Women's Hoops Blog: August 2004

Inane commentary on a game that deserves far better

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Coming soon: SHEDUNK Clothing, the brain child of message board poster, Slovydal.

Online shipping begins September 1 for T-shirts and sweatshirts. Hats will be available in October. Jerseys, tank tops, and kids clothing will be available soon.

A little more on SHEDUNK.

The clothes are great. Michael (Slovy) has spent the last few years of his life trying to get his company off the ground. Please support him...and women's basketball.
More bad news for the Lynx: Michele Van Gorp will miss the rest of the season with a stress fracture.
Pairings for the Jimmy V Women's Basketball Classic have been announced -- UConn v. UNC and Tennessee v. NC State. The games are November 21 in Raleigh. Tix on sale now. (Hattip, MJ.)
The blog, expert in humanity, has a perennial interest in whatever concerns women's basketball.

Whoa... sorry about that.
Coach Wooden comments on the women's win: “The women play the purest basketball. Their fundamentals are much more sound. They don’t have the athletic ability of the men. They’re not as big or as strong and can’t jump as high. They play below the rim, not above it. But there’s a harmony to their game. It’s the way basketball should be played.”

Thanks to ILuvCatch for the pointer.
Catchings returned to Indianapolis exhausted, her bags lost, trying to regroup. She'll face an uphill battle trying to rally the Fever out of the cellar and into the playoffs.
The Comets god some bad news yesterday -- Janeth Arcain, who had previously said she'd come back to Houston after the games, has changed her mind. Apparently she's getting paid a bunch of money to tour around Brasil and talk about Olympic hoops.

A few days ago on her blog, Janeth said that she had decided not to return to the WNBA. As best I can tell from a garbled translation, it seems that her homesickness for Brazil and the Comets' sixth-place standing influenced her decision.
Bird, LJ, and Donovan, all exhausted, made their way back to Seattle yesterday.

Anne said it was perfect playing Lauren in the finals, but tough watching her go down. "The only difficult and challenging part was, when Lauren was struggling during that gold-medal game, not being able to coach her a little bit. That was hard."

The Storm had hoped to bring in Suzy Batkovic for the post-Olympic run, but it didn't work out. "You're talking about a $30,000 contract verses a $300,000 contract [in France]," Donovan said. "I think it's going to come down to that -- unfortunately, because she could help us."

UPDATE: Laurent writes into say that the Seattle Times article is incorrect. Batkovic has signed to play not for Valenciennes but for Valencia in Spain. She also says that the salary is more like $100,000, and that's for 8 months of ball.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Post-gold sentiments:

Coach Chancellor: "Winning a gold medal was good. But I can't tell you how much I'm going to miss the journey. I have a very, very unique relationship with this team, like no other team I've ever coached — high school, college or pros."

Dawn Staley, possible coach-to-be: "I would like to experience what [coach Chancellor] is experiencing right now. I've won gold medals as a player and I would like to know what it feels like to be a part of something like that as a coach."

Taurasi on Staley: "Dawn Staley is the best leader I've ever known and probably will ever meet. She willed us to victory."

Tina Thompson: I started playing for USA Basketball back in 1993. Back then, there was no WNBA. Your only option was to go play overseas. But if you played for USA Basketball, then your ultimate goal, your only goal, was to win an Olympic gold medal. It's finally my time."

Lisa Leslie on Tina's performance: "Tina was amazing. They put [Australia's Suzy Batkovic] on her in the second half and Tina recognized the mismatch. She had patience, poise and got any shot she wanted."

Staley on Leslie: "Lisa Leslie is the best [women's] basketball player in the world because of all the things she can do with the basketball, and she will keep that title until she retires."

Yo: "Everybody on this team knows their roles, and I just try to do the little things that help us win. I knew we weren't getting any rebounds, and before I went out there, Katie (Smith) pulled at me - 'Yo, go get some boards!' We all did what we could."

Sue Bird: "It was awesome. You see it on TV and you dream about it and all sorts of stuff but when you go through it, you know, to be honest, sometimes I need to stop myself and take a step back and be, like, all right, you just went to Opening Ceremonies, you know?"

Taurasi, on her playing time: "I don't see that as a problem or something to be mad about. You wait your turn."

And one touch of gray from Swin Cash, not happy with her minutes, not sure if she'll return to USA Basketball: "I've been in a position where I can relate to players on the Shock who are role players, so I understand waiting until their time comes and stuff like that. But, at the same time ... you're a competitor, and you want to be out there playing. Right now, it's the coach's decision. It's not up to me... I think they've kind of put this team together to give us the experience, the chance to maybe do that down the road. But, like I said, I'll evaluate my situation when it comes up again."
Waiting another four years is even more difficult for the athletes.

"You put so much effort into winning and the last four years has been 'beat America', 'beat America,'" said Lauren Jackson, who had a difficult 4-for-16 game against Team USA. "And all of a sudden it's over again, the Olympics, everything you strive for, is over again."

LJ says the Opals will get them next time. Next time, maybe with something more like regular basketball uniforms -- we have probably seen the last of the unitard bodysuits. Aussie fans debate the merits.
I hate it when the Olympics end. After spending most of the last two weeks watching obscure sports, we now have to figure out what to do with ourselves for the next four years. Sucks.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Sad news from Knoxville: Candace Parker may have to redshirt.

Parker had some swelling in her left knee and underwent arthroscopic surgery to assess the source. According to Jenny Moshak, the University of Tennessee Assistant Athletics Director for Sports Medicine, Candace's surgery involved removing loose cartilage fragments. Further surgery will be necessary to repair her knee completely.
No need to worry whether Marion Jones and the United States would be forced to return medals and be stripped of titles...Jones finished fifth in the long jump and was part of a botched baton exchange in the 4X100m relay final. No medals for Marion...and and no medals for the United States.

One has to wonder what would have happened had Marion not run the second leg of the relay final. Gail Devers lobbied for someone else to run instead...looks as if Gail was probably right.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Jackass of the Day: Spanish men's basketball coach Mario Pesquera, who threw a childish tantrum after losing to the U.S.

Mario was mad that Larry Brown called a timeout when the game was decided. But FIBA has some strange rules about how you call timeouts (still unclear to me). Apparently Larry called one in advance, while Spain was still contesting the game. Once they gave up, he tried to rescind, but couldn't. He sent his players quickly back out on the court to keep playing.

