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

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

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

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

Okay: Harry Potter and the WNBA Power Rankings cast

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

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

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

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

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

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

NCAA:

Carp: Tennessee loses Carter, Cooper for upcoming season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also: Seimone Augustus proud of WNBA player activism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sign me up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Players even took notice.

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

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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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with a little somethin’ somethin’ first.

From the Player’s Tribune: Lisa Leslie

I thought I retired from basketball in 1996.

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

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

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

But then I got a call the following January …

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

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

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

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

This is the Maya Moore Era.

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

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

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

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

The full-fledged return of Candace Parker should help.

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

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

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

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

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

Kits Sun: Valavanis is the eye of the Storm

Team building and leadership started at home for Alisha Valavanis.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Damn skippy, Stef.

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

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

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

Yesterday’s games

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

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

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

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

Well, this is a good sign.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Get healthy,” Laimbeer said.

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

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

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

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an adventure – but at least I’ll be able to catch Game 2 – albeit prone and enthusiastically medicated. (A shout out to the WHYY security guard who had Game 1 on the t.v. screen. As he said, “You’ve got to watch this – it’s the Championship!)

In preparation game:

From Mechelle: A more mature Shenise Johnson makes an immediate impact for Indiana

Indiana guard Shenise Johnson writes poems that are sometimes meant to last and other that are meant to go away shortly after they’re created.

“I like to express myself as an outlet, a stress-reliever. So I’m not punching walls or doing anything like that,” she said, chuckling. “It allows you to evaluate, to write something down and release it.

“Then, it’s over and done with and I can do what I please with it. I can throw it out, burn it, or I could keep it and reread it.”

The .com’s Zavadil notes: Coleman, Zellous, January Share Bond That Began in 2009

Cohesion as a unit is a trait that goes hand-in-hand with a championship-caliber team. For the Indiana Fever, that cohesiveness is evident from Tamika Catchings down to the end of the bench.

But for Briann January, Shavonte Zellous and Marissa Coleman, their friendship extends far longer than just the few seasons they’ve played together. All three were first round draft picks in the 2009 WNBA Draft.

AP Jon Krawczynski says Minnesota Lynx coach calls out stars after losing Game 1 of WNBA Finals

Michelle says coach says, not really:

Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve challenged the notion that she challenged veteran guards Lindsay Whalen and Seimone Augustus after Sunday’s 75-69 Game 1 loss to Indiana in the WNBA Finals.

“I don’t necessarily know that I challenged them,” Reeve said Monday. “I was asked, ‘Do they need to do more?’ and I confirmed what everybody sees, that they need to do more.”

In the moments following Sunday’s loss, Reeve indeed was questioned about the need to get more offensive production from her perimeter players.

The Star Tribune’s Kent Youngblood keeps it simple: Lynx need more from veterans Augustus, Whalen in Game 2

Late Sunday afternoon, after her team had lost Game  1 of the Western Conference finals, Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve calmly, publicly, challenged Lindsay Whalen and Seimone Augustus to do more.

Monday, subtly, the narrative had changed.

Reeve did not back down from anything she said, though she characterized her comments as less of a challenge than a simple response to a question of whether she needed more from her guards.

Yes, she does.

But Monday she pledged to do more to help them, particularly Whalen. Reeve suggested part of the problem might be in the way games are being called. 

Mechelle offers: Team chemistry helps carry Indiana Fever, Minnesota Lynx in WNBA Finals

The Minnesota Lynx had a basketball clinic with kids on Monday at Target Center, which was exactly what her team needed, according to guard Maya Moore.

That might seem a bit odd, considering the Lynx were coming off a 75-69 loss to Indiana in Game 1 of the WNBA Finals on Sunday. One might think they would have been too tense to have much patience for the youngsters. However, knowing the personality of the Lynx, it makes more sense that they seemed to enjoy it so much.

In college news:

Nebraska: Theriot, Shepard coming back from injuries together

Rachel Theriot and Jessica Shepard rode their bicycles together one day last week from lunch to the Hendricks Training Complex, where the Nebraska women’s basketball team practices.

That’s been a common scene over the past few months — the Huskers’ senior guard and freshman forward riding together — although it’s usually been on stationary bicycles at the practice gym.

On those bikes were two who could be the Huskers’ best players this season, each trying to stay in shape as they continued their comebacks from major injuries.

Montana: Lady Griz thinking reload, not rebuild

Usually when a coach starts telling you about preseason unknowns, it comes across as a preemptive excuse in case things go awry.

Not Robin Selvig. His Montana women’s basketball team may have lost three key starters from last year’s Big Sky Conference championship crew, but don’t expect him to cry poor.

“There’s lots of opportunity now for someone else to step up,” said Selvig, whose squad will hold its first practice Tuesday. “It’s going to be a different look but it’s fun to see each team take on its own personality. There’s lots of questions and lots of fun things to try and decide.”

Colorado: ‘New feeling in the air’ for Linda Lappe’s Buffs

There is no out of bounds when the Colorado women’s basketball team gets on the practice court.

If there’s a loose ball, the Buffaloes are fighting for it until somebody corrals it. If that battle goes all the way to the seats, so be it. The player who eventually secures the ball is applauded. 

“I feel like there’s just a new feeling in the air,” senior Jamee Swan said Monday after the Buffs completed their first official practice of the 2015-16 season. “Nobody is going to let what happened last year happen again.”

Last season was CU’s worst in the five-year tenure of head coach Linda Lappe, as it finished 15-17 and failed to reach the postseason for the first time under her direction.

Connecticut: UConn Women’s Insider: Geno Auriemma’s Global Reach

Let’s take a moment to chart UConn’s enormous global reach in women’s basketball.

We start in Europe. Who would have guessed Elena Delle Donne’s first chance to help Geno Auriemma win a game would come in Girona, Spain, in 2015?

The USA Basketball Women’s National Team opened its European tour with an 84-52 victory over Uni Girona on Sunday, paced by 21 points from Delle Donne, playing in her first national team game against a Spanish team featuring Connecticut Sun guard Chelsea Gray.

“It was so much fun,” Delle Donne told reporters. “It’s probably the most fun I’ve had playing the game, with all these incredible players elevating everybody’s game.”

Florida: UF women’s basketball focused on improving toughness heading into season

Thanks to some unusual training methods, any school facing the Florida women’s basketball team this season would be wise to think better of starting a scrap with the Gators.

During the offseason, coach Amanda Butler made it a point to get her team out of its comfort zone.

In addition to taking them on a team “attack,” because they “never wanna retreat,” Butler also had the team to take boxing lessons.

“We want to be tough,” she said.

New Mexico: Aggie women look to build on last season

Success came a year early for the New Mexico State women’s basketball.

The Aggies won a Western Athletic Conference championship with a young core group of players that all returned to practice for the 2015-16 season on Sunday.

“You look at my sophomore year and we had the talent but we just all had to grow up and go through those growing pains,” said Aggies senior guard Sasha Weber, who led the Aggies with 14.9 points per game last year and was a first-team All WAC selection.

Kansas: Small communities fostered Sports Hall of Famers’ careers

Shalee Lehning used to joke with her Atlanta Dream teammates when she made it to the WNBA that she used to have to drive 30 miles to the nearest movie theatre while growing up in Sublette.

Some couldn’t imagine what that would be like, but to Lehning, she wouldn’t have had it any other way.

“You understand what matters growing up in a small town,” Lehning said. “Community matters, people matter, relationships matter. Those are things that you’re doing because you’re spending time with people.”

Those small-town qualities were on full display Sunday night at the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony, as 11 former coaches and athletes were inducted at the Scottish Rite Center.

You stay put: Missouri gives Pingeton 5-year contract through 2019-20

Illinois: Hopeful ISU women set to open practice

Slogging through a 2-28 season wasn’t a barrel of laughs for anyone associated with the Illinois State women’s basketball program.

Third-year coach Barb Smith expects the coming season, which begins with the first official practice on Sunday, to be much more enjoyable.

“This season is going to be a lot of fun,” Smith insisted. “We are ahead of where we’ve been since I’ve been here. The players worked extremely hard. The attitude of this team is so good right now, very positive.”

The sting of the worst season in program history was intensified when six players with eligibility remaining left the team shortly after the season. One of those, senior forward Sue Crump, changed her mind and was welcomed back to the roster by Smith.

Pennsylvania: Pitt women not doubting themselves after a tough year to top

Two years after winning just nine games, and in their second season under coach Suzie McConnell-Serio, the Panthers won 20 games and advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament.

By any account, Pitt was and still is ahead of schedule. But entering the 2015-16 season, it’s faced with a critical question: Once you’ve reached a certain height once, can you immediately do it again?

Footnote:

Just proving he’s a moral coward and a tone-deaf professional: Isiah Thomas denies wrongdoing in 2007 sexual harassment case

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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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In Minnesota, New York roared back, the Lynx lost the handle on the ball over and over.. and over again. End result: NY secures home court advantage in the East… and Minny ponders how to regroup down two starters.

This was where the Lynx really missed Seimone Augustus and Lindsay Whalen.

Sunday’s game with New York matched the two teams with the best records in the WNBA, it was an intense game, with both teams playing very hard.

And the Lynx, within two points with 2 ½ minutes left, had chance after chance to take this game. Instead, they gave it away, turning the ball over four times in their final five possessions.

That means they still either have to win one more game or have Phoenix lose one to clinch the Western Conference title.

Chicago’s win over the Storm keeps them closer to the second seed in the East. And it wasn’t just the starters.

Shoo fly!

Shoo Jamierra Faulkner!

Same difference, at least so says Faulkner, the Chicago Sky’s speedy reserve point guard.

“I’ve always been like a little fly, getting on people’s nerves,” Faulkner said with a laugh. “Whenever we guard the ball, every person on this team is always trying to get a deflection, get a hand on the ball.”

Faulkner got her hands on the basketball multiple times while on defense Sunday night at the Allstate Arena. In fact, she set a career high in steals with 6 as she helped lead the Sky to a 93-65 victory over the Seattle Storm.

L.A. takes down Tulsa to lock that fourth spot in the West. Writes Michelle: 

It didn’t take a math whiz to figure out that Los Angeles — with Candace Parker returning to the lineup after sitting out the first half of the season to rest — was going to need an impressive run down the stretch to return to the postseason for the fourth straight season and the seventh time in the last eight years. But the Sparks pulled it off, and the locker room was suffused with an unmistakable vibe of satisfaction after Sunday’s game.

“I sat everybody down right after the All-Star break and told them I thought we needed to get to 15 wins,” Sparks coach Brian Agler said. “We got to 14, and that was enough, but [we] knew it was going to be tough. I’m extremely proud of this team. I feel like this team can accomplish anything.”

Atlanta plays stubborn and keeps Washington from clinching that final spot.

The Washington Mystics have gone through the agony of defeat twice this season against the Dream. And today was no different. Atlanta, who has no room for error as they fight for the No. 4 seed playoff spot, again defeated the Washington Mystics Sunday afternoon at the Phillips Arena.

Tiffany Hayes did not play the last time Atlanta met with Washington, but tonight she made her presence tonight known as she attacked the Mystics on defense and led her team with 19 points.

McCoughtry, who followed Tiffany’s lead with 18 points, was not included in the starting lineup tonight. She came off the bench for the fifth time this season and the third consecutive game overall.

Worth the trip: Ramu Tokashiki was named MVP of FIBA Asia Women’s Championship and Japan is going to the Olympics.

More on Fever coach White — but, one has to wonder if Indy liked playing in the shadows. It’s been a tough run, last few games.

It’s not just coaches: Former CP sports editor, Phils scorer, Kenney dies, 80

With his white dress shirt, black tie and glasses, Bob Kenney looked like the quintessential newspaperman.

For South Jersey athletes, writers (including this one) and fans, he was so much more.

“He was a legend,” said Phil Anastasia, who was hired by Mr. Kenney at the Courier-Post in 1980. “His revolutionary thinking about high school sports was way ahead of his time. You look at the way high school sports are covered these days and it’s because of him, especially with girls’ sports.

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Hate starting the day with really unpleasant news: Maryland women’s assistant basketball charged with sexual abuse

Maryland women’s basketball assistant coach Bryce McKey has been charged with sexual abuse against a player he coached while serving as an assistant with the Xavier women’s basketball team.

McKey will be arraigned Friday morning in Kenton County (Ky.) District Court on a misdemeanor charge of sexual abuse in the third degree, which stems from a May 2 incident involving a Xavier women’s basketball player.

Maryland indefinitely suspended McKey on Thursday evening, according to a school spokesman.

It’s an ugly, ugly situation – the only good thing one can take away, at the moment, is the fact the young woman spoke up.

“A lot of young ladies probably don’t come forward. I was proud of [my daughter] for coming forward,” the accuser’s father said. “Hopefully by reporting them, that it will help protect other girls that are going around coaches and feeling safe and secure, and realize it’s not safe and secure.”

