Fighting for roster spots and playing time
There are two sides to every WNBA roster. There's the side that includes the likes of stars Candace Parker, Lauren Jackson and Maya Moore, players for whom playing time or even a spot on the roster is never going to be in question.
And then there is the other end, where a player like Alexis Gray-Lawson resides.
Gray-Lawson, a shooting guard, found herself on the Phoenix Mercury roster at the end of training camp and made the trip with the team to the season opener in Seattle on Saturday.
"It's a great feeling, it feels like I've won a championship," Gray-Lawson said. "I've worked so hard and I just prayed it would pay off."
Gray-Lawson, a Cal product, went to camp with the Washington Mystics out of college last summer, but was waived before the start of the season. So she did what most of the top women players do -- those who make the WNBA roster, as well as those who don't -- and she went overseas to play.
The Oakland, Calif., native went to Turkey but came home after tearing a meniscus in her knee. She needed surgery.
"It's been an up-and-down year," Gray-Lawson said. "But you can't help but take that as motivation and that's kind of what I did."
Gray-Lawson, who said she's more "humble" than she was last year, spent more time getting mentally prepared for the rigors of a WNBA camp.
"And physically, I am better. I have a different body and a different mindset about working hard," Gray-Lawson said.
Gray-Lawson said she got a pep talk from her father before she left for Phoenix.
"He told me to just go out and play my hardest, that I was going to miss shots and I was going to make mistakes, but that I needed to continue to work hard. And I think I'm here because of that."
Gray-Lawson said the Mercury coaches have told her to be herself, to be an aggressive shooter and help the team defensively.
But the reality check is never far away. Gray-Lawson did not play in the season opener and her minutes could be sparse as she watches from the end of the bench.
But there are plenty of talented players who don't even have that. And Gray-Lawson knows that from experience.
"It's a great feeling," Gray-Lawson said. "I came into training camp and put everything on the floor and I guess it paid off."
Seattle's Lauren Jackson moved into third place on the league's all-time scoring list with 5,772 points after putting up 15 in the season opener against Phoenix. Lisa Leslie is No. 2 on the list with 6,263 and Tina Thompson is first at 6,413. The Storm, meanwhile, ran their home-court winning streak to 18 games. The Storm haven't lost at Key Arena since September 2009.
Here and gone
Chicago's Epiphanny Prince will stay with the Sky and not go back to Russia to play for the Russian national team in the European championships.
Prince, the former Rutgers star who left C. Vivian Stringer's program one year early to begin her professional career, has played professionally the past two years in Russia and has obtained Russian citizenship.
She could still potentially play for Russia in next year's Olympic tournament in London if Russia qualifies. Price would have missed six games with her WNBA team had she played for Russia in the European tournament.
New York suspended power forward Janel McCarville after she didn't show up for the team's training camp.