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Archive for September, 2013

ever since Thursday, I’ve had Tom Jones/Art of Noise running through my head

Anyhoo, games today. We’ll see if the Merc can recover from getting M(oore)A(ugustus)W(halen)led again and if Indy can head off Hayes and clip Angel.

Meanwhile: WNBA Captures Fans, Ends Regular Season With Record Growth and Viva, Las Vegas!

BTW – I got 139 folks to join me for the Maggie Dixon Classic. Who’s coming with me to Istanbul?

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Could we please have two great games? (Next, I’m going to ask for four extra hours in the day so I can catch up with my work work so I can have more time for my basketball work….)

From Mechelle: Spot in WNBA Finals up for grabs – Lynx still considered favorite, but talent-laden conference finals await

The WNBA’s MVP award winner, Candace Parker, and rookie of the year, Elena Delle Donne, already have been eliminated from the WNBA playoffs. Which leaves us left in this postseason with …

Gee, at least four players who all could have been the 2013 MVP. And the rookie who was picked No. 1 in April’s draft. In other words, the WNBA conference finals, which begin Thursday night, are not lacking for star power. They are saturated with it.

“I love the fact that it’s not always a shoo-in for the team that’s got the MVP to win the championship,” Minnesota’s Maya Moore said. “I think that just speaks to the level of the WNBA and the talent that we have. The great quality of teams, the fight of the teams, and the big plays that people make to try to propel their team to a championship.”

This, in fact, will be the third year in a row the league’s regular-season MVP won’t even be in the WNBA Finals.

From Lee: Coaches, players size up the Eastern Conference Final

Lin Dunn, head coach of the reigning WNBA champion Indiana Fever, Fever forward and 2011 WNBA MVP Tamika Catchings, and the Atlanta Dream’s Angel McCoughtry, the league’s leading scorer this season, took time out from practice Wednesday for a media teleconference to share their thoughts on their upcoming Eastern Conference Finals series, which tips off today in Atlanta’s Phillips Arena at 7 p.m. EDT, airing on ESPN2. ESPN analysts Carolyn Peck and LaChina Robinson also weighed in. Here are some highlights from what they had to say. Click here for Full Court’s detailed preview of the Fever-Dream Eastern Conference Final.

Mechelle also previews Atlanta v. Indiana: Defense on stars is key in East

From Nate: Atlanta Dream, Indiana Fever meet in Eastern Conference Finals again

James notes: The Atlanta Dream still nursing injuries as they head into the Eastern Conference Finals

In a similar theme, Bob ponders: East finals: Which decimated roster will survive one more round?

Mark Ambrogi says Indiana Fever relish underdog role as Eastern Conference finals begin in Atlanta

Michelle writes: Mercury try to turn tables on Lynx

Nate asks: How can the Phoenix Mercury stop the Minnesota Lynx?

From Odeen: Phoenix Mercury look to break Minnesota Lynx’s recent mastery

WCCO: Lynx Welcome The Newly Renovated Phoenix Mercury Squad

Clay asks:Will the Minnesota machine stay in high gear?

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from Mel (thanks, Mel).

One colleague from her law duties related later Monday at a reception in nearby West Orange at the Wilshire Grand Hotel that the Essex County courthouse was closed for the day “because no one was coming to work today anyway whether or not it was open.

“Everyone admired her whether or not they worked direectly in her office.”

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’cause that’s what game threes should be!

Atlanta v. Mystics @ 8pm. Sparks v. Mercury @ 10pm.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution couldn’t be bothered. (Probably recovering from the Falcons’ meltdown.)

From Roman at the WaPo: Washington Mystics must rebound in Game 3 of WNBA Eastern Conference semifnals (sic)

Small pockets of boos could be heard circulating through Verizon Center during the third quarter of the Washington Mystics’ 63-45 loss to the Atlanta Dream on Saturday night. The jeers began when the Dream, leading by 16, pulled down four offensive rebounds on one possession, the last leading to an Erika de Souza layup that gave Atlanta its largest lead.

