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And I’m here!!!!

In Istanbul.

So what, you may ask, have ya been doin’?

Glad you asked! From my notes:

Pt. 1

Have arrived safe and sound in Istanbul. Seems appropriate that there’s a beautiful crescent moon in the sky…. FIBA basketball next!

Pt. 2

Notes from the first morning in Istanbul: Slight delay in my flight, and finding my ride to the hotel took a hot moment, but a gentleman from FIBA-Turkey was kind enough to let me us his phone and, voila, I was on my way into the city.

20 million in Istanbul? Who knew! Took the roundabout way because of traffic. I kept on trying to identify parallel cities/experiences. Athens with its short buildings, Abu Dhabi with its waterfront walkway, and then NYs East Village/Soho with its cobblestone streets and side-by-side-by-side restaurants bidding for your attention. Cats, kittens, dogs… yummy dinner with waiters who can laugh and tease in English. Glad to be with my friend Joan.

Staying in a lovely small hotel 3 minutes from the Blue Mosque... Awaiting partaking of a hotel breakfast, then touristing, then basketball in the evening. The US ought to demolish Angola (on NBAtv). No idea how much writing I’ll do…. enough to “earn my keep,” but not so much to interfere with some indulgence within the City. Visiting rug dealers recommended by the Turkish friends of one of the UConn fans – a many-time traveller to the country. Who knows if I find what I’m looking for, but it’ll be a lovely adventure.

Pt. 3

Day 1 in Istanbul began with a very early ezan (call to prayer), which was no surprise, since we ARE around the corner from the Blue Mosque. Roomie and fellow UConn fan then enjoyed the Hotel Seraglio’s lovely breakfast. We then walked up past the Mosque with the intention of joining to other UConn fan, Ken & Eric, and visit the Hagia Sophia. We did join them, but the line into the Sophia was looooong (it had been closed the day before) so we opted for a two and a half hour boat ride up and down the Bosphorus. 

About two hundred wanna-be-Bosphorus-Boaters quick-stepped after our two guides, down hills, across cobblestoned streets and in front of annoyed taxis. Clearly everyone had gotten the note “stay in front so when you get the boat you can get a good seat.” There was a slight “Running with Bulls” flavor to the proceedings that made you feel if you stumbled, that was it…you were going to be smooshed like Turkish Delight. When we reach the boat, the crowd got a little “Crowding the Store Doors on Black Friday”-esque. Three of the four of us made it onto the boat, but Joan got trapped ashore. A quick “paging Eric, exit the boat,” on the mic got us all reunited and, lucky us, we were first about the second tour boat.

Sat next to a well-traveled Southwest Airlines stewardess and mapped our way between Istanbul-Europe and Istanbul Asia. Visual echoes of Seattle, San Francisco and the Brooklyn ship yards. Everywhere you looked, it seemed someone had a line in the water fishing. Huge tankers and boats that looked like they were related to the mini-cooper… mini-motorboats. Perfectly beautiful day to be on the water.

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Returned for a brief recovery period at the hotel, and now we are all back together to grab some food before the US v. Angola game. Wheeeee!!

BTW – did attend the Angola v. U.S. game and tweeted it (if you want to re-versed tweet-read it.)

Speaking of the game, guess who I met at the arena? My FIBA friend from the airport! Had a great chat with him and his friends – doctor, architect and engineer wannabes – all volunteering for the event.

Oh, yeah, the game:

From Doug: U.S. women cruise past Angola

 Brittney Griner was a little surprised.

Moments after the U.S. had just beaten Angola in the most lopsided victory in team history at the world championship, the players from the African nation wanted to take photos with the Americans.

From USA Basketball: USA Wraps Up Preliminary Round With Record-Setting 119-44 Rout Of Angola

The 75-point win was the USA women’s largest margin of victory in FIBA World Championship play, and it tied for the most points scored by a U.S. team in a World Championship. Further, the USA’s 8-of-13 performance from 3-point, helped along by 3-of-4 shooting from Maya Moore (Minnesota Lynx), who finished with 16 points, was a USA World Championship record for 3-point percentage (.615). The team also tied the assists record with 32 dimes, led by six from Lindsay Whalen (Minnesota Lynx). Additionally, Breanna Stewart(University of Connecticut), who had nine points and six rebounds, set a U.S. World Championship record by shooting 7-of-7 from the free throw line.

Thoughts on the quarterfinals, where the USA will play the winner of tomorrow’s France-Brazil game:

GA: We know France; we just played them recently. I really haven’t seen Brazil much. Our coaches have gone out to see them. Either way, when you get to this point, into the quarterfinals, you get to the medal rounds, it’s not like you can afford to lose a game, you can’t afford to play poorly. You’re looking at one bad night and you go home. So, our players understand that and whoever we play, whether it’s France or Brazil, we’ll be ready.

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so twiddling my thumbs… so:

Don’t get fooled by the score, Serbia brought it against the US… and then some.

From Mechelle (who, I think, is writing from the mid-west?): Usual suspects step up for Team USA – Stars from Mercury, Lynx step up as USA Basketball clinches Group D’s top seed

The Americans’ 94-74 victory essentially guarantees them a flawless record in Group D play, as they go against far-overmatched Angola in the third game Tuesday (ESPN3, 2:30 p.m. ET). The toughest test in group play was expected to be Serbia, and that proved to be the case. It took until the fourth quarter for the U.S. team to put away the win, and it was the Mercury-Lynx combination that led the way in preventing the upset.

Looks like Doug’s long form game articles can be found directly on the AP site: US Women Hold Off Serbia 94-74

With Serbia hanging around midway through the fourth quarter, Diana Taurasi and the U.S. women’s basketball team stepped up their play to finally pull away.

Taurasi scored 13 of her 20 points in the final period and the Americans beat Serbia 94-74 on Sunday in the world championship to clinch the top seed in Group D.

“It was a tough game,” Taurasi said. “Every possession was a battle. They made us work on defense. There are some things we probably got to clean up. These games are good for us. This team hasn’t been together very long. In the two weeks that we’ve been together, we’ve been battle-tested a couple of times, which in the long run will only help us.”

Some UConn fans have made the trip, and give their inside the stands report.

USA Basketball is on YouTube:

They’re also online: USA Battles To 94-74 Win Over Serbia

The 2014 USA Basketball Women’s World Championship Team (2-0) fought off a resilient Serbia (1-1) team that was within six points at the start of the fourth quarter before the USA pulled away for a 94-74 win in the 2014 FIBA World Championship on Sunday night at Abdi Ipekci Arena in Istanbul, Turkey.

From their fabulous “additional quotes” section:

Auriemma, on tonight’s game being so close through three quarters:

I think sometimes on the outside, people think you just show up, roll the ball out and we have 25 points right away. It doesn’t work that way. These are national teams. They have players that are good. They know how to make shots, they know how to play. They’re experienced. They play well together. So, it takes us time because this is our training camp. These games are kind of like our training camp. These last five or six games we played in Paris and here.

That’s a really, really good team that plays with a lot of heart, that plays with a lot of passion. I’m not surprised that the game was difficult. But, we have some amazing players on our team that when the game is to be won, they make winning plays.

This kid OH-gwu-MOO-kay is writing a blog:

From FIBA:

Canadian prospects benefit from learning curve

Veteran guard Kim Gaucher believes the future of the Canada backcourt is in safe hands despite suffering  first loss at the FIBA World Championship for Women.

