Women's Hoops Blog: June 2005

Inane commentary on a game that deserves far better


Thursday, June 30, 2005

Responding to Liz Matson's recent query, Kim Callahan-- whose amazingly comprehensive daily news page we use regularly around here-- wonders why people don't spend more time on her own site.

I'd say it's because she's designed WB Online as a collection of reference pages, offering links with no (or minimal) commentary, rather than as a community or an opinion-based blog. Folks go to opinion blogs partly for news, and partly for the opinions, prose styles, or perspectives of the people who write them. Folks visit message boards partly in order to put in their own two cents, and partly because when hundreds of people are posting, continual new content is near-guaranteed. Folks visit reference sites to get the facts they seek, then navigate away-- even when, as with WB Online, there's more neat content there once you start to explore.

That said, Callahan's is a wonderful reference site: her news-hunting is irreplaceable during the college hoops season, and valuable year-round. She's also got WNBA links, general women's hoops history, youth camps, and the only TV schedule page with both WNBA and college games, on both regional and national networks. She even archives WNBA attendance stats.

Callahan also notes Melissa King's book, which we will review here as soon as we're finished reading it.
Tonight, in Connecticut, Katie vs. Katie. Leading defender Katie Douglas no longer has the flu, but does have pinkeye, and probably has to contain Katie Smith. This one's on TV.

Smith chats with reporters about her work ethic, her return from surgery, Minnesota's great owner, and the downside to our small market. Smith expects to retire at 34, so she can become a dentist before she's 40. Some people worship her, which makes some sense: 34 points from now, she'll become the only woman to have scored 5,000 points in professional basketball. (KT45K!)

Where in the world is Michigan Sun Arena?
Houston fans who saw the game knew why Lauren Jackson was benched during the final 16 minutes of a 67-71 loss to the Comets at Toyota Center on Tuesday. "The play that sends her to the bench," one wrote, "was when she was alone under the Comets and Snow comes in from the right..and grabs the rebound. She played with no effort.."

Sue Bird couldn't say why Jackson was benched, but said she could sense it. "I had a clue, but you never know, stuff happens," Bird said. "Anne was upset and she [Lauren] was at the end of the bench. It's not like I had a clue she wasn't going to play the whole rest of the game, but once she didn't come in after a couple minutes, it was like, all right, let's try to win this."

Some Seattle fans, however, weren't sure why Jackson was benched. Coach Anne Donovan had no comment for the press after the game and a tearful Lauren Jackson said, "I honestly have no idea why".

Donovan isn't talking, saying "We're moving on." Seattle, however, can read between the lines in this morning's Post-Intelligencer. In his column entitled, 'Donovan Hopes Benching Sparks Jackson', Mark Bergin writes 'Her absence was self-inflicted'.

The Storm face San Antonio tonight in the final game of a disastrous West Coast road trip that has seen them drop three straight to conference rivals and fall from second to fifth place in the standings.
The Mystics and Liberty will try to solidify their hold on fourth place tonight as Washington takes on Charlotte and New York faces Sacramento.

The Liberty seem hungry to prove that they've recovered their "grit" and are ready to defend the Garden, but do their spindly Euro-posts, Baranova and Wauters, stand a chance against Walker and Griffith? After seeing Walker go off in Washington on Sunday I have my doubts.

Tennessee point guard Loree Moore will get her Garden debut tonight. If Moore can free Becky up at the 2, maybe the Libs won't have to rely on Wauters and Baranova to get the job done.

Meanwhile, Charlotte will try to recover from an OT collapse against Washington in a rematch at the Phone Booth. The Sting shot a tragic 29% in the first half of that loss, while Janel MCCarville shot 100% in her 24 minutes of play. "We're just not getting the result that we want," said Coach Lacey. Hmmm.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Interview time: Batgirl likes Seattle.

Haynie likes California, sort of, but misses home. She expects "a couple thousand people" from Lansing and Michigan State to show up on Friday, when her Monarchs visit Detroit. (Via these good people over here.)
Phoenix trades Plenette Pierson...fans and others question the decision. However, the decision is a smart one, for several reasons.

1) Phoenix needed to waive a player. Every WNBA general manager knew Maria Stepanova is in Phoenix for the first time since the 2002 preseason. Phoenix needed to waive a player to make room for Espionage Barbie. At least there is a draft pick to show for it.

2) Phoenix can now protect an additional player for the expansion draft in 2006. If teams are allowed to protect six players, Phoenix can protect Diana Taurasi, Anna DeForge, Penny Taylor, Maria Stepanova, and Kamila Vodichkova, plus an additional player (Shereka Wright, Sandora Irvin, or Angelina Williams). And Chicago probably will not take Gwen Jackson, given she just tore her ACL. Phoenix can keep its youthful core in tact.

3) Phoenix had to pay the injured Gwen Jackson regardless. Trading Plenette Pierson and subsequently waiving Andrea Stinson cleared over $40,000 in salary cap space.

4) Don't knock the second round draft selection in 2006. Detroit is only one-half game out of fifth place in the East. The draft choice could be a relatively high one...or it could be used as part of a trade package next season.

5) Pierson put up decent numbers in 2004, but teams have figured out she only has one post move (catch the ball in the lane, drop step, turn over the shoulder). Her face-up game is erratic, her rebounding efforts are inconsistent, and she repeatedly makes silly mistakes (e.g., shooting with three defenders under the basket and 20 seconds left on the shot clock, instead of passing to the open Mercury players). Moreover, she simply does not pass the ball out of the post and cannot handle double teams (2.67 turnovers per game).

6) Pierson had a reputation for being a malcontent and having attitude problems at Texas Tech. She was suspended in her junior year, but did play her senior year. But she has yet to figure out she is not a star in the WNBA. She will not have the luxury of receiving the benefit of the doubt from the officials. She is not an All-Star, and she will not average double-digit points for the season. Yet she (somehow) believed she was entitled to be one of the top offensive options on a team with two Olympians, another All-Star, and a starter on a WNBA championship team. Couple this with her 34 percent shooting from the floor, and the Mercury have achieved addition by subtraction.

When you figure what Maria Stepanova can contribute, there can be no question this player personnel transaction makes Phoenix a better team.
Mercury trade Plenette Pierson to Detroit for a draft pick. Onetime all-star Andrea Stinson, part of the trade on paper, has been waived. With Stepanova back, and Pierson even less effective this season than last, it's no surprise that Phoenix let PP go. (UPDATE: Barry explains; Pilight responds.)

Detroit coach Laimbeer says he'll remake Pierson as a small forward. Swin Cash, who would start at that position, has now been cleared to practice: Laimbeer is "hoping" she can play sometime in July.
SportsCenter shows the Connecticut Sun some respect. (Via BigBri.)

You can tell SportsCenter if you'd like to see more.
The Sun-Times interviews Dave Cowens, future coach for the Chicago Name That Team:

"I hear women like to practice more than the guys do...And they're very unselfish. They like to make the extra pass and do the right thing. But sometimes you might need to to teach them to step up, take the team on their back. That's a problem you don't have with boys. Their egos will do that."

