Women's Hoops Blog: October 2004

Inane commentary on a game that deserves far better

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Coach Summitt encouraged Chamique to go public "sooner rather than later" to quell the rumors and "allow friends to be friends."

"If it were me, I can't speak for Chamique, I would feel a sigh of relief," Pat said. "I don't have people talking and wondering."

This morning in the Charlotte Observer, Jena Janovy praises Chamique for "her courage and determination to help herself and others."

Saturday, October 30, 2004

The Washington Times, which hounded Holdsclaw, is now strangely silent.
Shalicia Hurns received her sentence yesterday: three years probation, no jail time. She'll return home, get some counseling, and try to get her life in order.

Friday, October 29, 2004

McCarville down with a broken hand, out for a few weeks.

"If anything is going to happen like this, this is the time," coach Borton said. "It's early in the season. We know how to handle a situation like this, losing a key player. I told the team we've done it before. We have 13 other players who need to step up."
Holdsclaw says why she's been gone: clinical depression.

I just remember (being) out on a West Coast trip and I was there, I was with the "team, but I was somewhere else," Chamique said. "I was just feeling real anti-social. I wasn't feeling my normal self."

She's getting help, but she's not sure whether she'll play again with the Mystics or anyone else.

Eric McErlain has some thoughts on the situation.

The biggest question in my mind was always: if she's well enough to attend the games and sit in the box, why can't she sit on the bench with the team? This answers that... and much else.

Best wishes to Mique for recovery.
Apologies again for the problems with the site. Hoping it's a thing of the past.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

As Ted mentioned this morning, the parents of former UConn player, Sarah Northway, were killed in a plane crash yesterday. I would just like to express my heartfelt sympathies to Sarah and her family. We will be keeping them in our thoughts and in our hearts.
Sad news here yesterday. The parents of Sarah Northway, former UConn forward and old friend of Sara, were killed in a plane crash. They had flown to visit Sarah, who is now a lawyer in DC. Their plane went down in Wisconsin on their way home.
The Kia Vaughn-Geno story enters the second day of the news cycle.

NCAA recruiting rules prevent Geno and staff from commenting directly, but UConn manages to tell its side of the story by giving "anonymous source" quotes to the Connecticut papers.

According to the sources, Apache Paschall, Kia's AAU coach, lied to them about Kia's visits to Rutgers and Maryland. After her visit to Rutgers, Kia didn't contact them for a week, so UConn terminated the recruitment effort.

Paschall, obviously enjoying the media attention, tells his sob story to anyone who will listen. "Kia just got to the point where she felt like she was being pressured." "The kid is hurt." Oh, cry me a fucking river.

His story also seems to be changing. Monday he told the Register that the biggest problem with UConn was that Kia "want[ed] to play right away as a freshman."

Yesterday he told the Post that Kia "didn't care about starting" -- all she cared about was finding a father figure who "was going to take care of her."
Reporters pick UNC to win the ACC -- Dukies bemused.

"I'm surprised," said Mo Currie. "They think we dropped off a lot more than we think we did."

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Barry's picks for the All-WNBA teams have been made available at FCP.

One great pick: putting Katie Smith on the All-Defensive team. "Katie's defense never receives the credit it deserves. It is time to ensure her defensive aptitude and her use of strength and body positioning (in lieu of speed) are not underappreciated."
Her parents have been prepping us for awhile, now it's official: Lauren Jackson will skip the WNBL season.

Will she ever play for Canberra again? "Any club in the world is going to fall over for her," said coach Tom Maher. "I think it will come down to whether she decides to have the European experience."
Geno's aggressive recruiting tactics turned off Kia Vaughn. According to Kia's AAU coach Apache Paschall, UConn was the #1 option from the beginning, but coach Auriemma blew it with his hard sell, which included vulgar phone messages.

Boneyarders debate the issue. No response yet from Geno.
The Pac-10, tired of being kicked around as the weakest major conference, is looking to do better this year.

"I'm really excited about our conference because I believe we'll see the resurgence this year we've been predicting," said ASU coach Charli Turner Thorne. "We have veteran teams and they are healthy. We have the [nonconference] schedules, and if we can take care of business, we can have five or six teams in the NCAA tournament."

Unfortunately, the conference won't have the Paris twins to look forward to. Courtney and Ashley liked Horstmeyer's program... but not quite enough. "That was really tough," Courtney said. "We are so close to them. Even though I'm going to a different school, I'm still Cal's biggest fan. ... I'll always be a Cal fan, but my heart was somewhere else."
Whalen is back helping the Gophs, getting credit for her sports management degree.

On the team: "They have experienced players who have played in big games, and they know how to win. I don't have any predictions or anything, but I think they'll do well. There's always different players who step up every year."

That's the Lindsay Whalen equivalent of gushing.
Another girls' basketball coach sex case, this time in SoCal. Former coach Damon Mark Carpenter is heading to prison.
Increasingly crappy Blogger and Blogspot have been down all day. Sorry...

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Only a week away. Nerves building...

If you're still open to other views, here are two good recent endorsements from two good independent thinkers: Sully for Kerry, and Hitchens for Bush.
New excuse from Ashlee Simpson's dad: acid reflux.
Folks on the Summitt take a moment to praise Sybil's recruiting site, which as Barry notes, is relied on by coaches and parents as well as fans, and is provided all for free.

Hear, hear!
Taurasi to act in "Believe in Me," which, judging by the cast and crew, will be a cheesy B-movie with a schamltzy, feel-good basketball story.
Mel Greenburg politely campaigns against Sarnoff, says the league should think about an outsider candidate. He names Ann Meyers, Lynette Woodard, Blaze, Karen Bryant, Kelly Krauskopf, Beth Bass, Chris Plonsky, Linda Bruno, Carol Callan, Patty Viverito, and Amy Love.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Detroit saw a nice surge in attendance after its championship run last year, but it may have eroded much of the goodwill with its performance this year.