That possession was a microcosm of the Mystics’ problems during Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. The Dream had more second-chance opportunities (18 offensive boards) than Washington and made 11 more field goals to send the series back to Atlanta for a decisive Game 3 on Monday night. The quick turnaround affords the Mystics little time for self-reflection — and even less time to rediscover the offensive identity they need to keep the season alive.

Melissa writes: Sparks, Phoenix brace for deciding game of series

Parker said that after Thursday’s 86-75 Game 1 loss at home, the Sparks made some major adjustments. They didn’t have much to do with basketball though.

“We just changed our mind-set more than we changed our play,” Parker said.

From Odeen: Phoenix Mercury focus on execution for decisive Game 3 against Los Angeles Sparks

“I thought the ball wound up in one person’s hands too long,” Mercury coach Russ Pennell said after Saturday’s loss. “The shot clock is so short. If you hang on to it too long, you are going to wind up taking a marginal shot. And I think (Saturday night), we took a lot of marginal shots, and we need to get that corrected before (Monday night), for sure.

“We did some things that were not really characteristic, I think, of this team. Bottom line is, we just didn’t get it done, and we have to try to correct it before we play again.”

Who ya got?

In those other games: Yup: Catchings, Fever overwhelm Sky Indiana advances to Eastern Conference finals to play either Atlanta or Washington

Sometimes, Indiana rookie guard Layshia Clarendon suddenly will remember that her down-to-earth, low-key, friendly teammate is actually a very big deal.

 “I see the way people cheer for her, the way the other team reacts when they announce her name,” Clarendon said. “And I think, ‘Oh, my gosh, that’s right. This is the Tamika Catchings, three-time gold medalist, awesome community leader.’ They are those ‘oh wow’ moments. But she makes you feel like she’s just another person.”

Of course, Catchings isn’t just another player. She is a future Hall of Famer, someone who is at least in the MVP discussion every WNBA season. And in the Fever’s Eastern Conference first-round series victory over Chicago, Catchings displayed her usual relentlessness. She was the best player on the court.

Nice to have the MIP on your team, too: Zellous’ play helps fill Douglas void – Guard’s offensive improvement paying dividends for Indiana Fever

From Mark Ambrogl: Why the Indiana Fever are on the verge of another title run (or maybe not)

From Philip Hersh

“We know how to play basketball,” said Sky guard Courtney Vandersloot, who spent several minutes after the game with her head buried under a towel. “We have enough experience and talent and skill in this room to win games in the playoffs.”

It went missing in both playoff games.

“In the end, it always comes down to toughness — rebounds, loose balls, deflections,” Chatman said. “It starts in the fight areas. You’ve just got to have some dog in you. You’ve just got to get it done.”

Nate explains How the Minnesota Lynx swept the Seattle Storm (Though it t’weren’t as easy as they might have thought it would be)

Clay offers Analysis: A tale of two series

From Jayda: Storm ousted from playoffs – Tina Thompson ends her career trying hard to extend Seattle’s season

Tina Turner’s “Simply the Best” blared from the speakers as the announced crowd of 3,457 chanted “Thank You Tina” until she exited the court. Thompson, a 6-foot-2 power forward, finished with 13 points and nine rebounds. She announced in May she would retire from the WNBA after this season.

“I can walk away and feel OK with how we finished because we gave as much as we possibly could,” Thompson said Sunday. “I’ve always wanted to retire from the game and not the game retire from me. So, when I leave on my own terms, it’s a lot easier to settle with.”

From Jim Caple: Tina Thompson retires on her terms

After Minnesota beat the Seattle Storm 58-55 Sunday afternoon, the Lynx asked the league’s all-time scoring leader if she would honor them by posing for a team photo with them. This is not the way teams generally celebrate sweeping a first-round playoff series. But then, teams don’t usually end opponent’s careers that are as old as the very league in which they play.

