Inside The W with Michelle Smith: Training Camp Storylines Around the League

WNBA camps are underway, the competition for 12 precious roster spots on each team heating up as the opening games of the league’s 22nd season rapidly approach.

On one end of the camp spectrum there is the wait for front-line players to return stateside from their overseas commitments; on the other, hopeful free-agent signees looking to impress long to enough to get a shot at making the roster come opening day.

In between, so many good individual stories.

Let’s take a look at a few.

Bonner is back in Phoenix. The Mercury’s All-Star wing player returned to the Mercury locker room on Wednesday, causing Diana Taurasi to declare, “D.B. is back. It’s all taken care of. It’s all good now.”

DeWanna Bonner is indeed a sight for sore eyes, having sat out last season on maternity leave after giving birth to twins with wife Candice Dupree (Indiana Fever). Bonner’s return, along with the addition of veteran point guard Briann January, is giving Phoenix hope that they can hang with the elite teams of the league, including fellow Western Conference foes Minnesota and Los Angeles.

Bonner is one of the most versatile talents in the league and she will elevate a Phoenix team — particularly on the offensive end with her perimeter shooting — that reached the league semifinals for the ninth time in 11 seasons before bowing out last fall.

Cappie takes L.A. Cappie Pondexter, one of the league’s all-time great guards, finds herself in a new home for the first time in three seasons with the Los Angeles Sparks. Pondexter signed a free-agent contract with the Sparks in February and is expected to come off the bench to provide perimeter punch for the team that is already loaded at guard with emerging star Chelsea Gray, Odyssey Sims, and defensive stud Alana Beard.

The seven-time All-Star already has two WNBA titles and, considering that the Sparks are expected to be title contenders again after two straight trips to the Finals, Pondexter has a chance to get one more to add to her total.

D-Rob speeds into Minnesota. Danielle Robinson looks around and sees a lot of new faces as she spends her first week on the floor with the defending champion Lynx. Robinson spent the first five seasons of her career in San Antonio before coming to an established team full of returning players who have won four titles together.

Robinson’s role is to push tempo, lead the fast break, position herself as the heir apparent to guard Lindsay Whalen, and perhaps hit a few 3-pointers. Robinson has never hit a shot from beyond the arc in her WNBA career. Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said she expects that will change this season.

Chiney on the comeback trail. The biggest news about Chiney Ogwumike this week is that she became the first WNBA player to land a full-time sports broadcasting gig as she signed a multi-year contract with ESPN as an NBA analyst. But while Ogwumike has been building a budding career in front of the microphone, she has also been preparing for hours every day to play her first full WNBA season since 2016.

Injuries have limited her to two seasons since she was drafted as the league’s No. 1 pick back in 2014 and won Rookie of the Year honors. She comes back to a dynamic, young Connecticut team that has a burgeoning star in the post in Jonquel Jones. Ogwumike will complement Jones with her athleticism, her nose for the ball and her ability to finish around the rim.

“We are loving it,” Connecticut Sun guard/forward Shekinna Stricklen said to the New Haven Register this week. “Chiney is bringing the energy back, rebounding. She is going to run the court, she is going to play hard the whole time she is in. Chiney brings back another person, a piece we have been missing and also give JJ (Jones) a couple of minutes more rest.”

The Return of Cambage. Liz Cambage was the No. 2 pick in the 2011 WNBA Draft (behind Maya Moore) and the 6-foot-8 Australian center, 19 years old at the time, was projected to be a star. Cambage played for two seasons with the Tulsa Shock before returning to Australia, and it’s been five years since she played in the WNBA. In the interim, the team has become the Dallas Wings and Cambage is back after a season in which she was the leading scorer in the Australian WNBL.

Cambage, now 26, signed a multi-year contract and is regarded as one of the best players in the world, one who will surely help a Wings team that was just a piece or two away from a big playoff push last season. Cambage has not yet reported to Wings camp, making her way from Australia, but the anticipation of her arrival is enough to cause a buzz in Dallas camp.

Longtime WNBA reporter Michelle Smith writes a weekly column on throughout the season. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the WNBA or its clubs.