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Is it Minnesota and Chicago in the Finals? If those games are as entertaining as yesterday’s, WHOOP! WHOOP! Could be fun, but methinks the big question will center ’round the (wo)man in the middle.

Yes, as Mechelle wrote, the Merc needed more from Corey Gaines. And no, Phoenix is not necessarily out of the woods, but that they were able to handle Cambage speaks to the existence of a path. Kris at Bright Side is excited: Diana 6K makes history while the Phoenix Mercury gain momentum under drastic change

An unassuming lay-up in the third quarter of a blowout win over the Tulsa Shock and Diana Taurasi makes history with 6,000 points.

Not just 6,000 points, but the fastest player in WNBA history to reach that goal and now just 1,288 points off of Tina Thompson, a mentor and idol for Taurasi, as the all-time leader in points scored. After the game Taurasi let out a sarcastic “YAY” for her individual accomplishment, but then revisited what really got her there, which were her teammates and her mentors.

“You don’t get to 6,000 without great coaches, great teams, and great players around you,” said Taurasi after the game. “You don’t get there. You have to have great people around you every step of the way.”

Any guess at to who the top SG is in ESPN’s “Who are the top shooting guards?”

Injuries make an accurate assessment difficult, but it does seem to be a tale of two franchises reaping the benefits of their management choices: Mystics over Sun.

“I didn’t have any emotions about playing Connecticut,” Thibault said. “It was more about playing a team that’s chasing us in the playoff race. I felt the same way as I did when we played New York the other day…We’re just trying to survive in the playoff race.”

Is it all on the MIA Lyttle or is there some deeper flaw within the Dream? The return of Hayes may help. Speaking of “returns,” who lit what fire under Braxton, and is there any chance of it lasting? And could the Lib get any older? Yes!

“And I’m HEEEEEERE! I’m still HEEEEEEEERE! In a game of spare parts, Tina led Seattle over San Antonio.

“We were a little embarrassed the other night,” said Storm forward Tina Thompson, who had a team-high 17 points and 11 rebounds. “We definitely came back out with a different focus. We made them really uncomfortable in the first half, but it would be really naive to think they wouldn’t make a push in the second half… but we finished it off.”

More from Jayda: Storm guard Temeka Johnson, former Gonzaga star Courtney Vandersloot giving back

WNBA players are known for their giving nature, most starting foundations despite seemingly not earning enough to give as they do. Storm PG Temeka Johnson is the latest to dote on the public in a rare move. She already has the H.O.P.E foundation that works to inspire communities, this week Johnson is using social media to show fans her appreciation.

and Silver Stars coach Dan Hughes

We’ve typically raised some of the top money in the WNBA, $40,000 or more. And (Hall of Fame college coach) Kay Yow was one of those people I’m so glad I got to know. Kay would come for that game before she died (in 2009 of breast cancer). We played L.A. one year and Kay was there, and I asked her if she would come talk to the team. It was so powerful we took some of her statements and put them on our walls. We’ve just had a real strong affiliation with that day.

JE: What was a quote you put on your locker-room wall?

Hughes: She looked at the team and said, “When life kicks you, you let it kick you forward.” We just took that and stuck it on our wall. It’s been there since 2008.

Jessica Breland says: Cancer Battle Made Me Stronger

Chicago! Chicago! That toddling town! Sky’s Quigley reunited with family

In college news:

Congrats – Megan Gebbia leaves Marist, becomes head coach at American

Life rarely gives second chances.

When their women’s basketball head coach left last month, though, officials at American University finally got the woman they’d wanted to lead their program in 2008. And, after a decade of loyal service as an assistant in Poughkeepsie, she gets to guide her own team.

Megan Gebbia — an assistant on Marist’s bench for 10 years, the past seven as an associate coach under Brian Giorgis — became American’s new head coach Monday, taking over a Patriot League squad that went 15-14 last season.

This is how Coop did it at her other programs: USC women’s basketball team adds 2 transfers for Cooper-Dyke’s first season

And, get your VCRs/DVDs ready: Uconn v Stanford and Tenn v UNC part of ESPN Tip-off Marathon

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Mercury fire Corey Gaines

add on: Who’s the new boss? A little background:  Why Was Russ Pennell Replaced By Dan Majerle at Grand Canyon?

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Clay up after he tries to say nice things about you:

So how much does the 0-2 start for Phoenix really mean? Is Corey Gaines really an idiot? Are the Mercury really worse than Seattle? Is Brittney Griner really overrated?

