Thump In The Morning

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The Commissioner’s Cup debuted last year with a championship matchup between the Seattle Storm and Connecticut Sun that, at the time, was thought to be a potential WNBA Finals meeting. It didn’t turn out that way as neither team advanced to the championship series.

This year’s version again feels very much like a Finals preview. The Chicago Sky and Las Vegas Aces are the top two teams in the league standings and ESPN’s WNBA Power Rankings, and have been among the hottest teams since the All-Star Game.

Chicago hosts Las Vegas tonight (8:30 p.m. ET). The Commissioner’s Cup championship game is on Amazon Prime, which was part of the deal the WNBA reached with Amazon in 2021 as another revenue source for the league.

Both teams lost this past week, but those were the only losses the Sky and Aces have had since Team A’ja Wilson won the All-Star Game on July 10. Both are 5-1 in that stretch, but Chicago has done it without All-Star point guard Courtney Vandersloot, who has missed the past four games while in concussion protocol.

The Sky’s 83-80 loss at the New York Liberty on Saturday was their third game in four days, plus they had travel delays on the way to the Big Apple. Chicago coach James Wade brushed off questions about fatigue, saying it is just part of what all teams deal with. Despite the obstacles, the Sky still almost won that game.

The best part of what the Commissioner’s Cup could offer players throughout the league is the prize pool that the top teams will receive. As we all know, pay for WNBA players is much lower than other professional leagues, although the league and the WNBA Players Association has worked to improve that in recent years.

With this in-season tournament, players will be battling for a piece of a prize pool that totals $500,000. According to the WNBA, members of the winning team will be able to earn in excess of $30,000 per player, while members of the runner-up squad will have an opportunity to earn $10,000 per player. Whoever wins the MVP award in the championship game will also get an additional $5,000.

Not only could the in-season tournament provide some additional interest to WNBA fans, but it will provide some players with additional compensation throughout the summer. It also gives teams something else to play for annually outside of the traditional playoffs.