Becky Hammon’s first two games as a head coach in the WNBA went well for the former NBA assistant with the Las Vegas Aces winning both contests.
Next up for the team is a trip to Washington to face a strong Mystics team led by Elena Delle Donne, who has played in just three games over the past two seasons. Hammon said defense will be the key to keeping the winning streak going.
”If you want to be great, it takes a tremendous amount of effort defensively,” she said. ”The last two games we were able to do that.”
Hammon took over the Aces this season after serving as an assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs since 2014. She’s already changed a few things for the team, moving Dearica Hamby into the starting lineup from her customary sixth-woman position. Hamby has responded, averaging 17 points and 13 rebounds in the first two games.
The Aces, who were the unanimous choice atop the AP power poll Tuesday, will be tested against Washington (2-0). The Mystics aren’t at full strength because of injuries.
Delle Donne returned in the opener, but skipped Sunday’s game at Minnesota as coach Mike Thibault said he’ll work some days off for her during the season to keep the former MVP fresh. Alysha Clark, who missed all of last season with a foot injury after coming over to the Mystics, still has yet to make her season debut. Thibault said she is close to returning.
This week’s WNBA poll:
1. Las Vegas (2-0): The Aces will head to Indiana to face the Fever on Friday after the game in Washington. A’ja Wilson is also off to another hot start averaging 17.5 points and 13 rebounds to go along with 3 blocks.
2. Washington (2-0): Coach Mike Thibault was used to short benches the last few seasons because of injuries. He hopes this year he will have his full roster to use. The Mystics only had eight players available against Minnesota on Sunday, but should have most of the team ready this week in games against Las Vegas and Dallas.
3. Los Angeles (2-0): The Sparks signed Liz Cambage and Jordin Canada in the offseason and the duo has already made a strong impact, helping Los Angeles wins open the season with two victories for the first time since 2018.
4. Seattle (1-1): The Storm will need to find another scoring option behind Breanna Stewart, who was the power poll panel’s preseason pick for player of the year. That could be Jewell Loyd, whose production will be critical to the Storm’s success.
5. Connecticut (0-1): The Sun dropped a close game to New York and were missing DeWanna Bonner, who is still playing overseas. Connecticut also was without Courtney Wiliams, who is serving a two-game suspension for her role in an off the court altercation last season while she was with Atlanta.
6. Chicago (0-1): The defending champions had 25 turnovers in their opening overtime loss to Los Angeles. The Sky should clean that up without too much trouble as they get more used to playing with each other again.
7. New York (1-0): The Liberty got a victory for new coach Sandy Brondello in her debut as Sabrina Ionescu powered the team to a win over Connecticut. New York was missing All-Star Betnijah Laney due to an abundance of caution from off season knee surgery. She’s expected back this week.
8. Phoenix (0-1): The Mercury looked lost on the defensive end in their opening loss without center Brittney Griner. She is still being detained in Russia after authorities at the Moscow airport said they found vape cartridges that allegedly contained oil derived from cannabis in her luggage, which could carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
9. Atlanta (1-0): The Dream traded up to draft Rhyne Howard and make her the cornerstone of the franchise and the Kentucky graduate had a solid debut, scoring 16 points to go along with four blocks and two steals in a win over Dallas. She was the panel’s preseason pick for rookie of the year.
10. Minnesota (0-2): A favorable schedule has the Lynx home for six of their next seven games. Minnesota is 10-3 over its last 13 games with 10 of those games being played on the road. The Lynx also welcomed back Aerial Powers this past weekend after she missed two months while recovering from a torn UCL in her right thumb.
11. Dallas (0-1): The Wings should get Satou Sabally back this week after she missed the opener because of her overseas playing commitments. Offseason addition Teaira McCowan also should return as well.
12. Indiana (0-2): The Fever may take their lumps again this year but are building a solid foundation with rookies NaLyssa Smith and Destanni Henderson. Smith averaged 13 points and 11 rebounds in losses to Washington and Los Angeles. Henderson, who was drafted in the second round, had 19 points in the defeat to the Sparks.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Natasha Cloud of Washington was voted the Player of the Week after averaging 18 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds in the two Mystics’ victories. Other players receiving votes included Jordin Canada of Los Angeles, Sabrina Ionescu of New York and Wilson.
GAMES OF THE WEEK:
Storm vs Mercury, Wednesday and Saturday. There will be few chances left to see Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi play against each other and two of them come this week. The league’s all-time assist leader and all-time scoring leader will play a home-and-home set this week.
More AP women’s basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-basketball and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports