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Sun's Kelsey Bone uses the floor to speak about Olympic 'slight' of Candace Parker

Mohegan — Basketball players aren't necessarily famous for moonlighting as orators. But then, Kelsey Bone, center for the Connecticut Sun and daughter of an English teacher, appears to have a paved post-basketball career for politics, punditry or other forms of popular persuasiveness. Put it this way: You may not like what she says or how she says it. But there's no denying Kelsey Bone's backbone.

And Bone, who began her discourse on Twitter Wednesday night and continued Thursday at Sun media day, is perturbed over the latest cause celebre within women's basketball: The omission of two-time Olympic gold-medalist and two-time WNBA Most Valuable Player Candace Parker from the 2016 U.S. Olympic women's basketball team headed to Rio this summer.

"Women's basketball and life in general is political. It's about who you know. I get it. Great. Fine. Dandy," Bone was saying Thursday at Mohegan Sun Arena. "But when you are talking about a player like Candace Parker and what she's done for women's basketball, the attention she's brought to the game and the resume she has, you'd be hard pressed to find a reason not to put her on the Olympic team."

Here's my $.02: Parker has a prickly personality that has run afoul of UConn coach and Olympic coach Geno Auriemma, who didn't appear to have the time of his life at the last Olympics. Parker was among the reasons. Her omission is the result of a personality conflict. Nothing more, nothing less.

"There is a personality conflict," Bone said. "But they are there for a month. They're not going be together for a whole season. (Auriemma) isn't going to coach her for the next 10 years of her career. We're trying to win a gold medal for a couple of weeks. But, yes, I do think there's a personality conflict."

Now comes Bone's true bone of contention: Why do personality conflicts appear to affect women's basketball more than men's basketball? As Auriemma has said many times: Women's basketball's biggest issue is that everyone has to be lovey-dovey all the time.

"In my opinion, in my small little bubble, it's a part of what's hindering our game from making the jump to mainstream. It's not always about who's the best player. It's not always about who plays the best basketball. A lot of times it's about who likes you and who doesn't. And that's only with women," Bone said.

"DeMarcus Cousins is the best post player in the (NBA) right now. His attitude is not always the best. But I think he might be in Rio. It's about putting the best players on the floor to win. We're going to win regardless. The rest of the world is afraid of us. When they see those three letters across our chest, there's a dominance that goes with being on Team USA.

"But the message you send to other young players is that you can work your ass off your whole career and if somebody doesn't like you, it means nothing. When (Auriemma) has had his issues with other coaches, he has said 'we don't have to all be friends. We don't have to all sing 'Kumbaya.' Which is true. At the end of the day, we're talking about adults. No one is going to the Olympics with USA Basketball and just be an ass.

"Candace does have a very big personality. But at the end of the day, why is it only in the women's game does that matter? You can say it's her reputation. You can say a lot of things. But all of those things have been there. There's not anything new that wasn't there in 2012 when she was the MVP in London."

Chris Sienko, the Sun's vice president and general manager — and also a member of the USA Basketball Women's National Team Player Selection Committee — said he couldn't comment about Parker's omission and referred all questions to USA Basketball Communications Director Caroline Williams.

"There's a five-person committee who selects this team and they take their roles very seriously," Williams said. "It's not just, 'Hey Geno, pick your team.' There were a lot of extremely talented athletes who didn't make it. It was a very tough decision."

Bone has people within the game who agree with her. Los Angeles Sparks coach Brian Agler took to Twitter Wednesday night and typed, "you don't use a two-time Olympic gold medalist and two-time WNBA MVP to promote and market ... and then cut her."

How Bone's opinion plays in Connecticut bears watching. She's become a fan favorite here with the Sun crowd. But how many UConn fans will perceive Bone's support for Parker as a slap at Breanna Stewart, who is, essentially, taking Parker's place?

"Breanna Stewart is in the next wave. I get it. But she has time. A long, long, long career ahead of her," Bone said. "But I feel like because there's a personality conflict — and this is no knock on Breanna or anyone else on the team — because there is a personality conflict it's easy to open the door to put (Stewart) on the team. She deserves it. She has a resume not a lot of other people have.

"But there's a bigger issue. It's the message we send to young girls growing up: You can be the best, but you still might not make it.' It's not like that on the men's side. Here you have someone who is 30 years old in the prime of her career. She's playing better basketball now because she's rested.

"I don't mean to be disrespectful to USA Basketball. I'm talking about a problem in our game. If I'm a better basketball player than X, Y or Z, that's all that should matter. I know different personalities need to mesh, but it's worked before. It's gotten us gold medals.

"Listen," Bone said, "Geno is the greatest coach. His resume speaks for itself. The greatest coach our game has seen. I don't even want to say this is his thing. I'm not pointing fingers. But I would want this to be about my play. Not who I know. There comes a point this conversation needs to happen. We're talking about Candace Parker. You don't leave America without her."

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.


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