Nothing is ever normal about a WNBA season. For instance, every four years, it takes a month off in the summer to allow its stars to participate in the Olympics, a necessary concession to the unyielding calendar which will rule the game until air seeps from the basketball. It is what it is.
So why should have anyone expected the Connecticut Sun’s preseason opener Monday against New York to be predictable?
This was no leisurely walk through the casino. The Sun was down, the Sun was up, the Sun fell again and finally rose to register a 96-81 win over the Liberty.
And players fell. But only some got up without the help of emergency medical personnel.
“A hockey, rugby game broke out,” Sun coach Mike Thibault said. “My goodness.”
The unexpected byproduct of Connecticut’s win was nasty collisions that dropped both Tan White of the Sun and DeMya Walker of the Liberty.
“Other than the injuries, it was kind of a typical exhibition game,” Thibault joked.
White eventually got up, albeit groggily after taking a big hit under the basket. She was helped to the Sun locker room for observation and played only 11 minutes, 25 seconds.
But Walker, who spent a 1 ½ seasons with the Sun until her release last season, had to be taken off the court on a stretcher, bleeding from her mouth, head and neck immobilized, after taking an involuntary knee from Sun rookie guard Dawn Evans while setting a screen in the fourth quarter.
While she was down, a number of her former teammates gathered around her to express concern and support.
“Anytime any player goes down like that, and they have to call a stretcher out, you have a level of concern because we are all one play away from that,” said Kara Lawson, who also played with Walker in Sacramento. “Who is to say that it isn’t going to be someone on our team or that it isn’t going to be you? It was a fluke play. And then for her being our former teammate, that was why we all went over to check on her and see how she was doing. More than anything, I think she was just scared. We hope everything is OK and she will be able to return.”
Walker was taken to Backus Hospital in Norwich for observation and then released. In a tweet Tuesday, she said she was fine, but suffering from whiplash and two busted lips.
The physical nature of the game sets the stage for this season’s rivalry between these Eastern Conference rivals.
“Whenever we play against New York, it’s going to be a physical game,” Asjha Jones said. “It’s their style of play on defense. They set a lot of open-court screens. It was unfortunate what happened to DeMya. It wasn’t anything done on purpose. It was just one of those things that happened in the flow of the game.”
These teams will open the season against each other with a home-and-home, May 19 in Newark, N.J., and May 20 at the Mohegan Sun. And getting off to a fast start will be imperative.
“We knew that it would be like this going in and we tried to prepare for it,” Lawson said. “We know that we play our first two games against them and we’re just trying to feel out the way they are going to play. They’re missing some people and we’re missing some people, so obviously it is not a true picture of where we are right now. They’re system is not going to change. They play a physical brand of basketball.”
The Sun was without Tina Charles (groin) and Allie Hightower (shoulder). The Liberty played without two starters, Essence Carson and Kia Vaughn, the former Rutgers stars. Thibault would not say whether Charles or Hightower would be ready for Thursday’s game against the Minnesota Lynx, the WNBA’s defending champion.
“We gave Tina four days off when she arrived at camp, but she’s still having trouble getting loose,” Thibault said.
The Sun got double-figure scoring from five players, led by Kalana Greene and Jones, who each scored 12. Lawson, Danielle McCray and Sindey Spencer, who split last season between New York and Phoenix, all had 10 points. Connecticut took great advantage of 27 turnovers to score 38 points. The Sun turned over the ball only 15 times.
More significantly, the competition between veteran free agent center Mistie Bass and rookie draft pick Chay Shegog for the backup role to Charles got off to an even start. Both had five points and five rebounds.