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said Aussie head coach Brendon Joyce: Liz Cambage omitted from Australian Opals team for Olympics basketball qualifiers against New Zealand

Meanwhile, in other international news, the Russians get a reprieve of sorts from FIBA.

Canadian Kia Nurse’s “How I spent my summer” essay is going to be wicked long: Canadian women open with a win over Puerto Rico at FIBA Americas. (Check out tonight’s stream of Canada/Chile – 8:30pm)

Brazil is chillin‘ ’cause they’re in.

USA Basketball marks One Year To Rio: USA Basketball Looks Back on Every U.S. Olympic Basketball Team Since 1936. Of course, you need to scroll down to ’76 to see the women’s team. I’ve always wondered: If WWII hadn’t happened, was there enough momentum to get the women into the Olympics in ’40?

As Nancy follows Becky, Local coaches weigh in on the recent hiring of Welter and Hammon in the NFL, NBA

Kate, who played at California Lutheran University before working as an assistant coach at the school for three years, is curious if the same applies in reverse situations. If a female coach walks into a gym full of male athletes, will they garner the same respect and attentiveness?

That’s one of the many questions raised, especially in recent weeks, since three women joined the professional coaching ranks in the NFL and NBA.

A little more on the topic:

Daily Camera: Women knock down barriers of ‘men’s’ sports

These hirings are important nods to Welter’s, Lieberman’s and Hammon’s very real qualifications — Lieberman is a member of both the Basketball Hall of Fame and the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, for example — and to the value of considering women for nontraditional roles in any walk of life.

When sports franchises break racial, sexual or gender barriers, they don’t do it to be politically correct. They do it because the players or coaches in question are right for the positions. Think of the Dodgers and Jackie Robinson.

Filip Bondy, NY Daily News: With women like Becky Hammon & Nancy Lieberman beginning to coach the men, it’s time to make some room at the table  

If players on the Sacramento Kings ever distrust the credentials of their new assistant coach, they can always Google “Nancy Lieberman” and discover an impressive resumé more than worthy of the position.

“I’m like a puppy,” Lieberman says. “I come with papers. I have pedigree. I’m not a mutt. And I’ve never been in a situation where I thought people didn’t respect me.”

Let’s just hope we can keep the door wedged open.

The Sparks are singing, “Just in time, I found you just in time…” with the return of Beard and Parker.

Candace Parker knew it was time to come back to the WNBA when her daughter Lailaa asked why she wasn’t playing with the Sparks any more.

”She didn’t understand that I was taking some time off,” Parker said. ”She said she wanted me to play for them.”

So Parker, who sat out the first half of the season to rest mentally and physically, returned to Los Angeles after the All-Star break. The Sparks have won four of six since the two-time league MVP came back.

After getting blown out in their first matchup, the semi-stumbling Lynx told the Sparks, “Wait a minute, Ms. Postman” and used home court advantage to get the win.

Always good to read about a return: After injuries nearly derailed career, Chelsea Gray flourishing with Sun

Chelsea Gray’s first season in the WNBA is a dramatic reversal of fortune. The 22-year-old rookie point guard is now one of the top subs off the bench for the Connecticut Sun, and is averaging 7.4 points in 16.4 minutes per game just past the halfway point of the WNBA regular season. Gray ranked ninth in the league and first among rookies in three-point field goal percentage (38.9) through her first 15 games, and is one of the WNBA’s most promising offensive weapons.

But the trajectory of Gray’s basketball career was drastically altered 18 months ago.

The news is less happy in the land of the Shock. 

Let’s avoid talking about the Storm or San Antonio, shall we? Well, maybe just a smidgen about the Storm: Loyd starting to feel more comfortable in the WNBA

Loyd’s development hasn’t been lost on teammate Sue Bird.

“I think early on she was getting adjusted, a little tentative, trying to feel her game out,” Bird said. “Now she’s starting to see where she can be successful. Almost a 180 in terms of her aggressiveness.”

And KML slowly adjusting to life in the WNBA

After a remarkable collegiate career during which Mosqueda-Lewis made a record 398 3-pointers, scored 2,178 points, became a two-time All-American and won three national championships, she’s struggled to make the transition to the professional game after getting picked third overall in the WNBA draft.

The level of competition, athleticism and defensive intensity are all drastically better in the pro game.

“The biggest eye-opening thing has been that it is going to be a process,” Mosqueda-Lewis said. “It’s not something that’s going to come quickly. It’s something I’m going to have to work harder at and go with day-by-day.”

And Ramu Tokashiki, a Japanese Rookie, Blossoms in the W.N.B.A.

The first English word the Japanese forward Ramu Tokashiki learned from her Seattle Storm teammates is unprintable here. Used in jest, it has become Tokashiki’s favorite saying. But another favorite English word is “confidence,” something she has built during her first W.N.B.A.season. Tokashiki has become one of the league’s best rookies and a blooming fan favorite, while hoping to change the perception of women’s basketball in Japan.

Sitting in the Milwaukee airport yesterday, I caught the tail end of the Mercury/Chicago game. (Kinda cool, no?)

“A win against a good team at home, you get on a roll and get momentum,” Sky coach Pokey Chatman said. “And to be able to come in here and talk about a defensive assignment that you carried out against a hot team … that’s a crucial thing.”

I’ll get to see them in action (again) against the Lib. Can they eeek out a revenge game and stay in the chase for the top seed? And, of course, there’s nothing like winning to catch the NY Times’ attention: Rebuilding Around Tina Charles Puts Liberty in Playoff Hunt

A Liberty season that began with an off-court to-do over the hiring of Isiah Thomas as team president has turned into a great one on the basketball court. The Liberty sit on top of the W.N.B.A.’s Eastern Conference at 13-6. If the team maintains that .684 winning percentage over its final 15 games, it will finish with the best record in franchise history.

It is quite a contrast from last year, when the Liberty finished 15-19 and missed the playoffs. So what has changed?

NCAA:

So, the investigators hired by Illinois found nothing amiss when it came to the women’s program… but this is an interesting turn: Chancellor’s resignation could impact Illini athletics

The ground beneath the University of Illinois’ Department of Intercollegiate Athletics trembled this week.

It didn’t send plates crashing to the floor, but it moved, and just as it would with the arrival of a minor earthquake, those standing in the Bielfeldt Athletic Administration Building felt their stomachs jump.

If the release of findings from an external investigation into the school’s women’s basketball program didn’t create enough commotion, the stunning resignation of Chancellor Phyllis Wise grabbed everyone’s attention.

Simply put, Wise’s exit could be a game-changer for Illini athletics.

Speaking of game-changers: Ouch. South Carolina’s Mitchell Undergoes Surgery for Foot Injury

You stay put: Pitt signs McConnell-Serio through 2020-2021 season

Montana Grizzly: Family means everything to Lady Griz coach Selvig

Robin Selvig was a bit startled when one of his Lady Griz basketball players, McCalle Feller, openly revealed to her coaches and teammates during a team barbecue her freshman year that she was adopted.

“Everybody sits around and says something interesting about themselves,” Selvig said Monday before serving as the guest celebrity for the annual “A Waiting Child” golf tournament at Yellowstone Country Club. “That was the first thing that came out of her mouth.”

It’s not that adoption is a touchy or sensitive subject. American families adopted more than 7,000 children in 2012, according to the U.S. State Department. But Feller’s openness and honesty is what surprised Selvig.

Awesome: Muslim Basketball Players Design Own Outfits And You Won’t Believe What Happens Next!

A community basketball team in Cedar-Riverside Minneapolis, consisting of young Somali girls, made the news recently. These players did not gain attention from media outlets for bashing stereotypes or fighting against the Islamic oppressive patriarchy. They were lauded and positively represented for creating a solution to challenges they faced with their basketball uniforms. Their long skirts and flowy hijabs were not optimal for the courts.

So, the girls partnered with the College of Design at the University of Minnesota and created uniforms that would suit their personal and religious preferences.  This successful collaboration was widely covered and the majority of the reports were pleasantly surprising and unlike any I had ever seen before; nuancedpositive and accurate.

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Around the games:

The Tennessee-Missouri game was tight. And then it got feisty. The Vols prevailed, but you’ve gotta wonder what kind of suspensions might be in their future.

An Old Big East matchup produces an upset: St. John’s vs. Seton Hall: Red Storm stands firm against #24 Pirates.

One team cracked under the pressure. It wasn’t the team I was expecting. One phenomenal backcourt got into foul trouble and was never quite the same. It wasn’t the backcourt I was expecting.

OT produces another upset. Villanova (6-7) takes down prohibitive New Big East favorite, #25 DePaul, 79-76. Why? The Blue Demons went ice cold at the end of the game and in OT, but they also shot 4-19 on threes and the Wildcats shot 7-13.

#17 Mississippi State held serve against #19 Georgia, 64-56. The Bulldogs are still undefeated, and the locals are noticing: While MSU men’s hoops struggle, women’s team surges

Two programs under third-year coaches host big-name opponents today at Humphrey Coliseum.

The similarities end there. They are two programs heading in opposite directions.

Mississippi State’s men’s basketball squad is 1-5 in its last six games. Meanwhile, the women’s team, led by coach Vic Schaefer, is 15-0, marking the best start and longest winning streak in school history.

Yup, Florida State is legit. Notre Dame turned a one-point halftime deficit (and a 9-point second half deficit) into a six-point win.

Losing senior Aleighsa Welch to a neck sprain (she’s okay) didn’t derail South Carolina’s dismantling of Auburn, 77-58.

Around the Conferences:

Penn Quakers: Women’s Basketball Eyes Big 5 Title vs Temple

 Penn will start 2015 with possibly the biggest Big 5 matchup in school history. The Quakers can clinch a share of their first-ever Big 5 title with a win over Temple at The Palestra on Monday night. The Red and Blue haven’t beaten the Owls at home in more than 15 years, but snapped a nine-game losing streak in the series last season at McGonigle Hall. Tip off is set for 7 p.m., and the game can be seen on the Ivy League Digital Network.

Pac-12 women’s basketball primer: Is Stanford still the favorite?

Scott Rueck isn’t sure if the Pac-12 is the most competitive conference in women’s basketball. 

