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‘It’s a war zone’: What’s behind the WNBA’s triple-double revolution

(Wendell Cruz/USA TODAY Sports)

CHICAGO — Sabrina Ionescu executed the perfect boxout with three seconds left in the third quarter of a game against the Chicago Sky on June 12. She leapt up and tipped the ball around the much taller — 6-foot-7 to her 5-1 — Li Yueru, before corralling it with a second on the clock.

The board was her 10th of the game, securing Ionescu the second triple-double of her career. With it, she became the first player in WNBA history to record the elusive stat line in just three quarters.

Eleven days later, Candace Parker completed the same feat, breaking her own record as the oldest player to record a triple-double. It was also the third of her career, which stood alone at the time as a WNBA record. On July 6, Ionescu added another to her tally, tying Parker. With her stat-packing style of play continuing to thrive in the league, it seems like only a matter of time before the record is broken again.

And if Ionescu doesn’t do it, someone else will. Players like Caitlin Clark, Paige Bueckers and Haley Jones will soon move from college to the pros, bringing with them diverse skill sets and stat lines.

When the record is surpassed, no one in the league will be surprised. Triple-doubles are becoming more commonplace in the WNBA.

“I think the game is changing,” Parker told reporters after picking up her third triple-double. “I think we’re gonna very soon see this on a nightly basis. We’re going to see those playmakers who have the ball in their hands. So I don’t know how long I’m going to hold onto this. But I’m grateful for this opportunity to play on a team where we can spread the wealth.”

Veteran player Courtney Vandersloot also has multiple triple-doubles to her name, so the accomplishment isn’t new. It’s especially present at this year’s WNBA All-Star weekend. There have been 16 triple-doubles in league history, and Parker, Ionescu and Vandersloot are responsible for eight of them.

The frequency of double digits in a stat line is just one example, pointing to a bigger picture of basketball evolution.

Jewell Loyd, the 2015 first-round pick, is in the midst of her seventh WNBA season. And each year, she says, the on-court product becomes more exciting.

“People are coming in, and we are flooded with skill levels that are a little bit better,” she said. “I think the growth of the game, people are working on their games early on, so when you’re coming into the league, you’re not shocked. The game is so much faster and quicker.”

Atlanta Dream rookie and All-Star game participant Rhyne Howard is a prime example of WNBA readiness. Howard scored 33 points on May 15 in her fourth WNBA contest. Her transition to the league since she was selected with the first overall pick on April 11 has been seamless.

“I feel like I came in really confident and really strong with my game,” Howard said. “With my coaches and teammates telling me what they need from me, I couldn’t come in and just play mid.”

Loyd expects scoring to continue to explode across the league, as staying in front of opposing players becomes more and more challenging.

That’s not ideal for defenders, but it’s good for the league.

“It’s hard to guard people one-on-one,” Loyd said. “It’s hard to play pick-and-roll defense. A lot of solid players are able to do different things, more than one thing a lot of times. It’s a war zone.”

The Seattle Storm guard also pointed to the league being influenced by European basketball because of the contingent of women that play overseas in the offseason. Players are no longer boxed in by their position. Guards get rebounds, while bigs shoot 3s and dish dimes.

A more fast-paced and high-scoring on-court product, complete with triple-doubles and logo 3s, is reflected in the format of the All-Star Game. The WNBA announced Friday that the shot clock in Sunday’s game will be shortened to 20 seconds, and a 4-point shot will be in play. Two circles beyond the 3-point line on each end of the court will allow for even more scoring.

In addition to her ability to record triple-doubles, Ionescu is known for shooting from extra-long range. After winning the All-Star Skills Challenge on Saturday, she anticipates putting up a few 4-pointers on Sunday.

As for her fourth triple-double, that will likely have to wait until the regular season resumes.

“I’m not sure about (one in the All-Star Game),” she told JWS’ Autumn Johnson on Friday, before adding with a laugh, “But I’ll try.”

Instead, the focus for Ionescu and fellow first-year All Stars Howard, Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young is a bit more attainable — and more important.

The WNBA’s next generation, while changing the game, is proving that experience doesn’t always matter. Each season, first-year players come in more polished than the last.

“There are a lot of us, and there are a lot of us that are here in the All-Star Game, which is really exciting, to see new faces and a lot of young talent,” Ionescu said. “We are trying to make a name for ourselves. We are going to keep grinding and keep getting better, showing everyone that it is possible to be young and successful in this league.”

