Women's Hoops Blog: September 2005

Inane commentary on a game that deserves far better

Friday, September 30, 2005

As rumored, Michelle Wie will officially turn pro next week. She'll sign endorsement deals worth about $10 million, which will apparently make her the third highest-paid female athlete behind Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova.

Expect more snarky comments from Morgan Pressel.
Last week I noted the varying media reports on the WNBA's recent TV ratings.

TV ratings may be the best way to measure broad interest in the league. Of course, single data points or simple comparisons can be misleading, because game ratings vary widely depending, among other things, on: (1) which network the game is on, (2) what the lead-in show is, (3) what other networks have on in that slot, and (4) whether the teams playing are from large or small markets.

But if you had regular and complete information, you could filter out the noise and get a good sense of the secular trends.

Unfortunately, it's difficult to find regular and complete information. Nielsen Media is responsible for the ratings, and it doesn't generally make them public because if it did, no one would pay for them.

The league knows its own ratings, but it doesn't generally release them either. Like any other sports league (or just about any other business, for that matter), it maintains a public face of perpetual optimism.

Which means: they generally only release ratings numbers if the numbers look good.

When the press release says, "The Detroit Shock's victory over the Los Angeles Sparks in Game 3 of the WNBA Finals on Tuesday night produced the highest overnight rating ever for one of the league's games on ESPN2," you can get excited about fabulous news.

Or you can get depressed that the ratings for Game 1 of the same series were abysmal, and the even the ratings for Game 3 were far below the ratings from earlier years on different networks.

Armed with my new all-access Lexis password, I set out to find every piece of publicly released WNBA TV ratings info. For the first five years, the league released the average regular season game ratings. Here they are for ESPN and NBC (as reported by the USA Today on 8/28/00 and the SA Express-News on 3/19/02):

1997: 0.8 — 2.0
1998: 0.7 — 1.6
1999: 0.7 — 1.6
2000: 0.5 — 1.4
2001: 0.4 — 1.1

Since then, the league hasn't released this info. But here are a variety of other data points:

1997 Finals: 2.9
1999 Finals Game 2: 1.7
2000 Finals Game 2: 2.1
2003 Finals Game 2: 0.1
2003 Finals Game 3: 0.8
2004 Finals Game 1: 0.2
2004 Finals Game 2: 0.2
2004 Finals Game 3: 0.3
2005 ASG: 1.0
2005 Finals Game 3: 0.7

You can see the glass as half empty (long and substantial decline since the beginning) or as half full (apparent rebound this year).

One thing is certain: the WNBA Finals draw much less fan interest than the college Final Four. The ratings for the Women's NCAA Championship game have been 3.5 or better every year since 2000.
The Decline and Fall of the Bristolian Empire, Chapters Sixteen and Seventeen.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Via Str8Butta: Shameka Christon talks about her second year in the pros: "When I talk to people who call me from back in Arkansas, they say I sound like I'm from New York. I haven't forgotten where I came from, you guys."
Via the newly-linked Truehoops, two studies purport to show that red uniforms help teams win close games.

Ethologists (animal-behavior experts) have found that red signals aggression or dominance in some nonhuman mammals; these studies looked for this effect in humans. Sports examined included European soccer and Olympic wrestling, boxing, and tae kwon do, which means the sample included at least some women.

In more color-wheel news, some Iowa profs and students want to repaint the locker room used by visiting football teams, which has been kept pink for decades (to embarrass, calm, or symbolically emasculate the Hawkeyes' opponents). A recent remodeling left the room pinker than ever.
New to the sports blogroll: the Mighty MJD, and True Hoop.

New to the non-sports blogroll: Bitch Ph.D., Goddess Musings, Sassy Femme, and (it's about time for shit sake) accommodatingly.

Also, now that the Storm are no longer reigning champs, the blog formerly known as "Defending the Title" is now called "Chasing the Title." Check it out for some good statistical analysis of how the Storm got worse from '04 to '05.
Get your Aussie WNBL season predictions right here, or here. Reporters pick either Dandenong (last year's champs) or else Canberra, now featuring Lauren Jackson and Carrie Graf.

Despite some worries about her back strain, Jackson has been cleared to play this weekend, when the WNBL season begins.
Janel McCarville struggled with back problems all summer before heading to Spain to play for Mann Filter this fall.

In Spanish league play, those problems got a lot worse: McCarville will return to America for surgery on a herniated disc.
Clay Kallam of Full Court Press has followed the Monarchs since the beginning. This week he writes up the team's long road to the crown.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Voepel on Shawntinice Polk.
The official free agent list is now up at WNBA.com.
Via dts, word that Lauren Jackson will not sign with the Storm until she hears whether the WNBA will alter its schedule to accommodate the FIBA World Championships.

At halftime of Finals Game Two, Donna Orender said that she would announce the schedule in a "couple weeks." So we should know more soon.
The Tucson Citizen eulogizes Polkey. Both the football team and the men's hoops team mourned yesterday.

Coach Joan Bonvicini remembered her during a press conference.
I loved Polkey like a daughter. She would be wonderful one moment, and like a daughter she would frustrate me. But her smile and her laughter always brought her back.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Steve Rushin's article on the WNBA from last week's SI is now available online via the USOC's site. (HT, gopher5.)
Shawntinice Polk died as a result of deep vein thrombosis, a condition resulting from the formation of a blood clot (thrombus) inside a deep vein, commonly located in the calf or thigh. One of the clots traveled to her lungs and caused a sudden cardiac death, according to the county medical examiner.

DVT is a subtle and difficult to detect condition that kills approximately 200,000 people in the United States each year.

Polkey arrived at the gym yesterday morning and complained of feeling ill. At the time she collapsed, she had not yet begun to work out.

Today the UA community mourns. As assistant men's hoops coach Jim Rosborough said, Shawntinice was one of the most beloved athletes in Tucson. "Polkey loved children and had the biggest heart of anyone I knew," said Courtney Peters, team manager.

A public memorial service will be held tomorrow night at the McKale Center.
Game 3 of the Finals received a 0.6 rating on ABC.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Polkey retrospective:

3/9/03: some eye-popping power for a freshman.

10/22/03: after breaking of tying 19 records in her first year, Polk gets ready for the sophomore campaign.

4/1/04: school paper jokes that Polkey is turning pro early.

1/3/05: nothing is wrong with your TV — she really is that big.

1/4/05: without Shawntinice, the Cats are soft inside.

2/4/05: Bonvicini benches Polk and Wheeler to teach "life lessons."
University of Arizona President Peter Likins on Polkey: "She was a beautiful, beautiful person whom I will cherish for the rest of my life."
Shocking and tragic news: Arizona senior Shawntinice Polk collapsed and died this morning.

Polk was a dominant post player and a three-time honorable mention All-American. She was named to the Pac-10's first team all three years she played. This year she made the preseason lists for both the Wooden and Wade awards.
Via Stever, an Australian ode to "the new Lauren Jackson."

LJ's Australian league team, the Canberra Capitals, suffered when she didn't play last year, missing the playoffs and seeing attendance decline. Canberra hoops exec Mark Cartwright says not to worry: "the same thing happened with Chicago when Michael Jordan was injured for a season and Manchester United without David Beckham."

Carrie Graf, who will coach LJ in Canberra, speaks out on her departure from Phoenix: "When you finish a season in the WNBA and your contract doesn't get renewed that's not the best fun, but it's the coaching game... Fortunately for me I'd already chosen to take the Caps job and it couldn't have worked out better to come back here and have something good come out of something not so good."
The NCAA has announced rule changes, points of emphasis, and experiments for the coming season. A brief summary can be found in this PDF press release, and a fuller description can be found at the beginning of the 2005-06 Rule Book (also PDF).

Rule Changes:

1. Kicked balls. On a kicked ball, if there are fewer than 15 seconds remaining on the shot clock, the shot clock will only reset to 15. This makes the NCAA rules start to conform a little more to the pros.

2. Disqualification substitutions. When a player fouls out, a team will only have 20 seconds (formerly 30) to replace her. This is to prevent coaches from using that time as a de facto timeout.

3. Monitors. There are several changes to the rules governing the refs' use of courtside monitors. One change to Rule 2-5 will allow refs to put time back on the clock after using the monitor to determine when a foul was committed or when a shot passed through the cylinder. Interestingly, the new rules still won't fix the problem we saw in the 'Bama-LSU game last year.

Points of Emphasis:

1. Displacement. The Rules Committee has attempted (again) to clarify what counts as a foul through a series of norms on "displacement." There are specific guidelines set forth for guarding in the post, guarding on the perimeter, guarding cutters, rebounding, and screening.

It doesn't appear that the Committee is trying to tighten or loosen anything; rather, they're just trying to state the existing rules more clearly.

2. Bench Decorum. The Committee has directed the refs to call more technicals and listed several specific areas of emphasis. A variety of conduct -- including "excessively demonstrating officiating signals" such as traveling -- is supposed to draw a technical.

Somewhat ridiculously, the Committee has also ordered that players and assistant coaches must remain seated during the game. There is an exception made for "spontaneous" celebrations in reaction to "outstanding plays," so long as the player returns to her seat "immediately."

I can imagine it now: "Technical foul on the bench player who stood up and cheered that free throw. A completed free throw is not an outstanding play. Plus, you didn't sit down fast enough."


The NCAA will test two new rules in certified games played before January 1: the longer (20' 6") three-point line, and the 10-second backcourt violation.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Sac Bee letters "praise the Bee for increasing its Monarchs coverage" and strike back at "sourpuss" columnist Bretón.

Davis, Ca. reader Keitie Jones: "There are many more fans out there than Mr. Bretón believes. Today, after attending the amazing Monarchs game, I went to the grocery store wearing my Monarchs jersey. Within 10 minutes, five strangers stopped to talk to me about the game and the team."

Elsewhere, Monarchs and Kings fans respond to an unhappy Mike DiMauro.
Coach Thibault discusses the Sun's future. Good news: Whalen won't need surgery.

Connecticut's trainer praises Debbie Black.
Ticha Penichiero, giving the world another image of Portugese women-- in Portugese: "dar ao mundo uma outra imagem das mulheres lusas."
Chas Melvin, Adrienne Goodson, three other W players and five NBA'ers spent last week in Kenya, promoting HIV education and teaching basketball skills. They also played a well-attended game.
Three months ago, the San Jose Mercury News published an investigative report exposing allegations of misconduct against Santa Clara head coach Michelle Bento-Jackson. The report claimed that Jackson had treated her players badly and that her husband had sexually harassed some of them. Santa Clara announced plans to fire her.

After the completion of an investigation by an independent reviewer, the university reversed course. Bento-Jackson will remain as coach.

The Mercury News has been forced to defend its reporting.

For better or worse, the reason for the reversal is unclear. Neither the school nor the coach will comment further, so we don't know whether they decided to keep her because the allegations were proven false, or whether they decided that the misconduct wasn't serious enough to warrant termination, or whether they just didn't want to face a lawsuit and a buyout.

On Thursday, Merc columnist Ann Killion tore into the school, calling its handling of the situation a "travesty" and claiming that it deserves to be "a national laughingstock." She suggests that Santa Clara ultimately decided to sweep the whole thing under the rug.
Here's the message that Santa Clara is sending: Hey, it's just Santa Clara women's basketball. Nobody will notice.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Can the WNBA equal the attention (or the attendance) generated by women's college basketball?

That questions comes up near the start and the end of each season, every year, sometimes from knowledgeable supporters, sometimes from people who just don't like the pro league.

But the right answer is that in many ways the WNBA already has equaled the success of the college game.

The worst team in the WNBA this year, the Charlotte Sting, not coincidentally had the worst attendance: 5,768, according to Kim Callahan (warning: PDF).

Among the few hundred schools that play NCAA Division I women's hoops, how many attracted more fans per game than Charlotte? Sixteen. How many of them had losing records? Just one: Wisconsin.

Of course, published numbers can be unreliable, especially in the pros. On the other hand, college teams can boost their numbers simply because they tend to play on college campuses, and students (rightly) get much cheaper tickets, not to mention convenient transportation to and from games (often, the sidewalk between arena and dorm). So the distortions, if that's what they are, work both ways.

Among teams that finished the WNBA season over .500, the team with the worst attendance was the Houston Comets, who seem never to have recovered (in terms of fan support) from their move to the Toyota Center. The Comets claim 7,099 fans per game.

How many women's college teams beat that number? Ten.

Defending (now former) champions Seattle claimed 8,891 fans per game, and full lower bowls on TV prove those fans showed up. Just five women's college teams do better, including Connecticut and Tennessee.

The WNBA has been around for nine years, and most of their teams have no historic connection to their communities except (as with the Monarchs, Sparks and Liberty) the connection that grows from long-cherished NBA partners.

The colleges whose women's hoops teams post numbers anything like what the WNBA publishes, or numbers like what most WNBA teams (not Charlotte, perhaps, but Houston and San Antonio) actually deliver to summer arenas, have been around for over 100 years. Four of the top twelve have won it all since 1998; eight have been to the Final Four.

And fans love wins. Those winning colleges depend for some of those wins on the existence of schools few people follow, schools they always beat: major-conference doormats, local nonconference opponents who always lose to crosstown rivals in November, teams that fill up slots 13 to 16 in the brackets every March.

WNBA teams have no such guaranteed pleasures. As players and coaches like to say, on any given day, "any team in the league can beat any other team in the league." Even Charlotte.

(When you take location into account, the W looks even better. The top college women's team in a large urban market, with competition from major-league pro men's teams, is Minnesota, at 9,020 fans per game in the year after a Final Four, or almost exactly what Seattle attracted the year after a WNBA title, in a metro area of the same size. After Minnesota comes Ohio State, at 5,143: their competition is the NHL's Blue Jackets, who did not play last year. After the Buckeyes come the University of Maryland, at 4,189, or 72% of a Charlotte Sting crowd.)

College teams draw superbly when the team wins a lot, or has won a lot recently (Wisconsin used to be a fearsome team); when there are few competing entertainment options; and when they can claim to represent their region, or their state, i.e. they're a state school with many local alums. (If then: North Carolina puts up mysteriously abysmal attendance for a superb women's team.)