“It was a bigger-than-basketball moment,” Lynx forward Maya Moore said. “We have so much respect for her, and we just battled it out with her. And we just wanted to get a picture. ‘Hey Tina, can we get a picture?’ It was really kind of childlike and beautiful. And she was great. She said, ‘Go ahead and win the whole thing guys.”’

Yes, I sense the irony: Minnesota Public Radio has a link to some great game shots.

Jayda redux: End of Tina Thompson’s career is end of an era for WNBA

“The WNBA is the best-kept secret in the world in a sense that in every single season that I’ve been a part of, this product has been amazing and the level of competition has been very high,” she said to Storm teammates, Tulsa Shock players and a crowd of 8,978. “You guys are the future of the WNBA. Continue to work and play as hard as you do.”

It’s one of those scary moments to which parents can relate. At some point, you have to let go of your baby in order for it to flourish. Now Thompson, 38, embarks on the final days of her career beginning with a first-round playoff game Friday at Minnesota.

Thank you Tina. May joy follow you the rest of your days.

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Dear Winter Olympians,

Please be cowards and ignore the following Olympic Principals when it’s inconvenient to us:

Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.

Love,

The IOC.

Wonder what this means  for the snowboarders and winner of the Official Sunglasses of US Sochi Olympics competition?

 

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Now we know, and knowing

really hurts my heart.

Bonita Spence, a Referee Who Drew Cheers, Dies at 51

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Cash, Catchings win WNBA sportsmanship award

It’s the Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award.

Kim Perrot, 32, Leader of W.N.B.A. Champions

”Who would have thought Kim Perrot would be a two-time W.N.B.A. champion?” she said when she accepted her second championship ring during a Comets home game on June 22. ”When no one else believed in me, my teammates and the fans stuck with me.”

Perrot, who was 5 feet 5 inches and 130 pounds, was indeed an unlikely professional champion despite a record-setting college career. She held 26 school records at the University of Southwestern Louisiana, where she remains the career scoring leader with 2,157 points. As a senior, she led the nation in scoring, averaging 30.1 points a game.

Kim Perrot

Remembering Kim Perrot – 14 years later

“She was a fighter. I watched Kim for many years overseas. She was the smallest person on the court, but again, had the biggest heart,” recalled Lynette Woodward during a 2011 edition of WNBA Legends Roundtable, along with Sheryl Swoopes and Tina Thompson. “This is what the league did for us. It let the world know who she was. Just think, if we didn’t have the league, nobody would know Kim Perrot the way that we do.”

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So much for “home court advantage,” huh.

Angel started slowly, Erika never got started, and there was a whole lotta Latta. Suddenly, BOOM!, the Mystics are a win away from playing for the Eastern Conference Championship. Yup, Washington Mystics’ Mike Thibault finds coaching home in WNBA

The league, this team — he’s never envisioned it as a last-ditch stop on the circuit.

“I want to be here,” said Thibault, who became the WNBA’s leader in career coaching wins this past July. “I get up every day and I enjoy coaching here.”

Candace Parker enjoyed the MVP trophy for the first half, but when Nneka went to the bench with foul trouble, it was Taurasi-time. Understandably, Melissa sounds a little peeved – Sparks don’t win any awards in Game 1 loss to Mercury

At least Thursday began as a good day for Sparks forward Candace Parker.

The WNBA announced that she won the most-valuable-player award in the early evening. It was downhill from there, as the Sparks lost, 86-75, to the Phoenix Mercury in Game 1 of the first round of the playoffs at Staples Center later that night.

So much for a celebration.

“We let it slip away,” Parker said after scoring a team-high 28 points and grabbing eight rebounds.

Sue and a fellow WNBA addict, have some long Contemplations on the Sparks’ first-round loss to Phoenix

If Griner can figure out how to play without fouling, things could get interesting as the game moves to the Land of the Bun. ’cause hell already froze over: Look who’s liking the W!

We saw the best women’s player of all time, Diana Taurasi, who is absolutely brilliant and killed the Sparks in the second half as I repeatedly told my daughter (who loves basketball) to watch her command of the court, watch how hard she tried on every play and watch all the subtle things she was doing.

