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Appropriate descriptions of the two Conference Championship games played. Home teams staked themselves a big lead, visitors clawed back a bit (or a lot) to make it interesting… but to no avail.

On the games themselves:

From the AP: Mercury humble Lynx, 85-71 (Interesting echo from Bright Side: One year ago today the Phoenix Mercury were humbled by the Minnesota Lynx) and Phoenix Mercury build large lead, hold on to beat Minnesota Lynx in Game 1

Griner, PHX defense key to big Game 1 win over Minnesota

From Tyler Killian: Mercury open Western Conference finals with rout of Minnesota Lynx

Eleven months ago to the day, the Mercury stood on their home court as the Minnesota Lynx celebrated a series victory in the Western Conference finals — the disappointing end of the Mercury’s drama-filled season.

The memory of that game may have faded some by the time the two teams met on the same floor Friday, but watching the Mercury dominate the Lynx and release the pent-up frustration that had been brewing ever since they were eliminated in 2013, the feeling of catharsis inside US Airways Center was unmistakable.

From the Tribune: Phoenix rises up to top Lynx in Game 1 of playoff series

“This is the playoffs,” Moore said. “There’s not really a lot of surprises when you don’t play with the intensity you need to — especially on the road. There’s nothing that they did that was super new. It was just a matter of them executing their offense. We have to be more aggressive.”

From Richard: Mercury outwork, outhustle and outplay Lynx on way to Game 1 win

Story of the Game: The game started as much of it would go on – unfortunately for Minnesota. Buoyed by their noisy home crowd, the Mercury got out in transition early on and scored the first nine points of the game. They were challenging hard on all the jumpers the Lynx were tossing up, leaking out after making those challenges, and beating Minnesota down the floor at the other end. DeWanna Bonner also drilled a three in the opening 90 seconds of the game, which would be another bad sign for the rest of the night for the Lynx.

From Pat Friday: Indiana rains threes on Chicago to steal victory on home floor

From Nate: Chicago Sky coach Pokey Chatman cites turnovers as a “glaring” problem in Game 1 loss

From Mark Ambrogi the Indy Star: Fever claim Game 1 East Finals victory over Chicago, 77-70

It wasn’t hard for Indiana Fever coach Lin Dunn to determine the key stat on Saturday night.

The Fever hit 9-of-21 3-pointers compared to 1-of-8 for Chicago.

Fever buckle down, stave off Sky and its partner article: Fever hold off Sky in fourth quarter for 1-0 series lead

The Indiana Fever had to have thoughts of the Sky’s historic comeback win four days ago in Atlanta running through their minds.

But, unlike Tuesday night, Indiana fended off the late-charging Sky and held on for a 77-70 victory Saturday night in the opener of the Eastern Conference finals.

From Bright Side of the Sun: WCF Preview: The One Year Journey Of The Mercury

Missed this from David: Delle Donne means the Indiana Fever aren’t facing a normal No. 4 seed

On the upcoming games:

Nate is feeling predictive: ECF/WCF predictions: Mercury, Sky will prevail

Did you catch Richard’s WNBA 2014 Playoff Previews – Eastern Conference Finals: Indiana Fever vs. Chicago Sky and WNBA 2014 Playoff Previews – Western Conference Finals: Phoenix Mercury vs. Minnesota Lynx?

Yup: Lynx need more from Moore against Mercury

The Phoenix Mercury did something in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals that no other WNBA team has been able to do all season long.

They stopped Maya Moore.

And yes: Reeve wants to see Lynx more aggressive in Game 2

Two hands.

If there was one thing that really surprised Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve about Friday’s 85-71 loss in Phoenix in Game 1 of the WNBA Western Conference finals, it wasn’t any one statistic or stretch during the game. It was an attitude.

As in, the defending champion Lynx didn’t have enough of it. “Phoenix has had a great season,” Reeve said Saturday, shortly after the team’s flight landed in Minnesota. “Phoenix has a great understanding that, in order to beat us, to go to the finals, they’re going to have to wrestle the trophy away from us. What I was surprised about was we didn’t have the collective effort to have two hands on that trophy.’’

From Mechelle: Lynx target solid start in Game 2 – Minnesota can’t afford another slow start against Phoenix

Since the Minnesota Lynx elevated to being an elite team in the WNBA three years ago, they haven’t ended a season at home. They won their 2011 and ’13 titles in Atlanta, and lost in the 2012 WNBA Finals at Indiana.

The Lynx are certainly hoping their 2014 campaign doesn’t end in Minneapolis, either — at least not during the Western Conference finals. They are down 1-0 in the best-of-three series after an 85-71 loss at Phoenix on Friday.

Sunday, the Lynx host the Mercury at Target Center (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC) in a game to keep Minnesota’s season alive.

From Tyler: Mercury won’t relax after opening romp in WNBA Western Conference finals

Our frame of mind doesn’t change,” Mercury forward Penny Taylor said. “We know we’re up against a championship team, and we know if we relax for a second, that they’ll be on top of us.

“They’re such a good team, and we expect them to come back at full force.”

Who didn’t see this coming:  Mo’Ne Davis heading to the conference finals

Congrats to all: Chiney Ogwumike wins ROY, heads All-Rookie team (And I know folks are cranky that Shoni wasn’t named – but please don’t bring up her All-Star Game performance as a reason she should have been on the team… That’s just silly.)

This is cool:

Professional basketball player Shoni Schimmel, the first Native American to play in the WNBA All Star Game, and her family will make two appearances this weekend to support the Seneca Nation campaign against alcohol and drug abuse.

More on those who are no longer playing: Lack of star talent remains a top concern in D.C.

From the NY Times: In the W.N.B.A., Women’s Coaching Journey Gets Easier (“Easier”, of course, is a relative term, ’cause the gig reeeeeeally hard)

Seventeen years ago, Lin Dunn was coaching the Portland Power of the short-lived American Basketball League. Dunn believed in sharing her knowledge of the game, so she allowed college coaches to watch her practices.

One of them was Pokey Chatman, then a young assistant coach at Louisiana State. Chatman stayed for a week learning from Dunn, whom she remembered as a volleyball coach at Mississippi in the late 1970s.

On Saturday, Chatman, now coach of the Chicago Sky, faced Dunn’s Indiana Fever in Game 1 of the W.N.B.A. Eastern Conference finals.

Speaking of hard: From the Argus Leader: Daughter inspires coach to stay with basketball team

It’s not all about basketball, says Vermillion, whose 24th year of coaching begins next year. It’s not about the wins and losses. “I can guarantee you I have more losses than wins,” he says. “When I started out, it was all about winning, then I learned it’s not. It’s about developing girls.”

One rule: Family, church and school come first. Vermillion never holds tryouts, and he never names starters. At one point, he required a 3.25 grade point average.

Vermillion encourages players to take the ACT four times. They might not play college ball, he says, but they will come out of there with a degree. He also spends much more time than the typical coach talking with college officials about the girls, doing his best to get them scholarships.

He loves the girls but hates the parents, he says bluntly. The girls, his girls, keep him coming back every season.

Or, maybe it’s just one girl. A dozen years after Tiffany’s death, her father still coaches because, as he says simply, “This is what she left me.”

Sad news out of San Antonio:

In the past two years, Tai Dillard has been an assistant coach in the Pac-12 and SEC, two of women’s college basketball’s top conferences.

As her path has taken her to places such as Palo Alto, California, and Knoxville, Tennessee, Dillard reflected on the person instrumental in helping her coaching journey get started: Sam Houston High School girls basketball coach Milyse Lamkin.

Lamkin, 52, died Thursday after battling cancer, Sam Houston Principal Darnell White said.

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Game time!

From Doug: Key story lines for the WNBA conference finals

WOMEN’S WORLD: For the first time in the 18-year history of the WNBA all four teams in the conference finals are coached by women. That guarantees that for the fourth straight year a female coach will guide her team to the title. Minnesota’s Cheryl Reeve won in 2011 and 2013. Indiana’s Lin Dunn was the champion in 2012.

