Women's Hoops Blog: August 2006

Inane commentary on a game that deserves far better

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Spoiler: Yahoo photos reveal five members of the All-WNBA teams. Since it's a "scoop," we'll forgive them the misspelled name, the fact that only four of the five players are identified, and that it appears the players have joined the NBA. Oh, my kingdom for a copy editor!
At Full Court, Jim Clark explains why Taj McWilliams-Franklin may be the most admirable, and the most underrated, athlete on the Sun in the WNBA on Earth.

In all seriousness, it's pieces like this one that explain why it can be worth subscribing to Full Court. Clark also cocks a snook at the Shock: "Apparently, no Detroit player has ever committed a foul, every call is a conspiracy against greatness, and yipping and pouting are necessary to the game of basketball. I prefer professionalism. I will always prefer the team-focused, seemly, approach to the game seen on the Connecticut side."

We make the Taj-for-MVP case here, and yes, we know she isn't going to win. (We also know it's a regular-season award.)
A fan attends the Women's Senior team's practice in Raleigh.
The NCAA is already trying to limit text- and instant-messaging in recruiting; the Ivy League now proposes to ban them entirely. Email and faxes would be unaffected.

"Coaches feel compelled to contact prospects constantly, prospects are distracted at all hours of the day and night, and prospects and their parents are bearing the significant costs involved with receiving text messages," the Ivy proposal says.

The WBCA tried to ban texting for the same reasons last year; the proposal lost in a close vote.
The group interested in bringing a WNBA franchise to Arkansas took another step closer as the official franchise application was sent in yesterday.

City leaders from Bentonville and members of a sports arena ownership group will meet with officials from both the WNBA and NBA tomorrow.

(via pilight)
The Monarchs executed. Detroit laid an egg. The result: a lopsided, finally squirm-inducing, 24-point beatdown in Auburn Hills, a credit to Sacramento, but not much of an advertisement for the league.

The defending champs did almost everything right: cutting off Detroit's passing lanes, moving the ball intelligently, setting up outside shooters early, and slicing up Detroit's zone late. Sacto's early foul trouble posed no problem: Graham Hays quips that the Monarchs have ten starters.

They also have two sharpshooters. Lawson made six treys, a new playoff record. Powell came to play. Katie Smith sank four treys (the former record) before Sac switched assignments and shut her down.

Swin Cash played eleven minutes and scored no points. Riley played fifteen and scored two. Coach Laimbeer-- why does he let himself wear a mic?-- quarreled with his players, with officials, and even with ESPN's commentators, disputing a foul call after the free throws were done. Penichiero: "When things go wrong, you see [Detroit] pointing fingers."

Fans began leaving the Palace in the third quarter. Talk about giving up too soon: Slovy reminds us that game one in '03 looked just as bad, yet the Shock went on to win it all.

One group of fans went home happy: the Hayniacs from Mason, Michigan traveled to see the former MSU star. Haynie responded with her best work this year: her five steals set a game, and a career high.

Cash tried to explain: "Tomorrow we'll go look at the film and figure out what happened... It's professional sports; you have to have a short memory."

Because the Palace is such an expansive venue, even a good crowd there can underwhelm on TV. A Shock sponsor is giving away tickets to Friday's game: perhaps Cash and Riley will actually attend. And maybe Matt Wurst will get his chicken sandwich.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Some good news for Minnesota (Gophers) fans: Lindsay Whalen is back in town. She'll join the Gopher Staff as an Adminstrative Assistant.

“I’m thrilled to return to Minnesota and work with Pam [Borton], her staff and the team,” said Whalen, a Hutchinson, Minn., native. “It’s such a good opportunity for me to learn a different aspect of basketball operations. I’m also really looking forward to spending some time at home.”

She's scheduled to start her duties in the fall...which doesn't answer the question: Might she show up in Raleigh to try out for the National Team (which is missing a true back up to Sue Bird)?
Lousy news for Mountaineers: Meg Bulger reinjured her knee. She'll be gone for the year.

Bulger was West Virginia's leading scorer before her ACL tear last winter-- and yet, without her, WVU nearly won the Big East.
Brynn Cameron's dad speaks.
More previews... Monarchs and Shock folks agree: defense wins championships. Coach Whiz: "I can see five games coming to the last minute." Deanna Nolan: "If we don't score, they don't score."

The Bee's Gutierrez points out that just one Monarch averages over thirty postseason minutes this year: it's Kara Lawson, who is there to score.

Monarchs backup PG Kristin Haynie says she's psyched for a series in Michigan: look for her college teammates Bowen and Roehrig, and for her parents, in the seats tonight.

Bill Laimbeer really likes the word "maturity." Katie Smith prefers "prepared."

Clay picks Sacramento in five: "If Detroit plays as well as it can play every time out, the Shock will win the series, but history says that Laimbeer's team will give at least one game away."
Taj McWilliams-Franklin's contract is up: she could retire, or she could try to play in her native Texas.

Taj: "I have thought about [retirement] every year for five years now. I'll see how it goes. I've got a long season overseas, so we'll see how it looks after I'm finished."

Coach Thibault heads to North Carolina as an assistant for USA Basketball. The Journal-Inquirer's Erickson gets him to hint at personnel changes, perhaps designed to make the Sun more physical. Thibault: "Maybe we're going to have to learn a little different style."
Carnival of championship previews:

Six members of the Shock have rings from '03, but veteran Kedra Holland-Corn says their mindset has changed: "When they were young in 2003, it was more of 'Oops! We're here.''Oops! We're there. Oops! We won the championship.' " Bill Laimbeer: "We're more mature, we're stronger and we're smarter." (More mature?)

Katie Smith likes playing alongside Cheryl Ford: "You don't have to worry about the rebounding too much because she can corral most of those."

Scholanda Hoston Dorrell left LSU with three Final Fours, but no collegiate championship: she can get a pro ring now. "“It definitely helps you to forget those three failures in a row. I'm right back at it," says the defensive specialist.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

A couple of other things the Women's National Team is missing: Tina Thompson (family), Lisa Leslie (family?) and (temporarily) Seimone Augustus (mild concussion). But Alana Beard is happy to be back on familiar ground.
USC three-point specialist Brynn Cameron missed most of last season with a hip injury. The Trojans announced today that Brynn will miss the entire upcoming season for personal reasons. Officially, it's a private matter.

Unofficially, she's pregnant. To Matt freakin' Leinart.

