Having some of the most recognized names in the league and impressive stat sheets to back up their stardom, these players opened up about the current season, preseason and offseason play and their hot starts to the season so far. Both teams go head to head tomorrow night (6/6) hoping to walk away with a win.
Coming off of two back-to-back losses, Dallas (3-4) is looking to snap this losing streak and snag what could be a huge win over the number two Washington Mystics tomorrow night in Dallas.
First, I had the chance to talk with Skylar Diggins-Smith, who may be in the peak of her career both mentally and physically. The 26-year-old guard, who suffered from a nasty ACL tear in 2015, says that she is back and better than ever thanks to much hard work.
She averaged 13.1 points over 21 games during the 2016 season while easing her way back after the surgery and months of physical therapy, which is impressive given the nature of the injury.
While Diggins-Smith’s 2016 season was nothing that one should hang their head on, it’s her 2017 season that fans should expect to see the five-year WNBA star truly thrive – and she’s wasting no time in proving that.
“I put a lot of time in Dallas to work on my body. I had a great offseason, and I am feeling great right now,” said Diggins-Smith in yesterday’s media conference call.
She’s currently averaging 14.3 points, 5.3 assists, and 3.2 rebounds and is looking continue her role as a strong and reliable leader for this new team, as she is just one of six returning players to the Wings existing roster.
One of the exciting new additions to the Dallas roster is fourth overall pick from the 2017 draft Allisha Gray. She is starting with the Wings after a successful run at South Carolina where she helped win an exciting NCAA championship over SEC opponent, the Mississippi State Bulldogs.
While it has been nothing but go, go, go for the promising rookie since winning the National Championship, she’s handled the transition with a winners mentality and admits that, although it has been hard, it’s been an amazing experience that she wouldn’t trade for anything.
“The physicality is one of the biggest adjustments I’ve had to make,” Gray said. “You just have to play through it.
Despite the physical demands that come with moving on from college to professional ball, Gray was ready, thanks to her coach at South Carolina, Dawn Staley. Staley prepared her for the league with just a few simple words of advice: be physical.
And Gray has done just. She’s been herself and played her game, which is exactly what Dallas wanted from her.
“We love the type of player she is, and where she comes from. That’s the great thing about her wanting to be herself – we need her to be exactly who she is,” Diggins-Smith said about her rookie teammate.
Her relentless attitude and hard work ethic that she’s displayed throughout this exciting transition have definitely paid off. Gray recently earned the title of WNBA Rookie of the Month for her stellar performance in May.
During this past month’s performance for the rock star rookie, Dallas went 3-2 with Gray leading all rookies in scoring, rebounding and minutes played in five games, in which she started every time.
Gray, Diggins-Smith and the rest of the Dallas Wings look to improve to 4-4 and stop Washington in their hot tracks at their home court tomorrow night.
Next up was Elena Delle Donne and Tayler Hill with the Mystics. Both players and the rest of their team are on fire this season, coming off of a hot four-game win streak and a major win against the Atlanta Dream, which snagged them the number one spot in the Eastern Conference just last night.
It won’t be easy though. Injury and International obligations have removed some key players from the lineup, including Hill who is currently out due to a neck and shoulder injury following the Mystics win against the Connecticut Sun Wednesday, May 31st.
Additionally, the Mystics are missing Natasha Cloud due to a knee injury and Emma Meesseman for a month due to her commitments with the Belgian national team. Despite these losses to the benches depth, players like Elena Delle Donne have remained consistent, strong forces for the Mystics.
Delle Donne, who was part of a blockbuster trade, back in February, which brought her from the Chicago Sky to the Washington Mystics, has not only positioned herself as one of the top players in the league, but an integral part of the Mystics team, too.
She’s currently on a roll averaging 20.3 points per game already this season, as well as 7.4 rebounds and 1.3 assists. In fact, it’s Delle Donne’s stellar performances offensively that have helped propel them through some close games, big wins, including back-to-back wins against her old Chicago Sky teammates, and help Washington secure the top seed ranking in the East.
“We’re doing some really great things. We’re just not closing out quarters,” Delle Donne said on some of her teams close, last second wins. “I just feel like we just need to continue doing what we’re doing and stay consistent.”
Will consistency be enough, though? Or, will the Mystics have to dig deeper to keep their win streak? Considering Tayler Hill may still be missing, or at least not at her best, it’s going to take some grit, especially since Washington has a target on their back now that they’re second in the league and first in their conference.
Speaking of Hill, the explosive guard, who has averaged 14.8 points per game, 2.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists, is listening to her body and trying to recover as quickly and successfully as possible after a strained neck injury, which kept her on the bench during Washington’s exciting 78-72 win over the Dream yesterday.
So, will Washington extend their winning streak to five games? Or, will the Wings bring the heat and fly past the talented Mystics squad? Stay tuned for more updates at swishappeal.com or on our Twitter and Instagram. Tip off starts at 7 p.m. ET at College Park Center in Arlington, TX.