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.”

Lexie Brown revealed more details of the illness that kept her out for the majority of the WNBA season.

The Los Angeles Sparks guard missed 28 of 40 games this season due to a bacterial infection, which has required multiple surgeries, she revealed to reporters Wednesday.

The first surgery came in mid-June, when the infection was close to becoming septic, Brown said. While she returned to the court for three games in July, she ended up needing another surgery, which sidelined her for the rest of the season. And she will need one more surgery before she can move forward.

“My goal was always to come back,” she said. “My mentality was to always conquer this and get back on the court. And that was always the conversations we had. But my mind and my body were just not matching up.”

While dealing with the infection and the recovery from her surgeries, Brown, 28, often found herself in “too much pain” to attend games or practices — or even to leave her apartment.

“Day to day, I’m OK. I can do normal things. But I’m in pain all the time, and it’s just been really difficult,” Brown said. “I can’t do any type of exercising at all. So that’s been one of the hardest parts for me too. But I’m getting through it.”

In her 12 games, she averaged a career-high 12.4 points per game, as well as 2.1 rebounds and 2.4 assists. She also had a career-high 48.6% shooting percentage.

As Brown navigated her health ordeal, she and the team offered few details. She did open up about her journey in a TikTok video in August, saying the recovery process has been “a lot longer” and “a lot harder” than she expected. On Wednesday, she praised the Sparks for maintaining her privacy and for offering their unwavering support.

“The team was so amazing through this entire thing. The organization was amazing. They kept it all extremely private, which I appreciate so much, because it was hard when people have a lot of opinions and thoughts of what was really going on with me…

“I see the light at the end of the tunnel. I need to start visualizing positivity more, so: I will be healthy for next season.”

Lexie Brown will miss the rest of the 2023 WNBA season with an unspecified non-COVID illness, the Los Angeles Sparks announced on Aug. 29.

The 28-year-old guard has been “in and out of the hospital” throughout the season, she revealed on TikTok on Aug. 23. She has played in 12 of 35 games for the Sparks, and she last took the court on July 25.

“While Lexie is progressing, after thorough consultation with her, the Sparks training staff, and team doctors, it has been determined that the best decision is to allow Lexie to focus on rest and recovery,” the team said in a statement. “The Sparks fully support Lexie through this process and appreciate respect for her privacy. A further update will be provided when available.”

Brown opened up about her journey in a TikTok video, saying the recovery process has been “a lot longer than I was expecting” and “a lot harder,” but also that “every day is a step in the right direction.”

“I have been struggling,” she said. “Some days are better than others. It’s just been really difficult on my mental. If anybody knows me, they know that I love working out. I’m a gym rat and I haven’t really been able to be myself this entire summer.”

Brown joined the Sparks from Chicago in 2022. Despite her illness, Brown was averaging a career-high 12.4 points per game, as well as 2.1 rebounds and 2.4 assists. Her shooting percentages — overall and from 3-point range — are also career highs, but she had appeared in just three games since June 14.

“I was sick,” she said. “I’ve been in and out of the hospital for months now. It’s been a very mentally draining process but I’m really doing my best to keep improving, stay positive, surrounding myself with my people, with love, and just getting back to the healthiest and happiest version of myself.”


it’s been a very difficult summer…but better days are ahead 🤍

♬ original sound - lexie brown

The Los Angeles Sparks will be without Lexie Brown for the 11th straight game Wednesday as Brown continues to recover from an unspecified non-COVID illness.

Brown, who joined the team in 2021 as a free agent, had been having a breakout season to start 2023. The 28-year-old guard averaged a career-high 13.3 points per game, as well as 2.0 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.2 steals through the first nine games. Her shooting percentages — overall and from 3-point range — are also career highs.

Last Thursday, Brown took to Instagram to address her extended absence, writing that she’s “thankful & grateful.” She also made it seem like she could make her return sooner rather than later.

“I want to send a special thank you to everyone that helped me get through an extremely difficult time. The support, care, and love has been so real,” she wrote. “I’m so excited to start the process of getting back on the court and finishing the season strong. Remember to listen to your body and take care of it. It’s the only one you have.”

