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‘That’s not normal’: Sun rally behind Alyssa Thomas after All-Star snub

Alyssa Thomas set a WNBA record this season with seven career triple-doubles and five in the regular season. (Erica Denhoff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Connecticut Sun coach Stephanie White sat before media members and declared Alyssa Thomas the most underrated superstar in the WNBA.

That was a month ago.

Since then, Thomas has put up three triple-doubles in the span of seven days to set a new WNBA record. She’s averaging an MVP-worthy stat line of 14.4 points, 10.1 rebounds, 8.2 assists and 2.1 steals per game while leading the Sun to a 12-5 record and third in the WNBA standings.

“She is a superstar,” White said. “She does so many things for our team, and she puts up huge numbers.”

Being under two assists shy of averaging a triple-double is a superstar stat line, and having a WNBA-leading seven career triple-doubles gives you superstar status. That’s difficult to argue with. It’s also difficult to argue with Thomas’ merit when it comes to being an All-Star, and yet it took the player and media vote to get her onto the 2023 roster as a reserve. When it comes to snubs, Thomas’ exclusion from the fan vote and the group of All-Star starters was easily the most egregious.

But as the face of the Connecticut Sun, it’s not exactly surprising. In many ways, Thomas not being an All-Star starter is fitting because she represents a team that is constantly overlooked.

“Maybe it is small market, maybe it’s because it’s not flashy,” White said in June about the franchise. “The great thing is they don’t care. They just want to come out, they want to play, they want to compete, and they want to win.”

The Sun were WNBA finalists a year ago, and have made it as far as the semifinals in each of the last four WNBA postseasons. Yet when this season began, they were left out of most conversations surrounding the top teams in the league. The defending champion Aces entered 2023 as the expected favorites; after them, the Liberty dominated headlines and conversation after stocking up on talent in the offseason.

Less than a year after finishing as WNBA runners-up, the Sun were seemingly forgotten.

It makes sense in theory. Connecticut lost 2021 MVP Jonquel Jones in a trade to New York, and coach Curt Miller left to take over the Sparks. But the Sun are resilient, a quality that wasn’t necessarily accounted for. And the catalyst for that resilience is Alyssa Thomas.

The 31-year-old forward recorded a triple-double in Game 3 of the 2022 WNBA Finals to keep her team afloat after going down 2-0 to Las Vegas. Days later, she registered another, doing everything she could to keep the Sun from being eliminated in what ended up being the Aces’ championship-clinching victory.

This season, in Jonquel Jones’ absence, Thomas has increased her production in every category except turnovers, as she maintains an incredible 4.1-to-1.4 assist-to-turnover ratio. Since her teammate — and the Sun’s second-leading scorer after DeWanna Bonner — Brionna Jones suffered a season-ending injury, Thomas recorded two of her triple-doubles. Those performances also came after the All-Star snub.

While triple-doubles have become a normal part of Thomas’ game, her teammates want to make sure it doesn’t become yet another thing that is overlooked.

“I don’t want any of y’all to get used to and normalize what she’s doing out there, for real,” DiJonai Carrington said after a loss to New York on June 27. “Like, that’s not normal, especially from a four player. I think people are downplaying it. This woman has had three triple-doubles in the last 10 days. That’s insane.”

Thomas is thriving under first-year Sun head coach Stephanie White. (Chris Marion/NBAE via Getty Images)

Bonner believes that Thomas’ selection as an All-Star starter should have been a “simple” decision. Teammates continue to praise her work ethic, grit and talent, and White continues to hold her up as the league’s underrated superstar.

Because the Sun, at least, know what they have in Thomas.

“Seeing her every day, you know why she is as good as she is,” White said. “Because if you don’t see her every day and you watch her, you’re like, ‘How in the heck does she continue to put up these numbers?’ And it’s because she’s a relentless worker and competitor.”

Thomas may have been snubbed as an All-Star starter, and she may get overlooked, but that doesn’t change the numbers, and it doesn’t change the record books.

“When you have a player that has that will to win, that competitive fire, that just plays their ass off all the time, and knows how to play, too? That’s what you get [from Thomas],” White said. “It’s really incredible that she’s accomplished what she’s accomplished with this triple-double record, and she’s really still young in her career.”

Eden Laase is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @eden_laase.