Seattle is hoping to avoid the same mistake. "Our organization is committed to capitalizing on this," Storm COO Karen Bryant said.
Pretty slow news day around the women's basketball world. So I spent some time rearranging the left bar and engaging in pointless debates on other blogs.
The CT Post reported yesterday that the Paris Twins are down to Oklahoma and Texas. A poster on the UCLA board says it's Oklahoma.
Timber has more thoughts on Ackerman and the state of the league.
The Israeli league kicks off its season tonight. Crystal Robinson and 14 other WNBA players will be playing in the league this year.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

My brother has a blog -- theology, postmodernism, and occasional grammar lessons.
On a sad note, University of Nevada assistant women's basketball coach Mike Gervasoni was killed Thursday evening in a car accident. Gervasoni's wife, Kim, is the head coach of the team. Our best to the team and staff.
Coffee drinkers may soon see Diana Taurasi on the tube pitching Eight O'Clock Coffee in the company's first TV ad campaign. I have never had their brew, but maybe it is time to check it out.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Finding a player to fill Whalen's spot on the Golpher roster seems next to impossible. That is why Coach Borton isn't looking for just one player but three to fill the void. Borton is hoping sophomore Kelly Roysland and junior transfers Katie Alsdurf and April Calhoun can each bring a a little piece of Whalen's spirit and ability to the floor. "Lindsay was so confident in herself,'' Calhoun said. "She had the ability to put the team on her shoulders and get the job done. It's good that we have three people involved in the position. No one player can do what Lindsay did.''

Friday, October 22, 2004

Thoughts on Val --

First, from Val herself: "This was entirely my decision and it’s a very difficult one because in many ways I think of the WNBA as a third child. But, it’s required a great deal of time and it’s required a great deal of energy. I felt very strongly that this was, and is, the right decision for my two daughters."

Barry on the Duke Board: "Val Ackerman was certainly ambitious and did a great job in trying to start a professional sports league in a saturated market. She has created something more than a niche market... However, I do feel that her 'everybody's wonderful, everybody's beautiful' attitude with the media (i.e., repeatedly avoiding hard questions and deflecting any negative, and very often, substantive issues) was disingenuous and, frankly, contributed to the perception (whether true or not) that she was little more than David Stern's patsy."

Also FCP's Clay Kallum: "Though some viewed her as a David Stern puppet, I think Val Ackerman did what the job required: She needed to be relentlessly positive and upbeat about the league, and be an articulate, attractive spokesperson. We don't know how much influence she had on decision-making, but we can say this: The league seems to have laid a solid foundation on her watch, and it appears that most of the teams are profitable, or very close."

Pilight: "My feeling is that, at the outset at least, the W needed someone that had a relationship with David Stern, that he trusted and that trusted him. That was Val in a nutshell. She was the perfect choice to oversee the birth of the league. The league has progressed to the point that that's less of an issue. We need someone that's more of an innovator and risk-taker. That is most assuredly not Val."

Timber: "She did good, but it's time to move on."

Helen, via email: "As a long time member of the theater community, I was reminded of some wise words uttered by an Artistic Director I worked under. 'The person who has the vision and drive to found and run a company is often, and for good reason, the right person to be lead it for the first 8-10 years. But they're not necessarily the person who is best equipped to run it for the NEXT 10 years.'"

David Carter, president of SBG: "The fact that the first five or six years had been totally or primarily NBA driven, the last couple have been driven by her. Originally, she may have played second fiddle or had to get her bearing based on the dominance of the NBA but I think she has demonstrated pretty significance business prowess of her own."

Voepel attacks all critics. She says ABL diehards were just living in "a financial fantasy world." She says that criticism of Val as a Stern patsy was "silly and it ignored just how important it was that someone of Ackerman's intelligence, background, dedication and commitment was there on the inside of the NBA at the time she was."

Bottom line from Mechelle: "the WNBA isn't just another business, another "thing" to sell. Sure, it's necessary to run it with a firm eye on the bottom line ... but also with a fully committed heart. Ackerman knew that all along. Whoever takes her place better never forget it, either."
LJ's mom joins LJ's dad in urging her (in the press, no less) to take some time off. "I don't think she is looking forward to having six months or five months or whatever it is off but I think she needs the rest."
Seth Sulka hints that he'd like the job. "Any position to promote and sustain the league, I'd be interested in," he said.
WNBA.com asks a bunch of players what they would do if they were President. About half refuse to answer, Taurasi says she'd "cancel taxes," several say they'd end the war.
Coach Stringer spent some time defending her program to the press yesterday..

Shalicia Hurns had problems in the past, so some have wondered why CViv recruited her. "Would you entitle me one mistake in 32 years? And I'm not calling it a mistake. I don't apologize for anything. I'm going to protect them. I don't consider (recruiting Hurns) a mistake."

Hindsight is 20-20, but the bigger question is whether Stringer will allow Hurns to come back eventually. Yesterday, she wouldn't say. "I'm not commenting on [Hurns's status]. I think you probably know as much as I do."

She also wouldn't comment on Cappie's situation. "I understand Cappie has eliminated certain things. It is not pregnancy, it is not drugs, it is not grades. What I'm saying is Cappie has had personal things that happened in life. I'm not at liberty to discuss anything about her personal decision."

(Of course, not everyone is so discreet.)

Finally, Stringer complained that other schools are now resorting to dirty recruiting, kicking Rutgers while it's down.

"I don't need to have Tennessee, Georgia, Louisiana and everybody else killing us over one thing that's happened here," she said. "Every new article is destroying our program. I don't know how much more we can be hurt. With regards to us recruiting, I tell them about this mess straight up. I can't tell you how many times we've been knocked out of the batter's box with a major recruit."
Leslie on the Sparks' coaching situation: "Not that I have any say, but hopefully they will keep Karleen on as the head coach, and I don’t know if they are planning to keep Ryan or not. I think they both did a great job and I would love to play for them again."

