That’s Amaury News and Commentary: Harsh conditions expected for Griner in Russian penal colony

WNBA star Britney Griner is escorted from a Russian courtroom after a hearing in Khimki a suburb of Moscow on Aug 4, 2022. Griner this week was transferred to a undisclosed location to a penal colony. (AP News file)

By Amaury Pi Gonzalez

Brittney Griner has been sent to a Russian penal colony. In an court appearance Griner admitted to mistakenly packing two vape cartridges in her luggage and provided documents that showed the hash oil was legally prescribed by her US doctor for pain management. The WNBA Phoenix Mercury star was sentenced to nine years.

According to rights group Amnesty International, conditions in these colonies and prisons are among the worst in Europe. The facilities are located in remote locations, far from cities, making it difficult for family or human rights workers to visit. This form of isolation is believed to be part of the punishment of pseudo-exile. There are about 700 penal colonies in Russia and close to one million prisoners, making it the most common imprisonment institution.

These penal colonies in Russia are infamous for harsh conditions and forced labor. Sleep deprivation torture is one of many tactics with little medical treatment. An estimated 18 million people were sentenced to gulags between 1929 and 1953, until the death of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. About 1.6 million died in work camps. When Griner was arrested the Russia-Ukraine war was beginning, with no resolution it is a war that could go on for a longtime and she was caught in the middle of an international situation.

Although Griner was not that well known in the US and other parts of the world because the WNBA is not the NBA and gets little publicity and coverage still she was in Russia to play basketball to supplement her WNBA salary which is a six-figure salary instead of the approximately $1.5 million she normally earns in Russia.

This could have been avoided if Brittney Griner understood the laws of Russia, which are totally different to the US. For example; cannabis is in fact, illegal in Russia, a country with over 145 million people and largest country in size in all of Europe.

Russia is known for having the highest number of people currently (per capita) imprisoned for drug offenses. When a US citizen travels outside the US he/she is subjected to the laws of whichever country she visits, as a tourist or to work in the case of Griner.

It never ceases to amaze me how many people forget that other countries have different laws to US laws, and when we travel we have to obey those laws, which is just common sense. It is either ignorance or arrogance (or both), we travel abroad and we must obey the laws or suffer the consequences. Nobody knows how much time Brittney Griner will serve in prison of her nine (9) years sentence, however, we know that the US is strongly supporting Ukraine to the tune of billions of dollars in weapons in their war against Russia.

More than likely Russia will detain Griner until the current war between those two countries comes to a resolution. She is a small piece of the biggest land war in Europe since WWII, but Russia is using her and will continue to use her because that is how Russia and other countries with similar types of governments operate.

Join Amaury Pi Gonzalez for That’s Amaury News and Commentary podcasts Tuesdays at http://www.sportsradioservice.com

Aces Win First Ever Championship Beating the Sun 78-71

Holding up the WNBA Finals Championship Trophy loud and proud is the Las Vegas Aces A’ja Wilson (in sunglasses). As the Aces defeat the Connecticut Sun at Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut in game 4 on Sun Sep 18, 2022 (AP News photo)

Aces Win First Ever Championship Beating the Sun 78-71

By Barbara Mason

The Las Vegas Aces (3-1) took the championship series against the Connecticut Sun (1-3) going in game four Sunday afternoon at Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut 78-71 on Sunday. To review the Aces won game one barely squeaking past the Sun 67-64. They went onto win game two 85-71 to take a 2-0 series lead. The Sun came roaring back in game three and trounced the Aces 105-76.

Game four turned into a very close game much like the first game of this series. Vegas had a four point lead after the first quarter and at the half led by two points 30-28.

After three quarters the Aces led by four points 53-49. The Sun were unable to stifle the Las Vegas offense as they did in game three. The Aces were able to hold onto the lead in fact extend their lead in the fourth quarter. The final was 78-71 and the Las Vegas Aces had won their first WNBA Championship.

The Aces held off several rallies by the Sun. Both of these teams were looking for a first time championship trophy but it was Las Vegas that prevailed.

Between the coaching excellence of Becky Hammond and the starting line-up of super stars, that made all the difference. While the Aces tore through offensive records this season it was the defense that Hammond set her sites on.

She wanted to see some improvement and that’s what we all saw. Vast improvement on the defensive side of the ball for the Aces was one of the turning points in this game. Defense is the strength of the Connecticut Sun in fact it was what got the Sun past the Sky in the playoffs but they couldn’t handle the offensive excellence of Las Vegas.

