all scores

WNBA Finals stars navigate quick turnaround at FIBA World Cup

A'ja Wilson and Jonquel Jones jumped straight from the WNBA Finals into the FIBA World Cup. (David Becker/NBAE via Getty Images)

After winning the 2022 WNBA title, drinking champagne and celebrating with a championship parade, four Aces players – A’ja Wilson, Chelsea Gray, Kelsey Plum and Iliana Rupert – boarded flights to Sydney, Australia.

The quartet made the long trek across the Pacific Ocean to compete for their national teams in the FIBA World Cup: Wilson, Gray and Plum for Team USA, Rupert for France.

Brionna Jones and Alyssa Thomas of the WNBA runner-up Connecticut Sun also are playing for the U.S., while teammate Jonquel Jones appeared for Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The turnaround for all seven players was swift. The WNBA Finals ended Sept. 18 in Connecticut; Brionna Jones and Thomas departed the following day and were playing in Team USA’s tournament opener two days after that.

The journey also came with a major time difference, as Sydney is 14 hours ahead of Connecticut and 17 hours ahead of Las Vegas.

Fresh off the Aces’ parade, Wilson arrived just 18 hours before her team took on China on Saturday. After scoring 20 points in the 77-63 group stage victory, Wilson admitted to reporters that she was tired.

“I don’t know how I’m doing it,” Wilson said. I am exhausted, I’m not going to lie about it.”

Wilson isn’t the only one experiencing fatigue.

Jonquel Jones, who wrapped up her time in the FIBA World Cup with a loss to the United States on Tuesday, expressed a desire for FIBA and the WNBA to work together to change the schedules in the future.

“Praise God for keeping me healthy during this crazy time,” she tweeted. “Man I’m so thankful for this break. Your girl didn’t have anymore gas left in the tank. @FIBA @WNBA for the sake of the players please try to find some common ground. These last two weeks were craaazyyy!”

Even without the WNBA playoffs bumping up against the FIBA World Cup, the FIBA schedule is demanding. Jones and her squad played five games in six days, and Team USA did the same.

Team USA received a rest day before facing Serbia in Thursday’s quarterfinals, then advanced to a semifinal contest Friday against Canada. The U.S. won, 83-43, but players barely get to catch their breath before the championship game against China on Saturday.

Serbia coach Marina Maljković, who also coaches Fenerbahçe, a Turkish club with a roster that typically features multiple WNBA players, expressed similar concerns to Jones after her team’s loss in the quarterfinals.

“Talking to players, they really suffered this season, everywhere,” Maljković said. “Players around the world suffered this season because of tight schedules everywhere.”

Other WNBA players also agreed with Jones. Brittney Sykes retweeted the Sun forward’s statement, then offered her own thoughts.

“Man it’s really sad and frustrating to see players getting hurt … especially when you know it’s because of the lack of rest and so much toll put on our bodies,” she wrote. “Pulled my hamstring for the first time ever just a week ago… and I know it came from overuse.

“We have to find a better way to preserve our bodies… between WNBA and FIBA… There is literally no days off UNLESS you become injured… think about it.”

Team USA’s Kahleah Copper and Betnijah Laney both left Thursday’s game against Serbia with injuries.

After the game, coach Cheryl Reeve told reporters she suspected Laney had gotten the wind knocked out of her. As for Copper, Reeve said she was awaiting an evaluation before commenting on her status going forward.

No updates had been provided as of Thursday afternoon.