While Angel McCoughtry recovers from a season-ending knee injury, Aces coach Bill Laimbeer has given her one assignment: Design and call plays for the players. But she hasn’t called any.
“The time will come when I need to give (them) something,” said the five-time All-Star and two-time WNBA scoring champion. “But it’s really been fun to watch them and really learn.”
Even though she’d rather be playing.
Despite her recent setback, McCoughtry’s enthusiasm for basketball has not diminished, not for the Aces or the 2021 WNBA season. Not publicly, anyway. She remains as jovial as ever.
The 34-year-old All-Star wing tore the ACL and the meniscus in her right knee on May 8 during Las Vegas’ final preseason scrimmage against the Los Angeles Sparks. She exploded off the ground to secure an offensive rebound, but landed awkwardly, thus ending her season — and beginning her road to recovery.
“It was a freaky play,” said McCoughtry, speaking publicly for the first time since the injury. “Stuff happens. This doesn’t take away from the things I’ve accomplished, the things I’m going to continue to help the team with, the things the team has accomplished. Nothing goes away. It’s just a little bump in the road that we all have in life.”
This is actually the second such bump McCoughtry has endured during her esteemed 12-year WNBA career. She tore the ACL in her left knee late in the 2018 season, forcing her to miss all but a few seconds of the 2019 campaign. She rehabilitated the injury in time to play in 2020 and was a key veteran presence for the Aces during their trek to the WNBA Finals.
She might not be playing this season, but Laimbeer indicated that she’s having a similar effect on this year’s group from the sideline.
“She’s just (being) kind of a mentor to some of the younger players, a calming influence to some of the younger players,” Laimbeer said. “She’s a very smart basketball player and had some good things to say.”
McCoughtry said she’s enjoyed learning the nuances and subtleties of point guard Chelsea Gray, whom the Aces signed during the offseason as a free agent. Rookie point guard Destiny Slocum has also won McCoughtry over with her poise and savvy.
And third-year wing Jackie Young has impressed McCoughtry with her improvement.
Young said McCoughtry has been at the practices. “We hear her on the sideline. She’s bringing a lot of energy for us,” Young said. “Just having her there will help us a lot, just with all the experience she has throughout the years.”
Who: Aces vs. Phoenix Mercury
When: 7 p.m., Wednesday
Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena, Phoenix
TV: CBS Sports Network, MyLVTV
About the Aces (2-2): The starting lineup of Chelsea Gray, Jackie Young, Riquna Williams, A’ja Wilson and Liz Cambage has been outscored by 2.5 points per 100 possessions, according to Basketball Reference. That unit has played a team-high 38:42 together this season, more than 25 minutes more than any other group. The most effective lineup that’s logged more than five minutes features Gray, Wilson, Young, Dearica Hamby and JiSu Park. That group has played 12:44 together and is outscoring opponents by 74.1 points per 100 possessions.
About the Mercury (2-2): Phoenix will be without star guard Diana Taurasi for the next four weeks, the team announced Tuesday afternoon. She sustained a fractured sternum. The Mercury are plenty dangerous, though, even without her playmaking and her 15.8 points per game. Britney Griner remains one of the WNBA’s best low-post players, averaging 13.3 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.0 blocks through four games. Skylar Diggins-Smith averages a team-high 16.5 points to go along with 4.3 assists.
Sam Gordon/Las Vegas Review-Journal