A’ja Wilson, Las Vegas Aces don’t need you to bet on them

Las Vegas Aces' A'ja Wilson grabs a rebound in front of Seattle Storm forward Breanna Stewart. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

It is roasting in Las Vegas. It’s been 40-plus degrees all week, but that isn’t the heat I’m talking about — it’s the roasting happening during the Las Vegas Aces’ post-practice press conference.

“Hello, Bill Laimbeer. I see that you are showing some skin, some legs, today. How are we feeling about these shorts in this hot Vegas weather?”

That wasn’t a WNBA reporter asking the question. It was star Aces forward and 2020 WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson.

“Go away, A’ja,” Laimbeer said with a chuckle.

While the 24-year-old Wilson was joking — teasing her coach who was once voted the “biggest villain in the NBA” during his days with the Detroit Pistons — she and the rest of the Aces franchise have meant business all season long.

Las Vegas currently leads the league in points per game (90.2) and field goal percentage (48.5), and are second in assists (20.7) and blocks per game (5.3). They sit second in the WNBA standings and have won seven of their last eight games — but don’t call it a hot streak.

“I don’t know if we are in a hot streak,” Laimbeer said at Wednesday’s presser. “I think we are doing what we are supposed to be doing right now.”

The Aces made the 2020 finals in the “Wubble” before losing out to the Western Conference rival Seattle Storm. But before the WNBA tipped off its 25th season, 58 per cent of the league’s general managers picked the Aces to get the best of that matchup and win the title this year.

Not that the team seems to be putting much stock into what others are saying, or getting that far ahead of itself.

“I think the biggest thing is just not letting teams get back in,” Wilson said about their 9-3 record. “I think we have full control of how we want to play every time we step on the court, and we have to make sure we are playing at an all-time high at all times because we are going to get every team’s best game.”

The Aces will get Sabrina Ionescu and the New York Liberty’s best game Thursday night, followed by tilts with the Minnesota Lynx and the aforementioned Storm — currently No. 1 in the WNBA at 11-2.

In July, Wilson is hoping to make her third appearance in the WNBA All-Star, which will take place in Las Vegas. She had to sit out the 2019 version of the event with an ankle injury, but helped coach Team Wilson to a three-point victory over Team Delle Donne.

“I am really excited. Last time the All-Star was in Vegas I lost my voice, so I am excited to have it be back home,” she said. “I think we have the best buzz around us when it comes to fans, and who wouldn’t want to be in Vegas on All-Star Weekend?”

And while she’s trying to secure her franchise’s first WNBA championship, Wilson is also hoping to see Dawn Staley, her college coach at South Carolina, make history in the NBA. The hoops Hall of Fame inductee’s name is being tossed around for a potential head coaching job with the Portland Trailblazers.

“It’s huge,” she said. “This is a big deal, especially for coach Daley. What she has done for the women’s game just speaks for itself, but for her to be a Black woman and for her name to even be in those conversations is a huge deal. For representation, it just goes back to ‘if you see her, you can be her.’”

Voting for the WNBA All-Star Game is open until Sun., June 27, at 11:59 p.m. ET.

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.