Brown is one of many players out for the Sparks, including Chiney Ogwumike, Nia Clouden and Layshia Clarendon.

“While many of my teams have endured injuries, I have never experienced anything like this year,” head coach Curt Miller wrote Monday on Twitter. “Nineteen games into the season, we have now had players miss 57 games with injuries/illnesses. If you included two season-ending (injuries), we have 95 games missed by players!”

The WNBA All-Star teams are set, but the lineup for the Skills Challenge and 3-Point Contest are still up in the air.​​ Friday’s competition serves as a precursor to the main event on All-Star weekend, with six players participating in the 3-Point Contest and eight in the Skills Challenge (if the WNBA sticks with the same format as last year).

With the entire league to choose from, here is my wish list for the players I’d like to see compete this weekend in Las Vegas.

3-Point Contest

Kelsey Plum, G, Las Vegas Aces

After struggling in last year’s 3-point contest on All-Star weekend, Kelsey Plum deserves a shot at redemption. Despite being an excellent 3-point shooter who averages 43.2% for her career, she was last in the competition in 2022. Teammate A’ja Wilson even said Plum “stunk it up.” The Vegas guard followed that performance up by winning 2022 All-Star Game MVP, but a good showing in this year’s 3-point competition would further erase last year’s struggles. Plum said she’s “not a rack shooter and more of a game shooter,” but why not both?

Lexie Brown, G, Los Angeles Sparks

The Sparks guard was considered a snub in last year’s 3-point contest after shooting 39.8% on the season, thanks to a hot hand in the first half. This year, Brown is even better from beyond the arc, shooting 42% and making 2.3 attempts per contest. An illness has kept Brown off the court since June 14, but if she’s healthy, the guard is a no-brainer addition to this year’s competition.

Karlie Samuelson, G, Los Angeles Sparks

Why not have a little intra-team competition? Brown’s teammate, Karlie Samuelson, would be a perfect candidate. She’s spent the last few seasons fighting for a WNBA roster spot and has found a home this year with the Sparks, shooting an incredible 48.2% from beyond the arc. Samuelson is currently injured, but if healthy enough, she deserves this honor.

DeWanna Bonner, F/G, Connecticut Sun

At 35 years old, Bonner is having the best 3-point shooting season of her WNBA career, averaging 38.2% with 2.2 makes per game. Bonner spent her offseason practicing twice a day to rehab an injury and improve her long-range shooting. Bonner’s desire to find ways to get better after 14 years in the league makes her special, and bringing her into the 3-point contest would be a great way to celebrate the veteran’s season.

Sabrina Ionescu, G, New York Liberty

Another player who is having the best 3-point shooting performance of her career, Ionescu is making 43.9% of her attempts this season, marking a 10% improvement on her average last season. She’s making 3.1 3-pointers per contest, good for second in the WNBA. Ionescu is the reigning Skills Challenge champion, so why not give her a chance to win the shooting portion as well?

Jackie Young, G, Las Vegas Aces

Another intra-squad rivalry would be on display if Young competed alongside Plum, and with the competition being held in Vegas this year, two Aces players would make for an exciting atmosphere. Not to mention, Young has had one of the best career arcs when it comes to 3-point shooting, shooting 25% in 2021 and 43.1% in 2022. This year, she’s an absolute must-guard shooter from beyond the arc, making 48.1% of her attempts.

If this is Candace Parker's last season, an appearance in the Skills Challenge would be fitting. (Scott Eklund/NBAE via Getty Images)

Skills Challenge

NaLyssa Smith, F, Indiana Fever

The Fever forward participated in last year’s Skills Challenge as a rookie and finished in second place. Smith is having a great second-year campaign in Indiana, leading the team in rebounds per game and ranking second in points per game. Could a skills competition redemption be in her future? It’s certainly a possibility.

Sabrina Ionescu, G, New York Liberty

Speaking of last year’s contest, Ionescu took home the top prize and deserves a chance to defend her title. Having the Liberty guard compete in all three of the weekend’s events is a lot, but she certainly has a case to make the trio of appearances.