Thursday, October 21, 2004

How are we to greet the news of Val's departure? With mixed feelings, I suppose.

No one can question her devotion to the game. She has spent the last eight years working her butt off, traveling the country, fighting for the league. As fans, we owe her thanks for her service. But I can't help wondering if the league could have been run better over that time.

I am one of those people who often wishes the ABL would have survived instead of the WNBA. I would have preferred to have women's pro ball during basketball season rather than the summer. And I would have preferred a league unaffiliated with the NBA.

The standard wisdom is that no women's league could have survived without the financial support of the wealthy male counterpart -- put differently, that the ABL would have died even without the WNBA's competition. Maybe that's true. But as much as the NBA's millions have bouyed the WNBA, the affiliation may have hurt us as much as it helped.

The NBA affiliation has meant that we've been put mostly in crowded and competitive sports markets. It's meant that we've been put in too-large arenas. Worst of all, for much of the WNBA's history, it meant that we were saddled with owners whose primary concerns were elsewhere, whose support for the women's game was built more on David Stern's strong arm than on any love for the game.

The organizational ties have at times seemed to produce an unhealthy tendency for the WNBA to focus on imitating the NBA's model rather than fashioning its own. Awhile ago I emailed Mark Cuban, who knows as much about the business of basketball as anyone, and asked him what he thought of the WNBA. He said the biggest problem is that the WNBA tries to be NBA Jr., rather than recognizing that it has a fundamentally different market niche, and thus that it needs a fundamentally different business plan.

The WNBA has, for example, spent too much time trying to replicate the NBA's revenue base -- major-network TV contracts -- and in the process, it has ignored other media outlets (the internet, public TV, etc.) that could have better served its fans and grown the game.

The WNBA has made other mistakes as well. It made the near-fatal mistake of expanding too quickly, before it had figured out how to make money. And throughout its life, the league has pursued a marketing strategy that has been occasionally demeaning, often schizophrenic, and always pretty lame.

Despite all the problems, Val was always relentlessly optimistic -- every year in scores of interviews she'd say that attendance will rise next year, that the league will be profitable in a year or two. I understand the importance of putting on a happy public face and projecting confidence. I always worried, however, that her public statements suggested a deeper inability to recognize and fix the league's problems.

The situation got pretty dire. Attendance fell year after year. Expansion turned to painful contraction. A growing number of NBA owners wanted to quit the experiment.

Only then did the league make some fixes. It signed the cruel, but by then necessary, collective bargaining agreement. And it restructured the team ownership, making situations like Connecticut and Phoenix possible, which hold out great hope for the future.

The WNBA is now, finally, headed in the right direction. A year ago, in the wake of the Rockers' collapse, I would have said the league had a 50-50 chance of surviving long-term. Now I would say the odds are much better.

Val deserves credit for guiding the league through rocky times and getting us on what seems to be a reasonably stable path. But I believe the league could have been healthier if it had been run better. Of course we will never know how much power she really has over any of this -- maybe Stern and the NBA Board of Govs made all the big decisions, maybe the league's success or lack thereof is just a product of inevitable market forces.

Maybe none of the problems were Val's fault. Still, I hold out hope that a new commissioner will mean that even happier days are ahead.

I am thankful to Val for her years of service. I am happy she's stepping aside.
Here is the official press release on Val.

And Mary Jo sent along a blurb from the Sports Business Journal confirming that it really was Val's decision to leave. One NBA league source is quoted as saying: "This might be the only time that old saw about 'leaving to spend time with her family' is true."
Liz Robbins gives a thumbnail sketch of what's happened under Val.
Taurasi is back in the states.

"China was great," she said. "You just get to see how big the game really is. There's billions of people, and we did a couple of events with Yao, and it was nuts. People were banging on the sides of the buses. It was scary at first, but it was great for the league."

After a whirlwind year, she'll finally be getting a break. She's going to buy a house in Phoenix, then return to Connecticut this winter to finish her degree.
Deb Patterson is getting ready for life without Ohlde. "You don't replace Nicole Ohlde," she said. "She established herself as the best to ever put on a Kansas State women's basketball jersey. That's why her jersey is hanging in Bramlage Coliseum."

The preseason coachs' poll put K-State third, behind Texas and Baylor.

Colorado, its roster decimated by graduations and transfers, was picked to finish in the bottom half.
LJ's dad is worried that she'll be back on the court too soon, not allowing herself enough time to let her injuries heal. "All that is going to do is set her back even further," he said. "She needs a cool head and logical thinking."

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

The USA Today reports that Val Ackerman is stepping down as commissioner.

"I want to spend more time with my daughters," Ackerman said. "I've been with this for really the past decade. It's been a privilege to be part of things, but it's been grueling."

Still no official press release at WNBA.com. Nice scoop by Oscar Dixon.

(UPDATE: AP reports suggest the story was actually broken by the Sports Business Daily.)

Boarders have named Barry as the new commish. Someone, he hasn't yet placed us in his new administration. Must be some sort of mistake.
Tickets on sale now for the Jimmy V Classic, November 21 in Raleigh. UConn v. UNC will be first, then Tennessee v. NC State.
Kayla Burt's long road back to the court.
Blaine Newham takes a concerned look at money troubles in the WNBA and what they mean for the players.

"I hope there is a time when Betty Lennox doesn't have to go to Italy," Anne Donovan said. "Going to Italy means she is playing year round. It means it will shorten her career."

But as Barry's post about Phoenix shows, there's reason to be hopeful. Not only did the Merc's ticket revenue increase -- they also increased sponsorship revenue by more than 10%, and merchandise sales tripled this year.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

According to Anne Mariucci, part owner of the Mercury, the team's ticket revenue was up more than 20 percent for the recently completed season, and sponsorship revenue also was up -- in the double digits -- compared to the season before. Merchandise sales are way up, too.

