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Brionna Jones re-signs with Sun

Connecticut Sun post Brionna Jones took advantage of a good situation last season when Jonquel Jones, a two-time All-WNBA selection, opted to sit out over concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brionna Jones elevated her game and was one of the WNBA's most improved players. She'll get a chance to start alongside Jonquel Jones this season as Connecticut re-signed her to a multi-year deal Friday, concluding a busy week for the franchise.

“Getting to play with JJ is going to be exciting; just to have a different look on the court between the both of us because we play the five position (center) differently,” Brionna Jones said.

Terms of the deal were not released due to team policy.

The Sun re-signed veteran starters Alyssa Thomas (forward) and Jasmine Thomas (guard) earlier in the week.

“This has been a hugely successful week for us,” said Curt Miller, Connecticut’s head coach and general manager. “We set out with a goal in the offseason to re-sign those three. ... Mission accomplished.”

The Sun drafted the 6-foot-3 Jones eighth overall (first round) in 2017. She averaged eight minutes in 77 regular-season games over her first three seasons with no starts.

Jones started 21 of 22 regular season games last summer and set career-highs in minutes (26.1 mpg), field goal percentage (60.5), scoring (11.2 ppg), rebounding (5.6) and steals (1.7). She was also tied for second in the league in offensive rebounds (2.8) with Napheesa Collier of the Minnesota Lynx.

“The culture that we’ve built in my four years that I’ve been here, how we’ve grown from my first season to now, I think that’s one of the reasons I wanted to come back,” Jones said. “I love this team. I love this organization and everything that we stand for. I’m excited to be back and part of the family.”

Jones may start again in 2021 because Alyssa Thomas will almost certainly be out this season after tearing her Achilles in mid-January. It would give the Sun an intriguing — and tall — frontcourt with her, Jonquel Jones (6-6) and DeWanna Bonner (6-4).

“How are you going to guard Bri Jones on the low block (with Jonquel Jones on the floor)?,” Miller said. “JJ helps with spacing. It’s hard to double off of JJ because she can make threes. But if you double off JJ, now you’re asking a guard to try to keep her off the offensive glass.

“You put JJ on the low block, how are you going to guard her? Are you going to double her? Well, good luck (to) a 5-8, 5-9 player trying to keep Bri Jones off the offensive glass.”

Miller said that the Sun have the nine players they coveted the most under contract. The others are starting guard Briann January, Kaila Charles (guard), Natisha Hiedeman (guard) and Beatrice Mompremier (forward).

Connecticut has difficult roster decisions to make (teams can carry up to 12 players). The WNBA doesn’t have an injured reserve, so if the Sun pay Alyssa Thomas despite her missing the season, it will count towards both the their roster and salary cap. They won't have to pay her if they put her on the suspended list, but they still won't have much cap space for larger, veteran contracts.

Four players from last year’s roster are still free agents — Essence Carson (guard), Bria Holmes (wing), Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (forward) and Theresa Plaisance (forward).

Last year was the first under a new collective bargaining agreement that, while increasing cap space, also increased minimum salaries for players based on their years of service.

“It’s a balancing act, the decisions across the league that GMs are facing with a hard salary cap,” Miller said. “One of the unintended consequences you’re going to start to see, in my opinion, is you’re going to see more rosters play with 11 (players). And so we’re going from 144 jobs closer to 132 across the league as more and more superstars are awarded large contracts. I fear for the veteran role player in this league.

“Are you going to dedicate a large portion of your salary cap to your superstars and therefore round out your roster with players on their first four-year rookie contracts, or players who are more at the veteran (salary) minimums?”

n.griffen@theday.com

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