Women's Hoops Blog: September 2003

Inane commentary on a game that deserves far better

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Twins win!!! and the Giants. Good day here.
Sue Bird is taking over the billboard in front of NikeTown Seattle.

In customer voting, Bird beat out Ray Allen, Lance Armstrong, Mia Hamm, and Marion Jones.
UConn thought it was close with Chante Black... but lost to Duke. The Huskies have received no verbal commitments during the fall recruiting period.
US Coach April Henrichs is ready for the game against Norway tomorrow. And there's a lot at stake.

"A victory on Wednesday would validate her decisions to remake the national team with a blend of youth and experience, to play a melting-pot style that she feels best represents a melting-pot nation. A defeat would dilute United States dominance in the sport, extinguish spectator and news media interest, and blur Heinrichs's bold vision of evolutionary soccer."

The players are hoping that the World Cup might reinvigorate fan and corporate interest in women's soccer, and thus revive the WUSA. But if the US gets knocked out early, there's little chance of that. That's some pressure.

Monday, September 29, 2003

Coach G scores again: 6'5" Chante Black has committed to Duke.

Said Black's high school coach: "Any school in the country would have given her a scholarship. When Pat Summitt comes into a gym, it's real easy to make an emotional decision. Gino Auriemma was in the school last week and the secretaries are going gaga. These high-profile people can make you make an emotional decision, and I think Chante showed she has a really good head about her."

(Geno, not Gino, but whatever.)

Sunday, September 28, 2003

More on Althea Gibson, the Jackie Robinson of tennis.

Althea was born poor. She also died poor -- in part because she played during an era before big money, in part, perhaps, because the world wasn't ready to pay a black woman athlete to plug products. She was unhappy with her inability to gain endorsements, and the end of her career -- like the end of her life -- can only be described as bittersweet.

As the first African-American woman to win a grand slam, it's hard not to think of her as a player who blazed the trail that Venus and Serena are now on. But Althea lived out her life in obscurity, maintaining only minimal contact with the game, and only from a distance.

"There would be no Venus and Serena Williams had Gibson not torn apart the color barrier nearly a half-century before, and yet when Gibson died yesterday, at 76, neither sister had ever met her."

Said Venus today: "Her accomplishments set the stage for my success, and through players like myself, Serena, and many others to come, her legacy will live on."
More soccer blogging...

A nice win for the US over North Korea today. It's really special to watch this team play. I'm not much of a soccer fan, but I feel like I've been cheering for this group of women for years. There's a sense of continuity -- and a sense that this really is a team -- that you just don't see elsewhere, especially in international competition.

Mia Hamm rested for the day, and her younger teammates took over -- Cat Reddick scored twice. Even though her famous fiancee had taken the day off to see her play, Mia was fine sitting.

"I was fine with the decision," said Hamm. "You balance between wanting to stay sharp but also understanding that another day's rest is going to help. So the athlete in you wants to be competitive, but our team was great today. As soon as we got the second goal and definitely the third goal, I knew I wasn't going in."

The elimination play now begins, and the US will face Norway on Wednesday. The US and Norway are probably the two best teams in the world, and the US-Norway rivalry is the best in the game. It's too bad they're playing so early, but it should be awesome.

The depth of the US team should continue to help. But they will have to find some way to score other than off set-pieces once they start facing the other top teams.

ESPN2 Wednesday night. Be there or be square.
Sad news: Althea Gibson, tennis pioneer, passed away this morning.
The US soccer team faces North Korea today. When North Korea is in the house, there's always a potential for the absurd.

Jin Pyol Hui, for example, explained earlier what gets her fired up: "I am determined to do my best to bring joy and happiness to Kim Jong Il."

Aren't we all...

Saturday, September 27, 2003

In tomorrow's WaPo, Emily Badger reports on Maryland's new strategy to maintain Title IX compliance: make cheerleading a varsity sport.

Some observers are skeptical of the move.

"With other conferences obviously not engaging in bona fide competition in cheerleading -- that's not to say one school can't -- but it seems like they're looking for the easiest way out, that their intent is to conform to the letter of the law, but not necessarily the spirit," said Donna Lopiano, the CEO of the Women's Sports Foundation. "If they had club teams that wanted varsity status, why go and manufacture one out of cheerleaders?"
Jere Longman on the WUSA's marketing mistakes. Some market researchers have suggested that the league focused its advertising on the wrong fans.

"Perhaps the most troubling discovery in [the] research was that girls - the W.U.S.A.'s core audience - found the league to be "uncool" once they reached middle school. They became "somewhat embarrassed" to consider themselves fans or to wear league merchandise, he said. When they watched games on television, they tended to watch them alone instead of with friends."

The WNBA doesn't have quite the same audience, but there are still some lessons to be learned here.
Nell Fortner resigned as coach and GM of the Fever yesterday.

She says that she wants to pursue other career opportunities, but obviously the Fever's disappointing performance -- and failure to make the playoffs -- was part of the reason for her decision.

Lin Dunn, former Storm coach, and Ron Rothstein, former Sol coach, have been mentioned as possible replacements.

