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WNBA Power Rankings: A sprint to the Olympic break

Dallas’ Satou Sabally (@WNBA)

The past week was a competitive one in the WNBA. The Wings and Sky traded barbs, the Fever won a game (over the Sun, no less) and the Dream played two good games before dealing with controversy.

As a result, there aren’t any dramatic risers and fallers in this week’s edition of the power rankings. But it could mean that we see some teams ride their momentum up the rankings before the WNBA breaks for the Olympics.

12. Indiana Fever (2-16) —

The Fever had their best week of the season, putting up a fight against the Sun in an 86-80 loss before defeating them two days later. What is discouraging about those results is Indiana didn’t necessarily play any better than Connecticut. The Sun shot far below their season averages from the field and 3-point range, and the games turned into battles of attrition.

11. Los Angeles Sparks (6-11) -1

The Sparks have one of the best defenses in the league — and that’s about where the positives end. Even when you hold the Aces to 66 points on 37.7 shooting from the field, you’re not going to win when you’re as inefficient from the field as the Sparks were. In that game last Friday, Los Angeles went 6 for 21 from deep and scored a season-low 58 points, epitomizing their offensive struggles.

10. Atlanta Dream (6-11) +1

For so long, we were wondering just how much better the Dream’s offense could be when a healthy Chennedy Carter returned to the lineup. Now, the second-year guard is serving an indefinite suspension for “conduct detrimental to the team” after an incident during Sunday’s game. The Olympic break is coming at a good time for the Dream.

9. Phoenix Mercury (7-9) -1

It’s surprising, to say the least, that a team with Diana Taurasi, Skylar Diggins-Smith, Brittney Griner and Kia Nurse has its offense and rebounding to blame for recent losses. Oddly, the Mercury are averaging the fewest field-goal attempts per game at 64.8. And in both of their losses to the Lynx last week, they were out-rebounded by a significant margin.

8. Washington Mystics (7-10) -1

Tina Charles scored 31 points in the Mystics’ latest loss to the Liberty. The next highest scorers on the team, Ariel Atkins and Sydney Wiese, had nine points. That’s been the story of Washington’s season. Until they figure out how to spread out the offense, Charles can only win them so many games by herself.

7. New York Liberty (10-9) +2

We’ve harped on this before, but it bears repeating: New York scores 38.4 percent of its points from 3-point range, the highest in the WNBA. So when the Liberty are connecting on their shots from deep, they’re hard to beat. That will only be truer when Natasha Howard returns from injury and drags opposing defenses farther into the paint.

6. Dallas Wings (9-10) -1

We realize Liberty fans might not like this placement given New York has the winning record and has beaten Dallas in each of their meetings this season. I remain bullish on the Wings because they have more quality wins — they’ve beaten the Storm and the Lynx and Sky with their star players on the floor — and they have more scoring weapons. That said, I also remain confused why Marina Mabrey isn’t starting and Ty Harris’s playing time has dwindled.

5. Minnesota Lynx (9-7) +1

The Lynx have finally seemed to find some roster stability amid the injury chaos, with Layshia Clarendon signed for the season, Jessica Shepard back in the lineup and Kayla McBride hitting her stride. That roster depth has helped them win four straight games and get over .500.

4. Connecticut Sun (12-6) -1

The WNBA has increasingly become a league that favors 3-point shooting. So it’s interesting that, other than the Storm, the top teams in the power rankings lead the league in the percentage of their points that come in the paint. That includes the Sun, who are at their best when Jonquel Jones and Brionna Jones win their battles down low.

3. Chicago Sky (10-9) +1

The Sky have been winning in the second quarter of the season by playing the Aces’ game. They draw a lot of fouls on drives to the hoop and hit their free throws, currently leading the league in that category at 86.5 percent. Unfortunately, we have to wait until September for the Sky-Aces matchups.

2. Seattle Storm (14-4) —

The most promising sign for the Storm over the past week was that their role players stepped up when the stars were absent or not at their best, something we hadn’t seen consistently yet from Seattle this season. Ezi Magbegor, for one, took advantage of the increased playing time, scoring in double digits in both of the Storm’s wins.

1. Las Vegas Aces (14-4) —

The Aces continue to lead the WNBA in points per game (91.8), field-goal percentage (47.3), trips to the free-throw line (10.3) and rebounds (38.7), and they’re in the top percentiles in nearly every other category besides 3-pointers. That’s hard to beat.

New Washington Spirit Head Coach Jonatan Giráldez Arrivin DC

head coach Jonatan Giráldez
Jonatan Giráldez joins the NWSL from FC Barcelona Femení. (Ramsey Cardy/UEFA via Getty Images)

Five months after announcing that the Washington Spirit had hired Barcelona Femení coach Jonatan Giráldez as the team's new head coach, Giráldez has joined the club in Washington, DC.

Giráldez is coming off of a successful season with the Spanish side, having won UEFA Women's Champions League, Copa de la Reina, Supercopa, and Liga F in his final season to complete a lauded Quadruple.

While Giráldez was finishing out his tenure in Europe, Adrián González filled in as Spirit interim head coach. González has also seen success, leading the team to its third-place standing with a 9-3-1 record through 13 games.

“I’m thrilled to join the Spirit and begin this next chapter with the club,” Giráldez said in an official team statement. “To be part of the vision Michele Kang has for the Spirit and women’s soccer globally is an exciting opportunity.”

Giráldez has worked at Barcelona since 2019, initially coming on as an assistant coach before moving up to head coach in 2021. The team went 30-0-0 on the season under Giráldez during his first year as manager.

