WNBL: Canberra Capitals star Abby Bishop remains in bench role in her return from injury

Canberra Capitals forward Abby Bishop will continue to play on a minutes restriction in her return from injury. Photo: Jay CronanCanberra Capitals coach Carrie Graf says she will refuse the temptation to rush star forward Abby Bishop back into the starting line-up before she is ready.

Bishop will come off the bench for the third straight game with the Capitals aiming to prevent an 0-3 start to the season against the Townsville Fire on Sunday.

The Capitals will head to Townsville to face the defending WNBL champions eager to bounce back from Wednesday night’s 85-67 loss to the Sydney-Uni Flames.

Bishop provided an important contribution, top-scoring with 17 points on 5-9 shooting in just 23 minutes as she continues her comeback from a hamstring injury.

Last season’s WNBL MVP was supposed to play in Hungary this season before she was released after sustaining the injury playing for the Seattle Storm in the WNBA.

Graf said Bishop would continue to be on a minutes restriction until her injury was fully healed and her conditioning improved.

“Not for a while mate, she’s got a hamstring injury which meant she couldn’t play in Europe,” Graf said.

“It’s going to be a gradual process during the season and evaluating week by week how that progress is going.

“And her fitness right now, regardless of the injury, right now, Abby would struggle to play much more than 25-30 minutes at the moment.

“We’ve just got to get through this first chunk of the season and not put ourselves too far behind.”

Bishop said her fitness was a work in progress, but had noticed an improvement through the first two games.

“I’m struggling with my fitness, but from game one to game two, I definitely feel better,” Bishop said.

“I’ll do whatever I can to do to help the team.

“Hopefully by Christmas I’ll be back in that starting line-up.”

In promising news, Graf said the Capitals were expecting to have star centre Lauren Jackson return for next Thursday night’s home game against the SEQ Stars at the AIS Arena.

“We’re hopeful she will play some minutes in our home game next week, we’ve just got to see how she progresses when we build her load up on court,” Graf said.

“That’s the loose plan at this stage, we’ll know more about that as she progresses through the next couple days and early next week.”

With Jackson unavailable and Bishop starting the game on the bench, the Capitals fell behind in the first quarter against the Flames.

They trailed 23-14 at the opening break before reducing the margin to eight points at halftime.

The Capitals closed to six points at three-quarter time, but scored just 11 points in the final term against a Flames team which won the rebounding battle 32-24.

“We knew at the start of the season it was going to be tough,” Graf said.

“We’re minus three starters and another starter is coming off the bench.

“Our schedule is brutal, so for us it’s about, can we find a way to grind out some wins against quality opposition.”