And even if none of that were true, an unnecessary late-game timeout is no justification for Pasquera's incredibly poor sportsmanship. After the game, he refused to shake Brown's hand, and when the U.S. coaches tried to come over and explain, he just shouted them down.

Spain had played great throughout the tournament, and it was a bad break that they had to face a quickly improving U.S. team in the first medal round game. It's too bad that their Olympic trip had to end with their coach's disgraceful behavior.
I am still drying my eyes after the emotional USA women's soccer game. Listening to the post-game interviews with Mia, Julie, Brandi, Kristine, Joy, and Abby was enough to make both Ted and me break down. What great way for this amazing group of women to end their careers. I don't know a dang thing about soccer, but I was on the edge of my seat watching the clock tick down. Congrats to the USA women! You guys rock!
It's offical...Espionage Barbie is back for the Mercury!
Today is a huge day for women's sports -- the last international game where we'll see Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy, Joy Fawcett, Kristine Lilly, and Brandi Chastain on the field together.

They may be the most important female athletes of the past decade. They haven't won as much as Annika. They haven't made as much money as Venus and Serena. Their attempt to start a league of their own didn't work out, and they don't retain the dominance that the basketball team still has.

But in many ways, they've still been the standard-bearers for women's sports, not just here, but around the world.

"I want to say something," German defender Steffi Jones said after losing to them Monday. "For those players who are ending their soccer careers, we should say thank you. Playing against them was awful. Playing with them (in the WUSA) was wonderful. But the whole game of women's soccer owes them so much. They opened so many doors. I wish that they win the final, and have a nice life afterward."

It is the end of an era. We will never see a team like this again in any sport.
Marion Jones had a good day yesteraday, qualifying for the long jump finals and getting a spot on the relay team. But her time in Athens is much different than Sydney. The track world already seems to be moving on without her.
Yo Griffith's amazing one-handed rebounds have earned her a new nickname. "We joke around with Yolanda and call her `Go, Go Gadget Arms' but that's what she really looks like,'' said Sue Bird. "She just sticks those arms out there and sucks everything in.''

Yo remains all business. "If we are up by 15 points, we want to go up by 20," she said. "If we are up by 20, we want to go up by 25. Right now we are just trying to keep our focus."

Leslie agrees: "I've been taught that there is always room for improvement. The day that you think you're the best is the day you stop being the best."

Lisa enjoys the Olympic stage, still probably the biggest in women's hoops. Yesterday she used the opportunity to engage in a some mild trash-talking with Russians: "I heard they said they'd get their gold-medal shirts ready. I don't know what's fact or not. All I know is that I'm playing for the USA."
The Opals pounded the Kiwis and will face Brazil again in the semis.

Last time Brazil didn't put up much of a fight, but LJ is not expecting another easy win. "I think that Brazil are going to come out a lot harder than what they did against us in the rounds. I think it's going to be a much closer game," she said.
Rick Lopez is facing accusations by three former players, combining for 59 counts of sexual assault.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Keegan has a preview of the quarters. Of the other three games, it looks like we'll be able to see the Russia-Czech game on US television. Starting in a few minutes.
Another solid performance, another easy win. Greece passed and shot fairly well but couldn't do much else. Team USA had a ton of steals its usual 2-1 rebounding edge.

Sometimes you wonder if Lisa, Tina, and Yo could win playing 3-on-5. Their combined line today: 46 points on 20-for-32 shooting, 7 assists, and 25 boards (more than the entire Greek team). And each played only half the game.

What will it take for someone to match them? Maybe Lauren Jackson plus two clones.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

In other injury news, Julie Foudy's ankle is sprained, not broken. She'll be a game-time decision for the gold medal game.

Foudy probably won't sit on the bench unless chained. She isn't very good at listening to doctors or using crutches.

"A Stanford education wasted," Brandi Chastain said. "She is terrible. She's the worst crutcher I've ever seen in my entire life."
Bad news on the Katie Smith front: torn cartilege will keep her out of the Olympics.

This isn't much of a problem for Team USA. She was their best three-point shooter, and it would be great having her out there, but they've been surviving quite well without her, and the team is just too good for the loss of any one player (except maybe Lisa) to matter much. When Diana Taurasi is your understudy, that's when you know you kick ass.

This is, however, a huge problem for the Lynx. Katie certainly won't be ready September 1, and it's unclear whether she'll be back at all. Going into the stretch run, they need her. The rookies are doing awesome, but they can't hold off Seattle, Houston, and the rest on their own.

It's another blow to a franchise that deserves a few breaks.
The soccer team pulled off a pretty big upset yesterday, beating Germany and advancing to the championship game. Team USA came in as the underdog, but they played one of their best games of the last few years and controlled the entire game. Germany was lucky to keep it so close.

19-year-old Heather O'Reilly was the hero, scoring an overtime goal to give the U.S. the victory.

The assist on the game winner went to Mia Hamm, Heather's childhood hero. "I remember being a 14-year-old at Giants Stadium, screaming my head off for Mia,'' said O'Reilly. "I wore No. 9, just like Mia. Every year, there would be something in my stocking at Christmas involving the U.S. soccer team.''

"It's flattering,'' Hamm said. "I see Heather's love of the game and I know what kind of person she is. Someone like her inspires us old bags a lot. When we're in the over-30 hour in the training room, we know Heather is sleeping in."

The win gives Mia and company, playing for the last time with the national team, a chance to go out on top.

It's unclear whether captain Julie Foudy will be able to play in the finals. After twisting her ankle yesterday, she had to watch the second half from the bench. "I wanted to vomit," she said.

The championship is Thursday against Brazil. We beat Brazil earlier in pool play, and that game's rough play caused some bad blood. It won't be any picnic.

Monday, August 23, 2004

The softball team completed its rampage through the tournament, beating Australia 5-1 to take the gold. Team USA went undefeated in Athens and outscored its opponents 51-1.

For all of the ESPN-generated hype about Jennie Finch (the third or fourth best pitcher in a four pitcher rotation), the stories on this team were elsewhere.

