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A quick measuring stick as she starts her W career and everyone prepares to support her. Below’s a list of stats for

  • #1 picks.
  • Who were identified as centers, even if they can play a little 4. Yes, Janel as a “center” is pushing it, and Wauters, Dydek and Leslie were what I’d call “experienced” centers… but hey, it’s what I’ve got.
  • Used Basketball-Reference.com for the stats.

If anyone wants to look up their stats for theri first games, send’em on over.

2013 Brittney Griner 
First season
27 games. 26 minutes. 12.6/6.3 rebs.

2010 Tina Charles
First season
34 games. 31 minutes. .487. 15.5/11.7 rebs

2005 Janel McCarville
First season
28 games. 3 start. 11.1 minutes. .340%. 1.8/2.7.

2001 Lauren Jackson
First season
29 games. 34.5 minutes. .367%. 15.2/6.7 rebs.

2000 Ann Wauters
First season
32 games. No starts. 18.7 minutes. 523%. 6.2/4rebs.

1998 Margo Dydek
First season
30 games. 28 minutes. .482%. 12.9/7.6

1997 Lisa Leslie
First season
28 games. 32 minutes. .431%. 15.9/9.5 rebs

Meanwhile…

Man, I love how Minneapolis covers the Lynx. (Excited at the amount of coverage the Wings have gotten, too)

A fresh approach for Lynx point guard Lindsay Whalen: The Lynx veteran guard stayed home this offseason to recharge after an injury-riddled 2015 season

For weeks Lindsay Whalen did, basically, nothing. And it was glorious.

All of November and half of December, Whalen, the Lynx guard, once and future Olympian, former Gophers star and Minnesota’s favorite daughter, rested. She didn’t go to the team’s facility. For the first time in a decade she didn’t go overseas to play.

She didn’t do any basketball stuff at all.

Lynx forward Brunson ready to start after recent arrival and Healthy, excited Augustus happy to rejoin Lynx

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About to hop in the car with the poppa and hit Philly for the “This I Believe: Philadelphia” event, but that doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten about today’s game (or that “Other” game – yes, I enjoyed the concert…sigh. And I really enjoyed this season.). I’m looking forward to the “Battle of the Healthy Heavyweights.” – nice to see the W doing the bumping, isn’t it?

BTW: Did you know the WNBA Finals features Philly connection

From the AP: Lynx want WNBA Finals redemption against Indiana

 Maya Moore and the Minnesota Lynx waltzed into the 2012 WNBA Finals ready for a coronation.

It was supposed to be the beginning of a dynasty, with the powerful Lynx sure to overwhelm heavy underdog Indiana for their second straight championship.

Tamika Catchings had other ideas.

Catchings and the Fever took it to the defending champions, stunning them in Game 1 in Minnesota and taking the best-of-five series 3-1 for the franchise’s first championship.

Three years later, the two teams are meeting again. And this time, Moore said the Lynx will be ready for them.

Mike Max says the Lynx Focused On Winning Title, Not Revenge On Fever

Minnesota Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve and Timberwolves’ interim head coach Sam Mitchell chatted as their practices overlapped Thursday. It was a good problem to have because it means the Lynx are in the finals.

“No matter what, it’s just one more opponent we’re getting ready for. This is it, and this is where we were trying to get to and we’re here,” Reeve said.

Maybe what they have learned more than anything is how precious it is to make it to the WNBA Finals. And when you get here, you never know if it could be your last shot.

Swish Appeal is singing the coach White’s praises: Stephanie White etches name in with WNBA coaching greats as is Mechelle: Stephanie White sets bar high in first season as Fever head coach

Indiana coach Stephanie White really wasn’t sure she’d be in the WNBA this long. After retiring as a player, she spent four years as an assistant at the college level, and then went in that capacity to the WNBA’s Chicago Sky.

“I bought into the idea of former players staying in the league to help the current players understand where we’ve come from and where we have to get to,” White said. “To be a part of molding that next generation of players. Because you could take it for granted, very easily, if you’ve grown up with the WNBA and didn’t know it could be taken away.”

The New York Times takes a look at the other bench: With Bold Coach, Lynx Find a Voice. It May Be Hoarse.

Two tense games in the W.N.B.A.’s Western Conference finals reduced Minnesota Lynx Coach Cheryl Reeve’s voice to a rasp. It had mostly recovered by midweek, when Reeve, dressed in blue-and-gray Lynx sweats, directed practice.

But it was not exactly right, and that bothered her.

“Is it better?” she asked. “I tried everything. It’s hard this time of year.”

Part teacher, part taskmaster and part tactician, Reeve is as much the voice and driving force of the Lynx franchise as the American Olympians Maya Moore, Seimone Augustus and Lindsay Whalen are the faces.

Speaking of coaches: Dishin & Swishin 10/01/15 Podcast: Previewing the WNBA finals with Mike Thibault & Brian Agler

More from Mechelle: Seimone Augustus as vital as ever to Lynx’s championship hopes

There are times when Minnesota guard Seimone Augustus has just the right message for her hard-driving and intense coach, Cheryl Reeve. It’s the kind of thing not just anybody could say, but Augustus always nails it.

“I joke with her: ‘You might need to get to the studio and get some yoga and find your happy place,'” Augustus said. “So she calls me the Zen master.”

The Star Tribune has a Sunday Q&A: Lynx forward Rebekkah Brunson

Reusse: Moore’s arrival lifted Lynx from obscurity

The Lynx were 1-4 in the playoffs in 12 years of existence before Moore. They are 26-8 with Moore.
A franchise that couldn’t get out of its own way for a dozen years is now going for its third WNBA title in the five years of Maya Moore.

Have you ever seen such a winner?

“Maya’s not the quickest player, but she’s fast,” Petersen said. “She’s not the biggest player, but she’s physical. And she just makes so many plays.”

Petersen laughed slightly and said: “Some of them are drawn up in the game plan; some of them aren’t. The way I put it, ‘She goes rogue.’ Sometimes when she goes rogue, it turns into a great play. The rest of the time, Cheryl is yelling at her.

“I’ve never seen a great player get yelled at as much as Maya. She just takes it. Maya has that rare ability to put a bad play — a foul, missed shot, whatever — behind her and instantly get back in the moment.

