Aces fall to 1-2 after home loss to Connecticut
Las Vegas Aces head coach and president of basketball operations Bill Laimbeer isn’t happy with his team’s energy or attention to detail.
The Aces turned the ball over 21 times in Sunday’s home loss to the Connecticut Sun.
“It’s being mentally weak; it’s understanding the value of two points,” Laimbeer said after Sunday’s loss. “Effort is one thing. We didn’t have the effort from the starting lineup tonight. Or last game. It wasn’t there. Why? I don’t know. They have to answer that themselves.
“I can make a change and put an energy player in there. I don’t know who it’s going to be yet. I have to think about it. But something has to change. That can’t continue.”
Laimbeer has praised the efforts of the bench early on in the season, and Sunday’s presser seemed to indicate at least one of those players will be in line for a much bigger role in the upcoming two-game road swing.
“The bench plays great every game. They have energy. They work together. That’s what they do. That’s who they are. They’re a collection of people that go out there and just bust their butt every second they’re on the floor at peak performance and good things happen because they stop people. They can run, they get some fastbreaks.
“Our starters walk the ball up the floor. And I told them consistently that’s not who we are. We’re not a set-up basketball team. We don’t have pick-and-roll guards like a lot of other teams do that go back and forth and attack off the dribble. We don’t have that. We have to have all players touch the basketball until teams make a mistake and utilize our skill players in order to score. But we don’t do that, and that’s disturbing.”
The Aces will be on the road for three of their next four games after a 1-2 start to the season. The team dropped two winnable games over the weekend on the road against the Phoenix Mercury and at home against the Sun, offsetting some of the excitement over Liz Cambage’s season and home debuts.
They turned it over 16 times in the season opener and another 11 Friday evening in Phoenix. As of Monday, the Aces had the league’s seventh-highest turnover percentage (19.3) per WNBA.com. After digging a little deeper, it’s clear that one common thread ties many of them together.
A quarter of the team’s 48 turnovers through three games have looked a lot like this:
Those 12 each boil down to high-post entries or simple swing passes to somebody one pass away. (And that is a conservative count. Another 10 can be chalked up to hit-ahead passes or lob entries that were either rushed or too ambitious in the first place.)
The team’s offense is largely built around being able to throw it to a big at an elbow and play out of that. Opponents, naturally, are going to both sit on those passes and push those players further away from the basket.
Laimbeer noted that he does not have a prolific pick-and-roll guard on this team. Those passes are the lifeblood of their offense. Until the players get on the same page to move the ball side-to-side with fewer hiccups, they’ll struggle to truly hit their stride.
“We have to learn. We have to dig deep individually and collectively in order to put forth the effort to win basketball games and learn how to win,” Laimbeer said. “I talk about the value of two points a lot. It’s all I ever grew up on, was valuing two points. Every possession, both sides of the ball. We don’t do that right now.”
“I owe it to the rest of the team to play the people who are going to play hard,” he added.
Perhaps the biggest question hanging over this team, of course, wonders when we will see Liz Cambage inserted into the starting lineup. In that sense, this Aces team finds itself in an indefinite holding pattern as they slowly integrate Cambage then adjust again as her minutes ramp up.
“We’re getting there,” Laimbeer said. “It’s hard to start both players at the same time because Liz in on a minutes restriction. So I have to work her way into the lineup at times.
“You’ve got to figure out what works. Liz can really help the second unit. She’s a scorer. It will change when Liz has opportunity to be on the floor for more time.”
Energy was a key topic after Sunday’s loss. Reserve forward Dearica Hamby brings plenty of it. Could she be the one Laimbeer tabs if and when he makes a change to the starting lineup?
“That’s a hard one,” he said. “You want to have energy players off the bench. To put her and A’ja [Wilson] out there at the same time, it takes away my backup power forward. I don’t think I can do that right now.
“Hamby will be overmatched with some centers in this league. I think she’s more valuable to our team with the role that she’s playing right now. I think everybody knows that inside our locker room. I don’t anticipate that happening at all.”
The Aces play at the Atlanta Dream on Thursday (7 PM ET, CBS Sports Network) then travel to play the New York Liberty on Sunday before returning home to host the Liberty next Friday.