In a sport where offense is sometimes hard to come by, Crystl Bustos pounded just about every pitcher she faced. She broke Olympic records for home runs and RBIs, including two moon shots in the gold medal game.

And Lisa Fernandez proved again why she deserves to be called the best softball player ever. She is Babe Ruth, dominating both sides. She led the Olympics by a huge margin in with a .545 batting average; she was 2nd in slugging and RBIs behind Bustos. On the pitching side, she led the Olympics in wins and ERA.

She is the best pitcher in the game, and she is the best non-power hitter in the game. I don't know if there's anyone who dominates any team sport right now the way she dominates softball. She is simply incomparable.
Coach Chancellor has been intent on getting Taurasi involved in the offense -- throughout the preliminary round, he tried to run plays for her, but she remained a reluctant shooter. Yesterday, she finally got going.

"It felt good," Diana said. "I want to do whatever I can to help this team."

With Smith hurt, it will be even more important to have Taurasi hitting some outside shots.

Greece is next. They'll have thousands of fans going berserk. And they think they have a chance: "We won't come here as lambs to be slaughtered," said coach Georgios Tsitskaris.

Wednesday morning, 7:30 eastern on USA.
Sorry about the blogging silence -- went up north, forgot the powercord for the laptop.

Friday, August 20, 2004

In yesterday's Times, more men-learning-from-women stuff.

The men's team had its best game yesterday and beat a tough Australian team. For all the talk about selfishness and lack of fundamentals, yesterday's game (especially the second half) featured some amazing offensive playmaking.

The men's team has a lot of young players, many facing their first international competition. It's amazing to watch game to game -- you can actually see these guys figuring out this style of play, learning how to win. Over the course of the Olmpic games, LeBron James might go from being a near liability out there to one of the best international players in the world.

"We're learning a lot of stuff on the fly," Tim Duncan said. Exactly. Given the level of competition, they may not be able to pull it all together in time to win the tournament (or even a medal), but they deserve credit for the strides they're making.
Another strong effort from Team USA, and another win.

Today we had to face our first opponent who could do something other than hit three pointers. Spain made a nice commitment to defense and to rebounding. By sending four players to the glass on every shot, they managed to keep the rebounding margin at least fairly close.

The difference was the depth -- the U.S. just has too many good players. We can absorb foul trouble better than the other teams. The reffing is downright nutty. But when bad calls send our starters off the floor, we are able to bring in amazing players off the bench. When Spain lost Pascua and Palau, on the other hand, they just couldn't keep up.

The depth, moreoever, wears down the other team's offense. Valdemoro started great, but over the course of the game, she just got beaten down fighting off Catchings, then Swoopes, then Johnson, then Catchings again... It must be extremely frustrating, and it certainly is tiring.

Our opponents have been able to stay fairly close for the first 10 or 20 minutes, but 40 is just too long.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

SonofOovy is reporting on the ESPN board that Chamique Holdsclaw does not have a medical situation, but is simply sick and tired of Washington Sports and Entertainment. He also reports that she will not play for the rest of 2004. SonofOovy has been wrong before (Gwen Jackson, Lindsay Whalen, Katie Smith), but he supposedly has inside information.

If it is true, I can understand the frustration with WS&E, as the organization has badly managed both the Wizards and the Mystics. Thankfully for the W, the Mystics have the best fans in the league.

What about a trade? Washington cannot be too picky, because Mique will be difficult to match in terms of equal value. However, here are the options, as I see them:

1) Trade Mique to New York for a draft pick and Christon.

2) Trade Mique to San Antonio for the #1 pick in the draft (if Seimone Augustus comes out), plus San Antonio's second round pick (which will be the first pick in the second round).

3) Trade Mique to Los Angeles for Delisha Milton-Jones (assuming she makes a full recovery) and LA's first round draft pick.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Trouble in Sparkland?

The Los Angeles Sparks changed the status of Raffaella Masciadri and Laura Macchi to Suspended and Monique Coker has been added to the Los Angeles Sparks roster.

Macchi has been an important contributor, especially after DeLisha Milton-Jones' injury. Looks like Tamika Whitmore will be moved to the starting lineup.
The soccer squad had a late-game lapse last night -- they gave up a goal in the 82nd minute and had to settle for a tie with the Aussies. The letdown overshadowed Kristine Lilly's goal, one of the most spectacular yet this Olympics.

"On the whole we're dissatisfied with our performance," coach April Heinrichs said. "I'm optimistic that in the knockout phase we'll play with a little less caution and with a little more aggressive mentality."

Japan is next in the quarters (Friday morning on MSNBC). Brandi Chastain, blogging from Athens, has a plan: "We will need to move the Japanese from side to side, penetrate with decisive entry passes, and unbalance them with multiple options."
And as Lisa Leslie pummels everyone in Group B, Lauren Jackson pummels everyone in Group A.

The Opals had another easy win over Japan, and LJ had another huge line: 31 points, 9 boards, 4 blocks.

Will we have a gold medal game with these two head to head?
Up late last night watching women's shotput (which was from Olympia, pretty cool) and men's volleyball (first U.S. win since '96), and listening to Pat O'Brien (who does a good Bruce Brown).

The early this morning for the Korea game.

Lisa Leslie continues to stomp all the hell over everyone else in Athens. 22 minutes, 25 points on 11-for-13 shooting (and at least one of those misses was a desperation shot clock-beater), 7 boards, 3 blocks.

The outside game still doesn't look great -- Taurasi and Bird combined for 2-for-14, Smith not shooting yet -- but the inside power is too much for anyone. Rebounding: 45 to 19.

Total rebounding advantage through 3 games: 146 to 69. That's downright silly.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

So Blogger has added that annoying Navbar thing at the top of our site.

UPDATE: fixed, gone, thanks to Paul. (How long before the folks at Blogger strike back?)
In Sunday's Times, Diana Nyad had some thoughts on female athletes in Playboy, FHM, etc. Nyad puts a positive spin on the issue, wondering if these women are doing a good thing by redefining feminine sex appeal. Agree or not, this is worth the read.
After the game yesterday -- and around the country's sports pages today -- there was plenty of talk about the men's team, what's wrong with them, and why the women's team is functioning so much better.

