Sun Brace for Successful 'Second Season'August 15, 2012
UNCASVILLE, CT. - The Connecticut Sun’s second season begins Thursday at the New York Liberty, a team they’ve owned to date in 2012 to the tune of a 3-0 record. But as the post-Olympic schedule sets in, the stakes have become much higher.
The Sun finished the first half of the season July 13 with a flourish, coming from behind to beat the Chicago Sky 80-78, its second away game of the season in which they’ve come back in the fourth quarter.
“A year ago, we wouldn’t have won that game,” said Sun head coach Mike Thibault earlier this week after a practice. But there are a lot of things they couldn’t have done last year and now with 15 games left before the start of the WNBA playoffs, the Sun lead the Eastern Conference and are tied with the Minnesota Lynx, the Western Conference leader, with a 15-4 record.
Thibault said the first goal for the balance of the season remains the same: To get into the playoffs, which begin Sept. 27. “These players are pretty good at taking it game by game...they’re not looking down the road.”
Following Thursday’s game, the Sun return home for a game at Mohegan Sun, also against the Liberty. Then back-to-back games against New York which is how the season started in mid-May.
The players say they’re just anxious to get back onto the court in a competitive situation.
“The break was good but I had cabin fever,” said Kalana Greene. “I was ready to pull my hair out.”
She watched the Olympic games with great interest, especially since some of her close friends, such as Suns’ center Tina Charles, were on the US’ Gold Medal winning team. They texted each other daily but rarely about basketball – there was so much else gong on with Charles.
Since her former UConn coach Geno Auriemma was the national team coach, Greene had an advantage knowing what would be run in certain situations.
“When I saw a certain play, I said “I know that play... I ran that play for four years,’” she said.
Charles and forward Asjha Jones will be eased back into the swing of things. They didn’t practice Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday were light practices for them.
Sun forward Kara Lawson, a veteran of the Gold Medal winning 2008 women’s basketball team, said she remembers not being ready to play games right away when she returned from Beijing. “You wish it could last longer,” she said referring to the celebration. “You wish you could take a break like the other athletes do.”
But that won’t be the case and, as Lawson said was true for her, Charles and Jones will “have to readjust their brains” to playing again. Their bodies are already in playing mode, she said.
Lawson said the 27-day break was long and will require the Sun to re-establish the momentum they had before the break, which began July 14. The Sun was 5-1 in July.
“We’ve been practicing a long time,” said Lawson. “At some point, you’re ready to get back into it to try to establish a new set of momentum.”
Lawson said the team’s past history is that it has lost momentum heading into the playoffs. “We need to play well,” she said, adding, “how well we play may be more important than wins and losses.”
Once the second half of the season starts, “You’re zeroing in on your confidence,” Lawson said. “You’re fighting for a spot in your conference and as the playoffs get closer; you start looking more towards matchups.”
Playing the Liberty is a good way to come out of a break, she said; the game’s on the road, it’s a conference matchup and they are a physical team.
“By this time of year, you want to be playing games but in the long run we got to do some work on things,” Thibault said. “We did a lot of individual work on offensive skills and polishing up some rough edges,” he said. He texted Jones and Charles occasionally during the Olympics, especially to offer congratulations when they won the Gold Medal.
Jones’ foot was still slightly sore at the start of the games, an injury she suffered when a Chicago player stepped on it as the final game before the break wore down.
At this point in the season, “We’re where I want us to be,” Thibault said.