The 2022 WNBA season tipped off on Friday. Yahoo Sports followed the opening weekend with updates from each game below.
Sunday's results and recaps
Sylvia Fowles cross 6,000 career points
In her farewell tour, Sylvia Fowles wasted no time marking milestones.
Fowles is one of 13 WNBA players who have scored 6,000-plus points in the league's 26-year history. Diana Taurasi, in her 18th season with the Phoenix Mercury, is the league's all-time scoring leader with 9,174 points.
Fowles finished with 13 points and eight rebounds in the Lynx's 78-66 loss to the Mystics.
Breanna Stewart hits her own scoring milestone
While Fowles crossed the 6,000-point threshold, Breanna Stewart got halfway there with her first bucket against the Las Vegas Aces Sunday night. The Storm forward pulled up for a midrange jumper early against the Aces to extend Seattle's lead to 5-2 and secure her 3,000th career point.
Stewart, 27, crossed the threshold in her 151st career game. For perspective, Fowles reached 6,000 points in her 379th game, and she's a top-15 all-time scorer. Elena Delle Donne was the fastest to 3,000 points in league history when she reached the milestone with the Washington Mystics in 2018.
By reaching the tally Sunday night, Stewart, who averages 20 points per game for her career, joins esteemed company in Diana Taurasi and Seimone Augustus, who also crossed the 3,000-point threshold in 151 games and held the record before Delle Donne broke it.
Stewart finished with 21 points in the Storm's 85-74 loss.
Kristi Toliver's double life
Los Angeles Sparks guard Kristi Toliver isn't currently with her WNBA team. No, she's not playing overseas. She's actually not playing at all.
Toliver is an assistant coach with the NBA's Dallas Mavericks, who are in the second round of the NBA playoffs currently. Toliver is on a partial season suspension from the WNBA while she finishes her coaching duties.
At the same time Sunday, Toliver's two teams were playing: the Sparks in Indianapolis against the Indiana Fever in the second game of the season and the Mavericks in Dallas against the Phoenix Suns in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinal series.
The two-time WNBA champion is in her first season on Jason Kidd's Mavericks coaching staff. Toliver told the Dallas Morning News that she is preparing for the WNBA season in-between NBA responsibilities.
“I know I’m going to miss our first games, so whenever I do report [to the Sparks], I want to be ready and as prepared as possible,” Toliver said. “I don’t want to let these guys down here, and I certainly don’t want to let my teammates down in LA, so I’ve got to do both. That’s it.”
She previously was on the Washington Wizards' staff. The Wizards missed the NBA postseason.
The Mavericks also won their game Sunday, evening their postseason series 2-2.
From national championship to the WNBA
On a team full of rookies, second-round draft pick Destanni Henderson is already making a name for herself on the Indiana Fever.
Henderson led Indiana with 19 points, adding three rebounds, three assists and two steals in Sunday's 87-77 loss to the Los Angeles Sparks.
The Fever had four first-round selections in this year's draft, and Henderson was the only second-rounder. So far, in her second game, she looks like the most pro-ready of the group.
Her college coach, South Carolina's Dawn Staley, tweeted praise for the Fever rookie.
Saturday's results and recaps
Rhyne Howard leads Dream in first game
Rhyne Howard is settling into the WNBA just fine. The No. 1 overall pick scored a team-high 16 points, all on 3-pointers, with four assists, four blocks, three rebounds and two steals. She was 4-of-15, taking 12 of those shots from behind the arc in the 66-59 win.
Howard is the first player in WNBA history to debut with at least 16 points, four assists and four blocks, per Across the Timeline. She was two points shy of the Dream rookie scoring record set by Chennedy Carter (18 points in 2020). The Dream traded up to the top spot to draft the Kentucky star last month.
"I wasn't expecting anything personal [in my first game], just to come out and play a big role for my team and help us get the dub," Howard said in the post-game TV interview.
It was an impressive start for both Howard, whose pro-readiness has been questioned, and the Dream, who underwent a full shift in the front office. It was the first win for first-year head coach Tanisha Wright. Defensively they kept Dallas to 24.3% (17-of-70) from the field, the first time Atlanta has held a team below 25%. It is the 26th time in WNBA history a team has shot that poorly, per Across the Timeline.
Dallas looked out of sorts and could have used Satou Sabally, who is still with her team overseas. Arike Ogunbowale struggled mightily shooting 3-of-14 overall. She had seven points and six turnovers.
