Aces' Chelsea Gray aiming to return from injury this season

LAS VEGAS --The two-time defending WNBA champion Las Vegas Aces are off to 2-0 start, even though injured point guard Chelsea Gray hasn't played yet. Gray said Saturday that she doesn't have a target return date but is sure she will be back this season.

"We'll see how practices go," Gray said prior to the Aces' 89-82 victory over the Los Angeles Sparks. "You don't want to play when you're rushing yourself back into shape. So, I don't really have a timetable. But I've seen [suggestions] that I'm out for the year, and that's just not true.

"I'm good. We're just taking our time with it. It's a long season. And if I'm lucky enough to be selected for the Olympics, it's longer."

Gray, an Olympic gold medalist in 2021 and WNBA Finals MVP in 2022, is considered a lock for Team USA at the Paris Games, scheduled July 26 to Aug. 11, if she is healthy. Gray, 31, is in her 10th year in the WNBA. She had her best season statistically in 2023, averaging 15.3 points, 7.3 assists and 4.0 rebounds.

She suffered a left foot injury in Game 3 of the WNBA Finals against the New York Liberty in October and didn't play in Game 4. The Aces still won and took the series 3-1. Gray said she spent the offseason rehabbing while putting in some time with USA Basketball at camps but not really playing.

Gray said she and Aces coach Becky Hammon have agreed, "'Let's be smart about this.' I don't feel I need to rush. Am I anxious? Heck, yeah, because I don't like sitting on the sidelines. But I understand there's a bigger purpose."

The Aces still have two other All-Star guards in Jackie Young (22 points, 11 assists Saturday) and Kelsey Plum (17 points).

And rookie guard Kate Martin -- a second-round draft pick out of Iowa -- made her WNBA debut Saturday. She played 26 minutes with 3 points, 3 assists, 5 rebounds and a big blocked shot that impressed even two-time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year A'ja Wilson.

"That's Kate, that's who she is," said Wilson, who had 22 points and 10 rebounds for Las Vegas. "She's high energy, always, in practice. We were all excited and hyped for her."

The Aces will be thrilled when Gray returns, whenever that time comes, but as Hammon said, "We're going to keep the ship afloat until Chelsea gets back. I've told them it's not going to be any one person; I don't want anyone to try to be Chelsea."