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Bob Corwin offers his 1st impressions from opening weekend

Having followed the league since inception, I decided to watch the six WNBA openers and write down some first impressions (many to be proven wrong) from these games.

A WNBA season is a combination of a soap opera and a marathon.  Information can be hard to come by as players listed as “day to day” can, in reality, be out a month.  What impression you get today, particularly very early in a season, may be viewed as very wrong by the next week.

For young players, announcers tend to cling to how the player was as a collegian, especially if she had “rep” at that level.  Above all else, be cautious not to draw too much from a game or two.  Again think marathon, not sprint!

How about this? Draymond Green says he learns more from watching the WNBA than the NBA

In between the time he works on his game, Green also finds time to relax. Of course, Green chooses to chill out by watching basketball, mostly the WNBA.

“In the NBA there’s always a guy who is only around because he can jump,” Greentold Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins in a wide-ranging profile. “He doesn’t have a clue about the fundamentals. I learn more from the WNBA. They know how to dribble, how to pivot, how to use the shot fake.”

Lindsay Gibbs @ Excelle: Washington Mystics point guard Natasha Cloud is finding her voice

In the lead-up to the launch of the WNBA’s 20th season, Washington Mystics’ coach Mike Thibault repeated a few loud and clear messages to his young team: take ownership of the game, get rebounds, play until the whistle, and, above all else, communicate on the court.

The latter message was particularly directed at point guard Natasha Cloud, the Mystics’ second-round pick of the 2015 draft.

From the .com (and points for coming up with a snazzy title, “Web Editorial Associate”): Practice Report | The Importance of the Second Unit

One of the big reasons why the Lynx were able to pull away and maintain a nice lead after that first quarter was the play of their second unit.

“Coach talked about really trying to elevate the second-team’s play in order so there’s not a drop off when anybody comes out from the first unit,” Janel McCarville said. “We had a great first game against Phoenix, it wasn’t much of a drop off at all. Today in practice it was a little bit of a drop off with all of us out there together (the second unit). I don’t think we have the cohesiveness that the first-team has. Hopefully within the next couple of weeks we’ll come together as a second-squad and pick it up in practice and it’ll carry over into games.”

Paging Ms. Whalen: Minnesota’s Hometown Heroes

Seattle Times: Stewart set for big WNBA step

Swish Appeal’s Power Rankings

Barbara Barker: How the WNBA ‘changed everything’ for girls in first 20 years

“Symbolically, you have all these women who are role modes for young girls to be able to look up to and say, ‘Those people look like me. They are stars. They have money and a career. I want that too,’” said Mary Joe Kane, the director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sport at the University of Minnesota. “If you aren’t playing basketball, you can take pride that someone who looks like you can achieve at the highest levels.

“Achievement and performance in America, it’s hard to top that right. For your girls to see that, it sends a very powerful message.”

The league opened its 20th season this weekend with more media coverage than I personally can remember seeing before. It’s an anniversary year, sure, but also I think most people didn’t expect the NBA’s sister league to come this far or last this long. Take a look at the women’s soccer professional league, which has had three different iterations, the most recent of which is only four years old.

Not only that, but the WNBA is now also filled with a number of household names – not just one or two token players used in Under Armour campaigns and Lean In ads. This is a competitive league with players comparable to their male counterparts in both ability and in some cases name recognition.

The concept of ability has come into contention while I’ve written this article, but I think it comes down to how you define it. Personally, I don’t think ability means how often or ferociously you can dunk. When I think of how able a person is to play basketball, I think of the sport as a whole.

Wait, they heard and acted? WNBA to offer advanced box scores after each game.

Cool. Now… about that hideous website, might I make a suggestion? Set up a “So you think you can code” competition working with suggestions from fans. Anything folks came up with would be better than the hot mess we’re slogging through today.

From Mel: Guru’s Addendum and Context to ESPN Magazine’s Story on Founding and Growing the WNBA

In reading Mechelle Voepel’s very fine piece with voices on the creation and development on the WNBA the Guru’s memory was jogged to some of the discussions people had with him prior to rolling out the league.
Also clues exist from comments in the narrative to recent discussions so here is a combo of Guru comments, some recollections, and further interpretations.
We begin right from the top with this comment in the piece from Adam Silver, NBA Commissioner. To avoid confusion in the thread, Guru will be in front of items that are his remarks, etc.

NCAA

Bonjour: Mickie DeMoss Joins Lady Tiger Basketball Staff

Au Revoir: Kentucky’s Mitchell tweets letter to fans denying rumored ‘scandal’ as UK resignation letters, personnel file offer little insight into women’s basketball turmoil and  Chanin Scott gets her release and opens recruiting process

The Minnesota Athletics Department may be a mess, but the  Gophers women’s teams have no shortage of star power

By the time she took the mound for her 24th inning pitched in two days, Sara Groenewegen’s right arm was running on fumes. Nearly 400 pitches in the Big Ten softball tournament — 395 to be exact — tested her physical limits.

**

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 Her display of individual domination was not uncommon for Gophers women’s sports this school year. Those who didn’t pay close enough attention, myself included, missed one heck of a show.

Nine Gophers women athletes in seven sports rank among the best nationally in their respective sports.

Any Olympics is special and Rio 2016 could be incredibly so, on the simple basis that some of the biggest names in the women’s game are ready to step out at the event for the first time.

Ahead of what promises to be a spectacular showcase of women’s ball, I have had some real fun drawing up a list of 12 players from around the globe who are likely to tread their first ever Olympic boards.

Random thought about the Zika virus: has anyone thought about all the non-athletes working the Rio Olympics?

 

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A quick measuring stick as she starts her W career and everyone prepares to support her. Below’s a list of stats for

  • #1 picks.
  • Who were identified as centers, even if they can play a little 4. Yes, Janel as a “center” is pushing it, and Wauters, Dydek and Leslie were what I’d call “experienced” centers… but hey, it’s what I’ve got.
  • Used Basketball-Reference.com for the stats.

If anyone wants to look up their stats for theri first games, send’em on over.

2013 Brittney Griner 
First season
27 games. 26 minutes. 12.6/6.3 rebs.

2010 Tina Charles
First season
34 games. 31 minutes. .487. 15.5/11.7 rebs

2005 Janel McCarville
First season
28 games. 3 start. 11.1 minutes. .340%. 1.8/2.7.

2001 Lauren Jackson
First season
29 games. 34.5 minutes. .367%. 15.2/6.7 rebs.

2000 Ann Wauters
First season
32 games. No starts. 18.7 minutes. 523%. 6.2/4rebs.

1998 Margo Dydek
First season
30 games. 28 minutes. .482%. 12.9/7.6

1997 Lisa Leslie
First season
28 games. 32 minutes. .431%. 15.9/9.5 rebs

Meanwhile…

Man, I love how Minneapolis covers the Lynx. (Excited at the amount of coverage the Wings have gotten, too)

A fresh approach for Lynx point guard Lindsay Whalen: The Lynx veteran guard stayed home this offseason to recharge after an injury-riddled 2015 season

For weeks Lindsay Whalen did, basically, nothing. And it was glorious.

All of November and half of December, Whalen, the Lynx guard, once and future Olympian, former Gophers star and Minnesota’s favorite daughter, rested. She didn’t go to the team’s facility. For the first time in a decade she didn’t go overseas to play.

She didn’t do any basketball stuff at all.

Lynx forward Brunson ready to start after recent arrival and Healthy, excited Augustus happy to rejoin Lynx

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’cause it’s the most wonderful time of the yeeeeeeear… Take a deep breath, y’all, shut the door and pull up a chair ’cause you’ve got a lot of reading to do!

First things first: WNIT!!
Saturday, April 2  |  3 p.m. ET / 2 p.m. CT
CBS Sports Network – Thad Anderson (play-by-play) and Chiney Ogwumike (analyst)

The finals are set and it pits two programs who’ve got something to prove (to the selection committee): South Dakota v. Florida Gulf Coast University.

The Coyotes earned a birth by throughly handling Oregon, 88-54.

DakotaDome’s long goodbye as a basketball facility will now officially be talked about for a very long time. The old gal just doesn’t want to give up on roundball just yet. USD will now play the winner of Michigan vs. Florida Gulf Coast on Saturday accompanied by a crowd expected to be bigger than Wednesday’s.

“Even when we were just warming up at 60 minutes (before the game), the people were filling in,” said Kelly Stewart, who was one of six Coyotes who hit double-figures. “Then every time we came out of the locker room there was more people. And finally, when we were about to do the starting lineups, I looked up and I got a huge smile on my face. Everyone was smiling.”

The Eagles took on Michigan in from of a record crowd, and came away with the 71-61 win.

“It was a great defensive effort against a great offensive team,” said head coach Karl Smesko. “Now we’re excited to get to play for the WNIT Championship. The crowd was exceptional tonight. It was a huge advantage for us to have it here with that type of atmosphere. I’m sure it’s the type of game that these players will remember for a long time.”

FYI: WNIT NOTES

-Minnesota’s Rachel Banham scored 48 points on March 16 to lead the Gophers to an 87-80 win over Milwaukee in Round 1. That set a Postseason WNIT record for most points in a game, surpassing Tamika Whitmore of Memphis (45 against Arkansas State, 1999). 

-Sharnae Lamar of Northern Iowa dished out 15 assists to set a single-game WNIT record in the team’s 64-58 victory over Drake, 64-58. 

-The 2016 title game between South Dakota and Florida Gulf Coast is the second time since 1998 that two mid-major programs have played for the Postseason crown. In 2004, Creighton beat UNLV for the title.

-Before 2016, there have been 13 mid-major teams to reach the Postseason WNIT championship game. The six mid-major champions are Creighton (2004), Missouri State (2005), Wyoming (2007), South Florida (2009), Toledo (2011) and Drexel (2013).

About that stuff happening in Indianapolis: FREE Women’s Final Four Activities

General:

Indianapolis set to be center of women’s basketball world

All of the women’s basketball world will descend on Indianapolis this weekend in a celebration of the sport.

For the first time in NCAA history the Division I, II and III women’s titles will be decided on the same court.

“We can’t wait for the 2016 championship games in Indianapolis,” NCAA vice president for women’s basketball Anucha Browne said.

Celebrating 35 Years of NCAA Women’s Basketball

Beth Mowins to replace Dave O’Brien as announcer in Final Four, first-time all-female crew for ESPN at event

Women’s basketball | Final Four: Three first-timers crash party with UConn

Meet the Women’s Final Four

Audio: ‘Around the Rim’: Final Four preview

Audio: Kara Lawson with SI’s Richard Deitsch

Audio: Sue Bird talks about the low pay for women’s professional basketball in the United States on this edition of our Keeping Score with Rick Horrow audio podcast

Audio: HBO and The Ringer’s Bill Simmons is joined by Diana Taurasi to discuss her WNBA return from Russia, UConn’s dominance (6:00), the stupidity of lowering the rims (13:00), GSW’s selflessness (16:30), playing pickup with Westbrook and Draymond (21:00), and the struggling Lakers and D’Angelo Russell (30:00).

Audio: Special Dishin & Swishin Podcast: “Ambassador” Tamika Catchings welcomes the WBB world to Indy

Audio: Dishin & Swishin 3/31/16 Podcast: Doug Bruno is back to break down the 2016 Final Four

Women’s NCAA tournament: Four keys to the Final Four

Women’s Final Four: Can Anyone Stop UConn?

At Women’s Final Four, male-coached teams not a bad thing

These Are The Last Three Teams That Have A Chance To Beat UConn

SNYDER: UConn overshadows parity among other women’s basketball teams

VanDerveer: UConn’s rule isn’t bad for the sport — but next year it could be

Jeff Jacobs: In Women’s Final Four, It’s The Men Who Beat The Odds

Jeff Jacobs: Think UConn’s Geno Auriemma Is A Rock? You Should Meet His Wife

Pac-12 Feature: From ground floor to Final Four

My turn: JUST CATCH UP

Washington:

How UW’s and OSU’s Final Four run is a breakthrough for Pac-12 women’s basketball

Pac-12 Feature: From ground floor to Final Four

7 things to know about Washington Huskies (Syracuse women’s basketball Final Four foe)

Meet the Final Four-bound UW Huskies women’s basketball team

Washington’s jump shooter doesn’t jump

HUSKIES WOMEN: Masters of the Unexpected

Four knee surgeries later, UW’s Walton unfazed by doubts

Mike Neighbors: From Blockbuster To The Final Four

Oregon State

Five questions for Beavers-Huskies

Washington and Oregon State new faces in Final Four

New to following Oregon State women’s basketball? Here’s a crash course on the Beavers

Oregon State Beavers women’s basketball blending intensity, playfulness during Final Four run

Final Four newcomer Oregon State scrappy on defense

Watch: Gary Andersen and Pat Casey on Oregon State

OSU dreams big, embraces Final Four berth

Watch: Oregon State women’s basketball Final Four appearance called ‘incredibly miraculous’

Can Oregon State Shock The World?

