August 17, 2022 

Daily Briefing — Aug. 17, 2022: WNBA Playoffs? More like WNBA Play-Ons.

A'ja Wilson signs with a crunchy new team

Happy Wednesday! Welcome to The Next’s Daily Briefing, featuring the W Roundup, the NCAA Roundup, and the daily Watch List. Day 86 of the WNBA season is here, which means the playoffs are mere hours away from kickoff. Some things have changed about the WNBA playoffs since last year, so here’s a quick refresher:

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  • There will be three rounds of play instead of four. What this means for the CBA’s playoff bonus schedule, which assumes four rounds of play, has yet to be seen. Will teams eliminated in the first round be paid $1,136 or $1,803 per player, or will the league devise something else entirely? Only time will tell, I just hope it’s not paid out in cryptocurrency.
  • Gone are the days of single elimination games and first/second-round byes. The first round will be a best of three series. All other rounds are best of five series.
  • Should every series play out to its maximum number of games, we could see up to 27 post-season match-ups, eight more than was possible under the old format.

Sunday’s regular-season match-up between the Aces and Storm was the most-viewed WNBA game since 2008, peaking at 1.1 million viewers watching the ABC broadcast. All games for the first round will be shown on the Disney networks: ESPN (including ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU), and ABC.

Day 1 will see the No. 8 Phoenix Mercury take on the No. 1 Las Vegas Aces in Las Vegas. Phoenix will be without Skylar Diggins-Smith, who is now listed as away from the team for personal reasons, and Diana Taurasi, who remains out with a quad injury. Las Vegas continues to miss Dearica Hamby, who is dealing with an injury to her right knee. Meanwhile in Chicago, the No. 7 New York Liberty will face the No. 2 Chicago Sky. Neither team is missing players due to injury, but the Sky will be without Li Yueru, who is not with the team (more below.)

Need more playoffs preview content? The Next‘s Howard Megdal and I will be on Twitter Spaces tonight with our friends at Playback and folks from around the WNBA media-verse. We’re talking all things playoffs and talking about the slate of games ahead of us. Join us at 6:30 p.m. ET!

And don’t forget to join our whole crew tonight, and for every single WNBA playoff game, right here!

But first, read…

  • Our James Kay briefs you on all-things Chicago Sky as they head into the first round of the playoffs against New York, including the status of Li Yueru.
  • Our Hayden Cilley takes you through what’s next for Phoenix’s Diana Taurasi and Skylar Diggins-Smith, who are both expected to miss some or all of the WNBA playoffs, and where the Mercury go from here.
  • Our Tony East reflects on the end of the Indiana Fever season, from the difficulties of balancing coaching and roster changes, to hope for the future.
  • Our Lucas Seehafer recaps the final moments of the 2022 Minnesota Lynx and previews the coming offseason.
  •’s Mark Schindler details Maya Caldwell’s journey to the WNBA, and how she elevates Atlanta as a player and a teammate.
  • Time’s Sean Gregory sits down with Candace Parker and tracks her long and prolific basketball career and the growth of her family.

W Roundup

Atlanta: Combo guard Tiffany Hayes is expected to return to the U.S. soon. The Next’s Gabriella Lewis detailed how her absence affected the Dream and more on Hayes’ late-season departure.

Chicago: Center Li Yueru is no longer with the team due to commitments with the Chinese National Team for the upcoming 2022 World Cup, Annie Costabile reported.

Ruffles: Signed Aces center A’ja Wilson to be its first female “Chip Deal” athlete. Wilson’s first move after securing the multi-year contract? An extremely on-brand signature flavor, Smoky BBQ.

Gatorade: Signed Sky wing Kahleah Copper to its athletic ambassador roster. From the promotional images, it looks like the Glacial Freeze flavor might be a favorite, which would certainly fit what I’ve heard about Chicago winters.

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NCAA Roundup

Texas Tech: Settled a discrimination/retaliation lawsuit with former head coach Marlene Stollings. Stollings was fired in 2020 after a USA Today investigation revealed she had created “a culture of abuse under Stollings and described a toxic culture that generated ‘fear, anxiety and depression.'” Stollings almost immediately took to Twitter to express her thoughts about the verdict.

WNBA Playoffs Watch List, Wednesday, Aug. 17

(All times in ET)

New York @ Chicago, Game 1, 8 p.m., ESPN2, SN

Phoenix @ Las Vegas, Game 1, 10 p.m., ESPN, NBA TV Canada

Written by Isabel Rodrigues

Isabel Rodrigues (she/her) is a contributing editor for The Next from upstate New York. She occasionally covers 3x3 and labor in women's basketball.

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