Women's Hoops Blog: May 2006

Inane commentary on a game that deserves far better

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Voepel weighs in on the current lopsided ratio of male (11) vs female (3) coaches.
Kevin Pelton makes the case for Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird on the WNBA's All Decade team.

Voting for the team ends today.

Jackson and Bird's teammate Betty Lennox is not a nominee but right now is more concerned with "getting Betty back."

Seattle's opponent tonight may be distracted by the persistant rumors of John Whisenant becoming the Kings head coach. If he should leave the Monarchs, will the position be filled by a woman?
Reigning player of the week Lisa Leslie picked up where she left off scoring 19 points and grabbing 16 rebounds as the Sparks moved to 3-1 with a 64-55 win over the Sky in the expansion team's first national TV appearance.

Chicago appeared out of the game at halftime after after only scoring 20 points on 17% shooting. But a third quarter rally where the Sky outscored the Sparks 20-12 closed the gap. The Sky would get within three with 5:32 left in the game, but the Sparks made 14 free throws in the last quarter to seal the victory. Jia Perkins and Amanda Lassiter paced Chicago with 12 and 11 points respectively.

The Sky were missing the presence of Elaine Powell who did not play because of shin splints. ''We try to emphasize positive things and stay with what's working for us,'' Sky coach Dave Cowens said. ''We came alive in the second half and we took it up a notch, but 24-second violations killed us -- we had four of them.''
While Tamika Catchings is still leading her team in most statistical categories, her team showed they could win big when she is not 100% as the Fever rolled over the Liberty 91-70 at home.

Catchings was not expected to play due to a foot injury and finished with 7 points. But her teammates picked up the slack. Tan White showed how playing overseas in Turkey in the offseason improved her game in scoring 25 points on 10-15 shooting. Tamika Whitmore added 22 points and 11 players played at least 10 minutes and the Fever bench outscored the Liberty bench 44-12.

"I'm fully confident that no matter whether I play or not, everyone will step up again like they did tonight," Catchings said.

Becky Hammon moved back to her natural position at shooting guard while Loree Moore started at point guard. Hammon did lead her team with 20 points, including a half court shot that made Sportscenter's top play. But the Liberty never recovered from a 16-2 second quarter run by the Fever.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

In the free section at FCP, Clay writes about the possibility of Whisenant to the Monarchs; Lieberman as a color commentator and attendance for the Chicago Sky.
Both games being played tonight will be on national TV. They follow a 10th Anniversary WNBA special on ESPN2.

The first game features the only undefeated team left and the teams at the top and at the bottom of this week's Power Rankings. The Fever have not shot the ball well so far but are leading the league in scoring defense.

In the second game, the Chicago Sky will face a tough challenge in trying to slow Lisa Leslie. The veteran is averaging over 25 points and over 12 rebounds a game. Chamique Holdsclaw is expected to miss the game and there is no timetable on her return. The Sky are using the game to salute the U.S. Military as part of Operation Gratitude.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Will coach Whiz leave the Monarchs for the Kings?

Sunday, May 28, 2006

The Detroit Shock started and ended the game strong winning 77-73 in overtime in a competitive nationally televised game over the Connecticut Sun.

Katie Smith led all scorers with 23 points and hit a three pointer with 1.3 seconds left in regulation to force the overtime. The Shock had built a 20-6 lead in the first quarter before the Sun battled back and took their first lead as the third quarter came to a close.

It looked like the Sun may have the game in control late in the fourth quarter as they built a 67-61 lead with 1:44 left, but the Shock came back and tied the game on Smith's shot. Detroit put the game away by scoring the first six points in overtime.

Mike Thibault commented that "it was a shame to give away a game we had won.” He added that “I'm more mad about the mistakes that we made (instead of Smith's shot). We missed two free throws that could clinch the game. I thought we didn't play well in the first half. We waited until halftime to play.”
Going into this year's draft the Lynx were focused on perimeter scoring and point guards. But in last night's game against the Mystics, it was problems in the post, turnovers and missed free throws that gave Washington a 90-75 win.

Latasha Byears had career highs of 20 points and 14 rebounds and the Mystics dominated the Lynx in the paint 46-26. Alana Beard poured in 25 points for the second time this season and four Mystic players scored in double figures. Washington also took advantage of 23 Lynx miscues and turned them into 30 points.

"If we can just find a way to put the way we played in a bottle that would be great," Beard said.

Seimone Augustus again led the way for the Lynx with 23 points but post players Nicole Ohlde, Vanessa Hayden, Adrian Williams and Tamika Williams combined for only 16 points. And the Lynx nearly shot better from 3 point range than from the free throw line.

The Lynx are now 0-3 on the year and Augustus and coach Suzie McConnell Serio are frustrated. "We're tired of losing, and we need to do something about it," said McConnell Serio, whose heated postgame speech could be heard through the closed locker room door. "We need to be able to turn the corner and put together a solid game."

Augustus added "We have a very talented team, and I expect every day for each and every last one of my teammates to go out there and play up to their potential, their ability. At some point in time, a lot of people started to relax a little bit."

Saturday, May 27, 2006

In the pay-only section of Full Court, Clay dissects the junior national (USA under-20) team now being assembled for international play.

Past junior teams have steamrolled the competition, since we have (1) a big country and (2) the college game. This time, few of the players at the tryouts have international experience: can Jolene Anderson, Essence Carson, and the Paris twins anchor coach McCallie's team? (Of course they can.)

USC's Camille LeNoir: "There's not that many point guards this year, so I feel like I have a greater chance of making the team. I'm having fun with all the girls that I know from the Pac-10." (Also from the Pac-10: assistant Joanne Boyle, head coach at Cal-Berkeley.)
Indiana used a dramatic third-quarter run, superior rebounding, and a lot of free throws to take down the Sky.

Bench players led both teams in scoring: Tan White with 14, Jia Perkins with 16 (but on 6-15 shooting; compare Stacey Lovelace's 4-6). Board Junkies mull the Sky's rotation. (Backup big Bernie Ngoyisa has yet to arrive.)

Chicago native Catchings considers her Fever along with the brand-new Sky: "You can't expect to be one of the best to start with; that's not realistic. But they'll get there. Our team has eight new players but more talent. If we can put everything together, we can win a championship."

Skky coach Cowens: "I don't think we were out-hustled. We were out-skilled."

UPDATE: cool, detailed fan account here.
Nancy Lieberman has no shame.

I freely admit I have no respect for the woman. Despite her repeated denials of a relationship with Anna DeForge while NL was the coach of the Detroit Shock, plenty of former Shock players have rolled their eyes and scoffed at Nancy's denials. The franchise was much worse off after Nancy left then before she arrived. Even worse, during the Detroit-Phoenix game last summer, Nancy, as part of her alleged color commentary, started bragging about her coaching prowess in Detroit and how much better attendance was when she was the coach. Classy.

Incidentally, I am sure the condominium Nancy purchased in May 2005 in Downtown Phoenix and her showing up at nearly every Mercury home game in 2004 and 2005 (even though she was not announcing), sometimes sitting with DeForge's family, has no bearing on her denials of any impropriety while head coach of the Shock.

