West All-Stars-East All-Stars Preview
UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP)
The WNBA's top two rookies won't be able to participate in the league's All-Star festivities.
Brittney Griner and Elena Delle Donne figure to have plenty of chances to enjoy them in the future.
A sprained left knee will sideline Phoenix's Griner in Saturday's All-Star game, while Delle Donne will miss it as she recovers from a concussion suffered in Chicago's final game before the break.
"It's unfortunate that I am unable to be a part of All-Star weekend,'' said Delle Donne, the league's fourth-leading scorer at 18.2 points per game and the game's top vote getter. "I was very excited to join the other players for a memorable experience. It's upsetting not only for me but also for the fans who voted for me. The most important thing for me at this time is to rest and recover for the second half of the season.''
Griner has averaged 14.9 points but has missed the Mercury's last five games. She isn't planning on missing the WNBA's next All-Star weekend, though, and the 6-foot-8 star has an idea for an additional festivity - a dunk contest.
"Definitely would have something that the fans would love,'' the 6-foot-8 star said. "It would be a nice addition to the weekend and I got a couple of things I'd pull out for it.''
Griner made a splash in her WNBA debut by dunking twice and puts on a show in warmups for the fans when she's healthy.
But even though she'd be the heavy favorite to win a dunk contest, don't hand her the title just yet. Among others, Candace Parker, Sylvia Fowles, Elizabeth Cambage, Nneka Ogwumike and Maya Moore can all dunk.
Parker can lay claim to already being a slam dunk champion. She beat future NBA stars Josh Smith and J.R. Smith to win the McDonald's High School All-American one in 2004.
"It would be a lot of fun,'' Parker said. "It would be a great addition to the All-Star weekend and we're getting there. I think in the near future, it will happen.''
But for Parker to participate, it might have happen soon.
"This year I'm 27, I can't speak for when I'm 28, 29 and 30. This year I would 100 percent be in it,'' she said.
Parker may be the biggest name playing Saturday, but she can relate to Delle Donne and Griner's absences. She never participated in an All-Star game in her first five seasons, missing time with knee and shoulder injuries and her 2008 pregnancy.
She'll be joined by teammates Ogwumike, Kristi Toliver and 38-year-old Tina Thompson, the first overall pick in WNBA history who in her final season was picked to play in her record ninth All-Star game as Griner's replacement.
Ogwumike, like Parker, is excited about playing in her first.
"I'm excited, I was surprised when they called me,'' Ogwumike said. "I try my best to work hard every day for my teammates and to also be there with my teammates is amazing. I'm looking forward to that, too. I think it is going to be a good experience. I have never experienced any type of All-Star game before.''
Ogwumike is one of nine first-time All-Stars, and the Lynx - a WNBA-best 14-3 in the first half - join Los Angeles with a game-high four representatives. Lindsay Whalen and Rebekkah Brunson will come off the bench, while Moore and Seimone Augustus will start.
"Yeah, there's going to be a takeover of the league I think by the Minnesota Lynx,'' said Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve, who will guide the West team. "Obviously, we're happy with what our players have done, and we're being well represented. We'll have four players, three coaches, a trainer, so it's going to feel a lot like a Minnesota Lynx road game for us.''
Indiana coach Lin Dunn will lead the East. The defending champion Fever struggled through much of an injury-plagued first half, but they've won seven of nine to get themselves back in the playoff picture.
Tamika Catchings and Shavonte Zellous will represent Indiana.
"It means a lot to me,'' said Zellous. "This has been a goal of mine, just like winning a championship was. In my fifth year in the league, now I'm an All-Star. In my fourth year, I was a WNBA champion. That's a good accomplishment in my eyes. I just hope to have fun and enjoy the moment, seeing all the players and everything that involves the All-Star experience.''
The East has won three of the past four All-Star games after losing the first six.