The Only One in the Emerald City: 2017 WNBA All-Star Game

This column continues the Only One series in which this reporter shares his experiences as the only African American journalist on the scene.

SEATTLE — The stars were out Saturday afternoon in Key Arena. Hall of Famers Bill Russell and Lenny Wilkens; Seattle Seahawks’ Richard Sherman and other notables watched Maya Moore’s second consecutive mid-season MVP performance, and first-time All-Star Jonquel Jones’s fourth quarter dunk in this year’s All-Star Game (ASG) in Seattle.

Richard Sherman attends the game between the Eastern and Western Conference All-Stars during the Verizon WNBA All-Star Game 2017 on July 22, 2017 in Seattle, Washington. (Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images)

“They showed they got great skill,” Wilkens told the Only One after the 130-121 West victory. All 22 All-Stars scored: 12 finished in double figures, led by Jones’ 24 points, and two players had double-figure assists (Layshia Clarendon led the East with 10, and Sue Bird’s 11 led the West).

“You forget how skilled the WNBA players are,” noted Toronto Raptors Head Coach Dwane Casey, who lives in Seattle in the off-season.

Dwane Casey (Charles Hallman/MSR News)

Wilkens has coached and played in his share of NBA ASGs but the W’s might be more impressive, he said. “I’m from the old school. I would like to see the [All-Star] games more competitive in the NBA.”

“I thought the fourth quarter is kind of the natural this-is-as-intense-as-it’s-going-to-get-moment” when it was a six-point game, remembered Moore. “But we handled our business and we had a 10-plus cushion into the latter part of the fourth.”

Both squads alternated quarters in out-scoring each other — the winners won the first (plus-5) and third (plus-11) quarters, and the East won the second (plus-5) and fourth (plus-2) quarters. The score was tied at halftime at 64 apiece.

On Jones’ throw-down late in the fourth quarter, “We were like, ‘Please whatever you need for us to do to dunk it,’ and she replied, ‘I just need some space.’ I thought that was the cherry on top,” noted Los Angeles’ Nneka Ogwumike.

Jones, the 6-6 center finished a rebound short of her first All-Star double-double (24 points, 9 rebounds) in her first All-Star game and her first start as well. “I’ve watched growing up, looking up (at the WNBA players) and now I’m on the same court as them,” admits the second-year Connecticut Sun player. “I just wanted to go out there and take advantage of the opportunity.”

West team in pregame warm up. Sylvia Fowles at far left (Charles Hallman/MSR News)

Jones came into the All-Star break leading the WNBA in rebounding. Her coach Curt Miller, who also was the East coach added, “She’s an amazing young talent for this league. She’s only going to get better and better.”

All four Minnesota Lynx All-Stars, the most of any team in this year’s ASG, started the second quarter, along with Los Angeles guard Chelsea Gray: “We embraced Chelsea,” joked Sylvia Fowles, who had eight points and five boards as a West starter.

“We knew it was going to happen at some point” that the Lynx quartet would be together on the floor in Saturday’s game, said Rebekkah Brunson, who finished with 12 points, including 2-for-4 from the three point line. “I let a couple fly. That’s what it’s about — showing the diversity of your game,” added the forward. Seimone Augustus scored four points and had two steals and a couple of rebounds.

But according to Fowles, Moore’s winning her second consecutive top player honors came to no surprise. “I knew Maya was going to get the MVP. That’s what Maya do,” said the center.

There was no argument here. Moore at stretches during Saturday’s contest took and hit shots like she wanted to prove something. That she was the star among All-Stars.

“We know what Maya can do and I think that’s amazing. To be able to play with her and against her is an honor,” concluded Ogwumike, who finished with 22 points and seven rebounds in 21 minutes.

More post-All Star impressions, thoughts, notes and quotes will be in the MSR print edition.


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