”I think it’s great,” said first-year Phoenix coach Sandy Brondello, who was the league’s coach of the year this season. ”There’s a lot of talented female coaches out there, so it’s good to see that.”

From Nate: Phoenix Mercury’s Brittney Griner will be center of attention against Minnesota Lynx

Back before the Minnesota Lynx and Phoenix Mercury faced each other at full health the first time just about a month ago, I wrote that the game obviously wouldn’t determine the champion but a Lynx win could very well illuminate just how close these two teams are.

Sure enough, that’s exactly what happened: the Mercury did come back and beat the Lynx in the final regular season meeting between the two teams on August 9, but we got some insight into a potential determining factor for this series and it was a totally predictable aspect of the game based on the numbers.

From Tim: Minnesota Lynx meet their match Friday in Phoenix

Lynx assistant coach Jim Peter-sen hasn’t been losing sleep this week plotting ways to stop the Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA’s Western Conference finals.

“Phoenix is a nightmare in having to game-plan for them, in terms of who do you stop,” Petersen said. “But then you realize, hey, they’re a lot like us. We’re mirror images of one another. In some cases, you lay awake worried about if you’ll play well. This is a case where we lay awake because we’re so excited to play.”

From Tyler Killian: Mercury in for tough finals series against Minnesota

It almost seems unfair.

One team’s season will be over in, at most, three more games.

For two teams that have been head-and-shoulders above the rest of the league like the Mercury and Minnesota Lynx have been this year, a best-of-three series is criminally short to decide who will go on to play for the WNBA championship.

But they have no choice.

From Kent Youngblood: WNBA rivalry rekindled for top two teams in Western Conference

A season later, Seimone Augustus still hears about it.

The Lynx were in the fourth quarter of a Western Conference finals opening-game victory over Phoenix at Target Center when, near midcourt. Mercury guard Diana Taurasi passed the ball, then gave Augustus a little shove. Augustus turned and glared. Taurasi then slammed her shoulder into Augustus. The two were face to face when Taurasi leaned over and gave Augustus a peck on the cheek.

“It was either throw a punch or get a kiss,” Augustus joked this week.

From Randy Hill: More defense is Mercury mantra against Lynx’s Moore

 The Mercury are walking the self-awareness walk at a level never before witnessed in the WNBA.

But swagger of this caliber requires talking the talk as part of a defensive commitment that helped generate the best record in league history.

Also from Randy: Griner hopes to measure up as big difference-maker vs. Lynx

From David: Dishin & Swishin 08/28/14 Podcast: WNBA Western Conference Finals coaches Sandy Brondello & Cheryl Reeve talk about the playoffs

Mechelle chatted:

Shades (Minneapolis): Can you reflect on the career of Lin Dunn and tell us how her presence has impacted the WNBA?

Mechelle Voepel: One of the things that Lin Dunn did was she fully made the transition from being one of the “old guard” college coaches to being a pro coach. And we know those are really different jobs … you can’t coach and deal with pros the same way you do with college kids. Obvious, Dunn’s career at Purdue ended in a difficult way – I won’t get into all that here – and that changed her career path. But she ended up really embracing the pro game. Plus, she showed the resilience you need to have to be a pro coach … sometimes you get fired. Sometimes you realize a player is worth more to the franchise than you are. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad coach. You move on. You keep learning, even as you age. You become a better coach through some of your failures, as well as your successes. Lin Dunn has done all of that, and I think she’s also plotted an “exit strategy” that is to be admired. She helped groom a successor who she’s given a lot of responsibility to. Plus, she’s brought a fun personality that has never changed: She is who she is, and she’ll tell you what she thinks all the time. I admire that.

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Just in case you missed it: Basketball – Semi Final and Final Medal Matches | Full Replay | Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games

USA Semi-Final game against Hungary starts at the 5 minute mark.
Gold Medal Game against Netherlands starts at the 3 Hour 04 minute mark.

Speaking of USA basketball, the pool of candidates for the National Team is an embarrassment of riches: 

The old saying that you can’t have too much of a good thing is, in fact, true. But it doesn’t always make things easy.

Consider the talent pool for the U.S. women’s national team in basketball. There’s not just a lot of “good” there, but a lot of “great.”

One of the dilemmas that USA Basketball faces is how to fine-tune the makeup of the squad going into major international competitions such as the upcoming FIBA World Championship.

No matter which 12 women are picked for the final roster, the Americans will be the favorite to win the gold medal in Turkey. But how does USA Basketball make tough calls about potentially adding younger players to the team?

From Kate: Why Dolan Shouldn’t Fire Laimbeer.

Laimbeer was not hired to guide a mediocre roster. He was hired to first help shape, then eventually motivate (his strength) a roster equipped to win a title. Truth is, that previous version of the Liberty was built for playoff appearances and early playoff exits — not championships, not even close. Everyone within the franchise knew the truth, and everyone around the league knew it too. Since the moment Laimbeer walked in the door, the Liberty have been plotting for future domination. Sometimes you have to get worse before you get better, which is exactly the space in which New York finds itself right now.

Well, right there — that’s your first mistake: assuming Dolan gives a flying hoot about the Liberty.

Second: You mention Essence as a floor balancer who, truly, wasn’t 100%, (but will she ever be) but who is she “balancing” against. You don’t mention Cappie? Has she been traded?

Third: “..a couple of smooth-shooting guards” playing for NY in 2016? Any idea how we’re going to get them, what with no draft picks and to trade bait? (Yes, maybe there’s interest in an east coast/west coast exchange… but how likely that?)

Fourth: You need a “conductor to harness the power.” So this means Cruz is not our point guard in two years? Who is?

Fifth: “gather complementary pieces — the rebounder, the lockdown defender, the banger — en route.” Anyone you have in mind? And again, we get them how?

Sixth: “This means one of the first pieces New York must secure is a center who can bang, who can take the defensive pressure off Charles.” Am I repeating myself? Name me any candidates that are available?

Finally – no, I don’t think Laimbeer should go. But projecting the Lib turnaround by 2016 is goofy. Yes, it’s hard to build a team around a center (power forward, if you’d like), but NY is currently made up of “old” and serviceable. There ain’t no Ford, Smith, or Nolan in the wings to rescue us. The team needs a complete overhaul…and that’s going to take a little longer than we’re going to like….

From Nate: After the Phoenix Mercury ended the L.A. Sparks’ season in the first round of the WNBA Playoffs for the second consecutive year – this time handing the Sparks a blowout loss at home – it’s painfully obvious that they need to make changes this offseason.

Back before the 2012 draft, I wrote that Nneka Ogwumike was the obvious pick for the L.A. Sparks but that maybe they’d consider a trade because she wouldn’t fit that roster as long as Candace Parker was there too. But ultimately, as I would later write before the 2013 season, that’s just the kind of situation where you take the best player available and figure everything out later.

Well, it’s now “later”. And the Sparks are well past the somewhat benign point of being at a “crossroads”.

A little belated, but congrats to Skylar, Sandy and Brittney.

And speaking of congrats: From Scot Gleeson at USA Today: Newly engaged Brittney Griner takes control of her life

Brittney Griner blushes and lets out an infectious smile when asked about her recent proposal to fellow WNBA player Glory Johnson.

“Yes, I put a ring on it,” Griner says.

The 6-8 women’s basketball star is used to the spotlight for her uncanny athleticism with the Phoenix Mercury on the court and her candid personality off it. Now, Griner says, it’s all “falling into place.”

As Phoenix and Minnesota get ready to rumble, Mechelle has 5 questions for West finals

Now we have a marquee matchup of two teams that each have won two WNBA titles. And between the Lynx (Maya Moore, Seimone Augustus, Janel McCarville) and the Mercury (Diana Taurasi, Brittney Griner), there are five former No. 1 overall draft picks.

There also are two players who’ve been the WNBA’s MVP: Moore, who won the award this year, and Taurasi, who did so in 2009. Taurasi was runner-up to Moore this season.

