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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. 

Diamond DeShields is a member of the Dallas Wings following a four-team trade that included Marina Mabrey and former rookie of the year Michaela Onyenwere.

The Sky reloaded with Mabrey, after losing Candace Parker, Courtney Vandersloot and Azura Stevens in free agency. They also received Phoenix’s second-round draft pick next year. But they also traded away two first round picks, one in 2023 and one in 2024, as well as the right to swap first round picks with Dallas.

That means that in addition to DeShields, Dallas received two first round picks and a potential higher first rounder in 2025.

“We cannot wait to welcome Marina into the Chicago Sky family,” Sky general manager and coach James Wade said. “Adding a player such as Marina who can play both guard positions, is a talented sharpshooter and gives her all every single game will all be vital for our team this year. We are looking forward to having her as a big addition to our roster.”

New York, who has acquired a number of big-name stars this offseason, sent Onyenwere to Phoenix in return for the rights to Leonie Fiebich from Chicago and the Sky’s second-round pick next year.

“Michaela was integral in reinvigorating the Liberty team,” Liberty general manager Jonathan Kolb said. “Her contributions throughout the early parts of her career have been incredibly impressive. Mic brought unmatched energy and positivity, irrespective of her role, which speaks to her character and selflessness. She has a very bright future, and we wish her the absolute best in Phoenix, where she is poised to take on a larger role.”

On top of Onyenwere, Phoenix also received a third rounder from Chicago in 2024 and a second rounder from Chicago in 2025.

To understand Denim DeShields, you have to start with paper donuts.

DeShields used to cut out paper versions of the circular treat, decorate them, and then walk around the neighborhood, selling her creations for 25 cents. No one needs a paper donut, but there was something about Denim beyond the cuteness factor.

“She’s always had a great entrepreneurial spirit,” said her sister, WNBA player Diamond DeShields. “And an eagerness to financially get ahead.”

Her neighbors sensed it and would happily part with their quarters for one of her signature, albeit useless, paper donuts.

There was also a fearlessness to Denim. She was vibrant and had a never-ending zeal for life.

“When she was little, she was a firecracker full of energy,” Diamond said. “I remember her always running around my games, being the cute, younger sibling.”

Diamond remembers when Willow Smith released her song, “Whip My Hair.” Denim would run around singing the lyrics and, of course, whipping her hair all over the house.

But between her spurts of youthful energy and dreams of playing basketball like her sister, there was always a little businesswoman in her. Denim was a kid, but she was also an old soul. She still is. That firecracker has a calm side, one that remained stoic in unlikely circumstances, and one that forged its own unconventional path.

When life gives her paper, Denim makes donuts.


About this time last year, Denim was committed to play college basketball at Indiana State.

The Georgia native picked her school simply because she knew it. COVID-19 made it so Denim couldn’t visit any other programs, and she’d at least been on campus at Indiana State.

“I didn’t want to go to that school,” she said. “I didn’t get to go through my recruiting process the way I wanted to, physically, because of COVID. I made an impulse decision to commit there because it was the only school I’d been able to visit. From a comfortability standpoint, that was just what I decided.”

A school she knew, even if it wasn’t exactly what she wanted, was better than one she didn’t. At least, that’s what she thought.

A few months before Denim was set to report to Indiana State, Diamond, then a guard for the Chicago Sky, had some unprecedented free time. She started thinking about Denim, and how different her younger sister’s senior year had been. Diamond remembers thinking how devastated she would have felt missing out on things during her high school days — Like her last AAU season — because of COVID-19. So, she picked up the phone and dialed Denim.

The question was simple: “How are you doing?”

The answer took a lot longer to unpack.

Diamond knew she had to do something. Denim had been independent for so long, that she didn’t really know she could rely on anyone, even the people who love her.

Denim’s parents have been divorced since she was born, but she remains close with both of them. Her father, Delino DeShields, was a professional baseball player and currently serves as a coach for the Cincinnati Reds. She grew up living with her mom.

“I definitely had a different childhood compared to other people,” she said. “There are times where whole families sit at the table and eat dinner every night. For us, it was a lot different.”