WNBA teams draw when they win, and in big metro areas with lots of transplants or many competing schools, WNBA teams (like pro men's teams in any sport) have as good a claim as any one school to represent the city as a whole. (Absence of baseball helps, too. #@%$ Washington Nationals.)

And people who fear that our girls syndrome (or anything else) will keep the W from attracting college-game numbers are making at least one serious mistake: they're comparing a few selected, historic successes (from the college game) to a whole league (winners, losers, mediocrities), and then asking why the very top of one class outperforms the entirety of the other. Compare apples to apples, regular season to regular season, even college reg-season to WNBA playoffs, and the W looks OK.

Playoff to playoff-- or rather, NCAA national tournament to WNBA playoffs-- it may be a different story. More on that one soon.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Not too long ago, ESPN Magazine's Bill Simmons wrote of the WNBA, "Let's end the ongoing charade that this is a mainstream sport."

ESPN Page 2's Graham Hays responded, "You're tired of having the WNBA forced down your throat? You would be content to ignore the league, if only the folks on television would let you? Welcome to the United States, the line for complaints forms to the right."

SI.com's Jay Mohr fired the next salvo, titled, "I Don't Love This Game". The column added weight to the argument that Mohr has not been funny since Saturday Night Live. He referred to WNBA fans as 'flannel jacketed, motorcycle boot-clad' 'brutes' who 'intimidated' him and his buddies. Once he fled to the empty upper bowl to escape the 'lumberjacks', he 'almost' enjoyed the game by 'getting loaded', squinting a lot, and 'pretending the players were men'. It was not Mohr's finest hour.

We noticed, as did other bloggers and boards, including one at Outsports.

Yesterday, Pat Griffin fired back in an editorial for Outsports titled 'What is Mohr Afraid Of?' A professor of social justice education at the University of Massachusetts, Griffin authored Strong Women, Deep Closets: Lesbians and Homophobia in Sport, and consults for the Women’s Sports Foundation's 'It Takes a Team! Making Sports Safe for Lesbian and Gay Athletes'.

As ESPN's Hays wrote, "You're entitled to not like the WNBA. You're even entitled to dislike the WNBA. But do it for reasons that go beyond lame jokes, misogynistic insecurities and tired talking points."
The Aussie WNBL season starts soon. New Zealand's national team, the Tall Ferns, just finished a preseason tournament in Australia with discouraging results, beating only Perth's (historically dreadful) Lynx.

Aussie coverage of the WNBA finals focused on Sun rookie reserve Laura Summerton, even though she barely played in the series.
Temeka Johnson visits Chicago and inspires everybody.

On her Louisiana ties: ""Everyone got out. What my family lost was all materialistic and can be replaced.''

On high school commitments: ""When you're an athlete in high school, there is so much focus on where you're rated and who is recruiting you, and I've learned that it just doesn't mean that much. The most important thing that I tell every kid is that they have to give as much time to their studies as they do to their jump shot or anything else on the basketball court.''

Johnson not only earned her LSU degree, but began work on an M.A. last year. Coach Pokey on Johnson: "No one talks about it, but when she came here, she wasn't a qualifier. She couldn't practice with the team. She had to pay her own way, and she lived with relatives. That's a pretty big thing to have taken away. But she built herself up and elevated the program to an elite status.''

Oh, and she's Rookie of the Year. The vote was a landslide.
According to pilight, Kristen Haynie is the first-ever athlete to play in an NCAA championship game and a WNBA championship series in the same year

In the NCAAs, Haynie herself played brilliantly, but her team got crushed.

Now she's a champion. Haynie: "To play for two championships in one year is pretty special. This one turned out a lot better."

She's one of the few Monarchs who won't play winter Euroball: Haynie hasn't had three weeks without hoops since last September. "My body needs a rest," she says.

Also in Sacramento, the Bee's Voisin praises the series and offers advice to the league and its fans:

1. Get neglectful owners (Los Angeles, this means you) to pay attention, or find new owners who will. 2. Hire competent coaches (male or female), not necessarily famous ones. 3. Don't worry about the reffing, which has been improving. 4. "Consider charter flights for the playoffs," despite their expense. 5. Put more games on TV.

Voisin says the high-energy, marketing-savvy Donna Orender is just what the W needs. Asked about TV schedules this summer, Orender replied: "We want more [games on TV] too!"
A while ago we promised something on Melissa King's hoops memoir She's Got Next.

It's probably worth your time (and it's pretty short, too) if you take any interest in rec-league or playground ball; if you coach pre-teens, or wonder what it's like to coach them; or if you like brief, moving and well-written memoirs. It's also oddly bisected-- it feels like reading two books.

The first two-thirds describe King's Arkansas childhood, her post-collegiate aspiration to move to a big city and play more ball, and her stints in Chicago and California, where she feels somewhat lost in urban environments but comes to love life in various playgrounds and gyms.

These pages feel somewhat scattered, as if an editor had pared them down, but they've also got cool scenes and anecdotes from pickup games: King overcomes her own prejudices, watches other folks try to overcome theirs, and hits some big shots. If you like John Edgar Wideman's poetic prose about playground ball, you'll probably like King's more concise, less ambitious, work on some of the same themes.

The best part for me, though, came when she moved back to Arkansas and began coaching fourth-grade after-school ball. These chapters give her more than one continuing character; subplots about her kids' lives rather than her own; and concerns for people who aren't herself.

They also yield funny remarks: "there is no outside shot in fourth-grade basketball," which means that when one of her charges sinks a long jumper, she has to spend some time and emotion telling that child not to take that shot whenever she's open. (Some fans of the pro game may know the feeling.) From a background of not much (her Bible appears to be the Baffled Parents' Guide) King becomes an emotionally engaged, and an appropriate, afterschool coach for these kids.

King appears to be one of those participation-is-everything athletes who either doesn't much enjoy watching a game in which she's not involved, or doesn't much enjoy writing about such games afterwards: she shares Wideman's unease about well-paid NBA'ers, and other than a pleasant aside about Holdsclaw, doesn't say much about NCAA women's ball, let alone the W. If it didn't happen to King, it's not in her book: that's not a problem, it's just the kind of book she wrote. I suspect her next book will be a non-basketball memoir, rather than a non-memoir basketball book: she writes well enough that I might read it anyway.
Mike DiMauro trashes Sacramento, Arco, Governor Arnold, and the Maloofs. Ouch.

Sacramentans take solace: Modesto will always be crappier.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Fleser interviews Lawson, whom a friend describes as a "raving idiot" right now.

"We haven't really slept," Lawson said. "It hasn't sunk in."
Transsexual athletes in women's sports: a quandary.
Still more on ratings --

Jayda Evans reported earlier this month that ratings were up around 40% for both regular season and playoffs.

(What she actually wrote was: "More people are tuned in to the regular-season games aired on ESPN2, and the same 40 percent increase occurred for the first-round playoff matchups this week." Perhaps that was intentionally ambiguous.)

Liz Robbins at the Times (in an article no longer available for free) reported on September 13 that ratings were "the same" for the regular season but up 20% for the playoffs.

The Sac Bee reported last week that ratings were up 20% for the playoffs.

