W.N.B.A. Rookie Showdown Halted by Ionescu Injury

Sabrina Ionescu by accident stepped on Betnijah Laney’s foot close to midcourt, then dropped to the ground after rolling her left ankle.

What was speculated to be an early-season showdown between the Liberty guard Ionescu and the Atlanta Dream’s Chennedy Carter, two of the top W.N.B.A. rookie of the year contenders, took an abrupt flip within the second quarter on Friday night time.

Ionescu, unable to place weight on her left leg, slung her arms across the shoulders of two workforce employees members as they helped her off the ground. She was discovered to have a sprained ankle, and underwent X-rays as the sport at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., continued.

Carter additionally couldn’t end her third skilled recreation. She struggled early, transformed a string of key buckets down the stretch, after which fouled out with lower than two minutes to play.

Ionescu and Carter illustrated that, even for essentially the most promising younger gamers, W.N.B.A. life will be rocky.

“You got to grind night in and night out in this league,” Atlanta Coach Nicki Collen mentioned after her workforce’s 84-78 victory. “You can say, ‘Would it have been different if Ionescu played?’ Sure, it might have been different. It’s hard to say. But you play the cards that are dealt to you and you find ways to win.”

Ionescu and Carter are each anticipated to play essential roles on their rebuilding groups.

It has been years since a participant entered the league with as a lot fanfare as Ionescu. Thanks to a multidimensional talent set, she set the N.C.A.A. report for profession triple-doubles whereas main Oregon to the 2019 Final Four. She was poised for one more deep N.C.A.A. event run with Oregon this season, earlier than the occasion was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Liberty drafted her first over all in April, and Ionescu was instantly tasked with anchoring a New York workforce that went 10-24 final season and lately employed a brand new coach, Walt Hopkins. The Liberty have six different rookies, and performed Friday with out the 2019 All-Star Kia Nurse, who sprained her ankle in final week’s opener towards Seattle.

It took solely two video games for Ionescu to unleash her first breakout efficiency: She totaled 33 factors, seven rebounds and 7 assists in Wednesday’s loss to Dallas.

Yet Ionescu remained matter-of-fact in her self-assessment.

She made four of 17 photographs in her W.N.B.A. debut towards Seattle, and acknowledged she “didn’t have much confidence” and rushed whereas capturing. She thanked the Storm, a championship contender, for instantly displaying her how a lot quicker, stronger and extra athletic skilled gamers are in contrast with faculty athletes. She mentioned she felt extra comfy through the Dallas recreation however that constructing chemistry with a brand new group takes time.

“My teammates know it took us some growing pains at Oregon, as well,” Ionescu mentioned.

When requested on Friday in regards to the prospect of a prolonged Ionescu absence, Hopkins didn’t mince phrases. “There’s not a lot of ready-to-go options hanging around,” Hopkins mentioned. “We’re going to have to huddle up and see if we can get Kia right. Hopefully it’s not serious with Sabrina.”

Carter, the fourth total draft pick of Texas A&M, has an attacking, score-first fashion that earned her the nickname Hollywood.

She has grow to be the first ballhandler for an Atlanta workforce that’s making an attempt to up its enjoying tempo after ending final season 8-26 and overhauling its roster. The Dream have 11 new gamers, and are simply introducing Courtney Williams and Glory Johnson to the combo after each gamers cleared testing protocol for the coronavirus.

Carter totaled 18 factors, eight assists and 5 rebounds in her W.N.B.A. debut, a victory towards Dallas. She then struggled capturing in a 30-point loss to Las Vegas. Collen mentioned she has challenged Carter to enhance her shot choice and, at instances, her defensive engagement. Carter believes she is “a little bit underrated” as a passer, and hopes her first outing signifies she will be able to additionally facilitate as some extent guard.

“We’ve put in a lot of work in training camp, and I’m starting to really know them and find them,” Carter mentioned. “It’ll all come together.”

Carter completed with 17 factors on 6-of-15 capturing and three assists on Friday, a efficiency with tough stretches and dynamic moments.

She missed photographs early. But with lower than 5 minutes to play, she drew a foul on a drive, completed a scooping layup and buried a nifty pull-up jumper on the elbow to assist the Dream keep their benefit. With 1:25 to play, although, Carter made contact with New York’s Jazmine Jones as Jones rose for a jumper, which despatched Carter to the bench along with her sixth foul.

Before her damage, Ionescu gave the impression to be on her method to one other spectacular efficiency.

She scored 10 factors in 12 minutes, mixing aggressive drives with outdoors capturing. During one glorious sequence, she completed on the basket, sprinted again and jumped to snag a steal, then delivered an overhead go down the ground — whereas nonetheless airborne — to Layshia Clarendon for a layup.

But by the fourth quarter, the Liberty wanted their different rookies to supply with Ionescu injured. Jones completed with 20 factors, two steals and two blocks off the bench, whereas Jocelyn Willoughby added 14 factors, three steals and two blocks.

“It’s been exciting to see, every night, somebody else has stepped up,” Hopkins mentioned. “What we’ve talked about with consistency, with a younger team, it’s about getting those types of efforts.”

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