The answers, in order: Very little; no; no; and emphatically no.

Merc get royally stomped by the Lynx. On a Mission Much? Maya Managed Many Points in Minimum Minutes (23/22)

The Lynx scored 60 points in a half consisting of two 10-minute quarters. That’s three points a minute. Traditionally, that has been accomplished mostly by men with large Afros and a red, white and blue basketball.

The Lynx also tied a franchise record with 30 assists, on 36 baskets, and tied a franchise low with six turnovers. Traditionally, that kind of ratio isn’t accomplished at any level of the game.

M&M discuss “Who are the top five centers.

As Brittney Griner is quickly finding out, it’s not easy being a center in the WNBA.

 It’s rough down there in the paint — the size, the physical play, the jostling, the foul trouble.

The best women’s league in the world is home to the best centers in the world in 2013, a group that includes grizzled veterans, gold medalists and some of the most promising young talent one could imagine.

Even with Storm center Lauren Jackson out of the league for the season, taking a year off from Seattle to heal her hamstring, the best centers in the WNBA make for a star-studded list of talent and experience. These strong, powerful women score inside at will. They battle for the boards, block shots and stretch defenses.

In this game-changing season for the WNBA, espnW will rank the top players at each position. We start with the WNBA’s five best centers:

The Lib are thrillin’ fans with OT wins over shorthanded teams. Their coach? Not so much.

Who’s singing “I’m Baaack in the Saddle Again”? Erin Thorn. So’s the other CP3.

How much fun is coach Donovan having? Not much. Montgomery is out for three weeks (or more) and now White’s Broken Finger Adds To Sun Injury Problem. And, do you know what? It’s Almost Time For Thibault’s Connecticut Homecoming. Wheeeeeee!

Speaking of injuries: NOT good: Prince sprains ankle in first game for Russia. Timely that espnW’s re-visioned site discuss “Player’s Priorities.”

Nate offers up 2013 WNBA Most Improved Player watch list: 10 players with the opportunity to improve

The Most Improved Player award is fundamentally about the gap between expectations and outcomes, which brings an inherent element of unpredictability to the process of picking one.

Chances are that if a player showed signs of improvement in the previous year, they don’t have the strongest case for being the most improved player in the league as every year someone takes an unexpected leap.

However, when looking at the actual winners of the WNBA’s Most Improved Player award in the past they have actually been quite predictable:

Richard l’Alien offers up: Trading Tina Thompson

Last week saw one of the legends of the WNBA, the sole remaining player from 1997′s inaugural season, announce that this would be her final year. Tributes and glowing assessments of Tina Thompson’s career rightfully flooded in, but because I’m an unsentimental soul my first thought was “does this make it more or less likely that she’ll be traded?” On reflection, it seems like the retirement announcement probably doesn’t make much difference – there was always a strong chance that this was her last season anyway, so any move for her would’ve been primarily about what she could offer in 2013. But it does seem like an appropriate time to look at whether Seattle might find a new home for Tina before the trade deadline on August 15th.

Who’s singing “I’ll be watching you.” Refs. Or is it the fans. Or is it the refs?

WATN? Pat Coyle is back in the coaching ranks at St. Peter’s in the MAAC. Lucky Patty — she inherits a team that went 2-28 last season. And they’re called the Peahens.

Speaking of coaching, Alysha Clark will sample the profession at Middle Tennessee next season.

Mel’s talking Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame Induction stuff, and a guest blogger gives us the view from Chicago: Maya’s WNBA Chicago Scene: Elena Delle Donne Quickly Brings Sunshine to the Windy City

Have fun Suuuuuuuueeeeeeeee! Sue Wicks grew her love for the game, will be inducted into Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame

From SlamOnline: ‘This Is Not Hoosiers’ – Filmmaker Robert T. Herrera reflects on the compelling documentary The Gray Seasons.

With the WNBA season underway, it’s only right that the ladies got next, and although the number of films chronicling women and basketball are few and far between, they do exist. The Gray Seasons follows Shimmy Gray-Miller, head coach of the St. Louis University Lady Billikens as she takes over the Division I program. Documenting the team for four years, the film showcases the losses, which sometimes occur more than the wins, the countless moments of Gray-Miller’s determination, and the courage, pain and resolve of her team.