From the Indy Star’s David Woods: How the Fever were built, player by player

When the Indiana Fever selected Tamika Catchings with the third pick of the 2001 WNBA draft, they secured their future for the next decade and a half.

Yet as great as she has been, the Fever have been to a record 11 consecutive postseasons not solely because of her – and not because of the draft. Not since 2005 have the Fever had a top-four pick.

Kelly Krauskopf, the Fever’s top executive for all of their 16 seasons, has kept the team near the top via trades, free-agent signings, judicious drafting and retention of key pieces.

Kent Youngblood says the  Lynx and Fever are meeting in a finals that’s about veterans, not youth: The Lynx have made a habit of reaching the finals, but it’s anything but routine 

Indeed, in an era where youth is trumpeted, this series is a throwback, with old vets rather than youngsters. The Lynx starters average 30.4 years of age, Indiana 29.2. The Lynx looking for a third title in five years, the fever a second in four seasons.

“This is a series that fans need to appreciate what they see on the floor,” said Rebecca Lobo, the former player who will be part of the ESPN broadcast crew. “Knowing Catchings only has a season left; this might be her last finals. Knowing this Lynx team, as it is put together right now, may be changing in the coming years. … It will be a great series.”

Busy Mechelle writes: WNBA Finals primer: Why Minnesota shouldn’t underestimate Indiana

This is the first time since 2006 — and just the fourth time overall — that the team with the best record in the league did not reach the WNBA Finals. So while the New York Liberty — who went 23-11 this season — must dwell on what went wrong in the Eastern Conference finals, the Indiana Fever move on to try to knock off the team with the second-best record this season: the West champion Minnesota Lynx, who were 22-12 in the regular season.

This is a repeat of the 2012 WNBA Finals, with a very similar cast of main characters, although there are a few new faces in this matchup.

Lynx Looking to Use Homecourt, Crowd to Their Advantage

Women’s Watch: Indiana Fever the real story of this WNBA season

Catchings, who led Stevenson to an IHSA state championship in 1995, has announced that next season will be her last in the WNBA. She is engaged and ready to marry, have children and move on with her life.

She reflected on that when she was in Chicago last month while leading the Fever to a first-round win over the Sky.

“Every time I go out, after this year, it becomes the last of everything,” Catchings said. “This is the last off-season, it will be the last first game.

“Really, this is just the opportunity to go out and enjoy my team. I love my teammates. They’re a great group of ladies and I’m savoring the moments.”

Catchings has certainly been saving some of her best moments for the playoffs.

Again from David: For female athletes, 35 might be the new 25

“We’ve done a really good job all season long just taking care of my body and making sure this is the time that I’m ready,” she said. “I’m ready to perform at the end of the season, and not necessarily at the beginning. So I feel great.”

There is scientific and anecdotal evidence that not only can women perform as well as they did a decade earlier, they can often do better. As women age, they become more aerobic, according to Krista Austin, a sports scientist and coach formerly employed by the U.S. Olympic Committee.  That is, women’s bodies absorb and transport oxygen more efficiently.

What Catchings is doing is not a new phenomenon.

For some of us, there a storyline that has added an interesting tinge to the games: The Holdout: Lynx’s Sylvia Fowles seeking redemption in WNBA Finals

Make a list of the worst sins a pro athlete could commit against the spirit of competition. Somewhere among those offenses, there will be The Holdout. The mere suggestion of such an act quickly calls up a set of images in the mind: of a star player acting selfishly, of a stubborn team at wit’s end. Before long the fan’s blood starts to boil, even though it rightly shouldn’t. This is a boardroom drama that still unfolds against the backdrop of capitalism, after all.

Yet those images, however much ingrained, are hard to reconcile in the WNBA, where the sisterhood is real and the relationships within are largely positive and everlasting. Those images don’t strictly line up with the Minnesota Lynx’s standout center—a big-hearted, soft-spoken, 29-year-old named Sylvia Fowles.

Finally, this is the really essential background reading you need to prep for the game today:

It’s Minnesota vs. Indiana in the WNBA Finals, so here’s a “best-of” look at these two states. We quizzed the natives that both teams have: Minnesota-born-and-raised Lindsay Whalen, the Lynx point guard, and Indiana-born-and-raised Stephanie White, the Fever’s head coach. As a Midwesterner who has spent a lot of time in both states, I’ll toss in my picks, too.

Best TV show set in the state

Minnesota
Whalen: “I’m too young for ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show’; I missed that. I’ll go with ‘Coach.’ He was at Minnesota State, which we didn’t even have back then.” (Mankato State changed names to Minnesota State in 1999, two years after the TV show ended.)
Voepel: “I’m a lot older than Whalen and am the biggest ‘MTM’ fan on the planet. I’m just bummed that the famous Mary statue is currently in storage because of renovation work on Nicollet Mall.”

Indiana:
White: “Parks and Recreation.” (Set in wonderfully-fake-but-oh-so-real Pawnee.)
Voepel: “One Day at a Time” if I go with my cheesy 1970s bias; Ms. Romano and daughters lived in Indianapolis. Nah, I’ll choose “Parks and Rec,” too.

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Adversity preps Sky for postseason

“THIS IS OUR MOMENT” is splashed across the landing page of the Chicago Sky website, the letters in bright white, glowing as if illuminated on a marquee. Below them is a link to buy tickets for the team’s opening-round playoff series against the Dream, which begins Friday in Atlanta.

The 2013 postseason might have been memorable for its historical significance — the Sky made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history last season — but the team’s unlikely berth in these playoffs proves it to be a true contender.

From Michelle Smith: Five questions for the postseason

The WNBA playoffs open Thursday after a regular season in which most of the teams in the league struggled merely to finish with a winning record. Two teams — Minnesota and Phoenix — stood head and shoulders above the rest through the entire summer, and the question for the postseason is whether anyone other than the Mercury or the Lynx stand a chance of hoisting the championship trophy.

While the other six teams — including five with sub.-500 records — try to turn that into a debate, we take a look at five questions facing the WNBA playoffs.

1. Can Phoenix finish what it has started?

From Mechelle: WNBA playoff X factors, predictions

We know who “won” the WNBA regular season: the Phoenix Mercury. Their 29-5 finish set a league record for most victories in a season and sends them into the playoffs as the obvious favorite.

