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So, THAT’s not how the Sparks and Lynx wanted to get out of the post-Olympics gate….

LA went up to Seattle and got squeezed by the Storm, 79-72. Stewie struggled, but Bird picked up the slack, hitting 5-7 from behind the arc.

“It’s surprising because we didn’t have the best offensive night. It was all about defense for us,” said guard Jewell Loyd, who finished with 15 points, seven assists and five steals with just one turnover.

Nneka continued her hot play, but it wasn’t enough.

“I think we sat around for six weeks and everybody told us how good we were and I think we softened up,” said Sparks Head Coach Brian Agler.

Maybe Excelle should play the lotto (Connecticut Sun: a team on the rise, playoffs in sight) ’cause the Lynx got stymied by the Sun (and Moore’s foul trouble)  in Connecticut, 84-80.

“We have to grind,” Sun coach Curt Miller said. “We don’t out talent anyone. There’s a reason that four of those players (on the Lynx) are on the Olympic team. We aren’t going to out-talent anyone in this league, but we have to out work and out tough.”

No one on the Lynx is pointing to the Olympics as an excuse:

“In the end, it’s probably a wash,” said Reeve, when asked before the Lynx’s 84-80 loss to the Sun if fatigue or lack of sharpness would prevail. “Any advantage they may have from being off, full-rested, maybe honing some skills, the group that was over in Rio is in game shape and has that rhythm of playing a game. That’s something you can’t simulate when you’re off.

In San Antonio, the Liberty kept their focus and dispatched the Stars, 84-77, thanks to the sweetness that is (MIP) Sugar. Hello, playoffs!

Elena Delle Donne brought the 34-point boom to Chicago as the Sky took down Atlanta, 90-82.

“We took care of the basketball, and I think the key was we married that to good offensive execution and attacked and got to the free throw line,” said Sky coach Pokey Chatman. “I think that comfort allowed us to weather the storm when we were down by seven and then up by eight. 

“It was nice to see that, and we’ll need it as we head on to Dallas.”

Speaking of Dallas, the eternal Pierson’s 23 (and 4000th) couldn’t help the Wings against Penny “sore throat” Taylor and the rest of the Merc.

Phoenix Mercury players won a combined four medals at the Rio Olympics, and more importantly, may have found the defense and chemistry that was missing before the Olympic break.

Despite falling behind by 11 early against Dallas on Friday night, the Mercury hammered the Wings 98-72 before 11,396 at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Phoenix’s most one-sided win of the season came against a team it went 0-3 against pre-Rio, including a triple overtime loss June 18 after leading 75-59 going into the fourth quarter.

Washington Post: Mystics and WNBA are back from Olympic break, but LaToya Sanders got no rest

Aussie, Aussie, ello! Mystics Sign Leilani Mitchell as Bria Hartley starts planning for a munchkin.

Slam Online: WATCH: WNBA Super20

The historic 20th WNBA season has been one for the record books. The Lynx and Sparks got off to a blazing hot start, the W has faced controversy for trying to police its players and the basketball has never been better.

With all the talent and storylines around the League, the final part of the regular season and the playoffs provide a guaranteed storybook ending.

Get hype for the rest of the 2016 campaign, picking up again tonight, with the video above, featuring highlights from the first part of the summer.

Also: Nike & WNBA Star Elena Delle Donne Donate Sneakers To Delaware Newborns

Meanwhile:

Doug Bruno savors experience with USA women’s basketball team

Baylor women’s basketball coach Kim Mulkey donates to Louisiana hometown in wake of flooding

Vermont women’s basketball cancels game at UNC over transgender bathroom law

“The decision to cancel to our Dec. 28 women’s basketball game at North Carolina was made as a result of concerns over the HB2 law, which prevents transgender people from using government-run bathrooms based on their gender identity,” University of Vermont athletic director Jeff Schulman said Wednesday. “We strive very hard to create an inclusive climate for our students and staff in which they all can feel safe, respected, and valued. It would be hard to fulfill these obligations while competing in a state with this law, which is contrary to our values as an athletic department and university.”

WATN? Rodrigo is new grad assistant for Georgia basketball

WATN? Mo’ne Davis shifts her drive to the basketball court: The Little League World Series pioneer two years later

Davis, 15, is heading into her sophomore year of high school at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy. She dreams of a career in the WNBA, and she knows the journey begins with the process of college recruitment. That’s why Davis has made the decision to forgo high school basketball this season – after representing her school as an eighth-grader and a freshman – and exclusively play AAU with the Philly Triple Threat team, where she can go head to head with the best talent in the nation.