Indeed Gaucher is hugely excited about what could follow, such is the current glut of emerging talent.

‘Nothing complicated, simple old school’ basketball keeps Aussies going

 Erin Phillips has been the live-wire of the Australian Opals squad, especially in the absence of Lauren Jackson and Liz Cambage.

The Phoenix Mercury shooting guard was once again at the vanguard of another Australian win on Sunday – the second in as many games – assuring the team of place in the next round.

“The way we are playing is very good. There’s a lot of positive energy,” said the 29-year-old, who had four points, five rebounds and handed out a game-high seven assists.

Leuchanka wanted to go down fighting rather than be found want of trying

 Belarus needed back-to-back three-pointers inside the final 30 seconds of their game against fiesty Cuba to cap a 12-0 run in the last three minutes to pull off a Houdini-esque 70-69 win on Sunday at the 2014 FIBA World Championship for Women.

Leader Yelena Leuchanka had a beast of game with 20 points and a tournament-high 18 rebounds and played a expectedly pivotal role in that final outburst before Nadzeya Drozd and Katsiaryna Snytsina came up with the two makes from beyond the arc to ensure the 2010 FIBA World Championship for Women Semi-Finalists will advance from the Group Phase.

Turkey, USA seal Quarter-Final spots on Day 2

Turkey and the United States won for the second day in a row at the FIBA World Championship for Women to clinch first place in their respective groups and spots in the Quarter-Finals.

Spain and the Czech Republic also prevailed to set up a battle for Group A supremacy, and both Australia and Belarus won their games to set up a Group C showdown for first.

Vesela finds that loving feeling

Jana Vesela is simply loving being back in a Czech Republic vest and helping her nation post a flying start to the FIBA World Championship for Women.

The veteran forward had a very different experience last year, when her first outing at EuroBasket Women 2013 ended in tears as she was carried off to hospital in agony.

Shao Ting stands tall leading China’s transition

 Shao Ting indeed is the perfect representation of the transition phase in Chinese women’s basketball.

Shao Ting had not figured in any of the many youth national teams that China developed and was almost a nobody until a sterling performance in her maiden WCBA season with the Beijing Great Wall paved the way for her inclusion in Maher’s ‘clean up’ mission.

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so thanks to the parental units who shared this:

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finish some stuff at work. But, before I go…

Here are a couple of write-ups on the US V China game. As per usual with the recent Auriemma teams, the US started slowly and China played fearlessly. Eventually, legs & stamina and better offensive flow won out.

USA Opens FIBA World Championship With 87-56 Win Over China

“It’s the kind of game that you would hope to have as the first game of the tournament, where you have to play really well against China defensively because they do a lot of good stuff on the offensive end,” said USA head coach Geno Auriemma (University of Connecticut). “And we didn’t make any shots in the first half at all. I think in one possession we had six shots at the basket, and five of them were inside a foot-and-a-half, two feet. So, when we went in at halftime we talked about it, and then stuff started going in. So, it was good that we started the game in the first half under a little bit of duress and we finished the game on a high, so that’s great going into tomorrow against another really good team in Serbia.”

From Mechelle – Team USA Is More Than Just OK  – They weren’t flawless, but the Americans still dominated China in opener

The day before the United States faced China in the teams’ opener at the FIBA World Championship for Women, the Americans did their best to explain why — regardless of whether they really thought so — they might face some difficulties.

They said the Chinese were going to play hard, they would execute well, they would be persistent, they had size on the perimeter and they were not going to act intimidated.

But the best quote the American side had about Saturday’s game came from Angel McCoughtry, thanks to her simple honesty: “I think we’ll be OK against China.”

From Lee at Full Court: Griner throws down historic first Women’s World Championship dunk while leading U.S. to 87-56 win over China

 She’s arrived.

Brittney Griner may have been late to the Team USA party, but on Saturday’s opening day of the 2014 FIBA World Basketball Championship for Women at Abdi Ipekci Arena in Istanbul, Turkey, she finally arrived on the world basketball scene in her first major international competition. It was quite a debut!

From Nick Z: Brittney Griner leads U.S. past early China test in Worlds opener

Favorite moment? The Dunk? The announcers “Ack SENT on the wrong syLAble of NO’s name? Augustus’ ridiculous move? No. Maya’s dance (?) move in REACTION to Augustus’ play. Too funny.

WILL be back for US v. Serbia on NBATV & ESPN streaming (why isn’t there a 3/4 mode for the video display???). Until then, here be some notes from the hard-working folks at USA Basketball:

Making an historic first appearance at the FIBA World Championship, Serbia in its opening game was up 22-10 over Angola after the first quarter, and continued to roll to a 102-42 victory on Sept. 27 in Istanbul.

All 12 players scored for Serbia, led by 16 from Jelena Milovanovic (8-13 FGs) and 15 points from Dajana Butulija (6-11 FGs, 2-4 3pt FGs). Serbia scored 29 points off of 27 Angolan turnovers, outscored Angola 43-12 off the bench and outrebounded Angola 40-25.

“We haven’t seen much of them,” said USA head coach Geno Auriemma. “We didn’t see them in the Czech Republic or London. But, I had seen them when we were scouting the European Championship. They’re really tough. They’re really aggressive. They put a lot of pres- sure on you with their defense. They play an aggressive kind of offense, where they’re attacking you all the time. It’s a country that has a tremendous culture of basketball.”

USA vs. Serbia: All-Time Record

USA Basketball women are 1-0 all-time against Serbia, having played the nation once at the 2009 World University Games preliminary round.

The USA’s team featured current U.S. members Tina Charles and Maya Moore.

After a first-quarter fight from Serbia, which was host- ing the 2009 WUGs in Belgrade, the USA buckled down on defense and held its opponent to just 36.7 shooting from the field overall to secure a 84-50 win and Group A’s No. 1 seed headed into the second round. Charles, who shot 8-of-10 from the field, led the USA with 17 points.

The USA went on to capture gold with a 7-0 mark, while host Serbia finished in 11th place with a 3-4 record.

Join the twit-versation at: https://twitter.com/usabasketball

There are other games going on, btw, so check out http://www.fiba.com/turkey2014 for news. Here’s something on the Canadians.

Now I MUST go to work and start packing!!!!

P.S. And yes, we know that ESPN has screwed up and not uploaded the archive of the US game (other games, yes.) I know annoyed UConn fans are doing everything they can to ensure that ESPN is on the problem, weekend or not!

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Turkey's Işıl Alben after her game-winner over France

Turkey’s Işıl Alben after her game-winner over France

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And I kid… packing? I don’t leave until midnight on Sunday. I have PLENTY of time… ha. Besides, Turkey v. France is on! http://espn.go.com/watchespn/index?id=1964013

Some notes to get me ready for the US game:

CHINA

FIBA world ranking: 8.
How China qualified: 2013 FIBA Asia Championship bronze medalist (4-3).
World Championship appearances: 8 (1983, 1986, 1990, 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010).
World Championship overall record: 34-39 (.466). World Championship medals: 1 silver medal (1994), 1 bronze medal (1983).
Key players in 2013 FIBA Asia Championship: Nan Chen (12.7 ppg., 4.1 rpg.), Song Gao (13.7 ppg., 6.6 rpg.), Wen Lu (9.9 ppg., 2.9 rpg.)
USA vs. China at the World Championship: 4-0.
2012 Olympic finish: 6th place (3-3).

