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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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but I’m a little worried about the Lib’s tall folks.

Tina looks fantabulous, but where is Kiah? Sugar is already making a bid for the “Most Improved” as Old Big Easters will recognize the form they’re seeing on the court (and, do you remember her Player’s Tribune piece?). Intrigued to see how our elder guards contribute – really want an announcer to get the chance to say Z-to-Z for the nice give-and go. The Dallas visitors say Skylar is day-to-day, but even without her, the Wings are proving that they’re not going to be a pushover this year. Looking forward to see what happens for the newly-transfered franchise. Home wins, I hope.

Swish Appeal: ‘Pinch of Sugar’ goes a long way in Liberty victory

Queenie:

Dallas really misses Skylar Diggins. They really don’t have a consistent second option without her. Without her, Plenette Pierson and Odyssey Sims were both forcing the issue a lot, especially in the first half. Diggins tried to give it a go in warm-ups, but that knee is still braced, and she was walking very gingerly. She would have been at maybe quarter speed if she’d had to play, and I don’t think she was very happy about it; when she came out of the tunnel, she was with the trainer and there was a virtual thundercloud over her head. (It also really doesn’t help their rotation.)

On the West Coast, Los Angeles picked up where it left off last year… as did, unfortunately,  Seattle. Behind Parker’s 34, the Sparks easily handled the Storm. L.A. Times … dabnabbit! You use the AP report!!?!?! And oh, snap, the Sparks aren’t in your header or your dropdown menu. So. Not. Cool. At least Mechelle wrote somethin’

There were five No. 1 picks on the floor at Staples Center on Sunday, all of whom could tell you their own stories of what it means to them to be in that club.

When the game was over, 2008’s top pick — the Los Angeles Sparks’ Candace Parker — had the biggest day and her team got exactly the start it wanted: a dominant, 96-66 victory over the Seattle Storm.

There actually were some positives for the Storm, particularly regarding two of their No. 1 picks who look to be the foundation of a bright future: 2016 top pick Breanna Stewart, in her pro debut, had 23 points, while 2015 top pick Jewell Loyd, last season’s rookie of the year, had 20.

Swish Appeal: Candace Parker’s Sparkling performace engulfs Storm

Sue: Parker, Stewart both shine in Sparks dominating opening win

Hoopfeed: Candace Parker spoils debut of Breanna Stewart with 34-point explosion as Sparks beat Storm 96-66

The local paper hasn’t stopped paying attention: Breanna Stewart makes WNBA debut, experiences something new: Losing

Did you catch this from Stewie? Day One, Again.

Downtime? I have none. Just the way I like it.

Last week I was in Seattle trying to figure out if I could pull off the trip back to Connecticut for graduation. My new teammates asking, “What time do you have to be there?” Meanwhile I’m thinking, What if I get there and they forget to call my name? But being able to graduate in person from an institution like UConn, in front of a community that gave you so much, is an opportunity you can’t pass up. I made it, and squeezed in a visit to the White House with my UConn teammates; it was worth it.

Swin back in?

From Mike DiMauro at the Day: Motto for new-look Sun: Humble, but hungry

Kelsey Bone, center for the Connecticut Sun and never a candidate to mince words, offers the following overview of the 2016 season:

“We gotta make the damn playoffs,” she said, alluding to a locale that has eluded the franchise since (gulp) 2012.

Diana Taurasi learned a lot by watching her Phoenix Mercury teammates, at least when she wasn’t yelling at her monitor.

“I turned into that fan. ‘Why aren’t we rebounding? Why aren’t we executing down the stretch?,’ ” she told Excelle Sports Saturday at shootaround, prior to the Mercury’s season-opener 95-76 loss to the Minnesota Lynx.

Watching was the only thing Taurasi could do following her choice to skip the 2015 season, a move that reverberated fiercely within the WNBA community; Taurasi had won her third championship with Phoenix and her second Finals MVP award the year before.

On Saturday night, Taurasi could call herself a player again, competing against the Minnesota Lynx at Target Center, a venue where fans generally love to hate anything that has to do with purple and orange, especially the player wearing the No. 3 jersey. In Minnesota’s lean years,

If you haven’t purchased ESPN the Magazine, might recommend you get out and do so. WNBA oral history: Moving the ball forward

DAVID STERN WALKED down the hallway of the NBA offices in Manhattan and paused as he approached Val Ackerman’s office.

The then-NBA commissioner poked his head in the doorway.

“This would be a summer league, right?” Stern asked.

“Yeah,” Ackerman recalls saying, “that’s the plan.”

THE WNBA WASN’T launched by one landmark meeting. Rather, it evolved from a series of brainstorms, serendipitous circumstances and casual conversations: It was the right people working together at the right time. The NBA had reached a zenith of popularity and marketability in the early 1990s thanks to megastars such as Michael Jordan and collaborations with other organizations, such as USA Basketball. All of that delivered the Dream Team for the 1992 Olympics.

 Great job by Delle Donne (and, I’m assuming, a little assist from the Sky PR folks) – she’s been all.over.Chicago.In Chicago Magazine: The New Superstar in Town

In the glittering heart of Gotham, at a swank TriBeCa gala fit for a tuxedoed Bruce Wayne, a newly minted superhero soars toward an unseen basketball hoop, a flaring silk of blond hair trailing like a cape.

A few feet away, in heels and a form-hugging gown, a very tall blond woman who more than passingly resembles the leaping figure mulls the Marvel poster like a patron at a gallery, examining the main image of the subject cradling a basketball like a deity palming a planet, her hair swept back like Athena.

A small grin, then a full-on smile blossoms as she reads the character’s name.

“I hadn’t seen this,” she says to a friend. “Pretty cool, huh? Full-Court Goddess. I’ll take that.”