“I made the decision because it was time to start getting out there in front of college coaches and showing my improvement over the next two years,” Davis said.

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HOT

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

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

Film Room: Assists Sparking LA’s Unbeaten Run

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

Dream’s improved chemistry key to fast start

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

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

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

Atlanta Dreaming: Meet the Upstart Leaders of the Eastern Conference

HOT and COLD

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

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

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

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

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

Fastbreak: WNBA Weekly Rundown: Streaking Sky and struggling Sun

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alysha Clark enjoying fast start to WNBA season

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

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

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

HOT MESS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In other news:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Magazine cover gives WNBA some overdue respect

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

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

NCAA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Her scouting report for UConn fans?

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

Kentucky transfer Jennings joins USC women’s basketball team

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bye: OSU women’s basketball: Close leaves program

Bye: Three women’s basketball coaches depart Marist

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

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

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

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

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

Kings’ coach recalls friendship with Muhammad Ali

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

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

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

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

INTERNATIONAL:

Opals in women’s basketball loss to Spain

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

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

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

US Coach Promotes Wheelchair Basketball in Gaza

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

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

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

POLITICS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Queenie:

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

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

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

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

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

Swish Appeal: Candace Parker’s Sparkling performace engulfs Storm

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

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

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

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

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

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

Swin back in?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A little college:  

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

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

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

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

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

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with a little somethin’ somethin’ first.

From the Player’s Tribune: Lisa Leslie

I thought I retired from basketball in 1996.

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

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

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

But then I got a call the following January …

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

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

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

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

This is the Maya Moore Era.

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

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

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

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

The full-fledged return of Candace Parker should help.

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

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

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

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

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

Kits Sun: Valavanis is the eye of the Storm

Team building and leadership started at home for Alisha Valavanis.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Damn skippy, Stef.

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

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

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

Yesterday’s games

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

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

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

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

Well, this is a good sign.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Get healthy,” Laimbeer said.

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

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

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

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Still trying to wrap my head around the Lib’s domination of Indy – mostly centered on the continued revival of Sugar’s game and the, “Wait, has it FINALLY clicked” of Kiah’s offensive game. Folks did a nice job filling the seats the “day after.”

Now it’s time to ponder what Indiana has in store for us today. I have a fondness for the Fever because, well, 1) Catch. ’nuff said 2) the coaching transition Lin and Stephanie have managed – wow, and 3) they keep you honest – smart, determined and fierce, when challenged, the whole group comes after you.

From David Woods at the Indy Star: Fever must defend better to keep season alive

Irrespective of coach or personnel, the Indiana Fever’s WNBA record of 11 successive playoff appearances was built on a foundation of defense. Cracks have been showing in this postseason.

In the past two games against Chicago (.571) and New York (.565), the Fever allowed the second- and third-highest shooting percentages in their postseason history. That can’t persist, or the Fever’s season will end Sunday.

From our AP folks: Tamika Catchings defies odds at 36 for Indiana Fever

Being down is nothing new to the third-seeded Fever. They trailed 1-0 in each of the first two rounds in 2012 and again in the first round this year before beating Chicago 2-1.

“Because we have the mental asset of having players that have been there, done that, going into the second game against Chicago, we were all on the same page,” Catchings said.

From Mechelle: Catchings, Fever need to control the game to stay alive in East finals

Back home at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse, where Indiana went 11-6 during the regular season, the Fever have to play a very different kind of game than they did in the series opener Wednesday. That 84-67 New York victory at Madison Square Garden was a best-of-the-Liberty show, as they dominated offensively from both the perimeter and the paint.

“We talk about controlling the controllables,” Fever coach Stephanie White said after Wednesday’s game. “Our effort, the hustle plays, being there on our rotations, having each other’s backs, box outs, setting great screens, using screens. We didn’t take care of our controllables.

Bill Littlefield, Only A Game (no, that is NOT a photo of the Lib coach) does a little flashback: WNBA’s Liberty Focus On Defense — Not Distractions — During Playoffs

Howard Megdal, who’s been writing about the WNBA this season for VICE Sports, feels people who attribute the Liberty’s recent achievements to Thomas fail to understand who built the team. He credits Basketball Operations Director Kristin Bernert and Coach Bill Laimbeer, who also worked together in Detroit.

“The idea that you need someone to oversee, you know, a couple of people who have had great success and have worked hand-in-glove for the better part of a decade and a half here in the WNBA defies belief,” he said. “Isiah was working hard to just get up to speed on the league.”

As Howard Megdal has noted, Thomas could hardly fail to understand the reaction he provokes in fans, even as the team over which he presides has flourished.