The team features just two athletes from China’s 2012 Olympic squad, which finished in sixth place with a 3-3 record. With several top veterans retiring, China’s team is young, but not without experience as eight of their players helped China capture the bronze medal at the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship to qualify for this year’s event.

China is being coached by international veteran Tom Maher, who coached Australia to its first Olympic medal with a bronze at the Atlanta Olympics and headed up Australia’s silver-medal finish in Sydney. Following that, he coached New Zealand to its best Olympic finish — eighth place — in Athens, headed up China’s fourth-place finish in Beijing, was hired to coach Great Britain in 2012 and then was rehired by China to lead its national team through the Rio Games. He also served a stint as head coach of the Washington Mystics in 2001.

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Dunno why it didn’t come up before, but: Recent events spice things up in Istanbul

Having made a strong case for Ankara being my preferred location for the Group Phase of the FIBA World Championship for Women, events over the weekend narrowed the gap.

Unfortunately it was bad news for Australia which potentially threw things open in Group C in Istanbul as they lost Liz Cambage to injury at the Paris tournament – something which is a crushing blow for the Opals and neutrals like myself.

The prospect of seeing a breath-taking talent like Cambage missing from the world stage for four years is a big blow for women’s basketball and, in the short term, for this competition. While Australia beat France without her as Marianna Tolo stepped up in the paint, this vital absence (along with Lauren Jackson) arguably gives more hope to Belarus and Cuba.

And, from FIBAEUROPE.com: Problems in the Paint Worry Belarus

Belarus face a tough task in repeating their superb run to the semi-finals of the FIBA World Championship for Women when they step out in Istanbul next week. 

It’s been an intense few years of distinct peaks and troughs for the national team and just when they had seemed to be back on an upward curve in the wake of a creditable fifth-place finish at EuroBasket Women 2013, they are now in danger of hitting another bump in the road.

Key absences are likely to seriously threaten their prospects of making another big splash on the global stage and that means expectations have to be re-aligned.

Euro Guns Ready to Fire on the World Stage

Six European teams are preparing to launch an assault on the FIBA World Championship for Women when the action tips-off in Ankara and Istanbul this weekend. 

And, there will be a real blockbuster for fans to enjoy in the capital as the host nation go up against fellow heavyweights France in Group B.

This will be a hugely important game for both teams, who know a victory will get them onto the front foot and stave off pressure – something particularly important for host nation Turkey.

A huge crowd is expected to support the local favourites, who will be looking to avenge their semi-final loss against Les Bleues at EuroBasket Women last summer.

Torrens Relishing her Turkish Return:

EuroLeague Women champion Alba Torrens is relishing a return to Turkey with the national team as Spain prepare to aim for successive podium finishes at the FIBA World Championship for Women

The Spanish ace famously led Galatasaray odeabank to their first EuroLeague Women title last season, as well as a first Turkish League Championship in more than a decade to cement herself as a legend with the TKBL juggernauts.

Having since made the switch to UMMC Ekaterinburg, Torrens is looking forward to heading back to the country she lived in recently.

“At the FIBA World Championship I’m going to play in front of Turkish fans again and I’m really excited about it,” she declared.

Sigh of Relief for Kulichova and Czechs:

When experienced Czech center Petra Kulichova went down in the final quarter of their last preparation game against USA, it looked like her FIBA World Championship for Women prospects were over. 

However, to the considerable relief of the 30-year-old, her team-mates and head coach, Lubor Blazek, the ankle injury she sustained was not as serious as first thought.

It had looked so bad when it happened that it seemed inevitable she would miss out.  Diana Taurasi was one of the first players to offer verbal support and a speedy recovery to Kulichova as she sat glumly waiting for the game to finish and for a full medical assessment to be undertaken.

Mandic Flies Flag for Rising Stars

When asked to name a rising star of the women’s game from Serbia, you could be forgiven for thinking immediately of Aleksandra Crvendakic or Dragana Stankovic.

After all, the duo have had standout careers at youth level and are preparing to play together for UE Sopron in EuroCup Women this season.

Or, you might throw Aleksandra Stanacev into the equation. A playmaker who is diminutive in physical stature, but plays with a big heart and with just as much talent – something that recently earned her a move to Liga Femenina.

However Sanja Mandic is now the name on everbody’s lips after the teenager was named on the Serbia senior roster for the FIBA World Championship for Women which tips-off on Saturday.

If you’re a twitter person, AP Doug’s at @DougFeinberg and Paul’s at @basketmedia365.

On paper, this looks like game of opening day…. v – going to be almost 10,000 fans.Bring the NOISE!

And look for the hashtag #Turkey2014.

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Almost.

My brain moved my flight up 36 hours. Luckily I looked at my reservation and went, “Hey, I’m not leaving until Sunday night!” That’s what comes of purchasing a ticket months ago. It also means I can go in to the office Saturday and finish up some final bits of business instead of staying there deep into the night….

Brittney didn’t miss her flight, and Geno seems wicked happy.

“I was worried,” Griner admitted. “I was worried about my eye, honestly. I had a teammate lose her eyesight playing basketball in college, so that was always in the back of my mind. I wanted to make sure my eye was okay, and also, I wanted to play with USA Basketball. So, it would have sucked bad to get bad news twice. When I heard that I was able to come play, I hopped on a plane, came in and started practicing.”

Speaking of wicked happy, if you can’t fly to Turkey for the FIBA World Championship (notice the singular – thanks CW), you’re in luck: the games are being broadcast and, because the US is the featured game (often 9:3opm) the time difference works in your favor. Tomorrow, for instance, USA faces China at 2:30 p.m. EDT.

All games will be carried by NBA TV and ESPN3/Watch ESPNThe gold medal game, regardless of who advances, will air on ESPN2 at 11am PT on Oct. 5. If you don’t have NBA TV, the Watch ESPN app or ESPN via your computer, you can pay a $10 subscription to watch the full tournament on LiveBasketball.TV. Or/And use the hashtag #Turkey2014 on Twitter to get updates and commentary about the competition.

From Geno: Are you happy to finally get the games started tomorrow?

I am. I think the first one is always the most difficult. You’re not quite sure what you’re going to get. You want to obviously get off to a great start and set the tone for the way the tournament’s going to go. In this case, too, we’re anxious to see how Brittney’s going to fit in. We haven’t played a game with her yet. We’ve had two practices with her. I guess by USA Basketball standards, that’s a long time. But I think that all the players and I’ve noticed in the past two days in practice that there’s a sharper focus. Now that we’re here, it’s right there in front of us. So, we’re pretty excited about it.

Thanks to the AP, Doug is in Turkey to cover the game. Support him and click through and read the full story: US women set to defend hoop title at world tourney

The U.S. has only lost once at the worlds since 1998, but suffered a rare defeat in an exhibition game against France last weekend.

That setback raised a few eyebrows heading into the tournament, which begins Saturday in Istanbul.

“There are a lot of really good teams in the tournament and we’re one of them,” said coach Geno Auriemma “For us or anyone else to think we’re anything more than that is not being really objective about this whole thing.”

I don’t know if anyone from ESPN is in Turkey, but Lee from Full Court is: 2014 Women’s World Championship officially opens in Istanbul

“The country should be very proud of the success achieved by the women’s national team,” added Elphinston. “They performed very well at the 2012 London Olympics, as well as at the European level, and most recently also at the youth level. This is an example of what hard work combined with strong government and commercial support can do to take the sport to the next level.”

In Istanbul or not, Mechelle can still write: Team USA ready to take on the world

Those involved with USA Basketball tend to lament the lack of time that the American team gets to spend together preparing for major events, especially compared to most other nations.