The starting line-up for the Aces was excellent in this game. A’Ja Wilson finished with 14 rebounds and 11 points. The high score for Las Vegas was Chelsea Gray with 20 points. Kelsey Plum came away with 15 and Jackie Young with 13. Off the bench Riquna Williams had 17 points in 22 minutes in a brilliant performance. Both Plum and Williams made key shots in the final minute of the game to put the Sun away.

Sun Deny Las Vegas A Win In Game Three 105-76

Sun Deny Las Vegas A Win In Game Three 105-76

Connecticut Sun’s Alyssa Thomas reacts during the first half in Game 3 of a WNBA basketball final playoff series against the Las Vegas Aces, Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022, in Uncasville, Conn.

By Barbara Mason

After a close game Sunday followed by domination in game two on Tuesday the Las Vegas Aces lead the Connecticut Sun 2-0 in the WNBA finals. Thursday night they were looking to take game three and win their first ever WNBA title it was not to be as the Sun upended the Aces 105-76 in Connecticut.

Mid-way through the first quarter the Aces seemed to have the game in control. With five minutes left in the first quarter, the Sun went to work. By the end of the quarter Connecticut had a 34-19 lead. The Sun had gone on a 25-4 run and this turned out to be the highest scoring quarter in NBA playoff history.

The Sun went into the second quarter with the same energy and at the half they led 53-42. Connecticut had led by as much as 23 at one point in the quarter. Kelsey Plum launched a 41-foot three point shot at the buzzer making this game much more manageable for Las Vegas.

The Sun were shooting at a blistering 60% in the first half. They had been shooting an average of 68 points per game so 53 after two quarters was an amazing stat for Connecticut. The Sun defense was disturbing the Aces timing. They had been suffocating Las Vegas taking the paint away from them.

The Aces had a lot of work to do but finished the half on a great note cutting a 23 point deficit to 11 at the half. Las Vegas needed some second half adjustments. The Aces would need a lot of energy to catch the Sun in this game.

Another question would be the ability of the Sun to continue the same defensive pressure that they had in the first half. That question was answered as the second half got underway. The Sun continued to control the game in the third quarter maintaining their double digit lead throughout most of it. As the quarter expired the Aces trailed by eight points 77-69. Las Vegas had made up some ground and it would come down to the final quarter.

The fourth quarter belonged to the Sun. Every time the Aces challenged, Connecticut had the answer and refused to back down. The final was 105-76 in favor of Connecticut.

The high score for the Aces was Jackie Young with 22 points. Every starter for the Sun shot in double digits with the high coming from Jonquel Jones with 20 points followed by Dewanna Bonner with 18. The aggressive offense and defense was just too hot tonight for Las Vegas to handle.

Game four will be played in Connecticut on Sunday with tipoff at 1:00 PM televised on ESPN. Las Vegas will try and turn the table on the Suns defense and an offense that was equally impressive in game three.

Aces one win from WNBA championship, beat Sun, 85-71

Las Vegas Aces forward A’ja Wilson (22) in front of Connecticut Sun center Jonquel Jones (35) during a WNBA game on Tuesday, September 13, 2022 at Michelob Ultra Arena in Las Vegas, NV. (Photo Credit: Sports Radio Service/Shawn McCullough)

By Shawn McCullough

LAS VEGAS–The Aces took a commanding two games to zero lead in the best of five WNBA Finals with an 85-71 win over the Connecticut Sun at Michelob Ultra Arena.

“I don’t see any banners, I don’t see any balloons,” said Aces head coach Becky Hammon. “We haven’t won anything yet.”

WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson led all scoring with 26 points and pulled down 10 rebounds for the Aces.

“We aren’t’ done yet and we have things to take care of,” said Wilson on going up 2-0 in the series.

Wilson has averaged 25 points per game so far in the WNBA Finals.

“She is so explosive right now,” said Sun head coach Curt Miller. “It has been really impressive.”

Guard Courtney Williams led the Sun with 18 points, while center Jonquel Jones added 16 and pulled down 11 rebounds.

Aces Chelsea Gray scored 21 points, while Kelsey Plum added 20.

“Chelsea Gray is one of the smartest basketball players,” said Hammon. “Her IQ is ridiculous.”

Gray also dished out eight assists.

“What sets me apart is my willingness to be great,” said Gray. “I want to make others better.”

The Aces and the Sun will play game three of the best of five series on Thursday in Connecticut.

“We have another opportunity,” said Jones. “We are going home in front of our fans.”