But the Oregon State coach believes his league belongs in the discussion.

OSU women’s basketball: Beavers ready for competitive Pac-12 campaign

There’s no doubt the No. 13 Oregon State women’s basketball team is prepared for the upcoming rigors of a Pac-12 schedule that features numerous deep and talented teams.

So are several other teams thanks to some solid nonconference battles against ranked teams.

The conference showed well over the first part of the season with three Pac-12 teams knocking off top-6 opponents.

‘We’re playing to win the conference’: UMaine women’s basketball opens America East slate against Albany

There was a time not too long ago that facing the University at Albany might have been a daunting prospect for the University of Maine women’s basketball team.

And while the Black Bears have the utmost respect for the three-time defending America East champions, they are beginning to feel as though they’re very much in the same league as the Great Danes.

Well, carp:

Bowling Green State University women’s basketball student-athletes  Erica Donovan Lauren Webb  are expected to miss the remainder of the 2014-15 season due to injury, head coach  Jennifer Roos has announced. Both Donovan, a redshirt junior, and Webb, a freshman, were injured during the Falcons’ win at Illinois State University on Dec. 19.

Additionally, redshirt freshman  Leah Bolton will apply for a medical retirement with the NCAA due to recurring injuries, ending her BGSU playing career.

That’s one, by one: St. Peter’s over Rider, 50-49.

Also in the MAAC, looks like it might be a dog fight between Quinnipiac, Marist and… Canisius?

FGCU had to come back strong in the second half to defeat Harvard, 68-58. BTW, the Eagles will pick up Georgia transfer Sydnei McCaskill.

Clemson has not been good for a long, long time. But under first-year coach Audra Smith, they did come back from 11 down to take down Virginia Tech in OT. Keep an eye on the Tigers’ senior Nikki Dixon.

Well, well, well. The Cornell Bears stun the Penguins, 75-63.

Whoops! Looks like the WHB curse is in effect: Wichita St. over Indiana State, 63-52, as Alex Harden tied a WSU record with 11 (!) steals.

Worth a read and look: Sarah Kadazi from CBS Sports offers a lovely piece as she follows up with the Richmond Spiders: Healing in the Game:

The story begins here, where the glaring overhead lights bounce off the giant red spider down at center court. The Richmond Spiders women’s basketball team trots out, a mélange of braids, ponytails and curls bobbing in unison in front of 7,200 empty seats. It’s a late-October preseason practice at the Robins Center arena, and this is where the healing happens.

Here, a scolding about a missed defensive assignment is a reminder of the right now, a fixture in the normal. Five months ago, this tight-knit family’s fabric was torn, when two of its core members — associate head coach Ginny Doyle and director of basketball operations Natalie Lewis — embarked on a hot-air balloon ride and never came home. The wounds are fresh. The upcoming basketball season is long. Every second spent on the court is an act of resilience.

Around the country: Babcock McGraw: Top women’s sports stories

6. Magic moment: In January, shock waves hit the WNBA when the Los Angeles Sparks laid off their front office staff and suspended operations. A marquee cornerstone of the league, the Sparks had lost $12 million since 2007, including $1.4 million in 2013.

In February, Magic Johnson and Los Angeles Dodgers chairman Mark Walter partnered to buy the Sparks, saving the franchise, from relocation or contraction.

From Nate: The Best of Swish Appeal: The top 10 most popular women’s basketball stories of 2014

Most popular story overall: Becky Hammon makes her NBA coaching debut (Albert Lee)

 Most popular NCAA story: Daisha Simmons’ roommate Brittany Jack sharing her own experience at Alabama (Mike Robinson/Brittany Jack)

Atlanta Dream team executives eyes stake in Hawks

Two of Atlanta’s top business leaders and their wives — Kelly Loeffler and Jeffrey Sprecher, CEO of the Intercontinental Exchange Inc.; and Mary and John Brock, CEO of Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc. — are exploring an ownership stake in the Atlanta Hawks.

Their main interest, however, is the Atlanta Dream — the local WNBA team — which is owned by Kelly Loeffler and Mary Brock.

From Swish Appeal: WNBA collective bargaining agreement posted at player website

Time-off bonus: These bonuses are granted to players who decide to spend some amount of time playing overseas which is less than or equal to 90 days.  (And remember, zero days is less than 90 days.)  This bonus is $50,000 for players and can be split among more than one players.  Teams can decide to increase or decrease these bonuses in subsequent seasons, but by no more than two percent of the time off bonus for the first year ($1,000).  They can also decide how many days they wish to limit the players receiving the bonus in spending time playing overseas – and that limit can be set at zero.

League minimums and salary caps:  With the 12 player rosters, league minimums and salary caps get a little hairy.

Finally: I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing Muffet McGraw, but never on this topic: Not My Job: Coach Muffet McGraw Gets Quizzed On Tuffets

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From Mechelle:

Was Laimbeer really given enough time in New York to replenish the roster and establish a playing identity that would hold up over the course of a season? I don’t think so, but maybe time wasn’t going to make a lot of difference. Perhaps the style that worked for Laimbeer in Detroit just isn’t viable now.

Or … maybe the Liberty needed to stay the course longer with Laimbeer and get help through a key free-agent signing or two, along with the talent-rich 2016 draft. It’s not as if any realistic projection of the 2015 Liberty — regardless of who was coaching — included title hopes.

From Mel, a little history lesson: Guru’s WNBA Musings: Another Blindside Hits the New York Liberty

Several WNBA types who were in Turkey for the recent world championship won by the pro stars of America under the USA Basketball banner had no idea, especially with front office executive Kristin Bernet among them.

When asked about Big Bad Bill’s whereabouts, she said he was fishing, which was not out of line from comments he made during his past two seasons.

Gotta say, I might have suggested the Lib should have secured my season ticket renewal before the move…

Speaking of ex-Libs: Hammon elected to Colorado Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2015

And other ex-Libs: Sun Devil WBB to Honor No. 32 Jersey of Hall of Famer Kym Hampton on Dec. 6

Hampton was the first ASU women’s basketball player to earn all-America honors (1981-1982). In addition to the aforementioned career scoring and rebounding records, Hampton set several other records, many of which still stand today, including: most career blocks (178), most points (683) and rebounds (413) in a season and most points (44), rebounds (28) and field goals (19 – tied) in a single game.

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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.

v

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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“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

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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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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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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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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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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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Stars’ Becky Hammon to retire

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Quintessential Becky.

Doug is on it.

”It was emotional for me. I was so glad I got to do it after a win not a loss,” Hammon said in a phone interview. ”With college and professionally and overseas, I’ve given 20 years of my life to a high level of basketball. I worked a tireless amount of hours. The overwhelming support I got back from the little press release that the Stars put out has been incredible.”

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What a great way to spend a beautiful Sunday and get NO work done: watch a sweet quintology of WNBA games.

Most every team involved put in a fine show – entertaining to watch, tough nosed, and almost making you wish we could pull a  FIFA. No, not accept a bribe. Call a game a tie.

It started early with the Shock finally winning a close one AND an away game. Tough loss for Chicago, who did all they could do with their tall folks sitting on the bench. But, the Diggins Scowl was in the house, and her fierce game got some support from her teammates, and down went the Sky.

I’ll be honest: Totally did not expect the Dream to die in New York. But, with Cappie having a stunningly efficient game and Sugar showing up, the Lib survive so-so-ness from Tina and Alex (and Cruuuuuz survived several abrupt encounters with the floor) to earn the win. Helped that Angel went for high-volume shooting and someone jinxed Tiffany Hayes and Jasmine Thomas.

The Sparks sputtered at home against a balanced San Antonio (though McBride looked human).  It’s not that LA was awful.  But turnovers (22) and miserable shooting from behind the arc (1-11) doomed them. You know,  if Kristi returns from her “personal business” and the Sparks start winning, she’s going to be in-Toliverable.

The still Catch-less Fever kept Minnesota honest through much of the game. They shot for crap (37%), and the Lynx shot for gold (57%) and they still only lost by 6.  Nice offensive balance by the Lynx, but you gotta wonder what will happen if Brunson can’t return. (Yes, Dev, we see you….) Classy move by Lynx to honor Dunn.

The night cap between Seattle and Washington was a high quality classic. Old (UConn) Guard v. New (UConn) Guard as Bird and Hartley went toe to toe, which was wicked fun to watch. The teams combined for a measly 20 turnovers, which was a delight to see. The game went into overtime, as it should. And Seattle won, as the fans deserved.

BTW: Cool, though I’m not a fan: WNBA Pride shirts led sales for all NBA merchandise in its first week

Equally cool: Kate Fagan on Tina Charles: Changing the World, One AED at a Time

Speaking of cool: Seattle U’s Chillin4Charity!

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That Elena and Maya are on fiyah.

That teams are winning, even missing stars (Minny, Chicago).

That teams are losing ’cause they’re missing stars (Seattle, Indy, Atlanta).

That being new is hard: Tulsa World’s Mike Brown writes about transitioning: WNBA’s rookie learning curve tough on many players

That being “old” is hard: Some NOT rookies ponder the future: Becky Hammon eyes the next step

“She wants to coach after she’s done,” Popovich told the Associated Press. “Because she’s not just a good player but a smart player, we gave her a chance to sit with us during the year. She came to our coaches’ meetings, argued with us. She did everything. She’s been wonderful.”

Sue Bird On Anne Donovan, Aging And The Big Picture

That the W launched a flawed iPad/iphone app and Live Access continues to be oxymoronic.

That ESPN runs a better scoreboard banner than the .com (the last score they have up is from May 23rd).

That the Minnesota Post is willing to cover the Lynx: Brazilian Damiris Dantas is Minnesota Lynx’s next big thing

That waffles are good for breakfast but tough for coaches and fans: Will she or won’t she in 2015: From Jayda – WNBA Talk: Liz Cambage – Tulsa star Liz Cambage will miss her second full season since being drafted in 2011 to concentrate on her commitment to the Australian National Team.

Mechelle chatted:

glenn (fresh meadows) How important is it for the WNBA’s survival for them to FINALLY be aknowledging and specifically marketing to the LGBT community?

