The 2022 WNBA regular season finally arrived, tipping off on May 6 with a quartet of games, and additional games spread out throughout the weekend.
Now featuring a 36-game schedule, the league took advantage of an entertaining wave of games, showcasing highs and lows for all 12 teams. With the regular season now in full swing, here are a few takeaways from this electric opening weekend.
United For Brittney Griner
This offseason and leading up to the start of the regular season, players, coaches, and teams league-wide have shown their support for Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner, who is still being wrongfully detained by the Russian government.
A few days before the start of the season, the WNBA announced it would honor Griner during the season—or until her safe return to the United States—by featuring Griner’s initials and her No. 42 jersey number on the courts of all 12 teams in the league. In addition to Griner being paid her entire salary this season, the league has granted Phoenix roster and salary cap relief in order to carry a replacement player until Griner returns to court.
The #WNBA also announced that the Mercury have been granted both roster and salary cap relief so it can carry a replacement player until Brittney Griner returns home and is ready to get back on the court.
Either way, Griner is going to receive her full 2022 salary. https://t.co/IuOOeNjkl0
— Mitchell Hansen (@M_Hansen13) May 3, 2022
It has been powerful to see the WNBA come together to honor one of the league’s stars, hoping for her immediate and safe return.
Hammon, Aces Look Impressive
After adding former WNBA great Becky Hammon as head coach over the offseason, the Las Vegas Aces faced an intriguing transition to Hammon’s system of play. Through two games, the pairing has worked as well as hoped, with the Aces looking awfully tough to stop out of the gates.
Las Vegas opened up the season on May 6 by blowing past Phoenix 106-88, backing up that performance two nights later with an impressive 85-74 victory over Seattle. The Aces averaged 95.5 points per game, along with shooting 51.5 percent from the field and 46.2 percent from three—three marks that led the league entering the first full week of games.
Las Vegas has been dominating in every area of the game early on, although Hammon noted after the season-opening win she would like to improve the Aces’ defensive performance moving forward. But if the Aces continue to take care of business in every other aspect of the game, including putting up these types of offensive numbers, they won’t have to worry about any concerns on defense impacting their overall performance.
Hammon and Las Vegas have been a potent and dangerous pairing following the opening slate of games, a trend the Aces hope continues throughout the year and into the postseason. If we take anything from the early returns, it’s that the Aces will be a scary matchup throughout the season.
Sparks Shine While Winning Two
After finishing the 2021 season 12-20 and missing the postseason, Los Angeles retooled over the offseason, adding the likes of Liz Cambage, Jordin Canada, and Chennedy Carter to quickly turn things around.
Through the first two games, the Sparks have looked awfully impressive en route to an undefeated start to the season. Los Angeles opened the year by taking down the defending champion Chicago Sky in overtime on the road, followed by a victory over the Indiana Fever to round out the weekend.
With the trio of Cambage, Canada, and Carter immediately making a big impact on the Sparks through two games, Los Angeles has been a fun team to watch and looks like they could make some noise. It’s still early, but keep an eye on the Sparks.
Good to Have Delle Donne Back in Washington
Washington’s Elena Delle Donne took part in a WNBA season opener for the first time since 2018, hoping to play a full season in 2022 after missing all of 2020 and appearing in just three games in 2021 due to back issues.
Though it’s only been one game, it was good to have one of the best in the WNBA back on the court. The two-time MVP put on a nice showing for the Mystics in the season opener against Indiana, leading Washington to its first of two wins on the weekend, tallying 21 points, nine rebounds, three assists, and two blocks in just under 30 minutes, while looking like the player we all remember.
Delle Donne didn’t play in the Mystics’ win over Minnesota on Sunday due to a pre-planned rest day to avoid overworking her early in the year. Her presence this opening weekend was felt nonetheless. Hopefully, for the Mystics and fans alike, Delle Donne will stay healthy and play at a high level throughout the entirety of this season.
Lynx Have a lot to Figure Out
Coming into the season, some viewed Minnesota as a team who might start off slow but would evolve into a top team, similar to what took place a year ago when the Lynx started 0-4 yet went on to claim the third seed in the playoffs.
Through opening weekend, Minnesota certainly covered the “start off slow” scenario, with rough showings in losses to Seattle and Washington over the course of three days.
The Lynx fell to the Storm 97-74 in Seattle, followed by an ugly home opener against the Mystics, dropping to 0-2 with a 78-66 loss. If the Lynx hope to make a deep run this season, they have a lot to figure out.
Cheryl Reeve on the #Lynx and the early-season struggles:
— Mitchell Hansen (@M_Hansen13) May 9, 2022
The Lynx looked out of sorts, struggling to find much on either end of the floor. They need Kayla McBride (overseas) and Damiris Dantas (foot) to return as soon as possible to help right the ship. The Lynx have shown the ability to figure things out quickly, like in 2021, but they haven’t had too many positives to draw from at this point in the young season.
It’s still early in the regular season, and there is plenty yet to unfold. A lot can still change in the coming weeks and months. Regardless of what took place for the 12 teams during the first full weekend of games, it’s good to have the WNBA back in action for another summer.
Here’s to another fun season ahead, basketball fans.
All stats courtesy of WNBA.com/stats.