Slam also offers up a little slice of women’s basketball history — and you know how we love that! The Forgotten – “Machine Gun” Molly Bolin is probably the best female guard you’ve never heard of. (Of course, if you’ve read Karra Porter’s Mad Seasons: The Story of the First Women’s Professional Basketball League, 1978-1981, you know all about Molly.)

More history: US Rep. Gabbard Pays Tribute to Title IX and Co-Author Patsy Mink

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and disheartened.

Heartened: The Liberty are pulling out the stops to get people in the stands. I’ve gotten lots of emails. Trader Bill has been pro active in reaching out to the fans with meet-and-greets. He’s a generous, opinionated interview. And I’ve been offered free tickets.

Ya, free. Get over it, folks. You need to put butts in the seat and hook’em with the product on the floor. Of course, if they’re smart, there will be people handing out flyers and “come back with someone else next game and you get in free” coupons.

Heartened: An MSG person sent me this article: Cheryl Ford is back in WNBA, playing for the Liberty.

Wow, what a concept: the NY Liberty making their fans aware of articles about the team. Like, you know, some kind of news collecting service that helps tell editors that folks are interested in reading about the WNBA. Where have I heard that before?

Disheartened: They sent me the ENTIRE article in the email. Do they not understand the concept of copyright laws? Oiy.

Disheartened: The article comes as close to saying “Cheryl will be a game-by-game player” as it can without actually saying that.

In other news:

From the Atlanta Daily News: WNBA Facts at Your Fingertips

The 17th season of the WNBA tipped off Memorial Day Weekend. That’s right, THE 17th SEASON. Despite the ups and downs associated with the start of any American professional sports league and the additional challenge of establishing a women’s sports league, the WNBA is alive and kicking and poised to reach a new level thanks to an exciting infusion of fresh talent and personalities.

Michelle Smith writes: Candice Dupree a smooth operator

A straight line.

That’s how Phoenix Mercury coach Corey Gaines describes his veteran forward Candice Dupree, and he means it as a compliment.

What is more consistent, more sturdy, more sure a thing than a straight line? No jagged edges, no unexpected dips, no changes of direction. Just the shortest distance between starting a game and winning it. That’s Dupree.

Dupree embodies that steadiness, and Gaines and the Phoenix Mercury have come to rely on it.

The Tulsa GTR says: Diggins, Cambage to Spark Shock

From Newsday: Rookies shine during WNBA’s opening weekend

With Griner now having a WNBA game under her belt—albeit a 102-80 loss to the Sky—she and her fellow WNBA rookies must captain another effort that is near and dear to the league’s heart entering its 17th regular season.

That effort is renewing wide-scale interest in the WNBA itself.

So far so good: WNBA Season Off to Strong Ratings Start; Most-Watched Regular-Season Game on ESPN2 in Nine Years

From DC: With many new faces on hand, the Mystics look to turn things around in 2013

From Redeye’s Ernest Wilkins: WNBA demands your respect

The contest went like this: Them vs me. If I could hit more free throws (out of 10), then I would be the champ.

As for the game itself, can I just go ahead and say Sky guard Epiphanny Prince is my new favorite basketball player? Upon being introduced to me, she sized me up like a wolf would look at a rotisserie chicken, then drained like 19 3s in a row.

Speaking of Chicago, I didn’t want to jinx it, but how cool is this? The Q is in the W: Former Blue Demon Allie Quigley Makes Chicago Sky Roster

From Scott Mammoser at the Examiner: WNBA President Laurel Richie eager to watch Brittney Griner and rookies develop

From Ethan Grant at Bleacher Report: Brittney Griner and Fellow Rookies Have Tough Task of Renewing Interest in WNBA

LZ is grumpy: Stop celebrating women’s dunks

Let us hope this ceases to be breaking news so that she can be judged as a basketball player and not written about like some sort of vaudeville act doing parlor tricks.

I guess…. but, what kind of assumptions is LZ making? Why do they celebrate men’s dunks?

Some of the Swish Appeal folks are grumpy:  Is this “3 to See Campaign” just getting too biased and coming at the expense of other WNBA teams and players?

From the .com: FIVE THINGS WE NOW KNOW ABOUT THE WNBA

From Mechelle’s chat:

Sofia (Durham, NC): As a team, Phoenix looked poor in their season opener. I know it is early but the defensive schemes were way off & their shots were not falling. Will Gaines be on the hot seat if the team does not show dramatic improvement soon?

Mechelle Voepel: It’s really way too soon to be talking about hot seats. :) [WHB begs to differ! <g>] Obviously, the Mercury got a wake-up call from that game, so let’s see how that impacts the rest of the early part of the season.