Mechelle Voepel It’s interesting … we’ve had this internal discussion at ESPNW about the league’s announcement of its LGBT-focused marketing campaign. And some people’s thoughts were, “Oh, are they FINALLY doing this? It’s about time. It’s ridiculous. They should have done it long ago.” Really more chastising the league because it took so long, rather than even sounding glad that it was happening. But I have to say … I’m just like, “Look, yes, the league could have done better with this. We know that. But so could all of society.”

We’ve made so much progress in the last 10 years in regard to LGBT awareness and rights and acceptance and inclusion. So my attitude is, “OK, this is terrific. I am really happy they are doing this.” I criticize the league for things they do or don’t do that bug me, but I also understand that marketing and sponsorships and all those things haven’t been easy for women’s sports. I know there have been fans who felt very hurt and left out and not acknowledged by the WNBA. Of course I understand that. But at some point … maybe it’s that I’m almost 50, and I have some perspective that makes me more pleased with the progress than I am mad at what *didn’t* happen for years.

In random college news:

Lots of changes on Co’s Penn State staff. 

Fresno State added staff and lost a center to Oregon. Wait? They’re letting a foreign player transfer? Who do they think they aren’t?!?!

Stringer stays put.

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the “pick apart” and “prep part” starts.

After Michelle writes that the Seed, site of opener puzzle Stanford Cardinal receive No. 2 seed — and play first-round game in Ames, Iowa

When Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer entered the media room Monday night after the brackets were revealed, one of the assembled reporters wished her a happy St. Patrick’s Day.

“I am part Irish,” VanDerveer said dryly, “but I don’t feel lucky.”

Mechelle and Michelle say to Stanford, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”

Melanie Jackson has the Women’s tourney power rankings

After editing Charlie Creme, Graham Hays, Michelle Smith and Mechelle Voepel this season (and covering the women’s NCAA tournament the past 15 years), it’s easy to pick up tidbits about the top teams around the country. So here’s one editor’s take on the women’s field of 64:

Newsday’s Marcus Henry is Breaking down the women’s NCAA Tournament and Jordan Rinard from the Miami Student explains Why I’ll be watching the women’s tourney

Mel offers Guru’s NCAA/WNIT Musings: Louisville Seed Not in the Cards

Well while the Guru didn’t get into the actual seeding forecasts, the countdown of where things were in terms of locks and bubbles pretty much played out.

But some of the Guru’s kitchen cabinet who have been in power centers in the past couldn’t help but wonder at some of the moves made by the committee.

Doug offers 6 players to watch in the NCAA women’s tournament and posits: Here’s what could happen in NCAA women’s tournament

As Colorado State women welcome fresh start in WNIT, Graham and Charlie debate: Are Conference Tournaments Good for the Women’s Game?

Ramona Shelburne offers up New glory days for Cooper-Dyke, USC

Charlie Springer at the Card Game explains: Louisville women’s basketball team latest to pay a price

Scott Wolf at the Los Angeles Daily News adds: USC women’s basketball eager for first NCAA Tourament game since 2006

Ruey Yen at the California Golden Blogs says A 7 seed for Cal Women’s Basketball means it’s off to Waco, TX to face Fordham and likely Baylor

Though West Virginia women are not happy with NCAA draw, the Mountaineers could have career season in 2013-14

From the AP’s Stephen Hawkins, Young Baylor still No. 2 NCAA seed, Big 12 champs

Everything seems pretty much the same for perennial national power Baylor, with another Big 12 title and a No. 2 seed in hand headed into the NCAA women’s tournament.

But this is a much different group than the Lady Bears had two years ago for an undefeated national championship and was an overwhelming favorite to repeat last season before an unexpected regional final loss to Louisville.

Patricia Babcock McGraw says the DePaul women ready to go against Oklahoma

While traveling to North Carolina last March to watch DePaul play in the NCAA Tournament, Megan Rogowski’s family from Prospect Heights rolled in some sightseeing and college visits.

“My parents and my little brother and sister visited Duke and North Carolina and North Carolina State,” said Rogowski, a star at Hersey and now the best 3-point shooter in the Big East Conference. “They had a lot of fun, and they’ll know what to expect for this year.”

Hopefully, the Rogowskis have more items on their “Tobacco Road must-see list” because Megan and DePaul are headed back this year.

In preparation: Offensive rebounds, turnovers primary focus for Lady Tigers – Lady Tigers have been working with scout team to fix mental errors

From Mark Carmin: Akron women’s basketball rides dynamic duo into Mackey Arena to face Purdue

Jodi Kest doesn’t remember giving Akron seniors Rachel Tecca and Hanna Luburgh the nickname “Bread and Butter.”

Tecca swears by it.

“That’s what coach Kest called us,” she said.

The 6-foot-1 forward, though, prefers “dynamic duo” when describing her and Luburgh’s exploits on the court for the Zips, who make their first NCAA tournament appearance Saturday against No. 17 Purdue at Mackey Arena.

“I’m Batman. She’s Robin. I’m Batman because I was here first and I’m taller,” Tecca said.

Ward Gossett notices that Former Chattanoogan Mike Bradbury has Wright State in new place

Wright State women’s basketball fans are celebrating, thanks in large part to former Chattanoogan Mike Bradbury.

Before Bradbury arrived, Wright State had enjoyed only one winning womeon’s season. Since he got to Dayton five years ago, the Raiders have had three 20-win seasons and this year added the school’s first Horizon League championship and its initial invitation to the NCAA women’s tournament.

“It’s been a good week. In my professional career this is probably the highlight,” said Bradbury, a late-1980s basketball player and sprinter at East Ridge High School before moving on to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

Jennifer Gish from the Times Union: U Albany women plan March Madness surprise – In third straight trip to tournament, Danes aim to get first victory

“The third time’s a charm,” said the team’s leading scorer, sophomore Shereesha Richards. “So you never know. This might be the year we get an upset.”

Coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson said the team has seen the game film of last year’s NCAA Tournament loss a couple of times, and now knows the importance of boxing out, especially in free-throw situations, and making critical layups.

She says West Virginia is a “super-athletic” team. That’s very much like North Carolina, which beat UAlbany 59-54 in the first round last year after trailing the Great Danes for much of the game.

The UConn Women’s Staff Moves Quickly To Scout Prairie View because the UConn Women’s Path To National Title Begins With Prairie View

Chloe Pavlech blogs on selection Monday: The Terps are Ready to Dance.

Iowa State’s Jadda Buckley is Excited to be Playing at Home

Duke’s Rebecca Greenwell writes Anything’s Possible in Postseason.

Chiney warns A Hungry Team Can Be Dangerous

Shelly Stallsmith previews Penn State vs. Wichita State; Maryland vs. Army in NCAA women’s basketball openers

Gene Wang writes Maryland women’s basketball will host Army in NCAA tournament first round

“I never will take the NCAA tournament for granted,” Maryland Coach Brenda Frese said. “Like I told our team today, when you miss out on an opportunity to go, you’ll never take it for granted. We’ve had a few years, not too many, of those, so it’s truly an honor. These guys have put in a ton of hard work, and now we want to represent Maryland.”

Lisa Leslie is impressed by Saniya Chong’s spirit

Skylar explains What makes No. 2 Notre Dame so tough and Al Lesar writes Notre Dame’s Allen plays her own game

When she looks in the mirror, Lindsay Allen likes the face smiling back at her.

The Notre Dame women’s basketball team’s freshman point guard never tried to be the next Skylar Diggins.

Her only goal was to be the best possible Lindsay Allen.

“I have to make my own path; not worry about what (Diggins) did, what she accomplished,” said Allen. “Just play my game and play my role.”

It’s going to change (apparently) but Flag controversy blocks South Carolina home court advantage

The South Carolina women’s basketball team made history Monday night, earning its first ever number one seed in the NCAA basketball tournament.

The team will travel to Seattle over the weekend, where they’ll face Cal State Northridge in first round action.

A far cry from what some feel could have been.

Of the four number one seeds in this year’s NCAA Women’s basketball tournament, South Carolina will be the only top seed without a game in-state.

The Gamecocks were never in the running to host a regional game this season, in light of an NCAA boycott against South Carolina.

From Walt Moody at the Centre Daily: Third-seeded Lady Lions to face Wichita State in NCAA Tournament opener

You could call Penn State’s draw in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament a bit of a “shocker” in a couple of different ways Monday night.

Crowded around several flat screen televisions in the Founders Room at the Bryce Jordan, the Lady Lions saw they landed a No. 3 seed, a number that was somewhat of a surprise to most prognosticators and even to members of the team.

Well, yeah: Lady Vols eager to end their Final Four drought. Dan writes Lady Vols to be watchful for foul play in NCAA tournament

From Texas: Women’s Basketball Takes on Penn in the First Round

From Lady Moc Land

“This time of year, you’re going to play a good team, regardless of your seed, because all of the bad teams are at home,” UTC coach Jim Foster said. “I like the geography of where we’re going, and I think we’re going to have a good crowd in attendance.”

From Kentucky: Lady Tops enjoying title as NCAA looms

The Western Kentucky women’s basketball team returned to Bowling Green on Sunday evening with weary eyes, but with smiles that hadn’t faded since Saturday night.

Yup, the Beavers go dancing for first time since 1996

When Scott Rueck took over the Oregon State women’s basketball program in late June of 2010, he was met by a large contingency of fans and supporters in the Loge of Reser Stadium.

The Beavers were coming off an 11-20 season that saw them go 2-16 in the Pac-10 Conference.

Players had left and Rueck would have to somehow cobble together a roster after holding open tryouts.

He never could have imagined another similar crowd a mere 45 months later.

Oh, and Freshman point guard Sydney Wiese leads Beavers’ resurgence and OSU realizes Middle Tennessee has plenty of NCAA experience

From Green Bay: Patience, persistence pay off for UWGB’s Zastrow

Sam Zastrow could have quit or moved on from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay women’s basketball team.

She wasn’t getting many minutes and could have transferred to another school to get more. The former Algoma standout has been asked a lot over the years why she didn’t.