Rueck’s Beavers have big fans in OSU’s 1963 Final Four team

OSU has unfinished business in Final Four

Aki Hill and the bliss of the Final Four

Open tryouts to the Final Four: Oregon State’s dramatic rise

Syracuse:

Syracuse’s Hillsman, Read preparing carefully for Washington

Syracuse women’s basketball guard Alexis Peterson brims with confidence

Keep shooting: Syracuse women’s basketball senior Brianna Butler does what she’s told

Turning point for Syracuse women’s basketball this season began with a loss

Kayla Alexander: Syracuse Orange Nation on Cloud Nine

Syracuse women’s basketball center Briana Day: Bigger foes aren’t going to push me around

Go Orange! Syracuse men’s, women’s basketball teams head to Final Four

Connecticut:

Is UConn’s sustained dominance bad for women’s basketball?

UConn may be the greatest college basketball dynasty ever

Geno Auriemma: Having to defend success ‘makes no sense’

Geno: Ignore UConn Women If You Want, ‘But Don’t Demean Those Who Appreciate It’ –

Why the dominance of the U-Conn. women’s team should be embraced

UConn’s opponents need to step up their game

Jeff Otterbein: UConn Women Simply The Best, Just Watch And Learn To Live With It

Here are a few additional assignments for sports columnist

Fans appreciate greatness, even when the games aren’t close

Fans don’t agree with columnist who says Huskies are killing the game

UConn Women’s Basketball Team Confronts Consequences Of Being ‘Too Good’

UConn too good? Quit the whining, beat ’em!

Respect the Women!

Be Great. Don’t Apologize.

UConn women don’t find winning boring

UConn women should be respected

UConn can join a pair of 4-peat pioneers in women’s basketball

Connecticut poised to make history again

UConn making something hard look easy

Huskies closer to place no team has ever been

Freshmen provide Huskies with needed backup help

UConn freshmen stepping up in NCAA Tournament

Samuelson’s family is UConn women’s basketball’s family, too

Women’s basketball: Connecticut’s Breanna Stewart leads a star-studded Final Four

Other basketball news:

Rachel for threeeeee: Banham edges Smith in 3-point championship

Brava: Jennifer Azzi comes out as gay, announces marriage to her USF assistant coach

“I, too, lived a long time not being 100 percent honest,” Azzi said. “Kind of the don’t-ask-don’t-tell kinda of thing. And it’s so stupid. I don’t know why we do that, but we do that. I’m a college coach. Is it going to hurt me with recruiting? What are people going to think? And you are constantly worrying about those things.

Supporters laud Jennifer Azzi for her bravery – but you can read the fear…

New women’s basketball coach Kenny Brooks raves about recruiting potential at Virginia Tech

Jonathan Tsipis’ plan to grow Badgers women’s basketball attendance starts with being visible –

New UW women’s basketball coach wants to keep state’s best players

Tsipis tasked with turning tide for women’s hoops

Wisconsin Women’s Basketball: Tsipis’ energy stands out during initial meeting with team

Bradbury named UNM women basketball head coach

KSU Women’s Basketball Coach Agnus Berenato

Kim Rosamond named Tennessee Tech women’s basketball head coach

Finally poached: UCF announces Katie Abrahamson-Henderson as head coach of women’s basketball

Former UConn players apply Auriemma lessons as coaches

Bye: Jatarie White to transfer from USC women’s basketball program

Bye: Two leave Duke women’s basketball team

WNBA:

Updownup-down… honestly, I think the NBA should raise their rim. It’s ridiculous how easy it is for the giants who play the game to score…

Army brass supports Minato in WNBA bid

Jennifer Gish: The next goal for UAlbany’s Shereesha Richards — the WNBA

Lindsay Whalen Joins Timberwolves’ Broadcast Booth

Deep Diving WNBA Data — Griner’s Paint Defense

WNBA Award Accuracy by Win Shares

Girls Sports Month: Candace Parker on what drives her, dunking and being a mom

WNBA Reveals New Apparel Items Celebrating Landmark 20th Season

The Legend of Lauren Jackson

Cool: Boomers And Fire GMs Head To WNBA Again

Following on from a successful visit last year to work alongside management at the Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA, the off-court leaders at the Deakin Melbourne Boomers and JCU Townsville Fire will again embrace a fact-finding mission in Los Angeles and Phoenix this June, this time taking in eight sporting events in 10 nights.

WNBA star Chamique Holdsclaw “hitting game-winning shots” on and off the court

In case you missed it: Blake Griffin’s ‘Broad City’ appearance included a discussion about the WNBA

OT, but not really: Nike responds to U.S. national team jersey controversy

The sportswear behemoth that has outfitted the national team program for decades has been hit especially hard on two issues.

First, with the women’s jerseys, the low-cut neckline has been called unnecessarily sexualizing by some fans, and simply inconvenient anatomically for others whose body shapes aren’t the same as the widely used industry standard.

Second, with the men’s jerseys, you can’t buy one emblazoned with the three stars that represent the World Cups won by the women’s team. There are plenty of men who support Jill Ellis’ reigning champions just as much as they support Jurgen Klinsmann’s collection of question marks.

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Bad news for Liberty fans: Epiphanny Prince has surgery for torn ACL

Hmmmm…. Goldstein resigns from WNBA players union

“I’m very passionate about player rights and, having worked at the MLBPA, was excited to see how I could advance the causes of this union,” Goldstein said. “I think we’ve made some good strides. But as things transpired during my tenure, it seemed there might not be a shared vision of how to continue moving this union forward. So I decided to step aside.

Natalie Achonwa has never been so busy.

The Canadian forward is a promising newcomer for Dike Basket Napoli in Italy’s Serie A1, latest stop in a roundabout basketball career that’s yielded two gold medals and brought her within one game of the WNBA title. It’s Achonwa’s first season of overseas basketball and the start of a brand new, round-the-clock cycle in her pro career – WNBA and international duty with Canada in the summer, Euroleague in the winter.

“That is reality for us. Playing overseas is how we make a living,” says Achonwa. “Whether we are going into a qualifier summer, a World Championship summer, or an Olympic summer, it is what we have to do.

When she gets back home, she better study the rule book: New rules changes for the 2016 WNBA season announced

NCAA:

From Graham: Dayton rules the Mid-Majors (but will they stay there after the loss of Kelley Austria?), followed by the Wabbits and Tigers and…lookee! The Army Knights.

Army probably isn’t a program that can compete at this level on a regular basis, but this shapes up as a once-in-a-long-time kind of season. The three most important players are seniors who have started most or all of their time in the program: Kelsey Minato, Aimee Oertner and Jean Parker. And Minato can play on any court against anyone. In going to Duke and closing within four late in the fourth quarter or beating an Albany team on the cusp of these rankings, Army played the kind of defining games it simply didn’t have on the schedule en route to 23 wins a season ago.

The Women’s Mid-Major poll has a different top three: Gonzaga, Princeton, Green Bay.

LadySwish has Gimme Five (or six): the state’s top teams (Dec. 8)

Resounding road victories at Penn State and at Tennessee sent an emphatic message, particularly from a Tech team that had stumbled badly at Georgetown (73-56 losers) in its only previous road contest. While the win over the Lady Vols generated the headlines – and understandably so – in some ways we were even more impressed with what happened in State College, Pa. Tech seized control early, held it together during a Nittany Lions’ second-half run then used back-to-back 3-pointers from Hannah Young and Vanessa Panousis to snap a 44-44 tie and re-assert command. Tough stuff, particularly in the other team’s building. Of course, they don’t hand out trophies for what teams do in December, and the Hokies still have some things to clean up (23 turnovers vs. Penn State; 10-20 FT shooting at Tennessee). But as we sit here today, this looks like a team that can compete for a spot in the top half of the powerful ACC.

Penguins…lose!

Hello, Washington State – they take down Gonzaga, 55-48. The 8-1 Cougars are off to their best start since (fakers) Milli Vanilli’s “Blame it On the Rain” was atop the charts. Next up: The Gaels.

Nice win for San Francisco over Long Beach, 66-52. Take a moment to check in with coach Azzi.

Speaking of coaches trying to turn a program around, I’m noticing that Erik Johnson has Boston College off to a 7-1 start.

So far so good for Georgia, who stand a 8-1, having passed their first test. Speaking of tests: Point guard Marjorie Butler is redefining “student-athlete”

The Georgia Bulldogs came home last week from a Thanksgiving tournament in Southern California on an overnight flight that got them there early Monday morning. After landing, everyone headed home or to class except senior point guard Marjorie Butler.

She stayed at the airport to catch another flight – to Virginia, to interview for medical school. After that, she flew to Tennessee for another interview with a school the following day.

Wednesday night, Butler put in 7 points, dished 5 assists and grabbed 4 rebounds in Georgia’s home win over Mercer.

Extra air miles aside, it was a pretty typical week for the 22-year-old starter, who will graduate next spring with two degrees before beginning her quest to be an orthopedic doctor.

Oregon’s rising: Mark Campbell’s tireless approach helping Oregon women’s basketball turn corner

Louisville’s recovering: Psychology keeps Cards women ‘above the line’

Cortnee Walton acknowledges that not everyone believes in the benefits of sports psychology, but the Louisville women’s basketball veteran does, and she credits it for the Cardinals’ recent bounce back from a 1-4 start.

U of L topped then-No. 19 Michigan State last week before routing Valparaiso on Saturday, victories that set up Walton and company with some momentum heading into Thursday’s game at No. 8 Kentucky.

Break my record? I’ll come to your party: Banham to be Honored.

Prior to tipoff against Memphis on Saturday, the Gopher women’s basketball program will recognize Rachel Banham for breaking the Minnesota career scoring record. Former record holder Lindsay Whalen will be part of the ceremony. The game will begin at 2 p.m. at Williams Arena.

Banham passed Whalen’s total of 2,285 points during the Gophers’ game against Auburn in Puerto Rico. She has tallied 2,349 points entering the matchup with the Tigers.

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…Tamika is pulling a Lin Dunn: Catchings’ greatest legacy is making sure she’s replaceable

It’s one thing to leave your mark on a team and a sport. It’s another to leave a piece of yourself that stays on after you’re gone.

And regardless of how corny or cliché it might sound, that is exactly what Indiana forward Tamika Catchings is doing. She has been forthright about how much time is still on the clock. The curtains will close on her playing career next year, whenever the 2016 WNBA season finishes for the Fever.

Kent: Lynx and Fever down to a single game for WNBA title – Four Lynx veterans will try to win third title together 

Perhaps because the emotions would become too strong, the Lynx tried hard to avoid the bigger picture and instead focused on the game Tuesday.

All necessary, of course. Wednesday night at Target Center the Lynx will play the Indiana Fever in Game 5 of the best-of-five WNBA Finals, the ultimate game in a series between two talented, determined teams that are separated by a mere three points after 160 minutes.

So the focus needs to be playing in the moment rather than leaving a legacy.

Lynx inching close to hard to come by dynasty

I wrote a pile of utter garbage several years ago, proclaiming that the San Antonio Spurs’ time as a perennial NBA playoff team and title contender was coming to a close. The key players were getting old, the argument went. All good things come to an end at some point, and this long Spurs dynasty was one of them.

A search for this misguided opinion has yielded no results; for whatever reason the Internet does not want me to find my old thoughts. But it was written. And it won’t be written here again about the Lynx.

Game 5 preview: Indiana at Lynx

AP’s Jon K: 

Before the Indiana Fever embarked on their 11th consecutive trip to the WNBA playoffs, veteran star Tamika Catchings handed out a journal to every one of her teammates.

The message was simple: For as routine as these trips have come for the Fever, it was so important to soak up the opportunities because you never know when they will present themselves again. The journals were for the players to document their journey.

.com: Lynx, Fever Well Aware Of Task That Lies Ahead In Game 5

The stage is set, the final adjustments have been made and the WNBA is set to crown a champion Wednesday night (8PM ET, ESPN 2). And the enormity of the situation is something that is not lost on the two teams fighting for WNBA glory.

Swish Appeal: Extensive WNBA Finals Game 5 Preview: Last woman standing

Scoggins: With two deep teams, Lynx-Fever compelling to watch

The Indiana Fever concluded their morning workout before Game 4 of the WNBA Finals with a contest. A half-court shooting contest that left players howling with laughter as they trash talked one another.

The Lynx contingent arrived on the court a few minutes later. Players exchanged their usual banter as they conducted interviews.

The mood around both teams could be best described as loose and relaxed, which would make sense if the occasion was a summer pickup game.

There was no hint of the tension that’s enwrapped their championship series.

Letters to the Star Tribune: Readers Write (Oct. 14): Minnesota Lynx gear, health insurance, Grand Avenue parking, debates on cable TV

My wife and I recently bought Minnesota Lynx tickets to their first playoff finals game against the Indiana Fever. We planned to show our support by wearing Lynx T-shirts to the game. The Lynx are Minnesota’s most successful professional team, having won two championships in the past five years and nearing a potential third, so how difficult could it be to buy some Lynx merchandise? Turns out, very difficult.

Oh, and… watch out, Lynx & Fever players! Cali’s got her “Under Armour Next” video submission ready!

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an adventure – but at least I’ll be able to catch Game 2 – albeit prone and enthusiastically medicated. (A shout out to the WHYY security guard who had Game 1 on the t.v. screen. As he said, “You’ve got to watch this – it’s the Championship!)

In preparation game:

From Mechelle: A more mature Shenise Johnson makes an immediate impact for Indiana

Indiana guard Shenise Johnson writes poems that are sometimes meant to last and other that are meant to go away shortly after they’re created.

“I like to express myself as an outlet, a stress-reliever. So I’m not punching walls or doing anything like that,” she said, chuckling. “It allows you to evaluate, to write something down and release it.