Before the postseason begins Thursday (ESPN2 and WatchESPN, 7 p.m. ET), we take a look at the conference semifinals. Who’s hot and who’s not of the eight teams still playing? Might there be an upset or two brewing? Here’s a series-by-series breakdown:

From Tim Leighton: Lynx open WNBA playoffs in shadow of Phoenix Mercury

“When you look at the team that has been dominant from beginning to end, that would be Phoenix, and I think they are everyone’s favorite,” said WNBA pioneer Rebecca Lobo, an ESPN analyst, in a national conference call this week.

“I would agree that I think Phoenix is the team to beat,” echoed another ESPN analyst, Carolyn Peck.

Not so fast, says Taurasi, who knows the Mercury are likely to meet the Lynx in the Western Conference finals next week.

“They’re the defending champs,” she said. “They’re the best team in this league.”

We’ll see soon enough.

Tim adds: Lynx: 11-year veteran Rebekkah Brunson still going strong. Oh, did you know Brunson is happy to be a Lynx for life

Seimone Augustus knows what she would do if teammate Rebekkah Brunson ever were to leave the Minnesota Lynx.

“I’d go out and buy a Powerball ticket and hope we’d hit the lottery or something,’’ Augustus said after Tuesday’s two-hour practice. “It would be one of those deals where you just hope for the best. That’s about all you can do when it comes to her. She leaves one of those huge holes in your lineup, you know what I’m saying?”

Augustus needn’t worry.

From Pat Borzi at the NY Times: Lynx’s Maya Moore Has Become a Leaner Scoring Machine

The Monster — the nickname the Los Angeles Sparks’ interim coach, Penny Toler, pinned on Maya Moore of the Minnesota Lynx last week — fits Moore’s play better than it does her personality.

Could a monster make her own ice cream, as Moore does? Could a monster charm a 10-year-old girl seeking an autograph or the president of the United States? Would any team dare to let a monster dance on the court and address the home crowd after victories? Then again, Toler’s description fits the kind of season Moore, a fourth-year professional player, is having.

Mike Peden offers: Minnesota Lynx headed to the playoffs: what’s working, what’s not

The Minnesota Lynx ended their 2014 campaign with a 25-9 record, becoming the first WNBA team to post 25 wins or better for four consecutive years. Reaching that threshold this year was a remarkable achievement, with Minnesota enduring several injuries that could have compromised their overall chemistry.

“For us to do it this season, with the amount of adversity that we’ve faced, I told them I’m very impressed and blessed to share it with them,” said Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve.

Sneak in another few words from Mechelle: Maya Moore wins WNBA MVP award

Add another big honor to Maya Moore’s very full trophy case. The Minnesota Lynx forward has won her first WNBA season MVP award. The league has not officially announced it, but it was reported by the Associated Press, which also said Phoenix’s Diana Taurasi finished second in the voting, and Atlanta’s Angel McCoughtry third.

Moore, who turned 25 in June, is the first Lynx player to win the season MVP award and the third UConn graduate, following Taurasi in 2009 and Tina Charles in 2012.

Moore was the WNBA’s leading scorer this season at 23.9 points per game. She had 12 games scoring 30 or more points, including a career-high 48 on July 12 vs. Atlanta.

Phil Ervin at Fox Sports North: Experienced, healthy Lynx ready for another postseason run

The dial is back at 11.

The stakes are at their highest. The pressures of defending — successfully, this time — the WNBA crown have moved to the forefront of the league-wide consciousness.

You’d have never known it if you sat in on the Lynx’s pre-playoff team gathering Monday night, Cheryl Reeve said. The feisty, accomplished coach isn’t feeling much heat, even with Minnesota’s postseason opener two days away and a late-season slide in the not-so-distant past.

Instead, her sensation is one of relief.

Tyler Killian at AzCentral: Mercury haven’t accomplished anything yet

With the regular season now over, the Mercury maintain that they haven’t accomplished anything yet.

That’s the right approach for a team still seven wins away from capturing its third WNBA championship.

But for fans and media, the happenings in Phoenix over the past three months have been nothing short of remarkable. The records set and feats achieved are almost too numerous to list and at times have even surprised the members of the organization responsible for them.

Cory McCartney at Fox Sports South: Dream have ‘Unfinished Business’ heading into WNBA playoffs

Sitting at a bar top table in a downtown restaurant, Michael Cooper motioned to a television on the back wall, where highlights of Little League World Series star Mo’ne Davis played.

“Have you seen her this girl yet,” Cooper asked. “She’s incredible.”

Cooper knows a thing or two about phenoms. He was on hand for the start of Magic Johnson’s career when the two were Los Angeles Lakers, and as Atlanta Dream coach he sees a number of similarities between the NBA legend and his rookie guard Shoni Schimmel.

Terrence Thomas from My San Antonio: Stars ‘having fun’ as playoffs loom

Becky Hammon didn’t have to come back, and she didn’t have to toil through months of rehabbing her injured left knee. Hammon’s legacy as one of the WNBA’s greatest players already was secured, so she had little else to prove.

But Hammon wanted to author her own ending — and it wasn’t going to be the image of her being carried off a basketball court last May in Los Angeles by a teammate and a trainer.

“It was worth it,” Hammon said. “Competing makes everything worth it. Being able to put your shoes on and have a chance to play a few more games is very special.”

David Woods at the Indy Star asks: Can the Indiana Fever win the WNBA title after a losing season?

There is no precedent for a team enduring a losing regular season to reach the WNBA Finals.

Take it from Indiana Fever coach Lin Dunn: So what?

The No. 2-seeded Fever, coming off a 16-18 season, open the best-of-three Eastern Conference semifinals Thursday (7 p.m., ESPN2) against the No. 3 Washington Mystics (also 16-18) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Dunn said she is thinking only about the first 4 minutes of Game 1, but she isn’t limiting the Fever.

From Gene at WaPo: Balanced Washington Mystics set for WNBA playoff opener vs. Indiana Fever

During the first 10 years of his WNBA coaching career in Connecticut, Mike Thibault almost always had a player he could lean on down the stretch. Nykesha Sales was one of the first. Asjha Jones followed, and in his final season with the Sun, Tina Charles was named league MVP.

The second-year coach and general manager of the Washington Mysticshasn’t had that luxury since arriving in the District to reboot a dysfunctional franchise. But the youthful roster he assembled this season overcame a dearth of star power to qualify for the playoffs as the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference.

