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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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USA Basketball Women’s National Team Post-Practice Quotes

USA assistant coach Dawn Staley (University of South Carolina)
On Senegal, the USA’s opening opponent:
Senegal will look to push the ball up the floor by passing ahead to posts or guards in transition. Other than that, they want to set up a half-court offense where they have a certain look that they want. They certainly want to get their guards great looks from the outside, or drive it hard to the basket. Their posts are their utility players: screeners, rebounders, and they run the floor. They’re led by their guard play, so it’s important for them to play well in order for them to be successful.

USA Today: Breanna Stewart diary: On cruise ships, traffic and chemistry

Eight years ago, as a 14-year-old in North Syracuse, N.Y., I was glued to the TV set, watching the U.S. basketball teams — men and women — win gold in Beijing. I tried to imagine what it would be like to be an Olympian.

Now I’m starting to get the idea.

Being a part of opening ceremony on Friday night was surreal. We got to meet Michael Phelps and Serena Williams. Walking through the tunnel into the stadium, 550 athletes strong in our blue blazers and white pants, you heard this massive roar go up when they announced United States of America, and it was one of the greatest rushes I ever felt. I could’ve played a basketball game right there in my red, white and blue boat shoes — that’s how pumped up I was.

Doug: Fans like dunks, but Griner eyeing Olympic shot block mark

That individual goal would be setting the shot block record.

“That’s the one I really want,” the 6-foot-8 Griner said. “Dunking is nice, but blocking shots helps us defensively and also can lead to offense.”

The problem for the Phoenix Mercury center is that no one really knows what that shot block mark might be since there is no official Olympic record book.

“Really? Well then I’ll just have to set it,” Griner said with a smile. “And blocked shots help us win.”

Also from Doug: Griner’s hairy moment with Michael Phelps

Joe Rexrode: Lady Vols legend Tamika Catchings has found her voice

This is not officially part of Tamika Catchings’ Legacy Tour, though you can be sure she is engaging with the people of Brazil and leaving some of them better than she found them.

See, even as we consider the stature of this basketball career that is ending, the true legacy of 37-year-old Catchings is still under construction. There are professional athletes who start foundations, there are some who get serious about them, and there are the few like Catchings who live through them and find a way to make them matter.

Also, there are public figures who can help foster meaningful discussion about things that aren’t easy to discuss. Recent bloodshed in our country and Catchings’ important — and misunderstood by some — role in the aftermath marks her as someone who should have an increased presence in that arena.

Simply put, the former Tennessee great is cool with everyone.

The Advocate: Another crossover: Seimone Augustus keeps Baton Rouge on her mind as she pursues more Olympic gold

Marriage and playing a role in LGBT issues are only part of Augustus’ crossover. In high school and college, her flashy skill set spoke volumes, and that was enough.

Not anymore.

“I’m proud of Seimone for everything she does on the court, but the thing I’m proudest of is her growth as a person,” said former LSU assistant coach Bob Starkey, now at Texas A&M. “She’s always been a great player and teammate. Now she’s comfortable and confident enough to express her thoughts. There’s a depth to Seimone that people are seeing now.”

Johnette Howard: Rio is final encore for UConn basketball power trio

In the past they always could hold on to the idea that there might be another tomorrow for the three of them to be together again — back in the gym, back chasing another big title of some sort and reveling in the wisecracking, blunt, demanding relationship they’ve had since they were all at the University of Connecticut and coach Geno Auriemma was the unquestioned boss.

But point guard Sue Bird is 35 now and contemplating retirement. Diana Taurasi is 34, and she skipped the 2015 WNBA season to recover from the burnout of playing year-round in the U.S. and overseas. They agree the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro are surely the last time they’ll play for Auriemma, who is 62. And all three of them are determined to give this last ride together the reverence — and irreverence — it deserves.

Globe & Mail: Kelly: Canadian women’s basketball team could teach men’s side a thing or two about sacrifice

Seventy-four days ago, Canadian basketball star Kia Nurse had surgery to repair a hernia.

She was told that she’d be healed after eight weeks. In a best-case scenario, she could return to sports after ten.