Continuing the day’s theme, Rookie of the Year Delle Donne did all she could, but Defensive Player of the Year Fowles, (Brin January? Really, ESPN Highlight guy?) along with the rest of her team, forgot to bring it. Indiana schooled playoff rooks and now look who’s eyeing the next round? (Nate’s not surprised)

Fowles was asked how it felt to be in the playoffs after five seasons of futility.

Her answer was a prolonged shriek of joy.

“Those five years we struggled are a blur now,” Fowles said.

A Sky season that included first place in the Eastern Conference could look the same way in the future if the team cannot beat fourth-place Indiana, the worst shooting team in the WNBA at 39 percent.

And the Sky are in grave danger of having that happen losing the opener of the best-of-three series 85-72 at Allstate Arena. against a Fever team for which 82 points had been the regular-season high.

I will be really sad for the Sky fans and franchise if Chicago can’t bring a third game home.

It was close through the first quarter, then there were back-to-back steals capped by free throws, and the Lynx were off and running. And then Seattle said, “Not so fast.” And then the Lynx said, “Yes, that fast” and, as Tim’s headline reads, the Minnesota Lynx avert the WNBA’s upset-special trend

“It was a trend that we were focused on bucking,” Reeve said. “I told the team, ‘Big dummies, the home teams.’ It was great fuel for us. It won’t be easy. If you think it is going to be easy, we are going to get beat.

“We had three examples of games that if you don’t come to play (you will get beat). Seattle, quite frankly, played harder than us (at times in the early going). Seattle played with a tremendous sense of urgency.”

And yes, Tom, perhaps the Dominant Lynx make it hard not to look ahead, but you know what they say about eggs and counting…

Adi Nelson at USA Today give the Warrior Princes her due: WNBA’s first ever pick Tina Thompson finishes with style

“I’m not retiring because I can’t play basketball; I’m retiring because I don’t want to play basketball,” Thompson said. “I’m just tired. My approach (was to play) until I stop having the same feelings and passions.”

Ah, memories – Rebkell puts together a great Tina tribute.

Speaking of memories:

In case you hadn’t noticed, the WNBA CBA set to expire on Sept. 30 before playoffs end. Wheeeee!

And lucky us, Mechelle had some extra time: Thinking of Billie Jean and the (ongoing) battle

A headline on The Kansas City Times front page the morning after King’s victory trumpeted: “Male chauvinism stamped out in three sets.”

However, inside the paper, a story on a Carnegie Commission of Higher Education report said more women graduated from high school than men, received better grades in college and applied themselves as diligently to their work – yet did not achieve anything near parity with men in rank and salary. The commission concluded that women were “the largest unused supply of superior intelligence in the United States.”

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And more bball…

Tonight we get the newbie Sky v. the vets, Indiana. Then we get Minny v. Seattle.

Mechelle asks: Can Sky top Fever’s experience?

The Sky’s veterans, led by center Sylvia Fowles and forward Swin Cash, welcomed rookie wing player Elena Delle Donne, who was the missing piece for the team. She came in willing to work hard and listen; the vets were not jealous about all the media attention she got. They knew how much she was needed. She knew how much she needed their advice and support. So the chemistry has been great.

But you have to applaud the Fever for their chemistry, too, because they were challenged in a very different way: injuries, injuries, injuries. Indiana had to almost literally limp through some stretches of this season, but it still stayed cohesive in the worst of times and earned a playoff spot yet again. And … the Fever won the season series with the Sky 3-1. Chicago’s victory came June 22. The three Fever wins were in August and September.

At SlamOnline, Sherron Shabazz also has a question: Raised Stakes – Will Indiana’s success against Chicago continue in the playoffs?

Indiana’s physical style seems to bother Chicago. Outside of Sylvia Fowles and Swin Cash, Chicago’s core players play a finesse game, which plays into the hands of the scrappy Fever.