From Sue at Full Court: Unpredictability is the theme entering WNBA Playoffs

From Indian Country: Tweets, Please! Shoni Schimmel Takes Over the Atlanta Dream’s Twitter Account

From the Swish Appeal crew: Disappointing L.A. Sparks get second chance in postseason

Los Angeles Sparks fans got up close and personal with a tumultuous season, shortly after having to question whether they’d even continue to have a team in LA.

Veteran additions were supposed to push this disappointing Sparks team over the top. A coaching change, lineup shuffling and missed time all played a role but the Sparks still have to feel like they have second life in an otherwise disappointing season.

Atlanta Dream in an unfamiliar position at the top

As strange as it is given the number of times they’ve made it to the WNBA Finals, 2014 marks the first time the Atlanta Dream will enter the playoffs as the number one seed in the Eastern Conference after winning the regular season title.

Yet in keeping with tradition, the Dream haven’t made it easy on themselves.

Chicago Sky are the wild card

The 2014 version of the Chicago Sky is the epitome of a wildcard in the playoffs. You can’t take much from the team’s numbers, record or even it’s performances this season as the Sky only had it’s full roster available for 4 games this season, three of those being the last three games of the season.

The Indiana Fever look to finish the Lin Dunn Era in style

After the Seattle Storm missed the playoffs for the first time since 2003, the Fever now has the longest running playoff streak. Unlike the Storm, which only advanced twice in the two years where the team won the championship (2004, 2010), the Fever has advanced to the Conference Finals in six of those ten years, two Finals Appearances in 2009 and 2012, and the 2012 WNBA championship over a heavily favored Lynx team.

The Fever also made this playoff appearance, largely without the help of their franchise star Tamika Catchings who sat out the first half of the season due to injury. With her back, as well as some big contributions from players like Erlana Larkins and Briann January, could this team be in position to make a fourth straight Eastern Conference Finals, and even the WNBA Finals? Let’s see what they need in order to beat the Washington Mystics in their first round series.

The young Washington Mystics look to make some noise

General Manager and Head Coach Mike Thibault has led the Washington Mystics to the postseason in each of his first two years at the helm. Considering that the Mystics have only made consecutive playoff berths once in franchise history (2009 and 2010 under then-GM Angela Taylor and Coach Julie Plank), this is a sign of progress. A sign that the Mystics are now playing consistently and figure to be a team that is in the picture year in and year out.

In their first round playoff series, the Mystics will play the Indiana Fever, which has made three straight conference finals appearances in a row, and won the WNBA Finals in 2012. Game 1 will be on Thursday, August 21 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, and Game 2 will be at Verizon Center. Game 3’s back in Indy on Monday, August 25, if need be.

Given that they are playing a playoff-tested team, the Mystics will be underdogs. This is not unlike how they have been for all of the last two seasons.

San Antonio Stars live by the three to take the third seed

The obvious feel-good story of the 2014 WNBA Playoffs is that Becky Hammon will be making her final post-season appearance before retiring and joining the coaching staff of the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs.

But in a strictly basketball sense, the fact of the San Antonio Stars being in the postseason is a great story on its own.

In case you’re wonderin’: Conference semifinals matchups, seedings, TV times

The also have their 2014 WNBA award picks (Brittney Griner, Maya Moore, Diana Taurasi are unanimous All-WNBA selections) and their Newcomer and Comeback Player of the Year awards

On the “have nots…”

Bill Laimbeer, Cappie Pondexter reflect on a disappointing season for New York

From Jayda: Sue Bird talks about her return to the court this season

BTW: WNBA expects at least six teams to post profit and Record-Setting Game Action Drives WNBA to Viewership, Attendance and Digital Gains

WATN? Former WNBA president continues to promote female empowerment

FYI: 5 Memorable Moments From The WNBA Season

OOPS!  Griner, Taurasi lead strong Shock team into WNBA 1st round

What did they say? 2014 WNBA Playoffs National Media Conference Call Transcript

Interesting reminder from Minneapolis: Despite new law, parents’ complaints remain an issue for high school coaches

In 2013-14, during the first school year with the new measure in place, calls from coaches seeking help dropped significantly, according to a statewide coaches association.

But heading into a new fall season, coaching advocates say parent complaints remain a significant issue, often contributing to coaches leaving jobs voluntarily before ever having to face the sting of not having their year-to-year contracts renewed.

Tim Sension experienced both.

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And not just because it’s my mom’s 81st.

It’s when Phoenix and Minnesota meet at the Target Center. (And NO, it is not on national TV. Anyone got any pull?). If anyone’s going to derail the Merc’s march to a new WNBA win-streak record, it’ll be the Lynx. Both have leaders drawn from a UConn program that knows records are nice, but it’s winning the final game that earns you the prize.

Maya may be on the road to MVP but, more importantly, she’s gettin’ her posse back. Augustus is back and Brunson is right behind her. Finally, the Lynx *knock wood* are fully healthy for first time all season.

Five of Moore’s WNBA-record 10 30-point outings have come with Augustus out of the lineup.

That’s a double-sided paradigm. Augustus’ absence affords Moore more touches. But it also allows defenses to double-team her more often.

“I think it’s the same for both of them,” Reeve said. “‘Mone can benefit a lot from Maya playing as great as she is. Nothing’s easy for them.”

Brunson’s return offers similar avail in the post. No longer is Janel McCarville primarily responsible for clearing out the lane and tearing down rebounds — both Brunson specialties. Brunson’s post-up abilities also allow Reeve to make full use of her offense, which features a lot of high-motion facilitation from McCarville.

They’ll meet a Merc team that seems to be clicking on multiple cylinders. As the .com’s Kate Bennert notes, Griner is stronger, Diana is leading, and Brondello’s influence is a cypher.

It will be great to see these two teams go at each other, but it’s not just a record on the line, it’s home court and the top seed in the West. I’m not sure if San Antonio or LA should be considered legitimate threats, but both teams have the talent capable of upsetting the favorite. It would be a toss up of who I’d rather face — probably L.A., ’cause Dan Hughes has proven he can coach you right into the loser’s locker room.