Speaking of which, fingers crossed: Sky’s Elena Delle Donne practices, expected to play Wednesday

About friggin’ time. From Excelle: WNBA.com dramatically expands stat, historical video offerings

This doesn’t suck: ESPN posts highest WNBA overnight rating for a regular-season game since 2011

A little college:  

With rumors circling about an extension, On the Banks writes: C. Vivian Stringer’s Impact Upon Women’s Basketball is Legendary

From the Sentinel: Next recruiting class crucial to Lady Vols’ future

Bye: Nebraska sharpshooter Natalie Romeo to transfer to UW women’s basketball team

Romeo leaves Nebraska after the abrupt resignation last month of Huskers coach Connie Yori over allegations that the coach mistreated players. Romeo has denied those claims.

“It was pretty difficult there,” she said. “I just think it’s the best thing for me to move on.”

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with a little somethin’ somethin’ first.

From the Player’s Tribune: Lisa Leslie

I thought I retired from basketball in 1996.

Once I played on the Olympic team that year and we won gold, I was done. No overseas hoops. Nothing. I signed a contract with Wilhelmina Models, came up to New York and tried to start modeling — doing some shows, going on auditions … mostly getting rejected for being too tall. But as for basketball? Those days were pretty much over.

I had mostly given up on the game because my dream of playing couldn’t go any further. Past the Olympics, there just wasn’t any real opportunity — in my mind — for me to play for a long time in the U.S. At the same time, there were talks of starting the American Basketball League for women to play professionally, but I opted out because it didn’t have the support of the NBA. And I didn’t want to play in Europe, which was really the only other option.

I needed to put basketball behind me. I felt like I had to make a decision and I couldn’t wait around any longer. I couldn’t keep feeling like I was standing on the sidelines, waiting for my name to be called, only to hear the buzzer go off before I got a chance to play. I moved on.

But then I got a call the following January …

Audio: Brittney Griner and Stefanie Dolson join the Trifecta: What Can The WNBA Do?

Excelle: WNBA CONFIDENTIAL: We are living in the Maya Moore Era

In the days leading up to the 20th WNBA season, there’s been a great deal of talk about Breanna Stewart as the new face of the league. Much of the 2015 narrative centered around Elena Delle Donne and her historic season, and don’t expect her to recede in the public eye as she builds on it while playing for a gold medal in Rio this summer. Brittney Griner, too, always draws attention (and found herself in a recent ESPN SportsCenter ad), while Skyler Diggins is returning from a knee injury with a massive social media following and a new level of play she reachedlast year that she believes is a permanent new state.

All of these stars deserve attention. But any sober, clear-eyed analysis of where the WNBA stands at this moment, an evaluation of the current state of the league, only provides one conclusion.

This is the Maya Moore Era.

Sports Illustrated WNBA’s Maya Moore talks season, Rio Olympics and Jordan Brand

The LA Times notices the Sparks: Sparks begin WNBA season with high hopes, and with Candace Parker back on full-time duty

In 2015, the Los Angeles Sparks made the playoffs for the fourth year in a row and for the eighth time in the last decade. But that’s not a realistic portrayal of how things really unfolded: They posted a 14-20 record (their fourth worst ever), and lost to the Minnesota Lynx in three games after sneaking into the postseason.

The Sparks begin their 2016 season Sunday against the Seattle Storm, and they’re counting on finding some consistency — a trait that eluded them for large portions of last season — to drive them back to winning ways.

The full-fledged return of Candace Parker should help.

Atlanta 11: Angel McCoughtry and the WNBA are ready for respect

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

The boys Sue Bird grew up with in Syosset all had their basketball dreams. They could pretend they were Michael Jordan or John Starks or Patrick Ewing. They could fantasize about one day wearing a Knicks uniform and being cheered by a packed house at Madison Square Garden.

“I didn’t have that,” said Bird, who is beginning her 14th WNBA season, all with the Seattle Storm. “There was no professional basketball for me in the United States when I was in grade school and middle school. I could look to the Olympics and college basketball, but that was only on TV for the Final Four. 

“The WNBA changed everything,” said Bird who starred at UConn. 

Kits Sun: Valavanis is the eye of the Storm

Team building and leadership started at home for Alisha Valavanis.

As one of six children, including two sets of identical twins, Valavanis developed skills that have carried through her athletic career and professional life.

She has used them on the basketball court to make shots, in the boardroom to make trades and in the community to make fans.

“From very early on, my family was our own little tribe and that helped shape how I value people and how I value connections,” Valavanis, 39, said. “It really shaped my personal journey and is at the center of who I am.”

Twin Cities: Minnesota Lynx’s Cheryl Reeve: WNBA has come a long way in 20 years

Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve entered the WNBA in 2001 as an assistant coach with the Charlotte Sting.

At that point the league was five years old, and at the end of each season for her first three or four years on the job, Reeve said a question presented itself.

“You had this moment where you didn’t know, were we still going to be here?” Reeve said, referring to the league’s fragile existence in its infant stages. “During that time you had teams that were losing millions of dollars.”

Reeve said the WNBA is now far past that point. It’s through the survival stage as the league celebrated the opening of its 20th season Saturday night when the Lynx hosted Phoenix at Target Center.

SlamOnline: Watch Them Work – The WNBA has never had more depth than now. What a great time to tune in.

 

The league’s list of high-profile players has never been short. Somewhere between Lisa Leslie catching her first poster and Maya Moore hitting that game-winner in last year’s finals, however, something changed. The national narrative shifted back to women’s basketball not being worth a man’s time. But there hasn’t been a better time than now to tune in.

“We have a lot of different types of women and players,” Mystics center Stefanie Dolson says. “We still have those superstars, like Diana, like Candace, they’re still in the game. Then you have a new generation of players coming in. Brittney Griner, Skylar, Elena. And then my class. In my class, we have some great personalities. We’re very skilled too.”

