WNBA

Title Favorites Aces, Liberty Set To Meet In WNBA Commissioner’s Cup Final

Aug 14, 2023, 6:45 PM

Jackie-Young-Las-Vegas-Aces-WNBA...

Jackie Young #0 of the Las Vegas Aces brings the ball up the court against the Washington Mystics in the third quarter of their game at Michelob ULTRA Arena on August 11, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Aces defeated the Mystics 113-89. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

AP – The New York Liberty and Las Vegas Aces are living up to the preseason WNBA hype and will meet for the first time with a championship on the line when they play for the Commissioner’s Cup title on Tuesday night.

The budding rivals were predicted to win the WNBA title before the season tipped off and have loftier aspirations of taking home that trophy. The first-place Aces won both the Commissioner’s Cup and the WNBA title last season and wouldn’t mind double-dipping again this year.

Each member of the winning team will receive around $30,000. Players on the losing squad each gets about $10,000.

“It’s an opportunity to build chemistry, but also win money. It’s a big game, but we couldn’t focus on it ’til now,” New York’s Breanna Stewart said after Sunday’s win over Indiana.

Liberty guard Courtney Vandersloot agreed.

“The money is big,” said Vandersloot, who lost in the Cup final last season to Las Vegas. “It definitely adds an extra incentive to the game.”

An extra $30,000 is significant when the maximum base salary for a WNBA player is roughly $230,000. The NBA is starting its own in-season tournament this year with the winning team making $500,000 per player and $200,000 for second place.

RELATED: Jazz To Face LeBron, Durant In In-Season Tournament

The WNBA players aren’t the only ones who benefit from the in-season tournament.

There are also a couple of charities with vested interest; New York is playing for the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center which provides sensitive, quality health care and related services targeted to New York’s LGBT communities. Las Vegas is playing for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Southern Nevada.

“The chance to impact someone else’s every day life, that’s a special gift and a special mantle that we all have to uphold,” Las Vegas Aces coach Becky Hammon said. “Anytime we can pour money back into the community and make meaningful changes in people’s lives, I know myself and everyone in this organization will do what we can to make that possible.”

Everyone in the Aces and Liberty organizations will be very familiar with one another by the end of the month.

Tuesday’s game will be the second of four meetings between the WNBA’s top teams in August. There was so much hype around the two “super teams” coming into the season and so far both teams have shown they are the best two in the league. Las Vegas (27-3) currently holds a three-game lead on New York (24-6) for the top seed. While the Commissioner’s Cup won’t count in the standings, the teams will play again in Las Vegas on Thursday in a regular season contest.

“It definitely has the playoff feel to it that you play twice in a short period of time and can make adjustments,” Stewart said.

Both teams have already set franchise records for wins and the Aces are only the fourth team to win 27 of their first 30 games. Los Angeles (2000 and 2001) and Houston are the others to do it. The Comets and Sparks (2001) went on to win the WNBA championship.

To win the Cup, New York will have to do something that no one has been able to do this season and that’s beat Las Vegas at home. The Aces are 15-0 on their homecourt this season. New York, which is riding a six-game winning streak, should have a lot of confidence after routing the Aces 99-61 at home on Aug. 6. The Aces rolled to an easy win in the first matchup of the season.

Here are a few other tidbits for the Commissioner’s Cup:

MVP CANDIDATES

Stewart and A’ja Wilson are the front-runners for the WNBA’s MVP award this season. They’re the leaders on the best teams in the league and last week each had a 40-point game. Stewart became the first player to notch three of them in the same season. Wilson was the first player to do it without hitting a 3-pointer.

SECOND TRY

Both Vandersloot and Jonquel Jones lost in their first attempts to win the Commissioner’s Cup title. Jones was on Connecticut when the team lost to Stewart’s Seattle squad in the inaugural Cup in 2021. Vandersloot was coming off a concussion when she played against the Aces with Chicago last season. This time around she’s 100% healthy.

CHARTER FLIGHTS FOR THE CUP

Stewart smiled when discussing one of the perks of making the Commissioner’s Cup finals == charter flights. The WNBA paid for the Liberty to charter from their game Sunday from Indianapolis to Las Vegas. It was their first private flight of the season.

With the team staying in Las Vegas to play the Aces again on Thursday, it was a one-way trip. New York will have another charter flight on Thursday after the game as they take the short trip to Phoenix to play the Mercury on Friday night.

The WNBA is paying for charter flights for all teams that have back-to-back games on the road. The league also is paying for charters throughout the playoffs.

The Aces were already in town having beaten Atlanta at home Sunday night so only one charter flight was needed by the league.

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Title Favorites Aces, Liberty Set To Meet In WNBA Commissioner’s Cup Final