The two have been dating since last year. Leinart told SI last year:
She doesn't know the Matt Leinart that's in the press; she just knows me as little Matty, her boyfriend. I mean, she didn't even know what a Heisman Trophy was. That's what I love about her.
The world is still digesting the latest news. What does Mark Trakh think? (He's bummed.) What does Denny Green think? (He's probably doesn't know yet.) What does Paris Hilton think? (She thinks?)

For the record, I would be willing to have a baby with either Brynn Cameron or "little Matty" Leinart. Not that either possibility is likely to present itself anytime soon.
Set your DVRs: the entirety of the Women's World Championships in Brazil get broadcast live on NBATV, then via tape delay on FSN. Schedule here, thanks to Ripley and UCDT.
Augustus hospitalized after a fall during practice. Word is she's got a mild concussion, nothing worse. Feel better soon, Seimone.
In June, Helen asked why the Times has been paying so much attention to Duke lacrosse and so little to Rene Portland. Part of the answer has to do with its inexplicable (or all too explicable) obsession with the former, and its inability to get off a bad story. Stuart Taylor explains.

So what's up with Harris v. Portland? Not much. Or at least not much public.

Earlier this summer, all parties in the case agreed to a confidentiality agreement under Rule 26, which allows courts to keep discovery materials private to avoid "annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense." The agreement assures that much of the discovery material — most notably the deposition testimony — will be kept out of the press.

NCLR has been winning the PR battle hands down. So why would it agree to keep so much potentially damaging info about Rene private?

On possibility is that NCLR wants to keep potentially damaging info about Jen private. Even if Harris's allegations are true, there might well be aspects of her time at Penn State that she doesn't want repeated in the press. Another possibility is that certain witnesses (on both sides) don't want details about their sexuality made public.

In any event, for now we'll just have to wait and wonder what is going on in the depo room. We will keep monitoring the case, and if anything happens, we'll let you know.
To beat the Monarchs, Pelton says Detroit must rely on passing, not dribble penetration. But he still takes Sacto in four.
Oscar Dixon says the USA Women's National team's missing a lot, Anne Donovan hopes to add a big, but Sheryl Swoopes knows what the team needs:
"It starts with working hard regardless of how tired we are," Swoopes said. "Once we step on the floor, it's all about USA Basketball. It's important every player understands (today) what it is at stake, what we have to do as individuals and what we have to do as a team to bring home the gold medal. I have to instill that confidence in every player because if we believe in each other, we are going to get the job done."

Monday, August 28, 2006

Tonight it became official: The home of the US Open is now the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Congrats to BJK, and well done USTA.
Citing her health and her family, Yolanda Griffith has withdrawn from the 2006 USA Basketball Women's World Championship team. "I have played in two Olympic Games and would love to play for USA Basketball again in the future," said Griffith, "but at this time I just don't think it would be fair to my teammates."

With two spot left to fill, USABasketball announced that Cappie Pondexter, Michelle Snow and collegian Candace Parker have accepted invitations to train with the team in Raleigh. This does shut out, say, Cheryl Ford or Deanna Nolan, as the release notes that "several players who will compete in the WNBA Finals are also under consideration for one of the final roster spots."

The USA Basketball Women's Competition Committee tends to pick players who have a long history with USA Basketball (Ford and Nolan do not), so it will be interesting to see who they select to defend the gold in Brazil.
Graham Hays has five questions and lots of analysis for the upcoming finals. My favorite: "Will Katie Smith pass better than Ticha Penichiero shoots?"
Is Big Shot Betty going to leave the Storm?
Seattle isn't the only team with relocation issues: the Monarchs and Kings want more from their hometown-- renovations, or a whole new arena development-- and if they can't have it, the Maloofs might just move.

Anyone want naming rights to Arco Arena? The name would carry over to any new arena the Maloof brothers might build. But the market for naming rights ain't what it used to be.

The Monarchs, meanwhile, can now name their next opponent. Coach Whiz says Detroit's "big, strong athletes" will pose a big challenge: he expects the series to go to five games.
After Saturday's stunner, Connecticut had nothing left. The Shock are faster and stronger at every position; when Dydek sits, the Shock are taller too. To beat them again, Connecticut had to disrupt their offense, connect from outside, and get to the free throw line.

None of that happened. Detroit did everything right; the Shock won every category, every quarter, and seemingly every loose ball, holding Connecticut without a fast break.

Smith and Cash led the scoring with 16. "I’m very happy for Miss Smith here sitting next to me,” said Laimbeer. “It’s her first Final. That’s why we brought her here."

It was Connecticut's worst loss since they left Orlando, and it's hard to say whether fatigue, injury or psychology did them in more: easier just to say that the Shock did them in.

Nykesha Sales had no points. "I'll probably think about it this whole offseason," she said. "I don't think I'll go overseas. I think I'll just kind of try to get away from it, but I think it's that motivation for next year." Sales played for Brno last winter, but had avoided Euroball before that.

Taj-- who will play overseas-- saluted the fans: "Most NBA games, there would have been like 1,000 people left. We still had about 5,000 sitting there, cheering for us. ... We were playing like crap. They stayed and [kept] cheering."

Seeing all, knowing all: Kevin Pelton, who correctly predicted both conference finals.

The Bad Girls will meet Sacramento in the league's first finals without a number one seed. Game one starts Wednesday at 7:30pm on ESPN2.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Sparks fell apart in Anaheim. Mwadi had more fouls than field goals. Leslie scored ten, including a worthless late trey. The one bright spot for the Sparks was Tamara Moore, who came alive too late.

The Monarchs led by 24 at the half, flagged in the third quarter, but owned the fourth. The defending champs head to the league finals without having lost a playoff game.

In May, almost nobody picked the Monarchs to repeat; they certainly look like champions now. Coach Whiz: "We always feel we belong."

Yo Griffith feels so good she's changed plans and won't retire: she had said that this year would be her last.
The Sun won their must-win match at the casino, and it took all the team could give: Katie Douglas surprised everybody by playing, Sales surprised some folks by scoring early, and Taj's brainy post moves beat out Detroit's brawn.

Taj called Douglas' last-minute appearance "a big lift." Douglas got a numbing agent, along with "some things stuck in my foot" to ease the pain. (Props to the Bulletin's Sherman, who predicted her starting role.)

The game's MVP, though, has to be Margo Dydek. Not only did the 7'2" Pole score 17, a playoff high; her presence neutralized the swarming defense Detroit used so well in game one-- trapped teammates could simply throw the ball high. Detroit made its final, threatening run in the fourth quarter with Dydek on the bench.

For the Shock, Smith fizzled, but Nolan amazed: 27 points on 12-17 shooting, almost every one of them a long jumper. Her firepower kept Detroit close at the end.

