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Everything to know as Aces begin WNBA Commissioner’s Cup tournament

Updated June 4, 2024 - 4:12 pm

The Aces begin the WNBA’s fourth annual Commissioner’s Cup on Wednesday by visiting the Dallas Wings.

The competition began Saturday for the rest of the league while the Aces traveled home after their 78-74 loss to the Atlanta Dream on Friday.

The Aces, the back-to-back WNBA champions, are off to a 4-2 start. Their wins and losses during the Commissioner’s Cup will count toward their regular-season record, though their previous games don’t count toward the tournament standings.

“We kind of got a new slate there, and that’s how we’re gonna look at it,” Aces coach Becky Hammon said Monday. “At the end of the day, we know it’s about ourselves. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing or where we’re playing.”

Here’s everything you need to know about the Commissioner’s Cup as the Aces begin play in the tournament:

What is the Commissioner’s Cup?

The Commissioner’s Cup, introduced in 2021, is a tournament played through regular-season games during the first half of the WNBA campaign.

The final two teams will compete for a $500,000 prize pool during the championship game, which will be hosted June 25 by the team with the best record in the tournament. Each player in the title game will receive $5,000.

There is an extra $120,000 in cryptocurrency included in the prize pool because the competition is sponsored by Coinbase. Teams will also raise money for a charity of their choice with each Commissioner’s Cup game.

The NBA debuted a similar competition in December, which was called the In-Season Tournament. It featured a group stage and a knockout round. The championship game took place at Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena.

What’s new about the Commissioner’s Cup?

The WNBA announced a new format and schedule for the 2024 Commissioner’s Cup during the offseason.

Each team will participate in at least five Commissioner’s Cup games this year as opposed to 10. The change means the tournament will take place over just two weeks from June 1-13.

The fact that each team is playing an odd number of games means clubs won’t have an even home-road split. The Aces will host two games at Michelob Ultra Arena and travel for the other three.

Another new development is the fact that each team will play against its conference rivals during the Commissioner’s Cup qualifying games. The winners of the Western and Eastern Conference will meet for the championship.

An updated look

The WNBA’s traditional orange and white ball won’t be present during the tournament. The league is instead debuting a new basketball for Commissioner’s Cup games.

The new ball has rose gold graphics, along with black and white panels. The Aces aren’t fans of the switch.

“It’s just unnecessary at this point,” star forward A’ja Wilson said, setting up for a joke about how excited she is to play for a bonus. “The money that went into changing the ball could’ve been more money in the pot.”

The Commissioner’s Cup ball is still made by Wilson, the company that manufactures the WNBA’s regular basketball.

How have the Aces fared?

The Aces have made it to the Commissioner’s Cup championship game in each of the last two seasons.

They lost the title game to the New York Liberty 82-63 on Aug. 15 last season at Michelob Ultra Arena. The Aces at least claimed a more important victory two months later by defeating the Liberty in the 2023 WNBA Finals in four games.

The team did win it all in 2022 by beating the Chicago Sky 93-83 at Wintrust Arena. Point guard Chelsea Gray was named the tournament’s MVP after scoring 19 points and dishing out five assists in the title game. Gray has yet to play for the Aces this season while recovering from a lower left-leg injury.

What charity is the Aces supporting?

Part of the Commissioner’s Cup prize pool includes $2,000 for a charitable organization chosen by the winning team. The runner-up’s pick gets $500.

The WNBA itself will donate $10,000 to the winner’s selection and $5,000 to the one picked by the runner-up.

The Aces are representing Reproductive Freedom for All this season. It’s a nonprofit organization that defends access to abortion and other forms of women’s health care in the Southwest.

“We have people in the front office who were born and raised here (in Las Vegas). And so they have their ears to the ground,” veteran forward Alysha Clark said Monday of the choice. “They know what our passions are, and they align with those.”

The Aces championed NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, in 2023. The Aces supported the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada with a focus on voting rights in 2022, the first year the league introduced the charitable portion of the competition.

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

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