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Las Vegas Aces share special team chemistry in run to WNBA Finals

Defending champions balance a serious approach with light moments

As the Las Vegas Aces were putting the final touches on a late-season blowout win over the Seattle Storm, center A’ja Wilson saw an opportunity to busy herself during a timeout in a fourth quarter when she saw no action.

As Aces coach Becky Hammon conferred with her assistants, Wilson grabbed the seat the coach sits in to address the team and, half-jokingly laid into the group finishing the game.

A group that more than doubled the Aces’ lead after Wilson left the game.

“I really had to cuss them out,” Wilson joked after the game. “They should pay me the big bucks now! But when it comes to the clipboard, you can have [it].”

It was a brief moment that epitomized the season of the Aces, who will face the New York Liberty in the highly anticipated 2023 WNBA Finals (Game 1 is Sunday, 3 p.m. ET, ABC). The Aces are a team that was about business, undefeated in the playoffs following a season in which it had the WNBA’s best regular-season record.

The Aces are also a team that takes pleasure in its own amusement, as demonstrated by a series of gut-busting antics that have provided memorable moments for WNBA fans.

Las Vegas Aces guard Sydney Colson (left) and forward Alysha Clark (right) joke around as they warm up before a game against the Phoenix Mercury at T-Mobile Arena on Sept. 10 in Las Vegas.

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Like the prank initiated by guard Kelsey Plum against teammate Sydney Colson, who mistakenly — in the team’s family room — asked if a woman’s sister was Colson’s mother. That led to Colson being called into an emergency meeting with team president Nikki Fargas and Hammon.

“We have this complaint,” Hammon asked Colson during the interaction, captured on camera. “What do you think we should do?”

Remember the time Plum won the MVP award of the 2022 WNBA All-Star Game, and hoisted a smallish trophy that actually paled compared to the hardware won by previous MVPs? The roasting about the trophy size — on social media and by her teammates — was so thorough that league commissioner Cathy Engelbert presented a replacement trophy that could barely hold a cup of tea.

How about the “Thique or Nah??” competition where barbells were rolled over team members to determine their … thiqueness?

“I know a lot of people may get annoyed by us or maybe say we’re fake or we’re doing this for cameras,” Wilson said. “But, no, that’s really us. The biggest thing is our joy, how we play and how much fun we have.”

Forward Alysha Clark, in her first season with the Aces after playing for Seattle and Washington, said balancing the serious approach to the game with light moments helps with the team chemistry that often faces challenges.

“We’re not perfect. We’re going to argue, we’re going to disagree,” Clark said. “But at the end of the day we know it’s coming from a place where we want to win, want to get better. That’s the sign of the type of character we have in this locker room. That’s what makes this team special.”

Clark and Wilson have become close this season. “AC was on another team last year, but this year I’m like, ‘You are my sister, where have you been?’ ” Wilson said.

They are helping continue a team bond that’s been years in the making, solidified by last year’s run to the title.

“It’s definitely a bond that we have, and it’s incredible,” Wilson said. “I even get a little emotional just talking about it because I’ve never been around just a group of women that really care for each other.”

Jerry Bembry is a senior writer at Andscape. His bucket list items include being serenaded by Lizz Wright and watching the Knicks play a MEANINGFUL NBA game in June.