The United States women’s national basketball team is expanding its training leading up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and paying a group of star players to participate.
Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi, who have led the United States to gold medals in the last four Olympics, are among eight players who will be paid $2,000 a day at each of five training camps and games leading up to the Olympics, with a chance to earn bonuses.
Sylvia Fowles, Elena Delle Donne, Nneka Ogwumike, A’ja Wilson, Skylar Diggins-Smith and Chelsea Gray are the others.
U.S.A. Basketball announced the expanded training on Saturday before the W.N.B.A. All-Star Game in Las Vegas. In the past, players were given a daily stipend for coming to training camps. The players can earn roughly $100,000 for participating in all the training sessions.
“I think as you get closer to the end of your time, you understand you can 100 percent have an impact as a player,” said Bird, whose girlfriend, Megan Rapinoe, has advocated equal pay as a member of the United States women’s national soccer team. “Go out there and move the needle on the court with your play and winning, but there are other ways that I would like to have an impact and one would be this. Getting paid gives players, who want the option, to stay at home and not go overseas in the winter.”
The United States team will get together in late September for the America’s Cup, then in November and February to train and play in Olympic qualifying tournaments. The team qualified for the Tokyo Games by winning the World Cup last fall. It will also play exhibition games against college teams in the fall and winter.
“It’s legitimate, they knew they had to do it that way,” said Ogwumike, who has played in Russia and China in the W.N.B.A. off-season. “That investment is what the players want. It’s quite amazing to afford that type of opportunity. Not just the investment in us, but the strategic nature of hitting different markets. We’ll have traveling tournaments.
“I was in a moment where I played a half-season in China. Don’t know if I can go overseas again. I have so much available to me here, it would benefit me not to go overseas. For them to put that investment in, that’s huge.”
Griner Has 3 Dunks in All-Star Win
Brittney Griner put on quite a show in Team Wilson’s 129-126 victory over Team Delle Donne in the All-Star Game.
She had three dunks, including a two-handed jam where she hung on the rim over Liz Cambage, a 6-foot-8 center who had her own fun in the game by playing point guard. Cambage waved off her teammate Kayla McBride when she tried to take over the guard position.
The league experimented with two new rules in the contest, having a 20-second shot clock and allowing both teams to substitute one player on offense without checking in at the scorer’s table in each quarter. The shot clock barely made a difference as neither team came close to seeing it reach single digits.
Team Delle Donne was the first to use the hockey-like substitution, putting Courtney Vandersloot in late in the first quarter.
Erica Wheeler, one of six first-time All-Stars, made the most of her debut, earning most valuable player honors by scoring 25 points. She teared up as she was presented the trophy.
Wheeler, an Indiana Fever guard, hit her first six shots, all 3-pointers, to stake Team Wilson to a 77-63 lead at the half.
It was a star-studded event. The N.B.A. player Chris Paul sat courtside, as did Kobe Bryant, who got a huge ovation when introduced. Sue Bird, Megan Rapinoe and Breanna Stewart helped throw T-shirts to the crowd in the fourth quarter.
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