Tune in to watch Sabrina Ionescu put on a show in WNBA All-Star Game

There’s a bit of Stephen Curry in Sabrina Ionescu’s game, and that’s no accident. Growing up in Walnut Creek, she wanted to be just like Steph. There isn’t a hint of whimsy or showmanship in her grim-faced game, but the WNBA is starting to take notice of a second coming.

Ionescu will be one of the starters in Sunday’s All-Star game (10 a.m., ABC), and her all-around performances become more stunning by the day. It’s strictly routine for her to rack up 31 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists in a game, as she did for the New York Liberty in Wednesday’s triple-double against Las Vegas.

And — with Curry perhaps a bit envious — she didn’t have a single turnover.

It’s Ionescu’s off-hand, the left, that separates her from the mundane. She uses it to deliver bullet-like passes, dribble through traffic and shoot, if necessary, around the basket. She has every shot in the book, including the brazen Curry-like 3-pointer from 30 feet and beyond. And she goes after rebounds as if that’s her sole task on the floor.

“I’m so happy for her because she works so hard,” said coach Sandy Brondello after the 116-107 victory over perhaps the league’s best team. “She’s one of the most tough-minded players that I know. We put a lot on her shoulders, and she’s ready to take over.”

International flavor

The 2022 season has given Ionescu a couple of fascinating new teammates: Guard Marine Johannes, known mostly for starring in her native France, has a lot of Sabrina’s court sense, passing creativity and long-range marksmanship. Han Xu, a 6-foot-10 center and the WNBA’s first Chinese player in 22 years, is drawing raves for her shooting touch. (She hit her first 10 shots, many from mid-to-long range, in the Chicago game.) … The original All-Star rosters had the league’s two best point guards on opposite sides: Chicago’s Courtney Vandersloot, a brilliant playmaker for years, and Ionescu, who aspires to the throne. But they soon became teammates. Team captain Breanna Stewart really wanted Sue Bird on her roster (they play together in Seattle), so she traded Ionescu for the privilege.

The league’s No. 1 priority should be convenience: charter flights, not commercial, for every team. Also high on the list? A more sensible TV arrangement. There were eight WNBA games over July 1-3, on five different networks: CBSSN, NBA TV, Facebook, ESPN and Prime Video. “We appreciate the support that we get with what already exists,” said former Stanford star Nneka Ogwumike of the L.A. Sparks. “but it shouldn’t be so damn hard to find our games.”

Beyond the WNBA

Whether it’s personnel or the mood, there’s a certain vacancy to Summer League basketball, so we’re not going to learn anything about Chet Holmgren’s potential as a rebounding force, off-ball defender or inside scorer in traffic. What’s absolutely for real: The 7-foot-1 rookie’s mastery of 3-point shooting, shot-block timing, fast-break ballhandling and the timely pass. He landed perfectly in the draft, alongside a towering Oklahoma City backcourt (6-foot-8 Josh Giddey and 6-6 Shai Gilgeous-Alexander) and a sense that the team can just have fun, nothing to lose, with about a million first-round draft picks available down the road. … Just wondering: How many people in the Golden State Warriors organization, players and staff, find it inexcusable Gary Payton II will be playing for Portland next season?

The Celtics will be even better than the team Golden State faced in the Finals. They didn’t lose a single key player (only a first-round pick next year) in acquiring highly respected point guard Malcolm Brogdon from Indiana, and Danilo Gallinari should add scoring off the bench. Fatigue helped bring that team down against the Warriors, but corrections have been made. … As perhaps the finest free-throw shooter in history, Rick Barry can’t understand why some players bring the ball up over their head and flick it toward the basket. He’s been all over LeBron James for years on this count — James never changed, remaining stubbornly unreliable — and I’d wager Barry pinpoints Andrew Wiggins as well. The great ones square their feet to the line and release the ball out in front of them. Wiggins stands with his right foot forward and might nail several in a row, then clank a few hard off the rim. He should and can be better.

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