Women's Hoops Blog: June 2004

Inane commentary on a game that deserves far better

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Looks like Sue Wicks will be heading back to Rutgers as an assistant under Coach Stringer. That's great news.
Kornheiser on Marion Jones: "there is enough smoke around this woman to choke a horse, and you have to wonder if somewhere there's any fire."
The greatest sports story that has never quite materialized: Gentleman Tim loses in the quarters.
Congrats to Sara's old coach, Chris Wielgus, on her induction into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame.
And a thrilling game out west too. Mwadi Mabika hit a desperation three at the buzzer to tie the game and send it to OT. The Sparks beat the Lib in the extra frame.

"I just threw it up there. I didn't even know who was on me," said Mwadi.

"Mwadi's always done that," said coach Cooper. "She hit a big shot in Phoenix last year to win a game for us there. She's been a big-shot shooter for us her whole career here."

Elena Baranova had an amazing game for New York. 27 points on 10-for-12 and 5-for-7 from outside. Plus 9 boards and 4 assists.

But the rest of her team didn't shoot terribly well and gave the ball away too much. (Hammon: 10 turnovers.)

"It was a heartbreaking loss for us," coach Adubato said.
Thrilling game in Detwah last night. Kelly Miller hit a 3-pointer with 0.6 seconds left to give the Fever a one point win over the Shock.

Catchings (19, 8, 5, 4) drove, drew defenders, and kicked it back to Miller on the baseline. "The first thing I did was look at the clock and see how much time was left," Miller said. "Tamika's a great passer. She hit me and I knocked it down."

Coach Laimbeer took some of the blame for the late game meltdown. "We had a four-point lead and we turned the ball over," he said. "I should have been up yelling, ‘Time out! Time out’ when we got stuck. We just aren’t making the plays we need to win basketball games."

The Shock have lost 3 in a row and fallen to 7-7 overall and 1-5 at home. "I think a lot of things right now are unexplainable," said Swin Cash. "We just have to keep after it."
Anna DeForge had 26 and the Mercury shot 53% to run past the Stars.

Said DeForge: "We controlled the momentum defensively, we shot a high percentage on the road and outrebounded them. Those are things we didn't get done at home a few days ago. So it was fresh in our minds."

The Stars are now 5-10 and heading on a road trip to the Seattle and LA. The SA Express news seems to have given up on the team, barely reporting on last night's game.
Alexis Hornbuckle pled not guilty to shoplifting charges. It is, as Dan Fleser says, fairly surprising that she's plead not guilty to such minor charges, especially when it appears she was caught on tape.

So what's going on? It looks like Alexis plans to place the blame on her co-defendant Andrea Ford. For moved unsucessfully to sever the trial. As her attorney said, "Often in these situations, one co-defendant is going to throw another under the bus."

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

In response to Gambo's worries about the effects of lesbian fans on young children, gay Mercury fans agree not to use their evil mind control for purposes of conversion.
Good night tonight: first game of Minneapolis YWCA league play. Our new team is all ex-Edina ballers, including Sara, her sister, and my sister. Pretty awesome. Mom bought us margaritas and pizza after.
Another women's hoops blog to check out: Blog do Basquete Feminino.

Some Portuguese required. Or, use Google's translating service.
The Brittany Hunter-Newbie story is another example of the immense and somewhat peculiar role that the message boards play in women's basketball.

The Colorado Daily has an article today exploring that very topic. The article quotes recruiting maven Sybil Marshall and Betty Bean, both Summitt legends.

Raider coach Marsha Sharp doesn't like the boards. "Probably three-fourths of the information on them about our team has no basis in truth," she said. "I actually encourage our players not to be a part of it, not to look at it." She's probably not alone in that sentiment.
University of Texas women's basketball head coach Jody Conradt will receive the 2004 CASEY Award from the Kansas City Sports Commission and Foundation on Tuesday, June 29, in honor to her outstanding achievements and contributions to amateur athletics. The CASEY Award recognizes exceptional achievement by an amateur sports athlete, coach or administrator, and the Award is open to all levels of ameteur competition and administration thoughout the United States.

Jody Conradt is just a class act. A pioneer of women's hoops and the first coach in NCAA women's history to lead her team to the national title with an undefeated record, she deserves all of the accolades she receives. Congratulations to the Longhorn Legend.
As rumored, Brittany Hunter is heading to UConn.

This seems to mark the end of one of the most bizarre recruiting wars in the history of women's college basketball.

Brittany herself apparently was leaning toward UConn out of high school. "I think deep down inside, she wanted to be there the first time," her high school coach said yesterday. But she ended up at Duke, in part because she and her family wanted a better academic program to go along with basketball.

When Brittany chose the Devils, Geno was upset. In response to the notion that Duke's academic reputation made it a better choice, he made his infamous restaurants quip. The remark prompted some typically energetic and hilarious responses from the Crazies.

After Hunter's dicision, Geno was also reportedly pretty rude to her family, including her stepfather Michael Jones. Michael Jones, under the name "Newbie," is a frequent poster at various women's hoops message boards, and he is currently one of the moderators of the Duke board. (Some have made dark suggestions that Jones's position as moderator might be evidence of some recruiting impropriety, but the message board, and thus his position, didn't even exist at the time of her decision.) News that Brittany was leaving Durham was first made public by Newbie on the boards.

Jones still doesn't like Geno. But as he says, the choice is hers, and she's decided to pull up stakes in Durham and head north.
Coach Thibault on whether other teams have noticed the Sun's success: "I would assume so. The most important thing is what we've shown ourselves. Irregardless of what other teams think, it's what we've done for our own confidence that matters."

Grammar police have issued a warrant.
Ann Killion reports in the Mercury News that not a single woman made Forbes's list of the 50 highest-paid athletes. Serena was closest.
LJ surprised at the response to the photos: "I didn't think it would be that big of a deal. I was kind of shocked, actually. I guess I was naive in thinking that people would react differently. I should have been prepared for this, but I wasn't."

Was she sleeping last year during the Sue Bird stuff?

She also says she'd consider posing for Playboy.
Swoopes, not getting calls, complains about the refs.
Coach Laimbeer, unhappy with his team's performance, plans to be tougher on his players. "It's not what I want to do," he said. "It wears on players eventually." But he needs to right the ship.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Tomorrow's Times reports that Title IX's biggest battlegrounds are now at high schools and junior highs around the country, where schools are facing lawsuits demanding equal treatment.

The lawsuits are often pushed by unlikely feminists: angry dads. "The angry dads won't tolerate going backwards," said Sue Hinrichsen, assistant executive director of the Illinois high school association. "They want what they had for their daughter. And they're not afraid to say something."
Coach Cooper, ready to leave the Sparks, even just to be an assistant in the NBA.

"Whatever they want," he said. "I feel I'm ready to be an NBA assistant."
John Gambadoro has a column in the Arizona Republic about his first trip to a WNBA game.

He assures us that the lesbian fan contingent was "harmless and not noticeable by young children." Let's pause for a moment to explore some of the implications of that statement:

Lesbians are potentially harmful. Especially to young children. How, you ask? Well, they may be contagious. Not physically contagious. More at some subtle psychological level. Like our daughters might see the lesbian lifestyle -- what with all of its WNBA games, Sleater-Kinney concerts, Subara Outbacks, vibrators, and home life free of patriarchal domination -- and decide to join the other team.

But as long as you encounter lesbians in a situation (like, say, a large sports arena) where your kids won't notice them, the grave threat is averted. So despite what you've heard, the WNBA is really pretty safe.

That all aside, Gambo makes some good points as well. He says the league should focus marketing to sports guys who have young daughters. He suggests that the league go out to various girls' youth sporting events. That's a good idea.

He also notes two advantages that the WNBA has over other pro sports: it's relatively cheap to go to games, and the players are very accessible. Again, the league should emphasize these benefits in its marketing.
Another big win for the Sun over the defending champs.

