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HOT

Even in first gear, 1. Minnesota and 2. Los Angeles look inevitable. Shifting the WNBA Playoff format may have been one of the best decisions the league has made in the last 10 years.

Can the Lynx be the Warriors of the WNBA this season? Should they try?

Film Room: Assists Sparking LA’s Unbeaten Run

3. Yesterday’s game against Washington notwithstanding, Atlanta seems to have finally all its talent together. Can Angel continue to “trust” and can her teammates continue to show up…

Dream’s improved chemistry key to fast start

Sitting in the parking lot of Austell’s Riverside EPICenter, where his team practices, Dream coach Michael Cooper said there are two reasons why the WNBA squad is 5-1 and atop the Eastern Conference after finishing fifth and missing the playoffs last year.

The first is an upgrade at center and at point guard.

The second reason given by Cooper was chemistry. Leading scorer Angel McCoughtry referred to it as positivity after Sunday’s win over Chicago.

Atlanta Dreaming: Meet the Upstart Leaders of the Eastern Conference

HOT and COLD

4. New York: Interesting comment from last night’s Seattle/NY broadcast – when leading by 7 last year, the Lib did. not. lose. That’s been an issue this year – the Storm’s comeback attempt is a case in point. Charles is on fire, and Sugar is smokin’, but the rest of the team is a question mark – do the show up (hello, Indiana game) or not? Much of the Lib’s future will depend on Prince’s ability to return (post Olympics?) to create a more consistent inside/outside balance.

5. Indiana: The team that defeated Atlanta on opening day was not the team that showed up at the Garden on Friday. Dunno how much Maggie Lucas’s injury will impact the team as a whole (or knowing they’ll be working for a new coach next year), but, the good news is…

Rookie Report: Tiffany Mitchell Shining For The Indiana Fever and Fever’s January still working back from knee injury

6. Chicago: Now that Sloot is back, perhaps we’ll see their real potential

The Sky’s not the limit: DePaul alum Allie Quigley an integral part of the Chicago Sky

Fastbreak: WNBA Weekly Rundown: Streaking Sky and struggling Sun

After a rough start to their season, the Chicago Sky are getting back on track. Last season, they compensated for a lackluster defense by outrunning and outgunning the competition, playing plenty of three-guard lineups with Elena Delle Donne at the 4.

This year, things are a little different. With their center position log-jammed, coach Pokey Chatman has had to figure out minutes distributions for her post players, which has led to larger lineups and a lack of continuity at the 5.

Despite this, the Sky have retained their success on offense, and after starting 1-4, they’ve won their last three games to vault them back into playoff contention. 

And: Wrigley’s World: Sky star Elena Delle Donne’s four-legged fan

7. Dallas: Young and Gun. This early in their Texas career it’s important to win on their home court. Or, if they’re going to lose, lose with high scoring enthusiasm. Eventually, though, the word “defense” will have to enter their play.. ditto health.

8. Seattle: Not sure what to make of them, but the Stewie/Loyd pairing is sure sweet (sometimes). How quickly can Boucek mold old and new?

Alysha Clark enjoying fast start to WNBA season

Q and A: Breanna Stewart On Transition to Storm And Going Back To Connecticut

On Friday, Breanna Stewart returns to Connecticut for the first time since leaving UConn just a few months ago. Ahead of the Storm’s meeting with the Sun (7 PM ET, WNBA League Pass), Breanna Stewart talked to reporters about adjusting to the WNBA, her partnership with Jewell Loyd, and what it will be like to return to Connecticut.

9. Washington: Bill’s early advice was to “get healthy.” They’re getting there (as their win over Atlanta showed). Will it hold?

HOT MESS

10. San Antonio: I love Dan Hughes, but what on earth has he wrought? GM Ruth will have some reorganizing to do. Are Peters and Jefferson strong enough building blocks?

11. Phoenix – They look at sixes and sevens, with not-good rumors floating… NOT what the fans (or the GMs) expected, no?

.com: Petrovich Molds All-World Talent into Reserve Role for Mercury

Scottsdale Health; Diana Taurasi: Back, and Better Than Ever

12. Connecticut: Would love to talk to coach about his learning curve.

The message on Friday from Connecticut Sun coach Curt Miller was pretty simple.

If his players don’t want to put out the effort that he wants in the game plan that he has devised, than they just aren’t going to play for him.

“Everyone in this league wants to play and you have to reward people when they are playing hard and when they are playing efficiently,” Miller said following the loss to Atlanta on Friday at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

To the fans, please be patient. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

In other news:

SlamOnline: Go Ahead and Respect It How going to a WNBA game changed one man’s outlook on the women’s game.

I’ll be honest with you: I wasn’t a fan of the WNBA growing up.

I didn’t pay much attention to their games, even though I knew a few of their stars (Lisa Lesile, Sue Bird and Becky Hammon). Heck, I didn’t even watch those dominant, title-winning women teams at UConn. All because I thought watching women’s basketball, wasn’t a “cool” thing to do.

Who, as a male sports fan, watches that stuff? (Insert sarcasm and misogyny.)

Unfortunately, our counterparts receive a bad reputation for their game. You’ll hear offensive comments regarding their skills, looks and even sexuality. Despite having backing from the NBA and an aggressive public relations plan, the WNBA can often struggle to catch America’s attention.

But something changed for me last Tuesday, as I covered the New York Liberty vs Atlanta Dream game at Madison Square Garden.

LaChina: ‘Around the Rim’ podcast: All about chemistry

On this week’s “Around The Rim,” women’s basketball analyst LaChina Robinson and this week’s special guest host former WNBA All-Star Chasity Melvin delve into the discussion of team chemistry.

The two highlight how the Mercury are finally showing signs of gelling together, how the Lynx haven’t missed a beat this season, which rookies are shining in the first weeks and give their take on the first-ever WNBA AP rankings. Plus, they share their picks for the NBA Finals.

Think the WNBA is in Trouble? Let’s Talk Some NBA History

Magazine cover gives WNBA some overdue respect

Early on, no player more important to WNBA than Cynthia Cooper-Dyke

For those interested in expansion: Women’s hoops league to put team in Nashville

NCAA

Excelle Sports feature on ESPN’s Holly Rowe details workload covering women’s basketball

As Breanna Stewart walks to center court for the tip-off at the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Women’s basketball tournament in Bridgeport, Connecticut, a murmured buzz runs through the crowd that’s seated courtside. But it’s not for Stewart, the most recognizable name in the women’s college game, or even for UConn, the mecca of women’s college basketball.

“It’s Holly Rowe,” someone says over my shoulder, pointing toward the court. Sure enough, Rowe glides past in a navy blue dress and heels, smiling to the fans who shout her name and stopping to shake hands or hug those who extend a greeting.

Throughout the game, Rowe, a longtime ESPN sideline reporter, hustles from one bench to the next and works her way up and down the sideline, stopping only briefly to review notes or chat with the occasional fellow member of press row before dashing off to cover the next on-air moment.

Flashback to the Old Big East days: Bulger sisters sparked WVU women’s hoops success

Re: Duke Transfer: UConn Fans Are Going To Like Azura Stevens, Says ESPN’s Debbie Antonelli

As Azura Stevens was emerging as a college prospect at Cary High in North Carolina, analyst Debbie Antonelli took special interest.

Stevens, after all, was playing for Antonelli’s alma mater. Before playing for Kay Yow at North Carolina State, Antonelli — then Debbie Mulligan — played basketball at Cary High.

So Antonelli has a history with Stevens, who recently transferred from Duke to UConn. And as an analyst for many ACC games, Antonelli has watched Stevens develop during her first two years of college.

Her scouting report for UConn fans?

Speaking of transfers: McDonald’s All American Lindsey Corsaro commits to UCLA after getting release from Kentucky

Kentucky transfer Jennings joins USC women’s basketball team

Scott Rueck’s ‘vision of what elite is is even more clear’ after Final Four run

In this wide-ranging conversation with The Oregonian/OregonLive, Rueck reflects on the memorable season and looks ahead to what’s next for the Beavers. 

It’s officially June. Have you finally had a chance to really step back and reflect on everything that happened this past season?

From time to time, because it comes up so much with people. There’s obviously been a lot of conversation about it. I don’t know if you step back and look at the whole picture, really. I don’t know when that will happen, necessarily. But just the specific moments that come up have been fun to go back and look at. I’ve watched our highlight video a few times. That was really well-done and that brings back vivid memories. There’s a lot of reliving the Baylor game with all of us. That’s the one that tends to come up the most. It was an amazing thing to be a part of.

Women’s Basketball: Ohio set to dominate the MAC again

Dumping high expectations on a team certainly doesn’t make playing any less stressful.

That was the reality Ohio struggled with all last season, a year removed from an NCAA Tournament appearance, with a returning roster that could produce the best result in program history.

Yes, there was pressure. At times, that led to visible stress.

Embrace the Challenge: Courtney Banghart and the Tasks Ahead for Women’s Basketball

On the right wall in Courtney Banghart’s office is a framed article: Fortune Magazine’s 50 Greatest Leaders from 2015. There, her name and accomplishments are listed alongside people such as Apple CEO Tim Cook, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and Uber CEO Travis Kalanick. Banghart’s lead of the Princeton women’s basketball team to a 30-0 regular season, and the first NCAA win in the program’s history, earned her a continuous spotlight all season long.

As a leader in the national spotlight, her abilities to guide her team are tested night in and night out. But this upcoming season could be one of the most unpredictable for her in many seasons. She is forced to handle not just a drastically changing roster but also a league continuously growing and evolving.

Hello! UCF WBB adds 8-time WNBA All-Star Nykesha Sales to coaching staff

Bye: OSU women’s basketball: Close leaves program

Bye: Three women’s basketball coaches depart Marist

Stay put: Purdue’s Versyp Granted 6-Year Contract Extension

Bye: Purdue’s Komara to join White’s staff at Vanderbilt

Shoo: Alabama women’s basketball program moving games out of Foster Auditorium

After four years playing in a refurbished Foster Auditorium, Alabama women’s basketball is moving back a few blocks to Coleman Coliseum.