What finally did it for me was the Connecticut-Minnesota game the other night and an ESPN article on the Mercury she wrote. We are all used to Nancy endlessly talking about herself instead of the games. Heck, we have even come to accept it is probably in Nancy's ESPN contract that she be introduced as a "Hall of Famer." But during this game, Nancy made her usual factual errors (Hint...Australia is not part of Europe), then boldly stated Rebecca Lobo could block Kevin Garnett's shot. Besides the obvious height differential of approximately seven inches, not to mention Garnett's superior athleticism, the comment was completely unnecessary. Whether or not Lobo could block Garnett's shot is irrelevant to Lobo's standing in the history books as a great college player. More importantly, it demonstrates the need in Nancy's mind to somehow justify the WNBA by comparing the players to their NBA counterparts. It is demeaning to all involved, and it isn't necessary (or true).

In her preview article regarding the Phoenix Mercury, Nancy stated:

But she doesn't have the athleticism or length of DeForge, and Miller is not as good of a perimeter defender. And that's a big concern, because when Diana Taurasi and Miller are in the backcourt together, they could have a hard time matching up defensively. And even if they switch it up, Taurasi, for all her strengths, cannot guard the likes of DeForge, Sheryl Swoopes or Deanna Nolan.

I must have missed the part when Anna DeForge developed the athleticism and skillset of the three-time MVP or the former WNBA champion. In completely overestimating DeForge's on-court abilities, I am sure the appearance of impropriety was not a concern for Nancy...just like it wasn't a concern when Nancy awarded her the Most Improved Player award on ESPN.com a few years ago.

If Doug Collins or Steve Kerr rambled incessantly about themselves the way Nancy does, they would no longer be employed by TNT. If any journalist wrote what Nancy did, with a reckless disregard for facts, would that journalist be employed? Yet ESPN inexplicably continues to employ Nancy.

Friday, May 26, 2006

SI's Elizabeth Newman touts our game in a great piece directed at newbies:

"One reason some basketball fans stay away is that the WNBA is constantly compared to the men's game. Its stars are forever weighed against the male hoop legends of yesteryear, which is just wrong. Lisa Leslie is not Magic, Sheryl Swoopes is not Jordan and Sue Bird is not Larry. And they shouldn't have to be. These are women who play the game and play it well. These ladies still got next, and it's about time we took notice."

(To register your agreement-- and to ask SI for more WNBA coverage-- click here, then scroll down to "E-Mail the Editor.")

(Doffed hat to BCBG.)
Jannon (Roland) Lampley responds. She discusses her working relationship with Katrina Merriweather and the NCAA violations at Purdue.

Also, former Purdue signee Dee Dee Jernigan will be playing for Rutgers next season.
All 10 Monarchs who played scored four or more points last night in their game against the Comets. Unfortunately, the team shot only 35%; no one reached double figures and the normally strong Sacramento defense allowed the Comets to shoot almost 52% as Houston beat the Monarchs 81-66.

The ease at which the Comets won may be surprising considering the way that the Monarchs played in their two previous games. Not so shocking is that Sheryl Swoopes and Tina Thompson led the way for Houston. Swoopes scored 22 points and Thompson added 19 and the Comets connected on 13 of 16 shots during a stretch of the second and third quarters.

"The good thing about that first loss was we learned from it," Sheryl Swoopes said. "Right now we could be 3-0, but we feel really good in the way we bounced back."

Leading up to last night's game, the Sacramento Bee looked at the reactions to Swoopes' coming out. Fan reaction has been great and no endorsement deals have been lost, but Jim Buzinski of outsports.com believes the league is missing a marketing opportunity by ignoring lesbian fans.

Also in Cometland, Dawn Staley has started a blog chronicling her final season. Her college coach says that Staley was a "a once-in-a-lifetime player.''
Teams in the WNBA won't want to go up against Lauren Jackson after she has an off game. The Phoenix Mercury had to do just that last night; the Merc paid the price as Seattle defeated Phoenix 94-81. Jackson, who only scored 9 points on 4-13 shooting against Houston in their last game, responded by scoring a career high 35 points againt the Mecury.

Jackson started fast, scoring 8 points in the first quarter and nothing the Mercury tried could slow her down. "We tried to switch up on her, defensively," Paul Westhead said. "We went to a zone. We went to different people. But it just didn't matter."

The return of Janell Burse to the line-up benefited Jackson who commented that "I didn't get double-teamed once, so it was easy. We've got so many good post players, they can't afford to double-team and leave someone open."

Diana Taurasi and Cappie Pondexter combined for 49 points for the Mercury, but their post players were no match for Jackson, Burse and Wendy Palmer. Phoenix also received a blow before the game when they learned that Kelly Miller will be out 2-3 weeks with a hamstring injury. Miller is so important to what Westhead wants to do that he can't "put a value" on losing her in the lineup.
NBA top man David Stern says the W has a bright future, just like (highly profitable) women's tennis: "That's the better model, rather than some model where you say you don't like a particular woman player because she isn't as good as Michael Jordan. She never claimed to be. She's just the best woman player in the world and it's just a different standard and different game."

Stern also predicts eventual expansion, perhaps to 24 teams: "As women's sports continue to grow, the season will be longer, [and] the number of teams will increase."
San Antonio couldn't quite beat L.A. Lisa Leslie was monstrous, with 25 points and 16 boards in 35 minutes. Doneeka Hodges and Tamara Moore started; Holdsclaw and Temeka Johnson (strained quadriceps) missed the game.

Vicki Johnson rallied the Silver Stars through the second half; the no-longer-injured Kendra Wecker had a breakout game, coming off the bench to score 16.

Stars coach Hughes, perhaps looking to sign a free agent: "Obviously, Vickie is a catalyst for what we do. We need another veteran presence to work in unison with her to teach these young players."

The Sparks are now calling the Claw's absence "a family matter," and claiming she'll practice with the team Saturday: we'll believe it when we see her in uniform.

As for Moore, her sixth team in five years has given the former Badger her first starts since 2002; she's shooting well (46%) but turning the ball over every ten minutes. As better-known Sparks come back from injury, we'll see if Jellybean thinks she's still ready to play.
Monique Currie won the first of many battles against her former college teammate Alana Beard as the Sting won their first game of the season over the Mystics, 73-63 before 3,527 in Charlotte.

Beard started the game strong scoring 11 points in the first half, but it was Currie who finished the strong scoring 11 of her 13 points in the fourth quarter as the Sting pulled away for the win. Fellow Sting rookie LaToya Bond may end up challenging Helen Darling for the starting PG position as she added 12 points and played just over 29 minutes. Veterans Tammy Sutton-Brown, Sheri Sam and Kelly Mazzante combined for 37 points and kept the Sting in the game in the first half.

The Sting shut down both Beard and Delisha Milton-Jones in the second half and forced 27 Mystic turnovers, although the Mystics actually scored two more points off of turnovers. After coming up short with late game rallies in their two previous games, the Sting were able to use a 11-2 run to close the game.

Muggsy Bogues: "It’s not how we start, but how we finish. They are believing in it and trusting in one another, and they came in tonight and got the job done. "

Thursday, May 25, 2006

For the second night in a row, the Lynx battled one of the more talented teams in the league. And for the second night in a row, they came up short as Detroit defeated Minnesota 78-69 in the Shock's home opener.