WNBA haters "need to get a life"; they're "mainly [callers] to sports radio shows, and there's only about 12 of those people in the whole world.... We're not trying to appeal to the NBA audience. It's a whole different audience. Look at who is in the stands at WNBA games. There are a lot of girls and boys, kids under 10, and their [parents]. The city of Chicago certainly is big enough to support a team."

More about how he expects the game to evolve, how to prepare for an expansion draft, and Laimbeer and Mahorn as perverse role models. Read the whole thing.
Lieberman defends Diana Taurasi, then diagnoses the Mercury's ailments. Ahem.
Nykesha Sales reached a milestone last night. She became the ninth player in league history to score 3,000 points. Sealing her admission to the elite group was a basket that put it away for the Sun in a 70-66 victory over Western Conference leader Sacramento in Uncasville.

With around two minutes to play, Taj McWilliams-Franklin was trapped after a defensive rebound near the basket. McWilliams-Franklin rolled the ball between a defender's legs to Lindsay Whalen, who pushed it ahead to Sales for the clinching basket.

That Sales achievement came in a match between conference leading teams and extended the Sun's unbeaten streak at Mohegan sweetened it for the fans. Sales shrugged it off. "It happens with hard work, hard work in the offseason," she said. "I think it is a great accomplishment, but I'm more worried about winning games."

The Sun's Media Relations Manager, Bill Taverns, was dropping hints to Sales before the game. "I told Bill not to tell me," Sales said. "He said that I was coming up on a milestone and I stopped him in his tracks. I told him I didn't want to know what it was because I want to stay focused on what we're doing and the goals were achieving."

Sales focus contributed to a game-high 19 points, including the 3000th career point that put her name in the books.

Connecticut (11-2) continues to roll, earning victories the hard way. Last night's win was the Sun's second victory in four days over the Monarchs (9-4). Head coach Mike Thibault told his players, "At the risk of offending my dentist, going to play (Sacramento) is like going to the dentist. It has to be done, but you don't love doing it all of the time."

The Sun have won nine of ten against Western Conference teams, and will play just three more contests against West teams in its next twenty games. But Thibault's team won't be waiting long for its next visit from the dentist. Katie Smith and company come calling Thursday night.
Last night the shorthanded Silver Stars-- especially 6'8" rookie Katie Feenstra-- outplayed the Lynx reserves: the Stars built an 11-point lead as foul trouble, or conservation of energy, sent the home team's starters to the bench.

After that, the Lynx starters outplayed the Silver Stars. Vanessa Hayden returned near the end of the first half: Minnesota then scored the last 8 points. With perimeter shooting AWOL, the second-half Lynx ran clean fast breaks or guided the ball inside to Hayden and Ohlde, who combined for 29. A three-point play and a crazy bank shot from Svetlana Abrosimova gave Minnesota the lead.

Lynx won by ten. "That part was fun," Svet said. Paul notes that San Antonio scored more points in 15 minutes sans Hayden than in the 25 minutes she played.

We had courtside seats through a Great Basketball Dribble (breast cancer research) promotion. If you can get them without breaking the bank, you should: you'll see more game.
The Sparks put some distance between themselves and the team that blew a 25 point lead Sunday, hanging on to defeat the Fever 61-58 at Conseco Field House. The Fever battled from a 10 point deficit to tie the score five times in the second half. Tamika Whitmore's three-point play with 41 seconds left lifted the Sparks. Whitmore finished with 15 points. Chamique Holdsclaw contributed 17 points, nailing 7 of 7 at the line. Fellow former Lady Vol Tamika Catchings scored 10 points for Indiana on 4-17 shooting. Kelly Miller led Indiana with 12 points.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The 6-7, 5th place Washington Mystics played the 2-9, 6th place Charlotte Sting, and 4,054 paid to see it at the Coliseum. A shocking thing happened in a game a lot of people didn't watch. Janel McCarville played.

The 2005 first overall draft pick nailed 5-5 from the floor, drilled 1-1 from the line, fought for seven rebounds, nabbed two steals, blocked one shot, and committed no turnovers or fouls in a perfect 24 minutes.

Oh, and uh, Charlotte lost. But as regulation wound down, the Sting found its pulse. In the final minutes, McCarville hit a reverse lay-up, deflected a Chastity Melvin pass, put pressure on DeLisha Milton-Jones, forced an errant inbounds pass that returned possession, and rebounded Sheri Sam’s air-balled 3-point attempt to give the Sting the last 6.9 seconds of regulation and one final possession. Dawn Staley converted a 3-point play to force OT.

Overtime belonged to the Mystics. Washington's Chasity Melvin made consecutive layups and hit two FTs to spur an 8-1 Mystics run out of the gate. "When people catch up by a three-point play at the end, you can go right in the tank and be completely demoralized," Mystics Coach Richie Adubato said. "I'm very pleased we were mentally tough enough after we blew the game." Washington is 4-1 in its last 5 games.

Charlotte fell to 1-1 in its last two games, but somewhere along the 1-9 road the head coach had an epiphany regarding number 4. "It was a good night from Janel," said Coach Lacey, "and that’s the type of minutes that we need from her."
Seattle knew hours before tonight's game against the Comets that it would not have Iziane. What Seattle did not know was that for most of the second half it would miss Lauren Jackson, too. Jackson, benched by Anne Donovan, was visibly upset during postgame interviews and said she did not know why she was taken out of the game. "I honestly have no idea, why," she added. RebKell's posters had an idea. "(LJ) took 4 shots in 21 minutes," a Comets fan wrote. "Canty and Arcain were grabbing rebounds that LJ should have. The play that sent her to the bench was when she was alone under the Comets basket and Snow comes in from the right, under the basket and grabs the rebound while LJ stands there like a bump on a log! She played with no effort and deserved to have her butt sat on the bench."

Seattle, uh, lost, 67-71.
The WNBA handed a one game suspension to Seattle's Iziane Castro-Marques for throwing a close-handed punch at Minnesota's Svetlana Abrosimova when the teams met Sunday. No foul was called on the play. Some argue that Abrosimova was holding Iziane. Iziane swiped to move Abrosimova and her hand was more closed than open. One discouraged fan wrote, 'If the league is going to start going back and examining play that happened in games, specifically plays in which no action at all was taken at the time of the incident.. they're going to open up a whole new can of worms..'
Construction starts on a new arena in Kansas City, home to Mechelle Voepel and a whole lot of other K-State fans. Could a WNBA team play there?

Commissioner Orender sounds optimistic: “Kansas City certainly would be a place that would be a good fit." Maybe too optimistic: "The WNBA’s goal is to add a franchise a year for the foreseeable future.” (And to make sure any future distressed team has somewhere to move.)
Known for their running, the Sun figured out how to win a slow half-court game when they beat Sacramento on Friday night; the Monarchs visit Connecticut tonight for a rematch. Coach Thibault will return to the court after his mother's funeral; Katie Douglas, who missed Saturday's game with an apparent stomach virus, is day-to-day.
In Phoenix, Gwen Jackson will miss the rest of the season: she tore her ACL in practice Friday. Phoenix would have sent a post player to injured reserve in any case to make room for Stepanova, who will enter the lineup July 2 against L.A.