Tight officiating perhaps helped the Sun, even though Whalen and Taj ended up with five fouls. The frequent breaks reduced the stamina advantage the Shock enjoyed in game one, and took the swagger away from the Shock's posts. Coach Laimbeer got distracted, got a technical, and nearly busted a lung.

Game three starts tonight at 8pm Eastern on ESPN2. Douglas' return, like everything else, is up in the air.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

The NCAA has decided on penalties for the Stanford Tree.

The previous tree had a few too many before a game this year, and the university had to find a new one; the replacement refused to leave the court after halftime. The NCAA notes that prior Tree antics influenced the severity of the penalty.
Lisa Leslie tells Sparks fans not to worry just because she's not scoring much in these playoffs.

LLL: "I'm human; I'm not always going to have great games. But I can still help my team by moving the ball. And defensively I try to limit inside scoring."

The Monarchs have been practicing free throws. Missed freebies almost cost them game one.

Coach Whiz ran free throw drills for DeMya and Yo: "If they missed, the whole team had to run numerous times. That's all the pressure of their peers." In that practice, both posts hit every shot.

The AP story looks at the Anaheim angle: the Sparks need to win this one just to get one true home game. Kara Lawson asked Sacto fans to head south, though it's at least seven hours' drive to Anaheim.
USA Today's Oscar Dixon listens to Katie Smith, who always goes off against the Sun: "This is the best chance I've had in my WNBA career to win a championship. You don't know if you're going to get another shot."

The Freep's Chris Silva has more from Smith, who gives props to the Mohegan Sun crowd.

Thibault tells the Day's Ned Griffen that his stars simply must put the ball in the hole. Will Thibault go deeper into his bench? Probably not: "The strength of [his deep reserves], and I don't mean this the wrong way.... is on the defensive end of the court.... They probably aren't going to step up and make the shots."

The coach sings another tune for the Bulletin's Sherman: "Anybody that wants to make shots, step up and we'll throw it to you."

There's also confusing news on Douglas' injury. "Long term," says the doctor, "I don't think it's going to be a big problem." The same doc puts her chances to play now at 50%.

Games start at 4pm and 9pm Eastern, both on ESPN2.

Friday, August 25, 2006

The New York Times explains (finally) its coverage -- or lack thereof -- of the New York Liberty. An "ask the editor" question about the non-coverage got this response from sports editor Tom Jolly:
We report the results of all Liberty games, albeit usually in short items. Again, it's a question of resources. Except for the major teams, we're less about covering events and more about reporting on the bigger stories that transcend a particular sport.
Mr. Jolly, Baylor '73, notes that WNBA player profiles are just the kind of transcendent stories Times' readers can expect in the future, and suggests that those interested in actual coverage of the league hit the web. "The beauty of the Internet," he explains, "is that people who want to read more about a particular sport can easily do so by finding a Web site devoted to that sport." (or, even better, Tom, a site that gathers everything written on women's basketball)

Interesting side note: When Jolly was appointed sports editor in 2003, then executive Howell Raines said he was ideally suited to follow exiting editor Neil Amdur because
In his 12 years in the job, Neil sharpened our coverage of metropolitan-area professional sports, drew new readers to our National Edition and extended our range on international sports such as soccer and the Olympics. Tom has the leadership presence and experience to build on this great foundation. He also has the vision and competitive zeal to expand our ambitions locally, nationally and internationally and to challenge our talented staff in the areas of breaking news, enterprise reporting, investigative projects and energetic commentary."
Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio....

(thanks to CalltheDoctor and Queenie)
More possible expansion talk for the WNBA. This time for a team in Bentonville, Arkansas. One of the prospective owners sounds like the type Donna is looking for.

"... the $ 10 million price tag is not a concern. We are going to throw everything we have into getting this franchise. ”
Last night's fourth quarter in Detroit was a bummer, not just for Sun fans, but for almost anyone who wanted to see close, competitive, playoff basketball.

Last night's fourth quarter in Sacto was superb. Down late after blowing an early lead, missing over and over from the line, and getting almost nothing from their vaunted bench, the Monarchs pulled ahead in the final seconds on a Griffith layup after a neat Lawson pass: the home crowd exploded, and the defending champs came out on top.

With Griffith taking Leslie out of her game, L.A.'s defense clogging the paint, and both teams often using the whole shot clock, the second half combined a three-point shooting contest and a defensive chess match.

For a while, Mwadi Mabika looked like the queen: Mwadi has had her best games against the 'Narchs, and last night she did it again-- 6-9 from downtown, almost all after halftime. "I think she likes purple," coach Whiz joked.

But the Monarchs like winning. Nicole Powell, who has had just an okay year, nailed five jumpers in a row to put her team back in the game. Lawson and Penichiero (yes, Penichiero) sank three-pointers to lead the final comeback.

The series now move to L.A., except that it doesn't: the Sparks have won almost all their games at Staples this year, but American Idol has taken over their building, sending the Sparks to Anaheim. Lisa Leslie: "I don't think we'd ever see the Lakers play at the Pond in the playoffs. That's just a slap in the face."

Want more? The sport's best journalist has the stories on Lawson's, and on her team's, resilience.
For the second game in a row, the Sun had a hard time putting the ball in the basket. But unlike the last game, they were not able to compensate with rebounding or free throws. The result was a 70-59 win for the Shock.

Katie Smith and Deanna Nolan combined for 38 points and 12 assists. Smith, in particular, seems to play her best against the Sun and enjoys having a "hand in a little bit of everything." On the inside, Cheryl Ford set a playoff record with 23 rebounds, in a performance her coach called a "Herculean effort on her part out there."

Both teams played good defense and both teams went on runs and held 14 point leads, but the fact that his team missed and passed up so many open looks is frustrating and puzzling to Mike Thibault. "Offense is real simple for me," Thibault said. "If Taj and Asjha and Nykesha and Margo make all their layups, which are 2 feet from the basket, we walk out of here with about a 10-point win. They didn't. We don't. We're down 0-1."

Thursday, August 24, 2006

In the nick of time, Kevin Pelton has his conference finals preview.

Pelton picks Detroit in three games, Sacto in two, with asides on point differential, the Douglas injury, the Whalen-Smith matchup (Sun fans: "Uh-oh"), and Lisa Leslie's fluctuating numbers: worth a read in the two hours before games begin.
It's never too early to look ahead to the FIBA World Championships and BCBG25 has started a blog.
Jayda Evans has a Storm post-mortem. Betty Lennox on the deciding game: "We didn't play when we needed to play, and then in the fourth quarter we played, showed the characteristics of the team. But we just can't pick quarters to play well."

