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Plaisance working her way back to Sun

Theresa Plaisance has had an obnoxious past eight months health-wise.

In December, the Connecticut Sun reserve post caught COVID-19 while playing in China during the WNBA offseason.

In April, she needed back surgery.

In early June, she got an infection during physical therapy that required emergency surgery.

"My luck hasn't really been the best since my COVID time in China," Plaisance chuckled. "On the whole, I'm a pretty healthy person. After I get over this little bump in the road that everyone is calling '2020', once we get past that, I feel like I'm going to be on the up-and-up.

"Everyone is feeling 2020. Whatever it is, whatever you're going through, you can just put it on 2020, then next year will be better. My 2020 started a little early."

Plaisance is on the mend as the Connecticut Sun prepare for an abbreviated WNBA season that will be a sprint. They'll play their 22-game regular-season schedule over 47 days, starting Sunday against the Minnesota Lynx.

All games will be played at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., home to the league's "wubble", the nickname players have given for the "WNBA bubble" where they are sequestered.

Plaisance has been able to practice against contact at training camp but hasn't played full-court yet.

It's been a rough go for Plaisance since she arrived in Connecticut. The Sun acquired her on Aug. 6, 2019 from the Dallas Wings in exchange for power forward Kristine Anigwe, their first-round pick in the 2019 draft.

Plaisance, a 6-foot-5 forward/center, had played 134 games over six seasons with Dallas. Connecticut head coach and general manager Curt Miller had interest in her in the past because she could be a "stretch five", a center who could shoot from the outside and hit threes. She was second to Sun post Jonquel Jones in 3-pointers when she was traded.

"She's someone that I respected," Miller said. "With the way that we play and covet spacing, I thought she could be a great role-playing post player within our system."

A severe herniation in Plaisance's back flared up last season, putting pressure on the nerves that caused her left leg to go numb and prevented her from doing something as simple as a calf raise. It limited her to just 5.8 minutes over 12 games with the Sun, including three of Connecticut's eight postseason games during its run to the WNBA Finals.

Plaisance had dealt with some lower back issues while playing at Louisiana State but never missed a game. She doesn't know what triggered last season's issues.

"From the second I was told I was traded, I bought into Connecticut and who we are as an organization," Plaisance said. "Physically not being able to step on the floor and play with my teammates, especially during the playoffs, was tough. It was really hard to watch. I have all the confidence in the world in my teammates in what they do. It was hard to not be able to be part of it and be on the court with them."

The Sun came the closest they ever had to winning that elusive world championship as their WNBA Finals series against the Washington Mystics went the full five games. Connecticut led Game 5 with over six minutes left but lost, 89-78.

"It was a difficult year (for her) last year because we could never get her healthy," Miller said. "If we would've had a healthy Theresa Plaisance, a healthy Layshia Clarendon (the Sun's former backup point guard), maybe the final series tips in our direction."

Plaisance had non-invasive treatment for her back and felt good while playing in China. The relief only last a few months.

"I woke up with some symptoms and realized that I needed to have surgery," Plaisance said. "I had a microdiscectomy (a minimally invasive surgery). During my PT (physical therapy) process a month later, I got an infection, so I had another emergency surgery."

"The surgery was extremely successful. The integrity in my back (is good). ... I'm just looking at making steps to progress this thing even further and get ready to get some playing time to fill that void that we need at the stretch five position."

Plaisance was referring to the absence of Jonquel Jones, who opted to take this season off due to the worldwide pandemic. Jones had the best season in her four-year career last year as she earned her second All-WNBA second-team honor and was named to the All-Defensive first team for the first time.

Jones' absence is a doubly huge loss for Connecticut due to its lack of proven — and healthy — depth. Brionna Jones will move into the starting lineup at center with rookie Beatrice Mompremier as her only backup until Plaisance is ready to go. Mompremier was selected 20th overall (second round) by the Los Angeles Sparks in April's draft and was cut on May 26. The Sun signed her on June 23, a day after Jones' announcement.

"We look forward to getting her completely healthy and having an opportunity to see if she does indeed thrive in the way we play," Miller said. "We're excited to have that versatility back in our lineup."

n.griffen@theday.com

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