In Houston, unofficial reports have Tina Thompson back in practice, a month after giving birth to her celebrity baby.

Houston face Seattle tonight. The Comets' Canty and Rasmussen are ready for physical play. Seattle coach Donovan is "very upset" after poor rebounding in the Storm's recent road losses; she might change her starting lineup after tonight.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Sara and Ted are having their baby! Cool!

Since we can't help their baby come faster, we'll distract the rest of you with more speculation about career lengths.

A few weeks ago we discovered that WNBA careers are shorter than NBA careers, both in number of seasons and in player age at career end, even if you count only from '97 (when the W began). Why is that?

1. Prep-to-pro men. NBA teams now draft prep-to-pro players (and neophyte pros from overseas). The WNBA, of course, cannot: even underage overseas draftees must have two years in another pro league. Prep-to-pro players might explain the NBA's longer careers, but not their higher mean age. If anything, prep-to-pro players should lower the men's retirement age, since some men would wash out (or experience career-ending injuries) before most pro women enter the league.

2. It's too soon to know. Reader J. G. Harrington writes: "The W hasn't been around long enough to have any real outliers like Reggie Miller. We do know that they are likely to occur, though, because of players like Sue Wicks" (and Debbie Black and Teresa Edwards) "who had a professional career of more or less the same length as Miller, but mostly not in the WNBA. I wouldn't be surprised to see the average move up a fair amount over the next ten years."

3. Pregnancy and motherhood. Some players have their best on-court year while raising a two-year-old: consider Stacey Lovelace and the magnificent Taj. Other players have trouble regaining pre-pregnancy form. Some may not return after having a child, though there are certainly moms in the league: Lauren Jackson wants to "retire and have kids when I'm 28."

Pilight writes: "Lady Grooms is done, not because her skills have diminshed but because she elected to have a child. At her age, that's the end." (His opinion, not mine.) "A male baller having a child at her age might not even miss a game to see the delivery. Even for younger players that can be a consideration, as they may see the stress of raising children while travelling all over playing ball to be too much. This relates to the money thing, as a WNBA spouse can't afford to give up a job to stay home with the kids as easily as an NBA spouse." (Stacey explains how she handled it; so does Taj. League help with child care, anyone? Anyone?)

4. More season-ending, and ultimately career-ending, injuries. Women ballers get ACL tears more often than the men, maybe 3.5 times more often, or two, or eight. New sports-med research may help.

5. Money. Harrington again: "For most players in male leagues, the likelihood that you'll make a comparable amount after you stop playing is relatively low, while for most players in the W, the likelihood is fairly high. (Lawyers and doctors make more money than WNBA players, even if you count what they get overseas; that's not the case for NBA players.) Simply put, you're more likely to keep playing when your knees ache and your passion is gone if the money's good."

Katie Smith says future compensation becomes a big issue when players reach thirty. SDS chose talking on ESPN over playing in the WNBA. Stories on Stephanie White's retirement hit both the coaching career and the injury angle.

6. The WNBA's salary cap. Pelton, who knows more than we do, thinks it matters. The W's hard cap makes marginal veterans less attractive to GMs, hence more likely to get cut. The NBA's soft cap doesn't work the same way.

7. The NBA's collective bargaining agreement. Pilight (on the current, now-expiring agreement): "Very, very few undrafted rookies make NBA rosters, so almost every rookie that signs is guaranteed at least two years."

8. Because the college and high school games have improved so rapidly, young players are on average better, relative to veterans, than is the case in the men's game. I don't mean that the median first- or second-year player is better in absolute terms than the median fourth-year WNBA'er (especially since the worst rookies don't come back), but that the difference won't favor fourth-years as much as it would in a prominent men's sport, because the newbies in the W saw better competition in college, and emerged from a bigger group of ambitious teen ballers, than players who earned their degrees five years ago. "Kids didn't have pro ball to look forward to prior to 1996," Pilight writes, "so many who would have been fine pros didn't put the work in on it when they were young." Sue Bird said as much in 2001; for further evidence, look to Cappie's tattoo.

9. Pilight also wonders about physiology: "if you look at other women's sports you see that women have shorter careers even though some of the above aren't factors. In tennis, for example... at Roland Garros Mary Pierce was the oldest woman finalist in a major since 1994 at age 30. That would be above average age for a men's finalist during that time but nowhere near a record. All of tennis history is like that, with the exception of Martina Navratilova... Even if they do keep playing, the women tend to peak at a much younger age than the men." We won't really know if that's true at all in basketball until those other factors have gone away: the nature of basketball, in which experience alongside the same teammates helps players improve their game, makes me think the analogy might not hold.

10. The size of the league. Fewer teams mean fewer chances for veterans to survive through trades or free-agent signings once their current coach or GM wants them gone. There's no logically necessary reason a smaller league has to lead to shorter careers-- in a sport where almost everyone had to play pro for five years to become any good, sunk costs could make a good GM likely to keep even marginal third- and fourth-year players. In our sport, though, the size of the league likely matters.

I suspect that money's the biggest factor (number 5), with the relative merits of newer players (number 8) and the contractual issues (numbers 6 and 7) somewhere behind.
Today is the day. After suffering through a heat wave for the last week, we have decided not to wait any longer and we are kicking this little girl out! Ted and I are heading to the hospital tonight and by tomorrow afternoon we should be parents. I much as I am ready not to be pregnant anymore, I don't know if I am ready to be a mommy. I just keep telling myself that that is how everyone feels and no one is ever really ready.

So, I guess this will be the end of Ted's occasional rants about how everyone tells you what to do and not to do when you are pregnant. But, never fear, I am sure there will be just as many folks offer us their unsolicited advice/instructions on how to raise our child too.

I hope it won't be too long before I am back at the Lynx games and playing in my hoops league (one of my teamates played 5 weeks after having her 3rd child last summer so the standard has been set high). We will let you know when the next point guard in the family has arrived!
Katie Smith averages 35.3 minutes and 16.7 points per game. Yesterday afternoon, foul trouble kept her on the bench for most of the second half, but that didn't stop her from leading all players in scoring in a 73-70 squeaker over Seattle. 15 of Smith's 22 points came in the last 6:20, when she came back in with the Lynx down by 3. Iziane Castro Marques could do absolutely nothing to stop her.

Nicole Ohlde, with help from Vanessa Hayden, did a terrific job neutralizing Lauren Jackson's scoring: she shot 1 for 11 and only managed 6 points for the game. No wonder LJ mouthed off to the refs.

Sue Bird took another bonk to the beak late in the second half, leading to a scary, quiet moment while she went to the bench to have the snoz checked out. Everything seemed fine, and she scored 6 points over the remaining seconds as everyone on the Lynx gave her space.

Hayden passed former Lynx and current Storm player Janel Burse in franchise blocks, for a total of 58 (Burse had 56 in her 2 seasons with the Lynx).
Detroit mounted the biggest comeback in league history last night. Down 25 in the first half, the Shock rallied back for a 6-point victory.

"It was probably the lowest point since I've been associated with the Shock," coach Laimbeer said of the first half.

