Sabrina Ionescu unintentionally stepped on Betnijah Laney’s foot close to midcourt, then dropped to the ground after rolling her left ankle.
What was imagined 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 crew 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 sport. 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 probably the most promising younger gamers, W.N.B.A. life could be rocky.
“You bought to grind night time in and night time out on this league,” Atlanta Coach Nicki Collen stated after her crew’s 84-78 victory. “You may say, ‘Would it not have been totally different if Ionescu performed?’ Certain, it may need been totally different. It’s laborious to say. However you play the playing cards which are dealt to you and you discover methods 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. Due to a multidimensional ability set, she set the N.C.A.A. report for profession triple-doubles whereas main Oregon to the 2019 Ultimate 4. She was poised for an additional deep N.C.A.A. match 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 crew that went 10-24 final season and just 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 in opposition to 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.
But Ionescu remained matter-of-fact in her self-assessment.
She made four of 17 photographs in her W.N.B.A. debut in opposition to Seattle, and acknowledged she “didn’t have a lot confidence” and rushed whereas taking pictures. She thanked the Storm, a championship contender, for instantly exhibiting her how a lot quicker, stronger and extra athletic skilled gamers are in contrast with faculty athletes. She stated she felt extra snug in the course of the Dallas sport however that constructing chemistry with a brand new group takes time.
“My teammates realize it took us some rising pains at Oregon, as nicely,” Ionescu stated.
When requested on Friday concerning the prospect of a prolonged Ionescu absence, Hopkins didn’t mince phrases. “There’s not plenty of ready-to-go choices hanging round,” Hopkins stated. “We’re going to must huddle up and see if we will get Kia proper. Hopefully it’s not critical with Sabrina.”
Carter, the fourth total draft select of Texas A&M, has an attacking, score-first model that earned her the nickname Hollywood.
She has turn into the first ballhandler for an Atlanta crew that’s attempting to up its taking part in 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 in opposition to Dallas. She then struggled taking pictures in a 30-point loss to Las Vegas. Collen stated she has challenged Carter to enhance her shot choice and, at instances, her defensive engagement. Carter believes she is “a bit 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 plenty of work in coaching camp, and I’m beginning to actually know them and discover them,” Carter stated. “It’ll all come collectively.”
Carter completed with 17 factors on 6-of-15 taking pictures and three assists on Friday, a efficiency with tough stretches and dynamic moments.
She missed photographs early. However 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 preserve 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 together with her sixth foul.
Earlier than her damage, Ionescu seemed to be on her strategy to one other spectacular efficiency.
She scored 10 factors in 12 minutes, mixing aggressive drives with outdoors taking pictures. Throughout one glorious sequence, she completed on the basket, sprinted again and jumped to snag a steal, then delivered an overhead move down the ground — whereas nonetheless airborne — to Layshia Clarendon for a layup.
However by the fourth quarter, the Liberty wanted their different rookies to provide 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 thrilling to see, each night time, anyone else has stepped up,” Hopkins stated. “What we’ve talked about with consistency, with a youthful crew, it’s about getting these kinds of efforts.”