The Dynamic Duo met some of the W’s other heroes, reunited with familiar faces and adapted to rule changes in historic first Vegas All-Star Weekend
Three Brittney Griner dunks. Live substitutions. On point kicks wherever you looked.
All of the above hyped up Gotham’s representatives at WNBA All-Star and rightfully so. Cirque du soleil greeted Tina Charles and Kia Nurse before they took the court at the Mandalay Bay events center on Saturday.
Charles flashed a smile and flapped her hands, giving the crowd an enthusiastic wave. Nurse took a page out of Liz Cambage’s playbook. Her introduction became her runway until of course until the moment itself caught up with her. She couldn’t keep that stoic model behavior for long and a smile crept up on her face. This is the WNBA All-Star Game.
I had mentioned that Team Captain Elena Delle Donne was from Krypton, but on Saturday it sure looked like Britteny Griner was a woman of steel in her own right as well. Wearing Spongebob and Patrick inspired Nike Kyrie 5’s, Griner ascended to the rim three times in the first half alone. Kia Nurse appreciated her teammate’s energy and her desire to put on a show for the fans.
“It’s been a lot of fun to kind of just talk to people that, you know, I haven’t played before or played against,” Nurse said. “I love BG’s energy. I think she’s hilarious. And her shoe game is fire. So that’s been a lot of fun.”
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Before All-Star Weekend, Nurse hadn’t played alongside Team Captain Delle Donne either. “And I think for me, just continuing to get to know people and being able to kind of see what they do in their warm-ups what the intricacies of their game are,” Nurse said before tipoff on Saturday. “That’s been really exciting.”
With 6:24 left in the 4th quarter on Saturday, EDD fired a rocket from half court to Nurse outside the arc. While she was guarded well by first-time All-Star Odyssey Sims, the youngest All-Star Nurse dribbled inside and outside the arc, made room for herself, and with 12 seconds on the (reduced shot clock), hurled a three-ball up from the weak side. Swish.
Nurse scored her 15th point on that drive and shot a total of 50 percent from the field. Not too shabby for a first All-Star appearance.
In addition to getting to know other players on the court and experimenting with new styles of play, Nurse bonded with a player off the court. Currently injured Sue Bird invited Nurse and other WNBA All-Stars to film a feature for her interview video series “Between Two Birds.”
The promo for the series begins with Bird’s floating head chanting: “Doctor, Doctor”, before introducing the second floating head, Nurse. Toward the end of the video, Bird is featured rapping The Notorious B.I.G.’s “Juicy” in a blue morph suit alongside former teammate and current Liberty veteran guard Tanisha Wright.
While the other Gotham hero Charles wasn’t rapping in a morph suit or making her debut as a floating head, New York’s Dark Knight had some bonding opportunities of her own. Playing on Team EDD meant that Charles would be reunited with former coach Mike Thibault.
“It’s always a pleasure and honor for me to be with always to be reconnected to coach T,” Charles told High Post Hoops before tipoff. “Just given the fact that he was the first guy to believe in me, drafting me, choosing me… I learned how to be a professional [from Thibault], how to carry myself, how to adjust the media, and how to serve more than anything. He always very encouraged me to impact in any way that I saw fit. So I’m very thankful for him in my life.”
It must have been a blast from the past and a reminder of the present for Thibault. With 42 seconds left in the first quarter, Mystics guard and current Thibault player Kristi Toliver dribbled past Simms to get into the lane. Toliver bounced a no-look pass to Charles, who had a lot of space on the right side of the arc. While Candice Dupree caught up to Charles to contest the shot, her jumper was only bound for the bucket.
Before embarking on the weekend, Tina Charles spoke about what she’d like to see in the future from the weekend. She’s up for a change, as she believes showcasing international talent would be a step in the right direction. There were some different rules implemented in Vegas this year, however, a 20-second shot-clock and hockey-style type substitution to be exact. Charles wasn’t looking forward to the latter.
“I hope it doesn’t happen,” she said before tipoff. “I don’t like to be the guinea pig of new things. So for me, I’m very old school. I like the way that basketball is where it is the rules that we have. So for me, I’m really not thrilled about it.” Think of it this way, you’d never see Batman in an Avengers comic, right? .
During the last minute of the third quarter, announcers Ryan Ruocco and Liberty legend Rebecca Lobo mentioned that the live hockey-subbing was only used once. Team Captain Elena Delle Donne slapped Courtney Vandersloot‘s hand with a little under two minutes left in the first quarter.
“Mike Thibault and Bill Laimbeer gotta up their live subbing game… Or maybe they’ve just done it so well we haven’t even noticed,” Ruocco said on the ABC broadcast.
Charles played for Coach Thibault for four seasons while both were in Connecticut. And he knows her well, and so much so that he substituted Charles only on timeouts. Apparently Coach T is old school, too.
Support didn’t only come from Coach Thibault for Charles and Nurse. Reshanda Gray, Bria Hartley and Brittany Boyd were all there in Vegas in addition to Tanisha Wright to laud the Dynamic Duo. Gray repped All-Star Saturday with a Tina Charles Liberty jersey from the days when Draft Kings was a prominent New York partner.
To say Gray was inspired from the weekend is like saying that the Liberty play in New York. The truth in that statement spoke for itself on Gray’s new Instagram moment entitled “WNBAallstar2019”. After the fourth tap on all of Gray’s favorite moments from the weekend, there’s a picture of her and Charles. “Show love and support” is the accompanying caption.
Gray was moved by the weekend and I hope she passes on the good vibes to her team as New York looks to support each other and get a win on Thursday against Dallas. With all of the pieces back together entering the second half, resilience will be integral for the Liberty. New York has the will to continue to defy expectations, and Gotham’s younger crusader knows it.
“I think for us right now the league is all kind of 10, 9, 11 wins and I think that’s for us, we’re right there, we are pushing,” Nurse said to Ruocco during the All-Star Game via an earpiece on the bench. “We’ve got a great stretch coming up after the All-Star break and our whole team is back and healthy and back, so it will be a good one.”
Aside from learning how special of a league the WNBA is, the Dynamic Duo’s anticipated visit to the Watchtower in Las Vegas reinforced to Liberty hopefuls and to the entire team that The Dark Knight best not work alone.
(Erica Ayala contributed reporting to this story.)
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