Between her dad, her sister and one of her brothers, Delino Jr. (he currently plays pro baseball for the Reds), most of Denim’s days and nights were spent at sporting events.

“It was very exciting,” she said. “It was never boring.”

Then, when she was 14, Denim moved 45 minutes away to live with her high school coach. It was out of necessity, to make the commute easier and give her the opportunity to attend the school she wanted. Her mom still came to all of her games, but Denim essentially took charge of her own life.

So, when the recruiting process came around, even with all the unknowns of the pandemic, Denim relied on herself.

When she was unhappy, Denim didn’t tell anyone. When it came to school and basketball, she’d always been able to handle her business. Why ask for help now?

If it weren’t for an older sister’s intuition, Denim might not have opened up. And she might have played her freshman season at Indiana State. But as soon as Diamond heard Denim’s voice on the other end of the phone, she knew one thing.

“Just hearing her on the phone that day, with tears in her eyes, it just broke my heart,” Diamond said. “I knew I had to do something.”

Her little sister would not be going to college in 2021-22. There had to be another option.

And there was: prep school. It’s a path that plenty of men’s college basketball players have taken. They finish their four years of high school, and then take a fifth at another private school in order to improve their skills or grades, or sometimes to get bigger and stronger and enhance their recruiting prospects.

For Denim to go would be different. Yet it also made complete sense. Her life has been unconventional from the start, and this would be another step on the path she’s long been forging.

“I don’t know a high school girl who’s done it,” Diamond said of the fifth year. “I’m sure it’s been done, but it is so uncommon. In pursuing this option, I had to think outside the box. It’s not a blueprint that is common as an alternate option for women’s basketball players.”

Once she realized it could be done, Denim was all in.

With so many elite athletes in the family, comparisons are bound to happen. But since she moved out, Denim had just been Denim. For the first time in a long time, she was ready to let someone else take control of her life.


Denim spent the summer before her second senior year living with Diamond in Chicago, where the older DeShields sister was playing for the Sky, on their way to winning a WNBA championship. And when school started up, Denim still headed to the city for weekends when she had the chance.

Denim, Diamond says, is her best friend, but they weren’t always so close.

There are eight years between the two, and when Denim was in elementary school, that felt like a lot.

“We had such a huge age gap that we couldn’t really bond with each other,” she said. “It was kind of like, ‘Yeah, that’s my sister,’ and she would play around with me, but it took until we got a little bit older to really be able to get close to her the way I wanted to.”

Then, COVID-19 happened.

The pandemic ruined a lot of things for Denim, but it strengthened her relationship with her older sister. After years of being away playing basketball — first in college at North Carolina and Tennessee, then in Turkey, and then in the WNBA — Diamond moved home to Atlanta during the pandemic.

When Diamond left for college, they were sisters who loved each other, but after the pandemic, they also understood one another.

“We had many, many conversations, because during lockdown, all you could really do was talk,” Denim said with a laugh. “We caught up on lost time … So now, we are really close. If there is a person I go to about anything, it is always going to be her.”

Denim also used the pandemic to learn a new hobby — braiding hair, which, in typical Denim fashion, she took to the next level. Braiding her own hair, or her sister’s, wasn’t enough. So once she mastered the skills, Denim turned it into a business.

Now, she has clients in Atlanta and Chicago, and over the summer she set up shop in a Chicago hair salon called Vanity Palace. Her coworkers were all in their 40s, but Denim bonded with them, too. They check up on her via text message, and every time she’s in Chicago, Denim goes by the salon to catch up.

“She’s the only person I’ll let braid my hair,” Diamond said.


After her conversation with Denim, Diamond started cold-calling admissions offices and talking to people she knew in the basketball world. She spent her free time looking up different schools and doing as much research as she could. Finally, she whittled down the selections. Wherever Denim went, it had to be a good fit, but most importantly, she had to be able to play basketball, take classes and remain eligible for the next level.