The increase in ticket revenue is a tricky figure because the team's average home attendance of 7,638 in 2004 actually is down slightly from last year.

"We're giving away fewer free tickets and selling more expensive tickets," Mariucci said. "Our number of attendees there on a complimentary basis has declined significantly."
Annika won the Sportswoman of the Year Award at the WSF banquet last night.

At ESPN.com Monday, Ron Sirak sung her praises after yet another victory last weekend.

Over the last four seasons Sorenstam has played in 81 LPGA events and has won 31 of them. She has finished in the top-three 51 times in 81 starts and has been in the top-10 an astounding 68 times -- that's 84 percent of her starts. Sorenstam has won five majors over the last four years -- at least one each year -- and in her last 16 majors has five firsts, three seconds, a third and 11 top-10s.
Brittany Hunter is about to have surgery to get a transplanted meniscus. It's a fairly unusual surgery with uncertain results: "The goal is not to give the patient a 'normal' knee, but rather to make it better. It is possible that patients may not be able to resume competitive athletics despite a successful meniscus transplant."

Hunter is sanguine. "I felt like I sat out most of last year," she Hunter. "I felt like last year I came into college playing catch-up because I was injured with plantar fasciitis. That was real trying, and then when I was hurt, I had to catch up again. It was a never-ending injury and, hopefully, when I have the surgery it will finally end."
Coach G is excited about her freshmen: "Chante Black, in my opinion, is going to be one of the best post players ever to wear a Duke uniform. She's outstanding. I told her I expect her to break all of our rebounding and shot-blocking records here at Duke."

Monday, October 18, 2004

Some good news regarding WNBA attendance...

Seattle averaged 7,960 fans and was one of only three teams to improve attendance this year -- the others were 2003 champion Detroit and 2004 finalist Connecticut.

However, in terms of both paid attendance and net gate receipts, Minnesota, Phoenix, Los Angeles and Charlotte also showed increases from 2003.

Overall, the league enjoyed a modest improvement (4-5 percent) in net ticket revenue. Considering the disruptions of the Republican Convention (attendance-wise, to the Liberty) and the extension of the season through October, this is a very good sign for the WNBA's future.
Jeff Merron ranks the 10 most lopsided rivalries in sports.

#4: UConn over Tennessee women's basketball.
Keegan has a message to young Aussie post players: Go to the US ASAP.
Coach Frese guarantees a victory over Duke. Both the men's and women's Blue Devil squads will visit College Park on the weekend of February 14. "This team is ready to play this year," Frese said. "I guarantee you the Blue Devils are going down that weekend."
The last couple years in the Big Ten have been dominated by Penn State, Purdue, and Minnesota. But with the losses of Mazzante, Brungo, Russell, Wright, Valek, and Whalen, those teams may have to regroup. Others, particularly Ohio State and Michigan State, believe it's their turn.

"Other teams have lost people, we finished third and only lost one," said OSU coach Jim Foster.

"I think it's going to be a wild year," Spartans coach Joanne McCallie said. "There are going to be a lot of difficult games."

Even teams at the bottom, like Northwestern, believe they can move up.

Although Minnesota ran to the Final Four last year and has the league's biggest returning star in McCarville, the media vote didn't even have the Gophers finishing in the top three. Coach Borton took it in stride: "That's OK the way everybody voted. What it means is that our conference is more balanced this year, and that's the way it should be. We shouldn't have a league where it's always one or two teams expected to dominate."

Whatever happens on the court, the Gophers seem to be guaranteed success at the gate. They raised season ticket prices 34% and have already sold more than 25% over last year. The program could break even for the first time.
One reporter campaigns against WNBA expansion.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

It's been an emotional week for the Storm -- reaching great heights, reflecting on the difficult times many of them have had recently.

But already they are starting to think about the grim business reality that the offseason may present. Seattle has a great team that could win more titles, but they may not be able to afford to keep it together.

"We have a lot of veterans and we have to be realistic at what can be done," said Simone Edwards. "Whatever happens, happens, but at least we shared that championship together. I wasn't ready to leave without that."

LJ is protected as a core player, but Keegan reports that she's threatening to sit next year out. That seems incredibly unlikely, but I guess you never know.
McCarville on life without Whalen: "It's way different."
Seimone Augustus worked hard in the offseason. Lots of time shooting around, lots of time hitting the weights.

"I've been hearing that all my life from my dad about being only as good as your last game," said Augustus. "My last game was OK, but it wasn't my best. We didn't win and any time we don't win then I have a problem with that. I'm just going to come out and work that much harder."

Saturday, October 16, 2004

How serious are LJ's injuries? Unclear. It sucks for the WNBL, but she probably could use some rest.
If you haven't seen Jon Stewart on Crossfire, you should -- Wonkette has links. One of the more uncomfortable and unexpected moments in recent television history.

Also, if you haven't read Sully on Mary Cheney, you should. My parents were abnormally perturbed about this over the weekend. So I was up late last night talking them down.

UPDATE: A Lobo fan responds:

[Your parents] have my sympathy -- obviously, their son is one of the marching morons of the Demogogic Party... 'Women's Hoops Blog -- by Sara & Ted' is no longer one of my wbball links...

You make the mistake of blogging on a Saturday night after a few hits and a few white russians, you wake up Sunday morning to hate mail. I'll never learn...
Coach Stringer says everything's fine. And she's selling a bridge.

The message boards have developed a fairly typical way of dealing with the secret scandals: Someone posts the news, someone says "let's respect her privacy," someone hints at what the issue is or implies that he knows, etc. The Cappie debate on the ESPN board, however, has taken the whole thing to strange new levels. Bravo, folks.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Time to turn attention to the college ranks.

