LAS VEGAS – In August, the Connecticut Sun’s coach Curt Miller had a conversation with free agent Odyssey Sims. The team needed to strengthen its bench, and Sims, a veteran who most recently played for the Dream, wanted to play again. But before she signed, she asked Miller an important question.

“Will you allow me to be myself on the bench?”

He wasn’t sure what she meant.

“Can I be really fun on the sidelines when I'm on the bench?"

“Absolutely. I would expect you to,” Miller said.

Both teams in the WNBA Finals rely heavily on their starters to take up minutes. But for both teams, the bench has a special role in not just giving the starters relief on the court, but providing some comic relief on the sidelines.

“It's so important. The bench supporting the starters, and when starters come out, that they support the bench. That culture, that camaraderie is so important,” Miller said. “I notice those things, as much film as we watch on the bench, and how they're supporting each other. And it means so much.”

For the Sun, Sims and Dijonai Carrington lead the way. Sims runs up and down the bench giving high fives after a big play while Carrington rarely sits, throwing big gestures to cheer on her teammates. For Las Vegas, Sydney Colson and Theresa Plaisance are known to be the jokesters of the group.

During a media session before Game 1, Colson and Plaisance teamed up to pretend they were a camera crew, interviewing Wilson. Wilson laughed, calling her teammates, "These two clowns."

“I try to bring levity to situations. When it's a moment when maybe it's supposed to be really serious, but it doesn't help to be so tight. Loosen up a little. It's not the end of the world," Colson said. "We have to be locked in for finals. There's a level of seriousness and a level of focus that you have to have, but you should also be in the moment enough to know I got to have fun with this."

Aces coach Becky Hammon said it’s not just that Colson and Plaisance bring the fun. It’s that they can do that and still stay focused on their jobs.

“They're super fun in general. They're fun people, but I respect their professionalism because when it's time to get down to business, they're locked in, ready to go, those two," Hammon said. "It takes a special kind of person to be able to flip that switch. Not everybody can do it, but those two, and I've said it before, this is our job and we're in it to win it, but also we play basketball. There's more important things going on in the world than us putting a ball in the hoop.”

Carrington averaged 17.5 minutes per game in the regular season. She said her bench antics with Sims make her more engaged with the game so that when starters come off the court, she can tell them what she sees happening in the game. When her number gets called, she’s ready to go.

“I see what's going on during the game and though it looks like I'm just over there having fun, I'm still actually watching and seeing how the defense is playing, what the offense is trying to do, what we're doing that's working, things like that,” Carrington said. “And I think that the way that I cheer for my teammates, they do the same thing for me. That's super special. Obviously, I'm on the bench more than some of them, but when you see a [Jonquel Jones] or Dewanna [Bonner] on the bench, they're going just as hard for me as I go for them. I think I'm just a little more animated with it.”

Cheering for their teammates and offering jokes when they’re needed is a big part of helping a team come together, especially in the grind of a playoff run. When the Aces found themselves down to the Storm in the semifinals, Hammon talked about how the team chose to fight for each other instead of falling apart. For Colson, it’s about making sure the process of being a tight team is fun.

“When you love the people around you, it's easy. Nothing is forced. You're just genuinely enjoying them and having fun. And for us, I think because we have that feeling about one another and we like each other so much. We love each other," Colson said. "It makes it easy to go out and fight for each other and play hard for people, so for me, I feel like it gives you an edge when your team really, genuinely enjoys people. You could tell when some teams, you can look at benches sometimes, you can look on the court sometimes when people are not happy for people and that's just not our team.”

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