Mel Greenberg reports today that ratings were up 9% for the regular season and 38% for the playoffs.

The truth is out there...
The Finals announcers talked (a lot) about DeMya Walker's step-through move and how it's legal. The traveling rules are byzantine, and I get dizzy reading them, but I think the announcers were only half right.

Rule 10 Section XII of the WNBA Rule Book says:
c. In starting a dribble after (1) receiving the ball while standing still, or (2) coming to a legal stop, the ball must be out of the player’s hand before the pivotfoot is raised off the floor.

d. If a player, with the ball in her possession, raises her pivot foot off the floor, she must pass or shoot before her pivot foot returns to the floor. If she drops the ball while in the air, she may not be the first to touch the ball.
That means that you can't lift your pivot foot before dribbling, but you can lift it before shooting and passing. In fact, if shooting or passing, it's not a travel until your pivot foot hits the floor again. Thus, if your right foot is your pivot foot, you can take a big step and jump off the left.

So to the extent DeMya just did that, she was within the rules. But... during the Finals, she repeatedly traveled before going into the move, either by switching her pivot foot, failing to establish it properly, or sliding it.

And she wasn't the only one.
3000 people turned out to the Monarchs' day-after celebration at City Hall.

"My phone keeps ringing off the hook from reporters in Portugal," said Ticha Penicheiro, a Portugal native. "Newspapers, TV, radio; it's nonstop. The (Tuesday) game was on live, and usually women's basketball gets no notice at all. But now, everybody knows the Monarchs."

Given its deep roster, Sacramento will have some tough calls when it comes to the Expansion Draft. Coach Whiz says he may try to offer Chicago a draft pick rather than giving up one of his current players.
Lena Williams reports that TV ratings were up 30 percent for the playoffs and 20 percent for the regular season.

Given the NBA's history of mendacity in ratings disclosures, I'm never able to take these reports at face value. But it's good news nonetheless.

UPDATE: a bit more on ratings.

Ratings for the 2003 WNBA Finals were in the 0.6-0.8 range. Ratings for last year's Finals fell sharply, down to about 0.2-0.3.

The reason was probably the Olympics and the smaller markets (Connecticut and Seattle instead of Detroit and LA).

This year, the league has been telling reporters that ratings are up 30% over last year. If that's true, it would look like we're in about the 0.4 range, which is still significantly lower than 2003.
Post-mortems in the Connecticut press:

Mike Anthony reports that the Sun are expected to protect Lindsay Whalen, Katie Douglas, Taj McWilliams-Franklin, Margo Dydek, Asjha Jones and Brooke Wyckoff for the expansion draft, and that they will sign Sales to a two-year max deal.

Ned Griffen says the Sun mostly just need to stay the course. “I think we're every bit as talented as Sacramento,” coach Thibault said. “As far as assessing what we need to do in the future, I think we need to keep kind of doing what we have done."

Jeff Jacobs argues that Whalen probably shouldn't have played because she "borderline stunk out the joint."

Randy Smith says the Dydek-Feenstra trade isn't looking so good anymore.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Lieberman says it was the best Finals in league history.

Voepel bucks up the losers:
The Sun players need to remember: By any standard, they're ahead of much of the league. That's at least something to take on that flight home.
Sacramento celebrates as the Monarchs give the city its first pro basketball crown.

"It's just a dream come true," said center Yolanda Griffith, the unanimous MVP. "We overcame so much - the injuries, the doubters."

"I feel like I'm having an out-of-body experience," Joe Maloof said. "This is great for the fans, great for the city. This is a wonderful story. They are the best athletes. They really deserve this. They brought a title to Sacramento."

Ailene Voison celebrates:
Underneath a purple haze of confetti, there were Maloofs running along the press table, Monarchs dancing on the podium, an emotion-soaked, near-sellout crowd erupting in frenzy, absorbing and savoring it all. How loud was that celebration? How long was the wait?
Connecticut, dejected, prepared for the long flight home.

"We know what this stuff sounds like, and we found out last year what this feels like," Katie Douglas said. "It's an awful feeling to have such a great season end this way."

Taj fumed about the refs, especially the call against her with 10 seconds left. "[E]very one of these games was close and could have (had) the outcomes decided by a call or two. And Mr. Enterline made a lot of calls that could be seen as questionable," she said. "I just hope Mr. Enterline looks at the game and sees what he called."

Coach Thibault mourned the last shot, which drew no rim. "It was drawn up for (Sales), but we didn't execute it very well... It wasn't the look we wanted. I thought we'd get a better shot."

Mike DiMauro explains the anguish.
The Sun were supposed to win this. They know it. And in sports now, when you reach the championship two years straight and lose both times, it's worse than finishing under .500.
But, Mike says, they'll get the ring eventually. "And nights like Tuesday will make it sweeter."
Via blue, Charley Rosen at FoxSports reviews Game Four. He notes some of the great talent but also some of the poor fundamental basketball that marred last night's games.
Perhaps attempting to imitate UConn's success on CPTV, the Chicago Sky have teamed up with public TV station WTTW, which will carry all of the Sky's home games.

Sun-Times columnist Roger Feder doesn't like it because he thinks it's a "blatant misuse" of public TV. But it will be great for the Sky to have so much coverage.

Still wonder why more teams don't try for deals like this...
Game 4 plus/minus from Paul:


Starters: McWilliams-Franklin -3, Dydek -7, Sales -10, Douglas -11, Whalen -5

Reserves: Carey +13, Wyckoff +6, Jones +5, Willingham 0, Summerton 0, Derevjanik -3


Starters: Brunson +10, Powell +7, Penicheiro +7, Newton +2, Griffith +1

Reserves: Scott-Richardson +3, Haynie 0, Lawson -3, Maiga -4, Walker -8,

Sacramento opened the second half with a 17-5 blitz and held the Sun to 1-for-12 shooting in the first 7:30 after intermission. Griffith overcame a -9 first half by scoring eight points to key that run. The Monarchs' offensive success hinged on the '3' position in this series, tallying 69.1 points per 40 with Powell on the floor (136 minutes) and just 45.7 per 40 with Maiga (28)...

Connecticut built an 11-point, first-half advantage behind the bench contributions of Jones, Wyckoff, Derevjanik and Carey, all of whom were at least +5 after 20 minutes. However, for the second consecutive game, all five Sun starters finished in the minus category. For the series, Connecticut's starting quintet was outscored by a 80-62 margin in 41:40 of action...



Powell +25, Griffith +23, Lawson +15, Walker +7, Haynie +6, Newton +5, Buescher 0, Brunson -4, Penicheiro -4, Scott-Richardson -4, Maiga -14


Derevjanik +16, Carey +8, Wyckoff +6, Summerton 0, Dydek -2, Sales -5, Willingham -6, McWilliams-Franklin -8, Jones -11, Douglas -26, Whalen -27

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

It was another tight game that went down to the final possession. Neither team shot well and the play wasn't beautiful, but it was still an exciting conclusion to an exciting series. Though I was hoping for a Game 5, I can't complain about seeing Yo get the title and the MVP in front of her hometown fans.

The new five-game series format was a huge success. I think in the past people have worried that there isn't enough interest to sustain a long series. That reasoning, however, gets it partly backwards: interest builds as a playoff series goes on, and a longer series can create its own momentum.

