The Las Vegas Aces have been dealt a tough hand as they get set to begin of the defense of their WNBA title.
The Aces will visit the Seattle Storm on Saturday afternoon with coach Becky Hammon serving the first contest of a two-game suspension. The WNBA handed Hammon that ban without pay and rescinded a 2025 first-round draft pick from the Aces after ruling that the club had violated league rules in its treatment of former player Dearica Hamby.
Hamby made allegations on social media for what she deemed to be unethical treatment by the Aces prior to her trade to the Los Angeles Sparks on Jan. 21.
On the court, Las Vegas will turn to reigning WNBA MVP and Defensive Player of the Year A’ja Wilson, along with stars Kelsey Plum, Jackie Young and Chelsea Gray. Two-time league MVP Candace Parker and fellow offseason acquisition Alysha Clark also are expected to contribute for the Aces, who led the league in scoring at 90.4 points per game last season.
“I keep telling myself that the journey is not going to look the same,” Wilson said, per ESPN. “That’s a key factor mentally. … I try to get into the fact that it doesn’t have to look ‘this’ way because that’s what it took to win before. We have to get past that and just run our race and play our game.”
The Aces, who shared the league’s best regular-season record in 2022 at 26-10, swept the Phoenix Mercury in the first round of the playoffs and defeated the Storm in four games in the second. They continued that momentum by defeating the Connecticut Sun in four games in the WNBA Finals.
The Storm, who finished 22-14 a year ago, enter this season with questions following the departures of Sue Bird (retirement) and Breanna Stewart (New York Liberty).
Jewell Loyd and Sami Whitcomb are expected to carry the team this season. Loyd averaged 16.3 points while starting all 36 games she played in 2022, while Whitcomb was a part of the Storm’s 2020 championship team before spending the past two seasons with the Liberty.
Whitcomb told the Seattle Times that she thinks Loyd is ready to assume the role of team leader.
“I think Jewell has been working to that for some time, honestly,” Whitcomb said. “And I think that she is ready. We’ve seen it already. It’s just natural for her to step into embracing that role, that leadership role as well. There’s no question. It’s her team.”
–Field Level Media