Signs of a cruel, cruel summer
Surely, there's plenty of season left, thus making the Connecticut Sun's 2-5 record more of an annoyance than a sign of the apocalypse.
But who would have blamed the fans, especially the loyal 7,000 or so who have come to expect consistency here, to have departed Mohegan Sun Arena early Sunday night wondering if there's going to be a summer?
Here is why:
Something is amiss with two of the franchise's three most important players: Tina Charles and Asjha Jones.
Jones has made it clear she, to quote the immortal Rick Pitino line, isn't walking through that door. She leaves a hole the size of Cleveland in the Sun's post game. And Charles, whose 5-for-18 from the field Sunday came after Friday's 3-for-17, isn't right. They better hope the latter isn't because of the former. Because it's doubtful Charles will get any scoring help in the post - and certainly not to the degree Jones provided - this season.
Courtside observers at Seattle's 78-66 victory Sunday used words like "settling" and "fading" when alluding to what's ailing Charles. They see a gifted young woman who is "settling" for jumpers rather than getting her hands dirty in an admittedly congested post. They saw someone who looked much more impressive Sunday when she was shooting hook shots deep in the post than fadeaways from 15 feet.
Seattle coach Brian Agler was asked if Charles is easier to guard now without Jones next to her.
"I keep their team in high regard," Agler said. "But the more threats you have on the floor the more your defense is going to get spread out. You know what Tina's going to do if she gets 1-on-1s, so you take your chances that other people aren't going to hit a ton of shots."
And really, who besides Kara Lawson right now is going to hit a ton of shots?
The Storm did quite well Sunday at making Charles play into congestion while remaining conscious of Lawson's whereabouts. That's how you beat the Sun right now. Maybe that changes a little when Renée Montgomery and Tan White return. But what's going to change, really, for Charles the whole summer?
Fellow posts Kelsey Griffin and Mistie Bass haven't played badly. Not at all. But they are not Asjha Jones. They cannot provide the same offense. They cannot offer the same threat to defenses. Even if they do score, defenses won't react to them. They're the ones Agler alludes to when he says, "take your chances other people aren't going to hit a ton of shots."
Concerns about Charles aren't just about offense. Charles, after 30 and 10 the other night in Indiana, had nine rebounds combined in the New York and Seattle games. That's not good enough.
Charles isn't one to open up, certainly not to the media, about what ails her. I believe she's still chafed over the coaching change here, at least to the point where nobody asked the reigning MVP her opinion. She isn't adapting to change as quickly as she needs to. That and not enough help in the post are a bad combination.
This just in, however: What's done is done. Anne Donovan is here. Everyone who played for her in Seattle who was here Sunday - Sue Bird and Adia Barnes among them - talked about a positive experience. They liked playing for her. They also talked about the time it took to adjust. That's exactly what's happening here.
But while everyone adjusts, the record sinks. As does Charles' shooting percentage. She was 13-17 in Indiana last week. Otherwise: 7-21, 8-24, 11-26, 10-25, 3-17 and 5-18. And you wonder if the motivation will be there all summer when she knows she's not going to get much help.
"Being in the league for a while, I know this," Agler said. "When you win MVP, you get a lot of people's attention. People are going to make it hard on her. If she gets 1-on-1 down there, she's going to score. You've got to congest."
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.
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