Perhaps things have gotten better since 2004.

Maybe.

Days after Norwood Teague resigned as athletic director at the University of Minnesota amid  allegations of sexually harassment, the Minnesota Star Tribune reported VCU paid former women’s basketball coach Beth Cunningham $125,000 to settle claims of discrimination under Teague’s watch. Teague served as VCU’s athletic director until 2012, the same year Beth Cunningham left the Rams.

“VCU paid athletic Beth Cunningham received $125,000 when she left VCU,” VCU spokesman Mike Porter confirmed. “There was an agreement reached between the university and Beth Cunningham. However, the nature of the agreement cannot be discussed due to the language of the agreement.”

Then there’s the Tar Heel Trouble: UNC-Chapel Hill reports new information to NCAA

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has notified the NCAA’s enforcement staff that, in the course of responding to the NCAA’s notice of allegations of May 20, 2015, it identified two new pieces of information potentially requiring further review. The University is fully cooperating with the NCAA and working within the NCAA’s processes to bring closure to the investigation as soon as possible.

First, while preparing for public release of a series of emails from the independent investigation conducted by Cadwalader, Wickersham and Taft, the University found additional examples of possible instances of improper academic assistance provided to a few former women’s basketball players, directly related to allegation number two in the May 20, 2015, notice of allegations.

Moving on.

Uncertainty builds for Marist with Jossart out for season

The Marist College women’s basketball team’s rocky offseason has hit another bump.

Incoming freshman point guard Jordyn Jossart underwent surgery on her right knee on Wednesday and is expected to miss the entire 2015-16 season, the school announced Thursday.

Jossart’s absence adds uncertainty to a program that has just five returning scholarship players on its roster and still, Marist coach Brian Giorgis said, doesn’t know if it will have starting center Tori Jarosz back for another season. The point guard position in particular is an unknown, with Jossart thought to be one of several candidates for the role.

Analysis: How will Iowa mesh together this season?

With three multi-year starters gone from last year’s team and eight underclassmen dotting its roster, Iowa is going to have a significantly different look this season.

Exactly how different? Longtime coach Lisa Bluder isn’t quite sure right now.

Cool! BTW girls basketball player Megan Jackson wins spot in Kevin Durant camp

If you were to become an NBA superstar, how would you use your money to impact the lives of young people in the community where you grew up?

Megan Jackson thought about the question. Then, the Booker T. Washington junior basketball player sat down and wrote an essay.

It turned out to be one of the winning efforts in the Kevin Durant ProCamp Essay Contest, organized by Oklahoma Toyota dealers.

More cool! Young women using basketball to help overcome divisions and forge new way of life in wake of 1990s Balkan war

 More than 100 young women playing in a Bosnia and Herzegovina basketball club are overcoming the ethnic divisions and conflict that plunged the Balkan region into war during the 1990s.

The Livno Girls Basketball Club, based in the town in southwest Bosnia and Herzegovina, competes throughout the region and in other European countries. Sterling Global Operations (SGO), an international stability operations company, is a club sponsor.

The entire region was for years embroiled in the fighting between rival military forces. Programs such as the Livno Girls Basketball Club are helping to forge a new way of life, and a better future, for girls and young women, said Mike Aramanda, SGO project manager for the company’s work in the region.

More cool! Basketball at breakneck pace a way of life on Navajo reservation

At 5:15 a.m., sunrise is only a thin pale highlight over red rock mesas in the east as Alicia Hale steps out of her house for her daily run. Even in June, the morning is so chilly at an altitude of almost 7,000 feet that she needs several layers to stay warm.

The Window Rock High School senior lines up next to her mother and younger sister in the dirt yard of their house in the capital of the Navajo Nation. They spread Navajo white corn powder on the ground in a quiet ceremony meant to offer thanks to the Creator for the blessings of life.

They exit the yard through a chain link gate and set out at an easy jog.

Also cool! Kymora Johnson And Her Cavs Are Going To Play A Game At Madison Square Garden – The Cavs weren’t allowed to play in their tournament for having a girl on their team. This will have to do instead. side note: Really impressed *insert sarcasm emoticon* with the many of the comments after this article on the “issue.” Quite revealing of some folks’ buttons.

LA’s optimism: Brian Agler, Sparks keep pushing toward playoffs

The Sparks started the season 3-14 and in last place in the West and still are one of the league’s lowest-scoring teams, averaging 72.8 points per game, which ranks 10th. But now, even at 7-16, Los Angeles is in fourth place in the West, a half-game ahead of San Antonio.

“It’s been tough,” Agler said earlier this week. “But we have a chance to get into the playoffs and we are playing better.”

Minnesota’s crossed fingers: Seimone Augustus could return to Lynx lineup soon

Speakin’ of tough: Storm GM, president Alisha Valavanis reflects on first year on job

Question: You’ve made a mark your first season, which has included a revamped ticket program, a new Storm app and quirky in-game features, such as the “Between Two Birds” segments with Sue Bird. How do you view the past year?

Answer: We went into this year really committed to the experience as we build on the court. We wanted engagement opportunities and to try to create relevance. It’s been exciting for me, because people see the vision and are buying in. They’re showing up to games and having a good time. We had three consecutive games where the building (KeyArena’s lower bowl) was full. It’s too early to really tell, but there are a lot of indicators that we’re trending in the right direction.

Things are gettin’ fun in the East: New York Liberty remain thorn in Chicago Sky’s side amid playoff hunt (get better quick, EDD!)

Last season’s WNBA Eastern Conference champions, the Chicago Sky, are in essentially a five-way race for the conference’s four playoff spots.

But the defending East champs seem to face their most serious competition for supremacy from the New York Liberty. The two sides have faced off twice in five days with the Liberty winning both games convincingly, including an 84-63 win on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.

What makes the Liberty and Sky such an intriguing matchup is they represent the polar extremes of the league. The Sky lead the league in offensive efficiency, with 104.8 points per 100 possessions. A primary reason for this is Elena Delle Donne, the versatile forward posting the third-best season in WNBA history so far, as measured by Player Efficiency Rating.

Speaking of the Sky: Chicago’s Elena Delle Donne hopes to break Seattle ‘curse’

Some think coffee when Seattle is mentioned. Elena Delle Donne has a different word association.

“It’s like the curse,” she said. 

Since being drafted by Chicago with the No. 2 overall pick in 2013, KeyArena is the one court in the league where Delle Donne has yet to play.

Speaking of the stubborn Sun: Chelsea Gray Shining for Connecticut Sun After Conquering Doubt and Injury

Chelsea Gray underwent a temporary crisis of faith. 

The confidence the affable 5 foot, 11 inch guard once played with as an elegant two-time All-American guard at Duke was as fractured as her right knee.

Suffering two debilitating season-ending knee injuries, as Gray did during her junior and senior years can do that. Even though she is a strong spiritual person, those unfortunate setbacks even forced Gray to have doubts.

She eventually conquered the distrust in herself believing something greater would come, despite two major knee surgeries in less than a year.

How about a little one-on-one?

Chicago Tribune talks with the fabulous Catch.

Q: This was the first Sports Humanitarian Award, meaning the selection committee had the entire athletic world to draw from. Yet they picked you. How did it feel?

A: It was amazing, even to get nominated. I was beside myself, just really ecstatic. I love working with kids. We’ve continued to grow and grow, and get better and better. Not once did I ever say “Hey, I might win this,” it was just cool to be recognized. When I got the phone call that I won, at first I was like “OK y’all, stop playing.”

Other athletes have their foundations, but they have people who run it for them, and it’s more of an appearance thing for them. From start to finish, I’m engaged and involved in every aspect of it. That’s something they were very impressed with.

SIKids talks with the fierce, yet friendly, Tina.

You got your first recruiting letter at age 12 from Stony Brook University. Did you receive more shortly after or not until you were a bit older?

More after — I actually framed that one. To be 12 years old and to receive a collegiate letter gave me a lot of confidence to keep playing the sport of basketball.

David pods with Kelsey Bone:

Last night, the Sun trailed by double figures before pouring it on in the second half to defeat the Tulsa, Shock 80-74. Alex Bentley led the Sun with 25 points, but the driving force in the second half push was the other All-Star on the Sun, center Kelsey Bone. She finished with 15 points, 10 rebounds.

The 6-4 center is a true low post, back-to-the-basket center, who patrols the paint on both ends of the court. The Sun disc jockey plays “Bad to the Bone” when appropriate, which is frequently, and the crowd roars. This is a year where the Sun was expected to contend for last place, not the playoffs, due to injuries and retirement. On a team loaded with youth, and short on vocal leaders, Bone is more than just another piece of the puzzle, she is a focal point both on and off the court for the team.

Elena goes solo here: Delle Donne writes about her sister, Lizzie.

We often read about stories of momentary greatness — a time when a human being persevered despite insurmountable odds. But what’s a moment of triumph for one person is a lifetime of perseverance for my sister, Lizzie.

Lizzie is my older sister — also the older sister to my brother Gene — but often times it feels like she’s my younger sister. She was born deaf and blind, with cerebral palsy and autism. She doesn’t speak. The only real interaction or communication I, or anyone, has with her is in person, with hand over hand sign language. She hugs. She smiles. She kisses.

Gone way too early: Former Virginia Tech basketball great Renee Dennis dies at 49

Former Virginia Tech women’s basketball standout Renee Dennis, whose No. 44 jersey hangs from the Cassell Coliseum rafters, has died at the age of 49.

Dennis died of ovarian cancer Aug. 4 at a nursing home in Trumbull, Connecticut, according to her mother, Mary Dennis. Virginia Tech announced her death Monday.

“I’m so saddened and shocked,” former Hokies coach Carol Alfano said in a phone interview upon learning the news. “That’s way, way too young.”

Dennis is the Virginia Tech women’s basketball program’s career scoring leader, having tallied 1,791 points from 1983-87.

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by Seimone Augustus.

I never thought I would get married.

A lot of women have that dream — wearing a white dress and walking down the aisle. I never did. I never pictured what I would wear, what colors my flowers would be or any of the ceremonial details.

The only thing I really ever wanted was to fall in love.

And I did.

My love story looks a little different from the ones you’ll see in Hollywood.

I knew I was gay by the time I reached middle school. I’ve never been attracted to guys. I can appreciate their beauty, but it comes without desire. I’ve always had a more intimate connection with women. In high school, I kissed a girl for the first time. It felt too comfortable and too right to think I was anyone but whom I was in that moment. I’ve followed that honesty my whole life.

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Huge blow for the Terps as starting point guard and soon-to-be-junior Lexie Brown decides to transfer. I always wonder about that “play closer to home” line…

Not as surprising, Jannah Tucker to transfer from Lady Vols.

Blick:

llinois hires firm to further investigate claims against basketball coaches

Ilinois has hired a Chicago law firm to further investigate claims by women’s basketball players that coaches mistreated them.

An internal review by the university’s office of diversity, equity and access initially found no violation of “applicable law, NCAA rules or university policy,” but athletic director Mike Thomas and Chancellor Phyllis Wise “have decided to contract with an external firm to continue and finalize that preliminary review,” a university spokeswoman said Tuesday.

Hutchinson women’s basketball team under investigation

The Hutchinson Community College women’s basketball team is under investigation for alleged improper benefits to players.

The National Junior College Athletic Association confirmed Tuesday that it is investigating the program. Assistant executive director Mark Krug says an issue was brought to the organization’s attention last week. He declined to comment further.

Hutchinson coach John Ontjes says the school has until June 5 to respond to the NJCAA.

In eight seasons under Ontjes, the Blue Dragons are 257-26 and have won five consecutive Jayhawk West titles.

This season, Hutchinson’s only loss was in the NJCAA national championship game to Chipola, Florida.

In other news: Alabama women’s basketball making progress in rebuilding efforts, Kristy Curry says

The results have been modest through Kristy Curry’s first two seasons as Alabama’s women’s basketball coach. However, the groundwork is being laid for a better future, Curry said during the Tide’s recent Crimson Caravan event in Atlanta.

Alabama finished last season 13-19, including 2-14 in the SEC, after posting a 14-16 record during Curry’s first season as coach in 2013-14.

In W news: 

From Rebkell, an enumeration of the horror(s) that is know as WNBA.com.

One thing I don’t like when web pages get re-vamped by new companies is that they will move things around and not put redirects to the new pages, breaking search results and inbound links (like Wikipedia references). The people doing the WNBA site changed the locations of the playerfile pages without putting re-directs to the new page. Google should catch up, if they do keep playerfiles for retired players, but for now, if I search for “Becky Hammon playerfile” it gives me: 

http://www.wnba.com/playerfile/becky_hammon/ 

That page no longer exists. 

