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So, THAT’s not how the Sparks and Lynx wanted to get out of the post-Olympics gate….

LA went up to Seattle and got squeezed by the Storm, 79-72. Stewie struggled, but Bird picked up the slack, hitting 5-7 from behind the arc.

“It’s surprising because we didn’t have the best offensive night. It was all about defense for us,” said guard Jewell Loyd, who finished with 15 points, seven assists and five steals with just one turnover.

Nneka continued her hot play, but it wasn’t enough.

“I think we sat around for six weeks and everybody told us how good we were and I think we softened up,” said Sparks Head Coach Brian Agler.

Maybe Excelle should play the lotto (Connecticut Sun: a team on the rise, playoffs in sight) ’cause the Lynx got stymied by the Sun (and Moore’s foul trouble)  in Connecticut, 84-80.

“We have to grind,” Sun coach Curt Miller said. “We don’t out talent anyone. There’s a reason that four of those players (on the Lynx) are on the Olympic team. We aren’t going to out-talent anyone in this league, but we have to out work and out tough.”

No one on the Lynx is pointing to the Olympics as an excuse:

“In the end, it’s probably a wash,” said Reeve, when asked before the Lynx’s 84-80 loss to the Sun if fatigue or lack of sharpness would prevail. “Any advantage they may have from being off, full-rested, maybe honing some skills, the group that was over in Rio is in game shape and has that rhythm of playing a game. That’s something you can’t simulate when you’re off.

In San Antonio, the Liberty kept their focus and dispatched the Stars, 84-77, thanks to the sweetness that is (MIP) Sugar. Hello, playoffs!

Elena Delle Donne brought the 34-point boom to Chicago as the Sky took down Atlanta, 90-82.

“We took care of the basketball, and I think the key was we married that to good offensive execution and attacked and got to the free throw line,” said Sky coach Pokey Chatman. “I think that comfort allowed us to weather the storm when we were down by seven and then up by eight. 

“It was nice to see that, and we’ll need it as we head on to Dallas.”

Speaking of Dallas, the eternal Pierson’s 23 (and 4000th) couldn’t help the Wings against Penny “sore throat” Taylor and the rest of the Merc.

Phoenix Mercury players won a combined four medals at the Rio Olympics, and more importantly, may have found the defense and chemistry that was missing before the Olympic break.

Despite falling behind by 11 early against Dallas on Friday night, the Mercury hammered the Wings 98-72 before 11,396 at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Phoenix’s most one-sided win of the season came against a team it went 0-3 against pre-Rio, including a triple overtime loss June 18 after leading 75-59 going into the fourth quarter.

Washington Post: Mystics and WNBA are back from Olympic break, but LaToya Sanders got no rest

Aussie, Aussie, ello! Mystics Sign Leilani Mitchell as Bria Hartley starts planning for a munchkin.

Slam Online: WATCH: WNBA Super20

The historic 20th WNBA season has been one for the record books. The Lynx and Sparks got off to a blazing hot start, the W has faced controversy for trying to police its players and the basketball has never been better.

With all the talent and storylines around the League, the final part of the regular season and the playoffs provide a guaranteed storybook ending.

Get hype for the rest of the 2016 campaign, picking up again tonight, with the video above, featuring highlights from the first part of the summer.

Also: Nike & WNBA Star Elena Delle Donne Donate Sneakers To Delaware Newborns

Meanwhile:

Doug Bruno savors experience with USA women’s basketball team

Baylor women’s basketball coach Kim Mulkey donates to Louisiana hometown in wake of flooding

Vermont women’s basketball cancels game at UNC over transgender bathroom law

“The decision to cancel to our Dec. 28 women’s basketball game at North Carolina was made as a result of concerns over the HB2 law, which prevents transgender people from using government-run bathrooms based on their gender identity,” University of Vermont athletic director Jeff Schulman said Wednesday. “We strive very hard to create an inclusive climate for our students and staff in which they all can feel safe, respected, and valued. It would be hard to fulfill these obligations while competing in a state with this law, which is contrary to our values as an athletic department and university.”

WATN? Rodrigo is new grad assistant for Georgia basketball

WATN? Mo’ne Davis shifts her drive to the basketball court: The Little League World Series pioneer two years later

Davis, 15, is heading into her sophomore year of high school at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy. She dreams of a career in the WNBA, and she knows the journey begins with the process of college recruitment. That’s why Davis has made the decision to forgo high school basketball this season – after representing her school as an eighth-grader and a freshman – and exclusively play AAU with the Philly Triple Threat team, where she can go head to head with the best talent in the nation.

“I made the decision because it was time to start getting out there in front of college coaches and showing my improvement over the next two years,” Davis said.

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Screwing with the constant “WEEEEEE’RE DOOOOOOOMED” narrative: WNBA’s 20th season produces strong numbers and ratings

NY Times: Quiet Protest Helped Tina Charles Find the Voice of Her Conscience

“Of course, as an individual, I do have goals to be one of the best players in the W.N.B.A.,” Charles said Thursday. “But when you reach a goal, nothing compares to the person you become along the way.”