All five of the Shock's starters scored in double figures, led by Cheryl Ford's 17 points and 14 rebounds. Seimone Augustus led the way for the Lynx with 15 points, but it took some time to adjust to the defense of Deanna Nolan. "Early on, I don't think I was as aggressive as I should have been. She made every shot difficult."

Just like their game with Sun the night before, the Lynx hung with the Shock before fading late in the fourth quarter. After the Lynx pulled within four points with under five minutes left, the Shock went on a 10-2 run to clinch the win.

The Shock dominated the points in the paint and fast break points. They also got to foul line eight more times than the Lynx and got both Nicole Ohlde and Vanessa Hayden in foul trouble. Whether or not the tape of the Shock-Fever game sent by Bill Laimbeer to the league office played a part remains to be seen.
Emily Niemann is quitting basketball. In 2005, Niemann's big body and clutch three-pointers helped Baylor win a title; that fall, she announced her transfer to Santa Barbara.

Niemann now says she wants to concentrate on "overseas humanitarian work." Dispirited Gaucho fans handle the news.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

In addition to being ESPN's newest WNBA play by play announcer, Linda Cohn has joined .com's blog squad. She writes about her impressions so far and her experience doing her first game last night in Seattle.

Also on .com, Matt Wurst had a busy night tracking all of the games in the WNBA, plus the Pistons-Heat Game, the NBA lottery and catching up on American Idol.

More from last night's Lynx-Sun game from the Strib's Jim Souhan (in what was likely his first WNBA ever or at least since the team debuted in 1999).
If there were any lessons learned about Augustus, they were these:

1) She should use the bench only as a place to keep her water bottle.

2) She should be no more patient waiting for the ball than the Lynx were in marketing her silky game and sunny disposition.

After a quick and impressive start, the Lynx sputtered to a 81-69 loss to the Sun before 9,471 in Minneapolis.

Although some of her shots did not fall, Seimone Augustus made a memorable debut scoring 21 points and showing a passion for the game that ignited the crowd. Augustus scored 10 points in a 14-7 run in the second quarter to tie the game at 39 going into the half. After building a lead in the third quarter, the Sun responded with a 13-2 run while Augustus was on the bench.

Suzie McConnell-Serio on the decisive run: "Maybe she sat a little too long in the second half. We were trying to rest her. ... I probably should have called a timeout earlier to get her back in the game."

For as many things as the Lynx did right, it was not enough to overcome the Sun and the play of Katie Douglas. The veteran, who also guarded Augustus most of the night, scored 13 of her career high 28 in the decisive fourth quarter. After the Lynx had pulled within two points with 2:49 remaining, Douglas hit two three pointers that sealed the victory. "(Douglas) was a difference maker,'' McConnell Serio said. "She was a back breaker.''

Mike Thibault thought his team's depth and experience were the difference. While Lindsay Whalen was warmly received and had a team high six assists, Erin Phillips showed why Thibault drafted her a year ago. The rookie scored 13 points and played the entire 4th quarter. (Note: Whalen's blog for The Day yesterday was dedicated to her return to her home state).

Nicole Ohlde accurately summarized the game for the Lynx. "There are some small things that we just didn't get done that hurt us in the end. We did some very good things, and we did them against a quality opponent.''

The young team has a quick turnaround as they travel to a game at Detroit tonight.
Only in northeastern CT would the middle-aged guy prepping your car at the car wash notice your Minnesota plates and ask, "Do you watch women's basketball?" then proceed to tell you about the game coming up that night between the Connecticut Sun and Minnesota Lynx, praise Lindsay Whalen with the qualification that she's no Taurasi, and finish up with how Jenn Rizzotti is going to be a better coach than Geno.

It's good to be home.
In almost a complete reversal from their first games of the season, the Comets coasted to a 83-59 win over the Storm in Seattle. Houston rebounded nicely from their disappointing loss to San Antonio by shooting almost 58% from the floor. Seattle, meanwhile, did not look anything like the team that dominated Los Angeles in their home opener.

Seattle not only was trying to build on their performance against L.A., but also erase memories from their two home playoff losses to Houston last season. A balanced attack by Sheryl Swoopes, Tina Thompson and Dominque Canty made sure that did not happen.

Sue Bird, who led the Storm with 12 points, is glad it is only the second game of the season. "The good news is, it's early," Bird said. "This isn't the playoffs. They're not going to cancel the season. We still have 30 more games to play. Hopefully we can just learn from this."

Kevin Pelton followed the game from press row and was stunned with the poor performance of the Storm, after looking so good on Sunday and in practices.
Led by their Tamikas (Catchings and Whitmore), the Fever shut down the Silver Stars 62-53 to move to 2-0.

Catchings scored 23 points and grabbed 9 rebounds and Whitmore added 16 points in a game that was pretty ugly for both teams, but especially for San Antonio. Both teams shot under 40% and combined for only 17 points (with only five scored by SASS) in the second quarter.

"We didn't execute well offensively," coach Dan Hughes said. "Defensively, we gave ourselves a chance, but we didn't finish strong at the basket. In a game like this, you have to create chances for yourself, and you have to do that at the free-throw line."
Sacramento spoiled the home opener of the league's newest team and showed why they are the defending champions in a 76-63 win over Chicago before 5,112.

Nicole Powell and Rebekkah Brunson led the Monarchs with 19 and 13 points respectively. And while the Monarchs never trailed, the Sky stayed within striking distance nearly the entire game.

Stacey Lovelace, who paced the Sky with 11 points said the game was a good test for her team. "The only way you can see where you stand is to play the best. We made mistakes, and you can't make as many when you're playing one of the best teams in the league.''

Despite the outcome, the crowd was loud and enthusiastic and came to a standing ovation even when it became clear a victory was out of reach.

Donna Orender, who was in attendance, was pleased with the new team. "What we would like to do is have passionate fans, which we know Chicago has, fill this bowl up a multitude of times and we'll see this business grow here."
The Sparks used a decisive third quarter to defeat the Sting in Charlotte, 72-65 before 3,576. (Note - Ticker recap says it was the home opener for Charlotte, even though it was Saturday.) Once again, the Sting made a comeback in the fourth quarter, but once again it was not enough.

Chamique Holdsclaw did not play again, but Lisa Leslie certainly did. She led all scorers with 27 points on 11-16 from the floor. She also pulled down 16 rebounds (Note the improved box scores provided on .com). The Sparks dominated the points in the paint 46-24 and shot almost 47% from the floor compared to the Sting's 34%.

Muggsy Bogues: We have to clean up some areas, keep pushing, and keep believing. I thought we did some good things tonight.
Another day, another step on the journey into hell for Liberty personnel, management and, of course, the fans -- those poor souls who are expected to pay to watch such catastrophes as the 95-60 rout by Washington last night. Rout really isn't a strong enough word for a game in which the Liberty racked up nearly twice as many turnovers as field goals. Washington annihilated the Liberty. They not only made a bad team look worse by exposing every weakness -- from coaching to the caliber of the players -- they threw into doubt the Liberty's ability to compete at any level in this 10-year old league. The Liberty last night looked worse than a 1997-era team; they looked thoroughly unprofessional.

