This mess gets worse


Even during a notable rally, one that came within an eyelash of producing arguably the most improbable victory in franchise history - especially given the dramatis personae - there was some second-guessing in the Connecticut Sun locker room Sunday afternoon.

Makes you wonder if this is ever going to get right.

Straight up: I'd like to have gulped the Kool-Aid in the wake of the 78-77 loss to first-place Atlanta, given that I'm not convinced four of the eight players who played for Connecticut are ready for the WNBA as it exists: Izzy Castro Marques (might be done), Sydney Carter (not ready), Kayla Pedersen (we'll see) and Kelly Faris (overmatched).

And yet the Sun, left for dead down 14 in the fourth period, actually took the lead with under a minute remaining. Mohegan Sun Arena, 7,557 strong, sounded like the old days. Then after the Dream took the lead, the Sun had the ball with 12 seconds remaining down a point.

The result: Coach Anne Donovan, sensing a good shot wasn't forthcoming during the Sun's possession, called a timeout with two seconds left. Allie Hightower missed at the buzzer. Sun lose.

This from Tina Charles:

"We have to communicate better as far as coaches to players with what we're doing at the end," she said.

What Donovan wanted at the end: "We had talked about it in the previous timeout. Our best offense was getting to the rim, getting to the free throw line. I explained to them that if we can get a play to the basket, let's get to the free throw line and finish it on free throws. If you don't feel good about it, we'll call the timeout. I would have liked a little more than two seconds, but at the same time, we got what we wanted at the end. We just didn't knock it down."

Donovan didn't want to call an immediate timeout, thinking that Atlanta, which had just missed a shot, might be a bit scattery on defense. The Sun still couldn't get anything that resembled a good shot.

"If we had the opportunity to score, we should have scored, but either way you can advance (the ball) if you call a timeout," Charles said. "I think that we should have called a timeout, seeing that Izzy wasn't in a position to do anything. We should have called the (timeout) earlier, rather than what happened: (Castro Marques) reversed it to me. I'm waiting, then I gave to Allison. (Then the timeout). I think that's stuff we need to go over."

Kalana Greene's opinion: "We did what (Donovan) wanted us to do. That's all I can say."

That's not what you'd call universal approval for Donovan's strategy. Makes you wonder if that underlying disapproval affected the way the offensive set was run, thus prompting Donovan to call the timeout.

This is not good.

Because while we laud the comeback, this whiff of dissatisfaction hovers. In 11 years covering this team, I'd never heard strategy openly second-guessed. It doesn't mean every single player here was on board with Mike Thibault's whims, but nobody ever said it out loud.

Now they're saying it out loud.

I'm not saying Charles was wrong. I applaud her honesty. But I'm sensing a disconnect here that's just not healthy. Maybe it's part of the process with a new coach. But isn't it about time for some progress?

This was a day I never thought I'd see. In the first half, Connecticut launched five airballs. The all-star officiating troupe of Brenda Pantoja, Kevin Sparrock and Don Hudson made sure Hightower was on the bench early with three fouls. That left Carter, Castro Marques and Faris to play against a first-place team.

I get that injuries have crippled the Sun. Add Kara Lawson (bone bruise to her knee) to Renee Montgomery and Tan White. Things probably get better when they return. But all the postgame chatter about "better chemistry" Sunday made for a good sound bite. That's about it.

It doesn't get easier. Phoenix is here Saturday. Maybe they can use the week to agree on late game strategy.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.


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