Image Credit: Courtesy Bulgarian News Agency
The WNBA season launched its season with an ambitious task of amplifying and empowering Black voices while continuing to grow the greatest women’s professional league in the world during a pandemic.
The League has dedicated the entire season to social justice, with “Black Lives Matter” covering parts of the court in bold black letters.
The first game from The Wubble at IMG Academy in Bradenton Florida pitted the young New York Liberty, led by Oregon sensation Sabrina Ionescu vs. the veteran-laden Seattle Storm.
— Caitlin (@GNHS_ATC) July 25, 2020
NY Liberty glue girl Kia Nurse went down early with a severe ankle sprain, which was actually good news for a Liberty team that is already missing Asia Durr, Han Xu, Stepanie Talbot, Rebecca Allen and Megan Walker (COVID-19), because of various pandemic related causes. It looked much worse when it happened.
hope Kia Nurse is alright. watching players get injured early in a season is always devastating but in these circumstances it hits even harder.
— Mike Golic Jr (@mikegolicjr) July 25, 2020
Nurse is one of the building blocks. The veteran presence that would galvanize a Liberty roster with seven rookies, led by Sabrina Ionescu No. 1 draft pick and anointed second coming of Diana Taurasi.
‘Nurse is basically the coach on the court and she’s consistent and energetic and leads by example. She’s invaluable to the Liberty’s success this Wubble season and brings a championship pedigree as a former UConn player
Welcome To The WNBA
During an 8-0 Seattle run, led by Queens Finest Sue Bird, the WNBA’s all-time assists and minutes played leader, Ionescu tries to assert herself on offense and Briana Stewart, who missed all of last season with a torn ACL, picked her pockets at half court and went the other way for an uncontested layup. It was Ionescu’s “welcome to the WNBA moment” as the Storm bombarded her with an array of different defensive looks, as the Liberty fell behind 34-26 with the second quarter winging down.
Ionescu didn’t relent. She kept hustling, calling for the ball and trying to get open. She pulled some boards and eventually got to the line. The Storm had a 42-35 lead at halftime because the deadly triumvirate of Bird, Stewy and Jewell Lloyd were giving everybody the business. Ionescu ended her first professional game with 12 points on 4-of-17 shooting with six rebounds and four assists.
She asserted her leadership right away and was already giving inspirational advice to her teammates during mic’d up discussions from the bench.
I think it’s safe to say that everyone watching expected her to have a much better second half and show more confidence. The action seemed to be moving at faster pace than Ionescu is used too, but she quickly caught up.
Glimpse Into The Future
Then it happened at about 7:41 in the third quarter. Liberty rebounded off a miss got the ball to Sabrina, she drove up the court, stutter-stepped and finessed her way around a couple of defenders for a sick layup. To pull the Liberty within four 45-41.
An Ionescu turnover and a Sue Bird three opened that lead up a bit to 50-41. Ionescu gave us the full ups and downs of a rookie’s first game. She tried to force some shots to get herself into a rhythm but that will come in time. The Storm are loaded with length and scoring and defense forcing Ionescu, a deadly sharp-shooter to miss all seven of her 3-point shots.
Seattle began to pull away in the fourth as an array for players started converting. Despite the 87-71 loss, Ionescu left no doubt that she’s a special player and her WNBA future is bright. How can she not succeed with mentors and admirers like Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Ja Morant, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving? She knows she belongs. Step one of the process is complete.