Has the CT Sun outlived its usefulness to the WNBA?

Has the CT Sun outlived its usefulness to the WNBA?

It’s not a particularly happy subject, not with the Connecticut Sun which has become an institution here in our corner of the world. But then, as the philosopher Ayn Rand once wrote, “The hardest thing to explain is the glaring evidence that everyone has decided not to see.”

The stark evidence: The franchise’s place in the WNBA is becoming less and less relevant.

The Two-Minute Drill Version: The WNBA is suddenly inundated with the “super team” narrative, evidenced recently by big drives from New York and Las Vegas. Combine that with Connecticut’s modest market size and history of its players ending up going elsewhere – to bigger cities – and this proud franchise has outlived its usefulness for the WNBA.

Team and league officials may bristle at that, offering all bromides over the loyal fanbase and Connecticut’s importance to the game’s growth. But player behavior suggests Connecticut could all might as well be the Elbe of the league.

Jonquel Jones has left, according to dispatches, for a bigger market. Chiney Ogwumike did the same a few years ago. And while neither would call the experience here unpleasant, they would agree that Connecticut can’t offer the same opportunities as New York, Los Angeles, Washington, Seattle, Chicago, Atlanta and Las Vegas.

Free agents really don’t want to come here. Rookies play here, prove their mettle and leave. It’s hard to blame them. Think about it: New York, Los Angeles and… Uncasville?

Now comes the concept of the “super team”. It was even a talking point earlier this week on “Around The Horn,” with four male panelists who probably thought “Swin Cash” was a payment method 10 years ago. Now they frequently talk about women’s basketball, how super teams create the rivalries sports fans want to see. Someone by the name of Harry Lyles Jr. even announced that New York’s first game against Las Vegas this year would be on June 29 and absolutely must be watched.

It just happened: A great team is not going to grow in this market. Not enough big names find eastern Connecticut appealing. The Liberty just got Jones and Breanna Stewart to complement Sabrina Ionescu. The Aces just got Candace Parker, who left Chicago to play with A’ja Wilson, Kelsey Plum, Chelsea Gray and Jackie Young.

“I want to go where I can continue to help this league improve, continue to raise the bar, and I wonder why not go to the biggest market in all of sports. And I’m really excited to go after their first championship,” Breanna Stewart told ESPN earlier this week.

“Super teams are the new thing, as you can see. So we’re just trying to make sure we’re as good as we can be, we’ve got all our boxes checked. And when you look at the talent, there are a lot of amazing players on this list and we’re going for the championship.

The Sun franchise has done nothing wrong. It’s simply a victim of location, location, location. It may be a difficult concept for us locals who like to live here. Beautiful landscapes, a mixture of coastal and rustic, little traffic, casinos, beaches… a nice piece of the cake. However, this may not necessarily appeal to professional women in their twenties who may be looking for more excitement.

Any accurate WNBA memoir would speak fondly of the Sun’s contribution to the league’s growth. Mohegan Sun hosted draft nights, all-star games, and nationally televised game scores and scores with enough butts in the seats to sell the product well. Most games at Mohegan Sun Arena have been infomercials for passions that run through the league.

That should speak to the coaching acumen of Mike Thibault and Curt Miller, who both brought the Sun within a hair’s breadth of winning the championship. They struggled to attract free agents and saw players leave for greener grass more times than they would have liked. So of course the coaching was better here, the interest bigger and the crowds bigger. But what really appeals to today’s WNBA player are the brighter lights and big cities.

Connecticut can’t compete with that.

Once again: this is not the most pleasant subject. Sun games have been fun here for quite a while. But the idea that this franchise can compete for a title becomes more fictional. The Sun has helped the WNBA become the most popular league it is becoming. But like parents watching their children drift away, their work here is done. They did the dirty work and now others are taking advantage of it. Not particularly fair. But the truth nonetheless.

That’s the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro

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