Hartford Courant: Breanna Stewart: Transition From UConn Sheds Light On Gender Discrepancies In Athletics

Okay: Harry Potter and the WNBA Power Rankings cast

Aussie! Aussie! Don’t! Go! Phoenix Mercury guard Penny Taylor to retire at season’s end

One part elaborate marketing promotion, one part performance art and all parts exhausting, the season-long athlete retirement tour has seen a rebirth in recent years.

Derek Jeter earned half a year’s worth of #RE2PECT at ballparks across the country. Nike gave Kobe Bryant his own holiday. Forty-year-old David Ortiz is currently making his long trek around league, picking up plenty of interesting parting gifts along the way.

Indiana Fever star Tamika Catchings didn’t want anything of the sort. No elaborate branding campaign, no pregame ceremony celebrating her many accomplishments, no odd presents from opposing teams. Instead, Catchings, a league champion, MVP, 10-time All-Star and five-time Defensive Player of the Year who is going for her fourth Olympic gold medal, is flipping the script.

Like Jeter before her, Catchings is doing it her way, and her way means instead of honoring herself, she’s using her 15th and final go-around the league to give back. league’s 12 cities.

The argument for or against professional athletes being role models to the youth of today’s society has many different viewpoints, but when talking about Laney High School alum Tamera Young, she’s been able to utilize her platform as a veteran in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) to make an impact in the two communities she calls home.
The Sparks haven’t wanted for star power since Candace Parker arrived in 2008, but the team has struggled to capitalize on her greatness, topping out in the playoffs with a trio of conference final losses. That could change this year, however, thanks to an out-of-this-world breakout season by 26-year-old forward Nneka Ogwumike. Ogwumike has always been good, but she’s currently putting on one of the greatest single-season performances in WNBA history, and it has the Sparks finally playing like champions.
Yea! (but I would have been campaigning for a visit with Audra McDonald – swoon!) After a long social media campaign, WNBA rookie Imani Boyette finally met 50 Cent

NCAA:

Carp: Tennessee loses Carter, Cooper for upcoming season

Nice: West Virginia’s women’s basketball team exhibition to benefit flood victims

WATN? Former Hawkeye women’s basketball player Sam Logic hosts Camp 22 in Davenport

Did you catch this? Miami Women’s Basketball Coach Blasts Texas A&M

Miami women’s basketball coach Katie Meier was not happy with the sexist slides from the Texas A&M football women’s clinic, which have gotten the Aggies criticized nationally and led to the suspension of two staff members.

Last night, Meier blasted A&M on Twitter for the slides. She also expressed disapproval for only punishing offensive line coach Jim Turner and special teams coordinator Jeff Banks with two-week suspensions.

Keeping an eye on this: 3 black players file discrimination suit against Cottey College

NCAA & WNBA: Olympics: Double the coaching, double the threat

“Playing for both Coach Auriemma and Coach Reeve has been a blast,” said Moore. “They’re both very competitive, both very detailed oriented, but both enjoy the game, enjoy their teams, so I’m just getting double the coaching trouble here with having them both here.”

Bob Kravitz – WTHR/NBC: Fever’s Tamika Catchings prepares to say farewell to the Olympic world stage

“What are you doing?’’ I asked Tamika Catchings.

She was alone, sitting on the edge of a press-conference room stage, having previously done interviews with Indianapolis-area media members like your humble correspondent.

After a short round of interviews – and Tamika is the only Indy athlete who insists on hugging all members of the local media – she was alone. No national media talking to her. No international media talking to her. In fact, the press-conference room, which was filled for the U.S. men’s basketball team just one day earlier, was maybe one-sixth filled.

“Just hanging,’’ she said. “Waiting to go back (to the boat where the basketball teams are staying).’’

This is nuts. And this is wrong. And this is completely expected. 

USA Today: Serial survivor Seimone Augustus key for US women’s basketball team

Geno Auriemma’s team will be a prohibitive favorite in Brazil, befitting a group that has a 41-game Olympic winning streak and has won the last five gold medals. It is a roster overstuffed with big names and world-class stars, none of whom has a story quite like Seimone Augustus. Her basketball resume includes two national player of the year awards at LSU and a WNBA Finals MVP trophy with the Minnesota Lynx, and her health resume qualifies as a medical horror story.

“With all the stuff she’s been through, she has always stayed the same person,” said longtime teammate Diana Taurasi. “She’s has this even keel about her. That’s impressive. She’s (been) one of the biggest pieces of this team for a long time.”

Also: Seimone Augustus proud of WNBA player activism

USA Today: Elena Delle Donne outgrew gymnastics dream, targets basketball gold

Elena Delle Donne — who at 6-5 is a guard in a pivot player’s body and the pride of Delaware — brings her unique gifts to Rio, a 26-year-old Olympic rookie whose first five-ring dream, alas, never quite materialized. It was hatched in Atlanta 20 years ago, when young Elena watched from home in Wilmington as 4-foot-8 Kerri Strug stuck a vault with an injured ankle to help the U.S. women’s gymnastics team win gold.