The school announced the move Tuesday morning as coach Kristi Curry expressed her desire to create an electric game-day atmosphere. Foster Auditorium holds 3,800 while Coleman Coliseum seats more than 15,000.

Kings’ coach recalls friendship with Muhammad Ali

The second person Nancy Lieberman called after she got the assistant coaching job with the Sacramento Kings was Muhammad Ali.

She shared her first memory of seeing ‘The Greatest’ at the age of 10.

“Late 60’s early 70’s, you know, people were telling me, you know, I’m stupid, I’m dumb, I’m never going to make anything of myself, girls don’t play sports and I saw this man on T.V. you know, defying the odds and saying he was the greatest of all time,” said Lieberman.

It wasn’t until she was 19 or 20 years old when she met him.

INTERNATIONAL:

Opals in women’s basketball loss to Spain

The Australian women’s basketball team have received a taste of what to expect at the Rio Olympics in a 58-55 loss to Spain before Spanish fans.

After smashing Argentina by 42 points in the first game of their European tour a day earlier, the world No.2 Opals had a much tougher task against world No.3 Spain in San Fernando on Tuesday morning (AEST).

Team Canada’s Tatham promoting women’s basketball to next generation

US Coach Promotes Wheelchair Basketball in Gaza

A top U.S. coach is in the Gaza Strip to help set up the territory’s first female wheelchair basketball team.

“I think for Gaza this is a very unique thing,” said the trainer, Jess Markt. “I think there are not so many opportunities for women to play sports here, and particularly for disabled women.”

Markt, 40, was a track athlete until 21 years ago when he suffered a severed spinal cord in a car accident. Three years later, he began playing basketball and in recent years he has coached wheelchair teams in Afghanistan, India and Cambodia.

POLITICS

Women’s Sports Foundation Report:
Coaches of Women’s College Sports Face Widespread Gender Bias; Many Fear Speaking Out

80% of female coaches believe it is easier for male coaches to secure high-level jobs  

Today the Women’s Sports Foundation released, “Beyond X’s & O’s: Gender Bias and Coaches of Women’s College sports,” the first study to measure the issue of gender bias in coaching of women’s college sports on a systemic basis.

The findings confirm that there is a systemic gender bias directed at female coaches of women’s sports; it is not sporadic or limited to a few institutions. As a result, women face limitations in pay and professional advancement in the coaching workplace. And it’s a trend showing no signs of improvement. 

(Yes, this is politics) Naomi Jackson at espnW: On loving broken women and Brittney Griner

Everything in my life has prepared me to love damaged women, women who drag their broken wings behind them “like a decoy,” as poet R. Erica Doyle writes in her collection, “Proxy.”

“You hold back enough to keep them curious. Women like that. Wounded enough to be salvageable. Women like that, too. Fixing broken things. Take in the broken wing you drag like a decoy.”

It begins, as everything does, with my mother. Schizophrenic and eventually unable to care for her children, my mother vacillated wildly between affection, praise, bouts of intense creativity and joy and seemingly infinite rounds of melancholy, listlessness and abuse. Living with a mother whose mental illness made her behavior erratic and her presence unreliable made me an expert at reading other women, at shaping my needs, desires, and self to fit their moods.

As I move into grown womanhood, I’m shedding this tendency toward accommodation and emotional acrobatics that put other people’s (lovers, friends, colleagues) needs before my own. I get it wrong sometimes, as humans do, but we make the road by walking.

Jane McManus: It’s time to lift the ‘veil of ignorance’ when it comes to campus assault

Baylor’s former president and chancellor Ken Starr sat with ESPN’s Joe Schad for a televised interview after a Pepper Hamilton report alleged systematic disenfranchisement of students who reported being sexually assaulted by other students, including some players on the football team.

Starr called for transparency and simultaneously hid behind his “veil of ignorance,” a garment that can be found next to the cloaks of deniability in Aisle 5. It’s a gutsy move, calling for others to be forthright when you can’t lead by example.

Starr was evasive throughout the interview, even on a question about how Baylor handled the assault claims.

SO….. what do you think the folks who gave the video below a thumbs down were thinking?

Maybe they like this Onion report: College Basketball Star Heroically Overcomes Tragic Rape He Committed

 

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“Weeeee are the Champions.” (What, too soon?) Lynx’s ‘fast start’ overwhelm Sky in Delle Donne’s returnFowles scores 24 against former team; Lynx beat Sky 97-80In First Game Against Former Team, Sylvia Fowles Joins Elite Company

Elena Delle Donne may be the face of the Sky. But when it comes to the franchise’s voice, that is all Cappie Pondexter.Chicago Sun-Times: Pondexter lends voice, veteran leadership to Sky

 The 10-year veteran has no trouble being the Sky’s resident vocal leader, but after a disappointing loss in last season’s WNBA Eastern Conference semifinals, Pondexter is done mincing words.

Make no mistake. This is Tamika Catchings’ team.

It is also Marissa Coleman’s team, and Shenise Johnson’s team, and Erlana Larkins’ team … and who knew it could be Erica Wheeler’s team while she fills in for point guard Briann January?

“It could be anybody’s night on any given night,” Coleman said.

That was never more true of the Indiana Fever than on Wednesday night.

Three of the first four possessions for the Washington Mystics in their game against the Dallas Wings on Wednesday night resulted in turnovers. The other produced a missed layup. Coach Mike Thibault was, to say the least, displeased.

The frustration didn’t end with just his players though. The officiating also provoked Thibault’s ire to the point he walked past halfcourt at Verizon Center midway through the first quarter and shouted to referee Sue Blauch: “Give me a technical now.”

 Phew! Sun get first win of season, 72-68 at Stars and Bone spurs Sun past San Antonio.
It’s gonna be tough in San Antonio this year….

While the world rightfully continues to go bonkers over “Hamilton,” I’ve recently found myself pleasantly lost in the past with another Broadway smash hit. The nearly 40-year-old — can it be? — “Annie.”

This was prompted by my nephew playing Oliver Warbucks in his high school’s production. It reminded me of how great a musical this is, even when performed by theater novices (including, in this case, a Harlequin Great Dane named Waffle in the role of Sandy.)

Now, just hang with me; we’re getting to the WNBA, with its 20th season just launched.

 

If Candace Parker was looking to make a point, she made it all right. Thirty-four times, in fact.

The question isn’t whether Parker was trying to make a statement Sunday with her 34-point effort in Los Angeles’ 96-66 win over Seattle at Staples Center. The question is, which statement was it?

Was it a message to USA Basketball that despite not being selected to the 2016 U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Team that she is still on a short list of best players in the world?

Was it a reminder to the WNBA that the two-time MVP is as dangerous as ever and prepared to dish it out over an entire season after taking half of last season off?

WNBA STAR TINA CHARLES ON HOW STRONG, SUPPORTIVE WOMEN HELPED HER SUCCEED

Why are you excited to participate in She’s On Point?

For me, a lot of it was about giving back to Karen Pedrosa [who was the park manager at the time]. She was always keeping Roberto Clemente open late so we were able to scrimmage against the guys. She would travel with us to the AAU [Amateur Athletic Union] games. She’s just an awesome individual. She’s the Deputy Chief of Bronx Recreation now, and it’s a testament to the impact she’s had on the community.

UConn women’s basketball legend Bird wants to end career on her terms

When she re-signed with Seattle in the offseason, Bird made certain she had a multi-year deal. She didn’t want her contract status to determine when the final year of her career arrives.

“Truthfully, the way I view it is a one-year plan. Everybody has their own (way). Tamika Catchings is an example of somebody who announced her retirement early. Then Ray Allen is somebody I communicate with and he is somebody that never announced it. Just stopped. But that was what was right for him,” Bird said.

“I think every player when it comes to their retirement only knows how they are going to feel and how they want to do it. And right now what is working for me in my own little mind is a one-year plan.

LaChina and Carolyn Podcast: We’re Back…For The WNBA

From Charles Hallman: A ‘simple’ job: Marketing the WNBA 

Last Saturday night, after she handed the Minnesota Lynx players and coaches their 2015 championship rings, Borders worked the “room” where nearly 10,000 people were in attendance for the team’s season opener. Madame President earlier told the MSR, “I am the number-one salesperson for the WNBA. That is absolutely true.”

She heads a league that is celebrating 20 years, but to too many eyes — media, Joe Rockhead males and others — it has been 19 years too long. “We are 20 years old, which is remarkable by any standard,” continued Borders. “But we are just getting started. We’re young and nimble.”

The president and this reporter briefly touched upon several topics:

USA Today’s Nina Mandell: Retired WNBA star Katie Smith wants to leave lasting legacy on women’s game as a coach

Long before Katie Smith, a 17-year veteran of the WNBA, knew she was going to become a coach there was no shortage of coaches who told her she would join their ranks one day.

“I’ll say it right in front of her,” Mystics coach Mike Thibault said, walking by Smith as his team prepared to play the New York Liberty, where Smith was promoted to associate head coach this season. “I told her she was going to be a coach and she said no. Years ago when I coached USA Basketball, I said, ‘You know you’re going to end up being a coach.’”

Smith replied that she was going to go to dental school or do something else, but Thibault wouldn’t listen. 

NCAA

NCAA.com Rules group pleased with state of the game

[Use of technology and other] areas the Women’s Basketball Rules Committee will continue to study and discuss include:

  • Widening of the lane from 12 feet to 16 feet.
  • Moving the restricted-area arc to 4 feet from 3 feet.
  • Moving the 3-point line from 20 feet, 9 inches to the international distance of 22-1.
  • Deterring players from faking fouls. A warning would be issued on the first offense, followed by a technical foul on subsequent offenses.
  • In free throw situations, teams would be allowed to substitute only before or after the foul shots are taken. There would be no substitutions allowed in between the two or three free throws.

You stay put: Scott Rueck signed a two-year contract extension

WATN? Langston University hires Elaine Powell to replace Cheryl Miller as head coach

LADY VOLS ADD JUCO STAR – London Native Cheridene Green Becomes Lady Vols’ First International Signee . This calls for a flashback: Junior Colleges: Where Opportunities Knock – November 2007

Last season Shannon Bobbitt (Trinity Valley Community College) and Alberta Auguste (Central Florida Community College) became the University of Tennessee’s first junior college signees since – well most couldn’t remember when last it happened. (1977, by the way.) How’d it work out? Just ask Middle Tennessee State coach Rick Insell.

