The Las Vegas Aces offense appeared unstoppable in the first 2½ games of the season. And then he crashed out in a seven-point third-quarter loss to the Washington Mystics on Tuesday night.

Kelsey Plum, the reigning sixth player of the year, doesn’t blame him solely on travel issues. The Mystics (3-0) have looked like a top team through the first six days of the season and Elena Delle Donne doesn’t appear to have battled back injuries in the past two years. But Plum points out that the trips had at least a little impact on the situation.

Aces encounter travel problems

Kelsey Plum pointed to travel issues as a factor in Tuesday night’s Aces-Mystics game. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Plum said after the 89-76 loss:

“I think I’m the most conditioned player in this league, respectfully, and I fancy playing this type of game against Seattle (Sunday) and then getting on a five and a half hour delayed flight, flying across the country, wake up and play the next day, I mean, I was tired today.”

“If you’ve ever watched me play, I can go all day. So I don’t think it’s necessarily conditioned because it’s just the schedule setup. I mean, let’s be real, I mean, I am not here to blame a charter flight for why we lost, but normally a team would fly out that night and have all day to rest and get their legs under you and go play the next day. So you know these little things make a difference. Hopefully we’re on our way.

Plum was 5 of 8 for 14 points in the first half, but went 1 of 6 in the second for four points in 35 minutes in total. After shooting 57.6% in the first half, they fell to 25% in the second.

The Aces (2-1) hosted the Storm on Sunday night in Las Vegas in a game that was pushed back to 7 p.m. local time for ESPN2’s window. They then couldn’t use those Sunday evening hours as a getaway day and ended up traveling all day Monday. Natalie Williams, General Manager of the Aces said on Twitter it was a total 12 hour trip. There were more problems with the team bus, forcing players to take carpools to the hotel, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

The crew is generally ready for fit checks, but doesn’t seem enthusiastic about entering the arena.

The problem of travel has also affected the mystics. Starting goalie Natasha Cloud was ruled out despite being under COVID-19 protocols earlier today. Cloud blamed the commercial flight without a mask warrant for contracting the virus after the team returned from Minneapolis after Sunday’s game. A condensed schedule and summer flying season with hundreds of other people could only compound the travel problem.

WNBA and charter flights

Williams, the general manager of the Aces, took to Twitter early Wednesday to make some noise. “If it costs $20 million to fly every WNBA team for a season, which 20 millionaires can we get to donate to the cause?” she asked with labels for Elon Musk, LeBron James, Oprah Winfrey, Beyonce, Delta and Nike.

She need look no further than Aces owner Mark Davis. But his hands are tied in this area. The problem of charter flights versus commercial flights came to a head in March when reports surfaced that the New York Liberty and its deep-pocketed owner, Joseph Tsai, had been fined $500,000 for secretly used charter flights at the end of the season.

There are millionaire owners buying into the league who want to treat it like the professional league it is, but are largely bound by the collective bargaining agreement. Davis spoke about it in recent months after hiring Becky Hammon as head coach with an annual salary of over $1 million. This has squeezed a lot of people since the strict salary cap for his entire team is around $1.3 million. Davis himself agreed with the complaints.

“As much as we can do for these women and this game, I’m all for it,” Davis told The Athletic recently. “It’s the kind of stuff – the investment we make in the league and in the team – that I don’t see us getting back. But it’s all part of the vision and the passion to do this. … We we need sponsors and people to support this and people to say, “I believe in this and I want to be part of this as we grow. That’s what we’re trying to do now.”

Williams’ comments were met with responses of “it’s not a charity,” two-time WNBA champion Candace Parker told reporters during a panel discussion over Final Four weekend. . Players said they wanted an investment to grow the game, rather than one-time donations like it was a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

Viewership is up, merchandise is selling out, and people are talking about the W. But right now, they’re talking about a missing point guard who could have contracted a virus on a plane and a team that struggled in the second half of a fantastic game after a full day of travel. And it’s not the first time the Aces have been in this position.