Las Vegas Aces – http://aces.wnba.com

Game Notes:

The Aces shot 51.6% from the field.
Las Vegas went just 6 for 26 from three-point range.
The Aces got just 11 points off the bench.

Game Starters:

C – 41 Kia Stokes
F – 22 A’ja Wilson
F – 0 Jackie Young
G – 10 Kelsey Plum
G – 12 Chelsea Gray

Aces Injury Report:

None.

Aces Win Game One In Championship Series Over Relentless Suns 67-64

Las Vegas Aces forward A’ja Wilson (22) posts up for a shot over Connecticut Sun center Brionna Jones during the first half in Game 1 of a WNBA basketball final playoff series Sunday, Sept. 11, 2022, in Las Vegas. (AP News photo)

Aces Win Game One In Championship Series Over Relentless Suns 67-64

By Barbara Mason

Sunday afternoon the Las Vegas Aces defeated the Connecticut Sun 67-64 at Michelob Ultra Arena in Las Vegas to take a 1-0 series lead in their quest for their first championship. They will played the upset-minded Sun who mounted a 4th quarter rally beating the defending champion Chicago Sky 72-63 in game five of their series last Thursday.

The Aces have inarguably the best starting lineup in the WNBA and in her first year as head coach the team boasts the incomparable leadership of Becky Hammond.

The Sun took on the likes of A’ja Wilson (WNBA MVP for a second year), Kelsey Plum (all-time leading scorer in division I history) and finally Jackie Young ( the league’s most improved player). They have an invaluable host of players that will support them throughout this series.

Game 1 Sunday recap: Las Vegas got off to a quick start and at one time the Aces held a 12 point lead but the Sun kept plugging away and at the half had taken a 38-34 lead in an unexpected turnaround. The Sun won the second quarter 21-9 in a punishing effort.

The Sun continued to battle and held the lead through most of the third quarter. In the final three minutes of the quarter the Aces began to turn it around and led after three 55-53.

The Sun came into this game with upset on their mind and they were sure playing like it trailing in the fourth quarter but within striking distance. With under three minutes left in the game Las Vegas created a little distance leading 58-66. With 34 seconds left on the clock, the Aces held a slim 67-64 lead. That advantage would hold and Las Vegas had won the first game of the series.

Much of the success in this game went to the Aces defense fighting throughout the game against a tenacious Sun squad. Alyssa Thomas finished with 19 points for the Sun and Jonquel Jones had 15 but Connecticut came up just short in a hard fought battle that went right down to the wire.

A’ja Wilson finished with 24 points and 11 rebounds another double double for her. Chelsea Gray had 21 points and Jackie Young had 11. It was a slow night for Kelsey Plum who only had six points but look for her to pick things up throughout the series.

Game Two will be in Las Vegas on Tuesday with tipoff at 6:00 PM on ESPN.

Aces advance to WNBA Finals with win over Storm, 97-92

SEATTLE, WA – SEPTEMBER 6: Chelsea Gray #12 of the Las Vegas Aces handles the ball during the game against the Seattle Storm on September 6, 2022 at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)

By Shawn McCullough

The Aces closed out the best of five semifinal series with a 97-92 win over the Storm in Seattle.

“Tough, gritty win on our part,” said head coach Becky Hammon. “We are thrilled to be going back to the Finals and I’m pumped for our girls.”

Las Vegas guard Chelsea Gray took control of the game, scoring 31 points and dishing out 10 assists.

“I’m going into my shots like I practice them,” said Gray.

Gray went 4 for 8 from three-point range.

“She [Gray] is the head of our snake,” said Aces forward A’ja Wilson. “I have never seen anyone dictate the game like that.”

Wilson contributed with 23 points and pulled down 13 rebounds.

“You have to beat the best to be the best,” said Wilson. “We are playing some really good teams.”

Storm forward Breanna Stewart scored a game high 42 points in the loss.

“Stewy was unbelievable tonight,” said Hammon.

Seattle guard Sue Bird played the final game of her 21-year career in Seattle, scoring eight points and dishing out eight assists.

“She had a fairytale career,” said Hammon. “He thumbprint on the game is forever etched in.”

The Aces will return to the WNBA Finals after losing the best of five series in 2020, three games to none, to the Seattle Storm.

The Aces will play either the Chicago Sky or the Connecticut Sun in the WNBA Finals.  That series is currently tied at two with game five on Thursday in Chicago.

