Sabrina Ionescu by accident stepped on Betnijah Laney’s foot close to midcourt, then dropped to the ground after rolling her left ankle.
What was purported 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 recreation. 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 might be rocky.
“You bought to grind night time in and night time out on this league,” Atlanta Coach Nicki Collen mentioned 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 arduous 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. Because of 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 one more deep N.C.A.A. event 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 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 capturing. She thanked the Storm, a championship contender, for instantly exhibiting her how a lot sooner, stronger and extra athletic skilled gamers are in contrast with faculty athletes. She mentioned she felt extra comfy throughout the Dallas recreation however that constructing chemistry with a brand new group takes time.
“My teammates understand it took us some rising pains at Oregon, as effectively,” Ionescu mentioned.
When requested on Friday in regards to the prospect of a prolonged Ionescu absence, Hopkins didn’t mince phrases. “There’s not a number of ready-to-go choices hanging round,” Hopkins mentioned. “We’re going to need to huddle up and see if we are able to get Kia proper. Hopefully it’s not severe 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 change into the first ballhandler for an Atlanta crew that’s making an attempt to up its enjoying 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 combination 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 capturing in a 30-point loss to Las Vegas. Collen mentioned she has challenged Carter to enhance her shot choice and, at instances, her defensive engagement. Carter believes she is “a bit of 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 a number of work in coaching camp, and I’m beginning to actually know them and discover them,” Carter mentioned. “It’ll all come collectively.”
Carter completed with 17 factors on 6-of-15 capturing 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 along with her sixth foul.
Earlier than her harm, Ionescu seemed to be on her method to one other spectacular efficiency.
She scored 10 factors in 12 minutes, mixing aggressive drives with outdoors capturing. Throughout one wonderful sequence, she completed on the basket, sprinted again and jumped to snag a steal, then delivered an overhead go down the ground — whereas nonetheless airborne — to Layshia Clarendon for a layup.
However by the fourth quarter, the Liberty wanted their different rookies to supply 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, someone else has stepped up,” Hopkins mentioned. “What we’ve talked about with consistency, with a youthful crew, it’s about getting these kinds of efforts.”