“(The medical staff) told me, ‘You’ll be in rehab for four hours a day and you’ll love it, but we’ll get you there’.”

So Nurse, 20, had the operation. Eleven weeks later, she’s at the Olympics. Though she’s in the recovery window, the injury still hurts.

“But I’m a tough kid,” Nurse says, tugging bashfully on the straps of her jersey.

BTW:

Opals stand tall in face of home ground advantage

Canada dumps China 90-68 in Olympic women’s basketball preliminary round opener and Three-point barrage propels Canada over China in women’s basketball prelim

Japan wins 1st women’s basketball Olympic game since 2004, edging Belarus 77-73

France beats Turkey in opening game of women’s basketball tournament

NBC: Op-Ed: Why Are Team USA’s Openly LGBTQ Olympians All Women?

Not Basketball, but we’ve read this story before, and it still needs to be told: Out Of The Blue – On the eve of her third Summer Games, six-time U.S. Olympic swimming medalist Allison Schmitt hopes her frank talk about depression and loss offers a lifeline to other athletes.

Allison Schmitt surfaced from sleep in the middle of the night thinking it might snow on her three-hour drive to central Pennsylvania.

She curled her 6-foot-1 body into a ball and wept. Her thoughts cascaded, frantic: I can’t do this anymore. I just don’t even want to be here anymore.

If it snowed, she could drift over the lane line and people would think she’d had an accident on her way to see a college hockey game. No one would guess what had gripped her in the moment. She couldn’t grasp it herself. She was an Olympic swimming champion, barely treading water.

Back in the States – WNBA coaches put Olympic break time to good use

“I think all the teams just look at it” as positively as possible, says Chicago Coach-GM Pokey Chatman. It can be a mixed blessing of sorts, she points out. “If you’re a team that’s inconsistent or you’re a team that is trying to have someone heal from injury,” then the break is welcomed, says Chatman. “If we get on a little run [going into the break], I’m not going to like the break,” jokes the coach.

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HOT

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

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

Film Room: Assists Sparking LA’s Unbeaten Run

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

Dream’s improved chemistry key to fast start

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

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

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

Atlanta Dreaming: Meet the Upstart Leaders of the Eastern Conference

HOT and COLD

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

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

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

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

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

Fastbreak: WNBA Weekly Rundown: Streaking Sky and struggling Sun

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alysha Clark enjoying fast start to WNBA season

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

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

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

HOT MESS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In other news:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Magazine cover gives WNBA some overdue respect

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

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

NCAA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Her scouting report for UConn fans?

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

Kentucky transfer Jennings joins USC women’s basketball team

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bye: OSU women’s basketball: Close leaves program

Bye: Three women’s basketball coaches depart Marist

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

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

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

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

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

Kings’ coach recalls friendship with Muhammad Ali

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

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

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

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

INTERNATIONAL:

Opals in women’s basketball loss to Spain

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

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

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

US Coach Promotes Wheelchair Basketball in Gaza

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

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

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

POLITICS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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said Aussie head coach Brendon Joyce: Liz Cambage omitted from Australian Opals team for Olympics basketball qualifiers against New Zealand

Meanwhile, in other international news, the Russians get a reprieve of sorts from FIBA.

Canadian Kia Nurse’s “How I spent my summer” essay is going to be wicked long: Canadian women open with a win over Puerto Rico at FIBA Americas. (Check out tonight’s stream of Canada/Chile – 8:30pm)

Brazil is chillin‘ ’cause they’re in.

USA Basketball marks One Year To Rio: USA Basketball Looks Back on Every U.S. Olympic Basketball Team Since 1936. Of course, you need to scroll down to ’76 to see the women’s team. I’ve always wondered: If WWII hadn’t happened, was there enough momentum to get the women into the Olympics in ’40?

As Nancy follows Becky, Local coaches weigh in on the recent hiring of Welter and Hammon in the NFL, NBA

Kate, who played at California Lutheran University before working as an assistant coach at the school for three years, is curious if the same applies in reverse situations. If a female coach walks into a gym full of male athletes, will they garner the same respect and attentiveness?

That’s one of the many questions raised, especially in recent weeks, since three women joined the professional coaching ranks in the NFL and NBA.

