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    CT Sun
    Saturday, November 26, 2022

    Sun's Jones will sit out season due to health concerns

    Connecticut's Jonquel Jones, left, battles Washington's Ariel Atkins for the ball during Game 4 of last year's WNBA Finals at Mohegan Sun Arena. Jones, one of the league's top players, announced Monday she will not play during the 2020 season due to health concerns surrounding COVID-19. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
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    The Connecticut Sun planned on making another run at an elusive WNBA championship this season after returning the bulk of their lineup and making some major offseason acquisitions.

    But nothing ever goes as planned. Connecticut will be without one of its most invaluable players this summer after post Jonquel Jones announced Monday that she will sit out the shortened season due to concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.

    “After careful thought and consideration, I’ve decided to forego the upcoming WNBA season and use this time to focus on personal, social and familial growth,” Jones said in a statement released by the franchise. “This was one of the toughest decisions I’ve made but the resurgence and unknown aspects of COVID-19 have raised serious health concerns that I do not feel comfortable competing in.

    “While I won’t be competing this year, I’m looking forward to lacing up with my teammates in 2021 and continuing the pursuit for a WNBA championship. Wishing the entire league and everyone involved a healthy and enjoyable season. Go Sun!”

    The WNBA plans to tip off its season in late July using facilities at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. The regular season had been scheduled to start on May 15 but was postponed indefinitely in April due to the pandemic.

    "On behalf of our entire organization, we fully support JJ's difficult decision to sit out the 2020 WNBA season during these unprecedented times,” Sun general manager and head coach Curt Miller said in the same release. “We recognize the amount of unique challenges, sacrifices, and unknowns this season presents, and from the top down, there is an unwavering commitment to support each player’s respective decision. We look forward to having JJ back leading us next summer.”

    Jones had one of the finest years of her four-year career last season and helped Connecticut reach its first WNBA Finals since 2005. She played all 34 regular-season games and averaged a team-high 14.6 points, and led the league in both rebounding (9.7) and blocks. She was also chosen to the All-WNBA second-team for a second time and was a WNBA All-Defensive first-team pick.

    Jones had a fantastic postseason in which she averaged 17.9 points, 10.4 rebounds and 1.5 blocks over eight games and was a big reason why the Sun went the distance in the best-of-five WNBA Finals and came the closest they ever had to a world championship.

    Connecticut led Game 5 with 6 minutes, 45 seconds left when the Washington Mystics pulled away for an 89-78 win on Oct. 10, 2019.

    Jones became the first player to score 30-or-more points and have 15-or-more rebounds in a WNBA Finals when she scored 32 with 18 rebounds in a 99-87 win in Game 2 on Oct. 1, 2019. She was also the Finals' leading scorer (19.2 ppg) and rebounder (11.0 rpg).

    Connecticut now has both a huge hole to fill and another starter to replace. It has only two true posts in reserves Brionna Jones and Theresa Plaisance, but both were only role players in 2019.

    Health and consistency were two of the Sun’s biggest strengths last year as their starters played their fourth season together and played every game. They were just the fourth team in the 23-year history of the league to go an entire season with the same lineup, and just the second in a 34-game season.

    Off-guard Courtney Williams, Connecticut’s best outside shooter, demanded a trade this offseason and was dealt to the Atlanta Dream. Wing Shekinna Stricklen, the winner of the 2019 WNBA All-Star Three-Point Contest, also signed a free agent deal with Atlanta.

    Forward Alyssa Thomas and point guard Jasmine Thomas are the Sun’s lone returning starters.

    Connecticut had one of the biggest off-season additions when it acquired free agent DeWanna Bonner from the Phoenix Mercury in a sign-and-trade deal. Bonner re-signed with Phoenix before being traded because it allowed her to make more money than she would have had she signed a free agent deal with the Sun.

    The Sun also acquired veteran guard Briann January from Phoenix as part of the three-team deal that sent Williams to Atlanta. They also traded their 2021 second-round pick to the Seattle Storm for wing Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, a former UConn standout.

    n.griffen@theday.com

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