“I mean, there was a remarkable moment. They honored Becky Hammon, the trail-blazer and former Liberty star,” he said. “Isiah, in a very smart PR move, came out with Becky Hammon’s parents. He still got booed just the same, but he had plausible deniability. He could claim that perhaps New York didn’t like Becky Hammon’s parents.”

I wouldn’t mind a three-game series… but I have Joan Armatrading tickets on Tuesday. So… GO, LIB!!!!

The story is not much different in the Land of No Bun. Behind “Beast Brunson” (hmmm, another Georgetown kid – Go, Old Big East!) Minnesota secured a win – though certainly not in the overwhelming manner one has been accustomed to. The surprising Merc have some work to do if they want to play one more. Writes Michelle: 

After dominating Tulsa in two games in a first-round sweep and seemingly scoring at will, Phoenix went cold in Minnesota.

“We have been moving the ball well and putting up a lot of points the last month or so,” Phoenix coach Sandy Brondello said. “Maybe it was the moment, I don’t know. Some of these players haven’t been to the Western Conference Finals before. Minnesota has been there, done that, often. But we will go back to Phoenix and we know we will play better.”

From Tyler Killian: Mercury’s rebounding woes put them on the brink of elimination

Guard/forward DeWanna Bonner: “Man, they killed us on the boards. Brunson, in particular.”

Something else that should be obvious after one game of the Western Conference finals: If the Mercury can’t figure out a way to keep Brunson and the rest of the Lynx from dominating the glass, the issue that has been their biggest weakness of 2015 will be the one that ends up cutting their postseason run short.

Awards: Griner, Loyd, Defensive Team, Quigs and Seattle.

Speaking of Indiana, in other news: Lutterman, Beeler, Owen stood tall among SIAC girls’ coaching pioneers

The times they were a-changin’ in the early 1970s.

Just six days after the Watergate break-in, Title IX — authored by Indiana Senator Birch Bayh — went into effect on June 23, 1972. No longer could anybody in the United States be discriminated against on the basis of sex.

Bayh’s legislation created equal opportunities for women in academics and athletics. Although Indiana was a little behind the times, local pioneers such as Ginger Lutterman, Brenda Beeler and Louise Owen made an indelible mark that still resonates to this day.

This winter will mark the 40th anniversary of the first Indiana High School Athletic Association’s girls’ state basketball tournament.

Swish Appeal on Candice Wiggins: 

If it were your last day on earth, would you be able to say you lived life to the fullest? If you ask Candice Wiggins, she’ll respond with an ardent, “Yes.”

Watching her on the court is almost as entertaining as watching her lift her players up court-side. After Hearing her teammates speak so highly of her throughout the season – even describing her as the anchor of team, I had to find out more.

Who is Candice Wiggins, and does that energy follow her everywhere?

Bye: Brie Mobley done with UNCW basketball program

Bye: Edwards leaving ASU women’s hoops as medical exemption

Ouch: South Carolina’s Tiffany Davis Suffers Knee Injury

From Jennifer Gish, Albany Times: Women hitting athletic director glass ceiling

When I told my 7-year-old son we were going to a college football game the other week, his first question was “Women’s or men’s?”

That proved our time at the women’s tackle football championship game this summer was well spent.

For all the mistakes I’ve made as a mother — like going anywhere when any of us is hungry — I’ve completely scored when it comes to opening my little boy’s eyes to realizing sports isn’t just a man’s game. 

Too bad athletics isn’t quite there yet.

Earlier this month, Juliet Macur had an excellent column for The New York Times about how too few women hold athletic director jobs at Division I colleges. The numbers are around 11 percent for Division I. Things get slightly better at Division II and III schools, and factoring them in, women run the athletic departments at about 20 percent of colleges and universities nationwide. If you’re wondering if this is radical progress over the past 20 years — as girls have crowded tot soccer fields and U.S. women have brought home the World Cup in front of thousands of fans who know their names. In 1995, 16 percent of college athletic directors were women, according to NCAA statistics.

Any Minnesotans got info? 

Dorothy E. McIntyre, co-author of the book, Daughters of the Game – The First Era of Girls High School Basketball, 1891-1942, is seeking information on the 1924-25 Ellendale High School girls’ basketball team, coached by Mr. Bergesen, who also was the school’s principal.

In particular, McIntyre is looking for details on a gold basketball charm presented to Bergesen by the 1924-25 Ellendale boys’ and girls’ basketball teams.

The charm has the initial “E” with red inside, with 24 on the left side and 25 on the right. Below it reads, “Coach Bergesen from Boys and Girls Squads.”

