You Better Believe Overreactions Are Flying In After Caitlin Clark’s 20-Point, 10-Turnover WNBA Debut

Caitlin Clark
@WNBA

Stunning as this may seem, in an era of microwaved hot takes and the power to knee-jerk react to anything in real time by pressing some keys on a social media platform, Caitlin Clark is taking some serious heat in the aftermath of her first taste of real WNBA action.

The Indiana Fever got smoked on Tuesday night against the Connecticut Sun. They never really had a chance. Clark was adjusting on the fly to the much higher caliber of play across the board at the professional level.

Already fielding heavy criticism for how she performed in the preseason, Clark’s haters had even more ammunition when she didn’t waltz onto a WNBA court and immediately score 45 points to spark an upset win.

A rocky first half had last year’s No. 1 overall pick, Aliyah Boston, counseling Clark on the way to the locker room, and the dynamic rookie played much better after the break.

All told, Clark scoring 20 points as a member of a team who had first dibs in two straight drafts for a reason isn’t the disaster scenario many are making it out to be.

Just don’t tell that to the weirdos who are getting worked up about her performance.

I’ll admit that I thought Clark would perform a little better. You could tell she was feeling things out early on and perhaps thinking a little too much. Nerves had to be intense. The Sun’s arena was totally packed, and as good as Connecticut is as a team, the truth is Clark was the real box office draw most people were there to see.

The Sun played in the WNBA Finals two years ago. They have 78 wins across the past three regular seasons. Alyssa Thomas is one of the WNBA’s all-time greats and exploited an outmatched Fever squad for yet another triple-double.

Thomas is also an excellent defender, and Connecticut actually had the No. 1 scoring defense last season. Clark couldn’t have asked for a much tougher assignment, never mind that her other star teammate in Boston managed only four points and four turnovers on the night. Yes, Clark coughed up 10 turnovers, but Indiana accounted for twenty-five giveaways as a team. It was hardly all Clark’s fault for the Fever’s erratic play.

I was trying to find a unique angle on this game, because to be honest, it was a bit of a snoozer. The Sun just flat-out dominated from start to finish. I looked back at the men’s player who Clark is most often compared to, Steph Curry. When he began his career on the Golden State Warriors, they were picking high in the lottery (Curry was the seventh pick), and didn’t have much of a formidable team to speak of. Curry’s first full month as an NBA player, in November 2009, saw him average only 9.8 points on 41.7% shooting. He steadily improved as his rookie campaign wore on, saving his best for last with a 42-point, nine-rebound, eight-assist performance against Portland to close out his maiden season.

So I know it’s hard, but let’s all take a deep breath and try not to freak out too much. Before Boston’s arrival last season helped the Fever markedly improve to a 13-27 record, they had won only 17 games total over the prior three seasons. Indiana is going to need to hit on another high draft pick at least, in addition to hopefully bringing aboard another veteran star, to really set Clark up optimally for success.

All that said, I still think Clark made some decent strides within her first game itself. I’m confident she’ll figure it out, and the rest of the WNBA players and fans who want to see her flop in the pros will thank her. Because otherwise, their relevance would be a fraction of what it is with her in the league. Caitlin Clark is the needle.

A beer bottle on a dock

STAY ENTERTAINED

A RIFF ON WHAT COUNTRY IS REALLY ABOUT

A beer bottle on a dock