Oregon has Kraayeveld back and is ready to do some damage.

The Gophers will try to build an identity in the post-Lindsay Whalen era.

Washington will try to build an identity in the post-Mendiola era.

NC State is coached by God.

La Tech is trying to figure out what to do without Erica Taylor, who is pregnant.

Auburn is adjusting to the Nell Fortner regime.

Tanisha Wright is ready to make Penn State her team.

Florida State will try to move past its grief for Ronalda Pierce.
LJ is preparing for some surgery on the sore hoof. Tully is wetting her pants.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

New favorite website. Turn your sound on, and make sure to watch till the end.
ESPN Boarders, led by SonOfOovy, debate Whalen's defense and whether she's overrated.

I think some of the criticisms are overstated, but it brings up a fair question: would Connecticut have been better if it had made the Whalen trade?

Despite her poor showing in the Finals, Lindsay had a great season, better than most expected. Just about every team in the WNBA would be thrilled to have her in the starting lineup. She is a great player, worth a lot.

On the other hand, the Sun gave up a lot to keep her.

In exchange for Lindsay, the Sun could have had: 1. Ohlde, 2. another good rookie (Hayden, Jones, Brunson, etc.), and 3. another good player (presumably Tamika or Svet). Considering that Connecticut's biggest problem was its lack of height and its resulting inability to score in the post, some of those additions could have made a huge difference.

The same question applies to Charlotte, which turned down all that so it could get Nicole Powell... only to sit her on the bench most of the year.

UPDATE: Kevin Pelton responds --

but what was Minnesota's biggest problem? Constant turnovers and lack of any perimeter punch. And that would become Connecticut's problem. Without Whalen, Douglas doesn't get as many of the open threes... Palmer and McWilliams-Franklin don't get open layups off her penetration, etc., etc.

The Sun was built on balance this season, without any glaring weaknesses. As strong as their post game would have been with Ohlde on board, they would have had the weakest point guards in the league, hands down. No way they overcome that.

Good points. If the teams had made the trade straight up, they would have swapped strengths and weaknesses. But it's at least arguable that the Lynx would have given up a lot more value overall, and the Sun could have used that to trade for a point guard.

Put it this way: Connecticut could have ended up with Ohlde, Taj, Hayden, Tamika, Asjha, Palmer, and Wyckoff. Surely they could have bundled two or three of those and found a good point guard.

Kevin correctly notes, however, that the league doesn't exactly have a glut of good point guards. Don't I know it...
Taurasi in China, translating Winnie the Pooh for Yao.
Coach Thibault on the season: "It has to be considered a total success. Obviously, everyone wants to win a championship, and only one out of 13 teams can. Did we accomplish a lot of our goals? Most of them; all but one."

Chris Sienko: "Our goal is to win championships. We may have over-achieved last year, reaching the Eastern Conference finals. We wanted to get better and get back. We realized midway through the season we were a pretty good ballclub and we had a chance of going further than last year."
Lena Roberts in the Times today:

The W.N.B.A. emerged from its longest season Tuesday night, with a first-time champion, the Seattle Storm, another record year in attendance, increased viewership, an anticipated rise in team revenues and one of its most competitive seasons.

"Another record year in attendance?" As in: record low for average regular season attendance?
LJ's dad: "Lauren set goals for herself and now that's another one off the list. Now there's only one left, and we all know what that one is... the Olympic gold medal, and she wants it really badly."

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Voepel and Lieberman give their take on what made Seattle so good.
Coach Thibault said after the game that Seattle's experience may have been the difference: "They have a lot of veteran players. I'm proud of our team, but (our youth) caught up with us tonight."

But one of the amazing things about Seattle is that they are actually a young team. The average age of the Storm starting five is about 27.5, younger than the Sun. And of course Seattle's two superstars are only 23 and 24. If they can stay together, this could be the first of many.
Lauren Jackson: "This is the best thing that's ever happened to me. I'm done. I feel like I could sit back and watch for a year. This is the happiest I've been in my life."

Storm owner Howard Schultz: "It was abuzz in the entire city. The whole city is turned on."

Sue Bird: "Seventeen thousand people -- I think we started something here. The Storm, we are on our way to doing great things, starting with our first championship. And hopefully, people come back."
Coach Thibault: "Every time we got it close, we just couldn't get it over the hump. It was the same as the other night. We got it tied late in that game and couldn't get over (the hump), couldn't get a stop. Every time it seemed like we were ready to make a run, somebody for them stepped up and made a big play. I don't know if it was nerves or adrenaline at the start of the game. We couldn't even throw it close (to the basket) and we just dug ourselves a hole."

Whalen: "Right now, this stings. You never like losing. But you have to keep in mind where we were at the beginning, and where we were the last day."

Katie Douglas: "You want to have a nightmare, step into my world right now."

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Not a terribly competitive game at the end, but still a fun game to watch and a great finish to a great season.

Betty Lennox deservedly received the MVP for her Game 2 performance, but I think the commentators actually gave her a little bit too much credit tonight. It was her stupid play in the first half that allowed Connecticut to keep it close, and many of her points came after the game was decided.

If you can say that one player one the game tonight, it was Sue Bird. In the first four minutes of the second half, she had eight points, an assist, and a steal. The lead went from one to nine, and the Sun never recovered.

Katie Douglas will catch some heat for her terrible shooting performance, but Connecticut fans should remember that without her defense, the series wouldn't have been close.

Lindsay Whalen looked like a rookie. She made rookie mistakes picking up her dribble and leaving her feet without knowing where to go, and she got schooled repeatedly on the other end.

I don't understand why Connecticut didn't keep going to Taj and Asjha. They both give up inches to Lauren, but Lauren can be beaten and is prone to foul trouble. Part of the problem is Sales -- she is an amazing scorer, but she's also a black hole. Zero assists is not a good stat.