“Then, it’s over and done with and I can do what I please with it. I can throw it out, burn it, or I could keep it and reread it.”

The .com’s Zavadil notes: Coleman, Zellous, January Share Bond That Began in 2009

Cohesion as a unit is a trait that goes hand-in-hand with a championship-caliber team. For the Indiana Fever, that cohesiveness is evident from Tamika Catchings down to the end of the bench.

But for Briann January, Shavonte Zellous and Marissa Coleman, their friendship extends far longer than just the few seasons they’ve played together. All three were first round draft picks in the 2009 WNBA Draft.

AP Jon Krawczynski says Minnesota Lynx coach calls out stars after losing Game 1 of WNBA Finals

Michelle says coach says, not really:

Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve challenged the notion that she challenged veteran guards Lindsay Whalen and Seimone Augustus after Sunday’s 75-69 Game 1 loss to Indiana in the WNBA Finals.

“I don’t necessarily know that I challenged them,” Reeve said Monday. “I was asked, ‘Do they need to do more?’ and I confirmed what everybody sees, that they need to do more.”

In the moments following Sunday’s loss, Reeve indeed was questioned about the need to get more offensive production from her perimeter players.

The Star Tribune’s Kent Youngblood keeps it simple: Lynx need more from veterans Augustus, Whalen in Game 2

Late Sunday afternoon, after her team had lost Game  1 of the Western Conference finals, Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve calmly, publicly, challenged Lindsay Whalen and Seimone Augustus to do more.

Monday, subtly, the narrative had changed.

Reeve did not back down from anything she said, though she characterized her comments as less of a challenge than a simple response to a question of whether she needed more from her guards.

Yes, she does.

But Monday she pledged to do more to help them, particularly Whalen. Reeve suggested part of the problem might be in the way games are being called. 

Mechelle offers: Team chemistry helps carry Indiana Fever, Minnesota Lynx in WNBA Finals

The Minnesota Lynx had a basketball clinic with kids on Monday at Target Center, which was exactly what her team needed, according to guard Maya Moore.

That might seem a bit odd, considering the Lynx were coming off a 75-69 loss to Indiana in Game 1 of the WNBA Finals on Sunday. One might think they would have been too tense to have much patience for the youngsters. However, knowing the personality of the Lynx, it makes more sense that they seemed to enjoy it so much.

In college news:

Nebraska: Theriot, Shepard coming back from injuries together

Rachel Theriot and Jessica Shepard rode their bicycles together one day last week from lunch to the Hendricks Training Complex, where the Nebraska women’s basketball team practices.

That’s been a common scene over the past few months — the Huskers’ senior guard and freshman forward riding together — although it’s usually been on stationary bicycles at the practice gym.

On those bikes were two who could be the Huskers’ best players this season, each trying to stay in shape as they continued their comebacks from major injuries.

Montana: Lady Griz thinking reload, not rebuild

Usually when a coach starts telling you about preseason unknowns, it comes across as a preemptive excuse in case things go awry.

Not Robin Selvig. His Montana women’s basketball team may have lost three key starters from last year’s Big Sky Conference championship crew, but don’t expect him to cry poor.

“There’s lots of opportunity now for someone else to step up,” said Selvig, whose squad will hold its first practice Tuesday. “It’s going to be a different look but it’s fun to see each team take on its own personality. There’s lots of questions and lots of fun things to try and decide.”

Colorado: ‘New feeling in the air’ for Linda Lappe’s Buffs

There is no out of bounds when the Colorado women’s basketball team gets on the practice court.

If there’s a loose ball, the Buffaloes are fighting for it until somebody corrals it. If that battle goes all the way to the seats, so be it. The player who eventually secures the ball is applauded. 

“I feel like there’s just a new feeling in the air,” senior Jamee Swan said Monday after the Buffs completed their first official practice of the 2015-16 season. “Nobody is going to let what happened last year happen again.”

Last season was CU’s worst in the five-year tenure of head coach Linda Lappe, as it finished 15-17 and failed to reach the postseason for the first time under her direction.

Connecticut: UConn Women’s Insider: Geno Auriemma’s Global Reach

Let’s take a moment to chart UConn’s enormous global reach in women’s basketball.

We start in Europe. Who would have guessed Elena Delle Donne’s first chance to help Geno Auriemma win a game would come in Girona, Spain, in 2015?

The USA Basketball Women’s National Team opened its European tour with an 84-52 victory over Uni Girona on Sunday, paced by 21 points from Delle Donne, playing in her first national team game against a Spanish team featuring Connecticut Sun guard Chelsea Gray.

“It was so much fun,” Delle Donne told reporters. “It’s probably the most fun I’ve had playing the game, with all these incredible players elevating everybody’s game.”

Florida: UF women’s basketball focused on improving toughness heading into season

Thanks to some unusual training methods, any school facing the Florida women’s basketball team this season would be wise to think better of starting a scrap with the Gators.

During the offseason, coach Amanda Butler made it a point to get her team out of its comfort zone.

In addition to taking them on a team “attack,” because they “never wanna retreat,” Butler also had the team to take boxing lessons.

“We want to be tough,” she said.

New Mexico: Aggie women look to build on last season

Success came a year early for the New Mexico State women’s basketball.

The Aggies won a Western Athletic Conference championship with a young core group of players that all returned to practice for the 2015-16 season on Sunday.

“You look at my sophomore year and we had the talent but we just all had to grow up and go through those growing pains,” said Aggies senior guard Sasha Weber, who led the Aggies with 14.9 points per game last year and was a first-team All WAC selection.

Kansas: Small communities fostered Sports Hall of Famers’ careers

Shalee Lehning used to joke with her Atlanta Dream teammates when she made it to the WNBA that she used to have to drive 30 miles to the nearest movie theatre while growing up in Sublette.

Some couldn’t imagine what that would be like, but to Lehning, she wouldn’t have had it any other way.

“You understand what matters growing up in a small town,” Lehning said. “Community matters, people matter, relationships matter. Those are things that you’re doing because you’re spending time with people.”

Those small-town qualities were on full display Sunday night at the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony, as 11 former coaches and athletes were inducted at the Scottish Rite Center.

You stay put: Missouri gives Pingeton 5-year contract through 2019-20

Illinois: Hopeful ISU women set to open practice

Slogging through a 2-28 season wasn’t a barrel of laughs for anyone associated with the Illinois State women’s basketball program.

Third-year coach Barb Smith expects the coming season, which begins with the first official practice on Sunday, to be much more enjoyable.

“This season is going to be a lot of fun,” Smith insisted. “We are ahead of where we’ve been since I’ve been here. The players worked extremely hard. The attitude of this team is so good right now, very positive.”

The sting of the worst season in program history was intensified when six players with eligibility remaining left the team shortly after the season. One of those, senior forward Sue Crump, changed her mind and was welcomed back to the roster by Smith.

Pennsylvania: Pitt women not doubting themselves after a tough year to top

Two years after winning just nine games, and in their second season under coach Suzie McConnell-Serio, the Panthers won 20 games and advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament.

By any account, Pitt was and still is ahead of schedule. But entering the 2015-16 season, it’s faced with a critical question: Once you’ve reached a certain height once, can you immediately do it again?

Footnote:

Just proving he’s a moral coward and a tone-deaf professional: Isiah Thomas denies wrongdoing in 2007 sexual harassment case

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About to hop in the car with the poppa and hit Philly for the “This I Believe: Philadelphia” event, but that doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten about today’s game (or that “Other” game – yes, I enjoyed the concert…sigh. And I really enjoyed this season.). I’m looking forward to the “Battle of the Healthy Heavyweights.” – nice to see the W doing the bumping, isn’t it?

BTW: Did you know the WNBA Finals features Philly connection

From the AP: Lynx want WNBA Finals redemption against Indiana

 Maya Moore and the Minnesota Lynx waltzed into the 2012 WNBA Finals ready for a coronation.

It was supposed to be the beginning of a dynasty, with the powerful Lynx sure to overwhelm heavy underdog Indiana for their second straight championship.

Tamika Catchings had other ideas.

Catchings and the Fever took it to the defending champions, stunning them in Game 1 in Minnesota and taking the best-of-five series 3-1 for the franchise’s first championship.

Three years later, the two teams are meeting again. And this time, Moore said the Lynx will be ready for them.

Mike Max says the Lynx Focused On Winning Title, Not Revenge On Fever

Minnesota Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve and Timberwolves’ interim head coach Sam Mitchell chatted as their practices overlapped Thursday. It was a good problem to have because it means the Lynx are in the finals.

“No matter what, it’s just one more opponent we’re getting ready for. This is it, and this is where we were trying to get to and we’re here,” Reeve said.

Maybe what they have learned more than anything is how precious it is to make it to the WNBA Finals. And when you get here, you never know if it could be your last shot.

Swish Appeal is singing the coach White’s praises: Stephanie White etches name in with WNBA coaching greats as is Mechelle: Stephanie White sets bar high in first season as Fever head coach

Indiana coach Stephanie White really wasn’t sure she’d be in the WNBA this long. After retiring as a player, she spent four years as an assistant at the college level, and then went in that capacity to the WNBA’s Chicago Sky.

“I bought into the idea of former players staying in the league to help the current players understand where we’ve come from and where we have to get to,” White said. “To be a part of molding that next generation of players. Because you could take it for granted, very easily, if you’ve grown up with the WNBA and didn’t know it could be taken away.”

The New York Times takes a look at the other bench: With Bold Coach, Lynx Find a Voice. It May Be Hoarse.

Two tense games in the W.N.B.A.’s Western Conference finals reduced Minnesota Lynx Coach Cheryl Reeve’s voice to a rasp. It had mostly recovered by midweek, when Reeve, dressed in blue-and-gray Lynx sweats, directed practice.

But it was not exactly right, and that bothered her.

“Is it better?” she asked. “I tried everything. It’s hard this time of year.”

Part teacher, part taskmaster and part tactician, Reeve is as much the voice and driving force of the Lynx franchise as the American Olympians Maya Moore, Seimone Augustus and Lindsay Whalen are the faces.

Speaking of coaches: Dishin & Swishin 10/01/15 Podcast: Previewing the WNBA finals with Mike Thibault & Brian Agler

More from Mechelle: Seimone Augustus as vital as ever to Lynx’s championship hopes

There are times when Minnesota guard Seimone Augustus has just the right message for her hard-driving and intense coach, Cheryl Reeve. It’s the kind of thing not just anybody could say, but Augustus always nails it.

“I joke with her: ‘You might need to get to the studio and get some yoga and find your happy place,'” Augustus said. “So she calls me the Zen master.”

The Star Tribune has a Sunday Q&A: Lynx forward Rebekkah Brunson

Reusse: Moore’s arrival lifted Lynx from obscurity

The Lynx were 1-4 in the playoffs in 12 years of existence before Moore. They are 26-8 with Moore.
A franchise that couldn’t get out of its own way for a dozen years is now going for its third WNBA title in the five years of Maya Moore.

Have you ever seen such a winner?

“Maya’s not the quickest player, but she’s fast,” Petersen said. “She’s not the biggest player, but she’s physical. And she just makes so many plays.”

Petersen laughed slightly and said: “Some of them are drawn up in the game plan; some of them aren’t. The way I put it, ‘She goes rogue.’ Sometimes when she goes rogue, it turns into a great play. The rest of the time, Cheryl is yelling at her.

“I’ve never seen a great player get yelled at as much as Maya. She just takes it. Maya has that rare ability to put a bad play — a foul, missed shot, whatever — behind her and instantly get back in the moment.

From the Indy Star’s David Woods: How the Fever were built, player by player

When the Indiana Fever selected Tamika Catchings with the third pick of the 2001 WNBA draft, they secured their future for the next decade and a half.

Yet as great as she has been, the Fever have been to a record 11 consecutive postseasons not solely because of her – and not because of the draft. Not since 2005 have the Fever had a top-four pick.

Kelly Krauskopf, the Fever’s top executive for all of their 16 seasons, has kept the team near the top via trades, free-agent signings, judicious drafting and retention of key pieces.

Kent Youngblood says the  Lynx and Fever are meeting in a finals that’s about veterans, not youth: The Lynx have made a habit of reaching the finals, but it’s anything but routine 

Indeed, in an era where youth is trumpeted, this series is a throwback, with old vets rather than youngsters. The Lynx starters average 30.4 years of age, Indiana 29.2. The Lynx looking for a third title in five years, the fever a second in four seasons.

“This is a series that fans need to appreciate what they see on the floor,” said Rebecca Lobo, the former player who will be part of the ESPN broadcast crew. “Knowing Catchings only has a season left; this might be her last finals. Knowing this Lynx team, as it is put together right now, may be changing in the coming years. … It will be a great series.”

Busy Mechelle writes: WNBA Finals primer: Why Minnesota shouldn’t underestimate Indiana

This is the first time since 2006 — and just the fourth time overall — that the team with the best record in the league did not reach the WNBA Finals. So while the New York Liberty — who went 23-11 this season — must dwell on what went wrong in the Eastern Conference finals, the Indiana Fever move on to try to knock off the team with the second-best record this season: the West champion Minnesota Lynx, who were 22-12 in the regular season.

This is a repeat of the 2012 WNBA Finals, with a very similar cast of main characters, although there are a few new faces in this matchup.