Crystal Robinson and Richie Adubato, a pair of New York refugees, clearly outclassed their former colleagues, knowing exactly how to shut down the Liberty's only two scoring threats, Hammon and Christon. But it was Alana Beard who did the most damage, missing just one of 12 shots and hitting three for three from behind the arc. The third-year guard gave an MVP performance.

Despite help from some early Mystics foul trouble, and despite trimming the lead to nine points before the end of the first half, when Beard hit a lay-up and a demoralizing three-pointer at the buzzer to stretch it back out to 14, the Liberty never even came close to keeping pace with the Mystics. While beating what might very well be the worst team in the league may not be proof of greatness for Washington, they do seem to have gelled quite quickly. Said Delisha Milton-Jones, "When you have everyone just feeding off each other like that, the energy level is so high and it's so thick."

One has to sympathize with the kind of humiliation such exposure must surely bring the Liberty. At least, one would hope that the New York front office, if not the ownership, is humiliated enough to make the necessary changes to actually turn this into a rebuilding year rather than yet another useless summer of nonsense. First on the wishlist of fans -- you know, the people who actually pay: a new coach.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

David Jones has a long column about Rene Portland and her infamous and oft-repeated quote from the 1986 Chicago Sun-Times. Jones suggests that when Rene said she would not have "it" on her team, she meant lesbian "recruitment," not lesbians.

(It's unclear to me whether such a view is really "better." Fears of "homosexual recruitment" reflect notions of homosexuality as predatory and diseased. It's just a slightly different flavor of prejudice. But that's a long story...)

You can see the Sun-Times article in full here (pdf) via the PSU Pride document archive.

Jones's interpretation of the '86 quote is plausible — I'm not sure he's right, but he might be.

But if Jones means to argue more generally that Rene only has a problem with "recruitment," he's off base. The '86 quote is just one piece of evidence. It is a brick, and as we say in evidence law, a brick is not a wall.

In addition to the 1986 Sun-Times quote, we also have statements from a growing list of former players and staff: Harris, Bland, Davies, McConnell-Serio, Yedsena, Longenecker, McGovern, Gulas, and Demuth. None of them has ever suggested that Rene only hates "aggressive lesbians" as opposed to all lesbians.

We also have Rene's own responses to Longman, to Lipsyte, and to Sandoval. They are vague and elliptical, but they don't suggest any of Jones's nuance.

Jones would like to ask Rene:
How do you feel about homosexuality? Both on your team and in general? Is it abhorrent to you? Does it repulse you? Is it wrong?
So would I. But she'll never answer those questions. So all we can do is look at the evidence we have — not a single piece in isolation, but all of it together.

It says a great deal. The wall seems to get higher each month.
Pat Summitt got a raise yesterday. A pretty big raise. Actually the amount of the raise is not as significant as the fact that with this extension, Summitt becomes the first women's basketball coach to earn over $1 million in a season. (Geno will go over $1 million in the 2007-08 season).

The contract is being called landmark and a milestone by the Lady Vols athletic department and Summitt. The Knoxville News-Sentinel article also includes a chart with a year-by-year breakdown of Summitt's salary.
The core group of the USA Basketball's Women's World Championship team has been announced. Quotes from some of the players selected have been posted as well.

Four additional players will named at a later date for the team that will compete in the 15th FIBA World Championship taking place in Brazil this September.
In a cool new feature on .com, NBA players give their picks for the WNBA's All-Decade team.
It's opening night for the league's newest franchise as the Sky host the defending champion Monarchs in their inaugural home game.

The game is a near sell-out as close to 6,500 are expected to attend, including Donna Orender. A pre-game ceremony is scheduled. Sky President and CEO says it will be night of celebration.

Chicago native Yolanda Griffith is happy to see a team in her home town. "I really believe that people will support a team and the game here.'' But she also adds that it will take time. "The team has to get good. It's got to get good coverage, and you've got to give the players a chance to get out into the community."
The Sting and Sparks are looking to rebound from losses over the weekend as they meet tonight in Charlotte. Cutting down on turnovers and improved defense are a focus for the Sting. "We need to contain, we need to trust each other," coach Muggsy Bogues said. "There is too much guessing going on. We had too many missed assignments. In the second half and third quarter, we didn't have any energy. We need to stop people."

The Fever and Silver Stars are looking to build on their opening season wins from over the weekend as San Antonio hosts Indiana in its home opener. For San Antonio, the win over the Comets is over. "One down," Vickie Johnson told the team. "Thirty-three to go."

Crystal Robinson goes up against her former team as the Mystics open their season by hosting the Liberty. Robinson is just one of the many changes to the Mystics roster this season. Changes that Linda Hargrove thinks make this the best in Mystics history. Over at the DC BasketCases Blog, Judith believes this is a make or break year for her team.

Mystic fans can chat with Washington Post beat writer Jon Gallo today at 11 am ET. Meanwhile, the Liberty do not have any coverage in their local papers today.
There is a full docket of games tonight in the WNBA, with nearly every team playing. In the season debut for ESPN2's Tuesday night coverage of the league, fans will get a chance to watch Connecticut @ Minnesota and Houston @ Seattle.

In Minnesota, it is the return of Lindsay Whalen. But for perhaps the first time, the local media's focus is not on that but rather the debut of Seimone Augustus and her young Lynx team. Whalen is expected to play about 20 minutes for the Sun tonight.

Going up against an improved Sun bench and the solid play of Nykesha Sales will be a challenge for the Lynx. While pleased that his team won their first game by 17 points, Sun coach Mike Thibault wants his team to cut down on the careless turnovers tonight.

In Seattle, it's a rematch of last season's playoff series won by the Comets. The Storm will be honoring Simone Edwards, the last of the original Storm who retired last week when informed she would not make the team this year.

The team is also celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the league tonight. The game will feature four of the seven original remaining members of the league, including Wendy Palmer.

"It's a dream come true just to be here," said Palmer after she recorded a double-double (18 points, 12 rebounds) in her first game in a Storm uniform. " Lisa (Leslie) and I actually congratulated each other on 10 years. To look around and see the players that have been there all 10 years, it's touching. We've all been a part of this for such a long time."

While Palmer only has a 109-191 record as a player, she is glad she is still playing and with the Storm this season. "I just fit like a piece in a puzzle," she said of her place on the Storm roster. "There's just a different vibe here."

The Storm and Sue Bird are motivated to avenge the playoff loss from last season. But the Comets are hoping this trip to Seattle will turn things around for them after their disappointing loss on Sunday to San Antonio.
Faulty communications is being blamed for the mass exodus of the Gopher women's basketball team this spring, according to a press release by the University. No NCAA rules violations or "egregious conduct" were found.

The communications problems developed between coaches, between coaches and players and between players themselves which in turn created "misunderstandings,"feelings of mistrust" and splintered relationships.

Coach Pam Borton: "Obviously, I've learned a lot from this. Everybody has. When anything like this happens in anybody's life, you take a step back and reevaluate."

