All Scores

Skylar Diggins-Smith will miss Mercury’s final two regular-season games

(Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Phoenix Mercury will spend their final two games fighting for one of the last two WNBA playoff spots. But they will do so without Skylar Diggins-Smith.

The All-Star guard will miss the team’s two remaining regular-season games due to personal reasons, starting with Friday’s contest against the Dallas Wings, the team announced Thursday afternoon.

For Phoenix’s win Saturday over New York, Diggins-Smith was listed as out with a non-COVID illness. In the team’s loss Wednesday to Minnesota, the All-Star guard was once again absent, this time listed as out for personal reasons.

Two days ago, Diggins-Smith tweeted that the WNBA has to “decide what we want our game to look like” before saying that the league, players and officials all have “very different views on how our game should be played.” Four days before that, she tweeted that she was in “survival mode.” As of Thursday, Diggins-Smith’s Twitter account has been deleted.

Diggins-Smith last played on Aug. 4 against the Sun, contributing a team-high 16 points. The game took place hours after teammate Brittney Griner was sentenced to nine years in a Russian penal colony.

After that game, Diggins-Smith said Griner’s imprisonment has taken a toll on the team during a challenging season for the Mercury.

“It’s heavy. It’s just heavy y’all,” Diggins-Smith said. “Y’all asking these questions don’t really take away from our trauma. You just add to our trauma. We can break down and cry in front of y’all, so you can see how we feel. I don’t know what else to really say about it. It’s our sister. This is not some random Jane off the street. It’s not anything we’re politicizing. It’s a human being and this is our real life friend and real life sister.

“Now I don’t expect everybody to give a damn, but we really do. We come out here and we’re still supposed to play this game. Nobody even wanted to play today. How are you supposed to approach the game, approach the court with a clear mind, and the whole group is crying before the game because you try to honor her, and you try to come out and still play hard for her.”

Phoenix head coach Vanessa Nygaard said Wednesday that the Mercury found out before the game that Diggins-Smith would be out.

“We have gone through this earlier on Saturday,” the coach said. “We’re just one day at a time moving forward. We’ve seen everything this year, so whatever gets thrown at us, we’re ready to just lace them up and go.

“It’s such an honor and a privilege to play this game and we’re so blessed every day that we get to go out and play in front of our great fans. So whoever we have available is going to come out and battle for our team. We still have fight, and we’re going to be ready to go. That’s what our fans deserve.”

Issues beyond Griner’s detention in Russia have plagued the team this season. In May, Diggins-Smith and Taurasi traded words and had to be separated by teammates while on the bench.

When Taurasi didn’t make the All-Star game, Nygaard praised the selection of Diggins-Smith but suggested the event wasn’t really an All-Star game without Taurasi. In response, Diggins-Smith sent out a tweet with the clip and a clown emoji that was seemingly directed at the coach.

As the trade deadline approached in July, reports emerged that the team was exploring the possibility of a trade involving Diggins-Smith.

Phoenix also agreed to a contract divorce in June with Tina Charles, who later signed with Seattle.

“I’m a strong believer that whatever adversity is thrown at me as a person, as a coach in my development, it’s all for me,” Nygaard said after Wednesday’s loss to Minnesota. “This is something that’s going to help me and make me personally better. I believe that for our team, too. Challenges and things that come to us forces us to try new things.

“I’m extremely proud to have coached this group tonight. That group that’s in the locker room, they are a tough group and they are so resilient. I don’t think anyone can imagine some of the challenges they’ve faced, but they’ve never quit. They’ve never given up.”

New Washington Spirit Head Coach Jonatan Giráldez Arrivin DC

head coach Jonatan Giráldez
Jonatan Giráldez joins the NWSL from FC Barcelona Femení. (Ramsey Cardy/UEFA via Getty Images)

Five months after announcing that the Washington Spirit had hired Barcelona Femení coach Jonatan Giráldez as the team's new head coach, Giráldez has joined the club in Washington, DC.

Giráldez is coming off of a successful season with the Spanish side, having won UEFA Women's Champions League, Copa de la Reina, Supercopa, and Liga F in his final season to complete a lauded Quadruple.

While Giráldez was finishing out his tenure in Europe, Adrián González filled in as Spirit interim head coach. González has also seen success, leading the team to its third-place standing with a 9-3-1 record through 13 games.

“I’m thrilled to join the Spirit and begin this next chapter with the club,” Giráldez said in an official team statement. “To be part of the vision Michele Kang has for the Spirit and women’s soccer globally is an exciting opportunity.”

Giráldez has worked at Barcelona since 2019, initially coming on as an assistant coach before moving up to head coach in 2021. The team went 30-0-0 on the season under Giráldez during his first year as manager.

He brings along with him Andrés González and Toni Gordo, who will serve as the Spirit's Fitness Coach and Club Analyst, respectively.

US Track & Field Olympic Trials Touch Down in Oregon

Sha’Carri Richardson competes in the women’s 200-meter preliminary round during the USATF Outdoor Championships
Sha’Carri Richardson will have some competition this week as athletes vie for an Olympic berth. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The US Olympic Track & Field Trials begin on June 21st, kicking off a 10-day quest to determine who will represent the US in Paris this summer.