Damn skippy, Stef.

David Berri at VICE: HOW THE WNBA COMPARES TO OTHER SPORTS LEAGUES AT AGE 20

As the WNBA celebrates the tip off its 20th season this weekend, it’s easy for naysayers to paint a picture of a league that’s stagnant at best, and a NBA charity case at worst. After all, WBNA average per-game attendance last season was only 7,138—the lowest mark in league history, and well below the average per-game NBA draw of 17,849. Women’s professional basketball, this line of thinking goes, has had two decades to build a fan base and establish itself in America’s sporting consciousness. So why can’t it come close to the NBA?

Here’s the answer: that’s the wrong question. Or, more accurately, it’s the wrong comparison, and a misleading one

Yesterday’s games

No Diggins? No problem, the ageless Plenette Pierson is here! If you read the numbers, you’d think Indy won – but their defense was lacking and slow. Dallas shot 36 free throws. Sims shot for carp, but earned her living at the charity stripe. Nice production from Theresa Plaisance, too.

“We were more aggressive,” Pierson said of the last two quarters. “We started making shots, we got fouls called on them. That’s what helped us get the win.”

“I thought we took some early rushed shots,” Coach Fred Williams added. “But luckily tonight they went down for us and it’s not going to go that way ever game. I felt we have to get better at that end, be selective of taking quick shots, kind of work the ball around a little bit.”

No Delle Donne? No problem, the rest of the team (Pokey played 11) made Curt Miller’s W coaching debut miserable. Connecticut shot 33.8%. Yikes. At least Rachel Banham brought a little sunshine.

Well, this is a good sign.

The Chicago Sky got off on the right foot to start then season, and had to do so without its biggest star.

WNBA reigning most valuable player Elena Delle Donne was out with an illness (stomach virus) for the season opener on Saturday night, and yet the Chicago Sky managed to manhandle the visiting Connecticut Sun at Allstate Arena, 93-70.

Jayne’s last second shot carried the Stars into overtime, but the Dream made sure they secured the win in the extra minutes. McBride looks to have picked up where she left off last year, but there’s not much of a bench presence. For Atlanta, Layshia gave them some nice minutes, and Elizabeth Williams played 36… but I wonder about her 2-6 shooting.

“We fought,” Hughes said. “They were very coachable late, gave us a chance to win the game. We didn’t get it done in overtime. We’re a work in progress, but their spirit was good.”

When Tina and Sugar shoot 50%, Bill is happy – and the Liberty win. No surprise Shoni didn’t get in. Slightly surprised Adut didn’t. Auspicious opening game for Tayler Hill and Bria Hartleynot so much for Stef and Emma.

As the final horn sounded on the Washington Mystics’ 87-76 season-opening loss Saturday night, New York Liberty Coach Bill Laimbeer shook hands with his counterpart, Mike Thibault, and offered a few appropriate words of encouragement.

“Get healthy,” Laimbeer said.

Ah, being healthy is an amazing feeling. Stomping your press-anointed competition for the ’17 title is even better. Lynx rolled as the Merc’s defense let them shoot 54%. I do love the twitter conversation the two social media teams have, though. :-)

“It’s a good starting point for us in a really bad way,” Taurasi said. “We know what we have to get better at. The season isn’t made on 40 minutes, but the way we bounce back is going to say a lot about this team going forward.”

Hey – if you just scanned this page, do the game a favor – click on the links and read the full articles. Show the sports editors that people appreciate their coverage…

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Snagged a surprise seat to the Lib-Dream game and some observations:

  1. Top to bottom, this is the most talented Liberty team we’ve ever had. AND they’re scrappy and hard-nosed. This post-season will go to whichever team is the healthiest.
  2. Wherever Sugar’s game went these past few years, it’s back. I sure hope it sticks around.
  3. As I watched Tina and Sugar and Matee and Essence and Kiah and Piph and Swin and Shoni and Tiffany on the court I thought, “Yah, that Old Big East Conference was pretty damn good.”
  4. I was really excited when the Lib drafted Stokes. I’m even more excited now.
  5. Wow, there’s a lot of talent on that Dream team… what on earth has the front office and coaching done to it…
  6. The physical, chippy play between the two teams reminded me of the old Cleveland Rockers days. On the court, there was absolutely NO love lost between the Lib and Cleveland.

    It was not a pretty game. It was a game with a lot of contact. It was a game with a lot of fouls called and a lot of fouls that could easily have been called. I don’t envy Denise Brooks and Tony Dawkins working with a rookie referee. (I also don’t envy them working with a rookie referee who looked like he had a chip on his shoulder the whole night because he’s shorter than most of the players- dude is about Piph’s height.) 

  7. Note to MSG management: you’re doing better getting folks into the Garden, but some of your security staff could use some “How to treat a fan like they’re a welcomed customer, not a body to pull a power trip on.

In other news:

Indiana:11 straight years in the playoffs. ’nuff said. A lot could be said for Stephanie being COY (nice job, there, coach Dunn!). I think Bill should be in the mix, and ditto with Fred Williams.

Friendly Bounce’s WNBA Podcast: Episode 3: Tulsa joins the playoff party. And yes, Tulsa’s playoff berth is bittersweet for Shock fans

With a minute left in Sunday’s game, Tulsa Shock forward Plenette Pierson motioned to the fans at the BOK Center. They got to their feet and cheered on their Shock to a 76-70 victory over the Indiana Fever and the franchise’s first playoff berth since moving to Oklahoma in 2010.

And I felt like giving the crowd a standing ovation.

Zach Plosia of Newsweek asks: Why Doesn’t the WNBA Have an Official Fantasy League?

