Washington Mystics guard Natasha Cloud had a bone to pick with the WNBA defensive award selections, and she set off a chain reaction of grievances from coaches and players across the league.

Cloud took exception to WNBA awards voting after being shut out for the Defensive Player of the Year award and the all-defensive team selections.

“Voting for this league is a joke,” Cloud wrote on social media in a now-deleted post, before alluding to awards voting boiling down to politics in another post.

Mystics head coach Eric Thibault also weighed in, calling Cloud’s absence “hard to understand.”

“Removing positions for the All-Defense teams is mostly to blame,” he wrote. “Stats are how people largely vote on/explain these awards, and that means steals, blocks, and rebounds. Two of those three immediately skew towards bigs.

Los Angeles Sparks guard Lexie Brown had a similar thought, asking on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter: “What do guards need to do more to be considered elite defenders?”

Chicago Sky guard Courtney Williams proposed a change to the voting pool. A national panel of 60 sportswriters and broadcasters voted on the Defensive Player of the Year award and the all-defensive teams, but Williams would prefer voters from within the league itself.

“Yeah they should let players and coaches vote on these awards,” Williams wrote on X. “It’s just different having to scout and play against it night in and night out.”

After the kerfuffle over the defensive awards, Chicago Sky forward Isabelle Harrison looked forward to the announcement of the 2023 WNBA MVP, which is set for Tuesday. Connecticut Sun forward Alyssa Thomas, New York Liberty forward Breanna Stewart and Las Vegas Aces forward A’ja Wilson are the front-runners for the award.

“Before MVP is announced, trust me when I say, if (Alyssa Thomas) doesn’t win IMO, the credibility of this award tremendously drops,” she wrote on X. “Obviously no disrespect to others considered for it but plz plz plzzzz respect the year she’s having.”

Broadcasters made “unacceptable” comments about Courtney Williams during Sunday’s Chicago Sky game, center Elizabeth Williams said Tuesday.

During Chicago’s 104-96 win over the Dallas Wings, Sky guard Dana Evans and Wings guard Odyssey Sims got into a verbal altercation. Courtney Williams left the bench but was stopped by an assistant coach before becoming involved.

Yet the broadcast singled out Williams during the altercation, both with a tight camera shot and in the discussion from the commentators. After seeing clips of the broadcast, Elizabeth Williams called out the commentators for “profiling” her teammate. Williams was suspended for two games by the WNBA in 2021 for her involvement in a fight outside of an Atlanta club.

“I wanted to verbalize that there should never be a situation where [Courtney’s] character is misinterpreted or anything involving the past is brought up in a situation that she had nothing to do with,” she said.

The commentators discussed Williams but did not mention her Sky teammate Ruthy Hebard, who left the bench and then became involved in the altercation between Evans and Sims, until three minutes later. Hebard was ejected from the game and received a one-game suspension from the WNBA, while Williams received a fine for leaving the bench.

“She’s a rider,” commentator Raegan Pebley said on the broadcast. “She’s going to have her teammates’ and her coaches’ back.”

Elizabeth Williams took the time Tuesday to defend her teammate.

“I don’t think in a situation like that, with Courtney or anyone else, we should deal with that type of profiling,” she said. “I think I am confident in saying, whether this is racial or based on her reputation, that Courtney should never be put in that position where cameras are zooming in on her when she has nothing to do with any of that.”

Also on the broadcast, Courtney Williams could be seen expressing her frustration with teammate Taylor Soule.

“There, you can see them pushing [Courtney Williams] away [from the altercation],” commentator Ron Thulin said.

But Courtney Williams offered up a different perspective on the situation, noting that Soule had “grabbed me.”

“I don’t know if people didn’t see the other angle or what happened before that, but that was because Taylor grabbed me,” she said. “I was going off on Taylor like, ‘Why are you grabbing me? I’m not doing anything.’”

Williams said Tuesday that it has been difficult to “rebrand and reinvent” herself. Being depicted as she was Sunday was “draining,” particularly given that the broadcast focused primarily on her.

“It’s just draining, not only being myself, but I’m the one that has to get on Twitter and see everybody calling me a hoodlum and saying I should have gotten ejected, too,” she said. “Why am I a scapegoat? Why is that not being said about anyone else that got off the bench?”

Sky interim coach and general manager Emre Vatansever told the Sun Times that the team has sent a letter to the WNBA to contest Williams’ fine.