Las Vegas Aces – http://aces.wnba.com

Game Notes:

The Aces shot 56.3% from the field.
Las Vegas went 10 for 22 from three-point range.
Riquna Williams scored 6 points, the only points coming from the bench.
A’ja Wilson played all 45 minutes of the game.

Game Starters:

C – 41 Kia Stokes
F – 22 A’ja Wilson
F – 0 Jackie Young
G – 10 Kelsey Plum
G – 12 Chelsea Gray

Aces Injury Report:

None.

Aces win overtime classic over Seattle, 110-98

Las Vegas Aces forward A’ja Wilson (22) shoots over Seattle Storm center Tina Charles (31) during the first half in Game 3 of a WNBA basketball semifinal playoff series Sunday, Sept. 4, 2022, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)

By Shawn McCullough

The Aces moved to within one win of the WNBA Finals with a 110-98 overtime win over the Storm in Seattle.

“It was a hell of a game,” said Aces head coach Becky Hammon. “I don’t know if I have ever been a part of something like that.  Big shots from both sides.”

The Storm led by four points, 89-85, with 11.3 seconds remaining in the game when the madness began.

“We were up four points with not a lot of time left and that is where we lost the game,” said Storm guard Sue Bird.

Off the inbound, Riquna Williams drained a three pointer to get the Aces to within one point with 10.2 seconds remaining.

“I was just trying to let my offense come to me,” said Williams.

After two missed free throws by Seattle’s Tina Charles, Las Vegas’ A’ja Wilson gave the Aces the lead, 90-89, with 2.9 seconds left.

“We live for these moments,” said Wilson. “We worked hard to get to where we are. We were locked in.”

Wilson scored 34 points and pulled down 11 rebounds.

Soon after, Bird hit a three-pointer with 1.9 seconds remaining to give the Storm a two point lead, but Aces guard Jackie Young sent the game into overtime at the buzzer.

“That’s what playoff basketball is all about,” said Aces guard Chelsea Gray.

Gray scored 29 points and dished out 12 assists.

In overtime, the Aces dominated, outscoring the Storm 18-6 in the extra period.

“It was really frustrating,” said Storm forward Breanna Stewart. “We had the game and we gave it to them.”

With the win, the Aces now lead the best of five series, two games to one.

The Aces and the Storm will play game four in Seattle on Tuesday.

Las Vegas Aces – http://aces.wnba.com

Game Notes:

The Aces shot 52.4% from the field.
Las Vegas went 12 for 28 from three-point range.
Riquna Williams scored 14 points, the only points coming from the bench.
A’ja Wilson played all 45 minutes of the game.

Game Starters:

C – 41 Kia Stokes
F – 22 A’ja Wilson
F – 0 Jackie Young
G – 10 Kelsey Plum
G – 12 Chelsea Gray

Aces Injury Report:

None.

Aces even series with win over Storm, 78-73

Las Vegas Aces forward A’ja Wilson (22) during a WNBA game on Wednesday, August 31, 2022 at Michelob Ultra Arena in Las Vegas, NV. (Photo Credit: Sports Radio Service/Shawn McCullough)

By Shawn McCullough

LAS VEGAS–After falling at home in game one on Sunday, the Aces evened the best of five series against the Storm with a 78-73 win at Michelob Ultra Arena.

“We dug in and did what we had to do,” said Aces head coach Becky Hammon. “This pretty much was a must win for us.”

“Physically hard-fought game, but obviously, it didn’t go the way we wanted,” said Storm forward Breanna Stewart. “We had a lot of opportunities.”

Aces forward A’ja Wilson scored a career playoff high 33 points while also pulling down 13 rebounds.

“I was really locked in for my team,” said Wilson. “I needed to be more present and in the moment for my team.”

“Mashing up against A’ja, you have to respect everything that she does,” said Stewart. “It’s competitive.  You want people to go at you so you can go at them.”

Stewart led the Storm with 32 points, while center Tina Charles added 17.

“Everyone loves a good matchup [Wilson vs Stewart],” said Wilson. ”It’s good that we are starting to grow something like that.”

Chelsea Gray scored 19 points, while fellow guard Kelsey Plum added 18.

Despite the loss, the Storm were able to hold the highest scoring offense [Aces] in the WNBA to under 80 points for a second straight game.

“Super proud of our effort. Holding Vegas to under 80 is a feat,” said Storm head coach Noelle Quinn. “We just have to clean up some things offensively.”

The Aces and the Storm will play game three of the best of five series on Sunday in Seattle.

