Price, Thomas Fitting Right In

by Mark Bodenrader,

It’s tough to beat debuting at Madison Square Garden.

That was the scenario for rookies Armintie Price and Carla Thomas -- the Sky’s two first-round selections in April’s draft -- as Chicago opened its sophomore season against the New York Liberty on Sunday.

Sky guard Armintie Price takes it
to the hoop against the Liberty.

David Dow/NBAE/Getty Images
“This was my first time playing in Madison Square Garden,” said Price, who was selected with the third overall pick after starring at Mississippi. “It is the real deal.”

“It was great,” said Thomas, the Sky’s other first-round pick (No. 10 overall) out of Vanderbilt. “It was something to enjoy, just making the roster and being able to play in front of my family – they got to be here for my first game – and playing against great competition. We didn’t get the win, but it was still a great experience.”

Indeed, the luster of opening at MSG didn’t last long. After starting the game off strong and holding a nine-point lead at halftime, the Sky were outscored 50-29 in the second half on their way to a season-opening loss. It was a tough pill to swallow for a team eager to improve upon a 5-29 maiden campaign.

Still, there were positives for Price, who got the starting nod at shooting guard from new coach Bo Overton and made the most of her opportunity, dishing out a team-high five assists and being a menace on defense. Unfortunately, her shots just weren’t falling.

“I’m so proud of Armintie,” said Overton after the opener. “She had a couple shots early that bounced around and didn’t go in, but I thought if those would have gone in she would have had a big night.”

Price’s effort was especially impressive when you consider the circumstances she was playing under. On top of the pressure and nerves typically associated with one’s first pro game, Price also took the court with a heavy heart as she flew to New York from Milwaukee after attending her grandmother‘s funeral before the game.

Thomas played some solid minutes off the bench in her regular season debut, spelling Candice Dupree and Kayte Christensen and others up front while providing a defensive presence down low.

“Carla, the way she guarded their big people, she was what I thought we were going to get, so we’re real excited about that,” said Overton.

Sky forward Carla Thomas.
Warren Skalski/NBAE/Getty Images
The WNBA is loaded with talent, which means that for the players lucky enough to get drafted, getting minutes can be a struggle. The Sky are one of the few teams that feature a handful of rookies on their roster, which is expected from a squad in just its second year of existence. But that’s not to say that Chicago doesn’t have its share of established players.

Outside of returning key components like Dupree, Jia Perkins and Stacey Dales, the Sky added Dominique Canty and Christensen via free agency in the off-season and picked up Monique Currie in the dispersal draft.

The Sky may be a second-year team, but they carry a swagger typically reserved for a seasoned playoff contender. And that’s what makes the significant roles Price and Thomas have earned all that much more impressive.

But there will be growing pains for the rookie tandem, such as adapting to the level of competition.

“You leave anyone open and they won’t miss,” said Thomas. “And it’s anyone, top to bottom on the lineup. It’s pretty much an adjustment going from playing a team with three or four great athletes to an entire team with great athletes.”

That theme was again evident in the Sky’s home opener on Tuesday, as Chicago suffered an 81-64 setback to the Los Angeles Sparks. Price once again struggled to score, but contributed on the boards with seven rebounds, while Thomas garnered only seven minutes off the bench.

As a result, there’s much to be learned from the team’s veterans.

“They’re teaching me a lot,” said Price about her more experienced teammates. “Every time I’m going down court they’re like, ‘Come here, AP, come here, let me tell you this.’ They’re great teammates and great role models.”

That’s the thing about Price and Thomas: they’re willing to do whatever it takes to get better. And they’re not about to shy away from high expectations for themselves and the team.

“I hope to make the playoffs,” said Thomas. “I hope to go as far as we possibly can. I think that with the talent we have and the team chemistry that we can go really far.”