Coach Laimbeer said Connecticut was lucky to get the previous win at Mohegan. Last night he had to eat his words as Nykesha Sales gave the Sun the lead in the final minute and Detroit couldn't respond.

"We like lucky," Sales said. "We would rather be lucky every night. I don't know if that was a compliment, but if we're lucky, we're lucky. We were lucky two nights in a row."

"It's a bit trying right now," Laimbeer said. "We lose by two, lose by three, lose two, lose by four. ... It's not fun."

Lindsay Whalen had 13 assists, a franchise record. Detroit is now 1-4 at home.
Washington shot better than Houston, had more assists, fewer turnovers, and nearly as many boards, but Houston won the game by going to the free throw line 32 times.

Coach Chancellor almost yanked Sheila Lambert after she kept giving the ball away, but his assistants talked him in to leaving her on the floor. She ended with 11 points, 11 rebounds, and 5 assists.
The Lynx lost again, slipping nearer to the West's cellar.

Sveta was back and gave some good minutes off the bench. And Ohlde was great. But Minnesota gave the ball away a lot and got killed on the boards.

Katie Smith, who has had several off-games this year, had her worst yet. 5 points on 1-for-3 shooting.

"There are times when Katie removes herself from the play and allows other players to take over the game," coach McConnell Serio said. "She was very passive offensively for us tonight. It's something we'll need to talk about."
The Mercury's comeback ran out of steam, and the Monarchs came out with a win. It was an important win for Sacto, whose confidence has been rattled by their shaky start.

"We could still climb out of the hole we are in," said Kara Lawson. "I mean, that's our goal."

Taurasi had 16, and she drew a pretty good crowd to Arco. "My daughter is very sensitive," said one fan, "so when she cries, I tell her she needs to be tough like Diana Taurasi."
Michelle Wie lost at the U.S. Amateur yesterday. After the stunning loss, she was inconsolable.

"Nothing really worked out for me today from start to finish. I just played terribly," Wie said. "I think I played the worst that I've played all week. I only made four birdies, and I made a lot of bogeys, and I gave a lot of strokes away."
ESPN is the subject of a federal antitrust inquiry.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Indiana made only 9 field goals yesterday. That's gotta be a record.

"I think we struggled offensively -- well I know I did, " said Tamika Catchings, who shot 1-for-11.

"We didn't get that many open shots, and when we did we just didn't make them," said coach Brian Winters.
That is very good news from Barry regarding the Merc's revenue. With overall attendance down, how did they do it? More paying tickets? More higher priced tickets? Lots of Taurasi jerseys? (Speaking of which... I'd like one of those. Someone down there wanna send one up?)

Contrast that good news with this somber article from Pam Schmid on the state of the league and the Lynx.

One other note about attendance: as Val often notes, attendance tends to rise through the season. Newspaper article often say attendance is down compared to last year's average. But some times, like Connecticut, are below last year's overall average, but still ahead of where they were at this point in the season.
Some VERY good news...Phoenix Mercury revenue is up 39 percent, second in the league behind Detroit.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

The saddest part of the Van Gorp article is her description of her treatment by the New York Liberty. Michelle says that the organization scheduled meetings with her to discuss her orientation and tried to discourage her and her partner from being seen together. I wonder if that sort of thing still goes on around the league.

See discussion at WNBA Talk.
Michele Van Gorp is out and proud. And I am so proud of her!

Everyone makes a controversy out of DOMA, and what I can't understand is people getting hung up on the term 'marriage,'" Van Gorp emphasizes. "It's not that gay people necessarily want the term 'marriage.' "We have a partnership in life, as much as any straight couple does, and for the government to say, 'Well, you can't have the benefits that come along with that, that everybody else gets,' is just wrong.

"People try to say it's not a civil issue. Well, it is a civil issue. We don't care what you call it. If you want to call it a civil union, you can call it a civil union. If you want to call it marriage, call it marriage."

Additionally, Van Gorp firmly believes that when it comes to federal policy, a separation of church and state must be observed. "For you to sit there and give me religious reasons why we shouldn't have gay marriage is just ludicrous," Van Gorp remarks. "I think it comes down to fiscal policy, because no matter how much a politician agrees or doesn't agree with it, if it's something that's fiscally good, and it's going to benefit the government, then they're going to be for it."

Van Gorp's message to WNBA players who are not out in the league is simple. "It's a personal choice for everyone, and if you're not comfortable enough with yourself to be out, then you're not. And if that makes you happier not to be out, then don't be out. But don't be afraid if you are out. There are a lot of people who are straight, and there are a lot of people who are gay. That's just how life is."

Van Gorp plans to attend Twin Cities Pride Festival.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Jayda Evans's piece on LJ's photos has been syndicated and picked up by papers around the country.
Winning matters. Detroit is reaping the benefits of last year's championship run with strong attendance this year, up 13% over last year.

"I’ve noticed there are a lot more people in the stands," said Deanna Nolan, "all ages and all races now. People that we didn’t see those first two, three years that I was here. We still have our same core fans, those that you see every game. But now you can tell that more people are catching on, not only to the Shock, but the WNBA in general."
Alan Mills, Wimbledon tournament referree, on the mistake in Venus's match: "It’s a bizarre situation, but it’s the players’ responsibility. If they feel something is wrong, they should challenge the umpire. Unfortunately, Venus didn’t query it at the time, they played point after point and the result stands. I’m afraid Venus has left the tournament."

Venus handled the situation with class. "Sometimes I do lose track of the score and felt that maybe I had lost track again. I don’t question a lot of calls, I just play, and that’s what I did at that point," she said. "I don't think one call makes a match. I had some opportunities there, and it's unfortunate, but I'll learn from it."
Taurasi held the Mercury reasonably close in the first half, and DeForge had a huge second half to lead Phoenix to a come from behind win over the Lib. Diana ended with 20 and Anna with 26.

"We didn't do much of anything in the first half," said DeForge. "We couldn't let another game slide at home. It's a credit to our character, and a credit to the team sticking together and digging down and pulling out a big win.
San Antonio's miserable losing streak is over. The Stars had a nice performance last night and beat the Lynx, but they wonder why they can't play like that all the time.

"It's good that we played like that, but it's also bad," Marie Ferdinand said. "Look at what we've been doing to ourselves and look at what we are really capable of doing. It took us losing all those games to realize how good we could be."

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Taurasi on adjusting to the league: "Once you look at it, it's basketball. Being at UConn for four years prepared me as well as any college program could prepare you to play at this level with the pressures and expectations."

Taurasi on Okafor: "I think he’s going to be a twelve-year NBA player, and help whatever team he goes to defensively. You can’t teach that, the way he can time blocked shots and change the game with his defense."

Lieberman on Taurasi: "There have been players that have changed the game, and as history will bear out, I think she will be one of those rare players. She is so far advanced mentally than her years would indicate. I don't see anything in her that says "rookie." Her confidence is like a guy, and that separates her right there. She has all the elements for superstardom."

Van Chancellor on Taurasi: "She reminds me of the legend in her own mind, Nancy Lieberman. Right now Taurasi has not progressed to the point where she thinks she's as good as Lieberman thought she was."
Bizarre day at Wimbledon -- Venus loses in the second round, and during the match, the ump screwed up and gave her opponent an extra point.

Venus didn't say anything at the time. "I didn't want to lose my focus," she explained. "At the time, I felt that maybe I had lost track, or couldn't be sure. I thought I remembered her having only one serve, but then again, it's a long time ago now."

Tournament officials confirmed that a mistake had been made but said the result would stand.
Tech tip: if you want to learn how to protect your computer from viruses, spyware, and the like, read these two articles (here and here) from Slate, and follow the links to free security downloads.
Detroit rebounded quickly from Tuesday's loss and beat the Sting in Charlotte last night. Deanna Nolan led with 17.

"I think we wanted this game a little more," coach Laimbeer said. "We didn’t play well against Washington and this was a game we felt we had to win to get back on track."

