Chelsea Gray’s play has Las Vegas Aces back on track

Las Vegas Aces, Chelsea Gray
Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

When this WNBA season got underway, a lot of folks expected the Las Vegas Aces to storm through it. The Aces were returning a stacked lineup, led by league MVP A’ja Wilson and steered by decorated coach Becky Hammon.

Those beliefs began to waver a bit when the Aces (10-6) endured a stretch where they lost five of seven games. Suddenly, it no longer seemed like a three-peat was a sure thing.

However, since the Aces’ last defeat – an eight-point loss to the New York Liberty on June 16 – they have since won four straight games, a streak extended by an 88-77 road win on Saturday over the Washington Mystics.

Return of Chelsea Gray sparks Las Vegas Aces

WNBA: Playoffs-Las Vegas Aces at Dallas Wings
Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The difference, one could easily argue, has been the return of the team’s top guard, Olympian and All-Star Chelsea Gray.

Gray, 31, suffered an injury to her left foot in Game 3 of last season’s WNBA Finals. Rehabbing it kept her out for the first several games of this season, and the Duke product didn’t make her debut until June 19, where she played 15 minutes and dished out seven assists in a win over the Seattle Storm. Perhaps uncoincidentally, that was the start of the Aces’ four-game surge.

“Just really her presence and her mind,” Hammon said of Gray. “She’ll see things in our offense and she can tweak them on the fly. She can do the math in her head. Just that chess-level player. Having her out there really helps.”

Gray seemed to be back to her elite form against the Mystics, scoring a season-high 22 points to go along with four rebounds and four assists. The Aces needed Gray to get this win too, as Wilson was held scoreless in the first half – the first time in her career that has happened – and Las Vegas trailed by six points at halftime. Gray then scored nine points in the third quarter to help the Aces close the deficit.

“I feel good, getting my wind back, able to put long stretches together,” Gray said. “It’s been a process, mentally and physically, to just be in the moment.”

With Gray returning to full strength, the Aces seem to be back in top form, and look like the team to beat once again. The online sportsbook DraftKings still tabs them as favorites for the title with +150 odds.

Related: Ranking the 20 best WNBA players right now, including A’ja Wilson

Maryland cherishing Thomas’ Olympic moment

Alyssa Thomas is having a tremendous season for the Connecticut Sun (14-4) and has become the epitome of the cliché term Swiss-Army Knife player. Thomas is fifth in the league in rebounding with 9.4 boards per game, first in assists (7.6), 10th in steals (1.6), and scores 12.2 points a night.

Thomas’ 2024 is going to get even better this summer when she heads to the Olympics in Paris, France. And perhaps nobody is prouder of the 32-year-old than the folks at her alma mater, the University of Maryland.

“It’s long overdue,” Maryland coach Brenda Frese told The Next. “… From the first time I saw her on the layup line, she did everything hard and wanted to be first at everything. When you look at her, you can kind of compare her to a female version of LeBron James. She has a strong, muscular, athletic build and really plays the game the right way.”

Thomas is the first Terrapin to make the U.S. Olympic women’s basketball team since Frese became the head coach in 2002.

Related: WNBA power rankings 2024: Caitlin Clark and Indiana Fever soar, Las Vegas Aces tumble

Kysre Gondrezick a free agent

Kysre Gondrezick was waived by the Chicago Sky on Friday.

The 5-foot-9 guard, who appeared in just five games with Chicago (6-10) this season, was drafted by the Indiana Fever with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2021 draft. The former All-Big 12 selection at West Virginia was cut after one season with Indiana, where she averaged just 9.1 minutes per game.

Following the season-ending knee surgery forward Elizabeth Williams had last week, waiving Gondrezick leaves the Sky with just 10 available players.

Related: WNBA TV ratings: Caitlin Clark vs Angel Reese breaks record again, 2024 WNBA ratings soar

More history for Caitlin Clark

With 15 points, seven assists, and six rebounds in the Indiana Fever’s loss to the Storm on Thursday, rookie sensation Caitlin Clark became the fastest player in WNBA history to pile up at least 300 points, 100 rebounds, and 100 assists, doing so in just 19 games. The Iowa product broke the record previously co-held by Andrea Stinson and Shannon Johnson, who did it in 22 games.

Clark and the Fever will visit the Las Vegas Aces on Tuesday.

–Mitchell Northam covers the WNBA for Field Level Media

Related: 20 highest-paid WNBA players in 2024

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