Sports

Breanna Stewart’s injury points up a bigger issue

Breanna Stewart, Brittney Griner
Seattle Storm star Breanna Stewart drives to the basket during a WNBA playoff game against the Phoenix Mercury in August.
(Elaine Thompson / Associated Press)

Breanna Stewart’s trip to L.A. this week had nothing to do a fun-filled spring break and everything to do with a ruptured right Achilles tendon.

The Seattle Storm’s 24-year-old star center underwent surgery Thursday morning with doctors Neal ElAttrache and Kenneth S. Jung at the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopedic Clinic. The injury will prevent her from playing in the WNBA season that starts in about a month.

Stewart, the reigning WNBA regular season and finals MVP, was playing for Russia-based Dynamo Kursk when she landed on the foot of Brittney Griner, the UMMC Ekaterinburg center, during Sunday’s EuroLeague title game. Stewart and Griner were among seven top WNBA players in that contest.

The incident highlights WNBA player salaries and how a number of stars of the U.S. league supplement their income by playing year-round. Stewart, the WNBA’s No. 1 overall pick in 2016 after leading Connecticut to four consecutive NCAA titles, got a small bump in pay to $64,538 this season, the last in her three-year base rookie deal.

Without taking time to rest in the off-season, Stewart and others play overseas — where, coincidentally, salaries for top players far outstrip WNBA pay.

The WNBA median salary is about $73,000; a max contract is $113,500. Top players in Russia, Europe and China can make $500,000 or more.

Sparks star Candace Parker won five titles with UMMC Ekaterinburg from 2010 to ’15 and also played in Turkey. She missed the first three games of the 2018 WNBA season with a back injury she suffered in China. She avoided overseas play last winter to work as a TV analyst with TNT.

In 2017, Stewart left playing in China in need of minor knee surgery before the WNBA season.

“I’m sure [extra playing] is a contributing factor,” her father, Brian Stewart, told Syracuse.com. “Unfortunately, since probably eight or nine years ago, this is going to be her longest break. Kind of forced. She pretty much goes year-around, like all the other players like her.”

This issue will likely become a point of contention with the WNBA’s players collective bargaining agreement set to expire in October.

One way to get everyone a rest might be a good, old-fashioned strike.

Given a fighting chance

Since the leprechaun became Notre Dame’s official mascot in 1965, male candidates have donned the green suit and pranced about the sidelines as the embodiment of the Fighting Irish.

Lynnette Wukie will change that.

The university’s 2019-20 leprechaun lineup includes the sophomore from Ohio, who becomes the first woman in the role. She and junior Samuel Jackson will also be the second and third African American leprechaun mascots. Sophomore Conal Fagan, who hails from Northern Ireland, is included in the rotation.

In her video application, Wukie cited a “need to lead. … Who says the Fighting Irish can’t fight like a girl?”

His life’s in Jeopardy!

An update on Las Vegas professional sports gambler James Holzhauer: After setting a single-day “Jeopardy!” record of $110,000 in winnings last week, chronicled in Morning Briefing, he shattered that mark Wednesday in his 10th straight win: $131,127.

He did so with a perfect game: a correct answer on all 41 of his responses, including Final Jeopardy!

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In the cheesy interview segment during the single Jeopardy! round, host Alex Trebek asked Holzhauer how he would deal with this new celebrity.

“I’m not sure the bookies in Las Vegas are going to be as happy to accept my action anymore,” Holzhauer said from the Sony Studios in Culver City, where the shows were taped weeks ago. “They know me.”

So they should know he’s not always right.

Holzhauer at one point advised Trebek to bet on the Tampa Bay Lightning to win the Stanley Cup. The top-seeded Lightning was swept out of the first round by Columbus.