Seattle – When Seattle Storm appetizers So Bird And the Azi Magbegor reserve joined Stephanie Talbot On COVID-19 health and safety protocols early Friday, the team was quick to sign Keanna Williams Alternatively, get the bouncer from her San Antonio home to Seattle before 7 p.m.
The WNBA’s hardship rules allow teams to sign a short-term fill-in any time the roster has fewer than 10 active players, so substitutions have been common with teams typically keeping only 11 players on the roster rather than a maximum of 12.
However, this season’s issues with 10 WNBA players already entering health and safety protocols have introduced a new class of hardship alternatives that are intervening for players who enter protocols after testing positive for COVID-19. As health and safety absences are difficult to predict, this means a rapid turnaround for signing up for a replacement, often dependent on logistics.
Seattle alone has added three different players – including Kayla Davis Twice – because the protocols necessitated the replacement of hardship. On May 14, Storm happened with Raina Perez when Prince Epiphany And the Briana Stewart I entered the protocols hours before the team played Mercury In Perez’s hometown of Phoenix.
“As a team, we were really trying to navigate health and safety protocols and trying to be safe and do the right thing,” Stewart told reporters. “Especially to find out all this on match day and then we’re told, ‘We’re going to keep playing the game, just find a tough player. “And Seattle is the farthest city in the country that anyone can reach.”
Loyd added, “If we had a G League, that would be useful. If we had some practicing players in our system, and you could opt out of that. (Where) they’re already here in the market, they wouldn’t travel then you should play a game. I mean, it’s ridiculous” .
While Seattle has been the team hardest hit by health and safety protocols so far this season, with COVID-19 rates stabilizing at a much higher level than last summer, it’s clear that the storm won’t be the last. This means that more players like Williams will be required to find their way from home to the WNBA stadium on the same day.
So what’s life like for struggling WNBA players as the league tackles COVID-19 in a new way this season? No one has made a trip to join a team quite like Williams, who walked ESPN.com in the busy 15 hours between when she got a call from her agent and when she finally arrived at her hotel after Friday’s game.
From home in San Antonio to playing in Seattle
10:20 a.m. pivot time: Williams first hears from her agent about the opportunity with Storm.
“He told me to pack my bag and I’d play tonight’s game in Seattle,” Williams said. “I left the phone with him and started packing.”
Unsure how long she’ll be with the Storm — which depends on how quickly players test protocols — Williams throws as many clothes as possible into the single bag she brought along with a backpack. Despite the rush, Williams didn’t forget anything.
“I got my toothbrush, body lotion, and I got all the necessities,” she said. “At the end of the day, if I need some clothes, it’s nothing for me to go shopping. I love shopping.”
11 a.m. local time: Williams is heading to the airport – in Austin.
“Unfortunately, San Antonio is a smaller airport, so there weren’t any flights that would get me to the game on time,” she said. “So I had to drive an hour to Austin and went for a straight ride.”
Because she spends the winter playing internationally – she spent last season with the Adelaide Lightning of the Australian WNBL – and hopes to spend her summer in the WNBA (she was with Phoenix Mercury before she was given up during boot camp), Williams lives with her parents. Her mother was off work on Friday and was able to get Williams to the airport.
“I got my car back, and I hope you take care of my baby,” Williams said, pointing to the car.
12 pm Cairo time: Williams deals with what she describes as the hardest part of her journey: going through TSA security at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.
“Austin airport is horrible in the sense that there is no TSA PreCheck line,” she said. “I have all of that and they don’t have these lines available, so I was in line for maybe 30 minutes. Not even kidding.”
1 m cut: Williams takes a sandwich—her only meal of the trip—before boarding her four-hour Air Alaska flight. She said she also had some snacks in the yard, “but I was really going off the adrenaline on Friday night.”
4:30 p.m. PT: Williams’ flight arrives at the gates of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport about two and a half hours before the alarm.
5 p.m. Pacific Time: Williams gets her bag from the baggage claim. Storm general manager Thalisa Rhea is here to take her 16-mile drive to Climate Pledge Arena in rush-hour traffic, perhaps a little muffled by people leaving early before the three-day weekend.
5:30 p.m. PT: Williams gets to the ring, takes a shower and heads to the court for the warm-up.
7 p.m. PT: Williams plays four minutes off the bench as one of Seattle’s eight active players in the team’s 79-71 overtime win over New York, providing a pair of assists.
With Williams unable to train or shoot before playing a game, this helped her spend part of last season with Storm, which knocked her out of Stanford in the second round. Williams saw the movement in 10 games as a novice player. Aside from coach Noelle Quinn changing some terminology, I found the system easy to pick out.
11:30 p.m. PT: After going to dinner with some of the other guys, Williams checked into her hotel room in Seattle.
“That was a very long day for me,” she said – which is a huge understatement.
When the NBA dealt with the COVID-19 outbreak during the height of the Omicron winter wave, the league tweaked its hardship rules to enable already larger rosters — NBA teams can feature up to 17 players, including two on two-way contracts, to the limit. The maximum for the WNBA is 12 – Expandable quickly.
Notably, the NBA exempted hardship contracts from counting toward the team’s salary, meaning teams didn’t have to choose between managing fancy tax payments and adding wanted players. Although the financial factor isn’t important with the WNBA’s fixed salary cap, there is an impact. The salary paid to players on hardship contracts could eventually take over by storm and prevent the team from adding the 12th player late in the season.
Williams played 14 minutes, earned five points, made three assists and two rebounds as part of Storm’s nine-man rotation in a 92-61 win over New York on Sunday. I enjoyed the experience.
“Honestly, it wasn’t difficult,” Williams said of Friday’s trip. “I love Seattle. They recruited me. This home will always be.”
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