Is there still room on the Sun bandwagon?
It has been suggested that nothing makes a room feel emptier than wanting someone in it.
There is this room, a big one, inside Mohegan Sun. With no one in it. Been that way for a bit now. For the first summer since 2003. Hard to fathom, no? And to think the WNBA was once considered wishful thinking here. It's become a staple in our corner of the world. A Thing To Do.
This is the first summer since that the Connecticut Sun are elsewhere. Another tentacle of COVID-19. Where once an appreciable number of season ticket holders and other loyalists could count on 20 nights watching basketball and partaking of other casino callings, we have nothing.
It was so promising, too. The Sun, so star-crossed in their history, made the finals for a third time last fall, foiled again by — ironically — Mike Thibault, the man who built the franchise. Once, Nykesha Sales hit the side of the backboard with a potential championship winner in the finals. Once, Lindsay Whalen, the engine and the conscience of the team, got hurt and made Sacramento a long ride home. And now last year, they made the final game, ultimately unable to scale Mount Washington.
But there was offseason hope. Isn't there always? Curt Miller, Amber Cox and the gang extinguished the idea that A-level free agents don't want to come to them thar hills. The Sun signed DeWanna Bonner, leaving the prospect of a frontline of Bonner, tireless Alyssa Thomas and uber talented Jonquel Jones. Let's play.
And then came COVID. Jones opted out. Briann January, who would help replace Courtney Williams, tested positive for the virus and missed some time. Ah, the best laid plans.
Perhaps you tried to watch early in the season as the Sun played inside the Bradenton Bubble. It wasn't pretty. The atmosphere was, relatively speaking, vanilla. The team wasn't winning, Jonquel wasn't playing ... and what's the point, really?
Even among the diehards, there wasn't much buzz here at home. Out of sight, out of mind. Get 'em next year when — hopefully — Neon Uncasville is alive again.
And then a funny thing happened on the way to irrelevance.
The Connecticut Sun are two wins away from the finals. Again.
Still no Jonquel. Yet suddenly a ground swell, not a death knell. The Pillars of Miller tap-danced on Las Vegas in game one of the semifinals on Sunday and prepare for Tuesday's Game Two that would give Connecticut a 2-0 lead. Long way from being over, of course. Figure that Las Vegas coach/antagonist Bill Laimbeer will have his team in wounded bear mode, understanding the gravity of the situation.
But it's hardly the point.
The Sun have shown a championship spirit even if there's no championship this season. Think of the Sun's predicament: Left for dead early. Playoffs hardly a guarantee. Alone in the bubble with just themselves. One-and-dones against Chicago and Los Angeles. And here they are.
Hmmm. Perhaps we should ask: Is there room still left on the bandwagon?
Because this would make quite the story. Imagine: After so many summers of near misses here, wouldn't be it just Sun-esque if they won it the year they were gone? And COVID or not, the banner would be just as big atop Mohegan Sun Arena. The rings just as shiny.
Of course, this being 2020 and all, we can hear Ringo singing "It Don't Come Easy" already. Forget about having to beat Las Vegas. There's also this:
Sunday's second semifinal between Minnesota and Seattle was postponed after the Storm learned of inconclusive COVID-19 test results from earlier Sunday. Hopefully, inconclusive tests will ultimately yield negative results and we play on.
But then, it wouldn't be the Sun if it were easy.
So who else will be watching?
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro
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