La Lumiere ended up being exactly what they were looking for. The prep school of 215 students boasts several notable basketball alumni like Tyger Campbell, Jaren Jackson Jr., Jordan Poole and, most recently, Jaden Ivey. The Purdue star, who declared for the NBA Draft in March, spoke highly of his coach at La Lumiere, Matt Marvin. The basketball world is small. Small enough that word about Ivey’s experiences traveled back to Diamond.

Marvin is now the girls coach for the Lakers, and with the testimony of players like Ivey, the DeShields girls felt comfortable with him.

For Denim and Marvin, the move was mutually beneficial.

“We are getting things rolling with the girls program,” Marvin said. “This was a good opportunity to jumpstart the program.”

So Denim headed to La Lumiere. The difference between her hometown of Atlanta, and the small town of La Porte, Ind. — population 21,577 — was instantly noticeable. But Denim didn’t mind.

“It’s definitely been different,” she said. “But nothing short of memorable. I’ll always remember this place, the people and the relationships I’ve formed here. I’ve never been in this type of environment. Not just because of the location, but because of the community.”

Denim described La Lumiere, with its small student body and tight-knit supporters, as “intimate.” There’s no getting lost in the shuffle.

And most importantly, Denim got to hit repeat on her senior year.

Diamond loved seeing her little sister’s name pop up in the family group chat, recapping her experiences. One in particular sticks out: It was a picture of Denim sledding down a hill, enjoying the snow with her new teammates.

“You can see a genuine smile on her face,” Diamond said.

La Lumiere was a new beginning for Denim, but there was still plenty to do. Now, the recruiting process had to start all over again. And like anything Denim does, she approached this task with her own, unique spin.


Denim felt relief when she decommitted from Indiana State. Now, after choosing La Lumiere and spending the summer in Chicago, finding the right school was the whole point of all of this.

Yet when she arrived on campus, Marvin was surprised to find that Denim didn’t seem concerned about what was going to happen next. She was calm and focused on playing for the Lakers — that’s it.

Denim, Marvin says, is the consummate point guard.

“When emotions are running high, she is always in control,” he said.

Marvin remembers one of Denim’s performances, in particular. The Lakers played No. 16 South Bend Washington on Jan. 29, and Denim got in foul trouble early on.

“We kind of took a gamble leaving her in the game and letting her play with fouls,” Marvin said. “Even in a game that was so high pressure and she had foul trouble, she was totally in control of herself.”

Denim finished with 12 points, six rebounds and six assists as La Lumiere pulled out a one-point win.

The point guard is so even-tempered that sometimes Marvin wishes she would show a bit more emotion — especially when it came to her recruitment.

Until February, Denim didn’t have an official offer. Marvin was incredulous. His point guard had all the skills to be a college basketball player, and an elite one at that.

Denim is undersized at 5-foot-5, which may have impacted her recruitment, but her small stature has never been an issue for her on the court. A pass-first point guard, Denim uses her ball-handling and playmaking skills to create for others. She’s quick to the rim, fast in the open court and capable of finishing in traffic.

And, Marvin says, you can always trust her with the ball, which is why he knows she will make an impact at the next level.

“There are going to be a lot of colleges across the country that regret not trying to recruit her,” he said.

Yet as the days passed and Marvin eyed the calendar, Denim didn’t. There were no panicked conversations, no stress-fueled moments, not even a glimmer of doubt.

“She has not panicked about it at all,” Marvin said. “And there were even times where I would be like, ‘Denim, what do we do?’ And she would tell me, ‘It’s OK. I’m going to keep working hard and the right fit is gonna come.’ That’s just how she’s wired.”

Since that phone call with Diamond early last year, Denim has learned to allow others to help her. This time, Diamond was heavily involved in the recruiting process, and eventually, without any rush, Denim committed to UAB.

She knew she was meant to go to UAB from her first conversation with coach Randy Norton and his staff. This time, when she made the commitment, Denim didn’t have any second thoughts.

“It just felt right,” she said of becoming a Blazer. “My journey has been nothing but a rollercoaster, but I just put in the work and God did the rest.”

DeShields connected with UAB head coach Randy Norton and his staff from the start. (Courtesy of UAB Athletics)

It took a year longer than planned, but Denim found her school.