Holdsclaw scored 15 in the first half but only 2 in the second; credit Barbara Farris's defense. "I just had to make her make tough shots," Farris said. "She wasn't getting easy looks, she was just making her shots. I just wanted to make her work for it and stick a hand in her face."

In D.C., the Mystics almost pulled off a similar feat. Down 18 in the first, Washington came back in the second and tied the score... only to lose at the end.

"Everything has to go right for you to come back from a deficit like that and it almost did," Coach Adubato said.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Stacey Lovelace: mother, scorer, tall small forward, veteran, world traveller, X-factor.

"You have confidence when you know there's a place for you," she says. "My husband is here. My baby is here. It's one of the best times I can remember. Now I'm enjoying it. I really am."

(More love for Lovelace this year here, here, and here; career stats here.)
In the New London Day this morning, flagship columnist Mike DiMauro puts a beat down on Debbie Schlussel. Unlike Kayte Christensen, DiMauro responds directly to Schlussel's anti-gay arguments. He hits back, and he hits hard:
I don't know how many lesbians are playing in the WNBA.

I don't know how many gays are playing in the NFL, NBA, NHL or Major League Baseball.

I don't care, really.

But I do know this: If you are a member of the SS (Schlussel Sympathizers, who, go figure, share the same initials with a rather infamous organization for intolerance) and you believe that a lesbian woman or gay man is any less of a human being, you are a hopeless bigot.
Read the whole thing.
At home, in front of more than 7,000 fans, Charlotte actually won. Two Sting starters (Staley and Tangela Smith) played the entire game; two others played 37 and 39. "We finally found some rhythm," coach Lacey asserts.

The commish attended. A Sting fan reports: "Today was a great game... The [giveaway] was team jerseys, so that drew a lot of the attention. Hopefully, they will return on July 17 for the team shorts... I am really impressed with Donna Orender. She is able to work a crowd and sell her excitement for the league. I also greatly respect her willingness to admit when she's not sure about something."
Lindsay Whalen and Diana Taurasi put on a fabulous second-half show last night, alternating amazing plays at opposite ends of the floor. Diana finished with 28 and Lindsay with 20, but Whalen had more help, and the Sun won.

Despite the loss, there's a new hope in Merc camp: Maria Stepanova has finally arrived.

In the Courant today, Mike Anthony recaps the scrum: "Milton-Jones likely over-reacted, but Taurasi's contention of innocence is hardly credible."
In other sports --

It looks like Annika won't reach her goal of winning the Slam. She's 5 back entering the final round. She still has a slim hope (see, e.g., Tiger at Pinehurst), and she says she'll fight to the end, but it's a long shot.

Among the three players tied for the lead are two amateurs: Michelle Wie and Morgan Pressel. If either won, she'd be the youngest ever. "I actually saw that on Golf Channel trivia the other day," said Wie.

Across the pond, an injured and out-of-shape Serena Williams lost at Wimbledon yesterday, marking her earliest Grand Slam exit since the French in 1999.

"I guess I had a lot of rust," Williams said. "I mean, the other days I kind of played through it, and the second and third set got better. But today, I just didn't do anything right. I think I was better off staying home, to be honest."

Andy Murray, the great new hope of the Henman Hill set, also lost.

And at the U.S. track and field championships in California, Marion Jones withdrew from the preliminaries for the women's 100 on Friday.
Houston blew out the Stars. "That's the way the Comets used to win," coach Van said.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

The Sting fan's lament: "I went to the Sting game last night and in case you don’t follow the WNBA, we suck."
Steve plugs the W to the masses on The Huffington Post.
Four games last night:

1. Connecticut, the top team in the East, beat Sacramento, the top team in the West. It was a sloggy game — the Monarchs held the Sun to a season-low 61 points, but they only scored 50 themselves. Nicole Powell went 0 for 10.

"In hindsight, whatever we did didn't work," coach Whisenant said. "We were awful offensively. The more frustrated we got, the quicker we shot, therefore the more out of sync we were offensively."

It was an emotional game for the Sun, in the midst of a long road trip, and still dealing with the loss of coach Thibault's mother. "My mom hoped to be at this game. Emotionally I can't get it out of my head," Thibault said. "[The team knows] this meant a lot to me, but they need to play for themselves."

Thibault will miss tonight's game to attend the funeral.

2. Chamique Holdsclaw put the Sparks on her back and beat Seattle.

Before the game, GM Penny Toler responded to some of the rumors that Coach Bibby's job might be in jeopardy. "We're a new team with a new coach and we're playing with injuries," she said. "As bad as it is, it's not time to panic."

Tamika Whitmore, who is much happier under Bibby than she was under the old regime, contributed 16 and 8.

3. Temeka Johnson had another great game and led Washington to a road win over Detroit.

Laimbeer put Kara Braxton in the starting lineup, but she didn't play well. "She floats," Laimbeer said. "When she wants to play she's dominant. When she just shows up and just goes out there and plays, she's not that good."

The Mystics improved to .500, and the Shock, having lost 5 of 6, have fallen back to .500. (The Detroit News has apparently lost interest; they've stopped sending reporters to games.) Laimbeer says his well-publicized NBA job search hasn't been a distraction.

4. Indiana beat Minnesota even though Tamika Catchings had a career-low 2 points on 1 for 9 shooting.

"In order for our team to succeed, I mean, yeah, two points a night, that's not going to do it," Catchings said. "We hope this is the only time that it happens for the rest of my career."

Friday, June 24, 2005

Liz Matson, a journalism prof at Northeastern, has started a blog called "Keeping Score: The Media and Women's Sports."

Today she seeks input from WNBA fans on where they get their league news.
Friday afternoon fun.
Three months later, ABC News catchs up to the Title IX "clarification" story.
David Woods at the IndyStar begins the countdown: Katie Smith needs 87 points to reach 5,000.
What does it mean when you lose by 15 at home to the second-worst team in the league?

That you're the worst team in the league, and not by a little.

Coach Trudi Lacey trashed her players after the last loss. This time, she took a different tack, saying her players are working hard but not getting the results yet. "The players that we have are good players," she said. "It's just taking some time for them to really work together, to get a feel for each other."

Lacey also says that she's not surprised with the team's poor performance: "We knew this was going to be a rebuilding year and we just have to work our way through it. We made wholesale changes in the offseason and it's a transition."

How patient will Bob Johnson be? Does he even care?

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Jessie and Steve grow more famous every day. Resistance is futile.
Jackie Stiles has taken up bicycle racing. (Via Stever.)
The Lynx beat the Mercury last night at Target Center 75-59. The Lynx got balanced scoring and fine games from Nicole Ohlde and Vanessa Hayden. Kristi Harrower blocked a 3 point shot by Phoenix’s Angelina Williams (change the official scorebook! It was clearly a blocked shot!). Katie Smith scored 12 points, played great defense, and led the team in assists. 10 Lynx players put points on the board. The lynx also turned the ball over 18 times (with the t.o.s almost as well distributed as their scoring) keeping the game much closer than it ought to have been. It’s always good to win, especially after playing three games in four days against tough West Coast teams, but the Lynx weren't happy with their execution last night, "There were a lot of things that weren't good with this game...but it was a good win for us, coming off that road trip." said Ohlde.