“Indiana’s always aggressive,” Sky center Sylvia Fowles told SLAM. “They come out and pretty much just bully you. With that said, I think every game we’ve played against them we have gotten better. We just have to be on our best game.”

What is it about the questions? From Clay: CHI vs. IND playoff preview: Will the Sky fall on Indiana?

First, an explanation of an obscure WNBA rule that may have a major impact on the Indiana-Chicago series.

When a team suffers a series of injuries – as Indiana did this year – it is allowed to sign a player to replace a particular injured player until the injured roster member is returned to the roster. When Katie Douglas, Indiana’s veteran wing, went down with a sore back after just two games, the Fever signed Jessica Breland, a 6-3 forward who improved steadily as the season went along. In her four September games, for example, Breland played 61 minutes, scored 30 points, grabbed 18 rebounds and made 14-of-25 shots.

In other words, Breland was an excellent third member of the Tamika Catchings/Erlana Larkins post rotation, not to mention the tallest by two inches.

Red Eye’s Salgado is writing about the Starry Sky

The long wait is over for the Sky and their fans.

In the WNBA franchise’s eight-year history, the team has never had a winning season, much less made the playoffs. Until now.

OK, so it’s not a Cubs-in-the-World-Series-type drought, but the Sky are going where they haven’t gone before. They earned the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, which comes with high expectations.

Mark Ambrogi at the Indy Star: Center Erlana Larkins leads Indiana Fever into WNBA playoff series at Chicago

At 6-1, the Indiana Fever’s Erlana Larkins is one of the smallest centers in the WNBA. However, Fever coach Lin Dunn said that’s easy to forget when watching Larkins play.

“Erlana is a strong physical post player,” Dunn said. “She is undersized, but she plays so hard and physical that you would swear by the end of the game she’s grown 2 inches. We don’t worry about whether she is 6-2 or 6-5 because she is going to play bigger.”

Michelle says the Lynx offense will challenge Storm

Maya Moore — in just her third year — is having an MVP-caliber year (18.4 PPG), Lindsay Whalen is putting up her best numbers ever, and the sweet-shooting Seimone Augustus rounds out a superstar trio that rarely seems to have an off night. This team was 14-2 at home this year, making it an even bigger uphill climb for Seattle.

The Storm, meanwhile, make their 10th straight playoff appearance — a league record — to cap a season that turned out to be something of a pleasant surprise. Most people outside of the Seattle locker room thought it would be a long season when both Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird announced they would be sitting out the summer.

But Brian Agler rallied his troops, relied on veterans such as Tina Thompson, Camille Little and Tanisha Wright, and the Storm ended up in the playoffs again.

And yes, Mechelle, the Lynx head to playoffs as favorite

Minnesota is the team to beat in the WNBA playoffs again? Gee, this is getting repetitive. But to the chagrin of the Lynx, they are not actually going for a repeat. Which would, in fact, be a three-peat.

That is, if the Lynx had fulfilled their favorite status in 2012 and won the league championship, as they did in 2011. Instead, last year the Lynx lost 3-1 in the WNBA Finals to Indiana.

Tim Leighton at the Pioneer Press says Maya Moore deserves star billing now

Moore has been especially hot the past couple of months, winning Western Conference player of the month honors for August and September. She averaged a career-best 18.5 points, third in the league. She shot nearly 51 percent from the field, and she led the league in three-point accuracy (.453) and three-pointers made (72), the first player in league history to lead those two categories in a season.

“I feel pretty good about what I’m doing to grow as a player,” Moore said. “It’s a process. To have unrealistic goals and expectations when I started this WNBA journey might have been a big mistake. With the start of anything new, you want to have smaller goals. From college to the WNBA is a whirlwind. You just hang on tight and learn as you go.”

The AP agrees: Maya Moore fulfills star potential in 3rd season in Minnesota

The Lynx say Playoffs? McCarville Is More Than Ready

ESPN says Whalen leads Lynx into playoffs but the link doesn’t seem to work.

