With WNBA playoff races heating up, Scripps News sat down with Washington Mystics forward Tianna Hawkins to talk about the season so far, how Brittney Griner’s detention and return affect her decisions to play abroad in the offseason, and how she balances motherhood with pro basketball.
In conversation with "Scripps News Tonight" anchor Christian Bryant, Hawkins talked about the Mystics' identity as a team.
"We take pride in our defense, which has been the case for the last two years," Hawkins said. "And offensively, we’re going to try to push the ball, and try to run out, get out and just compete every day."
Through Thursday, the Mystics are sixth in the 12-team WNBA and sit four games behind the New York Liberty for the Eastern Conference lead.
The two teams play Friday night in Washington in a game that airs at 7 p.m. Eastern on ION.
Hawkins has taken on a larger role for the Mystics in recent games as injuries have forced the team to change its lineup. The Mystics' two leading scorers, Elena Delle Donne and Shakira Austin, are currently sidelined with injuries.
"I know what the coaches want of us; when we're in the game and out on the floor, I am one of the people that are a part of getting people to their spots and just keeping things moving smoothly," Hawkins said.
Hawkins is averaging 7.4 points and 5.1 rebounds per game this season for the Mystics and is in her 10th season in the league.
"When you have a lot of injuries and stuff, it's kind of hard to keep a rhythm and keep things going consistently," Hawkins added.
And while recent seasons have broughtincreased attention to the WNBA, players are pushing for better pay and benefits to keep up with the growth.
The WNBA's collective bargaining agreement allows salaries to range between $62,285 and $234,936 per year, but the league told Scripps News that players can make over $750,000 when factoring in potential bonuses, marketing deals and the prize pool from the in-season Commissioner's Cup tournament.
In 2023, the league also allows owners to charter flights for teams, which often have to fly commercial, on limited occasions, including postseason games. Charter flights had previously been banned due to cost concerns
Both issues became central after Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner was detained in Russia for 10 months while playing in the country during the WNBA offseason.
Hawkins, who has played abroad in countries including Hungary, France, and Australia, said she would still play abroad, albeit with conditions.
"I definitely will not be going to Russia ... In terms of [Griner's] situation, I hate that she had to go through that, but for me personally, it's the way I supplement my income from the WNBA," Hawkins said.
She added that picking a place that's best for her and her son is a factor in where to play abroad, and that balancing motherhood and pro basketball requires some support.
"It's tough, but I have a great village in my family and helping me when I have to travel and stuff," Hawkins said. "My mom has done a great job of stepping up and making sure I'm my best version on the court. And then, of course, she's my mom, so she's gonna make sure I'm the best mom possible."
Hawkins listed charter flights and pay increases as top priorities for improving player conditions.
"I would love to see charter flights, and of course, pay increases consistently from roster spot No. 1 to No. 12" Hawkins said.
The WNBA's current collective bargaining agreement has salary increases in place until 2027.
This story was updated to reflect how much WNBA players can make with the addition of bonuses.
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