Kamila was huge again. She has shown the ability to push around just about everyone in the league. A lineup including her, LJ, Bird, and Lennox is powerful. As coach Thibault said after the game, the Sun just didn't have the weapons to match.

(One minor note to Simone Edwards -- when the shot clock is off and the other team stops fouling to concede the game, don't take a shot. It's not classy.)

Congratulations to Seattle on the awesome year.
New fan site devoted to the Sun.
Thibault makes his own complaints about the officiating: "We lost by two points in a game where they shot eight more free throws than us."
One of the best things about this Finals run has been the attention (long overdue) that Taj has gotten. She is the best reason to cheer for Connecticut.

She had a rough game on Sunday, but as Voepel tells it today, it didn't get to her. "This is the easy stuff, this is exciting, the gravy part," McWilliams-Franklin said. "Missing 10 shots -- that's nothing. It's not like when you're trying to figure out how to feed your kid on $1.50."
Taurasi picks Seattle to win tonight. Lobo picks Connecticut. Meyers and Burke won't commit.
Nykesha Sales isn't nervous. "Nobody expected us to be here. I'm not nervous at all. I don't have time to be nervous. We're just trying to play together to beat the other five on the court."

She'll need some help from the frontcourt, which didn't do much in Game 2. "We had the same shots (Sunday) that we always have," Taj McWilliams-Franklin said. "We might have had to shoot, I think, four of our post shots as the clock was winding down. For the most part, all of our other shots were doable. We'll take care of those."

On the Storm side, it may be up to Betty Lennox again. Coach Thibault says he plans to keep Katie Douglas -- his strongest perimeter defender -- on Sue. "If Betty goes off again, and I know she will, we'll be OK," said LJ.

Jackson, meanwhile, has been mostly bumped off her game. Coach Donovan has made a couple suggestions (vague enough not to draw fines) that the refs are favoring the Sun inside. Thibault scoffs at the notion: "It's ridiculous. If that's as physical as she's had to play, I feel bad for her, because it's only going to get worse the longer she plays."

Monday, October 11, 2004

Sorry about the lack of blogging. In San Francisco, depressed about the Twins. Back to normal (such as it is) tomorrow.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

The Sun's defensive specialists -- Taj on LJ and Douglas on Sue -- did their job last night. They forced Seattle's stars into poor shooting and turnovers.

"We wanted to give [LJ] a little trouble (and) blow by her," said McWilliams-Franklin. "She's so tall and her shot is so high that the only way you can block her is when she brings it down."

"I tried to frustrate her as best as I could," said Katie. "She's the team's leader and if you get the leader off balance, the rest of the team is going to struggle."

"It was like a no-win situation for me," Bird said. "Yeah, she did a great job. She did a great job."

The Storm tried to put a positive spin on the game -- as bad as they played, they only lost by four.

And now they're heading home, getting ready for the rebound. "It doesn't matter," Jackson said. "Because next game, I'm going off."

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Coach Whisenant has a long wish list for the offseason. He wants a bigger inside player, a back-up point guard, a true small forward, and shooters. He says he's willing to trade anyone but Yo.
On Monday I questioned Nancy Lieberman's statements that coach Thibault's was responsible for drafting Michael Jordan. I had always thought that Rod Thorn made that decision. In a WNBA.com chat yesterday, here's what Thibault had to say:

When I was with the Bulls I was an assistant coach and director of player personnell [sic] and along with Rod Thorn, I was involved in that choice. We had owners who wanted us to consider going for Sam Bowie, but Rod and I agreed that if we had to, we'd try and lock them in a closet so we could make the pick for Michael Jordan.

Credit Mike for setting the record straight. He doesn't take much credit -- he just says that he was "involved in that choice."

But there is something strange thing about his account.

He suggests that there was debate about taking Sam Bowie over Jordan, but Bowie was actually gone by the time the Bulls picked. In the 1984 NBA draft, the Rockets picked Olajuwan first, then the Blazers picked Bowie, then the Bulls picked Jordan. (The Bowie pick, of course, has gone down as one of the worst in league history. Portland missed not only Jordan but also Barkley and Stockton.)

So it's unclear what Thibault means when he says that the owners wanted to "go for" Bowie. Maybe he means that they considered some sort of trade with Portland (though, to my knowledge, that's never been reported before). Maybe he means that before the draft, some of the owners were pushing for Bowie, but that debate was mooted when their pick came around. Maybe he just doesn't remember that well.

Here is how Thorn has described that fateful draft:

That was a freak thing. Portland was in the lottery, and if they had won then Houston would have taken Michael, hands down. When Portland got the No. 2 pick, they had Clyde Drexler and Jim Paxson, and they felt they didn’t need another medium size player. They felt they needed a big guy, and if their doctor said that Sam Bowie was okay, they were going to take him. I knew that a month before the draft. Their doctor said he was okay, so they wound up taking him. I don’t think they even considered it.

I would have taken Olajuwon if I was No. 1. I don’t know how many teams were in the league then, 26, but everyone would have taken Olajuwon. I would have taken Jordan at No. 2 because I wasn’t a huge Sam Bowie fan and he had a broken leg. But by being No. 3, we fell into Jordan by circumstance.

No mention that they ever really thought about Bowie. And since they knew a month ahead of time that Portland was taking Bowie, it seems unlikely that anyone in the Bulls organization had thoughts of drafting him.

For more, see factcheck.com (just kidding, Dick).

Lieberman's breakdown of the Finals matchup.
Mike Anthony tells what the Sun organization has done to make its players happier this year.

There were new, team-rented apartments for Sun players to live in during the season. Cable TV was installed. VCRs and DVD players were set up. Phones actually came with dial tones. There were washers and dryers, better cars to drive, an improved workout facility at Mohegan Sun Arena and Connecticut College.
Al Czervik, RIP.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Sue recovered amazingly fast from that surgery -- a little coughed-up blood didn't bother her. Nor did the mask. "Once it comes off, I better have like 80 points the way that thing feels," she said.
Steve Kelley follows John Levasque and urges folks in Seattle to get out and watch the Storm.