But one of the things that’s interesting about the 2014 version that starts play in the 2014 FIBA World Championship on Saturday in Turkey (ESPN3, 2:30 p.m. ET) is how much familiarity actually is a part of this squad — at least pods of familiarity.

NBC OlympicTalk (?!?!)’s Nick Zaccardi is Analyzing the U.S. women’s basketball roster for World Championships

Oh, Canada: Canadian women’s basketball team set for FIBA world championship – At familiar grounds in Turkey, the Canadian women’s basketball team appears poised for success ahead of the biggest stage in the sport.

The vivid recollections washed over them and the wonderful moments became fresh in their minds as members of the Canadian women’s basketball team walked in the Ankara Arena in Turkey for practice Wednesday afternoon.

For the majority of the 12-woman team, recalling the last time they’d played a significant game on the court was enough to buoy their confidence going into the world championship that begins Saturday morning.

More Canada: Special times for the Nurse family

This has to be such an exciting time for the Nurse family.

Not only is UConn freshman Kia Nurse preparing to play for Canada in the FIBA World Championship for Women which starts on Saturday, but her older brother Darnell is making a serious push at making the opening-night roster for the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers.

So who’s the competition? WNBAlien Richard meets Dishin’ & Swishin’ Dave. Richard knows his international basketball players.

You’ll know some of them, too: 35 Current and Former WNBA Players to Compete in 2014 FIBA World Championship

From FIBA: Global celebration of women’s basketball officially open

“This tournament is about a lot more than Turkey. It is about continuing the emergence of basketball across the globe, in all five continents.

“Hosting this Championship is part of a journey that began over 20 years ago, when we set out to become a leading basketball nation and that meant doing so both in men’s and women’s basketball. The great sporting results we have achieved in recent years are a proof of this.”

Also from FIBA: USA the team to beat as 2014 FIBA World Championship for Women set to tip off Saturday

Mechelle and Graham argue about who’s the most important player on the National Team.

Brittney Griner is a presence unlike any other available to Team USA. Or available to the rest of the world, for that matter.

The opportunity in front of her is unlike that in front of any other player on the American roster.

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I voted for Minnesota’s Maya Moore as the WNBA’s MVP this season, and had no qualms about that. But we saw that the MVP for the playoffs was Phoenix’s Diana Taurasi, and I think that status will continue into the upcoming world championship.

I’d say “Ignore Angel at your peril:” Talking Turkey With Olympic Champion Angel McCoughtry

Earlier this month Angel McCoughtry was practicing with her USA Basketball teammates in Annapolis, Maryland, not far from her hometown of Baltimore.

Now she is prepping her teammates for her second home of Istanbul, Turkey. 

McCoughtry, a 6-foot-1 forward who helped Team USA to gold medals at the 2010 FIBA World Championship for Women and the London 2012 Olympic Games, plays professionally for Fenerbahҫe in Istanbul. The upcoming FIBA World Championship for Women, set for Sept. 27-Oct. 5, will be played in Turkey with the gold-medal game being held in the same arena where McCoughtry plays with her pro team. 

“The people there love basketball, both for the men and the women,” McCoughtry said. “And I’m so excited to show my teammates around Turkey

Sue says : “The five that start on the bench could be the starters”

LH : What’s the strength of this team ? Your physicality ?

SB : Well, you know, we have a lot of strengths, we are very lucky ! One that is think is huge, and will help us in a tournament like the World Cup where we have 3 games in a row then a little bit of a break before three other games in a row, is our depth. We are not going to rely on 6-7 players, like some countries do. We have a very talented team. The five that start on the bench could be the starters, easily. Like I said, I think that is probably our biggest advantage. Then, yes, of course, we have some very talented players.

Espana: Laia Palau : “Sancho Lyttle represents more than half of this team’s strength”

Ladyhoop : You lost one of your team’s important figures in Amaya Valdemoro, who retired.

L.P. : Indeed ! She did great things for us and we are going to miss her but we have to look forward. We gave the ball to other players, like Alba or Xargay. The youngsters are playing very well, furthermore. This year, we got Ann Cruz, coming from the WNBA. We have young players with a lot of experience.

The Opals say: “We’re not fazed by loss of Lauren Jackson and Liz Cambage

While Joyce stressed only a team effort would cover the losses, he singled out veteran Penny Taylor as a figure capable of inspiring the team.

Taylor, 33, will captain the Opals in Turkey after fighting her way back from two injury-plagued seasons.

“Penny has the ability to raise the standard in others and that’s what leadership is from my point of view,” Joyce said of Taylor, who this month won a WNBA title with Phoenix.

“We certainly need that right now with everything that’s happened.”

And let’s not forget they have Mini Mi! Leilani Mitchell : “We played our first three games together here in Paris”

I’m waiting for something new from Paul Nilsen, but until it arrives, you’ll just have to settle for this piece from May pondering, Who will be the center of attention in Turkey?

Kevin Tresolini hits the big time as his piece on EDD lands in USAToday: Elena Delle Donne hopes home cooking will be the cure

A basketball season undermined by illness and injury is over sooner than Elena Delle Donne would have preferred.

The U.S. begins play in the FIBA World Championships on Saturday in Turkey. But Delle Donne is not on its 12-woman roster because of a bulging disk in her lower back.

Still, the former Ursuline Academy and University of Delaware All-American, less than two weeks removed from the Chicago Sky being swept in the WNBA Finals, has already made progress toward recovery.

And 2016, with the Summer Olympics positioned on the August calendar, remains firmly in her sights as well.

In other news:

Nate is keeping busy: 2014 WNBA rookies who deserve All-Rookie honorable mentions

As the 2014-15 NCAA season approaches, we’ll begin breaking down the top prospects for the 2015 WNBA Draft in the next few days. But before moving on completely to next year, it helps to take stock of how the 2014 rookie class performed beyond those who got All-Rookie recognition.

Sorry haters, it doesn’t look like the 18-year-old WNBA is going to collapse just yet: High quality competition boosts WNBA, fans

Across many regions including these Twin Cities, the WNBA is establishing a root that is growing. 

As proof, look no further than the exciting three-game Western Conference Final (WCF) series between the Minnesota Lynx and eventual WNBA champion, Phoenix Mercury. With central young stars Maya Moore and Britney Griner at the root of the rivalry, both the Twin Cities and Phoenix can lean back and look forward to a decade of should-see-TV.

Awesome: 21 ways we love WNBA champ Brittney Griner

It was the summer of Brittney – not the singer with one T but the gay Houston native with two. Hang on tight, because you’re about to love this lesbian WNBA All Star, even if you’ve been living under a sports-free rock.

Brittney Griner’s reign actually goes way beyond this past summer. It’s Griner’s whole year, and we’re just living in it. In a relative flash, the Nimitz High School basketball star has gone from Texas phenom to national treasure. Now everything she touches makes gay Houston proud.

Griner put the LGBT nation on notice in 2013. That’s when the No. 1 draft pick out of Baylor came out as gay matter-of-factly to the roar of lesbian basketball fans. Her star’s rise gained momentum off the court when she stood up to bullies, became a Nike menswear model, wrote a book “In My Skin,” and wowed a star-studded gay crowd.

OK. I admire Becky as much as anyone (thanks, Robin). But can some please break the pencil of the next writer who uses “undrafted” and “Hammon” together with out the qualifier: Because the bloody ABL talent flooded the bloody WNBA pool. I mean, friggin’ Jennifer Rizzotti was drafted 48th!