Phoenix caught a 6:45 am flight from DC yesterday. Their jump shooting looked like it as the game wore on – tired legs, tired shots. "We got reasonable shots most times," Mercury coach Carrie Graf said. "It was evident that it was a back-to-back and we didn't have a shootaround. There wasn't a lot of legs in our shots." PHX ended up shooting a season low 26.4% from the field.

The Mercury’s biggest issue might have been keeping Diana Taurasi on the floor – she only played 28 minutes because of foul trouble. Last night at least two (and probably three) of her fouls were silly. She spent too much time on the bench - the Merc fell apart offensively when she was out of the game. On a positive note, Phoenix looked like a team where, if they get a few nights sleep in their home beds, a couple of days to practice to get in sync, they could make a run at the playoffs. That made the Lynx victory doubly important as they will be fighting for a playoff spot as well.

Note: The down side of Taurasi’s foul trouble vs. the Lynx was that PHX had a hard time getting any rhythm on offense and Lynx fans were deprived of seeing a wonderful player. On the bright side, with Diana out of the game, the Lynx didn’t have to worry about Taurasi going after Vanessa Hayden (yeah…I’m taking D-Nasty’s word on THE INCIDENT IN DC verbatim…)(and yes that is a joke).
Debbie responds to Kayte.

Don't bother reading it, because I can sum it up for you: Sports is showbiz, looks matter a lot, you won't make money unless you're hot, and the bottom line is all that matters.

With analysis like that, it's not hard to see why Debbie's career is what it is. (Or maybe this is why.)

The longer this debate goes on, the dumber I get.
A classic last night at the Key, probably the best game of the year. Seattle went on a late game run, broke the franchise record for points, and shot past Connecticut. Fans are outraged that a thriller like this wasn't webcast.

The teams combined for 69 field goals, 38 assists, and just 14 turnovers.

Betty Lennox, who had struggled recently, scored 23 of her 29 in the second half, and 14 in the final 8 minutes. "She's been missing in action for a little while," coach Anne Donovan said. "Second half, that's Betty, when she's aggressive and just attacking. She's unstoppable when she's in that mind frame."

It helped to get Sue Bird back ("We're cool," said Sue of the tiff with Betty.)

"This is a very big win for us," Bird said. "We just took down the best team in the Eastern Conference. It feels good."

In sad off-the-court news, Coach Thibault's mother died yesterday before the game.
Sara is now past due, and it's going to be 100 here today. God obviously hates us. I can't understand why.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Ray Ratto on Annika:
She is such the dominant player that one is drawn to the chase for ultra-Annika in the same way casual fans were drawn to the 72-win Chicago Bulls, or the 125-win New York Yankees, only without the ancillary loathing for Jerry Krause or George Steinbrenner.

You want to care about Michelle Wie, Creamer and the rest of the field playing on the kind of course that punishes all the most precise players, but in the back of your web-encrusted brain, what you really want to see is just how high Sorenstam can fly, just how long she can laugh at the gravity of big-time golf.
She tees off on the back nine at 8:28 eastern tomorrow.
The NBA TV-WNBA Broadband highlight reel of the Mystics-Mercury game contains no mention (much less footage) of the Diana-DeLisha dust-up.

Lame. I guess if it's not "family-friendly," it doesn't get covered.
Managing to hold on to their half-time lead for a change, the Liberty soundly defeated the basement-dwelling Silver Stars to climb above .500 for the first time this season. Playing much more focused basketball than we saw in their initial pair of home-court defeats, the Libs looked as though they were actually enjoying their jobs for a change. Shameka Christon atoned for her last two disappointing performances with several jaw-dropping shots, while Elena Baranova made up for a scoring drought by grabbing 10 boards. Becky Hammon, who seems to have lost her snark and found her shot, consistently found Ann Wauters in the paint to the tune of nine assists. The love fest begins: "Becky got me the ball perfectly so many times that I just had to lay it in"; "Ann Wauters is a stud muffin."

SASS matched the Liberty's focus and precise shooting with chaos and defeatism from the first poorly tossed tip-off. Pee Wee, Ferdinand and Anderson gave the Libs trouble both defensively and offensively at times, but this team adds up to decidedly less than the sum of its parts.

After Diana Taurasi managed to swell the crowd to 12,428 on Saturday, attendance was a dismal 8,187 last night. What's your plan, Blaze?
Swin Cash on her All-Star votes:
I guess it is uncomfortable in a way. I haven't played and there are a lot of other players in the league who have played well. It definitely makes me think of what happened with Vince and all the controversy that created. But still, it's a game that is for the fans. The fans vote for who they want to see. If they want to see me, that's great. It's something I really appreciate.
Wild game in DC last night as Diana Taurasi and DeLisha Milton-Jones nearly came to blows. The game was full of talking, cheap shots, technicals, and finally an ejection.

"She blindsided me," said Milton-Jones. "That's what they were doing all night. We'd be running downcourt and they'd run in front of you and just stop. I'm not going to tolerate that. I reacted and I know I could have reacted differently, but my emotions got the best of me at that point."

"I'm not going to back down to anyone, so if she wants to come after people, I'm going to be right there," said Taurasi. "It's a good thing she didn't get to me."

DMJ suggested that Taurasi needs to be dealt with by the league.
She's so used to winning. It's an unfortunate situation that she has to be in, but you can still grow as a player no matter what situation it is. Me, I come from LA to the Washington Mystics. We were 1-3 the first couple of games. I'm usually 9-0, but that doesn't mean I have to go out and be malicious in my actions. Learn to grow as a person and as a player.

I really do want to want to talk to her because it's not just for me, it's for the next man. She may hurt somebody. It may end their career. She has to look at it from that aspect.
Mystics won.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

All-Star voting results: still absurd.

Michelle Snow now leads Lisa Leslie and Yo Griffith. Swin Cash, who has scored exactly 0 points this year, is second-highest vote-getter in the East.

Fans are utterly aghast, especially as some players have mysteriously lost votes since the last tally.
The Connecticut Ethics Commission fired a shot over Geno's bow yesterday, but took no real action.

The Commission abolished the "celebrity exception" to state ethics laws. It said that Auriemma and men's coach Calhoun can keep their existing contracts, but it suggested that similar contracts would face closer scrutiny in the future. Geno's current deal doesn't expire till 2010.

Not all were pleased with the ruling. "If we limit outside earnings, would we have to significantly increase their state salaries to retain these coaches?" asked Senate leader Martin Looney. "That could have a considerable cost to taxpayers."

Neither Auriemma nor Calhoun would comment yesterday.

For earlier posts on this issue, see here.
Kevin Pelton runs numbers on back-to-backs, and refutes Suzie McConnell Serio's claim that teams rarely lose both games.
Kayte Christensen uses her print space in the AZ Republic to respond to Debbie Schlussel.

Is this really a good idea? My sense is that cutting, satiric responses work better than earnest, serious respones. But to each her own, I guess.

