Gabby Williams is not a fan of the WNBA’s new prioritization rule.

Under the new rule, players must complete offseason play before the opening day of the WNBA season. Williams played with French club ASVEL through May, and while some international leagues adjusted their timelines to fit the WNBA’s rule, the French league did not.

Williams managed to sidestep the prioritization restrictions by breaking her contract with ASVEL a few days early, just before the start of the WNBA regular season on May 19. That technicality allowed her to rejoin the Seattle Storm earlier this week, signing a deal for the rest of 2023. She had sustained a concussion during the French league playoffs, which kept her off the court for the start of the WNBA season and contributed to the early end to her ASVEL contract.

“I still think the prioritization thing is ridiculous. I’m sorry, I’ll say it. Like literally, I’m only here because I got concussed,” Williams told reporters Wednesday. “Something has to give. France needs to have shorter seasons, or the WNBA needs to (allow players) to make money and do both. And no, this doesn’t give me any hope that I can do both.”

The recovery from her concussion was a process, Williams noted. While she initially tried to play through symptoms, a specialist forced her to shut down for three weeks. Eventually, she eased back into basketball activities. From there, she began to think about the WNBA.

“As I started to feel better, the competitiveness to come back started to come back,” Williams said. “Because at first I was like, ‘I don’t want to even think about basketball for a while.’ Once I started getting back into shape and everything and feeling good, I was just like, ‘All right, I miss my girls. I miss my team, I miss Seattle,’ so that kind of was the motivation to get back.”

And while Williams missed out on winning the French league championship with ASVEL and a third-place EuroBasket finish with France, Williams knows that “everything happens for a reason” and is looking at the concussion as a silver lining, she said.

She also views her Storm return as an opportunity to help the team win more games.

“I feel like this team has all pieces,” she said. “I just feel so happy to be back. Of course I was really, really disappointed missing the (French league) final, but seeing that the girls were able to do it and finish it is obviously a relief. I’m just happy we won. … Mentally it was really, really, really hard knowing that I was going to be missing Euros, but just being back and back in this environment. … I just couldn’t be happier.”

Gabby Williams is back with the Seattle Storm, after the team announced Monday that she had agreed to a deal for the 2023 WNBA season.

To make room on the roster for the veteran forward, Seattle waived Arella Guirantes last week.

“We are excited to have Gabby back with us,” Storm head coach Noelle Quinn said in a release. “Her veteran leadership and work ethic adds so much value as we continue our development this season. Gabby’s offensive versatility and ability to play and guard multiple positions will make an immediate impact, adding another level of scoring and boost to our defense.”

A 2018 WNBA draft lottery pick, Williams has spent significant time playing overseas, setting her on a crash course with the WNBA’s prioritization rule that went into effect this season. While other leagues have adjusted their seasons to accommodate the clause that requires players to report to their WNBA teams before the start of the regular season, the French league did not.

Williams’ contract, however, was suspended by her club, ASVEL, before the league’s May 19 deadline, allowing her to maintain her eligibility to play in the WNBA this summer.

As a WNBA free agent this past offseason, Williams had to “fully complete” offseason play before the WNBA season began, but did not need to report to a team. If she had been under contract, she would have needed to report her team by the start of hte regular season.

Prior to that, Williams’ WNBA status remained up in the air. Her agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas, had said that the WNBA season was “an option for Gabby, but not a certainty.” Williams had suffered a concussion during the French league semifinals and did not compete for France during June’s EuroBasket to recover from the injury, according to French publication L’Equipe.

It wouldn’t have been the first time Williams missed a WNBA season due to overseas commitments. In 2021, the Chicago Sky placed her on the full-season suspension list while she fulfilled her French national team duties.

“I would love to return to the WNBA,” she told reporters following the 2022 season. “But what’s best for my career, what the WNBA decided to do with players like me, it’s complicated.”

On Monday, Williams expressed her excitement to be back with the Storm.

“It feels so good to be back in Seattle!” she said. “I’m really excited to be able to join the team again and I can’t wait to get started. I’m just so ready to get back to work with the girls and the staff and look forward to finishing the season strong.”

The WNBA prioritization rule could keep Gabby Williams from taking the court for the Seattle Storm this season.

Under the new rule, which went into effect beginning this season, players must return to their WNBA teams before the start of the regular season in order to be eligible to play. Williams is playing with French team ASVEL and likely will not return in time, which would make her the lone player who ended the 2022 season on a WNBA roster to miss the 2023 season due to the prioritization rule.

The 26-year-old forward had entered into concussion protocol with her French team, which could have provided the Storm with a loophole. If her injury, and not her league play, had prevented her from returning to the United States in time for their season opener on Saturday, would the prioritization rule still have applied?

The Storm had asked the WNBA for clarification, head coach Noelle Quinn said after practice Tuesday. But Williams seemingly rendered the point moot by returning from concussion protocol to play in ASVEL’s game Wednesday.

Williams entered into concussion protocol following a May 9 contest in which she got hit in the head, but she played in the first game of the French league’s best-of-three championship series. The second game of the series is set for Saturday.