“If there is anything this process has taught me, it’s just that things will work out in the end,” she said. “You can’t force anything to happen that’s not meant to be. There is no reason to stress about things.”

Denim plans to study business at UAB — no surprise there — and Diamond can’t wait to see what she does next.

“She really can do anything she sets her mind to,” she said.

Anything, like learning to braid hair and accruing clients in two different cities.

Like accepting help after years of doing things alone.

Like forging a path that high school girls basketball players have yet to try.

It’s too soon to know if other girls will follow suit. Denim made an impact at La Lumiere, but the landscape of girls prep basketball is rooted in its own traditions.

Denim, however, isn’t concerned with changing expectations as a whole. She just did things her own way.

And that isn’t likely to change any time soon.

Eden Laase is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports. She previously ran her own high school sports website in Michigan after covering college hockey and interning at Sports Illustrated. Follow her on Twitter @eden_laase.

The Phoenix Mercury announced Monday that Brianna Turner and Diamond DeShields have returned to Phoenix.

The two had been finishing up their playing commitments in Italy, which caused them to miss the start of the season. Upon their return, the Mercury terminated the replacement contracts of Emma Cannon and Jennie Simms.

Cannon and Simms each saw some minutes in the Mercury’s season-opening 106-88 loss to the Las Vegas Aces. Cannon had three points, two rebounds and one assist in six minutes on the court, while Simms added two points, four rebounds and one assist in 12 minutes.

The return of DeShields and Turner should provide a boost for Phoenix. DeShields, who joined Phoenix via a trade and recently opened up about a 2020 tumor diagnosis that threatened her career, is a WNBA All-Star who averaged 16.2 points per game in 2019. In 2021, she averaged 11.3 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game.

Turner averaged 7.8 points per game in 2021 alongside 9.4 rebounds and 1.3 blocks, and she brings a defensive presence that the Mercury were lacking against the Aces.

The Mercury next play the Seattle Storm at home at 10 p.m. ET Wednesday.

Ahead of the 2020 “Wubble” season, Diamond DeShields had surgery to remove a benign tumor in her spinal cord, revealing her comeback story for the first time in an ESPN article released Saturday.

DeShields spoke with ESPN’s Holly Rowe about her diagnosis, the recovery process and winning a WNBA championship with the Chicago Sky after overcoming full-body tremors and considering retirement.

The guard had been playing overseas in 2019 when back pain led her to get an MRI, which revealed she had lumbar spinal schwannoma. Originally expected to be a three-hour surgery, the operation to remove the rare tumor took nine hours.

From there, DeShields began to rehab and suffered from tremors during the process. She worked with Ann Crosby, the Sky’s director of basketball operations and the head strength and conditioning coach, and Meghan Lockerby, the Sky’s head athletic trainer from 2019-20.

“Diamond would get tremors. It would get so bad where her whole body was seizing, to the point where she’s got tears rolling down her eyes, but she can’t speak,” Crosby told ESPN. “And she’s clawing at her face because she can’t control her hands. We’re just trying to make sure she doesn’t hurt herself.”
DeShields added that she remembers “being in so much pain” and having no control over her bodily movements.

Over time, DeShields had to learn how to walk again despite wanting to keep pushing her recovery. According to ESPN, medical staff put an alarm on DeShields’ bed in the inpatient rehab facility to prevent her from sneaking out of bed to exercise.

“I’m not trying to learn how to walk,” DeShields said. “I’m trying to learn how to run and jump and defend and do all the things that, you know, a basketball player is supposed to do.”

She later made the decision to join the Sky in the bubble despite being unable to run in a straight line. She played 15 minutes in the Sky’s season opener and appeared in 13 games before leaving the bubble in late August, at the time citing personal reasons for the early exit.

“I always had to check my emotions,” she said. “‘Cause whenever I got emotional, I would start to have tremors. And these were good emotions or bad emotions, if I was happy or if I was crying. So I was always just trying to be even-keel, especially when I was around people.”

DeShields returned to the court last season and started in 22 games for the Sky. In the playoffs, DeShields made her biggest contributions, averaging 5.5 points and 15.7 minutes per game to help Chicago win the WNBA title.

