New Season, Same Story in Connecticut


In February 2020, the Connecticut Sun acquired DeWanna Bonner from the Phoenix Mercury in a sign-and-trade deal. With this acquisition, they had a force of a starting lineup on their minds. It would consist of four former All-Stars: Bonner, Jasmine Thomas, Alyssa Thomas, and Jonquel Jones.

Trouble in the Wubble

Enter the coronavirus pandemic. The 2020 season took place in a bubble, otherwise known as “the wubble,” in Bradenton, FL to ensure the health and safety of all players. However, a number of players decided to opt out of the season to further protect their health, and to focus on social justice initiatives. Jones was one of them.

That left Jasmine and Alyssa Thomas, and Bonner. Don’t forget that another starter and former All-Star, who came along in a trade that offseason, Briann January, contracted COVID-19 prior to the season and missed the first eight games.

The Sun had to scratch and claw their way into the playoffs in 2020 after an 0-5 start. It took them some time to find a groove, but once they did, they proved to be a force, with A. Thomas leading the way. Despite the rocky start, they still came within minutes of the WNBA Finals after losing Game 5 of the semi-finals to the Las Vegas Aces.

Playing without The Engine

Now the year is 2021. JJ will be returning and everyone will be ready to go. This must be the Sun’s year, right? The Achilles Gods had other plans. Playing with her overseas club, ZVVZ USK Praha, Alyssa “The Engine” Thomas ruptured her Achilles tendon. It was a devastating injury. Once again, plans changed for the Sun, who would now be playing without the mainstay of their offense and defense.

Still, the Sun were the number one team in the league at the end of the regular season. They had the MVP and also the Most Improved Player of the Year, Brionna Jones, dominating opposing frontcourts and leading the way to the semi-finals. The Engine miraculously returned for the final two games of the regular season, as well as the postseason. But it was clear she wasn’t 100%, and the team hadn’t gelled with her within the offense. The Sun would ultimately lose in four games to the eventual champion Chicago Sky.

But Wait.. There’s More

Finally, the 2022 season has arrived and everyone is healthy! The Sun also brought in former Sun and fan favorite, Courtney Williams, who was pivotal in their 2019 postseason performance, in which they came within a few minutes of a championship. Bonner was fulfilling overseas commitments and therefore wasn’t able to play until the Sun’s third game of the season, along with Williams who was serving a two game suspension.

The starting lineup of Jasmine Thomas, Courtney Williams, DeWanna Bonner, Alyssa Thomas, and Jonquel Jones played in two games together this season before it happened again. In the first quarter of a game against the Indiana Fever on May 22nd, J. Thomas went down with a knee injury. It was announced on Tuesday that she sustained an ACL tear and would miss the remainder of the season.

Since acquiring DB in 2020, the Sun have put the previously mentioned “Big Four” on the court together just eight times. Only two times if you consider that AT wasn’t 100% for six of them last season. During that two year stretch, they played without one of their two best players in each and still managed to be one of the final four teams standing. And now comes their next challenge: playing essentially the entire season without their captain and on court leader, and also best perimeter defender.

 An Understandably Frustrated Head Coach

The first time Miller spoke to the media following the announcement of Thomas’ injury, he was frustrated and angry.

“I rolled down my window on the drive here because I got my 20th text saying ‘Coach, you do more with less.’ And I’m just tired of that. Because it’s so unfair to our star players that now the narrative again is ‘Curt has to do more with less.’ So I screamed out of my window on the drive here. I’m so tired of doing more with less, because I love the more that we got.”

Miller even called back to the 2017 season when the Sun lost Chiney Ogwumike to an injury for the season. Then in 2018, he talked about a litany of injuries that forced players to miss time. Obviously, injuries are part of the game. But it really feels like this Sun franchise can’t catch a break. However, since they’ve been in this position before, they’re ready for the challenge and they know they can overcome it.

Alyssa Thomas Might Play Where?

Miller spoke a few times about the need to “pivot.” In 2021, that came in the form of really slowing down the pace of the game, since there was no AT to get out in transition, as she does so well. So, how will that show itself this year? While Miller is thrilled to have the depth of Natisha Hiedeman and Yvonne Anderson at the point guard position, he and his staff have been tinkering with the idea of AT at that position. Her versatility is very well-known, and it allows Miller to even consider this as a possibility.

“We’ve talked a lot in the offseason about ripping off the band-aid and looking at a lineup of Alyssa Thomas, Courtney (Williams), DB, JJ, and Breezy (Brionna Jones). You could argue that’s maybe our best lineup in terms of just overall talent.”

He admitted that this lineup is “unconventional and unique,” and they unfortunately don’t have much time to practice with it. The Sun are in the midst of a stretch of nine games in 17 days. He said for that reason, it’s tough to just roll it out there, but that we will see that lineup at some point this season.

Oh Captain, My Captain

The loss of the five-time all-defensive talent cannot be overstated. First and foremost, she’s been an ironwoman throughout her career. In 12 seasons, she had missed just seven games. Beloved by her teammates, coaches, and fans, she’s known as the captain of the team. She’s one of those players who has great impact on the game that doesn’t necessarily show up in the box scores. Speaking to media, B. Jones touched on what Thomas means to them.

“It’s tough seeing our point guard go down. The leadership that she brings on the court, she keeps us together, she runs this team on the court when she’s out there. But I think we have great people coming off the bench…I think we just have to find a way to get that same energy, that same leadership.”

In a statement released by the team, Thomas said she’ll be there with her team every step of the way. “Of course, I’m sad that I won’t be able to continue playing on the court with this special team. Everyone has been supportive and uplifting, and I’m just preparing mentally and emotionally to attack my recovery. I will continue to be a vocal leader and support my team from the sidelines. They’re incredible and I’m excited about what they’re going to achieve.”

Unintended Consequences

A famous Curt-ism is “unintended consequences.” He constantly states that when these things happen, opportunities arise. When Ogwumike got hurt in 2017, Miller said the unintended consequence was AT moving to the power forward position. “She hasn’t looked back since.”

There will likely be an unintended consequence that stems from the Jasmine Thomas injury. It could be a player moving to a position they might not have played before. Or it could be a player who otherwise might not have seen much playing time being a positive contributor.

The Sun have a tough challenge ahead of them without Thomas. Fortunately, or unfortunately, the Sun are more prepared to face that challenge, since they’re so accustomed to it, than any other team in the league. Thankfully, they still have a star studded cast, who will be cheered on night and night out by their captain from the sidelines. It has no doubt been a tumultuous few seasons for this team. But this is just another bump in the road on the journey to their ultimate goal.

About Kayla Dos Santos

    Recommended for you

    Powered by themekiller.com