The P-I's Mark Bergin covers the bummed-out fans. About a hundred met the team when they came home; many wonder if they can keep their team. The rumors look hopeful, for what rumors are worth.

Season ticket holder Chris Alexander: "It makes sense for [the new owners] to stay [in Seattle], and I don't think they'll be broken-hearted if they do. But I think their ulterior motive is they want a team in Oklahoma."
Saturday's Sparks-Monarchs game two will take place in Anaheim because American Idol has the Staples center. Jayda says Sparks folks fear that fans won't show up.
A Times-Dispatch article talks about Jennifer Harris' return to the basketball court. Now at James Madison University, the former Penn State player who is involved in a lawsuit against Lady Lions head coach Rene Portland says of her current teammates: "They've accepted me and made me feel like part of the team, which needless to say is a great feeling."

In a freaky, technical glich, it seems that Penn State's fan board has an allergic reaction to every postive post about Jen. Go figure. (tip of the had, PSUAlum)
Lest we be accused of East Coast bias... ESPN's Miki Turner previews Sparks-Monarchs. Sacto knocked L.A. out of contention last summer, but L.A. won the season series this year.

Coach Jellybean: "What I remember last year when I took over is that we lost to Sacramento in the playoffs -- they swept us. The whole winter I sat around drawing up plays just to beat Sacramento."

Yo Griffith draws a contrast between the teams: "You have to be humble," she says. "You have to understand who you're playing against."

The Bee's Gutierrez looks at Leslie's hard work. LLL credits her regimen for her improvement, but Ticha Penichiero has another idea: "This year, she is married, and her fiery desire is back. [Her husband] is just a great guy, a great man. Sometimes when you are happy off the court, it shows in your game."
It's a pre-conference-finals news bonanza! Mel Greenberg previews tonight's games (both on NBATV).

Other reporters follow single players: Plenette Pierson shakes her booty, preparing to score for the Shock. Erin Phillips has to stay tough for the Sun.

Nykesha Sales needs to remember how to score. Sales needs to score. Did we mention that Sales has to score?

The Norwich Bulletin has a blog for all things Sun, from gameday speculations to reporters' travel woes. (No word on whether their staff thinks Sales can score.)

The Day's Ned Griffen picks up a running joke between coaches Thibault and Laimbeer: apparently Douglas' injury is just a ruse to lull the Shock into overconfidence. Either that, or the Sun have signed Miko Whitmore.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Voepel says the Shock will beat the Sun, and then the Monarchs will win it all... unless something else happens instead.
Chamique Holdsclaw will play in Thursday night's conference final despite her continuing plantar fasciitis. The Claw skipped Tuesday's must-win against the Storm.

"She's better on one leg than most of the players in the league," coach Jellybean says. "That's not a slap to the other players in the league, it's a compliment to her knowledge of the game." (Pilight saw it first.)
Clay picks the Sparks and the Shock in three games apiece, creating a rematch of the 2003 finals... this time with home-court advantage in L.A.
Some love for Lisa Leslie from the L.A. Times's Bill Plaschke:

There were probably more USC and UCLA football fans in chat rooms than the announced 8,259 attendance at Staples Center. None of that matters. None of that makes Leslie's mission any less important in a city that embraces the diversity found in the stands, and the female role modeling found on the court.
The Storm did not look very focused or confident for the first three quarters of their game with the Sparks. But they made a furious rally in the fourth quarter behind Lauren Jackson's 13 points to get within one point with just over 25 seconds left in the game. Despite having opportunities to tie or take the lead, the Storm never did and ultimately lost 68-63.

Sue Bird played with the mask to protect her bruised nose and finished with 15 points, but could not convert on most of the late game opportunities for her team. Ted Miller argues that while Bird did not lose the game, she did not win it either. Bird said her last attempt, a mid range jumper with 9.5 second left will "will haunt me for a very, very long time."

The Storm did not help themselves by only connecting on 30% of their shots from the floor and only 7-26 from 3 point range. "It was obvious what our demise was – we don’t shoot the ball that poorly very often,” Anne Donovan said. The Sparks were not much better from the floor, but did not rely on the three point shot as much.

With Lisa Leslie quiet in the first and fourth quarters, Temeka Johnson stepped up. The point guard attacked the rim, hit open jumpers and finished with 14 points, 6 assists, and 1 turnover. Bird described the difficulty of the matchup with Johnson. "She's so low to the ground. Some people can look at her height as a disadvantage, but the way she's able to penetrate -- I don't how she gets those layups up, but she does. You can't pick her, you just have to try and stay in front of her."

Coach Bryant was not surprised about the comeback by the Storm and that his team is not built to win by 20. But he added the Sparks were determined not to be eliminated in the first round for the third year in a row.

With their season now over, Donovan and three of her players will turn their focus to preparing for the World Championship. Most of the others will try to recover from injuries.
Graham Hays gets to the bottom of the Katie Douglas playing for the Lithuania National Team in the WC story.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Dawn's final blog for the Comets.

Thanks Dawn.

(via 4ever_bball_fan)
The Storm, and especially LJ and Bird, are focused and confident going into tonight's decisive game 3. Bird will play with a mask to protect her nose, but is not too worried. "It's not my favorite thing," she said. "But maybe it's good luck." Coach Donovan believes her team will need "to have better ball movement and better shot selection" to succeed tonight.

As for the Sparks, Holdsclaw's availability is still a game-time decision. But one thing Coach Bryant knows is that his team needs to have patience and resist the temptation to run with the Storm.

"When you toss up the ball, it's 0-0 (again)," Lisa Leslie said. "We have to go back and try to figure out what moves they are going to make. They are going to try to figure out what we are going to do next."
Both Graham Hays and Mike DiMauro say it's not necessarily over for the Sun, despite the injury to Katie Douglas.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Marion Jones says she is "shocked" (shocked!) that she tested positive for EPO. She hasn't yet offered a more specific excuse, though her coach floated a conspiracy theory yesterday.

The reality-based community is less than shocked. Before last week, the evidence against Jones was already pretty strong, even without a positive test.

Why would someone under such a cloud of suspicion still risk it? As Lynn Zinser explained over the weekend, probably because she didn't realize they were testing sprinters for EPO, a drug usually considered helpful only for endurance athletes.

The reaction has been harsh. Adrian Wojnarowski: "She deserves whatever embarrassment comes her way now, because she did as much damage to her sport as any other athlete in history." Bill Plaschke: "a great big fat lying drug-cheating athlete."

