Catching up with new Aces guard Alex Bentley
On the fit in Las Vegas, starting the 2020 season and what could have been in 2018
Welcome to The Next: A basketball newsroom brought to you by The IX. 24/7/365 women’s basketball coverage, written, edited and photographed by our young, diverse staff, dedicated to breaking news, analysis, historical deep dives and projections about the game we love.
Subscribe to make sure this vital work, creating a pipeline of young, diverse media professionals to write, edit and photograph the great game, continues and grows. Paid subscriptions include some exclusive content, but the reason for subscriptions is a simple one: making sure our writers and editors creating 24/7/365 women’s basketball coverage get paid to do it.
Atlanta Dream guard Alex Bentley (20) warms up before the WNBA game between the Atlanta Dream and the Connecticut Sun at Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, Connecticut, USA on July 19, 2019. Photo Credit: Chris Poss
After a long wait in free agency, Alex Bentley found a new home. The seven-year WNBA veteran signed with the Las Vegas Aces on Tuesday. The move will further bolster the Aces’ backcourt after losing Kelsey Plum to an Achilles tear earlier this month.
Bentley was an unrestricted free agent this offseason after spending the 2019 season with the Atlanta Dream. Despite the long wait, she wasn’t worried throughout the process, citing her faith as her guiding light along the way.
“Honestly, I wasn't worried,” Bentley told The Next. “I was hoping something would open up and it did.”
But Bentley is coming off a down season. She shot a career-low 30.7 percent from the field. The 2019 Dream couldn’t catch a break. Players struggled to hit open shots. Their fortunes in close games completely flipped. They didn’t get Angel McCoughtry (knee) back at all. “I know our game and most of the coaches definitely rely on numbers,” Bentley said. “I knew that definitely would impact my chances of where I would be this season, but this is God’s plan for me. I’m just excited to play for the Aces and just have fun.”
Bentley believes she’s “tailor-made” for the system Aces head coach and president of basketball operations Bill Laimbeer has put in place. The Aces played at the fastest pace in the league in 2019 according to PBP Stats. Bentley is excited to be a playmaker for a team loaded with established scoring options.
“This team is amazing top to bottom,” she said. “They have everything. That’s why I am so excited to join this team. They make my job easy as a point guard. I'm gonna have scorers with me on the floor at all times...It’s gonna be really fun with my 15-foot game coming off those ball screens, dumping it down to Liz [Cambage], A’ja [Wilson], or kicking it out to Kayla [McBride], Angel [McCoughtry].”
Bentley is also confident in her ability to contribute on the other end of the floor. The Aces were the league’s top defense last season, allowing just 95.0 points per 100 possessions according to WNBA.com. She pointed to the reps she got in Atlanta, including their 2018 playoff run, where Dream head coach Nicki Collen trusted Bentley to take on some of the most challenging assignments.
Currently living out of a suitcase, Bentley has been splitting time between Indianapolis and Houston in order to see and take care of her family. She returned home in March after playing for Gelecek Koleji Cukurova in the EuroLeague.
As of Wednesday morning, the Aces roster is full with 12 players. The WNBA plans to start the 2020 season at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida in late July. “I definitely have a bunch of questions as to how the housing situations will be,” Bentley said. “The staff members, are they gonna be in a bubble with us, too, so to speak?”
As we await more information on the WNBA’s plans for the season and the health protocols they’ll be putting in place, players will need to determine whether or not they intend to participate by June 25.
“I respect whatever decisions other people wanna make,” Bentley said. “It’s important to use our platform the best that we see fit. For me, I wanna play. I do believe that I can use my platform. I'm in a different situation than other people in the league. Everybody’s doing what's best for themselves. How can they use their platform in the best way? I wanna play. I wanna be able to use my social media, use whatever I can, to do what's best as I see fit.”
The stars aligned for Bentley to join a 2020 contender along with McCoughtry, the pivotal figure in any what-could-have-been exercise for the 2018 Dream, who came just one game short of a Finals appearance. The Washington Mystics knocked the Dream out in the semifinals that season and continued their ascent to win it all in 2019 after getting swept in back-to-back postseasons. Atlanta had been peaking at the right time. McCoughtry’s ACL tear that summer was a big blow that lowered their ceiling in the postseason.
“We would’ve beat Seattle,” Bentley said playfully. “Looking back on that season, I don’t even remember losing a game with Atlanta...I can’t even describe how perfect that season could have been. That injury, it hurt us a lot, especially in the playoffs.” (For the record, the Dream took two of three from Seattle in 2018.)
Now together with the Aces, Bentley and McCoughtry will have a chance to help their new team dethrone the Mystics in 2020. “I keep telling [McCoughtry], I gotta get you a ring,” Bentley added. “She’s a great person. She's humble. She has always taken care of me since I was a rookie. I’m just excited to play with her and hopefully work toward getting a championship.”