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From Jere’ at the NY Times: Outrage Over an Antigay Law Does Not Spread to Olympic Officials

So it is entirely possible that any bobsledder or skier wearing a pin, patch or T-shirt in support of gay rights could be sent home from Sochi, not by Russian authorities, but by another group that suppresses expression: the International Olympic Committee.

Would the I.O.C. inflict such a public-relations disaster on itself? Perhaps not. But Olympic officials worldwide, including those in the United States, along with NBC and corporate sponsors, have put themselves and athletes in an awkward position by only tepidly opposing the Russian law that bans “homosexual propaganda.”

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and now she is gone for the season. Dream fans must be wanting to wake from this nightmare, opponents must be wiping their brow…and I wonder if coaches are asking, “Who’s running this Laurel and Hardy show, Laurel?”

Mel has some words on coach Meadors ‘ firing.

Mechelle does, too

In other news, the Shock might be looking at some seriously twin towers next year since it appear Cambage will not return as promised. Of course, considering how the no-return happened, it is just as likely we’ll never see Liz back in the States, no matter what the Shock say.

Mechelle’s got some words about this mess, too.

I’m feeling like some of the vets need to have a sit down with the youngsters and talk about professionalism.

And that I should never go to Canada during the WNBA season….

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5) Even if you DO buy the chicken fingers, it costs less than a movie.

4) Baby, it’s hot outside – so chill at the arena and let the players turn it up a notch.

3) Cambage is back — and you know how to pronounce her name.

2) You can start cheering for your team, now that the UConn players are in the minority.

And the number one reason to watch the WNBA:

1) You don’t have to travel to London to see Olympians live — they’re right in front of you.

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From Mechelle: WNBA teams restart their engines – Games resume Thursday; teams have about seven weeks for final playoff push

Lawson, who turned 31 in February, is having the best season statistically of her career, averaging 14.5 point, 3.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists. She has made 43.8 percent of her 3-pointers (39 of 89) and seems particularly focused.

“We feel good about the second half of the year — [while] understanding that everybody feels like they’re ready for a good second half,” Lawson said of the universal optimism that marked a WNBA conference call Tuesday. “I don’t think there’s a team out there that doesn’t think they’re going to improve. I just think the intensity of the games will be a little bit higher as everybody tries to position themselves.

From Dishin’ and Swishin’: A Roundtable recap of the Olympics and preview of the returning WNBA season. ESPN’s Mechelle Voepel, Washington Mystics commentator Christy Winters Scott, and and Mel Greenberg chat with David about:

Will Diana Taurasi play again this season for the Phoenix Mercury?

Is there a team that could move up and sneak into a playoff spot?

Did the WNBA get the rub it needs from the Olympic Games coverage? Is the WNBA marketing the success of the Olympics games enough?

The WNBA has had only two players average twenty points and ten rebounds previously (Sylvia Fowles in 2011 and Chamique Holdsclaw in 2003). Fowles, Candace Parker and Tina Charles all are close this season. Can they reach this amazing level?

Who will help their team the most of the returning internationals and injured players? What impact will they have on the rest of the season?

Which teams benefited from having the time off the Olympic break provided?

The NBA’s LeBron James who won the championship, a gold medal, regular season and Finals Most Valuable Player awards this year. Can anyone match that feat this WNBA season?

Nate gets into the act, wondering: WNBA Midseason All-Rookie Teams: Who Are The Top Rookies After Nneka Ogwumike?

Speaking of rookies, Sports Page Magazine has this: Sparks’ Ogwumike Ready for Leadership Role as WNBA Season Resumes

Speaking of the return.. the return of an age-old question: Sex, muscles, basketball: How do you sell an athletic woman?

Americans have a complicated relationship with female athletes. During the Olympics, we love them. They had some great moments in the 2012 games, which concluded Sunday. The United States women’s soccer team beamed from the gold medal podium in front of a crowd of 80,000 after defeating Japan last Thursday. Throughout the games, the NBC cameras couldn’t get enough of gymnast Gabby Douglas and swimmer Missy Franklin, both likable medalists. This year, America sent more women than men to compete in London for the first time.