Friday, September 26, 2003

At ESPN.com, Michelle Akers had a chat yesterday. What's the worst part about being retired? "I miss being out on the field kicking *** with my team."

Also at ESPN, Marc Connelly and Rob Stone have their thoughts on yesterday's match.
Over at dotcom, Lobo reflects on her retirement and her years in the league.

"I am not retiring to join the convent or some freakish cult that makes you drink Kool-Aid or root for Tennessee (just kidding)."
Tia Battle's mother says it wasn't Tia's decision to leave Vandy. Tia was released from the team, and so she started looking for another place to play. No one will say why she was released.
Ailene Voisin at the SacBee says this past season may have been the seminal year for the WNBA.

"While the WUSA was stumbling toward its final weeks, the WNBA was taking another step forward with dramatic playoff matchups and compelling story lines that led to record-setting television ratings, and franchise-best playoff attendance figures in Sacramento and most notably Detroit for the Shock's clinching victory."
Mendiola sentences yesterday -- Piero got three years, Eddie got four. But they may be eligible for parole after 6 months. Giuli and Gio were again in court in Idaho yesterday with their brothers.

Giovanni will be sentenced in a month.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Next up is North Korea.

North Korea has been whining the whole tournament. The refs are bad. The fields are bad. The hotels are bad. Etc.

North Korea needs to win to keep playing.

Tune in Sunday -- 2.30 Eastern time on ABC -- and cheer for the Yanks.
US smokes Nigeria.

Don't mean to rub it in, but... in your face.

Mia Hamm had two goals and an assist. At 31, she's considered to be past her prime. But now that all of the pressure is off, she's playing the best soccer of her life.
On August 15, the LA DA's office said it would decide within two weeks whether to charge Latasha Byears with any criminal charges related to the alleged sexual assault.

It's September 25. Still no word.
And Minnesota has convinced Natasha Williams to join the Gophers. The 6'3" center is from Jamaica. She says she can handle the weather.
Not surprisingly, Mickie DeMoss is having fast success as a recruiter. She has received commitments from Samantha Mahoney, Chante Bowman, and Sade Buley.
The conference shake-ups may not be over: the ACC is wooing Notre Dame.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

And in Thursday's Times, Jere Longman continues his excellent series on the women's World Cup. This article profiles midfielder Shannon Boxx.
Tomorrow in the World Cup, the US faces Nigeria. Nigeria is known for its rough -- and occasionally dirty -- play.
Connecticut celebrates the career of Rebecca Lobo.

Says the Courant: "After a college career that thrust the University of Connecticut into the hearts of many, an Olympic gold medal, a professional career that helped launch the WNBA and a return to Connecticut in her final professional season, Lobo leaves a game forever changed by her involvement."

Says Geno: "It would be hard to put into a short paragraph what she has meant. All the things that go into making Rebecca Lobo who she is - I think the simple way to say it is that she might have had the biggest impact of any player ever at any program in the college game. She was able to take the game to a national level."

Mike Anthony remembers the UConn days and the national championhip, which was the highlight of her career.

Lobo, who is planning on having kids before too long, is hoping to stay involved with the WNBA and the Sun, perhaps as an announcer.
Joe Tait, who called the Rockers games on the radio, is sad to see the team go.

He thinks the WNBA made a mistake by expanding too fast and diluting the talent pool. He also says the WNBA should do something more to get local college players on local teams. The Rockers might have had a much bigger following if Katie Smith had been on the team.
If the Rockers move to the Bay Area, it looks like they'll be in San Jose rather than Oakland or SF. Too bad for me -- San Jose is pretty far. But still closer than Sacramento.

Whatever happens to the Rockers, the WNBA will try to figure it out soon in order to give the new place time to ramp up and sell tickets.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

In the World Cup, Cat Reddick -- a former high school basketball star -- has taken over for Brandi Chastain as a defender.

Chastain, who broke her foot, could be back later in the tournament, but not for at least a week.
Lobo retires.

"It's time to move on with my life," she said. "It's a decision I made around the All-Star break. I still love playing, but there are other things I want to do. If I was playing 35 minutes a game, it might be different, but that's not the circumstance. I loved playing for the Sun."
Speaking of Barry, he has a new interview with Coach Vanderveer up at Full Court. Here's one excerpt:

Barry: How do you respond to some individuals who say that Stanford has underachieved the past two years, at least in terms of its postseason performances? What about the rise of Duke, Purdue, and other schools into the nation's elite? Is it fair to say that the 1997 Final Four loss to Old Dominion and the 1998 first-round loss to Harvard had much greater impacts than just the losses themselves?

Van Derveer: I think the loss to Old Dominion was very disappointing. That was the last time we were at the Final Four. But how many national titles does Duke have? Zero. I don't feel bad about what we have done. Stanford is a unique opportunity of academics and athletics. I am very proud of what we have accomplished. This past year, if anything that has happened, from 1997 on, that has unfortunately defined our postseason, it is injuries. Early on, we were fortunate and had kids healthy and able to go to the Final Four and win national titles.

Subscription required for the full thing.
We're back...

nice column by Luther Keith in the Detroit News yesterday.