A little more on the topic:

Daily Camera: Women knock down barriers of ‘men’s’ sports

These hirings are important nods to Welter’s, Lieberman’s and Hammon’s very real qualifications — Lieberman is a member of both the Basketball Hall of Fame and the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, for example — and to the value of considering women for nontraditional roles in any walk of life.

When sports franchises break racial, sexual or gender barriers, they don’t do it to be politically correct. They do it because the players or coaches in question are right for the positions. Think of the Dodgers and Jackie Robinson.

Filip Bondy, NY Daily News: With women like Becky Hammon & Nancy Lieberman beginning to coach the men, it’s time to make some room at the table  

If players on the Sacramento Kings ever distrust the credentials of their new assistant coach, they can always Google “Nancy Lieberman” and discover an impressive resumé more than worthy of the position.

“I’m like a puppy,” Lieberman says. “I come with papers. I have pedigree. I’m not a mutt. And I’ve never been in a situation where I thought people didn’t respect me.”

Let’s just hope we can keep the door wedged open.

The Sparks are singing, “Just in time, I found you just in time…” with the return of Beard and Parker.

Candace Parker knew it was time to come back to the WNBA when her daughter Lailaa asked why she wasn’t playing with the Sparks any more.

”She didn’t understand that I was taking some time off,” Parker said. ”She said she wanted me to play for them.”

So Parker, who sat out the first half of the season to rest mentally and physically, returned to Los Angeles after the All-Star break. The Sparks have won four of six since the two-time league MVP came back.

After getting blown out in their first matchup, the semi-stumbling Lynx told the Sparks, “Wait a minute, Ms. Postman” and used home court advantage to get the win.

Always good to read about a return: After injuries nearly derailed career, Chelsea Gray flourishing with Sun

Chelsea Gray’s first season in the WNBA is a dramatic reversal of fortune. The 22-year-old rookie point guard is now one of the top subs off the bench for the Connecticut Sun, and is averaging 7.4 points in 16.4 minutes per game just past the halfway point of the WNBA regular season. Gray ranked ninth in the league and first among rookies in three-point field goal percentage (38.9) through her first 15 games, and is one of the WNBA’s most promising offensive weapons.

But the trajectory of Gray’s basketball career was drastically altered 18 months ago.

The news is less happy in the land of the Shock. 

Let’s avoid talking about the Storm or San Antonio, shall we? Well, maybe just a smidgen about the Storm: Loyd starting to feel more comfortable in the WNBA

Loyd’s development hasn’t been lost on teammate Sue Bird.

“I think early on she was getting adjusted, a little tentative, trying to feel her game out,” Bird said. “Now she’s starting to see where she can be successful. Almost a 180 in terms of her aggressiveness.”

And KML slowly adjusting to life in the WNBA

After a remarkable collegiate career during which Mosqueda-Lewis made a record 398 3-pointers, scored 2,178 points, became a two-time All-American and won three national championships, she’s struggled to make the transition to the professional game after getting picked third overall in the WNBA draft.

The level of competition, athleticism and defensive intensity are all drastically better in the pro game.

“The biggest eye-opening thing has been that it is going to be a process,” Mosqueda-Lewis said. “It’s not something that’s going to come quickly. It’s something I’m going to have to work harder at and go with day-by-day.”

And Ramu Tokashiki, a Japanese Rookie, Blossoms in the W.N.B.A.

The first English word the Japanese forward Ramu Tokashiki learned from her Seattle Storm teammates is unprintable here. Used in jest, it has become Tokashiki’s favorite saying. But another favorite English word is “confidence,” something she has built during her first W.N.B.A.season. Tokashiki has become one of the league’s best rookies and a blooming fan favorite, while hoping to change the perception of women’s basketball in Japan.

Sitting in the Milwaukee airport yesterday, I caught the tail end of the Mercury/Chicago game. (Kinda cool, no?)

“A win against a good team at home, you get on a roll and get momentum,” Sky coach Pokey Chatman said. “And to be able to come in here and talk about a defensive assignment that you carried out against a hot team … that’s a crucial thing.”