Nia Coffey and Erica Wheeler each scored 11 for the Dream, who also underwent a near-clear roster overhaul. Monique Billings had 14 rebounds off the bench and the team won on the boards, 47-39.
Dream's Cheyenne Parker ejected after altercation
Atlanta Dream center Cheyenne Parker was issued a flagrant 2 foul and ejected midway through the fourth quarter after a tussle for a loose ball nearly ended in a brawl.
Parker was among a group of players battling for a rebound in what had largely been a physical game. Isabelle Harrison gave Parker a two-handed shove on the ground. Parker rolled around trying to keep the ball and kicked Harrison in the face. Wings guard Marina Mabrey got involved and wrapped her arm around Parker on the ground. Mabrey was issued a technical.
Parker attempted to step up and at Mabrey, drawing players from both teams together. Rookie Rhyne Howard pulled Parker away from the action and it died out.
Parker was playing her first WNBA game since giving birth to her first child in December. Her 10-point, 10-rebound effort was the 10th double-double of her career. Atlanta tore out to an early lead and though the Wings came within a couple possessions twice, it was the Dream's from start to finish.
Mabrey had 20 points off the bench going 8-of-16 from the floor and 3-of-7 from range. She added six rebounds.
Sabrina Ionescu drops 25 in win at Barclays
Sabrina Ionescu looks more like her Oregon self than she did in 2021 while dealing with a lingering ankle injury from her rookie season. The campaign she's calling a career reset began on Saturday with 25 points, six assists, four rebounds and two steals in the 81-79 opening-day win against the Connecticut Sun at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Ionescu played more aggressively than she had last year and turned it up in the second quarter after in inefficient first. It was her fourth career game of at least 25 points and five assists, third-most in Liberty historoy. She was 10-of-18 and hit half of her six 3-point attempts.
Her 3-pointer gave the Liberty the lead back, 74-73, with three minutes to play and she scored again on a drive to the basket after Stefanie Dolson secured the defensive rebound. Ionescu sustained a grade 3 ankle sprain in her third professional game and missed the rest of the bubble season. She missed time last year as well with an ankle injury and said in the past offseason she never felt right on it.
After the win, she said she was "super blessed to be able to get out of a super-dark time physically/mentally and come out in to the light."
It was a shaky first quarter for the 2020 No. 1 pick and the Liberty, who are without Betnijah Laney, Rebecca Allen and Didi Richards. But they turned a 12-2 early deficit into a 38-30 halftime lead and eventually rode out the first win for Sandy Brondello as New York's head coach.
Reigning MVP Jonquel Jones quieted
Jonquel Jones had a tougher time in the season debut but was still all over the stat sheet. The reigning MVP missed a double-double with 15 points, seven rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks. She struggled with efficiency and ball control, going 6-of-17 overall, 2-of-7 from 3-point range and turning it over six times.
She was up against Natasha Howard, the 2019 Defensive Player of the Year. According to ESPN Stats and Information early in the first half, Jones went 2-8 (1-3 from 3-point range) against Howard. She missed all six attempts when Howard contested the shot.
"Natasha Howard is a really great defender," Liberty head coach Sandy Brondello said, via Myles Ehrlich of Winsidr. "She's quick to recover, her IQ is on another level, she can execute what we want, and she plays tendencies very well. She made it tough for Jonquel [Jones]."
Jones participated in a full training camp this season after her Russian team, UMMC Ekaterinburg, was ousted from EuroLeague. It's the same club Brittney Griner plays for as well as Sky stars Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley. Jones is favored by some to repeat as MVP. That has only happened once in WNBA history (Cynthia Cooper, '97-'98).
Alyssa Thomas, the Sun's "engine," kept the team in it with 25 points, seven rebounds, four steals and two assists. The team was 4-of-17 (23.5%) from 3-point range whereas the Liberty were 10-of-25 (40%). Connecticut is still without DeWanna Bonner, who is still playing overseas.
AD Durr plays first minutes after long-haul COVID
AD Durr (formerly known as Asia Durr) played her first minutes since contracting COVID-19 in June 2020 and dealing with long-haul COVID-19 symptoms in the two years since.
Durr came in for the New York Liberty with 1:44 left against the Connecticut Sun at Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Saturday. Through the first half she played 5:45 off the bench and did not come back in the second half.