“I’ve always wanted to play here,” Zastrow said. “The fact that I wasn’t getting to play the first couple of years, I took that as a challenge. I’m like, ‘I’m not going to leave. I’m not going to let people bring me down.’

From the Salt Lake Tribune: BYU ‘happy to go dancing’ in NCAA tournament

Coach Jeff Judkins said the Cougars aren’t just happy to be in the tournament this year.

“As we talked about before [the bracket] came out, we are not here just to get to the tournament. We really want to play our best basketball and represent this university and this conference the best that we can.”

Over at SportsBlog: Tanisha Wright covers March Madness

What’s showing when? Coverage maps: Saturday & Sunday Who’s announcing when? 2014 NCAA women’s basketball tournament TV schedule on ESPN and ESPN2

You think you know who’s going to win? Play the Brackets.

In non-tourney NCAA news: TCU loses women’s basketball coach Jeff Mittie to Big 12 rival Kansas State and the Topeka Journal writes: Mittie finds perfect fit with K-State women’s basketball program – New Wildcat coach likes facilities, team potential

And yup, it’s not really a surprise, but LaTech is looking for a new coach.

In W news: Ruth Riley’s Passion for Sports Meets Her Passion for Helping Children

Need a little Becky Hammon Coaching Fix?

Speaking of coaching: Seattle Storm Names Shaquala Williams Assistant Coach

From Nate: Swish Appeal’s preliminary 2014 WNBA Draft Board and Evaluating 2014 mid-major WNBA draft prospects: How do we adjust for strength of competition?

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Boom! Down goes #20 Iowa State. Oklahoma is 12-7 (3-3 B12) and it’s their first win AT Iowa State since 2008.

Boom! Down goes #9 Kentucky. Alabama is 9-10 (2-4 SEC) and it was IN Lexington.

Boom! Down goes #6 Maryland. Virginia is 10-9 (3-3 ACC). Yup, it was a “trap game.”

Almost-boom! #3 Duke escapes in OT. (Of course, it would be OT!) #24 Florida State is 14-5 (2-4 ACC).

Almost-boom, deja vu! #25 Gonzaga escapes in OT. (Of course, it would be OT!). Loyola Marymount is 5-14 (2-6 WCC).

In other games:

Whoops! Nevada surprised Fresno State, 63-60.

Whoops! Michigan State got surprised by Illinois, 61-51.

Seton Hall HAS improved, taking down Xavier to move to 12-5.

Penn HAS improved, taking down Temple, 74-70.

A lot of the conference races are a paragon of parity, but Southern is having none of that, moving to 6-0 in the SWAC with their win over Mississippi Valley State.

Ditto with Navy, which is 7-0. Army, Bucknell and American are lurking… but it’s still a tough first year in the Patriot League for Boston University.

Middle Tennessee is 5-0 in C-USA. That’s odd to type. Speaking of the Blue Raiders: Alysha Clark doubling as WNBA player, college coach

Speaking of C-USA – yup, another OT to our list: UTEP over Southern Miss by 1 (and the Miners had to come back from 23 down to make that happen.)

The battle of the Green Clad (Tulane v. Charlotte) added to our OT list. (The Green Wave won.)

Western Michigan exploded in OT (of course) to defeat Miami (OH).

And more OT: Georgia State over LA-Lafayette by 5.

OT: Ole Miss over Mississippi State by 2.

OT: The Fightin’ Campbell Camels over Winthrop by 3.

OT: Niagara over Manhattan by 4.

OT: Northern Colorado over Northern Arizona by 4.

My fault. VCU is now 4-3 in the A-10. It’s now Dayton, Duquesne, Fordham and St. Joe’s.

Idaho’s victory over Grand Canyon lets me type the following: Vandals rule the WAC.

Kansas couldn’t keep their upset mojo going against #8 Oklahoma State (though they tried).

Meanwhile, Baylor took their revenge on the Jayhawks in-state rival, stomping Kansas State in the first half and, depending on your point of view, cruising or giving coach Mulkey more cause to play her bench — or worry — in the second half.

#11 Tennessee used its game against Florida to regain its equilibrium after their loss, and to support “We Back Pat.”

The #2 Irish had no issues with Miami, even with Lloyd’s knee issues.

#7 North Carolina pulled away from Wake Forest in the second half.

#15 LSU eked away from Auburn in the second half.

#17 Texas A&M needed a comeback in the second half to defeat Missouri.

#1 UConn rolled, this time behind Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, who seems to be finding her groove. Hard not to look ahead to Feb. 8th when Louisville travels to Connecticut.

In other news:

Un-fans of East Coast WNBA All-Star Games better show up in Arizona.

He’s baaaaak: Fred to coach Tulsa.

Sheeeee’s baaaaaak: Angela Taylor, a former executive with the Washington Mystics, Minnesota Lynx and WNBA, has been named the Atlanta Dream’s executive vice president and general manager.

Not the timing she’d like, but it’s better to have a healthy kidney.

Full Court notices the Gaels, too: Newly dominant Iona fuels hot race for top of MAAC

Marist adjusts to new lineup for same winning result

USC Trojans program on the rise (SPOILER ALERT!)

Congrats! St. Norbert College’s Tilley becomes 13th coach in DIII to reach 600 wins

Hello! Q&A with Becky Hammon

What’s next? Karen Bryant ready for new challenge

More congrats: E.J. (Lee) Ok’s Jersey Retirement Set for Saturday. Ok is one of two players in program history to score more than 2,000 points in a career as she finished with 2,208 points (second all-time).

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she’s not on my team. *sigh*

Yes, perhaps the “Three to See” has become the “Two to View”, but wow, how much fun is it to watch Elena Delle Donne play. (And congrats to her, CAA Scholar Athlete of the Year) Granted, the Lib had no one who could guard her. Katie? Nice try — she gives up inches and years. Plennette? Delightfully physical, which EDD handled, but nowhere quick enough. The kid plays in control, is ACTUALLY a guard in a forward’s body, and has pogo-stick-like elevation skills.

Pokey plays EVERYone, and yesterday, they all seemed able to play. Who knows if it’s chemistry, coaching or basketball IQ, but the team looks so in sync with each other. It’s as if everyone’s field of vision/sense is open to their teammates and they can all “sense” where each other are on the court. There was one moment where the Sky did lose their mind offensively, and if Pokey could have kicked badgers out of her toes, she would have.

Of note:

Big Sly was back on the court and, while she didn’t light up the scoreboard, her quick hands were in every passing lane.
Carolyn Swords: Since when did she become a reliable, nitty-gritty big?
Prince: Always interesting to watch her battle her ego when she goes up against Cappie.
Sloot: Just as I said, “You know, if Courtney ever rediscovers her shot, then….” Eureka, guess what happened?
Blue Hens fans: In da house, courtesy of Amtrak and a convoy of buses.

The best Liberty moment? When they were showing “When they were a baby” photos, and there was golden lab puppy Maddie with a crown on his head…. 

I don’t know what happened during the game, and I don’t have the cast-iron metaphorical cojones to walk up to Katie Smith and ask her these things, but she was hot under the collar like nobody’s business. I thought someone on Chicago said something about her mother or something. Her head was not in the game the rest of the way. She couldn’t find her rhythm shooting, and her defense was below her average. I don’t expect her to be a total game-changer anymore, but we could have used her to keep the game within striking distance. Leilani Mitchell was pesky, but she couldn’t check Vandersloot sufficiently, which meant that defensively she was reduced to doubling down and trying to make things happen with disruption. As you might be able to discern from the score, this was not successful. Avery Warley rebounded well, but I think everyone involved knew that she was out of her depth. Kara Braxton muscled a little bit, but this was not a smart Kara day. This was a very dumb Kara day. If Kelsey can’t get easy shots to fall and Kara’s having a very dumb day, things are not going to end well in the post for the Liberty. Cappie Pondexter showed a spark of life in the second quarter, and she and Kamiko teamed up for one beautiful defensive sequence that resulted in a shot clock violation, but too much of the offense was flowing into her and then stagnating. It was Cappie against the world, just like it was under Whiz, and that’s not a scheme for long-term success. She took a lot of good shots, but she took even more bad shots.

And yes, that was the Lib’s “best” moment. The team is out of sorts, Bill looks like he’s out of options, and NY could easily slide out of the playoffs, ’cause CT can still get healthy.

Meanwhile, in Minny, the on-again, off-again buzz saw that is the Lynx was on again and, as a result, Phoenix was sliced and diced. The “damn it” news is that Augustus left the building on crutches, meaning it’s likely she’s a no-show for the game against the Dream.

The Q is back, and Mike *breathes a sign of relief* T is the winningest. Nice 212-congrats.

No, Tina didn’t “officially” cost the Sun a win, but her ridiculous melt down/two Ts effectively stopped Connecticut’s momentum and hamstrung their comeback effort against Indiana.

Yah, we thought this is what it was that took Becky down, but we like to delude ourselves sometimes: Frackin’ ACLs.

Doug at the AP recycles the “Expand the Roster” story.

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Playoff time.

But first, it’s PING PONG time! Says Mechelle: Draft lottery will be ‘game-changer’

There have been much anticipated drafts in the WNBA before, but likely not one that will prompt quite as much chatter as that which will take place next April. That’s because there are three marquee seniors with very different games — Baylor’s Brittney Griner, Delaware’s Elena Delle Donne and Notre Dame’s Skylar Diggins — who will bring not just talent, but a kind of “presence” to the league next year. Or at least, that’s what is hoped for from them.

Whoever’s picked 1, 2 or 3 will have a chance to sit with their future team and watch the WNBA playoffs where, no surprise: Lynx are heavy playoff favorites – Defending champion Minnesota leads the way as the playoffs open Thursday

How big a favorite is Minnesota to repeat as WNBA champion? Let’s put it this way: After finishing first in the Western Conference again with the league’s best record, the Lynx are very, very hard to pick against.

With two MVP candidates in Olympians Maya Moore and Seimone Augustus, a third London Games gold medalist in point guard Lindsay Whalen, an experienced front line and a bench that understands and fulfills its role … there isn’t a weak spot to attack when facing Minnesota.

