WASHINGTON — After having a few days off for the first time in her rookie season in the WNBA, Caitlin Clark was back Friday, speaking for the first time about the national conversation and controversy that has erupted following Chennedy Carter’s blindside cheap shot nearly a week ago in Indiana’s victory over Chicago. 

“Sometimes it stinks how much the conversation is outside of basketball and not the product on the floor and the amazing players that are on the floor and how good they are for their teams and how great this season has been for women’s basketball,” Clark said in reply to a question from USA TODAY Sports after the Fever’s morning shoot-around before Friday night’s game with the Mystics. 

“I’m not on social media so I don’t see a lot of it but you would be surprised,” she said. “I still have my TV on in my house and I’m watching sports, you’re still aware of it and you still see it. Other than that, my focus is basketball. …

“But, yeah, I try to block it out. I don’t have social media on my phone, I don’t go on it, I don’t see a lot of it. But I don’t really think it’s that different from when I was in college. Everybody is going to have their opinion, everybody is entitled to their own opinion, and that’s just what it is. I think you’ve just got to be focused on what’s in your locker room, what’s in your organization, how your teammates feel, how your coaches feel, and for me that’s my focus but also I have a job to do at the same time so that’s where my focus remains.”

Indiana Fever guard Caitlin Clark warms up prior to the game against the New York Liberty at Barclays Center.

Later Friday, Clark was asked if Carter owed her an apology since her hit was later upgraded to a Flagrant 1.

“You know, no, I mean basketball is competitive, I get it,” Clark said. “Sometimes your emotions get the best of you. Happened to me multiple times throughout the course of my career. People are competitive. It is what it is.”

Clark also praised Carter’s play this year.

“She’s having a tremendous season. She’s played great basketball in my eyes, probably in first place for sixth player of the year, she’s been great off the bench for them, I think she had, what, 25 here last night and really helped them win the game.”

While Clark and the Fever took a couple of days off in the midst of a four-day layoff after playing 11 games in 20 days, six of them against the league’s three top teams, conversation exploded on social media and sports TV about Carter’s hit on Clark.

“I just love playing basketball,” she said. “This is my job, this is what I’m here for. I’m not here for all the other stuff, that’s not what my teammates are here for either, and that goes for the rest of the teams in the league as well. They want to play basketball, that’s what they’ve been doing their entire lives. They’re really good at it.

“I’ve come into this league and I’m trying to learn as much as I can too. I’m 22 years old and there’s a lot of expectations on my shoulders and I feel like I’ve grown a lot and I’m going to continue to grow and it’s been a great learning period for myself and allowing myself a lot of grace at times is really hard because I’m a perfectionist and I want to be really good for our organization, for my teammates.”

Through her first 11 professional games, she said, “I’ve done some really good stuff but also I’ve learned a lot too. At the end of the day, basketball is my job and that’s what I want to focus on most.”

Clark, named WNBA Rookie of the Month for May, is fourth in the league in assists per game, 18th in points per game and tied for third in three pointers. In her first 10 games, she scored more than 150 points and had more than 50 rebounds and 50 assists, a feat previously accomplished only by Sabrina Ionescu in WNBA history.