But male and female Olympians return to different worlds this week: most of the women have nowhere to play professionally in the U.S. Take female soccer players, whose U.S. pro league folded this year. Goalie Hope Solo recently told Newsweek that the team must come out on top at the games because if it doesn’t, “People are going to forget all about us.”

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From Dishin’ and Swishin’: Podcast: Can Phoenix & New York make a playoff run? Corey Gaines & Monique Ambers discuss their teams

From the Norwich Bulletin: Sun players pleased for teammates’ Olympic success

The jet lag may not be all that bad — it’s only a five-hour time difference between Connecticut and London —  but the hangover from winning the Olympic gold medal may be something that Tina Charles and Asjha Jones will have to overcome.

During the WNBA‘s Olympic break, which began July 14, the Sun have been doing their best to keep one of the league’s top motors revving by holding practices for their remaining nine players since just before the start of the London Games on July 27.
You can see her feet tapping inches away from the floor where they would rather be running.
Besides 36 minutes of the pre-Olympic WNBA season, Diana Taurasi has been on the wrong side of the thin black line that frames the Mercury’s home court. A hip-flexor strain and ankle problems have kept Taurasi from donning the only clothes she’d want to wear at Mercury games. Instead, she’s been relegated to cheering her team on from the sidelines in casual business attire.
She hasn’t been alone.
No, she hasn’t. Add in Phoenix’s mayor: Phoenix Mercury Dominate Then Break Mayor Greg Stanton’s Nose
Now, about that thing that just happened in London:
Kelli Anderson at SI: U.S. women did not generate buzz, but did generate fifth straight gold

Simply put, this group was a collection of low-maintenance, high-production gym rats, similar in talents the players who came before, but different. No player from the 1996 team that started this golden run is still playing. “That’s what makes the streak even more impressive,” said Bird the day before the gold-medal game. “It’s not the same group of people playing great together. It’s a different group every time. There are people without gold medals on this team. And then there are people who have them and want to keep that legacy going, to keep that history alive, take the torch, so to speak, from those who came before us and do well with it.”

Doug: A repeat in Rio? US women’s hoops team thinks it’s possible after winning Olympic gold

From Fox Sports Arizona (or is it also Doug’s?)  Unsure of legacy, Taurasi wants fourth gold

Diana Taurasi’s already impressive Olympic resume isn’t finished.The U.S. shooting guard has three gold medals and plans to be at the 2016 Rio Games looking to win a fourth.Still, the 30-year-old Taurasi isn’t ready to pencil herself into an all-time starting lineup of U.S. Olympic women’s basketball players that would undoubtedly include four-time gold medalists Lisa Leslie and Teresa Edwards.Others, though, say Taurasi belongs.

And, Down Under, the fight goes on: Lundy, Opals to push for end to gender discrimination

THE second-class treatment of Australia’s female Olympic basketballers was tip-of-the-iceberg evidence of the gender discrimination that still exists in sport, which the federal Sports Minister, Kate Lundy, leaves the London Games determined to rectify.

Her claim, on the eve of the closing ceremony, that ”basketball is not alone” came as the Opals captain and Australian team flag bearer Lauren Jackson, and her teammate Kristi Harrower, felt free to discuss the furore over the male and female teams’ different travel arrangements after they completed their competition with a bronze medal.

Most of Australia’s national women’s team flew to London in premium economy class while their male counterparts travelled – as a general rule – in business class.

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from Nate: On USA Coach Geno Auriemma Calling France’s Celine Dumerc ‘The Most Impactful Player’ In The 2012 Olympic Tournament

It’s always weird to focus on the loser in a sports contest, especially when the loser gets blown out 86-50 in a gold medal game by an opposing country that has won 41 straight games and 5 consecutive gold medals.

But it’s hard to disagree with USA head coach Geno Auriemma’s point that France was the team of the tournament – those weren’t just gracious words from a coach who has wins to spare. Years of preparation paid off for France and it showed not only in surprising most people by even getting to the gold medal game, but in their execution and their ability to even hang around with the U.S. as long as they did before a third quarter that showed the gap between the two teams.