WATN? Tangela Smith: Western Michigan.

WATN? Le’Coe Willingham: Tennessee State.

Surprise! (NOT): Stephanie White takes over as Fever’s head coach

“I’m so glad that it is happening in this state. I’m so glad that it is happening with this franchise. To play at every level in my home state and now to be the head coach of the pro team is a pretty surreal moment,” White said in a phone interview Tuesday night. “I’m just realizing how humbling and special this moment is.”

More on Steph from the Indy Star: New Fever coach Stephanie White altered her career plan from astronaut to WNBA leader

Speaking of coaches, nice to see that hullabaloo was nothing but smoke: Holy Cross, Coach Bill Gibbons Agree To Contract Extension

Old Big East Flashback: Ieva Kublina, whose stellar career helped the women’s basketball program to four consecutive postseason appearances and ended with 95 consecutive starts, is the newest member of the  Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame.

Jayda continues her Storm exit interviews: All-Star Crystal Langhorne filled a void in the paint

Unfortunately, this doesn’t surprise me: Qatar out of women’s basketball over hijab row

The wearing of hijabs has become a hot topic in sport in recent years with Muslim athletes complaining that they are being discriminated against.

Judoka Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shaherkani hit the headlines at the 2012 London Olympics when Saudi Arabia demanded she be allowed to compete wearing a hijab.

While international judo federation rules at the time barred her from doing so, Shaherkani was eventually allowed to compete wearing a modified veil.

Human Rights Watch told Reuters it should have been up to FIBA to prove why Qatari players should not wear headscarves.

“We oppose any general ban on wearing of headscarves and onus should be on the regulator to prove why a ban is necessary on the basis of health and safety,” it said.

“In the case of basketball, it’s difficult to see how a ban on the headscarf is anything other than an unnecessary restriction on the players’ rights to religious freedom and personal autonomy.”

We’re not surprised, because we know the history:

You may have heard the story of former Memphis and Indiana State women’s basketball player Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir: she was the first Muslim woman to play NCAA Division I basketball wearing hijab (after breaking Rebecca Lobo’s high school scoring record in Massachusetts).

Yet since graduating from Indiana State, she has led the fight against FIBA’s rules restricting headwear in international competition.

As with most women’s basketball players, the Massachusetts native aspired to pursue a professional career internationally. However, FIBA’s ban on wearing headgear (that also affects Jewish and Sikh men) has kept her from playing overseas.

It’s been a long, tough day, so we’re going to add (and end on) a positive note: Just put in an order for 170 tickets to the Maggie Dixon Classic on January 4th at the Garden. I had — just HAD to round it up, so I do have three extra tickets in case you’re cranky you missed your chance to join us. Just email me: womenshoopsblog @ gmail.com.

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The Griner has landed~

2014 USA Basketball World Championship Team Roster Finalized

— Sue Bird Becomes First U.S. Player On Four USA World Championship Teams —

PRAGUE, Czech Republic (Sept. 23, 2014) – Headlined by USA Basketball’s first four-time USA World Championship Team member Sue Bird (Seattle Storm), the 12-member 2014 USA World Championship Team was finalized on Sept. 23 in Prague, Czech Republic. The U.S. squad, which posted a 4-1 record in exhibition games and began training camp on Sept. 8, will travel to Turkey in the morning for the 2014 FIBA World Championship, which will be held Sept. 27-Oct. 5 in Ankara and Istanbul. The team was selected by the USA Basketball Women’s National Team Player Selection Committee, chaired by USA Basketball women’s national team director Carol Callan.

Including Bird, who won gold in 2002 and 2010 and a bronze medal in 2006, named to the 2014 USA World Championship Team were: three-time USA World Championship Team member Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury), a member of the 2006 and 2010 U.S. teams; 2010 USA World Championship Team gold medalists Tina Charles (New York Liberty), Candice Dupree (Phoenix Mercury), Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream), Maya Moore (Minnesota Lynx) and Lindsay Whalen (Minnesota Lynx); 2006 bronze medalist Seimone Augustus (Minnesota Lynx); as well as Brittney Griner (Phoenix Mercury), Nnemkadi Ogwumike (Los Angeles Sparks), Odyssey Sims (Tulsa Shock) and Breanna Stewart (University of Connecticut), who will be competing in their first FIBA World Championship.

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Les bleus took it to les red-white-and-bleus. The second half was not a pretty sight – unless, of course, you were cheering for France. Gruda feasted in the post, Dumerc thrived outside and the US forgot how to shoot, how to play defense and any concept of shared offense. End result? US coughs up an 18pt lead and the London Silver medalists thrilled the home town crowd with a 76-72 win.

“We talked to the players about how difficult all this is going to be,” U.S. coach Geno Auriemma said. “Sometimes maybe we think this is going to be easy, but it’s not going to be easy. It’s not easy to beat a really good team on their home floor if you don’t shoot the ball well, if you don’t make shots. The way we started in the first quarter, I thought we started the right way. Our defense was really good. Our offense was going. And then when we got into a little bit of a lull, France and Sandrine (Gruda) especially, they just made shots. They deserved to win tonight. No question about that.”

It’s fun to watch “those who know better” twit themselves silly over the loss… they sound like cranky UConn fans… :-)

Next step for US: Cut Dolson, Diggins and McBride and wait to see if Griner is healthy enough (2006, anyone?to join the crew and shore up the play in the paint.

The team is now in Prague awaiting a game tomorrow. Check out live stats from FIBA and, maybe, a live stream here.

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USA v. France.

Feisty crowd. Fun French announcers. Pull up a croissant and enjoy!

Live Stats from FIBA. (Rien de threes in le premiere half)

And yes, the news for Australia is bad: 

Basketball Australia today confirmed Australian Jayco Opals star Elizabeth Cambage has been ruled out of the 2014 FIBA World Championship for Women campaign after suffering a ruptured Achilles tendon.

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Immaculata, Queens College to play

Madison Square Garden will honor the first women’s basketball game played at the arena 40 years ago with a rematch between Queens College and Immaculata as part of the Maggie Dixon Classic on Jan. 4.

Immaculata won the inaugural game 65-61 in front of 12,000 fans on Feb. 22, 1975.

“It was a defining moment for women’s basketball and for women in general,” said former WNBA president Donna Orender, who played for Queens College. “I can still hear Helen Reddy singing ‘I am woman hear me roar’ the crowd was screaming and tears rolled down my cheeks on the layup line. I was a freshman and so proud matching up against the more preeminent guard in the country — Marianne Crawford Stanley. It is so important we celebrate our heritage and history.”

Check out this program from the March, 1973 AIAW National Championship pitting Cathy Rush v. Lucille Kyvallos. Some teams just have a coach, some have a coahce and manager, and SOME have a coach, manager and…. chaperone!

From Newday, 2004″  – ‘We were pioneers’

A women’s college basketball team regularly packing gyms,getting media coverage and making trips to Madison Square Garden. If you’re thinking of the women’s teams from the universities of Connecticut or Tennessee – who are in the Final Four tonight in New Orleans – you’re wrong.

The school was Queens College, and the years were 1968- 1980. During this period, the Lady Knights ruled New York and became the first women’s team from the city to compete in a national tournament. They were ranked in the top 10 nationwide from 1972-1978 – finishing second in 1973 – and in 1975 became the first women’s team to play at the Garden.

