Caitlin Clark era begins with loss as star rookie scores 20 in highly ...

15 May 2024


Caitlin Clark's much anticipated debut began with 20 points and a loss, and other things you need to know as WNBA season begins.

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No. 1 overall pick's Indiana Fever fall to Connecticut Sun as league season tips off

Doug Feinberg · The Associated Press

· Posted: May 14, 2024 9:29 AM EDT | Last Updated: 1 hour ago

Indiana Fever guard Caitlin Clark (22) drives against Connecticut Sun guard Rachel Banham during the fourth quarter of Clark's WNBA debut on Tuesday. (Jessica Hill/The Associated Press)

The Caitlin Clark era in the WNBA has officially begun, although it got off to a slow start.

Clark went scoreless for nearly the first 15 minutes, before getting more comfortable and finishing with 20 points in the Indiana Fever's 92-71 loss to the Connecticut Sun on Tuesday night.

She missed her first four shots before finally getting on the board midway through the second period. The NCAA's all-time Division I scoring leader stole the ball around the foul line and drove the length of the court before laying the ball in. Clark had said before the game that she thought her first basket would come on a layup since it was a "high-percentage" shot.

Clark later added two free throws and hit a three-pointer with 29.9 seconds left in the first half to finish the opening 20 minutes with seven points, hitting two of her seven shot attempts.

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She carried some of that momentum into the third quarter when she scored five of her points to try and rally the Fever, but it just wasn't enough.

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Before her first basket, Clark struggled and got into early foul trouble. Her first shot was a drive to the basket that bounced hard off the glass and into Aliyah Boston's hands for a putback. Clark missed a runner in the lane, and then her three from the left wing just rimmed out. She did have an assist on one basket and threw a nifty behind-the-back pass to teammate Boston, but last season's Rookie of the Year was called for a traveling violation.


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Meanwhile, Clark was called for two fouls on the defensive end. The second one drew loud boos from the sellout crowd. The crowd gave the No. 1 pick in the draft a loud ovation when she was announced in the pregame introduction.

Before the game, Clark admitted she was eager for her WNBA debut. It was one of four games on the league's opening night to tip-off the WNBA's 28th season. New York, which was runner-up in the WNBA Finals, visited Washington to start the evening.

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She sat around most of the day at the hotel and had to wait to get on the court when her team arrived nearly two and a half hours before tipoff.

"I just want to get out there and play," she said. "I got plenty of time to sit and think about it. Still this is exciting. This is fun. ... There's just a different buzz in the air."

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Even before playing a WNBA game, Clark has left her mark in the pros. The league's draft had record viewership, and her No. 22 Indiana Fever jerseys have been flying off the shelves. There were hundreds of fans walking around the arena in Clark jerseys and t-shirts.

Three WNBA teams have already moved their games to bigger arenas to keep up with the demand for tickets to watch her play. Her debut in Connecticut is sold out — the first sellout for the Sun in a season opener since they played their inaugural game at Mohegan Sun Arena in 2003 after moving from Orlando. There's also a huge media turnout with nearly four-times the number of credentials issued for this game than a normal Sun contest.

Clark and her teammates took the court in a morning shootaround at the empty arena. She said afterward that she planned to watch more film during the day in her hotel room.

"I don't feel nervous or really anxious," she said. "I think I'm just excited more than anything and just embracing it."

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Clark said she's not going to get too caught up on her play in her first game.

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"If something isn't perfect, my life's not going to end," she said. "If, you know, we lose the game tonight, my life's not going to end. I'm just going to learn from it and come back on Thursday and try to help us win."

This was the second sold-out crowd Clark has played in front of in her extremely young WNBA career. Her preseason game in Dallas was sold out, too. More than 13,000 fans also turned up for her only home preseason game.

Clark's home debut will be Thursday, when the Fever host the New York Liberty.

Here are a few things to look for in the season ahead:

Charter flights

Teams will travel on charters instead of commercial flights this season, the league announced last week. The WNBA is still working on implementing the program and it may take a few weeks for every team to be flying charters. Previously, WNBA teams could only charter during the postseason and for regular-season games on back-to-back days requiring air travel.

Only two of the four teams that traveled for the opening night games used charter planes. The Indiana Fever and Minnesota Lynx took charters, while New York bused to Washington and Phoenix had a short commercial flight to Las Vegas.

The league plans to fund charter flights at a cost of about $50 million over the next two years in a move that addresses years of player safety concerns. Travel has been a huge topic of discussion for years.

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The Canadian forward was recently drafted 6th overall by the Washington Mystics.Changing squads

Once again, there was a lot of movement in free agency with All-Stars Nneka Ogwumike and Skylar Diggins-Smith joining the Seattle Storm, while Natasha Cloud and Kahleah Copper moved to the Phoenix Mercury. Both sets of players hope to get their new teams back in contention for a championship.

The league will take nearly a monthlong break for the Paris Olympic Games from July 18-Aug. 14. Dozens of current and former WNBA players will be competing.

The WNBA will have its All-Star Game in Phoenix right before the Olympics start. The midseason showcase will most likely pit the U.S. national team against a group of All-Stars. The All-Stars won the contest in 2021 — the last time the format was implemented.

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