Kent Youngblood says Reeve feels good about Lynx headed into Phoenix series

“It’s a cohesive group,” she said. “I think the chemistry has really grown. Having Rebekkah [Brunson] back and Seimone [Augustus] back in the fold for the last few games. You guys all worried about the way we finished the season. But we knew we were making some progress.’’

Also from Kent: Lynx-Mercury series offers intriguing matchups

The formula is basic, Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. When it comes to winning in the playoffs — no matter the opponent — the Lynx have to be efficient on offense and defend well.

Of course that’s easier said than done when it comes to playing the Phoenix Mercury. The two teams will begin their best-of-three Western Conference finals Friday in Phoenix. They are the top two teams in the league in wins, points scored, point differential, field-goal percentage and offensive efficiency.

From Ryan Scott at Insight News: The hard road to a Lynx dynasty

The Lynx and Phoenix Mercury are on a collision course for the WNBA ages. And to put it concisely, Mercury stars Brittney Griner and Diana Taurasi, “ain’t nothin’ nice.” At 6’8″ and boasting the leagues’ first highlight reel of dunks, Griner is a basketball nightmare similar to Wilt Chamberlain or Shaquille O’Neal in the men’s game. And though the adjectives and statistics for Griner can be rattled on for several pages, it is the cold-blooded Taurasi that should strike the greater fears in the Lynx.

Mechelle also had a little something to say about Delle Donne.

For most of June and July, she was forced to watch the Sky struggle without her. She played just four games during those two months. She missed the WNBA All-Star Game. She couldn’t be sure when she would be able to return to action.

All that backstory makes what happened Tuesday night in Atlanta even more remarkable. We didn’t just see one of the more clutch climbs out of a deep hole in WNBA playoff history. We saw it done by a player and a team whose season has been the very definition of resilience.

About that game… Kris Willis notes: The Atlanta Dream saw a 20 point lead slip away in a heartbreaking 81-80 loss to the Chicago Sky 

And yes, it was the biggest fourth-quarter comeback in WNBA playoff history.

“It was just a resilient effort by my team. Obviously, Atlanta owned us for much of the game,” Sky coach Pokey Chatman said. “They were having our way us in terms of points in the paint. Everything was not in our favor, but we stayed the course, and when it got late it became time for players to make plays, my big-time player [Delle Donne] stepped up.”

From the Chicago Tribune: Delle Donne’s basket with 8.2 seconds left wins series for Sky

I think we were playing to win,” Lyttle said. “We just stopped executing, and all of a sudden it was a one-point lead and we wondered, ‘How did that happen?'”

From Jayda: VIDEO: Elena Delle Donne, Courtney Vandersloot advance to conference Finals

You knew it was going to happen. Elena Delle Donne is too incredible of a talent to not wash over a game like a tidal wave in attempt to lead her Chicago to a win. But, as Atlanta coachMichael Cooper said afterward, she could do her damage — which she did Tuesday — and the Dream could’ve still won.

Instead, Atlanta PG Jasmine Thomas missed two free-throws with 17.3 seconds left in a decisive Game 3 playoff matchup against Chicago.

Also from Jayda: Storm 2014 Exit Interviews: Angel Robinson left an impression

And, yep! WNBA star Swin Cash part of historic all-female sports show

In college news:

Cal adds some coaches: Devanei Hampton and Sweets Underwood

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Helen’s been SCUBA diving in St. Thomas with the great folks at Blue Island Divers… and this morning she used an underwater camera for the first time!Pretty!

More pretty!

More pretty!

Sweet!

Sweet!

Don't tell mom.....

Don’t tell mom…..

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#HOLYDelaware!

Never count a Blue Hen out...

Never count a Blue Hen out…

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DOWN goes L.A. Yikes. As Phoenix moves on, you have to wonder, “Who’s going to come in and get all that Cali talent on track?”

Whoops! Chicago got seriously Angel-fied and the Dream live to fight another day. (Hello, Old Big East!)

We don’t really need a reminder that Angel McCoughtry can completely take over not just playoff games but entire series. Because we’ve seen it happen enough in recent years. Nonetheless, Sunday’s game was indeed another example of how dominant McCoughtry can be on both ends of the court.

And that’s what the Atlanta Dream absolutely needed her to be in order for their season to continue.

On a night of the WNBA playoffs when a more recent No. 1 draft pick — Phoenix’s Brittney Griner (2013) — threw down a dunk and was unstoppable in ending Los Angeles’ season, McCoughtry’s arsenal was even a little more impressive.

And, btw – I have 155 folks joining me for the Maggie Dixon Classic. There’s still time to sign up, if you want to come with: womenshoopsblog @ gmail.com

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“Thanks, Becky.”

When Becky Hammon arrived in the Alamo City seven years ago after a trade from New York, one of her first “greeters” was a scorpion she found in her room. Welcome to Texas!

Maybe the little critter just wanted to make her feel like a true San Antonio resident right off the bat. That’s certainly what Hammon became.

From Terrence Thomas: Emotional end of the line for Hammon, Stars

The start was everything the Stars could have possibly wanted.

The ending was one that they’ve become familiar with — another season, another early exit from the WNBA playoffs.

Lindsay Whalen poured in a playoff career-high 31 points as defending league champion Minnesota overcame a slow start and defeated the Stars 94-89 in Game 2 of their Western Conference semifinal series before 7,085 on Saturday night at the AT&T Center.

Ain’t it lovely that we still have coach Dunn around? From the Indy Star: Lin Dunn(isms): Feisty, not always G-rated but with a sweet, Southern drawl

Her players love her. But they want people to know one important fact about this pioneer of women’s basketball who will retire this year after more than four decades in the business.

She has some sayings she uses over and over and over again.

“I’m gonna call you one-dribble (insert player name here).”

“It’s about time you called a screen. It’s halftime.”

“God bless America,” when a player does something Dunn doesn’t like on the court.

But she’s not always G-rated — even if she did bake pecan and apple pies this week for Dave Smiley of the morning radio show on WZPL.

Allie-Allie-in-come-free! 2014 WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year award: Allie Quigley wins. Congrats from all of us Old Big East-ers who watched you and your sisters work their butts off at DePaul. (I was kinda disappointed that the Blue Demons didn’t take my advice when the last of the Q’s exited DePaul’s court – just create a “Quigley” jersey and, whoever worked the hardest got to wear it).

Quigley was Swish Appeal’s unanimous choice for the award as she played a critical role in keeping the Sky going as the team dealt with multiple injury and health-related absences, including an injury to point guard Courtney Vandersloot. Quigley is also a legitimate candidate for the 2014 Most Improved Player award as she had by far the most productive year of her career. In more practical terms, she just had a knack of burning opposing teams that didn’t account for her off screens or as a spot up shooter.

“First and foremost, Allie’s work ethic is unmatched,” said Sky Head Coach and General Manager Pokey Chatman in a Sky release. “So it’s nice to see her efforts rewarded. Her ability to play at such a high level, while also transitioning to the point guard position is a testament to her ability and she’s a big part of the reason we’re in the playoffs.”

Oh, and NICE: Becky Hammon Leaves Legacy in Final Season; Receives 2014 Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award

pro-perrot-kim

Did you catch this: Mercury “Signs” 11-Year Old Mia McPoland as Honorary Assistant Coach

The Phoenix Mercury have “signed” 11-year old Mia McPoland as their honorary assistant coach for the entirety of the team’s 2014 WNBA Playoffs run, as announced today by Mercury general manager Jim Pitman and head coach Sandy Brondello.

Mia McPoland, referred to by the team as “Coach Mia,” has Diamond Blackfan Anemia, a rare bone marrow failure syndrome, causing her body not to produce red blood cells. While Mia patiently awaits a bone marrow transplant, she must undergo a monthly blood transfusion to survive. At the young age of 11, she has already endured more than 100 blood transfusions.

And this: For one fan, it’s gotta be the shoes – Elena Delle Donne gesture makes a little girl’s day/week/month/year

“I told Elena I wished she played in Minnesota, and then I’d take care of her dog, Wrigley, while she was on road trips,” said Haley, who clearly knows her Delle Donne facts. “She said that would be awesome, and she’d totally take me up on that. It was so cool.”

