Women's Hoops Blog: July 2003

Inane commentary on a game that deserves far better

Thursday, July 31, 2003

With my Lynx in a tight race for a playoff spot in the West, I'm officially rooting against Sacramento and Seattle even though I like both teams.

Both won tonight.

Kara Lawson had an amazing night for the Monarchs: 24 points in 26 minutes as Sacramento beat LA. Tamecka Dixon was back but out-out-sync, shooting only 2 for 13.

LJ: 23 points and 20 rebounds. Yes, 20 rebounds. If you put her out there alone she'd have a good chance -- Charlotte as a team had only 21.

Holdsclaw had 24 rebounds in a game earlier this year. Also against Charlotte.
The WNBA trading deadline comes....

.... and goes. Without much action.

Tamara Moore (1.4 ppg) from Detroit to Phoenix for Stacey Thomas (2.4 ppg). That's it.

Not terribly surprising, I guess. What creates trading flurries (like in baseball today) is when you have (1) bad teams out of the playoffs who have a few good (expensive) players, and (2) good teams who are in the playoff hunt and are willing to spend money. The bad teams make unequal trades for financial reasons.

In the WNBA today, there are only three teams out of the playoffs: San Antonio, Phoenix, and Washington. That's a pretty small pool. And with the tiny salary cap and limited resources, good WNBA teams can't really buy players. The only trades that work are trades that are basically for equal talent, usually one position for another. And it's just hard to make that happen.

Plus, with the league so small and so many good players (and recent pros) without a home, it's just easier to pick up someone who's free rather than make a trade. (Someone take Kate Starbird, dammit!)

Still, it's kinda boring. Trades in pro sports are a lot of fun. Would like to see some teams get aggressive and make some moves.
Geno Auriemma's "Vijay is a wuss" commentary is on the ESPN.com WNBA page (bottom right). He talks about women competing against men -- Annika, Billie Jean, etc.

Not totally sure what his point is, and he's just as dopey as usual... but maybe the clip has enough entertainment value to be worth 45 seconds of your time.
The East is even crazier. Detroit is on top by three and a half, and since they don't have to play Charlotte anymore, they probably won't be going anywhere.

After that, it's all wide open. Only Washington is out of the playoff picture. The second through sixth place teams are separated by just 3 games. New York has had a terrible year, but if they can play a couple games above .500 and get some key wins over the next month, they can easily grab the third or fourth spot.
The playoff race in the West is shaping up. LA has hit a rocky patch lately, but they're still solidly in first, and Lisa will be back soon.

After a spotty start to the season, Houson is playing great lately. They are beginning to separate themselves from the pack in an effort to seal first-round home court.

The fight for third will be important, since once Leslie gets back, everyone will want to avoid LA in the playoffs for as long as possible. Right now Seattle, Minnesota, and Sacramento are all separated by only a game and a half. One of them will be left out altogether.

Seattle is gearing up for the final push. Says Sue Bird: "I'm not surprised it's this (tight) at all. The rest of the season is going to be a playoff atmosphere."
What will the Vols do without Kara Lawson next year?

Shanna Zolman is ready to take over. She has been working hard in the off-season, and says she's "a totally new player this year."
The Stars are feeling good after a couple wins. Yesterday's game was a matter of fighting back and surviving.

The Sparks, on the other hand, find themselves in an unexpected and undesirable position: they now must fight to hold on to home court advantage in the playoffs. (But their record is actually better on road -- maybe 3rd place is a good thing?) Coach Cooper is not happy: "I'm frustrated because I never think I've seen a Spark team not want to compete every minute out on the court." Vanessa Nygard was the exception, and she might start getting more time.

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Yesterday Phoenix beat New York, and today San Antonio beat LA. What is the world coming to?

Amazingly, the Stars won despite shooting only 19-63 from the floor. How is that possible? Because they went to the free throw line 39 times. Coach Cooper probably won't be happy about that...
The Courant on Kia Wright's departure from UConn:

A source familiar with the team said Wright struggled to keep up during UConn's summer workout program that began earlier this month and that Wright and the coaching staff had an amicable parting.

"She was very homesick," said Buddy Wright, Kia's father. "It was hard for her to be away from home for the first time. Geno [Auriemma] and the coaching staff have been great. They were very helpful."
But whatever the WNBA's worries, we can take heart knowing that the best season in the history of women's college ball is just around the corner. The Vols started practice yesterday.
Start worrying about next year and the Olympics. Val and the league still haven't figured out what to do.

The Aussie national team has asked LJ to skip the entire WNBA season to train. LJ says she won't let the Storm down... probably.
My Lynx just can't get past Houston. The Comets have beaten Minnesota in 16 of 17 match-ups. Houston also managed to hold Katie Smith to only 7 points. I didn't think that was possible.

The Mystics were so close -- went to OT, and then lost by 1 to Indiana. Catchings (30 pts) made a lay-up at the buzzer for the win. Many of the Washington players and fans thought it was late.

Said Coach Stanley of the 13,000+ fans: "I think people got their money's worth." Maybe... but the DC faithful must be getting frustrated.

Detroit shot over 56% and easily beat Cleveland. This is the third time in eleven days that the Shock have beaten the Rockers. Even though Detroit lost to Charlotte all 4 times, it holds a 3 1/2 game lead over the Sting in the East.

I should take back my words about Phoenix: the Mercury beat the Liberty. In so doing, Phoenix avoided a record 8 straight losses. Edniesha Curry was strong off the bench.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Mendiola trial news: prosecutors won't seek the death penalty. Brendan Butler's parents, opponents of capital punishment, support the decision.

Many of the co-defendants have reached plea agreements where they'll get lower sentences in return for testimony against Giovanni Mendiola, who is accused of actually killing Butler. Brothers Eddie and Piero have apparently been offered similar deals, but they are obviously reluctant to testify against Giovanni.
Tonight is a big event on TV: a behind-the-scenes look at the making of SportsCenter. We'll definitely be watching (unless it conflicts with QE).

We are big SportsCenter junkies. Every single morning, we wake up, pour a cup of coffee, and turn on ESPN. We are big sports fans generally, and SportsCenter is THE WAY to keep up with sports. If you want to sound smart talking about sports, you have to watch.

But SportsCenter's omnipresence and power also accentuates its biggest deficiency: complete inattention to women's sports.

SportsCenter was actually much of the reason we started the blog -- because it almost never shows women's hoops highlights, we had a really hard time keeping up with the game. Unless you are lucky enough to live in Connecticut, where every Husky game is on public television, it's hard to watch many games during the regular season, either pro or college. And with no highlights on ESPN, that means you can't see anything at all. Which makes it very tough to keep up with the game -- how are you supposed to be a fan if you don't even know what's going on?

The strange thing about SportsCenter's lack of women's sports coverage is that ESPN is the leader in broadcasting women's sports. You would think it would be in their interest to show more highlights -- much of the time SportsCenter functions as a marketing tool for other broadcasts. But somehow, when it comes to women's sports, that logic just hasn't had power.

Most depressingly, as the USA Today reported last week, SportsCenter's coverage of women's sports has actually gotten much worse over the past decade. The ratio of men's stories to women's stories has increased from 25-1 to 48-1.

Maybe someday the trend will reverse. Maybe someday major media outlets will provide better coverage. But until then, we'll have to keep looking to alternate sources.
It would be wrong to say that UConn has been "struggling" with recruiting the last couple years... but they definitely have not gotten everything they've wanted.

The Huskies have just suffered another blow: Kia Wright has backed out of her commitment.
Re: the Beard-Taurasi lottery, Phoenix says it really is trying to win games. Well, they do have one home game left against San Antonio...
Over the weekend there was continuing (lingering) coverage in papers around the country about the Sue Bird incident. Most of the coverage was pretty boring.

As usual, though, the Courant found an intelligent angle on the story and got to the heart of the matter. The problem is that the league puts a lot of pressure on the players to create publicity. Sue was basically just trying to do what Val says.

In the article, Val says explicitly what we've all seen this year: that the league is trying to push the sexual aspect of the sport (whatever that means) to attract fans. She doesn't even really think Sue's bet was that bad: "I'm not saying that it was worth it, but I'm saying that [getting more exposure] is a very important issue."
The LA Times reported Sunday on the Mystics' problems. The players insist that they get along fine, and they also say they don't want a coaching change. But something will have to be different for next year....

(or maybe it's all a plan. maybe Coach Summitt (who really runs the show) is after the Beard-Taurasi jackpot...)
Another basketball blog came on line recently: Basketball Rules, run by Rudy. Will be providing some coverage for both men's and women's hoops, which is great.

Still waiting for more women's sports blogs. Anyone know of any?
I'm back...

decided not to take the bar. Too sick from surgery, not enough time to study... oh well.

A lot happened in the last few days. The Mystics fell apart again. After winning three straight following the break, they've now dropped four in a row, and they sit at 5-18 in the bottom of the East. Impossible playoff hopes have now vanished entirely.

My Lynx are doin pretty good, though. They had a big win on the road against Indiana over the weekend. It's gonna be very tough to make the playoffs in the West, but Minnesota is right in there.

San Antonio decided to take a new direction by firing Coach Harvey. It was a surprise to the players. With so few games left, it's hard to know whether it makes sense to fire someone now. The second coaching change of this year may be the last till the off-season.

Friday, July 25, 2003

The Seattle PI ran this editorial today praising the Storm (and Sue).
Well, my life pretty much sucks. Broke my nose about 10 days ago, went to a doctor on Wednesday and he insisted on doing surgery immediately. So went in yesterday and they put me under and re-broke it. I now have some ridiculous cast all over my face, and I can barely breathe. Plus on so many meds I can't think.

And, if all this weren't good enough, I have to take the f--- California Bar Exam next week, 3 days Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

So... please pardon the spotty blogging. And the complaining. Sara would fill in more, but she's too busy getting me glasses of Gatorade with a straw.

There were some crazy games yesterday.

Detroit still can't beat Charlotte.

Holdsclaw scored 34, but it wasn't enough to get past Indiana.

LA beat Phoenix easily. The Sparks were 27-27 from the FT line, tying a WNBA record.

And Sacramento got past New York. The Liberty just can't get it together.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

In Durham, the Duke Chronicle has begun to look forward to the coming season. Coach G is excited about this year's prospects. Newcomers Bales and Hunter will add new dimensions, and the return of Mo Currie could have a huge impact.

Duke might have the most talented team in the country -- over the past few years, Coach G has probably been the nation's top recruiter. The question now is: can she take the talent and produce a championship?
The Sue Bird spanking bet ordeal is fading away, but the underlying problem will remain. The WNBA and its players still struggle for attention, and the pressure to turn to bizarre and degrading means to attract attention will remain.

I say: fight the power, dammit!
Last night's game between the Sparks and Mystics was an intriguing match-up. The Sparks are one of the league's best teams, but after losing Leslie to injury, they had lost 2 in a row. The Mystics have been one of the league's worst teams this year, but since the break, they've won 3 in a row.

