UNCASVILLE — Not long ago, the Minnesota Lynx and Atlanta Dream were at the bottom of the WNBA, sight gags for critics who felt the quality of play in the league was substandard.
But last season, the Dream and Lynx played for the league championship. And in June, Minnesota's second league title in three seasons sent them to the White House again.
The point is, it is possible for teams to build from last place and that has been the goal this season of the Connecticut Sun, who finished with the worst record (10-24) in the league (and in their history) last season.
The Sun have reached two important goals. They have restocked their roster with young talented players, headed by Chiney Ogwumike, most likely the WNBA's rookie of the year. They matched their 2013 win total in just their 23rd game.
Still, it might not be enough to get them where they want to go – the postseason. And what happens this week will likely play a major role in the ultimate outcome.
The Sun (10-16) begin a critical three-game road trip Tuesday in Atlanta already on a three-game losing streak. They continue at San Antonio on Thursday and Los Angeles on Saturday aware they've already lost 10 of 13 road games.
Sun coach Anne Donovan chooses not to look at the trip as a whole.
"It's one game at a time. We are going to Atlanta. We are 1-1 against them this season, we've played them well and poorly," Donovan said. "My feeling is if we can focus as well as we did against Minnesota [during Sunday's 76-65 loss at Mohegan Sun Arena] and carry this kind of defensive energy, then we can get that first win.
"You need to get that first one to get on some kind of a roll. We are going to continue to take it one game at a time like we have all season. Everybody needs to understand how important crunch time is."
Since winning six straight in June, the Sun have lost 10 of 12. Ironically, both wins have come on the road; at Tulsa (78-76) and Seattle (86-63). During the slide they are 0-4 at home.
"It doesn't sound pretty, right?" Sun guard Renee Montgomery said. "But every team in the league is potentially beatable. They [teams on the trip] are great teams, but I go into every game looking at it as an opportunity. We've beaten some of the best teams in the league already and we have to keep that in mind. But every game from now on is very important."
Heading into Monday's action, the Sun were in last place again in the East. But they are just one game behind fourth-place New York and three behind second-place Washington, although the Mystics already own the tiebreaker over the Sun after winning the first three games between the teams.
While they have been invigorated by the addition of Ogwumike, Kelsey Bone, Alyssa Thomas and Alex Bentley, and bolstered by the revitalization of All-Star Katie Douglas, they are also without two of their top players.
Guard Allie Hightower, who had knee surgery, has not played since July 3. And forward Kelsey Griffin has missed the last two games with a sprained left ankle.
Should the Sun falter again on this trip, they could potentially return home Aug. 5 against Chicago practically out of the race and looking at another lottery pick.
And even though similar circumstances helped bring Minnesota and Atlanta stars such as Maya Moore and Angel McCoughtry, that's a fate the Sun would like to avoid.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun