There is no doubt that Caitlin Clark had lofty expectations coming into the WNBA as she tore up college basketball for the Iowa women's basketball team. Since being drafted by the Indiana Fever with the first overall pick in the last draft, not only was she the favorite to win rookie of the year, but also one of the top choices for betting odds of MVP, but things have since changed after two games.

Even Clark will tell you that she is most likely going through an adjustment period transitioning from collegiate to professional basketball as despite scoring 20 in her season debut against the Connecticut Sun, she only made five of her 15 attempts from the field. Then on Thursday night against the New York Liberty, she only scored nine points, making only two of nine from the field with seven of those attempts from three-point range.

The slow start from the young star has resulted in Clark's odds for WNBA MVP down from +900 to +2400, which when looking at the list of players, she went from third to sixth. It was always going to be an uphill battle for Clark win the MVP award since it is her rookie season and there are other players like A'ja Wilson who is the clear favorite to win the award this year.

Still, this is only the second regular season game for Clark with 34 more to go so there is a lot of time left to change the narrative about her play before people could label her as a bust. However, while the expectations of her being amazing from the start are valid, it was never inevitable.

Clark talks about the physicality of the WNBA

Indiana Fever guard Caitlin Clark (22) pulls on her jersey in frustration, Thursday, May 16, 2024, during the Indiana Fever home opener game against the New York Liberty at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
© Grace Hollars/IndyStar / USA TODAY NETWORK

As said before, there is a physicality difference between the college and pro level that Clark is experiencing and will continue to adapt to. She even mentioned to the media before the Fever's loss to the Liberty that “the game seems a little fast for me right now” according to Michael Voepel of ESPN.

“The physicality is definitely up there. … I'm easily pushed off screens,” Clark said. “The game seems a little fast for me right now. The more I play and the more comfortable I get, it's going to slow down a little bit. It will be easier for me to make reads, see things develop.”

Clark was reportedly not brought out to speak to the media after the nine-point outing Thursday, but spoke at length pre-game to give props to the rest of the WNBA. While there could be a disparity in college basketball between the strength of teams in terms of how well they play, the 22-year old expressed that “everybody's good across the board” in the professional level.

“When you're in this league, there's 12 teams — everybody's good across the board,” Clark said. “We've got a young group. But as long as we're learning and continuing to get better, that's what's going to be positive for us.”

Staples of the league give their input on Clark

After the win to the Fever, the Liberty are out to a 2-0 start as they have some starts on their team like Courtney Vandersloot who has been in the WNBA since she was drafted by the Chicago Sky with the third overall pick in 2011. She would go into what Clark is going up against with the pros.

“The margin for error was the biggest thing for me,” Vandersloot said. “The things you constantly did in college just didn't work at the next level.”

Someone you can say that was ahead of the curve in predicting the initial struggles of Clark was another WNBA great in Diana Taurasi who mentioned before she was drafted that there is an “adjustment period.”

“It’s a different game, there’s an adjustment period, there’s a period of grace that you have to give rookies when they get to the league,” Taurasi said. “We’ve had some of the greats to ever play basketball, and it takes two or three years to get used to a different game (against) the best players in the world. As long as everyone has expectations that are realistic, they should be fine.”

Clark taks about facing Sabrina Ionescu, Courtney Vandersloot

Someone who has experienced this first-hand relatively recently has been Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu who was selected with the No. 1 overall pick in 2020. She talked about what rookies have to go through when they play their first few games per ESPN.

“In this league, there are tough defenses all centered around not letting you get the ball, trapping, not letting you score,” Ionescu said. “There were many factors that played into what was a tough first season for me in the league, but it helps you be able to figure it out. You have to have those experiences.”

Clark talked about going up againt Ionescu who was in her same shoes four years ago trying to adapt to the WNBA and make a name for herself. She also spoke highly of her other opponent Thursday night in Vandersloot saying she “has been a staple of this league.”

“It's cool getting to go up against her,” Clark said of Ionescu then talking about Vandersloot. “She's somebody who has been a staple of this league and has been one of the best point guards of all time. So for me, it's definitely a little excitement, even though I'm competing against them.”

Clark has “great perspective” on what needs to be done with Fever

If there is one trait that isn't physical that is mandatory for any player in any sport to have, it is the mental toughness in being a rookie talent trying to adapt to your surroundings. Clark has that understanding and even mentioned that the same happened in college after a bad performance.

“I have great perspective on everything that happens,” Clark said. “It was the same in my college career. There were some moments that were absolutely amazing. And there were some moments I was not happy with how I played and how my team performed. That's just life, that's just basketball.”

Besides Clark, the Fever have not had any success as they are coming out to a 0-2 start to the season where in both games, they lost by 21 and 36 points respectively. Indiana head coach Christie Sides talked about what the team has to change if they want to get their first victory in the winning column.

“We've got to get to a level of toughness,” Sides said. “When things are going south on us, we're not stopping the bleeding.”

The Fever will look to bounce back and collect their first win of the season in what will be a rematch against the Liberty on Saturday night. This time around, Clark looks to get one on Ionescu, Vandersloot, and star Breanna Stewart.