The Mystics led for much of the game, but the Sparks pulled it out. Holdsclaw had another great game -- 24 points and 17 rebounds -- and Asjha, Coco, and Stacey all did well too. But Washington couldn't stop Milton and Mabika.

The Milton-Holdsclaw match-up was intense. Holdsclaw dominated in the first half, but Milton came out angry in the second. Said DeLisha: "When it comes down to a matter of heart, I know that I have it over her. She may have youth, but I have heart."

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

In an early game today, Detroit beat Cleveland. The game featured two of the league's top rookies: Cheryl Ford and LaToya Thomas. Ford had 14 points, 14 rebounds (!), and 5 assists; Thomas had 17 points and 6 boards in only 22 minutes.
Nikki McCray's career is in its later stages -- she's no longer the dominant force she used to be (especially on offense). It was, for example, a minor travesty that she got more All Star votes than Katie Smith.

But off the court Nikki has been doing great things, and yesterday she was honored with the Community Assist Award. Nikki does a variety of work to help kids -- from reading programs to child abuse prevention programs to just bringing disadvantaged kids to WNBA games.
In UConn news, Maria Conlon is having surgery on her ankle. She should be ready for the season.

Teammates Ann Strother and Barbara Turner are spending the summer with the Pan Am team. They say the best part is playing with Iciss Tillis, Nicole Powell, and other top players from around the country.

Monday, July 21, 2003

Sue Bird reconsidering the spanking bet -- she read Steve Kelley's column in the Seattle Times yesterday, and it made her think. "They say I'm 22. But I take full responsibility. I'm not dodging it at all. And I plan to correct it."

A mature response. Nice work, Sue.

She said she did it because she wants to attract young men to the game. It was a worthy goal, even if she did choose a misguided strategy. A better way to attact young men: play hard to get. Sue is attractive, funny, and kicks ass on the court. They should be begging to watch her play.

UPDATE: the bet is off. Said Sue in a statement: "As genuine as my intentions were, I realize the negative effect that this bet has had and would like to apologize.''

Takes a big person to admit a mistake.

Sunday, July 20, 2003

The Sun are not doing a great job connecting with the Connecticut women's basketball fan base. Bitterness about the team's location continues to cast a pall over the team's marketing.

I thought the casino thing was a silly -- yes, the team should have been in Hartford -- but I didn't think it would cause too many problems. So far, it seems like it is causing serious problems, and it might seriously undermine the long-term viability of the franchise. What a waste...
More Sue Bird controversy: she has made a bet with a local radio sports idiot. If she loses, he gets to spank her on the air while she says "Harder, daddy, harder."

Steve Kelley's hyperventilating criticism of Sue is a little over-the-top. But it still seems like a stupid idea. Why bother with idiots like that?
Washington had another nice win yesterday. It was against San Antonio -- not exactly a huge accomplishment -- but a nice win nonetheless. Have the Mystics really turned things around?

They seem to have settled in on their offense. Holdsclaw is always dominant inside, and recently she's been getting good help from Coco, Stacey, and others. Yesterday, the Mystics had 23 assists and only 9 turnovers. They're finally flowing.

It's still gonna be tough for Washington to work their way into the playoff race -- the season is just too short. But the last three games have certainly been encouraging.
Speaking of youth basketball -- did you know that Sara once beat Katie Smith in a 3-on-3 tournament? I am still convinced that Sara should take the next year off to train and try out for the WNBA. But she's too busy saving the world. Sigh...

Katie scored 19 today -- an off-game for her -- but got plenty of help, and the Lynx beat the Storm. LJ scored 30, but got no help at all. Bird barely played.

Charlotte lost another close one. The Rockers dominated the boards.

New York beat Indiana. T-Spoon had one of her best games of the year -- 13 points, 6 boards, and 5 assists.
Well, I just got off the phone with my sister at the 15 and under tourney. Controversy!!!

Her team, the Minnesota Flames, won their third and final pool play game this afternoon. Shaking off last night's heart-breaking loss to the New Orleans Dominoes, the Flames came out today and played an awesome game, defeating the Massachussetts Lady Dolphins by seven points. My sister said the team had an amazing game and all the girls played some great ball.

Now, here is where it gets interesting. As of this morning there was a 3-way tie in their pool to see who would advance to the championship bracket. According to AAU rules, if there is a tie then the point differential is used as the tie-breaker. So, the Minnesota team needed to win today's game by 8 points in order to advance to the championship bracket. With 2 seconds left in the game the Massachussetts team fouled one of the Minnesota players. MN was in the double bonus and should have had 2 shots to try to get the point spread to 8. The refs called the foul and then said, well, the game is over and went an took off their shoes to leave. Apparently, my sister and the head coach, Sarah, told them the situation and the reffs refused to comply and let them shoot the free throws. So, despite the victory the Flames will not advance to the championship bracket, and even worse, the team they beat will!!! What a bunch of crap. Sarah and my sister are relentless fighters, and they are planning to contest the refs decision to call the game. I hope they win. They should. I feel bad for the girls too. It stinks to play your heart out and then have a lazy and stupid ref just take the rules into his own hands!

Again, I will keep you posted on the saga of the Flames.

