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May 13, 2024 5:34 pm

Champion Aces set a three-peat course vs. Mercury

Las Vegas Aces A'ja

While plenty of attention has been paid to some of the WNBA’s newest players entering this season, the Las Vegas Aces are out to show once again they are the league’s most complete team.

The two-time reigning champion Aces are set to raise another banner and receive their rings before hosting the Phoenix Mercury in the season opener on Tuesday night.

“The main thing that I look at coming into this season is how do we fight contentment?” Aces coach Becky Hammon said. “How do we fight complacency? How do we fight that feel-good feeling that we’ve had since we won in October? They’ve already been doing some great things, but we want to grab for greater.”

The Aces return a strong foundation of A’ja Wilson, Kelsey Plum, Jackie Young and Chelsea Gray. Wilson is a two-time league Most Valuable Player (2020, 2022) and earned WNBA Finals MVP honors last season. Gone from the roster is Candace Parker, who retired.

One addition to the Las Vegas roster is sixth-year veteran Megan Gustafson, a center heading into her sixth season who played in a total of 67 games for the Mercury across the past two years.

While the Aces had a league-best 34-6 record last year, Phoenix had the worst record at 9-31. The Mercury closed out last season on an 11-game losing streak.

Tuesday’s game will mark the debut for Mercury coach Nate Tibbetts, previously an assistant coach with the NBA’s Orlando Magic and Portland Trail Blazers.

“We know (a rebuild is) going to take a little bit of time,” Tibbetts said.

Phoenix guard Diana Taurasi, the league’s 2009 MVP, will embark on her 20th season. Center Brittney Griner, MVP runner-up in 2021, is a veteran of 10 seasons.

“Having (Taurasi) has been unbelievable for me,” Tibbetts said. “A new coach coming into a new league, and just her experience and what she has seen.”

Through preseason games, Tibbetts said the Mercury will need to cut down on fouls in order to be more efficient defensively.

The Aces demolished Puerto Rico 102-50 in an exhibition game Saturday in Columbia, S.C., in what was a homecoming for Wilson.

While much of the core of the Las Vegas roster remains in place, rookies Dyaisha Fair out of Syracuse and Kate Martin, from NCAA runner-up Iowa, are in line to make their debuts.

“You have to allow them some grace to grow,” Hammon said. “They’re trying to guard the greatest guards in the world (in practice). You can really see how much upside there is for both of them.”

–Field Level Media

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