In this town, whose recent professional seasons have been filled with ghostly promises, the Storm is the real deal. No maybes and should-have-been. This team is worth watching. Worth sacrificing next Sunday night to see Game 2.
That stretch in the second half was brutal for the Monarchs. Eight minutes of futility, missed opportunity, and misery. Eight minutes that lost the game.

"It seemed like anything they put up with their eyes closed went in," Yolanda Griffith said. "And we just couldn't buy a basket."

A small silver lining: Coach Whisenant's cancer tests came back negative. Now he just needs to figure out whether he'll be coaching next year...

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

12-for-18 from outside the arc. 24 assists for the Storm compared to 12 for the Monarchs. Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson really are that good.

It was sad seeing Yo go out again. She had a good but not great game, and at 34, she may not have many more chances to get to the Finals.

But Seattle is the better team, and their win sets up a good match-up for the title. Bird-Whalen. Lennox's offense vs. Douglas's defense. LJ and Kamila battling Taj and Wendy. It will be fun to watch.
Whalen gets points for playing foosball and ping pong, demerits for listening to Ashlee Simpson.
There was a half hour of triple overlap tonight: the Monarchs-Storm game, the Twins game, and the debate. The channel-flipping was maddening.

One good line from Kaus on the debate: "I got the heebie jeebies when he smarmily praised Cheney for having a gay daughter. Why was that Edwards' business (if he didn't have the guts to then accuse Cheney of abandoning his own child)?" Exactly.
Update: ESPN.com has fixed the factual error reported yesterday; Nancy's article no longer states that Thibault was the head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks.
Ailene Voison says it's up to Yo: "Yo has to be great, not just good."

Yolanda has a tough match-up, not with LJ, but with Kamila. "We go at it," said Griffith, who gives up 10 pounds or so to Vodichkova. "She's got a big body and tries to keep you off the boards, but my hand always gets to the ball... I'm just a little thinner than she is, but you know in the WNBA you gotta respect everybody's game."

LJ, citing the summer leagues, says Kamila gets the better of it: "I don't know if you've heard the stories from Russia, but Kamila really shuts her down."

Vodichka doesn't have to score a lot or even get a lot of rebounds to win. She just needs to push Yo around and tire her out. In Sunday's game, there were times when it looked like Yo didn't have much gas left in the tank. If the Monarchs are going to win tonight, she will need every ounce of energy she has left.
Debbie Black, one of Connecticut's veterans finally heading to the finals: “This is a first time for me, and I'm 38, so it might never happen again. These rookies, it's their first season. This is what you want. You hope to get this. Here I am, my career is winding down. It doesn't get any better. I couldn't write it any better.”
From WNBA.com: "The WNBA celebrates the achievements of Vanna White and other strong women..."

See, the league does have a sense of humor.
Vickie Johnson, the day after, summing up the Lib's feelings: "This was a hard season. There were so many things that happened, the injuries, the coaching change, everything. I don't think a lot of people thought we would make the playoffs, but we did. To be honest, there is satisfaction with this season, we came through a lot, but still, there was this expectation among us in here. We wanted more for ourselves, we could have done a little more."
Kevin Pelton on Game 3:

By this point of the season and the series - Tuesday will be the seventh meeting between the Storm and Monarchs this season - there are no secrets, and few adjustments to be made on either side. Both head coaches stuck to the same script Monday, saying the key for their teams is to play hard, stay focused, and remember what they need to do.

Kevin reports that Sue's surgery went well. She missed practice yesterday, and she'll be a game-time decision, but it sounds like the Storm are expecting her to start.

Monday, October 04, 2004

One of the big themes of this postseason's press coverage has been apologies to Mike Thibault. Before the season, lots of people picked the Sun to finish poorly this year, and lots of people thought Thibault had made a mistake by trading Pee Wee and staking so much on Whalen.

Now, everyone is running to the other side of the ship, saying Thibault is a genius. Nancy Lieberman has gotten on that bandwagon.

Nancy says we should have known better because Thibault had a "long and accomplished" coaching resume. I agree with the "long" part, but it's arguable whether it was really that accomplished. Thibault essentially spent three decades as a journeyman scout and assistant, someone who failed to move up the NBA coaching ladder.

Some of her supporting facts, in any case, are wrong. She says that Thibault was the Milwaukee Bucks head coach for four years. I may have been living in an alternate universe, but as I recall, Thibault was an assistant under George Karl. (How can ESPN.com mess that up?)

[UPDATE: ESPN has fixed that error.]

Nancy also says that "Thibault was one of the guys responsible for deciding to draft Michael Jordan." Last night on air, she made an even stronger claim, saying something to the effect that Thibault was "the person who drafted Michael Jordan."

That's just not true.

Thibault was a Bulls scout in '84 when they drafted Jordan. Drafting Jordan wasn't exactly going out on a limb. MJ had been a college star since his freshman year (when he led the 'Heels to a championship), and he was the national Player of the Year in '84.

In any case, the decision to draft Jordan was made primarily by then-GM Rod Thorn. Until yesterday, I don't think anyone had ever claimed that Thibault deserved sole credit -- of even any significant amount of credit -- for the decision. You have to wonder where Nancy got that idea.

Putting aside those factual quibbles, I remain unconvinced the Thibault is a great coach. The Sun are in the Finals, which is an accomplishment. But they finished only two games above .500 in a conference without a good team in it. To reach the Finals, they've only had to get past the Mystics and the Lib, neither of which was a very good team, both of which were without key players, both of which had scrambled into the playoffs after a season of turmoil. From watching the games over the past week, it looks to me like the level of play in the Eastern Conference Playoffs isn't close to the level of play in the West.