The Shock went to the line 10 times more than the Sting, and that may have been the difference. "I thought we played equally as hard. They just made more free throws than we did," Sting coach Lacey said. "We had some good looks, but the bottom line is we just didn't put the ball in the hole."
The folks at Basquetebol tut-tut a little about the reaction to LJ in the United States, land of "politiquement correct" and "pudibonderie."

Sure, we are maybe too politically correct and too prudish much of the time... But our French friends should give us a little credit on this one -- the reaction here has been overwhelmingly positive also.
A few days ago, women's hoops blogger Stacey Geyer had some good thoughts on the LJ photos. Geyer has no problem with what LJ did.

She says that this is OK because it was LJ's individual choice. By contrast, she says that some of the league's official marketing photos in the past were more troubling because they were the product of mandate.

I think Stacey's partly right. My instincts are the same as hers: I'm not troubled by LJ's shoot. I was more troubled by some other things, eg Sue Bird's "This Is Who I Am" shots last year (even though those weren't nude). It's a little complicated to figure out the explanation for those intuitions, but Stacey is on to something when she says that it's different when it's part of official league marketing.

But appealling to individual choice only gets you so far. Sue's initial decision to do the spanking bet was her individual choice (not mandated or encouraged by the league), but it was still degrading.

Individual choices don't occur in a vacuum; they are always a product of various pressures and influences. People can only make choices, moreover, among the available options. If subject to different influences, or given different options, people would make different choices. Even if someone makes a "voluntary" individual choice, we might think that it's a bad choice for whatever reason, and we might seek to change the mix of influences or the range of options so others don't make the same choice.

That's why consent-based theories (of politics, feminism, sexuality, or anything else) often aren't thick enough to give a satisfying analysis of issues like this.
As promised, Gophers coach Pam Borton will be getting a raise and an extension after her great run last year.

In other good news, the Gophs will host LSU next year in a nationally televised game.
Coach Summitt is closing in a milestone -- she's 28 wins away from Dean Smith's all-time college record of 879. If all goes more or less as planned, she'll probably get there sometime in February or March.

But Pat isn't overly concerned about the record. "What would mean more to me than anything is to help these young women get back to the Final Four and cut down the nets in Indianapolis," she said.

Still, even if she plays it cool, this will be a big deal when it happens.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

The IP has posted a description of the text and all seven pictures of LJ in Black + White. We'll be waiting for Keegan or someone else down under for scanned versions.
Fans at MSG last night booed both Weatherspoon and Whitmore.

"I don't know if they said 'Spoon' or 'boo' — I really don't know," said Spoon. "If that was a boo, you tell me how I feel. It didn't feel good at all. . . . When I stepped between those four lines at MSG, I gave my life. And to be booed? That didn't feel good."

"It was laughable," said Whitmore. "Truthfully I feel vindicated and very, very glad. I left one team and went to a better one."

The game on the court was pretty brutal. New York's last loss was embarassing, and this was probably worse. 26% shooting. 16 turnovers and only 7 assists.

"We had open looks," coach Adubato said. "I got my three best shooters, Becky, Crystal and Elena pen shots. They just didn't go in tonight."
Val, asked if LJ's nudity was good publicity for the league: "There's no connection from the standpoint of women's basketball. That's really irritating to us. The game has to come first."
Both first-place teams lost at home last night.

Seattle went down to the Thompson-less Comets. "It's a huge win," said Sheila Lambert, who had another big game with 15. "I can't even put it into words."

Coach Chancellor agreed: "What a game for us. I don't know a team in America that needed this more than we did."

Detroit, without Cheryl Ford, got killed on the boards and lost to Washington. “Sure, not having our biggest and strongest players hurt, but we have what we have,” said coach Laimbeer. “This game was winnable and we didn’t show in the first half. The game was lost in the first half.”

Holdsclaw went nutty with 27 points, including 13-for-14 from the line.
Our anniversary: coffee and bacon, golf, margaritas at Zorbaz, lunch on the deck, light chores, bocce, dog shampoo, boat ride, fried walleye and pinot noir, Chrissy's Ice Cream Parlor.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Just a quick happy anniversary wish for Ted. 2 years of married life have flown by. Everyday is better and more fun than the last. Happy Anniversary to the best partner and best friend I could ever hope for!
Wear sunscreen. And don't go to tanning booths.

Texas Tech center Cisti Greenwalt has been hitting the electric beach for years, and now she'll have to spend this summer getting chemo treatments.

"I don't want to bash tanning beds or tanning in general, but I think parents should think twice before letting their little girls in junior high go tan," Greenwalt said. "They need to realize that it's more common now than ever. Maybe I can be a spokesperson for the reasons of not going to tanning beds," she said. "But I know this is only one of the things God gave me, and it's a milestone I can overcome."
Coach Chancellor took Yo Griffith for the last spot on Team USA. Coach Laimbeer isn't happy about it.

“I’m sending a letter to the WNBA office, USA Basketball and to Van Chancellor to tell them of my disappointment,” Laimbeer said. “Ruth and Cheryl sacrificed money (to play professionally overseas) so they could concentrate on the Olympic team. She (Griffith) refused to sacrifice money, played professionally during the off-season, and they took her anyway despite the fact she didn’t participate in the Olympic team’s training (camps and sessions).”
Coach Brown and Margo Dydek don't seem to be getting along. Sounds like Brown wants her to bulk up, play inside, and play tougher ball. That's not really the game she likes to play.

"I can do things Shaquille O'Neal can't do," Dydek said. "I can shoot outside, I can hit free throws. I will work to get stronger, but my style is very different than everyone expects it to be."

"Every player who had their minutes cut or isn't playing up to the expectations, the rumor will be started that the person is not happy," Brown said. "I don't expect her to be happy. But give me a reason, show me a reason, make me eat crow. I don't mind doing that. I'll admit if I made a mistake. We know we need her. We need her to know we need her."

Trades possible. How bout send her to DC?
Yesterday at Wimbledon, Martina Navratilova beat Catalina Castaño 6-0, 6-1. Martina became the oldest woman to win a single's match at the All England Club since 54-year-old Madeline O'Neill in 1922.

"It's great to be out there, great to have that opportunity," said Martina. "I think when people say, 'Why are you doing it?' I guess the answer is, because I still can. Bottom line."
Spoon returns to the Garden tonight. She will try to show the Lib what they missed by letting her go.

"It wasn't something I took very well," said Teresa. The frustration lingers: "[N]obody even thought I could play this game. So how is a championship team going to call me, and I can't play? That says a lot."

"It was the hardest decision I've had to make in eight years," said New York GM Carol Blazejowski. "We needed to find a way to get Becky (Hammon) in as a starter, and we had other players we had to sign."

Coach Richie was somewhat less gracious -- he thinks she should have hung it up. "She's 38, was a great player and had a great career," he said. "She averaged 30 minutes a game for us last year and is now averaging (7.5). I don't have to say anything else. It's obvious."
Catchings, player of the week, again. Averaged 21.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists, and 4.0 steals in the Fever's two wins last week.
We all hoped that Taurasi and the rookies would help attendance. So far it hasn't happened. League attendance is down 8 percent, and attendance in Phoenix is down 15 percent.

Val, of course, in her usual Iraqi information minister fashion, remains optimistic.

Happy Anniversary, baby.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

As you've no doubt heard, Lauren Jackson has posed nude for the Black+White magazine's special Athens Dream issue.

I've only seen the cover shot, which looks pretty good. Seems like they've done that airbrushed areola trick, maybe to make the cover a bit less racy for the newsstands.

The papers have made an effort (somewhat half-hearted) to turn this into a controversy story (comparing it to the various Sue Bird shenanigans last year), and some people object (mostly along the lines of "won't somebody please think of the chilren?!?!")... but for the most part, this is a nonstory.

Maybe the most interesting thing: Jayda Evan's Seattle Times article quotes heavily from the Storm Fans message board thread. I've never seen the traditional media do that for other sports; it seems to be unique to women's hoops. Are the message boards for some reason particularly influential in our world?