I’ll get to see them in action (again) against the Lib. Can they eeek out a revenge game and stay in the chase for the top seed? And, of course, there’s nothing like winning to catch the NY Times’ attention: Rebuilding Around Tina Charles Puts Liberty in Playoff Hunt

A Liberty season that began with an off-court to-do over the hiring of Isiah Thomas as team president has turned into a great one on the basketball court. The Liberty sit on top of the W.N.B.A.’s Eastern Conference at 13-6. If the team maintains that .684 winning percentage over its final 15 games, it will finish with the best record in franchise history.

It is quite a contrast from last year, when the Liberty finished 15-19 and missed the playoffs. So what has changed?

NCAA:

So, the investigators hired by Illinois found nothing amiss when it came to the women’s program… but this is an interesting turn: Chancellor’s resignation could impact Illini athletics

The ground beneath the University of Illinois’ Department of Intercollegiate Athletics trembled this week.

It didn’t send plates crashing to the floor, but it moved, and just as it would with the arrival of a minor earthquake, those standing in the Bielfeldt Athletic Administration Building felt their stomachs jump.

If the release of findings from an external investigation into the school’s women’s basketball program didn’t create enough commotion, the stunning resignation of Chancellor Phyllis Wise grabbed everyone’s attention.

Simply put, Wise’s exit could be a game-changer for Illini athletics.

Speaking of game-changers: Ouch. South Carolina’s Mitchell Undergoes Surgery for Foot Injury

You stay put: Pitt signs McConnell-Serio through 2020-2021 season

Montana Grizzly: Family means everything to Lady Griz coach Selvig

Robin Selvig was a bit startled when one of his Lady Griz basketball players, McCalle Feller, openly revealed to her coaches and teammates during a team barbecue her freshman year that she was adopted.

“Everybody sits around and says something interesting about themselves,” Selvig said Monday before serving as the guest celebrity for the annual “A Waiting Child” golf tournament at Yellowstone Country Club. “That was the first thing that came out of her mouth.”

It’s not that adoption is a touchy or sensitive subject. American families adopted more than 7,000 children in 2012, according to the U.S. State Department. But Feller’s openness and honesty is what surprised Selvig.

Awesome: Muslim Basketball Players Design Own Outfits And You Won’t Believe What Happens Next!

A community basketball team in Cedar-Riverside Minneapolis, consisting of young Somali girls, made the news recently. These players did not gain attention from media outlets for bashing stereotypes or fighting against the Islamic oppressive patriarchy. They were lauded and positively represented for creating a solution to challenges they faced with their basketball uniforms. Their long skirts and flowy hijabs were not optimal for the courts.

So, the girls partnered with the College of Design at the University of Minnesota and created uniforms that would suit their personal and religious preferences.  This successful collaboration was widely covered and the majority of the reports were pleasantly surprising and unlike any I had ever seen before; nuancedpositive and accurate.

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One of the hardest working, toughest-lucking players we’ve ever had the pleasure to watch. Remember this from 2001? Even Adversity Couldn’t Stop Douglas’s March to Final

Last Monday, Katie Douglas scored only 2 points in the first half of Purdue’s Mideast Regional final against Xavier. But Douglas did score 17 points in the second half, helping the Boilermakers advance to the Final Four. That was just Katie, most of her teammates thought with reverence, rebounding again. 

But Kelly Komara, a junior guard, knew the real reason. So did Pam Stackhouse, a Purdue assistant. They saw Douglas’s gray-blue eyes reflect the many memories that were shaking her game. March 26 would have been her mother’s 54th birthday. 

”She was a little emotional, and maybe she went out and played a little too hard,” Stackhouse said. 

Douglas’s mother, Karen, died last April 28 of breast cancer. Her father, Ken, had died three years earlier of pancreatic cancer. A teammate, Tiffany Young, was killed by a drunken driver in July 1999, the month before Douglas learned of her mother’s diagnosis.

From David Woods at the Indy Star:

She became the greatest female pro basketball player to come out of Indiana. But fans will no longer be entertained by her fiery persona, left-handed 3-pointers, slashes to the rim or clever steals.

Katie Douglas, who turns 36 Thursday, announced her retirement Friday after a 14-year WNBA career. The Indianapolis native had intended to play for the Connecticut Sun this summer but cited lingering back problems for her decision.