It will likely get harsher still.
Injury updates:

Bird did not break her nose and should play tomorrow night.

Douglas did not damage her Achilles' tendon, but did suffer a hairline fracture in her foot and is doubtful for the playoffs.
Another ugly game on national television. Lots of missed shots by both teams and lots of fouls (especially on the Mystics). Yet, the game still had the intensity of a playoff game as the Mystics fell short in forcing a decisive game three and the Sun escaped with a 68-65 win.

Alana Beard and Nikki Teasley both did better offensively compared to game 1, combining for 37 points. Beard still struggled with her shot, hitting only 7 of 21 from the floor. But she scored 7 points in the final 1:15 of the game to give her team a chance to tie. Her three point attempt with just over five seconds left did not fall and Ashja Jones collected the rebound to seal the win for the Sun. "I don't think I could ask any more from my teammates," Beard said. "We gave all that we had, and the only sad part is that we came up on the short end of the stick. We played with great intensity every single minute of the game."

Partly because of the defense of both teams and partly because of the number of fouls, neither team got into much of flow. “There were a lot of free throws tonight, and obviously a lot of stoppages, and we were never able to get in a rhythm,” Lindsay Whalen said.

Thibault declared that "has never seen us play that badly and win. Our defense was good, but our offense was terrible not just in execution but I've never seen us miss that many open shots."

Despite the poor offensive showing, the COY was able to get contributions from several members of the team. Whalen and Katie Douglas combined for 31 points; Taj, Margo and Keesh combined for 35 rebounds; Erin hit another big 3.

Worse than the missed shots for Sun fans is the news of a potentially bad injury to Douglas, suffered late in the game. “We don't really have a good handle on (the injury) as it is not really presenting,” said Jeremy Norman, the Sun's head athletic trainer. “It could be one of several things.”

For the Mystics fans that made the trip up to the Casino, the DC BasketCases report of a special moment after the game.
Throughout the first quarter, it looked like the Storm would complete the fourth opening round sweep of the playoffs. But Mwadi Mabika and the Sparks fought back in the second and third quarters to force a game three tomorrow night with a 78-70 win.

Mabika finished with 17 points and was critical in two separate runs for the Sparks. "That was vintage Mabika," Donovan said. "When she came out and caught fire in the third quarter, that made all the difference in the game." Lisa Leslie added, "Mwadi would not be denied. She kept telling us, `You guys, it's OK. We're going to win this game. Don't worry about it.' She was fired up."

A Storm field goal drought of 14 minutes also helped the Sparks. Too often settling for three point attempts Donovan declared, "We completely melted down." It also did not help that LJ only was able to get four FG attempts in the game.

Betty Lennox led all scorers with 19 points, but as Pelton points out an aggressive Betty can mean great things or bad things. Along with Bird's broken nose, Lennox limped off the floor in the closing minutes of the game. With the importance of the game, both will likely play tomorrow night. Whether or not Holdsclaw will be able to play more than two minutes will be a game time decision.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Bad news for the Storm: It appears Bird's beak is broken...
Someone has put something into the New York Times' water (and no, it wasn't me). Today, there was a second WNBA player profile published. This time Connecticut's Taj McWilliams-Franklin was featured. Previously, the same author, John Eligon, wrote about Delisha Milton-Jones. Think Hamchetou Maiga-Ba is next? Or will it be Kedra Holland-Corn?

All funning aside, I sent the Times a thank you note, encouraged them to continue their coverage of the WNBA playoffs, and reminded them to assign a beat writer to the Liberty next season.

Oh, and I cc'd The Donna.
Well the Lynx season was disappointing for fans, but the brightest spot was recognized by the league as ROY.

Congrats Seimone.
Despite a playoff record performance from Tamika Whitmore, the Shock again showed they had too many weapons as they swept the Fever with a 98-83 win.

Whitmore scored 41 points and seemed to score at will until a late game fade and helped overcome poor shooting from most of her teammates and a scare to Tamika Catchings in the third quarter.

While Indy had a lead after three quarters, the Shock turned up their intensity in the 4th and limited the Fever to 34% from the floor while connecting on 65% and scoring 35 points.

Although it was a disappointing end to the season for the Fever, players and coaches believe they have the necessary foundation in place to challenge the upper tier teams in the league.

Meanwhile the Shock are the best basketball team "in the land, in the WNBA," according to their coach.
The outcome was not decided in the first quarter like game one, but the Monarchs still rolled to an easy 92-64 victory. The win eliminated the Comets and ended the playing career of Dawn Staley.

Sac was nearly flawless on both ends of the court and again put on a clinic with stifling defense, great passing and accurate shooting. "I have never seen anything like this," admired former Monarch Ruthie Bolton. "I am standing here, and I still can't believe what we just saw."

Yo set the tone early on the inside and scored a game high 17 points, but everyone on the deep Monarchs roster made an impact. "To me, today, (the Monarchs) have the best team in the league," Houston coach Van Chancellor said. "If Sacramento shoots the ball as well as they shot the ball against us the last two games, there's no one going to beat them and they'll repeat as WNBA champions."

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Voepel Voepel Voepel Voepel Voepel Voepel Voepel Voepel!

(Do not drink milk, or anything else, while reading this one, unless you want to splatter it over your keyboard. Especially if you're a Lib fan. Or a Lynx fan. Or a Merc fan. Or a leather-lunged Shock fan.)
Via the Basketcases: another good reason you might want to learn to read Latvian.
Mel Greenberg and his crew at the Philly Inquirer present the Dawn Staley encyclopedia.
Profiles, profiles, getcher profiles here... via Kelli: Babcock McGraw retells Katie Douglas' life story.

The MVP candidate lost one parent in high school, then lost the other after leading Purdue to a national title (in '99) and a title match (in '01). Douglas talks about her losses, her Christian belief, her new Greek husband, and her best-ever year. A lot of us know the story, but many fans-- especially younger ones-- still don't.

And from the New York Times, of all places: how D-Nasty DeLisha Milton-Jones got her game back. (Via sixthwoman.)
More end of the season awards:

Thibault wins COY after finishing as runner up the last two seasons. "It's about time,” said Katie Douglas “I told him if he didn't win this year that I was going to officially strike and retire.”

Erin Buescher is MIP (another former Charlotte Sting after Powell and Kelly Miller previously won the award).
Seattle did what no other home team was able to do in the opening games of the playoffs - win. LJ won the battle with Leslie and her team rallied in the 4th quarter after losing the lead in the 3rd quarter for a 84-72 victory. As expected, the Key Arena crowd was loud. Not so expected was the presence of new Storm/Sonics owner Clay Bennett.