Natasha Williams: "I didn't think too much would come out of it. Maybe things will be more closely watched next season. I just don't think there was enough honesty coming from Pam. Hopefully, things will be OK for everybody who stayed."

Monday, May 22, 2006

The President of the WNBA has been busy making rounds to various teams during the preseason and first weekend of games. Last night Donna Orender was in Seattle and talked with FSN's Cara Capuano during halftime of the Storm-Sparks game. Capuano and Orender discussed expansion and David Stern's vision of the league having 24 teams in the next ten years.

The previous day, she was in Sacramento as the Monarchs received their championship rings. In a pregame press conference, Orender also talked about expansion. Clay offers some analysis on expansion in the free section of FCP.
Kim Callahan interviews Seattle Times reporter Jayda Evans.

Jayda has a new book out entitled, Game On! : How Women's Basketball Took Seattle by Storm.

She also talks about being one of the few WNBA beat reporters that travels to cover away games.
Katrina Merriweather, one of the central figures in the NCAA violations story at Purdue, talks to the Journal and Courier.

Merriweather was considered one of the top assistants in the country a year ago and is now out of a job as a result of an internal inquiry started by the university in February.
Kate looks at the 10th Anniversary of the WNBA in her latest entry on Mel Greenberg's blog. Normally a reporter for the women's college game, Kate attended her first professional game last weekend.
The Lynx male practice players received some love in a segment on a Twin Cities Sunday night sports show (video of the story is also up on the site). A couple of the players got their start as practice players against Lindsay Whalen and Janel McCarville while students at the University of Minnesota.

The show also included Seimone Augustus in studio for an interview as the team prepares to open the season tomorrow night against Whalen's Connecticut Sun. Video of that interview is currently up on the site (right side of the page).
The Sparks playing without Chamique Holdsclaw and the Storm playing with Wendy Palmer appeared to be one of the big factors as the Storm rolled to a 90-67 win before almost 9,700 fans in Seattle.

Holdsclaw, who is on an excused absence to deal with a family matter, was clearly missed as the Storm outscored the Sparks 32-22 in the paint and outrebounded them 31-22. Other than Lisa Leslie, who led L.A. with 24 points, the Sparks post players combined for six points and missed a lot of lay ups.

Sparks coach Joe Bryant said Palmer was the difference. "The wild card for them tonight was Wendy," Bryant said. "For her to get 18 and 12, that's really the difference in the game. Betty Lennox, Sue Bird, Jackson, we kind of kept them at bay. But Palmer put an old-school lesson upon us."

Anne Donovan agreed. “She was so outstanding for us in so many ways,” Donovan said. “She was just phenomenal – she gave us everything we needed from a statistical standpoint. Her energy, her spark, her leadership were invaluable.”

Sue Bird complemented Palmer's play with 13 points, 9 assists and 7 steals. "Sue played the perfect game," Donovan said of Bird. "That's exactly what we need from Sue Bird." The point guard was more aggressive on both ends of the floor after last season's disappointing loss to Houston in the playoffs.

One Storm player who did not play a great game is Betty Lennox. While she was still recovering from Friday's car accident, Steve Miller wonders if Lennox minds being the number three option in the Storm offense. Lennox says she doesn't. "I really don't have any comment on that," Lennox said. "Anne Donovan is the coach and she directs what she wants. I do what I'm asked to."

Overall the Storm were pleased to reverse the drubbing they received from the Sparks in last season's home opener. "After last year, oh my God," Jackson said of her satisfaction in retaliating for that 18-point loss . "I was making up for last year."

In other great news for Storm fans - Kevin Pelton will once again be providing live updates from home games on the team's Web site.
Things are looking up for the Silver Stars, who beat the Comets in Houston to open both teams' seasons. Rookies Zolman and Young lit up the scoreboard with (respectively) five treys and a double-double.

Fans showed up-- over, 10,000-- but the Comets' interior players didn't; the Comets looked especially bad on the boards.

Coach Van: ""I'd like to apologize to every Comets fan who's ever watched us play, who's ever put on one of our T-shirts and who ever said with a lot of pride that they were Comets fans. San Antonio outplayed us and outcoached us in every phase of the game."

Sunday, May 21, 2006

The Sparks open their season tonight in Seattle (game on NBA-TV) with a lot of uncertainty about what to expect. According to Lisa Leslie, one of two original Sparks, "I'm not sure what we're capable of yet, to be honest. Because when you have new coaches, a new style, a new system, everything is different."

The Storm's uncertainty lies in the health of their players like Lauren Jackson. And Betty Lennox became the latest player to suffer a setback when the car she was riding was struck on Friday. Lennox says she will play, despite missing Saturday's practice with minor whiplash.

Wendy Palmer also is expected to play, despite getting hit in the mouth during practice. Palmer, has not only survived injuries, but also playing for six different teams in 10 seasons.
Dawn Staley plays in the first game of her final season tonight as Houston hosts San Antonio.

"There's always a sense of urgency when you know you won't be back the following year," Staley said. "So for me, I'm going to really embrace this entire season, all of it. All of the good, the bad, and I'm going to let the chips fall where they may."

The Comets' opponent tonight has not experienced any success in San Antonio, since relocating from Utah following the 2002 season. Dan Hughes is realistically optimistic that this season will be better. "I do think things are in a better place. But there is a reality that there is a perception between achievement and performance. They need to be able to look down and make sense of what we're doing."

Hughes, who also took over G.M. duties last summer, spent this offseason formulating a plan for rebuilding the franchise with a mixture of knowledgeable veterans and talented young players.
Another Penn State area news columnist, Mike Gross, weighs in.

Both sides are essentially alleging poisonous attitudes. How are you gonna prove, or disprove, an attitude? That trial will be a joke even by the prevailing standards. The truth is this isn’t that complicated.

Gross distills Penn State's handling of its internal investigation's findings in the case into two words: Gutlessness defined.
Even though she has yet to play in a regular season game, Seimone Augustus is already being viewed as the face and future of Lynx basketball.

Chris Wright, President of the Lynx: "When you have the opportunity to pick first, and the moons align and there is a talent like what this young lady has ... from a marketing standpoint, you've got to find a way to take advantage of that."

And while the humble Augustus is comfortable in the role as face of the franchise, she thinks that if people come to see her play they will leave impressed with her teammates as well.

One of those teammates is fellow first round pick Shona Thorburn. Before the NCAA tournament, Thorburn had dreams and goals she would have a chance to play in the league but was not sure of her chances coming out of Utah.
As part of their increased coverage, .com has added a new feature this season where they take us into "The Day in the WNBA." A game of the night is highlighted along with quotes from players and coaches, Rookie Watch, and a look at Who's Hot or Who's Not.

Also, Paul has gone Inside the Box Score of yesterday's games and provides additional stats not published in the usual box scores.
Last week, Rene Portland fired off a series of complaints to newspapers close to Penn State that have been covering the lawsuit filed against Portland by former player Jennifer Harris.

In the letters, Portland claimed that she has been a victim of 'unsubtantiated information' and a 'negative and highly misleading media campaign' 'orchestrated' by Harris. Portland's orchestrated response, issued through Pittsburgh public-relations professional Matt Doherty, purports to 'set the record straight' by providing 'fair, accurate, and balanced' information for the newspapers' readers.