The new player pages have been moved under the “player” directory and a dash used instead of an underscore: 

http://www.wnba.com/player/sue-bird/ 

But as of now, there is no page for 

http://www.wnba.com/player/becky-hammon 

If they decide to not keep any playerfile data for players who were retired as of 2015, then that will be a bigger complaint.

From Tulsa: Glory finally arrived in town and says she didn’t expect arrest, WNBA suspension after domestic fight with Griner, now her spouse. Also, the Shock has a terrific backcourt trio in Skylar Diggins, Odyssey Sims and Riquna Williams

T he Tulsa Shock is cornering the market on young, dynamic backcourt talent.

Skylar Diggins, Odyssey Sims and Riquna Williams give the WNBA franchise a terrific trio rotating at point guard and shooting guard.

“There are great combinations all over the league,” Shock president Steve Swetoha said. “But for young players with potential, we’ll put our guard set against any in the league.”

Speaking of that suspension: Brittney Griner says other players want her to appeal suspension

Also from Phoenix: So you say: Mercury ready for title defense on FOX Sports Arizona

From Seattle/Australia:

Abby Bishop played one season for the Seattle Storm, in 2010, before returning to play professionally in her native Australia. She is back in the WNBA this year, but she did not return alone — Bishop has brought along 2-year-old Zala, a niece whom the 6-3 forward has taken care of since shortly after her birth.

Bishop’s sister gave birth to the child in August 2013, but unconfirmed medical issues meant that she would be unable to take of the baby. Rather than see Zala go to foster homes, Bishop stepped up and became her legal guardian, even though that meant juggling motherhood duties and a hectic schedule in Australia’s WNBL.

The AP offers: Seattle’s Bird ready for rebuilding, mentoring ahead

When Seattle opens its season next week at home against Los Angeles, Bird will begin her 13th season with the franchise. She has experienced the highs of winning two WNBA titles and is now facing the challenge of helping lead a massive rebuilding project after Seattle’s worst record of her tenure with the club.

She’s still Sue Bird, the starting point guard idolized by a younger generation. But more than any other time in her professional career, with Seattle’s selection of guards Jewell Loyd and Mosqueda-Lewis with two of the first three picks in the WNBA draft, Bird is adding the title of mentor.

From Indy: Stephanie White up for any and all challenges with Fever

“I’m a firm believer that you surround yourself with people who have more wisdom and see different things,” White said. “Not just people who agree with you all the time. I’m not going to get better as a coach, and neither is our team, if I’m not open to being challenged.

“Lin is the first person I worked with who was open for debate on everything; she always wanted to hear other people’s thoughts. It really helped me in terms of who I wanted to coach with me.”

Also from Indy: 2015 Indiana Fever Preview: Fever Plan To Open Up Offense This Year

Deja vu from Minnesota as Pioneer Press asks:  For Lynx and WNBA players, how much hoops is too much?

Time off is a rare commodity for Minnesota Lynx guard Seimone Augustus.

Her free days are few and far between. So when Augustus had a short stretch of off days available in early May, she took full advantage.

Augustus traveled to Hawaii to marry LaTaya Varner.

“It was, like, ‘We’ve got to squeeze (the wedding) in right here,’ ” Augustus said.

The Sun will rely on leadership of newcomer

Almost as soon as Katie Douglas announced her retirement from the WNBA and the Connecticut Sun, the question was popped.

Who will lead this team?

Connecticut coach Anne Donovan had an answer.

Camille Little.

Is Louisville lusting after the Liberty?

Is there any news on Angel’s knee?

And finally, flashing back to May 5, 1995, a little USA Basketball news:

Twenty years ago today, on the morning of May 25, 1995, 18 of the best women’s basketball players in the country were sitting in their respective dorm rooms at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, anxiously awaiting word on their fate. 

“I cannot believe that it has been 20 years,” said eventual two-time Olympic gold medalist Ruthie Bolton, who celebrated her 28th birthday on that day. “It was such a special moment for me. To be able to get ready to do something that would make history was a special moment. I felt like we were embarking on something special. I was nervous, but excited. It was something that I was extremely happy to be a part of, to be among a group of players that would change women’s basketball.”

If you want the real scoop on USA Basketball and the start of the W and ABL, two must reads for you this summer are Sara Corbett’s wonderful “Venus to the Hoop” and Tara VanDerveer’s “Shooting from the Outside.

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Brittney Griner and Glory Johnson Suspended 7 Games in Domestic Violence Case

In a statement, Laurel J. Richie, the president of the W.N.B.A., said: “The W.N.B.A. takes all acts of violence extremely seriously. It is our strong belief that violence has absolutely no place in society, in sports or in this league. As president, it is my responsibility to protect the league and uphold its values. Our athletes represent the W.N.B.A., and they all must abide by the league’s standards of conduct. In this case, Brittney and Glory failed to do so, and that is unacceptable.”

Richie said she had consulted with domestic violence experts, as well as Linda Fairstein, the former chief of sex crimes prosecution in Manhattan, and N.B.A. Commissioner Adam Silver.

I give this a thumbs up… perhaps they read the “current trends in sports” tea leaves, as well as Mechelle’s piece: WNBA must take stand on domestic violence

That doesn’t mean that Griner, who was on the 2014 world championship squad and was originally scheduled to be at this week’s camp, needs to be excessively punished by the WNBA or USA Basketball. It also doesn’t mean either has to act in haste, or make decisions in reaction to the recent struggles other organizations — such as the NFL with Ray Rice and U.S. Soccer with Hope Solo — have had in responding to the issue of domestic violence.

But this must be seen as a time to take a true leadership stand, to be proactive and not dwell for too long in the “gathering information” mode both the WNBA and USA Basketball have been in. There’s an important message to be sent: Women are not just victims of domestic violence, but also can be perpetrators. And in cases where the parties are of the same sex, we can’t be any less diligent about demanding accountability from those involved.

Moving forward, Mechelle discusses a topic that the NBA, NFL, MLB and NHL think doesn’t apply to them, but most know better: Openness best way to approach relationships between ‘rivals’

At the end of the USA Basketball women’s training camp Wednesday, national team coach Geno Auriemma had one more brief lesson: giving Seimone Augustus a few tips on how to dance at her wedding.

Augustus, the Lynx standout and two-time Olympic gold medalist, is marrying longtime partner LaTaya Varner on Saturday. Augustus has been open about her relationship, and publicly advocated for same-sex marriage to be legalized in Minnesota, which happened in August 2013.

Now, forgive me for branching off from that sweet, joyful image to a topic that might seem unrelated. But the reason is to establish this overarching theme: the necessity of openness.

Stickin’ with the W, Mechelle’s on a roll (and on a podcast: Mechelle Voepel on the issues surrounding the WNBA seasonWhy the Isiah Thomas hire is worse than you think picks up on a very real fear:

Yet there’s a concern that makes all of this even more insidious, if that’s possible. Thomas also was made a partial owner of the Liberty, so he must be approved by the WNBA’s Board of Governors. And if that doesn’t happen, what if Dolan threatens to pull the plug on the Liberty? Sources I spoke to around the league have expressed concern about that.

This could turn into a kind of extortion. It appears the Liberty are a pawn in something that shouldn’t even involve them or the WNBA. That’s the “game” of getting Thomas officially back into the fold at MSG. Dolan might have decided that this is a sure-fire way to secure that: Use the Liberty as a bargaining chip.

WNBA players have far less leverage than NBA players but if a majority came out publicly & forcefully against Isiah Thomas, he’d be done.

Detroit Free Press: Isiah Thomas seeks ownership; criticism keeps coming

Detroit Pistons legend Isiah Thomas has filed paperwork for partial ownership of the WNBA’s New York Liberty, two people familiar with the situation said.

Thomas needs approval from the league’s board of governors for his ownership application to go through. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because no formal announcement has been made.

Again (!) from the NY Post: Isiah Thomas has no business running the Liberty

Thomas is the brand new president of the New York Liberty.

That’s right, sports fans. A team made up of tall women who play for the professional Women’s National Basketball Association is being run by a guy so crudely insensitive to ladies’ feelings, a federal jury in 2007 found that, as president, general manager and coach of the New York Knicks, he sexually harassed the basketball team’s top female executive. She testified at trial that Thomas called her a “bitch,’’ a “ho’’ and hurled the F-bomb at her — then told her that he loved her.

Miami Herald: Linda Robertson: WNBA must not allow Isiah Thomas into league

Hiring Isiah Thomas to be president of the WNBA’s New York Liberty has to be some kind of a joke, right?

That would be like hiring a chain smoker to teach a fitness class or Captain Ahab to head Save the Whales or Franz Kafka to lead a comedic improv troupe.

Just in case: With Isiah leading Liberty, WNBA players union to monitor MSG work environment

More W stuff:

We’re sad, but not surprised: Seattle’s Jackson will miss season for knee

We’re not surprised, but will A.J. show?: Lynx to be without McCarville, acquire A. Jones (Agent:  ‘McCarville wasn’t physically ready’ for another WNBA season)

Maybe: Taurasi: Mercury Still Contenders In Western Conference

The “Other” National Teams cut into W time: Zellous and Achonwa to Miss Time with Indiana Fever in 2015

Speaking of National Teams: Tolo chasing Olympic goal and Meriden’s Damika Martinez chasing Olympic berth with Puerto Rico national basketball team

Some NCAA stuff: NCAA hopes to make rules of college game more like WNBA

The committee came up with suggested changes this week that include playing four 10-minute quarters instead of two halves, advancing the ball to the frontcourt in the final minute of game after a timeout and shooting two free throws after the fifth foul of each quarter. Those rules are used in the WNBA.

“What a great step forward for our game,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “As the game becomes more global, each year it’s important that we start the process toward standardizing the rules. This is just the beginning of what I hope are many other changes to improve this great game.”

Hmmmm: Mass exodus occurs for EWU women’s basketball

If the Eastern Washington women’s basketball team had to play a game today, the Eagles could only suit up five players.

Following a 21-win season and EWU’s first postseason win, five players – including former Mead star and starting point guard Jade Redmon – have decided to leave the program. And, a sixth player has decided not to use her final year of eligibility.

In addition, Eastern lost a seventh player, 6-foot-4 junior forward Hanna Mack, who decided not to play prior to the beginning of last season.

The players who agreed to talk with The Spokesman-Review blamed coach Wendy Schuller for all or part of their reasons for leaving.

Following up:

Part 2: WSU Women’s Basketball Coach Jody Adams talks about abuse allegations

In her first interview since allegations of mental abuse surfaced, Wichita State Women’s Basketball Coach Jody Adams speaks exclusively to Susan Peters telling her she looks forward to “enhancing” her coaching style

“That’s when the tears come,” says Coach Adams, referring to reading the messages of support she has received from current and former players.

Adams admits she has shed a lot of tears the past few weeks, not only over not knowing if she would keep her job, but over what she calls hurtful allegations that were made very public.

“What’s been said is what’s been said. I can’t say I believe in it and how it’s happened. It’s been tough, ” says Adams.

Happier news: McConnell-Serio optimistic about Pitt women’s basketball future

A busy B: UConn Women’s Insider: Breanna Stewart Gives New Meaning To Busy

Stewart, the three-time national champion and two-time player of the year, is at home in Syracuse, N.Y., after spending four days in Las Vegas last week at USA Basketball’s senior national training camp.

On her way home, she stopped back in Storrs to take her biology final, proof positive that in UConn women’s basketball, the call to remain a student never strays too far from the desire to be an athlete.

But this respite will be short.

Speaking of busy, I’ve often said men are rarely asked how they balance work and family. Here’s one who resigned his job to focus on family: USC women’s basketball lost Taylor to married life in Georgia

It was a tough decision, but when Darius Taylor thought about what he’s been a part of building and what he was about to start constructing, it made it easy.

“It’s hard to start a marriage off separated,” South Carolina’s former assistant coach said on Saturday, a day after it was announced that he was resigning his post. “Those first couple of years are the ones that are really important, where you build your relationship and trust.

“My fiancee being at Georgia, we’ve been able to make it work. We saw each other almost once a week. I knew that there could be some changes to give her an opportunity, and it’s the right decision.”

A little WBB history: 40 YEARS OF AGGIE WOMEN’S ATHLETICS: Branch set Texas A&M women’s basketball on winning course

Lisa Branch went to Texas A&M because she loved playing basketball; being part of history was just an added bonus.

The 5-foot-4-inch Branch was the program’s first All-American, earning second-team United Press International honors in 1996. She left school as the Southwest Conference’s career leader in assists (795) and free throws (614). During her time, the little girl from DeSoto became the program’s all-time leading scorer (1,939 points), and had the most 3-pointers (165), assists and steals (309), but it was leadership at point guard that made her extra special.

Sad news from PA: Wilson girls basketball coach Dennis Fry gave everything to the people, program he loved

Dennis Fry, aided by a cane, arrived at the Via All-Star Basketball banquet, and Bob Frankenfield was floored.