“First time ever Pat took two [Junior College] kids and what happens? She wins a National Championship. Did those kids play a major part in them winning that? Absolutely. Would she have won it without them? Who knows?”

“But she won it with them.”

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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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(And no, I’m not talking about me watching a record number of games yesterday…)

Catch and the Fever (not related to KC and the Sunshine Band… or Peter and the Starcatcher) arrived in Phoenix and gave the Merc a good rap on the head. In the process, Tamika moved into 2nd place on the all-time rebounding list and Phoenix went 0-13 on threes.

Yah, you didn’t picture that coming: Mystics topple WNBA-best Lynx behind Latta’s offense, Ruffin-Pratt’s defense

Washington Mystics Coach Mike Thibault had challenged his club’s moxie entering Sunday’s showdown with an opponent widely considered the favorite to win a third WNBA title in five years.

Later in the week, players talked about how a victory over the Minnesota Lynx could alert the rest of the league that perhaps the Mystics belong in the championship conversation as well.

And: How the Mystics beat the WNBA’s best team: Latta and Lawson

Both the Minnesota Lynx and Washington Mystics came into Sunday afternoon’s game with a lot on the line. With the best record in the WNBA, the Lynx would look for a win to help them secure home court advantage throughout the playoffs, and Washington would look for a critical win to help them stand out in a packed Eastern Conference. Ultimately, Washington would come out on top. 77-69

And: Stefanie Dolson finds her comfort level, and Mystics benefit

Washington center Stefanie Dolson came to training camp in May looking a little nervous. It wasn’t that she hadn’t prepared well for her second season in the WNBA, because she definitely had. It wasn’t that she didn’t have confidence in herself, because that’s steadily been building since her days at UConn.

Dolson simply wanted to show she was ready to be an integral part of the Mystics, but she was almost getting in her own way in her early practices.

The Sparks took down Chicago behind Parker’s monster game… making me think that Minnesota is saying, “Lose, Tulsa, LOSE (so L.A. gets the 3rd or 2nd seed.)

BTW: Girls Rule, Boys Drool, Elena Delle Donne and Michelle Beadle style.

In Seattle, the Storm hosted Russell Wilson

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson took a break from training camp on Sunday to attend the Seattle Storm’s 72-63 victory over the San Antonio Silver Stars.

Wilson attended the game with his girlfriend, singer Ciara, his mother and his sister, Anna, who is a point guard entering her senior season in high school. She has committed to play at Stanford.

Russell has said in the past that Anna can beat him one-one-one. He also has called her the best athlete in the family.

Oh, and they beat San Antonio, too.

There are two ways Jewell Loyd communicates — playing basketball and barking.

On Sunday, the No. 1 overall draft pick did a lot of postgame wolfing after leading Seattle to a 72-63 win against the San Antonio Stars at KeyArena. Loyd had a team-high 18 points with six rebounds, four assists and no turnovers.

“We’re trying to find the inner dog within us,” said Loyd of herself, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Markeisha Gatling forming the “Dog Pack.” Loyd began the season asking to not start and has since grown to be named July’s rookie of the month.

Filling out the field: Australia, Canada women’s basketball teams qualify for Rio Olympics

Also: Australia’s Opals off to Rio Olympics after win over New Zealand Tall Ferns

OPALS coach Brendan Joyce expected New Zealand to “grow an arm and a leg” and it did, pushing Australia to the brink in an 80-63 Oceania classic in Tauranga.

Don’t let the blow-out nature of the final score fool you – the Tall Blacks gave Australia as much as it could handle and arguably its toughest game of the past three years, the world championship clash against the US exempted.

But in the end, Joyce’s veterans Laura Hodges and Suzy Batkovic, plus budding playmaker Tessa Lavey ensured the Opals would be heading for another Olympic campaign and medal chase in Rio.

Also: Canadian women’s basketball team wins Olympic spot – Kia Nurse leads host nation with 20 points in final match

Couple of things about the game:

Hey, that’s my sis! Darnell Nurse inspired by sister Kia’s performance in basketball this summer

Darnell Nurse doesn’t know how he can keep up with his younger sister Kia.

Kia helped Canada win the FIBA Americas women’s championship on Sunday night, clinching an Olympic berth at the 2016 Rio Games. She was also instrumental in Canada’s gold-medal performance at the Pan American Games in Toronto earlier this summer.

“I’m not sure what I can do,” said Darnell, a defenceman in the Edmonton Oilers’ organization. “Maybe I’ll have to get out of my comfort zone and challenge her to a one-on-one game on the street before I leave for Edmonton. We’ll see, I’ve got a lot of practising to do.”

Asked if he’d played Kia at basketball recently, Darnell said that discretion had been the better part of valour.

More on the Canadians – and women’s basketball history: Grads’ influence on women’s basketball a dream for Canadian crew – National team did a decent imitation this week at Saville Centre

This isn’t the first time that Edmonton has seen this kind of dominance in the women’s game, but there are very few people still alive who saw it the first time.

With each day they spend in Edmonton, whether training out of the Saville Community Sports Centre or chasing a spot in next year’s Olympic Games, Canada’s women’s basketball team is breathing life into the 100-year-old legacy of the Edmonton Grads — even if that legacy is somewhat under the radar.

Speaking of Canada: Basketball leader recognized

To see Keith Brown coaching at a basketball tournament one would see a quiet reserved gentleman, not your typical coach. However, the passion he has for the sport of basketball is evident.

It’s this passion and dedication to girls’ basketball, and its growth in Grand Falls-Windsor (GFW), that has earned him the award of “Minor Coach of the Year” from the Newfoundland Labrador Basketball Association (NLBA).

During the last basketball season, Keith coached three junior high basketball teams!

Girls’ basketball has grown over the years.  Brown’s passion, knowledge and love of the game has been beneficial to the basketball program in GFW.

Three years ago, it was the East and West Coast teams that were dominating basketball. This past season, Brown brought the sport of basketball to a whole new level with several gold and silver medal wins between his three teams.

Speaking of history (MA): Pioneering Spirit Part I: First a Tiger, then a Friar, Ipswich’s Benirowski Canty ruled the court

The girls athletic programs at Ipswich also blossomed during that period, especially basketball under coach Kiki Papagiotis. She carved out a Hall of Fame career at the school by producing a 209-37 record, including a state championship in 1979-80.

Papagiotis did it with some extraordinary players, of course. Kathy Paganis, who was a field hockey All-American, was one of the keys for the dominant basketball team along with Ellen Galanis, who was the first Ipswich girl to net a college scholarship, ending up at Division 2 Bentley in Waltham. Both Paganis and Galanis graduated in 1977.

Then along came future Ipswich Hall of Famer Jayne Benirowski, who became Jayne Benirowski Canty after she was married. She was the baby of that group, if you will, a sophomore when Paganis and Galanis were seniors.

In NCAA news: In light of the “new violations” self-reported by UNC, Doc Kennedy of the Tar Heel blog is trying to Sort Through The Silly and the Specious of the Weekend

I readily admit I was among those who had consigned Hatchell to the dustbin, given the weight of the NCAA mess coupled with the mass defections from her program by the outstanding recruiting class of 2013. But other than rampant speculation and the lack of an extension of a contract on which three years still remain, is there any evidence that Hatchell is being scapegoated or sacrificed to save Williams or the men’s team?

An editorial in the News & Observer offers their answer: A double standard at UNC-CH over contracts for Williams and Hatchell

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is already facing enough allegations in its academic and athletic fraud scandal to make it one of the broadest sets of charges against an athletic program in NCAA history. Somehow, however, the university’s leadership has found a way to add an entirely new allegation to the mess – sexism.

Encouraging: NYC Vows 500 More High School Teams for Girls

Last spring, administrators at Beacon High School in Manhattan handed out a survey to students.

Rising sophomore Anjali Rao says no explanation or context was given for the questionnaire, which probed her school’s sports offerings and her sports preferences.

The survey didn’t seem like a big deal to Rao. “Beacon is known for its sports,” said the 15 year old in a recent interview at Women’s eNews’ office here. “Girls play the same sports as boys.”

But the information gained from it–due out this fall from the New York Department of Education–may help the country’s largest school system provide girls with more team sports opportunities at its more than 400 high schools.

In February, the U.S. Department of Education determined that many female students in the system did not enjoy equal athletic “opportunities,” a violation of Title IX, the federal law mandating that all schools with public funding provide equitable educational opportunities and benefits; sports included. (A participation opportunity is defined as a roster spot for one athlete on one team in one sport.)

Two shout outs:

  1. To friend, friend of the blog, friend of women’s basketball Phil, who is putting together an amazing “Coaches reaching milestone wins.” HUGE amount of work, but essential so folks across the Divisions and high school get the recognition they deserve
  2. To the folks who have signed up to join me at the Maggie Dixon Classic in the Garden on Monday, December 28th. We’re up to 100. If you want to come with, drop me a line: womenshoopsblog @ gmail.com

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Glory drops two bombs. 1) “My version of the altercation.” 2) I’m pregnant.

I’m not looking forward to what’s next.

Nothing soap opera-y about this bomb: NCAA charges North Carolina with five Level I violations in Notice of Allegations

“From 2007-2010, Boxill provided the women’s basketball team with a myriad of impermissible academic assistance, ranging from adding a conclusion or quotation into an athlete’s paper to turning the paper in for the player and requesting a specific grade.”

Who, us?

This will help clean the bad taste out of your mouth: Tina Charles:

For the 2015-2016 WNBA season, I am donating half my salary to Hopey’s Heart Foundation. Join me in doubling my impact in AED placement by pledging any dollar amount per rebound I receive in any game of your choice for the 2015-2016 WNBA regular season! The season begins June 5th 2015! Help me take action for sudden cardiac arrest with placement of AEDs through HHF AED grant program. To pledge – Link in bio! #LettheBeatgoOn #DontLikePLEDGE! ((Hopey’s Heart Foundation is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization. Contributions are deductible to the extent permitted by law.))