On the court, Seattle got another win last night. LJ had 27 on 10-for-15.
Detroit is kicking ass around the league. Last night they got their fifth in a row at Sacramento.

"We got beat by an outstanding team," Monarchs coach John Whisenant said. "They're champions who just keep getting better."

Cash had 29 and became Detroit's all-time leading scorer. "Swin Cash is a true all-star, and she had a career night against us, just like Lauren Jackson and Katie Smith and Tina Thompson," Whisenant said. "We somehow bring out the best in our opponents."

"She's improved this year, especially her mid-range game," coach Laimbeer said. "She didn't have that last year. We need her outside shot this year and she's been working hard every day in practice on it."
Minnesota rebounded from its disgraceful performance Thursday against Sacto and beat Houston last night. Katie Smith led with 22 points, 6 boards, and 5 assists.

The team was down after the Monarchs game. "How would you feel? How did it look?" Tamika Williams said. "We couldn't do anything, so you feel horrible. Last night, Tamika had a double-double.

"It was better decision-making," coach McConnell Serio said. "We simplified things, and made the post players work for position."

Houston is struggling without Thompson. "We're not a very good basketball team right now," coach Chancellor said.
Catchings: 25 points, 12 boards, 3 assists, 3 steals. The MVP resume keeps growing, as the Fever win again.

"It's certainly one of her better games of the year," coach Winters said. "She did about everything. She rebounded. She scored. She had assists. She's our best player, and she's on the Olympic team for a reason."

New York has now lost 4 in a row.

Kelli White will be testifying against Tim Mongomery.

"It's all someone saying something," Montgomery said of the evidence against him. "She don't live with me, so I don't know how she would know."

Unclear yet whether White is also offering evidence against Marion.

In the Times today, William Rhoden comes to the defense of the athletes under suspicion. He says the whole thing is a witch hunt. He says Dick Pound has a vendetta against Marion Jones. He says the politicians are grandstanding. He says this is a human rights violation. He says this whole thing is "athletic McCarthyism."

I'm not fan of the doping cops. And I agree with Rhoden that the USADA should not have retroactively lowered the burden of proof. But there is some real evidence against Marion, and her response to the whole thing has been less than endearing. I don't see any good guys on either side of this story.

Meanwhile, on the track, Jones did poorly in the 100 but very well in the long jump.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Catchings: 18 points, 7 assists, 5 boards, 5 steals. Fever beat the Monarchs.

"She's been doing that all year," said coach Winters. "She's been doing a little bit of everything."

"Teams are playing me differently and the team differently," Catchings said. "I'm trying to put my teammates in a position to score, if it takes me driving and kicking it out to Steph (Stephanie White), Kelly or Kristen (Rasmussen) for the open jump shot."
Marion Jones had a newsconference in SF yesterday. She lambasted USADA and said she'd refuse to participate in their "kangaroo court."

She had one minor mistep, where she gave slightly evasive and inconsistent answers to reporters' questions about ZMA.

The key to the feds' case will be finding at least one knowledgeable witness to testify against her, either saying directly that she used banned substances, or at least providing an explanation for the coded notations in her BALCO file.

There are three witnesses who are working on plea deals: Conte, C.J. Hunter (Marion's ex), and Trevor Graham (her former coach).

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Jackass of the day: CU president Betsy Hoffman. This is just ridiculous. "No really, I meant in the 14th century..."

Reminds me of: depends on what the meaning of "is" is.

(Or the Simpson's version: "So when somebody says I was an emberassment to the country, I say it depends on what the meaning of ‘was' is. Jerk.")
Kate Starbird's journey away and then back to basketball.

After getting cut by Seattle, she had to face life without hoops. It was liberating, but also frightening.

"I started thinking, ‘Oh, I’m going to have to have a real job, sit in an office every morning and I won’t be able to work out every day.'" Yeah, I know that feeling...
The Pistons won. Sorry to Cheryl Ford's dad... not really.

Let the implosion in LA begin. LA Times columnist Bill Plaschke starts kicking the team in the head this morning:

The team that was supposed to make basketball history indeed made basketball history Tuesday, doomed forever to symbolize all that is wrong with modern professional sports, a testament to the failure of excess and danger of ego.

"The play wasn't for me," said Tynesha Lewis, who made a game-winning layup at the buzzer. "Before the play, [Dawn Staley] said, 'When in doubt, take it to the basket.' Well, I was in doubt, so I went to the basket."

The Sting got the win, improving to 4-5, and handed SA their 6th straight defeat.

LaToya Thomas had 19 and 7. The rest of San Antonio's starters combined to shoot 8-for-30.

Stars coach Brown didn't have much to be proud of on his own team. But he was impressed with Lewis's play. He passed by her after the game. "Big shot there," he said, pointing at Lewis. "Big-time."
What's up with the Lib? Were the 6 straight wins fool's gold? Is the team not as good as advertised?

After last night's drubbing at the hands of Seattle, New York has dropped 3 in a row. It wasn't pretty at MSG: 44 rebounds to 26. Hammon: 1-for-6. Johnson: 1-for-7. Etc.

"We were embarrassed out there tonight," said Crystal Robinson. "We just have to rebound. We rebound, we score. I think this is just a bump in the road, but it's a very embarrassing bump in the road."

"We got pummeled," she said. "We just got pummeled."

Tari Phillips agreed: "This is not fun. This is not fun at all. I don't like this. I am embarrassed. We are all embarrassed."

"I'm trying to put my finger on just what happened," said coach Adubato. "This is embarrassing."

On the other side, all smiles. "To me, there's no better place to play," said coach Donovan.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

The Supreme Court has agreed to take a case with some important issues regarding Title IX and gender equity in sports.

Roderick Jackson coached girls' hoops at Ensley High in Alabama. He says he was fired after complaining that the boys got preferential treatment.

According to Jackson, the girls were forced to practice in the old gym with its wooden backboards, a smaller-than-regulation-sized court, crooked rims and no heat. "It was winter and we were cold. Sometimes, we'd cut practice a half hour early and go down and just watch the boys," he said. When, on top of it all, the school axed the girls' JV program, Jackson complained.

"I was told that I was not a team player, that I needed to play ball or I was going to make problems for myself," Jackson says. "And they weren't joking."

The Eleventh Circuit said that Jackson couldn't sue for retaliation under Title IX, but the Fourth Circuit reached the opposite conclusion in a similar case, so now the Court will settle the circuit split.
The Sparks used a huge rebounding edge to overcome tons of turnovers and tons of fouls in an OT win over the Sun.

"I thought it was the Lakers vs. Detroit out there," coach Cooper said. "A very brutal game that took all our effort."

Whalen is apparently back here recovering. She's expected to rejoin the team for Friday's game.
The Indianapolis Star tells the Malone-Ford story... again.

"I don't want to talk about the past anymore," Cheryl says. "I'm tired of talking about that same old story. We're happy now. That's all that matters."

I have a weird feeling that the league pushes this story (and has Cheryl sit courtside at the Lakers-Pistons games) as a marketing thing. I hope I'm wrong.
Shameka Christon, adjusting to the big city and the big leagues.

"The first time I played Houston, I said, 'Oh my goodness, I just got past Sheryl Swoopes,'" she said. "But then she took the ball away from me and it was kind of embarrassing."

Monday, June 14, 2004

Due to some rain earlier in the tournament, Annika and her chasers had to play two full rounds yesterday.

In the morning round, Sorenstam played near-perfect golf, finishing with a bogey-free 64 and a huge lead. But during afternoon play, she had an uncharacteristic meltdown.

On the ninth hole, she was nearly struck by an errant shot from her partner. Annika seemed to get rattled; she finished with a 7 and bogeyed the next two holes. The lead suddently shrank to two.

True to usual form, however, she quickly turned around and rebuilt the lead. She made a string of birdies on the back nine, including a miraculous play on the 16th, where she hit a wedge from the 11th fairway to within 3 feet of the cup.