Saturday, July 19, 2003

Any of you who follow youth/high school basketball or have daughters who play, know that the summer AAU National Tourneys are in full swing. I remember the trips I made to less-than-desireable towns for these summer tourneys -- Shreveport, LA; Clovis, NM; and Charleston, WV. Even though we never got to go to the coolest place, those trips were some of the best times I have ever had playing basketball. Hot gyms, gross hotel rooms, playing with all the best players from your area, trying to figure which folks in the stands were parents and which were college coaches... Might not sound like the best times to some of you, but I can assure you it was awesome!

My sister, Laura, and her friend Sarah, a former U of Illinois stand-out, are in Newport, VA right now coaching the Minnesota Flames 15-and under team. The Flames had their first of 3 pool-play games yesterday morning. Despite a solid start and only a 1 point deficit at the half, the Flames couldn't keep pace with the team from North Carolina. Last night, the Flames played the 10th seeded team from New Orleans. They nearly pulled off the upset losing by 2 points at the end. The New Orleans team had a 15 year old who was 6-foot-6!!!

Today, the MN team will play their final pool play game. They probably won't advance to the championship bracket, but they will have the opportunity to participate in the friendship tourney. I will have more updates later today.
Detroit won again last night, and Charlotte lost again. The Sting were in first place over the break, but now the Shock are back on top by a game and a half.

With her knee problems, Sue Bird has a tough time playing two nights in a row. Last night, she sat out much of the game against Detroit, and ended with only one assist. The Shock returned to their winning formula: balanced scoring and solid play in the paint. Lots of free throws also helped.

New York played good D and Charlotte shot terribly -- 17 for 59. It was an ugly, physical game, and Coach Adubato thought the refs should have kept things in control. But he'll take the win.
Fortner and Catchings both fined after their complaints about officiating.
Dales-Schuman seems to have turned things around in the last two games. Her coach and teammates are happy that the slump is over.

But Stacey says: what slump? "For myself I don't feel like I fell back too much."

Friday, July 18, 2003

Zagoria on the Liberty: they've got problems. With Hammon and Wicks gone, no one knows who's supposed to score. They need a trade.
In yesterday's other games:

The Mystics got a huge win before a HUGE crowd in the MCI Center -- almost 20,000 saw Washington beat Charlotte. Holdsclaw was great as always, and she got some good help from Stacey and Coco, who had 18 and 14, respectively.

Lynx lost to Cleveland -- crap! The Rockers keyed in on Katie Smith and roughed her up a little. (32 free throws for Cleveland, 13 for Minnesota. Hmmmm....) Katie ended with 22, but half of those were in the last couple minutes when the game was already lost.

Sacramento won a close one over San Antonio. Lady Grooms made only 1 shot all night: the game-winner with 1.8 seconds left. Yo led all scorers with 17.
The big Sue Bird homecoming was good for Sue, not the Sun. The Storm didn't play well, and Sue was shaky at times, with a bunch of turnovers in the second half. But she also had 15 points, 7 assists, 3 boards, and 3 steals, and the Storm won 67-65.

The game was decided in part by a key charging call against McWilliams-Franklin at the end. The Sun were not happy -- said Pee Wee: "It's about the players, not the ref. You don't make that call."

Despite the loss, this was probably the biggest game in the Sun's brief franchise history. It was a sellout crowd with a lot of fans who'd never been there before.
With a couple wins, the Mystics have fallen out of the lead in the Taurasi sweepstakes. The AZ Republic is unabashedly happy that Phoenix is back in last.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Taurasi won the ESPY last night, but she wasn't there. In fact, she didn't really even consider going.

Sue Bird and UConn fans are all excited for the Storm-Sun game tonight. Maybe this will help to build the fan base.
Indiana was very upset after last night's loss to Detroit. "I have never been so disappointed and seen such awful officiating," said Coach Fortner. The Fever think that their opponents are really beating up Catchings, and the refs aren't doing a thing about it.

Maybe Bad Boy Coach Laimbeer is turning the Shock into Bad Girls?

The Free Press makes no mention of the physical play or officiating, other than saying that Detroit "caught a break" when Catchings fouled out.

Catchings had 22 and 13, Nolan had 27.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

ESPYs tonight. Women's hoops nominations in several categories:

Best WNBA Player. Nominees are Leslie, Holdsclaw, Swoopes, and Catchings. That's a tough call... me head says Leslie, but my heart says Catchings.

Best Female College Athlete. Nominees are Taurasi, Beard, Natalie Coughlin (Berkeley, swimming), and Cat Osterman (Texas, softball). Don't know a damn thing about swimming or softball, and don't wanna alienate all Husky or Devil readers... as a predictive matter, Taurasi may win based on her comparative fame.

Best Female Athete. Nominees are Leslie, Taurasi, Annika, and Serena. In this one, the two hoopsters are the bottom two choices. Annika made history, and Serena has established total dominance over her sport. I vote Serena.

Best Team. UConn Huskies, along with other major champions. I think I'd have to go with the Anaheim Angels.

Best Coach. Geno is nominated, and I think he has a pretty good claim for this category. Boeheim might be the sentimental favorite, though.

Will be excited to see some of the ladies up on stage. Tune in...
Stacey Dales-Schuman graces the cover of the current issue WB Magazine and is featured in an article headed "Fearless Leader."

Stacey has been spotty this year, but she's showed some signs lately that her game is picking up again. The Mystics need her to play well to win -- they need her to be a fearless leader.
Like I said: no they can't -- Stars lose to the Lynx in today's matinee.

Katie Smith: 27 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals. Katie Smith kicks ass. She is the franchise. DOES ANYONE HEAR ME?

