Sun's Jonquel Jones will skip WNBA season, first to opt-out due to COVID-19 concerns

The Connecticut Sun were one quarter away from lifting their first championship trophy last fall, but will now go into the 2020 single-site season without their leading scorer.

Jonquel Jones announced she will opt out of the season that begins next month at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, due to concerns around the COVID-19 pandemic. Jones, who has been at home in the Bahamas, is the first WNBA player to publicly announce for that reason. Atlanta Dream star Renee Montgomery announced last week she would skip the season, but for social justice work.

Jones opts out of 2020 season

Jones, 26, finished third in MVP voting last season. She said in a statement:

“After careful thought and consideration I’ve decided to forego the upcoming WNBA season and use this time to focus on personal, social, and familial growth. This was one of the toughest decisions I’ve made but the resurgence and unknown aspects of COVID-19 have raised serious health concerns that I do not feel comfortable competing in. I’d like to thank the Connecticut Sun organization, my teammates and fans for their unwavering support and understanding. While I won’t be competing this year I’m looking forward to lacing up with my teammates in 2021 and continuing the pursuit for a WNBA championship. Wishing the entire league and everyone involved a healthy and enjoyable season. Go Sun!”

A 2019 All-Star, the 6-foot-6 Jones averaged 14.6 points, 9.7 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game last season, her fourth in the league. She averaged 17.9 points and 10.4 rebounds in the postseason as the Sun made it back to the Finals for the first time since 2005. They lost to the Washington Mystics in Game 5.

The Sun supported Jones’ decision in a statement by general manager and coach Curt Miller.

“On behalf of our entire organization, we fully support JJ’s difficult decision to sit out the 2020 WNBA season during these unprecedented times. We recognize the amount of unique challenges, sacrifices, and unknowns this season presents, and from the top down, there is an unwavering commitment to support each player’s respective decision. We look forward to having JJ back leading us next summer.”

Before uncertainty during the pandemic, Connecticut was a front-runner for the WNBA title after adding DeWanna Bonner in free agency.

Player concerned while COVID-19 cases rise

Jonquel Jones will not play in the single-site WNBA season due to concerns around the coronavirus. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)

The Sun release came around the same time Monday as reports that Washington Wizards forward Davis Bertans will sit out the NBA’s restart at Disney World in Orlando as a “preventative measure.” He would be the first healthy NBA player to sit out the season.

In Bertans situation, the Wizards are a long shot to make the playoffs and would have eight games to attempt to make it. Bertans, 27, also has a big contract on the horizon.

Both the NBA and the WNBA are planning to play in Florida, which is continuing to experience sharp spikes in COVID-19 cases. They will attempt to play in bubble scenarios, where contact with the outside world is incredibly limited. But it’s not perfect, and experts told Yahoo Sports’ Henry Bushnell that a bubble plan’s strength depends on the environment around it.

“It seems almost impossible to imagine the virus won’t get inside the bubble, given rising case numbers,” Jared Baeten, an epidemiology professor at the University of Washington, told Yahoo Sports. “It seems inevitable right now.”

The 22-game WNBA season is set to begin at the end of July. Teams will have about two weeks as a training camp and players coming from outside the U.S. will need to make their way state-side soon.

Mystics Natasha Cloud, LaToya Sanders opt-out, too

Jones wasn’t the only player to opt-out on Monday.

Washington Mystics guard Natasha Cloud and forward LaToya Sanders both decided not to participate in the season, Mystics coach Mike Thibault announced on Monday afternoon.

Cloud decided to sit out to help focus on fighting social injustices in the United States. Sanders made the decision because she believes “it is what’s best for my health and family.”

“This has been one of the toughest decisions of my career but I will be foregoing the 2020 WNBA season,” Cloud said in a statement. “There are a lot of factors that led to this decision, but the biggest one is that I am more than an athlete. I have a responsibility to myself, to my community and to my future children to fight for something that is much bigger than myself and the game of basketball. I will instead continue the fight for social reform, because until Black lives matter, all lives can’t matter.”

Prepare for more opt-outs

Players have been pondering opting out of the professional basketball seasons due to both concerns around their heath and safety as well as pursuing social justice reform on the frontlines.

The deadline to opt-out in the WNBA is Thursday. Players who compete and those who are medically deemed high risk and opt out will receive full pay. Those who opt out will not receive the remainder of their 2020 paychecks, which began on time in 2020.

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