Annika won by 3 and gained her 7th major title.

"What can I say, it was totally up and down," said Sorenstam. "Things started to fall apart, but I came back with a strong back nine. . . . I kept telling my caddy [Terry McNamara] it's going to be okay, it's going to be okay."
Detroit is getting back to championship form. They've won 4 straight, including 3 on the road.

Two of the wins have come over Indiana. On Saturday the Shock got their second close one over the Fever when Indiana pulled a Chris Webber, calling a timeout they didn't have.

Several of the wins have involved coming from behind (including Wednesday's record-setting 23-point comeback). "We never make it easy on ourselves, but you know that’s the role of the defending champion," Coach Bill Laimbeer said.

Meanwhile, Detroit is poised to add a NBA title to its WNBA title. Everyone picked the Lakers to win the title, and many picked a sweep. But after last night's win, the Pistons lead 3-1.

(Cheryl Ford has been at the games cheering for her dad. She was interviewed during the game last night. She has been gracious, but she seems to be tiring of all the questions.)

Detroit has a chance to close it out in 5 on Tuesday. If you want to see some of the best defensive basketball ever played, tune in.
Whalen has missed a couple games with strep. The Sun have been forced to slow down their game in Lindsay's absence. Debbie Black has been filling in as starter: less scoring, less running, but also fewer mistakes.

Connecticut lost to Seattle on Friday, but then bounced back to beat the Monarchs on Saturday.

Tonight they face the Sparks. Whalen is expected to miss again.
Sacramento moved Edna Campbell to the IR and activated Mendiola on Friday.

Mendiola has been listed as injured all year, but hasn't really been hurt (Sacto had some cap room so called her "injured" to keep a 12th player). Giuli has spent the time doing exactly the right thing: working out constantly.

"Giuli's been working harder than anyone," coach Whisenant said. "She puts in an hour-and-a-half with [strength coach Al Biancani] before another 2 1/2 hours in practice. Al's trying to lean her down with weights and lots of agility drills. We're trying to get her a step quicker, which will make the difference in this league."

Liz Sherwood heading to Vandy. Why she left UConn: ''I don't want to say anything bad. I kinda liked it, but it just wasn't for me.''

Kamela Gissendanner to Penn State from NC State.
We're back from the wedding. [Insert Jersey joke here.]

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Last night's Mercury-Sting game, which Charlotte won, 59-51, can be summed up with one great Yiddish word: FESHTUNKEN.

Anna DeForge's shot was unbelieveably off. On two occasions, she hit the top of the backboard. Phoenix did not have any post presence last night, and Adrian Williams has disappeared.

The officiating was terrible. For Charlotte, Tammy Sutton-Brown luau in the paint...just camped herself there, because the officials were not calling her for the violation. Penny Taylor and DeForge were constantly held on screens, without getting any calls.

Diana Taurasi, on her 22nd birthday, started out slowly and seemed a little passive, before she warmed up and led the charge.

As for the Sting, the Mercury's defense turned an aging, slow Charlotte team into a fast-break squad in the first half. In the second half, Allison Feaster hit three shots with less than two seconds left on the shot clock. And NC State product Tynesha Lewis has become a very solid offensive contributor.

Nicole Powell made her homecoming visit (she is from Phoenix, played at Mountain Pointe), and received a very hearty ovation from the crowd. Then she burned Phoenix for seven quick points in the first half.

At halftime, I met up with Diana Taurasi's parents (they sit in our section). After the game, we hung out with Adrian Williams, Andrea Stinson, Lindsay Taylor, Penny Taylor, and Tonya Edwards. But the first rule of post-game chats at Majerle's is that we cannot disclose the content of the conversations. :)

Friday, June 11, 2004

We are off to Jersey for a wedding.

If you have a chance, check out the Houston-San Antonio game on Telemundo tomorrow. Unless you live in a lily white state like Minnesota, you probably have Telemundo in your basic cable package.

Watching hoops on Telemundo is one of the great pleasures in life. It's more fun, and more like being at the game.
AZ Republic reporter tries to get inside Nicole Powell's head about how she's not playing much. Powell doesn't bite.

Asked if it's hard seeing other rookies play more, Nicole responds: "I'm really just happy for the class. How the rookies are doing, I think it's great. My situation is different, so comparing numbers and minutes really doesn't matter.
The Mystics face the Fever. They are looking for a reliable second scorer. Also, says the Post, rebounding (they are -4) and defense (they are next to last in opponents' ppg).
The Storm prepares for CT tonight. Sheri Sam, fitting in well in Seattle, is ready.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Been meaning for a few days to write an update on the Marion Jones situation, but so much has happened in the last few days that I don't even know where to begin.

I'll get to it next week, but in the meantime, just watch the Times website. Jere Longman has taken over this story. If you want to catch up, read Friday's piece (Edge is All to Athletes), Thursday's (Confronting the Dilemma that is Marion Jones), and Wednesday's (Drug Accusations Outlined Against 4 Elite Athletes).

Minor sidelight: Cris Arguedas is representing Tim Montgomery and is becoming a key player in this drama. She is one of the best trial-level defense lawyers in the country, and also happens half of the first same-sex couple to receive a marriage license in the U.S.
Great piece on the Storm site about the evolution of the WNBA point guard.

The Storm's official website has become a great source of original content -- far better than any other team's, and in fact, better than most anything else out there from any media source. It covers not only Seattle stories but also broader things around the league.

It's unfortunate that some of these stories don't get some space on the wnba.com homepage. It's also unfortunate that they don't come with bylines... though I think we can credit Kevin Pelton for much or all of it.
Techy note -- Slate has this good piece on easy and free ways to protect your computer from viruses.
Diana Taurasi and the Mercury rolled over the CT Sun last night with a 75-59 win. Taurasi led the Mercury with 17 points, and Plenette Pierson, back from a hamstring injury, added 13 in her 30 minutes on the floor.

Mercury Coach Carrie Graf was pleased with her team's performance. She said, "That's what we've been talking about, putting together 40 minutes of good basketball and really lift the defensive intensity and put the clamps on teams. We had a few little breakdowns, but we were really tough in the second half and that really turned the tide for us."

Coach Thibault had much different feelings about his team's dismal performance. He said, "I can't find much good at all about the game. We missed some early shots but they beat us on both ends of the court. I don't know if we were worse offensively or defensively."

Nykesha Sales led the Sun with 23 points, but it wasn't enough to conend with Pheonix. "I got my shots but we have to find ways to win," Sales said. "We need to work on a little bit of everything, offensively and defensively. In order for us to be able to compete with these teams in this league and out here on this trip, we need to work on a little bit of everything."
If you're looking for some bizarre Taurasi propaganda, check this out.
The Sparks played their best ball of the season last night, especially in the second half. They dominated Charlotte in just about every category.

Coop changed things up a little last night by putting Laura Macchi in the starting lineup and bringing Tamecka Dixon off the bench (for the first time in 4 years). Dixon responded with 0 points in 17 minutes, but LA had 4 players in double figures.

The Sparks are also just happy to be in LA. Last night was only their second game at Staples this year. "It sure feels good to be home," said Coop.
Katie Smith says she has "no idea" whether the league will be around for the future. She says neither fans nor players have much pride in the league.

Katie herself is planning for the next phase of her life: dental school.
Stars keep slipping. Last night, they dropped their fourth in a row.

San Antonio is looking a little too much like last year's team. They rank last in both points per game and field goal percentage. Last night they shot 36% and put in only 47 points.

Houston was happy to get some revenge for the home-opener loss. "I think we kind of felt like we owed them a little something," said Swoopes.
Indiana was up by 23 points in the first half. Then the wheels came off. The Shock rallied behind Deanna Nolan's 29 and won the game.

Catchings controlled the game in the first half, but hampered by foul trouble, she couldn't do much in the second.