Katie got some good help today from Svet, Teresa, Sheri, and Tamika. Good team effort.
The Courant on Connecticut's two favorite point guards -- Pee Wee Johnson and Sue Bird -- and the mutual respect between them.
The Stars still think they can make the playoffs. Um... no they can't.

Tonight they'll play the Lynx, who are trying to hold onto their momentum and get a few games above .500.
Second half underway -- 4 games last night.

1. Leslie-less Sparks eked out a win over Phoenix. Took two OTs to get there. Mabika stepped up for LA with 26 points, and Plenette Pierson had 26 off the bench for the Mercury. Rhonda Mapp (who?) was a hero for LA.

2. The Mystics started the second half off on the right foot by beating New York. Holdsclaw didn't shoot well, but got to the line 17 times and ended up with 24 points. Chamique had only one thing to say: "Finally." It was a shocking loss for New York.

3. Sue Bird had another almost-triple-double in the Storm's win over Houston. Sue had 13 points, 10 assists, ant 8 rebounds. Seattle moved past Houston into second place. Steve Kelley says the Storm will win a title some day.

4. Sacramento topped Cleveland. Penicheiro had 15 assists (and only 2 turnovers), and Tangela Smith had 22 points. The Monarchs interim coach John Whisenant missed the game after being rushed to the hospital after an allergic reaction to medication.

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Sorry about the spotty blogging -- spotty internet, doctors appointments, and bar exam studying are getting in the way.

Another stupid ACL tear -- Candace Parker, the best high school player in the country, the Lady LeBron, blew out her knee on Friday. What a bummer... but Candace remains upbeat.

Lisa Leslie's knee injury from the All-Star Game isn't that bad, but she won't be playing tonight against Phoenix.

Adia Barnes, on the other hand, will be out all season with her ACL tear. The Storm added Mactabene Amachree to replace her.

Sunday, July 13, 2003

Well, I had a bad night last night. Some crazy guy punched me in the face and broke my nose. My nose has always been big and crooked. Now it's bigger and crookeder.

The game was a lot of fun yesterday. Teasley was off the hook -- half the time her teammates were basically too shocked to catch her passes. It was a great event all around.

The All-Star Game presented an occasion for everyone to address the state of the game.

Val Ackerman has this chat on WNBA.com talking about expansion, next year's schedule with the Olympics, the NWBL, and other issues.

Several papers ran articles yesterday and today analyzing the league, its successes, and its problems.

The NY Newsday asks, "Will the League Survive?" and concludes that the league needs to stay small and less political.

The NY Daily News suggests that the league might be headed for extinction unless some personality -- some Annika, some Venus and Serena -- comes and saves it. Maybe Taurasi is The One.

WaPo yesterday examined this year's attendance figures -- we still can't seem to get a totally straight answer on whether attendance is really up or down... but basically, the news isn't really good.

The attitude out there is basically gloomy. The league isn't going to disappear in the near future, but I think there are a lot of people (myself included) who thought this might be a break-out year -- that getting rid of weak franchises, concentrating talent on fewer teams, and starting in new markets (especially Connecticut) would really bring us to a new level.

It hasn't. San Antonio is drawing very good crowds, but Connecticut isn't. Most other teams are down moderately, continuing the general slippage that's been happening for several years.

Media coverage remains spotty. Unless you have satellite or DirecTV or something, it's hard to see many games. Some (but not all) local newspapers provide good coverage of home teams, but it's very hard to have much of a sense of what's going on around the league. SportsCenter, the most important and powerful piece of sports media in the entire country, rarely gives a minute to the WNBA.

So... it's not altogether pretty out there.

But we're still here, dammit.

Saturday, July 12, 2003

Voepel takes stock of the season at the midway point: ACL injuries suck, so do the Mystics, but losing has a silver lining: Beard or Taurasi.
Tons of All-Star game day coverage today, including player vignettes:

Katie Smith: "I feel confident on anyone that guards me. I feel like I can do what I want."

Lauren Jackson: "It's pretty exciting, but I get nervous in big games."

Lisa Leslie: "What do you mean by old?"

Becky Hammon: "I will be back playing, no doubt about it. I will be back and better than ever."

Swin Cash: "This is our year to break out and get it done."

Tamika Catchings: "If I can just touch one child or one adult in whatever I do, I feel good about whatever event that I'm involved with."

Marie Ferdinand: "Last year, I was the most shy one [at the All-Star Game]. But the more you get in it, the more comfortable you feel. You get to act crazy and socialize."

Deanna Nolan: ''I think I am only going to get better, and only I can stop myself. I think there is more to go."

Margo Dydek on dunking: ''If I have the opportunity, why not?''

Cheryl Ford on everyone asking about her dad: "I get tired of hearing that. I'm just trying to do my own thing, make my own name. But always, that name just has to come up. It gets on my nerves."

And finally, Sheryl Swoopes would rather be at home: "I would absolutely love to have the time off, physically and mentally.... I think being able to take a few days off and do some of the things besides just every day going to the gym and doing basketball would really be good. I don't want people to take that the wrong way and feel like I'm not grateful."

Friday, July 11, 2003

I know this is men's hoops, but I must vent my frustration (the ten minutes on the phone with my dad wasn't enough!).

Where is the loyalty and the desire to earn a championship!!! The whole Malone and Payton to LA really bugs me. I understand that Stockton retired and left Malone without much to work with in Utah. And, I understand the Payton got dumped by his longtime Supersonics, but what is going on here!! I guess wining a championship, no matter how you do it, is the most important thing to these folks.

