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    Thursday, June 13, 2024

    Should they stay or should they go now?


    Perspective, that hackneyed word in and out of sports, only comes sometimes through the wisdom borne of pain. Just ask the Connecticut Sun, whose home arena will be dark again during the playoffs. That's pain. But the wisdom derived from this start-over season might be Step One if happy days are ever here again.

    Besides, think back to last season's ending. So many questions, so much time. Would they get the No. 1 pick? Is Tina Charles staying? Kara Lawson? Is there anyone here not miserable? How do you go from 28 to 10 wins in less than a year? Translation: They were 10-24 and a rudderless disaster.

    And so if nothing else, the 2014 season that ended Sunday with a victory over Atlanta inside Mohegan Sun Arena, provided a clearer, more positive rendering for the future. And while the promise of tomorrow bears no guarantees, there's plenty here to like.

    "There hasn't been one day this year that I dreaded getting in my car and going to work," Sun coach Anne Donovan said. "That wasn't the case last year. I know everyone is on the same page, everyone wants the same thing, a true team that has good chemistry. All season long, despite the ups and downs, it's been a good nucleus that we know moving forward is going to be successful."

    Here's a look at what's here, what's coming and who needs to go:

    • Chiney Ogwumike: The new face of the franchise. Terrific kid, terrific player. Former Sun coach Mike Thibault compared her to Tamika Catchings, which is the highest praise bestowed on any WNBA player. Ogwumike would have set a franchise record for offensive rebounds in a season had she not missed two games with an abscessed tooth. Needs to work on her left hand, free throw accuracy and a mid-range jumper in the offseason.

    • Katie Douglas: Quintessential pro. Love having her back. But she bore far too much responsibility for a 35-year-old coming off back surgery. Douglas, who often drew the toughest defensive assignment, made 62 three-pointers, but shot 36 percent from the field. She needs another shooter to complement her. And while she's not ready for the rocking chair yet, she also can't average 32.5 minutes per game next year. It's too much.

    • Alex Bentley: Intriguing. Proved she can create her own shot, which is valuable in this hyper-athletic league. Decent scorer. But she took the most shots on the team, which is not a desirable stat for a point guard (even though she's not a true point). And while we like to poke fun at Renee Montgomery's defense, Bentley isn't exactly Gary Payton. Still, love her confidence and attitude.

    • Alyssa Thomas: Major part of the future here. Athletic, able to get to the free throw line. Can defend bigger guards and still rebound. Needs to work on a better outside shot. But a keeper.

    • Kelsey Bone: She ended the season, basically, at 10 points and five rebounds per game. Promising player. What I love: She's willing to sacrifice her body and absorb contact in the post (unlike Charles, who spends too much time on the perimeter).

    Through necessity, they threw her the ball in the post and watched her, sometimes ponderously, try to make a move and score. I'd like to see her accentuate defense, rebounding and putbacks. Needs better touch around the basket. But a tough kid. Like her a lot.

    • Allie Hightower: Versatile player. Love the way she can defend athletic guards and slash to the basket. But the first time she's healthy all season … is the first time she's healthy all season. Can you really count on her if she's brittle?

    • Renee Montgomery: I wonder if she played her last game here Sunday. Here's why: Chelsea Gray may run the point next season. Bentley isn't going anywhere. And Montgomery, for the second straight year, didn't make enough shots (33 percent from three) to compensate for flighty defense and ballhandling. A healthy Gray would likely mean less playing time for Montgomery. She has one year left on a max deal. Could they trade her? Would another team absorb the contract?

    • Kelsey Griffin: She could play for my team any day. Takes charges, gets deflections, good teammate, max effort. She does a little of this and some of that. But on a good team, she comes off the bench as an energy player. The more she plays, the more her warts are exposed.

    • Danielle McCray: You want to like her more. Athletic, strong. But the only pro athlete who throws the ball to the other team more is Eli Manning. Thibault did a lot of great things here, but drafting McCray was a swing and a miss. She needs to be on the first bus out.

    • Kayla Pedersen: Tries hard, not good enough.

    • Kelly Faris: OK. We all like her. Max effort. But the gold standard teams in the WNBA right now - Phoenix, Minnesota, Chicago - force opponents to play five players who can score at all times. That eliminates Faris, whose offensive game is limited. Not a shooter, not a slasher, doesn't get to the line. This is not college when you get to play the Hartfords and Providences, when offensive shortcomings are masked. Faris is not a good enough offensive player. At best, she's the No. 12 player on a 12-player roster because she tries hard and keeps her mouth shut.

    • Ebony Hoffman: I hope she stays. Don't laugh. Veteran post who would be good for Ogwumike and Bone. Positive attitude. She did not play this past offseason. She will this year. If she comes back closer to her old self, she's worth keeping.

    • Others: Gray was here this weekend. She is built like a strong safety. Remember: She would have been a lottery pick last year were it not for an injury. The Sun might have a steal here. Two college coaches I respect say of her that she has the ability to be an Olympian and that she's a great instinctive passer. There's also European star Alba Torrens, a guard with the wingspan of a forward, who could be a star. There are no European commitments next summer. Sun officials are cautiously optimistic she's coming.

    • Donovan: Her three-year deal is up after next year. She knows the playoffs are a must. As well as overall improvement. Current and former players of hers say she's just not emotive or communicative enough. Like there's a wall in front of her that won't come down. I hope Donovan allows all of us to get to know her better next year. Really, nobody here knows her at all.

    • The fans: Attendance was down this season. But not nearly as much as it could have been. This team was out of it and still drew just short of 21,000 fans for its last three games. You people are terrific. I'd ask you to keep the faith. But that's a given. The franchise owes you production now that matches your loyalty.

    So that's it. Another summer than ended too soon. More is expected next year. Note to the Sun: Don't expect as much patience next summer. Playoffs or bust.

    This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.

    Twitter: @BCgenius

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