“It takes the pressure off the regular ballhandler,” Jefferson said before San Antonio’s game Sunday in Washington. “You don’t have to go back to get the ball every time. Somebody gets the ball, anybody can outlet. Anybody can bring it up. And anybody can run our sets. So you can start the offense from any position.”
This is all in the realm of the hypothetical so far. Jefferson did not arrive in camp until late last week, with her obligations to her Turkish league team, Galatasaray, keeping her abroad. McBride remains there, where her team, Yakin Dogu, is playing a best-of-five series for the championship. By the time Jefferson returned to the United States, Plum had injured her ankle in practice. She remains out for now, but is hopeful she can play in the Stars’ home opener on Friday. Jefferson is also nursing a sore knee and a case of laryngitis.
“As much as the game allows me to play them together, they just flow,” Stars Coach Vickie Johnson said Saturday after a season-opening 73-64 loss to the Liberty. “I haven’t seen all three of them on the court at the same time. I haven’t seen them at practice at the same time. I just want to win, whichever way that goes with both, two, one, doesn’t matter to me. The offense is designed for anyone to advance.”
Jefferson and Plum provide artful returns whenever given the ball, but neither one needs it to excel.
Jefferson’s rookie year in San Antonio represented one of the best first campaigns of any point guard in league history. But her contributions extended beyond mere distribution — she shot 37.5 percent from 3-point range — and her 1.15 points per possession on spot-up shots, according to Synergy, ranked 14th in the league.
Plum, fighting off double-teams all season at Washington, led Division I in points scored, averaging 31.7 points per game. She was most efficient off the ball, scoring 1.42 points per possession on spot-up shots, 1.61 off cuts, but was among the nation’s most efficient scorers with the ball as well.
“I feel really comfortable off the ball,” Plum said Sunday. “So in coach’s system, we don’t really have a 1-2-3 — it’s getting the ball and go. So I haven’t had the opportunity in this system yet to play with Moriah, because she was away; since she came back I’ve been hurt. But I’m really excited when we do because it’s all pick-and-rolls, it’s all moving without the ball, which I like.”
Plum echoed Jefferson’s point about taking the pressure off a primary ballhandler, and the two have quickly reconnected as teammates. They have been friends for years and played together on USA Basketball teams. With the two of them creating off-dribble penetration and finding each other, along with McBride, who is shooting better than 40 percent from 3-point range overseas, offense should not be in short supply.
But what happens at the other end of the floor?
“We’re smaller, but I don’t think that means we’ll be worse defensively,” Plum said. “I understand that Mo and I are already small. But I think what we don’t have in size we can make up for in speed. And I think also that we’re competitive. I’m competitive, Mo’s competitive, K-Mac’s competitive.”
Bigger guards posting up Plum and Jefferson will probably be a constant hazard of the new plan. Trading 2s for 3s is not a losing mathematical strategy, however, and McBride at the small forward spot is big enough to handle most of the opposing players at that position.
Jefferson, who played with Stewart at Connecticut, chuckled when recalling her many efforts to bulk up beyond her 122-pound frame.
“My body’s been pretty much the same my entire life,” she said. “So I’m doing pretty much the same things I’ve been doing, playing defense as aggressively as I can, even if I get caught guarding bigger guards.”
Plum’s strength is an underrated source of her finishing ability, and the more physical game played at the professional level is as much a source of enjoyment as it is a challenge.
“In college, it’s a foul, and now it’s not,” she said, smiling. “I don’t feel insignificant out there. It’s funny, because that’s always something people are going to talk about. But just because I don’t look like it, doesn’t mean I can’t play it.”
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