Video from the .com: USA Women: The Road to Glory – Follow the US Women’s National Team’s all-access journey from training camp to winning Olympic gold in London

Paul has: Looking back on London

As the dust begins to settle on the Games, there’s no probably no better time to pick out my initial reflections from London 2012, a tournament that delivered the usual roller-coaster of emotion and plenty of thrilling action to feast upon. So, in no particular order;

The party hosts

It was interesting FIBA Secretary General Patrick Baumann was quoted as saying “I think the British men’s team didn’t let us down.” I actually thought the British public (and anybody else for that matter) weren’t let down by the GB women either.

Paul also wrote on a popular theme this Games: USA Olympic record lacks due respect

As the USA bids to land a simply stunning fifth straight gold medal and extend their somewhat mind-boggling 40-game Olympic winning streak, there’s little doubt they’ve not been handed the wider recognition or respect this magnificent record so thoroughly deserves.
 
Equally, their hard work and application at the defensive end here in London also needs to be highlighted. I readily put my hand up in shame at focusing far too heavily on their offensive capabilities heading into the tournament. It was probably never about this in reality– only doing the dirty work effectively and playing defense.

Did you see this from Doug: Olympics: U.S., then the rest: The Americans continue their domination of women’s basketball with a fifth straight gold medal.

Catchings said the Americans “just wanted to keep that legacy going.”

Edwards, a five-time Olympian, said no worry there.

“The legacy is real,” said Edwards, who had a front-row seat Saturday night. “What these kids have been doing is amazing. Without much time to practice. In the middle of the WNBA season. And they look good. It’s like the whole world knows who we are. I’m really proud of them.

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Ten things to take away from London

Having talent no doubt means a great deal. But that, in and of itself, won’t get anyone a spot on the U.S. team. USA Basketball doesn’t have the opportunity to get the team together as much as it would like. But it does have the luxury of being a stickler about commitment to whatever practices, exhibitions and games there are.

If you’re healthy and can be there, then you better be there. Otherwise, someone is going to take your place.

For all the differences in personalities, backgrounds and experiences among the players on these past five gold-winning U.S. squads, there has been a unifying thread: team first. And not just because it’s required. But because it’s considered an honor.

That’s a very tangible attitude that has been passed down as a sacred trust. It has been embraced by all who’ve made the U.S. national team, at least for the duration of their time playing on that team.

BTW, I’ll add an 11th take away: Mechelle should have been there to cover the games.

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Women’s Olympic success: a flood that began as a trickle

Because this is how it happens: In 1976, Margaret Thompson Murdock became the first woman shooter ever make an American team. She might have been a token, but she was also a major in the U.S. Army, and she tied with her team captain Lanny Bassham in a rifle event for gold. Olympic rules prohibited a shoot-off, so the gold medal went to Bassham, while she got the silver. As the anthem played, Bassham pulled her up on the podium with him.

This is how it happens: In the 1984 Los Angeles Games, only 24 percent of the athletes were women. In the 1992 Barcelona Games, they were only 25 percent of the competitors. By the 1996 Games it increased to 36 percent, and by the 2008 Beijing Games, that figure exploded to 42 percent, and in London it was 44 percent, with every country sending at least one woman. The International Olympic Committee’s goal is 50-50 participation eventually. But an even more important benchmark would be to make the medal opportunities equal. Because that means that someday, as 17-year-old gold medalist Claressa Shields said, “There will be 30 of us in every event, and they will treat us fair.”

Also from the WaPo: U.S. women Olympians ‘hoping we have a million little girls who are inspired’

The U.S. team’s dominance, fueled by women who rolled up 29 golds and 59 total medals, defied the pre-Games speculation of London organizing committee leader Sebastian Coe.

“The only thing Seb got slightly wrong is he predicted we would come in behind China in the medal count,” USOC Chairman Larry Probst said Saturday, adding later, “We’re pretty happy about that. . . . Yeah, we like to come in first.”

First place makes a difference to the USOC, the only national Olympic committee that receives no government funding (WHB emphasis). The organization relies on donations from corporations and individuals to provide support for its athletes.