A hint (pre-retirement) of her future from Nathan Baird at the Lafayette Journal & Courier

“I would love to coach,” Douglas said. “I love the business side of basketball. I love the (general manager) perspective. I love creating a roster and seeing the development of that. I love various aspects and love being involved in the game. There are various things I need to kind of pursue and test and see what I’m passionate about.”

Viva Las Vegas! Bruno and USA Basketball Women’s National Team in Las Vegas

Speaking of US National Team members, did you catch this piece by Maya: (In)visibility:

After four years and two national championships, I went No. 1 in the 2011 WNBA Draft. That’s when I felt the drop.

There’s this unnatural break in exposure for the highest level of women’s basketball in the world. Wait, what happened here? That’s a question we as WNBA players ask ourselves. We go from amazing AAU experiences to high school All-American games to the excitement and significant platform of the collegiate level to … this. All of that visibility to … this. Less coverage. Empty seats. Fewer eyeballs. In college, your coaches tell you to stay focused on your team and the game — not the media attention. But you know you’re on national television. You know people are following you. You can feel the excitement. And then as a professional, all of that momentum, all of that passion, all of that support — the ball of momentum is deflating before my eyes

I went No. 1 in the 2011 WNBA Draft. That’s when I felt the drop.

Gone.

 Speaking of Minnesota – does the oft-injured Big Syl wanna go there?

“Prepare for the worst and hope for the best” is an age-old management strategy, but not exactly the mindset a team wants to have going into a season. The Chicago Sky, though, have had to operate in this mode since last fall in regard to center Sylvia Fowles.

And now it’s getting closer to the time to drop the “hoping for the best” part. Fowles doesn’t appear to have a future with the Sky, who drafted her No. 2 overall in 2008 out of LSU, unless there is a big turn of events.

The Sky have been readying for some time to move on without Fowles, even though that’s not what they would prefer. Fowles declined a contract offer last September, and negotiations — if you want to call them that — continued sporadically.

Speaking of the upcoming season: Dishin & Swishin 4/30/15 Podcast: Tulsa looks to Shock the Western Conference in 2015

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this sounds like a hot “denial of transfer” mess (with echoes of a more recent fiasco): Full timeline of Daisha Simmons’ request to transfer from Alabama to Seton Hall

From Asbury Park Press: Alabama called “spiteful” in block of Simmons transfer

Although they may threaten and delay and even impose conditions, college sports teams rarely block someone from transferring to play elsewhere.

Rarer still — virtually unheard of — is a college blocking a transfer who already has a degree.

The case of Daisha Simmons, then, is like Halley’s comet.

More from Swish Appeal: The sad story of Daisha Simmons’ fight to transfer from Alabama to Seton Hall

As reported by multiple outlets during the NCAA offseason, Alabama has taken a hard-line stance in blocking senior Daisha Simmons from transferring to Seton Hall for family reasons. ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas said in an interview with Swish Appeal that the NCAA has done the right thing in response to the blocked transfer request, but Alabama is “acting in a shameful fashion”.

In happier news: Dolson Gives Her Take on the U.S. Women’s National Team

First off, my time with U.S. Women’s National Team was a great experience. It was an honor just to be selected for training camp and then to make it past the first cut and to go with the team to France is something I am very proud of. I came in with confidence and I think that helped me throughout camp and ultimately helped me be in the final 15.

One of the biggest takeaways for me was that I was honored to be around women like Diana Taurasi, Maya Moore and Seimone Augustus (among others). It truly was great to see how they carried themselves. I saw how hard they went in practice. I saw how motivated they were to do everything perfect — even down to streching. I even saw how they handled themselves off the court. When we were not practicing and there was some down time, nobody had headphones on or was in their own world. Everybody was talking and professional. I respected that. It was a learning opportunity for myself and it’s something I can use to my advantage in the future.

The Times-Picayune catches up with Pokey Chatman of Ama, still shining with Women’s National Basketball Association

A little “better late than never” from espnW: HEY FIBA, LET QATARI WOMEN PLAY

The best argument you can make against sports boycotts is that those who show up usually make history. Not those who stay away.