Looking at the standings in the East reminds me of the bad old days – 5 of the 6 teams under .500. The East is easily dismissed because it still looks like no one wants the number one spot. The Dream were flying, but have suddenly hit a three-game losing streak (was Coach Cooper that important? Get well fast, sir!)?

No, I’m not counting Seattle out (and hoping Sue Bird is back in), but it’s been a tough season for the Storm – even with triple-doubles.

Will Chicago, with two of it’s big four back healthy (and MIP candidate Quigley) figure out their internal puzzles and be all that they can be? Is the return of Delle Donne on the horizon? Not as optimistic about Vandersloot, though.

Ooooh, look. There are the Mystics – as Stef Dolson, Bria Hartley Continue Smooth Transition To WNBA

Aside from her new swash of purple hair, a look she began to percolate as soon as her UConn career was over, nothing seems particularly different about Stefanie Dolson.

“If you want to know the truth, that [the new hair color] may be the most fun of all this season,” Dolson said. “A conversation starter? Yes.”

Indiana’s keepin’ it together. And Lin’s savoring her “farewell tour.”

Connecticut and New York (not my curse) are fighting not to drown in the basement. The Sun will be cheering against the Lib (whose final games  all East teams, except Phx) because it’ll mean a nice draft pick.

Boy, the off-season coaching carousel ought to be interesting….

Before we get there, Nate has some WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year candidates: Searching for a diamond in the rough

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Turn out the Lights,” but it’s hard not to think that. Seimone took the lead last night and, with a little support from her friends, the Lynx stomped the Dream.

No surprise, Angel and Fred are cranky.

“We compliment them. They won. They beat us fair and square,” McCoughtry said.

But she clearly took issue with what she felt was excessively physical play by the Lynx and, in particular, Maya Moore.

“The whole pulling me down on the fast break, all that crap, it’s not needed,” McCoughtry said. “I really hurt my elbow when Maya pulled me down on that play. I feel like it wasn’t needed. We don’t play that way. We are going to play hard and we are going to play scrappy, but we aren’t going to pull you down and hurt you. I just felt like I deserve a little more respect than that.”

Respect – be it given or taken – needs to take a back seat to showing up, sharing the ball, playing team defense and making good decisions. ’cause right now, Minnesota’s  one victory away from WNBA title, even though they weren’t satisfied:

“Of course, it wasn’t our best game,” Whalen said. “We had a lot of turnovers, some miscues and things like that. But all things we know we can fix and clean up. We’ll watch the video. We’ll learn from it. But I think it just shows … just our ability (to survive) when there are rough patches.”

Power forward Rebekkah Brunson was grim-faced at her locker afterward.

“We’ve got some things we really need to clean up before we go down there for Game 3,” she said. “We can’t be satisfied. We haven’t accomplished anything yet. We still have plenty of work to do.”

Tom Powers isn’t shy about daring the basketball mojo gods: Focused Lynx look like a lock to add to their ring collection

Let’s hope we’ve seen the last of the Lynx in 2013 — for their sake.

“We don’t want to come back to Minneapolis,” coach Cheryl Reeve said. “If we come back to Minneapolis, it’s going to be for a parade, not to play Game 5.”

And who doesn’t love a parade?

The universe is close to being back in harmony. The forces of nature are almost in balance. The Lynx clobbered the Atlanta Dream for the second straight time Tuesday night. They are one victory away from a WNBA title that somehow, some way, eluded them last season. It doesn’t look as if that will happen again.

From Mike: WNBA Finals: Lynx frustrate the Dream and go up 2-0

From the start, Atlanta sought to take the ball through the lane. The problem with that strategy? Minnesota knew exactly where the Dream wanted to go. The Lynx clogged the paint more frequently, disrupting drives and layup attempts, including an emphatic swat from Moore against Angel McCoughtry in the first quarter. Overall, the Dream made only 13 of 30 shots in the paint, for 26 points, making their increased scoring from the outside a moot point. Minnesota matched its paint production from game one, scoring 42 points, and taking away Atlanta’s strength,

“It was the backdoor cuts, some of the post-ups off of their deflections, screens off their offense,” said Atlanta coach Fred Williams. “That adds up to points in the paint.”

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with Phoenix knocking of Minnesota’s biggest challenger, and Indiana doing the same for Atlanta. Guess everybody will be nice and rested.

I’m looking forward to these games, especially to see how the battle in the paint plays out… tho Jayda is looking for something different: the battle No-Longer Big Easters: Maya Moore vs. Angel McCoughtry in best-of-five series on ESPN networks

From Mechelle: Two motivated clubs meet for title

Sorry, Minnesota Lynx, you still don’t get to be the underdog. It’s your third consecutive year in the WNBA Finals, and you’re the favorite again. You wore that mantle well in 2011, but the championship slipped away from you last year.

**

Sorry, Atlanta Dream, but this is your third trip in the past four years to the WNBA Finals, and you are going to feel underestimated again. The Lynx had a 26-8 regular-season record to your 17-17. They had three players with MVP-like numbers this year (Maya Moore, Lindsay Whalen, Seimone Augustus); you had one (Angel McCoughtry).

From Michelle: Lynx, Dream meet again in Finals

Key to the series

Protecting the home court. Atlanta has to win at least once in Minnesota if it wants to win this series. That’s no easy task considering the Lynx’s 17-2 record at home this season. In two playoff wins in Minnesota so far, the Lynx’s average margin of victory is 19.5 points.

The Dream have won only two road games since June 23, winning at Washington in the Eastern Conference semifinals and at Indiana on Sunday. But Atlanta has been a dismal team away from its home court for most of the year, and that doesn’t bode well.

Tim Leighton at the Pioneer Press talks pre-game prep: Before WNBA finals comes 10 hours of ‘Grand Theft Auto’

The victory in the best-of-three Western Conference finals not only gave the Lynx a berth in the WNBA Finals for the third consecutive season, it also earned players a 48-hour furlough from coach Cheryl Reeve.

Augustus had two things in mind upon returning home: a massage and getting her fingers warmed up for a team “Grand Theft Auto” video game party.

Don’t let the frivolity give you the wrong impression, though. Nathan Meacham reassures fans of Los Lynx that Minnesota’s not expecting a 2011 Finals rerun with Dream

It’s back to the WNBA Finals for the Minnesota Lynx, who will be facing the same opponent they defeated in 2011, but that doesn’t mean there are many similarities.