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Louisville loves her: Angel’s legacy now trimmed in Olympic gold

It wasn’t until I noticed what happens around Angel McCoughtry when she returns to Louisville that I fully appreciated her place in the sports history of this city.

Watch her for very long and the little girls will start to congregate, eyes wide. She signs autographs, poses for pictures, talks to them, asks about their teams, what positions they play.

Even after WNBA road games, where McCoughtry’s fierce on-court demeanor has made her player-most-likely-to-be-booed at many destinations, she’s around for kids after the games.

But here in Louisville, where she played college basketball and transformed the University of Louisville women’s basketball from an up-and-coming program to what now is one of the top attendance programs in the sport at any level, she means something more.

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I did get to tromp around in the mud and see this beauty (ruddy turnstone), this beauty (black bellied plover) and this handsome guy (avocet) who shouldn’t even be in the neighborhood.

US 88, Czech Republic 61: Speaking of hot, the Czechs sure were hot from outside in the first quarter, huh? Didja get nervous? Me, not so much — I just feel a little like a little old grandpa backseat driving and yelling “Guard the damn three! I said GUARD THE DAMN THREE!” (Did you see this headline at the Detroit Free Press: U.S. women’s basketball routes Czech Republic, 88-61.” And here I’d heard the traffic wasn’t so bad…)

Fortunately, they listened to me (or maybe some Italian born coach), made the adjustments and started playing some beautiful ball to win the US’s 37th Olympic game in a row.

Oh, and congrats BUT the reason you got a new rebounding record is because YOU MISSED SO MANY DAMN BUNNIES I THOUGHT ELMER FUDD WAS SHOOTING! (note: wordpress has this cool stat thing that shows a map of where visitors to the site come from. I apologize to all those folks out there who are wondering who the heck Ethel, Fred, George and Elmer are…) From Auriemma: 

I think that when you get to the Olympic Games shooting percentages can go down – because players have a tendency to rush things. That one possession I think we had six offensive rebounds in one possession and couldn’t make a layup. The offense is going to go up and down depending on the day maybe but I know we are going to go on a couple of runs in the course of the game. We certainly need Diana to play the way she played today because when she does she is able to stretch the team’s defense like nobody else. The Czech team is very difficult to play against. Defensively the only chance we had was just to wear them down. I think that is exactly what happened they got worn down.

Nate is chillin’ over the US’s 3-shooting: USA Women’s Basketball Vs. Czech Republic: Why Poor Three Point Shooting Is Not A Major Concern In The 2012 Olympics

ESPN lets Loudy Foudy spend a whole 3:35 minutes on the USA basketball team: Maya Moore.

It’s ridiculous to thing how far the Brits have come in such a short time – remember, the team didn’t exist until 2006.

Initially, basketball was the only discipline in which the host country was not to be automatically awarded entry. This was because the Great Britain basketball teams did not exist until 2006, and FIBA, the world governing body of basketball, was concerned about the future of the unified British teams after 2012, as well as the claimed total lack of competitiveness of British basketball. However, in a meeting held in Lyon, France, on 13 March 2011, the FIBA executive board agreed to allow the British teams to qualify automatically

Tom Maher has been magnificent, and the team has really bought in to whatever he was selling. Crushingly enough, the French Assassin made sure Great Britain continued winless in the Olympics, as Les Bleus defeated England in “injury time.”

BTW, I recall speaking with Jo Leedham a couple years back, and Andrea Congreaves’ name came up. Here’s some WATN? news out of Ireland: Glanmire name former WNBA star as new coach

Canada, 79  Brazil, 73: Speaking of winless: Holy carp, how much of a hot mess is Brazil in and can they get it together before 2016? They go bye-bye, and Oh, Canada! Courtnay & Co. will play on.

Ooooo! Didja hear! We found new lyrics to the classic “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off!”

You say CambAYge
And I say CamBAHge
You say garbAYge
And I say garbAHge

Australia 70, Russia 66: In the battle of the randomly prepared basketball announcers what’s-his-name on the sideline gets mispronunciation demerits, the whole group gets multiple demerits from turning Liz’s Olympic dunk into a story about Lauren v. Leslie. And Annie – -Love ya. You’re the most humble superb athlete I’ve ever met. But I believe Candace is going to ask you for the bonus money she earned with that mythical Championship.

