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WNBA injuries: Shakira Austin out for first two playoff games

Shakira Austin will miss the Washington Mystics’ first two playoff games. (Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images)

As the 2023 WNBA playoffs begin, teams are still dealing with a number of injuries. Take the Washington Mystics, who will be without Shakira Austin for the first two games of their first-round series against the New York Liberty.

Just Women’s Sports is keeping tabs on the most notable WNBA injuries and, where possible, providing the timetable for the player’s return. This report also includes athletes who are missing the 2023 WNBA season due to pregnancy or maternity leave.


Injured WNBA players who could return this season

Shakira Austin, Washington Mystics

Second-year center Shakira Austin went down on June 25 with a hip strain. An MRI revealed that the injury doesn’t require surgery, but she missed nearly two months as a result.

Austin returned in mid-August in a win over Chicago but has remained limited in her minutes. Weeks later against the Aces, she re-injured the hip that had kept her out nearly two months. She will miss at least the first two games of the Mystics’ first-round series against the New York Liberty.

Candace Parker, Las Vegas Aces

The two-time WNBA MVP will be out indefinitely after undergoing surgery to repair a left foot fracture, the Las Vegas Aces announced in July.

Parker has been playing on the fracture all season, according to the team, but a recent consultation with doctors revealed that surgery was the best option to return to health and to avoid further injury.

After signing with Las Vegas in the offseason, Parker started the first 18 games of the season for the Aces, averaging 9.0 points per game.


WNBA players who have returned to the court

Elena Delle Donne, Washington Mystics

The two-time WNBA MVP injured her left ankle on July 9, but she returned on Aug. 18. The 33-year-old started this season fully healthy for the first time in almost three years after dealing with back issues that kept her sidelined for a significant amount of time.

NaLyssa Smith, Indiana Fever

A stress fracture in her left foot was expected to keep the 22-year-old forward out for at least two weeks, the Fever announced on July 11.

Smith made her returned on Aug. 8 and has been instrumental for Indiana since then, including a career-high 30 points in the team’s overtime win over Dallas on Sunday.

Layshia Clarendon, Los Angeles Sparks

Clarendon returned on July 22, appearing for the first time since June 9. A partial tear of the right plantar fascia ligament in their foot had kept Clarendon off the floor.

Brittney Griner, Phoenix Mercury

Brittney Griner had been out since June 13 with a hip injury but made her return against the Storm on June 24, putting up 11 points and 6 rebounds through 20 minutes.

Ruthy Hebard, Chicago Sky

Hebard gave birth to her son, Xzavier Reid, in April. The Chicago Sky forward returned just 12 weeks later.

“All this has just shown me how much I love the game,” Hebard said one week before making her return on July 9. “I love being around my teammates. I just love everything about basketball. More than anything, I just want to be back.”

Aari McDonald, Atlanta Dream

The 24-year-old guard tore her labrum against the Las Vegas Aces on June 2, the Dream announced on June 6. She returned to action on July 20.

Diamond Miller, Minnesota Lynx

The No. 2 overall pick in the 2023 WNBA Draft sprained her right ankle during Minnesota’s loss to the Dallas Wings on May 30. In a statement, the Lynx said Miller will “be reevaluated in the following weeks and further updates will be issued when available.” Miller scored a career-high 18 points in her return on June 27.

Diana Taurasi, Phoenix Mercury

The Mercury also went without Diana Taurasi (hamstring) through three games (all double-digit losses). Taurasi returned on June 24, playing 19 minutes and putting up 13 points and 4 rebounds against Seattle.


Injured WNBA players out for the season

Brionna Jones, Connecticut Sun

The Connecticut Sun announced on June 24 that Brionna Jones suffered a ruptured right Achilles tendon in a game against the Seattle Storm on June 20 and underwent a successful surgery on June 23.

“While this is not how I envisioned this season ending for me, I am determined and ready to head into the next stage of recovery and rehab. I know I have an amazing support system behind me, and I will return on the other side of this stronger than ever,” Jones said in a statement.

Prior to the injury, Jones was first in the league in offensive rebounds (3.2/game), fifth in steals (1.8), and ninth in field goal percentage (57.1).

“We are heartbroken for Breezy. Anyone who knows her, knows she’s an amazing person, teammate and leader for our group,” said Connecticut Sun head coach Stephanie White.

“On the court, she has worked so hard to position herself as a cornerstone of our franchise and was playing terrific basketball. … As a team, we know we have a job to do, and we will dedicate our work toward the ultimate goal of winning a championship in a way that honors Breezy.”

Diamond DeShields, Dallas Wings

DeShields missed the regular season with a knee injury, and she remain out for the postseason.

