Sun will (finally) be at full strength vs. Liberty

Connecticut Sun guard Courtney Williams shoots over Indiana Fever defender Natalie Achonwa in the first half of WNBA Eastern Conference action June 27 at Mohegan Sun Arena. Williams missed a four-game road trip last week with the Sun, but will return for this morning's game against New York. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Connecticut Sun guard Courtney Williams shoots over Indiana Fever defender Natalie Achonwa in the first half of WNBA Eastern Conference action June 27 at Mohegan Sun Arena. Williams missed a four-game road trip last week with the Sun, but will return for this morning's game against New York. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

Mohegan — Courtney Williams nailed her second halfcourt shot after Tuesday’s Connecticut Sun practice, drawing laughs and reactions of disbelief from her teammates.

Layshia Clarendon, acquired via trade on Monday, was going over terminology with assistant coach Steve Smith.

Alyssa Thomas took part in her second straight practice with full contact.

The Sun play host to the New York Liberty on Wednesday morning (11:30) at Mohegan Sun Arena, a joyful event for them after being on the road almost non-stop since June 1.

Connecticut may also, gasp, finally have a full roster.

“I’m not going to lie, this year has been crazy,” Sun Chiney Ogwumike said.

“It’s just been a tough, tough time. We were missing two key components (Thomas and Williams) of our team (last week) and two people who are really tough, and you’re going up against teams that are at full strength.”

Connecticut started the season hot and was 7-1 and first overall in the WNBA standings prior to a June 13 home game against the Washington Mystics.

And then, word got out during the game that Anne Donovan, the Sun’s previous coach, died unexpectedly.

And then, Thomas was knocked out of the game with a shoulder injury and has missed the last 10 games.

And then, the Sun tied the league record for the largest rally (30 points), but lost in the last minute 95-91, the first of eight losses without Thomas

And then, Ogwumike missed a game because of her knee.

And then, Williams missed last week’s four-game, seven-day road trip due to a “personal matter.” WNBAInsidr.com reported that she and Alex Bentley had an altercation. Williams and Sun head coach and general manager Curt Miller have both declined to comment on the report.

And then, Bentley, in her fifth season with Connecticut, was traded to the Atlanta Dream on Monday for Clarendon and a second-round pick in the 2019 draft.

“It feels like a soap opera, you know?” Ogwumike said. “We’re all like, ‘what is going on?’”

On top of all of that, the Sun (10-9) have played 13 of their last 16 on the road. They've played the fewest home games (six) of any team in the league.

“Good lord,” Ogwumike said. “I don’t even remember what Connecticut looked like, honestly. But I’m glad to be back. I’m glad to be home.”

Williams, the Sun’s third-leading scorer and rebounder, is ready to go. The team also said Thomas was “probable” for Wednesday’s game, depending on how she felt in the morning.

“We’re a different team with (Thomas) on the floor, and you could see it at practice today,” Miller said. “We looked tired and did not particularly execute well today, but AT bailed us out in some poor-play stretches with just her athleticism and her activity. So I’m optimistic.”

Clarendon gives Connecticut something it hasn’t had in a few seasons, a true point guard to relieve starter Jasmine Thomas.

The tradeoff is that Bentley has been one of the Sun’s best defensive guards and can stretch a defense with her shooting, a trait Miller covets.

“It’s going to give (rookie) Lexie (Brown) and Rachel (Banham) more opportunities,” Miller said. “Layshia will be a good addition for us, but there’s no doubt that through part of training camp and through many games this year that Alex was our best player, our best facilitator.”

One big benefit for Connecticut: 11 of its final 15 games are home. Yet it has little margin for error in its effort to return to the playoffs.

“We know what worse is like, so we know how to move on,” Ogwumike said, referencing the rough years she and the franchise previously endured. “Today feels like a great day. It feels like a great day because, finally, this is the first time where … we’re playing at home. Guess what? (Wednesday) we have a full roster. We’ve had a couple of days of rest. We get to sleep in our own beds.

“The sun is coming up tomorrow. We’re going to be fine.”

n.griffen@theday.com

 

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