Game 4: The Mercury might have a Big 4, and everything else you need to know

Bria Hartley is GOING OFF.

Hello, it’s me, Matt Ellentuck.

We did it! It’s been a wholeass week of WNBA play. Three games every day for six days a week is a lot, so rest up today. Mondays are for relaxing.

I also wanted to let y’all know that I started an Instagram page for Here’s Basketball, which you can follow here.

in case u were wondering why diana taurasi destroyed the liberty lmfaooo
#wnba #basketball #dianataurasi #phoenixmercury #suebird #meganrapinoe
August 2, 2020

Thankfully my sister is a graphic design major so she’s helping with it.

I also wanted to remind everyone that I’m keeping this newsletter as free as possible for now, but I do have a paid option for $7 per month which will give you a six times per week bonus letter from me on all things WNBA fantasy and daily fantasy. If you’d like to support the newsletter, that’s here:

I’ll stop talking now.

Here’s Basketball

This week, the players of the WNBA are honoring Sandra Bland before games as part of the Say Her Name campaign. Bland was found dead in police custody five years ago after a routine traffic stop. Last week, players honored Breonna Taylor, and continue to do so, wearing her name on the back of their jerseys.

In an interview with Holly Rowe during the Aces-Wings game on Sunday, Satou Sabally said “Today, we’re playing for Sandra Bland. We’re honoring her name. We’re honoring her story for the injustice that has happened to her. No one has been persecuted at all. So, we’re playing for her name, saying her name today. Everyone has to pay attention to her story.”

The Phoenix Mercury might be back for real

The Mercury got off to a super shaky start to the year, dropping Game 1 to the Sparks by 23 points, and Game 2 to the fringe-playoff Fever by six. But they won Game 3 against the Aces by seven points, and on Sunday, they blew out the Sabrina Ionescu-less Liberty by 29 points.

The biggest reason for their early-season rebound? Bria Hartley. Yeah, the Hartley most of us ripped Phoenix for paying a max contract to in the offseason. But she’s been stellar, and she dropped a career-high 27 points off the bench in the win. On the season, she’s averaging 19 points on 44 percent three-point shooting.

It wasn’t just Hartley on Sunday, though. The Mercury had their flare back. Diana Taurasi was high-stepping and no-look dishing her way through traffic, and blocking shots?! She finished the game with 18 points and nine assists.

Brittney Griner went off, too, with 16 points and six rebounds. She also blocked Kia Nurse and THEN HELD HER FOLLOW THROUGH AS IF SHE JUST SWOOSHED A 30-FOOT JUMPER.

The Mercury aren’t perfect. Their defense still isn’t great. But they’re improving.

DeWanna Bonner is still the best player of the 2020 season so far

I know, I know. Her team is one of only two winless ones after four games (Liberty.) But can we please, for a second, appreciate how well Bonner is playing? In a 78-69 loss to the Lynx on Saturday, she finished with 28 points on 8-of-18 shooting including 5-of-11 from range. On the season, she’s averaging 28 points with nine rebonds, four assists and two steals, shooting 48 percent from the field and 38 percent from three.

It’s still early in the season. I’m not writing off the Sun yet, especially with Briann January due back soon. They play the Storm on Tuesday, which, yikes. But they get a much easier game on Thursday against the Wings. If they don’t win that one, then we can panic.

This Jordin Canada move is SHEESH

Sue Bird got a rest day on Saturday against the Sparks, and it didn’t matter much as the Storm still won, 81-75. That’s what happens when your team’s backup guard could be a starter on almost any other team in the league. Enter, this Jordin Canada behind-the-back:

I hope Bird never retires, but Canada is ready to lead a team.

Candace Parker got a tech for making a joke

My favorite part about having no fans at the bubble is that we can hear more of what coaches and players are saying than ever. And on Saturday night, we heard Parker go off at a ref for calling a technical foul after she was making a joke with either Sue Bird or Breanna Stewart (I’ve replayed this video so many times, but still can’t tell which name she’s saying.)

“We were joking. She was laughing. It’s a joke. I understand this is women’s basketball, but shit.”

Chris Baynham, the head coach for the Forest Park high school girl’s basketball team, made an excellent point about this back-and-forth between Parker and the ref. He wrote: “Oh this is absolutely an issue at the high school level as well. The same refs will ref a girls and boys game, but will call more techs on the girls and faster for showing any type of emotion. The boys can flex, scream, yell, stare each other down etc and you won’t hear a thing.”

That sucks. Emotions make sports fun. Refs need to hold their whistle and let women’s basketball players react like they let men’s players do.

Elena Delle Donne’s gigantic great dane can’t swim

Delle Donne is outside the bubble, and spent some time over the weekend trying to teach her dog, Wrigley, how to swim.

It didn’t go well.

Good try, Wrigley! So close!

Some notes:

  • Shenise Johnson suffered a hamstring injury against the Sun. Her status is unknown

  • Victoria Vivians suffered a hamstring injury against the Dream. Her status is also unknown

  • Teaira McCowan started a game! Finally! But it only happened because Natalie Achonwa didn’t play due to a hamstring injury

  • Lauren Cox is back in the medical protocol after having been cleared, according to Power Plays’ Lindsay Gibbs. She didn’t make her debut on Sunday like we expected

    Also, as a treat, here’s a tomato that Whitney Medworth pointed out looks like Larry Bird:

WNBA standings after week 1:

  1. Chicago Sky, 3-1

  2. Washington Mystics, 3-1

  3. Seattle Storm, 3-1

  4. Minnesota Lynx, 3-1

  5. Los Angeles Sparks, 2-2

  6. Las Vegas Aces, 2-2

  7. Indiana Fever, 2-2

  8. Atlanta Dream, 2-2

  9. Dallas Wings, 2-2

  10. Phoenix Mercury, 2-2

  11. Connecticut Sun, 0-4

  12. New York Liberty, 0-4

Matt’s power rankings:

  1. Storm

  2. Mystics

  3. Sky

  4. Lynx

  5. Aces

  6. Sparks

  7. Mercury

  8. Fever

  9. Wings

  10. Dream

  11. Sun

  12. Liberty

Matt’s MVP rankings:

  1. DeWanna Bonner

  2. Breanna Stewart

  3. A’ja Wilson

  4. Courtney Vandersloot

  5. Sylvia Fowles

Matt’s Rookie of the Year rankings:

  1. Satou Sabally

  2. Sabrina Ionescu

  3. Chennedy Carter

  4. Ezi Magbegor

  5. Julie Allemand

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If you have any leads, please email: or DM me on Twitter: @mellentuck. I miss doing this as a full-time job. All of my previous work can be found at SB Nation, where I worked for the past four years before being laid off due to the pandemic.

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!