Injuries continue to plague WNBA teams; Sparks, Dream winless with key players sidelined

Doug Feinberg/The Associated Press | 6/27/2024, 6 p.m.
The injury bug has bitten several WNBA teams this season with both Los Angeles and Atlanta losing key players last …
Los Angeles Sparks forward Cameron Brink, left, reacts after forward Rickea Jackson drew a foul during a June 9 game against the Las Vegas Aces in Los Angeles. Photo by AP Photo/Ryan Sun

The injury bug has bitten several WNBA teams this season with both Los Angeles and Atlanta losing key players last week.

The Sparks will have to play without prized rookie Cameron Brink for the remainder of the year after she tore the ACL in her left knee. The injury also forced Brink off the U.S. Olympic 3x3 team. She was replaced by Sparks teammate Dearica Hamby.

The Dream is going to be missing Rhyne Howard for a bit too with no timetable for her return after she injured her ankle Wednesday against Minnesota. Neither team has won a game since they went down, going a combined 0-6. Atlanta did get some good news with the return of Jordin Canada, who had been sidelined for the first part of the season with a hand injury. She made her season debut in a loss to New York last Sunday.

While the Sparks and Dream seek to find ways to replace the production of their injured players, Las Vegas welcomed back Chelsea Gray. The point guard was sidelined the first part of the season with a leg injury she suffered in the WNBA Finals last year.

Gray made her debut last week and the Aces looked more like the two-time defending champions with victories over Seattle and Connecticut.

“I probably went through every emotion leading up to today,” Gray said of her return. “I was a little anxious all day. It’s been a long time since I’ve been out on that court. But the fans were amazing from the time I came out to warm up to the time I checked in the game. It was a rush and a feeling I missed a lot.”

AP WNBA poll

New York remains in the top spot in this week’s AP WNBA power poll, but no longer unanimous after losing a game in Phoenix. The Liberty received nine first place votes and were followed by Minnesota ,who garnered the other four top votes. Las Vegas, Connecticut and Seattle followed the Lynx. Phoenix, Indiana and Chicago were the next three. Atlanta, Washington, Los Angeles and Dallas rounded out the poll.

Record ratings

The Caitlin Clark-Angel Reese matchups continue to draw record viewership. The third installment of the Fever-Chicago Sky budding rivalry that was played on ESPN last Sunday averaged 2.3 million viewers with a peak of 3.3 million. That’s the most to watch a WNBA game in 23 years — topping the last matchup between the two teams. There were more record-setting viewership numbers for Clark and the Fever with their game against Atlanta on Ion drew 1.2 million viewers on average, making it the most watched game on the network. 

Caitlin corner

Clark had another strong week on the court, averaging 17 points, 9.7 assists and 7.3 rebounds to help Indiana win two of its three games. She set a franchise record with 13 assists in Indiana’s loss to Chicago on Sunday.

The No. 1 pick in the draft also won the Honda Cup, given to the top NCAA women’s college athlete, for the second consecutive year on Monday night. The Fever play a pair of road games at Seattle and Phoenix this week.

Rookie watch

While Dallas has struggled to find wins, dropping 12 straight games, Jacy Sheldon has made the most of her time lately, getting more comfortable on the court. She was a bright spot in an otherwise lost week. Sheldon averaged 12 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists while playing just over 34 minutes a game.

Player of the week

A’ja Wilson of Las Vegas earned AP Player of the Week honors. The forward averaged 26.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and two steals to help the Aces win both their games. Angel Reese of Chicago, Caitlin Clark of Indiana and Jonquel Jones of New York also received votes.

Game of the week

Las Vegas at Chicago, Thursday. It’s the first matchup between A’ja Wilson and Angel Reese — the only two players this season to have multiple games with at least 15 points and 15 rebounds.