While the 28-year-old guard appeared in a May 5 preseason game against Chicago, she did not travel for the team’s second preseason game out of precaution due to knee soreness. It’s unclear when she could make a return this season.

Rebekah Gardner, Chicago Sky

Gardner will miss the playoffs for Chicago. She missed most of the season after undergoing foot surgery for the break she sustained during a loss to the Washington Mystics on May 26.

Isabelle Harrison, Chicago Sky

The 29-year-old forward missed the season with a knee injury. The Sky revealed in May that Harrison would be out indefinitely after having surgery to repair a torn left meniscus. Harrison, who signed as a free agent with Chicago in February, has played six seasons in the WNBA.

Li Yueru, Chicago Sky

Li will miss the season with a non-WNBA injury, the Sky announced on May 18. She played for Chicago last season but missed the postseason to prepare for the 2022 World Cup with the Chinese national team.

Lou Lopez Sénéchal, Dallas Wings

The former UConn star underwent knee surgery during the first week of the season and missed the season as a result. The 25-year-old wing was the No. 5 overall pick in the 2023 draft.

Stephanie Talbot, Los Angeles Sparks

The 28-year-old forward signed with the Sparks in the offseason but tore her Achilles while playing for the Adelaide Lightning in Australia in February.

Kristi Toliver, Washington Mystics

The 36-year-old guard suffered a torn ACL in early September, which will sideline for the 2023 playoffs.

“I’m not going to lie: Emotionally, I’m shocked,” the Mystics’ Elena Delle Donne said. “You try to do the whole thing where you want to rally for [Toliver], but we were sick. Just sick. What she’s been through with her foot, how much she’s worked to get back — and she’s feeling good. She’s talking about even next year and all those things. To see something like that happen at this point in her career, it just sucks. … She’s such a great person. So it’s brutal.”


WNBA players out due to pregnancy or childbirth

Natalie Achonwa, Minnesota Lynx

Achonwa gave birth to her first child, son Maverick, in April and missed the WNBA season on maternity leave.

Achonwa, a member of the WNBA players’ union executive committee, helped negotiate for many of the pregnancy protections and maternity benefits that were included in the league’s 2020 collective bargaining agreement.

“Previously if you were out on maternity leave you’d get fifty per cent of your base salary,” Achonwa told SportsNet.

“I will receive my full salary this year whether I’m able to make it back or not — so pending clearance from doctors and trainers and stuff like that to see if I will make it back by the end of the year — but knowing that my family will be taken care of financially while I’m out on maternity leave was huge.”

Skylar Diggins-Smith, Phoenix Mercury

Diggins-Smith is out on maternity leave after giving birth to her second child during the WNBA offseason and her return timeline is unclear.

“I’m not really worried about snapping back,” she recently told Essence. “I just want to enjoy this time with my daughter.”

Katie Lou Samuelson, Los Angeles Sparks

Samuelson welcomed a baby girl in August, and her pregnancy kept out of the 2023 season. The 25-year-old forward averaged 9.7 points, 3.0 rebounds and 1.9 assists in 29.5 minutes per game in 2022.

“Life is full of surprises and 2023 surprised us in the best way possible!” she wrote in a social media announcement of her pregnancy. “We can’t wait to welcome the newest member of our family!”

Emma Hruby and Alex Azzi contributed to this report. 

Athing Mu Falls at Trials, Will Not Defend 800-Meter Olympic Title

Athing Mu competes in the women's 800 meter final on Day Four of the 2024 US Olympic Team Track & Field Trials
Mu won the 800-meter final at the Tokyo Olympics, crossing the line in 1:55.21 to break the American record. (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Reigning Olympic Track & Field champion Athing Mu will not have the opportunity to defend her 800-meter title in Paris after falling during the event's US Track & Field Trials final on Monday. 

About 200 meters into the race, Mu uncharacteristically got tangled up in the middle of the track and lost her footing. Coming to her defense, her coach Bobby Kersee said that she had been spiked, suffered track burns, and hurt her ankle. The 22-year-old filed an appeal that saw USA Track and Field officials sorting through replays, but it was later denied. 

As a result, Mu did not qualify to run the 800-meter at the 2024 Summer Games, as the US has a standing rule that only the top three Trials finishers make the official Olympic-bound roster. 

At her first-ever Olympics in 2021, Mu took home the gold at the 800-meter final, crossing the line in 1:55.21 to break the American record.

"I’ve coached it, I’ve preached it, I’ve watched it," Kersee told The Associated Press after Mu's appeal was rejected. "And here’s another indication that regardless of how good we are, we can leave some better athletes home than other countries have. It’s part of our American way."