Las Vegas Aces – http://aces.wnba.com

Game Notes:

The Aces shot 42.2% from the field.
Las Vegas went just 6 for 18 from three-point range.
70 of the 78 Aces points were scored by either Wilson, Plum or Gray.

Game Starters:

C – 41 Kia Stokes
F – 22 A’ja Wilson
F – 0 Jackie Young
G – 10 Kelsey Plum
G – 12 Chelsea Gray

Aces Injury Report:

Dearica Hamby, out, right knee bone contusion

Seattle Storm Squeak By Las Vegas 76-73

The Las Vegas Aces guard Chelsea Gray (12) takes a shot against the Seattle Storm center Ezi Magbegor (13) in the WNBA semifinal playoff game in Michelob Ultra Arena in Las Vegas on Sun Aug 28, 2022 (AP News photo)

Seattle Storm Squeak By Las Vegas 76-73

By Barbara Mason

Going into this WNBA semifinal, the Las Vegas Aces were playing some excellent basketball. Their opponent the Seattle Storm had beaten Las Vegas on June 29 but since then Las Vegas has dominated. This will be a battle that everyone expected to see between the two top teams in the Western Conference.

Breanna Steward and the Storm came out strong in the first half. They overwhelmed the Aces in the first quarter 26-15. The Aces Chelsea Gray kept the game manageable, Las Vegas winning the second quarter 21-17. At the half the Storm held a 43-36 lead.

After the third quarter the Aces had begun to make a move winning the quarter 21-17 but still trailing 60-57 after three. Chelsea Gray, Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young all were in double digits after three and Las Vegas would have to make a real push in the fourth quarter.

With six minutes left in the game, the Aces took their first lead 65-64. The Storm got a bit sloppy in the final quarter with turnovers but refused to take their foot off the pedal. With 34 seconds left in the game the Storm had taken a three point lead. The Aces had made some costly mistakes in the final minutes that really hurt them. The final was 76-73 in favor of the Storm in game one of this series.

Jewell Loyd finished with 26 points and Breanna Steward had 24 for an outstanding offensive effort. Tina Charles had 18 rebounds and 13 points in this hard fought game.

The Aces Chelsea Gray had 21 points followed by Kelsey Plum with 20. Las Vegas came up just short losing a tough one at home.

Game two will be on Wednesday night with tipoff at 7:00 PM with the Storm leading 1-0.

Aces drop a record 23 three-pointers, beat Mercury, 117-80

Las Vegas Aces guard Chelsea Gray (12) during a WNBA game on Saturday, August 20, 2022 at Michelob Ultra Arena in Las Vegas, NV. (Photo Credit: Sports Radio Service/Shawn McCullough)

By Shawn McCullough

The Aces had no trouble closing out the best of three game series against Phoenix with a 117-80 win over the Mercury at Michelob Ultra Arena.

“Happy to put a team away,” said Aces head coach Becky Hammon. “Tonight, the offense was special, they played the right way and the ball went in.”

The Aces hit a WNBA record 23 three-point shots, blowing away the previous record of 18 set in the regular season by the Aces.

“It all looks good when the ball goes in the hole,” said Hammon. “Nice to see the ball go through the hoop and get a swagger going into the next round.”

“It was just like a barrage,” said Mercury head coach Vanessa Nygaard. “I don’t know if I have ever seen that.”

Aces guard Chelsea Gray was on fire, scoring 27 points, while going 7 for 8 from three-point range.

“It was a great sight,” said Gray. “It felt good and it felt fun.”

Kelsey Plum dropped 22 points, while A’ja Wilson added 17.

“We were just taking what the defense gave us,” said Wilson.

The season came to an end for the Mercury, who have had to endure countless obstacles throughout the season.

“There were a lot of challenges, but I am really proud of our team,” said Nygaard. “They have great fight, they have great grit, they are tough.”

The Aces will next play in the semi-finals starting Sunday, August 28 at home against either the Seattle Storm or the Washington Mystics.

Las Vegas Aces – http://aces.wnba.com

Game Notes:

The Aces shot 64.1% from the field.
Las Vegas got eight three-pointers off the bench.
The NBA record in a single game was 29 by the Milwaukee Bucks in 2020.

Game Starters:

C – 41 Kia Stokes
F – 22 A’ja Wilson
F – 0 Jackie Young
G – 10 Kelsey Plum
G – 12 Chelsea Gray

Aces Injury Report:

Dearica Hamby, out, right knee bone contusion