WNBA releases 2023 schedule! Six observations of upcoming 40-game slate

Photo Credit: Lamar Carter

Us WNBA fans got an earlier release of a season schedule than typical as the 2023 list of games has indeed been released and is on the W’s site as well as the sites of all 12 teams. 

The season will begin on May 19 and will feature a four-game slate of contests with three of them being Commissioner’s Cup games. Last season’s WNBA runners-up Connecticut Sun will be at Gainbridge Fieldhouse to take on the Indiana Fever. Also, the New York Liberty will make the short trip from Brooklyn to our Nation’s Capital as the Washington Mystics await at DC Entertainment and Sports Arena. 

Also, the Chicago Sky will have a short trip as well – up to the Twin Cities where they will take on the Minnesota Lynx at Target Center. Plus, the Phoenix Mercury also will have a short trip as the Los Angeles Sparks await at Crypto.com Arena. 

The following day, there will be a rematch of last season’s WNBA semifinal series when the defending champion Las Vegas Aces meet up with the Seattle Storm at Climate Pledge Arena and the Atlanta Dream make the trip to Arlington, Texas to face the Dallas Wings. 

Other key dates were released by the WNBA as well. These include a July 15 date for the 2023 All-Star Game and a January 21 date for when teams can begin negotiations with free agents. 

February 1 is when all of the free agency chaos will commence – officially. 

With the full schedule released and us having a chance to glance at it, here are six observations now that we have all circled May 19 on our calendars. 

I’m 40!

The W itself will be a bit younger than 40 once play tips off in May – 27 years of age to be exact. But the 40 is in reference to the number of games each team will play in 2023. 

Cathy Engelbert, the WNBA commissioner, first made the announcement at the All-Star Game in Chicago last season. There are two big reasons the WNBA can pull off a 2023 season with 40 games. No Olympics and no World Cup. Last season was particularly compressed given the World Cup took place immediately after the season and Team USA did not have its full roster on hand in Australia once play started. 

No big deal for the Stars and Stripes, obviously as they left the Land Down Under with more gold medals draped around their necks. 

3 for the Price of 1

As mentioned before, three of the four contests that will take place on opening night are all Commissioner’s Cup games. Sun-Fever, Liberty-Mystics and Mercury-Sparks are all Commissioner’s Cup contests, meaning the WNBA is once again putting early and often emphasis on its in-season tournament.

The Commissioner’s Cup championship game will occur on August 15 – a full calendar month following All-Star Weekend. The Seattle Storm won the Commissioner’s Cup the first year (2021) and last season was won by the eventual WNBA champion Aces. 

Road Warriors

For all the talk within Sun circles about “disrespeCT,” one has to consider how the defending champion Aces are being scheduled to begin the season as outright disrespect. 

Las Vegas will begin its schedule with two Commissioner’s Cup matchups on the road – at the Seattle Storm on May 20 (which our guess will be a nationally-televised broadcast on either ESPN or ABC) and another in Los Angeles at the Sparks on May 25. The Aces’ first home game is not until May 27 when those same Sparks arrive at Michelob Ultra Arena for a matchup that is likely to feature the team’s ring ceremony and raising of a 2022 championship banner to its rafters. 

Interestingly enough, the Aces’ schedule prior to the All-Star break is practically bookended with four Commissioner’s Cup games. Las Vegas’ first four contests (at Storm on May 20, at Sparks on May 25, vs. Sparks on May 27 and vs. Lynx on May 28) are all Commissioner’s Cup games. 

Those same Aces also will stage a home-and-home with the Wings on July 5-7 with the first game in Nevada and the second in north Texas. On July 9, Las Vegas will be in Minnesota to take on the Lynx, then back home on the 11th to host the Mercury. The Aces close out their pre All-Star break portion of the schedule at Crypto.com Arena at the Sparks, but that contest is not a Commissioner’s Cup game. 

Also interestingly enough, the Aces do not play the team they defeated en route to win last season’s WNBA championship – the Sun – until June 6th. And that game is the first of a back-to-back from June 6-8 in New England for Las Vegas. Connecticut will be at Michelob Ultra Arena on July 1. 

It’s Becoming Tradition

It’s Becoming Tradition for the Liberty to host the Fever in the first home game of the regular season. In 2019, New York hosted Indiana in its first home contest (and the first-ever Lib contest on YES Network) at the near-century old cardboard box known as the Westchester County Center. Indiana eked out a close win in that tilt. In 2021, the seafoam, black and copper hosted the Fever for the team’s first game as a full-time tenant of Barclays Center. A Sabrina Ionescu game-winning 3-pointer lifted the Liberty to a victory at Atlantic and Flatbush. 

On May 21, New York will host the Fever again in a Sunday matinee at The Clays. Six days later, the Liberty will host the team they played its first home contest with last season – the Connecticut Sun. Last season’s opener resulted in an 81-79 win for New York over Connecticut. The Liberty then went on a seven-game losing streak. 

It has also seemingly been tradition for the Dream to open its season against the Wings. During that 2018 season where Atlanta came within one win of a Finals appearance, it opened said season at College Park Center and got thrashed by a final of 101-78. 

The following season, Atlanta matched up against the Dallas at State Farm Arena and earned a close 76-72 win over the Wings. The two teams were also each other’s first opponents in the bubble and Atlanta got the better of the Wings by a final score of 105-95 with Monique Billings lifting the Dream with a 30-point, 13-rebound game. Last season, also in Arlington, Atlanta defeated the Wings with the final being 66-59 behind 16 points from Rhyne Howard and 14 rebounds via Billings. 

Capital Return

It was only a few seasons ago when the Mystics’ full time home became the DC Entertainment and Sports Arena on Washington’s southeast side. 

The team used to play alongside its Monumental Sports and Entertainment brothers – the NHL’s Washington Capitals and NBA’s Washington Wizards at Capital One Arena which is in D.C.’s downtown core. 

The Mystics will make a return for one night to Capital One Arena on July 19 when the team takes on the Fever. 

Serene in Arenas

It also appears that for the first time in a while that no WNBA teams will be going through any weird schedules where they will have to play portions of their home schedules in alternative arenas. 

In recent seasons, the Seattle Storm, Los Angeles Sparks, Phoenix Mercury and Indiana Fever all played through seasons where much of their schedule was at a different home venue than typical. It was pandemic induced in case of the Sparks’ 2021 where much of its home games were at the LA Convention Center. 

That seems to be a thing of the past as all 12 WNBA teams are full-time in their main arenas.