US Olympic team expects competitive game vs WNBA All-Stars

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Betnijah Laney drives up the court during practice for the WNBA All-Star Basketball team, Tuesday, July 13, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Both the U.S. Olympic team and the WNBA All-Stars expect a competitive game in the league’s showcase Wednesday.

Usually there is not much defense played in All-Star games until the fourth quarter, but this one could be different with the Olympians having limited time to get ready for the Tokyo Games.

“It’s not so much an All-Star game for us, but a preparation game for the Olympics,” said Breanna Stewart. “It will be a lot more competitive because we’re actually going to play … before it’s a been a little bit of a mess.”

The past seven WNBA All-Star games have been decided by single digits, including the one in 2019 that was a three-point contest.

It’s the first time since 2000 the WNBA has held the All-Star game during an Olympic year.

“It’s a great way for the USA team to get ready,” said five-time Olympian and 12-time All-Star Sue Bird. “Great way to prepare for us. great way to showcase the top talent. The national team is 12 of the top players and so is the WNBA side of it. Twenty-four of the top players going out there, … All in all we’re trying to put on a good show.”

Diana Taurasi, who will also be playing in her fifth Olympics, said she most likely won’t play in the game as she’s recovering from a hip pointer. She missed the Mercury’s last three games because of it.

“My goal is to be ready for the Olympics,” Taurasi said. “Preparation is key. So at this point in my career, I think being ready for Tokyo is what’s best for our team and me. So I’m taking it day by day. I’m getting better, and I’ll be fine once the real games start.”

BY THE NUMBERS

There will be eight first-time All-Stars in the game while Sue Bird will be playing in a WNBA-record 12th. … The Las Vegas Aces have the most All-Star selections with four players (Liz Cambage, A’ja Wilson, Dearica Hamby and Chelsea Gray).

TRASH TALKING

With so many WNBA teammates on different teams in the game Wednesday there has been some playful banter back and forth between them.

Dearica Hamby said she wanted to get a steal off Chelsea Gray. Gray’s former teammate Candace Parker said she wanted to back down the point guard in the post.

The best trash-talking was between Dallas Wings forward Satou Sabally and her teammate Arike Ogunbowale, who asked whether she’d dunk on Brittney Griner in the game. Sabally answered “yep.” Griner laughed it off when she heard the comments later when speaking wit the media. The 6-foot-8 Mercury star was reminded by teammate Skylar Diggins that she’s been there and done that, having dunked in Dallas earlier this year.

3-POINT SHOOTOUT

Chicago Sky guard Allie Quigley will try for her third 3-point shootout title at halftime of Wednesday night’s All-Star game. She won the event in 2017 and 2018. Other competitors in the field: Jewell Loyd (Seattle), Sami Whitcomb (New York) and Jonquel Jones (Connecticut).

“It’s the Allie Quigley Invitational,” Parker said laughing.

The event will feature five racks of balls with one spot being worth two points for each shot made. There also is a new gimmick this year with two shots from way behind the arc worth three points each if they are made.

HONORING THE PAST:

The WNBA will honor the 1996 U.S. Olympic team that started off the run of six consecutive gold medals that the Americans have won. Lisa Leslie, who helped win the first four golds, will co-coach the WNBA team with Tina Thompson. Dawn Staley who was on the 1996 team with Leslie, is the U.S. Olympic coach.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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