"The worst-to-first story of the Shock was great sports drama and the first time in history any professional sports team has pulled off such a turnaround in one year. . . As a former sports writer and as a fan, I have never heard The Palace of Auburns Hills louder than the deafening din made by a wildly enthusiastic WNBA record crowd of 22,076 people."

Thanks to Barry for the link.

Saturday, September 20, 2003

Sara has been working her butt of for months getting ready for tonight -- the Girls Inc. "Women of Taste" fundraiser at the Oakland Museum of California.

Should be awesome. She'll be ready for some vaca when it's over, so we're heading up to Sonoma for a couple days (and will be mostly offline till Tuesday).

If anyone is in the Bay Area and feels like partying, come out to Oakland! I'll be camped out at the vodka tasting table.
Pittsburgh Rockers?
Lobo reconsidering retirement? Jeff Jacobs says she can still contribute.

"With a week remaining in the Connecticut Sun season, Lobo sounded convinced this was her final year of basketball. A solid nine-point, 31-minute performance against the dominant front line of the WNBA champion Detroit Shock has given her pause."
Mike Peticca on the Rockers' future (or lack thereof):

"One of the following scenarios is likely to develop:

"New ownership will keep the team in Cleveland.

"New ownership will move the team to another city. Published reports have mentioned Pittsburgh, Nashville, Tenn., and the San Francisco Bay Area as potential homes for a WNBA team.

"The WNBA will fold the team and make the Rockers' players free agents or available to the league's 13 other teams in a dispersal draft."

My vote is for SF.

Friday, September 19, 2003

Rockers gone.

Stupid Gunds...
Yesterday, the celebrations continued in Detroit.

The players are getting ready for the off season, and planning how to spend their $10,000 bonus check. Cheryl Ford wasn't too excited about the money: "The taxes kill you," she said.
More games on national TV next year -- in Australia.
More good news -- in addition to breaking the attendance record, the finals Game 3 was also got the highest TV rating of any WNBA game ever on ESPN2. The ratings still weren't great, but it's definitely improvement.

Not sure what this will all mean next year, but we should at least have a little momentum. Detroit has had a big increase in season ticket sales for next year.

After a rocky start to the year, the league had a strong finish.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Mia Hamm on the cover of SI. "The Reluctant Superstar" reads the cover, leading to an article titled "The Secret Life of Mia Hamm." Not free on line -- worth buying this issue to read about her.

"She's not built for celebrity. She can't play the game--any game--lightly, can't make breezy chitchat with strangers while all that's grinding inside her; she can't fake it. She's too busy trying to decide what's the right thing to do, too caught in her own crossfire, too wary of what lurks just below it. When a girl rises in a roomful of eight-to 14-year-olds in Sydney and asks Mia what her main goal in life is, she replies, "Not to embarrass myself." She's kidding. Sort of. Maybe."

I love Mia. But there is something about her -- she always seems a little sad. Probably been a rough week for her. But she's on the cover of SI, dammit. That's not too bad.
Voepel on the WUSA's demise, and what the WNBA can learn from it.

"[The] WUSA hit a brick wall, while the WNBA and LPGA had good weeks. And if there are not direct connections between all women's sports, there certainly is kinship, empathy, shared frustration and joy.

"The fictional Harvey Lacey was right: Nobody said it would be equal, regardless of how much we wish that it were. But the very real Julie Foudy also was right this week, when she said, 'We're not genetically predisposed to giving up.'"
The end of the WUSA has prompted some good blogging.

Justin Slotman has posts starting here and down.

Eric McErlain has posts here, here, and here.

In one post, Eric asks what we have to say about the future of women's professional team sports. I'm not sure there's much to be said that hasn't been said already.

Eric himself nails one fundamental truth about the sports market.

"From where I stand, most days it looks to me as if those Title IX babies are more interested in participating in sports, than just watching them (most days I can count 5 or 6 women jogging for every man I might see). Meanwhile, America is choked to the gills with men who spend their weekends glued to the couch watching every sport known to man (and include me among the guilty much of the time), yet most of them would die gasping for breath if asked to run a simple out pattern during a touch football game."

That's true, and we just might never be able to overcome that problem.

What can we do about it? I've said in the past that the league should focus on bottom-up rather than top-down marketing. Brian Straus at WaPo makes similar points about the WUSA.

"Emphasize building a fan base that attends games as opposed to scoring lucrative television contracts. . . . Sometimes you have to think initially small to make your eventual breakthrough. That's the reality of sports that actually succeed in the U.S."

In the short term, the WNBA (unlike major men's sports) isn't gonna make a lot of money from TV contracts. We need to start with team-by-team fan base -- we need to start locally.

As it stands today, the WNBA has a few great (and profitable) franchises -- Washington and New York are the best. San Antonio had a great first year; it may only be a honeymoon effect, but things are looking good for the Stars. And after their championship, there's a good chance that Detroit will start drawing fans consistently.

We also have a bunch of weak franchises. Some of them, frankly, probably won't be around much longer, and that doesn't bother me much, so long as we keep trying new cities. I'm all for trying new markets, including smaller markets that don't have major sports teams. Maybe Des Moines would love the WNBA?

