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at the moment.)

Until then, some of the sights:

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Easy Rider:

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Fresh pressed pomegranate, anyone?

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Yes, I know it’s cliché, but I don’t care. I bought a rug.

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Live and learn: I’m staying in Sultanahmet – the Old City on the European side Istanbul. The World Championship is held on the Asian side of Istanbul. So, to get there yesterday took several steps. Literally and figuratively.

First I walked past the Blue Mosque…

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and the Hagia Sophia…

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and then a beautiful water source…

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Then I took the tram from Cemberlitaş to Eminönü.

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I then crossed the street to the Kadıköy ferry dock.

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I then took the ferry to Karaköy.

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IMG_0201Then I took a taxi to the Ülker Sports Arena, where Angel plays for Fenerbahçe.

3BEE6722-635F-473F-8352-6812B5C3F07Aflexible

I got to watch a little of the U.S. practice – always a joy. Always an education. Then I got a few moments with Angel, Maya and coach Auriemma. Hopefully a piece in anticipation of tonight’s game will be put a Fullcourt (time differences make things intriguing), but a snippet, un-game related:

Though his focus in on the upcoming game, Auriemma took a moment to reflect on sharing this tournament with his former player from Connecticut, Sue Bird (Seattle Storm), the only U.S player to compete in four World Championships.

“I don’t want to speak for her, but chances are this is her last World Championship,” said Auriemma. “She’s been incredibly consistent, she’s been a great leader through all this. She’s someone that everyone on the team respects. And when she left college, I wasn’t thinking, ‘Wow, I’m going to get a chance to coach her for another eight-year period.’ That’s just too unrealistic.

But to be put back in that space – to be back in that time – and to see how good she was…. What people sometimes forget about Sue was that she was always great in the absolute biggest games. Like, in her senior year, the whole season she was just moving along, keeping everybody in the right place at the right time, and then, in the NCAA tournament, boom! She has the ability to raise the level of her game to meet the occasion.

 So, whether it’s this year or in the Olympics, I am going to savor the minutes because I think she’s a once in a lifetime kind of player. I’m going to finish my coaching career feeling like the luckiest person because most people only get to coach a person for four years and here I got to coach her for eight years.”

For more about the balancing acts and the upcoming game, here’s Doug:

College players in Turkey focus on hoops, class

UConn star Breanna Stewart and freshman teammate Kia Nurse have had more than basketball to focus on at the women’s world championship. They also have to keep up with school work from nearly 5,000 miles away.

And  US women’s basketball team set to take on France

Maya Moore and her U.S. teammates know what’s at stake now. A loss and their world championship run would be over.

Standing in the way of another trip to the medal round is France, a team that handed the Americans a rare defeat on Sept. 21 in an exhibition game. The teams will meet again in the quarterfinals of the tournament Friday night.

And Mechelle: Why Team USA’s other MVP is key – Tina Charles leads U.S. women into quarters vs. France on Friday (ESPN3, 2:15 ET)

Maya Moore is the reigning WNBA MVP. Diana Taurasi was the WNBA Finals MVP. Sue Bird is playing in her record fourth FIBA World Championship. Breanna Stewart is trying to win a world championship gold medal before starting her quest for a third NCAA title. And then …

There’s that other U.S. national team player with UConn ties. You remember her, right? The 2012 WNBA MVP? Won a couple of NCAA championships in Storrs, Connecticut? Part of a major trade back in April?

We’re kidding, of course. Nobody has forgotten about New York Liberty center Tina Charles. But on a team where there are so many noteworthy stories, Charles can kind of blend into the woodwork, as it were. Or be taken for granted. That might be a better way to put it.

And here’s USA Basketball: USA Enters Medal Round At 2014 FIBA World Championship

After three decisive preliminary-round wins, the 2014 USA Basketball Women’s World Championship is on to the must-win medal round at the 2014 FIBA World Championship.

Interestingly, the USA, the No. 1 seed out of Group D, will meet at 9:15 p.m. (2:15 p.m. EDT, NBA TV and ESPN3/WatchESPN) on Oct. 3 the only team to which it has lost (76-72) thus far in 2014 – albeit in exhibition play – France (3-1), the No. 2 seed out of Group B and the winner of yesterday’s quarterfinal play-in game against Brazil.

About Les Bleus:

France advanced to the quarterfinals after winning its play-in game, 61-48 over Brazil. The team opened prelim- inary play with a narrow 50-48 loss to host Turkey, before closing out pool play with an 89-45 victory over Mozambique and a close 63-59 defeat of Canada.

In France’s four games in Turkey, the team has been led by forward Sandrine Gruda (15.0 ppg., 8.0 rpg.) and guard Celine Dumerc (5.8 ppg., 5.6 apg.), both of whom also suited up for France in the 2012 Olympics.

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writes: Diana Taurasi Handled Doping Allegation With Class, Integrity: Back on top.

I also hope that the media coverage of Taurasi’s innocence will, at the very least, match the initial reports of her demise. In the world of professional women’s basketball, it seems like the only time we’ll see a national headline is due to a scandal or some type of negative publicity. Hence, I hope all the sites who made fun of Taurasi and pronounced her guilty will also have an updated report regarding her name being cleared. It takes a special person to get through a situation like this, and Diana Taurasi certainly is one.

