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Angel McCoughtry played for the first time since an ACL tear in May, and for the first time back in Atlanta, in the Las Vegas Aces (18-7) 78-71 win against the Atlanta Dream (6-19) on Thursday night.
The Aces made the shocking semi-announcement by listing McCoughtry as questionable on the pregame injury report. They then shared photos of the two-time Olympic gold medalist at shootaround, but without much elaboration.
McCoughtry, 34, tore her ACL and meniscus in her right knee during a preseason game in early May. The Aces announced she would be out for the season, a heartbreaking blow for the 2009 No. 1 overall pick who is seeking her first title. She missed the entire 2019 season after tearing multiple ligaments in her left knee at the end of the 2018 campaign with the Dream.
The veteran joined the Aces that offseason and averaged 14.4 points and 5.1 rebounds on the deep squad. They reached the 2020 WNBA Finals, where they were swept by the Seattle Storm.
It was her fourth WNBA Finals appearance. The decorated five-time All-Star has yet to win.
Angel McCoughtry back in ATL
McCoughtry showed herself entering Gateway Center Arena in Atlanta on her Instagram Story, making jokes that she's never played in the new arena and is reminding herself she's no longer with the Dream. She has been traveling with the Aces on their East Coast swing and was excited to be back "home," where she averaged 18.8 points, five rebounds and three assists over 10 seasons.
She played against the Dream twice last season, but both games were in the confines of the WNBA bubble. Which could be why McCoughtry, closer to the end of her career than the beginning, is listed as questionable ahead of the game.
Recovery from a torn ACL can take between six and nine months, which would put her at a November return at the earliest. And the Aces are doing well despite her absence, sitting in a tie for second with the Storm. The Connecticut Sun took over the No. 1 seed.
Obviously, they would be happy to have McCoughtry back either way, but only if she were fully healthy and not jeopardizing her future. It seems likely she is listed as questionable to suit up in a return to her home for an ovation — which is exactly what happened.
McCoughtry checked in for the final 7.9 seconds of the game and attempted one shot before play ended.
While she's not quite recovered or ready to suit up again for real, Thursday's moment was truly a special one.