It would get cooler, though. A few minutes later, a member of the Sky’s staff came over and tapped Haley on shoulder. Smiling and with one hand behind her back, the staffer said she had something to give to Haley from Delle Donne, and asked if she might consider taking off the Lynx jersey and sporting just the Sky shirt for this game.

Haley agreed — hey, her Lynx were already safely into the playoffs, after all — and then was stunned as the woman handed her a pair of basketball shoes autographed by Delle Donne. With an extra-special touch.

“She wrote, ‘Shhhh’ on one of them,” Haley said. “So they are, like, personalized. I was so happy, I almost started crying.”

In Seattle news: Dishin & Swishin 08/21/14 Podcast: Sue Bird dishes on the Storm, USA Basketball and more

In college news: NOT good – Tennessee to discipline several players to start season

In pre-college news: Collier, USA ready for next stage at YOG

The United States U-18 3×3 team finished Group B pool play at the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China, at 9-0 with wins over the Czech Republic and Guam on Sunday.

When Monday comes around, the remaining 16 teams will be 0-0 again.

Team USA wrapped up its perfect Group B run by defeating the Czech Republic 21-12 and Guam 21-10 Sunday.

The single-elimination Round of 16 and quarterfinals are Monday.

Get up nice and early on Monday (5:40AMish EST) to watch the US three play.

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“Well, that was a lovely, tight start to the playoffs!”

Ageless wonder Catch rules.

There are so many things you can point to that have made Indiana’s Tamika Catchings such a great player for so long. But two of the so-called “fundamentals” of basketball have been huge keys to Catchings’ success and have frustrated the heck out of her opponents.

Catchings is a very good free throw shooter during the regular season, and she has been even a little bit better during the playoffs. Also, she’s a rebounder who just never quits.

For a player who is typically at her best when aggressively going to the rim, the ability to come up big at the line is such a valuable skill. That proved to be the case once again Thursday as the WNBA playoffs got under way with Indiana’s 78-73 victory over Washington in the Eastern Conference semifinals at Indianapolis.

And rules again.

A smidge younger wonder Dee rules.

Predicting that the Phoenix Mercury would sweep the L.A. Sparks in the first round of the 2014 WNBA Playoffs actually had little to do with a significant “talent” differential – team composition, maybe, but the Sparks are hardly lacking talent.

This matchup has always been about intangibles – for the entirety of the regular season and during last year’s meeting in the first round. And it’s ultimately what tonight’s 75-72 loss to the Mercury came down to, just as predicted by Sparks coach Penny Toler in a preview of tonight’s game by L.A. Times reporter Samantha Zuba:

And that youngest wonder, Maya rules, too. (But let’s not forget Augustus, shall we?)

Damn, if EDD at half-strength isn’t twice the player most are.

Friday, the Chicago Sky got the franchise’s first WNBA playoff victory. It took nine seasons to happen, and none of the Sky players have waited for this as long as Sylvia Fowles and Tamera Young have.

And on a night when Chicago had to do the same thing this team has done virtually all season — overcome the loss of a player — the two “senior” Sky players were critical factors.

And… Annie, if your play-by-play guy can’t be bothered to learn how to pronounce the names of the players on the court, I give you permission to slap him upside the head.

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Craig leaves UAlbany women’s basketball team

Foot pain means sit down…. Vols Mercedes Russell Expected To Redshirt

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Adversity preps Sky for postseason

“THIS IS OUR MOMENT” is splashed across the landing page of the Chicago Sky website, the letters in bright white, glowing as if illuminated on a marquee. Below them is a link to buy tickets for the team’s opening-round playoff series against the Dream, which begins Friday in Atlanta.

The 2013 postseason might have been memorable for its historical significance — the Sky made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history last season — but the team’s unlikely berth in these playoffs proves it to be a true contender.

From Michelle Smith: Five questions for the postseason

The WNBA playoffs open Thursday after a regular season in which most of the teams in the league struggled merely to finish with a winning record. Two teams — Minnesota and Phoenix — stood head and shoulders above the rest through the entire summer, and the question for the postseason is whether anyone other than the Mercury or the Lynx stand a chance of hoisting the championship trophy.

While the other six teams — including five with sub.-500 records — try to turn that into a debate, we take a look at five questions facing the WNBA playoffs.

1. Can Phoenix finish what it has started?

From Mechelle: WNBA playoff X factors, predictions

We know who “won” the WNBA regular season: the Phoenix Mercury. Their 29-5 finish set a league record for most victories in a season and sends them into the playoffs as the obvious favorite.

Before the postseason begins Thursday (ESPN2 and WatchESPN, 7 p.m. ET), we take a look at the conference semifinals. Who’s hot and who’s not of the eight teams still playing? Might there be an upset or two brewing? Here’s a series-by-series breakdown:

From Tim Leighton: Lynx open WNBA playoffs in shadow of Phoenix Mercury

“When you look at the team that has been dominant from beginning to end, that would be Phoenix, and I think they are everyone’s favorite,” said WNBA pioneer Rebecca Lobo, an ESPN analyst, in a national conference call this week.

“I would agree that I think Phoenix is the team to beat,” echoed another ESPN analyst, Carolyn Peck.

Not so fast, says Taurasi, who knows the Mercury are likely to meet the Lynx in the Western Conference finals next week.

“They’re the defending champs,” she said. “They’re the best team in this league.”

We’ll see soon enough.

Tim adds: Lynx: 11-year veteran Rebekkah Brunson still going strong. Oh, did you know Brunson is happy to be a Lynx for life

Seimone Augustus knows what she would do if teammate Rebekkah Brunson ever were to leave the Minnesota Lynx.

“I’d go out and buy a Powerball ticket and hope we’d hit the lottery or something,’’ Augustus said after Tuesday’s two-hour practice. “It would be one of those deals where you just hope for the best. That’s about all you can do when it comes to her. She leaves one of those huge holes in your lineup, you know what I’m saying?”

Augustus needn’t worry.

From Pat Borzi at the NY Times: Lynx’s Maya Moore Has Become a Leaner Scoring Machine

The Monster — the nickname the Los Angeles Sparks’ interim coach, Penny Toler, pinned on Maya Moore of the Minnesota Lynx last week — fits Moore’s play better than it does her personality.

Could a monster make her own ice cream, as Moore does? Could a monster charm a 10-year-old girl seeking an autograph or the president of the United States? Would any team dare to let a monster dance on the court and address the home crowd after victories? Then again, Toler’s description fits the kind of season Moore, a fourth-year professional player, is having.

Mike Peden offers: Minnesota Lynx headed to the playoffs: what’s working, what’s not

The Minnesota Lynx ended their 2014 campaign with a 25-9 record, becoming the first WNBA team to post 25 wins or better for four consecutive years. Reaching that threshold this year was a remarkable achievement, with Minnesota enduring several injuries that could have compromised their overall chemistry.

“For us to do it this season, with the amount of adversity that we’ve faced, I told them I’m very impressed and blessed to share it with them,” said Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve.

Sneak in another few words from Mechelle: Maya Moore wins WNBA MVP award

Add another big honor to Maya Moore’s very full trophy case. The Minnesota Lynx forward has won her first WNBA season MVP award. The league has not officially announced it, but it was reported by the Associated Press, which also said Phoenix’s Diana Taurasi finished second in the voting, and Atlanta’s Angel McCoughtry third.

Moore, who turned 25 in June, is the first Lynx player to win the season MVP award and the third UConn graduate, following Taurasi in 2009 and Tina Charles in 2012.

Moore was the WNBA’s leading scorer this season at 23.9 points per game. She had 12 games scoring 30 or more points, including a career-high 48 on July 12 vs. Atlanta.

Phil Ervin at Fox Sports North: Experienced, healthy Lynx ready for another postseason run

The dial is back at 11.

The stakes are at their highest. The pressures of defending — successfully, this time — the WNBA crown have moved to the forefront of the league-wide consciousness.