The crucial meet will take place in Eugene, Oregon, where the top three finishers in each event will punch their ticket to the 2024 Olympics. As with this past week's US Swimming Trials, even the most decorated athletes must work to earn their spot — and one bad performance could undermine four years of preparation.

Reigning 100-meter World Champion Sha'Carri Richardson headlines this year's field, as the 24-year-old looks to qualify for her second Olympic Games and compete in her first. Richardson is a world champion in both the 100-meter and 200-meter sprint, but missed the Tokyo Olympics due to testing positive for THC shortly after the last US Olympic Trials.

Other standouts include 400-meter Olympic gold medal-winning hurdler Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, who's currently the most decorated athlete in the active women's US Track & Field pool. McLaughlin-Levrone qualified to run in the 200-meter and 400-meter flat races alongside the 400-meter hurdles at the Olympic Trials, but opted to focus solely on her signature event.

800-meter specialist Athing Mu will also be a huge draw this week, as the Olympic gold medalist looks to shake off a lingering hamstring injury while pursuing her second Summer Games. Gold medal-winning pole vaulter Katie Moon will also attempt to qualify for her second-straight Olympic Games.

Ole Miss star McKenzie Long could be Richardson's greatest competition in the 100-meter and 200-meter events, as well as Richardson's Worlds teammate Gabby Thomas in the 200-meter. In field events, watch for Oregon senior Jaida Ross going head-to-head with reigning world champion Chase Jackson in the shot put, as both push for their first Olympic team berth.

Regardless of why you tune in, the US Olympic Trials are a perpetually thrilling and sometimes brutal qualification process. If you're able to make your way to the head of the pack, a shot at Olympic glory might just be waiting at the finish line.

Fans can catch live coverage throughout the Trials via NBC, USA, and Peacock.

Top Teams Square Off in NWSL Weekend Slate

NWSL Orlando Pride forward Barbra Banda
Orlando Pride, led by forward Barbra Banda, will take on Utah in this weekend's NWSL action. (Nicholas Faulkner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

As the NWSL season continues, a few top-performing clubs will have a chance to boost their standings this weekend.

First-place Kansas City will travel to Providence Park to take on fifth-place Portland, as the Current look to keep their unbeaten streak intact. And in New Jersey, third-place Washington will take on fourth-place Gotham FC, with both teams attempting to extend multi-game unbeaten streaks.

A six-point gap has opened between the fifth and sixth spot on the NWSL table — with just six points also separating the league's top five. Kansas City, Orlando, Washington, Gotham, and Portland have recently proven themselves to be a cut above the rest of the competition. With eight postseason spots up for grabs and half the season behind us, a pattern is forming that indicates the playoff race could come down to spots six through eight on the NWSL table.

Of those top five teams, only Orlando faces an opponent in the bottom half of the league this weekend: The Pride will take on 14th-place Utah, who nonetheless are coming off a win — just their second of the season — over Bay FC last weekend.

But despite Kansas City and Orlando having yet to lose a game, Gotham might be the squad coming into the weekend with the most momentum.

Clutch goals from Rose Lavelle and rookie Maycee Bell gave the Bats a 2-0 midweek win over San Diego on Wednesday, in a rematch of the 2024 Challenge Cup. Gotham's unbeaten streak dates all the way back to April, as rising availability and sharpened form have honed this year's superteam into a contender.

Bottom line? As the NWSL season passes the halfway mark, some matches might begin to feel more like playoff previews than mere regular season battles.

Chelsea Gray Returns From Injury in Aces Win Over Seattle

las vegas aces chelsea gray and kelsey plum celebrate a win over the seattle storm
Gray has been sidelined with a foot injury since the 2023 WNBA Finals. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Chelsea Gray made her return to the basketball court on Wednesday, helping the Aces to a 94-83 win over the Seattle Storm. 

The lauded point guard missed the first 12 games of the season, having been injured in last year’s WNBA Finals. The left foot injury caused her to miss Game 4 of the championship series, and she’s continued to rehab it through the beginning of the 2024 season. 

Her return on Wednesday was capitalized by the fact that she needed just 20 seconds to make an impact and record her first assist. While she finished with just one point, she had seven assists, four rebounds, and two blocks to go alongside it in 15:30 minutes. Gray's contributions on the night brought her career assist record up to 1,500.

"I probably went through every emotion leading up to today," Gray said after the game. "I was a little anxious all day. It's been a long time since I've been out on that court. But the fans were amazing from the time I came out to warm up to the time I checked in the game. It was a rush and a feeling I missed a lot."

It’s been a roller coaster of a season so far for Las Vegas, who have lost five of their last seven games. Gray, who averaged 15.3 points, 7.3 assists, and 4.0 rebounds in 2023, has proven herself a much-needed addition to the team’s lineup.

"Felt like my heart," Aces coach Becky Hammon said when asked how she felt hearing the crowd erupt for Gray's return. "She's the leader of our team. I thought she did a wonderful job too."

Start your morning off right with Just Women’s Sports’ free, 5x-a-week newsletter.