Fry, Wilson Area High School’s girls basketball coach who was battling lung cancer, was on hand to support the Warriors’ senior all-star representative, Madison Quinn.

Frankenfield, Wilson’s boys coach, couldn’t believe Fry’s strength as he sat quietly with his wife, Cathy.

“No one would have blamed him for not coming, but the man came,” Frankenfield said. “I couldn’t believe his courage.”

Fry, 61, died Wednesday at his Nazareth home.

Sad news from NY: Calling hours Sunday for Randy Grassel

“Women’s basketball lost a great, great friend,” Thomas athletic director Scott Morrison said. “He was always very well-prepared, a student of the game. He knew everything about the other team. I can’t emphasize enough the passion he had for girls basketball.

Mr. Grassel started the Eastside program, his daughter Jen joked, just so she’d have a team to play on. He was former Penfield High standout Kayleigh Duda’s first coach. She was in fifth grade.

“He just really inspired me and made me understand how much fun (basketball) can be and how you needed to be a good teammate,” said Duda, 27, who invited Mr. Grassel to her wedding last year. “He made our entire team so all together.”

Thank you: Union girls basketball coach Jim Stacy calling it quits after 15 years

The 1977 Shawnee High School graduate guided the Redskins to seven appearances in the state tournament and a combined record of 253-132. Union was in the 6A semifinals as recently as 2012-13, and his 2007-08 team went 27-0 en route to the state title.

“It kind of felt like it was the right time to hang it up,” Stacy said. “My little one’s getting ready to be an eighth-grader and I wanted to be a little more of a dad. I’ve been everybody else’s dad, and now it’s time to give her a little more attention.”

Thank you: Santa Fe High girls basketball coach retires

As the 2014-15 school year winds down, the coaching merry-go-round is speeding up.

The past two days has seen a series of coaching changes, highlighted by the resignation of Elmer Chavez, who retired as the head girls basketball coach at Santa Fe High. Chavez, who spent six years with the program, turned the Demonettes from perhaps the worst program in the state — one that lost 41 out of 43 games from 2009-10 — into a state championship team in 2014. He leaves with a 103-67 record at the school, an impressive achievement considering the Demonettes were 1-23 in his first season.

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“Now, That’s More Like It”

So this was the game we were waiting for between Phoenix and Minnesota. The one that felt like a collection of future Hall of Famers trying to out-do each other. The one that had the fans on their feet, screaming their heads off, while the folks watching on television probably felt like they were right there in the thick of it, too.

This is what we thought these Western Conference finals — between the two best teams in the WNBA — would be like. That Friday’s game really wasn’t like that is a tribute to the Mercury. That Sunday’s game did live up to that billing was a tribute to both teams.

Writes Tim Leighton of Twin Cities:

There it sat Sunday, in the middle of the Minnesota Lynx locker-room floor. No player, coach or member of team management got too close for fear of disturbing its aura. The Lynx’s WNBA championship trophy, with its three silver spires holding a basketball, stood as a simple reminder that the Lynx aren’t ready yet to call it a season.

Tom Powers offers this nice turn of phrase:

Lindsay Whalen and Seimone Augustus joined Moore in forming a deadly Game 2 Bermuda Triangle. The trio combined for 72 of the 82 Lynx points. As Reeve often notes, it’s mostly about the stars come playoff time. And the Lynx had all three of theirs shining brightly.

“We always say great players make great plays,” said Augustus. “And you saw that through the night. Great players made great plays for us.”

Kent Youngblood at the Star Tribune:

Sunday, midday, the Lynx players were in the locker room for a film session. Coach Cheryl Reeve walked in clutching the 2013 WNBA championship trophy.

She walked over and had Janel McCarville pull on the trophy. Reeve let go, easily. “We can do that,” she said. Then Monica Wright gave it a tug. Reeve held on a little longer, let go. “We can do that,” she said. Then she went to Rebekkah Brunson. Only this time, Reeve took hold with two hands and tore it away.

“It’s ours,” she said. “And we’re not letting it out of here.’’

And then Reeve put the trophy on the floor in the middle of the room and walked out.

Message received.

From Nate Sandell, “special” for the AZ Central folks: 

“Their defense picked up and we stood around,” said Mercury coach Sandy Brondello. “We’re a team built on ball movement, but somebody would get the ball and everybody would stand and just have a look at that person trying to make the play.”

It was a dramatic reversal for the Mercury, whio had proved to be better team for the first seven quarters of the series.

 

From the other Nate: Seimone Augustus caps off Minnesota comeback to win Game 2, 82-77

All-Stars Maya Moore and Lindsay Whalen made big plays throughout Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals, but fellow Olympian Seimone Augustus was ultimately the hero of the Minnesota Lynx’s 82-77 win over the Phoenix Mercury.

With the game tied at 75 apiece, Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve called an out-of-bounds play that had Augustus follow Moore around a screen to clear space for a mid-range jumper and Augustus not only converted the shot but also drew a foul for a three point play that put the Lynx up for good.

 

But the Lynx wouldn’t even have been in position to win had it not been for the play of Moore and Whalen prior to that moment.

From Canis Hoopus’ John Meyer: 

Midway through the third quarter, Maya Moore had a look on her face that said it all. Not today, Phoenix. Not today.

Moore scored a game-high 32 points, including 19 second half points, to help keep the Lynx title hopes alive this afternoon at the Target Center. The Lynx struggled earlier on – shooting 14.3 percent in the first quarter (2-for-14) – and faced an uphill climb trailing 22-9 entering the second quarter. But there was no quit in this squad.

Awwwwww….Little League star Mo’Ne Davis adds Game 2 visit to dream summer

In the “other” series, Indiana Fever rookie Maggie Lucas isn’t easing off throttle now

It was mere minutes after the Indiana Fever had beaten the Chicago Sky 77-70 to open the best-of-three Eastern Conference finals Saturday night. Maggie Lucas could have been reflecting on the moment, considering how necessary her eight points turned out to be for the Fever.

Instead, she was in the locker room afterward, lifting weights. She is a “gym rat,” coach Lin Dunn said. First one to arrive, last one to leave.

Michelle writes: Sky’s fate rests with shooting stars – Chicago needs to solve Indiana Fever defense in Game 2

Indiana, led by the defensive stalwart Tamika Catchings, made it tough for Delle Donne to get in any offensive flow. The 12 shots she took were the fewest she had taken in a postseason game.

“The first thing is trying to figure out a way to keep the ball out of her hands,” Catchings said. “Not just me, individually, but as a team. We tried to take the ball out of her hands, make it difficult for her to catch it, and when she did, we brought different people out.

“We can do a lot better too.”

Delle Donne and the Sky are thinking in the same terms.

From Brian Sandalow at the Sun-Times: Sky still trying to figure out Fever

While the Sky aren’t fixating on their history with the Fever, they’re aware of it.

“I think everybody kind of thinks about it,” guard Courtney Vandersloot said. “It’s not something that we really talk about a lot, but it’s something that I’m sure we all think about. We know who we’ve lost to in the past.

Philip Hersh at the Tribune writes: 

It’s pretty easy to see why the Fever won Saturday night’s opening game of the WNBA Eastern Conference finals 77-70.

Indiana caught the Sky with their guard(s) down.

Indiana’s starting backcourt of Briann January and Shavonte Zellous was simply too much, with its outside shooting and dribble penetration shredding the Sky’s defense.

The Fever guards utterly outplayed starting guards Epiphanny Prince and Courtney Vandersloot, both ineffective for the second game in a row.

In the Dishin & Swishin 08/29/14 Podcast: WNBA Eastern Conference Finals coaches Lin Dunn & Pokey Chatman talk about the playoffs

Nate reflects back: 

You can never force the circumstances that create a classic moment in sports, which is part of the very reason we tune in and watch instead of just ignoring games with long odds or abandoning teams that seemingly have no hope.

The best moments are those that somehow manage to define the odds, whether evolving or preceding the first tip and the 2014 WNBA Playoffs has already produced a classic in the first round.

What might be hard to appreciate in retrospect about the Chicago Sky’s dramatic 81-80 win in Game 3 against the Atlanta Dream is that it really seemed like that game was over long before the fourth quarter began.

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Game time!

From Doug: Key story lines for the WNBA conference finals

WOMEN’S WORLD: For the first time in the 18-year history of the WNBA all four teams in the conference finals are coached by women. That guarantees that for the fourth straight year a female coach will guide her team to the title. Minnesota’s Cheryl Reeve won in 2011 and 2013. Indiana’s Lin Dunn was the champion in 2012.

”I think it’s great,” said first-year Phoenix coach Sandy Brondello, who was the league’s coach of the year this season. ”There’s a lot of talented female coaches out there, so it’s good to see that.”

From Nate: Phoenix Mercury’s Brittney Griner will be center of attention against Minnesota Lynx

Back before the Minnesota Lynx and Phoenix Mercury faced each other at full health the first time just about a month ago, I wrote that the game obviously wouldn’t determine the champion but a Lynx win could very well illuminate just how close these two teams are.

Sure enough, that’s exactly what happened: the Mercury did come back and beat the Lynx in the final regular season meeting between the two teams on August 9, but we got some insight into a potential determining factor for this series and it was a totally predictable aspect of the game based on the numbers.

From Tim: Minnesota Lynx meet their match Friday in Phoenix

Lynx assistant coach Jim Peter-sen hasn’t been losing sleep this week plotting ways to stop the Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA’s Western Conference finals.

“Phoenix is a nightmare in having to game-plan for them, in terms of who do you stop,” Petersen said. “But then you realize, hey, they’re a lot like us. We’re mirror images of one another. In some cases, you lay awake worried about if you’ll play well. This is a case where we lay awake because we’re so excited to play.”

From Tyler Killian: Mercury in for tough finals series against Minnesota

It almost seems unfair.

One team’s season will be over in, at most, three more games.

For two teams that have been head-and-shoulders above the rest of the league like the Mercury and Minnesota Lynx have been this year, a best-of-three series is criminally short to decide who will go on to play for the WNBA championship.

But they have no choice.

From Kent Youngblood: WNBA rivalry rekindled for top two teams in Western Conference

A season later, Seimone Augustus still hears about it.

The Lynx were in the fourth quarter of a Western Conference finals opening-game victory over Phoenix at Target Center when, near midcourt. Mercury guard Diana Taurasi passed the ball, then gave Augustus a little shove. Augustus turned and glared. Taurasi then slammed her shoulder into Augustus. The two were face to face when Taurasi leaned over and gave Augustus a peck on the cheek.

“It was either throw a punch or get a kiss,” Augustus joked this week.

From Randy Hill: More defense is Mercury mantra against Lynx’s Moore

 The Mercury are walking the self-awareness walk at a level never before witnessed in the WNBA.

But swagger of this caliber requires talking the talk as part of a defensive commitment that helped generate the best record in league history.

Also from Randy: Griner hopes to measure up as big difference-maker vs. Lynx

From David: Dishin & Swishin 08/28/14 Podcast: WNBA Western Conference Finals coaches Sandy Brondello & Cheryl Reeve talk about the playoffs

Mechelle chatted:

Shades (Minneapolis): Can you reflect on the career of Lin Dunn and tell us how her presence has impacted the WNBA?

Mechelle Voepel: One of the things that Lin Dunn did was she fully made the transition from being one of the “old guard” college coaches to being a pro coach. And we know those are really different jobs … you can’t coach and deal with pros the same way you do with college kids. Obvious, Dunn’s career at Purdue ended in a difficult way – I won’t get into all that here – and that changed her career path. But she ended up really embracing the pro game. Plus, she showed the resilience you need to have to be a pro coach … sometimes you get fired. Sometimes you realize a player is worth more to the franchise than you are. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad coach. You move on. You keep learning, even as you age. You become a better coach through some of your failures, as well as your successes. Lin Dunn has done all of that, and I think she’s also plotted an “exit strategy” that is to be admired. She helped groom a successor who she’s given a lot of responsibility to. Plus, she’s brought a fun personality that has never changed: She is who she is, and she’ll tell you what she thinks all the time. I admire that.

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Just in case you missed it: Basketball – Semi Final and Final Medal Matches | Full Replay | Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games

USA Semi-Final game against Hungary starts at the 5 minute mark.
Gold Medal Game against Netherlands starts at the 3 Hour 04 minute mark.

Speaking of USA basketball, the pool of candidates for the National Team is an embarrassment of riches: 

The old saying that you can’t have too much of a good thing is, in fact, true. But it doesn’t always make things easy.

Consider the talent pool for the U.S. women’s national team in basketball. There’s not just a lot of “good” there, but a lot of “great.”

One of the dilemmas that USA Basketball faces is how to fine-tune the makeup of the squad going into major international competitions such as the upcoming FIBA World Championship.

No matter which 12 women are picked for the final roster, the Americans will be the favorite to win the gold medal in Turkey. But how does USA Basketball make tough calls about potentially adding younger players to the team?