Dishin a Swish Appeal adds: Why Diana Taurasi’s Clearance Was So Important to Connecticut

Let’s face facts, there’s not a whole lot to be excited about living in Connecticut right now.

We have snow that seems like it’s going to take until August to melt.  Our economy sucks, and our new Governor just gave a speech yesterday saying he wanted to further raise the highest gasoline tax in the country.  We had a professional hockey team, it moved to Carolina.  UConn’s football team makes a major bowl game, and we’re not only considered a laughing stock for being included, our coach then bolts for that hotbed of college football, Maryland. Sure, we have Kemba Walker, but the men’s basketball team at UConn isn’t really given much of a shot to win the national title.

Which leaves us with the UConn women’s basketball team.  And THAT is why it was so important for people in Connecticut that Diana Taurasi had her suspension lifted yesterday, even if her actual clearance is about as clear as mud, it is something we needed here badly.

Q chimes in with Appreciating Diana Taurasi After Being Cleared By The Turkish Basketball Federation

I know that Taurasi’s playful bravado on the court or smiling into the camera annoys a lot of WNBA fans – for those that expect a female athlete to be sugar, spice, and everything nice, Taurasi might seem like a big bad wolf that blows your house down and then asks if you were cold last night just for kicks.

But I saw that play differently.

Although Taurasi’s statement that she is indeed guilty of taking too many shots seems to stand in stark contrast to Romar’s laudatory words about a competitor passing up a shot he might have deserved, what I see in Taurasi is someone lost in the game and taking great joy in every moment of it. That’s what I see in the trash talk, “dirty plays”, and the willingness to come to the defense of her teammates when necessary – someone truly lost in the game and seeking every path possible to victory. It’s not really about humiliating her opponents, it’s about the playful banter inherent in a back and forth game like basketball that is quite honestly a large part of what draws me in – it’s not personal, it’s strictly business.

I watch my fair share of basketball at all levels – college and pro, men’s and women’s, and even the occasional elementary school rec league game – and the reason for my faith in Taurasi is that she is, “as competitive and dedicated to her sport as anyone, anywhere” as Seth Pollack wrote over at SBN Arizona when news of Taurasi’s positive drug test first broke back in December. You don’t have to be a women’s basketball fan to appreciate what Taurasi does – it’s a matter of appreciating what it means to be considered as possibly the most competitive athlete in no matter what sport you play.

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From the AP: Diana Taurasi test lab asked to explain

The Turkish Doping Control Center at the Hacettepe University declined to comment on the case Thursday. But the HaberTurk newspaper quoted Ugur Erdener, dean of the university, as admitting the lab made a mistake.

“There are two evaluations to analyze the test results and the average of them is taken. The [lab] officials’ evaluation was based on one data. However, the average should have been taken as the base,” Erdener was quoted as saying.

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To play in Turkey! (yah, right)

Turkey lifts provisional doping ban on Taurasi

The Turkish basketball federation says it has lifted a provisional doping suspension on American player Diana Taurasi after a lab retracted a report that she tested positive for performance-enhancing substances.

The basketball federation says Taurasi is free to continue playing in the Turkish league.

Seems to me there are a couple of writers out there who may want to talk about how dopey they are. And yes, I’m looking at you, Patricia.

It also seems that Ben and Q and Mechelle should get props for advocating patience. Ben, in particular, deserves a shout out, for writing about the lab’s dubious history.

The Rebkellians have some (attempts) at translation of the Turkish press release that’s confirmed in the MSNBC release.

Fenerbahce President Aziz Yildirim said Wednesday he was furious that Taurasi had been banned even though she was apparently innocent.

“Our player was right. We will pursue this. We have documents,” Yildirim said on the club’s website. “This is a disgrace. … It probably cost us the European Championship.”

I don’t recall if Yildirim said anything in support of Taurasi during the drama. (I understand the rules said they had to suspend her, but did they back her?). That being said, note this:

The Turkish Basketball Federation said the lab retracted its report after it “evaluated” Taurasi’s statements in her defense. The federation did not say whether the lab made a mistake.

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Opals star Penny Taylor’s season cut short

Taylor, a former world championship MVP and two-time WNBA championship winner with Phoenix, has been in career-best form with Fenerbahce in Turkey.

But some personal issues, including a family illness, have forced her to make the tough decision to return to Australia, with the 29-year-old expected back this week.

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A Diana Taurasi Retrospective: Where do we go from here?

Over the past few weeks, it’s certainly no secret that I’ve spoken out in defense of Diana Taurasi in wake of her doping allegations. In fact, I’m probably the most outspoken member of the media to do so (as you can imagine, it’s quite a prestigious honor). I’ve been called a hypocrite, biased, racist, ignorant bastard, blind, just plain stupid, and many other things that aren’t fit to print (even for SLAM’s lenient standards).

I was fully aware of the potential for a backlash and make no apologies.
Now that it has been confirmed her ‘B’ sample was also positive for Modafinil, many people have emailed or tweeted me asking the same question: Will you be recanting your supportive stance of her?

The answer is no.

And, at the w, Ben asked Catch about Dee:

BY: Lastly, what are your thoughts on news that Diana Taurasi tested positive for a banned stimulant in Turkey?

TC: I believe that if Diana Taurasi said she didn’t take it, then she didn’t take it.

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