While most international leagues moved up their seasons to enable WNBA players to return to their teams for the preseason, the French league did not. And starting next season, the deadline will get even tighter, requiring players to return by the start of training camp or May 1, whichever comes later.

“We’re kind of moving forward thinking we will not have her,” Quinn said. “Obviously, we lose a lot of defensive prowess and versatility offensively with Gabby, but we’ll just find it somewhere else with the group that we have and evaluate there.”

Williams knew what the prioritization rule could mean for her WNBA eligibility, telling reporters in September that while she would “love to return to the WNBA,” she needed to prioritize her career.

“What’s best for my career, what the WNBA decided to do with players like me, it’s complicated,” she said.

Williams’ ASVEL teammate Marine Johannès plays for the New York Liberty but does not have more than two years of WNBA experience, which means the prioritization rule does not apply to her.

Chicago Sky center Astou Ndour-Fall opted out of the 2023 WNBA season due to her overseas commitments, becoming one of the first dominoes to fall in the wake of the controversial new rule.

The prioritization rule requires WNBA players to return from overseas play by the time the league opens its season on May 19. Players who fail to do so will be ineligible to play in 2023, and Ndour-Fall will be one of them. Seattle Storm forward Gabby Williams could be another.

How does the prioritization rule work? And how did it come to be? Just Women’s Sports breaks down the answers.

How does the prioritization rule work?

The rule requires players to prioritize the WNBA over international leagues. It was codified in the 2020 collective bargaining agreement but goes into effect for the first time for the 2023 season.

Players with more than two years of experience in the WNBA must report to their teams by May 1. If they do not, they will be fined. And if they miss the start of the regular season on May 19, they will be suspended for the year.

In 2024, the consequences will get even harsher: Players will be suspended for the whole season if they do not join their WNBA teams by May 1 or the start of training camp, whichever is later.

What’s the problem?

Many WNBA players head overseas in the offseason to supplement their WNBA incomes. Last offseason, almost half of the WNBA’s 144 players went overseas, per the Associated Press.

Players can make much more money abroad then they do in the U.S.-based league.

Breanna Stewart, for example, signed a supermax one-year deal with the Seattle Storm in 2022. The deal was worth $228,094, just a fraction of the $1.5 million per year she made for Russia’s UMMC Ekaterinburg. Though she left the Russian club for Fenerbahce in 2022, she likely earned another large payday.

The WNBA holds its season in the summer, while international leagues play in the winter, which has allowed players to stay on the court throughout the year. But some international leagues’ late-season schedules have conflicted with the start of the WNBA season in recent years.

How did it come to be?

The prioritization rule was negotiated as part of the WNBA’s latest CBA, which was signed in 2020 and runs through 2027.

“The owners really stepped up on the compensation side for the players in this collective bargaining cycle, and I think the kind of quid pro quo for that was prioritization, showing up on time for our season,” WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said ahead of the 2022 WNBA Finals.

The WNBA Players Association agreed to the clause as a concession to the league so they could make gains in other areas of the CBA.

“The league was in a place of not negotiating without it,” WNBA legend Sue Bird said of prioritization. “We wouldn’t have got the money, the maternity leave, without it. I’m not defending it… I want the WNBA to be the only league people play in. I want it to thrive so we never have to go overseas.”

What’s next?

Several players have indicated that as long as salaries in international leagues eclipse those in the WNBA, the prioritization clause will remain an issue.

Emma Meesseman, who has not signed with a WNBA team for the 2023 season, has said the rule is unfair to non-American players.

The Seattle Storm will be without Gabby Williams for their Game 1 semifinal matchup against the Las Vegas Aces Sunday.

The star forward exited the Storm’s decisive Round 1 contest against the Washington Mystics early with an injury and is still under concussion protocol.

Williams is a mainstay for the Storm, starting in 36 regular season fixtures, averaging 25.6 minutes per game. The 25-year-old averaged 7.5 points, five rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.5 steals in her debut campaign with the Storm.

Williams averaged 13 points, four rebounds, three assists, and 1.5 steals per game in her two playoff appearances.

“It changes a lot, honestly,” Storm head coach Noelle Quinn said of Williams’ injury ahead of the semifinals. “Gabby has been playing at a high level, and we’ve been really reliant on her athleticism, her defense, her cutting. She’s a very smart basketball player and she feels comfortable in our system.”

Without Williams, the Storm will have their hands full, attempting to slow down the red-hot Las Vegas Aces’ offense. Guard Chelsea Gray shot 76.9 percent from beyond the arc in the team’s opening series, while Kelsey Plum averaged 22 points per game.

The Aces boast a 3-1 regular season record over the Storm, defeating Seattle 109-100 in their Aug. 14 matchup.

Las Vegas will be without Dearica Hamby, who missed the team’s series against Phoenix with a bone contusion in her right knee.

Game 1 of the semifinal series between the Seattle Storm and Las Vegas Aces kicks off on Sunday at 4 pm ET on ESPN.

Sopron Basket are EuroLeague champions for the first time ever, defeating Fenerbahce Safisport 60-55 in Sunday’s EuroLeague final.