From the W:

WNBA team season preview capsules

Dishin & Swishin 6/04/15 Podcast: The roundtable looks at the 2015 WNBA season

Chicago hopes to build on last year’s WNBA Finals appearance

A trip to the WNBA Finals last season has left Elena Delle Donne and the Chicago Sky hungry for more.

The Sky had never won a playoff series before last year when they advanced to the finals. The Sky managed to get into the postseason as the four seed with a 15-19 record. Chicago got healthy at the right time to make their run.

From Mechelle: Sky need big year from Delle Donne

No one could really blame you if you turned off what became Elena Delle Donne’s signature WNBA game in August before it was over.

Because, hey, it seemed over early in the fourth quarter. Delle Donne’s Chicago team, which got into the 2014 playoffs as the No. 4 seed with a 15-19 record, was on its way to being dismissed by top-seeded Atlanta in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Arizona: Mistie Bass back from surgery, looks for increased role with Mercury

Indiana: Tamika Catchings managing fourth quarter of her career

5 Reasons to Watch in 2015: Minnesota Lynx

The Minnesota Lynx missed out on the WNBA Finals for the first time in three seasons last year, falling to the Phoenix Mercury in three games in the Western Conference Finals. Much of that roster returns in 2015 as the Lynx look to reclaim their spot atop the Western Conference.

Head coach Cheryl Reeve has only endured one losing season in Minnesota since taking over in 2010. Since then, the Lynx have won two WNBA titles (2011, 2013). This year, they’re in good position to do it again.

Maya Moore still chasing perfection

If you’re a betting person: Lynx the preseason favorite in the West

The Western Conference has been the power center of the WNBA for the past five years. The place where the superstars compete for and win championships.

But it is also now the place where some of the league’s best young talents are poised to make their breakouts: Nneka Ogwumike in Los Angeles, Kayla McBride in San Antonio, Skylar Diggins and Odyssey Sims in Tulsa and, of course, the Seattle rookie combination of Jewell Loyd and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis.

If you’re a daring betting person: Atlanta a slight favorite in the East

Asked what he expected of the Eastern Conference this season, Washington’s Mike Thibault spoke from his 12 years’ experience as a head coach in the East.

“It’s wide-open,” said Thibault, entering his third season with the Mystics after 10 with Connecticut. “Some of it depends on injuries. Some depends on teams who’ll be without players for various reasons. So it’s kind of, who can survive those games while key players are gone? I think it will go right down to the wire.”

Lisa changes her tune: Isiah Thomas should not be in charge of women’s team

On SI Now, 2015 Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Lisa Leslie discusses why she believes Isiah Thomas’ hiring was out of the WNBA’s hands and how the fans could put pressure on the New York Liberty to fire him.

More good news: USA Men and Women Finish First Day Undefeated At FIBA 3×3 U18 World Championship

About those moving vans:

Former WSU women’s basketball players transfer to UNO

With key additions, USC women’s basketball hopes to remain a title contender

EWU women’s basketball losing seven players

SDSU Womens Basketball Signs St. John’s Transfer

WATN? Gardner-Webb University names former Tar Heel DeGraffenreid women’s basketball assistant

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So much for “home court advantage,” huh.

Angel started slowly, Erika never got started, and there was a whole lotta Latta. Suddenly, BOOM!, the Mystics are a win away from playing for the Eastern Conference Championship. Yup, Washington Mystics’ Mike Thibault finds coaching home in WNBA

The league, this team — he’s never envisioned it as a last-ditch stop on the circuit.

“I want to be here,” said Thibault, who became the WNBA’s leader in career coaching wins this past July. “I get up every day and I enjoy coaching here.”

Candace Parker enjoyed the MVP trophy for the first half, but when Nneka went to the bench with foul trouble, it was Taurasi-time. Understandably, Melissa sounds a little peeved – Sparks don’t win any awards in Game 1 loss to Mercury

At least Thursday began as a good day for Sparks forward Candace Parker.

The WNBA announced that she won the most-valuable-player award in the early evening. It was downhill from there, as the Sparks lost, 86-75, to the Phoenix Mercury in Game 1 of the first round of the playoffs at Staples Center later that night.

So much for a celebration.

“We let it slip away,” Parker said after scoring a team-high 28 points and grabbing eight rebounds.

Sue and a fellow WNBA addict, have some long Contemplations on the Sparks’ first-round loss to Phoenix

If Griner can figure out how to play without fouling, things could get interesting as the game moves to the Land of the Bun. ’cause hell already froze over: Look who’s liking the W!

We saw the best women’s player of all time, Diana Taurasi, who is absolutely brilliant and killed the Sparks in the second half as I repeatedly told my daughter (who loves basketball) to watch her command of the court, watch how hard she tried on every play and watch all the subtle things she was doing.

Continuing the day’s theme, Rookie of the Year Delle Donne did all she could, but Defensive Player of the Year Fowles, (Brin January? Really, ESPN Highlight guy?) along with the rest of her team, forgot to bring it. Indiana schooled playoff rooks and now look who’s eyeing the next round? (Nate’s not surprised)

Fowles was asked how it felt to be in the playoffs after five seasons of futility.

Her answer was a prolonged shriek of joy.

“Those five years we struggled are a blur now,” Fowles said.

A Sky season that included first place in the Eastern Conference could look the same way in the future if the team cannot beat fourth-place Indiana, the worst shooting team in the WNBA at 39 percent.

And the Sky are in grave danger of having that happen losing the opener of the best-of-three series 85-72 at Allstate Arena. against a Fever team for which 82 points had been the regular-season high.

I will be really sad for the Sky fans and franchise if Chicago can’t bring a third game home.

It was close through the first quarter, then there were back-to-back steals capped by free throws, and the Lynx were off and running. And then Seattle said, “Not so fast.” And then the Lynx said, “Yes, that fast” and, as Tim’s headline reads, the Minnesota Lynx avert the WNBA’s upset-special trend

“It was a trend that we were focused on bucking,” Reeve said. “I told the team, ‘Big dummies, the home teams.’ It was great fuel for us. It won’t be easy. If you think it is going to be easy, we are going to get beat.

“We had three examples of games that if you don’t come to play (you will get beat). Seattle, quite frankly, played harder than us (at times in the early going). Seattle played with a tremendous sense of urgency.”

And yes, Tom, perhaps the Dominant Lynx make it hard not to look ahead, but you know what they say about eggs and counting…

Adi Nelson at USA Today give the Warrior Princes her due: WNBA’s first ever pick Tina Thompson finishes with style

“I’m not retiring because I can’t play basketball; I’m retiring because I don’t want to play basketball,” Thompson said. “I’m just tired. My approach (was to play) until I stop having the same feelings and passions.”

Ah, memories – Rebkell puts together a great Tina tribute.

Speaking of memories:

In case you hadn’t noticed, the WNBA CBA set to expire on Sept. 30 before playoffs end. Wheeeee!

And lucky us, Mechelle had some extra time: Thinking of Billie Jean and the (ongoing) battle

A headline on The Kansas City Times front page the morning after King’s victory trumpeted: “Male chauvinism stamped out in three sets.”

However, inside the paper, a story on a Carnegie Commission of Higher Education report said more women graduated from high school than men, received better grades in college and applied themselves as diligently to their work – yet did not achieve anything near parity with men in rank and salary. The commission concluded that women were “the largest unused supply of superior intelligence in the United States.”

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*lifts head up from the start of the new school year*

Tonight on the Deuce, we get Washington v. Atlanta (congrats, Coach T!), followed by Phoenix v. L.A.

Discuss:

Mechelle: Mystics ride momentum into playoffs – Washington seeks first playoff win since 2002

It was three years ago — although it might seem like a lifetime to Mystics fans — that Washington and Atlanta met in the first round of the WNBA playoffs.

The Mystics had finished first in the Eastern Conference for the first time in 2010, while the Dream were fourth. But Atlanta swept Washington 2-0, Mystics coach Julie Plank and general manager Angela Taylor both departed (with some acrimony) after the season, and Washington won a combined 11 games over the next two seasons under coach/GM Trudi Lacey.

OK, just try to put that all out of your minds, Mystics fans. This season was a fresh start under veteran coach Mike Thibault.

The WaPo brings back Gene: Washington Mystics hope to continue recent strong play in WNBA playoffs

After directing a cultural shift within the organization during the regular season, first-yearWashington Mystics Coach Mike Thibault’s rebuilding project moves into Phase 2 on Thursday night when his club faces the Atlanta Dream in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

The Mystics (17-17) are the No. 3 seed following a season in which they more than tripled their win total from last year. They are making their first playoff appearance since 2010.

From WNBAlien: 2013 WNBA Playoff Previews: Eastern Conference First Round – Atlanta Dream vs. Washington Mystics

These teams finished tied with .500 records in the Eastern Conference, but arrived there by very different routes. Washington were a ‘win two here, lose three there’ kind of team all season long. They’d fight out a few results, then lose their way for a while, then remember what they needed to do to win games again. Just to make it this far has to be considered a success for Mike Thibault and his squad, considering the disastrous couple of years under Trudi Lacey that preceded this season. Meanwhile, Atlanta started the year 10-1, and then dropped into something resembling freefall. For those of you who can do basic math, you’ll be able to calculate that they went 7-16 over the remainder of the season. Injuries hit them hard, and it was a struggle to overcome them enough to regain real form in the second half of the year – plus not everyone is back. Both these teams are somehow predictably unpredictable, which makes foretelling how their series is going to play out rather tricky.

From Bob Corwin at Full Court: ATL vs. WAS playoff preview: Can the Dream put the pieces back together in postseason?

On paper, this series should be easy to call. Look at the Dream roster: It has more world class players and thus should be expected to win. However, the games are not played on paper and the subplots in this series could make it much more competitive and interesting than a casual fan might anticipate.

In spite of what pundits predict, the WNBA narrative often does not behave according to the script laid out for it.