But the point is -- in the short term, we need to try to build a viable league market by market, one team at a time.

There is also one other X factor, something that might change the league and its future. She's six feet tall. She's from Chino. She can do things no one else can, and she's got some attitude. It could be a new world once she hits WNBA arenas around the country.
The Sparks, on the other hand, are picking up the pieces and looking to next year. Next year should be easier, with no Byears-Mapp distractions, and with fewer injuries... but the Sparks also probably need some younger players with some more energy.

As the LA Times says, "the Sparks also don't want to fall into the same pit with Houston."

The Sparks do have the rights to Jackie Stiles, and that could help a great deal.
Loyal Detroit fans -- who have been through a lot -- are also celebrating.
The Shock players are working off their hangovers and thinking about the off-season.

"Captain Swin Cash said she doesn't know where she'll play or when she'll leave for her new pad in the Pittsburgh suburbs. Her immediate plans involve spending time at Shock center Ruth Riley's condo in South Beach and going to a few Pittsburgh Steelers games."

Swin & Ruth -- I could use some time in South Beach. Give me a call...
The Free Press publishes an editorial this morning, saying that in the last few days, women's sports "took two steps forward and one step back."

"For fans of the Shock, WNBA, all women's sports, there is a lesson. Talent without ticket sales doesn't score in the dollar-driven world of American sports. Fans have to put their money where their hearts are. The dreams of legions of Swin Cash and Mia Hamm wanna-bes depend on it."

I second that.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Looking to next year --

The good: next season will see the strongest rookie class ever, with Taurasi, Beard, Powell, and others. Diana's skills, combined with her confidence and charisma, could change the game.

"There's nobody more perfect to come into the league and help move it into the next few years," said Sue Bird. "She does everything and, to be honest, you haven't seen it all yet. She's made for the WNBA."

The bad: the Olympics threaten to muck up the whole season. Val has already indicated that the league will likely take a break for the Games. But the national teams want their players for several months of practice, not just a couple weeks during the actual Olympics.

Australia, in particular, has been taking a hard line -- it wants LJ and others to start playing with the squad in May, which would mean missing a huge chunk of the WNBA season.
The Free Press parties: "So go ahead, scream it -- WNBA CHAMPION DETROIT SHOCK! -- like the 22,076 fans at the Palace did. It happened in one of the wildest, most enjoyable sports nights we have had around here in a long time."

Check out the Free Press's great photo gallery here.

It was a great night for Laimbeer. Great to see his excitement an his huge smile at the end.

The Shock were especially excited at how they shut down Leslie. "We beat her down!" screamed forward Cheryl Ford. "You lost! Go home! See ya!"

Riley, who has had an up and down career in the WNBA since her championship at Notre Dame, finally fulfilled her potential. Last night, it seemed like she hit every jumper she took from the elbow. And she netted the MVP. Said Riley, "I still don't even know what happened."

Chris McCosky at the Detroit News says Powell's steal with 2:43 left was the key play of the game, and epitomized the hustle and intensity that has made this team a champion.

And a franchise that almost disappeared now has a great future. "This is just the beginning," said Laimbeer.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Leslie's oblique complaint: "This is probably the most-physical game that I've ever played in my life," she said. "I guess this is where our game is going."

Coach Cooper was more gracious. "You couldn't ask for a better game than what you got out there today," he said. "The Detroit Shock are definitely worthy of this championship."

On the winning side, Ruth spoke the truth. "It's an amazing story," Riley said. "But honestly, it all starts with Coach." Right on. What Coach Laimbeer has done this year is truly incredible.
Awesome game. Detroit is the champion, the first ever from the East. And they won before a crowd of over 22,000, the biggest ever.

Ruth Riley was off the damn hook. 27 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks. Great coaching by Laimbeer, who put Riley at the elbow, in the seam of LA's 2-3 zone.

Nolan hit the key three-pointer to put the Shock up for good. A great finish.

Leslie shot only 5-19, and she fouled out at the end. She and her teammates may well complain about the foul disparity, which was significant, though not huge. But there was lots of rough physical play underneath -- some questionable calls both ways, and some missed calls both ways. The refs didn't determine the outcome.

It was Detroit's energy that was the difference. It was great to see. Worst to first, and the dawn of a new power.
Voepel's prediction: it's a toss-up.

"If this game were in L.A., obviously, you'd say the Sparks had it. However, it being in Detroit makes it a lot different -- but not because of what that does to the Sparks. Rather, because of how the homecourt advantage has seemed to elevate their opponents in these playoffs."
For the most part, the players on the floor tonight grew up without having a pro league to watch and dream about. On the day after the WUSA's demise, tonight's game has even more meaning.
Let's get ready to rumble.

The Shock are ready. They were close to getting booted on Sunday; now they have a chance for the ring.

The Palace tonight could host a sellout crowd of over 22,000. Laimbeer is asking all the fans to get there early to help get the team fired up.

The Detroit fans have by now learned to hate LA and its star.

"It's no secret that a lot of people across the league feel that the L.A. Sparks are a pretty aggressive team, that they get away with a lot of stuff," ESPN analyst Ann Meyers said. "There's a lot of players around the league who feel that way. And Lisa gets pretty beat up, but I think Lisa dishes it out, too. That's just kind of the way it is. But I think they deserve to have that swagger."

