Tina Thompson is the only player in the WNBA today that has played during every season of the league since its inception in 1997.
As she prepares to retire at the end of the season, the league’s all-time leading scorer will make one last regular season visit to Mohegan Sun Arena on Sunday, when the Seattle Storm and Connecticut Sun face off in a battle of two early season underachievers.
Injuries have caused issues for both Seattle (1-3) and Connecticut (2-4). The Storm are without Sue Bird for the season, after the veteran underwent knee surgery in May. Meanwhile, the Sun have been without Renee Montgomery (right ankle sprain) and Tan White (broken finger). Neither player will be available for Anne Donovan on Sunday.
Due to the injuries facing Connecticut, the Sun have made a couple roster moves in the past week, adding 10-year veteran Iziane Castro Marques and second-year player Sydney Carter, while parting ways with Natasha Lacy.
Despite the injuries and the slow start, Connecticut has the pieces to turn things around. Reigning league MVP Tina Charles is off to another good start this season, averaging 19.2 points, and10.7 rebounds per game. Also off to a hot start this season is Kara Lawson, who is shooting 50 percent from beyond the arc while averaging 16.8 points and 4.6 assists per game. Allison Hightower is also averaging double digit points, with 12.7 per game.
Kelly Faris, the Sun’s top pick in the 2013 WNBA Draft, is starting to adjust to life in the pros. Donovan said that she wanted to ease Faris in, but with the injuries, she may be relied on more than the first-year coach would have hoped. Faris has played at least 12 minutes each game in June, and scored a career-high five points on Friday against New York while also blocking a shot and grabbing a defensive rebound. Donovan said after the first game of the season that she thinks Faris can become a great contributor on defense, and with the long-term injuries to Montgomery and White, she will have to.
Seattle’s woes have been even worse than Connecticut’s to start the season. The Sun may be getting outrebounded for the season (opponents are averaging 40.5 rebounds per game), but Connecticut are pulling down 37.8 per game, which is nine more than Seattle. Opponents have been granted the ability to shoot on Seattle at will, with opponents shooting 48.8 percent for the season. The Sun, who are shooting 39.1 percent themselves, are much better defensively, holding opponents to 41.9 percent shooting.
But for all the negatives for Seattle as a team, Thompson, at 38 years old, is still playing at a high-level. One of the star players on the once-great, now defunct Houston Comets, Thompson is averaging 11.0 points per game to start the season, second on the team behind Tanisha Wright, and she leads Seattle with 5.3 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game. Last season against Connecticut, the four-time WNBA champion and nine-time All Star averaged 13.5 points over two games. In the matchup at Mohegan Sun Arena, Thompson scored 20 points and pulled down seven rebounds.
In front of a large crowd that truly respects the game, Thompson should receive quite an ovation on Sunday night.