From Kate: Why Dolan Shouldn’t Fire Laimbeer.

Laimbeer was not hired to guide a mediocre roster. He was hired to first help shape, then eventually motivate (his strength) a roster equipped to win a title. Truth is, that previous version of the Liberty was built for playoff appearances and early playoff exits — not championships, not even close. Everyone within the franchise knew the truth, and everyone around the league knew it too. Since the moment Laimbeer walked in the door, the Liberty have been plotting for future domination. Sometimes you have to get worse before you get better, which is exactly the space in which New York finds itself right now.

Well, right there — that’s your first mistake: assuming Dolan gives a flying hoot about the Liberty.

Second: You mention Essence as a floor balancer who, truly, wasn’t 100%, (but will she ever be) but who is she “balancing” against. You don’t mention Cappie? Has she been traded?

Third: “..a couple of smooth-shooting guards” playing for NY in 2016? Any idea how we’re going to get them, what with no draft picks and to trade bait? (Yes, maybe there’s interest in an east coast/west coast exchange… but how likely that?)

Fourth: You need a “conductor to harness the power.” So this means Cruz is not our point guard in two years? Who is?

Fifth: “gather complementary pieces — the rebounder, the lockdown defender, the banger — en route.” Anyone you have in mind? And again, we get them how?

Sixth: “This means one of the first pieces New York must secure is a center who can bang, who can take the defensive pressure off Charles.” Am I repeating myself? Name me any candidates that are available?

Finally – no, I don’t think Laimbeer should go. But projecting the Lib turnaround by 2016 is goofy. Yes, it’s hard to build a team around a center (power forward, if you’d like), but NY is currently made up of “old” and serviceable. There ain’t no Ford, Smith, or Nolan in the wings to rescue us. The team needs a complete overhaul…and that’s going to take a little longer than we’re going to like….

From Nate: After the Phoenix Mercury ended the L.A. Sparks’ season in the first round of the WNBA Playoffs for the second consecutive year – this time handing the Sparks a blowout loss at home – it’s painfully obvious that they need to make changes this offseason.

Back before the 2012 draft, I wrote that Nneka Ogwumike was the obvious pick for the L.A. Sparks but that maybe they’d consider a trade because she wouldn’t fit that roster as long as Candace Parker was there too. But ultimately, as I would later write before the 2013 season, that’s just the kind of situation where you take the best player available and figure everything out later.

Well, it’s now “later”. And the Sparks are well past the somewhat benign point of being at a “crossroads”.

A little belated, but congrats to Skylar, Sandy and Brittney.

And speaking of congrats: From Scot Gleeson at USA Today: Newly engaged Brittney Griner takes control of her life

Brittney Griner blushes and lets out an infectious smile when asked about her recent proposal to fellow WNBA player Glory Johnson.

“Yes, I put a ring on it,” Griner says.

The 6-8 women’s basketball star is used to the spotlight for her uncanny athleticism with the Phoenix Mercury on the court and her candid personality off it. Now, Griner says, it’s all “falling into place.”

As Phoenix and Minnesota get ready to rumble, Mechelle has 5 questions for West finals

Now we have a marquee matchup of two teams that each have won two WNBA titles. And between the Lynx (Maya Moore, Seimone Augustus, Janel McCarville) and the Mercury (Diana Taurasi, Brittney Griner), there are five former No. 1 overall draft picks.

There also are two players who’ve been the WNBA’s MVP: Moore, who won the award this year, and Taurasi, who did so in 2009. Taurasi was runner-up to Moore this season.

Kent Youngblood says Reeve feels good about Lynx headed into Phoenix series

“It’s a cohesive group,” she said. “I think the chemistry has really grown. Having Rebekkah [Brunson] back and Seimone [Augustus] back in the fold for the last few games. You guys all worried about the way we finished the season. But we knew we were making some progress.’’

Also from Kent: Lynx-Mercury series offers intriguing matchups

The formula is basic, Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. When it comes to winning in the playoffs — no matter the opponent — the Lynx have to be efficient on offense and defend well.

Of course that’s easier said than done when it comes to playing the Phoenix Mercury. The two teams will begin their best-of-three Western Conference finals Friday in Phoenix. They are the top two teams in the league in wins, points scored, point differential, field-goal percentage and offensive efficiency.

From Ryan Scott at Insight News: The hard road to a Lynx dynasty

The Lynx and Phoenix Mercury are on a collision course for the WNBA ages. And to put it concisely, Mercury stars Brittney Griner and Diana Taurasi, “ain’t nothin’ nice.” At 6’8″ and boasting the leagues’ first highlight reel of dunks, Griner is a basketball nightmare similar to Wilt Chamberlain or Shaquille O’Neal in the men’s game. And though the adjectives and statistics for Griner can be rattled on for several pages, it is the cold-blooded Taurasi that should strike the greater fears in the Lynx.

Mechelle also had a little something to say about Delle Donne.

For most of June and July, she was forced to watch the Sky struggle without her. She played just four games during those two months. She missed the WNBA All-Star Game. She couldn’t be sure when she would be able to return to action.

All that backstory makes what happened Tuesday night in Atlanta even more remarkable. We didn’t just see one of the more clutch climbs out of a deep hole in WNBA playoff history. We saw it done by a player and a team whose season has been the very definition of resilience.

About that game… Kris Willis notes: The Atlanta Dream saw a 20 point lead slip away in a heartbreaking 81-80 loss to the Chicago Sky 

And yes, it was the biggest fourth-quarter comeback in WNBA playoff history.

“It was just a resilient effort by my team. Obviously, Atlanta owned us for much of the game,” Sky coach Pokey Chatman said. “They were having our way us in terms of points in the paint. Everything was not in our favor, but we stayed the course, and when it got late it became time for players to make plays, my big-time player [Delle Donne] stepped up.”

From the Chicago Tribune: Delle Donne’s basket with 8.2 seconds left wins series for Sky

I think we were playing to win,” Lyttle said. “We just stopped executing, and all of a sudden it was a one-point lead and we wondered, ‘How did that happen?'”

From Jayda: VIDEO: Elena Delle Donne, Courtney Vandersloot advance to conference Finals

You knew it was going to happen. Elena Delle Donne is too incredible of a talent to not wash over a game like a tidal wave in attempt to lead her Chicago to a win. But, as Atlanta coachMichael Cooper said afterward, she could do her damage — which she did Tuesday — and the Dream could’ve still won.

Instead, Atlanta PG Jasmine Thomas missed two free-throws with 17.3 seconds left in a decisive Game 3 playoff matchup against Chicago.

Also from Jayda: Storm 2014 Exit Interviews: Angel Robinson left an impression

And, yep! WNBA star Swin Cash part of historic all-female sports show

In college news:

Cal adds some coaches: Devanei Hampton and Sweets Underwood

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“Well, that was a lovely, tight start to the playoffs!”

Ageless wonder Catch rules.

There are so many things you can point to that have made Indiana’s Tamika Catchings such a great player for so long. But two of the so-called “fundamentals” of basketball have been huge keys to Catchings’ success and have frustrated the heck out of her opponents.

Catchings is a very good free throw shooter during the regular season, and she has been even a little bit better during the playoffs. Also, she’s a rebounder who just never quits.

For a player who is typically at her best when aggressively going to the rim, the ability to come up big at the line is such a valuable skill. That proved to be the case once again Thursday as the WNBA playoffs got under way with Indiana’s 78-73 victory over Washington in the Eastern Conference semifinals at Indianapolis.

And rules again.

A smidge younger wonder Dee rules.

Predicting that the Phoenix Mercury would sweep the L.A. Sparks in the first round of the 2014 WNBA Playoffs actually had little to do with a significant “talent” differential – team composition, maybe, but the Sparks are hardly lacking talent.

This matchup has always been about intangibles – for the entirety of the regular season and during last year’s meeting in the first round. And it’s ultimately what tonight’s 75-72 loss to the Mercury came down to, just as predicted by Sparks coach Penny Toler in a preview of tonight’s game by L.A. Times reporter Samantha Zuba:

And that youngest wonder, Maya rules, too. (But let’s not forget Augustus, shall we?)

Damn, if EDD at half-strength isn’t twice the player most are.

Friday, the Chicago Sky got the franchise’s first WNBA playoff victory. It took nine seasons to happen, and none of the Sky players have waited for this as long as Sylvia Fowles and Tamera Young have.

And on a night when Chicago had to do the same thing this team has done virtually all season — overcome the loss of a player — the two “senior” Sky players were critical factors.

And… Annie, if your play-by-play guy can’t be bothered to learn how to pronounce the names of the players on the court, I give you permission to slap him upside the head.

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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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“Ohmygodmyeeeeyeeees!”

The Liberty lost to the Mystics 46-79. 46 points. In an entire game. Ugh.

Chiney-less (tooth issue) Sun put up a fight, but MIP candiate Allie Quigley did her part (17pts) to help the Sky stay within reach — and then EP came alive to lift the Sky to a 16pt.

The teams shot 39.7% and 36.9%, so of course it would be a layup that would decide the game. Minny’s just lucky that hand belonged to Augustus and not Indy’s Larkins.

Soooo… a friend tried to say that Phoenix “spanked” the Dream. I countered, saying that an 8-point comeback win over de Souza-less Dream was no “spanking.” Now, surely, BG smacked’em around a bit (9 blocks), but DT had to lead the Merc on a comeback to get the win over Atlanta.

30 from Sims (a clear ROY candidate) helped Tulsa get a nice win over Los Angeles.

If you’re looking for some basketball tonight, check out the live feed from Colorado  – US U18 v Mexico.

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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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say it.”

Might be the new WHB tagline. Ah, well – sorry Skylar and Anne.

And just to keep everyone honest — how friggin’ resilient are Chicago (hello, Jamierra Faulkner!) (over LA) and Indiana (over Atlanta IN Atlanta)? (and how disappointing is LA?)

Yea! Penny!

Ouch! Seimone!

Bell Fuller at Full Court sets up your weekend: WNBA Big Games, Big News: Fireworks on tap in two July 4 weekend matchups

Along with the Fourth of the July holiday will come some top-flight action in the WNBA this week. Here are two of the games to add to your “must-watch” list; unfortunately, neither game is scheduled to be televised outside the local markets, but both will be available via the WNBA’s Live Access.

In other news:

Women’s Basketball Committee seeks cost savings for championship

The Division I Women’s Basketball Committee is exploring ways to reduce championship expenses while continuing to protect the student-athlete experience.

Yup, it’s official: OSU women’s basketball: Khadidja Toure transfers to East Carolina and Duke women’s basketball point guard Jones to transfer

This will be a fun something to attend before flying out to Istanbul: Team USA To Face Canada At Webster Bank Arena Sept. 15

Speaking of USA Basketball, the U17’s have been kicking butt:

Games are being streamed through YouTube.

The WBCA has a new boss: Danielle Donehew Leaving AAC To Take Over WBCA and a new “status.”

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lovely few days in Minneapolis. Got to hang with family friends, see an overflowing Minnehaha Falls, re-connect with one of the original WHB bloggers, finish the second to last of my WBHOF articles, present a kick-butt conference session with some amazing educators and researchers, and chill with three fabulous munchkins: Theo, Jonah and Mae.

Now I need a nap.

Meanwhile, the rest of the world has contented spinning:

Exciting visit to the White House for Stef… I mean, the UConn’s women’s team. (Oh, dear: UConn women’s basketball in good shape for next title run)

The Lynx aren’t far behind.

New jobs for Megan Duffy and Jocelyn Wyatt and Katy Steding.

Speaking of jobs: Jenny Boucek talks about career, NBA coaching aspirations

FSU lands K-State (finally) transfer Leticia Romero.

I like when this happens: NOLA is tracking LSU alum in the W.

Ray at Swish Appeal has an Interview with San Antonio Stars rookie Kayla McBride: Adjusting to the WNBA

Ben York is talking The Evolution of Diana Taurasi

As her illustrious career continues, Taurasi has adapted to various styles of play that best suits that particular roster and team – something that is infinitely easier said than done, especially when many consider you to be the best player in the world.

In the run-and-gun years, Phoenix needed her to put the ball in the basket as much as humanly possible (not that it would be frowned upon now).

In the past few years, as the league has progressed, they’ve needed her ability to create and get the entire team involved (which is a direct correlation with being amongst the league-leaders in assists).

Nevertheless, it’s one thing to have an evolving game but another thing entirely to be effective at it – and finish amongst the league-leaders in the process.

Are the stars returning to the stands? First, NY gets Billie Jean King, now Ludacris And Others Attend WNBA Atlanta Dream’s “Dads & Daughters Night”

Medic! Lauren Jackson gets more knee surgery. EDD continues to be plagued by Lyme Disease.