Rhyne Howard, G, Atlanta Dream

When it comes to All-Star snubs, no one was more deserving than Howard, who participated in the game last season as a rookie. She’s averaging 18.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game, building on her Rookie of the Year season in 2022. Since we won’t get to see Howard in the All-Star Game, she should at least make an appearance in the Skills Challenge.

Candace Parker, F/C, Las Vegas Aces

This is perhaps the biggest reach on the wish list, but who better to participate in the Skills Challenge than a do-it-all player like Parker? She’s made it clear that she’s nearing the end of her career, so if 2023 is Parker’s last season, it would be a shame for her to go without seeing her compete in some capacity this weekend.

Marine Johannès, G, New York Liberty

Is it really a skills competition without the flashiest player in the WNBA? The French guard does a little bit of everything, and she does it all with style. Johannès is sure to get “oohs and “aahs” every time she steps on the court, making this event the perfect showcase for an exciting player like her.

Courtney Vandersloot, G, New York Liberty

If we are going to have two Liberty guards, why not make it three by adding in the WNBA assists leader? Vandersloot runs the Liberty offense with ease, dishing out 8.5 assists per game. The WNBA veteran certainly has the skills to win this competition, and maybe Allie Quigley would even make an appearance to cheer on her wife. It only seems fair after years of Vandersloot’s support for the queen of the 3-Point Contest.

Satou Sabally, F, Dallas Wings

Other than Smith and Parker, this list is guard-heavy. Enter Sabally, who is the perfect forward for the skills competition. She’s 6-4, but plays more like a guard who shines in the fastbreak and leads the Wings on the run. That makes her a competitive candidate for this event. Plus, Sabally is having the best season of her career, averaging 17.5 points and 9.3 rebounds per game.

Jewell Loyd, G, Seattle Storm

Things are much different for the 4-14 Storm this season, but Jewell Loyd’s talent remains the same. She could easily participate in the 3-Point Contest, averaging 38.8% from beyond the arc and leading the league in 3-pointers made with 3.4 per game. But I’d rather see Loyd show off her complete skill set, like she’s been doing for Seattle all season.

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

The Los Angeles Sparks announced Wednesday that they have acquired guard Lexie Brown from the Chicago Sky. In exchange, the Sky receive the rights to center Li Yueru.

As Brown had not accepted the qualifying offer extended to her by the Sky, Brown’s deal was a sign-and-trade. The deal is reported to be under the training camp contract designation at $72,141.

Through 89 career games, Brown averaged 4.8 points, 1.2 rebounds and 1.3 assists. Since being drafted No. 9 overall by Connecticut in 2018, she has spent time with the Sun, Minnesota Lynx and Chicago, where she won a WNBA Championship in 2021.

Her best season came in 2019 with the Lynx, where she averaged 7.6 points per game while shooting 40.2 percent from the floor through 33 games.

During this past offseason, Brown was an integral piece of the inaugural Athletes Unlimited basketball season. Through 15 games, she averaged 14 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game.

Athletes Unlimited has confirmed the 44-player roster for its inaugural basketball season, with Kelsey Mitchell, Lexie Brown and Mercedes Russell among the final additions. The season is set to tip off Jan. 26 in Las Vegas.

Mitchell, the Indiana Fever’s leading scorer last season, earned a spot on the All-Rookie Team after being selected No. 2 overall in the 2018 WNBA Draft. Since then, she’s continued to elevate her game, finishing among the WNBA’s top-10 scorers each of the last two seasons. Before turning pro, the guard had a prolific career at Ohio State, graduating with the second-highest points (3,402) and most 3-pointers made (497) in NCAA history.

“I am honored and thrilled to be part of Athletes Unlimited’s inaugural basketball season,” Mitchell said. “AU offers women another opportunity to play professional basketball in the United States and will provide national television exposure that will help us grow the game we love to play.”

Brown and Russell join the league with a combined three WNBA titles in the last four years. Brown is a member of the 2021 WNBA champion Chicago Sky, while Russell won championships with the Seattle Storm in 2018 and 2020. AU players Essence Carson, Natasha Cloud and Jantel Lavender have also won WNBA championships.

“Athletes Unlimited is another great stage to showcase professional women’s basketball here in the United States and I cannot wait to compete both with and against so many talented players on a weekly basis during our inaugural season in Las Vegas starting January 26,” Brown said.

