LAS VEGAS – Orange is definitely Courtney Williams’ color.
From the moment she put it on in 2016, her Connecticut Sun jersey felt like a second skin. Her team was her home, which is why when she was traded to the Atlanta Dream after the 2019 season, Williams felt betrayed.
In 2019, she had started every game, played nearly 30 minutes per game, and averaged 13.2 points per game for the Sun — all career highs.
She couldn’t understand why the organization she loved so much didn’t seem to love her back.
“I was too emotional,” she said. “I was just like, ‘Where’s the loyalty?’ But there is no loyalty in business. Business is business, numbers are numbers. That’s something I learned in this process.
Soon, however, she realized that her craft had nothing to do with how Sun’s players and coaches felt about her. This allowed him to get excited about this new opportunity.
Nicki Collen, currently head coach of women’s basketball at Baylor, worked as an assistant on the staff of the Sun from 2015 to 2019 before becoming head coach of the Dream in 2018.
Williams was comfortable with Collen – after all, she was part of his Sun family – so the move started to feel like it could be perfect.
“It was a no-brainer for me since she was there,” Williams said.
Collen coached Williams in Atlanta for just one season. She left a week before the 2021 slate of games begins in the head coaching role at Baylor.
But even after Collen’s exit, Williams thrived. His minutes have increased, as have his points, assists, rebounds — everything.
In 2021, she played 34.4 minutes per game in her second season with the Dream, averaging 16.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, 4 assists and 1.1 steals per game. The South Florida alum was making her mark in her new organization and the basketball world took notice. His play earned Williams an All-Star nod – the first of his career.
But the situation deteriorated after that.
In October, Williams posted a YouTube video of her and teammate Crystal Bradford getting involved in an altercation near a food truck outside an Atlanta club. The 39-minute video was deleted, but footage of the fight circulated on Twitter, leading to Dream’s decision not to re-sign Williams for the 2022 season.
“The behavior in the video is unacceptable and inconsistent with our values as an organization,” Dream said in a statement released the following day. “We take this matter very seriously and are working with the league to gather more information and determine next steps.”
Williams apologized on Twitter for shedding light on the situation in the YouTube video, but her agent Marcus Crenshaw claimed the Atlanta Dream had known about the altercation for months and expressed frustration with the organization that only chose to address it when the video emerged and went viral. social media.
“Right now the team is trying to act like they have morals, and (they) are kind of scapegoating (the players) saying they were put off by the Dream because of the altercation “, said Crenshaw on Girls Talk Sports TV Instagram Live.
Whatever the circumstances, one thing became clear: Courtney Williams would no longer be part of the Atlanta Dream.
Prior to the incident, Williams said she expected only good things in Atlanta.
“Obviously that’s not how it happened,” she said. “So this stuff ended up hitting me in the mouth. But I mean, overall, I think any experience you go through helps you grow. It shaped me into who I am now.
Now Williams understands the business of basketball. She also learned from the mistakes she made in Atlanta.
And while he was gone, the Sun also realized they needed Courtney Williams in Connecticut.
Without it, in 2020 and 2021, the Sun lost in the WNBA semifinals – in Las Vegas, then in Chicago.
Williams provides both skill and spark to the roster.
“She’s on a roll right now,” teammate Natisha Hiedeman said after Williams scored 12 points in the Sun’s Game 5 win over the Sky in the WNBA Semifinals. “And that’s what we need her for.” It’s definitely what’s expected of her, and she just has that mindset where she’s never too high or too low. As his energy is the same all the time. She deserves to play well because she’s just a great teammate all the time.
For Williams, the love she receives from her fellow Sun players is enough to melt away the negative impact of her exit from Atlanta.
She hates how it happened, but the end result was worth it. It was a blessing in disguise, she says, because it brought her home.
“Everything happens for a reason, doesn’t it? The good, the bad, the ugly,” she said. “It shapes us and it also shows you who is really for you. It’s easy to swing with someone when everything’s rosy and sunny, but it’s like, ‘Who’s swinging with me when it’s not?’ Connecticut did.
After her split from Atlanta, Williams received calls from Sun stars DeWanna Bonner, Jonquel Jones and Alyssa Thomas. They were all rocking with her and they wanted her back in a Sun uniform.
Turns out there’s some fairness in business. The Sun showed it to Williams when they re-signed her ahead of the 2022 season.
After two years away, her return to Connecticut felt like she had never even left, Williams said.
Now she wants to repay her team with a WNBA championship.
Sporting a half-moon purple bruise under his left eye – an injury sustained during his iconic jump-ball battle with Kahleah Copper in the Semi-Final Series – Williams looked down the Aces court on Monday as his team performed shootings.
They mean everything to her.
And Williams doesn’t care that his team has been neglected throughout this post-season. They rock with her and she rocks with them. Forget the haters.
“We already know what it is and what it isn’t,” she said. “We’re not even tripping over any of that. These people want to be where we are. So I’ll tell them to sit down, get their popcorn, and watch us do what we do.
Eden Laase is an editor at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @eden_laase.