The WNBA is primed to return. On Monday, the league announced its plan to hold a 22-game regular season at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, which is expected to begin in late-July followed by the traditional eight-team playoff format.
IMG Academy will host everything from training camps, games, and housing for the players and staff. Though specific dates were not yet given, teams will head to Florida in “early July” to begin training camp while the regular season will kick off in “late July,” which the league is hoping to be July 24, according to the AP’s Doug Feinberg. The finals will wrap up in October.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced the league to suspend all basketball operations in April and delay the start of its regular season, which typically begins in mid-May. With the pandemic still ongoing, the WNBA is working with medical specialists, health experts, and government officials to create guidelines in order to keep both players and staff members safe and healthy. No fans will be allowed in attendance.
Though the schedule is shorter than it would’ve been under normal circumstances, the players will maintain their full salaries as long as the league can play the full regular season and playoffs, according to Howard Megdal. Players must notify their teams by June 25 if they will participate. Those who are considered high-risk for the coronavirus will have the option to sit out and still receive their full salaries.
Players with children can also bring a caregiver with them to Florida and those with five years of experience can bring someone with them as well, but they’ll have to pay for their expenses, per ESPN’s Mechelle Voepel. Once the semifinals of the playoffs begin, all players will be allowed a +1.
The WNBA will support its players in creating a new social justice platform as well. The season will include “a devoted platform led by the players that will aim to support and strengthen both the league and teams’ reach and impact on social justice matters,” according to the release. The league will also donate sales from its “Bigger Than Ball” merchandise line to the Equal Justice Initiative.
This season is the first under a groundbreaking new CBA which was approved shortly before the pandemic began. The new deal improved salaries for players while also improving travel conditions provided other benefits to the players that didn’t exist previously.
In April, two new former UConn players entered the WNBA with Megan Walker selected ninth overall by the New York Liberty and Crystal Dangerfield going 16th overall to the Minnesota Lynx.
The offseason also saw plenty of former Huskies on the move with Katie Lou Samuelson traded from the Chicago Sky to the Dallas Stars for Azura Stevens, Tina Charles dealt to the Washington Mystics, and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis brought back to Connecticut to play with the Sun after a stint in Seattle. In free agency, Morgan Tuck signed with the Seattle Storm while Bria Hartley joined on with the Phoenix Suns.
The new season will also mark the return of a handful of former UConn stars as well. Breanna Stewart is back after tearing her Achilles in April of 2019 while Sue Bird also returns after missing last year with a knee injury. Diana Taurasi should also be a full-go after playing in just six games due to a back issue.
There are 19 former Huskies expected to play on nine different teams this season along with two former players that are now assistant coaches — Asjha Jones with the Washington Mystics and Kelly Raimon (Schumacher) with the New York Liberty.