Lisa Leslie criticized the players not in Athens: "I hope they're at home feeling they could've done more to help. Especially if we don't win the gold. I think it's more shame on them. The guys who are here, they're fighting and still learning. The ones who are not here, I'm a little bit...I'm not happy with them, let's leave it at that."

Tamika Catchings said the same thing, somewhat more subtly: "Everyone of us who was asked to play by USA Basketball is here. I'm not trying to be critical. They (the men) have their lives to lead."

The women's program is doing beautifully in Athens, while the men's program looks shaky. But we -- and the players -- are in danger of becoming just a little too self-congratulatory.

The men's game around the world has progressed further than the women's game. As a result, the men's team faces relatively tougher competition. Even if all the best men's players were there, they wouldn't have a cakewalk through Athens.

Nor do I fault the NBA who didn't show up.

NBA players, unlike WNBA players, have a brutal 82-game season followed by months of playoffs. The short summer is their only chance to rest and get back in shape for next year.

The men's players, unlike the women's players, are famous around the world, and thus might be terrorism targets. I think the security concerns surrounding Athens have been way overblown (knock on wood), but I might not feel the same way if my own life were at stake, and I can't really fault someone who assesses the risk differently than I do.

The men's players, unlike the women's players, face constant media scrutiny and criticism. Every game is an excuse for the press to spin the usual story about how the U.S. players are too flashy, too lazy, too selfish, too arrogant (too black?), while the international players are smart, fundamentally-sound team players.

If the men win, they've only done what's expected; if they lose, they've embarrassed us. Is there another Olympic sport where our players make bigger headlines by losing than by winning? Is it any surprise then that some players decide to take the summer off?

I love every minute of watching the women play. It's awesome that all of our best players (other than Holdsclaw) are there. It's awesome how they function as a team. It's awesome how the older players mentor the younger. It's awesome how great players don't mind sitting on the bench. It's awesome how they win.

The women's program deserves to be celebrated for all of those reasons and more. But that celebration can do without all of the holier-than-thou comparisons to the men's team.
The team didn't panic yesterday when the Czechs started off hot.

"In the first quarter they came out and did not miss. We turned up our defense and got a little more aggressive and slowed them down," said Sheryl Swoopes. "Once they cooled off, their transition game never got going, and that's one of their biggest strengths."

(Swoopes threw in a complaint about the gym: "The floor is horrible. I don't know if it's paint or vinyl but it's very slippery. I watched the men fall [Sunday] night too. People are hesitant to go there.")

Lisa Leslie was essentially unstoppable down low despite the beating she took from the Czechs.
"These teams definitely play a physical game, but she (Leslie) takes most of the beating, so I have no complaints,” said Tina Thompson.
21-year-old Texan Cat Osterman was unhittable yesterday. In a rematch of the 2000 gold medal game, she led the U.S. to a 3-0 victory.

"Japan is a great team, obviously, being No. 2 in the world," said Osterman. "The first game, I was so excited to be out there. I was shaking, so I don't know if it was from being excited or nervous. But those two batters in that first game got me an Olympic feel, got that out of the way, and I was definitely ready to pitch today."

The team followed that win with another over China earlier today. The U.S. got another great pitching performance, this time from Lori Harrigan, who threw a one-hitter.

Next up: Canada, 10 AM tomorrow on MSNBC.
After dropping their first match to China, the women's volleyballers rebounded yesterday to beat Germany. The U.S. team held off a late rally by the Germans.

"They were lucky at the end," said German libero Tanja Hart. "That's why they won the match."

Three games remain in the preliminary round, starting with the Dominicans tomorrow. That game will be shown on NBC around midnight tomorrow night.

Monday, August 16, 2004

The women's soccer squad has gotten off to a good start with wins over Greece and Brazil. Tomorrow they face off against Australia, 11 AM on MSNBC.

We will be without our young star Abby Wambach, who got two yellow cards in Saturday's game.

"Getting that second yellow is a little heartbreaking," Wambach said after the game. "That's when I had to kick in my professionalism and say to myself that this is the last time I can play in the first round, so I tried to play my heart out and help the team as much as I could without getting a red card and having us play a man down. I want to be able to help my team and wear that jersey every game. That's why I'm here, to help my team, and if I can't do that, I feel like I am letting my team and my country down. But I am confident in the players that will replace me and whatever Australia will throw at us, we'll be able to deal with."

The Australia game is the last of the preliminaries. After that, things will get tougher. As Robert Weintraub says at Slate today, U.S. women's soccer no longer enjoys the prominence it once did.

It's partly that (aside from Wambach) we haven't had enough good young players come up to replace the Hamm generation. It's partly because some of the European teams have just gotten so much better, passing by former powers like us and China.

But you never know... maybe Mia and the sisters have a little magic left for their last performance.

Elsewhere in Group B today, one pretty big upset: New Zealand knocked of South Korea. The Tall Ferns were led by Gina Farmer, who had 22, and Donna Loffhagen, who had a double-double. It was the second Olympic win for the New Zealand women's basketball program. Korea was hurt by the absence of Chung Sun-Min.
Will the Olympic break help or hurt the WNBA? According to Mike Anthony, probably neither.

"Fans who care about the WNBA and what will take place in the season's final month will still care when play resumes. Those who don't care might not realize the league has taken a month-long hiatus. And that is where the WNBA remains - stuck in the middle, not necessarily thriving, but at least sustaining. Some caring, some not."

Anthony's article in today's Courant is one of the best state-of-the-league analyses published this year. The basic thrust of the article is that the WNBA is finding stability as a secondary sports league -- that it's learning to live smaller, no longer trying to be just like the NBA.

The article also notes that while attendance is down from last year's full-season average, it's up from the same point last year (attendance typically rises as the year goes on).
What a treat to wake up this morning, drink coffee, and watch the USA women's team beat the Czech Republic 80-61 as we sat in our jammies!

We got up just in time to see the end of the 1st quarter. The Czechs came out strong with hot shooting from Zuzana Klimesova (18 pts) and Eva Viteckova (14 pts). Team USA really picked up the pace in the second quarter and started to take over the game. There was no looking back from that point. Team USA shot 49% from the field vs. the Czech's 35% and the USA out rebounded them 43 to 22.

Lisa Leslie led team USA with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Tina Thompson and Yo Griffith turned in solid performances for the USA scoring 12 points and 10 points, respectively.

