Your Day in Women’s Basketball, August 9: Taurasi to play again, but when?

Injury diagnosis, but no timetable for Diana Taurasi

In relieving news for WNBA fans, the Mercury, and Diana Taurasi’s Bun, Taurasi’s back injury appears to be a setback rather than a season-sinker. The 4-3 Mercury will rely on Skylar Diggins-Smith and Brittney Griner moving forward as Taurasi gauges the best (and likely quickest) rehab plan. Thankfully for Taurasi, the injury doesn’t appear to be linked to the back problems that kept her out all last year.

“They think it’s a muscle around her hip area,” head coach Sandy Brondello said postgame. “Let’s just pray it’s not too bad and she’s back on the court again in a few days.”

The Mercury will have to depend upon Shatori Walker-Kimbrough’s scoring as the season progresses. Walker-Kimbrough had 17 points off the bench last Wednesday and proved that she and Alanna Smith are good for more than hustle plays (although they’re still really good at that).

Out in the Eastern Conference, we’ve learned a lot about the contenders and pretenders. For starters, everything we thought we knew about the Mystics is wrong… again. On the bright side, Emma Messemen is finally breaking out. Let’s just say it’s a much-needed development after the team dropped four straight games and Aerial Powers went down with an injury.

One of the teams that beat the Mystics? The New York Liberty. Yes, really. Thanks to professional bucket-getter Layshia Clarendon and a philosophy focused on accountability and “controllables,” New York(!) won a game. I promise, it really happened.

Clarendon was great, but they weren’t the only one to bring their A-game against Washington. Amanda Zahui B and Kia Nurse each caught fire from behind the arc as New York hit 8 more triples than Washington to secure the dub.

But listen. If anyone can figure this rut out, its Mike Thibault.

The Dream may not be the team to beat, but Chennedy Carter is the rookie—dare I say the player—to stop in the East. This is her team now. Carter averaged 25 PPG this week including a 35-point outburst against the Seattle Storm. It’s hard to imagine anyone else could steal the Rookie of the Year Award from her.

But rather than riding high on Carter’s breakout performance, the Dream came out flat in their game against the Wings over the weekend.

“It’s tough having quick turnarounds and still trying to build that team chemistry and also trying to get back to my game,” Courtney Williams said. “It’s hard right now, but we’ve gotta figure it out. We don’t really have a choice.”

In the Western Conference, Sparks were flying in their win over the Lynx. Los Angeles experimented with a small-ball lineup that featured Seimone Augustus at the 4 and Candace Parker at the 5, a set-up that allows the Sparks to space the floor and push the pace against slower squads.

The Sparks still haven’t reached the league’s upper echelon, though. (To be fair, Seattle stands alone in the top tier). Los Angeles has been inconsistent this season, and the absence of Augustus and Nneka Ogwumike didn’t help the Sparks get back on track in Friday’s close loss to the Aces.

For those who are curious, the Sparks have gone W-L-W-L-W-L-W this season.

The Seattle Storm, on the other hand, have been the most consistent team in the league, riding Breanna Stewart’s stellar play to a 6-1 start. Seattle has a target on its back, but in games against the Atlanta Dream and Phoenix Mercury, the Storm had the hot hand as role players like Sami Whitcomb and Mercedes Russell found ways to step up.

If you haven’t listened to A’ja Wilson and Napheesa Collier’s podcast, drop everything right now and start tuning in. Wilson and Collier have already had NBA superstar Kevin Durant on the podcast (and not just to trash talk Kendrick Perkins) and will have WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert on soon. Despite the name, “Tea With A & Phee” is much more than spilling tea.

“It gives people a different point of view of who we are,” Wilson told The Next. “We’re the young group of the league and we don’t really get talked about because we haven’t had a lot of years of service underneath our belt. This allows people to get to know us.”

Read Alexis Mansanarez’s fantastic piece about the pair.

Out in the NCAA, Texas Tech head coach Marlene Stollings was fired after Jori Epstein and Daniel Libit’s bombshell investigative piece revealed a culture of “emotional, mental, and sexual abuse enabled by Stollings.

Sunday’s Games

The Washington Mystics fell (again) to the Indiana Fever 91-84 as Kelsey Mitchell poured in a season-high 29 points and Washington struggled without the injured Aerial Powers.

The Las Vegas Aces defeated the New York Liberty in a heartbreaking-refs-blew-the-game-and-the-Liberty-got-screwed-last-second-78-to-76-loss in a game that should have gone to OT.

The streaky Los Angeles Sparks steamrolled past the Minnesota Lynx 97-81 thanks to a creative gameplan and gritty perimeter defense.

Play of the Weekend

There were a number of stepbacks to choose from this weekend, but this shot from Riquana Williams is something else.

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