“This team is really different than the team in 2011,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. “Each of their journeys has been very different. This group wants to get this team’s championship to cap off this journey.”

Nate offers up Three keys for the Atlanta Dream in the 2013 WNBA Finals

During his introduction to the Atlanta Dream’s game against the Minnesota Lynx on August 20, broadcaster Bob Rathbun commented, “You can game plan for the stars in this league defensively, but the reason they’re stars is that they can come through despite all the defensive pressure. That’s certainly the case with Atlanta’s Angel McCoughtry and Minnesota’s Maya Moore.”

And of course you can probably apply the same reasoning to Seimone Augustus.

Yet the thing that fans often forget when considering the defensive end of the ball is that defense is never entirely a one-on-one effort – it’s always a 5-on-5 effort. Conveniently, examples of what the Dream need to do to succeed showed up within the first four minutes of their 88-73 win in late August.

The Card Chronicle takes notice: McCoughtry Seeking Elusive First WNBA Championship

It’s been nearly five years since Angel McCoughtry left Louisville, and since then she’s accomplished just about every professional goal imaginable. Except one.

McCoughtry will go for her first WNBA title when the Atlanta Dream begin play in the WNBA Finals on Sunday at Minnesota. The Dream have played in the finals in three of the last four years, but were swept in both of their previous appearances, including in 2011 against Minnesota.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution couldn’t be bothered, so they asked Doug to chime in (and don’t even ask him to make it Dream-centric): Minnesota Lynx face Atlanta Dream in WNBA finals

Ever since the Minnesota Lynx lost in the WNBA finals last year, they’ve been focused on getting back there.

Now they are three wins away from a second championship in three seasons, facing a team they swept two years ago to earn the franchise’s first title.

“We’re a very hungry, determined group of women,” said Minnesota’s Seimone Augustus. “All year we’ve talked about holding our goal and destiny in our hands. We have another chance at a title after not ending last season the way we wanted to.”

Clay writes his WNBA Finals preview: Will Atlanta live the Dream? Or will Minnesota erase last year’s nightmare?

The WNBA would have much preferred one of the Three to See, or Candace Parker and company, in the Finals. The league can certainly deal with Minnesota, with Maya Moore, Lindsay Whalen and Seimone Augustus, but 17-17 Atlanta, two-time losers in the Finals, isn’t exactly the dream opponent (sorry).

The positives are that the Dream love to run, so there should be lots of points, and Angel McCoughtry could melt down in SportsCenter-worthy fashion at any moment.

In the end, though, the Lynx are clearly better, and an Atlanta win in this series would count as the biggest Finals’ upset in league history.

Jayda also offers up some exit interviews: Nancy Darsch will not return to Seattle

Speaking of exit interviews, Mark Ambrogi at the Indy Star says Indiana Fever looking to reload for 2014 after getting swept in Eastern Conference finals

Good news for the Chicago: Sky owner Michael Alter all-in (and for those who say the League needs to avoid being “a movement”:

What Alter did not see coming but has figured out, he said, is that “this league is still about a cultural transformation, getting people [to relate to and follow] women and women athletes. And we still have a long way to go, that’s just a fact.”

He also included the phenomenon of women reporters eschewing what some, like himself, may view as a responsibility to champion women’s sports in favor of pursuing the bigger (men’s) beats.

“It’s the same thing with the corporate battle,” he said. “Men are not as comfortable saying, ‘We should do this.’ They don’t want to be the one to make the argument convincing everyone to do it. They’ll support if, but they want someone else to be the flag bearer.”

Simply put, Alter said, that attitude took him by surprise.

Mystery AP person writes: Mercury fall short of expectations, but coaching change brings strong finish

“It was a strange year, it was a little weird,” Taurasi said. “When things were not going our way through the season we worked through it. When they made the coaching change, it could have easily been a foregone season. But we stuck with it. I’m happy the way we fought throughout the season.”

In college news:

Might be an idiot: UWGB women’s basketball: Zastrow pleads not guilty to DUI charge

Might be in trouble: Georgetown places women’s basketball coach Keith Brown on leave following complaints

Georgetown has placed women’s basketball Coach Keith Brown on administrative leave, along with assistant coach Tim Valentine, following complaints of unprofessional conduct and inappropriate language.

The concerns were raised by players on the eve of Brown’s second season as head coach of the Hoyas and were first reported Monday night by WJLA (Channel 7). Georgetown’s assistant vice president for communications, Stacy Kerr, confirmed the circumstances that led to the university’s actions in a statement.

Awful news, reminding us how hard it can be to speak up for oneself: Maryland man arrested for assault of Tennessee recruit Jannah Tucker

A Maryland man has been arrested and charged with second-degree assault in a case that involves Tennessee recruit Jannah Tucker.  The No. 12 ranked 2013 recruit surprised the Lady Vols’ staff in July when she did not report to campus as scheduled, instead sending an email citing unspecified “personal reasons.”

Full Court has confirmed a police report and obtained court documents indicating that officers from the Franklin precinct of the Baltimore Police Department arrested Joshua Anthony Gerrard on Wednesday, July 25, at his home in Owings Mills, Md., on charges of second-degree assault. Gerrard remained in custody overnight and was released the following day on $50,000 bail. A trial date has been set for Feb. 12, 2014.

In high school news:

Definitely an idiot: Ex-basketball coach gets probation over play devised to hurt student heckler

Could be an eye-opener: High school girls’ hoops seeks officials

Nice to be recognized: Dover honors 2 for legendary commitment to students, community

During the introduction for Fisk the announcer read, “Marge Fisk, a graduate of DHS, Class of 1950, and the University of New Hampshire Class of 1954, came back to Dover High in the fall of 1970. Married to husband Bill and raising four children, Marge began the awesome task of revamping the girl’s Phys Ed. Department. With determination, organization and a little bit of magic she began putting together a solid sports program and some of the best girl’s basketball and field hockey teams in the state.” 

In 1975, the field hockey team won the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association for Field Hockey Class AA Championships under Fisk’s leadership. In 1977, an undefeated team coached by Fisk won the Girls Basketball State Championship.

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’cause it’s time to bring it v. the Lynx.  (Remember this from the 20th of September: Sparks deliver warning shot to Lynx)

And that’s not just because the game is on ABC at 3:30pm and there might be a national audience. It’s because if you don’t, you’re out.