Portland's rebuttals accuse Harris and her legal counsel of using the case against Portland to 'advance their own agendas'. Portland asserts that Harris is the' first player to file a formal complaint' against her in 26 years. Further, Portland asserts that Harris was dismissed because she did not 'make a positive contribution'.

I really can’t explain why Jennifer Harris was a rare exception. There are details about her conduct when she was on the team that I can't share with your readers at this time due to the litigation...

Lawyers for Jennifer Harris characterized Portland's response as 'clearly in retaliation' to discrimination charges filed by Harris.

We are troubled by Coach Portland's statement to the Centre Daily Times, which is contradicted by the factual record, by Penn State's own internal investigation, and by previous statements made by Coach Portland herself.

Penn State's president Graham Spanier had no comment.
The defending champs walloped the Mercury to open the season on national TV. By "walloped" we mean scored 105 points and won by 27.

Paul Westhead's fast-paced Merc began with a 12-1 run, but couldn't keep their energy once the Monarchs adjusted: Sacramento dominated the second quarter 26-6, and enjoyed the blowout the rest of the way. Erin Buescher-- not normally a key player-- led all scorers with 18.

Kara Lawson had some adventures: she sat out the preseason with a still-mysterious illness (fatigue and dizziness), then dislocated her finger in the first quarter, but returned and scored double figures. (Coach Whiz: "She's tough enough to do this.")

What of Paul Ball? It produced a high score, as predicted-- but for the other team. Has the system failed already? Probably not: even if it works, it will take some time. The Mercury's biggest problem wasn't the pace, but the lack of post play (except for Vodichkova): the home team outrebounded the visitors by 20.

The Merc's Diana Taurasi on the pace: "If anything, it was a good first game in a weird way. You don't ever want to lose a game like that, but it showed what we can do."
This year's Fever play like last year's Fever: good D, poor shooting, low scores, and plenty of free throws.

Indy shot 26% but connected on 33 of 39 trips to the line, scoring nearly half their points that way: it wasn't pretty, but it beat the Shock with a late 11-0 run. Ebony Hoffman had 13 and 13.

Detroit coach Laimbeer: "We did everything wrong in the second half."

Indy coach Winters: ""With all the new players, we don't have a game feel just yet. We've got to get into some games and a real rhythm."
In the expansion team's first-ever game, Chicago got past Charlotte in a thriller. The Sky blew a 17-point lead in the final three minutes, then trailed 80-82 before Jia Perkins got fouled in a final trey attempt; Perkins made all three free throws to give the new franchise a one-point win.

Perkins: "I was nervous and excited, and on the line everyone was telling me to calm down. When I made the first one, a lot of the pressure was off, and then the second and the third. When I went up there, my legs were shaking."

Another Sky highlight: Candice Dupree's 19 points on 7-10 shooting. Sheri Sam led the Sting with 17; McCarville did not play.

Charlotte can try to take pride in their near-comeback-- or regret their 27 turnovers. Insult to injury: Perkins came to Chicago from Charlotte in the expansion draft.

Sky coach Cowens on the close call: "Everything was going great and then we couldn't get a shot off, couldn't take care of the ball."

Chicago's Stacey Lovelace: "Coach told us today, `When you have the ball, you're the star.' He gives us all the confidence to take it upon ourselves."
Connecticut beat New York handily. The Sun's season opener showed inventive interior play from Taj, Margo and Asjha, a string of treys from Nyeksha Sales, and (for the first time ever) a deep bench.

Coach Thibault: "What we were trying to do with our bench we were able to get done tonight." The home team led by double digits for most of the game, and tallied 24 assists to the Lib's ten.

Lindsay started but got limited minutes: Thibault puts her around 80%. Lindsay: "I've just got to get my conditioning up. It just felt good to be out there playing and running up and down the floor and contributing."

New guard Erin Phillips is for real. She's fast, she can shoot, and she looks a bit like Katee Sackhoff. Phillips and Laura Summerton have Aussie chemistry; Summerton might develop into a nice backup for Taj.

Megan Mahoney-- the K-State guard who sat out last season with a torn ACL-- is also for real (9 points in 13 minutes on 4-6 shooting): Thibault uses her as an off-guard alongside Phillips or Carey.

As for the new-look Lib, they focused on defense (they pressed for much of the game): why else would you start Ashley Battle? Sherill Baker is the new, speedier Debbie Black. Becky Hammon hasn't changed. Kraayeveld is a genuine threat (as are her elbows).

But Schumacher and Farris looked out of it, even bored. And the Lib's offensive sets have yet to jell: the score would look even worse for them if not for a late-game parade to the free-throw line.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Graham Hays says that more teams should want to be like the Connecticut Sun, a basketball fundamentalist's dream come true..

(Note - Even though he lists Dominique Canty as part of the Shock, it is a good read.)
Mel Greenberg reflects on the 10th Anniversary of the WNBA. Over on his blog, Mel includes his choices for the most noteworthy teams, players and events.

The guru also includes the chalk transcript of a roundtable discussion on the 10th Anniversary that included SI's Kelli Anderson and USA Today's Oscar Dixon. The discussion was hosted by Sports Business Daily.

Elsewhere, three of the original players in the league - Sheryl Swoopes, Tina Thompson and Lisa Leslie - are profiled by Associated Press. And Tamika Catchings participated in a Q&A with the Dallas Morning News.

More 10th Anniversary coverage from:
  • Mechelle Voepel in the KC Star - “I used to think that a ‘generation’ of players as far as improvement in level of play was about every six or seven years. Now, it’s more like every three years,” Connecticut coach Mike Thibault said.
  • Voepel on ESPN.com - The league has survived a change in the overall business structure -- which helped weed out the more-committed franchises from the half-hearted ones -- and a collective- bargaining agreement process. And it "survived" some less-than-appealing advertising campaigns -- including the bizarre stalker-guys and the "let's give everyone a makeover" ideas.
  • Susan Bickelhaupt of the Boston Globe - And perhaps most importantly, the league has caught the interest of girls and young women who used to hit the glass ceiling in basketball after they graduated from college.
  • Mike Terry of the L.A. Times -"The league has a tremendous potential that it hasn't quite reached yet," Joe Maloof said. "But it's still a young league. As long as you have the interest in women's basketball in college and high school, you have a fighting chance to make it succeed in the pro level."
  • Jon Gallo of the Washington Post - "That was the slogan: 'We Got Next,' "Alana Beard said. "We Got Next. I'll never forget seeing that because it changed my outlook on basketball."
The Sparks are getting some media attention today. After the Henry Bibby disaster from last season, the players are looking forward to playing for Joe "Jellybean" Bryant this year.

According to Lisa Leslie: "He's a player's coach," she said. "He actually gives you that freedom to do whatever you want to do on the court and he actually asks you what you want to do."

And while it looked like Chamique Holdsclaw had returned to the team yesterday, that does not appear to be the case.
In the first regular season game of the year, the Mercury will take on the defending champs before a sold out crowd in Sacramento in a nationally televised game.