The 27-year-old was traded in the offseason to the Phoenix Mercury, who were made aware of her medical journey. After missing the Mercury’s season-opening loss to the Las Vegas Aces due to an overseas commitment, DeShields is expected to play Wednesday against the Seattle Storm.

“I have a lot of expectations moving forward and kind of getting this off me now,” she said. “I’ve been sitting with this for a long time, you know? And it’s time that I put it behind me. I’m healthy now. And I expect a lot.”

The call came late at night. Diamond DeShields was sitting in her hotel room in Istanbul, having just played a game for her Italian club, Famila Schio. January was almost over and WNBA free agency was in full swing.

A restricted free agent, DeShields had recently taken Zoom meetings with multiple teams and was keeping her cell phone nearby in case others called. When she picked up and heard her agent, Mike Cound, on the other end telling her she needed to make a decision, she began pacing the floor. The Phoenix Mercury had made an offer, but it involved a few moving pieces that wouldn’t come together unless DeShields was all in.

“Phoenix?” DeShields said as she crossed the room from one end to other. “Phoenix?”

The name of the city sounded foreign as soon as it left her lips. DeShields, 26, had just won a WNBA championship with the Chicago Sky after taking down the Mercury 3-1 in the Finals. It had been a physical and contentious series from the jump, and those memories still lingered.

DeShields considered other possible scenarios, such as playing one year at the veteran minimum for another team, or not signing at all and waiting it out. The Dallas Wings had also made serious inquiries. But with teams already making moves to fit increased player salaries under a limited salary cap, time was of the essence.

“Phoenix,” Deshields said again, still pacing. But the more she said it out loud, the more she liked the sound of it. Sometime around 3 a.m., the decision was made.


Like the rest of her teammates, DeShields was on a natural high after the Sky won their first championship in franchise history. She rode that feeling through the celebratory parade and the days that followed. But when player exit interviews came and went, the reality that the Sky might be willing to let her go set in. On Nov. 23, she left for Italy, uncertain about her WNBA future.

“It wasn’t until I left to come overseas that it started to settle in that, like, OK, you’re a restricted free agent and might not be back in Chicago,” DeShields says. “It was kind of a hard pill for me to swallow at first, to be honest.”

DeShields’ decision to play overseas this offseason wasn’t about making extra income, as it is for most players. It was a personal one.

In 2020, DeShields played in only 13 games for the Sky before leaving the bubble in Bradenton, Fla., citing personal reasons at the time. Still recovering from a knee injury, she filled a limited role for Chicago, averaging 6.8 points in 17.2 minutes per game. Only a year earlier, she had been playing the best basketball of her career, leading the Sky with 16.2 points per game and being named to her first WNBA All-Star team. DeShields continued coming off the bench for most of 2021, and even though she was happy to do whatever it took to help the Sky win, she lost confidence in herself along the way.

“Obviously, it wasn’t a secret that my role had changed drastically on the team into something that I’d kind of never done before, with coming off the bench and not playing as many minutes as I was used to,” DeShields says. “And this is the second season that I was kind of going through that. I know I’m a dynamic player and I’m a team player. Like, sure, I’ll do this for the team, whatever you need from me to win. But I know I can do so much more. I know who I am.”

Playing for Schio gave DeShields a chance to find her rhythm, regain her confidence, work on her game and, perhaps most importantly, remind herself of the player she is. Through eight games in EuroLeague play, the 6-foot-1 guard is third on the team with 11.3 points per game to go along with 6.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists in 26.9 minutes per game.

Much like the distance between the United States and Italy, DeShields feels miles away from the player she was the last two seasons as she leads Schio into the EuroLeague playoffs, beginning Tuesday with a best-of-three quarterfinal series against USK Praha. But being overseas also made it difficult as she embarked on her first free agency.

DeShields, as a restricted free agent, could explore offers from other teams, but the Sky maintained the right to match those offers to try to retain her. While she knew they might let her walk, she had never anticipated leaving Chicago. From the start, it felt strange.

