Starting Five: Storylines on eve of 2023 WNBA Season

Photo Credit: Lamar Carter

We at Beyond The W will release our comprehensive 2023 season preview next week, but for now, we are taking a look at a few of the unique storylines that proceed the start of the regular season next Friday. 

May 19 cannot get here fast enough, but these nine days prior to the start of the season will be here before we know it. 

There will of course be new storylines that arise as the season progresses over the next few months, but here are those that are front and center as the 27th WNBA season nears its opening tip.

BG’s Return

When Brittney Griner was released from the hell that was Russian detainment in December, we would not have blamed her one bit if she decided to walk away from the WNBA. After all, one can draw a straight line from the W’s meager salaries to her being detained in Russia in the first place. 

But Griner’s mindset was immediately set on a return to the Phoenix Mercury once she was released – and she intends to make up for the lost time that was 2022. 

Her return will be more meaningful perhaps than any previous farewell ceremony we have seen in recent years for a retired player such as a Sylvia Fowles or a Sue Bird. When the Mercury have its first home game of the season against the Chicago Sky and BG’s name is introduced as part of the starting five, we guarantee there will not be a dry eye in that building and the reception will be deservedly deafening. 

Sin City vs. Gotham City

If the WNBA’s free agent period told us anything, it was how apparent it became that there was a new two-headed monster perched atop the W’s food chain. 

Candace Parker and Alysha Clark joined the Las Vegas Aces. Breanna Stewart, Jonquel Jones and Courtney Vandersloot joined the New York Liberty. 

Remember those classic battles between the Minnesota Lynx and the Los Angeles Sparks of the mid-2010s? It is now crystal clear we have that again with Las Vegas and New York. 

The converging of players on the Aces and Lib is no accident – top free agents wanted to send a message to the rest of the league that owners who desire to invest real money into the WNBA’s product will get first dibs on the wish lists of many a free agent. That manifested itself over the offseason and we are sure to see the results over the next few seasons. 

Ionic Bond

The WNBA is even going into the 2023 season with a new television partner. 

It was announced a few weeks ago that starting on Friday, May 26 that every Friday game will be aired on Ion Television. Ion is already running promos plugging the upcoming slate of games. 

For those that may be unfamiliar with Ion Television, it used to be PAX TV back in the day. The strategy for the league is to expand the W’s reach to a new audience that may have previously been unfamiliar with it. 

The new pact with Ion brings shades of when the WNBA used to be aired on channels such as Oxygen and Lifetime. 

40 Games

One area that the WNBA is capitalizing on is game schedule. 

Since the W is not confined by an Olympic or FIBA schedule this season, Cathy Engelbert announced at last year’s All-Star Game in Chicago that this season would be 40 games. 

The past few seasons were more compressed for different reasons. The 2020 season was compressed, of course, because it was in a bubble. The 2021 season was so because of the Olympics and last season’s was on account of the FIBA World Cup. Those concerns do not exist this season. 

Aliyah Boston

If one has observed the Indiana Fever’s social media ever since selecting Aliyah Boston with the No. 1 overall selection, Indy has rolled out the entire red carpet for the South Carolina great.

The Hoosier State has not been the only entity treating her like the young queen she is. Boston this week landed a deal with Adidas. 

As expected for a No. 1 overall, she is seeing plenty of playing time in preseason and has reunited with another ex-Gamecock in Destanni Henderson. She is poised for a smooth transition to WNBA basketball and a possible Rookie of the Year bid.