“I wanted to be a gymnast,” Delle Donne told USA TODAY Sports with a laugh. “It was all about (Strug.) I should’ve known there was no chance.”

Yakima Herald: Bird, Stewart bring exuberance to US women’s Olympic basketball team

Breanna Stewart can tell you where she was, what she did, and how she felt when she got the call notifying her she made the 2016 U.S. Olympic women’s basketball team.

“You’re supposed to keep it under wraps, but the first thing I did was call my parents,” said the first-time Olympian of sharing the news while standing in the lobby of her Seattle apartment building. “My dad started crying on the phone.”

The Summer Olympics begin this week, and tales of poop-filled water, human body remains on the shore, petty crime, serious crime, terrorism with a topping of the Zika virus have beset the Rio Games.

Sign me up.

Star-Telegram staffer Charean Williams will be covering this event, Erin Phillips of the WNBA’s Dallas Wings will be playing for her Team Australia … and I am green with envy.

EVEN as Marianna Tolo fell to the floor in agony last August her mind started the mental mathematics.

She had just torn her ACL in her first season of WNBA basketball and yet the only thing that really mattered was the 2016 Rio Olympics.

One of the last two players cut from the London 2012 squad, Tolo has made a remarkable recovery to get back to the court in the nick of time.

“My first Olympics, we had players like Dawn Staley, Lisa Leslie, Sheryl Swoopes,” Bird said. “They showed us what it meant to be a part of USA basketball. How to carry yourself. How to play. How to play within the team. How to put the gold medal before anything else.

“… When you get older, you want to pass that on to the new crop coming in. Not only are you honored to be a part of the tradition, you want to make sure you’re keeping it up.”

Forty years ago this summer, a team of 12 women laid the foundation for the future of women’s basketball in the United States, competing as part of Team USA in the first-ever Olympic women’s basketball tournament at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal.

There was no WNBA at the time, nor any professional women’s league in the U.S. at all. But for most of the group, this wasn’t their first high-stakes basketball tournament, as nine of the 12 women on the team had also played for Team USA at the Pan American Games the year before. Given the strength of the international competition, however, Team USA wasn’t expected to even qualify for the 1976 Olympics, let alone win a medal. But, led by coach Billie Jean Moore and co-captains Juliene Simpson and Pat Summitt (then known as Pat Head), they ended up going very far, eventually taking home the silver medal. 

For an inside look at the 1976 team’s historic run, The Huffington Post spoke with head coach Billie Jean Moore, players Nancy Lieberman, Ann Meyers and Juliene Simpson, who all played for the 1975 team, too, and Gail Marquis and Trish Roberts, who were newcomers in 1976. 

Along with athletes getting to know their counterparts from other nations, CISM also provides opportunities for officials to engage at the highest levels, Dinote said. “These can lead to training engagements down the road,” he added.

This week’s championship is the culmination of a “long process of trying to get women’s basketball on the map,” said Dinote, who also serves as secretariat of U.S. Armed Forces Sports.

Phelps was diagnosed with ALS in April 2015. Within six months he lost his ability to speak. In January, he was forced to eat and drink using a feeding tube.

But he continued officiating games around the state, using an orange hand-held whistle and LCD board to convey his thoughts if needed at the scorer’s table.

Players even took notice.

“It was a blast tonight, but being able to see Carl was even more amazing,” said Cache star Jamie Bonnarens, who delivered a personal letter to Phelps between games. “I got emotional before my game.”

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But I gotta say, with all the hate and horror this past week, I have to wonder about Skylar’s tweet:

Some of the comments I heard from the fans last night disgusted me. Completely unnecessary and nothing to do with ball.

Not. Okay. SO not okay.

Speaking of NOT OKAYBrittney Griner Responds To Happy Father’s Day Trolls On Twitter

Speaking of ALSO NOT OKAY: Who the hell writes your headlines AP/ESPN? This is what you produce after a three-overtime game? Wings beat Mercury in 3OT in first game between Brittney Griner and Glory Johnson since divorce Take a moment sports and copy editors and look in the mirror and ask yourself, “Who do I work for, a sports site or a gossip rag?”

Now, about that triple-OT game. It was a doozy – with lot of basketball drama. From Swish Appeal: 

Phoenix head coach Sandy Brondello was quick to give Dallas credit for their resilience.

“We just didn’t have the energy, we built that seven-point lead, and we got some wide open three’s and we just broke down,” Brondello said. “This (Dallas) is a team that has a lot of confidence; Skylar Diggins got back into the flow of her game. We were on our back foot, obviously, foul trouble hurt us – when Diana went out.”

From Jeff Metcalfe: 

The Mercury (4-8) dropped the second of back-to-back games after losing Friday in Los Angeles and fall to four games under .500 for the third time.

“We let it slip away,” said Taylor, who scored 21 points. Taylor said she did not commit a foul with 15.5 seconds left but was told by the official “that he thought I wanted to foul. But I didn’t. It was a game we had control of but had too many mistakes and too many breakdowns. We have to take a look at ourselves and try and turn it around.”

BTW @WNBA – any way you can contact google and inform them that the Shock are no longer the Shock?