“I had made so many meaningful connections with the community and the organization. I had started to really have firm roots in the city and, emotionally, it’s just hard to part with that,” she says.

Even with her heart still in Chicago, DeShields mentally accepted that it was time to move on. She learned everything she could about WNBA free agency rules, the CBA and salary cap restrictions. Every meeting she had with interested teams happened over video, and other than her agent an ocean away, there was no one to help guide her through the ins and outs of the process.

DeShields’ mind swirled with all kinds of questions:

What do I say?
How do I go about these conversations?
What if I’m not really interested in this place or that place?
What if I am interested?

“No one really explains it to you,” DeShields says. “It was kind of like, [Mike] called me [and said], ‘When can I start reaching out to teams?’ I’m like, ‘I guess whenever you can.’ And then all of a sudden, it’s Zoom meetings — boom, boom, boom.”

DeShields had a checklist of things she was looking for in her new destination. She wanted to go to a team where she could contribute right away, a team with a solid mix of veterans and young players, a team that could contend for a championship and an organization that treated its players well and offered top-notch facilities and amenities. Lastly, she wanted a fresh start, a situation where she didn’t have any history with her teammates and coaches.

After DeShields spoke with about seven teams, there was mutual interest with four that fit her criteria, including Phoenix, Dallas and Los Angeles.

“[Diamond] was in a position where she could reinvent herself to get back to that 2019 [season] where more than half the teams would have offered the max contract for multiple years,” Cound says. “But we weren’t really there. Plus some teams that would have done it didn’t have it because of some decisions they’d made.”

(Courtesy of Diamond DeShields)

Despite the difference in time zones and being restricted to Zoom calls instead of meetings in person, inquiring teams did the best they could to shower DeShields with praise and attention. Some teams had their entire staff on the call, others had her speak with the general manager one day and the coach the next. The methods were unique, but they compounded to create one lasting effect.

“It was pretty hot. I definitely felt wanted,” DeShields says. “It was nice to talk with teams who still believed in me as the player that I believed that I could be.”


One of Jim Pitman’s first phone calls during the opening weekend of free agency was to DeShields. The Mercury general manager wanted her to know he thought she’d be a great fit with the team.

“We really felt that we needed a bigger athletic wing to complement the pieces we already had on our team,” Pitman says. “We had always liked Diamond’s skill set, and when she became available, we made a play to get her. We believe she is one of the most athletic players in the league. Her ability to score and defend from the wing position, her skills in transition and her competitive spirit really fit with what we have put together in Phoenix.”

As soon as he got word from Cound that DeShields was on board, Pitman began working on the intricacies of what would become a three-team trade between Phoenix, Chicago and the Indiana Fever.

“After several calls with James Wade regarding a sign-and-trade deal and then eventually with Tamika Catchings as part of a three-team deal, we were able to agree on terms to get the trade done,” he says.

The Mercury, in return for DeShields, sent Bria Hartley plus their second-round picks in 2022 and 2023 to the Fever. The Fever received the Sky’s No. 7 pick in this year’s draft and their first-round pick in 2023, while the Sky acquired Julie Allemand from the Fever and the Mercury’s 2023 first-round pick. Once the trade was done, DeShields signed a fully protected, two-year contract with the Mercury for $150,000 in 2022 and $154,500 in 2023.

It wasn’t the max contract she appeared to be heading toward after her 2019 All-Star season, but given the challenges of the past two years and the WNBA’s salary-cap limitations, DeShields and Cound considered it a big win. It also didn’t hurt that DeShields was joining arguably the most stacked roster in the league with championship aspirations.

DeShields says the biggest lesson she learned is not to take these negotiations personally. There’s so much that is out of players’ control. Sometimes, decisions come down to the numbers and what teams are able to do under the salary cap.

“Having a job in the WNBA is one thing. Keeping a job is something totally different,” DeShields says. “And you have to understand your value in the league and the way the rest of the league sees you, right? They might not see you the way that you see yourself. You just gotta keep a level head in the process. You can get emotional highs and lows. But the best thing for me, what I did, I just let my agent do his job.”