“There’s nothing going on with Courtney other than her stepping on the floor and the whole camera for a couple of minutes is just focusing on her, and everybody is talking about Courtney,” Vatansever said. “Why? I’m questioning, why?”

LAS VEGAS — Orange is definitely Courtney Williams’ color.

From the moment she put it on in 2016, her Connecticut Sun jersey felt like a second skin. Her team was her home, which is why when she was traded to the Atlanta Dream after the 2019 season, Williams felt betrayed.

In 2019, she had started every game, played nearly 30 minutes per contest and averaged 13.2 points per game for the Sun– all career highs.

She didn’t understand why the organization she loved so much didn’t seem to love her back.

“I was too emotional,” she said. “I was just feeling like, ‘Where’s the loyalty?’ But there ain’t no loyalty in business. Business is business, numbers is numbers. That’s something that I learned in that process.”

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(Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Soon, though, she realized that her trade had nothing to do with the way Sun players and coaches felt about her. That allowed her to get excited about the new opportunity.

Nicki Collen, currently the head women’s basketball coach at Baylor, worked as an assistant on the Sun staff from 2015-19 before taking over as head coach of the Dream in 2018.

Williams was comfortable with Collen – after all, she’d been part of her Sun family – so the move started to feel like it could be a perfect fit.

“It was lowkey kind of a no-brainer for me since she was over there,” Williams said.

Collen coached Williams in Atlanta for just one season. She departed a week before the 2021 slate of games began to take the head coaching job at Baylor.

But even after Collen’s exit, Williams thrived. Her minutes increased, and so did her points, assists, rebounds – everything.

In 2021 she played 34.4 minutes per game in her second season with the Dream, averaging 16.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, 4 assists and 1.1 steals per game. The South Florida alum was making her mark on her new organization, and the basketball world took notice. Her play earned Williams an All-Star nod – the first of her career.

But the situation soured after that.

In October, Williams posted a video on YouTube of her and teammate Crystal Bradford getting involved in an altercation near a food truck outside an Atlanta club. The 39-minute video was deleted, but footage of the fight circulated on Twitter, leading to the Dream’s decision not to re-sign Williams for the 2022 season.

“The behavior in the video is unacceptable and does not align with our values as an organization,” the Dream said in a statement released the next day. “We are taking this matter very seriously and working with the league to gather more information and determine next steps.”

Williams apologized on Twitter for making light of the situation in the YouTube video, but her agent Marcus Crenshaw claimed the Atlanta Dream had known about the altercation for months and expressed frustration with the organization only choosing to address it when the video emerged and went viral on social media.

“Right now, the team is trying to act like they have the morals, and (they’re) making (the players) some sort of scapegoats by saying they got put off the Dream because of the altercation,” Crenshaw said on a Girls Talk Sports TV Instagram Live.

Whatever the circumstances, one thing became clear: Courtney Williams would no longer be a part of the Atlanta Dream.

Before the incident, Williams said she expected nothing but good things in Atlanta.

“Obviously that’s not how it played out,” she said. “So that kind of ended up hitting me in the mouth. But I mean, overall, I think any experience that you go through that helps you grow. It molded me into who I am now.”

Now, Williams understands the business of basketball. She’s also learned from the mistakes she made in Atlanta.

And while she was away, the Sun came to a realization as well: They needed Courtney Williams in Connecticut.

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(David Becker/NBAE via Getty Images)

Without her, in 2020 and 2021, the Sun lost in the WNBA semifinals – to Las Vegas, and then to Chicago.

Williams provides both skill and spark to the roster.

“She’s on a roll right now,” teammate Natisha Hiedeman said after Williams scored 12 points in the Sun’s Game 5 win over the Sky in the WNBA semifinals. “And that’s what we need from her. That’s definitely what’s expected from her, and she just has that mindset where she’s never too high or never too low. Like her energy is the same all the time. She deserves to play good because she’s just a great teammate all the time.”

For Williams, the love she gets from her fellow Sun players is enough to melt away the negative impact of her exit from Atlanta.

She hates the way it went down, but the end result was worth it. It was a blessing in disguise, she said, because it brought her home.

“Everything happens for a reason, right? The good, the bad, the ugly,” she said. “It molds us and it also shows you who really for you. It’s easy to rock with somebody when it’s all roses and sunshine, but it’s like, ‘Who’s rocking with me when it’s not?’ Connecticut did.”