It’s the lovely — and tough — reality of the WNBA playoffs. It’s tough to get a narrative going with the short series. But it sure does ramp up the pressure and tension. We’ll see if, as Mechelle writes, Lynx have Sparks on their heels

Candace Parker was irritated by her team’s indecisive pick-and-roll defense and lack of overall fight. DeLisha Milton-Jones saw a deficient sense of urgency. Alana Beard thought the Sparks didn’t defend or rebound well enough to get their all-important transition game going. Kristi Toliver felt the Sparks started the game back on their heels, and never recovered.

Coach Carol Ross noticed all of the above, along with delivering the quintessential coach’s line, “I’m going to have to look at film to review it all, but …”

It was bad, period. However, it’s because the Sparks are such a good team that they can be that blunt about it.

From the Star Tribune: Rebound machine Rebekkah Brunson keeps on chugging and Coach applauds Whalen for playing through pain.

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An update from overseas:

We take a look to Europe in this week’s overseas update, where Phoenix’s Diana Taurasi was named Week 4 MVP of the Euroleague. We also have updates from Seattle’s Ashley Robinson, Minnesota’s Rebekkah Brunson, a blog from Washington’s Jasmine Thomas and a Connecticut update featuring Tina Charles among others.

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they did not rest: Lynx host clinic for kids hours after grueling Game 1

Tired beat writers filed into the Target Center late Monday morning with coffee in hand. It was like they never left; the Minnesota Lynx had just wrapped up an intense and grueling game one of the WNBA finals just 15 hours before.

The writers got another glimpse of what this team is all about. Five star players – Seimone Augustus, Maya Moore, Lindsay Whalen, Rebekkah Brunson, and Taj McWilliams-Franklin – arrived shortly after the writers. They were all bright-eyed and bushy tailed, ready to give a basketball clinic to 90 middle school students to promote healthy and active lifestyles.

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Swish Appeal. (Yes, Nate did finally cave and make a prediction.)

2011 WNBA Finals Series Preview: Key Players, Stats, and A Prediction

The 2011 WNBA Finals might be the toughest to predict in some time.

As well as the Atlanta Dream have been playing in the latter part of the season and through the playoffs, we can hardly say for sure that they’re done peaking, particularly with center Erika de Souza expected back some time during the Finals. And even if Iziane Castro Marques doesn’t continue scoring the way she did in the Eastern Conference Finals, they’ve been so impressive adjusting to circumstances that it’s hard to know what might stop them consistently.

And then there’s the Minnesota Lynx, who just have the league’s best record and methodically eliminated the Phoenix Mercury in the Western Conference Finals.

So who will win the series?

2011 WNBA Finals: Rebekkah Brunson Leads Minnesota Lynx to 88-74 Game 1 Win

Minnesota Lynx Once Again Show Off Their Impressive Balance In Game 1 Of The 2011 WNBA Finals

And I know who should perform at halftime next game.

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Mechelle has a couple of pieces: Rebekkah Brunson’s 26 points lead Lynx

Rebekkah Brunson was leaning over a trash can, coughing, in the Minnesota Lynx’s locker room. She suggested somebody else go do a postgame interview, as she was still kind of catching her breath.

Sorry, she was told, it has to be you. You were just too good.

Indeed she was, and so were the Lynx. They defeated Atlanta Dream 88-74 before a crowd of 15,258 at Target Center, a place that in most years past was dormant during WNBA playoff time.

Dream will regroup for Game 2: Erika de Souza is expected back, which means Atlanta can return to its usual lineup

Angel McCoughtry has been sliding over to the power forward position in Atlanta’s starting lineup while center Erika de Souza is away. McCoughtry, 6-foot-1 and lean, jokingly said she’s been trying to bulk up with shakes and other forms of protein to give her more strength to handle the pounding inside.

“But as many times as I go to the bathroom before a game, it doesn’t work,” McCoughtry said.

That might qualify as too much information, but the fact that it was said in such a mirthful tone indicates the feeling the Dream had about their 88-74 Game 1 loss Sunday in the WNBA Finals.

Local Tim Leighton headlines his story: Lynx close with a rush to take 1-0 series lead over Dream in WNBA Finals

Atlanta bloodied the noses of the Minnesota Lynx on Sunday night.

It was a rare occurrence for the Lynx, who dominated the WNBA this season in almost bully-like fashion. While the Lynx staggered at times, being on the wrong end of a fistfight stirred something very familiar.

It opened their eyes.

It motivated them.

It sent them on a spree that KO’d the Dream.

At espnW, Michelle writes: Minnesota proves its appeal in Game 1 win

If WNBA president Laurel Richie could bottle the energy, passion and genuine enthusiasm the fans in Minnesota have shown for the Lynx, surely she would.

Heck, if she could grab some of their ticket sales to spread around, she’d do that, too.

Marney Gelner of Fox Sports North noted the Electric atmosphere for Lynx win

Bob Sansevere picks up on an oft played theme:  Lynx give local sports fans a rare reason to cheer

You can bet the crowd was into it, yelling, clapping, dancing, waving those pompons and having the kind of grand time not enjoyed by fans of the Vikings, Gophers, etc.

Vikings wide receiver Bernard Berrian, a stranger to cheers, went to his Twitter account during halftime to tweet that he was at the Lynx game, posting a classy note, “Love the support (they) get Minnesota.”

The support is there because the success is there.

I wonder how many of the local press are flying to Atlanta?

As for Atlanta, with the return of Erika, the AJC notes: Dream center gets attention

Getting from Neiva, Colombia to Minneapolis isn’t the easiest journey. And the Atlanta Dreamcan’t wait for Erika de Souza’s 3,100-plus mile trip from South America to be complete.

Because while the Dream was losing Game 1 of the WNBA Finals to the Minnesota Lynx, de Souza was on her way back from leading Brazil to the championship of the 2011 FIBA Americas Championship. While Brazil earned a spot in the 2012 London Olympics with the victory, the Dream missed its 6-5 center.

It was funny how some writers got their knickers all in a twist because de Souza chose her National Team over her WNBA team. They want the W to put its foot down and “Choose us, damn it!”

Pshaw, I say. If an American made that choice, she’d be saluted for putting her country’s honor and prestige first.

