Winless Sun aware of their flaws, but 'not panicking'
Connecticut Sun head coach Curt Miller talked far longer than usual during Monday's Zoom teleconference with the media ahead of Tuesday night's game against the Seattle Storm.
The Sun's post-practice teleconferences with Miller and a few players have averaged about 20 minutes. Miller riffed on a variety of questions for almost 24 minutes Monday, talking about everything from the Sun not passing the ball as much as previous teams, to Sunday's birthday party for Diona "Baby D." Holmes, the two-year-old daughter of Sun starter Bria Holmes, to Miller's hair looking better than some of his fellow coaches.
It was near the end of his talk that Miller, unsolicited, said, "Social media, everyone is like, 'what's the biggest surprise (in the WNBA)?' 0-4 Connecticut just keeps popping up, and I feel bad for our players because I think we've done some good things."
The Sun play Breanna Stewart and the rest of Seattle at 9 p.m. (ESPN2) at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. The Storm (3-1) were the consensus No. 1 in the AP's preseason poll among WNBA media, but will be without point guard Sue Bird, who will miss the game with a bone bruise in her knee.
Miller knew that this season wasn't going to be easy with three starters gone, two players missing some or all of training camp after testing positive for COVID-19, injuries, and half of their 12-player roster being new.
All those issues don't make an 0-4 start palatable. The Sun's defense has been middle-of-the pack (it's sixth out of 12 in defensive rating). Their shooting, however, has been brutal. They’re second-to-last in field goal percentage (35.2).
Miller has said since training camp that it would take time to build an on-the-court chemistry. He said Monday that a common compliment other coaches gave the Sun over the years has been how they shared the basketball. Having a core group of five players together the past four seasons helped develop that trait.
"One of the things that is a common themes that they all mention (this season) is, 'your ball movement is not the same'," Miller said. "Our ball is sticking a little bit more. It's not moving side-to-side, therefore we're not moving the defense as much."
Miller has also told his team that they needed to be physically tougher on both ends of the floor, using Saturday's 78-69 loss to Minnesota as an example.
The Lynx had an edge in both rebounding (40-27) and second-chance points (21-12).
"We specifically showed a clip of Rachel Banham and Bridget Carleton (two former Sun players) blocking out (Sun center) Brionna Jones when Sylvia Fowles was in rotation," Miller said. "They compared it to how we competed (on the offensive end) and tried to block out Sylvia Fowles when Brionna Jones was in rotation, and there was a clear toughness difference.
"We just need to play hard, and if we can model how hard AT (Alyssa Thomas) plays and get everybody to play that hard, we will be fine."
Thomas is second in the league in rebounding (11), tied for seventh in assists (4.3), and tied for second in steals (2.5). She's also one of two Connecticut players averaging double figures in points-per-game (15.3).
Veteran DeWanna Bonner has been a huge positive early on in her first season with the Sun. She's averaged a league-high 27.5 points and is eighth in rebounding (8.8 rpg).
The Sun are still struggling with injuries. Reserve post Theresa Plaisance played her first minutes of the season on Saturday after having two off-season back injuries (the last in early June). ... but the team announced Monday night that reserve guard Jacki Gemelos would not play against Seattle due to an undisclosed knee injury.
Connecticut may get veteran guard Briann January back this week, though. It acquired January from Phoenix Mercury in a three-team deal in which it sent Courtney Williams to the Atlanta Dream.
January was expected to play alongside starting point guard Jasmine Thomas. Instead, she'd been at home in Arizona recovering from COVID-19 until just recently.
"She would join us, with WNBA approval, on Wednesday," Miller said. "We will not put her in a position that she's not comfortable with. … we're committed to allowing her time to feel comfortable in terms of her physical conditioning.
"We want to win this year, and we certainly have time to turn it around. ... We're not panicking. (We're) disappointed. It's never easy to lose, but we know where we're going."
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The Connecticut Sun's offense went cold in the second half and were beaten by the top-seeded Las Vegas Aces on Tuesday night, 66-63, to win their WNBA semifinal series.
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