It should be quite an event.

"It's really going to be emotional," said Swin Cash. "You dream about playing in a game like this. It's what you live for ... what you play for all year long. Every possession will count, and you have to take care of the ball."

Monday, September 15, 2003

Back home, Pam Schmid at the StarTrib does some old school reporting. I mean, seriously old school -- she tells the story of the WBL, its collapse, and its lasting impact.

Read the whole thing.
Back to hoops -- it all comes down to Tuesday night at the Palace.

"Game 3 of the WNBA finals will either be the extension of the league's old guard or the beginning of a new age," says Mike Terry of the LA Times.

Swin is ready. "This would be special because in the beginning everyone thought [Coach] Bill [Laimbeer] was this big, arrogant Bad Boy who didn't know anything, and I was this naive Connecticut girl who thought she could win every single game," she said. "For us to got from worst to first — and I'm talking really worst to first — would be tremendous."
The World Cup, however, will go on.
Vecsey tells a bit about the WUSA's founder, John Hendricks. He fell in love with the game, but "[a]t the cost of millions of dollars, he came to realize that there was precious little corporate money either for female athletes or for soccer."

Vecsey continues:

"I would have bet that waves of young women and their families would flock to W.U.S.A. games in places like suburban Long Island, where I live. But attendance for the New York Power was a disaster, and the league cut jobs, whittled salaries and wheedled corporate America for sponsorships that did not materialize."
Jere Longman on the WUSA's failure.

"Even with good intentions of starting a women's league, investors have acknowledged they made mistakes. The first was hiring Barbara Allen, a former Quaker Oats executive, to be the league's initial chief executive. She knew little about soccer, commuted from Denver to WUSA headquarters in New York the first season and proved an ineffective leader. She left after one season."

"Sufficient television exposure also proved elusive. Most games last season were broadcast on the PAX network, not a traditional sports channel. And, officials conceded, the league never really decided who its target audience should be - young girls or traditional sports fans."

But there is hope.

The possibility of reviving the W.U.S.A. was left open if sufficient sponsorship can be secured in the coming months. "I haven't given up," said Mia Hamm. "I believe too much in the product and players."
Terrible news today: the WUSA has folded.

The women's pro soccer league said that it was hitting its attendance targets, but it just couldn't get enough corporate sponsors to stay afloat.

There will always be pro tennis and golf... but as far as pro leagues for American women, the WNBA now stands alone.

We can expect scores of articles over the next couple days reexamining the same issues: why guys don't watch women, why women's leagues can't make money, why women's sports are boring, etc etc etc. All the nonsense analysis aside, I'm sorry for the players and fans.
Barry Uhrman's chat live from Motown yesterday.
In the Solheim Cup, Annika and the Europeans smoked the Americans.
Aaron Micheal Hammer, 24 of Compton, has been arrested for investigation of murder in the death of Venus and Serena's sister.
The All-WNBA Teams were named yesterday.

First team: LJ, Leslie, Catchings, Smith, and Bird.

Second team: Ford, Swoopes, Cash, Teasley, and Nolan.

Where was Holdsclaw? One vote behind Cash for the final forward spot.
Detroit choked yesterday. But only for a few minutes. And at the end, Nolan and Holland-Corn came through.

Before Nolan even got to the line, her teammates knew those shot's were going in. She's money.

Earlier this year, Laimbeer called Holland-Corn into his office and told her that she'd be coming off the bench. It wasn't what she wanted to hear, but she didn't complain and she didn't stop working. Yesterday, she fulfilled her role perfectly.

It was a great game played before a great crowd of nearly 18,000. It was the second largest crowd in league history.

"For the WNBA, today was a great day I thought, especially in this town," Shock Coach Bill Laimbeer said. "We came out and played spectacular basketball. We were very focused. There was a little lack of intensity in the second half, but give L.A. credit. They played like champions and tried to break us down mentally. But our composure has been our strength all year, and our ladies stood up when it was time and made the plays."

Tuesday promises to be a big night.
Leslie said she couldn't remember whether she was fouled on the final play. Coach Cooper downplayed the refs' impact on the outcome.

"The referee is going to make the players win the ballgame," he said. "I thought it was good. I'm not crying about that because if I cry about that, I'd be crying about the whole game."

In fact, he thought Sunday's game was great.

"You know what, I'm enjoying this so much because the WNBA has definitely gone to another level," said Coop after the game. "I thought, 'What a great game.'"

Sunday, September 14, 2003

Great game today.

Our broadcast was blocked out because the SF bike race was on ABC (and Lance Armstrong was in our 'hood biking!). So we listened on the radio, then watched it on tape delay later.

Detroit almost let it slip away. In the first half, they were crushing the Sparks. Riley looked like the MVP, and Leslie could hardly get anything going. The Shock had a 19 point lead at one point. But LA came back strong in the second.

It started to look really shaky -- all of Detroit's youth and inexperience started to show. Kedra Holland-Corn saved the day. She stayed calm, and led the Shock with 19 points off the bench.