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

Barcelona to Face Lyon in Champions League Rematch This Weekend

UEFA Women's Champions League Final"Barcelona FC - Olympique Lyonnais"
Saturday's game will be the third UWCL final meeting for Barcelona and Lyon, having previously gone up against each other in 2019 and 2022. (ANP via Getty Images)

The UEFA Women's Champions League final kicks off in Bilbao on Saturday, with a couple of familiar foes set to face off for the trophy.

Olympique Lyonnais Féminin, making its 11th final appearance since 2010, will go head to head with a Barcelona side making its fourth final appearance in a row.

This will be the third time these two teams meet in the UWCL title game, having previously appeared in the 2019 and 2022 finals. Lyon won both of those prior games against Barcelona, alongside a total of eight Champions League trophies. That’s double that of any other club, with Eintracht Frankfurt coming in a distant second with four. 

Should Barcelona win, this would be the team's third title — breaking a tie for the third in the UWCL total titles race. 

But as these teams return to the UWCL final, it also marks the end of an era for both clubs. The game will be the last for both club managers, as Barcelona’s Jonatan Giráldez and Lyon’s Sonia Bompastor depart for new jobs after the season's end.

Giráldez is set to leave for the NWSL's Washington Spirit, while Bompastor will take over for incoming USWNT coach Emma Hayes at Chelsea. Both coaches have earned one UWCL trophy during their tenures, while Bompastor also brought two Champions League trophies to Lyon as a player. She was the first coach to win a UWCL trophy as both a coach and player.

This season, Barcelona is looking for its first quadruple, having won a fifth Liga F title alongside the Copa de La Reina, and the Spanish Supercopa. 

"We hope he can go out with the four trophies because we know how competitive and ambitious he is," Barcelona midfielder Patri Guijarro told ESPN. "It has been a winning era with him in charge and for him to go out with all four trophies would be historic and incredible."

But Lyon's Damaris Egurrola is excited about her team's chances of overcoming Barcelona once again — and to do it in front of family and friends.

"Lyon have something special," she told Forbes ahead of the weekend's final. "We have a great team and we have the players with enough talent to win any match."

The game will be a homecoming for Egurrola, who began her professional career with Athletic Bilbao.

"I’ve been thinking of this day and night," she said. "I’ve been dreaming of playing this match. Having the opportunity to play in San Mames is amazing. This is where it all started for me."

The UEFA Women's Champions League final kicks off Saturday, May 25th at 12 PM ET and is free to stream on DAZN.

World No. 1 Iga Swiatek Headlines a Stacked 2024 French Open

Iga Swiatek serves against Coco Gauff during the group stage of the 2023 WTA Finals in Cancun, Mexico
Iga Swiatek serves against Coco Gauff during the group stage of the 2023 WTA Finals in Cancun, Mexico. (Robert Prange/Getty Images)

The 2024 French Open starts on Sunday, with a match schedule that promises to wrap the short clay court season up in style.

Looking for her fourth title at the major is three-time Roland Garros champion and World No. 1 Iga Swiatek, considered the favorite to win the whole Slam. Three of her four major titles have come at the French tournament. 

Swiatek's career record at the French Open is a dominating 28-2, and she's currently on a 16-game winning streak fueled by victories at tune-up tournaments in Madrid and Rome.

But that doesn't mean she won't face some serious challengers along the way. Get to know some of the Polish tennis champ's strongest competitors.

Aryna Sabalenka

Sabalenka is ranked No. 2 in the world and faced Swiatek in the finals at both Madrid and Rome. She lost in three sets in Madrid, which included a close third-set tiebreak, before losing in straight sets at the Italian Open. 

She enters the French Open having won the Australian Open in January, successfully defending her title in the first Slam of the season. At last year’s French Open, Sabalenka reached the semifinals — a career best — before being ousted by Karolina Muchová in three sets.

Season record: 25-7

Coco Gauff

Currently sitting at No. 3 in the world, the highest-ranked American on the schedule is none other than Coco Gauff. Gauff won her first major at the US Open last year, and reached the semifinals of this year’s Australian Open. She faced Swiatek in the semifinals of the Italian Open last week, losing in straight sets. 