Team USA plays South Korea Wednesday morning. Another morning coffee game!

Friday, August 13, 2004

We are heading up north to the woods, offline till Sunday night. Go USA!
For the American sports fan, the Olympics are often less enjoyable than they might be due to the TV coverage, with its "endless sob stories, the desire to impose a narrative arc on sporting events, and the boosterism that gave short shrift to non-U.S. athletes."

That plus tape delays, bane of my existence.

Here's hoping (against hope, perhaps) that it will be different this year, especially on the cable NBC affiliates where our basketball will be shown. Just show me the games live and in their entirety and I'll be happy.
Dawn Staley today is getting the sort of national recognition that she has always deserved but never gotten. Her name and a little bit of her story are in every paper in the country.

Both John Smallwood and Phil Sheridan in the Philly Inquirer have columns that have been syndicated around the country. And tons elsewhere: Mary Schmitt Boyer in the Plain Dealer, Scott Fowler in the Observer, John Niyo in the Detroit News, Tommy Hine in the Courant...

Congratulations again to Dawn.
Holdsclaw wasn't at practice yesterday. The team is preparing to go without her for the rest of this season, and maybe forever.
Taurasi has a diary at the AZ Republic. She says she's already gotten the one thing she really wanted in Athens: a photo with fellow Argentinean Manu Ginobili.
Yo Griffith has been through some big ups and downs in life, but kept on keeping on. "I wanted a better life for me and my daughter, and I wanted it bad. That's why I continued to work hard."

Heading to the Olympics is a great tribute to that work. "I'm going to walk into that stadium with my head up," she said. "I'm going to walk into that stadium proud."
Janeth Arcain is blogging from Athens, complete with photos. Seems somewhat less sanitized than the official WNBA.com blogs. You can use Babel Fish Portuguese to English for a rough translation. Thanks to Laurent at basquetebol for the pointer.
Michelle Wie, playing a bit like Tiger right now, which isn't good -- she's out of the U.S. Amateur.
Sally Jenkins defends Marion and attacks Dick Pound, head of WADA. Agree with her about Pound and WADA... but I'm not sure I can agree with her that the evidence against Marion is "less than persuasive."

Thursday, August 12, 2004

I cannot think of anyone more deserving to carry the American flag in the opening ceremonies than Dawn Staley.

Dawn has been an All-America at UVA, a WNBA All-Star, a three-time Olympian...and has dedicated her life to improving others through her foundation and her community service projects.

It is a great honor for Dawn. But America should be honored that there are people like Dawn Staley to represent the country.

Here's the TV schedule, all times Eastern.

Game 1: New Zealand, 7:30 AM Saturday, CNBC.

Game 2: Czech Republic, 7:30 AM Monday, USA.

Game 3: South Korea, 7:30 AM Wednesday, USA.

Game 4: Spain, 7:30 AM Friday, USA.

Game 5: China, 1 PM next Sunday, CNBC.

You can also see at least some of the Australia-Brazil game at 10 AM on CNBC next Sunday th 22nd.

For other sports, check here.
Dawn Staley has been selected to carry the US flag and lead the US delegation of athletes into the opening ceremonies in Athens tomorrow night. Staley was on the Today Show this morning with Katie Couric. If you are on the west coast, tune in around 7:15 am to catch the interview.
The USA junior team has had an embarrassingly easy time in the FIBA tournament, winning by an average margin of almost 80 points.

Candace Parker hasn't been getting a ton of playing time, but when she's been on the floor, she's been turning heads and drawing cheers, even from opposing fans. Imagine what it will be like four years from now when she's getting ready to dunk all over Beijing...
Shell Dailey, promoted from the Stars co-interim-head-coach to interim-head-coach.
LJ and the Aussies think they can beat us. "Their women have got their Dream Team here as we do," Jackson said. "It's going to be tough. We're kind of equal. Their advantage is they have a league, the WNBA, they can pull everyone out of that league."

Kind of equal, eh? We'll see...
Joe Drape in today's Times on female athletes posing nude (or nearly) for Playboy, FHM, and other magazines for guys whose hobby is jerking off.

No mention in Drape's article about LJ or Labella -- it's focused mostly on Amy Acuff, who appears on the cover of the August Playboy.

The slant of the article is that opinions have changed rapidly on this subject, to the point where no one really cares anymore. Just four years ago, Donna Lopianao said "Any exposure in a sports magazine that minimizes athletic achievement and skill and emphasizes the female athlete as a sex object is insulting and degrading."

Compare that to today's quote from Dominique Dawes, the president-elect of the WSF: "It's a personal choice, and if an athlete wants to portray herself in a certain light, it's up to her. It's not anything I would do, but sports and sex has always sold. I think women have earned the right to make those kinds of decisions."

But what sort of choice is this? Why does someone make such a decision?

Here's what Acuff told Drape: "I did it for the financial aspect. It's really hard to make that kind of money in the real world."

Finally, a female athlete who's honest about her reasons for taking off her clothes.

And that honestly brings to light the essential hollowness of choice- or consent-based defenses made by Dawes and lots of others.

People pose nude (and do lots of other things) in large part because they need the money. If Amy Acuff were a millionaire, she wouldn't be in Playboy. We live in a world where female athletes typically make far less money than male athletes. So women get pressured in to posing nude and men don't. So women end up making that "choice" and men don't.

Now that's obviously a dramatic oversimplification -- some people (e.g., LJ) don't do it for the money; not all male athletes (e.g., male pole vaulters) make a lot of money; a few female athletes (e.g., Serena) do; etc.

Maybe lots of female athletes would keep posing even if they made the same as men, and maybe that would be ok. Maybe it's great for women to revel in their bodies and their sexuality in the pages of Maxim. Maybe it's time for us to move beyond the sexual prudishness of Second Wave feminism.

Or if nothing else, maybe we must accept some of this for now so we can advance women's sports. Maybe it's ok for Sue Bird to get all nasty in Dime Magazine so that her daughter doesn't have to. (Even writing that sentence, however, gives me that kind of feeling like I want to firebomb something... like maybe Branson, Missouri, just for the fuck of it.)

It would take a whole semester in a women's studies class to analyze this fully, and reasonable people can disagree about the propriety of female athletes going topless.