Philip Hersh at the Chicago Tribune asks: 2015 a big year for women in sports, but will it carry over?

The question, as always, is whether the passion so many have shown for women’s sports is more than a summer romance, an abiding love more than a one-season stand, a caring for and celebrating the ordinary along with the extraordinary: the United States winning a quadrennial women’s soccer world championship; Serena Williams starting the U.S. Open on Monday as the first player with a chance at sweeping tennis’ four Grand Slam tournaments since Germany’s Steffi Graf did it in 1988; fighter Ronda Rousey, in a sport with an appeal once beholden to the prurience of watching women fight each other, now acclaimed by Sports Illustrated as the world’s most dominant athlete, no gender qualifier applied.

“I’d like to think this has been an important year in women’s sports,” said longtime TV commentator Mary Carillo, “and the Serena story going into the U.S. Open is going to be tremendous. Serena has to be considered one of the most dominant and important women athletes of all time.”

It didn’t look good for Lindsay when she went to the locker room, but she’s hoping for a quick recovery

Interesting: Sky’s Delle Donne signs with new marketing agency

Chicago Sky forward and WNBA All-Star Elena Delle Donne has a new agent for the second time in less than two years.

The 25-year-old face of women’s pro basketball signed last month with McLean, Va.-based sports marketing agency Octagon and agent Erin Kane after cutting ties with Wasserman Media Group of Los Angeles earlier this year.

Wasserman agent Lindsay Kagawa Colas, who has represented WNBA stars Brittney Griner, Maya Moore and Diana Taurasi among others, worked with Delle Donne from November 2013 until the beginning of 2015, when the forward returned to an exclusive agent relationship with her brother Gene.

from the Players’ Tribune: From Somewhere: Diana Taurasi (video and article) and We Are: New York Liberty

The Players’ Tribune presents “We Are: New York Liberty,” an immersive look inside the WNBA powerhouse team in the East. Through documentary video series, first-person narratives, photo diaries and travelogues, we give a voice to each player as the Liberty fight for the No. 1 overall playoff seed, and ultimately, a WNBA championship. ​​

NCAA news:

UH’s Chizer begins tenure on NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee

Q: What do you think it will be like in the room on Selection Monday with the excitement and big decisions you have to make?

A: You said the key words: Exciting and big decisions. I think it’s going to be a long couple of days, because at the end of the day we want to get it right. We’re going to spend a lot of time researching, looking at all the team’s portfolios, games they’ve won, RPIs, games they’ve lost, the top 10 teams they played against. What did they do at the beginning of the season, the middle of the season, the end of the season? You have to look at everything. There are going to be some big decisions and we’re going to do our due diligence to get it right.

Q: You have a college basketball background as a former play at UH and assistant coach. How much will that help you?

A: I do have a little basketball knowledge and was on the coaching staff here. I did a little something here while at the University of Houston. My name is in the record books a little bit (smiles). I tell the student-athletes on the women’s basketball team that if we play half-court, I think I can still get you. I can still shoot it. You start taking me full-court and that’s a different story.

Illinois: Chapter not over

 On more than one occasion Friday Illinois Athletics Director Mike Thomas talked about “turning the page.”

Fire head football coach Tim Beckman, turn the page.

Promote offensive coordinator Bill Cubit to interim head coach, turn the page.

As the “Summer From Hell” continues to play out one bonfire at a time in Champaign, there’s a good chance there are a few more pages to turn. And one of them may have Mike Thomas’ name on it.

Marist: Jarosz back at school, but eligibility unresolved

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Coach Stephanie White is pulling ahead in the Coach of the Year polls. Her Indy team flew into L.A., handed the (rejuvenated, yet Nneka-less) Sparks a nice big lead, only to storm back and get the win. Ouch, playoff run!

Speaking of Indy and Coach White: Former Maryland Star Marissa Coleman Gains Confidence From Indiana Coach

Marissa Coleman is home in the heartland.

It’s taken some time, tears and toughness, but Coleman has found a comfort zone that has the veteran Indiana Fever guard among the elite players in the league, a place she always believed she belonged. Her recent selection to the WNBA All-Star presented by Boost Mobile confirmed that status.

“From day one when I signed here, the conversations coach (Stephanie White) and I shared instilled immediate confidence in me,” Coleman said last week before the Fever defeated the Mystics, 73-62 at the Verizon Center.

In Phoenix, there was no haunting after this beautifully designed play:

The (Pierson-less-cause-she-has-a-sprained-knee-phew!) Shock had a rebound-a-pa-looza against the Mercury on the way to a convincing 74-59 win. (No, you didn’t call that.)

Tulsa also received 15 points each from Karima Christmas and Odyssey Sims, and Courtney Paris added 11 points and 11 rebounds.

Included in those totals were the 1,000th career WNBA point by Christmas and the 1,000th career rebound by Paris.

The Shock are 12-14, solidly in third place in the Western Conference.

In other WNBA news:

Ouch: Meesseman to play through finger injury as Mystics fight for playoff spot

The Washington Mystics have managed to remain in the thick of the WNBA’s Eastern Conference playoff hunt despite a litany of injuries, but with 11 games left in the regular season, Coach Mike Thibault was bracing for a stretch run perhaps without one of his best players after Emma Meesseman dislocated her right index finger Sunday against the Minnesota Lynx.

Nylon Calculus offers their 3-2-C (Don’t tell Tina):

(Ed: In our first season, The Nylon Calculus covered almost exclusively the NBA from a statistical standpoint. This is largely due to the fact that with the advent of SportVU technology, the NBA game has the most robust underlying data. However, that isn’t to say new and interesting observations from a statistical standpoint are not available from other basketball leagues such as the NCAA, FIBA play and especially the WNBA. We are thrilled to have Howard Megdal to provide regular coverage of that league and hope you enjoy.)