Imani McGee-Stafford announced her inclusion on the roster over the weekend. The 27-year-old center played four seasons in the WNBA from 2016-19 before taking the last two years off to attend law school.

The 31 players added to the roster on Tuesday join 10 who were previously announced, notably Courtney Williams and WNBA veterans Mikiah Herbert Harrigan and Carson.

Four players earned spots through the open tryouts in Atlanta in December. Becca Wann-Taylor will get an opportunity out of the University of Richmond, where she was a two-sport athlete in basketball and soccer. Joining her are Taj Cole, Briahanna Jackson and Takola Larry.

“We are very pleased with the diverse and dynamic Athletes Unlimited Basketball roster for our inaugural season,” said AU Director of Basketball Kristen Miles. “True to our intentions from the beginning, we are providing an additional opportunity for women to play professional basketball in the U.S., whether on a current roster or not. A whole new breed of women’s pro hoops is soon to be unleashed on Las Vegas, and these incredible athletes will surely make for a historic first season that can’t be missed.”

AU players Lavender and Tianna Hawkins will also serve on the player executive committee as the fourth and fifth members alongside Cloud, Sydney Colson and Ty Young.

The four-week basketball season runs from Jan. 26 to Feb. 26.

Full roster

  • Ciara Andrews, G
  • Antoinette Bannister, G/F
  • Kalani Brown, C
  • Lexie Brown, G
  • Kirby Burkholder, G
  • Marjorie Butler, G
  • DiJonai Carrington, G/F
  • Essence Carson, G
  • Brittany Carter, G/F
  • Natasha Cloud, G
  • Taj Cole, G
  • Sydney Colson, G
  • Drew Edelman, F
  • Nikki Greene, C
  • Mikiah Herbert Harrigan, F
  • Rebecca Harris, G
  • Isabelle Harrison, F
  • Tianna Hawkins, F
  • Ariel Hearn, G
  • Grace Hunter, G
  • Briahanna Jackson, G
  • Meme Jackson, G/F
  • Tyce Knox, G
  • Jessica Kuster, F
  • Takoia Larry, F
  • Jantel Lavender, F
  • Akela Maize, C
  • Lauren Manis, F
  • Danielle L. McCray, G/F
  • Danielle M. McCray, F
  • Imani McGee-Stafford
  • Laurin Mincy, G
  • Kelsey Mitchell, G
  • Chelsea Phillips, F
  • Toccara Ross, F
  • Tina Roy, G
  • Mercedes Russell, C
  • Odyssey Sims, G
  • Antoinette Thompson, G
  • Destinee Walker, G
  • Becca Wann-Tayor, G/F
  • Courtney Williams, G
  • Dominique Wilson, G
  • Ty Young, G/F

Lexie Brown is a guard for the Minnesota Lynx of the WNBA. Brown played college basketball at Duke University before being drafted by the Connecticut Sun in 2018 and traded to the Lynx in 2019. Below, she spoke with Just Women’s Sports about her experience in the WNBA bubble so far and how she sees her team advancing throughout the rest of the season. 

What are your thoughts on the WNBA’s social justice efforts and the importance of dedicating this season to Breonna Taylor?

It’s amazing. What has been going on in our country recently has really been going on forever. In these past few months, it was thrust into the spotlight because everyone was at home with the virus. I think it was a good opportunity for us to use our platforms to speak up and speak out. We’re not new to doing that. Female athletes in general, but specifically the WNBA, have always been at the forefront of social justice issues.

On top of that, we have all of these televised games which we didn’t know were going to happen. We came into this bubble just thinking that we were all going to be together and that our voices would be stronger as one — we all wanted to share one united message. The fact that we’re all over TV and social media has been amazing for us in trying to share our message.

They just added around 13 more games to the TV schedule, which is huge. It not only expands the platform, but it also shows that people want to watch you all play.

Exactly. And it’s been so nice to see the support. There is some negativity, of course. But seeing how many people are happy to have access to our games is great. Whether it’s my team or any other team, it’s awesome to see people asking where they can buy jerseys or those orange hoodies that are everywhere. It’s nice to see that people do care about our league because, usually, we see all of the negativity and we just have to ignore it and push through. So, it’s been really nice to get some visibility this year.