You’d have never known it if you sat in on the Lynx’s pre-playoff team gathering Monday night, Cheryl Reeve said. The feisty, accomplished coach isn’t feeling much heat, even with Minnesota’s postseason opener two days away and a late-season slide in the not-so-distant past.

Instead, her sensation is one of relief.

Tyler Killian at AzCentral: Mercury haven’t accomplished anything yet

With the regular season now over, the Mercury maintain that they haven’t accomplished anything yet.

That’s the right approach for a team still seven wins away from capturing its third WNBA championship.

But for fans and media, the happenings in Phoenix over the past three months have been nothing short of remarkable. The records set and feats achieved are almost too numerous to list and at times have even surprised the members of the organization responsible for them.

Cory McCartney at Fox Sports South: Dream have ‘Unfinished Business’ heading into WNBA playoffs

Sitting at a bar top table in a downtown restaurant, Michael Cooper motioned to a television on the back wall, where highlights of Little League World Series star Mo’ne Davis played.

“Have you seen her this girl yet,” Cooper asked. “She’s incredible.”

Cooper knows a thing or two about phenoms. He was on hand for the start of Magic Johnson’s career when the two were Los Angeles Lakers, and as Atlanta Dream coach he sees a number of similarities between the NBA legend and his rookie guard Shoni Schimmel.

Terrence Thomas from My San Antonio: Stars ‘having fun’ as playoffs loom

Becky Hammon didn’t have to come back, and she didn’t have to toil through months of rehabbing her injured left knee. Hammon’s legacy as one of the WNBA’s greatest players already was secured, so she had little else to prove.

But Hammon wanted to author her own ending — and it wasn’t going to be the image of her being carried off a basketball court last May in Los Angeles by a teammate and a trainer.

“It was worth it,” Hammon said. “Competing makes everything worth it. Being able to put your shoes on and have a chance to play a few more games is very special.”

David Woods at the Indy Star asks: Can the Indiana Fever win the WNBA title after a losing season?

There is no precedent for a team enduring a losing regular season to reach the WNBA Finals.

Take it from Indiana Fever coach Lin Dunn: So what?

The No. 2-seeded Fever, coming off a 16-18 season, open the best-of-three Eastern Conference semifinals Thursday (7 p.m., ESPN2) against the No. 3 Washington Mystics (also 16-18) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Dunn said she is thinking only about the first 4 minutes of Game 1, but she isn’t limiting the Fever.

From Gene at WaPo: Balanced Washington Mystics set for WNBA playoff opener vs. Indiana Fever

During the first 10 years of his WNBA coaching career in Connecticut, Mike Thibault almost always had a player he could lean on down the stretch. Nykesha Sales was one of the first. Asjha Jones followed, and in his final season with the Sun, Tina Charles was named league MVP.

The second-year coach and general manager of the Washington Mysticshasn’t had that luxury since arriving in the District to reboot a dysfunctional franchise. But the youthful roster he assembled this season overcame a dearth of star power to qualify for the playoffs as the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference.

From Sue at Full Court: Unpredictability is the theme entering WNBA Playoffs

From Indian Country: Tweets, Please! Shoni Schimmel Takes Over the Atlanta Dream’s Twitter Account

From the Swish Appeal crew: Disappointing L.A. Sparks get second chance in postseason

Los Angeles Sparks fans got up close and personal with a tumultuous season, shortly after having to question whether they’d even continue to have a team in LA.

Veteran additions were supposed to push this disappointing Sparks team over the top. A coaching change, lineup shuffling and missed time all played a role but the Sparks still have to feel like they have second life in an otherwise disappointing season.

Atlanta Dream in an unfamiliar position at the top

As strange as it is given the number of times they’ve made it to the WNBA Finals, 2014 marks the first time the Atlanta Dream will enter the playoffs as the number one seed in the Eastern Conference after winning the regular season title.

Yet in keeping with tradition, the Dream haven’t made it easy on themselves.

Chicago Sky are the wild card

The 2014 version of the Chicago Sky is the epitome of a wildcard in the playoffs. You can’t take much from the team’s numbers, record or even it’s performances this season as the Sky only had it’s full roster available for 4 games this season, three of those being the last three games of the season.

The Indiana Fever look to finish the Lin Dunn Era in style

After the Seattle Storm missed the playoffs for the first time since 2003, the Fever now has the longest running playoff streak. Unlike the Storm, which only advanced twice in the two years where the team won the championship (2004, 2010), the Fever has advanced to the Conference Finals in six of those ten years, two Finals Appearances in 2009 and 2012, and the 2012 WNBA championship over a heavily favored Lynx team.

The Fever also made this playoff appearance, largely without the help of their franchise star Tamika Catchings who sat out the first half of the season due to injury. With her back, as well as some big contributions from players like Erlana Larkins and Briann January, could this team be in position to make a fourth straight Eastern Conference Finals, and even the WNBA Finals? Let’s see what they need in order to beat the Washington Mystics in their first round series.

The young Washington Mystics look to make some noise

General Manager and Head Coach Mike Thibault has led the Washington Mystics to the postseason in each of his first two years at the helm. Considering that the Mystics have only made consecutive playoff berths once in franchise history (2009 and 2010 under then-GM Angela Taylor and Coach Julie Plank), this is a sign of progress. A sign that the Mystics are now playing consistently and figure to be a team that is in the picture year in and year out.

In their first round playoff series, the Mystics will play the Indiana Fever, which has made three straight conference finals appearances in a row, and won the WNBA Finals in 2012. Game 1 will be on Thursday, August 21 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, and Game 2 will be at Verizon Center. Game 3’s back in Indy on Monday, August 25, if need be.

Given that they are playing a playoff-tested team, the Mystics will be underdogs. This is not unlike how they have been for all of the last two seasons.

San Antonio Stars live by the three to take the third seed

The obvious feel-good story of the 2014 WNBA Playoffs is that Becky Hammon will be making her final post-season appearance before retiring and joining the coaching staff of the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs.

But in a strictly basketball sense, the fact of the San Antonio Stars being in the postseason is a great story on its own.

In case you’re wonderin’: Conference semifinals matchups, seedings, TV times

The also have their 2014 WNBA award picks (Brittney Griner, Maya Moore, Diana Taurasi are unanimous All-WNBA selections) and their Newcomer and Comeback Player of the Year awards

On the “have nots…”

Bill Laimbeer, Cappie Pondexter reflect on a disappointing season for New York

From Jayda: Sue Bird talks about her return to the court this season

BTW: WNBA expects at least six teams to post profit and Record-Setting Game Action Drives WNBA to Viewership, Attendance and Digital Gains

WATN? Former WNBA president continues to promote female empowerment

FYI: 5 Memorable Moments From The WNBA Season

OOPS!  Griner, Taurasi lead strong Shock team into WNBA 1st round

What did they say? 2014 WNBA Playoffs National Media Conference Call Transcript

Interesting reminder from Minneapolis: Despite new law, parents’ complaints remain an issue for high school coaches

In 2013-14, during the first school year with the new measure in place, calls from coaches seeking help dropped significantly, according to a statewide coaches association.

But heading into a new fall season, coaching advocates say parent complaints remain a significant issue, often contributing to coaches leaving jobs voluntarily before ever having to face the sting of not having their year-to-year contracts renewed.

Tim Sension experienced both.

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Little League pitcher Mo'Ne Davis & Negro Leagues pitcher Mamie "Peanut" Johnson

Little League pitcher Mo’Ne Davis & Negro Leagues pitcher Mamie “Peanut” Johnson

Just a reminder to thank advocates of Title IX, past, present and future…..

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at the Garden, Sunday Jan. 4th, 2015. Looking forward to hanging out with some serious women’s basketball fans (and, hopefully, some unserious ones, too!). There’s still time to join in on the fun! Just email me your request at: womenshoopsblog @ gmail.com.

How does this thing work? Click here to read all about it.

