The Dallas Wings will be without All-Star guard Arike Ogunbowale for at least the remainder of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs after undergoing an iliac crest core muscle avulsion repair, the team announced on Tuesday. Further updates on her status will be provided at a later date.
"Hurts my heart that I can't be out there with the team, but my dawgs gon hold it down always," Ogunbowale wrote on Twitter. "Go Wings!"
If Ogunbowale's injury sounds unfamiliar, it's for good reason. A 2015 study published in the National Library of Medicine indicates "avulsion of a part of iliac crest is a very rare pathology and few are described in literature." An avulsion fracture occurs when a small bone fragment is pulled away from the rest of the bone by soft tissue such as tendons or ligaments. In Ogunbowale's case, it happened at the top of her hip bone where multiple core muscles attach.
Ogunbowale suffered the injury early in the fourth quarter of the team's overtime win over the Indiana Fever on Aug. 6. After NaLyssa Smith missed a 3-pointer, Ogunbowale collided with Fever guard Lexie Hull as they both chased the rebound. Ogunbowale immediately grimaced in severe pain and called for a sub as she limped over to the bench. After a short evaluation, she was eventually carried to the locker room and has not played since.
Here is an alternate angle of the play:
With Ogunbowale out of the lineup, Marina Mabrey stepped up andon Monday night with a win over the New York Liberty. They have now won five games in a row for their longest winning streak of the season, and are back over .500 at 17-16 for the first time since they were 6-5 in early June.
For the season, Ogunbowale is tied for third in the league in scoring at 19.7 points per game, while also chipping in 3.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists. At first glance it would seem losing her for the first round of the playoffs -- where they will likely face the Connecticut Sun -- would be a devastating blow.
Upon closer inspection, however, there's a case to be made that the Wings can withstand this injury. For the season, they're 14-16 with Ogunbowale in the lineup, and have a minus-0.8 net rating in her 941 minutes. When Ogunbowale doesn't play, they are 3-1, including wins over the top two teams in the league, the Chicago Sky and Las Vegas Aces. In 384 minutes without her, they have a plus-1.8 net rating.
Most notably, the Wings are a much better defensive team without Ogunbowale, as they can swap her lackluster performances on that side of the ball for the tenacity of rookie Veronica Burton, who won Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year three times during her collegiate career at Northwestern.
Offensively, Burton and Ty Harris, who also sees more minutes without Ogunbowale, are true point guards who can add more structure to the Wings' offense. While Ogunbowale is an exceptional talent, she doesn't always have the best shot selection and is making just 40 percent of her attempts this season. Teaira McCowan has emerged as a dominant paint scorer, Allisha Grey and Marina Mabrey have shown an ability to handle the perimeter scoring. That trio has gotten the job done offensively against some of the best teams in the league in recent weeks, and should soon get some reinforcements in the form of Satou Sabally.
Come playoff time, though, you need players who can create their own shot, and Ogunbowale -- despite her inefficiency -- is among the best in the league in that category. Defenses have to account for her, and when she gets hot she can take over halves or even entire games.
Only time will tell if the defensive upgrades and improved ball movement and structure on offense are enough to outweigh the upside of Ogunbowale's pure scoring ability.