Turkey 82, China 55: If you can figure out the Chinese team, please call. As for the Turkish team – cool! And, this settles it. I am covering the Worlds in Turkey in 2014 ’cause Turkey is the new hotbed and the place ought to be rockin’.

Croatia 75, Angola 56.

Up next: China at 11:45 EST. Check out Doug’s preview and email me thoughts about this quote:”The U.S. is a very tough team and we will do what we can against them,” China coach Sun Fengwu said through a translator. “We will try some special things against them.”

Oh, and the Washington Times has this: The real Dream Team: USA women’s basketball and the Bleacher Report has USA Olympic Women’s Basketball Team 2012: How Team Ranks Against Best All Time

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(Hey, it’s Friday — we all need a bad pun or two) I’m sure you read Doug’s preview:US women’s hoops team faces Czech Republic next

The rematch of the 2010 Worlds Championship will not be on NBC, but MSNBC.

Oh, dear, what on EARTH have Jo and company started? Women’s basketball catching fire with British fans (Hopefully there are not jerseys to be purchased)

While the venue, like most others in the London Games, has had its share of empty seats, it would be tough to tell from noise the crowd generates. Each session in the 12,000-seat arena is averaging just over 8,500 fans.

“It’s been awesome to see every single game, the energy, not just that the place is filled, but there is a great appreciation for women’s basketball,” said U.S. assistant coach Doug Bruno, who has seen the crowds while scouting the Americans’ future opponents. “The crowd is really into it. Growing this game is a process we’re working on back home, it’s not a quick process but it’s something everyone needs to work on.”

On the “local” level – a counter voice to Clay: Olympic gold could bring fans to WNBA

For basketball junkies, these Olympics provide an even greater opportunity: the chance to see international players compete in an accessible and clearly broadcast form. The Lynx currently own the draft rights to Rachel Jarry of Australia, Nika Baric of Slovenia and Damiris Dantas of Brazil, and these games are the best chance for fans to get a taste of what might be to come in the Lynx’s future.

A little WATN? with Ruthie Bolton: Writin’ books:Two-time Olympic Gold Medalist shares her ‘Ride of a Lifetime’

Speakin’ of reading: You can find the words of longtime WHB contributor Stephen Burt here – We Can Be Heroes: Poetry at the Olympics

What do these Olympic women — and the women’s side more generally — add to such accounts of poems and hoops? We might say they put poetry back on the ground: they remind us that the kind of effort that makes poems memorable, and makes elite games winnable, involves something that by its nature has to be shared. For poets it’s language, a set of expectations, a history of forms, a context of usage; for women’s hoops it’s the basketball itself, as well as the game plan, on offense and defense, and boards. People who watch the men but not the women like to talk about dunks, individual shows of strength; the woman best known for dunking, Brittney Griner, is the best U.S. player not in London, and women’s hoops — with or without Griner, even at its highest levels — generally takes place on the ground. The women’s game, more than the men’s, is a game about teamwork, shared defense, picks and thread-the-needle assists; it’s about making the right number of passes, moving the ball inside, and perhaps back out.

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Now for something completely different: WNBA star Swin Cash and Brian Davies argue over which is better, the USA Men’s Basketball team or the Women’s. Baron Davis stars as British rock star Brian Davies, breaking down the Olympics as you’ve never seen before.

This from the Connecticut Sun: Checking In From London – Asjha Jones and Tina Charles took a few minutes out from representing the United States in London to answer a few questions about their experience so far.

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(if we ignore the first few minutes of  “basketball as a hot mess” and the “oh, sh*t, what’s up with Big Syl’s foot” thoughts.)

From USA Basketball: USA Women Overpower Angola For 90-38 Victory – Establishing a new USA record for blocked shots with 4, Candace Parker also added team highs of 14 points and 12 rebounds in the win

“I think that Coach and the team is looking for me being confident and playing with intensity,” Parker said. “I think that’s my biggest thing is sometimes I get in my own head. I think tonight, he just gave me two things to do: just rebound and run the ball. We’re going to play defense but I tried to focus on that and my teammates did a good job of getting me the ball.”

