Connecticut Sun forward DeWanna Bonner (24) drives during the second half of Game 3 of a first round WNBA playoff game against the Dallas Wings August 24 in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
Odyssey Sims met Kevin Durant many years ago when she was a junior at Baylor and he was playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The two talked. Durant told her he was a fan of her game. And that was about the extent of their interaction.
Reflect on last June when Sims was without a WNBA home and about two months away from helping the Connecticut Sun reach both the WNBA semifinals and defending champion Chicago Sky in Game 1 of the best-of- Beat Five series on Sunday .
Sims was in Los Angeles attending the Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, California, co-founded by the late Kobe Bryant, when the two met again.
“I’m like, ‘Do I want to talk to him or not?’ because I’ve been trying to schedule training and they’re really strict at Mamba Sports Academy,” Sims said. “I (said to him), ‘Hey,’ and he said, ‘Why aren’t you working?’ I thought, ‘Well, I’ve got my shoes over there’. And he said, ‘Go and get her.’ I thought, ‘Really?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, come on, jump in and work out.’
“We trained for exactly one hour and I’m just saying it was one exercise at a time. No water break. No break, all that. I understand why he’s one of the greatest players because his work ethic is incredibly amazing.”
Sims and third-seeded Sun play Game 2 against No. 2 Chicago Wednesday night at the Wintrust Center (8, ESPN2).
The Sun has been unlucky at point guard this summer. Eight-year-old starter and team leader Jasmine Thomas tore a cruciate ligament in her right knee during game five of the season in Connecticut (May 22 at Indiana Fever).
Thomas’ injury has pushed Natisha Hiedeman into the Sun’s starting XI. They signed former UConn star Bria Hartley on July 18 to back her up and bring a spark off the bench.
Hartley proved to be everything Connecticut wanted and needed when she tore her left cruciate ligament six days later.
The Sun adjusted again, this month signing Sims who had been released by the Minnesota Lynx days into the season.
“She’s always in my ear,” Hiedeman said of Sims. “Whenever she sees something, she doesn’t hesitate to consult me. On the defensive side, she’s just really telling me what I need to hear. ‘You can do it.’
“Your energy is contagious. (She) brings a lot of energy, a lot of positivity.”
Speaking about Hiedeman, Sims put a hand to her heart and said, “My little baby. I have to make sure she stays on top of things and stays motivated.”
Sims has averaged 19 minutes off the bench in six games for Connecticut, which is preparing for a very testy Sky. The latter swept their four-game streak with the Sun during the regular season, finishing second in the league in point totals (86.3 ppg) and first in field goal percentage (48.1%).
Connecticut excelled defensively in Sunday’s 68-63 win over Chicago. It was the fewest points the latter had scored in a game that year, and he shot 35.3%.
The Sky dropped the first game of its best-of-three first-round series at the New York Liberty (98-91, Aug. 17). CHicago decimated the Liberty in Game 2, 100-62on August 20th. It led 31-10 after the first quarter and set a WNBA playoff record for largest lead.
“We know they’re going to come out with a vengeance,” Sims said. “They’re probably going to do the first punch, the second punch, the third punch. We just want to make sure we stay together (and) play Connecticut basketball.”
Jones, Thomas honored
The Sun’s Jonquel Jones and Alyssa Thomas were both named to the WNBA’s All-Defensive Second Team on Tuesday, as selected by a panel of the national panel of 56 media members. It’s the third time both have made the all-defensive team.
Thomas oddly ended up on the second team this season although he finished second for Defensive Player of the Year behind A’ja Wilson of the Las Vegas Aces, which was also announced on Tuesday. Wilson received 20 votes, Thomas had 14, and Seattle Storm forward Breanna Stewart finished third with 13 votes. The latter made the first team an all-defensive team over Thomas.