Michelle: Stars, offenses take center stage – Best-of-three series opens in Los Angeles on Thursday

With a pair of high-scoring, star-studded teams, this might be the best first-round matchup of the WNBA postseason. The two teams, which haven’t met in the playoffs since 2009, split the season series after Los Angeles closed the regular season with a 34-point win over the depleted Mercury on Sunday.

And more Michelle: Sparks look to step it up in playoffs

 There’s an edge to the playoff conversation in the Sparks locker room.

Hunger, no doubt about it. But the Sparks don’t necessarily feel like they’ve played their best basketball yet.

And they’re impatient to get to that level.

“There are a lot of areas where we still need to improve,” coach Carol Ross said.

From Clay at Full Court: LA vs. PHX playoff preview: Can the Mercury pull it together for the postseason?

It comes down to this: Did Phoenix have time to put the pieces of the puzzle together despite the injuries and the coaching change?

If so, the Mercury have lots of weapons, and enough firepower to give anyone trouble. The timetable, though, was a little rushed, and if the team hasn’t completely gelled, it could be a rough postseason ride — as was indicated in the 89-55 pounding the Mercury took by the Sparks to close the season on Sunday.

No surprise, the ‘Kellians have some issues with that last observation, so they discuss it with Clay.

From Melissa at the LA Times (finally!) Sparks’ Candace Parker aims to go the distance in postseason this time

During a recent Sparks practice, Candace Parker paused the scrimmage three times to give her teammates instructions on defense.

She wasn’t going to allow the Sparks to make any mistakes before they begin their best-of-three first-round playoff series against Phoenix on Thursday at Staples Center (7 p.m.; TV: ESPN2).

“It certainly helps when the face of your franchise is locked in, because it makes it a lot easier for everyone to get in there as well,” Sparks Coach Carol Ross said.

The Sparks haven’t won a WNBA championship since winning titles in 2001 and 2002. The drought seems endless to Parker, who was selected by the Sparks as the top overall pick in the 2008 draft.

From Odeen at Arizona Central: Whether shooting or passing, Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi makes her point(s) (take that, .com dude)

No other player in the league affects her team’s scoring output more than the Mercury’s Diana Taurasi. Whether she puts the ball in the basket or helps a teammate do it, Taurasi influences the scoreboard as much as the person who pushes the button to change it.

This season, Taurasi scored 20.3 points and recorded 6.2 assists per game. Both averages were second-highest in the league. The assists average is a career high.

For Taurasi, accumulating a high assist average is simple.

“When you have DB (DeWanna Bonner), Penny (Taylor), (Candice) Dupree, BG (Brittney Griner),” Taurasi said, “if you don’t average six (assists per game), you suck.”

Odeen also offers up: Phoenix Mercury hitting stride as playoffs begin

“As a unit, I definitely think so,” forward Penny Taylor said. “We’ve made adjustments and, obviously, we have everyone healthy. We have had everyone out there for a couple of games. In implementing a lot of things that we’re doing, especially in the defensive end, I feel like everyone is getting it together.”

Ummm…. Yummy? Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner taste test: Bacon

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Vets, rookies give Mystics new life

Snow, an 11-year veteran, and Hill, the No. 4 draft pick in April, represent the extremes in experience for the Mystics.

On one hand, you have the 6-foot-5 center who has seen it all in the pro game and been able to steadily keep a job. On the other hand, you have a 5-10 guard who’s learning more every day about what it takes to earn minutes in this league.

“When you’re young,” says Mystics point guard Ivory Latta, “you need that veteran who will get in your grill and say: ‘Hey, you are at the next level. Everybody is faster, quicker, they jump higher, they get in the passing lanes. You have to adjust.’

“Tayler — she’s going to be great. She just has to get into the rhythm of how the WNBA is played, and it takes some time.”

Where I’m going to be tonight: Liberty Host Eastern Conference Rival Connecticut Sun, by Ros Gold-Onwude

The Connecticut Sun (2-3) are hampered by injuries of their own. Streaky shooter and solid defender Renee Montgomery is out with an ankle injury. Shooter Tan White is out with a broken finger. Kara Lawson missed a game with a sore back but returned to play on Wednesday against the Indiana Fever. Due to all the injuries the Sun brought in veteran guard Iziane Castro Marquez who brings size and another scoring option to the wing. The Sun bounced back after a three game losing streak with a 73-61 win over the Indiana Fever on Wednesday June 12th. Reigning MVP Tina Charles carried the Sun with 30 points and 10 rebounds in an inspired effort. Lawson returned to the court to add 12 points but seemed limited, only shooting 5-14 and giving up 6 turnovers.

Speaking of New Jersey,  C Viv in the Nine for IX Short: ‘Coach’ Preview

Check out a preview clip from the Nine for IX digital short film “Coach,” the Best Documentary Short winner at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. “Coach” will debut on espnW.com on June 18, while the Nine for IX documentary series begins July 2 on ESPN.

Nate ponders the Three keys to the Atlanta Dream succeeding without Sancho Lyttle

Adding to the discussion of rosters and money, Clay says, In the WNBA, injuries change everything

So even though the Liberty knocked off Atlanta Sunday, starting 75-year-old Katie Smith every night is simply not the way to win consistently in this year’s very tough and competitive WNBA. As time goes on, the 12 teams are not only getting more talented, they are developing identity and pride, and a group like the San Antonio Silver Stars, hampered as they are by their own injuries, are going to play tough almost every night out. Even downtrodden and unlucky Tulsa is not guaranteed win, as the Shock have taken some of the league’s best into overtime.

This flew under my radar — and it’s interesting, because about five years ago, a NCAAW coach was talking to me about “concerns” at Nike. Nike LGBT Sports Summit underway in Portland

Folks are tweeting the event: #LGBTSportsSummit

The second annual Nike LGBT Sports Summit started this week at the same time the city gears up for the Portland Pride Festival.

The summit held in downtown Portland includes more than 100 leaders in LGBT sports community.  There are various initiatives, all centered around ending bias and discrimination of LGBT athletes and their fans.

Cyd Zeigler of OutSports.com is one of the founders of the summit, and credits Nike for hosting the event.

And Nike unveils line of sneakers celebrating gay pride – The colorful #BeTrue Free Run 5.0 shoes are available in the U.S. for $115, and profits will benefit the LGBT Sports Coalition.

In addition to the professional activists and media, the attendees include athletes, coaches or representatives affiliated with colleges and universities around the country, as well as the NCAA, USOC and USA Wrestling. And there’s an anticipated increase in the participation of active and former athletes and coaches. More than a dozen current college athletes (gay and straight) will be joined by another dozen coaches, including Portland State women’s basketball coach Sherri Murrell. Murrell is the lone out coach in Division I, and her perspective — on her responsibilities as a mentor to her athletes and as a responsible citizen to the wider community — might help move the national conversation beyond questioning an LGBT person’s fitness to coach, or beyond concerns over sexuality or gender identity, and back to simple ability.
Bill Laimbeer is standing in a piece of real estate that he used to own. Both his feet are firmly planted in the paint as he’s calmly instructs the players that Bill Laimbeer the GM has provided him how to feel for the balance and weight of a defender. Later he’ll show some of his guards how to properly curl off of an off-ball pick. Every now and then he’ll smile, too.In their 16-year existence, the New York Liberty, one of the WNBA’s original eight teams, have never won a title. There have been three finals appearances, but the last one was in 2002. Last year they finished the season 15-19. Laimbeer, on the other hand, is a three time WNBA champion—2003, ’06 and ’08—the second most in league history. It took him less than two full seasons to lead the Shock to their first WNBA title. The Liberty are hoping for an even faster clock this time around.

And some sad news that I saw, but couldn’t get to: Memorial service set for Melissa Erickson, former Washington player
Melissa Erickson, a former Washington basketball player, died Wednesday after a seven-year battle with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). She was 34.
A public memorial service has been set for June 21 at 5pm at Alaska Airlines Arena, or Hec Ed as Erickson and her teammates knew it when the Huskies advanced to the NCAA Elite Eight her senior season in 2001.

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basketball “stuff,” but it is cool how basketball can distract you from “stuff.”

So, I did manage to catch my first live Lib game of the season last Sunday. Thoughts:

  • Shout out to Hasim, the Lib’s media person, for being so welcoming. (RU! RU!)
  • It’s REEEEALLY easy to get lost in the bowels of the Rock.
  • Yes, back in the day there WAS a lot of media at Lib games. Not so much now. But it still was heartening to see some familiar (stubborn) faces doing what they want to do – and love to do – in service of the game and players.
  • Speaking of someone who loves to do what she does: lovely chatting with coach Coyle. She knows next year will be a challenge, but is excited to be in the MAAC.
  • The best part of going to the game was seeing the “regulars” in the stands. And shouting “REEEEFFFFFFFF SCHOOOOOOOL!”
  • The game: The ESPN headline credits Cappie with the win over the Dream, but really it was Mini Mi and the Old Lady. Watching the 39-year-old Katie Smith dog Angel all game was a lesson in ferocity and stubbornness. Yes, Angel got her points, but on 4-16 shooting.
  • What about Mini Mi? Well, in the season preview, coach Bill stated he wanted “strong-minded women that want to be themselves, but want to play within the structure, and want to know where they stand every minute of every day.” Leilani Mitchell sure as heck knew where she stood at camp: “In front of everyone he said, ‘I don’t like small guards.'” Mitchell is generously listed as 5’5″. “It’s hard when your coach doesn’t have confidence in you.” Her response? Play with a sense of freedom and abandon. She made the team (to the surprise of some) and, while she only made one basket Sunday (a key 3), it was everything else she did that made an impression: 7 rebounds, 3 steals and +13. Which earned her praise from her not-short coach. And the fans.
  • Cappie looked outta sorts in the first half, her shots all coming up short, as if she had no legs. And then something clicked in the second half. After the game coach Laimbeer spoke about her leading by being part of the offense, “not just jacking up shots.” So I started wondering about her transition to working under a Laimbeer-esque coaching style and how that will impact her attitude and game-sense.
  • The rooks did good. Honestly, was there EVER a time when you could say, “The Lib have three rookies on the floor” and not have it because the game was outta reach? Favorite moment: Angel and Bone arm wrasslin’ each other for the ball. Bone does not let go, and Angel gets in to her face a bit, as if she believes a rookie should release control to an All-Star. Yap, yap, yap like my miniature Dachshund used to do at our bigger Kerry Blue. Bone just stood there, patiently, until her teammates stepped between the twosome.
  • Yes, it’s fun to watch the Dream get all emotional. But, while it’s tempting to draw a conclusion about their “chemistry,” don’t get fooled. It works for them. “That’s how they’ve always been,” said Smith post-game. The only thing “bad” I can see about Atlanta folks barking at each other or the refs is when they use their barking as an excuse not to get back on defense.