As the WNBA season enters its final four weeks, the question of just who will win the Most Valuable Player award depends largely on which areas of emphasis you value most.

The candidates still in consideration for me will come as no surprise to you: Elena Delle Donne of the Chicago Sky, Brittney Griner of the Phoenix Mercury and Maya Moore of the Minnesota Lynx.

Speaking of Maya: Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve, four captains hold 3-hour meeting, skip practice- The Lynx coach huddled with her four leaders in the wake of loss at Washington. 

“I can’t really talk about what we talked about in the meeting, but it was much-needed and I think it’s going to help catapult us to where we need to go,” Augustus said.

Roar: BearShare: Brittany Boyd, WNBA Rookie

Since you don’t actually live in New York City, does that mean that you haven’t had the chance to explore the city?

No, I’ve had opportunities to come into town. Especially on off days, I come. On practice days, I don’t come into the city, because at 2:30, I’m tired so I just want to sleep and just chill and relax my body and prepare for the next day. But if I do want to do something, I can easily come down to the city and look around. On an off day, I’ve walked around Times Square. I’ve been hanging out with Tina Charles, so she took me around to Brooklyn, Queens, and Harlem, so I’ve been getting out a little bit.

From Jayda: Evie Goldstein, director of operations for the WNBA players’ union, wants to explore revenue opportunities and give the players a more powerful voice.

Q:The WNBA and players’ union signed an eight-year collective-bargaining agreement in 2014, which can be terminated after six years. Will top WNBA salaries ever reach NBA minimums ($500,000)?

A: When you negotiate a CBA, the salary part is unlikely to change. But that’s not the only source of revenue for the women. There is a provision in the CBA that gives money back to players after an average team-ticket revenue reaches a certain point. The other source of revenue is licensing. More can be done with that. I’ve only been on the job six months, so I’m talking generally. But in our CBA, revenue share is based solely and singularly on averaged ticket revenue.

10 Years Later: 

As part of an ongoing series of stories centered around the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune reflects on the massive storm’s impact, its devastating aftermath, and its enduring legacy for individuals and the sports community today.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, McDonogh 35 was one of the first public schools in Orleans Parish to reopen the doors and begin the next chapter of its story.

Even before that post-storm decision, McDonogh 35 girls basketball coach Danielle Allen-Lewis had begun searching for her team.

She had good reason.

Lot’s of good news for Rio-Bound Canadians:

Canadian women’s basketball team living a perfect storm a year ahead of Rio 2016 Olympics
Women’s basketball team hopes to keep rolling into Rio – Waterloo Record
Canadian women’s basketball charts map to Rio after clinching Olympic berth – Toronto Star

Slightly OT, but related: Sucky news for not-Rio-Bound Brits (say what!). Luckily, they have English Football to offer them some comfort: ‘Our Lionesses go back to being mothers, partners and daughters today.” Just warms the cockles of my heart… how ’bout you?

“See Ya Soon” news for Seattle: Tokashiki to Miss Four Storm Games for 2015 FIBA Asia Women’s Championship; Rejoins Seattle in September

Congrats: Patriot League Announces Women’s Basketball 25th Anniversary Team

American: Jen Dumiak (2011-15); Lisa Strack (2008-12); Alexis Dobbs (2010-14)
Army West Point: Kelsey Minato (2012-present); Katie Macfarlane (2000-04); Cara Enright (2004-08); Erin Anthony (2007-11); Alex McGuire (2005-09); Lisa Russell (1991-95)
Bucknell: Molly Creamer (1999-03); Desire Almind (2000-04); Hope Foster (2004-08); Vicki Quimby (1998-02)
Colgate: Emily Braseth (2001-05)
Holy Cross: Amy O’Brien (1995-99); Kathy Courtney (1993-97); Lauren Maney (1992-96); Anna Kinne (1996-00); Norinne Powers (1990-93)
Lehigh: Anne Tierney (1999-03); Erica Prosser (2007-11); Jessica DePalo (2001-05)
Navy: Jade Geif (2010-14); Courtney Davidson (2000-04); Becky Dowling (1994-98)

More history: Pioneering Spirit Part III: Salem’s Evie Oquendo overcame the odds as basketball star, role model

For every accomplishment, every moment of greatness, there was an obstacle Evelyn Oquendo had to overcome.

Those obstacles ranged from the small, like the forgotten sneaker on the first day of basketball tryouts at Salem High School, to the prodigious, like a family expectation to join the work force after high school graduation.

One detour off her path and it’s unlikely Oquendo ever would have become the star high school basketball player, the three-time college All-American and national champion at Salem State, or the teacher and role model she is today for the students of Salem’s Collins Middle School.

Oquendo’s story is one of perseverance and destiny. The trail she blazed is a blueprint for how athletics can bring harmony and direction into life.

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what might be…

Top 25 celebrates 20th anniversary as writers poll

This season marks the 20th anniversary of the AP women’s basketball Top 25 poll’s shift to voting by writers and broadcasters.

Before the 1994-95 season, the poll was determined by coaches and compiled by Mel Greenberg, who started it in 1976. Here’s a look at some of the highlights over the past 20 years

AP Division I Poll

USA Today Coaches Division I Poll

…and what might have been.

From Tennessee: Lady Vols’ DeShields discusses transfer from UNC

From Cincinnati: Senior guard Alyesha Lovett, the team’s best returning player, injured her Achilles tendon and will miss the season.

From Ohio: And then there were seven: Injury knocks Chelsea Mitchell out for season

“It stinks,” McGuff said before adding. “It stinks. It stinks. It stinks. It stinks.”

Freshman forward Makayla Waterman already had knee surgery to repair meniscus and ACL injuries that she suffered during the first official practice of the season. Chelsea Mitchell will join Waterman as a redshirt freshman next season.

