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WNBA players, coaches face new round of concerns as some head overseas for offseason play amid pandemic

Coach James Wade said he’s worried about the nine Sky players who are taking their talents to six countries this offseason.

Guard Allie Quigley said she was slightly hesitant about playing overseas during the offseason.
Guard Allie Quigley said she was slightly hesitant about playing overseas during the offseason.
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Holding a season amid a global pandemic seemed like an impossible undertaking this summer.

That’s why when the WNBA announced its plans to go forward with a bubble format, there seemed to be more questions than answers.

What would happen in the event of an outbreak? How secure would the bubble be at the IMG Academy campus in Bradenton, Florida? Could the WNBA pull this off?

Those were just some of the concerns players, fans and teams had after the WNBA’s initial announcement.

During the last three months, however, the league successfully avoided any major outbreak and opened its best-of-five title series Friday, marking the beginning of the end in what has been one of the biggest accomplishments in the WNBA’s 24 years of existence.

‘‘I thought [the league] did a really good job,’’ said Sky coach James Wade, who lauded the WNBA for conducting a season amid the pandemic and supporting its players in protesting racial injustice. ‘‘It was really well-handled, really well-organized. The fact that no players tested positive [in the bubble] is huge.’’

With the WNBA season coming to an end, its players and coaches are facing a new round of concerns as overseas basketball is starting to ramp up.

Wade said he’s worried about the nine Sky players who are taking their talents to six countries this offseason.

‘‘Of course there’s a level of concern I have because . . . everybody’s going to the [foreign] countries, and all the countries have different protocols,’’ said Wade, a coach for UMMC Ekaterinburg in Russia during the offseason.

Wade called the policies of North American professional sports leagues ‘‘far superior’’ to European ones, pointing to the WNBA’s bubble format and daily coronavirus testing — two safety precautions Wade said players most likely aren’t going to have overseas.

The International Basketball Federation (FIBA), the governing body of Euroleague Women and EuroCup Women, hasn’t released its coronavirus safety guidelines. In France, Wade said players are being tested weekly for the virus.

Some clubs already have had an outbreak in cases, including Basket Lattes Montpellier Agglomeration, for whom Cheyenne Parker is playing this offseason.

‘‘That’s troublesome,’’ Wade said.

Guard Allie Quigley said she was slightly hesitant about playing overseas during the offseason.

‘‘I’m just trying to trust the club that I’m at, that they’re going to do the testing and all the things to keep us safe,’’ Quigley said. “Obviously, we won’t be in a bubble, but I just have to pay attention to myself and be extra-cautious. At any point I feel like it’s

unsafe, no one locks you down there. You can just tell them you want to leave. So I think that’s kind of my mindset going in.’’

Center Stefanie Dolson, one of two Sky players to contract the coronavirus, said she wasn’t too worried about playing overseas.

‘‘I feel like Italy has done a better job than America of managing it,’’ Dolson said. ‘‘So I’m not necessarily nervous. I don’t have a lot of reservations. I’m more so excited for a change of scenery.’’

Though Wade is concerned for his players’ health, he trusts they’ll continue to take the pandemic seriously.

‘‘[I] advise them to just be careful and continue to take the safety measures, as far as wearing a mask and social distancing and doing all those things, and not take it lightly,’’ he said. ‘‘Even when it seems like it’s in a place that it’s contained, the virus is very much at its strength, so they have to be careful.’’