It's also strange how Kayte is mostly unwilling to respond to Debbie's central point, which was that the WNBA provides bad role models because too many players are lesbians. The closest Kayte comes is this oblique passage (which, like Debbie's argument, employs rank stereotyping):
Explain to me how professional male athletes who admit to having sex with thousands of women, who stand trial for sexual assault, murder, drug charges and so on, are better role models for the youth of this country than someone like Anna DeForge, a player who was cut from her WNBA team but had the dedication to her sport to return to the league years later and become one of the league's top players.
"Someone like Anna DeForge"? You mean someone beset by the love that dare not speak its name?

Maybe we should speak its name. Maybe that's the only real response.
Ann Wauters is starting to live up to the expectations. "She has skills," says coach Coyle.
Connecticut waxed LA at Staples. A huge rebounding advantage and strong shooting keyed the 20-point victory.

"It's a good team, a very good team and I give them a lot of credit," coach Bibby said. "They're quick and know their personnel; [Thibault] does a nice job. But we didn't have any energy, we were flat, and were going through the motions."

"We attacked and tried to run it at them," Thibault said. "We played a lot of transition basketball, and once we got the good start, it just stayed positive for us."

Monday, June 20, 2005

Just got back from the Lynx open practice. No matter what you saw this weekend, Katie's rested now, and her shot is absolutely fine.
A qualifier to Phoenix' attendance numbers...Phoenix has had only three home games. The first game, opening night against Sacramento, was going to be a big draw, as it was the focus of marketing efforts. Another one of the three games was the "kid's camp/day" game. Thus, Phoenix' attendance numbers are a tad skewed by the small sample size and the nature of the games.
Has attendance finally stabilized? Could be. Kim Callahan has more figures, week by week and year by year. Regular-season 2004 looked a lot like 2003, except for weeks two and three (down), nine and eleven (up), and thirteen (down due to New York's Radio City Music Hall games). Regular-season 2005 so far looks a lot like 2004, with weeks one and four down, but weeks two and three up. Overall attendance is down 3%-- nothinig to crow about, but no reason to cry, especially if Donna Orender really can raise more sponsorship money, as her old golf job suggests.

Detroit has declined by 20%, which makes sense; they're not defending champions anymore. The Mystics, though no worse now than in mid-June '04, are down 18%: some blame the Holdsclaw trade, but the real culprit, as Jon Siegel predicted, is likely the Washington Nationals. (You can't spit in DC this summer without getting a Nats logo wet; moreover, they're winning.)

More interesting-- and more fun-- are sharp climbs in Connecticut (32%) and Phoenix (28%). Both teams-- but especially Connecticut-- have been treated well by regional papers, who run stories even when there's no score to report.

San Antonio has climbed 12%, to almost 9,000. How many tickets can they sell if they win some games?
Poetic justice in the sports world:

Last week, when asked about Danica Patrick's success on the IRL, Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone responded: "You know, I've got one of these wonderful ideas that women should be all dressed in white like all the other domestic appliances."

Yesterday, Ecclestone's sport imploded in dramatic fashion on national TV.
Fans everywhere turn on Charlotte GM and coach Trudi Lacey.

The Sting have an easy stretch coming up, with home games against San Antonio, New York, and Washington, who have a combined record of 10-19. If things don't turn around soon...
Updated attendance figures from bundrock. Connecticut and Phoenix way up; Detroit and Washington way down.
The NBA Finals had been pretty boring. Games 1-4 were decided by an average margin of over 20 points.

Last night was different: the Spurs won a one-point OT thriller.

The game featured a classic clutch performance by Robert Horry. Horry scored 21 points in the final 18 minutes of play, and hit 5 of 6 three-pointers. He made the key plays at the end of regulation to get the Spurs to OT, and he scored the game's final 5 points, including the game-winning three.

"Unbelievable," Tim Duncan said. "That was probably the greatest performance I've ever been a part of."

Horry already has five NBA rings, the most of any active player. With a 3-2 series lead, the Spurs have two home games to give him the sixth.
Oscar Dixon says the Fever have been a pleasant surprise this year.

"The last four years people have been able to double- and triple-team me," says Tamika Catchings. "But now with Kelly out there shooting the three, Tan is just a natural athlete and Tully being such a smart point guard makes everyone a threat."
The Sun start a brutal road trip today: four games in six days out west. 2-2 would be a good result; 3-1 would be phenomenal.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

In Connecticut, the Sun continued their winning streak. Taj collected another double-double; Margo blocked four shots.

Detroit got more rebounds, but shot so poorly that it didn't matter. Coach Thibault: "If they don't get offensive rebounds, we win that game by 20.... You just can't let teams rebound like that, plain and simple."

In San Antonio, the Silver Stars built a first-half lead but couldn't keep it: the Stars had more rebounds, but kept taking outside shots, while Houston managed to get to the line. Wendy Palmer-Daniel says her team has a reputation for late-game collapse.
After three games in four days against the West's best, the Lynx looked extremely sleepy.

The first half was close; the second wasn't. After getting fired up by a technical, Lisa Leslie scored 17 points and blocked 7 shots (leading Mike Terry, normally a fine writer, to resort to the unfortunate "block party" pun/cliche).

"Lisa is one of the main factors for us, and when she gets going and gets excited like that, it is tough to keep her down," Bibby said. "I hope she gets angry more often. And we're OK with that."

Katie Smith, after averaging over 20 points in her first 8 games, has been held to 3 and 6 in the last two. She admits that the long road trips take a lot out of her; a few days' rest should do some good.
Steve has found a better blogging gig. I'm glad to see that the Women's Hoops Blog has become a pipeline to the uberblogs. Still waiting for my invitation from Volokh...
Charlotte Smith-Taylor missed two free throws that would have prevented OT in the Mystics' game against the Fever. "I blew it," she said. "We had a chance to win and I blew it. That's what I was thinking."

But she earned redemption by hitting two threes in the extra frame, and Washington won the OT 15-5.

And a note to doubters (myself included): Temeka Johnson is not too short to play in the W. 21 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds, and a blocked shot.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Earlier this week, the Patriot-News reported a bit more about the Amber Bland situation, and about how Rene Portland refused to grant the release. It's absurd.

The administration deserves some credit for stepping in and overruling Rene. But it deserves at least as much blame for letting the situation develop this way, and for letting it go on so long.

It's troubling, but not terribly surprising. Though Joe Paterno is over the hill, he's still the most powerful person at Penn State University. Even the school president is afraid to challenge a member of the Paterno cadre.

And thus we add another chapter to the colorful career of the most hated figure in women's basketball.
Newsday on the Knicks' dark horse coaching candidate:
One of the most intriguing things about the Laimbeer candidacy is that he is trying to make the transition from coaching the women's professional game to coaching the men's. It's an unusual career path, but the WNBA might be a better training ground than anyone realizes. Laimbeer has had to do a lot more than most coaches do, including making the team's personnel decisions.
Sacramento built a huge early lead and coasted to an easy win over Minnesota.

"I'm proud of my team," coach John Whisenant said. "I have a cohesive bunch of ladies that work together. Our veterans are doing a great job. I couldn't ask for anything more."

The Lynx head to Staples tonight, which will be a homecoming for rookie Kristin Mann. "There are about 100 people coming, but I'm only giving out five tickets," Mann said.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Voepel celebrates Father's Day early by exploring "the 'now dad gets it' phenomenon." (Read the whole thing!)