That puts 40 percent of McGuff’s highly regarded recruiting class from last November on the shelf before the team has played a game. Nearly two months will have to pass before transfers Shayla Cooper or Kianna Holland are eligible to play per NCAA rules

From Iowa: Iowa State guard Nikki Moody suspended indefinitely

“Nikki’s attitude in the team setting has become a distraction to our learning environment,” Fennelly said in the release “We have high behavioral standards to allow us to develop our team in a way that we can have success on and off the court and her behavior has been inconsistent with those values. Nikki can return to team activities if/when improvement is seen.”

Nearby, Ryan Murken says the Iowa women’s basketball team has depth to match talent

“I think this is the deepest we have been in a long time, if not maybe since I’ve been here,” Bluder said Thursday at Iowa’s annual media day. “We have 14 women on scholarship right now — which that alone is going to give you more depth — but it’s really the quality of the depth.”

From Arizona: ASU women’s basketball returns enough to contend

I’m fine about being the only one of 35 voters to include Arizona State women’s basketball in the Associated Press preseason top 25.

It’s not a homer pick because I believe ASU returns enough to build on last year’s surprising 23-10, NCAA second round season. The Pac-12 is good, that’s why the Sun Devils are picked to finish sixth by the media and seventh by the coaches. But they have more offense that stats suggest given the loss of leading scorers Deja Mann and Adrianne Thomas and more size than their starting lineup will indicate.

An editing note: I’d love to give credit to the author, but I can’t seem to find a name attached to the article.

Go Behind the Scenes during the 2014-15 BGSU Women’s Basketball Media Day

From the land of the Cavaliers: UVa women’s basketball team’s freshman trio making quick adjustment

UVa is into its fourth week of practice as it prepares for its Nov. 14 opener with Ohio State at John Paul Jones Arena.

Come that Friday, everybody will still be more than a tad raw on the defensive end of the floor.

“When you teach it for the first time,” Boyle said, “it’s a two-year process.”

That should suit her four-year players just fine.

Down the road, Lexie Brown takes on leadership role for Maryland women’s basketball

…the season-ending loss soon became a learning experience, one that Brown is taking with her as the Terps enter their first season of Big Ten play. And after logging big minutes in the 2014 NCAA tournament — including a team-high 38 against Notre Dame — the sophomore guard has emerged as what teammates call “a natural leader.”

“She just understands what things to say when we’re going through adversity, and how to get out of it,” center Malina Howard said.

Across the thruway: New Lady Lion players have high expectations and Penn State women’s basketball: 5 takeaways from media day

The expectation of the Lady Lions—to win—doesn’t change with the lineup, Coach Coquese Washington said. The standards are still set as high, even with the graduation of all but one starter from last year’s  24-8 squad that won a third consecutive Big Ten title and made it to the Sweet 16.

“How we do those things, what it looks like on the court may change depending on our personality from year to year, but the expectations certainly don’t change,” she said. She got that advice from women’s volleyball coach Russ Rose.

Heading south to the home of the Blue Devils: Duke women’s basketball ready for new faces to step up

Today’s scrimmage showed the Blue Devil faithful that though they lost familiar faces, change can be a good thing.

At the Blue-White Scrimmage at Cameron Indoor Stadium Sunday, Duke’s highly touted second-ranked incoming class—along with redshirt Rebecca Greenwell and transfer Mercedes Riggs—made their first public appearance. Combining for 63 points, more than half of all points scored all afternoon, the Blue Devil newcomers are ready to make their presence felt in the ACC and beyond.

From the west coast, the Cal Bears’ blog previews The supporting cast

Previous WBB season preview installments: Part 1: Boyd and Gray, the best duo in the west. ; Part 2: Predicting the Pac-12 standings + previews with Rosalyn Gold-Onwude.

Before we get into the preview content, some important pieces news:

David speaks with the Bears’ coach: Lindsay Gottlieb & Cal look to take the next step

Sue has been previewing the Pac 12:

The good news for Oregon State is the bad news for everyone else: the team that roared to a 24-11 record, tied for second place in the Pac-12, played for the conference tournament championship and made it to the NCAA Tournament’s second round last season is the only team in the Pac that returns all five starters this year.

Sophomore guard Sydney Wiese (14.3 points, 4 assists per game), junior guard Jamie Wiesner (12.5 points, 5.3 rebounds per game), junior center Ruth Hamblin (9.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 4 blocks per game), senior guard Ali Gibson (9 points per game) and junior forward Deven Hunter (8.8 points, 7.4 rebounds per game) are all back, as are four reserves. Three promising newcomers round out a solid roster that already has both players and coaches chomping at the bit to begin play.

About that elephant in the room… “I know no-think!” (Yes, I’m a tad cynical): Hatchell says she was unaware of academic fraud, lauds Boxill

The report indicated that women’s basketball players were steered to the classes by Boxill, the academic counselor for more than 20 years beginning in 1988 and the faculty chair from 2011-14. Boxill acknowledged editing some athletes’ papers, and a review of her e-mails disclosed several instances where she made specific grade suggestions so that women’s basketball players could stay on track academically.

In one exchange, Deborah Crowder – the AFAM secretary who issued grades for the illegitimate classes – wrote Boxill to ask if a D would be okay for a specific player, since her final paper had no sources and had “absolutely nothing to with” the class.

A little WNBA stuff…

Out of Minnesota: Taylor Does Little Things Needed To Win

Asia Taylor certainly wasn’t the flashiest player on the Lynx last season. She was last pick in the 2014 WNBA Draft, and while she saw tons of collegiate success as with Louisville, she was by no means a lock to make the team at the start of Training Camp last season. 

Until she was. 