Oh, and a heads up: my Summer of Conferences finishes up in Washington, D.C. (again, the schedulers fail me) and then I’m off for a real, live, SCUBA diving vacation. Don’t know what the wireless will be like, so if I’m quiet it’s because I’m underwater, indulging in a rum-laced-beverage, or can’t find a Starbucks….

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So, today is coach Lin Dunn’s last regular season WNBA game. She and her team worked their butts off to make sure it was not her LAST game in the W. Congrats to her, her staff, the players that stepped up, the rehab folks that kept Catch on the right track, and Tamika Catchings, for making the best of a short season.

Speaking of “on the right track”: Cancer didn’t slow Michael Cooper

Rest up, y’all. Those left standing are about ready to rumble.

Yes, C.O is the favorite for ROY, but what about O.S? Examining the case for Odyssey Sims as Rookie of the Year

As you’re waiting, have you caught up on all the 9 for IX films?

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Minnesota and Phoenix play it smart and sit folks the last few games which, to a degree, supported San Antonio and Los Angeles‘ entrance to the playoffs. So, it’s not quite good-bye for Becky:

In the East, Indiana and Washington took fate into their own hands and won when they had to, eliminating New York.

Now everybody gets to take a breath, take a nap, take an ice bath and see what they’ve learned about themselves and the opposition over the season. Here’s to healthy players (and coaches) and “the best ofs” going the distance.

With the playoffs looming its award time. espnW has their WNBA First Team. Hmm… four of the five are Old Big Easties. Thanks, football!

But honestly, basketball, shmastical – congrats to Brittney and Glory. Staking a claim to love, and putting a stake in bigotry.

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From Mechelle: Seasons to savor for Moore, Taurasi – Top MVP candidates from Lynx, Mercury have very different personalities

Personality-wise, they are a study in contrasts. The quick-with-quips, off-the-cuff, fearless exuberance of the Phoenix Mercury’s Diana Taurasi versus the measured, deliberate, mildly guarded thoughtfulness of the Minnesota Lynx’s Maya Moore.

And yet they have so much in common. Both were born on June 11; Taurasi in 1982, Moore in 1989. Both are UConn legends who went to the Women’s Final Four every year they played for coach Geno Auriemma; Taurasi won three NCAA titles, Moore two.

Both were WNBA No. 1 draft picks who helped lead their respective franchises to their first league titles. Taurasi did that in her fourth season in Phoenix, Moore in her first season in Minnesota.

Both were U.S. national team members in major competitions at a young age. Taurasi was on the Americans’ 2004 Olympic team during her rookie season in the WNBA. Moore was a senior in college when she played for Team USA at the 2010 world championship. They played together on the 2012 Olympic team, and they will do the same next month in the world championship in Turkey.

(And I get to WATCH them!!!! Wheeeeeeee!)

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Remember this? (June 2012)

Now, consider this (June 2014)

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besides my to do lists for work….

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thanks Becky. Thanks Pops. Thanks San Antonio Spurs. From Jere at the NY Times: Pioneer of a Crossover Move – How Becky Hammon Became N.B.A.’s First Full-Time Female Assistant Coach

On her flight home from the 2012 London Olympics, Becky Hammon had a familiar seatmate — Gregg Popovich, coach of the San Antonio Spurs.

They talked about a number of Popovich’s interests: politics, wine and the history and culture of Russia, where Hammon played professionally during the W.N.B.A. off-season and for which she had won an Olympic bronze medal in 2008.

What they did not talk about much was basketball. Except, Hammon recalled recently, this brief conversation:

“So if you were an assistant for me and I asked you something, you’d tell me the truth?”

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What is there to say except…

The East is a hot mess, the West’s best is the best, and oooooo, can Tulsa Shock or will Seattle Storm?

In other news: Golf, by Robin Williams

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Many longtime readers know that, ever since the Garden has hosted the Maggie Dixon Classic, I’ve done what I can to recruit folks to attend.

Great cause AND we all get to support the continued presence of women’s basketball at the Garden.

Here’s how I do that:

I offer to purchase tickets for folks (we get to be a block, and you avoid TicketScalper surcharges). It’s on the honor system. The steps:

I put out an initial “Who want’s tickets” call and ask that folks email me with Name, # of Tickets and Mailing Address.

When you put in a request, I confirm that request after I drop it into my magical excel sheet. (Yah, the list has gotten so long, I needed to learn excel!)

I put out a “last call” email and send out a “Please confirm” email before I put in the order.

Meanwhile, I talk to my contact at the Garden. In the past, she has been able to get us great seats (like an entire section at center court) at a group rate. ($40ish, IIRC?). When the tickets are available for purchase and printing, I snag ’em from the Garden, then I mail them out to folks.

You can’t ask for a specific seat, but I do take some requests — and when possible I try and group folks. I “seat” on a first come first row seated bases.

I usually put in the order mid-September. When I get the tickets depends on when the Garden puts them in the system. I pick ’em up and then mail them out.

When people get the tix, folks either send me a check or give me cash at the game (which is pretty hysterical. I feel like an over-priced valet.)

I do the “when they get the tix, send me money” because I want to set folks at ease about this being a scam. It ain’t. This will be the.. fourth? Fifth? year we’ve done this. BUT, tix sometimes get lost in the mail and that can get awkward. (I do try and keep track of who gets what, just in case). Some folks send money before they get the tix, some send money after the game. It makes no matter.

Finally – even if you have to “drop” a person out of, say, a 3 person request, I’ve been fortunate enough to find a taker or two — I keep a wait list.

SO – if you want to join the Women’s Hoops Blog Horde at the Maggie Dixon Classic on Jan. 4th, 2015 (UConn v. St. John’s, other game TBA – usually starting at 11am), drop me a line.

womenshoopsblog @ gmail.com. Include:

Name
Address
Number of Tickets

Hope to see you there!

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“Ohmygodmyeeeeyeeees!”

The Liberty lost to the Mystics 46-79. 46 points. In an entire game. Ugh.

Chiney-less (tooth issue) Sun put up a fight, but MIP candiate Allie Quigley did her part (17pts) to help the Sky stay within reach — and then EP came alive to lift the Sky to a 16pt.

The teams shot 39.7% and 36.9%, so of course it would be a layup that would decide the game. Minny’s just lucky that hand belonged to Augustus and not Indy’s Larkins.

Soooo… a friend tried to say that Phoenix “spanked” the Dream. I countered, saying that an 8-point comeback win over de Souza-less Dream was no “spanking.” Now, surely, BG smacked’em around a bit (9 blocks), but DT had to lead the Merc on a comeback to get the win over Atlanta.

30 from Sims (a clear ROY candidate) helped Tulsa get a nice win over Los Angeles.

If you’re looking for some basketball tonight, check out the live feed from Colorado  – US U18 v Mexico.

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Bill Wall has died. From USA Basketball CEO/Executive Director Jim Tooley:

The entire USA Basketball family mourns the passing of Bill Wall.  Bill was a treasure to the basketball community worldwide, someone who gave much more then he ever received back. His passion for basketball, as a player, coach, official and as an administrator, was evident to anyone who met him, and his efforts helped grow the game to the popularity it enjoys today.  He became this organization’s first executive director in 1975, and in the 18 years he served in that position he helped transition ABAUSA (Amateur Basketball Association of the United States of America) into USA Basketball. Under Bill’s leadership, USA Basketball was recognized as one of the premiere national federations and Bill from the early years on was a true advocate for women’s basketball.  Bill Wall will be missed and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”

Bill Wall did not lead a controversy-free life (in the land of basketball) but if not for his American Express Card, it’s likely the US women’s team, which surprised most by making it to the Montreal Olympics in 1976 – including the USA Basketball Olympic Committee – would have had to walk to Rochester for their practices or called their parents for care packages. From Sally Jenkins’ 2012 article in the Washington Post: Women’s Olympic success: a flood that began as a trickle (apologies for the long quote, Sally, but I hope you believe Bill deserved it):

This is how it happens: A dozen women, isolated outliers, are so committed to playing for their country that they will practically starve for the honor. The first American women’s basketball team in ’76, captained by Pat Head Summitt and featuring Ann Meyers Drysdale among others, had a budget of $500. They held training camp in an unairconditioned gym in Warrensburg, Mo., because it was the cheapest facility they could find, and they begged meals from the rotary club.