At the end, Nolan made the clutch free throws at the finish to give Detroit the one-point lead. Riley played good defense on LL and prevented her from getting a good shot off.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the Sparks were whining that Leslie was fouled on the last play. But there was a lot of contact both ways -- Leslie fouled Ruth to get the ball anyway.
A very sad tennis related note today: Yetunde Price, the older sister of Venus and Serena Williams, was shot to death in Compton. Yetunde had always been a role model for the young tennis stars. Condolences to the family.
Detroit fought hard all year to get home-court advantage. Now they need to take advantage of it.

Coach Laimbeer is excited about playing in front of the Detroit fans.

"We know we're going home to a tremendous crowd, our biggest crowd we've had in a long time,'' he said. "They've been very supportive of us all year long and it's going to be fun. It's going to be an atmosphere that only a few of them have experienced in their life.''

The Shock just need to make a few shots, and they'll be fine.
Coach Cooper says the Sparks need to play with more energy and work harder on the boards.

"It's tough to stop Cheryl Ford, Swin Cash and Ruth Riley when they get down low. But once they take a shot, we can't assume it's going in because they weren't shooting that well. We have to play until the ball goes in or we get the rebound."
LJ received 23 of 54 first-place votes for MVP. She finished with 406 total voting points; Catchings was second with 242. LJ is the youngest MVP ever.
During the off-season, Katie Smith will be back at OSU. She'll be working as an assistant in the women's basketball office and taking classes to get ready for dental school.

Saturday, September 13, 2003

During halftime of the game tomorrow, Barry Uhrman will be hosting at chat on WNBA.com. It's part of his prize for winning the virtual manager contest. Should be good -- don't miss it.
For the first time in months, we finally have internet connection at home. Blogging will therefore improve.

Disappointing night last night for those of us rooting for Detroit. 20 for 70 from the floor. That's brutal. Credit LA's defense.

Leslie beat up Riley on both ends of the floor. That match-up is key, and it's one-sided. It will take some serious team play to overcome the problems at center.

Laimbeer remains confident. "We lost Game 1," Laimbeer said. "But nothing that we saw out there tonight makes us any less confident in our abilities or in the eventual outcome of the series. We know what we did wrong."

They play well at home, so all is not lost.

Friday, September 12, 2003

Today is a sad day: my last day of work at the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

If anyone knows of any similarly fabulous legal jobs in the Bay Area, please let me know...
Remember when Coach Donovan said:

"If we don't make the play-offs, she doesn't deserve to be the MVP. Lauren is the best player in the league, but you have to lead your team to the play-offs. It's a well-rounded award for your defence, scoring, rebounding and what you do to make everyone else better. And you do have to be a play-off team. You can't be an MVP sitting at home."

She now explains:

"I was quoted as saying she didn't deserve to be an MVP, which was never what I was saying. Lauren deserved to be an MVP - there's no question she had the best season of any player in this league. But the fear was that us not being a play-off team and going on a five-game losing skid would really affect her chances of getting that. There's never been a doubt in my mind, from day one of training camp, that Lauren Jackson was MVP this year."

So, you said "she doesn't deserve to be the MVP," but that "was never what I was saying"? Taking lessons from Bill Clinton?

Whatever. She's gonna win anyway. I think I probably would have voted for Swin, but I certainly can't complain about LJ's getting the hardware.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

LJ likes vegemite and Victoria Bitter, but hates the Aussie unitards.
Lieberman is excited about the series.

"Los Angeles, the two-time defending champion, is still the favorite, but Detroit matches up better with the Sparks than any other team in the league. The Shock's starting five players are just as athletic as the Sparks' starters, and although Detroit doesn't have five All-Stars, it has more talent 1 through 11. Like the Sparks, the Shock are just as capable of scoring from all five positions, and Detroit just might be the team that has an answer inside for L.A.'s Lisa Leslie and DeLisha Milton."
The Free Press tells again how Coach Laimbeer ended up coaching the Shock. It's a great part of Detroit's amazing rise to the top.

I (like everyone else) used to hate him during his player days. It's still hard to believe that the affable, even bubbly, players'-best-friend coach we see today is the same person.

But it given his love for the game, maybe we shouldn't be surprised.

"I do not find it odd that I'm coaching professional basketball," Laimbeer said. "It's professional basketball. It doesn't matter if it's women or men. That's the point I'm trying to get across. That it happened to be women, well, OK. So?"
Val had said earlier that the league would keep playing during the Olympics next year. This seemed crazy, especially for teams like Seattle -- who would be on the floor?

Sounds like she's now changed her mind.

"It's increasingly likely we will not play games during the Olympics," Ackerman told The Seattle Times yesterday. "We'd still do other activities so that the WNBA has some level of visibility. The details still have to be ironed out."

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Check out this article from the Times on sports' TV ratings.

Ratings for major sports events on TV are down dramatically this year. Some of this is just a function of particular events and players -- people want to watch the Lakers and Tiger and the Williams sisters more than they want to watch the Spurs and Shaun Micheel and Henin. But some of it is consistent with a long-term decline.

