Bill Laimbeer is doing some coaching job out in the desert, eh?
In his first season since leaving the New York Liberty, the veteran WNBA coach has taken what was a forlorn franchise in San Antonio and with a little help turned that team into a respectable and potential playoff team.
Last season in San Antonio, the franchise won eight games, which was one more than the previous season. On Saturday, the Las Vegas Aces (7-12) can match last season's total when they host the Connecticut Sun at Mandalay Bay Events Center.
The little bit of help propelling the Aces upward in the standings stands 6 feet 4 and averages 20.3 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. She was the top pick in the draft, and A'ja Wilson is living up to her lofty status.
Wilson also is getting a little help as well. Kayla McBride, who was the No. 3 overall pick in 2014 by the Stars, is averaging 18.5 points per game and has blossomed this season under Laimbeer. And she has proved to be a steady influence for Wilson.
"I call her my vet," Wilson told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "She really keeps me sane through games. ... When I'm having a bad game or missing a shot, I can always count on K-Mac."
McBride scored 28 points and Wilson 24 in the 84-80 win over Chicago on Thursday.
"They're growing and they're hungry and they want that playoff chance, so I told them they had to win this game and they did," Laimbeer said.
The Sun and Aces met in the season opener for both in a game the Aces would like to forget. Alyssa Thomas had 13 points, 16 rebounds and six assists as Connecticut handed Vegas its worst defeat of the season, 101-35.
The Sun (10-8) went on to win seven of their first nine games, but they have gone 3-6 since then. Their offense is not the problem. Chiney Ogwumike leads five players in double figures at 15.3 points per game.
The versatility of Connecticut's starters was the hallmark of the Sun early in the season.
"The beauty of our team," Ogwumike told the Hartford Courant. "Anybody can catch the rebound and go. When we settle in, we're really hard to stop."
But from June 13 to June 22, the Sun's defense failed and Connecticut lost four straight.
Coach Curt Miller's squad seems to have righted the ship heading into July. He did have a warning for his team after that season-opening blowout of the Aces, who were playing without McBride and Kelsey Plum.
"They are going to pound it every night at people until their star guards get back," Miller said. "There are certainly things to work and grow on, but I like our starters and our depth."
The Sun, 3-3 in their last six games, lost 84-77 to the Phoenix Mercury on Thursday to continue a trend of win one game and lose the next. Phoenix held Connecticut to a season-low 34.6 percent from the field.
The Sun were playing their third game in five days and it showed.
"For us, we just have to be resilient on the road," Ogwumike said. "Some days it's going to go your way, some days it's not."