One dad who got it: Bill Laimbeer. "I coached my daughter's AAU team since she's been ten years old," he told a fan. "When she was 14, I got promoted to the Shock."

Keri Laimbeer will play for Syracuse this fall.
After reading Ted's post on Charlotte coach Trudi Lacey from earlier today (and the accompanying linked articles) I really wonder what planet she's living on.

I'm sure it's absolutely fabulous for team morale to hear the coach say that there's nothing she can do and that she needs different players to win - these ones just don't take coaching. And here I thought that getting rid of Nicole Powell was going to solve all of Charlotte's/Lacey's problems. How many different players does Lacey need?

I think that Powell's ability to thrive this year pretty much undermines what little credibility Lacey has left.

Take a smart and confident kid like Powell who has the talent to contribute right away in the W. This is especially true for a team like Charlotte which didn't exactly have championship aspirations last year; they could have afforded to let Powell play through her rookie jitters. Instead she's benched, often buried so deep down the pine that her triple doubles were D-N-P. Lacey either ignores her or tells her she's playing like crap so that by the end of the season Lacey not only ruined Powell's confidence, but also turned Charlotte into a lottery contender in the parity ridden Eastern conference.

That's some coaching.

I'm sure it won't happen again this year, since they are just a few different players away from being a contender...

I hope someone's telling Charlotte's newest high draft pick (McCarville) to take anything "coach" says with a grain of salt. From watching the games, it does look like the players listen more to each other (and to Dawn) than to Lacey - an understandable position given Lacey's track record.

Maybe that's not the whole story, but that's what it looks like from here.

Perhaps coach Lacey should complain about her players to Charlotte's GM...I suspect the two are very close.
At the Brushback: "Black NASCAR Driver Pulled Over During Race."
Lindsay Whalen and Tully Bevilaqua join the WNBA.com blogsquad.

Whalen wonders what a "blog" is (hurting my feelings), and Tully says she misses vegemite.
Katie Smith:

# 1 in the WNBA in scoring. # 27 in the WNBA in All-Star votes.

No justice, no peace.
In message board news...

The massive UConn discussion board has moved (sort of) to scout.com. The old site is still called the Boneyard (confusing some users). The new site has banned users previously banned on the old site (some of whom had moved to scout before). And Nan herself has been banned from the old site.

Elsewhere, after being beset by the massive EZBoard hacker attack, the Minnesota boards have moved to a safer home. Lynx board here; Gopher board here.
Phoenix Mercury assistant Julie Brase sends an email to Debbie Schlussel, tells her to fuck off. Debbie responds: you kiss your grandpa with that mouth?
Sandora Irvin doesn't like the bench.

"The first couple of games, I was like, 'Dang, I thought I would come out here and start,'" she said. "I didn't know I would go through this. I've gotten very frustrated with myself a couple of times, but I've learned to relax and just work hard. That's all I can do."

Nicole Powell likes the floor.

"By the end of last season I was saying to myself, 'Am I good enough to play at this level?'" she said. "I didn't expect to come right out and be MVP, but I felt I had something to give a team in this league."
Vickie Johnson needs 13 points tomorrow to join Holdsclaw, Leslie, Smith, Swoopes, Stinson, and Thompson in the 3000-point club.

"As far as names, it's not really a comparison because Lisa Leslie and Sheryl Swoopes are the face of the WNBA," Johnson told Adam Zagoria. "I'm a person that you only know what I do if you look at the stats. I'm very solid, but I go out and try to be consistent and try to get the job done and help my team in any possible way.
Charlotte sank to 1-8 last night before an announced crowd of barely 4,000. Coach Trudi Lacey claims that she is not feeling any pressure... but in her postgame press conference, she said that it's the players' fault.

Asked if she has the players she needs to win, she said "Obviously not."

"We've got to be able to execute down the stretch," she said. "We had our opportunities and didn't take advantage of them. It is just a lack of execution."

"The bottom line is, we just have got to start to play and do our jobs," Lacey said. "Obviously, I want to win, and I'm doing everything to make that happen. All I can do is all I can do. It's the players' game. Players have got to make plays."

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Vanessa Hayden discusses shot blocking, foul trouble, and her grandma. No interview half this long would grace a daily newspaper: it's good to see SportsPageMag playing to its strengths.
If you don't know the Jamie Carey comeback story, the Boston Globe tells it in detail today. Last year Carey picked up a comeback award.
In Charlotte, coach Lacey attacks her team's shooting woes with bizarre motivational quotes: "What you think about the most expands."

McCarville may not play tonight, as her back is still bugging her; she didn't practice Wednesday. That means more minutes for J-Mo, who tells Alaskans that she's having fun.
Two overtime thrillers last night.

In Indiana, the Fever turned a sloppy start into a tight game with about a million lead changes, and about half a million whistles. Repeating her Sunday performance, Kelly Miller's long three turned a one-point deficit into a two-point lead with 3.4 seconds left; Detroit's Chandi Jones then hit a running jumper at the buzzer, sending a defender down for what could have been a charge, a block or, as it turned out, a no-call.

Result: five more minutes of basketball; Fever win. The much-maligned Ebony Hoffman had a career night (16 on 8-10), mostly on soft midrange shots where the Shock barely guarded her. Ford missed two late free throws, then fouled out. "We knew we could win and we didn't pull it off," Detroit's Ruth Riley admits. For the first time in the history of the league, Stinson did not play.

In Seattle, melodrama, and about two million whistles: Lynx led for the first half, Seattle for much of the second, but the Lynx forced overtime by making free throw after free throw after free throw. Katie Smith (21 points, but 5-16 shooting) controlled the extra period, making two field goals to put Minnesota ahead, then snatching the ball from Batkovic. Lovelace (12 on 4-9) was, as promised, the X-factor.

Izzy Castro-Marques, who guarded Katie, was brilliant on both ends: coach Donovan called her "the one bright spot." Hayden played but didn't start, and sat after an apparent poke in the eye; Burse may have a concussion. LJ had a splendid game, Betty Lennox a lousy one, turning the ball over twice in overtime, then complaining about the officials.

Check out the extraordinary liveblogging from Pelton.
In Los Angeles, a blowout. Whitmore and the Claw scored 17 each, Leslie 14 despite fouling out, Swoopes just 8.

Van: "If they play like that, everybody in the league is going to be in trouble." Especially if Mabika comes back soon.

And in Phoenix, a day game and a home win, one closer than the lopsided box score implies. The Silver Stars led by 11 before Vodichkova (21 points) took over. Coach Graf: "With Kamila, I think we finally got a look at who we really are."

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

From Gumption72 on the ESPN board:

"I have been diligently writing e-mails and personally handwritten letters to sponsors of radio and televised games for the last two years... for the Lynx, Gophers and the Olympics. I also tell NBAtv, Oxygen, ESPN2 and any other channels that offered women's basketball games. I just made up a few basic letters and change[d] the the company information.... It is time consuming and I don't have endless time, but I get instant and almost 95% acknowledging and thankful responses from them. Some companies send me coupons and call me, but that isn't why I do it. I want them to KNOW that they make a difference in my life by offering an opportunity for me to see or hear a game. I think They DO appreciate knowing we recognize their advertising as support of the game/show. I can't think of anything else I can actually do as one person other than keep spreading the word amongst friends and coworkers to go and see games for themselves. It is slow and tedious, but well worth it. Remember, the WNBA is ultimately a business."