Now, this isn't to say that I don't think that we maybe shouldn't tip our hats to Malone for putting his desire for teams honors before the individual scoring title, but come on! I have a hard time believing Malone is going to the Lakers so he can help the franchise get back the title of NBA Champions. He is going there so Karl Malone can retire as an NBA Champion. He doesn't want to be one of those great players in baskaetball history who everytime they are mentioned the tag line "never won a championship" follows their name!

Payton is a little less annoying to me because he has a few years left (and, the laker's might really need him is Kobe ends up in deep doodoo for his Denver Resort indiscretions). Even so, I think it is frustrating, and I don't think it is good for the game. Salary Caps are supposed to keep teams from buying championships, but who said money was the only currency...

(I know Ted thinks I am crazy, but well, he can give you his take.)
Over at ESPN.com, Nancy Lieberman has a nice run-down of the All-Stars, West and East, including lots of favorite memories.
Jayda Evans at the Seattle Times says the All-Star Game could be the time to see some dunking.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

In tomorrow's Times, Lena Williams on Lisa Leslie. The article says that Leslie "has come to be the face of the WNBA." But despite her on-the-court dominance and her off-the-court gigs as a model and (wannabe?) diva, not everyone loves her.

"[H]er popularity is not universal. She is perceived by some fans and some W.N.B.A. peers as surly, aloof and self-absorbed - a reputation that players mention only privately. She has had physical confrontations with opponents and, despite her accomplishments, she has never been the top vote-getter in the fans' balloting for the All-Star Game."

Across the country, the LA Times says Dixon has been the key to the Sparks' success this year. With Mabika struggling, and the bizarre Latasha Byears situation, Tamecka has held the squad together.
In the other games tonight -

Charlotte over Detroit 65-58. The Shock just still can't figure out the Sting. With the win, Charlotte moves into first place in the East. Cheryl Ford had 20 and 14, but tons of turnovers. Said Coach Laimbeer: "Turning the ball over is our No. 1 concern."

Indiana over New York 76-69. Catchings awesome as usual -- 31 points. She is playing as well as she ever has, and she always wants the ball.

Sacramento over San Antonio 89-76. Must have been a bittersweet night for the Monarchs -- a win, but also their first game with a new coach and a new philosophy. Yo and Tangela both had double-doubles.

Cleveland over Phoenix 68-67. LaToya Thomas started slow this year but has been doing better and better. Tonight, she had her best game yet and led the Rockers with 20 points, and she nailed the game-winning jumper with 3 seconds left.
Katie Smith can't be stopped! 34 points tonight in a win over Connecticut -- I think that's the most anyone's scored all year. She went 12 for 20, 5 for 8 from downtown, 5 for 6 from the line (plus 7 rebounds). Nice work.

Says the AP wire: "Katie Smith was hot enough to burn the Sun." C'mon, guys...
Is Coach Stanley next?

The Mystics lost their 11th in a row last night to LA.

But... Washington played pretty well. Haven't had much good to say about Stacey Dales-Schuman lately, and many say she's the most overrated player in the league, but last night she played well, with 19 points and 4 three-pointers.

But LA was just too good. Every starter in double figures, the team shot 57%, Dixon had 28, Leslie had 18 points, 9 rebounds, 6 blocks.... that's just tough to beat.

Still, the Mystics felt good. Dales-Schuman said: "Moral victories are huge." Coach Stanley also noted that it's still mathematically possible for the Mystics to make the playoffs. Place your bets.
The weight of expectations can crush you. Before the season, many picked Sacramento as the league's top team. But they now sit several games below .500, a long shot to make the playoffs.

The loss to Minnesota on Tuesday was the last straw, and after the game, the Monarchs fired coach Maura McHugh. GM Jerry Reynolds had hoped to avoid this, but the slide just didn't stop: ""It's all about performance," said Reynolds "and we haven't played to our potential."

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

Great news for my Gophers -- Minnesota might get to play Tennessee on national TV next year. Minnesota has an awesome up-and-coming program, and this would get it the next level of exposure.

One of Coach Summitt's best characteristics is that she's willing to look for games like this to help other programs develop. Thanks, Pat!
Ah, the Mystics. Terrible for many years, then came 2002, when they were rather suddenly one of the league's best. Until this year, when (just as suddenly), they went back to the cellar.

The Wash Times offers some diagnosis: it points to the lack of center, the decision to give up Jenny Mowe, and Vickey Bullett's retirement. It doesn't mention the inexplicable slumps of Stacey Dales-Schuman and Asjha Jones.

The Mystics are trying for a trade and trying to convince Vicky to come back... but no luck yet.

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

Nice win for the Lynx! Ending a mini-slump, Minnesota topped the streaking Monarchs. The Lynx won with solid offense -- 21 assists on 28 buckets -- and a typically great performance from Katie Smith, who seems to score at least 20 every single game.

It was a must-win for Minnesota, and the Lynx came through.

After a couple off games, Detroit got back to winning. They must have played good D, because Connecticut shot only 26% from the floor -- that's probably one of the worst games of the year for any team. Said Coach Thibault: "It was our worst game by far."

On Thursday, the Shock will try to get past Charlotte for the first time.

Houston beat Indiana in a tight one. Swoopes and Arcain led the Comets. As usual, Catchings led the Fever, and as usual, she didn't get a whole lot of help.

Houston keeps getting more and more beat up. Thompson didn't play last night, and Swoopes got a concussion when she bonked heads with McCray early in the game. But like a champ, Sheryl returned and played great in the second half.
Jen Garrett has this blog account of a weekend trip to Mohegan for the Liberty-Sun game.
It was Lisa Leslie's birthday, and she had a big night against Cleveland: 26 points, 13 rebounds, and 5 blocks.