"It's hard to play when you have to kind of watch out to foul, because you don't want to put your team in a situation where you're sitting on the bench," she said. "Some of the fouls I had were bad fouls, too. Fouls where I really shouldn't have been around (the play). But you learn from it and you move forward."

Catch says the team just needs to forget about last night's meltdown and move on. Easier said than done. This kind of game can have a huge emotional effect on a team. Don't be surprised if this is a turning point for the Shock.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Mercury smoke the Sun, again.

Phoenix had 19 assists to 13 turnovers; CT had 10 to 15. Taurasi had 17 points and 5 assists before fouling out in the final minute. Plenette Pierson was big off the bench with the game's only double-double.
The insane one down under picks winners for today's 4 games.
LaToya Thomas, back from her injury, adjusting to a new team, kicking some ass.

She hasn't yet enjoyed the limelight like some of the other young stars in the league. "I just sneak up on people," Thomas said. "I'm not a big name." Not yet, anyway.
The Baltimore Sun looks at the trend of men coaching in the WNBA.

Some people like Dawn Staley are frustrated by it. "It still should not rob the women who know our game as well as any of the opportunity to coach in this league," she said.

The article notes that underlying problems is that top college coaches don't want to move to the pros. Coach Summitt, eg, won't move, especially not that Candace is on the way. "Do you think I'm going to leave this recruiting class? Absolutely not."

I have been unable to get myself too worked up about this issue because I think the trend will reverse itself eventually.

Sports franchises are like lemmings, often just trying to imitate what seems to be the winning formula right then. Teams see the success of Cooper and Laimbeer, so they scramble to copy the strategy.

But it can flip pretty quickly. Suppose the Mystics finish last and the Mercury do great this year. The common wisdom will be that Adams was a mistake who didn't know how to coach women. Everyone will view Carrie Graf as a hero, the future of coaching in the league (which is true, after all -- god, I love her). Instead of looking for the next Laimbeer, everyone will look for the next Graf.

Or suppose, as Barry suggested a couple weeks ago, that Laimbeer and Cooper leave for NBA coaching jobs. Then everyone will start avoiding former NBA coaches.

In any case, the primary concern right now should be the league's survival. Once we get stabilized -- once it's clear we're here for the long haul -- then we can focus on ancillary issues, such as the gender of the coaches.
Michelle Smith in the SF Chron writes up the impact of the rookies on the league. The article notes that the ratings for the first two ABC games were up 30% over last year.

Lead rookie Diana squares off against Connecticut again tonight. The Sun will try to cut off the spot-up shots and make her dribble.
Ronalda Pierce was "a soft-spoken kid with a big heart," said former teammate Lauren Bradley. "She would do anything for anybody, and she was really willing to learn. You could just see her grow so tremendously as a person and as a player.

People will Marfan Syndrome are typically advised not to play sports due to the danger of heart problems, but Pierce was apparently undiagnosed.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Sad news in Tallahassee today: Florida State center Ronalda Pierce died this morning. Pierce was a high school star in southern Georgia.

Preliminary tests indicate that the cause of death was a ruptured aorta possibly caused by Marfan Syndrome.
Week 3 Power Rankings: Minnesota and Indiana vault up; San Antonio and Charlotte plummet.
Tamika Catchings won player of the week. In two games, she averaged 19.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 2.5 blocks, and 2.0 steals. Pretty sweet. And the Fever won both.

Catchings for MVP. Get on the bandwagon now.
Sveta returns. As Pam Schmid says, she slipped into town a few weeks ago. Seems that her back wasn't getting any better under the care of quacky Russian doctors, so she came back to Minnesota, land of professional competence.

Now she's back on the roster, though she won't see big minutes for awhile.

To make room, the Lynx moved Van Gorp to the IR and waived Gwen Slaughter.

Monday, June 07, 2004

An interesting debate on the UConn fan board about why UConn fans do and do not go to Sun games. The casino understandably is a turn off to some. Others are UConn fans who live in states other than CT. And to some, the allure of the professional game is just not there, irrespective of men's basketball or women's basketball.

Here are the comments I posted back on May 26, 2004:

But remember...the Sun don't need as many fans to make money, with the casinos there. Still, as much as Mike Thibault states that the team is not menat to be "UConn Huskies II: The Pro Version," the fans in Connecticut are much more likely to show up for Sun games against Seattle, Phoenix, Detroit, and Minnesota than other teams (though Los Angeles and New York do draw nice crowds). But why aren't the fans showing up for Ashja Jones and Nykesha Sales? To some, Sales is part of the "old guard" (as one UConn fan put it)...the group that created the initial national interest that generated a large fan base. Sue Bird and her progeny are part of the "new guard," who took the UConn fan base to a different level. Yes, Ashja Jones was a part of "new guard," but Diana Taurasi, Swin Cash, Sue Bird, and Svetlana Abrosimova are far and away the group's most popular members.

Solution? Connecticut either needs to make a trade for a wildly popular member of the UConn new guard (not likely to happen if Abrosimova does not come back healthy) or draft a big-time, non-UConn star who will attract fans. Seimone Augustus, anyone? Of course, if Whalen develops, she could be that player. And hopefully having the All Star game in 2005 will help.

Detroit cooled off the Sun's hot streak yesterday, sneaking out of Mohegan with a 1-point win.

Rebounding killed Connecticut; the Shock had a 37-22 advantage.

Coach Thibault: "All we needed was one more stop, one more rebound and the game's over. We didn't get it."

Coach Laimbeer: "I thought Connecticut played spectacular for a tremendous part of the game. Our sheer will is what won the game."

After the game, Thibault had some complaints about Detroit's physical play and the foul calls. Swin Cash had a simple retort: "This is professional basketball. If you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen."

Saturday, June 05, 2004

Today saw the end of one of the strangest Grand Slam tennis tournaments in recent memory.

The big guns didn't show up this year. Serena, Venus, Henin, Capriati, and Lindsay all went down in unimpressive performances. For the last week, most of the talk at Roland Garros was about how poor the quality of play was.

Today's final, where Anastasia Myskina beat fellow Russian Elena Dementieva, was anticlimactic, even against the background of the already lackluster tournament.

Both players were so nervous they could barely play at times. Dementieva's serve was even worse than normal. The match lasted only 58 minutes, straight sets, 1 and 2.

But lost amid the criticism (bordering on ridicule) in the press was any recognition of the quality of Myskina's play. She played backboard tennis, which isn't awe inspiring, but it's the way to win on clay. And she came up with some winners at key times. She moves around the court as well as anyone on tour.

People say she won the French by default -- everyone else just fell apart around her. But the win will add some confidence to her game, which is solid. Don't be surprised to see her take another this year.
In defiance of the skeptics (e.g., me), Coach Thibault's plan seems to be working. The Sun have won three in a row and moved in to second behind the Lib.

After a tough start, Lindsay Whalen is starting to produce like she did in Minnesota. Lots of turnovers, but also lots of offense and lots of excitement.

Mike DiMauro wrote this article a couple days ago about how much fun they are to watch, and after the Mystics game last night, David Siegel was left with the same impression.

Thibault's run-and-fun offense could turn out to be a success, both in terms of victories and in terms of fan support.
Nykesha had an off night so Wendy Palmer picked up the slack. She had 21 on 8-for-12 shooting and 10 boards to boot.

"I just wanted to do all I can," Palmer said. "I wanted to be a spark. That's what this team is all about. I just tried to give everything I had."

Holdsclaw had a dominant night, but (as usual) didn't get much help. She is still waiting for some help on the inside. "We need somebody who's definitely going to be a presence inside for us consistently," she said. "Having that one player to pound it in to."

Mique got a T in the second half for taunting Debbie Black after a foul. The incident got the team and the crowd fired up for a couple minutes, but the Sun soon regained the lead and coasted in.

Speaking of Mique: a couple folks have written in saying I'm too hard on her. I should clarify -- I think she's amazing to watch, and I think she and Catchings are the two most talented players in the world.

