Alyssa Thomas may make season debut for Sun on Wednesday
The Connecticut Sun have relied on their starting lineup more than any team in the WNBA this season en route to clinching the top seed in the playoffs.
Connecticut may be getting a boost in depth from an unexpected source — forward Alyssa Thomas.
The thought was that Thomas would miss the entire season after tearing her Achilles in January while playing overseas.
Thomas has been practicing and may play when the Sun host the New York Liberty on Wednesday (7 p.m., CBSSN, NESN Plus) at Mohegan Sun Arena and try to set the franchise record for the longest winning streak.
“AT is day-to-day,” Connecticut head coach Curt Miller said. “We evaluate her each-and-every moment. (She) had a good practice again (Tuesday), so we’re very optimistic. I’ll put it that way.”
Thomas had recently been appearing on the Sun’s injury report as “doubtful.” She was listed as “probable” on Tuesday’s report.
Thomas was arguably the team’s most valuable player last season as she had one of the best years of her seven-year career. She finished in the top 20 in points (15.5 ppg, 16th overall), rebounding (9.0 rpg, third), assists (4.8 apg, seventh) and steals (2.0 spg, first).
Seattle Storm standout Breanna Stewart was the only other player to finish in the top 20 those same categories.
Miller believed Thomas was the league’s best defender and is capable of guarding centers as well as both power and small forwards. She’s also been an indispensable piece of Connecticut’s transition offense because she handles the ball like a point guard. She’d regularly grab the rebound and start the break.
Connecticut (24-6) has won 12 straight games, tying the 2006 team for the franchise record. It has done so being the only team in the league with all five starters averaging 30-plus minutes — DeWanna Bonner, Briann January, Brionna and Jonquel Jones and Jasmine Thomas.
None of the league’s other teams have more than three players averaging those type of minutes. Bonner was third in overall minutes prior to Tuesday’s games (994) and Brionna Jones was 10th (938).
The pleasant dilemma for Miller and his staff is figuring out how to juggle the minutes if Alyssa Thomas is fully up-and-running. There’s the risk of disrupting both the chemistry and flow of a starting lineup that’s lead the league’s best defense and has been the cornerstone of the team’s success.
“Having another weapon out there on the court is just going to make us better,” Brionna Jones said. “We can rely on each other even more. I think it’s not going to change too much of the way we’ve been playing.
“The way it’s been looking in practice, I’m very confident of adding her in seamlessly.”
Miller was asked if he’d cut back on the starter’s minutes with two regular season games to play given the team has already clinched the top seed. The playoffs start next Thursday, and the Sun get a double-bye to the best-of-five semifinals which begin on Tuesday, Sept. 28.
“We’ll be smart,” Miller said, “but you could play one minute and get injured, or you could play 23 minutes and get injured. … We want to keep improving, we want to keep peaking. We want to worry about ourselves, so we want to play good basketball. With that said, I will tell you we’ll always be smart. We’re not going to push people through injuries.
“I can’t put them in bubble wrap. I wish I could. We’re going to try to keep on grinding and do the best we can.”
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The Connecticut Sun's Briann January and Jonquel Jones both earned WNBA All-Defensive First Team honors while Brionna Jones and Jasmine Thomas both made second team.