On Friday, the San Antonio Silver Stars will begin their 2013-2014 season with the game opener against the reining WNBA Champions, the Indiana Fever. Both preseason games were against the Fever, and while the Stars lost both games, the team showed drive and aggression, displaying a team ready to fight.
What is to make of this year’s roster?
But bad news first – Becky Hammon, the seven-time WNBA All-Star player, has been sidelined with a broken middle finger on her right hand, sustained during training camp this past Saturday. As told by Stars staff, "A timeline for her return will be established following further evaluation this week." This is in addition to the loss of Sophia Young, the Stars’ leading scorer, who tore her ACL in February while playing in China during the off-season.
As said perfectly by Nate Parman (@NateP_SBN), writer for SBN’s Swish Appeal:
And really, no matter how long Hammon is out as a result, the significance of this one is pretty simple as well: the Silver Stars have had a rough offseason and could be headed for a tough regular season … Or if you prefer a more positive spin, this could be a development year with some opportunities for their young talent to play.
Are fans worried? YES. Are fans hopeful? YES. Luckily, a broken finger won’t keep Becky out too long, but a few weeks does equal to many early games.
During Media Day, I spoke with Becky Hammon about how it felt to sit out during the first preseason game, since she did not play, which is (sadly) a perfect look into what she will be feeling for the coming weeks:
I hate sitting out. I hate being injured, I just hate sitting out. Even in practices, I don’t like sitting out of practices. A lot of players that I’ve played with, with every little ache and pain, they say, "I’m out." To me, it’s boring sitting out. I’d rather get something out of my time than sit over there watching.
But fear not, anxious supporter.
The San Antonio Stars rely on each other to accomplish the ultimate goal, which is winning. As Coach Dan Hughes said at training camp, "To us, star power is like a constellation – we have stars but they are all in alignment. If we are missing one of those stars, it doesn’t destroy the whole constellation." That’s the culture of the Stars family.
Many of the veteran players told me that over the years, they move more into the role of mentor along with teammate. Those women have gone through the worries and the doubting, just as the rookies are now, so finding a way to help them through those emotions is an important role for the "established" crew.
Specifically, for Christine Flores, rookie from Missouri and hometown hero from Churchill High School, the veterans on the team who are helping her through the rollercoaster knows as professional sports are also the same women who acted as role models for her basketball career:
When I was younger, I was one of those annoying girls who were walking around, trying to get a picture with everyone on the team. Just finally being here and having girls to that to me now, I’m like, "Oh my gosh, I made it!" And the fact that I’m actually on the team with some of the girls that I’ve been watching since I was younger is the most incredible feeling in the whole world.
Interestingly, Flores told me that she was quite surprised to be where is she now, a WNBA player, because her past athletic performance wasn’t too promising:
No one thought I would make it here, because I couldn't even catch a basketball in my freshman year. I came in and was so awful. Nobody, and I mean nobody, thought I would be here right now.
Now, this local star is ready to transition from the college game to professional game. She told me she feels ready, but is also ready to learn and grow to become more physical and ready for the muscle that comes with the women’s game.
For Danielle Robinson, with the newly changed blonde Mohawk, her offseason time in the Turkish League allowed her to understand some of her weaknesses and refine her strengths. Coming back, her role on the team has been enhanced with the gap from Sophia Young:
I knew coming into the season that once she got hurt, I was going to have to take on more of a scoring role. Not even just scoring, but a defensive presence and leading. Sophia is one of our leaders and a very vocal one, and this year, I’ll have to start speaking up. I will need to do better at all of that, and more of it. But I look forward to the challenge, and everyone likes to score, so it’s exciting.
As Robinson’s role increases and more is expected from her, we will probably start to see more from her in late shot clock situations, acting as our silent weapon that will produce the points.
Additionally, Jia Perkins, a nine-year veteran of the game, will be another on the roster who will look to step-up her role this season.
What Sophia brings to the team, not just physically or mentally, but as a leader on the court, and with me not being as vocal on the court, I won’t step up in that way. But I will definitely step-up to lead by example. I’m not putting pressure on myself. Mentally, when I was in the offseason, I was thinking I wanted to do more anyways, before she even got injured. So, it’s not pressure that will make me do more, but something that I’ve been working towards and I’m ready to accept the challenge. It will be a team effort to pick up the slack.
In all, as someone who has watched the Stars from the crowd over the years, then most recently at training camp and preseason games, the team looks ready. Sure, the chemistry isn’t perfect, but that will come with time, bringing the team together to communicate and mesh as one. For a roster that has been together for just weeks, the season looks pretty good.
With the loss of Young for possibly the season and Hammon for a few weeks, it may not be good for the team on the court. But, as fans know, the culture of the Silver Stars is all about unity and family – when one falls down, everyone picks up. We can only just sit, watch and see what the early season brings.