Lynx Looking to Use Homecourt, Crowd to Their Advantage

Women’s Watch: Indiana Fever the real story of this WNBA season

Catchings, who led Stevenson to an IHSA state championship in 1995, has announced that next season will be her last in the WNBA. She is engaged and ready to marry, have children and move on with her life.

She reflected on that when she was in Chicago last month while leading the Fever to a first-round win over the Sky.

“Every time I go out, after this year, it becomes the last of everything,” Catchings said. “This is the last off-season, it will be the last first game.

“Really, this is just the opportunity to go out and enjoy my team. I love my teammates. They’re a great group of ladies and I’m savoring the moments.”

Catchings has certainly been saving some of her best moments for the playoffs.

Again from David: For female athletes, 35 might be the new 25

“We’ve done a really good job all season long just taking care of my body and making sure this is the time that I’m ready,” she said. “I’m ready to perform at the end of the season, and not necessarily at the beginning. So I feel great.”

There is scientific and anecdotal evidence that not only can women perform as well as they did a decade earlier, they can often do better. As women age, they become more aerobic, according to Krista Austin, a sports scientist and coach formerly employed by the U.S. Olympic Committee.  That is, women’s bodies absorb and transport oxygen more efficiently.

What Catchings is doing is not a new phenomenon.

For some of us, there a storyline that has added an interesting tinge to the games: The Holdout: Lynx’s Sylvia Fowles seeking redemption in WNBA Finals

Make a list of the worst sins a pro athlete could commit against the spirit of competition. Somewhere among those offenses, there will be The Holdout. The mere suggestion of such an act quickly calls up a set of images in the mind: of a star player acting selfishly, of a stubborn team at wit’s end. Before long the fan’s blood starts to boil, even though it rightly shouldn’t. This is a boardroom drama that still unfolds against the backdrop of capitalism, after all.

Yet those images, however much ingrained, are hard to reconcile in the WNBA, where the sisterhood is real and the relationships within are largely positive and everlasting. Those images don’t strictly line up with the Minnesota Lynx’s standout center—a big-hearted, soft-spoken, 29-year-old named Sylvia Fowles.

Finally, this is the really essential background reading you need to prep for the game today:

It’s Minnesota vs. Indiana in the WNBA Finals, so here’s a “best-of” look at these two states. We quizzed the natives that both teams have: Minnesota-born-and-raised Lindsay Whalen, the Lynx point guard, and Indiana-born-and-raised Stephanie White, the Fever’s head coach. As a Midwesterner who has spent a lot of time in both states, I’ll toss in my picks, too.

Best TV show set in the state

Minnesota
Whalen: “I’m too young for ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show’; I missed that. I’ll go with ‘Coach.’ He was at Minnesota State, which we didn’t even have back then.” (Mankato State changed names to Minnesota State in 1999, two years after the TV show ended.)
Voepel: “I’m a lot older than Whalen and am the biggest ‘MTM’ fan on the planet. I’m just bummed that the famous Mary statue is currently in storage because of renovation work on Nicollet Mall.”

Indiana:
White: “Parks and Recreation.” (Set in wonderfully-fake-but-oh-so-real Pawnee.)
Voepel: “One Day at a Time” if I go with my cheesy 1970s bias; Ms. Romano and daughters lived in Indianapolis. Nah, I’ll choose “Parks and Rec,” too.

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In Minnesota, New York roared back, the Lynx lost the handle on the ball over and over.. and over again. End result: NY secures home court advantage in the East… and Minny ponders how to regroup down two starters.

This was where the Lynx really missed Seimone Augustus and Lindsay Whalen.

Sunday’s game with New York matched the two teams with the best records in the WNBA, it was an intense game, with both teams playing very hard.

And the Lynx, within two points with 2 ½ minutes left, had chance after chance to take this game. Instead, they gave it away, turning the ball over four times in their final five possessions.

That means they still either have to win one more game or have Phoenix lose one to clinch the Western Conference title.

Chicago’s win over the Storm keeps them closer to the second seed in the East. And it wasn’t just the starters.

Shoo fly!

Shoo Jamierra Faulkner!

Same difference, at least so says Faulkner, the Chicago Sky’s speedy reserve point guard.

“I’ve always been like a little fly, getting on people’s nerves,” Faulkner said with a laugh. “Whenever we guard the ball, every person on this team is always trying to get a deflection, get a hand on the ball.”

Faulkner got her hands on the basketball multiple times while on defense Sunday night at the Allstate Arena. In fact, she set a career high in steals with 6 as she helped lead the Sky to a 93-65 victory over the Seattle Storm.

L.A. takes down Tulsa to lock that fourth spot in the West. Writes Michelle: 

It didn’t take a math whiz to figure out that Los Angeles — with Candace Parker returning to the lineup after sitting out the first half of the season to rest — was going to need an impressive run down the stretch to return to the postseason for the fourth straight season and the seventh time in the last eight years. But the Sparks pulled it off, and the locker room was suffused with an unmistakable vibe of satisfaction after Sunday’s game.

“I sat everybody down right after the All-Star break and told them I thought we needed to get to 15 wins,” Sparks coach Brian Agler said. “We got to 14, and that was enough, but [we] knew it was going to be tough. I’m extremely proud of this team. I feel like this team can accomplish anything.”

Atlanta plays stubborn and keeps Washington from clinching that final spot.

The Washington Mystics have gone through the agony of defeat twice this season against the Dream. And today was no different. Atlanta, who has no room for error as they fight for the No. 4 seed playoff spot, again defeated the Washington Mystics Sunday afternoon at the Phillips Arena.

Tiffany Hayes did not play the last time Atlanta met with Washington, but tonight she made her presence tonight known as she attacked the Mystics on defense and led her team with 19 points.

McCoughtry, who followed Tiffany’s lead with 18 points, was not included in the starting lineup tonight. She came off the bench for the fifth time this season and the third consecutive game overall.

Worth the trip: Ramu Tokashiki was named MVP of FIBA Asia Women’s Championship and Japan is going to the Olympics.

More on Fever coach White — but, one has to wonder if Indy liked playing in the shadows. It’s been a tough run, last few games.

It’s not just coaches: Former CP sports editor, Phils scorer, Kenney dies, 80

With his white dress shirt, black tie and glasses, Bob Kenney looked like the quintessential newspaperman.

For South Jersey athletes, writers (including this one) and fans, he was so much more.

“He was a legend,” said Phil Anastasia, who was hired by Mr. Kenney at the Courier-Post in 1980. “His revolutionary thinking about high school sports was way ahead of his time. You look at the way high school sports are covered these days and it’s because of him, especially with girls’ sports.

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to Russian basketball. 

The Russian Basketball Federation was suspended Wednesday by FIBA, meaning it could miss the European Championship that doubles as an Olympic qualifier.

The suspension comes after two years of infighting at the federation, which culminated last month when a Russian court ordered new elections for all senior federation posts.

An earlier court ruling overturned the federation’s 2013 presidential election result, in which Yulia Anikeeva defeated former WNBA player Svetlana Abrosimova, who alleged there were many breaches of election rules.

It doesn’t impact the women, since they’d already failed to qualify for Rio, but it does put a damper on any momentum the U19 team may have generated. Wonder if Putin thinks FIBA deserves a Nobel?

Canada says, “Heck yes!” Creating buzz for FIBA Americas Women’s Basketball Championship should be a slam dunk

Katherine and Michelle Plouffe shot a little hoops in Sir Winston Churchill Square on Wednesday to help drum up interest in the FIBA Americas Women’s Basketball Championship which runs from Aug. 9-16.

It shouldn’t be difficult.

What’s not to like about Canada’s national women’s basketball team, two local stars in the mix, gunning for a 2016 Olympic berth at the Saville Centre?

San Antonio says, “Awwwwww, maaaaaan!” WNBA suspends Stars’ Adams for three games) and then cruised over the Dream.

Phoenix says, “This is a tank-free zone,” as the Sky and Merc kicked off the second half of the season with an OT doozy pitting Delle Donne against Bonner. A Griner block helped seal the win. The Guardian asks: Brittney Griner and Elena Delle Donne: the Magic and Bird of the WNBA?

Thirty-four years after Bird and Magic debuted in the NBA, a pair of paradigm-changing young standouts, Brittney Griner of the Phoenix Mercury and Elena Delle Donne of the Chicago Sky, joined the WNBA in 2013. Now each in their third season, the two stand poised to define their league through a rivalry that could elevate the league in much the same way Bird and Magic did for the men.

“Rivalries are good in every league,” the Indiana Fever’s Tamika Catchings said of Griner and Delle Donne. “Something to build a story around. Something compelling. Both of them have had success, and Elena has had the best year of her WNBA career. So that’s exciting to watch and be a part of.

Indiana says, “Snap!” and “We LOVE traveling between back-to-backs” as they earned an OT victory (Thank you, Catch) in Connecticut and then returned to Indiana to defeat the Liberty, ending New York’s five-game winning streak.

Minnesota says “Welcome back! (not)” to Candace Parker as Moore and Whalen as “The Professorpowered the Lynx to a win over L.A.

Seattle says, “You have much to learn, grasshopper.” Learning curve: Storm’s rookies figuring out WNBA

Dallas-Fort Worth says, “Think of the children!” A welcome Shock: WNBA team likely to inspire Dallas-area girls

The WNBA’s arrival in Arlington next year could do more for local girls than just offer them another affordable entertainment option. Basketball Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman compared the Shock’s relocation from Tulsa to a historic moment she witnessed 40 years ago in New York City.

In 1975, the teenage Lieberman was at Madison Square Garden for the first women’s college basketball game at that legendary venue. The matchup between Queens College and Immaculata University was played just a few years after Title IX legislation targeted gender discrimination in education and as women’s sports was gaining momentum.

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WAT?:

Hutchinson native Whalen stops by Crossroads

WNBA All-Star Shoni Schimmel takes in Cherokee game

Sue Bird Storm makes surprise visit to Marysville Pilchuck High School video – “Goosebumps cool.”

WATN?: Tamika Williams Overcomes Divorce, Dad’s Death

From her new office at the University of Kentucky, Tamika Williams was able to see the Wildcats volleyball team practice this season. That must have been therapeutic for someone who as a girl in Ohio played softball and volleyball before picking up a basketball.

Unfortunately, life has become more complicated for Williams, the former UConn starter — with Sue Bird, Swin Cash, Asjha Jones and Diana Taurasi — on the 2001-02 team, perhaps the greatest women’s college basketball team. 

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a litte US v. Spain recap via:

Yours truly and Lee: Women’s World Cup: USA sweeps to gold with 77-64 win over Spain 

The United States’ offense was at times elegant – as when Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury) bulleted a court-long past to Seimone Augustus for one of her game-high assists – and at times muscular, as when Lindsay Whalen (Minnesota Lynx) ended the first quarter with a crowd-pleasing drive to the basket.

Women’s World Cup: Australia takes bronze in 74-44 rout of Turkish hosts

It was obvious that the Turkish team was disappointed and emotionally exhausted after their tournament run, but there was pride, too. “I’d like to congratulate the Australians on their win tonight,” said Turkish coach Ceyhun Yildizoglu. “They fought really hard to get this win, and it was a particularly powerful performance coming off their loss to the United States last night. For us it was just the opposite. We weren’t able to bounce back from the game last night (Turkey’s loss to Spain).”

Doug: Maya Moore leads U.S. to gold medal

Sue Bird added another gold medal to her already incredible U.S. basketball resume.

Bird became the most-decorated player in world championship history when the Americans won a second straight gold with a 77-64 victory over Spain on Sunday night.

Last year, Maya Moore “traveled” far into the future. The magic of professional make-up artists transformed her into “Betty Lou,” the old lady who shows she hasn’t lost her basketball mojo in a Pepsi Max commercial with similarly aged NBA players Kyrie Irving and Nate Robinson.

When Moore looked in the mirror and saw herself in artificial elderly form, her competitiveness came out.

“I hope I’m going to look better than that,” she said with a grin during this past WNBA season. “Both of my grandmothers are aging well, and my mom is, too. I’ve got some good genes.”

No one — least of all Team USA’s opponents at the FIBA World Championship for Women — will dispute that. The United States won the gold medal Sunday with a 77-64 victory over Spain, and Moore was named the tournament’s most valuable player.

Boti Nagy: Australia captain Penny Taylor named in All-Star Five after excellent World Championship form and Marianna Tolo stars as Opals hammer Turkey to secure third place at World Championships

 Brutal defensive pressure and brilliant offensive teamwork has won Australia a bronze medal at the FIBA Women’s World Championships after a 74-44 win over host nation Turkey.

Marianna Tolo led the assault with an Opals tournament-high of 21 points at 73 per cent, grabbing six rebounds and playing great defence in a complete performance which should secure avid WNBA interest for the France-based centre.

AAP: Opals finish in the medals at world championships

 The Australian women’s basketball team has saved it s best for last to win the bronze medal in style at the world championship.

The Opals, missing their two most influential players, completed an impressive campaign with a 30-point thumping of hosts Turkey in Sunday’s third-place playoff.

Today’s Zaman: Turkey loses bronze medal chance after Australia defeat

It’s been lovely to be in Istanbul and really fun to be in the arena for the World Championships. The praised heaped on the Turkish fans is well deserved.  I wish I could have seen more of the city, but that just means I can come back again. Until then, some final shots of the Blue Mosque.

