post.
“It does make it easier for us to move forward [with plans],” Sun GM Chris Sienko said. “But this is very upsetting. We don’t wish this type of injury on anyone, especially to someone like Asjha who has taken so long to try and be well enough to play at full strength again. It’s frustrating for Asjha and certainly unfair.
“But now, there is nothing for us to do than move forward. There’s no need to hold onto the roster spot in hopes she would be back this summer.”

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Would The Sun Trade Tina Charles? Not Likely, Not Impossible

by Categorized: Anne Donovan, Chris Sienko, Connecticut Sun, Tina Charles, WNBA Date:

Management of the Connecticut Sun say it will not consider trading center Tina Charles, the 2012 MVP and league rebounding record-setter, even there is reason to believe she might not object to a deal.
“I don’t know that’s the case [that Charles is unhappy in Connecticut],” said Chris Sienko, the Sun general manager. “Our expectations and our druthers is that she will play here. If she finds a situation she seems to like better, we’ll look at it for her – if it works for us.
“But that [a deal] would have to involve a highly significant return.”
Sun coach Anne Donovan said the team hasn’t considered moving their best player.
“Her value is through the roof,” said Donovan. “But I will say that change [the new coaching staff] is harder for some people than others. But she [Charles] was one of those who struggled the most with the change.”
Charles averaged 18.0 and 10.1 rebounds with 17 double-doubles before shutting herself down with five games remaining in the season because of her aches and pains, ironically after a 16-point, 13-rebound game in Phoenix.

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The Sun: Asjha Jones (Maybe), Kara Lawson (Not Likely) For Next Season

by Categorized: Asjha Jones, Chris Sienko, Connecticut Sun, Kara Lawson, WNBA Date:

No one understands how odds work better than those who operate a casino. So the Connecticut Sun will tell you that having a 44 percent chance of landing the No. 1 pick in the 2014 WNBA Draft is a comfortable position to be in.
“I was in the elevator with Renee Brown [the WNBA executive] the other day and I said to her, ‘Here is something I never thought I’d say: When is the Draft Lottery?,” said Mitchell Etess, the Sun’s chief executive officer.
The Sun knows when that day will be, but ESPN has imposed a gag order on the release of the date until it is ready to say at some point during the first week of December.

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Looking Back At The Connecticut Sun Season

by Categorized: Allison Hightower, Anne Donovan, Chris Sienko, Connecticut Sun, WNBA Date:

After the season finally ended Sunday with an overtime win over Indiana, Connecticut Sun coach Anne Donovan admitted what was widely assumed.

“Among the frustrations that I can share was that my expectations were really high that the transition would go a lot smoother than it did,” said Donovan, who replaced Mike Thibault in January.
“Once all the injuries started to pile up, you wonder why your karma is so bad.”
Here’s a look back – and ahead.
Lottery Aspirations
The worst record in the league assures of the best mathematical chance to secure the first pick in the 2014 Draft, which likely would be Stanford’s Chiney Ogwumike. The WNBAhas not announced when the lottery will be held.
“But we need much more than a top pick,” Donovan said. “We definitely could use more veteran help. We have a lot to do this off-season.”
Charles Puts Up Numbers
Coming off her MVP season, Tina Charles again led the Sun in scoring (18.0) and rebounding (10.1). She added 17 double-doubles and has 80 in just four seasons. And she scored at least 20 points with 10 rebounds in 10 her 29 games before sitting with five games left because of injuries.
Still, Charles never meshed with those assigned to play in place of Asjha Jones. And one the most interesting things Donovan said after Sunday’s finale was how hard the Sun seemed to play without Charles on the floor as it ended the year 3-2.
“We played pretty well at times without Tina on the floor,” Donovan said. “And that’s something I need to take note of and probably [a tactic] I didn’t trust enough this season.”
Would the Sun think about trading Charles in the off-season for the right package of players and draft picks? Might the Sun trade any of their players?
Chris Sienko, the Sun general manager, would not say there were any untouchables on the team.