Cheers to ESPN for staying with the postgame celebration, which cut a half hour into Baseball Tonight. Given that we're in the midst of some very tight playoff races, that was no small sacrifice. Next year, they should just schedule the half hour. WNBA playoff games don't fit into 2 hours anyway, even without the postgame.

Strangest bit of Game 4 commentary: Geno and Doris gushing about how great the quality of point guard play is in the WNBA. Which league are they watching?

The folks on TV also talked lots about Whalen's ineffectiveness. True enough... but give Chelsea Newton and the other Sacto defenders a little credit.

All in all, it was a great series capping off a good year for the league. More tomorrow...
ShockPR has the breakdown of the MVP voting.

Brady Martin at SPM says it was just too close to call this year.
The Chicago expansion team will be known as the Sky. The colors will be sky blue and yellow.

Streaming video press conference here.
Voepel previews tonight's game.

At the Sac Bee, Arrington is glad that Yo stayed in town, and Voison compares this series to the Kings' infamous 2002 battle with the Lakers.
Via Mongo, King Kaufman at Salon extols the W's virtues: teamwork, fundamentals, lack of thuggish behavior. He promises to watch a game sometime soon to confirm these impressions.
Now back in Wisconsin (and on her way to Spain), McCarville talks about her rookie year. (Via gopher5.)

McCarville: "Bringing home a paycheck is nice... but I hate to lose. I cannot stand to lose.

"College is more of a team sport. You need everybody on the team. This is more like a business. There is no job security. You can be cut or traded."

Some fans want her traded: they want her to soar.
Game Four tonight. The Sun face elimination.

"It's not over until you blow that horn," says Taj McWilliams-Franklin.

"We realize that it isn't going to get any easier," Nykesha Sales said, "and realize that you can't hope teams come out not ready to play. You definitely have to bring your A game."

“Who wants to go back to Connecticut?” Yolanda Griffith joked. “I don't. If it just so happens that we do lose the game, we just have to stay focused and go into Connecticut and get that one. Were not going to settle. We want the championship."

(Correction from yesterday: it wasn't the Sun who made Lindsay Whalen unavailable after Game 3. She was just unavailable.)

Monday, September 19, 2005

A couple new blogs to check out:

Defending the Title, which is focused on the Seattle Storm, and says that LJ got screwed in the MVP voting.

And Maryland Women's Basketball.
The Times gets greedy and stupid: as of today, the New York Times has put much of its content behind a $50 per year door. The premium content will include not only op-ed columnists but also most of the Times' best sports writers. So we'll no longer be able to read (or link to) Araton, Anderson, Roberts, et al.

(In case you hadn't heard enough about it on TV,) Brad Friedman at WNBA.com explains Sacto's White Line defense.
Game Three lacked some of the drama of the first two, but it was no disappointment to the 14,000 at Arco.

"No question, this is the biggest ever in Monarchs history," ex-general manager Jerry Reynolds said. "But it can be topped on Tuesday."

DeMya Walker bounced back from Thursday's mistake and had a solid game, but as usual, Yo Griffith was the cornerstone of the Monarchs' win, with 19 and 11.

She's so close now she can taste it. "Tuesday's game is a must win," Yo said. "Even though we're up (2-1), I should be happy, but am I? I know I'm not satisified."

The Sun just didn't play their usual game. They didn't run, and they ended with 15 turnovers to just 7 assists. They came back late, but then failed to score in the final 200 seconds.

"I guess I'm not a very good prognosticator because I thought we would play our best game in the series today and we played our worst," coach Thibault said. "You don't win any games when you give them 20 points on turnovers and 16 points on offensive rebounds. ... You don't win."

Whalen struggled: 2 points, 2 assists, 5 turnovers. Coach T says it's not just physical. Mike DiMauro says she's hurting her team by playing. (He also bristles at the Sun's decision to make her unavailable to the media.) It's unclear whether she'll play Game 4.
Game Three plus/minus analysis from Paul:


Starters: Dydek -8, McWilliams-Franklin -9, Sales -10, Whalen -18, Douglas -19

Reserves: Derevjanik +11, Jones -4, Wyckoff 0, Carey +2


Starters: Griffith +19, Powell +12, Penicheiro +9, Newton +3, Brunson -1

Reserves: Lawson +8, Walker +4, Haynie +2, Maiga -1

The Monarchs' starting and closing lineups fared equally well, with the first five outscoring Connecticut 23-16 in 12:26 of play, and the crunch-time quintet (Walker/Lawson replacing Brunson/Newton) piling up a 24-18 advantage in 13:11. Connecticut shot 8-for-14 (57.1%) and held a 10-5 rebounding edge in the 10:21 Griffith spent on the bench, compared to 13-for-38 (34.2%) shooting and a 27-20 board deficit with her on the floor...

Connecticut's reserve guards recorded the team's lone plus figures. Derevjanik has finished on the positive side in all three games thus far, and her +19 for the series is topped only by Griffith's +22. Meanwhile, the Sun's two primary lineups (1. starters; 2. Jones replacing Dydek) were outscored by a combined 39-23 in 19:28 of action. Connecticut missed its final nine shots from the field following Jones' basket at the 4:17 mark...

Series Plus/Minus


Griffith +22, Lawson +18, Powell +18, Walker +15, Haynie +6, Newton +3, Buescher 0, Scott-Richardson -7, Maiga -10, Penicheiro -11, Brunson -14


Derevjanik +19, Dydek +5, Sales +5, Wyckoff 0, Carey -5, McWilliams-Franklin -5, Willingham -6, Douglas -15, Jones -16, Whalen -22

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Brittany Jackson defends her decision to pose in a second-tier spank mag.... digs a deeper hole in the process.

"All girls dream of modeling," Jackson said. "It's something I think all girls, in the back of their mind, would love to do."

Hard to know how to respond to that. It's tempting to resort to insults. But maybe that's too cruel. Or too easy.

If you're looking for some more retro tragi-comedy, check out this late 60s corporate/misogynist propaganda video titled "So You Want to Be a Cheerleader." Starring: Sara's aunt.
Coach Whiz said he shouldn't have played Penicheiro last game. (No kidding.)

Whalen, who swelled up on the cross-country flight, will play. "It's back to better than it was before the flight," she said. "It's going to be a little sore, a little tender, but I should be good to go [today]."

The rest of the Sun try to pump the back ups' confidence. “Jen and Jamie stepped up huge,” Katie Douglas said. “Hopefully they both have confidence (in themselves), confidence in one another."

DiMauro giggles about Katie's Game Two mic-gaffe: “Did one of y'all just fart?” But apparently the Day can't print "fart."

Yo Griffith has a shiner from one of Dydek's famous elbows. "This series is a knock-down, drag-out battle," she said. "It's a heavyweight fight, and we're not backing down."

Ailene Voison tries to fire up the fans. Yesterday, Bee columnist Marcos Breton took the mantle of anti-PC warrior and boldly proclaimed that the W gets more coverage than it deserves. And yet Arco will be near a sell-out today.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Reviews of the Finals so far from Keegan and Pelton.