Mackenzie Lobby at espnW has LOVE ON THE ROCKS FOR SEIMONE AUGUSTUS

Seimone Augustus’ love affair began far from the fancy hardwood courts she dominates today. Rather, it was on a small gravel patch her father constructed in their front yard that she fell for the game of basketball.

“I learned to dribble on gravel rocks,” said the Minnesota Lynx All-Star. “The ball never went where you wanted it to go, so I guess it was another way to learn ballhandling.”

The Daily News Journal writes about a favorite daughter: Her new role: Clark adjusts to coming off Seattle bench

“It’s been a process,” Clark said of adjusting to her role of coming off the Storm’s bench.

“It’s been an adjustment but it’s one that I’m proud of because not too many people that have been the go-to person can make that adjustment and make it in a positive light.”

Clay thinks Gritty Seattle will make it hard for the favored Lynx

You can’t blame Minnesota fans for looking ahead to the conference finals, and it would be a stunner if the Lynx lost this series, but the Seattle Storm and Brian Agler will not go down easily, despite a huge talent disparity.

Seattle has been healthy all season, so the players know their roles and are in command of the very physical system, so even if the Storm lose in two, the Minnesota wins won’t come easily.

Sarah Spain offers up: TWSS: YOUR WNBA PLAYOFF PRIMER

Nate wonders, Who’s playing well heading into the playoffs?

BTW, yes, the Dream are more than just McCoughtry – but they weren’t last night.

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*lifts head up from the start of the new school year*

Tonight on the Deuce, we get Washington v. Atlanta (congrats, Coach T!), followed by Phoenix v. L.A.

Discuss:

Mechelle: Mystics ride momentum into playoffs – Washington seeks first playoff win since 2002

It was three years ago — although it might seem like a lifetime to Mystics fans — that Washington and Atlanta met in the first round of the WNBA playoffs.

The Mystics had finished first in the Eastern Conference for the first time in 2010, while the Dream were fourth. But Atlanta swept Washington 2-0, Mystics coach Julie Plank and general manager Angela Taylor both departed (with some acrimony) after the season, and Washington won a combined 11 games over the next two seasons under coach/GM Trudi Lacey.

OK, just try to put that all out of your minds, Mystics fans. This season was a fresh start under veteran coach Mike Thibault.

The WaPo brings back Gene: Washington Mystics hope to continue recent strong play in WNBA playoffs

After directing a cultural shift within the organization during the regular season, first-yearWashington Mystics Coach Mike Thibault’s rebuilding project moves into Phase 2 on Thursday night when his club faces the Atlanta Dream in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

The Mystics (17-17) are the No. 3 seed following a season in which they more than tripled their win total from last year. They are making their first playoff appearance since 2010.

From WNBAlien: 2013 WNBA Playoff Previews: Eastern Conference First Round – Atlanta Dream vs. Washington Mystics

These teams finished tied with .500 records in the Eastern Conference, but arrived there by very different routes. Washington were a ‘win two here, lose three there’ kind of team all season long. They’d fight out a few results, then lose their way for a while, then remember what they needed to do to win games again. Just to make it this far has to be considered a success for Mike Thibault and his squad, considering the disastrous couple of years under Trudi Lacey that preceded this season. Meanwhile, Atlanta started the year 10-1, and then dropped into something resembling freefall. For those of you who can do basic math, you’ll be able to calculate that they went 7-16 over the remainder of the season. Injuries hit them hard, and it was a struggle to overcome them enough to regain real form in the second half of the year – plus not everyone is back. Both these teams are somehow predictably unpredictable, which makes foretelling how their series is going to play out rather tricky.

From Bob Corwin at Full Court: ATL vs. WAS playoff preview: Can the Dream put the pieces back together in postseason?

On paper, this series should be easy to call. Look at the Dream roster: It has more world class players and thus should be expected to win. However, the games are not played on paper and the subplots in this series could make it much more competitive and interesting than a casual fan might anticipate.

In spite of what pundits predict, the WNBA narrative often does not behave according to the script laid out for it.

