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Alyssa Thomas: The hardest working woman in show biz

Mohegan — It doesn't take long to start chuckling upon googling "best sports clichés." There's "we're taking it one game at a time," "they gave 110 percent," "it is what it is," "we dug deep," and the personal favorite, "that quote was taken out of context."

There's a late entry into the field, too: the concept of being a "vocal leader."

As if leadership has anything to do with voice inflection.

Because let's face it: we all know people who give the minimum daily requirement and are both loud and wrong at the same time.

Know what leadership is?

Watch me. Follow me. Learn. Mimic. And then let me empower you.

The Connecticut Sun have Exhibit A in their midst right now.

The will of Alyssa Thomas sure makes it feel as though the Los Angeles Sparks ... won't.

She finally came off the floor Thursday night when the Sun had a lead more comfortable than the living room recliner, finally finishing at 94-68. She played the first 74 minutes and 29 seconds of this series. Straight. And tried harder than Avis.

Try that again: She played 74 minutes straight.

"I would cry," teammate Rachel Banham said.

"Crazy," teammate Shekinna Stricklen said.

Clearly, Thomas' relentlessness is rubbing off on her teammates, who before they rained threes on L.A. in the second half, crawled over broken glass to take a one-point lead at halftime. They did so by setting a WNBA playoff record with 29 rebounds.

That's effort.

Nothing else but.

And it begins with Alyssa Thomas.

"She never looks like she's tired," Stricklen said. "When you see somebody playing that hard, every single possession, you want to make sure you play as hard as you can, too. It sets the tone."

Thomas finished with 12 points, 13 rebounds and four assists. She also guarded Candace Parker. She brought the ball up the floor. During one sequence in the first half, she forced Parker to take an off-balanced shot, got the rebound and then set a screen for Courtney Williams at the other end that was so good, Riquna Williams got knocked on her ascot.

In the third period, Alana Beard appeared to be on a breakaway. Until Miss Every Minute Of Every Game caught her from behind and fouled her, making her earn two free throws.

She sprinted up the floor.

"She's unreal," Banham said. "And she's doing it every minute. I mean, I'll come in and play my five minutes here and five there. I look at A.T. and know I really have to get after it. It means you have no excuses. Just look at her."

Sun coach Curt Miller has called Thomas the "engine" all season. But engines overheat sometimes.

"I'm full of energy. I'll play another 40 minutes," Thomas said after Thursday's game. "I'm ready. I want a championship."

No word whether Thomas will accompany her teammates on the plane to Los Angeles ... or just walk there.

"She doesn't really take many possessions off. She's always coming at you on the offensive end; whether she has the ball or she's crashing the glass," Los Angeles coach Derek Fisher said. "And then you know then defensively she's also in the action; rebounding, trapping, pick and rolls, etc. To play 40 minutes in a playoff game and play as hard as she did, you have to tip your cap."

Miller: "There's nothing bigger in this league than peer accountability and peer modeling behavior when you see your teammates laying it all on the line. When players model behavior in practice and in games, it's hard not to follow those people."

Maybe it's time the narrative that the "Sun don't have a star" ends now. They sure do have a star. The one who is quieter than Sunday morning sometimes. And the one whose constant effort has brought her team a win shy of the WNBA Finals.

It has been a privilege to watch her play.

Game Three is Sunday on the other coast. You can identify Alyssa Thomas as No. 25. Won't be hard. She'll play every minute.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro


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