Now that DeShields’ near WNBA future is settled, she can sit back and digest it all — even the part about playing with the same Mercury players who traded verbal and physical barbs with the Sky during the Finals.

“I’m sure we’ll have laughs about it and we’ll talk about it. I don’t know. Maybe they’re still pissed about it and they don’t want to talk about it,” DeShields says with a laugh. “I didn’t play as much in the Finals as I wanted to. So it wasn’t really hard for me to detach myself from that experience and put myself in the mentality of like, OK, now you’re on this other team and that’s it.”

DeShields is focused on the future and not the past. She wants to compete and knows that every time she steps in the gym with Skylar Diggins-Smith, Brittney Griner (whose situation in Russia is still pending), Diana Taurasi, Tina Charles and the rest of the Mercury’s stars, the competitive energy is going to be on fire. She’s excited to have fun again, take full advantage of the talent around her and even put up some triple-doubles.

“I see my entire skill set being displayed this summer,” DeShields says. “And that’s something I’m really looking forward to.”

Lyndsey D’Arcangelo is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports, covering the WNBA and college basketball. She also contributes to The Athletic and is the co-author of “Hail Mary: The Rise and Fall of the National Women’s Football League.” Follow Lyndsey on Twitter @darcangel21.

Diamond DeShields is on her way to Phoenix after being involved in a three-team trade that includes the Indiana Fever, Phoenix Mercury and Chicago Sky.

In exchange for DeShields, Chicago receives a 2023 1st round pick from Phoenix. The Fever then sent the contract of Julie Allemand to Chicago in exchange for Chicago’s 2022 and 2023 first-round picks. They also received Bria Hartley and second-round picks in 2022 and 2023 from Phoenix.

“Diamond DeShields is as dynamic an athlete as we have in our league and at just 26 years old has already been a champion, an All-Star and an All-WNBA performer,” said Mercury GM Jim Pitman. “She was one of our top targets this offseason because of her ability to score and defend from the wing position and how dangerous she is in the open floor. We are thrilled to add Diamond to our All-Star core.”

DeShields’ contract with Phoenix is a two-year fully protected contract worth $150,000 in year one and $154,500 in year two, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

During the 2021 season, DeShields averaged 11.3 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 27 games from the bench. Following the Sky’s championship win in November, she asserted that she wanted to be a starter.

“I don’t belong on the bench,” DeShields said in November. “I played the role because that’s what I was called to do [in 2021]. I did that as gracefully as I could but that’s not the role I want.”

Two weeks ago, DeShields said that she didn’t see herself returning to Chicago saying: “It’s not something I ever envisioned for myself or thought would happen, but things change, feelings change and people change.”

With the status of Courtney Vandersloot in question, the addition of Allemand could fill a possible hole in the Sky lineup.

Twitter unveiled a new ad campaign on Tuesday highlighting the success stories of 12 celebrities, including Diamond DeShields and Michaela Onyenwere.

The campaign features past tweets from the WNBA stars in which they predict their success in the WNBA.

DeShields won the 2021 WNBA Championship with the Chicago Sky, while Onyenwere was the 2021 WNBA Rookie of the Year as a member of the New York Liberty.

Since Onyenwere’s tweet in 2013, she has gained more than 7,400 followers — a 95.9 percent increase. For DeShields, an increase of more than 24,800 — or 92.7 percent of her followers — came after her tweet in 2013.

Over 39 billboards will go up across North America in eight cities: New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Toronto, Houston, Tampa and Talladega.

“With this campaign we’re celebrating a group of talented individuals who, through their own hard work and drive, were able to manifest and make the dreams they Tweeted their reality,” said Jenna Ross, manager of entertainment partnerships at Twitter. “We hope to help inspire countless others to dream big, put their goals out into the world and Tweet them into existence.”

The full list of celebrities includes Leonard Fournette, Bubba Wallace, Patrick Mahomes, Megan Thee Stallion, Simu Liu, Issa Rae, Niall Horan, Demi Lovato, Steve Saylor and Matthew Cherry.