“We’d do anything for free food for the team,” Moore says.

Bill Wall, the executive director of USA basketball, stepped forward and put up his personal credit card to support their attempt to make it into the Montreal Games. When they won the qualifying tournament, they were such a surprise that nobody had made any accommodations for them.

They found an empty dormitory that was under construction at the University of Rochester, and bunked there for a few days amid the sound of hammering. Then they moved into a two-bedroom condo in Montreal someone had found them — 12 players and the coaching staff. Some of them slept on cots in the kitchen. “And no one complained,” Moore says.

Speaking of no complaining. With the injury to Indiana Pacer player Paul George during the men’s tryouts, the NBA folks are wondering if they dare risk their… players (I was going to use another word, but I won’t) in the quest for Olympic Gold. Out poured articles like “Should NBA stars play in FIBA World Cup, Olympics?” and Why is Rose still playing USA Basketball?” and “Dallas Mavericks owner Cuban criticises sending NBA stars to the Olympics” and “When ‘Patriotism’ and NBA Marketing Collide with Reality and Basket Stanchion” etc., etc.

Sure, John Smallwood counters with Mark Cuban has it all wrong and Harvey Araton counters with his piece, Cuban Loses Sight of the Role of International Play – In Paul George Remarks, Mark Cuban Discounts Benefits of International Basketball, but honestly, was anyone surprised at the response of the USA Basketball women? Nope!

Tamika Catchings has known Paul George since he was drafted by the Indiana Pacers in 2010.

She was sickened when she heard the news that he broke his right leg on a freak play during the U.S. men’s national team scrimmage Friday. Still, the Indiana Fever star has no hesitation about suiting up for the women’s national team again this fall.

“I don’t think it gives me a second thought,” said Catchings, a three-time Olympic gold medalist and two-time world champion. “For me representing our country is the highest honor you can have. I know I speak on behalf of all the women, and I’m sure the men too, who are trying out, it’s an unfortunate injury that can happen anywhere.”

Catchings’ thoughts were echoed by U.S. women’s national team players across the country over the weekend.

Speaking of USA basketball – part of the 1976 team’s legacy is the success of the women’s programs: next up, the U-18-ers in Colorado Springs for the FIBA Championship: nm

“I think we are getting excited,” Staley said about the upcoming tournament. “We have beat each other up in the morning practice and then depending on who we scrimmaged, either we were getting beat up, or we had some pretty good competition in some of the other national teams. I think we want to play for a stake, for a gold medal. That’s why we are here, so we are getting a little bit antsy about playing the real competition.”

Now for some good news:

NY Times: Spurs Hire Becky Hammon as N.B.A.’s First Female Full-Time Coach and KSAT.com: Spurs tap Becky Hammon for assistant coach and Spurs Nation: Hammon overwhelmed, thrilled and humbled by historic opportunity and  USA Today: Spurs hire Becky Hammon as assistant coach and NESN: Becky Hammon Hiring Keeps Spurs Ahead Of Curve in NBA, Pro Sports World

From Kate Fagan: Becky Hammon was born to coach

If you know Becky Hammon, one thing has always been clear: she would become a coach after she finished playing.

We all figured it would be for the Colorado State women’s basketball program, her alma mater, the school she put on the map in the late 1990s with her sweet outside shot and clever ball handling. In fact, there were even rumblings around Fort Collins back in the day that the CSU athletic department had made some sort of handshake, wink-wink deal with the dynamic local star: The moment you retire, we’ll have an open spot in the athletic department — guaranteed.

The reason we all knew Hammon would become a coach is actually quite simple. She could see a play once and know all its options and offshoots, categorize them from most to least effective. And she could do this for every position on the court, instantly — as if the X’s and O’s had been coded into her DNA. Most of the time, the team’s head coach approached Hammon for her insight — rarely was it the other way around.

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Didja catch the Dishin & Swishin Podcast: Kara Lawson and the Washington Mystics making noise in crowded Eastern Conference

A nice piece on Essence Carson by The Record’s Kara Yorio: WNBA star, musician Essence Carson still connected to her hometown of Paterson

She was born and raised in a place that struggles under the weight of poverty, crime and a negative reputation.

“As a kid you don’t really realize anything,” she said one day recently while driving through Paterson. “You just have fun. You don’t realize what you have and what you don’t have. You don’t realize how your family might be different from somebody else’s.”

Carson’s grandfather, mother, sister and some friends still live in Paterson and she visits often. Her grandmother died in 2005.

Raised predominantly by her grandparents — “They were really strict, but there was a reason why” — Carson was a straight-A student who, before basketball took over, went to band camp in the summer.

“I was a nerd,” she said.

There was a little hang over the “game after the game.” The Mercury survived Indiana via a rare 0-for from Catch and a 14-point run.

“I don’t necessarily think we played that well, but at the end of the day we won the game so we’ll just move on and try to get some rest and keep going,” said Diana Taurasi. “I think today was one of those days where we were at our highest level but we figured it out toward the end.”

There was more surviving in Tulsa as the Shock kept it wicked close (yah, I know, we’ve heard that story before, right?) until Maya  scored 13 of her 40pts (her 11th 30+ game this season) in the final 5 minutes.

She’s just that good….Elena Delle Donne scores 21 points in Sky’s victory vs. Mystics

Fowles had her ninth double-double of the season with 14 points and 11 rebounds, and Delle Donne came off the bench to score 21 points on 7-for-12 shooting in just less than 161/2 minutes. It was her second game back 
after missing 17 of the previous 18 because of a flare-up of Lyme disease. The Sky went 5-12 without her.

‘‘[The lungs are] feeling a little better than the last game,’’ Delle Donne said. ‘‘I think it’s just going to be something I continue to build on but just play into it since obviously we have so many games right now.’’

…even at well below 100% : Patricia Babcock McGraw: Delle Donne returns, but her battle continues

The plastic jug Sky forward Elena Delle Donne kept sipping from during a win Thursday night looked like it contained orange Gatorade.

Turns out it was Pedialyte, the substance parents turn to when they fear dehydration in their babies or toddlers.

“I was like a little kid out there,” Delle Donne said with a laugh.

It was good to see Delle Donne laugh, and smile, and joke around. It’s been awhile. What this 24-year-old woman has been through the last two months is heartbreaking.

Welcome back, coach Cooper! Sorry your team didn’t win.

And yes:  2h 2 sizes 2 small! RT : As we head towards the playoffs, The Eastern Conference is tighter than a pair of Spanx!!

The sisters Ogwumike went at it again, and it certainly was a better game than their earlier game. Both were their team’s high scorer, but it was Toliver who decided the winner.

“Man, this (stinks),” Chiney Ogwumike said. “It is really painful. But at the same time, we play a lot of young players, and I guess in order to win as a team and to deserve the wins, you have to go through these pains. It (stinks). It really hurts now. But you move on to the next. We have another game in 48 hours. I don’t know how to fathom that right now.”

Parker, who returned from a strained left knee that kept her out the previous two games, had nine points, four rebounds and four steals.

Toliver was 0-for-6 from the field before her final shot.

By the way, with a handful of games left, the battle for the final two spots in the West is kinda spanx-y – especially with Seattle taking down the Stars.

Thanks, Jayda: Transcript: Karen Bryant’s farewell speech as longtime Storm executive

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Looking for Support

Benefit set for Notre Dame women’s basketball’s Schwab

A fundraiser will be held on Sunday, Aug. 10, from 2-6 p.m. at the Linebacker Lounge for Katie Schwab, the Notre Dame women’s basketball director of operations.

Schwab, a 2013 Saint Mary’s graduate and former Irish women’s basketball manager, is hospitalized at an acute-care facility in Mishawaka after suffering life-threatening complications related to Type 1 diabetes on June 9.