Think of Jesse Owens at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Think of John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s Black Power salute at the 1968 Mexico City Games or baseball’s Jackie Robinson. Think of Kathrine Switzer sprinting to elude the race official who was trying to stop her from competing in the 1967 Boston Marathon or Venus Williams taking the microphone after winning the 2009 Dubai Tennis Championships and lamenting the absence of Shahar Pe’er, the Israeli woman who was banned by organizers and denied a visa to enter the Arabic country.

But sometimes refusing to play can actually be the right thing to do.

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Appropriate descriptions of the two Conference Championship games played. Home teams staked themselves a big lead, visitors clawed back a bit (or a lot) to make it interesting… but to no avail.

On the games themselves:

From the AP: Mercury humble Lynx, 85-71 (Interesting echo from Bright Side: One year ago today the Phoenix Mercury were humbled by the Minnesota Lynx) and Phoenix Mercury build large lead, hold on to beat Minnesota Lynx in Game 1

Griner, PHX defense key to big Game 1 win over Minnesota

From Tyler Killian: Mercury open Western Conference finals with rout of Minnesota Lynx

Eleven months ago to the day, the Mercury stood on their home court as the Minnesota Lynx celebrated a series victory in the Western Conference finals — the disappointing end of the Mercury’s drama-filled season.

The memory of that game may have faded some by the time the two teams met on the same floor Friday, but watching the Mercury dominate the Lynx and release the pent-up frustration that had been brewing ever since they were eliminated in 2013, the feeling of catharsis inside US Airways Center was unmistakable.

From the Tribune: Phoenix rises up to top Lynx in Game 1 of playoff series

“This is the playoffs,” Moore said. “There’s not really a lot of surprises when you don’t play with the intensity you need to — especially on the road. There’s nothing that they did that was super new. It was just a matter of them executing their offense. We have to be more aggressive.”

From Richard: Mercury outwork, outhustle and outplay Lynx on way to Game 1 win

Story of the Game: The game started as much of it would go on – unfortunately for Minnesota. Buoyed by their noisy home crowd, the Mercury got out in transition early on and scored the first nine points of the game. They were challenging hard on all the jumpers the Lynx were tossing up, leaking out after making those challenges, and beating Minnesota down the floor at the other end. DeWanna Bonner also drilled a three in the opening 90 seconds of the game, which would be another bad sign for the rest of the night for the Lynx.

From Pat Friday: Indiana rains threes on Chicago to steal victory on home floor

From Nate: Chicago Sky coach Pokey Chatman cites turnovers as a “glaring” problem in Game 1 loss

From Mark Ambrogi the Indy Star: Fever claim Game 1 East Finals victory over Chicago, 77-70

It wasn’t hard for Indiana Fever coach Lin Dunn to determine the key stat on Saturday night.

The Fever hit 9-of-21 3-pointers compared to 1-of-8 for Chicago.

Fever buckle down, stave off Sky and its partner article: Fever hold off Sky in fourth quarter for 1-0 series lead

The Indiana Fever had to have thoughts of the Sky’s historic comeback win four days ago in Atlanta running through their minds.

But, unlike Tuesday night, Indiana fended off the late-charging Sky and held on for a 77-70 victory Saturday night in the opener of the Eastern Conference finals.

From Bright Side of the Sun: WCF Preview: The One Year Journey Of The Mercury

Missed this from David: Delle Donne means the Indiana Fever aren’t facing a normal No. 4 seed

On the upcoming games:

Nate is feeling predictive: ECF/WCF predictions: Mercury, Sky will prevail

Did you catch Richard’s WNBA 2014 Playoff Previews – Eastern Conference Finals: Indiana Fever vs. Chicago Sky and WNBA 2014 Playoff Previews – Western Conference Finals: Phoenix Mercury vs. Minnesota Lynx?

Yup: Lynx need more from Moore against Mercury

The Phoenix Mercury did something in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals that no other WNBA team has been able to do all season long.

They stopped Maya Moore.

And yes: Reeve wants to see Lynx more aggressive in Game 2

Two hands.

