SEATTLE (AP) — It’s hard not to look at the rosters for the WNBA All-Star Game, see the names and accomplishments associated with the West lineup, and not think Saturday’s showcase could be one-sided.
Even for those playing in the game.
“I’m like, ‘Is this the super All-Star team against the younger All-Star team?’” Atlanta guard and first-time All-Star Layshia Clarendon said. “I think they have the more seasoned talent, obviously the bigger names, legends in women’s basketball right now and we have the younger generation names. It’s cool that we’re getting to play against them.”
The WNBA has brought its midseason showcase to the Pacific Northwest for the first time and it’s probably appropriate the event is taking place out West where most of the league’s big-name stars play. Whether it’s Seattle’s Sue Bird, reigning MVP Nneka Ogwumike of Los Angeles or Phoenix’s Diana Taurasi, the names on the West roster are among the most recognizable in the sport.
The East? Not so much, especially with the loss of former MVP Elena Delle Donne due to an injury. The East roster features eight first-time selections.
“I think it speaks to the dynamics and the progression of the league,” Ogwumike said. “You have a lot of established players in the West and you have a lot of first timers that are playing at an All-Star level. I think it shows the growth of the league and its different styles and I don’t think any of them should be ignored.”
Among the starters selected through voting, there were a combined 12 All-Star appearances by the East ... and 31 by the West. Bird nearly tops the entire East by herself making a record-tying 10th All-Star appearance.
The total all-time All-Star selections among both rosters: East, 25; West, 55.
“They’ve got some run-and-gunners over there and they’re going to be ready to go tomorrow morning,” Taurasi said. “They’re not going to know what to expect. They’re going to think it’s a real game.”
Other things to watch during Saturday’s game:
BIRD’S NEST: Bird was already going to be a focus of All-Star weekend, making the team for a record-tying 10th time and playing in front of her hometown fans.
The attention on her was turned up a notch when she announced in an ESPN article on Thursday that she is gay and in a relationship with U.S. women’s national soccer team star Megan Rapinoe. In the article, Bird said she came out to family and friends shortly after becoming a pro with Seattle in 2002 but never made a public declaration until now.
Bird said it had been a hectic 24 hours but the reaction after the article has been completely supportive.
“Hectic, crazy but all-in-all fun and positive,” Bird said. “I’ve had great feedback. It wasn’t something that was a surprise to anyone that is in my life so from that regard I don’t feel different, to be honest.”
INJURIES: Delle Donne has been an All-Star in each of her four WNBA seasons but she will miss the game for the third time after suffering an ankle injury on July 14. Delle Donne was replaced by New York guard Sugar Rodgers, making her All-Star debut.
The West will be without Phoenix center Brittney Griner due to ankle and knee injuries suffered on July 14. Griner, who was selected as a reserve, is being replaced by Minnesota forward Rebekkah Brunson, making her fourth All-Star Game appearance and her first since 2013.
FOR 3: The 3-point contest has returned for the first time in eight years. The contest will take place at halftime of Saturday’s game and features Bird, Rodgers, Minnesota’s Maya Moore, Connecticut’s Jasmine Thomas, and Chicago’s Allie Quigley. Each of the five competitors rank in the top eight in the league in 3-pointers made and 3-pointers per game.
The winner will have $10,000 donated to a charity of their choosing in a partnership between the league and the players association.