There will be Notre Dame signed items, golf packages, dinner gift cards, a 50/50 raffle and other memorabilia.

People can also visit http://www.razoo.com/br/causes/Katie-Schwab-Fundraiser to donate online.

From the ND Facebook page:

Many of you have heard about the ongoing battle that Katie Schwab, our director of basketball operations, is fighting after being hospitalized last month with complications brought on by her Type I diabetes. Updates on Katie’s progress can be found through a special page built on the CaringBridge web site:

http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/katieschwab

In light of the substantial medical costs brought on by Katie’s extended hospital stay, we are inviting all of our Notre Dame Women’s Basketball fans to join us in a fundraising benefit event on Sunday, Aug. 10 at the historic Linebacker Lounge in South Bend.

There will be silent auction items, other items to auction such as ND items, dinner certificates, golf package, as well as a 50/50 raffle and a donation box.

Please note that this event is being organized by several of Katie’s closest friends and supporters and all questions should be directed to them through the event’s Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/events/813943445317605/

KATIE SCHWAB FUNDRAISER
When: Sunday, August 10 – 2:00-6:00 pm ET
Where: Linebacker Lounge (1631 South Bend Avenue, South Bend)

Those that are unable to attend are encouraged to share a donation via the following link:

http://www.razoo.com/br/causes/Katie-Schwab-Fundraiser

Fans may also continue to send cards, gifts and other words of encouragement to Katie and her family through the Notre Dame Women’s Basketball Office (C113 Joyce Center, Notre Dame, IN 46556) and those items will be delivered during our regular visits to see Katie in the hospital.

Thanks for your prayers and concern as we all hope for Katie’s full and complete recovery!

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does the basketball. And yes, I know I’m a little over an hour away from Colorado Springs and the U18 team practice… but it’s just. not. going. to. happen.

So, whadImiss? (Thanks, Richard)

Gasp! The New York Times noticed the New York Liberty: A Rookie as Feisty as She Is Steady

Carson said that despite Cruz’s size, her speed and on-court relentlessness made for a seamless transition to the league. At 5 feet 9 inches and 155 pounds, Cruz is smaller than other W.N.B.A. guards. But her willingness to draw contact during drives to the basket and her flashy ball-handling have made her a fan favorite, and she often draws some of the largest cheers during pregame introductions, along with Pondexter, a six-time All-Star, and Tina Charles, who grew up in Queens.

On Aug. 8, in part because of Cruz’s rising popularity, the Liberty will hold their first Noche Latina game, which will celebrate Hispanic culture. Her parents will be in New York for the event.

“I didn’t expect it at all, but I appreciate it,” Cruz said of the adulation. “They make me feel like I’m home.”

Gasp! The New York Times noticed the Phoenix Mercury!  A Two-Handed Push Elevates Phoenix Mercury to No. 1

“We didn’t win a championship, and we didn’t lose one tonight,” said Brondello, a former point guard and two-time Olympic silver medalist for Australia who is in her first season with the Mercury. “It’s more about, O.K., let’s learn from it and move on to the next game. That’s been our mentality through this whole streak.”

Taurasi, however, summed up the night’s frustration and physicality in her inimitable style. Both teams complained about the officiating, leading to three technical fouls, the last two on Brondello and Taurasi in the final minute. So what did the Mercury learn from this game?

“We’ve got to get better at football,” Taurasi said. “We will. If we’ve got to put our helmets on, that’s what we’re going to do from here on out.”

Surprise! About that Phx/Minny matchup: Rebounding leads Lynx past Mercury

In a game with such a wealth of riches, talent-wise, it might seem downright boring to focus on something as fundamental as rebounding.

Yet if you wanted to point to one thing that decided the heavyweight bout Thursday between the two best teams in the WNBA, you gotta go with the glass. Maya Moore and her Lynx outrebounded Diana Taurasi and her Mercury by a handy margin in front of a jazzed-up Minnesota crowd of 9,513.

From Nate:

While the Phoenix Mercury were storming through the WNBA, the Minnesota Lynx were quietly keeping themselves within striking distance without their full complement of talent.

And in tonight’s nationally televised game on NBA TV, the Lynx showed just how dangerous they can be at full strength by ending the Mercury’s league-high 16-game winning streak with a 75-67 win in Minneapolis. Neither team played particularly well, but in a significant regular season game that got increasingly physical throughout the starters that had been missing for so long loomed large for the Lynx.

From the Bright Side of the Sun: Phoenix Mercury: The war rages with the Lynx, the streak is over, and the season is just getting started

Awesome! (And not really WNBA related, BUT) NBA ref Violet Palmer to marry longtime partner

Equally awesome! Delle Donne savors return to court

Guzzling Pedialyte on the Chicago Sky bench, there was very little that could have sapped the childlike joy from Elena Delle Donne on Thursday night.

“It was amazing,” Delle Donne said after scoring 10 points in 11 minutes in her first game back in a month, an 87-74 Chicago victory over New York that keeps the Sky a half-game behind the Liberty for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. “Even when [coach Pokey Chatman] had her little freak-out at one point, it was great. It’s just awesome to be back with the team, competing, being back out on the floor and I’m just enjoying every second of it.”

Nerd City at Work! Chiney Ogwumike records 12th double-double as Sun hold off Stars

Optimism! Shock looks at rebuilt WNBA contenders as assurance in own direction

As the season nears its end and the playoff push continues, the Tulsa Shock appears to have the perfect combination of short-sightedness and perspective.

Finally! (we know) Tulsa Shock’s Riquna Williams to undergo season-ending knee surgery

From Mirin Fader at SlamOnline: Dream Big – Rookie PG Shoni Schimmel has brought Showtime to the WNBA. But her transition hasn’t been easy.

“There are big things in store for Shoni’s future. Everyone can see that,” Thompson continues. “But that would probably be the one thing that I think that Shoni is really taking the time to get better at.”

Schimmel is specifically working on her one-on-one defense. She wants to be able to contain the elite players in the league, not just be able to break them down with a single crossover and get to the basket.

Every day she works on her agility, using ladders to develop more quickness to help with sliding laterally so she can better stay in front of whoever she’s guarding.

This isn’t the first time Schimmel has had to make adjustments.

From Advocate.com: ESPN Short Lifesize: Brittney Griner Highlights Income Disparity for WNBA Stars

In other news:

Tough news for the Quakers: Stephanie Cheney decides to leave Penn women’s basketball

On November 14, Penn women’s basketball will begin the road to its Ivy League title defense. However, that title defense will have to come without one of the team’s young developing forwards.

Rising sophomore Stephanie Cheney, who played in 22 games for the Quakers last season, has left the program, leaving the team without a piece in the post that coach Mike McLaughlin could have utilized.

Roots! Women’s Basketball Adds Clare Berenato to The Coaching Staff

“Clare comes from great basketball bloodlines,” said Gaitley.  “Her mom, Agnus was the head coach at Pitt and her aunt [Bernadette McGlade] is our A-10 Commissioner.  She has great knowledge of the game and is a terrific people person.  We are excited to welcome her to the Fordham family.”

This explains it! I’ve already gotten two inquiries about the Maggie Dixon Classic (for those who don’t know, I’ve been gathering a group of folks to attend. Started with 25. Last year we had 140.) UConn women’s basketball will play St. John’s in Maggie Dixon Classic

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Kristi Toliver’s career speaks volumes about life as a women’s basketball player

On May 6, in an office at the Department of Domestic Affairs in Bratislava, Kristi Toliver — Virginia-born, Maryland-educated, as American as jazz — swallowed hard, signed some documents and swore, on her “honor and conscience,” to be a faithful and upstanding citizen of the Slovak Republic. A process that had been more than a year in the making was completed in a day and a half. Soon, she was in possession of a Slovak passport, now a dual U.S.-Slovak citizen. She was, at least for basketball purposes, a European.

As she boarded her flight back to the States, she was the same Kristi, but everything felt different. Behind her was another winter-spring season of Russian professional ball, ahead was another summer season with the Los Angeles Sparks of the WNBA.

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