It’s certainly been an interrupted first season in the WNBA for Alanna Smith.
Whilst other Australians, including Phoenix Mercury teammate Leilani Mitchell, have showcased outstanding form in recent weeks, Smith has now been forced to sit for the last three games with an ankle injury. It is another blow for Sandy Brondello’s side who fights through with a decimated roster that has seen the franchise forced to sign two players as injury cover.
WNBL All-Star Asia Taylor has joined previously waived rookie Arica Carter on the roster in the interim as the Mercury bolster a list that earlier this week featured just seven healthy players as Essence Carson, Sancho Lyttle, Diana Taurasi, and Briann January joined Smith on the sideline.
The signing of Taylor as a second injury hardship player suggests that Smith’s return may not be forthcoming in the short-term. General Manager Jim Pitman told Jeff Metcalfe of the Arizona Republic that he expected to sign a second player as cover only if Smith’s injury kept her out long-term. With Taylor’s signing coming in the wake of an absence for the ex-Stanford star that looks set to continue into its third week, a return in the near future appears unlikely at this point.
Smith last took the court on August 2nd in Phoenix’s 68-62 loss to Connecticut and no timetable looks to have been set for her return at this point. The rookie sat out Sunday’s 80-77 loss to Dallas with her foot still in a moon boot as fellow Australian, Leilani Mitchell dropped 23 to continue a career-best season.
As it turns out, the events of that game may have increased the impact of Smith’s absence through no fault of her own. Wild scenes eventuated as Mercury star Brittney Griner and Dallas rookie Kristine Anigwe came to blows midway through the fourth quarter, with Griner needing to be held back by several Mercury players and staff. Six players across both teams were ejected, with Griner joining teammates January and Taurasi in the locker room for the final minutes.
Suspensions are almost certain to follow, and with the Mercury still desperately short on player numbers, coach Sandy Brondello will be hoping that Smith can return to the court sooner rather than later.
This is not the first time Smith has suffered issues of this sort. The Opals forward tweaked her ankle on multiple occasions during her time at Stanford, however none had forced her to miss playing time as Smith barely sat out a game during her time in Palo Alto.
Although the forward has been only a bit-part player for much of the season, her return would be more than welcome news for a Mercury side looking to maintain their 2.5 game advantage over the teams chasing them for the final playoff spot. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look as though that will occur in the short-term.