By David Siegel
One of the hardest things to do in building a WNBA team is to have the faith in your beliefs and courage of your convictions and not change what you thought would work last year. Like a good college program, sometimes the best way to improve the team is to keep your core together, let them mature and develop a familiarity with each other and build on the successes they have achieved together.
As the teams are preparing to tip off the 2012 WNBA season, the Connecticut Sun is taking just that approach. A team that has never been shy to pull off trades involving key players and replacing them with new cornerstones, Vice President General Manager Chris Sienko and head coach Mike Thibault are willing to build on last year’s season and go into this year with basically the same team intact.
They did try to tweak the roster and Thibault has said publicly they were in the running for Tina Thompson before she decided to sign with Seattle. But it is not like there was no success to build on. Last year the Sun finished 21-13, behind Minnesota and tied with Indiana and Seattle for the second best record in the league. Their youth and inexperience showed versus Atlanta in the playoffs. However, as the Dream swept their opening series on their way to the WNBA Finals. Every player with the exception of injured Jessica Moore is back in camp from that team.
This week media day and open practices were on the schedule for the Sun, and as you will hear in this week’s podcast, the team showed they are absolutely ready and anxious for the season to begin. With the exception of free agent signee Mistie Mims, everyone else is already in camp, including stars Tina Charles and Asjha Jones, the team’s two Olympians and the cornerstone of the team.
One thing that makes this team a journalist’s dream is the personalities and candor of the team and management. While I was not able to speak to everyone due to time constraints, on this week’s podcast you will hear the personality and thoughts of many, including Asjha Jones, Renee Montgomery, Kara Lawson, Danielle McCray, Kelsey Griffin, Tan White, and more.
Jones, Lawson and Montgomery in particular are three of my favorite WNBA players to chat with, as they have an effervescence that is contagious, and they are not afraid to be open and honest in their answers. It was a pleasure to talk to them again.
Following media day the Sun held the first of two open practices for the fans this week. It is hard to get a flavor for what is going on, as it was the second practice that day for the team, but it is clear that the players are really enjoying the new offensive system Thibault and his coaches are putting into place, one that is more high speed and relies more on playing the game, not just running plays. This is an approach that athletic players like Charles and Jones as posts will really enjoy.
With the changes in the Eastern Conference this year, it is conceivable that the Sun will be a better team, yet still not win as many regular season games as last season. They are building for the playoffs, not just the season. They have not won a playoff game in three seasons, something that does not sit well with the returning players. The Sun will have their roster in tact right from the start of the season, and look to get off to a fast start while some other teams are missing Olympic players or learning to play together.
It will be interesting to see if the Sun’s strategy will work out for the team. Enjoy the podcast!
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