While Jellybean made a last minute switch in his starting line-up (putting Holdsclaw and Page in for Tamara Moore and Mabika), it was the Storm interior trio of Jackson, Janell Burse, and Tiffani Johnson that came out on top.

LJ led all scorers with 22 points and five Storm players finished in double figures. But as impressive as Jackson was, her team took control of the game with a 7-0 run when she was resting on the bench. “We really stepped up as a team in every aspect of the game,” Jackson said.
After a bit of a rough start, the Sun played like the Sun and the Mystics could not overcome an off night from Alana Beard as Connecticut took a 1-0 lead with a 76-61 win on the road.

Lindsay Whalen and Katie Douglas combined for 39 points on 16-31 from the floor while Beard and Nikki Teasley were a combined 4-24 from the floor for 13 points. Perhaps most important for the Sun was the fact that Whalen was able to hit some big threes when the Mystics went to a zone defense. Mike Thibault credited the work of "Playoff Lindsay."

Erin Phillips hit only one shot, but that one extended a three point lead to six early in the fourth quarter and her team never looked back. Taj was also huge with another double double after flying in that morning from bringing her oldest daughter to college in Arizona. Five Sun players would finish in dougle figures.

Beard started the game 0-8 before she hit her first shot and sat for a good portion of the 4th quarter when her coach decided to keep Coco Miller and Crystal Robinson on the floor. Beard was guarded by Douglas for much of the game, but did not feel her opponent shut her down on her own.

"Katie didn't guard me," Beard said. "It wasn't a matter of Katie's defense. If anything it was great team defense. I would never give all credit to Katie, I'm sorry. It was just a matter of me having an off night. I missed shots, rushed shots, and that's what happened."

Friday, August 18, 2006

One of the key match-ups in the Sun-Mystics series is Beard vs. Douglas. Both are having incredible seasons and are strong on both ends of the floor.

Aside from her physical skills, Beard's attitude and demeanor help her team. Her coach points out "it's easy to see why people adore her and her teammates respond to her. She always projects a positive image and can back it up on the court. "

Another key to both Beard and her team's success has been second year coach Richie Adubato. According to Beard, "he puts players in the position where they can do their best. He knows what it takes to win in the NBA and WNBA, and he kind of incorporates both in our system."

As for the Sun, Douglas will play tonight after missing the final two regular season games with leg cramps. "The status is I'm just going to do my best," said Douglas, who still is not 100%. But with Nykesha Sales practicing all week and getting her strength back and the team getting away to South Carolina for practice and rest, the Sun believe they are in good shape.
Jayda Evans also delves into the rivalry between LJ and LLL. Both players have changed and matured since their infamous 2000 Olympics incident. Leslie says that Jackson does not curse at her anymore and compliments her.

Jackson added, "I've grown up a lot since all that has happened. I can hold a conversation without shying away and worrying about her belting me. She's all right."

As their two teams faces off tonight in Seattle, one of the best fan bases in the league could be critical to the Storm's success. "The more support that we get from people around Seattle, it's going to help us," said Jackson. Jellybean says the Sparks will have to overcome that boost from the crowd.

As for Leslie, the change in coaches, playing overseas in the offseason and a decision in the offseason to stop worrying about her team's management moves has led to a resurgent season for her.

Although the Storm did not have as successful of a regular season as the Sparks, Sue Bird thinks her team has learned from that, their exit last season against the Comets and this season's series with L.A.
Pelton also previews LL-LJ, still the premier individual rivalry in the WNBA.
Neither team expected it to go quite like this. Yes, the Monarchs are the defending champs. But this season they admitted they have not played consistent ball. The Comets biggest problem all year was their abundance of injuries. Last night, they had Thompson, Canty and Dixon back. Yet, the Comets did not show up and the Monarchs did and the result was a 93-78 rout for Sac.

Kara Lawson showed why her coach wanted her in the starting line-up by scoring 12 of her game high 18 points in her team's league record first half. Yo stepped up her game from the regular season and added 16 points and 9 rebounds. They were not alone as five players were in double figures and nearly everyone on the team scored.

And as well as their offense was working, Whiz was just as pleased with his team's defense. Swoopes and Thompson were a combined 4-17 from the floor and the Comets never got into any rhythm offensively. "For the first time, I'm at a loss for words," Swoopes said. "I did not come to play today. I'm embarrassed. This was very embarrassing.

Comet fans are hoping a different team shows up tomorrow in Sacramento, or Dawn Staley's career will be over.
It was a game that some fans declared ugly, but Shock fans are no doubt pleased that their team came away with a 68-56 win over the Fever in Indy to take a 1-0 lead in the series.

Deanna Nolan and Katie Smith were huge for the Shock. They both played 40 minutes and combined to outscore the Fever's starting backcourt 35-11. Nolan was 9-11 from the field and Smith was 4-8 from 3 point range, including a dagger with 2:24 left in the game that extended a four point lead to seven. Before Smith's three, Catch had nearly brought her team back with a 10-2 run.

"Having Katie Smith out there gives us a brain out there, a determined person," Bill Laimbeer said. "She's not going to let us fall backward." Smith and Nolan also helped compensate for foul trouble that limited Cheryl Ford's minutes and caused frustration for the All-Star and her coach.

Laimbeer, who guaranSheed the win to Shock fans at their last home game, continued to entertain the media with his humility. "The one thing I wish they were like me, that every minute of every game, they were as focused as I was on the task at hand. If they ever got to that point, oh my God, watch out, we're the best basketball team in the world."

In the end, Laimbeer may be right. His team appears to be too deep and talented for the Fever to take two games in Detroit. Fever fans hope both Tully and Catch are right though. "We can win there," Catchings said. "We can win at the Palace."
John Maxwell and Kevin Pelton and their latest edition of Orange & Oatmeal. This time, they are covering the first round playoff match ups.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

'Cause it's never too early to start thinking about college ball: The WBCA announced the 2006-07 Preseason Candidates for the "Wade Watch."
Coach Laimbeer, screaming, with less than a minute left: "I know the rules! I know the rules!"

It's been a nice gimmick experiment, but it's time to turn off the mics.
AOL's new WNBA video channel has launched. You can re-live classic moments, plays and games like the great duel between Betty and Keesh in 2004.
Tonight the league's webcasts become more important than ever, as does NBATV, the only venue for at least three (it could be as many as six) of the first-round games.