But the point is: it's not enough to say "she chose to do it, so everything's ok." That's a cop-out -- an intellectually lazy response to a serious and complicated issue. It's not so much a way of analyzing the issue as a way of avoiding it.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

The Annenberg School has an excellent website, factcheck.org, exposing the lies of both sides in this political campaign.
Our tennis squad has been decimated the last couple days. Capriati pulled out with a hamstring injury, and just hours before she was to fly to Greece, Serena abandoned ship too.
Rick James, RIP.
New York Newsday offers up an early and fond farewell to some of the best of our generation: Kristine Lilly, Joy Fawcett, Brandi Chastain, Julie Foudy, Mia Hamm, Dawn Staley, Sheryl Swoopes, Lisa Leslie, and Lisa Fernandez.

"There is a bond among the women from '96," Fernandez said, "because of what we shared together in that '96 games [and] because of how we were able to take our sports to another level. So to see Julie Foudy and Mia Hamm and those guys potentially looking at retirement, it's a decade almost that we've been together and it is emotional because you feel a piece of you is being left behind."
Still millions of tickets available in Athens. Maybe it's time to hop a cheap flight and head over?
Sue Bird isn't terribly worried about terrorism. "They only time I think about it is when you guys ask," she said.

The men's team, however, suffered a scare yesterday when a bomb blew up seven miles from their Istanbul hotel.
Pee Wee enjoying the Olympic ride: ""It's been a very long road for me. The dream I've had for so long (was) a dream I was really afraid would not come true. I was beginning to get fed up, but I managed to keep my focus and keep strong."
Big night at the Y last night. We had former Wisconsin Badger Kate Aagaard; they had former Illini guard Sarah Vandertop. (Vandertop usually plays for up, but has a traitor streak.) We were down the whole game, but led by a huge performance by Aagaard, fought our way back. Sara hit a pull-up jumper to tie it at the buzzer, and my sis April hit a put-back layup to win at the end of OT.

Actually... the ball was still in April's hand at the buzzer, but the refs gave us a break.
LJ is thinking of ditching the WNBL for two reasons: she can make more money in Europe, and she doesn't like the unitards.

The league has agreed to switch to two-piece uniforms, but it's not sure it can come up with enough dough.
Janeth Arcain has committed to returning to the Houston Comets after the Olympic break.

This is VERY good news for Houston, which desperately needs stability in the backcourt and could really benefit from having Janeth, the consummate team player.
Washingon Sports & Entertainment has sent out notices...season ticket holders are to pay 50 percent of the cost for 2005 season tickets by September 1st (and payment for 2004 playoff tickets is also due on September 1).

50 percent of 2005 season tickets by September 1? Sounds as if Chamique Holdsclaw may not be back any time soon...

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Ever interested in what and how much elite athletes eat to fuel their bodies through the long days of training, checkout MAURA EGAN and CHRISTINE MUHLKE's piece in the Times--"Athens on 5,000 Calories a Day".
Good news for Minnesota Olympic fans, our own Carrie Tollefson has been added to the USA Track & Field team. Tollefson won the 1,500 meters at the trials in Sacramento, but her time was not fast enough to meet the qualifying standard. Since the trials, Tollefson has since raced the qualifying time and the two other runners trying to meet the standard have given up. She ran the 1,500 five times in the 12 days. I'm excited and I'm exhausted,'' Tollefson told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. She will be the only US althete competing in the 1,500 in Athens. Go Carrie!
Another sad chapter in the Kara Braxton saga -- Braxton was suspended in February for repeated violations of team rules. Last month, Braxton (who is now pregnant) was involved in a domestic violence incident with a member of the Georgia football team. According to police, Kara would have faced criminal charges if she and the man had been cohabitating.
The Courant on Cash, Bird, and Taurasi, the young core of the women's squad. Great photo.

In other UConn-Olympic news, Russia announced its team, and it doesn't include Svet. (Thanks to Paul for the pointer.)
Michael Ventre at MSNBC says the men's team could learn a few thing from the women's team.

"These women aren’t shrieking like divas over the heavy workload of preparing for a WNBA season, getting two-thirds through it, then jumping into the Olympic fray, knowing that the rest of the pro schedule will follow. They aren’t allowing themselves to be held back by a lack of playing time together. They’re just going out and trouncing the rest of the world, and doing so with gusto."

Our team beat Spain yesterday to win the warmup tourney. The inside dominance continued with another huge rebounding advantage and another double-double from Lisa Leslie.

"You know, whenever you talk about a team that qualified for the Olympics, you're playing a good team," said Taurasi. "Especially playing at home with the crowd, and you're going to get most of the calls playing at home. I think they played us tough for most of the game. In the end our athleticism and size just took over."
LaSalle has interviewed several candidates for its coaching job, including former Rutgers assistant Cathy Andruzzi. Mel Greenberg wonders why they haven't talked to Sting assistant Cheryl Reeve.
Two contrasting stories today about life after sports.

Eli Saslow profiles Kerri Strug, who has put gymnastics in her past and now works as a lawyer in DC. She looks back at the sacrifices she made and wonders if it was worth it.

"Now that I'm out of the sport, I look back and think, 'Why did I get so nervous?'" said Strug. "I mean, it was a gym meet. Why was it so important to do well? My perspective has changed. You don't really realize how silly it all is."

In the Times, Juliet Macur profiles Tammy Thomas, a former world champion biker who has been banned for life for steroid use. She now lives in LA, surviving on minimum wage, dealing with disgrace.

"Every day is the same day," Thomas said. "I used to be well respected. I made my parents proud. Now I've embarrassed my family. For the rest of my life, wherever I go and whatever I do, I'm going to be known as a cheater."

Monday, August 09, 2004

The US team overcame a turnover-ridden start and beat France easily yesterday.

"I'm not sure why we started out slow," said Sue Bird. "We're still getting to know each other. You never want to make excuses, but the more we get to know each other and play together the better it will get. We talked about that in the locker room, especially the turnovers. In the second half we wanted to come out and make a point. We know teams are going to look at these scores. Just like we hear about other teams, like China beat whoever and won, we hear about other scores and people are going to hear about this. We need to start right now going in the right direction going into the Olympics."