Besides, if a team wants to allow a player that choice, it’s certainly in their right. Atlanta could have dumped her, just like NY chose to dump McCarville.

I’m not sure why people think the League should tell teams how they should or shouldn’t make their personnel decisions. Especially since, no matter how much writers whine about the calendar and its challenges, it’s the calendar we have.

Players are in a tough situation. Teams are in a tough situation. Giving ultimatums may just cut a nose off to spite the face.

And, what about this? Perhaps being flexible will provide the Dream with the boost that makes the difference in these Finals.

That could turn the whine into something sweet.

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and pull out your reading glasses. From Richard:

WNBA Finals Mega-Preview Part 3: The Bigs – Brunson/McWilliams-Franklin vs. Lyttle/?

Here’s where this series gets really interesting. Despite the strength of their bench, Minnesota have relied heavily on their starting five all season long. That group contains two true post players in rebounding demon Rebekkah Brunson and everyone’s favourite WNBA septuagenarian, Taj McWilliams-Franklin (she’s actually only 40, but the ‘Taj is old’ jokes never get old).

In the second half of the season, Atlanta had a very similar reliance on their starting five, including the quickness and length of Sancho Lyttle at power forward and size and strength of Erika de Souza at center. But when de Souza left to play for Brazil in the FIBA Americas tournament after Game 1 of the Eastern Finals, the Dream went small. Lyttle was generally the only post on the floor, occasionally spelled by backup Alison Bales, and wing Iziane Castro Marques had two outstanding games as de Souza’s replacement in the starting lineup. The speed of the small lineup and Castro Marques’s shooting is essentially what carried the Dream into these Finals. de Souza is expected back in time for Game 2, but it’s going to be very interesting to see how Atlanta approach their lineups and matchups throughout this series. Is their four-perimeter player group too quick for Minnesota to handle? Or will Brunson and McWilliams-Franklin dominate that small lineup in the paint to such an extent that the Dream will be forced back to a more traditional five?

WNBA Finals Mega-Preview Part 4: The Wildcards – Moore vs. Price/Castro Marques

It might seem a little strange to consider the current Rookie of the Year, Minnesota’s second-leading scorer this season and one of the most well-known female basketball players in the USA a ‘wild card’ heading into this series. But it seems fair to me. Maya Moore admitted to some nerves in their opening playoff series against San Antonio, and when the Silver Stars had the temerity to defend her with players far smaller than her like Becky Hammon and Tully Bevilaqua she struggled to take advantage of the mismatch. She was also the primary defender being lit up when Jia Perkins caught fire and led San Antonio to a Game 2 win. But Moore improved as that series went on, then had fun firing away against Phoenix in the Western Conference Finals. Plus Penny Taylor didn’t have an awful series by accident, and it was Moore defending her for most of the two games.

Mega-Preview Part 5: The Benches

In terms of pure talent, Minnesota would appear to have more in reserve, but they haven’t exactly been proving it for most of the season. Alexis Hornbuckle, Charde Houston and this year’s 4th overall pick in the draft Amber Harris will probably see very little time in this series. Monica Wright may receive some opportunities to impress, especially if Cheryl Reeve tries to counter Atlanta’s small lineup, but she’s struggled to produce in limited chances this season. The bulk of the backup minutes are likely to go to Candice Wiggins and Jessica Adair.

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but about some of the players.

Clay talks “that up in the air” race: What The Numbers Say About the WNBA MVP

So now that L.A. dissipated any real interest in the last weeks of the WNBA season by collapsing in the fourth quarter Tuesday, we’ve got a little time to look at some other aspects of the summer—such as who really is the best player.

There are a lot of candidates of MVP, but for the sake of discussion—OK, maybe even an argument—a look at the latest Player Efficiency Rankings list can add some actual data to the conversation.

Mechelle talks about the player I wish the Lib had: Brunson makes big impact with Lynx – Circuitous route to Lynx finally paying off for forward, franchise

There’s nothing punny about this headline from Odeen Domingo at Arizona Central: Mercury’s Penny Taylor expected back for playoffs

Jimmie Trammel at the Tulsa World writes about that tall Aussie: Shock’s Cambage deals with tough love and high expectations.

The 6-foot-8 Australian center was asked to give herself a letter grade for this season. Her response: “An ‘A,’ from what we have been through and what I have handled and the way I carried myself. I still have a smile on my face.”

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Chicago loses its fifth straight away from home, and the Dream are glad of it, coming away with a 76-68 win.

“We needed this,” McCoughtry said. “We have got to keep our confidence up and continue to play hard. If we keep the confidence, I know we can continue to do this. From this point, we just need to work on our chemistry and play together.”

Minnesota continues to build confidence, this time taking down (yah, I know, they were LJ and Camille-free) Seattle, 69-62.  The Lynx are now 2nd in the West.

“Some losses loom large for a team,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said of Wednesday’s 112-105 loss to the Mercury. “For us, that’s not who we want to be. Sometimes that has to happen to make that recognition, and I thought we had a great deal of emphasis on our defense. Two games of pretty good D, so we got back to who we are.”

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to pilight, this article on Rebekkah Brunson: A Champion in the Community!

Q: What drives your passion for the game of basketball?

A: My love for the game drives my passion. It’s not just something I do, not just a job for me. It’s something that I love and enjoy doing. Every time I step on the court, whether it be in practice or in a game, there is a small light inside me that drives me to continue playing.

nb: I remember the first time I heard her referred to as “Becky,” during her Georgetown days, and I thought, “She ain’t no ‘Becky.’ She’s a ‘Rebekkah.'” ’cause a ‘Becky’ shares her cookies. ‘Rebekkah’ rolls over you to get a rebound!

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and it’s all about the bigs:

Four international veterans were today added to the 2009-12 USA Basketball Women’s National Team, from which the 2010 USA World Championship and 2012 U.S. Olympic teams will be selected. Added to the USA National Team roster were Jayne Appel (San Antonio Silver Stars), Rebekkah Brunson (Minnesota Lynx), Ebony Hoffman (Indiana Fever) and Kia Vaughn (New York Liberty), all of whom have aided USA Basketball teams to gold medals during their careers. Player selections were made by the five-member USA Basketball Women’s National Team Player Selection Committee.

Mechelle wonders where Langhorne is.

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