The NBATV folks will also broadcast playoff classics this afternoon (a Phoenix-Houston final from '98, followed by the New York-Houston game with The Shot) along with playoff lead-ins and chat shows (the latter start at 6pm Eastern).

If you're stuck in a town, city, village or household that doesn't get NBATV, you've had trouble with webcasts, and you're a Firefox user, try signing in again, and watching the webcast, through Internet Explorer or Safari.
Fox Sports' Jan Hubbard breaks down all four first-round series. Hubbard predicts higher seeds will win all four: Sparks in two, Sun, Shock and Sacto in three.
Another wonderful tribute to Dawn Staley, this time from the Richmond Times Dispatch.

Also, Staley writes about her final regular season game in her latest blog entry.
Both the Comets and Monarchs fought through adversity to make the playoffs. For the Comets, it was mainly injuries to key players. But fortunately for them, Tina Thompson returned for the last two games of the season and Dominique Canty may be ready to play as early as tonight.

But the Comets believe the tough road may have helped prepare them. "We had to fight to get in," Van Chancellor said. "I just think that helps you at playoff time. When you clinch (early), it's hard to keep them sharp for the playoffs."

On the other side, the Monarchs have fought through death, illness, injury, and distraction. All making it seem "like this season has been going on for a year," according to coach John Whisenant.

And if the Monarchs get past the Comets (or even further), it will likely be because of Yo being Yo.
Will Katie Smith finally add a WNBA title to her list of accomplishments? The veteran and her teammates think they are in a great position to do just that as they open the playoffs tonight against the Fever.

"Katie's given us veteran leadership," Cheryl Ford said. "We want to win the title for her and the organization. She's been around a long time and has been a great player."

Defense will be a focus in this series with the Fever as they are the top two teams in limiting their opponents points per game. But Bill Laimbeer thinks a player off the bench could be the x-factor for his team's success. "Nobody can guard her; she is 6-6, strong as an ox, and if she wants to play hard and have good concentration she's unstoppable on offense," Laimbeer said.

Laimbeer and Fever coach Brian Winters clearly have different personalities, but Tamika Whitmore promises her team will have attitude tonight in Conseco Fieldhouse.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

A couple of emails responding to this blog's discussion of the NYTimes' non-coverage of the New York Liberty prompted a little research. In May of 2005, Marie Hardin, Associate Director of Research for the Center for Sports Journalism, said a survey of editors suggested they fail to gauge women's interest in sports. A couple of her findings might relate to the Times' non-coverage:
- At least one quarter to one third of the editors said they believe women are naturally less athletic and less interested in sports than men.

-Roughly half said they believe Title IX has been unjust to men’s sports.
Clearly, changing the coverage women's sports is about changing attitudes, and that won't be easy. But making yourself heard is important. As the WNBA playoffs begin, consider praising good coverage and calling out poor coverage. Womensbasketballonline has a few helpful hints on how to communicate with sports editors and writers.
The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, will pay homage to the WNBA and the women of the game with a special day on Friday, August 18th. WNBA President, Donna Orender and WNBA star and former UConn Alumna Tamika Williams, will make appearances to help unveil a special exhibit in honor of the game.

The exhibit recognizes the recently named members of the WNBA All-Decade Team and incorporates items such as various balls from All Star games, shoes from various players and other unique items. A locker will also be revealed which will house basketballs, footwear, and jerseys from players of the WNBA All-Decade Team as well.

The program will begin at 12noon on Center Court with comments from the special guests followed by a question and answer session with the WNBA representatives and conclude with autographs. (Get your tickets here)
A federal appeals court has again upheld a lower court's ruling that reaffirmed an earlier ruling that the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) discriminates against female high school athletes by scheduling only their sports in nontraditional and less advantageous seasons, in violation of the U.S. Constitution and Title IX.

The National Women’s Law Center, which is of counsel in the class action law suit Communities for Equity v. MHSAA, praised the decision and urged MHSAA to immediately bring its scheduling of girls’ sports into compliance with the law.

“After eight long years, Michigan girls can finally cheer,” said Marcia D. Greenberger, Co-President of the National Women’s Law Center. “The court has once again ruled that the facts and the law are on the side of Michigan high school girls. MHSAA must stop forcing these girls to play second string and instead ensure that they have the athletic opportunities they deserve.”

East Lansing-based MHSAA, the state's governing body for high school athletics, said the ruling will not affect the sports calendar for the 2006-07 school year. The organization issued a statement saying it "will be studying its options following this decision."
Lauren Jackson and Janell Burse will be on the court together for the first time against the Sparks this season when L.A. comes to town on Friday.

And while the two players have different styles off the court ("We're nothing alike," Jackson said), they have developed into a formidable pair on the court.

The fact that LJ sat out the last couple of games should only help their productivity as she is feeling refreshed.
The Monarchs are the defending champs and the number two seed in the West, but might be considered slight underdogs by some going into their series with the Comets. Houston won the regular season series 3-1.

Kara Lawson compares Houston to the New York Yankees. "They've got, like, 50 gold medals and a billion All-Star appearances. If you let it, it can be a little intimidating. We don't try to compare ourselves to them. You can't compare yourself to the players they have."

Despite winning 3 of 4 from the Monarchs, Tina Thompson said that does not mean much. "Playoffs is a totally different season in itself, so the fact that we had an advantage in the regular season doesn't mean much," she said. "(We) are going to take advantage of the experience itself, look at the film and the things that they do."
Yesterday, all eight head coaches in the playoffs participated in a teleconference. The transcript can be read here. Linda Cohn and Doris Burke also were interviewed.

Jonathan Tannenwald provides great highlights from each series on the Guru's blog.
The first award winner of the season is now known as Tamika Catchings will be officially named Defensive Player of the Year tomorrow night when the Fever host the Shock.
Shock assistant coach Cheryl Reeve is considered a scouting guru and was critical in helping the team to a 23-11 regular season record. She started scouting the Fever as a potential playoff opponent more than a month ago.
Via SuziQ: Michelle Voepel takes stock of the slew of injuries that have hobbled or sidelined some of the W's best athletes this season.

Among her laundry list of physical trauma: "Sprained ankle (New York's Becky Hammon and Washington's Crystal Robinson and Alana Beard) and a broken heart (collectively representing Liberty fans, pining for the good old days of VJ, C-Rob, Sue and 'Spoon)."

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Final regular season attendance figures and analysis here. Overall, we were down about 10% from last year, or 5% if you exclude Chicago.