From Doug: Parker leads Americans in rout of Angola

From Kevin McCauley: Candace Parker Impressive In 90-38 USA Win

Chris Stephens at the Bleacher Report has USA Olympic Women’s Basketball Team: How US Is Faring Early on

One thing that is still a concern for the U.S. is their outside shooting (men havin’ issues, too). Against Angola, they were 2-for-17 from behind the arc.

That shows me that when the team was selected, they didn’t pick pure three-point shooters (WHB: Except for Diana). It also shows that there is still a lack of ball movement as players are jacking up three-pointers even when it’s obvious they’re not falling. (Wait, don’t shooters keep shooting? ‘sides, “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”)

On the subject of ball movement, it was a lot better against Angola.

For those looking for some basketball excitement, the other games had plenty. Check out Snelly’s shot in this video from the Australia/France game. More here from Dan Devine. Attention grabbing shot aside, the French women still managed to stun Australia, 74-70.

“It’s a big win because no other team than the Americans has beaten Australia since I don’t know how long, 1996?” said Emilie Gomis, who scored all 22 of her points after halftime. “But this win gives us nothing right now. Tomorrow is another day, all the teams are tough to play and we are not going to take off now.”

LJ and Liz need to learn to keep their temper and not foul out.

The Izzy-less Brazilians had the Russians on the ropes, but then lost steam in the fourth, eventually falling 69-59. (Scroll down for a nice shot of Becky Hammon and her teammates)

“Playin’ Possum?” China demolished Croatia, 83-58.

In a battle of WHB favorites, Courtnay scored 11, Jo scored -15, but it w as Shona’s 18 that helped Canada to a 73-65 win over Great Britain. Quote of the day: “I’m not pissy because we lost. I’m that way naturally.”

Speaking of “hot mess,” what is up with the 21-turnover Czechs? Congrats to the Turskish team — 61-57 winners.

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Doug says: Cash, US women’s basketball team ready to face Angola in their 2nd game of the Olympics

“I was at a point in 2008 where I didn’t want to leave this game with people defining who I was as a player,” Cash said. “Going out with an injury is not what I wanted my legacy to be.”

A conversation with five-time Olympian and basketball great Teresa Edwards helped her refocus with one goal in mind — making it to London. Cash dedicated herself to getting healthy and now that the 32-year-old is back in the Olympics, she is ready to play whoever is next on the U.S. schedule.

From USA Basketball: U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Team Practice Quotes

Maya Moore (Minnesota Lynx)
Practice looked intense today, did you feel it was a good one?

It was a great practice. We came in. We worked hard. We practiced as if we didn’t play yesterday and don’t play tomorrow. I think it’s why we’re going to be able to play the way we want to tomorrow. We just came in, worked on some things offensively, added a few things and tightened up a few things on defense.

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From someone named Jim Caple: Team USA being taken for granted

Really? Taken for granted? Like, say, they’re going for their fifth gold and they don’t send Mechelle Voepel and her 28 seasons of covering women’s basketball chronicle the USA women. No, they send you, Jim.

To be honest, you DID write one article about women’s basketball in 2012. And another in 2010. And one in 2009. And, hey, there were those three that  you did in 2008!

I’m not poking at you, Jim. I’m sure you’re a nice, earnest guy. But I dare you to take a look at the company who hires you before you write stuff like:

“Right now the only streak we’re talking about is winning one in a row as many times as possible,” Auriemma said. “We’re not thinking about what the other teams did in the Olympics.”

The shame is, not enough people think about what the other teams did, either. Or, for that matter, what this one probably will do as well.

If you care, Jim, tell ESPN you’d like to pay more attention to this team. They deserve it.

