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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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