Dream: Carla Cortijo embraces role as WNBA’s only Puerto Rican-born player

Yes! LeBron, Russell Westbrook praise WNBA in new ad set to debut Monday night and Hell, yes! WNBA’s Nneka Ogwumike shot the ball 20 times in a game and didn’t miss

Cool: Sports Humanitarian finalists: Brent Burns, Tina Charles, Carlos Dunlap, Chris Paul

Fever: USC’s Mitchell thriving in WNBA

“I think this put me in the best situation, honestly,” said Mitchell. “I use it as motivation just because I felt I could have been a higher draft pick. But, at the end of the day, I knew I was going to make the most out of any opportunity I had and I had to put my best foot forward.”

Yes, yes, how soon does June 21st get here!?!??!?!? WNBA Power Rankings: Minnesota Lynx, LA Sparks Continue Early Dominance From Michelle: 

Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve looked around after practice and saw nearly 50 members of the media there to greet her and her Lynx players to talk about being on the cusp of the best start in WNBA history.

“There are a lot of people here, something must be going on,” Reeve said with a chuckle.

That good humor is hard-earned, as Minnesota has stormed out to a 10-0 record to open the season, matching the best start in WNBA history.

LaChina’s Podcast: 

On this week’s “Around the Rim,” women’s basketball analyst LaChina Robinson covers the Lynx’s historic start to the WNBA season and speaks with two of the game’s brightest stars — Sky rookie Imani Boyette and three-time WNBA champion and Mercury guard Diana Taurasi.

Flashback time: Twenty years later, a look back at WNBA’s first game

“All those games I’d watched as a kid, the Celtics-Lakers games, it was in that building, on that court,” said Lobo, who finished the first game with 16 points and six rebounds. “It was that same kind of atmosphere in terms of a lot of fans there, TV cameras right there. It felt big.

“The game itself I remember us winning, which was important. But there was just so much around it that is even a bigger memory to me than some of the things that happened on the court.”

AdiosFormer UConn star Swin Cash on WNBA farewell tour and Retiring Swin Cash trying to stay in the moment in final WNBA season

And yes, I know they’re doing a “Top 20 of the last 20 (WNBA 20th Season Celebration Will Honor 20 Greatest Players),” and Mel’s asked for your input (WNBA Top 20 All-Time Players: The Guru Offers You the Chance to be His Committee but all those lists do is start arguments vs. discussions of the game. Me? I’d rather they just put in them in (reverse) alphabetical order…

Babcock McGraw: Parker, Catchings among 20 best players in WNBA’s 20-year history

International: China, France, Spain and Turkey clinch women’s basketball places at Rio 2016

Geno Auriemma getting ready for run with U.S. women’s national team

BTW: Coming to New York for the USA National team game on July 31st? Gimme a holler – maybe we can meet for dinner afterward? (And if you want to avoid ticket fees, I can pick up seats for you too – womenshoopsblog@gmail.com

Also: It’s to early to plan for FIBA 2018/Spain… but it sure ain’t too early to start saving for the trip….hint, hint, hint.

NCAA: 

Goodbye/hello: St. Bonaventure women’s basketball Miranda Drummond transfers to Syracuse

Goodbye? Morgan State reassigns women’s basketball coach Donald Beasley

Oregon Ducks women’s basketball coach Kelly Graves excited about incoming recruiting class

Coach Jeff Mittie seeks faster pace from K-State women’s basketball team

Congrats:

The 1991-92 and 1992-93 Arkansas Tech University women’s basketball teams have been selected for induction into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.
 
The Golden Suns of the early 1990s are the only four-year college basketball teams from the State of Arkansas to ever win back-to-back national championships.

Another Library addition: Fight! Fight!: Discovering Your Inner Strength When Blindsided by Life and Q&A with women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell

Less than a month after being inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in September 2013, UNC women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. Her new book, “Fight! Fight!: Discovering Your Inner Strength When Blindsided by Life,” details her battle and eventual triumph disease. 

High School: Two girls’ basketball players in Ky. sue coach for bullying, intimidation

Two graduating seniors are now suing their prep basketball coach, accusing him of bullying, abuse and intimidation.

Four months after finishing their Muhlenberg County (Greenville, Ky.) girls’ basketball careers, Makayla Sampson and Kerra Vincent are seeking disciplinary measures against Lady Mustangs coach Mike Harper as well as compensation for the injuries and resulting medical treatment they say he forced them to play through, according to WBKO-TV.

Ball: Women’s rec basketball gets a starring role in new Pistol Shrimps documentary

The pistol shrimp is a ferocious creature the size of a human finger, armed with a deadly, oversized claw that functions like a handgun, sending tiny air bullets speeding at 60-plus miles per hour toward its victim. These Pistol Shrimps are 13 women on a rec league basketball team in Los Angeles. They, too, are fierce. They’re funny. They have their own dance team. And last season, they almost went undefeated. So, so close.

The Shrimps’ chase to the L.A. City Municipal Women’s Basketball League division championship provides the backdrop for a new documentary, “The Pistol Shrimps,” which introduces viewers to the most famous women’s intramural team in the world, and is only tangentially about the game of basketball.