From Patricia Babcock McGraw: Struggling Prince trying to find answers

During the Los Angles game, Prince was in uniform for the first time this season. But she did not see the floor.

In Atlanta, Prince made her season debut, but played only 9 minutes. She did, however, score 7 points.

She had been out until that point for personal reasons and joined the team only two weeks ago, battling what seems to be a severe case of mental exhaustion.

As for the games since I departed NY and returned…. can anyone figure this season out? I mean, except for Minnesota, who has got their you-know-what-together?

From David: Dishin & Swishin 06/12/14 Podcast: Underrated as a player and team, Danielle Robinson and San Antonio surprising in the West

Cappie remembers how to score, and the Lib stomp Washington.  (surprise! btw. ESPN still has the Lib in Newark.)

Parker scores a lot and rebounds a lot… but the rest of the team? Not so much. Minnesota dispatched the Sparks at the Staples Center.

Cappie forgets how to score, Diggins does not: Tulsa wipes the floor with New York. And hellooooo Courtney Paris! Welcome to the defense-free Liberty front court. (So much for that “heart-to-heart” meeting, Libs.)

More thumping of the Mystics, this time by Brittney.

Delle Donne-less Sky fall to the Storm. I wonder how much her extended minutes has played into the reoccurrence of the Lyme disease.

The Catch-less Fever rallied to take down Seattle and make Lin Dunn’s big night in Indianapolis extra special.

Steve Lebron at Policymic writes: How Much Women’s Basketball Players Make in the U.S. vs. China

While NBA players secure financial stability the minute they enter the league as first-round picks, the most talented female players are — while adequately compensated relative to other occupations — very low on the financial totem pole for athletes.

Fun times for USA Basketball at the 3×3 tournament.

Speaking of USA Basketball:

U of L’s Hammond calls gold medal experience ‘humbling’

Sara Hammond said Sunday, after representing the United States and earning a gold medal doing so, that her FIBA World Championship experience was tough to put into words.

The University of Louisville basketball player managed nonetheless after her USA Basketball 3×3 women’s team took gold in Moscow.

 

Three sisters, one out-of-sight dad

Jon Samuelson, father of one of the most successful sister acts in women’s basketball, is ever-present in the lives of his three talented daughters — he’s just hard to find during their games.

Samuelson, who played college basketball at Cal State Fullerton and pro ball in Europe, has taught the game to Bonnie, who will be a senior at Stanford this fall; Karlie, a rising sophomore at Stanford; and Katie Lou, a 6-foot-3 wing at Mater Dei High School (Santa Ana, Calif.), a Connecticut recruit and the No. 1 prospect in the 2015 class.

From Amanda Hess at Slate.com: The WNBA Finally Recognizes Its Lesbian Fans

This month, the WNBA became the first American pro sports league to openly recruit LGBTQ fans by launching a dedicated marketing platformselling rainbow basketball pride T-shirts, and sponsoring pride games across the country. On June 22, ESPN2 will air the first-ever nationally televised pride game. WNBA President Laurel Richie frames the strategy as a smart business decision: Recent market research has revealed that 21 percent of lesbians have attended a WNBA game, and 25 percent have watched one on TV. For a league that’s had serious difficulties getting anyone to fill its seats, those stats are astonishing.

The New York Times’ Julie Macur writes: Coast Cleared by Others, W.N.B.A. Finally Finds Its Gay Pride

When Brittney Griner, the No. 1 pick in the 2013 W.N.B.A. draft, heard about her league’s new campaign to market games to people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, she said, “What are we going to have, T-shirts, shoes?”

It was about time, Griner said she thought, and then wondered what she could do to help.

I find the comments interesting and insightful (something unusual, we know, when folks comment on articles about women’s athletics.  While I, too, have been frustrated at the far-too underground recognition of the lesbian fan base, I’m finding some of the finger pointing and shoulda-coulda rather tone-deaf.

Simple question: who has more security? The NCAA or the WNBA? Who has more players, more fans, more “institutions?” NCAA, WBCA? I’m lookin’ and YOU.

Doug gives Chiney and Nneka some focus: WNBA’s Ogwumike sisters raise funds for education in Nigeria

WATN? UConn and CT Sun standout Nykesha Sales visits CBC

Oh, the drama: Diamond DeShields to join Vols

More good news for the Vols: Te’a Cooper gives verbal to Tennessee

Speaking of Knoxville: Dunn led way for today’s generation – Lin Dunn to be inducted into Women’s Basketball HOF on Saturday (ESPN3, 7 ET)

There are two kinds of vision, of course. The kind that lets you see what’s in front of you, and the kind that lets you imagine what you hope will one day be there.

Indiana Fever coach Lin Dunn always has had both, going back to her youth in Tennessee in the 1950s and ’60s. Even then, Dunn had a passion for sports and could see strategy and tactics as a natural-born coach. But she also saw what wasn’t there: enough opportunities and support for girls and women in athletics.

When Dunn is inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame this weekend in Knoxville, Tennessee, as part of a class of six, the honor will be a testament to Dunn’s determination to make the real world line up better with the possibilities she always imagined.

Lin gets around the “only five minutes to speak at the induction ceremony” rule by writing for ESPN: Five decades of fighting for equality – Lin Dunn to be inducted into Women’s Basketball HOF on Saturday

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Not.

And I’m sure it hurts more ’cause the Storm escaped the Shock, 62-60. There’s no doubt Tulsa IS better, but they’re still 0-5. 

“We just need to continue to work hard,” Shock coach Fred Williams said. “It’s better being in close games than blowouts. I think this team is really learning over the course of the season. We’re a team that when we step on the floor, we want to be competitive for 40 minutes and I think we’re establishing that right now.”

If Cappie and Tina can get into a groove at the same time, and the team can figure out how to stop turning the ball over and giving the opposition easy baskets, then maybe people will be concerned about Lib. Until then, they can’t beat a Tamika-less Fever. (And, after a nice opening game v. Chicago, I’m getting worried about Essence.) In the meantime, Sue Favor is writing about Delisha Milton: Veteran Delisha Milton-Jones still a factor in the WNBA

Proving the adage “it’s not how much you score but WHEN you score,” Ivory Latta helped the Mystics to an important triple-overtime win over visiting Los Angeles. Of note:

Led by Hartley and Dolson, the Mystics reserves outscored their counterparts 63-10. Monique Currie and Jelena Milovanovic each scored 12 points.

Also, Toliver is saying Здравствуйте! for a while (She’s doin’ professional basketball stuff in another country.) Tough for LA – ’cause Candice Wiggins just had knee surgery.

Not quite the start to the season the Dream were hoping for, but I’m betting they had a win marked in their calendars when they went up against the oh-so-struggling Sun. Whoops.

Maya cooled off… a bit (“only” 18 points). But Seimone picked up the slack (25pts), helping the Lynx fend of the troublesome Stars.

Debbie Antonelli was happy. The Merc scored 100 and the Sky score 101.

And look who’s going to be on the *gack* Bachelorette tonight?

Mechelle’s got something to say: Lynx still No. 1, but East teams climb

The Lynx appear to be in cruise control already, while the Shock are looking for a little stretch of home cooking to help them get off the schneid. Those are our first and last teams in the Week 3 WNBA power rankings, the same as a week ago. In between, though, there were some big moves. (We’re looking at you, Washington and Indiana.)

As June gets underway and WNBA teams really start to jell, things will get interesting. Expect more movement. But will someone strongly challenge the defending champion Lynx? Well, they play five of their next six games on the road, so we’ll see.

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opening the box of College Basketball….

Yup, the WNBA GMs (and Rebecca) got it wrong.

As for the Dream, I don’t care what teammates and others say about Angel, it seems she needs a Jeff Walz intervention. Being emotional is one thing. Letting it get into your own head and game is another…28% shooting is the result.

From Tim: Minnesota Lynx return to WNBA throne with sweep through postseason

The Minnesota Lynx finally can exhale.

The WNBA championship trophy is back in their grasp.

The punctuation on a season of dominance wasn’t pretty, but the prize at the end of their journey certainly was.

Los Lynx welcomed at the airport.

While I’m waiting for folks to start saying “The Lynx are bad for women’s basketball,” Tim adds Minnesota Lynx see more WNBA titles on the horizon, and Mechelle writes Lynx were the favorite all along – Minnesota wins second title in three years — now what’s next?

A few days before the WNBA Finals got underway, I managed to stir up a hornets’ nest.

Uh, no, not with anything I wrote. I mean literally stir up a hornets’ nest. Doing yard work on a day off from playoff games, I inadvertently disturbed some bees. Suddenly, buzzing creatures were coming at me from all directions.

I made a frantic run inside, and actually was happy to have escaped with just four stings. So having watched the Minnesota Lynx just win the WNBA title in a 3-0 sweep over the Atlanta Dream, I kind of have of an idea how the Dream feel.

Jon at the AP writes,The next dynasty? Minnesota Lynx bask in celebration of 2nd WNBA title in 3 seasons

Behind a curtain in the bowels of Target Center, the Minnesota Lynx gathered as a team for one last time this season. A few thousand jubilant fans waited in the arena, watching a video introduction for the team that had just captured its second WNBA championship in three seasons.

On the big screen, fans read words like “Dynasty” and “Greatest Team In History.”

“No pressure, guys!” finals MVP Maya Moore said to the group.

Kent continues the theme: Lynx among WNBA’s best already, and still on the upswing

At first, Shelley Patterson wanted no part of the comparison.

Patterson is an assistant coach for the Lynx, who just finished a dominant 7-0 run through the WNBA playoffs. Appearing in their third consecutive championship series, the Lynx swept Atlanta to win their second title.

Patterson was director of basketball operations for the Houston Comets in 1999, the year that team won the third of four league titles in a row. She saw the trio of Cynthia Cooper, Sheryl Swoopes and Tina Thompson dominate. When the subject of WNBA greatness comes up, the early Comets teams are where the discussion begins.

In the “Duh” file: Minnesota Lynx’s Janel McCarville: ‘I would love to be back’ and McCarville fits right in with Lynx – Center teams with former college teammate Whalen to win championship

In March, the Lynx made a three-way trade with Tulsa and New York to get McCarville from the Liberty — she hadn’t played in the WNBA the past two years — and Minnesota really did have exactly what Whalen was hoping for. The whole package.

“The chemistry with the team, how good of an off-the-ball partner Maya is,” Whalen said. “How good of a shooter Seimone is. Brunson rebounding, myself driving. I just felt like [McCarville] would really fit the team well. Having this be her first championship with us is just really special.”

More on Moore: Moore adds another title to résumé

 It’s one of those near-universal experiences. You return as an adult to a place that was significant earlier in your life. Even if you’re not a particularly reflective person, you can’t help but reflect. Remember when …

Minnesota’s Maya Moore is a reflective person, a thoughtful 24-year-old of whom her mother, Kathryn, says, “From the time she was a little kid, she was self-motivated. Very much so. When I was her age, I was nowhere near that mature.”

Gwinnett Daily Post enjoyed having local Maya around: Moore ends Dream run at home

“It means the world,” said Moore, who was named the series’ Most Valuable Player, of the title. “We had ups and downs. I mean, it wasn’t easy. That’s what a championship’s supposed to be. It’s supposed to be hard, and when it got hard, we came together and we stuck with it and secured that victory.”

Both of those titles have come at the expense of the Dream, who have lost in the finals three of the past four years.

and Moore revels in happy homecoming

…don’t ask her which of the four titles — the other WNBA title she and the Lynx won during her rookie season three years ago, plus the two NCAA Division I women’s titles the University of Connecticut and the gold medal she won as a part of the 2012 U.S. Olympic team — is her favorite.

“Why do you ask me to compare my children?” Moore joked during Thursday’s postgame press conference. “It’s like comparing kids. I love all my championships. Each are special. You can’t make me choose.

They have some VIDEO: ‘Behind the Scenes’ … with WNBA champ Maya Moore and some photos.

So does Minnesota Public Radio: Minnesota Lynx clinch WNBA title: The playoff campaign in photos

Ummm… truth: Kevin Durant on WNBA Champ Fiancee: ‘She’s Got More Championships Than I Do’

Key Dae at Canis Hoopus suggests The Wolves still need to learn what the Lynx have figured out

You would think after sharing the Target Center with the cats for 14 years, the dogs would have learned this lesson from them by now:

In pro basketball, the draft really matters.

Like, really really matters. Really matters. Really.

Speaking of the draft (really?!?!) 2014 WNBA Mock Draft: Complete 1st-Round Predictions for Every Team

The Augusta Chronicle caught up with Auburn grad Le’Coe Willingham for 5 questions. (How can it possibly have been 10 years???)

From the Courant: Rebecca Lobo: Memorable Class – Mother Of Four Makes Home And Career Balancing Act Work (Yes, I have to ask… when do we see the headline “Father of Four Makes Home And Career Balancing Ac Work”?)