Most improved
Allison Hightower and Kelsey Griffin emerged as mainstream players. Hightower was named to her first All-Star team and Griffin, who came off a great winter in Australia, was indefatigable under very adverse decisions. Both should be important components of the team as it moves forward.
Wasted picks
One of Thibault’s shortcomings was the over-reliance on too many international players who contributed nothing to the team in the last three seasons. Thibault’s more recent experiments, French center Sandrine Gruda (13th pick in 2007) and Spanish forward Alba Torrens (3rd round 2009), have been no-shows during the time they were projected to help. And with the World Championship coming in 2014, there is no guarantee either will play for the Sun next year. The time has come to get what they can for them and move on.
Biggest loss
Jones’ decision not to play for the Sun this season set into motion the chain of events that doomed their season. Jones told Sun management she was resting chronic injuries. Sienko said last week he’s convinced Jones’ explanation for her absence was legitimate.
But Jones was a big advocate of Thibault’s. And there is no guarantee she will return next season, even if healthy. One thing is certain: She needs to tell the Sun as soon as possible if she plans to honor her contract. And if she doesn’t, she must be traded.
Losing Lawson
After her most productive WNBA season in 2012, Lawson played only nine games, none after July 19. She scored 124 points in 271 minutes. She was bothered by back and knee issues and gone for long stretches to be with her ailing father in Virginia. Despite signing a three-year extension in 2012, it seems her time with the team is over, as well. The Sun may be able to get a nice draft pick or player for her, perhaps from the Washington Mystics.
Free agency
Charles, Hightower, Griffin and Kalana Greene are restricted free agents. There is little chance the organization would let them sign with another team without matching the offer, which they are allowed to do. But whether they bring back unrestricted free agents Mistie Bass and Tan White is another issue, one that likely won be resolved until the Sun finds out what its draft placement is. And nothing can take place until a new Collective Bargaining Agreement is reached.
The Sun’s 10 wins were six less than their previous low. This will be the first time they will be a part of the draft lottery and it’s the first time they finished the season with the league’s worst record. They won only two of 17 road games.
The Sun played their final five games with eight or fewer players. They had just seven available for Sunday’s finale once White suffered a broken finger on her left hand. The lost 77 manpower games to injuries this season and had a full 11-man roster available just twice in 34 games.

Worst Season In Sun History Ends Today

by Categorized: Allison Hightower, Anne Donovan, Chris Sienko, Connecticut Sun Date:

   A season that really never had a chance to begin ends Sunday for the Connecticut Sun against the Indiana Fever in the regular-season finale at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

    In terms of defeats and disappointment, the franchise suffered from start to a finish that leaves them at the bottom of the WNBA. Their 24 losses already are the most in the history of the team.

  Appropriately, it will end with just seven players, the result of injuries that laid the team bare before training camp began in May. Watching the season end in street clothes will be a creditable starting five: Tan White, Kara Lawson, Allie Hightower, Tina Charles and Tan White.

  “I thought we were a playoff caliber team at the start of the season. But I don’t want the injuries to be a big excuse,” said Chris Sienko said. “We want to take a look at the players we have, how they played together, whether they were able to play together within Anne Donovan’s system.”

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Sun On Schedule To Set In The West

by Categorized: Anne Donovan, Chris Sienko, Connecticut Sun, Kelsey Griffin, WNBA Date:

  Kelsey Griffin, the former Nebraska All-American in her fourth season, was not happy after Sunday’s 76-66 loss to the New York Liberty, a franchise record 19th of the season.

  Here is why: The juxtaposition of the Sun is startling. They’ve nosedived from one win away from the WNBA Finals in 2012 to the worst record in the league this season.

  “You can’t take any game you’re given in this league for granted,” said Griffin, who led the Sun with a career-high 22 points and 10 rebounds. “There are a lot of players that want to be playing in this league, and can’t, and aren’t, and I feel very privileged to be in this league.
  “I go out and try to play every night with that respect for the game. I’m trying to carry that through until the end of the season.”

Injuries Turning Roster Shortage Into WNBA Epidemic

by Categorized: Chris Sienko, Connecticut Sun, ESPN2, Laurel Ritchie, WNBA Date:

Evidence of how fleeting success can be in the WNBA is anchored at the bottom of the Eastern Conference.

There sit the fifth-place Connecticut Sun and the sixth-place Indiana Fever, both 2-7 heading into Sunday’s action.

