Monday, February 6, 2023

2022 WNBA playoffs: Storm’s Gabby Williams out for Game 1 of semifinals vs. Aces due to concussion

Seattle Storm forward Gabby Williams has not traveled with the team and is out for Game 1 of the semifinals against the Las Vegas Aces due to a concussion. That best-of-five series gets underway in Vegas on Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m. ET.

Williams suffered the injury in Game 2 of the Storm’s first-round series with the Washington Mystics on Aug. 21. Early in the third quarter of that game, Williams crashed the offensive glass and took an inadvertent elbow from Mystics forward Shakira Austin. Though it seemed rather innocuous at the time, Williams ran down the floor holding her head and checked out a minute later. She did not return to the game, and has remained in the concussion protocol ever since. 

“It changes us having another playmaker on the floor, and who we can put defensively on multiple people,” Storm head coach Noelle Quinn said. “It changes a lot, honestly. Gabby has been playing at a high level, and we’ve been really reliant on her athleticism, her defense, her cutting. She’s a very smart basketball player and she feels comfortable in our system.”

“Gabby has been doing everything on the floor for us. But what our team has is championship-level experience with all of our players. We’ll rely on that.”

Williams often flies under the radar on a Storm team with four former No. 1 overall picks, but she has been vital to their success since arriving in an offseason trade. She’s a potential All-Defensive honoree, and her ability on that side of the ball figured to be crucial in this series against the most electric offense in the league. But as Quinn noted, it’s not just Williams’ defense that the Storm will miss. Williams is a terrific athlete and secondary playmaker who can exploit the attention other teams are forced to pay to the likes of Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd. 

As of now, it’s unclear when or if Williams will be back. She has been in the concussion protocol for a week now, but brain injuries affect everyone differently. If there’s any silver lining for the Storm it’s that the first three games of the semifinals are spread out. Game 3 in Seattle isn’t until Sunday, Sept. 4, which would be a full two weeks after Williams was injured. 

In the meantime, the Storm will rely on veterans Briann January and Stephanie Talbot, depending on whether they want to go small or stay big. January struggled this season but she’s been an elite defender throughout her career and could help slow down the Aces’ perimeter attack. Talbot, meanwhile, is a much better shooter than either Williams or January, and would offer a different dimension on offense. 

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