Sun finally have their stars aligned again
New London — DeWanna Bonner shouted happily during her first practice of the season with the Connecticut Sun after Jonquel Jones turned her pass into a 3-pointer on Monday morning at Connecticut College.
It's almost been a month since Connecticut held its first practice on Easter Sunday, and it finally has all 11 of its rostered players together with Bonner back.
The Sun's Death Star is nearly fully operational as they visit the New Yorky Libert on Tuesday (7 p.m., Barclays Center, NESN Plus) for the second time this season.
"There's a lot of tinkering to play with all season," Connecticut head coach Curt Miller said. "And when you tinker there's going to be some good days and some ugly days."
New York (1-3) beat the Sun 81-79 on May 7 in the season-opener for both teams.
Bonner missed the first two games because of her playing obligations in Turkey. Miller said she'll play Tuesday provided she passes medical testing and feels mentally and physically ready to go (she arrived in the United States on Friday).
Courtney Williams is also available after serving a two-game suspension because of her involvement in a May 2020 fight outside of an Atlanta-area club.
Connecticut (1-1) now has six players who have started in either of the previous three seasons in Brionna and Jonquel Jones, Jasmine and Alyssa Thomas, Bonner and Williams. Williams started from 2017-19 before asking to be traded to the Atlanta Dream during the 2020 offseason. She re-signed with the Sun in February.
Miller now has so many combinations to utilize along with wing DiJonai Carrington and guards Natisha Hiedeman and rookie Nia Clouden being the primary three players off the bench.
"AT, after two games, leads the league in scoring and has played a ton (of minutes) at the three (small forward)," Miller said of Alyssa Thomas. "With (Bonner) back, she can move back to more minutes at the four and now you're tinkering again."
Bonner, a 2020 All-WNBA second team pick, brings versatility because, at 6-foot-4, she can play both forward positions and at off-guard. She was one of 11 players who ranked in the top 20 in both scoring (15.2 ppg, 15th) and rebounding (6.4 rpg, 19th) last year.
Among the other 11 players who were in the top 20 — Jonquel Jones (19.4 ppg, 11.2 rpg), Brionna Jones (14.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg) and Williams (16.5 ppg, 6.8 rpg).
Williams, 5-8, drastically changes Connecticut's offense because she brings what it missed while she was gone — a consistent mid-range game. She led the league in mid-range attempts in each of the last three seasons, shooting 41.2 percent (522 of 1,268) from that range over six seasons.
Williams attempted 333 mid-range shots last year. To put that in perspective, Kelsey Mitchell of the Indiana Fever was second in attempts (139) and Connecticut had 409 as a team.
The Sun still want to play inside-out with Alyssa Thomas, Bonner and the Joneses. The team has so far taken a league-leading 53.7 percent of its shots (72 of 134) from within five feet of the basket. The Los Angeles Sparks are the closest at 40.5 percent (106 of 262 over four games).
"We have small lineups," Miller said. "We can go big lineups. And then (we) can go (with) mammoth lineups.
"It's been fun to tinker with AT, Breezy (Brionna Jones) and JJ (playing together). Now we've got to tinker with different lineups again."
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