FYI, considering the USA WNT is doin’ the FIBA thing: Kyvallos was U.S. team’s head coach at the 1977 World University Games and Rush coached the 1975 USA Basketball Pan American team.

Speakin’ of the FIBA thing – I got my visa and so do DT and Candice. They weren’t much help against the Aussies but, luckily, other folks stepped up.

From (I’m guessing) Doug: 

Candace Parker is out. So is Sylvia Fowles. Brittney Griner is questionable. And now Elena Delle Donne is a no-go.

With a series of injuries to several post players on the U.S. women’s national basketball team, the heavily favored Americans have suddenly been cut down to size as they prepare for the world championship that begin Sept. 27 in Istanbul.

It’s a new challenge for USA Basketball. Veteran post play has long been a strong suit, from Anne Donovan to Yolanda Griffith and Lisa Leslie.

Might be some bad news for Liz and the Opals.

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between the WNBA and college season.

After defeating Canada by repeating the form that earned the team Olympic Gold in London – an out-of-sorts first half followed by a defensive clamp-down second half – the Senior National team has set its sights on seeing the sights in France. Oh, and yah, there’s some basketball goin’ on.

They’ll play game in France (I believe ESPN3 will carry them)

Sept. 19th v. Australia – 11:30 EST
Sept. 20th v. China- 11:30 EST
Sept. 21st v. France – 10:00 EST

Then to the Czech Republic to play the Czech Republic on the 23rd.

By the way, Big Syl is out, BG (eye) might be out, and EDD (back) might be out…

Speaking of bigs: Moore Has Taken Stewart Under Her Wing

“I see myself in Stewie so much,’’ Moore said. “The things Coach (Geno Auriemma) yells at her for are the same things he yelled at me for. The position she’s in at a young age leading the team and playing so well and being so talented in different areas of the floor, I think we’re very similar in those ways. And her attitude and her unselfishness are all very similar. I’ve definitely enjoyed spending more time with her now than I probably ever have on the court.

From Lisa Altobelli at USA Basketball: Sue Bird Is a Leader On And Off The Court for USA Basketball

Sue Bird is the oldest member of the USA Basketball Women’s National Team. Let me just say that again with emphasis. Sue Bird is now the eldest stateswoman on the U.S. squad.

When did this happen? Well chronologically she is 33, of course. But wasn’t it just yesterday that she was youngest? Coming in at age 22 for the 2002 FIBA World Championship with a perfect ponytail flying while she dished rocket passes to Lisa Leslie as Dawn Staley and Sheryl Swoopes took her under their wing?

Check out “Sue Bird – Through the Years.”

The future is now: New Leadership Emerging in Run-Up to World Championship

“In 2010 and 2012, I was soaking in everything I could from some of the vets that had been around,” says Maya Moore, now 25, who was the youngest member of the U.S. teams that won gold at the 2010 FIBA Worlds and the 2012 London Olympics. “And now being one of the more experienced on the national team, it just was kind of just natural to step up, and hop in, and go first and try to lead by example.”

The FIBA tournament will be broadcast on ESPN3

Saturday, 9/27 USA – China 2:30pm ET
Sunday 9/28 USA – Serbia 2:30 ET
Tuesday 9/30 USA – Angola 2:30 ET

Oct. 1 – Quarterfinal Play-In Games
Oct. 3 – Quarterfinals
Oct. 4 – Semifinals
Oct. 5 – Finals

Over at Swish Appeal, James Bowman asks: How does Team USA rank against the other international teams?

You might have been one of those who watched the game between the United States and Canada women’s basketball teams in person at Bridgeport, or saw it on television.  If you’re reading this website you’ve probably read about it.

But did you know anything about the Khalipski Cup?  While the United States was taking care of Canada four national teams — Spain, China, Turkey and host Belarus — had a mini-tournament of their own.  All four of those teams are FIBA tournament teams and they were preparing in the same way that the United States prepared.

Yah, the W season is over, but there’s still time to reminisce.

Here are espnW’s Top 10 moments.

Mechelle has some final thoughts on the season:

The WNBA’s 2014 season is in the books, and you can paint it purple and orange. The Phoenix Mercury moved into the favorite’s position early in the summer, and stayed there right through the end. Here are our final 2014 WNBA power rankings as we evaluate the season and take a very quick look at what 2015 might entail.

Speaking of purple and orange, here’s the Merc’s Championship Run video.

In other news:

I really have no patience for this crap: David Butcher, Pickerington North girls basketball coach, was charged with drunken driving

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Well, whoops!

Ariya Crook Dismissed From USC Women’s Basketball Team – Senior guard was the 2014 Pac-12 Tournament Most Outstanding Player.
Yeah! Tonight we get to watch Orléans’ Courtnay Pilypaitis! I’m betting the Catamount fans will be watching.
About the WNBA…

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(though, I have a feeling the results won’t be so friendly), 7pm, ESPN.

Some pre-game reading:

USA Basketball Women’s National Team Roster Set For Exhibition Versus Canada

  Traveling on to Europe to compete in the Sept. 19-21 France International Tournament in Paris as finalists for the 2014 USA World Championship Team are: Seimone Augustus (Minnesota Lynx), Sue Bird (Seattle Storm), Tina Charles (New York Liberty), Skylar Diggins (Tulsa Shock),Stefanie Dolson (Washington Mystics), Jantel Lavender (Los Angeles Sparks), Kayla McBride(San Antonio Stars), Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream), Maya Moore (Minnesota Lynx),Nnemkadi Ogwumike (Los Angeles Sparks), Odyssey Sims (Tulsa Shock), Breanna Stewart(University of Connecticut) and Lindsay Whalen (Minnesota Lynx).

            2014-16 USA Basketball Women’s National Team members DeWanna Bonner (Phoenix Mercury), Elena Delle Donne (Chicago Sky), Candice Dupree (Phoenix Mercury), Sylvia Fowles(Chicago Sky), Brittney Griner (Phoenix Mercury), Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury) andCourtney Vandersloot (Chicago Sky) were competing in the recently concluded WNBA Finals and unable to attend the USA’s domestic training camp. USA Basketball will announce at a later date which of these athletes will join the finalists in Europe.

Here are some Quotes From Women’s National Team Scrimmage With Canada

On the Canadian Husky: Nurse learning from experience of a lifetime

 Kia Nurse was two years old when Sue Bird made her debut for the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team.

No wonder the United States national team’s point guard and three-time Olympic gold medalist feels her age when she looks across the court at the UConn freshman and point guard for Team Canada.

But with age comes experience and wisdom and Bird knows exactly what Nurse is getting into.

About the W, Nate offers: Diana Taurasi shines in Phoenix Mercury’s Game 3 win, 2014 WNBA Finals bring big TV ratings

The other day I wrote a response to Jeff Pearlman’s article in the Medium about the state of the WNBA, which I felt was a perfectly reasonable critique of the league.

It got longer than I initially intended, but there were really three points there:

1. The league is making progress, has done what it could to promote its young stars, and the evolution of the game on the court demands patience as basketball fans familiarize themselves with the league.

2. The league still has yet to persuasively answer why it’s worth sports fans’ time, especially in a crowded sports market that runs right up against the NFL season.

3. As I alluded to and James stated explicitly in the comments, the league theoretically has appeal to multiple demographics and arguably greater social value than other sports leagues but seriously risks turning off one demographic if it pushes too hard to attract another. Yet it has struggled over time to decide whether it will target one demographic or try to embrace its broad appeal.