The Sparks were hoping for an easy win, but didn't get it -- Cleveland, especially Betty Lennox, played great. But Leslie was simply too dominant.
Washington lost its 10th in a row to Charlotte. The Sting didn't play very well, and the Mystics led for much of the game... but just couldn't hold on. Amazingly, Washington didn't attempt one free throw.

Coco Miller had another good game, and Mique had a double-double (also 7 turnovers), but once again, no one else did much of anything.
Yesterday I was home, supposed to be studying for the bar... but the U.S. Women's Open was on. And as it turned out, Hilary Lunke -- who went to the same high school that we did -- won it in an amazing finish.

Monday, July 07, 2003

Good news for Jordan-obsessed Lobo fans: the Lynx have opened up a spot to get Adams back on the active roster.
Connecticut got a nice home win over New York. The Sun overcame a 16-point second half deficit and closed with a 14-2 run to get the win. New York had trouble scoring all night, especially at the end.
A surprising loss for Detroit yesterday -- not just the result, but the manner. They got slammed by Indiana. The Shock have been an offensive machine lately, but yesterday they fell apart: 31% from the floor, 26 turnovers to 14 assists. Swin and Ruth had only 6 points each.

Folks are starting to get worried. Says the Free Press: "It's official: The magic from the Shock's early-season eight-game winning streak is over."

Catchings (17 points, 7 boards, 6 steals, 4 assists) dominated the match-up with Cash, and her excellent play rubbed off on her teammates.

Sunday, July 06, 2003

Lobo, not playing well this year, and now not playing at all, might not be around the WNBA too much longer.
5 games yesterday:

1. Minnesota dropped a close one to Cleveland. Deanna Jackson had 30. Katie Smith is getting frustrated with the Lynx's play -- some of her teammates really aren't working out there.

2. LA beat Seattle easily. Lisa Leslie, with 23 points and 12 boards, had the edge over LJ. Leslie also got on the fans at halftime and told them that they need to start cheering for the home team.

3. The Mystics lost to the Comets. Swoopes had 23. Holdsclaw and Miller had pretty good games, but they got no help. Playing a weak Washington team, Houston got to coast to an easy victory -- they haven't had many of those this year, and they had almost forgotten how good that feels.

4. In a match-up of two hot teams, Charlotte edged out Sacramento. Feaster and Enis had 19 each. The Monarchs came up with a key rebound at the end -- they just wanted it more.

5. In a match-up of two bottom-dwellers, San Antonio topped Phoenix. Gwen Jackson had a double-double. Maybe the Stars are finally developing some chemistry.
Serena won yesterday in an anticlimactic match over her injured sister. It wasn't a great match, but not a bad one either, and it was cool to see Venus fight through the pain.

Today was an amazing moment in sports as Martina Navratilova won her 20th Wimbledon title and 58th Grand Slam. She and her excellent mixed doubles partner Leander Paes. At 46 years old, Granny Martina is the oldest Wimbledon champion. With her 20th win, she tied Billy Jean's record.

Doubles is often more fun to watch than singles, and this match was a treat. I hope it won't be her last.
WBeeBall.com is running a poll on who's the most overrated player in the league. Dales-Schuman has a big lead right now, with McCray, Spoon, and Sales following.
On their Yahoo message board, the Gio and Giuli Mendiola posted this message after the Bishop article. It seems to say that they'll be playing for the Huskies next year. Thanks to Ralph for the heads up.

Saturday, July 05, 2003

One game yesterday, and it was a wild one.

Connecticut beat Sacramento 69-67. McWilliams-Franklin made another game-winning lay-up with a few seconds left, and then Penicheiro's buzzer-beating three bounced off the back rim.

Pee Wee had 14 points, 8 assists, and 7 rebounds. The Sun's starters combined for an amazing 39 boards.

Friday, July 04, 2003

Seattle is playing great ball lately, and last night they got another win over the Mystics 76-72. Washington actually played pretty well, but just couldn't hold on. Sue Bird: 21 points, 10 assists, 4 rebounds, 3 steals. Now that's a good line!

Coach Stanley and Coach Donovan are great friends -- Marianne used to coach Anne at ODU, she doesn't like playing against her now. Maybe partly because Donovan holds a 4-2 edge.

Detroit lost to Charlotte. The Shock are now 9-3, and two of their losses are to the Sting. Charlotte was 13-20 from 3-pt land. Sholanda Enis scored 29 and was 5-5 from downtown.

Thursday, July 03, 2003

Well, I haven't really been paying attention to the Mendiola thing lately, but last Sunday Greg Bishop had this long article in the Seattle Times describing the whole saga -- the case, the resulting family troubles, the "Mendiola Rule," the Taurasi incident, etc.

The hook of the article is that Gio and Giuli might sit out next year. That, to me, seems totally unlikely -- can't imagine that anyone in the family would want that.

Anyway, the brothers were extradited to Coeur D'Alene in early June and were in court last week. The victim's parents, Stewart and Molly Butler, were also there and apparently will attend the trials.

It looks like there are going to be separate trials. At least one defendant has raised speedy trial issues, so they could get going as early as next month.

Hope you all enjoy a nice long weekend! I know I will. I plan to be sitting down with some margaritas in t minus 2 hours!
Marshall Lubin on Spoon's selection as All-Star Starter:

"Weatherspoon has made 12 field goals in 12 games this season. Her assists are at a career-low 4.2 per game. All of her statistics are down from previous seasons. Yet the player who has started every game in Liberty history was voted by fans to start in the WNBA All-Star Game for the fifth straight year."

