East All-Stars-West All-Stars Preview

Two opposing WNBA All-Star teams couldn’t be more different.

On one side, the five starters have been selected a combined 31 times to the All-Star team, and four of the five are destined to be in the Hall of Fame.

On the other side, three starters will be playing in their first All-Star Game. The fourth starter will be in her fifth All-Star Game and the fifth starter is injured and won’t play.

The Western Conference will have a decided advantage, at least in experience, when the WNBA All-Star Game tips off at 3:30 p.m. EDT Saturday inside KeyArena in Seattle.

A total of 10 players — eight from the Eastern Conference and two from the Western Conference — will be making their All-Star debuts.

The Western Conference starting backcourt of Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi have combined 18 All-Star selections. Their Eastern counterparts, Jasmine Thomas and Tiffany Hayes, each are making their first All-Star appearance.

“It means a lot, especially as a starter, to be an All-Star,” Hayes told Excelle Sports. “It feels good that fans, the media, and players are starting to see how hard I work.”

Bird, who most likely will become the career assists leader this season, and Taurasi, who became the leading scorer in 2017, have been the standard bearers of excellence for a long time.

Saturday’s game will have special meaning for Bird. She’ll be playing in her 10th All-Star Game, tying her with Tamika Catchings for the most in league history. Bird gets the starting nod for an eighth time and she gets to play before the home crowd.

“I’m very excited to have been voted in as a starter,” Bird recently told The Seattle Times. “With the game in Seattle, it’s extra special.

“It’s an incredible honor and I can’t wait to put on a good show in KeyArena.”

On the other end of the spectrum is Storm teammate Breanna Stewart, who is one of the 10 making her first appearance.

“I think more than anything, you’re trying to create some special memories not just for yourself but for the fans,” Stewart told the Times. “These games are about having fun and celebrating the league. You want everybody to have a good time.”

East All-Star Tina Charles echoed Stewart’s thought about the importance of Saturday’s game.

“It is a blessing … so just to be voted by my peers means the world to me. I am looking forward to having fun and enjoying the time,” Charles told the examinernews.com.

Charles will be counted on heavily. Jonquel Jones will be making her first All-Star appearance also.

“You watch them play in college, Tina Charles especially, they dominated,” Jones said. “We watched them win gold medals with the Olympic team. Just to be here with them — I feel like a little kid in a candy store.”

The only other starter with experience, Washington Mystics star Elena Delle Donne, sprained an ankle on July 14 and will miss her third All-Star Game.

The West will be without reserve Brittney Griner, the league’s leading scorer who injured her left knee and is expected to miss a month.

The West remains loaded with Minnesota’s Maya Moore, the MVP of the 2015 All-Star Game. She had 30 points, six rebounds and five assists in a 117-112 win for the West.

Lynx teammate Sylvia Fowles and Los Angeles’ Candace Parker round out the West’s starting five.

Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve can look down the bench and see reigning MVP Nneka Ogwumike and seven-time All-Star Seimone Augustus champing at the bit to see some action.

Intrigue surrounds Parker — will she dunk or not?

“We’ll see how I feel when I wake up,” she told WNBA.com. “If given the opportunity and I feel right, of course, but if I was betting I’d say I’ll probably be a passer and a facilitator.”

NOTES: There was no All-Star Game last year as players were participating in the Summer Olympics. … The 3-point shooting contest will return for the first time since 2009. It will be held at halftime. Minnesota’s Maya Moore, New York’s Sugar Rodgers, Seattle’s Sue Bird, Connecticut’s Jasmine Thomas and Chicago’s Allie Quigley will participate. … On Wednesday, Connecticut’s Curt Miller was selected to coach the East, replacing New York’s Bill Laimbeer. According to multiple reports, Laimbeer had a personal matter come up. … Nine former No. 1 picks are on this year’s rosters.