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about the missing jerseys, twitter is, you know, very public. Some suggestions:

Jim Tooley,Executive Director/CEO @jtooleyusa

@jtooleyusa Hey Jim, enjoy your updates. Wonder if you could update me on how I could get a USABB Catchings jersey. Want to represent the best of the US

USABasketball: @usabasketball

@usabasketball Hey USA Bball – appreciate you supporting the men’s and women’s teams so equitably. Small fail, though – looks like the women’s jerseys haven’t arrived yet. Anywhere.

In case you’re inspired to do something about the missing coverage, twitter is, you know, very public. Since I can’t pick on EVERY news outlet, I’ll pick on my local NYTimes folks:

@LondonLive: Continuous coverage of the #London2012 Olympics by New York Times reporters and editors.

@LondonLive: Hey, LondonLive Was wondering if you knew the US had a women’s national team in basketball. They’re pretty good, what with them going for their 5th gold. What do they need to do to get coverage?

@nytbishop: New York Times general assignment sports reporter.

@nytbishop: Hey Greg. Impressed with the number of words you’re writing about the men’s national team. Is there a rule new at the Times that you can’t write about the women? Just wondering.

Rob Mahoney @RobMahoney: I write basketball things at basketball places. The New York Times. ESPN TrueHoop Network. NBA Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. NBC Sports’ ProBasketballTalk.

@RobMahoney: Hey Rob. I see you write “basketball things at basketball places.” Did you know that there are some basketball things happening that include women? Might want to check them out. They’re called the US National Team

@PeteThamelNYT: Pete Thamel is the national college sports reporter for The New York Times

@PeteThamelNYT: Hey Pete. Hope you’re enjoying your summer. Any chance you could find the time to cover the USA Women’s Basketball team. They all went to — and graduated from — college. AND they’re going for their 5th straight gold!

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Best opening night comment? Billy Bragg@billybragg

Anyone still doubting how good it was: Tory MP attacks Olympic opening ceremony as “leftie multi-cultural crap” http://labli.st/QpqZ0f

Worst non-comment? That tall, blond woman holding the Australian flag is one of the best basketball players in the world.”

Nuff said, let the Games (officially) begin!

First – no spoilers will be seen. But read up if you’re watching taped games: 2012 Olympic Women’s Basketball: Five Russian Players to Watch

From Fox: U.S. women’s basketball after more than gold

“They have the potential to be one of the best Olympic teams ever,” said Auriemma.

Great Britain coach Tom Maher has warned opponents – including his old Australian team who they meet on Saturday night – not to underestimate his rapidly improving squad, who go into the tournament with a fighting chance of qualifying from the pool stages.

It can be difficult to take much statistically from five exhibition games won by an average of 33.6 points per game.

Yet while Team USA was absolutely dominant for long stretches, they weren’t perfect either – there were still signs that they have yet to play their best basketball. So after five games, here are five questions – or early observations – that might be interesting to watch during the games.

From Bleacher Report: USA Olympic Women’s Basketball Team 2012: 6 Reasons to Watch This Year’s Squad

From Philly.com: Auriemma keeping women focused on another basketball crown

The question with his team isn’t whether it is good, or even whether it is great. The question for Geno Auriemma is whether the U.S. women’s basketball team is too good.

Too good to be seriously challenged. Too good to make the Olympic tournament even remotely sporting.

“I don’t want to coach the underdog,” Auriemma said Thursday. “It’s like cards. I don’t want to win the seventh hand because I got lucky. I want to have four aces right from the start and kick everyone’s [butt].”

Hey, you can take the kid out of Norristown . . .

From Mike Bresnahan, Chicago’s “Tribune Olympic Bureau”: U.S. women’s Olympic basketball team has been dreamy too – Heading into London Olympics, it has won 4 gold medals in row, but is way behind men in public eye (Was this is why the WHB was denied a credential — too many people covering the women’s game?)

As the game v. Croatia starts, all I can think is, “These damn announcers better know the difference between Big Syl and Tina or I’m going to spit bullets!”

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I still think it’s cool that, at the official online shop of the US Olympic team, you can get a Lebron jersey but you can’t get a Taurasi jersey.

If that doesn’t send a clear message to all dem wimmen athletes, nothin ‘ will.

I’d give Doug a nickel to ask Diana what kind of respect the USOC was showing….

