The IX: Basketball Wednesday with Howard Megdal, September 16, 2020

Joy comes to the #wubble — Shey Peddy talks buzzer-beater — Must-click women's basketball links

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Kaila Charles speaks to media after the Connecticut Sun playoff victory, September 15, 2020. (NBA Content Network)

Joy comes to the #wubble

When I spoke to Kaila Charles eight months ago, in person, following a Maryland victory over Nebraska, she and her coach, Brenda Frese, expressed absolute confidence that she was ready to take on the professional path.

Eight months later, Charles smiled at the idea that any of what’s followed resembles what she envisioned on the cold January night.

“No,” she said, with a laugh, after scoring 13 points — the difference, statistically, between the Sun and Sky in Connecticut’s 94-81 win on Tuesday. “I didn’t know what to expect — certainly not this, the whole bubble situation. But I’ve just been enjoying it, soaking it up. Every day I get to wake up healthy and play the game I love.”

There are plenty of basketball reasons to discuss Kaila Charles — she’s become a knockdown three-point shooter, she is a matchup nightmare against 2s and 3s alike when she drive to the hoop, she plays defense like Maryland alums always seem to, and she is indisputably a part of Connecticut’s future plans now.

But the bigger takeaway for me from Charles, from the late-game heroics of Shay Peddy in the nightcap, was less the results, and more that for a night, at least, everyone was having fun.

This is no small thing. Not in 2020, which I think it is fair to say we won’t look back on as a “fun” year. Not when every move on the court is tempered by the sobering knowledge that there still is not justice for Breonna Taylor, or the countless Black women who have suffered fates like hers, and understanding that the basketball is merely a subsidiary concern to that one.

A week ago, everyone was tired. And understandably so.

It is not for me to tell anyone else how to feel. But I do think these women, of all people here in this most difficult year, deserve joy, and so it brought me immense pleasure to see how much the game of basketball itself gave to the winners last night, emotionally.

This wasn’t about forgetting the larger world, ignoring the pain of the world. It was, instead, about finding momentary reason for smile amid that pain, a fight that may be new to many, but for Black women, has been a lifelong reality. (I thought Taylor Rooks said it best in her interview with Shauntel Lowe here: “We would love to not have to constantly remind you that racism exists in this country. I promise we’re more tired of talking about it than you are of hearing about it. And since we’re tired, there needs to be moments of fun.”

The WNBA winners were having fun last night. So, too, were the losers, when ahead, or a great play was made. No greater moment of shared joy then Shey Peddy’s game-winning shot, though, from an impossible pass delivered by Skylar Diggins-Smith, who came to the Mercury to win in the playoffs and, for the first time Tuesday, did just that.

Peddy, who’d been cut by the Mystics earlier this year (and that’s not even the half of it, read Lindsay Gibbs’ thread for all the details), practically glowed in her postgame avail with us. I wondered whether a game-winning shot, without the sound of thousands of fans screaming in its aftermath, would feel the same to its creators.

Well, Sandy Brondello ended up on the ground, felled by excitement.

The Mercury danced down the hallway to their locker room, following a lot of hugging and screaming on the court. All the while, Peddy was replaying the shot in her mind.

“Almost every second,” Peddy said, a wide smile on her face. “I actually just watched it for the first time, right before I came in here… and I’m pretty sure when I go home, I’m going to keep on watching it.”

In a year largely devoid of those joyful moments, Shay Peddy was going to hang on to this one with all her might.

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This week in women’s basketball

PJ Brown on Arizona and the waiting game.

Loved this Jenn Hatfield piece on player studies in the #wubble.

Alexa Philippou spoke to Renee Montgomery on the UConn Insider podcast.

Brandon Sudge caught up with Joni Taylor.

Hear from Elizabeth Williams on essential workers in the current moment, including her parents.

Love that the Plum/Osahor gang has reunited.

I spoke at length with Shekinna Stricklen.

Britni de la Cretaz loves buzzer-beaters.

Lyndsey D’Arcangelo caught up with Crystal Dangerfield.

At FiveThirtyEight, I examined the Rookie of the Year candidates.

Deep dive on Skylar Diggins-Smith from Alexis Mansanarez.

Maitreyi Anantharaman on the existential despair of caring about the WNBA.

The great Katie Davidson explains, in detail, how Minnesota Lynx’s Crystal Dangerfield went from 16th overall pick to #WNBA Rookie of the Year frontrunner.

Always here for old Charlotte Sting stories.

Terrific Gina Mizell piece on Diana Taurasi.

Jamal Collier reports from the aftermath of Chicago’s season-ending loss.

Matt Ellentuck wraps the New York Liberty’s season.

Jenn Hatfield catches up with Sam Quigley Smith.

And here’s Chantel Jennings on Shey Peddy’s shot.

Tweet of the Week

Five at The IX: Shey Peddy, Phoenix Mercury

Here, let’s enjoy this joy together, shall we? Click on the picture, a screenshot from the postgame avail, to listen.

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal The Next
Thursdays: Golf
By Carly Grenfell, @Carlygren
Fridays: Hockey
By: Erica Ayala, @ELindsay08 NWHL Broadcaster

Written by Howard Megdal

Howard is the founder of The Next and editor-in-chief.