She returned last week to the Target Center where, 18 years ago, Rebecca Lobo and the UConn basketball team won their first national championship. The image of Lobo circling the court waving a forefinger in the air after the final buzzer lingers pleasantly in the memories of those blue-and-whites who were there to watch.

The sellout crowd, more than 18,000 fans, cheered. The vanquished, Pat Summit’s Tennessee Vols, took the loss hard, but with a good measure of sportsmanship, knowing nothing lasts forever.

Lobo, Jennifer Rizzotti, Jamelle Elliott and all the others have gone about their lives since graduation with the strong principles of loyalty and desire that identified that team.

From Michelle Smith: DIANA TAURASI STUCK IN DRIVE

“There was something about her in high school that no matter what court she was on, or where, or who she was playing against, she was the best player on the floor,” Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma said. “That even included playing pickup with guys.”

Taurasi and her fearless game took the Connecticut program to a different level.

“Rebecca Lobo came to Connecticut and made us a national program from being a regional program,” Auriemma said. “And then Diana came and made us a household name.”

Speaking of Lobo (again)

“I think it is always important to tell the stories of those who may feel underrepresented in certain areas,” Lobo said. “There were not a lot of prominent Hispanic female athletes when I was growing up. There weren’t a lot of female sports competitions on TV, period. It is nice to see that now young girls can easily find someone to admire, including athletes like Diana Taurasi, Lisa Fernandez, etc.”

Auriemma thinks just as Lobo helped popularize women’s basketball while on court, what she does now also has tremendous and lasting impact.

“Rebecca made people enjoy the game as a player, and as a broadcaster, she does the same thing,” Auriemma said. “And each year she gets better and better at helping the fans enjoy watching the game.

Did you know this?

Penny Toler, general manager of the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks, regularly gets calls from those watching her nephew play in the NFL. Colleagues, friends and former players remember the teenager who hung out at Staples Center, staying so late that his aunt had to chase him out of the gym.

Greg Toler, an Indianapolis Colts cornerback, spent summers mingling with some of the world’s best female basketball players. Now he spends falls covering and clobbering some of the world’s best football players.

“They can’t believe it’s the same Greg,” his aunt said of her callers.

As we start marking in the home and away games for our favorite NCAA teams, Clay talks about theWhite Paper Summit: Women’s basketball heavyweights look to the future and asks: The Ackerman Report (11): Who’s in charge here?

Val Ackerman’s charge was to look at NCAA women’s basketball, and the piece of her report about governance focused solely on groups that had influence within the collegiate structure. That made sense in terms of her task, but in reality, few significant changes can be made without the approval of outside entities as well.

Still, Ackerman’s list of NCAA committees makes it clear that even within the organization, power is split up too many ways.

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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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I know Atlanta is resilient, but OUCH! Minnesota was hot ice. Atlanta was a hot mess.

From Mechelle: Lynx make quick work of Dream

In the third quarter of Sunday’s opening game of the WNBA Finals, Atlanta’s Angel McCoughtry ran right into a screen set by Minnesota’s Janel McCarville. The Dream star hit the deck, then sat for a second shaking her head, trying to figure out who had just constructed a wall in the middle of the court.

That’s kind of what it felt like for the Dream most of the game, actually.

Echoed by the AP: Minnesota Lynx dominate Game 1 of WNBA Finals

From Nate: Minnesota Lynx show off the flexibility of their roster in Game One rout

The Minnesota Lynx’s 84-59 win in Game One of the 2013 WNBA Finals was a pretty good example of what makes this team so difficult to beat.

The Atlanta Dream’s defense did get 15 turnovers out of the Lynx, winning the turnover (percentage) battle by a narrow margin. All-WNBA point guard Lindsay Whalen was held to just 3 points on 1-for-4 shooting, which is a positive for any opponent. All-Star forward Rebekkah Brunson had a team-high 5 offensive rebounds, but only scored 4 points on 2-for-6 shooting.

But that wasn’t enough to stop the Lynx.

And Mike Peden at Full Court: Lynx overwhelm the Dream in a dominating mismatch

It was supposed to be championship game, not a scrimmage between the varsity and JVs — but if not  for a rabid crowd of more than13,000 packing the seats at Target Center, Minnesota’s 84-59 demolition of the Atlanta Dream could easily have been taken for a preseason practice between the stars and the benchwarmers.

From Tim at the Pioneer Press: Minnesota cruises in WNBA Finals opener and Bad back can’t keep Janel McCarville out of Game 1 and Minnesota Lynx give Dream a rude awakening in WNBA Finals opener

If this is the tone, it could be a very short series. It is also perhaps reminiscent of 2011, when the Lynx swept Atlanta in three games to win their first league championship.

Minnesota set a tone physically, too, with hard screens and a willingness to take charges, not caring that it committed more fouls (18) than the Dream (11). The Lynx weren’t afraid to spend time on the floor, either, flying out of bounds to keep scoring plays alive, as Wright did in the third quarter when she batted a ball backward to Moore for a crowd-energizing layup.

From Tim Faklis at Canis Hoopus: Lynx Go Up 1-0, Beat Atlanta 84-59

Perhaps the most notable stat of the night: 0-15 shooting from beyond the arc for the Atlanta Dream, who struggled shooting the ball the entire night. Leading scorer Angel McCoughtry (6-24) and Jasmine Thomas (3-15) took the most shots for Atlanta, who collectively shot 31.2 percent on the night on 77 field goal attempts.

“We’ve been through this before. First game against Washington, it was the same thing, we bounced back,” Angel McCoughtry said following the game. “We’ll figure it out. That’s the type of team we are. It’s going to be a dogfight.”

In the battle of the Bench Sparks, Monica was the brightest.

If there was a list somewhere called “The Last Thing Atlanta Needed in the WNBA Finals,” having Minnesota bench-spark extraordinare Monica Wright turn in one of the best nights of her career was probably in the top three.

Michelle on (the other) Becky: Forward Brunson boosts Lynx

Brunson is in her 10th WNBA season. Ask her how old she is and she simply responds, “old.” She’s 31 and she laughs heartily when reminded that a simple Internet search will yield the answer.

Ask her Minnesota teammates how important she is to what they do and what they hope to accomplish, and they are much less cagey.

“She is so pivotal to the foundation of this team,” said Maya Moore, while Whalen called Brunson “our cornerstone.”

Photos from MPR. (The AP’s Stacy Bengs did a nice job!)

The Baltimore Sun pays attention: Baltimore native McCoughtry seeks WNBA title

“It means a lot, I mean each time is special. You work a lot to get there, and to get there is pretty awesome,” McCoughtry said. “This time, we’re really just trying to go ahead and get over that hump and take the victory home. We have a different team, different coach this time, so hopefully we can just be up to the challenge.” 

LSU pays attention: Augustus Set for Third-Straight WNBA Final

Augustus said she represents LSU through her achievements whether it is in the WNBA, overseas or in the Olympic games.

“You definitely need to have some pride about being able to represent Louisiana, Baton Rouge, LSU and everyone who’s ever supported you up to this point,” she said.

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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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ever since Thursday, I’ve had Tom Jones/Art of Noise running through my head

Anyhoo, games today. We’ll see if the Merc can recover from getting M(oore)A(ugustus)W(halen)led again and if Indy can head off Hayes and clip Angel.

Meanwhile: WNBA Captures Fans, Ends Regular Season With Record Growth and Viva, Las Vegas!

BTW – I got 139 folks to join me for the Maggie Dixon Classic. Who’s coming with me to Istanbul?

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Could we please have two great games? (Next, I’m going to ask for four extra hours in the day so I can catch up with my work work so I can have more time for my basketball work….)

From Mechelle: Spot in WNBA Finals up for grabs – Lynx still considered favorite, but talent-laden conference finals await

The WNBA’s MVP award winner, Candace Parker, and rookie of the year, Elena Delle Donne, already have been eliminated from the WNBA playoffs. Which leaves us left in this postseason with …

Gee, at least four players who all could have been the 2013 MVP. And the rookie who was picked No. 1 in April’s draft. In other words, the WNBA conference finals, which begin Thursday night, are not lacking for star power. They are saturated with it.

“I love the fact that it’s not always a shoo-in for the team that’s got the MVP to win the championship,” Minnesota’s Maya Moore said. “I think that just speaks to the level of the WNBA and the talent that we have. The great quality of teams, the fight of the teams, and the big plays that people make to try to propel their team to a championship.”

This, in fact, will be the third year in a row the league’s regular-season MVP won’t even be in the WNBA Finals.

From Lee: Coaches, players size up the Eastern Conference Final

Lin Dunn, head coach of the reigning WNBA champion Indiana Fever, Fever forward and 2011 WNBA MVP Tamika Catchings, and the Atlanta Dream’s Angel McCoughtry, the league’s leading scorer this season, took time out from practice Wednesday for a media teleconference to share their thoughts on their upcoming Eastern Conference Finals series, which tips off today in Atlanta’s Phillips Arena at 7 p.m. EDT, airing on ESPN2. ESPN analysts Carolyn Peck and LaChina Robinson also weighed in. Here are some highlights from what they had to say. Click here for Full Court’s detailed preview of the Fever-Dream Eastern Conference Final.

Mechelle also previews Atlanta v. Indiana: Defense on stars is key in East

From Nate: Atlanta Dream, Indiana Fever meet in Eastern Conference Finals again

James notes: The Atlanta Dream still nursing injuries as they head into the Eastern Conference Finals

In a similar theme, Bob ponders: East finals: Which decimated roster will survive one more round?

Mark Ambrogi says Indiana Fever relish underdog role as Eastern Conference finals begin in Atlanta

Michelle writes: Mercury try to turn tables on Lynx

Nate asks: How can the Phoenix Mercury stop the Minnesota Lynx?

From Odeen: Phoenix Mercury look to break Minnesota Lynx’s recent mastery

WCCO: Lynx Welcome The Newly Renovated Phoenix Mercury Squad

Clay asks:Will the Minnesota machine stay in high gear?

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she’s not on my team. *sigh*

Yes, perhaps the “Three to See” has become the “Two to View”, but wow, how much fun is it to watch Elena Delle Donne play. (And congrats to her, CAA Scholar Athlete of the Year) Granted, the Lib had no one who could guard her. Katie? Nice try — she gives up inches and years. Plennette? Delightfully physical, which EDD handled, but nowhere quick enough. The kid plays in control, is ACTUALLY a guard in a forward’s body, and has pogo-stick-like elevation skills.

Pokey plays EVERYone, and yesterday, they all seemed able to play. Who knows if it’s chemistry, coaching or basketball IQ, but the team looks so in sync with each other. It’s as if everyone’s field of vision/sense is open to their teammates and they can all “sense” where each other are on the court. There was one moment where the Sky did lose their mind offensively, and if Pokey could have kicked badgers out of her toes, she would have.

Of note:

Big Sly was back on the court and, while she didn’t light up the scoreboard, her quick hands were in every passing lane.
Carolyn Swords: Since when did she become a reliable, nitty-gritty big?
Prince: Always interesting to watch her battle her ego when she goes up against Cappie.
Sloot: Just as I said, “You know, if Courtney ever rediscovers her shot, then….” Eureka, guess what happened?
Blue Hens fans: In da house, courtesy of Amtrak and a convoy of buses.

The best Liberty moment? When they were showing “When they were a baby” photos, and there was golden lab puppy Maddie with a crown on his head…. 

I don’t know what happened during the game, and I don’t have the cast-iron metaphorical cojones to walk up to Katie Smith and ask her these things, but she was hot under the collar like nobody’s business. I thought someone on Chicago said something about her mother or something. Her head was not in the game the rest of the way. She couldn’t find her rhythm shooting, and her defense was below her average. I don’t expect her to be a total game-changer anymore, but we could have used her to keep the game within striking distance. Leilani Mitchell was pesky, but she couldn’t check Vandersloot sufficiently, which meant that defensively she was reduced to doubling down and trying to make things happen with disruption. As you might be able to discern from the score, this was not successful. Avery Warley rebounded well, but I think everyone involved knew that she was out of her depth. Kara Braxton muscled a little bit, but this was not a smart Kara day. This was a very dumb Kara day. If Kelsey can’t get easy shots to fall and Kara’s having a very dumb day, things are not going to end well in the post for the Liberty. Cappie Pondexter showed a spark of life in the second quarter, and she and Kamiko teamed up for one beautiful defensive sequence that resulted in a shot clock violation, but too much of the offense was flowing into her and then stagnating. It was Cappie against the world, just like it was under Whiz, and that’s not a scheme for long-term success. She took a lot of good shots, but she took even more bad shots.

And yes, that was the Lib’s “best” moment. The team is out of sorts, Bill looks like he’s out of options, and NY could easily slide out of the playoffs, ’cause CT can still get healthy.

