Sun Season Ends With Victory
6:31 p.m. EDT, September 13, 2009
UNCASVILLE - An organization gets used to a routine after making the playoffs six straight seasons, which made Sunday seem so surreal for the Connecticut Sun.
There was nothing for the Sun to play for on the final day of the WNBA regular season. Eight teams begin the playoffs this week. The Sun are not one of them for the first time.
"It's a game we all love to play," Tamika Whitmore said Sunday. "But it's also our job, a sign of our professionalism. You perform, you do your job, what you're paid to do."
So the Sun played for pride against the Indiana Fever, the first seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The largest crowd of the year (9,047) showed up for Fan Appreciation Day and were rewarded with a 95-85 victory at Mohegan Sun Arena.
Kerri Gardin led the Sun (16-18) with a career-high 23 points. Sandrine Gruda added 22. Four players had 13 each for the Fever (22-12).
"You come to the game with energy and excitement," Lindsay Whalen said. "You have to understand fans are there that have supported you this season, not to mention the entire six seasons I've been here. You play the game with pride because you love it."
The Sun put on a brave face when it would have been easier to stay buried under the covers. Coach Mike Thibault even let his temper flare, picking up a technical for waving off an official just under three minutes into the game. And Whalen's season ended with 7:01 to play in the third with a concussion.
"There's always something on the line in a game," Erin Phillips said. "Coach reminded us that we needed to come to this game with the same mental approach as always, that we were professionals. But it hurt a little more knowing there would be no tomorrow."
The Sun were eliminated from the playoffs Friday when they lost in Atlanta. Their fall was precipitous over the final 19 games after entering the All-Star break on a four-game winning streak at 9-6. And now they are in the draft lottery for the first time.
"It would have been nice if it was next year's draft [when UConn's Maya Moore will be the top pick]," Thibault joked.
Even though they were still in the playoff race until Friday, they weren't the same team after the loss of All-Star Asjha Jones, who had an Achilles' injury and didn't play after scoring 23 points against Washington on Aug. 14.
The loss of Jones' points (16.7), rebounding and defensive intensity was never compensated for and the Sun won only four of their last 11.
Since roster mobility was limited by the league's decision to trim them to 11, the Sun also was not able to replace others who also were likely too injured to play, such as Whitmore, who had knee surgery in early July, missed 10 games and never played more than 17 minutes after returning Aug. 9.
"I was here, I was on the team, but I also was basically on my own [trying to get back]," Whitmore said. "I also didn't expect to have tendinitis to deal with that made it hard for me to be a part of the team and try to bring a championship here."
Indiana All-Star Katie Douglas, the former Sun star, did not play because of an injured left ankle, which was in a protective boot. Tammy Sutton-Brown was also wearing a boot and missed the game. Former UConn center Jessica Moore left the game with a right knee injury in the third quarter and did not return.
Copyright © 2009, The Hartford Courant
EDITORIAL FOOTNOTE: As the Editor of the Feather News and I watched the game, (free tickets) courtesy of a season ticket holder who could not attend, we joked with each other...The Editor of the Feather News said he would ask the coach to resign on his blog. I said I want him fired. Neither one of us, want to see anyone lose their jobs.
I met Coach Thibault once, I found him to be a knowledgeable and competent coach. A really nice human being. Someone I would really like to know better, a role model for the youth of this area. His team seems to admire and respect him.
Here are some questions to think about. Who put this team together? Who drafted the Connecticut Sun players? Does a coach come up with the game plan? Does the coach have any way to make the players implement the plan? Does the coach have anything to do with players getting hurt? Doesn't every team have to play with what players are there? Aren't players this time of year hurt on every team in the league? Were the Connecticut Sun players being too conservative? Were the players afraid to take shots? Should the Connecticut Sun devise a game of going in for layups? Did the Connecticut Sun take most of their shots from outside? Was the passing by the Connecticut Sun crisp and accurate? Were players tentative about taking shots, and instead passing the ball to other players? Maybe the team needs an impact player, like a female Michael Jordon? Will a player step up?
Michael Jordon, one time after almost single handedly winning a game, was stopped and told: "THERE IS NO I IN TEAM." He replied, "THERE IS AN I IN WIN."
One person said, "it's the coach's fault, he keeps tearing the team down and rebuilding it." Does he really do that?
As the crowd filed out of the Mohegan Sun Arena, it was kind of somber. A season was over. Wait until next year, just doesn't seem to make it. The crowd was listless like the team had performed all year. I thought of all the ticket season holders who had bought tickets at the beginning of the season, loyal fans sitting trough the games, hoping for a championship to be won by their team. The fans, who read the sports sections, and watch as players grow up and get married, have kids and so forth. The team to many, is their life.
Maybe next year? Maybe the coach should go? Who will the coach replace this off season? THE ARENA IS DARK, THE LIGHTS ARE TURNED OFF. What do you think?
THESE ARE THE OPINIONS OF BROKENWING.