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WNBA Power Rankings: Atlanta Dream rise, Chicago Sky fall

Courtney Williams connects on a game-winning 3 against the Liberty. (@AtlantaDream)

The story of the past week in the WNBA was injuries. Diana Taurasi and Natasha Howard were the notable additions to a growing list of sidelined players, opening the door for more movement in the league standings.

With a full slate of competitive games ahead, we’ll see which teams take advantage. Before that, let’s dive into the latest edition of the power rankings.

12. Indiana Fever (1-7) —

The Fever didn’t have an easy schedule last week, but they didn’t show many signs of progress, either. In their three losses, they averaged 74.7 points for and 99.7 points against, including giving up 113 points to the Aces on Friday — a Las Vegas franchise record.

11. Los Angeles Sparks (2-2) —

This ranking might not feel fair after the Sparks picked up two straight wins over a preseason favorite in the Sky, but Chicago is severely shorthanded as Candace Parker and Allie Quigley work their way back from injuries. Los Angeles’ depth for the season also took another hit when No. 7 draft pick Jasmine Walker suffered a season-ending ACL tear.

10. Washington Mystics (2-4) -1

The Mystics have picked up their game over the past week and Tina Charles again played like an MVP candidate in a close loss to Connecticut. Even with Myisha Hines-Allen back in the fold, however, their short bench continues to raise concerns.

9. Dallas Wings (1-4) -2

Yes, Dallas has dropped four straight games. Yes, they’re still averaging 90.4 points per game, second most in the WNBA. Yes, they’re getting Allisha Gray and Satou Sabally back shortly from the 3×3 Olympic Qualifying Tournament. No, I’m not worried about them.

8. Chicago Sky (2-4) -3

It hasn’t been pretty for the Sky since Parker and Quigley went down and Stefanie Dolson left to represent Team USA in the 3×3 qualifying tournament. Dolson’s on her way back and Parker appears closer to returning than Quigley does. No matter the timelines, Chicago has to clean up its possession and defense, as it currently leads the league in turnovers (20.8 per game) and averages the third-most personal fouls (20.7).

7. Minnesota Lynx (1-4) +1

Napheesa Collier is back, Layshia Clarendon is signed, Sylvia Fowles continues to tear it up and the Lynx are showing marked signs of improvement after starting the season 0-4. In their win over Connecticut on Sunday, they out-rebounded and out-shot the Sun from 3, two areas where they’ve otherwise struggled this season.

6. Phoenix Mercury (3-3) —

Diana Taurasi is expected to miss at least three more weeks with a sternum fracture, making it even more difficult to know what this team is all about after six games. If Brittney Griner, Skylar Diggins-Smith and Kia Nurse step up like they did Saturday against Dallas, scoring more than 20 points each, Phoenix can manage until Taurasi returns.

5. Atlanta Dream (4-2) +5

Offense has always been the Dream’s calling card, and the most promising development of their 3-0 week was the way they spread the wealth. Eight or more players got on the board in each of their three wins. Courtney Williams also looks more comfortable in her role as the go-to scorer, averaging 21 points over that stretch, and No. 3 pick Aari McDonald grows with each game.

4. New York Liberty (5-2) -2

The Liberty didn’t play their best basketball Saturday against Atlanta and still came close to winning in overtime. The good news is Sabrina Ionescu won’t shoot much worse than the 18.2 field goal and 28.6 3-point percentages she finished with Saturday, and New York continues to shoot lights out from deep as a team, leading the league at 43.2 percent.

3. Las Vegas Aces (5-2) +1

The Aces’ offense is starting to fire on all cylinders and will add Kelsey Plum back into the lineup after she helped the U.S. qualify for the Olympics in 3×3. Las Vegas’ two straight games of 100-plus points did come against the last-place Fever, but that they are a league leader in nearly every scoring category except 3-pointers is no joke.

2. Connecticut Sun (6-2) -1

The Sun’s only losses this season have come against the red-hot Storm in overtime and a Lynx team on the rise. There’s not much reason to worry when Jonquel Jones and DeWanna Bonner continue to get theirs, but I do wonder if they’ve messed with a good thing by replacing Natisha Hiedeman with Briann January in the starting lineup.

1. Seattle Storm (5-1) +2

The biggest question for the Storm is how they respond to new head coach Noelle Quinn after Dan Hughes retired over the weekend. The odds are good the transition goes smoothly given Quinn’s long ties to the organization, in which case Seattle is once again the team 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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