The Finals Blog guys have arrived in Sactown after traveling with the Sun.
Storm assistant coach (and former Cleveland Rocker) Jenny Boucek won't return to the Storm next year.

Is she a candidate for the Phoenix job?
Dawn Staley will give the Comets one more year.

Absent the trade to Houston, she might have retired. "The situation in Houston was refreshing," she told the Charlotte Observer. "I wasn't going to come back to a situation where it was going to be hard to prepare mentally every day.

Friday, September 16, 2005

At the Finals Blog, which has incorporated links and secret permalinks, Jeff Dengate says:
The following statement will be greeted with very little, if any, disagreement: Game 2 of the WNBA Finals was one of the best basketball games you'll ever witness. Period.
I appreciate the enthusiasm (but I disagree).
The guys at Deadspin watched the game last night; this morning they bemoan "one of the worst calls we’ve ever seen in professional sports."

Yeah, it was a bad call. Luckily, it didn't matter.

In case you missed it, Taj shot an airball with 19 seconds left. The refs, apparently in disbelief that anyone could miss so badly, determined that it must have been deflected by Yo, who was contesting. So they gave the ball back to Connecticut. The replays showed their clear error.

But the Sun missed the next shot anyway, curing the error. If the call had gone the other way, the game would have played out completely differently. Maybe it would have been better for Connecticut (someone other than Lawson might have gotten the inbound, missed free throws, and Connecticut could have won in regulation). Or maybe it would have been better for Sacto (someone other than Wyckoff might have taken the Sun's final shot and missed).

There's just no way to know.
Ailene Voison says the Monarchs have only themselves to blame.

And DeMya Walker knows it. "This is all my fault," she said of Wyckoff's three and the resulting loss. "There are no excuses. I have been playing in this league for six years. I have been programmed. I know when not to foul. It was just a stupid mistake."

"There was no reason when the ball went to Taj, where she could only make a two, that somebody would leave their player wide open," said coach Whisenant. "But it happened, and that's basketball."

"I had a feeling I might be open," Wyckoff said. "All I remember is seeing Taj look at me."

Taj had a remarkable all-around game with 24 points, 16 boards, and great defense... and she made the perfect pass out of the trap. She said that Brooke looked terrified. “You didn't see that face when I passed to her."

How did Brooke feel after? "First it was a feeling of relief (that) we were back in the game, and that I actually hit the shot and wasn't the dork that missed it at the end. This is what you play the game for is moments like that."

Voepel loves that response:
That's how most role-player athletes feel, but not everyone comes right out and admits it. But Wyckoff is the kind who just says what's in her head. It's cool.
Jeff Jacobs revels in Wyckoff's undeniable glee.

Brooke's shot took the wind out of the Monarchs' sails; they were flat in OT. Now they need figure out how to move forward.
Other notes --

Whalen benched herself. "About [90 minutes before the game] I said I didn't think I could help," Whalen said. "When it comes to that situation, as a player, it's your responsibility to sit down. ... With my knee, I knew I could play. I knew I could contribute. With this, it's the situation where [Thursday night] isn't a night I could do that. You kind of realize your limitations."

Lawson doesn't worry too much about the boos from Connecticut fans. “Now if I was getting booed at home, I might be a little worried,” she laughed.

Graham Hays says that, with Whalen and Penicheiro hobbled, and with Taj and Yo already playing their best, some other players will have to step up to decide the series.
Game Two plus/minus and commentary from Paul:


Starters: Griffith 0, Newton -2, Powell -3, Brunson -16, Penicheiro -20

Reserves: Walker +8, Lawson +4, Haynie +4, Buescher 0, Maiga -4, Scott-Richardson -6


Starters: Dydek +13, Sales +11, Derevjanik +7, Douglas +6, McWilliams-Franklin +3

Reserves: Wyckoff +3, Carey 0, Jones -8

Egregious numbers from starters Penicheiro and Brunson stymied another solid effort from the Sacramento bench. Now that the Monarchs have suffered their first loss of the postseason, will Whisenant shuffle the lineup? The Walker/Griffith duo was +18 in regulation on Thursday, as Sacramento outscored Connecticut 55-37 in the 24:37 they were on the floor together before OT...

A shortened Sun rotation saw Dydek essentially left out, but she posted a +13 in just 10:25 of duty. Interesting move by Thibault in shifting many of those leftover minutes to Wyckoff rather than Jones, who is -12 in the series thus far. Connecticut has scored just 56 points in 41 minutes with Jones on the floor, compared to 86 points in the 44 minutes she's been on the bench...

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Everyone was pretty gassed by the end, leading to some sloppy late-game play. The teams combined for 3 for 15 shooting and a bunch of turnovers in overtime. It was only the third time in league history, regular season or postseaon, that a team had gone scoreless in OT.

And why DeMya Walker, up three points with four seconds remaining in regulation, left three-point specialist Brooke Wyckoff to double Taj in the lane is a mystery that could go unsolved for ages.

But despite the off-key finish, it was another excellent game between two evenly-matched teams; we have the making of a great series.

Last night's game was reffed by Tina Napier, Daryl Humphrey, and Mike Price. Tonight's crew was Lisa Mattingly, Bryan Enterline, and Sue Blauch. This game was called more tightly, especially in the first half, which put a damper on Sactown's physical defense. The Monarchs fought through the foul trouble but just couldn't put the game away.

They have the home court advantage, but they gave up the momentum.
Dear Heather Cox,

if you tell the Kristin Haynie polyp 4000-calorie story one more time, I am going to find out where you live, come to your house, and crap in your refrigerator.
Voepel compares the W to its older cousin, the LPGA.
The LPGA was dealing with the continuing "issues" of women's sports decades before the WNBA got started. Both organizations will be doing that for the foreseeable future. Those include the lesbian issue, the "should we market by using sex appeal" issue, the "how do we tap into corporate America more" issue and the "how do we get the mainstream media to cover us responsibly and professionally" issue.
In the USA Today, Christine Brennan (writing from DC, not Uncasville) bemoans the lack of print media covering the WNBA Finals.

She also interviews Billie Jean King, who credits her victory over Bobby Riggs with empowering millions of women. (Must... avoid... snarky... retort...)

Here is the print media roll call from the casino last night:

Hartford Courant: 1 (Anthony only; Jacobs is recovering from heart surgery)
Manchester J-I: 1 (Erickson, possibly Smith also)
New London Day: 2 (Griffen, DiMauro)
New Haven Register: 2 (Tucker, Solomon)
Norwich Bulletin: 1 (Brice)
Waterbury Rep-Am: 1 (Cleaveland)
Sacramento Bee: 2 (Arrington, Voison)
Boston Globe: 1 (Bickelhaupt)
KC Star/ESPN.com: 1 (Voepel)
NY Times: 1 (Lena, not yet retired)
Philly Inquirer: 1 (Greenberg)
Sports Illustrated: 1 (Rushin)
USA Today: 1 (Dixon)
Seems like a pretty good showing. Excellent local coverage for each team, plus a decent amount of national coverage.
The simplest way to compare the two finalists is to say that Connecticut has a better starting five but Sacramento is deeper. Last night's game showed the differences between the reserves, as the Monarchs bench was +3 while the Sun's bench was -19 (numbers from Paul).