Why is it happening? Mostly it's just because there are so many other TV-watching options, sports and non-sports.

What's the relevance to women's hoops? Next time someone says that women's hoops is (a) boring, and (b) doomed, and offers bad/declining ratings as evidence, remind her that poor TV ratings cut across different sports and genders.
Laimbeer is ready. He's been ready all year.

"I think everyone in the league was waiting for this series all year long," he said. "I know L.A. has, I know we fully expected to play L.A. in the finals, and here we are. It's great for the league. It's great for both teams. We're pretty identical ball clubs. We're both big, we're both strong, we can run, we can shoot, we got some scorers at every position, and so I think foul trouble and injuries may play some roles in this series."
Nolan update:

"I'm feeling pretty good, 50 percent better than Sunday," she said. "It's going to take a lot for me not to play (Friday), but I'm not going to push myself where it hurts real bad, either. I'd be satisfied if I'm 85 or 90 percent. I hope to do some shooting and a little running Thursday to see if I can go."

Sounds like she's playing.
Marcos Breton at the SacBee says Sacramento fans and players should stop whining when they lose to LA.

"I hope against hope that a Sacramento team either beats L.A. or shuts the hell up if they don't. Because while there can be honor in losing, there's none in whining."


Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Final attendance figures: down from 9,228 per game to 8,826 per game. Not a huge drop, but definitely not a great sign.
Jackson will win the MVP.

"The unofficial word is it's official," a source said yesterday. "It's just not official."

Presumably, it will be awarded at the finals.
With Penicheiro hurt, Lawson played most of the game. She made some incredible shots down the stretch, and ended with 12 big points.

Still, I'm not sure it was the right call to leave Ticha on the bench. Kara didn't do a great job getting the offense running, and she spent too much time just dribbling the ball out top waiting for something (or nothing) to happen.

Kara is a better shooter than Ticha for sure, but Ticha is a better passer. And passing, after all, is the core responsibility for a point guard. Passing is what they needed -- and what they didn't have -- at the end.
I didn't get to go to the game last night. I wanted to, but I was with a bunch of other folks who didn't. We watched on TV, and near the end of the game (going down to the wire, great finish), my friends were like: "Dude, we should have gone."

No kidding.

It was certainly exciting, even though it wasn't the prettiest game ever, and it wasn't the result I wanted.

The Monarchs were proud of their effort, but thoroughly disappointed with the result.

Said owner Gavin Maloof: "We're very, very proud of what he's done and proud of this team. But I'm getting sick of losing to teams from Los Angeles. Whether it's the Kings or the Monarchs, one of these days we're going to beat L.A."

Many of the Monarchs were upset with the reffing. The blocking call on DeMya Walker really made them mad.

I hate to agree with the refs or LA, but to me it looked like an obvious flop. Walker's acting just wasn't that good. Her timing was off -- she went down too late. And you can't really get a charge call inside like that when the offensive player is starting right next to you from a stand-still.

Monday, September 08, 2003

There was a time when it was very hard to be a Minnesota Gophers fan. They were terrible for years, partly because they were dragged down a second-class, shady coach.

After being fired by Minnesota, Cheryl Littlejohn took a job at Chicago State, but she apparently didn't get any better there. CSU just fired her. They say they can't disclose the reason for the termination, and they've ordered all employees not to talk to the media.

Nice work, Cheryl.
I did get to see the Capriati-Henin semi at the US Open on Friday night. It was devestating. I think this might have been one of Jenny's last chances.

I don't like those Belgians. Henin is looking pretty awesome. But bring back the Williams sisters!
And the game last night really was a disaster. A 25 point win, and it wasn't even that close.

But the Monarchs have another chance. They need to forget about last night and focus on tonight, their next and last chance to move on.

I hope Ticha gets back. It should end up being a great game. I'll get to see it, and if I can find someone with a car, I might even go to the game!
Also hurt last night was Ticha Penicheiro. She went down with a bruised rib. The Monarchs don't stand much of a chance without her.

"She's having a hard time breathing," coach Whisenant explained. "If she can play, we won't really know until (today)."

The cause of the injury was a knee from LL. As if Sacramento fans needed another reason to hate her...
Laimbeer is ready:

"We're not the champions of the WNBA," Laimbeer said. "We're gonna try to be champions of the WNBA. This year. And tonight will be a great winning experience for us, win or lose. We're coming. We're bringing it. We're gonna have some fun."

"We fulfilled the promise that we made, and that was for our organization, our fans," Shock Coach Bill Laimbeer said. "This next one (the WNBA title) is for us."

Seems like Detroit fans are finally getting into it too: there were over 13,000 there yesterday.

But there is one piece of very bad news -- Deanna Nolan might miss the finals after brusing a bone in her back.
Ford and Cash, both with double doubles. It was a powerful combo that the Sun just couldn't overcome.

Connecticut, however, feels happy about its performance and its season. They lost to a better team in the end, but they played tough down to the wire.