He brings along with him Andrés González and Toni Gordo, who will serve as the Spirit's Fitness Coach and Club Analyst, respectively.

US Track & Field Olympic Trials Touch Down in Oregon

Sha’Carri Richardson competes in the women’s 200-meter preliminary round during the USATF Outdoor Championships
Sha’Carri Richardson will have some competition this week as athletes vie for an Olympic berth. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The US Olympic Track & Field Trials begin on June 21st, kicking off a 10-day quest to determine who will represent the US in Paris this summer.

The crucial meet will take place in Eugene, Oregon, where the top three finishers in each event will punch their ticket to the 2024 Olympics. As with this past week's US Swimming Trials, even the most decorated athletes must work to earn their spot — and one bad performance could undermine four years of preparation.

Reigning 100-meter World Champion Sha'Carri Richardson headlines this year's field, as the 24-year-old looks to qualify for her second Olympic Games and compete in her first. Richardson is a world champion in both the 100-meter and 200-meter sprint, but missed the Tokyo Olympics due to testing positive for THC shortly after the last US Olympic Trials.

Other standouts include 400-meter Olympic gold medal-winning hurdler Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, who's currently the most decorated athlete in the active women's US Track & Field pool. McLaughlin-Levrone qualified to run in the 200-meter and 400-meter flat races alongside the 400-meter hurdles at the Olympic Trials, but opted to focus solely on her signature event.

800-meter specialist Athing Mu will also be a huge draw this week, as the Olympic gold medalist looks to shake off a lingering hamstring injury while pursuing her second Summer Games. Gold medal-winning pole vaulter Katie Moon will also attempt to qualify for her second-straight Olympic Games.

Ole Miss star McKenzie Long could be Richardson's greatest competition in the 100-meter and 200-meter events, as well as Richardson's Worlds teammate Gabby Thomas in the 200-meter. In field events, watch for Oregon senior Jaida Ross going head-to-head with reigning world champion Chase Jackson in the shot put, as both push for their first Olympic team berth.

Regardless of why you tune in, the US Olympic Trials are a perpetually thrilling and sometimes brutal qualification process. If you're able to make your way to the head of the pack, a shot at Olympic glory might just be waiting at the finish line.

Fans can catch live coverage throughout the Trials via NBC, USA, and Peacock.

Top Teams Square Off in NWSL Weekend Slate

NWSL Orlando Pride forward Barbra Banda
Orlando Pride, led by forward Barbra Banda, will take on Utah in this weekend's NWSL action. (Nicholas Faulkner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

As the NWSL season continues, a few top-performing clubs will have a chance to boost their standings this weekend.

First-place Kansas City will travel to Providence Park to take on fifth-place Portland, as the Current look to keep their unbeaten streak intact. And in New Jersey, third-place Washington will take on fourth-place Gotham FC, with both teams attempting to extend multi-game unbeaten streaks.

A six-point gap has opened between the fifth and sixth spot on the NWSL table — with just six points also separating the league's top five. Kansas City, Orlando, Washington, Gotham, and Portland have recently proven themselves to be a cut above the rest of the competition. With eight postseason spots up for grabs and half the season behind us, a pattern is forming that indicates the playoff race could come down to spots six through eight on the NWSL table.

Of those top five teams, only Orlando faces an opponent in the bottom half of the league this weekend: The Pride will take on 14th-place Utah, who nonetheless are coming off a win — just their second of the season — over Bay FC last weekend.

But despite Kansas City and Orlando having yet to lose a game, Gotham might be the squad coming into the weekend with the most momentum.

Clutch goals from Rose Lavelle and rookie Maycee Bell gave the Bats a 2-0 midweek win over San Diego on Wednesday, in a rematch of the 2024 Challenge Cup. Gotham's unbeaten streak dates all the way back to April, as rising availability and sharpened form have honed this year's superteam into a contender.

Bottom line? As the NWSL season passes the halfway mark, some matches might begin to feel more like playoff previews than mere regular season battles.

Chelsea Gray Returns From Injury in Aces Win Over Seattle

las vegas aces chelsea gray and kelsey plum celebrate a win over the seattle storm
Gray has been sidelined with a foot injury since the 2023 WNBA Finals. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Chelsea Gray made her return to the basketball court on Wednesday, helping the Aces to a 94-83 win over the Seattle Storm. 

The lauded point guard missed the first 12 games of the season, having been injured in last year’s WNBA Finals. The left foot injury caused her to miss Game 4 of the championship series, and she’s continued to rehab it through the beginning of the 2024 season. 

Her return on Wednesday was capitalized by the fact that she needed just 20 seconds to make an impact and record her first assist. While she finished with just one point, she had seven assists, four rebounds, and two blocks to go alongside it in 15:30 minutes. Gray's contributions on the night brought her career assist record up to 1,500.

"I probably went through every emotion leading up to today," Gray said after the game. "I was a little anxious all day. It's been a long time since I've been out on that court. But the fans were amazing from the time I came out to warm up to the time I checked in the game. It was a rush and a feeling I missed a lot."

It’s been a roller coaster of a season so far for Las Vegas, who have lost five of their last seven games. Gray, who averaged 15.3 points, 7.3 assists, and 4.0 rebounds in 2023, has proven herself a much-needed addition to the team’s lineup.

"Felt like my heart," Aces coach Becky Hammon said when asked how she felt hearing the crowd erupt for Gray's return. "She's the leader of our team. I thought she did a wonderful job too."

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