No Bird, Griner, Taurasi: US still favorite to win World Cup

Sep 19, 2022, 7:51 PM | Updated: Sep 20, 2022, 7:54 am

Las Vegas Aces' A'ja Wilson warms up for Game 3 of the basketball team's WNBA Finals against the Co...

Las Vegas Aces' A'ja Wilson warms up for Game 3 of the basketball team's WNBA Finals against the Connecticut Sun, Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022, in Uncasville, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

(AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

SYDNEY (AP) — The U.S. women’s basketball roster has undergone major changes since the Americans won gold at the Tokyo Olympics last year with Sue Bird retired and Brittney Griner in a Russian jail.

Even without Bird and Griner — and no Diana Taurasi — the U.S. is the favorite to win a fourth consecutive FIBA World Cup championship that begins Thursday. The Americans last lost a major international game in the semifinals of the 2006 World Championship, falling to Russia. The U.S. hasn’t lost an Olympic game or World Cup contest since.

The Americans have won 10 of the 19 World Cups but will definitely miss Griner, who was arrested, then wrongfully detained and later convicted of drug possession charges amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Griner was sentenced last month to nine years in prison. She averaged 16.5 points a game in Tokyo, tying her with A’ja Wilson for the team-high.

“It will look different without the dominant force of Brittney,” U.S. coach Cheryl Reeve said of the American’s style of play. “We want to put it inside as that’s the strength of USA Basketball. We will continue to have the ball inside.”

The Americans still have Wilson, who earned her second WNBA MVP award earlier this month and led the Las Vegas Aces to their first WNBA championship. Breanna Stewart should also make her presence felt, giving the U.S. a 1-2 punch in the forward position that no country can match.

The duo will counted on to fill a leadership void left by the retirement of Bird and the absence of Taurasi, who is sidelined with a quad injury. There are seven first-time World Cup players on the U.S. team.

“You can’t force” leadership, Reeve said. “You have conversations and players like Chelsea Gray recognized it. Chelsea’s really ready for that. I’d say the same thing for Stewie. She’s very aware. … That’s one of the first conversations we had. Not just with your play, but we also need your voice.”

Some other things to look for in the tournament:


Lauren Jackson came out of retirement to help Australia attempt to win its first gold medal since the 2006 tournament. The 41-year-old isn’t the same player who averaged 18.9 points during her WNBA career for Seattle, but the 6-foot-5 forward has shown she has the ability to still compete with the world’s best.

Jackson retired in 2016 after knee injuries derailed her career. She had hoped to compete in the Olympics that year, but an ACL injury ended that dream. She stopped playing in the WNBA in 2012, walking away as one of the best players in league history.


Belgium’s Emma Meesseman averaged 26.8 points in the Tokyo Olympics and had a strong WNBA season with the Chicago Sky this past year. She’s hoping to get Belgium back to the medal round for the second consecutive World Cup. The team lost to host Spain in the bronze medal game in 2016.

Jonquel Jones is making her debut with Bosnia and Herzegovina. The 2021 WNBA MVP helped Connecticut reach the WNBA Finals before they lost to Las Vegas.


Marine Johannes of France, who had a stellar season playing for the New York Liberty, will miss the World Cup because of a thigh injury. The French team is already missing injured veteran center Sandrine Gruda. France lost in the quarterfinals of the 2018 World Cup to Belgium.


Tokyo Olympics runner-up Japan changed coaches with Tom Hovasse taking over the men’s national team. His former assistant Toru Onzuka takes over the women’s program. … Only four countries have won the gold at the World Cup: U.S., Soviet Union (6 times), Brazil and Australia once.


South Korea has now played in 16 consecutive World Cups, tied for the U.S. for most ever. But South Korea hasn’t won a game since 2010 when it beat Japan by one point.

The South Koreans are 0-9 since that victory and will be missing WNBA player JiSu Park for the tournament. They aren’t alone in looking to get at least one win in the tournament. Puerto Rico was winless in its three games in 2018 and also didn’t have a victory in the Olympics last year. Mali — a late replacement for Nigeria — is playing in its second World Cup, going 1-4 in 2010.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Ex-Packer Guion gets 1 year for domestic violence assault

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Former Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Letroy Guion was sentenced to one year in jail after pleading no contest in a domestic violence assault at his home last fall. Brown County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Walsh also ordered Guion on Tuesday to serve three years’ probation and complete a domestic […]

1 year ago

Joe Jarzynka...

Associated Press

Durant eager for Suns debut vs. Hornets after knee injury

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kevin Durant has been through quite a bit during his 15-year NBA career — but joining a new team midway through the season is a new one for the 13-time All-Star. The 34-year-old Durant doesn’t seem all that worried. Durant makes his highly anticipated Phoenix Suns debut on Wednesday night against […]

1 year ago

FILE - Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores stands on the sideline during the second half of an N...

Associated Press

Judge: NFL coach can press discrimination claims in court

NEW YORK (AP) — NFL Coach Brian Flores can pursue some of his discrimination claims against the league and its teams in court rather than through arbitration, a judge ruled Wednesday. The written decision by Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan was issued months after lawyers for the league tried to get the lawsuit moved to […]

1 year ago

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Alex Stalock cools off in the first period during an NHL hockey game ...

Associated Press

Kane trade reinforces hard reality of Blackhawks rebuild

CHICAGO (AP) — After days of speculation, the harsh reality of the Chicago Blackhawks’ situation was reinforced by one move in a flurry of transactions ahead of the NHL trade deadline. Showtime is over, at least in Chicago, and a seemingly bright future is, well, way off in the distance. The reverberations of Chicago’s decision […]

1 year ago

FILE -  Yves Jean-Bart, president of the Haitian Football Federation, wearing a protective face mas...

Associated Press

Disgraced ex-Haitian soccer president announces he’s back

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti’s former soccer federation president whose lifetime ban from sport over sexual abuse allegations was overturned last month announced Wednesday that he is reclaiming his position. Yves Jean-Bart’s defiant announcement could lead to a standoff with FIFA, which already has appointed an emergency management committee to lead the Haitian Football Association […]

1 year ago

FILE - Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers walks off the field after an NFL football game against the ...

Associated Press

Rodgers says decision on future will come ‘soon enough’

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers says he will make a decision on his future “soon enough” as the four-time MVP quarterback ponders whether to play next season and if his future remains with the Green Bay Packers. Rodgers, 39, discussed his future while speaking on an episode of the “Aubrey Marcus Podcast” that […]

1 year ago

No Bird, Griner, Taurasi: US still favorite to win World Cup