Michelle has some previews:

Storm face uphill climb against Lynx: Best-of-three series opens in Minnesota on Friday (ESPN2, 9 p.m. ET)

Silver Stars cooling at wrong time – Best-of-three series opens in Los Angeles on Thursday (ESPN2, 10 p.m. ET)

(We know this) Liberty have no answer for Charles

Defense will determine East semifinal – Best-of-three series opens in Indiana on Friday (ESPN2, 7 p.m. ET)

Mi & Me do a little preview video.

From the players:

Becky Hammon: A shot I’ll never forget

Sue Bird: Handing out some awards

Lindsay Whalen: Nothing compares to a title

Other stuff:

Jayda gets busy:  WNBA Talk: Catching up with former Storm player Swin Cash and My WNBA Ballot for the 2012 Regular-Season Awards

Oh, and echoing Jayda’s tweet: Why does someone who “doesn’t like” and “doesn’t watch” the WNBA have a place at the espnW roundtable? Tina Charles the MVP favorite. I’m awaiting the call from ESPN to sit and discuss the NBA’s MVP….

From Jerry Brewer at the Seattle Times: Eye of the Storm: Can women’s professional basketball succeed on and off the court in Seattle?

Ginny Gilder points to a dry-erase board in her South Lake Union Office. A handwritten note best explains her challenging life as a WNBA owner.

Defiant, not defeated

The best doesn’t come easy,

that’s why there’s nothing like it

Professional sports owners are commonly perceived to be rich white men who desire a toy, and that stereotype is often reflected in the erratic way they run franchises. But owning the Seattle Storm, in a 16-year-old women’s sports league still establishing itself, is neither a luxury nor a hobby. It’s an assignment, and sometimes a burden.

From the Sacto Bee: Leading off: Ex-Monarch Penicheiro left her mark on the WNBA

Ticha Penicheiro, the former Monarchs star who retires after tonight’s WNBA game between the Washington Mystics and her Chicago Sky (5 p.m., NBA), said the decision was easy.

She’s 38 years old, and she’s been bothered throughout her final season by sore hamstrings, sore Achilles’ tendons and more sore body parts than she can count.

“I’m like an old car,” Penicheiro said in a quick phone chat Friday. “Too many miles.”

From Phoenix Center Krystal Thomas: What My Mom Taught Me

Achieving my dreams has not come easily. When I was 11 years old, my life took a turn that seemed to put everything on hold. My father was incarcerated and sentenced to 7 years in prison. A few months later, my mother was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer. I have four younger siblings, and as all of the trials occurred, my life as a “normal” teenager changed. My role at home shifted and my responsibilities became enormous. My mother battled with breast cancer for 5 years, until she passed away in January of 2006.

My mother was a huge influence in my life. She challenged me to be the best person that I could be, and she never let me give in to the failures and disappointments that life brings. She helped raise me to be the person that I am today, and I thank God everyday for that. After she passed away, I had two choices: throw my dreams aside, or keep chasing them no matter the consequence. I chose the latter, and repeated the words that my mother preached to me each day to conquer my dreams.

 Swish Appeal has a new look, but still has lots of info.

The 1996-97 ABL Players: Where Are They Now?

Indiana Fever’s January And Zellous Still Out

Kara Lawson’s Take On Top Prospect Brittney Griner

Sixth Woman: Second Round Picks Head The List

Who isn’t the WNBA MVP?

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is she ignores all those who’ve ever told her “put an arc in it!” ’cause dang, it’s a flat, FAST shot. And when it goes in (as it did last night) it just makes you shake your head and say, “geometry, as we know it, has been temporarily suspended.” Most of the Minny folks did well as the Storm said “Hi” to Lauren and wished she’d been on the court.

Speaking of the Lynx, Nate asks: 2012 WNBA Point Guard Rankings: How Good Has The Lynx All-Time Assist Leader Been This Season?

Yes, d’em Shock are feisty. But sometimes you live by the Latta, you die by the Latta (say the Sun, muttering under their breath.). Especially if you have a Lawson.

That being said, folks in the Drive for the Dive must be wondering, “How much longer before Cambage suits up and what kind of impact will she have?” ’cause it would seem the Lib are more than willing to stagger through the door the Sky have opened.

When will the LA writers notice the Sparks? Indy sure did. That’s seven straight for the palm tree wearers.

Jayda offers up her WNBA power rankings, and they’re more silver than gold.

There’s a little wacko USA BBall going on: U.S. fields teams in FIBA 3-on-3 hoops World Championship

Oh, and the “still wet behind the ears” crew is doing all right: USA U17 Women Cruise Into Quarterfinals With 98-28 Rout Of Mali.

“They are undefeated in pool play, and I’m proud of them,” Schneider said of her team. “Obviously, now we are to a point where you lose and you are out of contention for a gold medal. We want to be sure we are approaching the bracket play in the right frame of mind, and I think that we are. I think that they are ready, and they are obviously very talented. Now, we are just waiting to see who it is going to be.”

They’ll celebrate my birthday by going up against Australia in the semis. (Wow. Just got a hit of deja vu!)

Speaking of Aussies: Olympic hero returns

She left Australia as a rising star but Rachel Jarry has returned a hero.

The Point Cook resident arrived back on home-soil last week with the rest of her Opals team-mates and her prized bronze medal hanging proudly around her neck.

Speaking of the Olympics: From the DePaul site: Bruno’s Olympic Trilogy—Part One: Road to the Gold: Three-Part Series Opens With DePaul Coach Retracing Steps to USA’s Fifth Gold Medal

And, I’m sorry, but WTF is ESPN doing wasting money on having someone like Kate Fagan write about the WNBA? (Roster limits hurt WNBA). It’s obvious that she doesn’t care about the league, so much so that she can’t even be bothered to learn about the personnel (hello, you want someone Lin-esque with actual talent? How about Becky Hammon). Then she throws together a piece that’s totally ill-informed, self-contradictory with a good does of “illogical” thrown in for good measure.

Hey, the League faces plenty of challenges — it would be nice if someone who actually was interested in doing their job with a modicum of integrity was asked to write about those challenges.

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From Mechelle: Pieces fit perfectly for Silver Stars – San Antonio (15-5) picks up right where it left off before Olympic break

Who would have criticized Hammon if she’d taken a little time returning and recovering from the Summer Olympics? A deep Silver Stars team could handle Tulsa and Phoenix without her, couldn’t it?

“I need to come in and be dependable,” Hammon said. “It didn’t even cross my mind to miss a game.”

That statement and her subsequent 15-point, eight-assist performance that night in an 89-79 victory over the Shock could be an appropriately representative freeze-frame of Hammon’s entire career. When your veteran still feels she has to prove her dependability in her 14th season in the league, it’s easy for San Antonio’s youngsters to glean what it means to be a true professional.

No surprise: WNBA Hollinger Power Rankings: Silver Stars #1, Liberty Catching Up To The Sky Fast

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to a pretty glorious day, no?

Everyone knew the Aussies were going to be a handful. Most knew that it would come down to how the US handled the Opals size inside and how the Aussies matched up against the American depth and conditioning. A quick compare and contrast the halves via the box score tells an accurate tale. (And the free throw shooting shows how much pressure everyone felt – very Elite Eight-ish, no?)

Various folks (none, of course, from the NY Times. They haven’t even bothered to link Doug yet.) on the game:

From Doug: U.S. holds on, defeats Australia

Now this was something new. The U.S. women’s basketball team faced its first Olympic halftime deficit in 12 years on Thursday night as it tried to reach the gold medal game for the fifth straight time.

Not to worry.

From Full Court, Clay writes, Team USA finally wears down Australia, advances to gold medal game and Lee asks London 2012: Will semis loss to the U.S. be the end of an era for Australian women’s basketball?

Deep in the bowels of North Greenwich Arena, home to London 2012’s men’s and women’s basketball contests in their knockout stages, in a rabbit warren known as the mixed zone, one of the few areas in the Olympic venues where athletes and the media are permitted to interact, Kristi Harrower stood crying.

And not just a tear or two dripping down her sweaty cheeks, but full-fledged sobs — to the point where the Australian reporter standing next to me, as most of the press engulfed the handful of U.S. players who had made it past the broadcast access points, said he found himself choking up himself. As for myself, I felt so moved by Harrower’s uncensored emotion that I contemplated risking my Olympic credential by reaching across the metal barricade that separated us and giving her a hug. Then, like a coward, I thought better of it, and allowed the scene to continue, one lonely woman standing there crying, some six or so of the rest of us, journalists, Australian team handlers, and Olympic volunteers alike, awkwardly shuffling from foot to foot and wondering what to do.

Mechelle writes from her Room with a View of the television: Deeper, more fit USA tops Australia – Americans will play for their fifth consecutive gold medal after rallying in semifinals

Well, if you’ve watched the Americans throughout this Olympic tournament, you probably suspected their defense would kick in during the second half. And it did. Cambage didn’t score after halftime and didn’t even seem nearly as involved in the game.

From Jackie MacMullen: Taurasi, Team USA to play for gold – Americans rally from four-point halftime deficit for 86-73 semifinal victory

So it happened. Somebody finally punched the United States women’s basketball team squarely in the face.

And you know what? U.S. tri-captain Diana Taurasi kinda liked it. Not trailing by four points at halftime, exactly, but the fact this semifinal Olympic game against Australia was edgy, contested.

“Not the worst thing for us,” she suggested.

Over at the Examiner, it’s Mike Peden

Australia center Elizabeth Cambage had a powerful first half, but the United States had a more powerful overall game.

That effectively summed up the semifinal bout of the Olympic Games tournament between the two meccas of women’s basketball, with the United States continuing their dominance of the rivalry, winning 86-73 Thursday at North Greenwich Arena in London, England.

The Sporting News’s Sean Deveney:

It is as if Sue Bird knew what was coming.

Before Team USA settled in to face Australia in the semifinals at North Greenwich Arena, Bird warned that in her experience, the semifinal has been the toughest game the Americans have had to contend with. And, facing an Australia team they had dealt with in the gold-medal game in the three previous Olympics, there was little doubt the game would be difficult.

It did not disappoint.

