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Caitlin Clark, physical play and questions about fouls dominating discussions around the WNBA

Around the WNBA
Posted at 7:59 AM, Jun 05, 2024
Caitlin Clark has been tested during her first month in the WNBA with physical play from opponents that has brought an increased spotlight on the league.

Not all of the attention has been positive.

The conversations exploded over the weekend when Chicago's Chennedy Carter gave a shoulder shot to Clark that knocked her to the floor before an inbound pass during the third quarter of the Sky-Indiana Fever game on Saturday.

“I think everybody is physical with me, they get away with things that probably other people don’t get away with,” Clark, who like many good offensive players sometimes flails when hit to draw the attention of officials, said after a loss to the Los Angeles Sparks last week. “It’s tough, but that’s just the fact of the matter.

“This is a very physical game, and you’re going to get pressure, this is professional basketball,” Clark said. “It is what it is, honestly.”

The officials said Carter's action was an away-from-the-ball foul and didn’t review the play. It was deemed a common foul at the time. The league upgraded the play to a flagrant-1 violation foul a day later.

Though the WNBA hasn't commented on the physical plays involving Clark, the Carter=Clark collision had people talking across not only the sports media landscape, but also shows like “The View.”

There's no shortage of opinions on the physicality that the No. 1 pick has faced this season, either arguing that not enough is being done to protect her, that she is being targeted by other players because of the media attention she receives, that race is a factor or that it is just the natural competitive evolution in the growing sport of women's basketball.

Going into Tuesday’s games, Clark is currently 11th in average fouls drawn per contest, averaging 4.2 per contest, tops among rookies in that category. She is third overall in total fouls drawn with 46, but the Fever (2-9) have played the most games.

Clark has said she won't let the physical play get into her head and that she will continue to play her game. At times, however, her frustration has shown when she feels she doesn't get a call. She has been hit with a league-leading three technical fouls. A seventh technical during the regular season would result in a one-game suspension.

Fever coach Christie Sides understands Clark's frustrations and isn't taking the “it is what it is” approach. Sides believes some of the fouls against Clark have crossed the line and said she will continue to send video clips to the league until something is done about it.

The Carter foul happened in Clark's first pro matchup with college rival Angel Reese, a 71-70 Indiana win. Reese has had her own “welcome to the WNBA moments." Most notably, when she was thrown to the ground on a hard foul by Connecticut's Alyssa Thomas in a Sky-Sun game last month.

The officials immediately went to the monitor to review the situation and upgraded the foul to a flagrant-2 on Thomas, which comes with an automatic ejection.

“It’s not just cause I’m a rookie,” Reese said of the physical play that comes her way. “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 you all know that.

"They’re not supposed to be nice to me or lay down because I’m Angel Reese or cause I’m a rookie.”

AP WNBA POLL

Connecticut remains a unanimous No. 1 choice in this week's AP WNBA poll. The Sun are the only undefeated team left in the league. Minnesota edged Las Vegas for the second spot. New York was fourth with Seattle fifth. Atlanta and Dallas were next, followed by Phoenix and Chicago. Los Angeles, Indiana and Washington rounded out the rankings.

CAITLIN CORNER

Clark finished off a brutal early schedule where the Fever played 11 games in 20 days with the worst shooting performance of her young professional career. Clark went 1-for-10 against New York in a 36-point blowout loss Sunday night and finished with three points. Still she's averaging, 15.6 points, 6.4 assists and 5.1 rebounds. Clark earned Rookie of the Month honors from the league earlier this week.

ROOKIE WATCH

Minnesota rookie Alissa Pili had a breakout game last week against Phoenix, scoring 20 points and connecting on seven of her nine shots from the field. Pili was 4-for-4 from behind the 3-point line in the blowout win. Reese continues to put up impressive rebounding numbers in her young career. She's leading the league averaging five offensive rebounds a game which would be second all-time in WNBA history behind Yolanda Griffith's 5.1 in 2001.