But her first major final came at the French Open in 2022, before being ousted by Swiatek in the quarterfinals at last year’s French Open. The two are on a crash course for a meeting before the finals, as Gauff anchors the other quadrant on Swiatek’s side of the draw, should they both advance deep into the competition.

Season record: 25-8

Chicago Sky Upset New York to End Liberty’s Unbeaten Streak

chicago sky's angel reese on the court against new york liberty
Angel Reese registered a near double-double against a strong Liberty side. (Evan Yu/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Liberty’s unbeaten streak came to an end on Thursday as Angel Reese and the Chicago Sky got the upset win over New York with a final score of 90-81. 

Angel Reese stood out with a near double-double, registering 13 points and nine rebounds. She’s currently the only rookie this season to exceed 10 points in her first three games, and the first player in Sky history to begin their career with three consecutive double-digit scoring games, per ESPN Stats & Info.

The outcome may not have come as a surprise to Liberty stars Breanna Stewart and Jonquel Jones, who sung Reese’s praises ahead of the game.

"She’s a workhorse," Stewart told The Post. "She doesn’t stop. She’s tough, she’s strong, she’s tough to box out and good at cleaning up for her team offensively and defensively."

"I feel like she’s an energizer bunny," Jones added. "She doesn’t stop moving, she doesn’t stop crashing the boards. Just someone that is gonna be relentless in her approach to getting to the glass and playing tough."

It was the first time Chicago has met New York this season. The game was especially meaningful for new Chicago head coach Teresa Weatherspoon, who led the Liberty for seven years as a player and joined the team's Ring of Honor in 2011.

"This place means a lot to me... I played in that jersey, I adored that jersey, I adored every player that I had an opportunity to play with. The love that I received even today was overwhelming," Weatherspoon reflected after the game.

Following the win, Sky guard Dana Evans had some kind words for her coach.

"I mean, it's just special. She's special," Evans said. "She just breeds confidence in each and every one of us. We love her. We just wanted to go so hard and play hard for her, and I feel like this one was really for her. We really wanted this for her more than anything."

Thursday's victory brings Chicago's record to 2-1, a somewhat unlikely feat given that their offseason featured starter Kahleah Copper getting traded to Phoenix. The Connecticut Sun are now the only undefeated team left in the league this season, and will formidable foes for the Sky as they take their winning streak on the road to Chicago this weekend.

New USWNT Coach Emma Hayes Embracing the Challenge

United States Women's Head Coach Emma Hayes
The ex-Chelsea skipper has officially arrived in the US — now it's time to get down to business. (USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

Emma Hayes has officially begun her tenure as USWNT manager ahead of the team’s June friendlies.

Hayes made the rounds on Thursday, appearing on the Today Show and speaking with select media about her goals and underlying principles with the team. It’s a quick turnaround for the decorated coach, who just won the WSL with Chelsea last weekend.

One thing that she won’t do, however, is shy away from the high expectations that come with managing the US. The squad is looking to reinstate its winning reputation at the Paris Olympics this summer following a disappointing World Cup in 2023. 

"I know the challenge ahead of me. There is no denying there is a gap between the US and the rest of the world," she told ESPN. "We have to acknowledge that winning at the highest level isn't what it was 10 years ago. It's a completely different landscape. And my focus is going to be on getting the performances required to play at a high level against the very best nations in the world."

While Hayes was formally hired six months ago to lead the USWNT, her deal stipulated that she remain with Chelsea through the conclusion of their season. In her stead, Twila Kilgore has led the team, with the coach "drip feeding subliminal messages" to the roster on Hayes’s behalf.

"It's a bit ass-upwards," Hayes joked to reporters. "I know about the staff, and the team, and the structure behind it. We got all of that. Now it's time, I need to be with the team."

With Olympics now just two months away, Hayes dropped hints this week regarding her thought process behind building the roster, saying there’s still time for players to make their case.

"You can't go to an Olympics with a completely inexperienced squad. We need our experienced players, but getting that composition right, that's my job between now and June 16th," she said on the Today Show.

"What I can say from my time [in the US] is, I've always loved the attitude towards performance and the expectation to give everything you've got," she later affirmed to reporters.

And as for winning gold?

"I'm never gonna tell anyone to not dream about winning," she added. "But… we have to go step by step, and focus on all the little processes that need to happen so we can perform at our best level.

"I will give it absolutely everything I've got to make sure I uphold the traditions of this team."

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