    If this juxtaposition doesn’t seem strange, remember these teams battled into the deciding game of the conference championship series last season.
  And the Fever unseated the defending champion Minnesota Lynx in the finals to win their first championship.
  But this year has been much different, despite no major changes in their core personnel.
   Both teams have been riddled with major injuries, something they could not have anticipated and something league rules provide no relief from.
  Compounding the pain, league rosters are limited to 11 – just 132 jobs in the world’s top pro league for women.
  And when those players are injured, either for the short or long term, they can’t be replaced, in most cases, unless their team wants to cut them or someone else to bring in a health reserve.
  “It happened to us last year,” said Phoenix’s Diana Taurasi, about the team’s 7-27 record in 2012. “It’s happening to other teams this year. You just can’t get much done in practice. You can work on stuff or get better. It’s hard and it wears on you. But what can you do?”
  Only when a roster dips to nine players can a team sign a replacement on an emergency basis.
  So, we’ll just do the best that we can do with what we’ve got and not worry about what we don’t have,” Fever coach Lin Dunn said.
   Subsequently, in a league with just 34 regular-season games, winning a championship, even making the playoffs, requires as much good fortune as good players.
  “With the short season that the WNBA has, that can be significant,” Rebecca Lobo said. “And that is why an 11?player roster, players 9, 10, and 11 are so important, because they are going to determine some playoff positioning early in the season.
  “So with Indiana, while they have everybody back, this does hurt them quite a bit with the injuries that they have.  Who is going to be the back?up center?  Who is going to be the back?up point guard?”
   Roster size promises to be one of the major points of contention when the WNBA’s collective bargaining agreement with the player’s union is renegotiated.
  “Roster size is one of those topics we discuss literally every season,” said Laurel Ritchie, the president of the WNBA. “And this off season, headed into the new collective bargaining agreement, it will be no different for us. I am sure it will come up. We just take things a year at a time. We are juggling some things, trying to keep them in balance and I suspect we’ve already started to having productive discussions about it in our competition committee and will continue to do so.”
  The condensed roster was one of the issues the player’s union agreed to ensure labor peace in January 2008 for the then-fledgling league.
  Some now view that now as a mistake, at the very least a miscalculation.
 “I would say [roster size] is going to be a topic,” Taurasi said. “Since it went from 13 to 11 you could see the impact of it. That’s up to 24 jobs we’ve lost.”
   It has led to lost jobs in two ways: Players not making WNBA rosters and signing full-season deals overseas once cut, which shrinks the depth and quality of the reserve pool.
  It creates major problems in practice where teams, without male practice players on the road, are barely able to work productivity.
  “It’s a hassle,” said Chris Sienko, the Sun’s general manager. “It’s hard to teach when you don’t have as many players as you need to work.”
  It leads to pressuring moderately injured players to play through pain because others are not available.
  And it all leads to a diminished floor product for the fans, not to mention the disablement of some franchises for an entire season.
  According to league sources, adding an extra player to each of the 12 rosters would likely add approximately $100,000 to each team’s operating expenses.
   A low-level player filling the 12-spot would likely make the league minimum. The additional costs would be for insurance, housing, car, travel and per diem, among other ancillary costs.
   The league’s 12 teams will received approximately $1 million annually from ESPN through the extension of its television deal through 2022.
   The players feel those funds could be used to help expand the player pool, even if the league is not financially ready to compensate them the way they are in Europe, Asia and Australia.
  “It’s not going to hurt,” said a league source. WNBA owners are prohibited from direct comment on league labor issues.
  And there is some feeling now among management that roster size has become such a problem it will absolutely be addressed in the next CBA.
   “The teams want it,” said another league source. “The owners want it. In fact, I am surprised no one has tried to implement it [an increase] during the season.
  “It’s about everyone working together and ultimately that always happens. All the owners want what’s

Reconstructing The Sun Continues Sunday

by Categorized: Anne Donovan, Asjha Jones, Atlanta Dream, Chris Sienko, Connecticut Sun, Mitchell Etess, WNBA Date:

  From the moment Asjha Jones informed the Connecticut Sun she would not play this season because of injuries, Anne Donovan’s coaching job has morphed incrementally from refinement to reconstruction.

    Jones absence was quickly followed by an Achilles’ tendon tear that ended forward Danielle McCray’s season before it began.

   And barely two weeks into the Donovan’s first season on the bench, two of the team’s top guards, Renee Montgomery and Tan White were lost long-term with ankle and hand injuries.

  Montgomery has not played since May 31 and missed five games. White last played June 1 and has missed four.

  Add it all up to discover the Sun has been without four of its core players for most of their first seven games. And look at the bottom line to see how it has impacted them.

   The Sun (2-5) has lost six of its last seven heading into Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Dream (6-1) at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

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Sun Shake Things Up At Guard

by Categorized: Anne Donovan, Chris Sienko, Connecticut Sun, WNBA Date:

After the Connecticut Sun lost Sunday’s game to the Washington Mystics, coach Anne Donovan said the team would continue o make improvements to its roster.

   On Monday, the Sun (1-3) did that by signing veteran free agent guard Iziane Castro Marques and waiving Natasha Lacy.

   The Sun also signed guard Sydney Carter as a replacement player under the emergency hardship clause after injuries to Renee Montgomery (sprained left ankle) and Tan White (broken right finger). Montgomery and White are expected to be out for at least two more weeks.
   Castro Marques, a 10-year WNBA veteran, spent the second half of 2012 WNBA season with the Washington Mystics, playing in 11 games while averaging 3.1 points per game. For her career the 6-foot guard has played in 278 games, averaging 9.7 points and two rebounds per game.
   Formerly a member of the Brazilian national team, she was working out in Atlanta when the Sun contacted her. She is expected to fly to Indiana with the team on Tuesday, but GM Chris Sienko said Monday night he wasn’t sure if she would play Wednesday against the Fever. She is both a point guard and an excellent three-point shooter, two things the Sun need badly right now.
  “With our injuries, we really need another scorer right now,” Sienko said.”We originally started to talk about bringing someone in when Tan went down [during practice last week]. But then it became a case of what are we going to do from a point guard perspective.”
The Sun thought about moving Allie Hightower over to the point, but soon determined she was more of a natural shooter.
 “Allison is better off in the long run not being at the point,” Sienko said.