Taylor showcased her skills as a versatile swingman throughout Training Camp and caught the attention of coach Cheryl Reeve. Reeve saw a lot of value in some of the things Taylor brought to the team and ultimately decided to keep her on the roster. 

“I knew I was an underdog coming in,” Taylor said at the start of last season. “They basically say third-round picks are just here until the veterans get back and … wanted to prove differently.” 

Pierson used career crisis as springboard to success

In the early part of the 2001-2002 basketball season, Plenette Pierson wasn’t thinking about her legacy at Texas Tech. She was thinking about whether she wanted to finish her Texas Tech basketball career at all.

A star player who was suspended for most of her junior year, Pierson sandwiched a pair second- and third-team all-America seasons around that one and wound up one of the leading scorers in Lady Raiders history. The center from Kingwood was inducted Friday night into the Texas Tech Athletic Hall of Fame.

From the Nigerian Tribune: Nigerian-American basketball star sisters celebrated in US

Nneka and Chiney are award-winning basketballers based in the United States of America (USA). Not forgetting their roots, they have decided to give back to their country of descent, Nigeria, by raising funds for girls, who are either denied or lack access to qualitative education. 

Looking to the future, Swish Appeal’s Albert has 3 key differences between two of the WNBA’s and NBA’s oldest teams

Last week, Conor Dirks of Truth About It wrote about the transformation of the Washington Wizards NBA team from one of the league’s youngest teams in 2010-11, to the oldest team based on average age at one point during the 2014-15 preseason.

This caught me off-guard at first, as I recently criticized the Seattle Storm and their team building strategy. Like the Wizards at that point (they are now second oldest per RealGM), the Storm was the league’s oldest team based on average age during the 2014 WNBA season. While it’s easy to just look at average age and simply say that the Storm and the Wizards are old teams in their leagues, they don’t share that much in common based on how they are currently constructed.

Speaking of the WNBA & NBA: NBA, WNBA legends with Olympic ties to run New York City Marathon relay

WNBA rallies around Lauren Hill

Elena Delle Donne had chills when she first heard about Lauren Hill.

The WNBA star was brought to tears the more she read about the Mount St. Joseph freshman, who has inoperable brain cancer.

Delle Donne will attend Hill’s game on Sunday as a fan, moving a speaking engagement to make sure she could be there.

“It’s a once in a lifetime thing for her and I want to be there to support her,” Delle Donne said.

The game will be streamed:

The matchup with Hiram College at Xavier’s 10,000-seat arena will be available for free on FOX Sports Go online and through the app, even for users who usually can’t access the service. FOX announced Friday the game will also air on FOX Sports Regional Networks, including in Ohio, and FOX College Sports.

The Big East is producing the game, which starts at 2 p.m. EST.

Says Cincinnati.com: Lauren Hill’s game now the nation’s

Lauren Hill’s college basketball debut is here.

At 2 p.m. Sunday, Hill and the Mount St. Joseph women’s basketball team will tip off against Hiram College at Xavier’s Cintas Center. The sellout crowd of 10,250 will be there to see Hill realize her dream of playing for the Lions.

Hill’s story, by now, is everywhere. Nearly 60 media members from local, regional and national outlets will continue documenting the aspirations of No. 22, the forward with an inoperable form of brain cancer called Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma. Tickets were snapped up in 30 minutes for the player with a positive outlook and a terminal diagnosis.

Lauren Hill fundraiser invites schools to donate basketball jerseys for auction

From across the ocean: Basketball more than just a game for Saudi women

Women’s basketball is gaining in popularity in a kingdom rife with public restrictions on female movement and activity. With the help of some U.S.-trained coaches, female enthusiasts are using basketball to push for greater rights for women on and off the courts in Saudi Arabia.

“We are an activist team,” said Lina Almaeena, who started the first women’s basketball team here 11 years ago. That led to the creation of Jiddah United in 2006, the first sports club in Saudi Arabia to include women. “We took it upon ourselves to really promote the sport at a time when it was a big time taboo … when there was a self-imposed censorship on women’s sports.”

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Well, almost.

Diana couldn’t make it out to Seattle, Sue and her flu did, Seattle shot well and Phoenix aka “the walking wounded,” couldn’t buy a basket. Result? The Storm are at .500 and looking forward to the return of LJ.

Same ole, same ole with the Mystics: they get their distinctly unmagical butt handed to them by the Fever. Congrats to Catch: her 14 &14 made that her 76th double-double.

Who dat on the court?!?! Dat be Plennette! Welcome back, lady! PP hit the courts with a vengance, the Libs found their shooting touch and the Sun slid back to their “on-the-road-get-discombobulated-and-lose (17 TOs)” look: NY 79, CT 66. Nice to see Kristie Ackert back in the house talking to HOF bound SUUUUUUUUUE.

Sue Wicks recognized the look on Tina Charles’ face eight years ago. Then a top recruit at Christ the King High School in Queens, Charles had wide eyes and her smile was huge when she saw Wicks, then a Rutgers assistant coach.

“It was immediate. She recognized me, I was the player she watched with the Liberty,” said Wicks, who sat courtside at the Prudential Center as the Liberty upset Charles and the Connecticut Sun on Thursday night, 79-66. “Now I watch her and (Liberty guard) Cappie (Pondexter), who played for us at Rutgers and I am so proud of them and of what we built.”

In anticipation of tonight’s game, Nate tries to figure out What Angel McCoughtry’s 2012 Olympic Performance Means For The Atlanta Dream
Speaking of the Olympics:

Auriemma: Olympics ‘most pressure I’ve ever felt’

UConn Coach Geno Auriemma Says One Olympics Is Enough

Geno Auriemma happy to go out on top as Olympic basketball coach

Geno Auriemma On 2016 Rio Olympics: ‘I Would Say It Is Somebody Else’s Turn’ To Coach

I’m guessing that, reading the links (I’m assuming they wouldn’t bother to read the articles) there are several folks who are happy to see the above — they couldn’t put down their college-colored glasses and cheer for the US team.