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“Now, That’s More Like It”

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

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

Writes Tim Leighton of Twin Cities:

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

Tom Powers offers this nice turn of phrase:

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

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

Kent Youngblood at the Star Tribune:

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

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

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

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

Message received.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

From Canis Hoopus’ John Meyer: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We can do a lot better too.”

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

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

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

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

Philip Hersh at the Tribune writes: 

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

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

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

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

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

Nate reflects back: 

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

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

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

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“Thanks, Becky.”

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

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

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

The start was everything the Stars could have possibly wanted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

pro-perrot-kim

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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opening the box of College Basketball….

Yup, the WNBA GMs (and Rebecca) got it wrong.

As for the Dream, I don’t care what teammates and others say about Angel, it seems she needs a Jeff Walz intervention. Being emotional is one thing. Letting it get into your own head and game is another…28% shooting is the result.

From Tim: Minnesota Lynx return to WNBA throne with sweep through postseason

The Minnesota Lynx finally can exhale.

The WNBA championship trophy is back in their grasp.

The punctuation on a season of dominance wasn’t pretty, but the prize at the end of their journey certainly was.

Los Lynx welcomed at the airport.

While I’m waiting for folks to start saying “The Lynx are bad for women’s basketball,” Tim adds Minnesota Lynx see more WNBA titles on the horizon, and Mechelle writes Lynx were the favorite all along – Minnesota wins second title in three years — now what’s next?

A few days before the WNBA Finals got underway, I managed to stir up a hornets’ nest.

Uh, no, not with anything I wrote. I mean literally stir up a hornets’ nest. Doing yard work on a day off from playoff games, I inadvertently disturbed some bees. Suddenly, buzzing creatures were coming at me from all directions.

I made a frantic run inside, and actually was happy to have escaped with just four stings. So having watched the Minnesota Lynx just win the WNBA title in a 3-0 sweep over the Atlanta Dream, I kind of have of an idea how the Dream feel.

Jon at the AP writes,The next dynasty? Minnesota Lynx bask in celebration of 2nd WNBA title in 3 seasons

Behind a curtain in the bowels of Target Center, the Minnesota Lynx gathered as a team for one last time this season. A few thousand jubilant fans waited in the arena, watching a video introduction for the team that had just captured its second WNBA championship in three seasons.

On the big screen, fans read words like “Dynasty” and “Greatest Team In History.”

“No pressure, guys!” finals MVP Maya Moore said to the group.

Kent continues the theme: Lynx among WNBA’s best already, and still on the upswing

At first, Shelley Patterson wanted no part of the comparison.

Patterson is an assistant coach for the Lynx, who just finished a dominant 7-0 run through the WNBA playoffs. Appearing in their third consecutive championship series, the Lynx swept Atlanta to win their second title.

Patterson was director of basketball operations for the Houston Comets in 1999, the year that team won the third of four league titles in a row. She saw the trio of Cynthia Cooper, Sheryl Swoopes and Tina Thompson dominate. When the subject of WNBA greatness comes up, the early Comets teams are where the discussion begins.

In the “Duh” file: Minnesota Lynx’s Janel McCarville: ‘I would love to be back’ and McCarville fits right in with Lynx – Center teams with former college teammate Whalen to win championship

In March, the Lynx made a three-way trade with Tulsa and New York to get McCarville from the Liberty — she hadn’t played in the WNBA the past two years — and Minnesota really did have exactly what Whalen was hoping for. The whole package.

“The chemistry with the team, how good of an off-the-ball partner Maya is,” Whalen said. “How good of a shooter Seimone is. Brunson rebounding, myself driving. I just felt like [McCarville] would really fit the team well. Having this be her first championship with us is just really special.”

More on Moore: Moore adds another title to résumé

 It’s one of those near-universal experiences. You return as an adult to a place that was significant earlier in your life. Even if you’re not a particularly reflective person, you can’t help but reflect. Remember when …

Minnesota’s Maya Moore is a reflective person, a thoughtful 24-year-old of whom her mother, Kathryn, says, “From the time she was a little kid, she was self-motivated. Very much so. When I was her age, I was nowhere near that mature.”

Gwinnett Daily Post enjoyed having local Maya around: Moore ends Dream run at home

“It means the world,” said Moore, who was named the series’ Most Valuable Player, of the title. “We had ups and downs. I mean, it wasn’t easy. That’s what a championship’s supposed to be. It’s supposed to be hard, and when it got hard, we came together and we stuck with it and secured that victory.”

Both of those titles have come at the expense of the Dream, who have lost in the finals three of the past four years.

and Moore revels in happy homecoming

…don’t ask her which of the four titles — the other WNBA title she and the Lynx won during her rookie season three years ago, plus the two NCAA Division I women’s titles the University of Connecticut and the gold medal she won as a part of the 2012 U.S. Olympic team — is her favorite.

“Why do you ask me to compare my children?” Moore joked during Thursday’s postgame press conference. “It’s like comparing kids. I love all my championships. Each are special. You can’t make me choose.

They have some VIDEO: ‘Behind the Scenes’ … with WNBA champ Maya Moore and some photos.

So does Minnesota Public Radio: Minnesota Lynx clinch WNBA title: The playoff campaign in photos

Ummm… truth: Kevin Durant on WNBA Champ Fiancee: ‘She’s Got More Championships Than I Do’

Key Dae at Canis Hoopus suggests The Wolves still need to learn what the Lynx have figured out

You would think after sharing the Target Center with the cats for 14 years, the dogs would have learned this lesson from them by now:

In pro basketball, the draft really matters.

Like, really really matters. Really matters. Really.

Speaking of the draft (really?!?!) 2014 WNBA Mock Draft: Complete 1st-Round Predictions for Every Team

The Augusta Chronicle caught up with Auburn grad Le’Coe Willingham for 5 questions. (How can it possibly have been 10 years???)

From the Courant: Rebecca Lobo: Memorable Class – Mother Of Four Makes Home And Career Balancing Act Work (Yes, I have to ask… when do we see the headline “Father of Four Makes Home And Career Balancing Ac Work”?)

She returned last week to the Target Center where, 18 years ago, Rebecca Lobo and the UConn basketball team won their first national championship. The image of Lobo circling the court waving a forefinger in the air after the final buzzer lingers pleasantly in the memories of those blue-and-whites who were there to watch.

The sellout crowd, more than 18,000 fans, cheered. The vanquished, Pat Summit’s Tennessee Vols, took the loss hard, but with a good measure of sportsmanship, knowing nothing lasts forever.

Lobo, Jennifer Rizzotti, Jamelle Elliott and all the others have gone about their lives since graduation with the strong principles of loyalty and desire that identified that team.

From Michelle Smith: DIANA TAURASI STUCK IN DRIVE

“There was something about her in high school that no matter what court she was on, or where, or who she was playing against, she was the best player on the floor,” Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma said. “That even included playing pickup with guys.”

Taurasi and her fearless game took the Connecticut program to a different level.

“Rebecca Lobo came to Connecticut and made us a national program from being a regional program,” Auriemma said. “And then Diana came and made us a household name.”

Speaking of Lobo (again)

“I think it is always important to tell the stories of those who may feel underrepresented in certain areas,” Lobo said. “There were not a lot of prominent Hispanic female athletes when I was growing up. There weren’t a lot of female sports competitions on TV, period. It is nice to see that now young girls can easily find someone to admire, including athletes like Diana Taurasi, Lisa Fernandez, etc.”

Auriemma thinks just as Lobo helped popularize women’s basketball while on court, what she does now also has tremendous and lasting impact.

“Rebecca made people enjoy the game as a player, and as a broadcaster, she does the same thing,” Auriemma said. “And each year she gets better and better at helping the fans enjoy watching the game.

Did you know this?

Penny Toler, general manager of the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks, regularly gets calls from those watching her nephew play in the NFL. Colleagues, friends and former players remember the teenager who hung out at Staples Center, staying so late that his aunt had to chase him out of the gym.

Greg Toler, an Indianapolis Colts cornerback, spent summers mingling with some of the world’s best female basketball players. Now he spends falls covering and clobbering some of the world’s best football players.

“They can’t believe it’s the same Greg,” his aunt said of her callers.

As we start marking in the home and away games for our favorite NCAA teams, Clay talks about theWhite Paper Summit: Women’s basketball heavyweights look to the future and asks: The Ackerman Report (11): Who’s in charge here?

Val Ackerman’s charge was to look at NCAA women’s basketball, and the piece of her report about governance focused solely on groups that had influence within the collegiate structure. That made sense in terms of her task, but in reality, few significant changes can be made without the approval of outside entities as well.

Still, Ackerman’s list of NCAA committees makes it clear that even within the organization, power is split up too many ways.

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Turn out the Lights,” but it’s hard not to think that. Seimone took the lead last night and, with a little support from her friends, the Lynx stomped the Dream.

No surprise, Angel and Fred are cranky.

“We compliment them. They won. They beat us fair and square,” McCoughtry said.

But she clearly took issue with what she felt was excessively physical play by the Lynx and, in particular, Maya Moore.

“The whole pulling me down on the fast break, all that crap, it’s not needed,” McCoughtry said. “I really hurt my elbow when Maya pulled me down on that play. I feel like it wasn’t needed. We don’t play that way. We are going to play hard and we are going to play scrappy, but we aren’t going to pull you down and hurt you. I just felt like I deserve a little more respect than that.”

Respect – be it given or taken – needs to take a back seat to showing up, sharing the ball, playing team defense and making good decisions. ’cause right now, Minnesota’s  one victory away from WNBA title, even though they weren’t satisfied:

“Of course, it wasn’t our best game,” Whalen said. “We had a lot of turnovers, some miscues and things like that. But all things we know we can fix and clean up. We’ll watch the video. We’ll learn from it. But I think it just shows … just our ability (to survive) when there are rough patches.”

Power forward Rebekkah Brunson was grim-faced at her locker afterward.

“We’ve got some things we really need to clean up before we go down there for Game 3,” she said. “We can’t be satisfied. We haven’t accomplished anything yet. We still have plenty of work to do.”

Tom Powers isn’t shy about daring the basketball mojo gods: Focused Lynx look like a lock to add to their ring collection

Let’s hope we’ve seen the last of the Lynx in 2013 — for their sake.

“We don’t want to come back to Minneapolis,” coach Cheryl Reeve said. “If we come back to Minneapolis, it’s going to be for a parade, not to play Game 5.”

And who doesn’t love a parade?

The universe is close to being back in harmony. The forces of nature are almost in balance. The Lynx clobbered the Atlanta Dream for the second straight time Tuesday night. They are one victory away from a WNBA title that somehow, some way, eluded them last season. It doesn’t look as if that will happen again.

From Mike: WNBA Finals: Lynx frustrate the Dream and go up 2-0

From the start, Atlanta sought to take the ball through the lane. The problem with that strategy? Minnesota knew exactly where the Dream wanted to go. The Lynx clogged the paint more frequently, disrupting drives and layup attempts, including an emphatic swat from Moore against Angel McCoughtry in the first quarter. Overall, the Dream made only 13 of 30 shots in the paint, for 26 points, making their increased scoring from the outside a moot point. Minnesota matched its paint production from game one, scoring 42 points, and taking away Atlanta’s strength,

“It was the backdoor cuts, some of the post-ups off of their deflections, screens off their offense,” said Atlanta coach Fred Williams. “That adds up to points in the paint.”

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Angel: Leading a Title Bid With a Lifted Spirit

The most joy Angel McCoughtry derived from the 2012 season was not leading the W.N.B.A. in scoring or steering the Atlanta Dream to the playoffs, but simply that it ended.

She was suspended for two games and spent a week hidden in her home. She was convicted in the court of social media when her coach was fired after a buildup of tension with her. At a playoff game, she was jittery and scared, symptoms that she attributed to an anxiety attack.

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Our good friend Jon Krawczynski at the AP has Five things to know about the WNBA Finals

Dream’s motivation: If the Dream can’t defeat the Lynx, it would be their third finals loss in four seasons. They were swept by Seattle in 2010. The New York Liberty is the only team to accomplish that dubious feat (Ow. Thanks for the reminder), losing three of the first four championships. “We learned from our failures,” McCoughtry said.

Hopefully a sixth thing to know is that some WNBA franchises are (or should be!) holding viewing parties. Dunno if they are, but the Lynx are ready for game three at the Gwinnett.

From Mechelle: Lynx have edge over Dream in Finals

Minnesota is the favorite to prevail in the WNBA Finals, which begin Sunday at Minneapolis’ Target Center (ESPN and WatchESPN, 8:30 p.m. ET).

In 2011, the Lynx swept the Dream to win Minnesota’s first WNBA title. The Lynx were upset on the way to a repeat last year, falling in four games to Indiana. Which is probably the worst thing that could have happened from the Dream’s perspective.

Atlanta knows that the Lynx are still unhappy about the title getting away from them last year, and that Minnesota’s concentration will be very keen this year to keep that from happening again.

But Minnesota also has — at least on paper — a talent edge overall against the Dream. That said, the teams split their regular-season meetings this year, both winning on their home court.

Nate gives us the 2013 WNBA Finals X-Factor: Alex Bentley’s defense at the point guard spot key to Atlanta Dream success

For the Dream, the ability to even get back to the Finals with an entirely different point guard rotation in part reflects the quality of the rest of their personnel over the past few years: their frontcourt has helped them remain among the best rebounding teams in the league and of course there’s All-Star Angel McCoughtry on the wing along with defensive standout Armintie Herrington.