After her breakup with Atlanta, Williams got calls from Sun stars DeWanna Bonner, Jonquel Jones and Alyssa Thomas. They were all rocking with her, and they wanted her back in a Sun uniform.

Turns out there is some loyalty in business. The Sun showed Williams that when they re-signed her before the 2022 season.

After two years away, returning to Connecticut felt like she’d never even left, Williams said.

Now, she wants to repay her squad with a WNBA Championship.

Sporting a purple half-moon bruise under her left eye – an injury sustained during her iconic jump-ball battle with Kahleah Copper during the semifinals series – Williams looked out over the Aces court Monday as her team put up shots.

They mean everything to her.

And Williams doesn’t care that her team has been overlooked throughout this postseason. They rock with her and she rocks with them. Forget the haters.

“We already know what it is and what it ain’t,” she said. “We don’t even trip on none of that. Them folks want to be where we at. So, I’ll tell them to sit down, grab they popcorn and watch us do what we do.”

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

The WNBA has suspended former Atlanta Dream players Courtney Williams and Crystal Bradford for their roles in an altercation outside of an Atlanta day club in May.

The suspension, per a WNBA release, is due to the players’ violations of the league’s health and safety protocol. Williams will be suspended for two games and Bradford for one.

“The suspensions will be served with the first regular season game that each player is eligible to play following the signing of a new Standard Player Contract,” read the release.

Video of the fight surfaced in October. Following the incident, the Dream informed the players’ agent, Marcus Crenshaw, that they did not intend to bring back either player. That was later confirmed by newly-hired general manager Dan Padover.

Both Williams and Bradford are free agents this offseason. Williams was one of 10 players to sign with Athletes Unlimited for their inaugural basketball season in January.

On Tuesday, the guard commented on the suspension on Twitter.

“I wanted you all to hear it from me personally,” she wrote. “I’ll be missing the 1st 2 games of the upcoming WNBA Season due to the altercation that transpired months ago. It was a terribly unfortunate incident, I know that and I sincerely regret my part in it.”

In a subsequent tweet, Williams said the incident was “a learning life lesson.”

“As I said before, I have a-lot more growing to do,” she wrote. “And I’m committed to doing just that! I love y’all fr fr and we only UP from here!”

Athletes Unlimited announced the addition of 10 players to its roster for the league’s inaugural basketball season. That group includes five current WNBA players with a combined 47 seasons of experience in Jantel Lavender, Tianna Hawkins, Odyssey Sims, Courtney Williams and Mikiah Herbert Harrigan.

“Athletes Unlimited provides American players an additional opportunity to play in the United States, an opportunity we have always hoped for,” said Indiana Fever forward Lavender, a 10-year WNBA veteran who won the 2016 WNBA championship with the Los Angeles Sparks. “Staying in the U.S. allows us to spend more time with our families while earning money and not putting as much wear and tear on our bodies, so that we can put out the best product.”

Lavender said she is looking forward to Athletes Unlimited’s unique format, which awards individual points to players based on stats. Every week during the season, the top four players serve as captains and select new teams.

Hawkins, the Atlanta Dream forward who will enter her ninth WNBA season in 2022, won a WNBA title with the Washington Mystics in 2019. She’ll be joined by Sims and Williams, her teammates with the Dream in 2021.

Williams made headlines in October after a video surfaced showing an altercation outside of an Atlanta club in May that involved Williams and teammate Crystal Bradford. The Dream later said they would not be re-signing either player.

“I would never want to represent myself or the organization in a negative way,” Williams wrote on Twitter in a now-deleted tweet. “I’m learning everyday so I ask for grace as I’m growing. Again I apologize to all attached, and I will be better moving forward.”

New Dream general manager Dan Padover later confirmed that the players — free agents in 2022 — would not return to Atlanta.

Seattle Storm forward Mikiah Herbert Harrigan, who took time off last season to give birth, will also join the league along with 2016 WNBA champion and 13-year WNBA veteran Essence Carson. Kirby Burkholder, Tyce Knox, Jessica Kuster and Laurin Mincy, who have spent significant amounts of time playing overseas, round out the group.

The season will run from Jan. 26 to Feb. 26, 2022 in Las Vegas.

“Ever since the announcement about Athletes Unlimited basketball, the feedback has been nothing but positive which is great,” said Sydney Colson, the first player to sign on for the season. “Knowing that we’ll be playing in Las Vegas took it up a few more notches! The Vegas fan base was so incredible when I played there and I can’t wait to see familiar faces as well as new fans in the stands at all of our games!”

