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Aces embark on first road trip short-handed due to injuries

The Aces are hitting the road for the first time.

The back-to-back WNBA champions began their season with a four-game homestand. Now they’ll play three straight on the road against Minnesota, Atlanta and Dallas.

The trip comes with a few wrinkles for the Aces. The team is traveling via private flights thanks to the WNBA’s new charter program. But the Aces also have fewer players available to them than they would like.

The team is down to nine healthy bodies after waiving rookie guard Dyaisha Fair on Sunday. The Aces will look to sign additional help within the next “week to 10 days,” coach Becky Hammon said to the Review-Journal on Monday.

The team will be tested in the meantime. The Lynx, who the Aces play at 5 p.m. Wednesday, are scoring the second-most points per game in the WNBA and allowing the second-fewest.

One player the Aces are missing is point guard Chelsea Gray, who remains sidelined with a lower-left leg injury.

Gray was seen in a boot on social media Sunday while attending a concert by R&B artist Babyface at Palms with other Aces players and personnel. Hammon said the 2022 WNBA Finals MVP, who has been seen without the boot at the team’s recent games, is supposed to wear the boot in public as a precaution.

“We’re taking it super slow,” Hammon said Monday. “When she knows she’s going to be on it a lot, she’s in the boot.”

It remains unknown when Gray will return. She has emphasized she won’t be out the entire season.

Another player the Aces are missing is forward Kierstan Bell, who has been out three games with a lower right-leg injury.

Bell has also been wearing a boot. Hammon said Monday the former Florida Gulf Coast standout will be out for “probably a couple more weeks.”

Bell struggled with Achilles issues while playing for the Athletes Unlimited professional basketball league this offseason. She sustained her ankle injury during the Aces’ training camp after landing awkwardly on a player’s foot in practice.

Bell told the Review-Journal before Saturday’s 99-80 win over the Indiana Fever she was mainly dealing with swelling.

Center Kiah Stokes, who recovered from a right foot injury of her own before the season, said Gray has still been a huge help to the team despite her injury. Gray is coaching guards Jackie Young, who has taken over point-guard duties, and Kelsey Plum from the sidelines.

“It’s really hard to replace anybody on our roster,” Stokes told reporters Monday. “(Gray’s) just kind of being the leader and in everyone’s ear because she can’t be the leader on the floor. And I think that helps a lot.”

The Lynx will have the edge in depth Wednesday as they have 11 players available to them. The only person they’re missing is second-year forward Diamond Miller, who is out indefinitely with a knee injury.

Contact Callie Lawson-Freeman at clawsonfreeman@reviewjournal.com. Follow @CallieJLaw on X.

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