Yet the main reason the Dream have almost made the point guard position look irrelevant is their style of play: they’re a team that has always liked to push the pace to score in transition and they have wings who handle the ball efficiently enough to minimize their reliance on point guard play.

Mark Remme at Los Lynx writes. Lynx Key On Slowning Down McCoughtry’s Chaos

If you’re scouting the Atlanta Dream, the word chaos seems to come up regularly. The Dream certainly bring it defensively, and on the offensive end they will their way to victory through a collection of plays that tend to deviate on each and every possession. 

In the middle of that chaos is Angel McCoughtry, the dynamic scorer who essentially can do it all. And she does it in different ways—a noticeable trait for the Lynx guards preparing to try contain her in the 2013 WNBA Finals. On any given possession, McCoughtry might go left, go right, take a certain angle they’ve never seen before or shake her way to the hoop.

The prognosis? She never does the same thing twice.

Hello, old friend: Maya Moore Vs. Tiffany Hayes: UConn Reunion In WNBA Finals

During the three years they played together at UConn, Maya Moore and Tiffany Hayes traveled to three Final Fours and won two national championships, usually laughing at each other’s jokes along the way.

But starting Sunday, Moore and Hayes will be on different sides when the Minnesota Lynx andAtlanta Dream begin play in the best-of-five WNBA Finals in Minnesota.

“It’s a little different when you play against a friend like her,” said Hayes, the Dream’s second-year guard. “We have some little conversations, maybe have a laugh on the free throw line, but otherwise things are pretty much the same as playing against anyone else.”

In other news, a little history.

From Iowa: Charging Czech Day in Clutier

Most people in this area are aware of the Clutier girls basketball team’s remarkable history. From 1939 through 1948 the Clutier Charging Czechs dominated Iowa sports headlines. These girls, under the coaching of John Schoenfelder, had a record of 201 wins, 18 losses and 1 tie. They scored 12,295 points versus their opponents 5,660, and went to the state tournament six times, winning in 1942. Two of the Charging Czechs, Verna Mae Vorba and Adella Knoop were later inducted into the Iowa Girls Basketball Hall of Fame.

The Clutier Public Library proudly displays the trophy case and the pictures of the Clutier graduating classes. Also, the Library recently added the book, “From Six-on-Six to Full Court Press” by Janice Beran to the collection.

From Alaska: Sweet – Early team member named honorary captain of Palmer girls squad

[92 year-old] June Liebing’s time in the Valley pre-dates the Matanuska Colony, and her basketball career here came at a time when the Palmer High School girl’s team was shooting through rafters to make a basket.

So, it would seem to most, there’s really no better person to become the PHS girl’s squad’s first honorary captain.

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with Phoenix knocking of Minnesota’s biggest challenger, and Indiana doing the same for Atlanta. Guess everybody will be nice and rested.

I’m looking forward to these games, especially to see how the battle in the paint plays out… tho Jayda is looking for something different: the battle No-Longer Big Easters: Maya Moore vs. Angel McCoughtry in best-of-five series on ESPN networks

From Mechelle: Two motivated clubs meet for title

Sorry, Minnesota Lynx, you still don’t get to be the underdog. It’s your third consecutive year in the WNBA Finals, and you’re the favorite again. You wore that mantle well in 2011, but the championship slipped away from you last year.

**

Sorry, Atlanta Dream, but this is your third trip in the past four years to the WNBA Finals, and you are going to feel underestimated again. The Lynx had a 26-8 regular-season record to your 17-17. They had three players with MVP-like numbers this year (Maya Moore, Lindsay Whalen, Seimone Augustus); you had one (Angel McCoughtry).

From Michelle: Lynx, Dream meet again in Finals

Key to the series

Protecting the home court. Atlanta has to win at least once in Minnesota if it wants to win this series. That’s no easy task considering the Lynx’s 17-2 record at home this season. In two playoff wins in Minnesota so far, the Lynx’s average margin of victory is 19.5 points.

The Dream have won only two road games since June 23, winning at Washington in the Eastern Conference semifinals and at Indiana on Sunday. But Atlanta has been a dismal team away from its home court for most of the year, and that doesn’t bode well.

Tim Leighton at the Pioneer Press talks pre-game prep: Before WNBA finals comes 10 hours of ‘Grand Theft Auto’

The victory in the best-of-three Western Conference finals not only gave the Lynx a berth in the WNBA Finals for the third consecutive season, it also earned players a 48-hour furlough from coach Cheryl Reeve.

Augustus had two things in mind upon returning home: a massage and getting her fingers warmed up for a team “Grand Theft Auto” video game party.

Don’t let the frivolity give you the wrong impression, though. Nathan Meacham reassures fans of Los Lynx that Minnesota’s not expecting a 2011 Finals rerun with Dream

It’s back to the WNBA Finals for the Minnesota Lynx, who will be facing the same opponent they defeated in 2011, but that doesn’t mean there are many similarities.

“This team is really different than the team in 2011,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. “Each of their journeys has been very different. This group wants to get this team’s championship to cap off this journey.”

Nate offers up Three keys for the Atlanta Dream in the 2013 WNBA Finals

During his introduction to the Atlanta Dream’s game against the Minnesota Lynx on August 20, broadcaster Bob Rathbun commented, “You can game plan for the stars in this league defensively, but the reason they’re stars is that they can come through despite all the defensive pressure. That’s certainly the case with Atlanta’s Angel McCoughtry and Minnesota’s Maya Moore.”

And of course you can probably apply the same reasoning to Seimone Augustus.

Yet the thing that fans often forget when considering the defensive end of the ball is that defense is never entirely a one-on-one effort – it’s always a 5-on-5 effort. Conveniently, examples of what the Dream need to do to succeed showed up within the first four minutes of their 88-73 win in late August.

The Card Chronicle takes notice: McCoughtry Seeking Elusive First WNBA Championship

It’s been nearly five years since Angel McCoughtry left Louisville, and since then she’s accomplished just about every professional goal imaginable. Except one.

McCoughtry will go for her first WNBA title when the Atlanta Dream begin play in the WNBA Finals on Sunday at Minnesota. The Dream have played in the finals in three of the last four years, but were swept in both of their previous appearances, including in 2011 against Minnesota.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution couldn’t be bothered, so they asked Doug to chime in (and don’t even ask him to make it Dream-centric): Minnesota Lynx face Atlanta Dream in WNBA finals

Ever since the Minnesota Lynx lost in the WNBA finals last year, they’ve been focused on getting back there.

Now they are three wins away from a second championship in three seasons, facing a team they swept two years ago to earn the franchise’s first title.

“We’re a very hungry, determined group of women,” said Minnesota’s Seimone Augustus. “All year we’ve talked about holding our goal and destiny in our hands. We have another chance at a title after not ending last season the way we wanted to.”

Clay writes his WNBA Finals preview: Will Atlanta live the Dream? Or will Minnesota erase last year’s nightmare?

The WNBA would have much preferred one of the Three to See, or Candace Parker and company, in the Finals. The league can certainly deal with Minnesota, with Maya Moore, Lindsay Whalen and Seimone Augustus, but 17-17 Atlanta, two-time losers in the Finals, isn’t exactly the dream opponent (sorry).

The positives are that the Dream love to run, so there should be lots of points, and Angel McCoughtry could melt down in SportsCenter-worthy fashion at any moment.

In the end, though, the Lynx are clearly better, and an Atlanta win in this series would count as the biggest Finals’ upset in league history.

Jayda also offers up some exit interviews: Nancy Darsch will not return to Seattle

Speaking of exit interviews, Mark Ambrogi at the Indy Star says Indiana Fever looking to reload for 2014 after getting swept in Eastern Conference finals

Good news for the Chicago: Sky owner Michael Alter all-in (and for those who say the League needs to avoid being “a movement”:

What Alter did not see coming but has figured out, he said, is that “this league is still about a cultural transformation, getting people [to relate to and follow] women and women athletes. And we still have a long way to go, that’s just a fact.”

He also included the phenomenon of women reporters eschewing what some, like himself, may view as a responsibility to champion women’s sports in favor of pursuing the bigger (men’s) beats.

“It’s the same thing with the corporate battle,” he said. “Men are not as comfortable saying, ‘We should do this.’ They don’t want to be the one to make the argument convincing everyone to do it. They’ll support if, but they want someone else to be the flag bearer.”

Simply put, Alter said, that attitude took him by surprise.

Mystery AP person writes: Mercury fall short of expectations, but coaching change brings strong finish

“It was a strange year, it was a little weird,” Taurasi said. “When things were not going our way through the season we worked through it. When they made the coaching change, it could have easily been a foregone season. But we stuck with it. I’m happy the way we fought throughout the season.”

In college news:

Might be an idiot: UWGB women’s basketball: Zastrow pleads not guilty to DUI charge

Might be in trouble: Georgetown places women’s basketball coach Keith Brown on leave following complaints

Georgetown has placed women’s basketball Coach Keith Brown on administrative leave, along with assistant coach Tim Valentine, following complaints of unprofessional conduct and inappropriate language.

The concerns were raised by players on the eve of Brown’s second season as head coach of the Hoyas and were first reported Monday night by WJLA (Channel 7). Georgetown’s assistant vice president for communications, Stacy Kerr, confirmed the circumstances that led to the university’s actions in a statement.

Awful news, reminding us how hard it can be to speak up for oneself: Maryland man arrested for assault of Tennessee recruit Jannah Tucker

A Maryland man has been arrested and charged with second-degree assault in a case that involves Tennessee recruit Jannah Tucker.  The No. 12 ranked 2013 recruit surprised the Lady Vols’ staff in July when she did not report to campus as scheduled, instead sending an email citing unspecified “personal reasons.”

Full Court has confirmed a police report and obtained court documents indicating that officers from the Franklin precinct of the Baltimore Police Department arrested Joshua Anthony Gerrard on Wednesday, July 25, at his home in Owings Mills, Md., on charges of second-degree assault. Gerrard remained in custody overnight and was released the following day on $50,000 bail. A trial date has been set for Feb. 12, 2014.

In high school news:

Definitely an idiot: Ex-basketball coach gets probation over play devised to hurt student heckler

Could be an eye-opener: High school girls’ hoops seeks officials

Nice to be recognized: Dover honors 2 for legendary commitment to students, community

During the introduction for Fisk the announcer read, “Marge Fisk, a graduate of DHS, Class of 1950, and the University of New Hampshire Class of 1954, came back to Dover High in the fall of 1970. Married to husband Bill and raising four children, Marge began the awesome task of revamping the girl’s Phys Ed. Department. With determination, organization and a little bit of magic she began putting together a solid sports program and some of the best girl’s basketball and field hockey teams in the state.” 

In 1975, the field hockey team won the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association for Field Hockey Class AA Championships under Fisk’s leadership. In 1977, an undefeated team coached by Fisk won the Girls Basketball State Championship.

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ever since Thursday, I’ve had Tom Jones/Art of Noise running through my head

Anyhoo, games today. We’ll see if the Merc can recover from getting M(oore)A(ugustus)W(halen)led again and if Indy can head off Hayes and clip Angel.

Meanwhile: WNBA Captures Fans, Ends Regular Season With Record Growth and Viva, Las Vegas!

BTW – I got 139 folks to join me for the Maggie Dixon Classic. Who’s coming with me to Istanbul?

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birding in Arizona.

First, after a long hike up a beautiful canyon, I get to see this:

(Rufous Crowned Warbler – and no, it’s not my shot.)

Second, I got to miss this: Lindsay Whalen, Maya Moore spark Lynx’s rout of Liberty (Oh, and “Message sent, message not received” much? Maya played 33 minutes.)

Third, if I’m lucky (and finish the grant-writing stuff I need to do) I’ll get to see this:

(Red-faced Warbler — and again, no, it’s not my shot.)

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The US WOMEN are rollin’ at the WUG — though a 30-pt win wasn’t a breeze against Sweden.

“Our defense in the second half was much better than it was in the first,” said USA head coach Sherri Coale(University of Oklahoma). “We kept the ball in front and forced them into taking contested shots. We did a much better job on the defensive glass. They are a tremendous offensive rebounding team and go at it very hard. If you can block them out, then you have an advantage in transition on the other end. That was what we were able to do in the second half.”

Reminder: ESPNU will air the USA’s semifinal game at the following dates & times: July 13 @ 1 pm ET || July 13 @ 10 pm ET || July 14 @ 5 am ET || July 14 @ 11 am ET. If they make the Gold Medal game: ESPNU: July 15 @ 1:30 pm ET || July 15 @ 9 pm ET || July 16 @ 8 am ET

It wasn’t easy, but Whalen and Wright led Lynx past Indiana

It was easy, as Candace Parker’s 30 points helped the Sparks get first road win

Alaska’s greatest women’s basketball player finally steps off court at age 31

Ryan Larsen has been named head coach at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.

High school basketball has its issues: Prep Charter girls’ basketball team to surrender titles

And its ambassadors: Beloved Trenton Central High School girls basketball coach continues free summer camp despite funding cuts

As the girls basketball coach at Trenton Central High School, Reginald K. Murray may hold the record for most wins in girls’ basketball in Mercer County and serve as a major speaker for national coaching conventions, but right then, the girls in his free summer camp needed to get their footwork down.