Starters: Powell +9, Brunson +3, Griffith +3, Newton +2, Penicheiro 0
Reserves: Lawson +6, Walker +3, Haynie 0, Scott-Richardson -1, Maiga -5


Starters: Sales +4, McWilliams-Franklin +1, Dydek 0, Douglas -2, Whalen -4
Reserves: Derevjanik +1, Wyckoff -3, Jones -4, Willingham -6, Carey -7

To the delight of the large hometown crowd, Lindsay Whalen played... but she looked less than 100%. “(The knee) felt fine out there,” she said. “I could've played better.” She still gets props for the valiant effort.

Yo was fabulous. "She turned it on," Sun coach Thibault said. "She's got that will right now to go and try to win a championship. You can see how possessed she's playing."

"Nothing in life is guaranteed," Griffith said, "and I've been preaching that from Day 1. We're here this year, but we can finish last next year. So I keep telling my teammates, 'Be hungry.' This opportunity may come once."

And Sacto's all-around defensive effort was excellent, forcing the huge turnover differential. "Sometimes, basketball is very black and white to me," Thibault said. "Except for turnovers, we played pretty even. We gave this game away by turning over the ball."

"I think we lost our composure," Katie Douglas said.

Mike DiMauro mourns how the Sun worked so hard to get home court then gave it away in one night. Game Two is now a must-win for Connecticut.

As Coach Whisenant says, these teams are evenly matched, and we can expect more close games. "Each game, I think, will be a tossup, and tonight we just happened to come out on top."
Via pilight, former Lady Vol Brittany Jackson kicks off her modeling career with an FHM bikini photo shoot. She says the WNBA should be more feminine.

And maybe that attitude has something to do with why you're not in the WNBA, young lady.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Eric says Jay Mohr isn't a sports columnist and doesn't deserve to be taken seriously. He also picks the Sun in four, which is looking less good than it did three hours ago.
Game One was a high-quality affair featuring stellar performances by two veteran stars, Griffith and Sales. Sacto played a tight and poised game -- only 7 turnovers -- and stole homecourt.

Rebekkah Brunson should be shot for missing the layup after Ticha completed the schoolyard through-the-defender's-legs dribble. Nancy Lieberman should be shot for saying to Geno, "being a great defensive coach, there are two great defensive teams, aren't they?"

It's time to take the mic off of Coach Mike. The guys in the ESPN booth aren't quick enough to catch his profanity, and there were at least two audible "shits" on air. In the post-Janet Jackson world, that ain't all right. Plus, all he does is yell at the refs anyway, which wears thin.

More in the morning...
Another in a string of "I hate the WNBA" columns, this time from comedian/sports guy Jay Mohr at SI.com.

Mohr says that the games aren't exciting enough and that there aren't enough points scored. To me, that's a fair enough point. (I even partly agree.)

But most of his column is just a rant about lesbian fans. He mocks the "lumberjacks" who watch the players with a "different type of admiration." He describes the couple sitting next to him, two women "in matching flannel shirts and motorcycle boots." (See also photo accompanying the article.) He says he was put off by all of the women who were "large and in charge, loud and proud." He jokes that he feared all of these "brutes."

It's nothing more than thinly-veiled gay bashing.

The WNBA, like any other league, is open to criticism, even ridicule. Sports columnists are paid to express an opinion, and they are encouraged to be provocative and controversial. Yet I'm always surprised that major media outlets like SI are willing to print homophobic bullshit like this.
Via gopher5, Jeff Dengate reports that Whalen will play tonight.
Via Deadspin, Mark Cuban argues that it's stupid for sports leagues to release attendance figures because it gives competing entertainment outlets a competitive advatage.

If Cuban is correct, however, it might actually be smart to release meaningless and wildly inaccurate attendance figures in that it could throw your competitors off and lead them into strategic mistakes. Perhaps Val knew what she was doing...
There was some optimism in Connecticut yesterday as Whalen dropped her crutches and bounced around the court. "She's improved immensely," said trainer Georgia Fischer. But it's still unlikely that she'll play tonight.

The media glare, such as it is, focused on backup guard Jennifer Derevjanik. “It's different,” Derevjanik said. “I'm not used to it.”

The Monarchs gave some advice on what to do when your star point guard goes out with an injury. “We've found ways," Ticha Penicheiro said. "Somebody else steps up. That's our story. We have 11 players and we all contribute somehow to this team.” Of course, Derevjanik and Jamie Carey probably aren't quite as formidable as Kara Lawson and Krisin Haynie.

8 PM eastern ESPN2.
Jan Hubbard at FoxSports previews the Finals.
Liz Robbins on Donna O.
The NCAA announced yesterday that athletes who transfer from schools closed by the hurricane will still have to wait a year before competing.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Pelton previews the Finals. After running plus-minus numbers, he says that Whalen is worth about 8 points of offense to the Sun. He picks Sacto in 4.

At the Finals Blog, Matt Wurst says Lindsay could be ready for Game 2. (Dear Matt: please add permalinks. That's required for a blog.)

Doris Burke says it will go five games; she leans toward the Monarchs.

Lieberman and Voepel both say that Whalen's loss is huge, and that the Sun will fall short again.
Harvey Araton on Sue Gunter and her HOF induction:
A true women's sports pioneer, Gunter struggled for her success in a way the other 2005 coaching inductees - Syracuse's Jim Boeheim, Connecticut's Jim Calhoun and the N.B.A.'s Hubie Brown - didn't understand. It was Chatman's privilege to make them understand, once she composed herself in the way Gunter had taught her.
Read on to hear about Pokey's harrowing last couple weeks.
The Mystics decided yesterday to stick with coach Adubato.
The Fever look forward to next year, and try to figure out who will play center when Natalie Williams is gone.
Sun trainer Georgia Fischer on Whalen:
We'll definitely re-evaluate her with the mind-set of can she play Wednesday or Thursday, but it's my job to tell the coaches what it looks like. The better scenario would be (for her to be available) next weekend. It gives us a little bit more time.
It's not the end of the world. We still have a great team. I'm still going to do anything I can to help the team get our goal. I feel good about what both me personally and the team has accomplished this year. Obviously we have one more goal. But I feel good about that, and our chances coming up.

Monday, September 12, 2005

To cheer up fans of Connecticut/Whalen or to focus on something while there are no basketball games and the Solheim Cup has been won and the U.S. (tennis) Open has been completed, etc...

...England has retaken the Ashes for the first time in ages. For you fans of Cricket (or of Douglas Adams), you'll know that winning the Ashes is a truly momentous event in the world of sport.

The decisive moments took place in the afternoon when Kevin Peiterson lead England out of it's pre-lunch doldrums:

At one stage, England were wobbling at 127 for five and the Australians were circling, expecting the kill. Instead Pietersen took the fight to them - thrashing 38 runs off five overs after lunch in a display of belligerent, counter-attacking batting that will live long in the memory. He rode his luck - he was dropped three times - but fully deserved his maiden Test century, which included 15 fours and an Ashes-record seven sixes. Rightly, he was named man of the match.