My impression is that she's a difficult teammate, and I think it's totally inappropriate when she publicly criticizes her teammates. But that said, it's not her fault that she's been surrounded by a subpar supporting cast and subpar coaches.

Friday, June 04, 2004

A couple days ago Voepel got an early start on one of the association's perennial story lines: what's wrong with the Mystics? (That was before the win at Detroit.)

Mechelle says the team is still struggling with chemistry. Unclear if Mique is part of the problem or part of the solution.

After the Minnesota game, Holdsclaw said "We've got to get tougher. I love my teammates, but you've got to get the job done." That was a little like her classic quote last year: "I can't do every damn thing." Saying stuff like that to reporters typically doesn't help a team's chemistry.

Anyway, Voepel says Dales-Schuman is the solution -- she needs to step up as a leader. That's a tough assignment. Trying to lead that team is like trying to herd cats. But SDS at least has the energy to give it a try. Maybe that's why she's back in the starting line-up.
Seattle's defensive pressure on the perimeter stifled the Mercury. Phoenix shot just 35% and was outscored by LJ, Bird, and Lennox, who combined for 48.

Coach Donovan: "Tonight we took a very good powerful offensive team and shut them down. And that feels good."

Taurasi: "They played well, but it was more a lot of little things that we didn't do. I certainly didn't play well at all so I take the blame for most of it."
Lisa Leslie: 2-for-7, 4 points, and 8 turnovers before fouling out.

"This is probably the worst game I've ever had," she said. Sparks lose badly to the Monarchs.
Sales had a breakout game and led the Sun past the Sting. She had a four-point play that amazed even herself. "It was a crucial point in the game and everything was going our way. You sort of get that feeling inside like, 'Wow.'"

Whalen was solid again, with 11 points and 5 assists. She and Nykesha are getting some good fast break chemistry going.

For Charlotte, Mazzante came off the bench, hit 3-for-4 from outside, and led the team with 15.
The Lib won their fifth straight. All five starters in double-figures.

Sheila Lambert was the one bright spot for the Comets. She came off the bench with energy and scored at will. "I didn't really think Becky could guard her," said Swoopes. "She could get to the basket anytime she wanted to... It's frustrating to see a player come in and have a game like she did and we go out with a loss."
The Lynx won despite having more turnovers than field goals. How? The Stars shot 26%. Yikes.

Jessie and Steve write in with this report from the sidelines:

A low-scoring, amateurish-looking first half turned into a low-scoring defensive showdown as the Lynx fought away from the Stars at the Target Center. Much of the first half saw the Stars orient play around the long Pole Margo Dydek, who had destroyed the Lynx when the teams met in Texas; the Lynx responded with their tallest lineup, sending Nicole Ohlde and Michelle Van Gorp out together. Van Gorp responded with the best game I have ever seen her play, with 13 points on 5-for-9 shooting--even more impressive than her stat line indicates, since a couple of those field goals from around the free throw line, rather than the layups we expect from her. Ohlde looked intimidated and tired, missing half her free throws, but scored 12 points with 9 rebounds and 2 blocks anyway. Large Marge scored six points, all in the first half, but was a non-factor on the glass as the Lynx dominated first-half rebounding, 21-9 (!); free throws and turnovers kept San Antonio in it for a first-half tie.

The second half saw more cold shooting from both teams, but fewer silly mistakes; San Antonio stuck with starting center Jessie Hicks, and the Lynx spent some time with an odd lineup-- Darling at 1, Jacobs at 2, Lovelace-Tolbert (and then back to Ohlde) at the 5. Darling proved an aggressive defender-- still not sure she can run our offense, though. The teams bruised and beat each other to a 45-point draw; then Katie Smith (cold for almost the hole game) showed up -- two free throws, a sharp three-point shot (while drawing a foul, though she missed the free throw!), and a Tamika Williams layup from good position (the only shot she attempts, I swear) made it 53-45 to seal the game.

I'm told the 6,000-odd crowd looked thin on TV, but it looked OK (and sounded loud enough) from the stands; a weeknight game meant far fewer little kids, which perhaps meant fewer blocks of kids in the cheap seats for the cameras to cut away on. Several T-Wolves, including Sam I Am and Big Ollie, watched the game from courtside.

Thanks for the report.
Last night was a rare treat: got to watch two WNBA games on TV. While chillin in the north woods, no less.

Both games were a bit sloppy -- still looks like early season ball (which it is, after all). Geno and Nancy gave the night's best performance. They're a good team, though she kisses his ass too much.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

PR Week has a Q&A with Sharon Robustelli, WNBA's senior director of communications.

Sharon ducks questions about the league's (in)attention to lesbian fans. Asked whether the WNBA encourages its players to be feminine and sexy, she responds:

I don't think that would be a deliberate strategy for us. We have some of the best athletes in the world and we also have a game that is incredibly competitive. So we try to showcase that. At the same time, we don't ever lose sight of the fact they're women, and we want to show their personalities. There are various athletes in the league who might be glamour girls in their natural life. If that is part of their personality, we want that to come out.

Sharon also makes a good point about whether the current attendance levels should be seen as a success.

Women's basketball is now leaps and bounds above where the men's game was at the same time. The NBA has been around since 1946. Going into our 8th season, our games are attended at a level that it took the NBA 20 years to get to.

Thanks to Keith for the pointer to this article.
Jitters in Motown: after 3 straight losses, folks are starting to worry about the Shock.

The Detroit News asks "What’s wrong with the Shock?" The Free Press wonders whether we're seeing a worst-to-first-back-to-worst saga.

Coach Laimbeer is frustrated about the turnovers. Swin, eg, has been giving away 4 per game. They need to do better.
Like the Lynx, the Mercury have been relying largely on three-pointers. But unlike the Lynx (30%), the Merc have been hitting theirs with amazing regularity (54%).

Still, coach Graf wants to see more inside play. "We can hit the perimeter shot, but we need to get it inside as well," she said. "We need to have balance."

Seattle, meanwhile, spent extra time in practice yesterday preparing for the Taurasi and DeForge-led barage.

Seattle hosts Phoenix tonight on ESPN2. Should be a fun one to watch.
The Lynx offense has been spotty this year. Too many threes, says Pam Schmid.

Teresa Edwards offers some mild criticisms of her teammates. "We're all probably on an individual track sometimes," she said. "We need to get on the same track." Teresa occasionally seems frustrated out there -- not sure she likes playing with so many rookies barely half her age.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Pilight has added a milestone page, keeping track of WNBA players and their upcoming milestones for points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks. Look for Lisa Leslie to reach 4000 points and 2000 rebounds this season and for Katie Smith and Sheryl Swoopes to reach 3000 points.
The Washington Mystics edged the Detroit Shock at The Palace, 65-63, this afternoon.

Interestingly, Mystics coach Michael Adams used a starting lineup of Alana Beard, Stacey Dales-Schuman, Chamique Holdsclaw, Aiysha Smith, and Nakia Sanford (lighting a fire under Chasity Melvin, one supposes). For the majority of the game, however, the lineup was this:
PG - Beard
SG - Dales-Schuman
SF- Holdsclaw
PF - Smith/Murriel Page
C - Melvin

Beard is not a point guard (she is a shooting guard who is a good passer and can handle, but she does not have a point guard mentality), yet she responded with 16 points, 5 rebounds, 4 steals, and 3 assists. Mique had a double-double with 16 points and 14 rebounds, but shot only 5-19 from the floor. Melvin had 10 points, while Dales-Schuman had 8 points 3 rebounds, and 3 assists (SDS, incidentally, is another shooting guard who is a good passer). Expect to see a lot of this lineup. As for point guard Tamicha Jackson, check the boxscore: DNP-CD.

As for Detroit, the defending WNBA champion is 1-3. Teams are forcing Detroit to execute in the halfcourt and are limiting fast break opportunities for the Shock. Detroit has a very young squad, but they must execute better in halfcourt sets to repeat as league champion. Another area of concern is Detroit's three-point shooting, as opponents are making over double the amount of threes as the Shock. This is where the departure of Kedra Holland-Corn hurts the most.
Missing Barry's posts? Good news -- he's agreed to chime in from time to time with commentary. We'll look forward to hearing his reports from Merc games and other analysis of stories from around the association.