New Mercury coach Paul Westhead is not sure how his team implementing his trademark style of play will match up against the Monarchs. "I don't know the answer to that yet," said Westhead, "That's part of the intrigue of why I came here in the first place."But I can simply say that this is not an easy task for men or women. Who knows? I may find out that women are better at it."

Injuries to players like Diana Taurasi and Kristen Rasmussen may slow the implementation.

The Monarchs will receive their championship rings today, but Yolanda Griffith says "What it's going to take to win this year is to act like we didn't win last year."
After reaching the Finals the last two seasons without bringing home a championship, the Connecticut Sun are hoping the third time is a charm. With promising rookie Erin Phillips joining the team this year, it may be the final piece needed.

Instrumental in putting together the team has been head coach Mike Thibault. “I'd done my research,” Thibault said. “I knew this team better than a lot of people did. Better than (the players) might have known themselves.

The Sun have not won a season opener since moving to Connecticut three seasons ago, but may reverse that trend tonight against the Liberty (on NBA-TV).

In other Sun coverage, Ned Griffin profiles easy-going Margo Dydek. “People think that maybe if I get mad I'll play more aggressively, but that's not true,” Dydek said. “It's not my nature. I'm never going to be mad just to play better.

Also, Mike DiMauro writes a great column on Katie Douglas. Douglas was the subject of a lot of media coverage during her playing days at Purdue as she lost both parents to cancer.

While her career has been a positive focus for her family and a reminder of the foundation set by her parents, Douglas has also evolved from a tomboy to a girly girl, a married woman and a better all around basketball player.

The Sun's opponent tonight does not receive as much press coverage. But they do have a promising player in Shameka Christon who moved into the starting line-up this season after two years of being one of the first players off the bench.

"It's so different than the situation when I was new here, because I was one player and there were so many veterans to take me under their wings," Christon said.
The Indiana Fever get a chance to test their revamped lineup tonight against the Detroit Shock, a team picked by many to win the conference.

Tamika Catchings is ready for the Fever to win a championship. "I really think that if we can stick together and not be selfish and not worry about who gets what, who gets to play how many minutes . . . if we can just stick together the whole year, we have a great chance to win a championship."

With 10 of their first 16 games on the road, the Fever players and coaches understand how important it is to protect home court.

One of only four players returning from last year's Fever team, Tully Bevilaqua is enjoying her role as a fan favorite and playing in Indiana.

While the Shock has five All-Stars starting and are projected by many experts to win the conference, head coach Bill Laimbeer is not repeating his bravado from last season. "This now is on the players. This is their time. We made it very clear to them that this is their time to stand up as a group, as a whole, as a team, and to show who they are and what they're all about."
Opening day is here for the WNBA and for the Chicago Sky, today's game against the Charlotte Sting is not only the first regular season game for the franchise, but a chance to build on their successful preseason against a team that struggled last season.

Sky coach Dave Cowens has been working on hook shots with his players and teaching them to take advantage of opportune shots, rather than passing the ball. "When they're driving to the basket, instead of thinking `I'm going to score,' somehow passing gets in there and it almost holds them back," Cowens said.

The Sky players and staff are calling themselves the team without stars. "We'll just try our best and do what we've been doing,'' Stacey Dales said. "We found a little identity, which is team. We have unity and a lot of fun playing together. We enjoy and respect one another.

For the Sting, coach Muggsy Bogues says his team has been working hard so they don't have a repeat of last season. In his first full season at the helm, Bogues recognizes the challenge for his team, but also embraces the underdog role.

In addition to retiring Andrea Stinson's number in a halftime ceremony, the Sting will honor their original season ticket holders throughout the game.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Opening day rosters for all 14 teams are now set, including those who are starting on the new inactive list.

Also ESPN.com has completed their team break downs by adding the Fever, Storm, Monarchs and Silver Stars.

And check out the picks for each conference by the writers at FCP (subscription required).
In today's Web site re-design update, check out the Sparks new site.

Also .com has re-launched its front page.
Rene Portland responds to Nick Horvath's column and the NCLR responds to Portland's statement.
Update on Chamique Holdsclaw:

When Sparks public relations coordinator Ashley King was reached Thursday by ESPN.com columnist Mechelle Voepel, King wouldn't elaborate on Holdsclaw's absence, only confirming that the three-time All-Star had left the team Sunday. King also said Sparks coach Joe Bryant might have more specific comment in the upcoming days.

EDIT: New update via stever, Holdsclaw is now back with the team.
With countdown to the start of the 10th season at one day, there is tons of coverage on the league and its teams today. Some highlights:

Michelle Smith at the San Francisco Chronicle talks to Sacramento's Nicole Powell and her former college coach. Tara VanDerveer says the biggest change is how difficult it has become to make a WNBA roster.

Kathleen Nelson at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says that "Taken a year at a time, the league's success has seemed marginal at best: two steps forward, one step back. Looking back over a decade, though, the progress has been impressive."

Mel Greenberg writes about the connection between former LaSalle coach Paul Westhead and one of his players that is now coaching the Sparks.

Players and coaches from the Chicago Sky went on an overnight to the Great Lakes Naval Station for some team bonding before the season kicks off.

The new New York Liberty include players like Sherrill Baker, who is not only finishing up her school work at Georgia, but also learning a much bigger playbook.

The Detroit News explores the amazing athleticism of Deanna Nolan and makes picks on some of the top players and teams.

The Charlotte Observer has more on Andrea Stintson's jersey retirement ceremony at the home opener tomorrow. "I want to be remembered as one who just loved the game," Stinson said. "I had fun every time."

The early years of the Phoenix Mercury are recalled by Jeff Metcalfe at the Arizona Republic. Seth Sulka hopes the team will be able to recapture both the entertaining play and winning ways this season.

10 Things to Know about the WNBA are explained in the Indianapolis Star.

Melody Gutierrez of the Sacramento Bee writes that "despite continuing to struggle for national attention and a stronger fan base, the WNBA is celebrating its 10th season -- a milestone many thought it would never reach as the league at times had to fight for its existence."

Ted Miller of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer writes of a new approach to marketing the league. "That means no more marketing schemes overtly intended to titillate men. That means selling the sport to families as affordable and family friendly with accessible players who project a wholesome love for the game."

The Storm look to recapture the title they won in 2004. The players that will be part of the quest are profiled and graded. Perhaps no one is more important to the team than Sue Bird. Except maybe a more talented bench.

The Courant has a team by team preview. What is the next step for the Sun - the league runner-up for the past two seasons? The Norwich Bulletin says the additional depth at the PG position should help and looks at the steady increase in fan support for the team.
Jeff Jacobs on Lindsay Whalen:

"Whalen converses the way she plays point guard. She dribbles around, ho-hums a few clichés, eats up an interviewer's shot clock, seems to be killing time and - bang - sticks the one-liner at the perfect moment."

Jacobs reports that readers can keep up with Whalen's one liners via an on-line diary for The Day of New London this season.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Here's a stunner: the New York Times covers the league. (No, not the Liberty-- just the league.) The Gray Lady's Michael Schmidt asks why the world's best women players accept the comparatively low W salaries, given what they can earn in Europe and Asia.