So congratulations to the English side. It's been quite a while gents! Bravo! Well done.
More on Lindsay's injury from the Sun's trainer (via gopher5): "there's a glimmer of hope that if it settles down she might be able to play because this tiny crack is so forward" (that is, towards the front of the knee).

In other words, it's Groundhog Day.
Lindsay Whalen is hurt and will likely miss at least the first two games of the Finals.

We are already receiving complaints that Jessie & Steve jinxed her with this post. I will not tolerate lynch-mob justice.

In seriousness, this news sucks not only for the Sun but for the league. Lindsay is thrilling to watch. Not having her on the court will make the games less fun for many casual and serious fans alike.
In other sports...

Agassi had a great performance but just couldn't match Federer, who won his 23rd straight tournament finals appearance (ponder that for a minute).

Agassi: "He's the best I've ever played against. There's nowhere to go."

On Saturday night, Kim Clijsters, who is widely considered to be the nicest woman on tour (snark: that's not saying much), finally broke through and got her first Slam.

Danica Patrick had the pole yesterday in Joliet but lost the lead early and never got it back. She's still looking for her first win.

The Solheim Cup was tied going into singles play, but the U.S. women took an early lead yesterday and took back the cup. The young players were the story: Creamer, Gulbis, and Christina Kim (the most exciting female athlete you've probably never heard of) went 8-2-3.
Media watch:

The print media, especially in Connecticut and Sacramento, did a nice job with the Conference Finals. All four cities sent reporters traveling. Stickney went to Sacto, Woods went to Uncasville, and both Arrington and Voison went to Houston. Connecticut had four reporters in Indy: Anthony (Courant), Brice (Bulletin), Erickson (J-I), and Griffen (Day).

All of the papers had both preview stories on game day and game reports on the day after. Which, in the every-other-day playoff format, means bylined content every day. Everything in the Sacramento Bee appeared on the sports section's front page.

Note that some of these markets that do the best are also markets that don't have an NFL or MLB team.

SportsCenter also did a decent job, especially before being swamped with weekend football action. Powell's three was #2 on top plays for Thursday.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Sheryl Swoopes and other Comets visit people displaced by the hurricane, and sign... footballs.
Sacramento rolled over Houston. The Monarchs dominated the first-half boards, led by double digits at halftime, then played well enough to hold on.

Kara Lawson led the way with an awesome first half: playing the point for the injured Penichiero, Lawson had one of her best-ever shooting nights (Van put Swoopes on her in the second half). Haynie, Lawson's sub at point, hustled and shot well.

Yo Griffith (19 points) had fun with the glass; she, Brunson and DeMya Walker made life miserable for Houston's Michelle Snow (4 points), who didn't look mentally ready for Arco Arena. Snow and DeMya got into a bizarre wrestling match over a late rebound.

Swoopes had 24 points, but took 23 shots: she looked great towards the end, but didn't get enough help.

The Monarchs have been to the conference finals four times but never won the series till last night. Ticha Penichiero: "I don't know how many of these [conference champion] T-shirts we've had to destroy over the years. It feels good to finally put one on."

Penichiero suited up but never took the floor. She says she "probably" would have played in a game three, but she's glad she won't have to: "I can get four more days to rest. No way am I going to miss the Finals. I didn't come this far just to get a T-shirt and a cap. We want some rings."

In some ways Sac's season looks more impressive than Connecticut's: the Sun had the best record (in the better conference), but the Monarchs came close and reached the finals despite losing three starters, two for big chunks of the year. (Instructive comparison: how would Connecticut look if they had to play all June without Katie Douglas, all August without Sales, and Indiana without Whalen?)
Connecticut overcame Indiana in a tense game that stayed close from tipoff to overtime.

The Sun led for most of it thanks to Asjha Jones' string of first-half buckets, Lindsay Whalen's second-half zigzag drives, and (of all things) twelve-to-fifteen-footers from Margo Dydek, who played at least as well as she has all year. The Day's DiMauro apologizes for his stint as a Dydek doubter.

But Indy's sticky defense wore the Sun down: Tamika Catchings and Tully Bevilaqua hassled the Sun's backcourt into turnovers, and Catchings' late three tied everything at 60.

Connecticut then dominated overtime: a smooth Nykesha Sales trey put them up by five. Kelly Miller, 4-4 from downtown alone on Thursday, shot just 2-12 this time out despite open looks; Catch fouled out.

Nat Williams made her last-ever WNBA game a great one: 17 points, 11 boards, and a display of raw strength that put her in consistent position to score.

It was the closest sweep imaginable: both games came one play (or one whistle) away from a Fever victory. Catchings sounds irked: "Everybody always doubted us. We've never gotten the respect the Indiana Fever deserve for all the hard work we've put into it."

Coach Thibault: "We probably screwed up more plays at the end of regulation than we did all year... It wasn't aesthetically pleasing but it was fun to watch how hard we played."

Sales on the Eastern Conference title: "We were a lot more excited last year. We're excited but we realize that it defeats the purpose if we go to the championship again and lose. I think you'll see a wild side if we win the championship."

The Sun will face Sacto next week: the Monarchs press and play defense at least as well as Indiana does-- and they have more players who can score. Home advantage should help. The Sun won both reg-season matches with Sacto, though the Courant says the Monarchs won both. (Oops.)
On Friday the Basketball Hall of Fame inducted the late Sue Gunter. Pokey Chapman, her assistant and now replacement at LSU, attended the ceremony on Gunter's behalf.

Also inducted: the legendary Hortencia, who led Brazil to the world championship in 1994. (Nice find, j. stupka.)

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Voepel likens the WNBA to an acorn in Katie Douglas' backyard.
Ticha Penicheiro's ankle has improved, and she will suit up today. "Believe me, if I can run, I will go," she said.

The Narchs are excited to be home. Says coach Whisenant: "We'll have 10,000 people screaming at them. That's got to have some effect."

Houston is trying to stay positive. Sort of. "And they're really, really good," coach Chancellor said. "They're a really good, physical basketball team. And because of Sacramento's physical style of play, I thought from day one (of the playoffs) they would be a tough matchup for us. And it's been proven that I'm a pretty good prophet about that."

Friday, September 09, 2005

Everyone loves Magical Trevor.
This is a huge weekend of sports.

The tennis world is still buzzing about the Agassi-Blake epic from Wednesday night/Thursday morning. If you didn't stay up to see it, pray for a rain delay this weekend so they'll show it again. The tournament's conclusion may be less exciting anyway, because the man increasinly called "best ever" is still out there beating everyone else down.

Unless you're into ogling Russian teenagers, the women's side has been a little less exciting. Venus fell to Clijsters after taking out Serena in a snoozer, and Davenport folded under a mound of unforced errors.

The NLF got underway last night, and the Patriots still look like football's version of Roger Federer. We might want to nominate a sacrificial lamb from the NFC and fast-forward to the Superbowl.

The Solheim Cup started this morning in Indy. The U.S. team, including pregnant Laura Diaz, got ready by spinning 50 Cent in a motor home.

Even if you don't normally watch golf, you might check this out (all weekend on the Golf Channel), because it's actually a great team sport. And after getting our pants beaten right off last time, we've taken an early lead today.

UPDATE: the early Solheim lead has disintegrated.