Of course my feelings toward Thibault are somewhat skewed by my lingering bitterness over the way he handled the Whalen trade talks (though people around here say the real asshole in that situation was Sienko, not Thibault). If the Sun can somehow beat the Storm or the Monarchs and take the title, I will give him big props. But I would be shocked if that happened.
Last week it was Jeff Jacobs calling out Connecticut fans. Today, it's John Levasque calling out Seattle fans.

If you missed last night's game, you missed watching a team play with the sort of panache you wanted the Mariners to display all summer long. If you missed last night's game, you missed seeing the sort of promise the Sonics haven't shown since George Karl was living here.
Sue Bird is having surgery this morning. I had the same surgery after I broke my nose last year, and I couldn't do anything for the next for days except lie in bed and throw up blood. If Sue can play in a professional basketball game tomorrow night, she deserves a medal.
Seattle once again let the Monarchs back in the game, but this time the Storm hung on. Even with the mask, Sue Bird was masterful again.

"She feels this," coach Donovan said of Bird's performance. "She feels where we're at. She feels an opportunity and she doesn't want to let it slip away."

Sue's partner in crime had another big night as well. The Monarchs' Big Three had a great Game 1, but last night they were all outplayed by Lauren Jackson.

Sacto will try to get off to a better start tomorrow. Said Ticha Penicheiro: "It's all tied up, 1-1. We've been here before. We know what we need to do."
A friend emailed last week and nominated Becky Hammon for the Most Overrated Player award. Her scoring is certainly inconsistent, and with all those turnovers, she really should be playing for the Lynx.

She had an abyssmal game yesterday -- 2 points, 2 assists, 5 turnovers. Baranova also had a rough afternoon, and despite VJ's solid effort, New York just didn't have anyone to make up for the lack of output from Becky and Elena.

"I'm not very pleased with the way I played," Hammon said. "You're going to have nights like this, but you don't want to have them in games as important as this one. Me and Elena struggled."

Coach Coyle, however, wouldn't blame Becky. "[R]egardless of what anyone says, we're in the Eastern Conference finals because of that kid leading us there," she said of Hammon. Patty now awaits word from Blaze on whether she'll remain as head coach.

Much of the credit for Hammon's performance belongs to Katie Douglas, who hounded Hammon through two games. Katie has six inches on Becky, plus the long arms, allowing her to break down the Lib offense. "I've got no shame in my game," Douglas said. "The coaches work too hard for me not to give our team that extra step."

After watching his motley crew advance to the finals, Coach Thibault was thrilled. "I've been a coach for 30-plus years, and this has to be the most emotional day of my career. There's something about this team that finds a way to win."

Sunday, October 03, 2004

The first game in the Seattle-Sacramento series was a classic. The Monarchs, inspired by their ailing coach, had a great second-half comeback capped by Yo's runner to tie the game in the final minute.

In the extra frame, DeMya Walker threw up a crazy circus shot that hit every part of the rim before falling through.

"It was bouncing and bouncing," Walker said. "It started to rock off the rim, then it finally dropped."

The Storm thought they had the game one, and the loss stung. "It's tough to lose the game at the buzzer," Janelle Burse said. "I'd almost rather get blown out. Then it doesn't hurt as much."

"Holy shoot!" LJ said after watching the game tape on Saturday. "We could have played so much better. We were probably ready to play again after the game."

The Storm are eager to get back, but the Monarchs -- especially the veterans -- are ready to head to the finals.

"It's like someone in the kitchen is cooking real Southern fried chicken," said Ruthie Bolton. "It smells so good. Your mouth is watering. You can't wait to eat. The Finals are like that chicken dinner. As hard as we've tried, we've never made it into the kitchen. We keep knocking on that door, we're ready to bust it down. And I am so hungry."
The Lib dug themselves a big hole by losing the first game at home. Sacto proved in the first round that it's still possible to win the series, but it won't be easy for New York to win two at Mohegan.

"I think everybody is upset," Becky Hammon said after Game 1. "They came in here and did what they wanted to do. We've got to go and win two games on the road and redeem ourselves to our fans cause that's not the way we want to go out, with that performance."

The players and coach Coyle were upset after the first game; there were a few hints of finger-pointing. "I'm not the point guard, so I can't take it upon myself to take control," said C-Rob. "But we have to find a way to get everybody settled down."

The Sun, meanwhile, are feeling good. "Last year I don't know if our players truly believed in their heart that they could win," said coach Thibault. "This year, there's a different approach. We believe we belong here this time. But it's still early in the game. We have to get one more."

Friday, October 01, 2004

Rumors have been floating around here about McCarville in a cast. Fret not: just a mild sprain.
Nancy Lieberman handicaps the West Finals and the East Finals.

Ann Meyers looks at both.

Kevin Pelton says the Storm are ready for Sacto. The big question is how to deal with the Monarchs' incredible defensive prowess. Coach Donovan says the key is a "funky combination" of aggressiveness and patience.
Sue Bird with a face mask and black eyes.

"The mask gives you a sense of invincibility," Bird said, adding all that can happen is that her nose could be "broken some more."

Mike Terry on the Sparks: "their days of dominating the league are past." They need DeLisha back, and they need to shore up their bench.

Greg Sandoval on the Mystics: "The mere fact that the Mystics made it that far was stunning." Now they need to figure out what to do. Adams will be back next year; Holdsclaw is a question mark.

Krista Latham and Dave Goricki on the Shock: no one's really sure what happened. Chandi and Iciss didn't contribute as much as some had hoped. Maybe they should have kept Kedra. Who knows?
If you want some blogosphere reaction to the debates (far, far better than the crap you'll see this morning on the Today Show) check Sullivan, Kaus, The Corner, Talk Left, Kos, Marshall, New Republicans, Oxblog, The Note, Saletan, more links in all of them too.