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From Dishin’ and Swishin’: Podcast: Can Phoenix & New York make a playoff run? Corey Gaines & Monique Ambers discuss their teams

From the Norwich Bulletin: Sun players pleased for teammates’ Olympic success

The jet lag may not be all that bad — it’s only a five-hour time difference between Connecticut and London —  but the hangover from winning the Olympic gold medal may be something that Tina Charles and Asjha Jones will have to overcome.

During the WNBA‘s Olympic break, which began July 14, the Sun have been doing their best to keep one of the league’s top motors revving by holding practices for their remaining nine players since just before the start of the London Games on July 27.
You can see her feet tapping inches away from the floor where they would rather be running.
Besides 36 minutes of the pre-Olympic WNBA season, Diana Taurasi has been on the wrong side of the thin black line that frames the Mercury’s home court. A hip-flexor strain and ankle problems have kept Taurasi from donning the only clothes she’d want to wear at Mercury games. Instead, she’s been relegated to cheering her team on from the sidelines in casual business attire.
She hasn’t been alone.
No, she hasn’t. Add in Phoenix’s mayor: Phoenix Mercury Dominate Then Break Mayor Greg Stanton’s Nose
Now, about that thing that just happened in London:
Kelli Anderson at SI: U.S. women did not generate buzz, but did generate fifth straight gold

Simply put, this group was a collection of low-maintenance, high-production gym rats, similar in talents the players who came before, but different. No player from the 1996 team that started this golden run is still playing. “That’s what makes the streak even more impressive,” said Bird the day before the gold-medal game. “It’s not the same group of people playing great together. It’s a different group every time. There are people without gold medals on this team. And then there are people who have them and want to keep that legacy going, to keep that history alive, take the torch, so to speak, from those who came before us and do well with it.”

Doug: A repeat in Rio? US women’s hoops team thinks it’s possible after winning Olympic gold

From Fox Sports Arizona (or is it also Doug’s?)  Unsure of legacy, Taurasi wants fourth gold

Diana Taurasi’s already impressive Olympic resume isn’t finished.The U.S. shooting guard has three gold medals and plans to be at the 2016 Rio Games looking to win a fourth.Still, the 30-year-old Taurasi isn’t ready to pencil herself into an all-time starting lineup of U.S. Olympic women’s basketball players that would undoubtedly include four-time gold medalists Lisa Leslie and Teresa Edwards.Others, though, say Taurasi belongs.

And, Down Under, the fight goes on: Lundy, Opals to push for end to gender discrimination

THE second-class treatment of Australia’s female Olympic basketballers was tip-of-the-iceberg evidence of the gender discrimination that still exists in sport, which the federal Sports Minister, Kate Lundy, leaves the London Games determined to rectify.

Her claim, on the eve of the closing ceremony, that ”basketball is not alone” came as the Opals captain and Australian team flag bearer Lauren Jackson, and her teammate Kristi Harrower, felt free to discuss the furore over the male and female teams’ different travel arrangements after they completed their competition with a bronze medal.

Most of Australia’s national women’s team flew to London in premium economy class while their male counterparts travelled – as a general rule – in business class.

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Both home teams won, putting each just this close to the Finals.

In Minnesota, the mayors are getting into some fun smack talk, but it was Phoenix that was smacked around. Writes Jim Souhan at the Star Tribune:

Then, on Thursday, [Glen Taylor] got to watch the most dominant playoff performance by a Minnesota basketball team since Kevin Garnett was jumping onto scorers’ tables.The Lynx beat the Phoenix Mercury 95-67 at Target Center, for the first time in four playoff games this season demonstrating just how dominant this team could and should be.

That’s 95 points in 40 minutes for a team that doesn’t benefit from the automatic baskets known as dunks. It’s hard to score 95 points in 40 minutes in a layup line. The Lynx did it in its first appearance in the Western Conference finals.

Coach Gaines recommends fans and other such folks not get ahead of themselves:

“It is one game, we’ve been there, done that,” said Mercury coach Corey Gaines, referring not only tp the Seattle series but championship runs in 2007 and 2009. “We didn’t play well, it happens. Are you guys writing us off?”

Oh, and do you agree with Richard’s tweet? Hilarious listening to Geno say the same stuff we say on boards to a national TV audience. And Ward and Lobo stunned into silence :).

In Indy, Dunn was fined for her comments about the officiating, but it may be Angel who may be wondering what the heck happened: it took her 17 minutes to foul out.