Reuters’ Larry Fine: Olympics-Basketball-U.S. beat Australia, into women’s final

“We’ve played a lot of basketball in the last month with my team and I don’t think anybody’s played better against us than Australia did in that first half,” said U.S. coach Geno Auriemma. “That was an impressive display of basketball.”

K.C. Johnson (with a little drop-by from Pokey) at the Chicago Tribune says:

The U.S. women’s basketball team has won games with its talent and tenacity, its defense and depth.

On Thursday, in a taut semifinal far closer than the final score indicated, it used all those qualities and added one more: its leadership.

Ray McNulty at Scripps Howard News Service: U.S. women’s basketball team struggles, beats Australia

The world’s best women’s basketball team found itself in an unusual predicament as it walked off the floor Thursday midway through its Olympic semifinal game against Australia.

Behind on the scoreboard.

“I don’t think we’ve ever been down going into halftime,” U.S. forward Candace Parker said.

Jeff Zillgitt’s USA Today headline writer gets a little carried away: Moore carries U.S. women’s basketball team to final

It wasn’t Moore’s finest offensive performance. She made 4 of 10 shots and coach Geno Auriemma spoke from experience, having coached Moore for four seasons at UConn. At 23, she is the team’s youngest player.

“This is her first experience at the Olympics,” Auriemma said. “She kind of played the way she did when she was a freshman at Connecticut. Every time she touched it, she shot it. Today, it helped us and hurt us, and other players reminded her, ‘Hey.’ She was so hyped up because she wanted to play so well.”

William James from Reuters adds, “Amazing” Cambage make U.S. sweat for victory

Over at the Wall Street Journal: U.S. Women Squeak By Australians in Basketball

Kelli Anderson at Sports Illustrated writes:

There was no need to panic, really. The U.S. women’s basketball team had been in close Olympic matches before, and it had been down at the half before. It might take a little research to confirm that, but after the USA’s 86-73 semifinal victory over Australia on Thursday, U.S. co-captain Sue Bird insisted that it has happened, even recently.

“Everybody thinks we steam roll, but go look at previous Olympic box scores, that’s not always the case,” she said.

From Jim Morton at the NZ Newswire: Cambage has lessons to learn: Graf

Opals coach Carrie Graf hopes rising basketball star Liz Cambage learns her lessons after sparking a Twitter storm before Australia’s gold-medal dream ended on Thursday night.

Cambage had initially laughed off suggestions she took a swipe at swimmer Stephanie Rice over her purported fling with married US basketballer Kobe Bryant in the lead up to the 86-73 semi-final loss to US. (Oiy vey)

Some fun shots of the game at the Sacto Bee.

From Roy Ward and the Greater Dandenong Weekly: London 2012: Cambage and Rangers stars do Aussies proud against US

From the busy folks at USA Basketball: USA Women Rally Past Australia 86-73 To Advance To Gold Medal Game. They also have post-game quotes and photos. From Augustus:

On the team’s second half effort:
When Sue Bird has to yell at you about something it’s a problem. I think everybody took it personally, the way we defended in the first half. It was very disappointing to see Cambage get easy shots like she did. So they came out and played awesome and the second group just took it upon themselves to be a little more aggressive and put the pressure on Australia early.

By virtue of their 17-point win over Russia, les Rouge, Blanc et Bleu will face Les Bleus

Nobody talks about us. We don’t exist in the Olympic Village,” said French coach Pierre Vincent. “The only way to exist is to win. I told the girls in the locker room, if we win, we will exist.”

Yah, you predicted that final. Not.

From Doug:

France just doesn’t want the Olympic party to end.

Singing and dancing their way around the court after knocking off another women’s basketball power, France advanced to its first gold medal game with a 81-64 victory over Russia on Thursday.

Edwige Lawson-Wade scored 18 points and Emilie Gomis added 15 points for France, which will play the U.S. on Saturday in a matchup of the only two unbeaten teams in the tournament.

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Canada. Their defense was ridiculous.

The defense was stifling, even suffocating at times.

The United States women put on a clinic Tuesday, forcing the Canadians to take bad shots or not allowing them to shoot at all. The Americans, who cruised into the semifinals of the Olympic basketball tournament with a 91-48 rout, harassed Canada into three shotclock violations in the first seven minutes.

‘‘It’s one thing to miss a shot, but to not be able to get a shot off says a lot about your defense,’’ US coach Geno Auriemma said.

From USA Basketball, a couple of great post-game quotes from Geno:

On the relationship between the United States and Canada after last night’s soccer game and today’s basketball game:

Well, I’m sure the Brits, having two of their former colonies playing against each other, were hoping the roof would fall in and we’d all lose.

On knowing your team only becomes a huge story if you lose being a sign of respect to the level of dominance the women’s team has achieved:

We played a game for the ages against China, in terms of how well we played and executed, and somebody left a USA Today international lying around, and I picked it up to read about the Olympics, and there wasn’t one line or one sentence written about that game the next day. Not one. But, the top 10 preseason college football poll was in there, so that was really good, because I’m a college football fan. That goes back to what I said earlier. I think we have the mindset that we really don’t care. We’re way past that. There are no feminists on my team. We’re not running around burning our bras trying to make people believe in our team. I would burn mine, because it doesn’t fit like it used to. We just play basketball. And whether anybody cares or writes anything about it, there’s nothing we can do about it. We’re not in the PR business. We’re in the basketball business. That’s what we do. And, we’re pretty damn good at it.

Writes Jackie MacMullan: U.S. women are real Dream Team

But Auriemma said his group has steered clear of setting any side agendas aside from the obvious gold medal.

“If we win that, all the other stuff takes care of itself,” explained point guard Sue Bird.

That doesn’t mean others haven’t tried to come up with a catchy slogan for the U.S. women.

“Someone put shirts in our rooms that said ‘Road to Respect,’ ” Auriemma said. “I thought that was kind of dumb. Sue Bird has won two gold medals, two WNBA championships, a million championships in Europe, world championships for the U.S., and a couple of national championships with Connecticut.

“If they don’t respect her by now, then screw them.”

From Voice of America: US Olympic Women’s Basketball Team Dominating in London (and prepping for Australia)

From somewhere not in London, Mechelle writes: Aussies face tough semifinal task

Short of somehow being able to protect Penny Taylor from an ACL injury earlier this year, Australian star Lauren Jackson has done everything she can to try to win Olympic basketball gold.

Rebecca Lobo’s hubby, Steve Rushin, writes for SI:Finding a long forgotten gold medal and getting chills all over again

But the kids’ Olympic spirit was most evident when they were racing down the upstairs hallway, or racing scooters down the driveway, or fighting to be first in the car — their usual taunts of, “I won, you lost” replaced by Olympian taunts of, “I won gold, you won silver.”

“Where’s your gold medal?” our 5-year-old daughter asked her mother after one of these races.

“In a bank,” she replied. And then, after a pause: “At least I think it is.”

The kids had never seen her gold medal, I’d never seen her gold medal, and my wife, Rebecca Lobo, hadn’t seen her own gold medal in 16 years, since a few days after she’d won it in Atlanta. Now, she wondered if it really was still in that safe deposit box, for which she hadn’t seen a bill in ages. What if the bank lost her forwarding address, and auctioned off the box, perhaps to one of the guys on Storage Wars? (I pictured Barry Weiss holding it in those skeleton-gloved hands of his.)

Also at SI, Kelli Anderson writes: U.S. must take down Aussies before playing for fifth straight gold medal

The NY Times finds some space for the women’s team: U.S. Coach Keeps Talking, and His Team Keeps Winning
The United States women’s basketball team battered another overmatched opponent Tuesday. Afterward, Geno Auriemma talked the way only Geno Auriemma can.
He described his coaching style in these Olympics as “more British,” and by that he meant calmer, more understated. He called the T-shirt someone left in his room recently, the one with the “Road to Respect” slogan, “kind of dumb.”
Doug previews tomorrow’s Aussie/US game: US-Australia women hoop teams square off in semis

Even though they have had their way with Australia, the Americans are wary of what’s at stake.

“I think the semifinal game for whatever reason is sometimes harder,” U.S. point guard Sue Bird said. “They’ve been even more competitive than some of our gold medal games. This point the four teams left are very good teams. It’s no surprise that these four teams are in this situation. Everyone’s trying to get the chance to win a gold medal.”

Make sure you get out of work on time or take a late, long lunch: game’s at 5:12EST – NOTE: Or does ET mean English Time? Looks like it: ESPN has the game listed as NOON EST. I know when I’m takin’ lunch!

At Full Court, Clay has his preview: Can Australia finally beat Team USA? It could happen and adds, for the 9pmEST game, No tanking this time — Russia and France are playing for a shot at gold.

From Lee: Russia squeaked out a win over Turkey

“It was our goal not to match up with the USA in the quarterfinal or semifinal. We have done our best in the group stages to make sure we didn’t match up with them early. It makes it easier but it’s going to be a battle regardless of who we face. I don’t know which one [the United States or its semifinal opponent Australia] I would choose,” said Russia’s Anna Petrakova.

And, it’s official: Lauren Jackson becomes all-time women’s Olympic high scorer as Australia wears down China to advance

So often the focus is on the stars, but even though Liz Cambage (Tulsa Shock) scored a game-high 17 points for Australia, the reason the Opals beat China, 75-60, in the quarterfinals of the London 2012 Olympic competition in women’s basketball today wasn’t the 6-8 20-year-old sensation, nor even the all-around play or record-breaking scoring of superstar Lauren Jackson (Seattle Storm). The real reason for the win was the depth of Australian roster.

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(if we ignore the first few minutes of  “basketball as a hot mess” and the “oh, sh*t, what’s up with Big Syl’s foot” thoughts.)

From USA Basketball: USA Women Overpower Angola For 90-38 Victory – Establishing a new USA record for blocked shots with 4, Candace Parker also added team highs of 14 points and 12 rebounds in the win

“I think that Coach and the team is looking for me being confident and playing with intensity,” Parker said. “I think that’s my biggest thing is sometimes I get in my own head. I think tonight, he just gave me two things to do: just rebound and run the ball. We’re going to play defense but I tried to focus on that and my teammates did a good job of getting me the ball.”