Durr, 25, did not play either of the past two WNBA seasons. At times they couldn't dribble a basketball while dealing with ongoing symptoms of the coronavirus. The Liberty took them second overall in the 2019 draft and in their only season they averaged 9.7 PPG, 1.7 APG and 1.6 SPG in 26.7 minutes per game. They said during training camp brain fog was still an issue. Doctors cleared the young up-and-comer last fall.
Jocelyn Willoughby, who missed last season with an Achilles injury, also played her first minutes.
Willoughby was the No. 10 overall pick in the 2020 draft. She got the start while the Liberty are without key players and had a bucket and assist at the half. Her rebounds were clutch to seal a win and she closed with 13 points and five rebounds in 28 minutes.
Friday's results and recaps
Becky Hammon era begins with 106-point explosion
Becky Hammon’s first win as head coach was a dominant one. The Las Vegas Aces trounced fellow first-year head coach Vanessa Nygaard and the Phoenix Mercury, 106-88, in Phoenix. It's a record for a coach in a regular season WNBA debut, per Across the Timeline.
Hammon’s crew went up 31-17 through one quarter and dominated the boards while shooting a combined 60% by game's end. They were 11-of-21 from 3-point range, the biggest change for the club under Hammon’s free flowing, fast-paced offense.
Three players hit 20 points and all five starters were in double digits. The Aces were +12 on the boards, dished out seven more assists and kept the Mercury to 6-of-24 from 3-point range.
Dearica Hamby scored a team-high 24 shooting 11-of-14. She had seven rebounds, all defensively. Kelsey Plum (7-of-16) and Jackie Young (8-of-10) scored 20 each. Plum was 5-of-9 from 3-point range. A'ja Wilson (5-of-8) had 15 and Chelsea Gray scored 11.
The Mercury played their first season opener without Griner in nearly a decade as the star remains detained in Russia. Skylar Diggins-Smith took over for a game-high 25 points (10-of-18). Tina Charles, their free agent signing to play in the paint alongside Griner, scored 15 on an inefficient 5-for-16 shooting night. She was 1-for-5 from 3-point range with three rebounds and three assists.
Diana Taurasi neared a double-double with nine points and nine assists, but was 3-of-11 and missed all five 3-points she attempted.
Bird opens scoring in Storm's new arena
The Seattle Storm opened their new Climate Pledge Arena with the same old winning style in a 97-74 drubbing of the Minnesota Lynx. Sue Bird fittingly scored the first points of the new home, which has already hosted the Seattle Kraken hockey team.
All signs have pointed toward this being Bird’s final season and the Storm were able to keep the core around her, including Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd. They pushed a tie game at half, 41-41, wide open with a 18-2 run out of the break. It wasn’t close again.
Stewart came out at 17 points, one shy of 3,000 for her career. She had eight rebounds, two assists and two steals. Loyd also had 17 with three rebounds. Bird put in 11 going 3-of-4 from 3-point range and adding two free throws. She was one assist shy of a double-double.
Gabby Williams played her first WNBA game since 2020 and hit two of three shots for five points. Free agent signing Briann January, who has said this is her final year, scored four in front of her hometown fans. She’s from Spokane, Washington.
Lynx struggle with short roster
It looks like it will be another rough starting stretch for the Minnesota Lynx. They struggled to stay competitive in the second half and had only two players in double digits.
Sylvia Fowles, playing her final season, had 16 points (8-14) with four rebounds, two assists and one steal. Aerial powers scored 14 and Jessica Shepard brought in a team-high 12 rebounds.
The Lynx waived six players, including starting point guard Layshia Clarendon and 2020 Rookie of the Year Crystal Dangerfield. They are without four players for the foreseeable future and will need to turn around a night in which they shot 39% overall and 19 from 3.
Reigning champ Sky fall in OT
Second-year guard Dana Evans had a career night, but it wasn't enough for the reigning champion Chicago Sky in their season opener at Wintrust Arena in Chicago.
Los Angeles Sparks free agent pickup Jordin Canada hit all three free throws on a controversial foul call to force overtime and the Sparks took advantage of Sky mistakes to win, 98-91. She had a team-high 21 points shooting 6-of-11 and hitting all nine free throws. Her eight assists also led the Sparks.
The Sky looked gassed throughout the final five minutes and head coach James Wade pulled most of his stars with about 40 seconds to play. The Sparks won the frame, 10-3.
Evans put up a career-high 24 points shooting 9-of-17 (2-of-7 from 3 range) in 35 minutes. She had five assists and four steals. Parker added 21 against her old team. She appeared to seal a 3-point win when she poked the ball from Sparks big Liz Cambage with 6.7 seconds left. Sky center Emma Meesseman had 12 points, five rebounds and five assists in her Sky debut.