“From the outside, we look like an unassuming basketball team,” says singer/songwriter/point guard Jesse Thomas, No. 99 on the Pistol Shrimps. “But after you watch the movie, you realize there’s a lot more going on than just basketball. It’s inspirational.”

From Deadline: ‘The Pistol Shrimps’ Tribeca Trailer: These Women Are Ballers On And Off The Court

Warning to haters from Pistol Shrimp baller Aubrey Plaza, just in time for the NBA Playoffs: “You’re either with us or you’re against us — and God help you if you’re against us because we will dunk on your ass so hard!” Here’s a first look at The Pistol Shrimps, a docu-take on the basketball collective made up of actresses, comics and attitude. Shocked — shocked! — to learn that there were no women’s leagues in Los Angeles, they formed their own, and a hard-fouling, trash-spewing semi-juggernaut was born.

 

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It’s almost as hot as L.A. and Minnesota are… yup, counting down to June 21st.

Meanwhile, folks in Chicago and Phoenix are scratching their heads.

Excelle: What’s wrong with the Phoenix Mercury?

Prior to the season, the Phoenix Mercury were favorites to take home the 2016 WNBA Championship. The majority of the league’s general managers picked Phoenix to win it all in their annual survey. Multiple Associated Press voters and some betting sites also favored the Mercury. But not two weeks later, the team is 0-4 and playing the worst defense in the WNBA. So, what happened?

It’s important to note that we’re just four games into the season, so hitting the panic button would be premature. Two of Phoenix’s losses were at the hands of the Minnesota Lynx, the defending champions. The other two were tight games against solid teams. Things could turn around quickly, but not without addressing some red flags.

Meanwhile…

SlamOnline: Q+A: Imani Boyette – With patience and hard work, Chicago’s rookie center is staying ready for when her number is called.

One record-setter salutes another – Pro from Don Lugo congratulates athlete who took her place in book

“My dad sent me this article and the photo and it said you broke my record,” Ms. Taurasi told Ana during their meeting on the court. “That’s good, records are meant to be broken.”

Their meeting was video taped, and was part of a 90-second video shown to the 10,000-plus fans in attendance that night during a time out.

Star Tribune: Lynx aim to stay undefeated vs. familiar foe

Moving on up: Unbeaten Sparks 2nd in AP WNBA power poll and WNBA: The Los Angeles Sparks Will Fly

Jeff Jacobs: Chiney And Nneka Ogwumike Foes On Court, Sisters Off

They went to dinner together Wednesday night. And when this game had ended, Chiney and Nneka Ogwumike walked off the court together, arms wrapped around each other’s shoulder.

After the 77-72 loss to the unbeaten Los Angeles Sparks, a heartened rookie Sun coach Curt Miller would say he felt his team had “grown up” Thursday night at Mohegan Sun Arena. The coming schedule, of course, will prove Miller correct or not.

This much is certain. Chiney and Nneka Ogwumike have grown up together and will never grow apart. Sisters forever.

Rolling Stone: Elena Delle Donne’s Silent Supremacy

Amsterdam Times: Liberty drop two overtime games (Yah, we know. Sigh)

Billboard: Ballin’ Out Podcast: Fat Joe & the WNBA’s Breanna Stewart on How They Came ‘All the Way Up’

ESPN: WNBA veteran DeLisha Milton-Jones wants to go out on own terms

After another “Year of Women’s Sports” is it any surprise we get this from the Times? Pro Basketball|After Two Decades, WNBA Still Struggling for Relevance or AJC’s Is WNBA’s expectation for success just a dream?

Then there’s MSR: Youngsters inspired by WNBA trailblazers

These are the post-1997 players. These women hoopsters saw first-hand America’s longest running and most successful women’s pro basketball league as it moved from the drawing board to reality. As youngsters they could finally join their male counterparts and dream about something that many pre-WNBA generation players could only do abroad — one day playing pro ball in the States.

“The first time I thought about it, I was in fourth grade,” said Morgan Tuck, a rookie with Connecticut.

Dallas rookie Aerial Powers noted, “I can’t remember a specific moment [when she thought about playing professionally], but I do remember the Lisa Leslie dunk and her putting her hands up to the crowd.”

NCAA

Welp: Ole Miss self-imposes postseason ban for women’s basketball; reduced scholarships in football

Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie battles on and off the court

This was planned as the story of a 50-year-old coach who uses her celebrity to help raise awareness and funds to combat a deadly disease that haunts her life and scarred her body. The fact her 2016 team failed to reach the NCAA tournament for the first time in her nine-year tenure, the first time at Duke since 1994, only made it a more compelling tale of struggle and challenge.

But things have a way of turning out differently than we expect.

Hello: Hartford Hires Kim McNeill As Women’s Basketball Coach

Not too surprising, considering her record: Alabama A&M University: Head coach Semeka Randall resigns

Bye/Hello: Syracuse Women’s Basketball: Florida Guard Isis Young to Transfer to Orange

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Thank goodness.