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And Now for Events That Are Completely Different: How the Olympics might look with Monty Python in charge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“pressure.

Auriemma does take a little exception at the idea that he is under tremendous pressure as he looked at the place of basketball in the big scheme of things.

“I turn that around a lot of times and I will for this team too,” Auriemma said. “There are a lot of people out of work today so pressure is you try to pay your mortgage. When you have the best team and somebody says, ‘Go win the Olympic games,’ I don’t know that’s pressure, so I try to get them to understand what real pressure is. Real pressure is a single mom trying to raise three kids with $30,000 (a year in salary), that is pressure. You’re taking a charter over to England and staying at the best hotels and leaving whenever you want, 24 hours a day playing basketball, and saying ‘yo, go beat those guys.’ Guess what, if that is pressure to you then you have a rude awakening ahead of you.”

Hard to feel pressure when these two are around: Sue and Diana talk ‘lympics. (Sigh. It’s crankifying when interviewers don’t do research. Or can’t do math.) BTW, someone needs to call Sheryl ’cause she’s guarding Jordan.

The Dougster is talkin’ US front court: Parker, Fowles and Charles give US women’s basketball team versatile post trio

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Dybas: Bird, U.S. women hoopsters look ready

After Friday’s practice, it was suggested to de facto Team USA captain Diana Taurasi that ongoing international dominance of women’s basketball by one country may not be good for the game.

Taurasi was a large part of Connecticut’s tyrannical three college titles in four years (2001, 2002, 2004). She also won two WNBA championships with the Phoenix Mercury. And, no one has beaten the U.S. women’s team in the Olympics since 1992.

Presented with these facts and the theory, Taurasi was introverted, per usual.

“I do not give a (bad word),” Taurasi said. “I’m trying to win a gold medal.”

That’s that.

Please, please, please ask the men’s national team the same question.

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in Nevada and, says the Review Journal’s Mark Anderson, Baylor’s Griner is aiming to elevate her game to the Olympic level

Griner, 20, was welcomed by the vets. Parker even took her aside and showed her ways to move and establish position.

“It’s kind of overwhelming,” Griner said. “Everybody out here I’ve looked up to and still look up to. I’m sitting on the bus with them. I’m sitting down eating with them. We’re just having regular conversations and out here playing ball.”

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and Q: The Pac-10 Celebrates 25th Anniversary Of Women’s Sports: Meyers-Drysdale Says ‘There’s Still Things To Be Done’

When USA Swimming announced Cal’s Teri McKeever as coach of the USA Swimming women’s team at the 2012 London Games, she became the first woman selected to coach an American Olympic swim team.

Although the former USC All-American is no stranger to firsts in the swimming world, as described on Cal’s website, her quote in the Sports Illustrated article about the selection seems appropriate.

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For a certain part of a certain generation, the image of Joan Benoit running the first women’s Olympic marathon, bra strap showing, Liquori (or was it Rogers) saying she was going out to fast in the LA heat, and snagging gold (after per-trial knee surgery) in 1984 … well, it’s an iconic image.

Joanie’s still around. From Jere’ at the New York Times: Samuelson Is Still Finding The Symmetry in 26.2 Miles

She is 53 now, her hair has gone gray, and there is autumn in her legs. She has lived nearly half a lifetime since her Olympic victory. But there remains an unstill quality about her, a fidgety restlessness.

Perhaps running best suited her Yankee upbringing of thrift and individualism in Maine, nothing needed beyond a pair of shoes and an open road. That is how she won the Olympics, running fast and alone.

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U.S. Olympians Association Approves Inclusion of Paralympians

Today the Board of Directors for the U.S. Olympians Association passed an amendment to include Paralympians as part of its organizational membership.

The move not only expands the organization’s membership, but also brings with it a name change: U.S. Olympians and Paralympians Association, effective immediately.

“There are two events, the Olympic and Paralympic Games, but we are all one Team USA,” said Willie Banks, President, U.S. Olympians and Paralympians Association. “We are all athletes and we are proud the organization will include both Olympians and Paralympians.”

I have a funny feeling the use of the phrase “Team USA” is going to make a friend of mine cringe….

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