Speaking of Smith, the fabulous Jim Massie catches up: Former Buckeye Smith, 39, still climbing upward

Check in with L’Alien for more info on this past week’s games, like:  Charles dominates ice cold Fever

Check this week’s Top Plays. (Mark, you’d a very poor inspirational speaker…)

Other stuff:

Ah, yes, INJURIES!!! John Altavilla writes: Short WNBA Rosters Are A Problem For Sun, Other Teams. On a related note, Pilight wonders: Is there enough talent for WNBA expansion? The Rebkellians discuss.

Kwai Chan at the Meniscus: WNBA 2013: One year, big difference for the Washington Mystics

There is no jumping or shouting in the Verizon Center…yet.  But what a difference a year makes for the Washington Mystics, who defeated the Minnesota Lynx, 85-80.

Mike Thibault, who has the most wins of any active coach with 209-135 (.608) record in the last 10 years, is the new head coach of the Mystics.  Eight of the 12 players on the 2012 roster are gone, and have been replaced by four rookies and three veterans.  With these changes, one would think that just getting a team on the floor would be an accomplishment in itself.

Not so much fun being in Indiana these days: Fever not feeling, looking like champions – Defending WNBA titlists are off to 1-4 start, worst 5-game start since 2001

Michelle says: Griner’s popularity reels in fans

It’s more than two hours before tipoff at U.S. Airways Center on Memorial Day, and a Phoenix Mercury staff member is erecting a banner of Brittney Griner that shows the exact physical dimensions of her height and wingspan and the size of her hands and feet.

Immediately after he is done, a group of kids rush over and put their hands and feet up against the banner to compare.

The big girl is a big deal here.

From Media Planet:  WOMEN IN SPORTS: NO LONGER ON THE SIDELINES: Title IX opened the gates for female athletes—a halo effect empowered women to own, manage and work in the once male-dominated industry.

Case in point: Laura Gentile, espnW vice president, launched the digital initiative as a voice for women who love sports. “One of the best parts of starting this business was connecting women in sports to discuss issues and work together. Women have made a lot of strides,” she adds, ticking off names including WNBA’s president Laurel Richie and USA Today’s Christine Brennan. 

No Sancho? Williams is going to change things up a bit.

Prince leaves Chicago. Again.

No Ice, Ice Baby Tonight: From Odeen Domingo:#WNBA suspends @phoenixmercury Candice Dupree 1 game for making contact w/ game official Sat. Will not play tonight vs @LA_Sparks cc: @WNBA

All Star Voting Time! Who do YOU think deserves a $5000 bonus?

So what did you think of the Complaint Cam… I mean Borg Cam … I mean I Need my Dramamine Cam… I mean Ref Cam? WNBA debuts live high-definition ‘Ref Cam’. A ref speaks. And this: WNBA successfully debuts ref cam in Indy.

Nate keeps his promise: 2013 WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year watch list: Weighing scoring & value added in the post-Bonner era

After a three year run of Sixth Woman dominance (it’s difficult to argue that anyone was snubbed in the three years she won the award), Connecticut Sun guard Renee Montgomery won the award last season in familiar fashion in the world of basketball awards: she had among the highest scoring averages of any reserve in the league on a team that won its conference.

However in a year in which Bonner is starting (for now?) and Montgomery will miss significant time due to injury (WNBA voters tend not to give awards to players who missed significant time, which is fair in 34-game season), there is a chance the award will go to someone who isn’t quite a dynamic scorer.

In college news:

Swish has Gary Blair, Jim Foster reflecting on their careers at induction ceremony and some Hall of Fame interviews: Peggie Gillom-Granderson, Jennifer Rizzotti, Annette Smith-Knight and Sue Wicks:

Who had the greatest influence on Wicks?

“When I was a professional in Europe, players I would see, the way they held themselves, the pride that they had, the way that they played in total obscurity most of the time, I modeled myself after them. Along the way I would find someone who had a quality I really admired and I would try and emulate them.”

Coming back from an ouch: CU Buffs’ Rachel Hargis healing after MCL tear

Bye: Beckie Francis out as Oakland women’s basketball coach and Mines, women’s basketball coach Felderman part ways

Ooops: NCAA bans UNO men’s and women’s basketball from 2013-14 postseason

Yikes: Memphis Tigers women’s basketball team loses four players – Starter Abdul-Qaadir off to Indiana State as grad transfer

Wow! Congrats! Meia Daniels named new HPU women’s basketball coach

“We are pleased to be able to promote Meia Daniels to our head coaching position as well as our Senior Woman Administrator (SWA),” said Howard Payne Director of Athletics Mike Jones. “She has been mentored by two outstanding coaches in Chris Kielsmeier and Josh Prock and was a great collegiate player. She knows how to win and how hard you have to work to be successful at this level. These experiences will serve her well as she enters this new phase of her career.”

As a player, Daniels was 109-12 over four seasons leading the Lady Jackets to three American Southwest Conference championships, four NCAA III national tournament appearances and a NCAA III National Championship in 2008. A 2008 graduate of Howard Payne, Daniels holds numerous HPU and ASC records and is second in career scoring at Howard Payne with 2,118 points.

Some of you may remember Howard Payne’s run to perfection in 2008 because of the WHB or from this piece.

From Storming the Floor:

“After the incredible, unprecedented run through the 2013 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament that Shoni and Jude Schimmel, Umatilla, led the Louisville Cardinals on, ICTMN reached out to some of the most amazing and historically important Native hoops players to get their thoughts on the state of Native basketball, how to succeed in life and where they’re headed next—including from the Sisters themselves. “Let’s give them something to talk about!,” we promised. And so we kicked off a Conversations With Champions series, sitting down with eight basketball trailblazers, champions and builders for some one-on-ones. Here is a recap of the series, in case you missed any of the engaging discussions. These are men and women you need to know.”

Thank you: Iconic Elba coach Nowak retires and  Elba girls basketball coach Tom Nowak retires – Popular basketball coach compiled a 457-133 record

“It was really very rewarding to have gone through generations of family,” said Nowak. “To see the dads play football for me and then their daughters playing basketball — maybe both parents and children winning sectional titles.”

In the 2011-2012 season, Nowak coached his girls to their first state championship in the program’s history. Fittingly, the Lancers earned a perfect 25-0 season in their quest for the Class D title in Nowak’s 25th year as coach.

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The Prince-less Sky fall to the undermanned SASS. (Perhaps Tony Parker inspired them?). ESPN’s headline highlight’s EDD, and for good reason: she battled the classically physical vet Delisha Milton-Jones and still managed a nice line: 17 Pts, 6 Reb, 1 Ast, 4 Blk

Snap judgment: Dan Hughes, COY.

The more undermanned Sun (add Lawson to the DNP list) were outscored in the final quarter by 11, and Mike T and his Mystics team left Connecticut with the win (and a standing ovation).

Snap judgment: All these injuries are making me feel like it’s September, not June. If folks get healthy, this really may be a tale of two season halves.

The soon-to-be more undermanned Liberty (fingers are crossed that Carson’s knee injury is a bad sprain) went down to Georgia and got spanked by the Dream, 75-56.

Snap judgment: Yes, the Dream are 4-0, but look at who’ve they played (and are going to play). It’s not until July 9th that they’ll get a real test.

Wig and Dig are still shooting like figs, but Seattle was equally putrid from three-point land. End result, Tulsa gets their first win. (They gotta win at home, though!).

Snap judgment: Yes, if you’re the Storm, this season may mean you live and die by the three, but how does a team come out “flat?” Not okay.

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SI’s Richard Deitsch, dat is! WNBA Draft gets interesting following top three picks

Mike Thibault sees opportunity where others see misery. The new coach and general manager of the WNBA’s Washington Mystics, a franchise with 11 wins over the past two seasons, is confident that the No. 4 pick in this year’s WNBA Draft will produce a quality player.

What it is unlikely to produce is a shot at one of the following players: Brittney Griner, the game-changing 6-foot-8 center from Baylor; Elena Delle Donne, the 6-foot-5 forward from Delaware whom many consider a cross between Lauren Jackson and Diana Taurasi, or Skylar Diggins, the heady and popular Notre Dame point guard who will be a box-office draw for the team that drafts her. That trio of college All-Americas are near-locks for the first three picks for the April 15 WNBA Draft

The Courant’s John Altavilla says, Sun Face Difficult Decisions In Monday’s Draft

Things will be quite different with the Connecticut Sun this season. Not only is there a new coach, Anne Donovan, but a team within one win of playing for the WNBA championship in 2012 will be without pillar Asjha Jones, who is taking the summer off to rest.

“You can’t take a veteran off a team who has been a significant contributor without expecting an adjustment for everyone, in the locker room and on the floor,” Donovan said. “But the positive is we already understand she will not be with us and we know we have to fill the hole. It presents a new opportunity for others to establish themselves. We know what we have and we know what we don’t have.”

From Tim Leighton at the Pioneer Press: Tayler Hill expected to be top-10 pick

Tonsillitis slowed Tayler Hill during her senior season at Ohio State, but it won’t be a hindrance on the biggest night of her basketball career. The former Minneapolis South High School guard played the final half of her senior year with strep throat and missed two games to have her tonsils drained.

Hill, who recently had her tonsils removed, is healthy and ready to find out where she will play when the WNBA draft is held Monday, April 15.