"We feel good about the way we fought," Nykesha Sales said. "We all played really hard. It gives us something to think about for next year because I think we definitely showed that we can contend for a championship."
We were in Yosemite for the weekend for a wedding, now back to work. I'm in Pasadena for court and Sara is back home. Unfortunately, didn't get to see any of the games (national parks aren't great for TV), but it sounds like it was an awesome weekend.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

Ted has threatened to kick my of the byline of this page if I don't get back to it. Just a few more weeks of craziness at work and I will be back. I promise.

I know the WNBA playoffs are still going on right now, but I just wanted to say how excited I am for the college season to start again! With the expanding television coverage (which the WNBA needs too!), I am hoping we are going to be able to see even more teams on national TV. Even my Minnesota Gophers are going to get a nationally televised game on CBS! The gophers schedule came out the other day and their Jan. 3 game at home against South Carolina will be on CBS. Yeah Gophs!!!

The Gophers stars Janel MacCarville (Jr.) and Lindsay Whalen (Sr.) will be joined this fall by an excitng group of freshman players -- all from MN!! Eastview’s Jamie Broback, Lakeville’s Liz Podominick and Fosston’s Kelly Roysland make up the new class of Gophers. It should be a great season!
Candace Parker is probably the top recruit in high school.

Over the weekend, she announced that she's narrowed her choices to 5 schools: DePaul, Duke, Maryland, Tennessee, and Texas.

Most notably, she eliminated UConn from contention.
Jacobs tries to fire up the UConn fans by reminding them that they are supposed to hate Laimbeer.

"Listen up. This series against Laimbeer and Detroit is an important building block in the WNBA history in Connecticut. The game has already evolved in our state. Title IX isn't a new song in these parts. The love affair with the UConn players is intense, everlasting and baffling sometimes to outsiders. Yet it isn't only graduation turnover that keeps the love fresh, it's the rivalries. And to grow the WNBA game, the Sun will need to nurture some old-fashioned hatred."
Cleveland is gone for this year, and may not be back next year:

"The seven-year old WNBA will likely be back in 2004, but there are whisperings beneath the radar about individual franchises, including Cleveland's. Although Rockers personnel have been steadfastly tight-lipped about the team's status, there is apparent concern. A source close to the team recently said that it is possible Cleveland will not have a WNBA team next season."
What would the year have been like if Hammon had been able to play? Coach Adubato is sure they'd have made the playoffs.

And what to do about T-Spoon next year when Hammon returns?

Newsday's prediction: "The team also could expect Hammon to start at point guard in place of Teresa Weatherspoon, 37, the five-time All-Star who never seemed more ready for retirement than after a season in which she set career lows in minutes, points, assists and steals."
The Courant on the relationship between Coach Laimbeer and Swin Cash, which has been the cornerstone of this season.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Out east, Detroit dominated Cleveland to finish out the series.

Deanna Nolan went berserk, hitting 6 three-pointers and scoring 26 points. Ford dominated the paint, leading the Shock to a huge rebounding edge.

"It feels pretty good," Nolan said. "We know what we're capable of doing. Sunday night didn't show it, but tonight did. And, you know, I think if this team can play like we did tonight, no doubt about it, we're WNBA champions."

There were almost no fans there to watch the game.... but who cares?
It was a really tough loss for the Comets. They couldn't believe Penicheiro made that shot, couldn't believe they're out in the first round again.

The future is anything but clear for Houston, which has a bunch of veteran stars who may not be around forever.

Swoopes plans to stay around for awhile, but it can't be easy. The glory days of championships and big crowds are gone, at least for now.

Michelle Snow might be the future. She had a rough first half last night, and at times this year, her coach and teammates didn't think she played up to her ability. But her talent no one doubts.
What a night.

Penicheiro hit the game-winner with two seconds left to put Sacramento up by 2. Swoopes drove the floor and shot, but it clanked out. Sacramento advances.

It was a miracle for the Monarchs: "Hallelujah and praise the Lord," said Penicheiro, who had scored only one point before the fateful basket. "I refused to go to overtime. I hadn't made a basket all night, and they weren't expecting me to shoot. I decided to take it and, thank God, it went in."

Yo had an amazing game, with 27 points and 17 rebounds.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Coach Donovan hints that if they get lucky and get the #1 pick, they'll take Taurasi. If they get something else, they'll look for a trade.

"As a non-playoff team, you're looking at one of the top six players in this draft," Donovan said. "Can that pick help us? Absolutely. If we were so fortunate to get the number one pick, that player could definitely help us. If you get two through six, it may become very valuable in a trade."

With its largely international cast, Seattle could be in a really tough spot next year depending on how the league decides to resolve the conflict with the Olympics.
Dixon on the series:

"They tried to pressure us in the second half and we handled it a lot better today than we have in other days. This was a very physical playoff series, and the last three minutes of the game got really crazy. They kept scratching and clawing all the way to the end. I have to take my hat off to Minnesota, they really gave us a battle. I don't think any team could have prepared us more for the rest of the playoffs than they did in this series."
Katie Smith, post-game: "We got a taste of it, what it takes. We just couldn't get past this first round."

Monday, September 01, 2003

Well, the Lynx lost. LA is just too damn good.

And we just couldn't score. Tamika was awesome again. But Svet was nearly invisible... again.

Oh well. I'm glad we took it to three. Feel like we made a good run at it.