As part of the campaign, Twitter is donating nearly $1 million to charities of the stars’ choice on their behalf. Included are the Boys and Girls Club, Destination Crenshaw, the 3-D Foundation and UNICEF Canada.

The Chicago Sky are back to their winning ways, downing the Indiana Fever 98-87 on Sunday night.

Looking to build momentum heading into the playoffs, the Sky cruised to a comfortable win over last-placed Indiana, snapping a two-game losing streak.

Diamond DeShields led the Sky in points with a career-high-tying 30 points, adding seven rebounds, six assists and two steals. Three other Chicago players scored in the double-digits, including Allie Quigley, who notched 15 points and eight rebounds.

Next up: The Chicago Sky will face off against the Dallas Wings in a first-round, single-elimination game on Sept. 23 at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN2.

SLAM, one of the most prolific basketball storytelling brands of the past 27 years, announced Wednesday the launch of the first-ever WSLAM Magazine.

While SLAM has long told the stories of the top women’s players in the game, WSLAM will have 82 pages dedicated to the very best of women’s basketball. The magazine builds off of the success of the WSLAM vertical that launched in 2019 and now draws an online audience of 300,000 readers.

“We always had a vision of wanting to do a magazine, especially because SLAM is so cemented in the print world,” said WSLAM director Camille Buxeda. “Just in two years we were able to make that happen, so it’s been a really exciting year.”

“Our WSLAM vertical has been creating and curating amazing women’s basketball content for two years, and we’re incredibly excited to add an annual print magazine to that content slate,” Adam Figman, Chief Content Officer of SLAM, said in a release. “The magazine is filled front to back with amazing and important women’s hoops stories, and the issue is the first of a franchise that we hope continues for many years.”

SLAM’s print subscribers will receive the magazine for free. The special issue will also be available for purchase on SLAM’s ecommerce site,, for $8.99. SLAM will use the same production, design and sales resources allocated to its magazine issues for WSLAM.

The goal is for WSLAM to become the one-stop shop for everything women’s basketball and culture. Buxeda has already seen a growing interest in SLAM’s women’s high school and college coverage, with many continuing to follow top recruits like Paige Bueckers as they transition to the NCAA level.

“These are superstars in the making,” Buxeda said of the high school athletes. “I think [our coverage] really allows audiences and new basketball lovers to understand who the next ones to watch are because, in the end, that’s the fandom that’s going to transfer.”

But first, the inaugural WSLAM Magazine will focus on telling the stories of players in the WNBA at the intersection of culture and basketball.

(Courtesy of SLAM)

From a look into Tina Charles’ incredible season to a review of the Houston Comets paving the way for some of the best in women’s basketball, WSLAM highlights many of the most important moments in the WNBA’s 25-year history. The magazine also emphasizes stories that go beyond player statistics, including the WNBA’s role within social justice movements.

“It’s a little bit different from what I would say SLAM normally does, which is really focus on the now,” Buxeda said. “This is an homage to the past while looking to the present and future.”

“You gotta start somewhere,” Chicago Sky guard Diamond DeShields said. “I think that we do a very good job of paying homage to those that came before us. I wish that they would’ve gotten to experience this, and then I’m sure the next generation is gonna look at us and be like, ‘Dang, I wish they would’ve gotten to experience what we have.’ It’s just about the role they played, being the first.”

While the magazine may focus on the WNBA’s past, its cover features three present and future stars: DeShields, Arike Ogunbowale and Betnijah Laney.

“They really represent the faces of the next 25 years,” Buxeda said.

The players also recognize the importance of honoring those who came before them.

“They definitely paved the way for us,” Laney said. “To find ways to pay homage any way that we can … I think as we continue to evolve, we want to make sure that everybody knows what they did for the game, what we’ll do for the game and what that will mean to the players in the future to keep having the league evolve.”

Just as today’s WNBA players build on the past, Buxeda hopes that WSLAM’s print edition will inspire the next generation of women’s basketball stars.

“I think it connects people a little bit more than just reading it on a screen,” she said. “It’s a physical copy and representation that young girls can really put on their walls and say, ‘I want to be on the cover of WSLAM one day.’”

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