Gina Mizell thinks Several former Oklahoma high school standouts could hear name called

Dawn Lee Wakefield notes: Kelsey Bone among 12 candidates in historic first live WNBA draft broadcast

Nate wonders: Who’s the best center prospect after Brittney Griner?

Part of the reason I like keeping track of draft prospect statistics, both before and after they’ve played a year in the league, is because it helps to really put in perspective just how good WNBA stars were in college.

They’re not only the elite or All-American caliber players but the most efficient and productive players in the nation.

And that helps to put both the hype and reality of Brittney Griner into perspective. But it also helps to demonstrate just how strong this year’s group of centers could be: there are three centers not named Griner who also appear on first round mock drafts and the stats suggest that at least two of those “other” centers could end up being better than any of those drafted last year. Digging back further – and taking Liz Cambage’s two year absence from the league after her rookie season into account – this year’s group has a chance to become the best overall in a number of years in terms of the number of players that actually make a roster.

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From the .com, where they continue the “Three to See” theme, they also have have Prospect Files and Q&As:

Bone:

When did you know you wanted to be a professional basketball player? And, given that dream, when did you realize that you had a legitimate shot of doing so? 
I knew I wanted to play professional basketball when I watched the Houston Comets win four consecutive championships, and I was at all four of them. I knew I had a legitimate shot at being a professional when I went overseas for the first time to France and played international basketball at the age of 16. I played against superior talent and several of the players from foreign countries were going pro. I was able to do well in that environment and realized that I could play this game professionally.

Delle Donne:

What do you expect to be some of the biggest challenges or adjustments at the next level?
Defending the guard spot. I play this spot on offense and need to be able to defend this spot on the defensive end.

Faris:

What do you expect to be some of the biggest challenges or adjustments at the next level?
With each new level the competition gets tougher and tougher. Players become smarter and stronger than they were in college. Just as I learned when I got to college, I will have to learn to adjust again in the WNBA.

Hawkins:

What strengths, qualities or skills will be able to bring to a WNBA team?
Relentless rebounding ability; the ability to run the floor, the ability to shoot the midrange to 3-point range.

Rogers:

When did you know you wanted to be a professional basketball player? And, given that dream, when did you realize that you had a legitimate shot of doing so? 
When I won Rookie of the Year for the Big East and I was sitting on that podium with soon to be professional players Maya Moore and Tina Charles.

Young:

When were you introduced to the game of basketball?
Sophomore year in high school

Sue and Richard l’Alien speak in Mike Peden’s: After top three, WNBA Draft a top-heavy toss up

“Previous drafts show that (Pokey) Chatman and Chicago have been influenced by NCAA tournaments,” Cohen said. “Chatman is very hands on and picky with the way her guards play, seeing as Vandersloot has had her growing pains.”

However, the Sky suffered migraines after Epiphanny Prince was sidelined with a broken foot. Without her offense, opponents harassed Fowles, quashing a promising start to knock Chicago out of playoff contention.

“Delle Donne is so skilled. She represents the type of player you have to be now,” Favor said. “She has the greatest potential to succeed.”

The Hartford Courant adds: Top 3 Picks Predictable, So Suspense Starts With No. 4

There is a running joke about Monday’s 2013 WNBA Draft. It’s the one about the how one draft can suddenly resemble two.

“The joke around here is that I have the first pick in the other draft,” said Mike Thibault, the coach and GM of theWashington Mystics and owner of the fourth selection. “I tried to come up with creative ways to get one of the three, but none of it worked.”

Mike Brown at the Tulsa World is thinking: Shock could land Skylar Diggins in Monday’s WNBA draft

Nate reminds folks that Tianna Hawkins leads this year’s group of scoring interior forwards

Roger Cleaveland at the Republican-American warns: Sun not in position to draft impact player

From Virginia’s Daily Press, David Teel has Suffolk product Sugar Rodgers awaits Monday’s WNBA draft

Sugar Rodgers set Georgetown career records for points and steals. She was the nation’s No. 4 scorer this season and exited the college game with a 42-point epic in the Big East tournament.

So it’s no surprise to hear Mike Thibault, the Washington Mystics‘ coach and general manager, say Rodgers is among the top four perimeter players available in Monday’s WNBA draft. And it’s no surprise to read mock drafts — yes, such shenanigans have trickled down to professional women’s basketball — that project Rodgers as a top-10 lock, a perhaps a top-five selection.

Yet Thibault, whose team owns the No. 4 pick, has some reservations about Rodgers, a 5-foot-11 guard from Suffolk’s King’s Fork High.

The writer who makes me wish I were an Ohio State fan wonders: Ex-Buckeye Hill should go early, but to which team?

“She is not afraid,” said Laimbeer, who has the fifth and seventh first-round picks. “I think that’s the thing. She will attack the basket at will and can get to the free-throw line. She creates contact. Those are good characteristics to get to the next level. We’ve definitely eyeballed her.”

Speaking of Ohio State, the job that no one seems to want (According to a message from Wendy Parker on Mike Flynn’s Twitter page, Jeff Walz said this about the Ohio State job rumors: “The only person who has offered me a job job is Geno at his restaurant.”), here’s something on the Search for the Next OSU Women’s Basketball Coach: A Progress Report

Some interesting discussion of skill building in the women’s game: Nebraska’s Connie Yori: Game is ‘overcoached, undertaught’

Nebraska women’s basketball coach Connie Yori recalls a telling conversation with a seventh-grade girl who was on hand for one of Yori’s camps a few summers ago.

Yori told the girl that she hopes the camp is a good experience for her, and that she learns a lot.

“She said, ‘I played 100 games this summer,'” Yori said. “In other words, she thought she really didn’t need to work on her (individual) skills. Here’s a kid playing all these games and basically thinking she has it all figured out.”

Perhaps what Nebraska men’s basketball coach Tim Miles says about youth boys basketball — that it has become game-heavy and skill-light — also applies to the girls game.

Said Yori: “I’m not saying this about all kids, but there are some kids who are just not working on their individual skills enough. So, therefore, it isn’t as commonplace for people to make open shots.”

And finally, who says players are the only ones who can do videos? Check out this rockin’ ‘tube by the Trainers. (I mean, ATHLETIC Trainers – get it right, get it right).

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draftees have a better chance to surprise this year.

Mechelle says the WNBA draft hinges on the No. 4 pick

Last September when the WNBA draft lottery was held, Washington president/managing partner Sheila Johnson couldn’t hide the look of frozen horror when the Mystics got the No. 4 pick. Fourth was the “tough-luck” spot in a draft where there were perceived to be three prizes.

Washington’s woes were not Mike Thibault’s worry that day. He was still coach of Connecticut and focused on the playoffs. But almost seven months later, the No. 4 pick doesn’t look as bleak as it did last fall, and now it’s Thibault’s choice to make.

Remember when Swish Appeal set up their 13 to Watch? Now Nate offers up A preliminary draft board for the 2013 WNBA Draft

Last year, I posted an essay about the evaluation of draft prospects in terms of minimizing risk, drawing from principles outlined in the widely-read book Moneyball. Since then, I’ve set out to see if there are tangible ways to weigh a prospect’s value by their level of risk relative to past prospects based upon a set of red flags and similarity ratings. The following is a partial draft board based what I’ve been able to put together.

From the Des Moines Register: Iowa State’s Prins, Poppens bullish on WNBA teams’ interest

From the Daily Princetonian: Rasheed looks to go pro after Princeton

From the Bleacher Report: WNBA Draft Order 2013: Teams in Best Position to Acquire Elite Talent

Here’s the espnW’s first-round mock draft

Full Court offers up their WNBA 2013 draft preview: One, two, three, and then…

Some interesting dribs and drabs on the college season:

From Zach Neiner at Penn State: Breaking the stigma of women’s basketball

In December 2011, I sat in the Ernie Davis dining hall at Syracuse University with a friend watching, for a moment, Syracuse battle West Virginia in an empty Carrier Dome.

We made jokes about the game, itself, and attendance. Before this school year, I carried the same stigma as most do toward women’s basketball.

“Women’s basketball?” we thought. “What’s that? It’s certainly no men’s basketball.”

A lot has changed since that day.

For more than six months, I have covered women’s basketball, quickly learning to admire the beauty, the athleticism and the competition of the game. And how can one not?

From Fort Myers: FGCU ready to move on after disappointing end to season

Sharing the same facilities every day at a small school, the Florida Gulf Coast Universitymen’s and women’s basketball teams also share a close bond.

So it’s not that the women weren’t happy when the men, whom they consider brothers, made a historic run in the NCAA tournament last month. It’s just that seeing the program achieve unprecedented success was bittersweet after the women’s own promising season ended in disappointment.

From the AP’s Gary Graves: Louisville expects to grow from title-game loss

Add Lee Michaelson: For Louisville, season may be over but the magic lives on

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writes: 

This seemed the most breathtakingly obvious move that Washington could have made. On Nov. 20, after the Connecticut Sun announced they were parting ways with Thibault, my first question when I talked to him was, “How are you doing?” Followed by, “Have the Mystics called yet?”

This took no great insight; everybody who follows the WNBA had to think of Thibault as the top choice for the Mystics. But because they are the Mystics, you just couldn’t be sure.

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Thibault did everything but win title – Coach cites failure to win a WNBA championship in 2012 as reason for firing

“People here have been great; I have no complaints,” Thibault said. “I’ve been treated well, my family has been, too. I’ve liked working here, and I have no bitterness about this at all. The only thing I can say is I don’t know if what they did will change things.

“It may, it may not. Depends on who they hire, how the players accept the new coach, all those things. The team is poised to continue to improve. It’s still in a very good situation.”

The Sun play in an arena at the Mohegan Sun casino, and, yes, we’ll make the obvious analogy. This move is a gamble. Thibault has made the playoffs eight of his 10 seasons with the Sun, advancing to the WNBA Finals twice. Will the Sun find a coach who can do better?

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Coach Mike Thibault not retained

From Mike DiMauro at the Day: Thibault fired as CT Sun coach

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The W launches: Sparks v. Storm.

The team GMs venture their opinion of the season.

If you’re watching via Live Access, good luck. I sure hope this anonymous rep doesn’t end up eating their wordsThe WNBA has angered fans in the past because of glitches on the site. I was told by a few officials that those were fixed, one even stating that problems can be worked on while not going live and will be ironed out.

