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Sun will have health, chance at top draft pick

By Ned Griffen

Publication: The Day

Published November 20. 2013 4:00AM

Mohegan - Mitchell Etess was in an elevator recently with WNBA Chief of Basketball Operations Renee Brown when he popped the question.

"I said to her, 'Here are some words I never thought I'd ever want to utter - when is the (WNBA) draft lottery?'" the Connecticut Sun's Chief Executive Officer said with a laugh during a media luncheon Tuesday.

The lottery will be held sometime in December and the Sun have the best chance to land the No. 1 pick (44 percent). Stanford forward Chiney Ogwumike is the most highly coveted senior and would be the perfect complement to Sun center Tina Charles.

General manager Chris Sienko said the Sun would field all offers for draft picks and players.

"It's exciting to have mobility," Sienko said. "It's not exciting to be in the draft lottery, but it is what it is. We know the reasons why. We know we're a good team. We know we probably should've never been there. Had we not had the injuries, we would not be in the draft lottery."

The league is currently in limbo because the players are working on a new collective bargaining agreement.

The Sun were decimated by injuries. Their starting roster played together for only two games and seven players combined to miss 77 games.

Head coach Anne Donovan and the players also had to get used to each other. Some players were upset when Mike Thibault and his staff were abruptly fired exactly a year ago.

Sienko and Donovan were asked about Charles' status for 2014. She is a restricted free agent, meaning Connecticut has the right to match any offer she receives from another team. But there have also been reports Charles doesn't want to return.

"I don't know it to be the case," Sienko said. "Our expectation is that she's going to come back here and play in Connecticut. If Anne finds something that she feels to be better, then we'll look at that option. We're going to look at every option if there's something that works for us. So it would have to be a very highly significant (offer)."

Asked if she thought her all-star center was happy, Donovan said, "I think change is hard for some people more than others, and I think change was hard for Tina and others. But I think she was one of the ones who struggled a little bit with the change."

Kara Lawson's status with the team is also in question. She struggled with injuries and took a leave of absence to deal with a family issue, but her relationship with the organization reportedly became strained.

"Obviously, she had some difficulties this past season with some injuries," Sienko said, "so I think we really kind of have to assess the direction of what we do from there."

Asjha Jones' future with the Sun is also uncertain. The forward sat out the 2013 season to rest some lingering injuries.

"I texted with Asjha a couple of weeks ago to see how she's feeling," Sienko said, "and she said she's having a hard time getting acclimated (playing) in Russia. Her Achilles is still bothering her. If she's ready to go and ready to play (this season), and we think she can help us (we'd want her)."

Most players on the current Sun roster have become free agents. Kelsey Griffin, Kalana Greene and Allison Hightower are all restricted and Mistie Bass, Sydney Carter, Iziane Castro Marques and Tan White are unrestricted.

Mims (forward) and White (guard) were two reserves that produced for the Sun when the injuries piled up.

Asked if she'd like both back, Donovan said, "Absolutely, yes. Tan was such a spark toward the end of the season. She clearly showed her value, and Mistie throughout. She's a warrior."

Although so much went wrong for the Sun, they had an upbeat finish. They won three of their last five games without starters Kelly Faris, Hightower, Charles and Lawson.

"The way we finished the season was a great wakeup call for a lot of people," Donovan said. "We played very hard and very well with very limited bodies toward the end of the season. We finished on a positive note and I think that really helped before people left town.

"We won't have these injuries (this season). (The players are) more familiar with me and my staff, and the same goes for me. There's a lot of positive. There's a lot of optimism moving forward."

n.griffen@theday.com

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