Michelle: Stars, offenses take center stage – Best-of-three series opens in Los Angeles on Thursday

With a pair of high-scoring, star-studded teams, this might be the best first-round matchup of the WNBA postseason. The two teams, which haven’t met in the playoffs since 2009, split the season series after Los Angeles closed the regular season with a 34-point win over the depleted Mercury on Sunday.

And more Michelle: Sparks look to step it up in playoffs

 There’s an edge to the playoff conversation in the Sparks locker room.

Hunger, no doubt about it. But the Sparks don’t necessarily feel like they’ve played their best basketball yet.

And they’re impatient to get to that level.

“There are a lot of areas where we still need to improve,” coach Carol Ross said.

From Clay at Full Court: LA vs. PHX playoff preview: Can the Mercury pull it together for the postseason?

It comes down to this: Did Phoenix have time to put the pieces of the puzzle together despite the injuries and the coaching change?

If so, the Mercury have lots of weapons, and enough firepower to give anyone trouble. The timetable, though, was a little rushed, and if the team hasn’t completely gelled, it could be a rough postseason ride — as was indicated in the 89-55 pounding the Mercury took by the Sparks to close the season on Sunday.

No surprise, the ‘Kellians have some issues with that last observation, so they discuss it with Clay.

From Melissa at the LA Times (finally!) Sparks’ Candace Parker aims to go the distance in postseason this time

During a recent Sparks practice, Candace Parker paused the scrimmage three times to give her teammates instructions on defense.

She wasn’t going to allow the Sparks to make any mistakes before they begin their best-of-three first-round playoff series against Phoenix on Thursday at Staples Center (7 p.m.; TV: ESPN2).

“It certainly helps when the face of your franchise is locked in, because it makes it a lot easier for everyone to get in there as well,” Sparks Coach Carol Ross said.

The Sparks haven’t won a WNBA championship since winning titles in 2001 and 2002. The drought seems endless to Parker, who was selected by the Sparks as the top overall pick in the 2008 draft.

From Odeen at Arizona Central: Whether shooting or passing, Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi makes her point(s) (take that, .com dude)

No other player in the league affects her team’s scoring output more than the Mercury’s Diana Taurasi. Whether she puts the ball in the basket or helps a teammate do it, Taurasi influences the scoreboard as much as the person who pushes the button to change it.

This season, Taurasi scored 20.3 points and recorded 6.2 assists per game. Both averages were second-highest in the league. The assists average is a career high.

For Taurasi, accumulating a high assist average is simple.

“When you have DB (DeWanna Bonner), Penny (Taylor), (Candice) Dupree, BG (Brittney Griner),” Taurasi said, “if you don’t average six (assists per game), you suck.”

Odeen also offers up: Phoenix Mercury hitting stride as playoffs begin

“As a unit, I definitely think so,” forward Penny Taylor said. “We’ve made adjustments and, obviously, we have everyone healthy. We have had everyone out there for a couple of games. In implementing a lot of things that we’re doing, especially in the defensive end, I feel like everyone is getting it together.”

Ummm…. Yummy? Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner taste test: Bacon

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They made the NY Times pay attention: Griner and Other Rookies Rejuvenate W.N.B.A.

With the W.N.B.A. playoffs beginning Thursday, the league’s shift in branding and promotion, with a focus on Griner and other top rookies, has been a success. Ticket sales during the regular season improved by 8.9 percent. Games on ESPN2 averaged 231,000 viewers, a 28 percent jump from a year ago. Traffic on the league’s Web site has increased, too.

“We couldn’t have been more thrilled with how this season is going,” Laurel Richie, the W.N.B.A. president, said in a telephone interview. “We’ve focused a lot of our efforts on storytelling, both about the game and our players.”

Nice shot, Michelle! 

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Things you didn’t know about Bonita Spence, 51, longtime women’s basketball referee

Ms. Spence played at Monmouth and was the point guard on the school’s first Division I team in 1982. She set the school’s assist record that season, a mark that was matched a year later and still stands. Ms. Spence was a graduate assistant for the school a year later.

