With one week remaining to the start of the 2013 WNBA season, the Connecticut Sun are slowly obtaining an identity.
Saturday, the Sun play the second of three preseason games when they take on the New York Liberty at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
Known as “The Rock,” the arena has been the home of the Liberty since the 2011 season while Madison Square Garden undergoes its intensive summertime makeover. The team is expected to return to New York City next season.
For Sun coach Anne Donovan, the game plan Saturday will tightly resemble the one used in last week’s 83-74 win over the Liberty. After playing regulars with regularity in the first half, she placed the game in the hands of those trying to win one of 11 roster spots in the second.
“We will probably play our top group a few more minutes [Saturday],” Dovovan said.
Somewhat different will be whom Dovovan has available. Tan White is back after experiencing left knee discomfort, but forward Mistie Bass will likely miss the game with a groin strain.
And Kelly Faris, the first-round pick from UConn, is also not expected to play even though she was cleared for half-court work for the first time on Thursday.
Faris injured her left foot on March 4 against Notre Dame and played through the injury during UConn’s run to the national championship. But the Sun have kept her out since the WNBA Draft – and in a walking boot – to give the foot time to heal.
It’s likely Donovan could change her mind about Faris prior to Saturday’s game based on how she looks and feels after subsequent workouts.
“We made the decision early [in training camp] that getting Kelly back by May 15 would be plenty of time [to prepare and evaluate],” Donovan said.
“There are a lot of question marks because of that, for both Kelly and Tan. It’s not an ideal situation, but I’m not worried about what their conditions will be [for the opener]. We’ve been very conservative. Very conservative.”
The Sun will play one last preseason game Tuesday at Minnesota before the opener next Saturday at the Mohegan Sun Arena against New York.
Donovan wasn’t certain Thursday she would would keep all 14 players currently around after Saturday’s game. And she didn’t wait until Saturday to do something about it. She cut free agent rookie Chatilla Van Grinsven of St. Joseph’s (Pa.)Friday afternoon.
The team needs to make two more cuts and she is not looking forward to it.
“As soon as I can make a decision that I feel good about [she will cut the team],” Dovovan said. “And I don’t mean a decision based on how I feel for just one day. I wanted [the feeling] for consecutive days.”
The biggest decision will be who to keep among free agent posts Ashley Walker and Latoya Williams, both of whom played well in the opener.
But there is also competition at guard to consider between Natasha Lacy and Johannah Leedham, a former Cheshire High standout and Great Britain Olympian.
“I have tried to rank [the posts] every day based on how they’ve looked and until recently the rankings have been completely jumbled,” Donovan said. “But for the last few days, my rankings have started to fall the same way. We are getting closer.”
While Donovan would not say who has the lead, she did admit her original plan to keep one post could change if two prove too irresistible.
“It might be possible to start with six guards [Kalana Greene, Allie Hightower, Kara Lawson, Renee Montgomery, Faris and White] and five posts [including Tina Charles, Kelsey Griffin and Bass],” Dovovan said. “Nothing is impossible at this point. No one has shook loose yet.”
It’s also entirely likely the Sun will closely monitor the waiver wire to look for those cut by other teams. So far, Jessica Adair (Minnesota), Loree Moore (New York) and Ketia Swanier (Atlanta), the former UConn guard, are among the top names cut.