They say that sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, but the San Antonio Silver Stars are proving that sometimes it’s better to be good. "Lucky" is no way to describe this season for the Silver Stars. Before this WNBA season if someone had set up this scenario:
*The Stars would be without Sophia Young for the entire season as a result of an ACL injury in her last game of the season in China
*Becky Hammon would miss the first 9 games of the season with a broken finger and tear her ACL in her first game back and miss the rest of the season
*Delisha Milton-Jones would go down with an injury during which she and the Silver Stars would come to a buyout agreement. DMJ would go on to sign with the New York Liberty.
*The Stars would play at times with only 8 or 9 available players and would have to sign a player under the hardship clause
...you might have counted them out. You might have suggested that they just fold and tank and try to get a good pick in the draft. You might have suggested making a big trade. That’s not what the Stars are doing this season though. They are continuing to grind out wins and keep that playoff berth well in sight.
As it stands, the Silver Stars sit just behind the Seattle Storm who occupy the last playoff spot in the West. San Antonio will have a chance to battle it out head to head against the Storm Sunday and Tuesday in San Antonio following tonight’s matchup in Tulsa against the Shock.
Going into tonight’s game versus Tulsa, here are some key factors to consider regarding the Silver Stars moving forward: Danielle Robinson, replacing Becky Hammon in the starting rotation, leads the league in distribution with 6.7 assists per game and 168 overall. That’s right, the Stars backup point guard leads the league in assists as a starter and is probably the quickest player with the ball for 94 feet. Shenise Johnson breaks the top 30 in assists as well at #29 with 50 at a rate of 2.1 per contest. The Silver Stars also have 2 players in the top 30 in scoring: Danielle Adams averages 13.8 per game with a total of 346 in the #20 spot and Jia Perkins sits at #24 just between Britney Griner (#23) and Tina Thompson (#25) posting 13.5 per game and 338 total. Three Stars find themselves in the top 30 in three point shooting. Jia Perkins is #7 on the leader board in triples at .390, burying 32 from long range. DA (#16) delivers from long range at a 35.4% clip with 35 from deep and Shameka Christon has her say at the #23 spot also with 35 long range shots at a rate of .337.
Jayne Appel checks in at #6 in the league in rebounds with 8.9 per contest and 177 overall. Danielle Adams takes the #29 spot with 4.7 per game and totaling 118. Appel and DA both break the top 25 in denials as well with Jayne holding the #6 spot rejecting 23 to the tune of 1.2 per game and DA at the #23 spot with 19 at .8 per showing. As far as the WNBA’s Most Wanted for theft, Jia Perkins is #4, nabbing the ball twice a game with 50 basketball burglaries on her rap sheet. Her partners in crime are Danielle Robinson at the #13 spot with 1.4 robberies per game and a total of 34 and Shenise Johnson at #30 absconding with the ball 1.1 times per game getting a five finger discount 26 times this year at opponents’ expense (statistics from http://espn.go.com/wnba/statistics).
Let’s also not forget to give credit to the coaches and staff. The outstanding Coach Dan Hughes collected his 200th career win this season and is assisted by former WNBA player/former Silver Star Vickie Johnson as well as James Wade. Athletic Trainer Tonya Holley’s hands have certainly been full this season treating injured players and keeping healthy players healthy. Credit goes out to all the other staff on the sidelines including trainer’s assistants and equipment managers as well.
The absence of Hammon and Young presented a challenge for every Star to shine this season, and shine they have! After a wobbly start that featured several players in new and/or expanded roles, the San Antonio Silver Stars have rolled with the punches, scrapping and gutting out wins through injuries and other lineup changes, finding their identity in the process. It seems like at this point in the season the San Antonio Silver Stars not only know who they are, but they want you to know too. They are competitors and they aren’t going to walk away without everyone knowing they were there. It’s absolutely likely that the Stars could grab the 4th spot in the West, and once a team is in the playoffs there are lots of possibilities. Opponents who sleep on San Antonio may very well be in for a rude awakening.
While I’m certainly not conceding this season and talking "next year" in those terms, regardless of how the chips fall there will be a next season. The struggles and challenges that the Silver Stars have faced this season have truly strengthened them as individual players and as a team. The absence of Becky Hammon and Sophia Young has forced this San Antonio team to achieve more than what was expected of them and has acted as a crucible. Hammon and Young will return to a battle tested team that has weathered the gauntlet and come out of it much stronger. Inevitable development in rookies Kayla Alexander, Davellyn Whyte, and Chelsea Poppens will be a boost for the Stars and other teams should be terrified at the fact that young players like D-Rob, Shenise Johnson, Jayne Appel, and Danielle Adams have not even reached their peak yet. Veteran play from Shameka Christon, Jia Perkins, and Cathrine Kraayveld will solidify and ground out an already intimidating lineup (note: this is all without speculation regarding next years’ lineup but simply projecting regarding the development of this current lineup with the inclusion of Hammon and Young). This will likely push a competitive team into the league’s elite for years to come. When all the Stars line up, you know the future is going to be bright.
Just wish upon the Stars and believe!