NCAA: Every year they do this, an every year folks participating say, “Dang, this is harder than it looks!” Women’s basketball mock exercise spotlights 2015 championship changes

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with BG on the bench and EDD moving better, they had a chance to make the Merc sing this:

Instead, a total team effort — and some classic DT — has Phoenix singing this:

It’s lovely knowing that pro women’s basketball ain’t over and, selfishly, I’m hoping that Elena is healthy enough (and fortunate enough) to be named to the USA National Team. I want to see her on the same side as BG in Turkey. ’cause then, they can all sing:

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fingers crossed.… feast your eyes on the USA Basketball Showcase which is set to tip-ff at 7 pm tonight on ESPN2

Geno Auriemma’s second term as USA Basketball’s senior national team coach presents unique challenges.

Auriemma, holder of nine national champions at UConn since 1995, will be expected to defend the 2010 world championship and prepare for the defense of 2012 Olympic gold while subtlety turning over the roster that accomplished it.

He will do so with the plan of passing along the new foundation to the next national coach, who he assures absolutely will not be him.

From the Courant: Geno Auriemma, U.S. Women’s National Team On Display Tonight

From SportzEdge: One on one with Geno: Auriemma talks Team USA practice

U.S. Women’s Basketball: Discovering What It Means To Represent Team USA

 For the last few days, members of the USA Basketball Women’s National Team could not help but be reminded of what it means to represent Team USA.

Not only have they been wearing their Team USA gear and practicing together in preparation for the upcoming FIBA World Championship in Turkey, but also they have been training at the U.S. Naval Academy, dining with midshipmen and meeting with high-ranking military members. Everywhere you go in the Maryland capital city of Annapolis, there are storefronts with the American flag and people walking around in military uniforms.

*I had a little flashback to an ’07 trip to Trenton to catch the USA v. Australia game. Bunch of us went, the hunted down a nearby sports bar to catch the Detroit/Phoenix finals. It was a Sunday, so we had to convince them to turn on the game... And what a game it was. Gained the league some fans that day…*

From Dishin & Swishin 09/11/14 Podcast: Talking WNBA Finals and USA Basketball tryouts with AP’s Doug Feinberg

BTW – Speaking of 2007: The WNBA Finals 2014 Game 2 – a 97-68 win for the Phoenix Mercury over the Chicago Sky – delivered a 0.6 overnight rating, marking the highest overnight number for any WNBA postseason game on ESPN or ESPN2 since 2007. Anyone still b*tching about the “Three to See” marketing?

Nate has The Daily Swish: USABWNT Showcase, Finals ratings

Check out the All-WNBA teams.

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has got me thinking about Taj Mahal:

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Sylvia Fowles: 8-20
Epiphanny Prince: 3-11
Allie Quigley: 4-15
Elena Delle Donne: 10 minutes

Add a little double-double from Diana Taurasi, and the Merc say

31587

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While I agree that Phoenix is the odds on favorite, the idea that it might be a cakewalk to the Championship is not something I’m comfortable with. How much walking and how much cake eating the Merc will depend on Elena’s back, Big Syl’s commitment to Beast Mode, Q’s continued clutchness and Piph’s shot returning. I REALLY want Prince back in the mix…. ‘Cause that could be a tide-turner.

I’ll be on the bus home while the game is happening, so here’s to heath and heart-stopping play.

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Another setback for LJ – which is a real bummer (especially for those of us who were looking forward to seeing her in Turkey!)

More on Milyse Lamkin: Sam Houston coach taught life lessons

Although she was devoted to developing the young athletes she coached into responsible citizens, Lamkin’s commitment to her community didn’t end at the school’s doors. Like her mother, Mildred Lamkin, she believed in making San Antonio’s East Side a better place to live. For example, she was choir director at her church.

“After basketball practice, she would go right to church,” said Sam Houston senior Dajah Thomas, who played three years on Lamkin’s basketball team. “She just helped a lot of people.”

NOW the AJC pays attention? Dream moving forward

To make the postseason in 2015 for the seventh time in the team’s eighth season will require keeping the nucleus of the squad together, as well as finding a few key parts to support the bench.

“I think we have a great foundation,” Cooper said.

A loss for those who cover women’s basketball:Longtime LA Sparks photographer Eric Wade dies

The media core who covers the Sparks every summer has got to know each other over the years. You work for different publications but you work together, and sometimes you become friends. Such was the case with Eric Wade and myself.
Eric had a calming presence, even when speaking about teams and players he was passionate about. He was funny; Just last month he and Sparks forward Jantel Lavender and I engaged in some brief jokes on Twitter. Eric was also observant and kind, and he loved photography. He was always behind the lens, shooting something.

Hats were Eric’s thing. He often wore Kangols, but sometimes opted for the dressier style, as he did the day I took this picture of him taking a picture.

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you’ll find this:

Kent:

In retrospect, it was a bomb that reverberated all through a suddenly loud US Airways Center.

It was as improbable as it was incredible. And, maybe, it was the key blow in a game that, up to that point, had been a gutty example of give and take.

For at least this season, the Lynx’s reign is over, thanks to the Phoenix Mercury in a 96-78 victory Tuesday.

Tyler: 

“What can I say? There’s no player I’d rather have on my team,” Mercury coach Sandy Brondello said.

“To me, she’s the best player in the world.”

Mechelle: 

But those 2 seconds turned out to be too much time to give Taurasi. She swished the 50-footer, turning the Mercury’s lead to five points and permanently shifting the momentum.

“It’s a punch,” Minnesota’s Maya Moore acknowledged of Taurasi’s tape-measure 3-pointer. “We’ve overcome so much this season, and we always believe we have it in us to overcome runs. But we just didn’t have enough this time.”

Next!

From the .com: Fever vs. Sky: How to Survive the Eastern Conference Finals

After Chicago completed yet another incredible comeback in double-overtime on Monday to stay alive in the WNBA Playoffs, there’s no doubt this Sky is team is one that knows how to survive despite the myriad of injuries and illnesses it suffered throughout the season. In order to win the WNBA Eastern Conference Finals, however, just “surviving” might not be enough.

The Fever are a tough and driven team that appears to be in fine health. The team boasts a legendary leader in Tamika Catchings and her army of heavy-hitting teammates like Shavonte Zellous, Erlana Larkins and Briann January.

Here are the keys for both teams to survive and advance:

Alison: All on the line for the Chicago Sky, Elena Delle Donne

Michelle: Can Fowles lead Sky to Finals?  With Elena Delle Donne nursing back injury, Chicago’s center is Game 3 X factor

If the Sky can get from “Big Syl” what they got on Monday — a near flawless offensive game and shot-altering defense at the other end — Chicago could very well be making its first trip to the league championship series.

But if the Fever can contain Fowles better than they did in Game 2, knock her around, move her out of the deepest regions of the paint and render her even slightly less effective, they stand a good chance to move on to their second trip to the WNBA Finals in the past three years.

Scott: Indiana Fever ready for Chicago Sky in conference finals

“I think everybody wants to win for Lin. She has been just such an amazing inspiration to everybody that has played for her, everyone who has worked for her, and so we certainly want to send her out on top,” said White.

Phillip:

They are one win away from the WNBA finals, a position few Sky players expected to be in after a season filled with a litany of misfortune, a losing record and fourth-place finish.

“We all feel like we’ve got nothing to lose,” Sky guard Courtney Vandersloot said before Wednesday’s decisive game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Fever.