From Doug: Parker leads Americans in rout of Angola

From Kevin McCauley: Candace Parker Impressive In 90-38 USA Win

Chris Stephens at the Bleacher Report has USA Olympic Women’s Basketball Team: How US Is Faring Early on

One thing that is still a concern for the U.S. is their outside shooting (men havin’ issues, too). Against Angola, they were 2-for-17 from behind the arc.

That shows me that when the team was selected, they didn’t pick pure three-point shooters (WHB: Except for Diana). It also shows that there is still a lack of ball movement as players are jacking up three-pointers even when it’s obvious they’re not falling. (Wait, don’t shooters keep shooting? ‘sides, “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”)

On the subject of ball movement, it was a lot better against Angola.

For those looking for some basketball excitement, the other games had plenty. Check out Snelly’s shot in this video from the Australia/France game. More here from Dan Devine. Attention grabbing shot aside, the French women still managed to stun Australia, 74-70.

“It’s a big win because no other team than the Americans has beaten Australia since I don’t know how long, 1996?” said Emilie Gomis, who scored all 22 of her points after halftime. “But this win gives us nothing right now. Tomorrow is another day, all the teams are tough to play and we are not going to take off now.”

LJ and Liz need to learn to keep their temper and not foul out.

The Izzy-less Brazilians had the Russians on the ropes, but then lost steam in the fourth, eventually falling 69-59. (Scroll down for a nice shot of Becky Hammon and her teammates)

“Playin’ Possum?” China demolished Croatia, 83-58.

In a battle of WHB favorites, Courtnay scored 11, Jo scored -15, but it w as Shona’s 18 that helped Canada to a 73-65 win over Great Britain. Quote of the day: “I’m not pissy because we lost. I’m that way naturally.”

Speaking of “hot mess,” what is up with the 21-turnover Czechs? Congrats to the Turskish team — 61-57 winners.

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From Full Court: London 2012: The United States — Only gold will satisfy

From Hoop Feed: Russian national team member Becky Hammon checks in from London, talks about Olympic prep, the toughest foes and more

From one of the palest women in the world, Val Ackerman: U.S. women living the dream

This summer, much is being written about the 20th anniversary of the 1992 Dream Team, which represented the United States in men’s basketball at the Barcelona Olympics. The descriptions about the team and its place in history have personal significance for me, because I served behind the scenes as one of the NBA’s staff liaisons to USA Basketball at that time.

It was a career highlight to be associated with this incredible collection of superstars, witnessing firsthand the way they mesmerized fans in San Diego, Portland, Ore., Monte Carlo and finally Barcelona. Traveling with the team that summer was truly like being on tour with a rock band, maybe even crazier. The Dream Team was — and remains — the gold standard of men’s sports teams, and it deserves credit for the way it captivated fans the world over and for transforming the game of basketball into a global phenomenon.

Another highly gifted U.S. team is gearing up for these Olympics, although much less is being written about its prospects and storied past. The USA Basketball women’s national team is in London with its sights set on a fifth consecutive gold medal in Olympic competition, a feat that has never been accomplished by any U.S. women’s traditional team sports program.

Somebody not called Mechelle writes: Why the U.S. women are beatable

The biggest challenge for the U.S. will be a potential lack of chemistry. While much of the world has spent months prepping for London, Auriemma’s squad will have had just 10 practices when they take the floor on Saturday. And three of those were back in May.

Though it wasn’t the most enjoyable of topics, Sue Bird admitted Thursday that, yes, the ingredients for a potential U.S. loss are more than there. This team isn’t unbeatable. The ingredients come in the form of complacency, human nature after prolonged success. Then you factor in the lack of experience playing together. And the fact that it’s a one-and-done tournament. Lose and you go home. Put it all together and the unthinkable could happen. Maybe.

Doug has: Taurasi, Bird and rest of US women’s basketball team ready to start Olympic play vs Croatia

“We have one goal in mind and that’s to win,” said point guard Sue Bird, who will be playing in her third Olympics. “For us, I think with our limited training time even as we start the games, the learning part is not over. We have to take each game and improve. I know people will say we’re playing Croatia — ‘they beat them by 54’ — it’s another opportunity to play together and get better.

From CNN: Anthony, Paul and Moore get interviewed by Soledad (whose feet are more dressed up than the rest of her)

From the Bleacher Report: USA Olympic Women’s Basketball Team 2012: Stars Who Will Dominate (Maya workin’ the bear hat!)

From Ben York: Opinion: The USA Women’s Basketball Team’s Quest for a Fifth Consecutive Gold Should Be a Bigger Deal (no shit)

We—women’s basketball fans and supporters—don’t ask for much. People say we do, but we really don’t. One request, outlandish and eccentric as it may be, is to know (and be able to point out) who the players are if you’re calling the game. I know, we’re crazy like that. But, hey, it’s women’s basketball. Who cares, right? They’re lucky to even be on television! It’s not that big of a deal!

Adding to the nonsense, in nearly every timeout, the commentators would compare Team USA players to their male counterparts while crediting each storyline back to the players’ fathers (or another male figure) for advancing to the position they’re at today. As if, by doing so, somehow that makes their story greater. When in doubt, talk about men. Surely, they spent an equal amount of time during the men’s exhibition game(s) discussing the depths and dominance of the women’s team over the past two decades, right?

(Oh – prank time: Next time Tina sees Mark Jones, she should walk over and say to him, “Hi, Walt, I’m Sylvia.”)

From the Huffington Post: Can Women’s Team Win Another Gold?

No surprise, the official UConn basketball site has some coverage — but they also have feet on the ground in London: Team USA Will Open Olympic Play Saturday vs. Croatia

Earlier today, the team once again was treated to American Royalty.  During what was supposed to be a players-only event, the coaches and staff were asked at the last minute to participate in a special USA ceremony featuring past Olympians and guest of honor, First Lady, Michelle Obama.  Mrs. Obama gave an inspirational pep talk that also promoted her campaign for healthy living.

“I’m so inspired by you and am in awe of what you all have achieved,” she said. “Try to have fun; try to breathe a little.”

“I’m glad we were invited to see the First Lady speak,” said head coach Geno Auriemma.  “It was great to get a chance to listen to her talk about some of the commitments and sacrifices these kids have made to get here and how other people are going to look up to them and emulate them in many ways.  It was a reminder that the Olympics are a special event.  It’s not just another tournament.”

Speaking of the First Lady: London welcomes First Lady of fashion Michelle Obama as she dons ANOTHER patriotic outfit in support of Team USA

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  • Like my cats, I know, I just don’t learn. Whipped out a brand, spanking clean, white “Proud member of the women’s basketball intelligentsia” t-shirt for my trip down to D.C. and, once on the train, I promptly dribbled coffee on it. Sigh. Me and white Ts have a love/hate relationship.
  • Speaking of love/hate, the Drive is still alive in New Jersey!
  • You know, at crunch time your senior leadership should not dribble into a shot clock violation. And yah, she’s rookie-of-the-year-in-waiting, but exactly HOW MANY rebounds did that Nerd City kid get?!?
  • Yes, it was against Tulsa, but Miyah was on Fiyah at the Four (No truth to the rumor she’s putting in for a legal name change – perhaps she was too busy chatting?). Minny is proud of their three Olympians.
  • Speakng of the Olympics, a mini-snark moment: Ya think Catchings is going to talk about how this group of Olympians could beat the Dream Team of 1996?
  • Yes, it was against an Angel-less Dream, but the SASS don’t care – they just keep on winning. Becky is happy.
  • Perhaps inspired by the approaching Olympics, Katie goes off on Taurasi (not for long?)-less Merc.
  • Prince-less Sky go down in overtime. Hey, that’s the Sun winning on the road! (And yes, we want “-less” to disappear during the break, please.)
  • A little M&M before the Olympic break.
  • A Q&A with a little focus on Seimone’s arm/body artistry. And isn’t nice to note how her fiancee LaTaya is mentioned with the same “weight” as one might use when mentioning LeBron’s fiancee Savannah.
  • Can’t resist a sports pun: I get off the train and see the following name on an elegant, white bus: “Chariots for Hire”
  • Yes, a bunch of Blackberry-sporting Canadians just asked me if I knew where the nearest Chick Fil-A was. Guess they were scared to go into the Whole Foods to ask.
  • Speaking of Canadians and Olympians, Courtnay Pilypaitis (which the Blackberry-sporting folk didn’t know about. Tsk, tsk.) was named an assistant coach at Vermont.
  • Coach Summitt makes the ESPYs worth watching

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“Oh, now Fred, you know that’s never a good thing.”

“Very funny Ethel. No, I was just thinking about all those folks who talk about how ‘basketball is a winter sport.’ (I guess they boycotted the NBA’s playoffs, right?) And I was thinking, considering how hot it is going to be on Sunday, who’s smarter? The person who travels out to Yankee Stadium, pays $220 for a ticket and $12 for a beer and sits out in the broiling sun…or the person who travels to the Rock, pays $50 for a ticket and watches the Liberty face the SASS in lovely, air conditioned surroundings.”

“Fred, you’re asking about the ‘intelligence’ of the average sports fan?”

“I see your point, Ethel.”

“Speaking of the SASS, they sure are surging. Did you see what they did to Indy yesterday? Spotted them a nice lead and the BOINK! surged back to take the win. Not sure I’m looking forward to the return of Becky to New(ark) York.”

“Ethel, it’s been a while since Blaze pulled that fabulous move — I mean Becky for Jessica Davenport? Brilliance. Ah, the good old days of ‘things in the hopper’ and ‘rebuilidng’.”

“True, Powell over Brunson is right up there, but doesn’t live up to that standard. Memories. They do bring a tear to the eye.”

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but still disappointing.

The Sun are the Groundhog Day of the WNBA – get a lead and lose it. Go on the road and… lose it.

On the other hand, Atlanta pleased its fans (and new owners) by coming back and using a balanced attack to grab the win and move into the Conference Finals.

“We were down . . . and it doesn’t seem to bother us,” Meadors said. “I’ll tell you what; get us to the fourth quarter and we’re pretty good. It was all about our defense, and it wasn’t anything the coaches were saying.”