Gabby Williams was named the Final Four MVP after leading her team with 14.5 points, five rebounds, 4.5 assists and 3.5 steals throughout the playoffs. The forward, recently acquired by the Seattle Storm, led all scorers in the final with 16 points, four rebounds and three assists.

“I can’t believe this is real. It feels so good how everybody played, everyone contributed,” Williams said after the game. “I relied so much on my teammates today and it felt so good. We had so much trust in each other and so much passion.

“This is so amazing, I just give it all to my teammates. Everyone stepped up.”

Three other Sopron players scored in double digits: Zsofia Fegyverneky had 12, Briann January 11 and Bernadett Hatar 10. Jelena Brookes added nine points and 11 rebounds in the EuroLeague championship win, the first for a Hungarian team.

Fenerbahce, down by 10 points at the half, attempted a comeback, outscoring Sopron by five in the second half in front of their home crowd of 9,500 fans.

“We never let them actually turn the atmosphere into what it actually was,” Williams told BasketNews. “That was the plan from the beginning.”

Alina Iagupova led Fenerbahce with 13 points, six rebounds and five assists, while Amanda Zahui B. and Olcay Cakir had 12 and 11 points, respectively.

The Los Angeles Sparks have traded Gabby Williams to Seattle, as first reported by Winsidr’s Rachel Galligan. In exchange, the Sparks acquired Katie Lou Samuelson and the No. 9 pick in the 2022 draft.

The Sparks originally acquired Williams in a trade with the Chicago Sky. Williams did not play in the WNBA last season due to overseas commitments. In her three seasons with Chicago, she averaged 7.7 points per game.

In early January, the Sparks officially added Williams to the roster for the upcoming season.

But now Williams will join a team that recently re-signed Breanna Stewart, Jewell Loyd and Sue Bird. She will be just the second player in WNBA history to be traded in consecutive offseasons without playing for the middle team, joining Stephanie Talbot. Talbot was traded from Minnesota to New York to Seattle in 2020 without playing for New York.

Samuelson, the former No. 4 pick, was with Seattle just one season after being acquired by the Storm. In that trade, the Storm gave the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 WNBA Draft to Dallas. During last season, Samuelson averaged 7.0 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game.

She’s been dominant overseas for Perfumerias Avenida in Spain, second on the team in both scoring (17.6 points per game) and efficiency (12.6).

“We’re excited to add Katie Lou Samuelson to our team,” General Manager/Head Coach Derek Fisher said. “In addition to her perimeter shooting, Katie Lou brings defensive versatility and length. She has great on-court instincts and we’re excited to build with her moving forward.”

Gabby Williams has been signed by the Los Angeles Sparks, with the team announcing her addition to the 2022 roster on Tuesday.

Williams originally was acquired by the Sparks in a trade with the Chicago Sky in May. She was picked fourth overall by Chicago in the 2018 draft and spent three seasons in Chicago, averaging 7.7 points per game in the 2020 season.

Prior to the trade, Williams was placed on the full-season suspended list due to her international commitments. A member of the French national team, Williams competed in the FIBA Women’s EuroBasket and the Olympics, causing her national team commitments to last a majority of the WNBA season.

In addition to Williams joining the 2022 team, the Sparks will also welcome back 2021 No. 7 overall pick Jasmine Walker. Walker missed nearly her entire rookie season with a torn ACL.

The Los Angeles Sparks announced on Sunday that the team had acquired Gabby Williams from the Chicago Sky.

Los Angeles will trade Stephanie Watts and the rights to 2020 second-round pick Leonie Fiebich to the Chicago Sky in exchange for Williams. Watts was the No. 10 overall pick in the 2021 draft.

After being picked 4th overall by Chicago in the 2018 draft, Williams has spent the last three seasons with the Sky. The Chicago forward averaged a career-high 7.7 points per game in the 2020 season.

Williams won’t be joining the Sparks until next season as she has been sidelined for 2021 on French national team duties ahead of the Olympics.

The Chicago Sky have put Gabby Williams on the full-season suspended list, head coach James Wade said Thursday.

The move comes after the French national team announced Williams as part of its roster competing in the FIBA Women’s EuroBasket in June. Williams, who holds dual citizenship, is also expected to play for France at the Tokyo Olympics, taking her national team obligations through the end of the summer and a majority of the WNBA season.

Wade is currently working to finalize his 11-player roster by the WNBA’s May 13 deadline. With Williams on the suspended list, the Sky retain her rights and are able to take her salary off the books for the season.

While the Sky reportedly weighed the option of trading Williams on draft day, they didn’t end up making a move. Now, they face the difficult task of replacing the guard, who was selected to the All-EuroLeague Women First Team and named Defensive Player of the Year in 2021. Williams is also coming off her most productive season in the WNBA, having averaged a career-high 24.8 minutes and 7.7 points per game in 2020.

Wade is confident they’ll be able to find someone to fill her spot given the team’s depth in a season with high expectations.

“We’re pretty solid,” Wade said ahead of training camp. “Gabby is a talented player, and she does what she does. We’ll try our best to make do.”