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Williams Return Brings Hope in Connecticut

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Four months after walking off the court following a heartbreaking Game 5 loss to the Washington Mystics in the 2019 WNBA finals, Courtney Williams was traded by the Connecticut Sun to the Atlanta Dream in a three team trade. During her first stint with the Sun, the fans loved Williams. But it seemed to be a long shot that she would find herself wearing a Sun jersey again, especially just two seasons later.

In one of the many shocking moves of free agency thus far, Khristina Williams of Girls Talk Sports TV, reported that Williams would be finalizing a deal to return to the Sun. Williams’ departure from the Dream was confirmed when the organization announced in October that they would not be re-signing her, following an off court altercation that was posted on social media.

Coming into the off season, everyone knew that the Sun’s budget was going to be tight. After all, they still needed to re-sign the reigning league’s Most Valuable Player in Jonquel Jones, which they did on February 1st. The very next day, Williams signed a contract to return to the Sun.

According to Her Hoops Stats, Williams signed a protected veteran contract at $103,000 for the upcoming 2022 season.

Filling A Need

It wasn’t realistic, due to cap space, that the Sun could re-sign both JJ and starting shooting guard, Briann January. Because of that, arguably the Sun’s biggest need this offseason was a starting shooting guard who could score the ball consistently.

In their short lived 2021 playoff run, the Sun were missing that offensive minded guard. Since entering the league in 2016, Williams has increased her scoring every season. In 2021, she averaged career highs in points and assists at 16.5 points per game and four assists per game for the Dream in 2021.

Williams is a dynamic guard who can create for herself with a deadly mid-range game. In a press conference, Sun Head Coach and General Manager, Curt Miller, effusively praised Williams’ defensive rebounding capability.

Veterans Advocating for Williams’ Return

Miller stated that it was the Sun players who were actually the biggest proponents of getting Williams back in Uncasville, specifically JJ. Speaking about JJ, Miller stated, “What any great player in any sports league in any franchise wants is to have more open dialogue in what the roster looks like. So when you have these conversations with JJ and she says ‘We need Courtney Williams,’ you listen to JJ.” In fact, she was so serious about this, that it appears she took a bit of a pay cut in order to put the best possible team on the floor.

JJ signed a two year contract, where she’ll be making $205,000 for the 2022 season, according to Her Hoops Stats. That number is about $23,000 short of the league’s super max contract.

JJ later stated that Williams returning to the Sun was like “a family member has finally come back home!” The two were seen chopping it up at last year’s All-Star Weekend in Vegas. This led to some rumblings that they had a desire to play together again. In a statement, Williams said, “I’m super excited to be coming back home. My Connecticut family has supported me since day one, so to be going back to all that love is everything for me!”

The 2019 Core Returns

With the addition of Williams, the Sun will now be rolling out very close to the same core that came just a few minutes short of winning the franchise’s first championship in 2019. Williams, Jones, Alyssa Thomas, Brionna Jones, Jasmine Thomas, and Natisha Hiedeman are all still members of the Sun. In the meantime, they’ve also added two-time WNBA champion and four-time WNBA All-Star, DeWanna Bonner, to mix. Considering the emergence of Brionna Jones last season, the Sun could very well be a four-headed monster this season. With that being said, there are some concerns with how shots will be distributed with so much star power present.

Last season, JJ had a usage rate of 27%, while Williams’ usage rate was 24.8%, and Bonner’s was 23.9%. Those numbers were good for eighth highest in the league, and 20th, and 25th, respectively, according to Her Hoops Stats. Based on those numbers, someone isn’t going to be able to have the ball in their hands as much as they did in 2021. If they can figure out how to effectively distribute those touches, the Sun could have a dangerous offense on their hands.

Showing Out In Athlete’s Unlimited

We’re in the midst of the inaugural Athlete’s Unlimited basketball season. AU is a league during the WNBA offseason that provides an avenue for players who aren’t going overseas to continue playing competitive basketball. It’s also an opportunity for players who haven’t gotten a look from WNBA teams to showcase their skills.

Williams is one of 44 players competing. There are four teams, and each team plays three games every week. Every Sunday, there’s a draft where the captains of that week select their teams.

After having to sit out for week one of the AU basketball season due to health and safety protocols, Williams made her presence known in week one. In Game 1, Williams scored just nine points, but she secured 11 rebounds and tallied five assists. Game 2 was her most impressive showing, when she scored 30 points on 72% shooting and 3-for-3 from 3-point range with nine rebounds, six assists, and two steals. In Game 3, she scored 14 points, dished 10 assists, had five rebounds, and added three steals.

Papa Williams Needs No Re-Introduction

Who could forget when Courtney Williams’ father, Don Williams, who became a WNBA Twitter sensation during the Sun’s 2019 Finals run? Always courtside, Mr. Williams brought just about as much energy to the building as his daughter. Sometimes, fans would see him holding up a cardboard cutout with her face on it. Sometimes, they’d see him dancing to whatever the DJ was playing and hyping up the crowd during timeouts. Either way, Sun fans loved him. There’s no doubt that the fans at Mohegan Sun will be welcoming Mr. Williams back with open arms. Hopefully he still has dibs on his court side seat.

Fourth Time’s The Charm?

Like most teams heading into a new season, some questions still need answering for the Sun. There’s also a long way to go before the start of the season. Barring any catastrophic injuries during the off-season, which the Sun know all too well is possible, this Connecticut Sun team is going to be looking to steam roll into the start of the season. They’ll be able to establish themselves early on as a title contender for the fourth consecutive season. After losing in the Finals in 2019, and the Semi-Finals in both 2020 and 2021, this team is hungry for a championship. They’re hoping Courtney Williams is that final piece to help them get there.

 

About Kayla Dos Santos

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