Athletes Unlimited will hold open tryouts from Dec. 11-12 in Atlanta, where at least one roster spot will be offered to an athlete who attends.

The Atlanta Dream will not bring back Courtney Williams and Crystal Bradford after they were involved in a fight in May, according to WNBA agent Marcus Crenshaw.

“I talked to them, and they told me they didn’t want to bring both back,” Crenshaw, CEO of The Fam Sports Agency, told Girls Talk Sports TV during an Instagram Live on Tuesday.

He said the Dream were aware of the incident when it happened but chose not to discipline the players then. Williams apologized for her role in the fight Monday, a day after the video surfaced showing Williams and Bradford getting into a skirmish next to a food truck. Williams also addressed the incident Sunday night in a YouTube video with her girlfriend but has since deleted the post.

“The team knew about the situation months ago,” Crenshaw said. “Right now, the team is trying to act like they have the morals, and [they’re] making [the players] some sort of scapegoats by saying they got put off the Dream because of the altercation.”

Crenshaw said the Dream have been aware of the fight since May. Both the team and the WNBA, however, said on Monday that they were still gathering more information.

“The behavior in the video is unacceptable and does not align with our values as an organization,” the Dream said in a statement. “We are taking this matter very seriously and working with the league to gather more information and determine next steps.”

Williams and Bradford will both be unrestricted free agents this offseason.

It’s been a tumultuous couple of months for the Dream. Second-year guard Chennedy Carter continued to hint at her frustration with the team on Sunday after she was suspended indefinitely in July for “conduct detrimental to the team.” Carter has since broken her silence twice — once at the end of the season and once on Sunday.

Williams, the Dream’s lone All-Star this season, led Atlanta with 16.5 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. The guard’s season ended in August due to a foot injury.

Dream co-owner Renee Montgomery addressed the situation on Twitter on Tuesday. “As a franchise,” she wrote, “we have to take the good with the bad, it’s part of the game.”

Atlanta Dream guard Courtney Williams has apologized for her role in an incident captured on camera that appears to show Dream players fighting outside of a food truck.

“I want to sincerely apologize for the video posted yesterday,” Williams wrote on Twitter on Monday, the day after the video began to circulate on social media. “I would never want to represent myself or the organization in a negative way. I’m learning everyday so I ask for grace as I’m growing. Again I apologize to all attached, and I will be better moving forward.”

In the video, which lasts almost two minutes, Williams can be seen throwing punches alongside teammates Crystal Bradford and Kalani Brown.

According to Insider, the skirmish took place outside of a day club in the early days of the season and the team handled the situation internally. The altercation reportedly began when someone made a comment about Williams’ girlfriend, prompting the guard to respond with her teammates serving as backup.

Team leadership was aware of the situation before the video surfaced, Inside reported. Williams, who made her first All-Star Game as Atlanta’s only representative, led the team with 16.5 points, 6.8 rebounds and four assists per game while starting each of their 32 regular season games.

“The behavior in the video is unacceptable and does not align with our values as an organization,” the Dream said in a statement to Insider. “We are taking this matter very seriously and working with the league to gather more information and determine next steps.”

Saturday’s game between the Atlanta Dream and New York Liberty came down to the final possession. In the end, it was the Dream who prevailed in overtime, defeating the Liberty 90-87.

Courtney Williams came up clutch for Atlanta, recording a near triple-double with 31 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists. Critical on both sides of the ball, Williams made decisive offensive rebounds down the stretch and drained the game-winning 3-pointer.

Elizabeth Williams contributed 12 points and 11 rebounds for Atlanta, recording her first double-double of the season. Chennedy Carter added 12 points before leaving the game in the third quarter with an injury.

Despite playing from behind for most of the game, the Liberty never lost their grit.

Betnijah Laney notched her seventh consecutive game of 20 points or more. Michaela Onyenwere, New York’s sixth overall pick in the 2021 WNBA Draft, had a career-high 29 points to go along with five rebounds and two assists. Sami Whitcomb’s defense at the end of regulation pushed the game to overtime, but the Liberty ultimately couldn’t hang on.

Saturday’s defeat was the Liberty’s first home loss of the year.

New York (5-2) will next host the Las Vegas Aces on Thursday. The Dream will look to extend their four-game win streak against the Lynx in Minnesota on Friday.