Amid the excitement of the expansion Golden Knights charging toward the Stanley Cup finals and the anticipation of the Oakland Raiders making their move, Las Vegas debuts another new team Sunday.
Well, it’s not exactly a “new” team, but the Las Vegas Aces begin life in the WNBA with a game against the Connecticut Sun at the Mohegan Sun Arena on Sunday in Uncasville, Conn.
The Aces are the former San Antonio Stars, fresh off three losing seasons, and entering the 2018 WNBA campaign led by A’ja Wilson, the No. 1 pick in the league’s draft. But they are also missing — at least at the start — Kelsey Plum, last year’s top overall pick, and Kayla McBride as they complete their overseas seasons.
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“It’s been confusing and difficult, and it’s been stranger because I’ve been missing so many players,” Aces coach Bill Laimbeer said. “I had a lot of young rookies, and we still don’t have our players. It’s just been a struggle.”
Perhaps because of the excitement created by the Golden Knights, the Aces have gone from 100-1 long shots to an 18-1 pick by the Vegas oddsmakers.
“There’s been a steady stream of betting support on them,” Westgate sports book manager Jeff Sherman said this week. “We’ve gotten money at 100-1, 50-1 and 30-1.”
The Sun overachieved last season and did it without top player Chiney Ogwumike, who missed last season with a torn Achilles. Connecticut, which is also 18-1 to win it all, started last season with one win in their first six games but went on to finish 21-13 and advance to the second round of the playoffs (after a bye).
“I’m fully excited to come back this season because it’s been a long offseason,” Ogwumike said. “I was injured like a year and a half almost two years ago and it was my second major injury.
“It always stinks coming back from an injury, but it’s part of the point, it’s sort of what you sign up for, that’s one of the risks. But at the same time I’ve learned so much about myself these past few years. My mind’s in a great place.”
The Sun have also added Lexie Brown, the ninth pick in the 2018 draft, and Leticia Romero, last year’s No. 17 pick who spent the season with the Spanish national team.
Connecticut, 3-0 in the preseason, opens its season with three straight home games. The Aces, 1-1 in the exhibition games, play their first two on the road before hosting the Seattle Storm on May 27.
“I think we’re going to be a solid rebounding team,” Laimbeer said. “(But) with what I have right now, we’re challenged shooting-wise. But when I get Plum, and McBride, that helps a lot with the shooting department.”