We'll try this for awhile and see how it works. And incidentally, if anyone else there has game reports to supplement what's in the papers, we'd love to hear them.
Referral of the day: someone typed "women spanking men blog" into Google and got referred here. I'm so proud. Thanks for coming.
Around the web:

Vol fans fret about Hornbuckle.

Folks at WNBA Talk fret about low attendance.

Ah, but will Diana save us? Phoenix is looking like a more entertaining version of last year's Shock. Fans around the league are recognizing just how much fun the Merc are.

Also, some new websites:

This blog, BBall Addict aka Hip Hop is Dead, refreshingly pays about equal attention to men's and women's ball.

WNBALovers.com is a new fan site.

Sue Short has set up a Lynx info site and a related message board.

And finally, for info on Euro women's hoops, check Basquetebol.org.
A bunch of missed shots sank the Storm last night. As a team, they shot only 29%. Betty Lennox, who has been performing pretty well this year, showed her bad side last night: 4-for-14, 0-for-8 from outside.

LJ was worse, shooting 4-for-20. "As a team we played much more together, but we didn't shoot the ball well," she said. "Especially me."

The Sparks weren't happy about the officiating. The calls were evenly distributed, but there were just too many of them (52!), slowing the home opener down to a miserable crawl.

"The officiating is what it is," coach Cooper said. "It's not good in the NBA and it's not good here."

Leslie tried another dunk on a breakaway. She missed.
Taurasi isn't the only great rookie on the Mercury. Shereka Wright came off the bench and scored 16 in Phoenix's win over Houston.

Not usually known for her perimeter shooting, Wright hit 4 of the Mercury's franchise record 11 outsiders. "That's always been the knock against me, the three-pointers," Wright said. "But if a team keeps giving me shots, the more confidence I gain."

(Not totally outshone, Taurasi had 13 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists, and 2 blocks.)

Coach Chancellor was disgusted after the game. With himself.

"That's got to be the worst coaching job anyone's done in the WNBA," he said. "Phoenix outcoached us tonight. They had a better game plan."
Tari Phillips got hot for a stretch late in the game and led the Lib past Charlotte.

"She's really active, but hasn't been playing real well this year," Dawn Staley said. "It was mentioned in the scouting report not to let her get off. She's active enough that if she gets jumpers to go in, it can be a long night."

Phillips wanted revenge for the loss last year that put New York out of the playoffs. "Tari is the type of player who never forgets those type of things," coach Adubato said.

Shameka Christon also had a nice night with 11 points and 4 rebounds off the bench.
Catchings: 20 points, 9 boards, 5 assists, 3 blocks.

After two straight losses, the Fever gain a road win over the Stars. "We've struggled offensively the last couple games so it was nice to be able to hit shots," coach Winters said. "We got out and ran a little and also we had to execute in the half-court."

It was an embarrassing evening for the Stars. They had a franchise record low 17 rebounds compared to the Fever's 36.

"When you get beat like that at home, our ladies should be embarrassed," coach Brown said. "I'm embarrassed because I know we are a better team than that."

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

And in tomorrow's Times, Selena on the Serena and Venus.

"As a result of poor match preparation, as the offshoot of waning hunger for the game, opponents of all sizes and ranks are lapping up the lapses in the ragged games of Venus and Serena.... No one is sure if the Williams sisters' fade is a phase or forever."
Like the U.S. men's basketball squad, the women's tennis contingent might be hurt by defections. Fearing various dangers in Athens, it's unclear whether players like Davenport and the Williams sisters will show up.

Some have questioned the athletes' patriotism. In today's Times, however, Selena Roberts argued that patriotism and Olympic participation should not be intertwined.

Martina Navratilova agrees, saying that athletes should have the freedom to make this choice on their own. But Martina herself isn't terribly concerned about potentialy dangers there, and she plans to be in Athens.

"I'm not going to alter my lifestyle," she said. "You keep an eyeball out. It always cracks me up when they announce orange alert or whatever. I mean, what are you supposed to do? Buy duct tape?"

(Well, yes, if you ask the inestimable DHS.)

Less skittish than the men's ballers or the women's tennis tour, the women's basketball team members seem ready to forge ahead. Perhaps it's a slight benefit of a lower profile.
At Roland Garros today, both Serena and Venus were sent packing.

Venus lost to Anastasia Myskina, one of the young Russian stars, and Serena lost to Capriati.

"This year I really made it tough on myself by not performing and making a lot of errors ... and by basically not doing anything on a professional level," Serena said. "I was an amateur today." Said her mom Oracene: "Serena was totally awful."

The Williams sisters are probably the most athletic and talented women ever to grace the court. If they really put their mind to it, they could dominate the tour for the foreseeable future. But for the last year, they haven't played to their potential, in part due to injuries, in part due to their other interests.

The questions will start now, especially for Serena: are they spending too much time acting like Hollywood celebs? Too much time designing clothes and reading scripts? Too much time at Cannes? Too much time dating NFL players? Not enough time on the court practicing?

After the Williams' great run from 2000-03, the rest of the players raised their level of play. It's time for Venus and Serena to respond.
After a day off yesterday, the league has four games on tap tonight.

Houston heads to Phoenix, and the Mercury will try to counter the Comets' experience and physical play. Taurasi is ready for the challenge: "Houston is one of the most physical and defensive teams we're going to meet all year, so early on I think it's a good way to see where we're at."

In their home opener tonight, the Sparks will try to get revenge on Seattle. Last weekend, the Storm embarrassed LA with a 26-point win. Said LJ: "They're definitely going to be angry and have something to prove. We're just going to try and roll with the punches and get the win."
For the second year in a row, UCLA beat Cal to take the NCAA women's softball championship. Freshman Kristen Dedmon, who had a disappointing season, was the hero with a two-run single in the fifth to give the Bruins the 3-1 lead.

"I'd been waiting for it the whole weekend," Dedmon said. "I just knew if I went up there and swung the bat like I knew how, if I put the ball in play, the worst thing was they could get me out, but good things could happen."

The win gave UCLA its tenth softball title.
Hornbuckle apparently took some beach towels, sunglasses, and tanning lotion from a Wal-Mart. She was very apologetic.

Her school principal says she's a great person, and this was just a "stupid, childish prank."
Some problems with the site lately caused by the Bravenet counter at bottom left. It's possible that it even caused some pop-ups. Terribly sorry for that -- I've taken it off.
We are back, finally more or less set up (in Sara's parents' house -- nothing like living with the in-laws).

We loaded our 15-foot truck and put our old wagon on a trailer and hit I-80, made it from SF to Minnesota in less than 32 hours. Red Bull and amphetamines. Still haven't been able to go to sleep...

It's been a real pleasure to check in with the blog this week and see Barry's posts -- we can't thank him enough for filling in.

We will definitely use guest bloggers again in the future, probably as early as next month when I start studying for the bar.

In fact, we've thought a little bit about converting this into a group blog (a la Volokh). The advantages would be more content and more diversity. The disadvantages would be less focus, a different news/opinion balance, and the possibility of morphing into a message board.

For now, we'll probably keep it as is, but fill in with guest bloggers from time to time. As always, we'd love your feedback on this or any other topics related to the blog.

And again, thanks to Barry for the work this last week. We hope he'll be willing to do it again.
Ann Wauters, the 6-4 Belgian forward/center taken in the dispersal draft, joins the Liberty today in Charlotte. My guess is that either Erin Thorn or Bethany Donaphin goes to the injured list.

Wauters will add depth to the Liberty frontcourt. Her finesse/fluid style (think Nicole Ohlde) will complement Tari Phillips' physical play on the interior. Throw in Elena Baranova and DeTrina White, and New York has a frontcourt that is near the top of the league.