Ms. Spence also worked as a principal investigator in the New Jersey office of the public defender in Newark for more than 20 years.

More things you didn’t know, from Mel

After universal condemnation of the crew it was learned a few days later that Spence told the other two officials who were deciding anything but the error to look at the monitor and she was waved off the by the other two — who, by the way, continued to work deep into the NCAA tournament that season a month later.

Several days after that game the Guru was covering a non-descript contest in a lower mid-major conference and Bonita showed up as part of the crew and came over prior to the tip to give a friendly greeting.

The Guru, knowing she was at the big-time level of referees in terms of games and conferences worked, jokingly asked if her being in the arena was punishment.
Bonita just gave a certain body gesture amounting to don’t look at me, which appeared to give creedence to that report.

To this day when that game comes up in certain circles, no one has ever countered to say the report was false.

So that is what the Guru had in mind when he noted in Monday’s tweet that Bonita had integrity.

From Katie Meir’s staff at Miami: Staff found this fun clip of Bonita Spence enjoying life! A great loss for WBB

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via Mel:

@womhoopsguru Sad to hear of passing of referee Bonita Spence. Always had great conversations and thinking of her the word integrity comes quickly.

from Geno: @genoauriemma 30m
Lost a good official today. Lost an even better person. Prayers for Bonita Spence and her family.

From College Spun: Women’s Basketball World Mourns Death Of Longtime Referee Bonita Spence

The women’s basketball world took a big hit on Monday with the death of longtime referee Bonita Spence. Spence worked in both the college and WNBA ranks and was one of the better officials in the game. She was also one of the most notable personalities among referees.

Spence used to officiate numerous UConn games at both Gampel Pavilion and the XL Center in Hartford. Each time, she was received with a drawn out cry of “Boooooniiiiiiitaaaa!!” from the student section, to which she always responded with a smile.

My heart goes out to her family — blood and black & white striped.

(Hope DWHoops doesn’t mind)

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51: The number of  points scored by Riquna Williams to set a new WNBA record. (+0: The number of OT’s she needed to set it.)

40: The minutes played by Chicago’s bench against Washington.

28: The number of turnovers committed by Phoenix in their 8pt win over the Dream.

9: The number of years in a row Indy has reached the postseason.

6: The winning streak the Lynx are on.

2: The number of women enshrined into the Naismith Hall of Fame. Congrats to coach Hatchell and Staley.

1: The number of articles written about how, with Tina sitting for the rest of the season, it’s clear that the Sun are tanking to either 1) increase their chances at the #1 pick or 2) increase their leverage in case of a Tina trade.

0: The number of times the USA Women’s Basketball Senior National Team has had the same coach in back-to-back Olympics.

And it has to matter to you. That might seem automatic: Who doesn’t want to play in the Olympics? But the commitment for players is much more than that. It’s showing up for training camps even when they’re tired or have other things to do. It’s accepting whatever role they are assigned, even if that means being a WNBA superstar on the U.S. national team bench.

This is a mindset that has been passed down from players who are now retired to current standouts. And Auriemma, in taking another four-year term with USA Basketball, is setting the same example as a coach that he hopes to see in the upcoming generation of American young women playing this sport. Whether they attend UConn or anywhere else.

Best one-liner of the weekend: “It’s nice that he would sacrifice his golf game for the good of the country.” (If you can’t guess who said that, you’re no fan of women’s basketball. <g>)

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Bus carrying Uni Gyor crashes, team’s manager and head coach dead (Updated)

Hungarian media is reporting that a bus that was carrying Hungarian club Uni Gyor to a preseason game at Sopron has crashed and there has been a fatality.

The crash was caused by a car that drove in to bus’s lane. In order to avoid a head on collision bus swerved to the right. While the vehicles did not collide head-on, the car still crashed in the bus.

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All hail the “weaker” sex

Go, Diana, go!

Happy Labor Day, indeed!

Gertrude would have been proud.

“I knew it could be done, it had to be done, and I did it.”

— Gertrude Ederle

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