All-Star Notebook: Aces Have the Heart of the City; Players Look to Have Fun and More Notes

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Photos: Charles Hallman.

LAS VEGAS – There’s not a corner you go by here in Las Vegas that something isn’t mentioned about the Aces, the league’s best team thus far this season at 19-2.  They have a league-high four All-Stars: captain A’ja Wilson, Jackie Young, Kelsey Plum, and Chelsea Gray.

“It is easy to cheer for us when you’re winning,” said Wilson during Friday’s All-Star media availability.

When a reporter asked what makes the Aces so good as a defending champion, “We got competitors and love big moments,” noted Plum, who will play in her second All-Star Game on Saturday.  “I know Jackie, Chelsea, and A’ja are going to make plays.”

Added Gray, a five-time All-Star, “We are playing for each other.  That’s where we have taken a leap.  The trust factor is up another level.”

Newcomers and Veterans Enjoying the Event

Las Vegas will host the event for the third time Saturday, almost 24 years to the day the first-ever WNBA All-Star Game was played (July 14, 1999) at Madison Square Garden in New York City.  This is the third time that Wilson will serve as All-Star captain, and is going for her third victory in as many tries in this role.

“We are going to have a lot of fun,” predicted Wilson. “A lot of great energy around here that I’ve seen.  I’m happy that we are at home and we’re here, and we can show people how we get down here in Vegas.”

Indiana Fever rookie Aliyah Boston is one of five first-time All-Stars, along with Allisha Gray (Atlanta), Ezi Magbegor (Seattle), Kelsey Mitchell (Indiana), and Cheyenne Parker (Atlanta).  Boston was voted in as a starter on Team Wilson.

“I’ve been enjoying everything that comes with it,” Boston told Hoopfeed when asked about her first All-Star berth.  “Being a rookie and being a starter … you are in this new space.  Everyone has been very welcoming, which I really enjoy.”

All-Star Weekend Notes

Retired NBA star Dwyane Wade announced Friday that he is now part of the Chicago Sky ownership group.  When asked to comment on the news, “There are a lot more seats at the table,” said Gray.  “I’m glad to see Dwyane Wade being a part of that.”

The ‘E’ word again was raised Friday as a reporter asked several All-Stars to offer their three hopes for expansion locales for a new WNBA team:  Plum dismissed the notion, saying that there are more pressing issues that need to be addressed before that.

“It shouldn’t take precedent over charter flights, salaries, and benefits,” the Aces guard said.  “If you asked the players what they want charters or expansion, a pretty clear consensus across the board” would favor better travel conditions, she added.

WNBA Live, which premiered last year in Chicago, returned this weekend as a two-day event that covered 75,000 square feet of the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. Billed as celebrating the intersection of the WNBA, fashion, music, and culture, league officials took the media on a tour before it opened to the public on Friday.

“The most unique thing is we are really thinking about our fans, and what they want to see in these types of spaces,” Caiti Donovan, who has been the WNBA Growth strategist since January told Hoopfeed after the tour.  “There are little pieces of space that are particular to the WNBA fan. We tried to bring to life in these spaces and really tailor the experiences.”

Wilson was at WNBA Live and worked with boys and girls in a mini-basketball youth clinic. She also took part in a new sneaker display.  She told Hoopfeed, “When I walked in here, I was just amazed and blown away. ”

“I’m super excited to be here, engaged with the kids.  That’s what All-Star is all about.  The game is fun but getting into the community is big time.”

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