Leslie led with 12 and 9. Coach Chancellor expects a tougher matchup today against Spain.
Directors of two track meets in Europe have turned away Marion Jones. But Marion was allowed at another meet in Munich over the weekend, and she won both the long jump and the 4x100 relay.

Amy Shipley profiles Lauryn Williams in today's Post. Williams is looking to take the gold in the 100 and lay claim to the title of fastest woman in the world.
Sue Bird, ready to face LJ in Athens: "We joke about it. She recently dyed her hair blonde, but she kind of messed it up so it has a gold tint. So she's saying, gold for Australia. But if we do play them, I know all her secrets."
Joseph Person on South Carolina's own Pee Wee Johnson: "That it took Johnson 11 years to earn a spot on the U.S. women’s basketball team is not nearly as remarkable as the fact that Johnson still is playing basketball at all. "
Australia beat China 74-70 to win their warmup tourney. LJ had 24 and 13.

"I was satisfied with my players especially in the third period," said Chinese head coach Gong Luming. "Their defense was good, but they were a little bit relaxed at the start of the last period."

“It was a great win against a very well oiled and drilled Chinese team leading into the Olympics,” Sandy Brondello said.
If you've never seen the Daily Show before, tonight would be a good time to give it a try. 11 PM ET Comedy Central.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

On ESPN's list of best coaches of the last 25 years, Pat was #5. Geno was #13.

Speaking of coach Summitt, Jeremy Dershner at Slate makes fun of inspirational-motivational books by basketball coaches, including Pat's Reach For The Summitt.

And elsewhere in the world of schmaltzy books by our favorite sports figures, Sue Bird recently published a kids' books titled Sue Bird: Be Yourself. Sue's books was co-authored by Greg Brown, who has also worked on such classics as Kerri Strug: Heart of Gold, David Eckstein: Have Heart, and Sheryl Swoopes: Bounce Back.
Another female athlete nude: this time it's Anastasia Myskina, but she didn't authorize the publication of these photos, so she's suing.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Kevin Pelton didn't see the blowout coming. He wasn't alone.

As Kevin says, probably the highlight of the game was the no dribble fastbreak, Taurasi to Bird to Cash. Imagine: after this year, Taurasi and Bird will probably be the starting backcourt for the Olympic team for the next 2, 3, maybe 4 Olympics. It will be awesome to watch.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Mia Hamm and the '91ers are heading to their last Olympics as the younger crew gets ready to take over U.S. soccer.

Hamm downplays the significance: "To be honest, if people want a guideline, it's not like the Olympics are the end. I'd like my last game to be in the States."
Pretty fun game last night. The talent differential looked huge to me.

The defense was stifling, and Team USA's rebounding was downright dominant -- with Yo, Lisa, and Tina down low, and Catch flying from outside, it was no contest. 62-30.

The turnovers were a bit of a problem, but you have to figure that when the real games come, they won't be trying so many thread-the-needle passes.

The team is pretty amazing, and as Eli Saslow tells it today, the players want to do more than just win gold -- they also want to show off to boost interest in the league.

"We have a chance to boost the WNBA, to boost the whole women's game," said Sue Bird. "The Olympics is just a huge stage for us. We've got a chance [to] get a lot of attention because we win gold medals and, honestly, we're just good."

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Looks like the WNBA's game blog will have some in-game and post-game reporting from Wurst and Lobo. Keep your computer next to you while watching the game.
Other than the AP report, the Grey Lady seems to have nothing on today's game. For a paper supposedly run by lefty gay feminist revolutionaries, its WNBA coverage really sucks.
Kevin Pelton runs some numbers to see if the WNBA squad has a chance. Probably not: "Given the USA women's team advantages in practice time and ability, they are pretty clearly the favorites in The Game. A blowout seems unlikely, and the level of disparity is probably similar to that of the WNBA's previous All-Star Games. While the Western Conference has had a clear advantage in talent and has won all five true All-Star Games, the East has been able to keep things close. The last three games have all been decided by eight points or less."

No prediction yet from Keegan, who ended the first block of the season with a 102-66 record.
At ESPN.com, Lieberman previews the game.

Voepel on Yo Griffith: "she is just one of those players who'd be on the short list if you needed a rebound to save your life."
Sue Bird disses the Kiwis: "Obviously, I think our team - I mean, we are the Olympic team - on paper, we're probably better," she said. "But these are girls we play against every day. They're not going to be intimidated like maybe New Zealand will be in the first round. And from what I hear, Bill Laimbeer is coming out to win."

Coach Chancellor doesn't even think it's a real game: "I'm not approaching this as an all-star game," he said. "This is about us getting ready to try to win a gold medal in Athens."

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Tomorrow's WaPo on the game, the venue, and the process of setting it up: "Would concession stands sell soda or cocktails? Would the background look like a stage, with silhouetted lighting and a few set pieces? Or like a court, with a basketball logo and a scoreboard?"

On Diana: "Taurasi's tirelessness is now her greatest asset. She's averaging 16.5 points and 3.6 assists, the highest numbers of any rookie, while marketing her league 24 hours a day."

And even a bit on Holdsclaw, interviewed this afternoon at her camp. "I know that my teammates depend on me, but it comes to a point where life is bigger than that, and I'm not worried right now about shooting on a basket or anything like that," Holdsclaw said. "I'm worried about myself. If I'm not good in all facets -- mentally, spiritually, emotionally, health-wise -- and I'm just getting by, everybody's not going to benefit as a whole."

At the Summitt today, Barry had some good thoughts on the situation.
Unlike the men's program, the USA women's program has no trouble attracting the best players. So good they barely need coaching.

"The ones who don't get it aren't a part of it," says assistant coach Donovan. "It's interesting how people get weeded out (in the selection process) who don't have that as their passion, who don't make the commitment."
Missouri sucks. (Like we didn't already know that....)
My challenge to ESPN: get an interview with Holdsclaw for halftime tomorrow. Think of the drama! The production value! Make it happen!
Rick Lopez, former coach of the Colorado Hoopsters, has been arrested on charges of sexual assault in New York. The Denver Post conducted an investigation last year and uncovered multiple allegations that Lopez had inappropriate conduct with his players. Lopez quit his position with the team in early July, and shortly after that, Colorado authorities issued a warrant for his arrest. He was apparently found in New York attempting to visit one of his former players.

