The Las Vegas Aces made it to the playoffs to prove a lot.
A’Jah Wilson wanted to prove that she wasn’t just an MVP, but that she could be the best player on a championship team. Becky Hammon was so close as a player but never won the ring and then came to the WNBA to prove she could win it all as a head coach. Kelsey Plum was trying to prove that she could go the full circle of her WNBA career from No. 1 pick to champion. Chelsea Grey, drafted out of Connecticut, was poised to prove she could be the woman who rose to MVP under pressure.
The Aces Sunday afternoon proved all this and more – that the Aces organization is changing the level of the WNBA game.
“They’re just big players, they love big moments, and I can’t teach you anything,” Hammon said when the Aces received the title trophy. âIt’s in their DNA. That’s who they are.”
For the second time in this Finals, Las Vegas won a Connecticut-style gameâphysical, defensive, low-scoring, and grinding. The Aces had one of the best offenses in WNBA history this season, and the Sun’s defense wiped it out.
However, the Aces still prevailed, 78-71, capturing the WNBA title with a 3-1 series win over the Sun. And in the native courtyard of the Sun.
Gray was named the Finals MVP after scoring 20 points in the win.
â WNBA (@WNBA) September 18, 2022
What earned Las Vegas the title was not only the depth of talent, but also the drive to play together, which Hammon emphasized from the moment she walked in the door.
The Aces proved that depth matters – when they needed a bucket at the end of the fourth quarter, it wasn’t their biggest names, but 18-minute bencher Rikuna Williams, who was pulling triples en route to an 8-0 personal record. recorded a victory.
Williams was in the game because Hammon believed her Aces team would be small against three big Sun lineups.
âWell, obviously we went smaller. I felt like if we could break and just dig balls at the other end, it wouldn’t be easy for them to guard us there,” Hammon said. “So whoever their biggest player was, we made them pick and roll and then we just slipped away and made them pay.”
â Las Vegas Aces (@LVAces) September 18, 2022
The Aces have been a formidable offensive force this season, but Hammon has changed their defense by mixing things up. This goes back to her days under Gregg Popovich with the San Antonio Spurs.
âYou know, we tried different defenses on Steph Curry Dame Lillard. I thought we could try something. If we can put it on them, we can put it on anyone,â Hammon said. âSo it was just an idea to try to give people a different look, just to mix them up.
âI think the most important thing is that the players really believed in it. It doesn’t matter which way you work. Players must believe in it. And I think in the end, they saw enough good results, and you know, there were times when Chelsea turned to defense, crappy defense. I don’t even put us in the trash. She throws us in the trash. So it’s a fun way to play.”
Las Vegas has been a fun team all season, and Ace owner Mark Davis, also owner of the NFL Raiders, deserves credit for that. He belongs to a new generation of WNBA owners willing to spend money to make a better product: he gave Hammon a seven-figure contract to leave the NBA and coach his team. He is building a new state-of-the-art training facility for them (due to open next season). He oversaw the front office, which put together the best roster in the WNBA.
Davis spent everything he could, and as a result, the players became stars, and Sin City took over the team. He has created a foundation that free agent players will want to be a part of.
And he created a champion who has nothing to prove this season.
The Milwaukee Bucks spent the final days of the NBA season dodging the need to play the Brooklyn Nets in the first round. The Boston Celtics faced this challenge and prevailed. Kevin Duran, Kyrie Irving and the Nets out of the playoffs. Boston came out of that series with the confidence that took them to the NBA Finals.
The sweep has been good for Brooklyn earlier this season as well. At least if you ask Kyrie Irving, who appeared on Nets Kingdom.
â NetsKingdom ðð½ (@NetsKingdomAJ) September 19, 2022
âWe got 4-0 on my G, we got 4-0 on mine. This is how it should have happened. Motivation bro. We needed that humiliating experience, especially against the Celtics. It was already built to be that matchup. We will see them again, we will have to. They will be where they will be. But those young people in Boston, bro, I’ve seen them grow up. So to see them do what they did last year at the final stage, having come this far, I’m glad they had to go through with us.”
Was it really that humiliating? Although the victory came as a surprise, the Celtics were pretty serious favorites to win the series.
Did Brooklyn need to be humbled to wake him up? The Nets enter this season as potential contenders, but with so many questions: Can Kevin Durant stay healthy and continue to play at the MVP level? Will Kyrie Irving stay focused and focused throughout the season? Will Ben Simmons take on the role, work more off the ball and fit in with Durant and Irving? Is Joe Harris healthy and returned to his shooting form? Can Nick Claxton take a step forward and become the center of defense the Nets need? Will Royce O’Neill be able to become a defender on the flank they need?
The list goes on and on from there. The Nets are a potential contender, but no other NBA team is having so many fundamental questions this season.
So maybe the loss was a good, humiliating experience for the Nets. Maybe it will help them this season. But at best it is part of a much larger tapestry.
The long-debated return to allowing 18-year-olds to jump straight out of high school into the NBA will be on the way sooner rather than later, part of the “serious conversation” the NBA and NBPA are having about the new Collective. deal agreement, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.
There is a mutual waiver date of December 15th when either the NBA (meaning the owners) or the players union can opt out of the current CBA effective July 1st. The goal for both parties was to reach a new agreement by Dec. 15 that would take effect after the current CBA. League sources are not expecting a shutdownâboth sides are profiting from the current system, and no one wants a shutdown that interferes with that flow (and would be a PR disaster in a time of inflation and economic troubles in the country).
But there will be changes in the Central Bank. Here are the highlights via Charania.
â¢ Top of the list is done with once and for all, reports Charania.
The league and NBPA are expected to agree to move the NBA draft age eligibility from 19 to 18, clearing the way for returning high school players who want to make the jump to the NBA, according to people familiar with the discussion.
This will happen as early as the 2024 NBA draft, although the details are still being worked out.
â¢ In some cases, increased fines for the luxury tax are envisaged. Some owners were put off by the fact that the Warriors spent more…