If there was one thing that really surprised Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve about Friday’s 85-71 loss in Phoenix in Game 1 of the WNBA Western Conference finals, it wasn’t any one statistic or stretch during the game. It was an attitude.

As in, the defending champion Lynx didn’t have enough of it. “Phoenix has had a great season,” Reeve said Saturday, shortly after the team’s flight landed in Minnesota. “Phoenix has a great understanding that, in order to beat us, to go to the finals, they’re going to have to wrestle the trophy away from us. What I was surprised about was we didn’t have the collective effort to have two hands on that trophy.’’

From Mechelle: Lynx target solid start in Game 2 – Minnesota can’t afford another slow start against Phoenix

Since the Minnesota Lynx elevated to being an elite team in the WNBA three years ago, they haven’t ended a season at home. They won their 2011 and ’13 titles in Atlanta, and lost in the 2012 WNBA Finals at Indiana.

The Lynx are certainly hoping their 2014 campaign doesn’t end in Minneapolis, either — at least not during the Western Conference finals. They are down 1-0 in the best-of-three series after an 85-71 loss at Phoenix on Friday.

Sunday, the Lynx host the Mercury at Target Center (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC) in a game to keep Minnesota’s season alive.

From Tyler: Mercury won’t relax after opening romp in WNBA Western Conference finals

Our frame of mind doesn’t change,” Mercury forward Penny Taylor said. “We know we’re up against a championship team, and we know if we relax for a second, that they’ll be on top of us.

“They’re such a good team, and we expect them to come back at full force.”

Who didn’t see this coming:  Mo’Ne Davis heading to the conference finals

Congrats to all: Chiney Ogwumike wins ROY, heads All-Rookie team (And I know folks are cranky that Shoni wasn’t named – but please don’t bring up her All-Star Game performance as a reason she should have been on the team… That’s just silly.)

This is cool:

Professional basketball player Shoni Schimmel, the first Native American to play in the WNBA All Star Game, and her family will make two appearances this weekend to support the Seneca Nation campaign against alcohol and drug abuse.

More on those who are no longer playing: Lack of star talent remains a top concern in D.C.

From the NY Times: In the W.N.B.A., Women’s Coaching Journey Gets Easier (“Easier”, of course, is a relative term, ’cause the gig reeeeeeally hard)

Seventeen years ago, Lin Dunn was coaching the Portland Power of the short-lived American Basketball League. Dunn believed in sharing her knowledge of the game, so she allowed college coaches to watch her practices.

One of them was Pokey Chatman, then a young assistant coach at Louisiana State. Chatman stayed for a week learning from Dunn, whom she remembered as a volleyball coach at Mississippi in the late 1970s.

On Saturday, Chatman, now coach of the Chicago Sky, faced Dunn’s Indiana Fever in Game 1 of the W.N.B.A. Eastern Conference finals.

Speaking of hard: From the Argus Leader: Daughter inspires coach to stay with basketball team

It’s not all about basketball, says Vermillion, whose 24th year of coaching begins next year. It’s not about the wins and losses. “I can guarantee you I have more losses than wins,” he says. “When I started out, it was all about winning, then I learned it’s not. It’s about developing girls.”

One rule: Family, church and school come first. Vermillion never holds tryouts, and he never names starters. At one point, he required a 3.25 grade point average.

Vermillion encourages players to take the ACT four times. They might not play college ball, he says, but they will come out of there with a degree. He also spends much more time than the typical coach talking with college officials about the girls, doing his best to get them scholarships.

He loves the girls but hates the parents, he says bluntly. The girls, his girls, keep him coming back every season.

Or, maybe it’s just one girl. A dozen years after Tiffany’s death, her father still coaches because, as he says simply, “This is what she left me.”

Sad news out of San Antonio:

In the past two years, Tai Dillard has been an assistant coach in the Pac-12 and SEC, two of women’s college basketball’s top conferences.

As her path has taken her to places such as Palo Alto, California, and Knoxville, Tennessee, Dillard reflected on the person instrumental in helping her coaching journey get started: Sam Houston High School girls basketball coach Milyse Lamkin.

Lamkin, 52, died Thursday after battling cancer, Sam Houston Principal Darnell White said.

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