Phillip #2: Delle Donne’s back latest woe for Sky

Realizing her own limitations, Delle Donne suggested coach Pokey Chatman make her primarily a decoy, sometimes a stationary one, during her 39 minutes of playing time.

The second-year forward correctly figured the Fever would still respect her scoring threat by putting more than one defender on her and by forcing their best defender, Tamika Catchings, to stick with her outside, thereby opening space for other Sky players on offense.

David: Undersized but not overlooked, 6-1 Erlana Larkins vs. 6-6 Sylvia Fowles is key matchup

Erlana Larkins is five inches shorter than Sylvia Fowles and owns a correspondingly smaller resume. But the 6-1 Indiana Fever center, who was out of the WNBA 30 months ago, finds consolation when she reflects on her career.

“I’m not an All-Star,” Larkins said, “but I have something they can’t take away from me, and that’s a championship ring.”

Scott:

Heading into this 2014 WNBA season, the Indiana Fever weren’t expected to rule the Eastern Conference. I thought there was a high probably that they might make some considerable changes. The future appeared to be the vision rather than the present as the team drafted Natalie Achonwa, who would miss the season after tearing her left ACL while at Notre Dame, at No. 9 – their second first-round pick.

Oh, and a few weeks later, sharpshooter Jeanette Pohlen sustained a torn left Achilles. Then, a back injury sidelined leader Tamika Catchings for a substantial part of the shortened season (18 games).

A rebuilding year? Definitely not.

 

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“Now, That’s More Like It”

So this was the game we were waiting for between Phoenix and Minnesota. The one that felt like a collection of future Hall of Famers trying to out-do each other. The one that had the fans on their feet, screaming their heads off, while the folks watching on television probably felt like they were right there in the thick of it, too.

This is what we thought these Western Conference finals — between the two best teams in the WNBA — would be like. That Friday’s game really wasn’t like that is a tribute to the Mercury. That Sunday’s game did live up to that billing was a tribute to both teams.

Writes Tim Leighton of Twin Cities:

There it sat Sunday, in the middle of the Minnesota Lynx locker-room floor. No player, coach or member of team management got too close for fear of disturbing its aura. The Lynx’s WNBA championship trophy, with its three silver spires holding a basketball, stood as a simple reminder that the Lynx aren’t ready yet to call it a season.

Tom Powers offers this nice turn of phrase:

Lindsay Whalen and Seimone Augustus joined Moore in forming a deadly Game 2 Bermuda Triangle. The trio combined for 72 of the 82 Lynx points. As Reeve often notes, it’s mostly about the stars come playoff time. And the Lynx had all three of theirs shining brightly.

“We always say great players make great plays,” said Augustus. “And you saw that through the night. Great players made great plays for us.”

Kent Youngblood at the Star Tribune:

Sunday, midday, the Lynx players were in the locker room for a film session. Coach Cheryl Reeve walked in clutching the 2013 WNBA championship trophy.

She walked over and had Janel McCarville pull on the trophy. Reeve let go, easily. “We can do that,” she said. Then Monica Wright gave it a tug. Reeve held on a little longer, let go. “We can do that,” she said. Then she went to Rebekkah Brunson. Only this time, Reeve took hold with two hands and tore it away.

“It’s ours,” she said. “And we’re not letting it out of here.’’

And then Reeve put the trophy on the floor in the middle of the room and walked out.

Message received.

From Nate Sandell, “special” for the AZ Central folks: 

“Their defense picked up and we stood around,” said Mercury coach Sandy Brondello. “We’re a team built on ball movement, but somebody would get the ball and everybody would stand and just have a look at that person trying to make the play.”

It was a dramatic reversal for the Mercury, whio had proved to be better team for the first seven quarters of the series.

 

From the other Nate: Seimone Augustus caps off Minnesota comeback to win Game 2, 82-77

All-Stars Maya Moore and Lindsay Whalen made big plays throughout Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals, but fellow Olympian Seimone Augustus was ultimately the hero of the Minnesota Lynx’s 82-77 win over the Phoenix Mercury.

With the game tied at 75 apiece, Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve called an out-of-bounds play that had Augustus follow Moore around a screen to clear space for a mid-range jumper and Augustus not only converted the shot but also drew a foul for a three point play that put the Lynx up for good.

 

But the Lynx wouldn’t even have been in position to win had it not been for the play of Moore and Whalen prior to that moment.

From Canis Hoopus’ John Meyer: 

Midway through the third quarter, Maya Moore had a look on her face that said it all. Not today, Phoenix. Not today.

Moore scored a game-high 32 points, including 19 second half points, to help keep the Lynx title hopes alive this afternoon at the Target Center. The Lynx struggled earlier on – shooting 14.3 percent in the first quarter (2-for-14) – and faced an uphill climb trailing 22-9 entering the second quarter. But there was no quit in this squad.

Awwwwww….Little League star Mo’Ne Davis adds Game 2 visit to dream summer

In the “other” series, Indiana Fever rookie Maggie Lucas isn’t easing off throttle now

It was mere minutes after the Indiana Fever had beaten the Chicago Sky 77-70 to open the best-of-three Eastern Conference finals Saturday night. Maggie Lucas could have been reflecting on the moment, considering how necessary her eight points turned out to be for the Fever.

Instead, she was in the locker room afterward, lifting weights. She is a “gym rat,” coach Lin Dunn said. First one to arrive, last one to leave.

Michelle writes: Sky’s fate rests with shooting stars – Chicago needs to solve Indiana Fever defense in Game 2

Indiana, led by the defensive stalwart Tamika Catchings, made it tough for Delle Donne to get in any offensive flow. The 12 shots she took were the fewest she had taken in a postseason game.

“The first thing is trying to figure out a way to keep the ball out of her hands,” Catchings said. “Not just me, individually, but as a team. We tried to take the ball out of her hands, make it difficult for her to catch it, and when she did, we brought different people out.

“We can do a lot better too.”

Delle Donne and the Sky are thinking in the same terms.

From Brian Sandalow at the Sun-Times: Sky still trying to figure out Fever

While the Sky aren’t fixating on their history with the Fever, they’re aware of it.

“I think everybody kind of thinks about it,” guard Courtney Vandersloot said. “It’s not something that we really talk about a lot, but it’s something that I’m sure we all think about. We know who we’ve lost to in the past.

Philip Hersh at the Tribune writes: 

It’s pretty easy to see why the Fever won Saturday night’s opening game of the WNBA Eastern Conference finals 77-70.

Indiana caught the Sky with their guard(s) down.

Indiana’s starting backcourt of Briann January and Shavonte Zellous was simply too much, with its outside shooting and dribble penetration shredding the Sky’s defense.

The Fever guards utterly outplayed starting guards Epiphanny Prince and Courtney Vandersloot, both ineffective for the second game in a row.

In the Dishin & Swishin 08/29/14 Podcast: WNBA Eastern Conference Finals coaches Lin Dunn & Pokey Chatman talk about the playoffs

Nate reflects back: 

You can never force the circumstances that create a classic moment in sports, which is part of the very reason we tune in and watch instead of just ignoring games with long odds or abandoning teams that seemingly have no hope.

The best moments are those that somehow manage to define the odds, whether evolving or preceding the first tip and the 2014 WNBA Playoffs has already produced a classic in the first round.

What might be hard to appreciate in retrospect about the Chicago Sky’s dramatic 81-80 win in Game 3 against the Atlanta Dream is that it really seemed like that game was over long before the fourth quarter began.

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