Several storylines emerge for coach Bill Laimbeer and his Las Vegas Aces as the midway point of the WNBA season approaches. The Aces, who have several of its core players engaging in All-Star and Team USA extracurriculars this summer, won’t be getting much time off even when the league break rolls around. Here’s a look at the week that was and the week ahead for the Aces.
WNBA All-Star Game well represented by Las Vegas Aces
Not only are the Las Vegas Aces the hottest postseason-bound team in the league for the fourth year in a row, but they’re also proudly hosting the league’s hottest event of the season: the WNBA All-Star game at their home court – the Michelob ULTRA Arena in Las Vegas on Wednesday, July 14, 2021.
A league-wide event that celebrates individual player accomplishments for the first half of the season, the WNBA All-Star game is much less an exhibition game and more a celebration of its league’s brightest stars as they continue to inspire generations of basketball fans around the world.
With that, an alarming number of home team favorites populate the rosters for both squads as this year’s WNBA All-Star game format uniquely pits traditional league All-Stars against Team USA players who were selected to represent the United States in Tokyo this July in the upcoming Summer Olympics.
Regarding All-Star Aces: Liz Cambage, a member of the Australian national team, and Dearica Hamby will contribute in the frontcourt as they face off against Team USA, which is partly comprised of fellow Aces teammates A’ja Wilson and Chelsea Gray.
Aces going for the gold
It’s not surprising five of coach Laimbeer’s Las Vegas Aces players will be part of Olympic rosters for three different countries.
Gray, Wilson and Team USA will be playing for its seventh consecutive gold medal this summer while Cambage plays for her Australian National Team.
Meanwhile, Aces guard Kelsey Plum (along with Stefanie Dolson, Allisha Gray and Katie Lou Samuelson) punched her ticket for Tokyo and qualified for the inaugural 3-on-3 Olympic competition in women’s basketball.
One of the biggest storylines of the entire Olympics, however, maybe that of Ji-Su Park. The Aces’ 22-year-old, 6-foot-5 South Korean center will perform on the biggest stage of her already impressive career when Korea’s women’s basketball team competes at the Olympics for the first time in 13 years.
Korea secured its spot at the Tokyo Games this February in Serbia, earning a berth for the first time since the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Working with less Aces in the deck
There’s no question the Las Vegas Aces are well represented in both the WNBA All-Star Game and the Olympics. What’s not lost on the team is the work that still needs to be done to push for the league championship. While key pieces of the roster enjoy honorable mentions and represent their countries, The Aces’ second half will be challenging.
Sitting at first place in the Western Conference at 12-4 with a tie-breaking win over the Seattle Storm, and barring a one-point 89-90 loss to the Lynx on June 25th, the Las Vegas Aces are enjoying a would-be eight game win streak.
Atop the league in PPG at 91.8 and point differential in +11.2, the Aces are strolling into the second half of the season. It doesn’t go unnoticed that it’s also happening right as consistent performers are all being summoned for seemingly greater causes during this summer’s Olympic campaign.
After an overwhelming 99-75 win over Los Angeles (6-9) on Wednesday, wherein six Aces players scored in double-digits, the Aces wrap up their two-game road trip against coach Derek Fisher’s Sparks on Friday before traveling back home to host the Atlanta Dream (6-9) for a 4th of July showdown in Vegas.
The Dream, led by Tiffany Hayes, Courtney Williams, and Chennedy Parker, are coming off of a hard-fought 73-69 win over the New York Liberty as they look to string back-to-back wins together for the first time since May.
Laimbeer’s shorthanded squad will need to remain focused in the absence of perennial scorers if they hope to keep their momentum as the best team in the league.