Hoopsters is an elite program that has produced some of the country's top recruits, including Ann Strother, Emily and Abby Waner, Jamie Carey, Katy Flecky, and Liz Sherwood.

After the Post ran its series on Lopez, the Seattle Times ran its series uncovering sexual abuse of girl athletes by coaches.

Thanks to Janet for the pointer.

Related posts:
1. Preliminary hearing
2. Preliminary hearing, round 2
3. Keeping up with the Strothers
4. Lopez's suicide in jail
5. Ambivalent parents
6. Suicide notes
7. Note from Darryl Smith, and AAU policies (or lack thereof)
8. More of the same in Albuquerque
9. Eric Adelson reports for ESPN The Magazine
There was some debate whether they wanted a link, but like it or not, here it is: new WNBA message board, started as an alternative to ESPN's. Permanent link as "Board Junkies" at left.
Swoopes on the men's team, which lost to Italy yesterday: "It's not that they can't play defense. It's that they don't always want to."
This article about Catch, from Marlen Garcia in yesterday's Chicago Tribune, has now been picked up by a few papers around the country.

The Courant today ran Mike Terry's piece on Sue and LJ.
A quick update from the Minneapolis YWCA women's league (I know you are all dying to know). My team, The Blast, suffered another loss last night to Alumnus. Although we couldn't pull off the win, we played a good game and had quite the fan section. Not many women's rec teams have the kind of follwoing that the Blast does. We had parents, in-laws, boyfriends, husbands, daughters, and sisters all there cheering us on. It was pretty cool.

After the game my sister's future mother-in-law (who had never seen any of us play) said to me, "That was so fun. I wish I could play, and I wish this stuff would have been around when I was young." That made me smile. It didn't matter that we lost. It is just awesome that we all get out there, run the floor, and that we still get to play the game we love.
Doping cops have tested 43 men's and women's basketball players in the USA programs -- apparently no positives.
Former Rockers coach Dan Hughes is taking a new job with the Mid-American Conference.
Holdsclaw speaks. She says that people can say what they want about her... but she must have gotten some wind of the internet rumors, so she decided to come out publicly and say that she's not pregnant.

She's also not addicted to drugs and she doesn't have cancer. Beyond that, she won't say what the problem is. She says it's nobody's damn business.

"The only people I feel for are those who are going to be there for me. That's my parents, Coach Summitt and my agent, [what about coach Adams, your teammates, the Mystics fans?] and those are the people, God forbid that I am dying, that are going to be there for me. And that's the way I've always handled things, and that's the way I will. I don't want no sympathy party for anything that is going on in my life. I stick to those who stick to me."
Remembering the Portland Fire. The article notes that the league averaged over 10,000 over the last stretch of games, and that ratings for games on ESPN2 this year are up 16%.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Updated attendance figures provided by toad455 at the ESPN board. Seems like we had a pretty good July.
In the final power rankings before break, Matt Wurst has over half of the league tied for fifth.

Matt Wurst has also posted the first entry in WNBA.com's Radio City Blog, which was set up to cover the All-Star festivities. The site promises to be updated "several times daily," or at least somewhat more frequently than the Lobo and Riley blogs.
Break plans:

Deanna Nolan is going fishing.

The Sun will head to the beach for their working vacation.

Kamila Vodichkova is heading to Prague and Litomerice to see family.

Charlotte coach Lacey hopes her players don't get too relaxed.
The Washington Times keeps after the Holdsclaw story.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Will Mique come back after the break? The team doesn't know.
Seattle stayed hot and demolished the Sting with a 2-1 rebounding advantage and a 32 point win. Nicole Powell, who has finally been getting some playing time, was the only Charlotte player in double figures.

Given how well everything is going in Seattle, even the players heading to Athens were a little sad to go. "I know this moment has to happen," said LJ. "It's sad. It's a part of my life that I enjoy so much and everyone is leaving and I don't want them to go. I just want to cry."

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Just as impressive, after winning today, the Mystics went 2-1 without Mique.

Jim McCarthy, guest blogging at Off Wing, wonders why the Washington press has not scrutinized the Holdslaw situation more closely. He has a point -- you would think that the beat reporters for the Times and the Post know what's going on (or at least could find out very easily), yet they haven't published anything. That wouldn't happen in NBA.

Whether that's a good thing or not is, of course, another question.
In today's PP, Tim Leighton graded the Lynx. Owner Glen Taylor got the highest mark for his enthusiasm and commitment to the team, which hasn't yet been matched by Minnesota fans.

The team's tendency to throw the ball away earned a low grade. Tonight, the Lynx had another game with more turnovers than field goals... but they beat Detroit anyway. 2-1 without Katie Smith. That's impressive.
Mike Anthony wonders if Holdsclaw's situation is more than a "minor medical matter."
No suprises: Sparks roll past the Stars. San Antonio was actually able to build a good first-half lead, but they couldn't hang on.

"We got off to a slow start tonight," said Sparks co-interim-coach Karleen Thompson. "We had a tough game in Sacramento that kind of carried over and they were back-to-back. So we had to come out and be mentally tough, especially in the second half."

"We really thought we had a chance," said Stars co-interim-coach Vonn Read. "We came out and played really hard in the first half. But they made their runs, too. I definitely look at it as a missed opportunity."
The stumbling Fever dropped their sixth straight. Indiana had no answer for Tina Thompson, who had 31 points and 10 boards.

Houston got the win despite failing to get a single field goal in the final 11 minutes. After the game, the Comets felt they owed their fans an apology for their second-half play.

"Our fans have been very loyal all season long," Sheryl Swoopes said. "It's disappointing to us to come out and, even if we don't win, play without the heart and passion, then I think it's disappointing to us because that's what the fans have come out to see."
Before a sold-out Radio City crowd, the Liberty shot 52% and breezed past the Sun. Hammon had 24 and shot 5-for-5 from outside.

Blaze gives credit to coach Coyle (and thus, indirectly, to herself). "The players have responded well to her. I'm pleased. She's got them focused." Also doesn't hurt that New York has played 7 of its last 9 games at home.

As a result of the loss, Connecticut heads into the break sub-.500 and wondering how to right the ship.