Wait on for WNBA finals to conclude
TARRYTOWN, N.Y. — Dawn Staley and USA Basketball are used to players showing up in the final days before the world championship.
It’s an ongoing issue with the current world cup format since the tournament begins right after the WNBA season ends.
“It’s familiar territory,” she said. “I watched Geno (Auriemma) go through. You don’t fret it. It is what it is. … You just add the players in as they come. They understand this game. We won’t put anything in they haven’t seen before.”
USA basketball national team director Carol Callan recalled the 2006 world championship, when the 12-member team wasn’t together for the first time until warmups of the first game.
Many key members of the U.S. team, including Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart, are still playing in the championship series. Seattle leads 2-0 in the best-of-five, and a win Wednesday in Washington would end the series.
Staley and USA national team director aren’t rooting for a sweep necessarily.
“I just want good basketball,” Staley said. “I hope all the games go into overtime and we appreciate the basketball like we have all our lives.”
Callan echoed Staley’s thoughts.
“After seeing Sue and Diana and how they carried their teams, I’d love to see the fans get a great finals,” Callan said. “We’re just rooting for no one to get hurt.”
If the WNBA Finals goes five games, it would end on Sunday, Sept. 16. The worlds begin six days later in Tenerife on Spain’s Canary Islands.
While Bird, Stewart, Jewell Loyd and Elena Delle Donne are still playing in the Finals, Callan expects Diana Taurasi and Brittney Griner to arrive this week. The two Mercury stars just had their seasons end in the WNBA playoff semifinals.
Taurasi should join USA Basketball this week when they head to France to finish training before the world cup begins on Sept. 22. Griner won’t be far behind.
“I’ve had good conversations with both players and expect to see them at some point soon,” Callan said.
Callan is also optimistic Delle Donne will be able to play for the U.S. even though she’s recovering from a bone bruise in her left knee from the semifinals.
“She’s talked to us and we’re getting our training staff ready to do what they can to help her rehab,” Callan said.
The U.S. roster did get bolstered Friday when Elizabeth Williams of the Atlanta Dream arrived. Her Dream teammate Tiffany Hayes is still on the roster, but hasn’t arrived yet. Atlanta was eliminated from the WNBA playoffs last Tuesday.
“I thought about it, it’s nice to go back to the game,” Williams said. “It’s easy to sit and sulk after a loss like that after a hard series. But coming here is definitely a good way to get back into it.”
Williams was key in Team USA’s second-half rally against Canada on Saturday night. Williams had eight points and three blocks.
The U.S. has 15 players in training camp, including college stars Sabrina Ionescu of Oregon and Napheesa Collier of UConn. They are joined by WNBA players Layshia Clarendon, Morgan Tuck, Nneka Ogwumike, Odyssey Sims, Kelsey Plum, Allisha Gray, A’ja Wilson, Stefanie Dolson, Diamond DeShields, Kelsey Mitchell, Tiffany Mitchell and Tina Charles. Charles missed practice Friday as she was up at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame after receiving the 2018 Mannie Jackson — Basketball’s Human Spirit Award. Her WNBA coach Katie Smith was getting inducted into the Hall of Fame this year.
Of that group, only Charles, Ogwumike and Sims have world cup experience, playing on the 2014 team that won the title in Turkey.