Sports agent Bruce Levy: "The league has created the excitement around the games, making [American] players feel that they are celebrities, which can't [be] and hasn't been done overseas."

Commissioner Orender: "The W.N.B.A. is what gives players the platform to earn that money overseas. Without that they wouldn't get the dollars around the world. Lisa Leslie is a star in the States and gets endorsements because of the league. When [an overseas] league bids for her, they bid big."

Also from the Times: better-than-nothing team previews. Schmidt picks the Shock and the Storm to meet in the finals; for the Lib, "expectations are not too high."
USA Today's Oscar Dixon works the tenth anniversary angle in a big, optimistic piece with a photo supplement.

Katie Smith: "More and more girls are playing at an early age, dreaming and knowing that this is a possibility. They are coming into the league bigger, with more skills." (Among those skills: the ability to guard Katie Smith?)

Commish Orender: "Don't tell me our [attendance] numbers are down. When you look at the way people are living their lives and being a fan, how you define a fan is changing. And if you look at the aggregate of how people are taking in the WNBA, the numbers are growing significantly." (Playoff TV ratings: up 33%. Website traffic: up 25%. Ted on such numbers: they're a mixed bag.)

Anne Donovan and Dan Hughes state the not-quite-obvious-enough: if you win a title, fans will come.

In a separate piece, Dixon picks the players most likely to generate highlight-reel footage by dribbling (Teasley, then Bird, Ticha and Whalen), by shooting (Nolan, then Mwadi, Katie Smith and the Diana), and by elevating (Snow, then Brunson, Leslie, and Nolan).
Voepel has a great recap of the coaches teleconference from earlier this week. ESPN.com also has added team previews on the Comets, Sparks, Lynx, Mercury, Mystics and Liberty.

As far as Chamique Holdsclaw is concerned, the front page of ESPN.com's Women's Basketball section has a picture of Holdsclaw up saying she left the Sparks for personal reasons. But they do not have a story up yet.

Plus, new team Web sites continue to re-launch today with the Sky and Sun.
Chamique Holdsclaw has reportedly left the Sparks for personal reasons. Of course there is no mention here or here. SportsPage Magazine did report that Holdsclaw was missing from Media Day earlier this week. Board junkies react here.

Holdsclaw also missed part of the 2004 season while she battled depression.
Pelton on Paul Ball: "no matter what, the Mercury should break a bunch of records and be great fun to watch."
Former Purdue player Cherelle George disputes the findings in a report recently completed by the university involving academic misconduct.

The report says that former assistant coach Katrina Merriweather helped George too much in writing a paper. George says she showed a completed paper to Merriweather to have her look it over. "Everyone thinks since they're adults, they don't lie. But I was innocent. It's not right; I'm not guilty. I wrote my paper. I'm not going to be quiet about it."

One of the interesting parts of the story is that another former assistant coach Jannon Roland Lampley is the one who reported the academic misconduct. The report says that former head coach Kristy Curry believed that Lampley's reporting was centered around Lampley's unhappiness with her job and the fact her contract would not be renewed at the end of the season.

In other Purdue news, former recruit Amber Harris is reportedly headed to Xavier University.
Good news for Sun fans (and Minnesota fans): it is looking more likely that Lindsay Whalen will play this weekend (and next Tuesday when the Sun visit the Lynx).

The Indiana Fever roster appears to be set and the team is optimistic that the new look will build on the success of last season. Season ticket holders had a chance to watch the team one final time before the season officially kicks off at the Fever's Annual Tip Off Party.
Marginal players, second-round picks and the like will learn their fate tomorrow, when each team must have its roster set.

Dealt from the Shock, then cut from the Lynx, Ambrosia Anderson hopes to stay with the Sun: "I told my best friend when I got cut, 'I've never been cut in my whole life....You've just got to look at it from the perspective -- it's a game, it's a job."

Even some UConn fans expressed surprise when the Sparks drafted Willnett Crockett, but she says she was surprised when L.A. waived her.

Also here this week, but gone today: Baylor's Abi Wabara (from L.A.), BC's Brooke Queenan (from the Sun, after just three days), and two centers: Lindsay Taylor (from Seattle) and Zane Teilane (from Detroit). Both could get tryouts elsewhere next year... if they're healthy.

The Monarchs still have cuts to make. Among the candidates: Iowa State's trey-shooter Anne O'Neill, drafted, then cut while injured, last year.
Mel Greenberg talks to Dawn Staley as her final season approaches.

Staley isn't thinking about it too much yet, but says "as we get closer to the end, it's probably going to affect me more. I'm going to enjoy having free time, but I'll miss it."

The article also includes dates for the farewell tour.

On Mel's blog, he provides an update on Philly.com's change in plans for covering the WNBA season.
Melissa Isaacson's series on the Sky concludes today with a look at the fans and attendance. The Sky have sold slightly more than 2,000 season tickets so far, below their goal of 2,500-3,000.

Players like Nikki McCray think the unique relationship that is developed between the players and fans will help build a successful attendance base. "This is an exciting thing, and once this team is set, you'll see us in the community, reaching out to kids because once you touch their lives, it will be very hard for them not to come see us."
The final results from the GM survey show the picks on the league MVP and which team will win the championship.

Also on .com, Wurst says that teams scored more points per game this preseason. He will continue to track this throughout the season. And President Orender has a letter to the fans.

ESPN.com has added team profiles to their season preview section. So far, the Sting, Sky, Sun and Shock are up.

Jan Hubbard has his Eastern Conference preview up on FoxSports.com.

FCP's team previews continue with Phoenix and Seattle (subscription required).

Jayda Evans of the Seattle Times looks back and David Vest of the Arizona Republic looks forward as the 10th season tip off approaches.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Kim interviews Voepel.

Must read.

(Edit - Correction: Kim interviewed Mechelle, not Helen as originally posted. Apologies to Kim).
The Sacramento Bee looks at the Albuquerque connection between owners Joe and Gavin Maloof and head coach John Whisenant.

Their team was at the White House yesterday in honor of their 2005 championship and the 10th anniversary of the league.

Like most other teams, Whisenant has some tough decisions to make by the end of the week regarding his roster.
Nick Horvath on Rene:

In short, Portland's beloved Penn State can no longer afford to keep her around. She's made herself too expensive, not necessarily monetarily but in terms of public relations, image, brand, culture and stance.
Sparks GM Penny Toler on assistant coach Michael Abraham:

People tell me this guy did a bad thing. But there is a difference. It's a difference when you have someone who is bad and does a bad thing, or a good person who does a dumb thing.
The Providence Journal profiles Sun rookie Erin Phillips, who turns 21 on Friday.

When asked if she will celebrate the milestone with her first beer in the U.S., Phillips replied, "After we beat New York."
David Locke looks at how playing in Russia has changed from Anne Donovan's time there twenty years ago to Sue Bird's last two winters.

Locke is also previewing this Storm's team by posistion. The guards and small forwards are up first.

One area that does not appear to be set for the Storm is the back up post position. With Janell Burse out with an injured shoulder, Wendy Palmer will likely start (if she recovers from an elbow to the mouth). But Lindsay Taylor has battled an Achilles injury and late arrival Tiffani Johnson has not progressed as much as the coaches would like.