Sponsorships mean money, both for the league as a whole and for individual teams, even Charlotte. And feedback matters to sponsors, even to giant faceless corporations (otherwise they wouldn't hire people to respond). If you've got a few minutes any time this summer, consider doing as Gumption does.
Kevin Pelton, around the WNBA. Lots of interesting tidbits.
Clay Kallam on upsides and downsides of summer youth ball: "Earlier exposure could actually work against a player because coaches have in their minds what the girl was like when she was smaller and slower. Regardless, the crucial time [for college recruitment] is... junior year and the following summer... Very, very few Division I [caliber] athletes fall through the cracks, whether they play in the summer or not."

Clay's epidemiology desk tracks the persistence of the dreaded Our Girls Syndrome, updating a much-quoted essay from 2003. (But the Sun's attendance has risen, while other teams' turnouts have dropped. Would Minnesota make a better example?)
Mike Anthony covers the Sun's new inside game. Coach T-Bone: "We're unselfish. We have multiple weapons, and our players trust each other."

The Sun's posts now enable an inside-out game, drawing defenders away from the long-range guns-- one reason Connecticut leads the league in three-point shooting percentage, and in assists. (I wish the dot-com kept track of points in the paint.)
Sue Bird likely won't play tonight, when the Lynx visit the Storm. Bat-Girl and Lauren will face O-Dog and Big V.

Seattle has shot threes poorly thus far: Donovan expects a zone. “If Sue Bird isn’t going to be playing, we can put a little more focus on stopping Lauren," Lynx X-factor Stacey Lovelace explains.

Sue expects to return next week, then pull a Rip Hamilton all season. "If I waited until it was fully healed," she says, "I probably wouldn't play the rest of the year."
Yet another San Antonio injury. (Via pilight.)

Nikki McCray might have started in place of the injured LaToya Thomas: Kendra Wecker could fill the small forward spot if she weren't injured. SASS fans send Wecker get-well cards.
The Strib covers the evolution of Big V.
The NY Post speculates that Laimbeer isn't really in the running for the Knicks job (via herrade).

And in Detroit last night, the Pistons won, which means that we'll have to wait that much longer for Larry Brown to make up his mind.
Coach Portland on Amber Bland's departure: "I am disappointed that Amber has chosen not to return. I certainly expected her to contribute this season, but we have a strong incoming class that will have an immediate chance to play a major role."

Bland is the 10th player to leave Penn State early since the end of the 2001 season.
Craig Morgan at the East Valley Tribune says that Taurasi has not turned out to be the savior that the WNBA or the Merc were hoping for.

“They can put as many expectations and hopes on me as they want," said Taurasi. “But I can only be who I am. I'm just one player in a league with a lot of great players."

The Mercury, meanwhile, are still waiting to hear whether Maria Stepanova will be joining them this year.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Last month Amber Bland said that she wanted to leave Penn State, but the program wouldn't let her go.

Today the school announced that she has been granted her release.
Rick Callahan at the AP on Catch and asthma.
Brutal news in San Antonio: LaToya Thomas will miss the rest of the season with a shoulder injury.

"I feel bad for LaToya," coach Dan Hughes said. "I really liked how her game was evolving, especially from a defensive standpoint at a new position for her."

Thomas had averaged 12.4 points and 4.4 rebounds per game this year.
Michelle Kaufman at the Herald examines the larger issues raised by the Ferne Labati firing and lawsuit.
Regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit, Labati's firing points to a bigger issue in women's basketball -- loss of job security. Thirty-seven Division I schools changed women's basketball coaches this spring, proof the sport has evolved to the point that administrators care enough to make coaching changes.
Some coaches in the WBCA are worried about the trend. Jim Foster:
I don't mean to single out one guy, but look at Buzz Peterson, four years at Tennessee, no postseason, walks away with $1.4 million. Ferne coaches 17 years, goes to 12 postseasons, six or seven NCAAs, walks away with nothing. Where is her gold parachute? Why are schools willing to pay men's coaches so much? There's an ethical question there.
Harry Parretta:
I'm not saying the university doesn't have the right to set whatever standard it wants, to say it wants to win 20-some games and average 5,000 fans a game, but that might not be realistic. If your market doesn't make you as much money as a Connecticut or a Tennessee, you can't have the same expectations as those programs.

I spoke to Ferne, and she is devastated. She works hard, and she's been around so long, and you'd think that would matter. Sometimes, I wish things were the way they were before. It's the harsh reality, this obsession with winning and money. It's more a failure of our society than any one university.
ESPN columnist Bill Simmons:
in case you missed it, the WNBA ran a commercial during last night's game with their new slogan: "This is our game." I think they have just given up. Seriously, what the hell does that even mean? That's like if ESPN built a whole ad campaign for my column around the slogan "This is my column." I'm making it my mission in life to bring this league down before my daughter is old enough to watch a game and potentially talk me into getting season tickets.
Sue Bird had surgery yesterday to re-set her nose (again). She hopes to play tomorrow, when the Lynx visit the Key, but the team has her listed as day to day.

Voepel says the adversity should make the Storm stronger.
The Monarchs kept rolling, led by Nicole Powell's 18 (Trudi Lacey is spinning in her grave).

"When you hit one or two, you look to take the next one," Powell said of her five threes. "It feels good to contribute and be No. 1.... We're No. 1 in the West, did I mention that already?"

The Sacramento Bee is the slowest paper in the country to get its content on the website.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Candace Parker sighting. (Hat tip, Betty Bean.) If I were a Vols fan, I'd be pretty damn excited hearing stories like that come out of the gym.
The Sting keep sinking. The Storm played another game without Sue, and they didn't play great, but it was still good enough for a win at the Charlotte Coliseum.

"We couldn't score," Dawn Staley said. "That's been our nemesis in the first eight games." The Sting shot 31%.

At the Garden, New York held on for a big win over Detroit.

Vickie Johnson, who had a rough outing last time against the Shock, led the Lib with 21. "I've been sleeping on it, and I wanted to come out and be aggressive today," she said.

"I don't know about a signature win, but they're sitting on top of the East," coach Patty Coyle said. "Anytime you can give them a loss and get a win, it's basically two wins. It's a good win for us today."

While in New York, coach Laimbeer met again with Isaiah Thomas about the Knicks coaching job. But with an NBA lockout looming, the Knicks are in no hurry to fill the post.

To his credit, Laimbeer is being upfront about the process, and as Swin Cash told Lobo on the sidelines yesterday, the Shock players hear everything from him first before they hear it in the press.

"I've made no secret that I would like to coach in the NBA," Laimbeer said. "The ladies are aware of that, and also supportive. I enjoy my time with them, but they understand someday I will [leave]. Whether now, or next year or two years, the timetable is unclear. That's why we are trying to build a team able to handle the loss of any player or coach."