How do you think the league has handled all of the different logistics, both leading up to life in the bubble and now with games happening? 

I think they’ve done a great job. During the first day or two, when we were in our little quarantine, people were just getting used to the whole situation. And there were some things that went wrong, but anything that went wrong was fixed so fast, without any hassle. The staff members are all incredible. Everyone is so nice. Everyone is listening to directions. I think the WNBA did a really good job for as little time as they had to put this together. Obviously, you don’t want to be in a bubble, but for someone that’s living in a bubble, I’m very happy here.

Do you think it’s hard to stay motivated during the season while living in such a different environment?

For me, personally, I’m super self-motivated. And I’m not really a person who is out and about all the time. If I’m at home, I’m usually at home with my family and we’re just hanging out. So for me, this type of environment is very similar to one, overseas and two, how I am at home. I miss my friends and family, of course. And I miss our fans. I think that the hardest part for me is not playing in front of fans. But I’m in a situation where all I have to worry about is playing basketball and staying in shape, and that’s an ideal situation for me.

Do you think that there is a bigger focus on recovery since there is less traveling for games? 

Absolutely. One of my teammates actually went down with an injury last night, so now we’re down a player. Things change fast and we just have to take care of your bodies. The best thing for us is that we aren’t traveling, we aren’t sitting in airports all day or all night, we aren’t getting up at 6:00 AM to catch a flight. It’s leveled the playing field. At the end of the season, we’re going to see who took care of their bodies the best and also who did the most work leading up to the season. I made it a goal of mine to come into training camp as one of the most in shape players on my team, and I definitely did that. I love working out and the fact that this is my job is so amazing to me because I get to mess around with all different types of workouts and positively influence my job.

How has it been playing without fans?

It’s been so weird. In our first game, we were down and then we came back, but it just didn’t feel like we were making a comeback. It was so quiet. Everyone is going to have to adjust. Some players who aren’t used to talking and cheering on the bench are going to have to step up. Our coach asked us, “Why are we starting so slow?” And I said, “It’s just the environment.” We have to create our own energy. Some teams are better at that than others. For me, I love our fans, so while it hasn’t necessarily been hard, it’s been sad to not see those familiar faces in the stand.

You won your first game and lost your second. What are your thoughts on how the team has played?

Our energy has been a little up and down. We have so many new faces and a lot of younger players. We’re all adjusting and learning about each other. Our coach is used to having a veteran team, so I think she’s learning as she goes as well. It’s all going to be a process for us, but we all love each other. We have great chemistry off the court. Once we put it all together on the court, find our spots and get a rhythm, we’re going to be fine.

What are your expectations for the remainder of the season?

I just think that we have to play a little bit harder. Obviously we want to make it to the playoffs and potentially win a championship, but we want to be in the top percentages of different categories, too. Points, defense, steals, assists. There are so many things that we want to be great at, and we’re just kind of average at everything right now. Moving forward, we all have to hold each other accountable. Everyone just needs to find their groove and we’ll get there. The whole season is just so strange, the environment is strange, game days are strange. We just need to get used to it. After a few more games, we’ll get there.

Throughout your time in the Wubble, you have been documenting your experience via vlogs that you post on your YouTube channel. How did that come about?

I’ve been vlogging on YouTube for three years. I started vlogging at the end of my senior year at Duke. Actually, I started vlogging when my teammate and I went to this three-point contest at the Men’s Final Four, and our basketball program asked us to vlog it. We vlogged during Draft Day too, and I thought it was awesome. So, I just kept documenting things — I really enjoy filming and editing it all.

I started vlogging in the bubble because, one, so many people were against sports coming back and I wanted to show everyone that it was possible to bring sports back safely. And, two, because I wanted to keep the focus on social justice and social reform. I think it has also been a good way to lighten the mood and show everybody’s personalities. Everyone is still getting to know each other, so when I bring a camera out and start acting goofy it helps everyone to loosen up a bit. I’ve made three so far and I just finished editing another one. There are a lot of players making them, too. So, I think it’s amazing to see everybody’s different experiences on different teams and in different parts of campus.