(WHB note: Now, someone I love and respect recently suggested I love officials.

I don’t, per se. I know they make mistakes. And I certainly know that everyone and their father has an opinion about their profession and thinks they have a bias for/against a team or a certain players. And, heck, in some cases, they may have a point.  But I am beyond weary of folks whining and complaining about the officiating and not either 1) taking responsibility for the possibility that their own actions put them in a situation or 2) actually playing the game instead of nagging the officials while the rest of their team gets back on defense.

You can disagree and be upset. But show some respect. Or else, allow the officials to mouth off, too. Heck, I’d pay the fine to hear what they had to say about some decisions coaches and/or players have made…. Back to our regularly scheduled programming.)

So, in Indianapolis, the “old” Tan Smith reappeared and lifted her Fever to a win.

There’s something endearing about a player who, after being the star in a very important game for her team, jokes that it was about time.

“I just took advantage of how they were playing us,” said Indiana Fever forward Tangela Smith, who led the way with 25 points in the Fever’s 82-74 Game 1 victory in the Eastern Conference finals Thursday against the Atlanta Dream. “They were so focused on Catch, Tammy and Dougie that they left me wide open. Maybe because I haven’t been hitting all year.”

Smith, you may be saying, what about Tamika? Well, noted Bob Kravitz, Game 1 epitomized Catchings’ MVP credentials

Catchings’ statistics in Thursday night’s 82-74 Game 1 victory over the Atlanta Dream didn’t scream “MVP,” but if you saw it, if you felt it, you knew it was so much more than merely 12 points and 13 rebounds. On a night when she struggled with her shooting, Catchings simply willed herself and her team to a victory.

She did it with defense, drawing two charges against Atlanta’s top scorer, Angel McCoughtry, who fouled out of the game. She did it with rebounds, grabbing six of her 13 in the fourth quarter. She did it with unselfishness, twice passing to Smith for open 3s in the fourth. She did it with aggression, altering the tone of the fourth quarter with one memorable play: She stole the ball at midcourt, drove fearlessly to the basket and tossed up a flying prayer that you wouldn’t dare try in a H-O-R-S-E game. It went in.

NEXT!

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Kara and Jacki: Two Missed Opportunities; Two Shakes of the Head – Two sad stories… but for markedly different reasons.

Women’s basketball doesn’t have enough superstars, and losing one like Gemelos to injury, and one like Braxton to stupidity, are both cruel blows. Both left a game that needs every ounce of star power it can muster with unfulfilled promise, and a sadness that can’t be erased with just a shake of the head.

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Sky’s Christon Out 8 Weeks

In other W news: Pokey Chatman, Corey Gaines and Dan Hughes Discuss Launch of WNBA Season and so do Rebecca Lobo and Carolyn Peck

Candace Parker Offers Maya Moore Some Advice and Nate says the Indiana Fever Need To Fill Point Guard, Rebounding Voids

No surprise, the Turkish lab that messed with Taurasi and others has received a six month ban and Clay is Handicapping the 2011 WNBA Season

Diana Taurasi’s poorly handled drug “suspension” helped the Mercury, for one of the two or three best players in the world is fresher and healthier for this summer than in recent memory. But DT can’t be much better than she has been, and Penny Taylor is still, well, Penny Taylor, so the key for Corey Gaines and company is to get Kara Braxton to bring it every night – or, more realistically, two out of three nights. There’s not much depth behind the underrated DeWanna Bonner, but when all the cylinders are firing in synch (including, most critically, Braxton), the Mercury are a team to be feared.

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You stay put: New UM athletic director says Katie Meier gets extension

You’re the new leader of the Musketeers!: Xavier to name Amy Waugh coach (A little different than Mel’s speculation)

You help Geno at USA Training game: Doug Bruno, Corey Gaines, Jennifer Gillom, Marynell Meadors

Congrats to Nan Carney-DeBord, the winningest women’s basketball coach in Ohio Wesleyan University history, will become athletic director at Denison University, her undergraduate alma mater, on July 1.

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Corey Gaines Signs Extension with Phoenix Mercury

You work here: Stephanie White named as Fever Assistant Coach

You sit down: Storm’s Jackson injures left leg, will be out 3 months or more

You be honored: This year’s Silver Anniversary Award winners take time to reflect (Teresa Edwards)

You fall boom: No. 6 WVU upset by Marquette – Loss ends the nation’s longest winning streak

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