An ugly, cranky start by the Merc gave Maya Moore the Lynx a nice lead. And then then Penny Taylor in the fourth quarter happened. And then… Bonner missed a FT, Maya didn’t, Diana missed a three and Big Syl grabbed the rebound. Lynx go to 4-0, Mercury fall to 0-4.

From Richard at WNBAlien: WNBA and the Pick+Roll, and introducing the W Dozen

Eleven days into the WNBA season, it’s a little early to be drawing any real conclusions (although the ‘Minnesota good’, ‘San Antonio bad’, and ‘What the hell is going on in Phoenix?’ hot-takes are already emerging). So we’re going to take a look at one of the key building-blocks of virtually every modern offense in professional basketball. The pick-and-roll – or even just the pick – is an incredibly simple concept. You put a teammate in the way of your defender, and then force the defense to deal with the problems that creates.

From Excelle: How New York Liberty are remaking their small forward position

The New York Liberty play a throwback style of basketball. Defense and rebounding are priorities 1A and 1B. While other teams move towards smaller fours that can spread the floor, head coach Bill Laimbeer’s squad often plays two traditional bigs together. The Lib will bog teams down to a crawl and punish them in the low post. It’s been a fun and successful brand of ball, and it hasn’t taken away from the more modern aspects of New York’s game. 

This season, the Liberty have scoffed at playing traditional small forwards, opting instead for smaller players who perform despite not fitting the mold.

Connecticut: Slow Start, Too Many Fouls, Mar Beginning Of Miller’s First Season With Sun

Because of the monthlong Olympic break in August, the WNBA season lasts into September so a few missteps in May aren’t going to make a team panic.

Still, the start of season is a critical time for the Connecticut Sun. New coach Curt Miller is trying to install his system and bring a new culture to the franchise. It would be better for all concerned if some positive reinforcement was available early to help the process.

SlamOnline.com: Q+A: Nneka Ogwumike – The fifth-year Sparks forward dishes on L.A.’s hot start.

From Paul Doyle at the Hartford Courant: Dolson Spreads Word On Her Identity, And WNBA’s

About 90 minutes before the Connecticut Sun‘s home opener, Morgan Tuck walked past a cluster of reporters surrounding Washington Mystics center Stefanie Dolson.

“Oh my God, Stefanie Dolson!” Tuck yelled.

Without missing a beat, Dolson replied.

“Oh my God, Morgan Tuck!” she said.

Then it was back answering questions, seamlessly and smiling. Dolson, who left UConn for the WNBA two years ago, is still the same quick-witted, breezy personality who became a fan favorite during her time in Storrs.

From Cosmopolitan: How WNBA Player Imani Boyette Beat the Odds — and Her Depression

From the Fever: Wheelin’ Around: Erica Wheeler’s Journey to the WNBA

NCAA

From the Tennessean’s: Joe Rexrode: Vanderbilt’s Stephanie White — worth the wait

White is the head coach of the WNBA’s Indiana Fever and will remain so through a season that could realistically end in the Finals in mid-October (she led the Fever to the Finals a year ago as a rookie head coach). She might take full command of her first Vandy team less than a month before it starts the 2016-17 season.

That’s not ideal. But if White is what Vanderbilt thinks she is, what her resume and command of a room suggest she is, it’s meaningless. It’s the delayed flight to start a vacation that you’re already laughing about at the end of the vacation.

More on White from the AP’s Teresa Walker: Stephanie White ready to speed up Vanderbilt as new coach

And more on the ‘Around the Rim’ podcast: Meeting expectations

On the latest edition of “Around The Rim,” 2005 WNBA champion Ticha Penicheiro joins women’s basketball analyst LaChina Robinson as special guest host.

The two discuss the Sparks’ dominant win over the Sky, why the Mercury continue to struggle, whether or not teams are exceeding or falling below expectations and which players that usually fly under the radar are playing surprisingly well.

Plus, Hall of Fame coach Lin Dunn stops in to discuss Stephanie White’s end-of-the-season departure to coach at Vanderbilt, her decision to exit retirement and return to coaching at Kentucky and much more.

Speaking of Dunn: Kentucky’s new assistant coaches have strong bonds, common goal

It’s a word rolled out with regularity by head coaches to describe their team and coaching staff: family.

The three new assistant coaches hired by embattled Kentucky women’s basketball coach Matthew Mitchell certainly gave off that familial vibe when they met with the media for the first time Wednesday.

The newest hire, Hall of Famer Lin Dunn, said she thinks of her new boss “almost like a son” before giving a sideways glance and a smirk.

“Not a grandson, but a son,” quipped the 69-year-old, who has won more than 500 games at the college, professional and international levels.

International

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Don’t go to OT.

Hill scores career-high 24, Mystics beat Sun 84-76 in OT

The Lib got there two different ways – let the Sparks back in and came back against the Dream. End result? Two losses. Oops.

Inside The W with Michelle Smith

This is why Tina Charles came to New York. She wanted to come to her hometown team and be a part of building the Liberty franchise into one of the league’s elite teams.