Inside a sweltering gym at the school last month, Murray pushed the young athletes, who ranged in age from high-schoolers down to fourth-graders, through agility drills before moving onto the next exercise.

The sessions known as Hell Week went on for five days before Murray picked teams for tournament play.

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it sorta feels like spring!

From Tennessee: Carolyn Jackson retiring as Brainerd High’s girls’ basketball coach

Carolyn Jackson said she played very little when she was on Riverside’s basketball team. Little did she know then that spending time on a high school basketball team’s bench would become what she’s noted for.

Now after 40 years, a 965-285 record, numerous district and region titles and a state championship, Jackson has decided to retire as girls’ basketball coach at Brainerd, where the gymnasium is named for her and longtime boys’ coach Robert High.

“I’ve been coaching for so long, I felt it was about time to step down,” Jackson said. “I don’t have anything left to prove. I’ve done just about all I set out to do.”

Something seems to be brewing in Rocky Top: Heather Mason relieved of duties as UT’s associate strength and conditioning coach

In Pennsylvania, Lewiston coach Kevin Kodish reflects on 29 years at the helm

The one single factor that enabled me to coach for 29 consecutive years was the loving support of my family. No one can truly appreciate how much a coach’s family has to sacrifice unless they go through it. My wife, Shelly, and daughters Katy and Brooke gave up a lot of for me, and there aren’t words I can come up with that can give them their true due.

To the future athletes of Mifflin County, I ask three things:

Do right

Do your best

Treat others as you want to be treated

I humbly ask parents and athletes to remember that not everybody will be an all-conference performer. Not everyone will be a starter. Not everyone will be a great player. But everybody can do the best they can each and every day.

More news from PA: Dan Burt named Duquesne women’s basketball coach

“Dan Burt is the perfect choice to lead our women’s basketball program,” Duquesne athletic director Greg Amodio said in a statement Saturday. “He has demonstrated a strong commitment to the university and our student-athletes. I expect the program to grow under his leadership and compete for the Atlantic 10 Conference championship annually. The addition of Dan ensures that everything is in place for the continued success of Duquesne women’s basketball.”

You stay put: Hartford Coach Jen Rizzotti Signs Contract Extension Through 2018

Reaping the benefits:

Jay-Z Adds WNBA’s Skylar Diggins To Roc Nation Sports

Brittney Griner, Phoenix Mercury Player And Gay WNBA Draft Pick, Signs Deal With Nike

Patricia Babcock McGraw explains Why Griner’s game matters more than anything else

Kelly Kline says It’s time for the WNBA to acknowledge Griner and other gay athletes

Did Brittney Griner really “come out” last week or did she just quietly and politely remind all of us of the importance of living our lives authentically?

In last week’s widely publicized interview with SI.com, Griner, the No. 1 pick in the 2013 WNBA Draft, said simply, “Being one that’s out, you know, it’s just … being who you are. Again, be who you are. Don’t worry about what other people say because they are always going to say something. But if you’re just true to yourself, let that shine through. Don’t hide who you really are.”

After that answer, dozens of media outlets wrote “coming out” stories.  Yes, she is one of the first athletes to acknowledge her sexuality before turning pro, but coming out? I don’t think so! 

What are Griner’s soon to be teammates and opponents doing? Battling in Russia

Having previously secured European women’s professional basketball supremacy by winning the prestigious EuroLeague Championship back in March, Candace Parker, Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird and Deanna Nolan are now driving their Russian club UMMC Ekaterinburg to the Russian League title.

McCarville, Whalen Hoping To Pick Up Where They Left Off

There are differences these days for Lindsay Whalen and Janel McCarville. The two no longer wear the maroon and gold at Williams Arena. They’ve traded in Dinkytown for downtown, and they certainly have more experience and basketball mileage on their odometers. 

It’s no longer 2004, and they’re no longer chasing Final Fours together. 

But it sure is hard to tell when you see them in action.

Find out about The Mercury’s New Point Guard

Clay at Full Court says, Despite setbacks, San Antonio concedes nothing

“We’re never picked to do well,” says San Antonio coach and general manager Dan Hughes, and this year is no exception. Not only did the Silver Stars lose their leading scorer and rebounder to injury (Sophia Young, 16.3 ppg, 7.2 rpg), the West now has three of the strongest rosters ever assembled in the same conference.

Oklahoma State’s Young ready for fairy tale in New York

The road to the WNBA hasn’t been easy for Young. From nearly giving up basketball in high school to breaking her arm while dunking in practice at the end of her sophomore year to losing coaches she practically considered family in a plane crash, Young has had more than her fair share of heartbreak.

Perhaps that’s why the wait seemed like an eternity.

Swish Appeal wonders, What are your ways to improve WNBA attendance in 2013?

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Candace got her points, but the rest of the Sparks fell flat – especially when it came to rebounding or defending the three. Minny, anchored by the *coulda been a Lib, no I’m not bitter, what makes you think so* fierce Becky Brunson, had their scoring satellites in sync and spanked L.A.

Whalen’s play gave me flashbacks to her college days, when she came back from a hand injury to scorch UCLA in the opening round of the NCAA tourney. Writes Mechelle:

Sure, Minnesota had some concerns about Lindsay Whalen. The wrap isn’t on her shooting hand, but it’s still a bit troublesome.

“Everybody has worries when your point guard has a sprained wrist,” Minnesota Lynx teammate Seimone Augustus said. “It was great to see her come out and be aggressive and not show any fear, to see her playing as usual.”

Whalen did indeed look like her normal self Thursday, and so did the Lynx. Those concerns about Minnesota being too worn down by its first-round series with Seattle? About Whalen’s left-wrist issues? About Maya Moore’s shooting struggles in the fourth quarter?

None of those things were any problem as the Lynx decisively beat the Los Angeles Sparks 94-77 Thursday in Game 1 of the WNBA’s Western Conference finals.

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start all over again….

ESPN 2 – 8PM EST: Sparks v. Lynx in Minneapolis: Preview

Despite barely surviving, the defending WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx were content with their performance in the opening round of the playoffs.

The Lynx’s happiness in the Western Conference finals might hinge on whether they can add to their superb record at home and take advantage of the Los Angeles Sparks’ inconsistency on the road.

Mechelle writes: Lynx say fatigue won’t be factor – Minnesota, Los Angeles split four regular-season meetings

Did having to go the distance against the Storm weaken Minnesota’s 2012 championship chances? What about Lindsay Whalen’s wrist injury? How about the fact that the Sparks — who finished the regular season a few days before the other WNBA teams and then swept San Antonio in the first round — have played less basketball in the past two weeks than the Lynx have?

Not surprisingly, both sides downplayed the “rest” factor. Los Angeles coach Carol Ross shrugged when asked if the Sparks benefited from being done with their series earlier.

She’s also got: Douglas, Fever ready to face Sun: Friday (ESPN2, 8 p.m. ET).

The last time the Connecticut Sun made it to the WNBA Finals, Katie Douglas was a big reason why. This year, she’ll try to be a key part of keeping the Sun from playing for a league title.

From the Pioneer Press: Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen takes broken finger, bruised wrist into L.A. series

From the Minny Star Tribune: Brunson enjoying herself in Lynx’s playoff run

From SB Nation: Lynx preparing for offensive-minded Sparks

From Nate: WNBA Western Conference Finals preview: Point guard play will figure prominently for Lynx, Sparks

From the LA Times (FINALLY): Sparks face tall order vs. Minnesota Lynx in WNBA playoffs

From the Hartford Courant: Connecticut Sun-Indiana Fever: Each Team Hot After WNBA Title and Sun Well-Rested For Series With Indiana

The Day adds Supporting cast serves Sun well

You are a Connecticut Sun fan. You are asked why your team is 27-9, champion of the regular season and about to begin the conference finals Friday night.

They survived 14 games without Asjha Jones, you say.

Tina Charles, the Most Valuable Player, has been a horse, you say.

Kara Lawson hasn’t missed a shot since around Easter, you say.

You would be right on all counts.

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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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No, they don’t get the attention they deserve. And I don’t begrudge the other women’s teams who have been the media darlings, because this is about women athletes being a draw. Being water cooler fodder. Being on the front pages. Because we should be looking to lift all boats.

And yes, their success MAY be bad for the (international) game. But I dare you to suggest to the players that “one loss” would be “good” for women’s basketball (Clearly, it would have to be in Rio, since no one really paid attention to 2006).

And no, I doubt that I’ll read many articles and blogs posts bemoaning the women’s dominance and their 41-game win streak. The other nations have some decisions to make (look at what Great Britain has done since Atlanta). Brazil has a proud tradition in women’s basketball. So does Russia. So does Australia. And France did themselves beyond proud. But do you see a threat? Honestly – do you see a threat?

You had twelve of the best players the US had to offer – with three or four left State-side who could have easily been swapped in — and with *the oft referred to* 10 days of practice, Auriemma and the team figured out how to get it done. You almost felt like the pulled a name from the hat and say, “Ok, Angel, this game is yours” and the next day some said, “Hey, Dee, your turn.” You’d be hard-pressed to name an MVP. People played their roles, took their lumps, sat on the bench, moved into the starting rotation and while fans at home might have been gnashing and kvetching about minutes and such, the team just kept on winning.

Yikes.

The only thing that “worries” me is joy: does, can, will the ridiculous expectations people have for the team suck the joy out of the victory? What is the cost of that pressure — is the feeling relief or ecstasy.

Whatever my “concerns,” I’d bet every nickle I have that every player and coach wouldn’t trade a minute of it. They’re not interested in any “Redemption” campaign. They’ll take domination, thank you very much. Outside adulation? If it comes, it comes. If it doesn’t – they’re still the best basketball team in the world.

This team’s stats are impressive. This teams individual stats highlight its strength: balance across the board.

It takes vision and will to compete with the farm system that is US college basketball. And money. I know one of the semi-finalists in 2016. Seems to me the race for the other three spots is wide open.

As to the Gold medal game:

From USA Basketball: USA Women Capture Historic Fifth-Straight Olympic Gold Medal With 86-50 Win Over France

Photos and extra quotes.

On the competitiveness of women’s basketball to U.S. fans versus sports like soccer and gymnastics:
Yeah, I mean, you can’t apologize for being really good. The reason they don’t think there’s any competition is because they don’t have to be here playing. We know what the competition is, we know how good these other teams are, and we know how hard we have to work to make it look easy, because it’s not as easy as it looks. We do what we do in the United States and we take great pride in our basketball program. It doesn’t matter who the coach is, it doesn’t matter who the players are, there’s a certain level of expectation when you coach and play for USA Basketball. That expectation is to win, and we take it very seriously. Maybe in those other sports, there isn’t that same expectation in the United States that you’re going to win all the time, but we’re not going to start losing just to make them feel better back home

Full Court wraps up its coverage. From Clay: Team USA is too much for mere magic — and the French

From Lee: Australia’s veterans deliver, sealing bronze with 83-74 victory over Russia

From the redoubtable Doug and the Huffington Post: U.S. Women’s Basketball Defeats France For 5th Straight Olympic Gold Medal (nice PHOTOS)

The names change, not the results. Just call the U.S. women’s basketball team Olympic champion – again.

From ESPN, Jackie writes, Parker, U.S. make it look easy

It was Candace Parker’s turn to shine, and she made it look easy.

It wasn’t, although she knows no one believes her.

The most versatile player on the U.S. women’s basketball roster, who can play guard, forward and center, who at any time can completely dominate a game with her length, her skills, her basketball acumen and her fluid, graceful style, imposed her will on an overmatched France team on Saturday evening.

MV has some honest quick hits: Team USA wins fifth straight gold

Just like an early-round upset in the NCAA tournament sometimes creates a very anticlimactic matchup in a later round, France’s overtime victory against Australia in pool play ended up making for a snoozer of an Olympic gold-medal game in women’s basketball.

The only team that gave Team USA a legitimate scare was Australia — and the Aussies still lost their semifinal contest 86-73 to the Americans on Thursday. Against the French on Saturday, the Americans scored the same amount of points as they did in the semifinal, but were even more punishing on defense. (You also can say the Aussies had a couple more high-level weapons to counter the U.S. women than France did.)

From Mike Peden: Parker continues ‘golden streak’ for USA women

Parker’s 21 points and 11 rebounds off the bench not only confirmed to a national audience that she has completely healed from previous injuries, but led an expected 86-50 rout of France to give the United States their fifth consecutive gold medal in women’s basketball.

“I don’t remember who scored what points or how many rebounds you had. You just remember you won a gold medal and who was on your team,” said the forward from the Los Angeles Sparks.

Gasp! Bob Ryan from the Boston Globe (home of the “I’ve never watched a women’s basketball game” Danny (don’t let him find out you attended a game, Bob) writes: US women remain unbeatable – They bring home 5th straight gold medal

They’re so good at this it does make people forget that it takes a little bit of work.

“I don’t think people realize how difficult it is,” said point guard Sue Bird, whose personal gold medal collection now stands at three. “To be this consistent when you’re going against the other countries’ best. That’s very often overlooked.”

From the Chicago Tribune:

This marked the fifth straight gold medal for U.S. women’s basketball, a record for consecutive Olympic titles in a women’s team sport. The average margin of victory was a hair over 34 points. Concierges in the West End were tested more often during the Olympics than coach Geno Auriemma’s team.