Watching the San Antonio/Minny game, the Queen/Bowie song kept running through my head – “Dum da-da-da da da dum dum Pressure!” The SASS vets handled it, the Lynx youngsters not so much.Writes Mechelle

It has been a summer of coming home for Jia Perkins, and one of growing up for Sophia Young.

Those two led the way Sunday as San Antonio beat Minnesota for the first time this season, and in the process avoided elimination in the Western Conference semifinals.

Perkins, who just before this season joined San Antonio via trade from Chicago, led the Silver Stars with 24 points, while Young had 23. After five losses to Minnesota, including a one-point escape by the Lynx on Friday, this time San Antonio found a way to beat the Western Conference’s top seed, 84-75 in San Antonio.

NEXT!

Oh, and if you want to prep for tonight, check out WNBAlien:

Part of me hates these best-of-three playoff series that the WNBA uses for its first two rounds. You play for months to get here, and then everything can be over in the blink of an eye. A slightly shorter regular season allowing longer playoff series would be a better framework in my eyes. But you can’t deny that it makes the postseason instantly exciting. After losing their opening games, New York and Phoenix went into Saturday’s games in do-or-die situations. Win, and they’d have a chance in a deciding game on Monday night; lose, and all the hard work all season long would’ve been for naught.

Me, I love the best of three simply because it demands total focus. Screw up and you’re out. I’ll take that pressure any day over the never-ending NBA playoff-a-looza. Heck, I think men’s tennis would benefit from a best of three — make’em play with a sense of urgency….

And speaking of urgency — the .com urgently needs to get a copy editor.

“Define you’re edge with Lisa Leslie”?

WTF? Its jest knot write!

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A quick hit before

I hit the road up to the Casino….

Three of the four non-playoff bound teams played last night. Best you can say is no one got hurt in the SASS game (I hope) and Adams scored 14. As San Antonio moves forward (with Becky staying put), the Sparks (dang Parker’s knee), Sky and ‘stics need to do some post-season pondering.

And, well, just wow. Talk about a petty, whiny, opinion piece!

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Speaking of dismal

Indiana Fever rout Washington Mystics 87-69; Clinch the best record in WNBA Eastern Conference

The Fever win means they’ve clinched the #1 spot in the East and have a couple of games left to coast.

“I think it’s a great situation to be in, to be quite honest,” said Katie Douglas, who led the Fever with 21 points. “I think last year was a terrible situation to be in. Every game, every second mattered. Everybody else mattered.”

In other news, we’ve got that race for MVP. Vin says Charles, Catchings among top WNBA MVP contenders

With two of the WNBA’s last three MVPs sidelined by injuries for much of the season, the race for this year’s award is wide-open.

And while Lauren Jackson, Sheryl Swoopes and Lisa Leslie combined to win it nine of the previous 11 years, there could be a first-time winner for the third time in four years.

Jackson won her third last year while leading the Storm to their second championship, but missed 20 games this season with a hip injury, and Los Angeles’ Candace Parker, who was the MVP and Rookie of the Year in 2008, was out for 15 games because of a knee injury.

Ben explains Why Sue Bird Should Be the 2011 WNBA MVP

Imagine, for a moment, where the Seattle Storm would be without Sue Bird in 2011.

Go ahead. I’ll wait.

In 2011 thus far, Bird has recorded six assists or more in a game 11 times, scored 15 or more points 18 times, and turned the ball over two times or less a staggering 20 times.

Considering how often the ball is in her hands for the Storm, these totals are nothing short of remarkable.

The .com notes A ‘Legend’ary Endorsement of Catchings

Projecting forward, Roman says 25-win teams, like Lynx, have fared well in WNBA playoffs

With Sunday’s victory at New York, the Lynx become the 12th team in the WNBA’s 15-year history to win at least 25 games in the regular season.

Eight of the previous 11 teams which reached that victory total won WNBA championships, the other three lost in the playoffs to the eventual champions.

Reflecting backwards, Mechelle says of the Four on outside looking in Sparks most disappointing of four teams left out of playoffs

The Sparks lost their centerpiece player/superstar Candace Parker in late June, and she didn’t come back until mid-August. She missed 15 games, and even her return wasn’t enough for Los Angeles to gain a spot in the postseason. It took a late-season push to reach last year’s playoffs, so it’s time for some serious self-evaluation for this franchise.

Nate explains why the SASS is on the inside, looking out:  Becky Hammon & How The San Antonio Silver Stars’ Playoff Berth Was Won

While writing a piece about the San Antonio Silver Stars’ chemistry back on July 1, I cut out a section about All-Star guard Becky Hammon.

It wasn’t at all that she didn’t belong in a conversation about the Silver Stars’ chemistry; it was just an extra 400 words that was just as easily summarized by writing, “Hammon still scored [in 2010], but the Silver Stars didn’t have the distributors around her to complement that scoring.”

The Silver Stars were 7-1 at the time and I figured I would have ample opportunity to highlight Hammon’s contributions again.

Well, of course, the Silver Stars lost three straight and then Hammon only scored five points in a win against the Seattle Storm that had me more caught up in a certain team’s 20 turnover-performance. Then the All-Star break, a win at Washington, and Danielle Adams’ injury which led to losing 10 of 12 games.

You can read the rough draft “outtake” here, but the main point here is that Hammon is one of a handful of players that I sort of chose early on as someone to follow despite hardly writing a word about her in this space.

And then Hammon’s 17-point fourth quarter in a 17-point win over the Los Angeles Sparks happened.

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It’s all about the 30+

(Points, that is… though it could apply to ages.)

Becky got her 37-point groove on, Tina went old school, but CP3 forgot her superwoman cape and the Sparks refused to rebound. End result: SASS get into the playoffs and hand Los Angeles an ugly loss, 82-65. (Bryant was dejected AND ejected. How’d that coaching change work out for you, Penny?)

“D.A. [Adams] coming back spreads the floor a lot, everybody’s very aware of her,” said Hammon. “Defensively, really is the key for us. Down that stretch of six or seven games where we struggled, we really lost three or four games at the buzzer. There were some games that could have gone either way.”

“Now that we have our full team back, we feel that we can compete with anybody in the league.”

Atlanta got on the 35-point Angel-train and rolled over Connecticut and into the third spot in the East.

“Angel McCoughtry just broke our whole team down,” Charles said. “She’s a great player and she made some tough shots. But some of her shots, like the layups, we should have been able to hold her off.”

This MVP race is TIGHT! Here’s the “other” Bird on Catch’s credentials.

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Connecticut after-Shock?

San Antonio said, “We ain’t gonna lose seven in a row,” and the Sun said “Oh, man, we’re on the road again?” End result: SASS 78, Connecticut 66 and the playoffs are still in sight for San Antone and, oddly enough, clinched for the Sun. (Congrats on your 5000th pt., Becky!)

The Merc had no desire to be streaked or shocked or surprised, so they stomped a pooped Tulsa.

The Shock was playing its 11th game in 26 days and a sixth game in the last 10 days.

“I think we’re really tired,” coach Teresa Edwards said. “I think, in our minds, we wanted to play hard. We wanted to go out and do well again. But we just couldn’t do it. I kind of recognized that early in the game.”

Chicago practiced a little self-inflicted wounding. They were cruising in the fourth with a nice, comfortable lead, then Cappie decided to pull her “It’s time for my late game heroics.” The Sky then fumbled the ball over and over and New York walked in for the touchdown. From Queenie:

I have no idea what part of their ass they pulled this out of, and I neither care or regret my use of such language. I think “pulled it out of our ass” is the most accurate possible assessment of this game, and in the interest of journalistic integrity, I have to use the most accurate assessment.

And yes, that was Sue doing color. No, she’s not got a vocal style “made” for commentary, but hell, she’s so much better than Kym, who sounds about as professional as two teenagers texting at the mall….

Speaking of fumbling, when was the last time you saw Catch do that? Last night. Ouch. (And I’m not talking about the high school football that kept on jumping into my Live Mixed Access.) Indy and the Dream put on a (a second) rip roarin’ show for the Atlanta fans and Sancho put the cherry on top (to mix my metaphors or something). The clock winding down, game tied, Tamika with the ball in her hands, but she gets trapped. Panicked pass, turnover, Lyttle and swoops in for a lay-up. Dream win, Sancho breathes a sigh of relief,  and Indy is in the playoffs.

Side note: I’m sure Reeves will get it, but anyone think what MM has done to keep this Atlanta team together through the horrible opening of the season to this return to last year’s form is worth a vote or two in the COY race? (And why is the AJC using the AP report?)

Minnesota fiddled around for a bit in the first half, but then they got on track (not UNtracked) and put the pedal to the metal (not the petal to the medal) and took care of business. And the ‘stics.

Yup, looks like that wagon is gettin’ mighty big… Lynx winning hearts as victories pile up

We watch sports for the spectacle and the spectacular, and the Lynx provide enough of both, with fast-break baskets and reverse layups. We also watch sports to see cohesion and competitiveness, to see people who grew up in different climes and circumstances bonding together under pressure, and the Lynx are the best example of that on the local landscape.

“One thing I love is that before the game, Lindsay will come over and give me a high-five,” Leone said. “You can’t get that anywhere else. I’m a sucker for stuff like that. To have a professional team be so accessible … I’m a sucker for that. If you tell me you like me, you’ve got me.”

…and Adair’s 10pts points gives Tim Leighton a reason to write about her: Reserve center Jessica Adair blossoming into key contributor for Minnesota Lynx

Jessica Adair was heavy, out of shape and nearly out of hope when she was cut from the Minnesota Lynx’s training camp before the 2010 season. Deep within a 6-foot-4 frame that once carried 268 pounds, she found the courage to fight off the demons that threatened to end her dream of playing professional basketball.

Her transformation leaves her with a smile nowadays.

“It feels pretty good, but I have to stay humble about it,” Adair said Tuesday night.

No last second heroics this time. Parker (27pts) and the Sparks got some measure of revenge, taking down the Storm, 68-62.

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You know,

I smiled at the memory when I saw this ASG photo... but it was smile tinged with sadness.

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