Take it with the usual serving of salt. It's not terrible news, but it's still not good news.
More new articles from Helen on womensbasketballonline.com -

One on coaches and officials.

One on Cappie.
Jayda Evans' book on the Storm is reviewed by Helen Wheelock.

In case you missed it last month, Steve's review of the book can be read here.
More award picks from Jayda Evans on her blog. In addition to the traditional awards, she also picks her favorite arena, best give away and most stylish on the bench.

Also over on the Lynx blog, Paul shows who the Net Plus/Minue MVPs are.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Last Thursday Rebecca Lobo gave birth to a baby girl, Maeve Elizabeth, her second. Our apologies for having missed it earlier: nice catch, Casny.
Clay predicts the veteran-heavy Sacto-Houston series: the Monarchs' deep bench, he thinks, will carry the day.
ESPN columnists predict playoffs and awards. Hays, Voepel and Nancy all pick the Sun to win everything, the Sparks to win their conference, and... Cappie Pondexter as rookie of the year.
Four lottery teams faced four playoff-bound teams last night, but only one lottery team managed to lose: L.A. thrashed the Lynx, who concluded their worst-ever season with just ten wins, only two of them on the road.

The Sparks are stoked for their postseason. Leslie needed 24 to average a career-high 20 this season. She did it.

Coach Jellybean: "We just wanted to get through injury-free. My biggest challenge was getting Lisa's 24."
Without playoff hopes since Houston's Saturday win, Phoenix kept their focus, and the defending champs lost theirs: the Merc concluded the year on a seven-game win streak, with their first better-than-.500 summer in years.

The Diana rang up 29 as the crowd shouted "MVP." "I'd take our chances against any team in a three-game series right now," she said.

Lawson shot well, too, despite Merc fans' mysterious, persistent boos. But with Griffith resting for most of the game, the 'Narchs normally solid interior got shaky: DeMya Walker kept, well, walking-- she finished with ten (yes, ten) of the 'Narchs 21 TOs.

Coach Whisenant: "We're in second place in the toughest division. And that's over 34 games. But … yeah, it bothers me .... We played poorly on the defensive end."
Some folks might worry about lottery balls, but it was a lot more satisfying to walk out of the Garden for the last time this season with a 93-81 win over Washington. Cathrine Kraayeveld had 22 points; Shameka Christon matched the total and added 10 rebounds for what her playerfile indicates is her first career double-double, and just to top it all off, Becky Hammon had 21 before giving away her shoes and tossing her wristband into the crowd (not to mention the jersey that she, like the rest of her teammates, gave to a fan in a post-game ceremony... I guess that's one way to clean out your locker).

Richie Adubato spins: "We believe we had our high note Friday against Detroit..." Patty Coyle belabors the obvious (isn't there a law against that kind of abuse?): "When you make shots, you win."

Both teams shot 31-62 from the field, so what was the big difference? The Liberty had 7 more threes on their way to a franchise-high 13 triples, and made 5 more free throws in going 18-18 from the line.
The Shock hammered Connecticut in Detroit, but the Sun didn't seem to mind: Whalen and Douglas both showed up in street clothes, and coach Thibault used the game to test his bench.

The home team had fun: Katie Smith and Deanna Nolan drilled holes through Connecticut's porous backcourt. Detroit's starting guards finished with 18 and 19.

An odd second-quarter Sun lineup, with Taj, Sales and Willingham, turned it on and cut a twenty-point deficit to four. Coach Thibault: "We were shooting to try to play hard, get some different combinations, give Nykesha some minutes, give our young players who have never played in this building some experience... After getting behind early, we got ourselves back in the game."

Detroit's win guaranteed the Shock home advantage against Indiana in their first-round playoff series. With little at stake, coach Winters rested his starters, and Chicago picked up their fifth win. Dupree laid down 24 as the Sky pulled away.

The game might have seen a significant injury anyway: near the end of the first half, Whitmore took a finger in the eye. She did not return to the floor, but the Fever calls her probable for Thursday.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Flashback: It's Sunday in New York City, the end of a tough season for the New York Liberty, so I thought it'd be nice to reflect back to a time when the New York Times actually covered the WNBA.

Early fans of the league -- and especially Liberty fans -- will recall the 1998 season and, in particular, August 16th. After an up and down season, it seemed clear the Liberty were going to miss the playoffs. Suddenly, things got turned around during a horrible road trip, but if they were going to make the post-season, they were going to have to win out. Standing in their way? The juggernaught that was the Houston Coments of Cooper, Perrot, Swoopes, Thompson and Tammy "just get me to the playoffs" Jackson.

The game had everything: playoff implications, the seeds of a just emerging rivalry, national t.v. and an amazing, attention getting, lead in: The cover of the New York Times Sunday Magazine. Michelle Agins' shot of Kisha Ford cutting to the basket was complemented by a stunning photo essay within entitled "They've Got Game and Laundry, Too: The No Frills Life of the New York Liberty."

There were several other articles, including "Building a Team with a Whole New Game Plan," "Pumping 'Em Up, Packing 'Em in" and an essay by John Edgar Wideman entitled, "My Daughter, the Point Guard. It started:
In her famous essay ''A Room of One's Own,'' Virginia Woolf posed a question: If Shakespeare had a sister, what might have been her fate if she dared write poetry? Would a female sensibility produce distinctively ''women's sentences''?

Well, what if a sister of Michael Jordan, motivated by the same fiery determination as her brother, had the chance to hone her hoops skills against the best female players in the world? Would women competing in a professional league evolve a vocabulary and grammar for the game that speaks a new language to fans? In its second season, the W.N.B.A. is answering questions we are just learning to ask about women's sports.
In its tenth year, we're still asking these questions, but I'd like to think we're getting closer to the answers...
The Mystics, the Basketcases, and dozens of Mystics fans plan for next week's trip to Connecticut. (Beard and company face the Lib, in a game without practical meaning, today.
The Star-Tribune asks what made this year's Lynx so bad.
Without playoff hopes after Houston's afternoon win, the Mercury fought hard in San Antonio anyway, defeating the Stars by two points before 10K fans. Diana scored 26, the still-underrated Kelly Miller 20, Feenstra and Pee Wee Johnson 24 each.

The disappointed Merc now have six wins in a row. If not for the season-opening string of losses, when Penny Taylor wasn't there, everyone else was still adjusting to Paul Ball, and Paul was still learning the women's game, the Merc would certainly have a playoff berth now.

Both teams, with good reason, expect berths next year. Pee Wee: "I've been here three years, and every year is a plus. We are moving in the right direction, and I'm just glad to be a part of that."