“Michael Jordan used to say, ‘It’s possible to stumble on a championship once but it’s a lot harder to do it twice,” said Parker, the pride of Naperville Central. “For USA basketball to have it won it five times is really special.”

At USA Today, Joe Rexroad: Candace Parker leads team USA to gold medal

Little Lailaa Williams kept tugging and pushing and imploring her mother to pay attention to her. Finally, Candace Parker promised her 3-year-old daughter some candy if she’d be quiet for a few minutes and let mommy speak with the reporters.

“Candy at 11 o’clock,” Parker said while picking Lailaa up. “It’s gonna be a great night.”

It already had been, for Parker and a team that had been waiting for her to dominate like this.

Christine Brennan: Underappreciated U.S. women’s team dominates

While North Greenwich Arena was full Saturday night, the press tribune was not, and the same interview area that was swarming with journalists during the women’s gymnastics events held perhaps one-fifth of that crowd after the USA-France game.

So in addition to being one of the most impressive Olympic teams that the USA has fielded in any sport, you can make a case that it’s also the most underappreciated truly dominant team in U.S. Olympic history.

“That’s something we all kind of knew going into this,” U.S. guard Lindsay Whalen said. “To expect us to win gold just shows everything that everyone has done up to this point, all the hard work and effort that the coaches and everyone at USA Basketball has done. And it just shows the great talent that we have.”

Michael Farber at Sports Illustrated says, Americans’ path to gold proves gap is widening between U.S., world

At the last coronation in this city prior to Saturday night’s at an Olympic basketball arena, the royal outfit was embroidered with a Tudor rose, a Scottish thistle, a shamrock, a maple leaf, a silver fern and other symbols of the vast British Commonwealth. The year was 1953, which, coincidentally, also saw the introduction of a women’s world basketball championship. A team of presumably non-Gitanes-smoking Frenchwomen finished third, the only time France had won a medal in a truly major tournament until the thank-you-ma’am-may-I-have-another game — USA 86, France 50 — that upgraded Les Bleus to an Olympic silver.Anyway this time, royalty wore swooshes.

The basketball female Olympic gold medal is the crown jewel of an amazing Team USA made of women who have demonstrated not only immense discipline and achievements but also tenacity and – more importantly – a sense of team work and sportsmanship that discipline after discipline have helped Olympic Team USA improve its performance and standing in the world of sports competition.

On that theme: Sports Illustrated Ann Killion writes – Amid 40th anniversary of Title IX, women set new standard in London

For the first time Team USA included more women than men. And they’re coming home the richer for it. The U.S. women have won 58 medals to the men’s 45 and 29 gold medals compared to the men’s 17.

Women are succeeding in traditionally popular disciplines like gymnastics and swimming. And in new events like women’s boxing. American female gold medalists come in all shapes and sizes: diminutive Gabby Douglas, powerful Abby Wambach, sturdy Kayla Harrison, ripped Allyson Felix. They come in all personalities: bubbly Missy Franklin, controversial Hope Solo, fierce Serena Williams.

They are athletes to be celebrated. The evolution is that now — more so than in Atlanta — they are being lauded for their power and performance more than their social significance.

Ann, love the piece. Call me when male beach volleyball players play in briefs, the identifiers “men’s” and “women’s” are universally used (check SI’s side columns), and Sports Illustrated has swim suit edition featuring men.

And there’s no rest for the weary: Doug has this piece (picked up by the AJC): US women hoops already looking ahead to Rio

Over at NBC, Jack McCallum writes: Taurasi is heart, soul of world’s best team

Taurasi is six-feet, 165 pounds of raw energy, her face an ever-changing Rorschach, her game a combination of Showtime and Slowtime, for she can play either way, though she vastly prefers the former. Her game against France was typical Taurasi: 9 points, 6 assists, 3 rebounds, three gorgeous pick-and-roll passes to Parker, skin-tight defense on France’s star, point guard Celine Dumerc, who was held to eight points and, most tellingly, one assist.

And all the while, Taurasi never stopped chattering. She is a right-hander who can go left, but she is definitely a right-brainer, a player of instinct and imagination.

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Seimone Augustus Talks Same-Sex Marriage on ESPN’s ‘Outside the Lines’

If only men’s and women’s baskeball coaches would step up and match her courage.

The Blue Raiders do a little Q&A with Alysha Clark: Catching up with WNBA player and former All-American

WATN? Carla McGhee. Working with the Wolf Pack.

Speaking of Olympians: Hot Italian hosts Ruthie Bolton book-signing this Saturday

The Star Tribune is counting down the best Twin Cities personnel moves. Guess which one is #6.
From K.C. Johnson at the LA Times: U.S. women’s basketball wants to preserve record
“We know we have a standard to uphold, and [we want to] honor the past Olympians and be role models for the future ones,” Candace Parker said. “We want to continue to play the way we were brought up in the USA basketball system. “I know that I have not won the four golds. For people to say this is our streak, no. This is USA Basketball’s streak. We’re just trying not to be the people that end that streak. I want a second gold medal. There are people that want a third. And some are looking for their first. So all of us are fighting for something in our own way.”
Yes, tweets Doug, that was Ohno hanging with the team.
From the Age: Jackson oblivious to historic feat while clash with US looms

From the Sporting News: London 2012 basketball: U.S. women face Australia, a familiar foe, a round earlier than usual

Matt Moore at CBS Sports writes: Basketball: Team USA makes its bid to begin discussions about greatest ever

Over at Forbes: U.S. Women’s Basketball Shoots for the Gold

The Bleacher Report (now owned by the incompetents who incompetently run wnba.com) writes: USA Olympic Women’s Basketball Team: Amazing Size and Speed Will Bring US Gold

Hmmm… I’m detecting a theme. From the Indy Star’s Bob Kravitz: Bob Kravitz: The real Dream Team in these Olympics are the U.S. women

“This was a great game,” said Catchings, who is averaging 19 minutes a game, 6.3 points and 4.3 rebounds in this tournament. She had a typical line Tuesday: Nine points, six rebounds, two assists and four steals in just over 20 minutes. “But we can play better than that.”

Speaking for every other women’s team that remains on the world stage: Gulp.

Debbie and Beth are doing some casting of the pod: Here they speak with Tina Charles.  Here they have Catch and Maya.

When NBC writers write stuff like this (U.S. women deserve more hype), I wonder what they say to their bosses.

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US women’s hoops rookies are experienced veterans

Referring to the five newcomers on the US women’s Olympic basketball team as rookies is a bit misleading.

Sue Bird actually finds it amusing.

“Lindsay Whalen and Asjha Jones are considered rookies, that’s pretty comical,” the American point guard said. “In terms of Olympic experience, it’s new for them. They’ll enjoy it the same way we did the first time.

“But they’ve faced almost everyone we’ll be playing against.”

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some ink from Jim Fuller at the New Haven Register: Former Cheshire Academy standout Johannah Leedham cherishing time as Olympic captain

Speaking of memories that will last a lifetime, Leedham had seven early points as Great Britain raced out to a 21-10 lead against the four-time defending Olympic champion United States squad in Wednesday’s international friendly. Although the U.S. won 88-63, Leedham opened a few eyes with a game-high 21 points.

“Oh my God, it was amazing,” Leedham said. “Going to a Division II school for all four years, you (admire) people like that in the four years watching them play on TV. The fact that I am meeting them on the court, all the (11) players at once, it was amazing. It was just a real exciting experience sharing the court with people like (Diana) Taurasi and Maya Moore. It is amazing. To be able to compete with them is a dream come true.”

John Altavilla at the Hartford Courant outlines Who Will Do What In London

The United States Olympic women’s basketball team plays its third exhibition game this month on Saturday vs. Croatia in Istanbul, and Sue Bird is expected to rejoin the team following the death of her stepfather. She has missed the first two exhibition games, both victories, 99-67 over Brazil and 88-63 over Great Britain. The U.S. then plays Turkey on Sunday and has two days of practice there before heading to London for the Olympics. The Americans’ first game is July 28 vs. Croatia.

“I think anytime you lose somebody like Sue, who has the respect of every single player on the team and is a coach on the floor, you feel it,” U.S. coach Geno Auriemma said. “There is a comfort level knowing that when she gets in the huddle and says something, it’s exactly what you would say, or in some cases way better than what you would say. But not having Sue has given us an opportunity to see Lindsay Whalen in a different light, and I think she’s opened a lot of eyes. Maybe people thought, ‘Well, she’s just there in case something happens to Sue or Diana,’ but she’s proven she is here to affect the outcome of the game. That’s been one of the more pleasant surprises for me.”

What to expect from each player as the heavily favored U.S. team goes for the gold medal:

As for the competition, Chris Dutton at the Sydney Morning Herald writes: Opals aim higher

Lauren Jackson is still one of the world’s best players, but the Opals’ hopes of clinching an elusive gold medal dropped dramatically when Penny Taylor had a knee reconstruction earlier this year. Jackson has sacrificed her WNBA season with Seattle to put all of her focus to building the Opals’ gold medal bid. She desperately wants to win gold before she ends her glittering career and there’s little doubt the Opals will be Olympic contenders again. But even with giant 203cm centre Elizabeth Cambage, the Opals may struggle to provide superstar Jackson with enough support to clinch the No.1 spot.

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couldn’t.

Yes, it’s great that the President was in the house (though he missed the women’s game, he did speak with the team afterward), but it really sucked that the media folks didn’t give the press folks a “move your stuff” heads up. My bag, suitcase, computer and train ticket were held under close supervision by the Secret Service folks. Nice to know that they were secure — not so nice that I couldn’t retrieve them so I catch my 10pm train. So, a beer and lots of good conversation later, I joined the few, the proud, the early risers for the 3:15am train to New York. Good times!

As for the game, Auriemma put it best: “There were times we looked really, really good — and then there were times that we looked as if we’d only been together for two days.”

Plenty for the team to work on (hello, post play?), but I was really, really pleased for Whalen (though her opportunity came at a cost to Sue).

“​I think the fact that she’s able to play that role where she can come off the bench and do whatever you want her to do, whether it’s run the offense, score points, play defense, pressure people, she’s just a special kid to be around.  She’s in phenomenal shape, and I would think over the next month, she’s going to have a real big impact on our team.
 
​”You watch Lindsay play, and you don’t get a full appreciation for her until you’re around her closeup, with her in practice, and you see some of the things she does,” Auriemma added. “I always knew that she had the ability to get to the basket.  I always knew she was one of the toughest kids in the league.”

I was especially (and secretly) pleased at their display during the fourth quarter — ’cause the house was really full. Lots of highlights  – and, yes, one particularly silly comic relief moment.

“Angel’s knee is fine. Angel’s knee is fine. Her hands are fine. Her ankles are good. Her arms and shoulders are good. As you move up that ladder, things don’t become so good. That was the lamest attempt at a dunk I’ve ever seen in my life, and I embellish things a little bit, but I’m not embellishing things.

What Sylvia did was honorable. I’ve seen guys miss dunks, and Sylvia has been dunking her brains out in practice. What Sylvia did was an honorable attempt at trying to wake up the crowd.

What Angel did is bring comic relief to the crowd. So I guess they both have their place in the game.”

Favorite moment of the press conference: Whalen and Taurasi are leaving the press room as Auriemma is settling in. He says, “I don’t know what Lindsay and Sue said here…” and we hear Diana from down the hall, “AND STOP CALLING ME SUE!”

Hope there’s an ESPN3 replay to be seen, so I can hear if Cindy “she’s kinda scary” Brunson really called the women’s game “an appetizer” before the men’s game. Yes, it’s profoundly insulting, but honestly, didn’t you think the “appetizer” was a far better display of culinary expertise than the main course?

Looking forward to the Olympics: check out the broadcast schedule (and don’t forget that everything’s being streamed online by NBC).

There is some more basketball to play before London, though, and ESPN will have it: Tomorrow, July 18, v. Great Britain –  2:30 pm EDT (7:10 p.m. (BST)) on ESPN2 & ESPN3.

Right now the team is in Manchester, and there is no rest for the weary as the U.S. women took the court in preparation for the exhibition game.  Said Auriemma:

We played last night. We leave there at like one-thirty in the morning. We come right here. We got to get a little work out in, get their bodies moving a little bit, but time is getting away from us. We need time together. We need time on the floor. Nobody is feeling sorry for us, don’t get me wrong. I’ve been saying this for a while. I’ve been coaching this team for four years, and yesterday we didn’t have Sue, so that training camp in Seattle in May, the three days, was the only time I’ve had the team together in four years. So, we just need time. Even this little amount of time today, for like an hour or an hour and fifteen minutes is important to us. Tomorrow’s shoot-around, it’s not a shoot-around, it’s another practice. It’s another hour that we have together, that we have to get to know each other more. Every game, even the game against (Great Britain) is going to be 40 minutes of being together. It’s not even, hey did we win, did we lose? Of course we want to win, but we have to get some things done. We got to get to know each other a little bit. We just need time.

From Reuters (Mike, is that you?): U.S. Women’s Basketball Team Welcome Favorites Tag

“I’ve always thought that when people make you favorites, it’s for a reason,” he said. “It’s because they think you have the best team, and if you have the best team you shouldn’t worry about it, you just go out there and play.

“The bigger burden is when people say, ‘I don’t think you can win. I don’t think you’re good enough’. Then you have to go and surprise people. But I don’t want any surprises. I don’t like surprises.”

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