The WNBA’s issues with travel have not disappeared, and though some chartered flights were arranged for West Coast teams earlier in the 2019 playoffs, it’s not likely to become the norm.
The Washington Mystics and Connecticut Sun flew commercial from Hartford to the District on Wednesday between Games 4 and 5 of the WNBA Finals.
“We (did) not get charter, which sucks, especially with only a day in between,” Mystics guard Natasha Cloud said. “Then we flew Southwest, so we couldn’t even get first-class for Elena (Delle Donne) and Ariel (Atkins).”
Cloud brought up her two teammates because both are still dealing with back pain from injuries suffered last week. Delle Donne, though, said the team feels great despite the commercial flight on a short turnaround.
“We both had to do it, so it’s an even field,” she said.
Connecticut coach Curt Miller said that while the teams understood it was not a long flight, the “disjointed” travel still could impact the product on the court.
“It’s not a perfect situation for both teams to showcase how good this talent is, how good this game could be, should be,” Miller said. “It may not be putting the best product in front of a national viewing audience because it is not easy. It was a really late night on Tuesday. It was disjointed travel to get back here on Wednesday — no one practiced Wednesday, that was a rest and recovery day. So you’re going into Game 5 with very little prep on the court.”
After the second round of the playoffs, WNBA commissioner Cathy Englebert arranged for private flights for the Los Angeles Sparks and Las Vegas Aces to get to their semifinal opponents because both teams had long trips from west to east.
Travel has been a point of contention within the league, which is subsidized by the NBA. Last year, the Aces forfeited a game to the Mystics because travel issues prevented them from getting into the District with enough time to properly warm up and prepare to play.
Wizards guard Bradley Beal wrote a piece for The Players’ Tribune about his support of the Mystics and the WNBA last week. In it, he discussed why he supports better pay and equal treatment for WNBA players, including better travel logistics.
“These women — with their crazy schedules, and long legs, and bodies beat up from months of intense hooping — are having to fly cramped-up in coach, all across the country, just to get from game to game,” Beal wrote.
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