Greenberg: Angel Reese gets knocked down, gets back up in bruising Chicago Sky loss (2024)

CHICAGO — It was late in the third quarter when Angel Reese found herself on the ground again, locked in a losing battle under the basket with veteran power forward Alyssa Thomas.

Before Saturday’s game — her long-awaited, regular-season home debut — Reese said she was excited to play against Thomas, a skilled, bruising post player she used to watch at the University of Maryland.


And even after getting choke-slammed to the ground by Thomas as they tangled for a rebound late in the third quarter — a play that earned Thomas the heave-ho with a flagrant-2 foul — Reese wasn’t changing her tune following the undefeated Connecticut Sun’s 86-82 win over Chicago at Wintrust Arena.

“It’s no hard feelings to A.T.,” she said. “Obviously, I know she purposely, probably, didn’t do it towards me, but just being able to come out there and just be strong and stand on two feet, it was going to be a tough game and that’s what I’m built for. And my teammates had my back throughout the whole game. So I was prepared for it.”

Alyssa Thomas was ejected after a hard foul on Angel Reese.

— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 26, 2024

A rookie getting abused by a veteran they once idolized? A tale as old as basketball. But Reese, who had 13 points and five rebounds in 33 minutes, 7 seconds, seemed kind of annoyed when it was suggested this was a “welcome to the WNBA moment.”

It’s not just because I’m a rookie,” she said. “I’m a player. I’m a basketball player. They don’t give a damn if I’m a rookie. I mean, I want them to come at me every day. I want them to come at everybody. I mean, they’re not supposed to be nice to me. I hope y’all know that. They’re not supposed to be nice to me or lay down because I’m Angel Reese or because I’m a rookie.”

But if it were a message being sent …

“Thank you, A.T., for sending a message to me because I got back up and I kept going and kept pushing,” she said. “Me and A.T. have been cool since we were at Maryland, so I know it’s no hard feelings. I appreciate her for going at me today.”

I’ll say this: I’ve never met an NBA player who thanked an opponent for sending him to the ground with a WWE move. I needed some Advil just watching that foul over and over on press row. With the spotlight on her, Reese has to show she’s more than just a power player on social media or in the fashion world. And so far, she’s the only rookie to score in double figures in every game this season.


But on Saturday, she often found herself getting bottled up under the hoop by a veteran Sun frontline. And that part had nothing to do with who she is. It’s just a rookie learning how tough this league is.

In college, you kind of could take some plays off,” Reese said. “In the league, you can’t take a play off. … I’m guarding tough fours and tough fives every single night. I can’t take any plays off, but I have coaches and teammates that really trust me and I appreciate them for putting that confidence in me as a rookie.”

Reese’s star power has been the prevailing storyline for the Sky this season, and that certainly didn’t change Saturday. Teenagers cheered her during warm-ups and hundreds of fans waited for her to enter, and exit, the postgame news conference.

“They’re rock stars,” Sky coach Teresa Weatherspoon mused after Reese and leading scorer Marina Mabrey walked out of the interview room past the screaming masses.

When Reese was introduced before the game, Wintrust Arena erupted.

The Sky have officially been introduced. Angel Reese reaction, as you’d expect.

— jon greenberg (@jon_greenberg) May 26, 2024

Reese’s fame — you can see the bootleg T-shirt industry is booming — is helping the Sky build some excitement for the season. It was a lively, near-capacity crowd for the Sky’s belated home opener after they started the season with three road games.

Celebrities on hand included Chance the Rapper, Sky minority owner Dwyane Wade and his wife, Gabrielle Union, Bulls guard Dalen Terry, Bears president Kevin Warren and running backs coach Jennifer King. Lupe Fiasco performed a halftime show. The players and Weatherspoon were late to their news conference because Wade and Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson were in the locker room.

Everyone, from the glitterati to the guy in a Reese T-shirt who waited for pregame chicken at Harold’s #71 with me, got to watch a well-fought, physical game that came down to the final possessions. Reese got hot early with three buckets in the first quarter, but after that, it was Mabrey (23 points, four 3-pointers), Dana Evans (13 points, three 3-pointers) and reserve guard Chennedy Carter, a fast-break whiz who scored 11 points before fouling out, that impressed me the most.


The Sky lost because they got destroyed on the boards (38-21), leading to a 27-7 Sun advantage in second-chance points, but they did have 13 steals and forced 17 Sun turnovers.

“We just want to showcase the team that we are,” Evans said before the game. “I mean, we got a bunch of dogs.”

The story of the game, though, was Thomas’ hard foul and the ensuing ejection. That’s what’s going viral. Thomas is a veteran star and Reese is the rookie sensation and the former was showing the latter what’s what.

“I think it’s more the media and the fans that get caught up in the rookie-vet dichotomy,” Sun guard DiJonai Carrington told a pool reporter.

Even so, it was something to behold.

For their part, neither Weatherspoon nor Sun coach Stephanie White played up the foul and the ejection after the game. They both said they didn’t see the play happen in real time. Weatherspoon said she hadn’t even watched a replay before meeting the media. In a game this physical, a line is bound to be crossed. It was, and it was dealt with.

“I had been talking to the officials because the physicality in the interior was getting much more significant than it was in the first half,” White said. “And so you could almost sense that something was going to happen.”

(Photo of Marina Mabrey, Angel Reese and Chennedy Carter: Melissa Tamez / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Greenberg: Angel Reese gets knocked down, gets back up in bruising Chicago Sky loss (1)Greenberg: Angel Reese gets knocked down, gets back up in bruising Chicago Sky loss (2)

Jon Greenberg is a columnist for The Athletic based in Chicago. He was also the founding editor of The Athletic. Before that, he was a columnist for ESPN and the executive editor of Team Marketing Report. Follow Jon on Twitter @jon_greenberg

Greenberg: Angel Reese gets knocked down, gets back up in bruising Chicago Sky loss (2024)
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