The Liberty are 2-2 with both losses coming in overtime, but are still looking poised to build on the success of 2015, when they posted the best record in franchise history and the best regular-season record in the WNBA.

Charles said the Sparks loss, a game in which the Liberty led by eight with 1:16 to go in regulation, leaves “a bad taste.”

Yah, sure, you’re telling me that you thought the Storm would give the Lynx their biggest challenge of the season (so far). (Or that the Merc would be 0-fer) If you don’t have the June 21st Minnesota/LA match up circled, I have no idea what will get you revved in the world of basketball.

Speaking of Seattle:

Go behind-the-scenes of Breanna Stewart’s WNBA debut in a new documentary series

Seattle Times: Storm’s Breanna Stewart is learning from tough early losses in WNBA

Speaking of the Sparks, from Fastbreak’s WNBA Weekly Rundown: Sparks shining early (And stompin’ the Sky)

Nneka Ogwumike is ‘glue’ for Los Angeles Sparks

A year ago right about this same time, we checked in with Ogwumike and she was very optimistic about the Sparks’ potential, despite forward Candace Parker sitting out the first part of the season. But then Ogwumike suffered a sprained ankle in an exhibition game in late May. (The season started in June then, with no major international competition to have to fit in like this year with the Olympics.)

And very little went right for L.A. for nearly two months. 

San Antonio: Moriah Jefferson quickly becoming a shining ‘Star’

Hello, Washington: Jamie Weisner added to the roster.

Some people hate the jerseys, some people love’em. Me, I’m glad the Wings are off to such a great start – and that a sold out crowd got to see a home win. Great job getting the word out in the Dallas-Arlington-Fort Worth area.

Tara Sullivan: WNBA passing the test of time

The first postgame locker room in WNBA history looked like something out of a M*A*S*H episode, exhausted bodies dropping wherever they could. Such was the price of an emotional (participating in the historic debut of a brand new basketball league) and physical (actually playing in the 60-minute game) toll. Players from the New York Liberty and Los Angeles Sparks were worn out.

“Right now, I’m emotionally spent,” Liberty center Rebecca Lobo told me that California day in June 1997. “We had so much emotion running through us for this game. We were wound tight and wanted to explode.”

Stefanie Dolson says decision to come out was ‘mainly to be a role model for the younger girls’

Today, the former UConn star and WNBA All-Star player will come out publicly in print that she is a lesbian athlete. Although it has been out on the web for almost two weeks on ESPN.com, the ESPN The Magazine article about Dolson hits newsstands today. 

“I don’t really see it as an announcement,” Dolson said prior to the Mystics’ game with the Connecticut Sun on Saturday. “It was mainly just to get out that the WNBA, as a league, is supportive of who we are as women. That’s why our fans are so great. They support us, too. I’m just glad that I’m happy.”

Former WNBA legend Ruthie Bolton shares three takeaways from her film ‘Mighty Ruthie’

Former WNBA legend Ruthie Bolton’s film, “Mighty Ruthie,” premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on SEC Network. It highlights the Olympic medalist’s life as a college basketball player at Auburn in the 1980s, as she worked hard to prove her talent and eventually became a star athlete.

A few years later, Bolton led the United States women’s basketball team to the gold medal at the 1996 Olympics in Los Angeles. Throughout her successful career, Bolton kept a secret from her family and teammates: Her then-husband was physically abusing her.

Two days after “Mighty Ruthie” was screened at her alma mater by her former teammates and their coaches, espnW interviewed Bolton. Her older sister, Mae Ola, also a star athlete at Auburn, was present for the conversation. Bolton spoke candidly about the film, but she was adamant about not wanting viewers to pity her.

NCAA

So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, good night…well, not until the end of the WNBA season. No real surprise, as Vandy made it official and named Stefanie White their new head coach. They sure got lucky, timing-wise… I think (ponders how early the process might have started). White will be joined by Carolyn Peck as associate head coach.

The SEC is setting up quite the Indiana/Purdue reunion, an Lin Dunn couldn’t stay off the sidelines. She joins Matthew Mitchell on the sidelines as a. Here’s hoping she can help right whatever’s wrong with that ship (on and off the court).

Hello: Williams-Jeter Added to Penn State Women’s Basketball Staff

Speaking of Connecticut grads: Hartley, Dolson know what awaits next year’s UConn team. It will help that they got another transfer addition (who won’t have to change her clothing color scheme much) Kentucky’s Batouly Camara Joins UConn; Will Sit Out A Season

Bye: Stasha Carey transfers to Rutgers women’s basketball, leaves Pitt

Congrats:

Michele Schmidt, assistant sports information director at South Dakota State University, won the 2016 Fred Stabley Sr. Writing Contest’s coach/administrator/historical category for the College Sports Information Directors of America’s District 7.

Schmidt’s article was on the 1986-87 women’s basketball team making the program’s first trip to Alaska. The Jackrabbits spent Thanksgiving visiting the North Pole, the Alaskan pipeline and a glacier. To read the story, visit http://www.gojacks.com/news/2015/11/26/210534488.aspx?path=wbball.