Meanwhile, in Minny, the on-again, off-again buzz saw that is the Lynx was on again and, as a result, Phoenix was sliced and diced. The “damn it” news is that Augustus left the building on crutches, meaning it’s likely she’s a no-show for the game against the Dream.

The Q is back, and Mike *breathes a sign of relief* T is the winningest. Nice 212-congrats.

No, Tina didn’t “officially” cost the Sun a win, but her ridiculous melt down/two Ts effectively stopped Connecticut’s momentum and hamstrung their comeback effort against Indiana.

Yah, we thought this is what it was that took Becky down, but we like to delude ourselves sometimes: Frackin’ ACLs.

Doug at the AP recycles the “Expand the Roster” story.

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From Louisa Thomas at Grantland: Candace Parker Knows What She Wants

Practice ended, and Candace Parker’s teammates left the floor. Parker held a ball. Sweat darkened the shoulders of her long gray shirt, roughly mapping the shape of her delts. She had a packed schedule that day: two interviews, a Twitter chat hosted by the Associated Press, a tour of her house for Time Warner Cable Sports’ Backstage: Sparks, lunch with her mother, a weightlifting session with her trainer, an appointment at the eye doctor, and her daughter’s gymnastics class, all before dinner. But no one, least of all herself, wanted her to hurry off the court.

One of the men who had scrimmaged with the Sparks that morning, Tevin Calhoun, who averaged 5.5 points a game last season as a junior at Troy University, jogged over to Parker. He had a young face, mismatched borrowed Nikes — he’d shown up without shoes — and an enviable vertical leap. He also had about three inches and 30 pounds on Parker, who is 6-foot-4, and his soft box cut gave him an inch or two more. She had big hands, though, and endless arms.

Parker turned toward Calhoun, smoothly moving her dribble behind her back. “You wanna, like, play a little bit?” she asked.

From the Windy City Times: Lesbian Chicago Sky player set to attend her first Pride Parade

Although Sharnee Zoll-Norman has mentioned her wife in past interviews, specifically about her absence from the WNBA following the 2008 season until she joined the Chicago Sky this year, it has not been publicized. “It’s never been printed,” she said. And she intentionally never had a formal coming-out.

“I never felt whether I’m gay, straight, bi, [or] whatever that my sexuality had anything to do with me as a basketball player, and I don’t think it necessarily has anything to do with me as a person,” she said. “If I was straight, I wouldn’t have to come out and say that I was straight. So I’ve never had an official coming-out, or something where I felt I had to announce that I was gay. But everyone knows. I wear my wedding ring proudly; I have matching tattoos with my wife, and also have her name tattooed on me. We go a lot of places [together] and I surely don’t hide it [that she’s my wife.]”

In this exclusive coming-out interview with Ross Forman, Zoll-Norman of the Chicago Sky tells of life as a lesbian, including her first appearance in a Pride Parade, when she rides on a bus in the annual Chicago Pride Parade on Sunday alongside her wife, Serita Norman.

(Looking forward to reading about the 300+ NCAA Division 1 Basketball Coaches marching is solidarity. And the Division II Coaches. And DIII. And NAIA. And WNBA…)

Speaking of coaches: someone’s cranky: Minnesota Lynx coach unhappy with her ‘big three’ star players

“My big three? If I’m using the last two seasons as a measuring stick, I don’t think they’ve come close to what they’ve been for us the last two years,” Reeve said.

About one of that trio: Dishin & Swishin 6/27/13 Podcast: Seimone Augustus embraces her role in Minnesota on and off the court

Off the court, Augustus has publicly embraced her position as a role model in the lesbian and gay community, talking openly about wanting to get married in Minnesota to her fiancée, and passionately discussing her happiness when Minnesota approved same-sex marriage.

On today’s podcast, Augustus talks about the 2013 Lynx, including candid comments about the lessons learned from their two road losses, at Minnesota and a disappointing performance in Los Angeles last weekend.

A story posted in the future notes: More ouches for Katie Douglas

Indiana Fever guard Katie Douglas will miss several more weeks of action due to a bulging disc in her lower back. Initially diagnosed after missing Indiana’s game at New York on June 5, she missed subsequent games against Phoenix, Connecticut and Washington. Additional testing this week revealed the need for continued therapy and rest.

Speaking of ouches, what are the current odds on Penny getting back on the court this season? Michelle says Penny Taylor sees silver lining

But Taylor knows, as difficult as it has been to be turned into an unwilling observer of a game she loves to play, that there was at least one silver lining.

She went home to Melbourne, Australia, for her rehab, allowing her to spend time with family, specifically her mother, Denna Noble, who was battling cancer. 

“In a way, this worked out that I was home for a really important phase in my life,” Taylor said. “Because if I was playing, there is no way I would have been there for this time. I would have been overseas, and that would have been really difficult.”

About the W’s Generation Next: From Nate: Alex Bentley off to a surprising start as Skylar Diggins and Brittney Griner start to find their rhythm

We’ll take stock of the top ten first (which is essentially the eight at or above average players and two others), but I think it’s fair to say that the Rookie of the Year race is already down to a predictable two players barring a dramatic improvement for a predictable third player.

From the WaPo: Can Brittney Griner pull the WNBA out of its doldrums?

After taking the women’s college basketball world by storm over the course of four dominant years at Baylor, Brittney Griner has tried to embrace her status as the new face of the WNBA, a league beginning its 17th season on the heels of a 2012 campaign that saw attendance hit record lows. She just never expected it to be such a grind.

Not only must Griner suit up for the Phoenix Mercury, but she also is carrying the league mantle off the court, with interviews and promotional appearances across the country. No matter the venue, she is supposed to deliver.

So far: Griner’s popularity reels in fans

Inside the arena, workers have the power tools out as players begin pregame warm-ups, installing another row of courtside seats to meet ticket demand. Meanwhile, Griner is taking pictures with more than half a dozen groups that bought blocks of tickets for the season opener against the Chicago Sky.

Let’s just call it the “Griner Effect.”

“She smiled, she talked to people, and it was a lot, much more than we usually ask the players to do,” Mercury public relations director Rebecca Clark said. “And she was happy to do it. There are times I feel bad asking her to do one more thing, and she just rolls with it.

Her ROY competition made sure her team rolled: Delle Donne, Fowles lead Sky past Liberty

It has been only nine games, but Elena Delle Donne and Sylvia Fowles are turning into a formidable offensive tandem.

Delle Donne scored a season-high 26 points — her ninth straight double-digit performance — as the Sky rallied from an early deficit on the way to an 87-74 victory over the visiting New York Liberty on Wednesday.

About that game, from L’Alien:

It wasn’t a coincidence that Pondexter and Mitchell were grabbing a quick breather when the Sky pulled out that lead – the Liberty desperately lack direction with those two off the floor – but a lot of New York’s problems this season can also be tracked back toPondexter. It feels like she’s jacking up far too many long jumpers, curling off screens and just firing away, and the numbers back that up. She’s always taken plenty of long two-point shots – the least efficient shot in basketball – even when she was a legitimate MVP candidate back in 2010. That’s acceptable when you can hit them at a half-decent rate. But so far this season she’s taken the barrage of long-twos to another level. Before this game against Chicago, she was 11-46 from 16-to-21 feet (in seven games). That puts her on pace to take 223 shots from that distance over the entire regular season. She took 152, 125 and 124 shots from the near-equivalent range over the last three seasons respectively (it’s not an exact parallel because the three-point line’s moved out this year, so it was 16-to-20 feet in the past). Her attempts near the rim are actually pretty similar to past years, but some of her mid-range twos have moved back, and some of her three-point attempts have stepped inside the arc. It’s not working. She’s shooting a poor percentage, and her turnovers are through the roof as well. It’s hard to tell how much of it is Cappie settling for the wrong kind of shots, and how much is Laimbeer’s offense setting her up to take too many in the wrong areas. It’s probably a little of both. But it’s something that needs fixing if the Liberty are going to win a decent number of games this year.

It’s an interesting observation, because I have heard Bill say the words (similar to) “Our offense is better when she’s working within it, not just jacking up shots. It may be that injuries are pushing Pondexter back to her old “me rescue you even if it kills us” mentality, or it may be there’s a battle going on between the two personalities. Keep an eye on this, y’all….

Gabe Salgado has A Locker Room Exclusive: My One-On-One Interview With Elena Delle Donne

In the case of Elena Delle Donne, she gives new hope to the third-largest franchise in the WNBA. Attendance at the Allstate Arena has increased, the fan base has grown and Delle Donne has given sports fans something to talk about.

Making things even better, the Sky are on pace to have their best season in team history. Currently they are 5-3 and in second place in the WNBA’s Eastern Conference, just two games behind Atlanta.

From Andrew Hartsock: Ex-KU star Angel Goodrich finding way in WNBA

It didn’t take Angel Goodrich long to learn the WNBA was a bit more rough-and-tumble than the brand of ball she played at Kansas University.

Just a few weeks into her pro career, Goodrich already has sat out one game nursing a sore knee, then most of a week — of practice, but no games — after suffering a concussion.

“It’s a lot faster, and the physicality … it’s a lot more aggressive,” Goodrich said, comparing the pro to amateur game. “Everything’s bigger and faster and stronger. But these are the top players in the country, and it’s great to be one of them, great to be a part of it.”

That was no sure thing.

An unheralded member of the WNBA team: Adelanto resident now the voice of WNBA’s Sparks

“I’ve been trained to commute,” said Bush, who has announced basketball games at Duarte High School and Pasadena City College for the last 15 years. “I’ve done about 50 or 60 games a year. Commuting isn’t an issue for your dream job.”

Bush said that announcing at Staples Center for the Sparks, not the Lakers, is in fact his dream job. He admitted that the WNBA might not be the premiere basketball league, but as a fan of the game and a longtime follower of women’s basketball, there’s nowhere he would rather be.

Speaking of the Sparks: WNBA star Lisa Leslie surprises campers, speaks about being better role models

From the College ranks:

*cue music* Under Pressure: Sydney Moss gets her release

A different kind of pressure: Former player says ousted OU women’s basketball coach pressured her over religion

A former Oakland University women’s basketball player who played for recently fired coach Beckie Francis has come forward to say she was the victim of religious intimidation and emotional abuse by Francis.

The former player, who grew up in a mixed-faith home, has practiced Islam her entire life, and she says Francis attempted to convert her to Christianity and obsessed over the player’s weight while she was playing at Oakland University.

The University Star has a Q&A With Zenarae Antoine, Women’s Basketball Coach

SR: Is good coaching when you have players buy into your personal system or base your system off their strengths?

ZA: That is a very good question. To me good coaching comes from a number of different things, it is the X’s and O’s, which is a big part of it. In addition to that, I think that you need to have the ability to relate to the current student athlete and enhance their skill sets. There’s a lot of different ways for coaches to figure out how to win. It’s the coach’s ability to be great a communicator. For things to move forward, coaches need to be able to recruit to a system that they like and they run and that works well for them. You look at some great BCS (Bowl Championship Series) schools and they just sign great players regardless of the system, those kids just make plays, and they’re freer in their system. My personal philosophy is that I like to recruit players to a system, but it’s important that I understand their limitations as well as their ability to blend together as a person, not just a basketball player.  

Nine for IX: ESPN Films’ screening of ‘Pat XO’

The roped-off area for the media and the orange carpet were clear signs that the midweek screening at a local theater wasn’t showing standard moviegoer fare. The film “Pat XO” debuted in an exclusive showing a short distance from where Pat Summitt cemented her career at the University of Tennessee.

The movie will debut across the country on July 9 at 8 p.m. Eastern on ESPN as part of the Nine for IX series – movies directed by women that focus on women’s athletics.

From M Robinson: FGCU coach Karl Smesko on the “Ackerman White Paper”, Part I: Rule changes

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Snap judgment: Don’t sleep on the Dream’s youngsters, Henry, Thomas and Bentley.

Snap judgment: It’s never to early to remind folks of Connecticut’s past bad habits: Road loses.

Snap judgment: Candace may still be a top candidate for league MVP (27pts, 20 rebounds, 4 blocks, 4 assists), but I’m guessing she’d trade that in a heartbeat for consistent scoring from Toliver and consistent distribution from Harding.

Snap judgment: Still sticking with my prediction for a playoff-less season for New York.

Snap judgment: All who agree, say “Yea”: Lynx appear miscast as WNBA’s afterthought. And yes, to l’Alien Richard’s tweet: In full flow, Mone/Moore is just a ridiculous wing combo. Cooper/Swoopes is gold standard, but this is your closest modern challenge

Snap judgment, two: It’s never to early to remind folks of Connecticut’s past bad habits: Road losses.

Snap judgment: Yes, I’m putting my money on Chicago in the Finals.

Snap judgment: Yup, the WHB curse is in full swing – sorry Atlanta youngsters…

Snap judgment: Yup, Corey’s seat in the Land of the Bun has got to be getting mighty toasty.

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