Sports

WNBA postpones start of the season

Bahamian professional women’s basketball player Jonquel “JJ” Jones, the starting center of the Connecticut Sun, will have to wait a little longer to get her 2020 campaign underway, as the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) has decided to postpone its opening date for the 2020 season, due to latest developments of the COVID-19 pandemic.

That announcement came weeks after the National Basketball Association (NBA), National Hockey League (NHL), Major League Baseball (MLB) and other professional leagues around the world have suspended play, indefinitely.

WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a statement: “As developments continue to emerge around the COVID-19 pandemic, including the extension of the social distancing guidelines in the United States through April 30, the WNBA will postpone the start of its training camps and tip of the regular season, which was originally scheduled for May 15. While the league continues to use this time to conduct scenario-planning, regarding new start dates and innovative formats, our guiding principle will continue to be the health and safety of the players, fans and employees.”

The 6’6” center was phenomenal last season. She helped the Sun get to their first WNBA Finals since 2005. However, they fell in a fierce five-game series to a tough Washington Mystics team. They lost three games to two.

Back in February, Jones, a restricted free agent at the time, signed a multi-year contract to return to the Sun. After the signing, Sun Head Coach and General Manager Curt Miller said Jones was just scratching the surface and he looks forward to her continued growth and leadership.

In 2019, the Grand Bahamian was just shy of averaging a double-double in a healthy regular season where she played and started all 34 games. She finished the regular season averaging 14.6 points and 9.7 rebounds per game. She added two blocks per game. Jones led the league in rebounding and was tied with Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner for the league lead in blocks.

Jones’ stunning regular season numbers didn’t go unnoticed. She was named as an all-star and a member of the All-WNBA Second Team for the second time in her career. Jones was also named to the WNBA All-Defensive First Team.

For her rebounding efforts, the 2016 sixth overall pick in the WNBA Draft won the 2019 WNBA Peak Performer award in that category for the second time in her career. She also won that award in 2017, when she inked her name in the history books by recording a WNBA record – 403 rebounds in a season, averaging 11.9 per contest. She was named that year as the WNBA Most Improved Player.

In 2018, she earned the WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year Award.

During the team’s postseason run last year, Jones took her play up another notch, averaging 17.9 points and 10.4 rebounds per game.

Signing Jones to a new deal was just one move the Sun prioritized in the offseason. They also snatched veteran guard/forward DeWanna Bonner from the Mercury. Bonner averaged 17.2 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. The Sun is now expected to feature a starting front line of Jones, Bonner and Alyssa Thomas.

Englebert, on behalf of the league, sent out thoughts and prayers to the players, fans, and all of those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The league also announced support to the healthcare workers and first responders who are on the frontline of the pandemic.

The league will go ahead with its 2020 draft, to be done online, on April 17. It will be aired on ESPN at 7 p.m. with the top prospects taking part remotely. The draft still gives prospects a chance to hear their name called as they get a chance to realize their dreams of being drafted into the WNBA despite the pandemic placing physical limitations.

The pandemic is wreaking havoc in the United States with almost 600,000 cases and about 23,000 deaths – more than any other nation. Globally, there are about 1.9 million cases and over 100,000 deaths.

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