Mu finished more than 22 seconds behind eventual winner Nia Akins, but could still make the Olympic team as part of the US relay pool. Mu was a key part of the Team USA's 4x400-meter gold medal win three years ago in Tokyo.

Dearica Hamby Tapped to Replace Cameron Brink on 3×3 Olympic Team

Dearica Hamby playing for Team USA in 2023
Dearica Hamby is no stranger to Team USA's 3×3 lineup. (Lance King/Getty Images)

Dearica Hamby has been named to USA Basketball's official 3×3 Olympic roster, replacing an injured Cameron Brink.

The Los Angeles Sparks forward has extensive experience with the 3×3 team, including taking home both a gold medal and MVP honors at the 2023 FIBA AmeriCup

Brink originally made the roster in early June, but suffered a season-ending ACL injury during Los Angeles’s June 18th loss to Connecticut. 

"It is an honor to announce Dearica Hamby's addition to the USA 3×3 women's national team and we look forward to getting to work as a squad very soon," USA Basketball 3×3 national team director Jay Demings said in a statement. "USA Basketball continues to keep Cameron Brink in our thoughts as she focuses on her recovery."

Hamby will join 2023 FIBA 3×3 World Cup champions Hailey Van Lith (TCU), CIerra Burdick, and Rhyne Howard (Atlanta Dream) in Paris.

San Diego Wave Parts Ways With Head Coach Casey Stoney

ex-wave fc head coach casey stoney in 2023
Casey Stoney joined Wave FC in 2022 from the WSL's Manchester United. (Ira L. Black - Corbis/Getty Images)

San Diego Wave FC announced on Monday that the organization has parted ways with head coach Casey Stoney. 

The announcement comes amid a seven-game winless streak for the Wave. Stoney joined San Diego from WSL side Manchester United a few months before their inaugural season, winning the 2022 NWSL Coach of the Year Award that same year. She went on to lead the expansion team to two trophies in three years. 

Just this past January, the club agreed to a multi-year contract extension that kept Stoney with the club through 2027, with a mutual option for 2028. 

Despite their prior success, San Diego currently sits ninth in the NWSL standings, one point out of playoff contention. Their last win came on May 8th, having most recently played to a scoreless draw against Houston over the weekend to cap off a three-game road trip. 

"We are immensely grateful to Casey for her commitment to our club and the positive impact she has had both on and off the pitch,” Wave president and former USWNT manager Jill Ellis said in an official team statement. "Over the past seasons, Casey has guided us to significant milestones, and her contributions have been instrumental in laying a strong foundation on which to build.

"The decision to part ways was very hard and not made in haste, but given the ambition of this club, and where we are in our season, we felt a change was necessary at this time."

The staffing change comes a little less than two weeks after the Wave brought on former Kansas City Current general manager Camille Ashton. Ashton resigned from her position with Kansas City in May of this year.

On Tuesday, Ellis commented that Stoney is "self aware" and called her a "complete professional."

"I don’t think you have to have a conversation when it comes to know where they are, she knew,” she said. “I think Casey knew results matter. Casey’s ambitious. And was she happy with where we were? Of course not.

"I think a coach also understands that sometimes this is the nature of the beast of coaching. It’s tough and hard at times."

Kansas City, Orlando Raise the NWSL Bar With Weekend Wins

NWSL Orlando Pride forward Barbra Banda in action during a NWSL match against Seattle Reign
Banda registered a brace on Sunday, bringing her NWSL total to 10 goals in just 10 games. (Nicholas Faulkner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Pride star Barbra Banda continued on her historic NWSL trajectory this weekend, scoring twice in Orlando’s 6-0 win over Utah on Friday. 

She’s the first NWSL player to register 10 goals in their first 10 league appearances. It was also her fourth brace this season, and marked her first goals in two games after her first multi-game scoring drought.

"For me when I have an opportunity and a chance, I have to take it wisely," Banda said in her postgame remarks. "When I get a chance, I have to put the ball in the back of the net. If any game I didn’t score, I just have to go to my drawing board and work hard so that in the next game so I can find a goal."

Meanwhile, Kansas City also kept up their winning ways, beating Portland 4-1 behind a brace from midfielder Lo'eau Labonta on Sunday.

Later that day, the Washington Spirit, who sit just a point behind KC in third place, topped fourth-place Gotham FC in a decisive 2-0 victory.

And after drawing with Seattle, eighth-place Louisville has 16 points on the season — representing a growing gap between the league’s top and bottom teams. Bringing up the bottom of the ladder, both Seattle and Utah have yet to surpass 10 points this year.

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