What will folks do if a coach who represents a homophobic university is selected to lead the USA Basketball team?

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A nice crowd made their way out to the Rock to see the Lib take on Minnesota.Too bad only Plenette Pierson showed up.

Moore (I guess the pre-game notes didn’t mention her ability to drain the three) and Augustus were silky smooth and Cappie was 0-9. (If she IS gimpy, Whiz playing her 35 minutes makes no sense.)

“I’m sorry for our performance,” New York Liberty coach John Whisenant said. “We didn’t come out prepared with the energy required to beat this team. We kind of stirred them up beating them over there and we just didn’t play well.”

Makes you wonder, coach, doesn’t it? You’re fighting for playoff position and your opponent has clinched home court and your team doesn’t show. Perhaps it’s because Whalen has faith in Lynx coach.

“You play hard when you are out there, that’s all you can do,” Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen said, asked how the starters will deal with less minutes they are expected to get the rest of the regular season. “You follow the game plan. You do what coach wants you to do.

“Coach will figure it out. She has guided us to the best record in the league. She is a great coach. She will put us in the right situations. We will trust in that. While we are out there, while we are in practice, we know we have to get ready for playoffs. We know we all have worked really hard this season to make it a special season.”

The Dream’s nightmare start is far behind them, and with a win over the Shock, they are in a virtual tie with the Lib for the third playoff spot in the East.

“We felt like if we could get this win we could take a deep breath,” Dream coach Marynell Meadors said.

The less said about the Mystics 48pt performance against the Sun the better. As for Connecticut, you may argue Syl’s the better center, but it’s Charles who’s one double-double short of tying her record of last year… and on her way to the playoffs (Indy took down Chicago).

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keep d’em Lynx-zies rollin’! (I must admit, I have a soft spot for Minnesota ’cause the originators of this blog came from the fine city of Minneapolis…)

Make it seven in a row for the Lynx as they took down Phoenix 90-73. But there will be no laurel-resting here ’cause the SASS are up next.

“It’s just on to the next one, one at a time,” said Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve, after her team improved to 14-4. “It can turn in an instant, for whatever reason, and we don’t want to be that team that lets our guard down.”

Speaking of guards, Tim Leighton of the Pioneer Press points to a particular one: Lindsey (sic) Whalen has another Minnesota team reaching new heights:

“It is not a coincidence that Lindsay Whalen was a part of the Gophers in ’04 and what is happening with us,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said.

Whalen, who had averaged 15.8 points and seven assists in the team’s nine previous games, had 11 points and five assists to help spark the Lynx, who used an early run in the second half and another in the fourth quarter to hold off the Mercury (11-8).

Whalen, 29, appears to have been reborn in the second year of running Reeve’s system, and her play is stirring memories of past heroics. Her slashing drives down the lane have been powerful, and her perimeter shooting has been textbook pure.

Nate has more on What Makes Lindsay Whalen The Best So Far in 2011

I know some are pointing to Reeve as Coach of the Year and, rightly so, muttering about Augustus as POY (Um, get Land O’ Lakes as your sponsor, ’cause she’s smooth like buttah), but can Bird and Agler of the Jackson-less Storm get some props? (Speaking of LJ, fun to hear her last night and even nicer was the optimism about her rehab.)

Consider the AP’s opening lines as Seattle dismissed the Adams-less SASS.

Sue Bird’s 3-pointer right before the third-quarter buzzer provided a lift at just the right time for the Seattle Storm.

Bird hit a 22-footer to put Seattle up by eight just a minute after the San Antonio Silver Stars had cut a 13-point deficit to one in the quarter.

The Storm then went on a 10-2 run to start the fourth quarter en route to a 78-64 victory over the Silver Stars on Tuesday night. Bird finished with 17 points and Swin Cash added 16.

“Yeah, that one really hurt us,” Silver Stars coach Dan Hughes said about Bird’s 3-pointer.

You know, if Mini Mi continues to reclaim her outside shooting touch, the Lib could get interesting. Mitchell notched four 3s (all in the 4th quarter) and Plenette (who would look so slammin’ in a 1940’s get up, dontcha think?) added 20 and New York took down the Dream by 10.

It’s looking more and more like the fourth spot in the East will come down to a battle of the light blue uniforms.

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international ball: Plenette Pierson suspended indefinitely; sat out practice due to non-payment

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Staying the course with the Shock

We can’t say absolutely for sure what the Tulsa Shock’s first season could have been like if key components had stayed on board for the move to Oklahoma. If Katie Smith were here instead of Washington. If Deanna Nolan and Cheryl Ford also were playing here, instead of sitting out the WNBA season.

If they’d all been on the Shock roster, would Plenette Pierson have found coach Nolan Richardson’s system more palatable, and not been so miserable that she was traded to New York? Would Shavonte Zellous somehow not have been dealt for a 2011 draft pick?

If all of those players were competing for Tulsa, I do feel pretty confident saying the Shock likely would not have any four-point quarters, as they did Saturday in the second period against the Mystics in a 69-54 loss.

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Here’s Mechelle on Cappie and the rest of the new Libs:

Cappie Pondexter didn’t come to New York to sit in last place. When her Liberty team visited Tulsa last week, the players were in put-up-or-shut-up mode. They’d just lost June 22 at home to Minnesota, and it’s not as if the Lynx are tearing up the WNBA this year. That was a defeat that, frankly, really ticked off the Liberty. So …

“We had a meeting amongst the players,” New York guard Leilani Mitchell said. “We said, ‘The coaches have given us everything we need. It’s up to us.'”

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