Says Spoon: "It lets me know that they know I can still play the game," Weatherspoon said of the fans. "They know what I'm capable of."

Well... sort of. It lets you know that the fans love you even if you can't still play the game (which is really even better, if you think about it). Fans can vote on whatever basis they like -- history, community service, good looks, whatever. But let's not pretend that she's there based on current playing ability.
Revenge is sweet -- Serena destroys Henin. Venus won too, so it's another all-Williams final. 9 AM eastern time Saturday morning on NBC.
Becky Hammon is a hero in Colorado. She was to be the cornerstone player for the new NWBL Chill team -- let's hope she can make it back to get that franchise going.

This guy is pissed that Adubato took Hammon over Sales for the All-Star team. Whatever.

Connecticut is not doing great at the ticket gate. GM Sienko says the casino doesn't affect attendance much either way: "It is really kind of a mute point." Um... moot?
Last night:

Sacramento over Washington 83-62. Holdsclaw played about half the game, but was fairly quiet. Yo had 20. Sacramento has been on a roll lately, finally living up to expectations. They're now only 2 games out of second. The Mystics, meanwhile, slip deeper into the pit of last place.

Indiana over Phoenix 79-68. Catchings: 26 points, 9 rebounds, 4 steals. Sweet. Natalie Williams was also in a zone.

Connecticut over Cleveland 64-57. Katie Douglas was 4-5 from downtown. It was a nice rebound for the Sun after three straight losses including the horrible game Tuesday in New York. Said Douglas: "Hopefully this starts something big for us."

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

All-Star reserves named.

For the East: Swin Cash, Cheryl Ford (nice!), Deanna Nolan, Becky Hammon, Pee Wee Johnson, and Natalie Williams.

For the West: Adrian Williams, Margo Dydek, Yo Griffith, Katie Smith, Lauren Jackson, and Tamecka Dixon.

I think this is all pretty good -- the coaches picked up the deserving folks missed by the fans. Also very nice to name Hammon -- the league will name replacements for her and Cynthia Cooper on Monday.

Two top players who didn't get the nod were Marie Ferdinand and Nykesha Sales. Some LA-haters will no doubt complain that Coach Cooper cheated by taking Dixon over Ferdinand. But their numbers are so close that you can't get too mad. Plus, maybe Sales and Ferdinand will bet picked to fill in the injury spots.
The Mystics don't really have a good center, and that will make tonight's match-up against the Monarchs an Yo Griffith especially tough. Mique is questionable. Just to finish .500, Washington will have to go 15-8 in its remaining games. Doesn't look too good....

Former Mystic Nikki McCray explains why she was almost named an All-Star starter despite averaging 3.5 points per game this year: "It's really a popularity contest anyway. It's great to know I'm still popular in this league and the fans know what I can do." She says that her value this year has been on the defensive end.
Last night's games:

1. Detroit got back to winning by beating the Stars 99-88. It broke the WNBA record by scoring 56 points in the first half. There were 6 Shock players in double figures. Said Swin (career high 26 points): "After the loss against Phoenix, I just did a little soul-searching."

2. New York spanked Connecticut. Motivated by the loss of Hammon, other players like Robinson and Whitmore stepped up. Robinson was playing hurt, but still had one of her best games, scoring 22.

The Sun are not looking good. Coach Thibault used to think that they were just underachievers. "But nearly halfway through the Sun's first season in Connecticut, here's another theory: Maybe the Sun simply aren't as good as Thibault thought."

So they might be looking for a trade to get some help inside. Rebecca Lobo, local fan favorite, just hasn't really been competing. Last night, she had 0 points.

3. Oh, the Lynx. How did they lose this game? Shot better than 50%, Smith had 20, Svet had 21. They were ahead most of the game...

But it wasn't enough -- Houston won 71-69. Swoopes scored 19 in the second half, and Janeth Arcain drained a shot with 2 seconds left to give the Comets the victory.

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

The Duke message board is back up (thanks to Barry for the link). Fans there are feeling optimistic about recruiting after some positive indications from Alexis Hornbuckle and Tasha Humphrey.

So the big question is: what's the latest from Candace Parker?
Serena beat Capriati in a great match. She will have a chance for revenge against Henin in the finals.

Venus beat Davenport and will play Clijsters, the other part of the evil Belgian combo. USA! USA!
Lieberman on the All-Star voting results: she says Cash was the biggest miss. "Cash will find her way to New York; her name is sure to be called when the WNBA All-Star reserves are announced Wednesday. But it's ridiculous she won't be on the court for tipoff."

Probably true... but Nancy doesn't say which forward should be booted, Catchings or Holdsclaw. That's always the tougher question.

A real Eastern Conference All-Star team (freed from the pre-set position assignments) would have Pee Wee at point, Catchings switched to a shooting guard, Swin at 3, and Holdsclaw and Phillips inside. Maybe sometime during the game we'll get to see that line-up on the floor.
Back home, the Lynx aren't drawing any fans -- attendance is down over 10% from last year. Strangely, contrary to this report a few days ago, Pam Schmid says overall league attendance is up this year.

But the good news in Minneapolis: Gopher attendance has been up, and next year Minnesota could get some home-court advantage for the tournament.

These two trends may be linked: one of the fans in the StarTrib article says that his family dropped their Lynx season tickets and got Gophers season tickets instead.