Nneka Ogwumike paced the Sparks throughout with 10 points on a standardly efficient 7-of-10 (2-of-3 from 3-point range). Cambage had 12 points (4-12) in her Sparks debut, but drew two early fouls in the first handful of minutes and took a seat. She played 24 minutes with four rebounds, four steals and two blocks.
Chennedy Carter and Lexie Brown, who was with the Sky for their championship run, each had 12 points in their Los Angeles debuts. Brown played 31 minutes and Carter 12.
Candace Parker's shoes designed by daughter
Candace Parker's kicks received some love from the NBATV broadcast for their trio of colors. They were designed by her 13-year-old daughter, Lailaa, in honor of Mother's Day.
The shoes are red, yellow and lilac with "reason" on the back since Parker calls Lailaa her "reason." Inside it reads, "for Pat," for late Tennessee head coach Pat Summitt. And the other side reads, "for mom," for obvious reasons. (Via Annie Costabile of the Chicago Sun-Times)
Parker is playing the Los Angeles Sparks, where she played for 13 years after they drafted her in 2008, for the first time since joining the Sky ahead of 2021. She missed both meetings due to injury last season.
"She’s definitely wanted to come out and beat them," shooting guard Allie Quigley, who sat out for precautionary reason with a knee injury, said on the broadcast. "She’s mentioned it multiple times this week.”
Parker came out hot with seven points shooting 2-for-2, including a 3-pointer, along with two assists and a steal in 3.5 minutes. She arrived to camp late after testing positive for COVID-19. She moved into ninth on the all-time assists list and crossed the 6,000-point threshold. She is the 12th player to reach the mark and is the only player to have 6,000 points, 3,000 rebounds, 1,000 assists and 500 blocks, per Across the Timeline.
The Sky were honored at Wintrust Arena in Chicago for their 2021 WNBA championship title and will receive rings later this month.
Elena Delle Donne scores 21 points in return
Two-time MVP Elena Delle Donne made her first home-opener appearance since 2018 and led the vintage-looking Washington Mystics with 21 points in a 84-70 win over the Indiana Fever at home.
Delle Donne, 32, said on the post-game broadcast she felt butterflies ahead of the game, adding "I mean, shoot, I'm playing basketball again. So this is fun." She said she feels great and is "just grateful to be out here."
"It took me a little bit to get my rhythm, but my teammates stuck with me," she said after playing 30 minutes, more than half of her 52-minute total last season.
There was concern Delle Donne would never play again after two back surgeries in a year and struggles to play consistently without pain in 2021. But she started on Friday night and has looked solid as the Mystics have their way with the Fever rookies. Her nine rebounds and two blocks were also team-highs and she added three assists. She was 8-of-16 overall and hit one of five 3-point attempts.
Her first points came on a jumper three minutes in and minutes later she went up-and-under on rookie NaLyssa Smith. Delle Donne played 15 minutes in the first half with six points, shooting 3-of-8 overall and missing both 3-point attempts. She added five rebounds and a block.
The Mystics led, 50-31, at the half. Natasha Cloud has a team-high 15 (5-for-7) with three rebounds and three assists. Indiana climbed back to within six late in the fourth after the Mystics offense went "stagnant," Delle Donne said. She will not travel with the team for its Sunday game at Minnesota so as to not aggravate her back on a short turnaround and with travel.
Fever start three rookies
Leading up to the season, there was plenty of talk about how many "WNBA players" would be left off opening-day rosters. Many times that includes rookies drafted in the second and third rounds, and sometimes even the first.
For the Indiana Fever, though, youth rules. Indiana had a record four first-round selections in April's WNBA draft.
The Fever started three rookies in Friday's season opener against the Washington Mystics — No. 2 overall pick NaLyssa Smith, No. 10 selection Queen Egbo and second-rounder Destanni Henderson.
Henderson won an NCAA national championship with South Carolina just over a month ago.
In the Fever's 84-70 loss, Smith led the way for the rookies, notching her first professional double-double in her first career game: 13 points and 13 rebounds. Egbo chipped in with 10 points and six rebounds, and Henderson had four points, five assists and two rebounds.
The Fever have two other rookies on their roster: No. 4 pick Emily Engstler and No. 6 pick Lexie Hull. Engstler played 16 minutes, scoring four points and grabbing nine boards. Hull attempted one field goal in seven minutes.