From Mel: Guru’s WNBA Report: Season Opens With Familiar Faces In Brand New Places

From Lady Swish: Liberty’s Warley makes WNBA roster in Phoenix

Hoopfeed has is Previewing the 2012 WNBA season: The Western Conference and the The Eastern Conference.

There’s also the Dishin & Swishin podcast: http://www.hoopfeed.com/content/2012/05/17/dishin-swishin-51712-podcast-a-roundtable-preview-of-the-2012-wnba-season/

Richard, L’Alien, has been busy:

2012 In-Depth Season Preview: Washington Mystics

You know what’s strange – I actually see the logic here. It’s easy to rag on the Mystics and head coach/general manager Trudi Lacey. This team was a disaster last year. They failed to retain the coach and general manger that produced their best ever season in 2010, and everything went downhill from there. Constant comments about injuries and blatant nonsense about how young the squad was did them no favours with their remaining fans, and when the season finally ended after just six wins all year, it was a blessed relief. But Lacey’s moves in the offseason made sense.

2012 In-Depth WNBA Season Preview: New York Liberty

You’ve gotta love Liberty fans. A bizarre draft pick (in a draft everyone said was horrible), and a couple of poor performances in preseason (for a coach whose system is notoriously hard to adapt to) and the sky is falling.

2012 In-Depth WNBA Season Preview: Indiana Fever

Yes, as you can see from the squad listing above, I’ve bowed to popular opinion and indications from the Fever themselves and moved Tamika Catchings to the 4. I hate it, and we’ll examine why below, but it does at least add an interesting wrinkle to the outlook for this Fever squad.

2012 In-Depth WNBA Season Preview: Connecticut Sun

Should I just refer you to everything I wrote about them last year? Head coach Mike Thibault apparently spent the offseason sitting on his couch knocking back a few cold ones, because as far as he’s concerned, this team is already good enough.

2012 In-Depth WNBA Season Preview: Chicago Sky

Big changes in Chicago, as head coach/GM Pokey Chatman proved that you can get a lot done in the offseason even when you’re in Russia coaching a different team at the time. In her first year in charge last season, the Sky were ultimately just as mediocre as they’ve been for their previous four season, and missed the playoffs yet again. The endless turnovers and poorly chosen shots drove Chatman nuts, so she’s kept her young backcourt and a couple of backups – along with, of course, superstar center Sylvia Fowles – and brought in a swathe of veterans with winning pedigrees to build around them.

2012 In-Depth WNBA Season Preview: Atlanta Dream

Significant losses: de Souza (Brazilian National Team for first half of the season), Lyttle (unconfirmed absence midseason to join Spanish National Team), Iziane Castro Marques (currently with Brazilian National Team, remains WNBA unrestricted free agent), Shalee Lehning (injured and retired from WNBA), Alison Bales (retired from WNBA), assistant coach Carol Ross (left to take head coach position in Los Angeles)

—–

Well just reading that list above doesn’t paint a pretty picture, does it?

On the subject of the W, a couple of WATNs:

EMU Names Kristin Haynie Assistant Women’s Basketball Coach. I wonder if they’re ordering extra food rations, ’cause you know how many calories it takes to hire a Haynie?

UMMC Put Lange, Brondello In Charge. Lucky them: ’cause they’ll have Diana and you won’t.

Speaking of Diane: ‘ware the prankster!

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So…wowza

The Lynx/SASS matchup did not disappoint. Minny came back from 12 down and used a last second jumper by Whalen to seal a one point win. Writes Mechelle (having taken the shortest vacation in journalism history) Lynx finally coming through in clutch

The Lynx currently are on a six-game winning streak and at 13-4 seem very likely on their way to the most wins in franchise history. Sunday, Minnesota also had a memorable clutch-play moment, courtesy of point guard Lindsay Whalen’s game-winning baseline jumper with 1.5 seconds left.

In the come-from-behind 70-69 triumph at San Antonio — which is now without rookie sensation Danielle Adams for four-to-six weeks because of a foot sprain — the Lynx did in the final minute exactly what they didn’t in several key situations last year.

Atlanta couldn’t keep up with the (Asjha) Jones and Coach T was almost speechless after the Sun’s 7-point win over the visiting Dream.

Connecticut Sun coach Mike Thibault has seen a lot in his nine years coaching in the WNBA. But even he admitted that his experience on Sunday was special.

“That might be one of the (darndest) games I’ve ever seen since I’ve been in the league,” Thibault said.

Meanwhile in Indy, the Fever bench had their own darndest game, scoring 57 points (as compared to the 63 the entire Sparks team managed to put up).

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Janel McCarville suspended for season

More Seattle stuff from Mechelle: Storm look stronger for 2011 – Katie Smith should make defending WNBA champs even better

For years now, Seattle point guard Sue Bird had pretty much the same thing to say to management when the WNBA season ended.

“You have these exit interviews, and the question comes up: ‘What do you think we need?'” Bird said. “And I’d always say, ‘Katie Smith. Please just get Katie Smith here, and everything would be great.’

From Melissa Rohlin at the LA Times: Candace Parker looks at her team, and the Sparks fly

“I feel good,” she said, smiling.

That’s not something Parker has been able to say very often during her WNBA career.

Since her selection by the Sparks as the first overall pick in the 2008 draft, she has played in only 35 of a possible 68 regular-season games because of pregnancy and injuries.

Speaking of injuries, in Connecticut John Atlavilla blogs: Danielle McCray Ready For WNBA Debut After Tips From Tamika

The highly anticipated WNBA debut of Danielle McCray with the Connecticut Sun takes place when the Sun opens the 2011 season Saturday night at the casino against the Washington Mystics.

You’ll recall the Sun took a gamble – strange behavior for a casino resident, I know – by taking the injured McCray (ACL) with the seventh overall pick in the 2010 Draft knowing she would not be able to play last season.

Sun coach Mike Thibault couldn’t have cared less.

In Arizona, Odeen Domingo thinks a More powerful Phoenix Mercury is set to start WNBA season

At Yahoo, Giovanni Badalamenti, has a very optimistic Fan’s perspective: New York Liberty 2011 WNBA season preview. The Tulsa Shock 2011 season preview is by Annette Posey. Jack Grunpe thinks a New season brings new hope to Lynx. Lisa Mason thinks the San Antonio Silver Stars are prepped for 15th WNBA season. Vonda Menard keeps it simple with her 2011 Connecticut Sun preview, as does Lana Bandoim with her Indiana Fever season preview.

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More on Richie from Jayda: Luncheon in Seattle led Laurel J. Richie to WNBA – Former Girl Scouts executive Laurel J. Richie made an impression in Seattle that led to a job as WNBA president.

Storm president and CEO Karen Bryant said she and the ownership group looked across the table at each other and knew Richie had to be in the pool of candidates for the WNBA job that Donna Orender had resigned in December after six years.

“I loved her story,” Bryant said of Richie. “She has a commanding presence, and she has a really unique combination of confidence and humility. … Afterward she told us, ‘I’m definitely going to a game.’ She was somebody I was going to stay connected to, there’s no question. When I met her and took her card, I took that card with a purpose. I would have gone to a game with her in New York and I still will, but now I’m her guest.”

From the Deccan Herald’s Roshan Thyagarajan: Waiting to make a mark – Geethu Anna Jose’s try out at WNBA could indeed be the boost Indian women’s basketball needs

It is but normal to ponder over what sets Geethu Anna Jose apart from an estimated 50 lakh players of the fairer sex who take up basketball as something more than a mere hobby.

So what does she have that the rest don’t? What skill or added incentive does she possess that puts her on WNBA’s (Womens National Basketball Association) radar while the rest of the basketballing fraternity grapples amongst itself to make a small mark in a huge country?

John Altavilla at the Hartfort Courant writes: Payoff Would Be Playoffs For The Sun – Team Looking To End Two-Year Drought

After building a reputation as one of the WNBA’s most solid teams the last six seasons, the Connecticut Sun have faltered the last two, failing to make the playoffs each year.

Generally recognized as the best organization in the league and its only consistent money-maker, coach Mike Thibault and GM Chris Sienko worked in the offseason to bring the basketball up to par with the business office.

From Melissa Rohlin: Candace Parker leads full Sparks camp roster

When training camp began last year, things looked pretty grim for the Los Angeles Sparks.
They had a new coach, three-time WNBA most valuable player Lisa Leslie had retired, and more than half of the team was still playing overseas.

This year, with audible tinges of excitement in her voice, Sparks General Manager Penny Toler said everything will be different when camp opens Sunday.

From Ben York: Sylvia Fowles “I’m Very Excited for This Season”

Sylvia Fowles has made up her mind that missing the playoffs is no longer an option.

If you thought she had a MVP-caliber season in 2010, you haven’t seen anything yet.

There is a look of calm determination and stoic poise in Fowles that we haven’t seen before. Don’t get me wrong; the aggressiveness and ferocity hasn’t left her game but there is an added dimension of composed confidence that was palpable throughout Team USA training camp.

From Mechelle: Alana Beard focused on life and WNBA – Mystics guard continues to make strides while preparing for upcoming season

Alana Beard can tell you the date she last played a competitive basketball game: Dec. 22, 2009, in Poland. She can recite exactly what kind of rehab she did for her injured ankle, and for how many hours a day during the nearly 17 months since her last competition.

For that matter, she could probably tell you precisely how much her last grocery bill was, because that’s how her mind works. Beard is about the details, about making things add up.

At the Huffington Post: Maya Moore Speaks about Pay, Labor and Going Pro

She was the number one draft pick for the WNBA, a four-season All-American at University of Connecticut and a world championships gold-medalist for the U.S. national team. But as Maya Moore heads into preseason training for the Minnesota Lynx, she reflects on how going pro means she’s not longer just a basketball player: She’s also a business. Moore shared her thoughts with The Huffington Post on unions, fair pay in athletics and what is soon-to-be the “Maya” brand:

From Lady Swish: And then there was one: Maiga-Ba waived by Minnesota

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