Storm, Gabby Williams in limbo amid new prioritization rule

SEATTLE -- The Storm are still awaiting clarification from the WNBA on whether the league's new prioritization rule will prevent forward Gabby Williams from playing this season, coach Noelle Quinn said after the team's practice Tuesday.

Williams' French team, ASVEL, advanced to the league finals on Saturday by overcoming a 13-point deficit from the first leg of the two-game, aggregate semifinals against Bourges. ASVEL did so without Williams, who was in the concussion protocol after being hit in the head in the May 9 matchup between the two teams.

"We're trying to get some confirmation on what the language is with that and how that would work," Quinn said, "because technically it's a health issue. If she can't travel, she does not play in the game, where do we stand with that?"

The WNBA prioritization rule, negotiated with the players' association as part of the 2020 collective bargaining agreement, goes into effect this season. This year, players must complete their offseason playing obligations before the start of the WNBA's regular season to be eligible. Next season, the deadline will be the beginning of training camp or May 1, whichever comes later.

Most international leagues responded by moving up their seasons, putting players back with their WNBA teams for the preseason. France was the one notable exception, meaning Williams could be the only player who finished last season on a roster prevented from playing in the WNBA. Although her ASVEL teammate Marine Johannes is under contract with the New York Liberty, Johannes isn't subject to the prioritization rule, which applies only to players with more than two years of WNBA experience.

The uncertainty in Williams' case is her availability for the best-of-three finals, which begin Wednesday in Lyon, due to her concussion.

"She'll be evaluated and see," Quinn said. "If she doesn't play, what does the rule say? She can't fly over because of her concussion, so where does the gray area lie in that? We're just waiting and seeing, but crunch time. We're kind of moving forward thinking we will not have her.

"Obviously, we lose a lot of defensive prowess and versatility offensively with Gabby, but we'll just find it somewhere else with the group that we have and evaluate there."

Quinn and Storm players Jewell Loyd and Kia Nurse, the latter Williams' teammate at UConn, have been in touch with her in recent days. Quinn said Williams described Saturday's semifinal as a roller coaster. ASVEL did not take over the lead on aggregate until the fourth quarter. Had her team been eliminated, Williams -- a restricted free agent this offseason -- would have been free to re-sign with the Storm with her offseason commitments complete.

Williams knew when she joined ASVEL last summer that missing the WNBA season was a possibility.

"I would love to return to the WNBA," she told reporters in September, "but what's best for my career, what the WNBA decided to do with players like me, it's complicated."

For now, Williams and the Storm will have to hope the league agrees with their perspective on whether the concussion prevented her from rejoining the team before the start of the regular season. That decision will, in turn, affect the rest of Seattle's final roster.

The team must make cuts by Thursday's deadline. If Williams can re-sign, the Storm will have only enough cap room to keep 11 players to begin the season. Otherwise, Seattle can keep 12. The Storm currently have 13 players under contract after waiving forward Jasmine Walker on Tuesday.