Chelsea Gray’s seemingly imminent return comes at the perfect time for Las Vegas.

Aces' Chelsea Gray

Ten games into the WNBA regular season, we have yet to see Chelsea Gray play. But that could change very soon. The Las Vegas Aces recently listed Gray as questionable on the team’s injury report, a first since last season.

The team released the report on Wednesday ahead of a rematch against the Phoenix Mercury. The news came the day after the Aces announced Gray, the 2022 WNBA Finals MVP, was selected to play for Team USA in the 2024 Paris Olympics.

“She has one of the most gifted basketball minds I’ve ever seen and the way that she sees things,” Kelsey Plum said during a recent post-game conference.

Gray joins Las Vegas teammates Plum, A’ja Wilson and Jackie Young on the Olympics roster. Though the Aces are off to a somewhat shaky start in 2024, Plum and Young have stepped up in the backcourt to help support the team in Gray’s absence.

Chelsea Gray makes Team USA despite injury

Las Vegas Aces guard Chelsea Gray (12) celebrates during the first half against the Dallas Wings during game three of the 2023 WNBA Playoffs at College Park CenterJerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Gray suffered a lower leg injury during Game 3 of the 2023 WNBA Finals. The exact nature of the injury is unclear, but it kept the All-Star in a walking boot for most of the offseason.

The injury occurred when Gray was defending New York Liberty star Breanna Stewart during an intense third quarter. She was seen limping back to the locker room and didn’t return for the remainder of the game. Her departure was certainly felt by the Aces, who fell to New York 87-73. Las Vegas later locked down the Finals with Gray watching from the sidelines, becoming back-to-back champions.

While there’s been no clear timetable for her recovery, Gray has kept her positive attitude front and center. She’s said several times that she expects to play this season. Tuesday’s Olympic roster announcement was a pleasant surprise and a sign that the “Point Gawd” is close to a full recovery.

Gray made her Olympic debut in Tokyo at the 2020 Games, averaging 7.5 points and 3.2 assists per game.  The team’s “Space and Pace” model is second nature to the Aces guard, who helped Las Vegas achieve the second-best assist rate and pace in the league last season. Her galaxy of star teammates will indeed stack the Team USA deck.

Aces searching for answers amid 3-game losing streak

“Stats are great, but no one gives a damn. Win the games,” Plum said after the Aces’ loss to the Minnesota Lynx on Tuesday.

The 100-86 defeat by the Lynx marked Las Vegas’s third consecutive loss. Wilson played like the two-time MVP she is, scoring 28 points to extend her WNBA record of 28 points or more to seven straight games.

As always, it was #allinLV. Plum scored 13 points, while Tiffany Hayes chipped in 10. But it still was not enough to stop the Lynx from getting a victory on their homecourt.

“They’re smart, they’re in the right spots, they plan angles well. So, that’s a team that’s just playing very well,” coach Becky Hammon said after the loss.

While watching the Aces this season, you can see something missing on the court. Gray moves the ball better than anyone on the roster. Las Vegas ranks second overall in pace this season amid her absence, but has dropped to fourth in assist rate.

“Chelsea is just a leader and someone that we miss. But that’s not an excuse,” Plum said. “You can just put it on her to save the day. We gotta figure it out and get better and when she comes back. She just makes us that much better.”

Don’t call it a comeback…yet

Head coach Becky Hammon yells to her players during the first half of game one of the 2023 WNBA Playoffs at Michelob Ultra ArenaKirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Though Gray’s presence has still been felt with the Aces due to her high energy on the sidelines, the road to her recovery has been rocky.  Though this upgrade in her status report does not guarantee we will see the Point Gawd back on the court for Thursday’s matchup against the Phoenix Mercury, it is promising.

In the meantime, the Aces have their sights on returning to winning.

“We’re not playing very well. We’re not a very good team right now. That’s just reality. But we know we can get better, and we still have a lot of basketball to play,” Hammon said.

The Las Vegas Aces play the Phoenix Mercury at the Footprint Center in downtown Phoenix at 7:00 p.m. PST.