If the first half was any indication, the next nine games or so of the 2018 WNBA regular season will perhaps go down as the most unpredictable season in league history.
“I think the league is as deep as it ever [has] been,” Connecticut coach Curt Miller told the MSR before last week’s All-Star break.
Barely three games separate the second and the eighth team in the current standings –– the top eight teams advance to the postseason in August.
But look beyond that, because records don’t mean a thing: two of last-place Indiana’s three wins this season have come over W power teams Minnesota and Los Angeles. “We have to continue to fight through adversity and make sure we [are] still connected to the message and trust the process,” Fever coach Pokey Chatman told us.
“Teams have to be able to focus in and execute down the stretch,” Minnesota Lynx forward Maya Moore said during All-Star Weekend here in Minneapolis. Minnesota began Wednesday in third place.
Seattle currently is in first. “The teams are so competitive that on a given night, and you’ll see it, you can find success or you can find failure,” said Storm coach Dan Hughes. “It doesn’t matter whether you are home or away. It’s never been more true than 2018.”
After a slow start, Las Vegas is currently ranked ninth, only one and a half games out of eighth. Coach Bill Laimbeer told me that the All-Star break came at the worse time. “We were playing good. We will see if we can continue that.”
Storm All-Star guard Sue Bird said after last Saturday’s All-Star Game that the first half means nothing: “Yeah, we had a good first part of the season, but it don’t mean anything. We didn’t win anything and there’s no awards given. You still have to finish up strong,” she said.
“It’s the team that is playing its best, peaking at the right time – that’s the team that wins, not the team that has the best record at the All-Star break,” Bird continued.
“The league as a whole is jammed up there. It’s very tight. You are going to see a lot of competitive basketball,” she predicted.
Miller pointed out that the tightness in the standings could be attributed to the condensed schedule this season due to the World Championships scheduled for September. “All of us are playing games every 2.3 days,” Miller said.
However, Indiana’s Cappie Pondexter noted that, “[This] isn’t the first time and won’t be the last” that a condensed schedule exists. “During the Olympics, we have condensed schedules.” But the veteran guard agreed that this season is “probably one of the [most] competitive years since I’ve been in the league since 2006.”
Notes and quotes –
Pondexter, the fourth-leading scorer in WNBA history, a seven-time All-Star and two-time league champion, told us after the July 18 Indiana-Minnesota game that she’s nearing the end of her illustrious career. “It’s weird because I woke up at four o’clock in the morning and said my last year is going to be next year,” the 13th year veteran guard announced.
Former Gopher teammates are looking good – “There’s a confidence level right now that she is in the best shape of her career,” Sun Coach Curt Miller said of the 5-9 Rachel Banham, now in her third season.
“I worked so hard this off-season to get healthy,” Banham added. “I knew I had to come into this season as confident or I wasn’t going to make this roster.”
Amanda Zahui B., in her fourth season in New York, appears in the best shape ever: being more aggressive is the key, the 6-5 center said.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.