USA Basketball

You may recall Lubbock Christian as the team who got stomped by UConn in the preseason, made a video about it, and then went on to go undefeated and claim the DII championship. That may explain why LCU’s coach Steve Gomez got an offer to coach for USA Basketball. He’ll get to hang with the fabulous Nancy Fahey (Washington University), the only coach to win five Division III national championships, Washington University who he may have met at the Final Four festivities,  and Pam Crawford from League City Clear Springs High School.

International: Lauren Jackson to the rescue for Melbourne Boomers

AAU: Basketball Rebels Bounce Back After Founder’s Death

The MRC Rebels Girls Basketball Club was founded in 1988 by Oscar Jimenez, who saw a lack of basketball opportunities for San Francisco girls and sought the City’s help to fill the gap. The program received City funding early on, though Jimenez paid for some expenses out of his own pocket. When Jimenez died suddenly in 2010 at the age of 57, many of his youthful club members lost a mentor and father-figure. Slowly, with the help of new talent, the club has successfully rebounded. 

“It’s unique because of its legacy and affordability,” said assistant coach, Mark Reppert. “We have girls coming up from South City largely due to the legacy created by Oscar. The team is made up of girls from an array of backgrounds and cultures, which I think is rare for San Francisco these days. This diversity represents what the Mission is at its heart.”

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Or, better, “Let’s play one more!”

The Liberty took care of the pesky Mystics with authority borne of lessons learned.

“”Did we play hard Friday? Yes. Did we play focused? Yes. We did not do the little things that win playoff games.

“[The players] knew it. They watched the film; they saw their defensive mistakes. Saw their not-boxing-out mistakes, saw their unforced turnovers and their missed free throws. They knew they had that game and gave it away.”

From Kelyn Soong at the WaPo:

The New York Liberty quickly silenced the Verizon Center crowd that showed up Sunday afternoon to watch the Washington Mystics attempt to advance to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 2002. The buzz, palpable before tip-off, was gone by the time the Liberty took a seven-point lead barely two minutes in. Instead of letting the Mystics close out the series, New York showed why it owned the WNBA’s best regular season record with an 86-68 rout.

While Boyd may be missing from the court, that doesn’t mean she’s not still learning. From the Players’ Tribune, “Growing Up.

“Why don’t you talk?”

Swin Cash was at the next locker, staring at me. I was frozen.

It was my first day with the Liberty and my locker was between Swin and Tanisha Wright. It felt like I had stumbled into a class in a grade above me on the first day of school. Playing for the Liberty, it’s pretty hard not to be next to a veteran or two at all times. They didn’t wait long to start in on me.

Tanisha was staring at this quiet girl next to her. “Come here girl, give me a hug.” And so Tanisha gave me a hug. Tanisha’s a hugger.

When I went to say something, nothing came out. I was just smiling awkwardly and sitting there. It was all really overwhelming. This was my first week in the WNBA.

Parker made some noise, and the Sparks made Maya almost human, so they’re on their way to Minnesota for a deciding game three.

Digging deep is nothing new for the Sparks.

No one in the league dragged themselves out of a bigger hole to end up in this place, fighting and scrapping to stay in contention for a title.

Los Angeles has been dealing all season with obstacles, players in and out of the lineup with injuries, a superstar who didn’t show up until the All-Star break, a nightmarish start that had the Sparks wearing the league’s worst record for a long stretch.

So this little thing on Sunday, the matter of having to play at the Pyramid on the campus of Long Beach State, more than an hour away from their home floor, in a gym they hadn’t seen all season — and facing elimination against the West’s top seed to boot — was not the scenario that was going to take out the Sparks.

Next, they need to worry about Nnek’s neck: 

The Los Angeles Sparks have been dealing with adversity throughout the season.

Heading into their biggest game of the year, they’ve been dealt another major blow.

The Sparks are unsure of the status of three-time All-Star Nneka Ogwumike for Tuesday night’s decisive Game 3 of their Western Conference semifinal series against the top-seeded Minnesota Lynx.

Tonight, the Stage Is Set For Winner-Take-All Game 3 Between Chicago And Indiana

Will Tamika Catchings’ laser focus lead to upset over Sky?

“I think tonight we just came out with a lot more focus,” Catchings said. “Not to say we weren’t focused in game one, but definitely down the stretch our focus it seemed like it magnified.”

The focus for Catchings seemed to be everything—with 22 points, nine rebounds and five steals, the six-foot-two forward was an unstoppable threat all night.

“We executed offensively and defensively,” Catchings said. “Everybody zoned in.  You could see it in their eyes.”

Sky, Fever to play decisive Game 3

Following a Game 1 victory Thursday at the UIC Pavilion, the Chicago Sky had the advantage and looked to close out the Indiana Fever on Saturday.

But despite a strong offensive effort from the Sky, the defense loomed large as the Fever rallied to win 89-82 and even the series at 1-1. The two teams return to action Monday at 8 p.m. EST for the decisive Game 3.

In other news:

I may have some nits to pick with some of the reasons, but there’s no denying that they have reasons. From Lady Swish: Why it’s hard for us to embrace the WNBA

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