The charm is unique as it was made for the players to give to their coach. The stitching and etching are clear.

What is not clear is where did the players order this charm? Jostens in Owatonna does not believe that their company made such charms in that era. Are there individuals who may have ties to the team? 

Congrats! Girls’ hoop refs to induct Fran Mitilieri in first Hall of Fame class

Speaking of officiating – As Lauren Holtkamp preps for her second season as NBA ref, she talks to Daily News about her path to the pros, Chris Paul and more 

Also speaking of officiating: For my Ohio Buckeye fan, those articles I mentioned.

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A heartfelt “THANK YOU!” to the two teams and the amazing fans in the Garden last night. You put on a helluva a show for Mr. Adam Silver aka Don’t Be A Wet Blanket, sir!

Also thrilled to see Suuuuuuuueeeeee celebrating great post play, T Edwards on the edge of her seat, and Val Ackerman one of the original “Originals” stalking the Garden steps. I even have a little love for the Dolson family – even though you were cheering for the Mystics. I see why she’s such a lovely woman…

The Lib and Mystics put on quite the show and, as many observers have noted, the electricity was back.With all my intellectual understanding of how important a NY win is to the league (no disrespect intended to the Mystics fans – they have been amazing and need to recover from some serious mis-management) I was taken aback by the surge of emotion that went through me when Stokes sealed the win with her block and Sugar super-sealed it with her free throws. It’s been a long time, kids.

By the way, FiveThirtyEight Sports – I know you say that “we don’t need no steeenkeen threes,” but I have to say that last night we sure enjoyed every single one Wiggins nailed.

Of course, as a reward, we get to play back-to-back games as we’ve been doubly evicted from the Garden.(First it was Madonna, then it was the Pope… I’m expecting Julio Iglesisas’ secret twin brother Jesus to announce a surprise concert.)

The conference finals open Wednesday in the East (ESPN2, 7 p.m. ET) when New York plays its second game at Madison Square Garden in as many days.

No. 1 New York (23-11 in the regular season) vs. No. 3 Indiana (20-14)

No offense to Washington, but from a league visibility standpoint, having New York in the Eastern Conference finals is a boost to the WNBA. But can the Liberty make it to the WNBA Finals for the first time since 2002? The team trying to stop them has more playoff experience as a franchise — 11 consecutive postseason appearances — and beat the Liberty four of five times during the regular season.

From Swish Appeal: Heavyweight battle: 5 major keys to Eastern Conference Finals

A LATE ADDITION from William: As Liberty Seek Title, Tina Charles Can Now Do More Than Dream

Charles played the full 40 minutes Tuesday and will, in all likelihood, have to play 40 more Wednesday.

No rest? No sweat.

“Being born and raised in New York, nothing is easy,” Charles said Tuesday. “Nothing really goes your way. So it doesn’t surprise me that we have to play tomorrow. It’s New York. Things like this happen. You just got to respond.”

For Charles, who was raised in Jamaica, Queens, and starred at Christ the King High School, Tuesday night brought back memories of the rocking Garden of her youth, cheering for women playing in a new women’s pro league that gave young players new horizons, new hope.

In Minnesota, the Lynx led wire-to-wire as Candace’s Superwoman cape wasn’t quite big enough. More of interest to me is the appearance of Sylvia Fowles. It looked like she was finally interested in taking an active role in this whole “pursuit of a championship” thang.

The Sparks, however, fastened their defense midway through the second half and pulled within one point early in the fourth quarter after a pair of Parker free throws.

But the experienced Lynx dug in, leaned on their veterans and rattled off a 9-0 run.

Augustus knocked down a 14-footer. Sylvia Fowles asserted herself in the paint and muscled through Sparks defenders for a couple of buckets. Superstar Maya Moore hit a step-back jumper and earned several trips to the free-throw line.

“We played on the edge every possession tonight,” Lynx point guard Lindsay Whalen said. “A couple lapses here and there, but that’s what it takes to win those games,”

In other news:

Say, what, Texas???!!!

It was a tense game between two third-grade basketball rivals, but it wouldn’t be until two months later that one team’s coach would feel the full effects.

Jessica Curs was coaching a team of 9-year-old girls in Burleson, Texas, when things got so heated that fans started heckling her, her husband and other coaches, she said. But it was when one particular fan, who turned out to be a plainclothes police officer, said he heard the coach fire back with her own comments that things escalated quickly.

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the less said about the Liberty game last night, the better (which is my excuse for the original headline typo. gak.). During the “game”, I did have a lovely chat with a with a couple of gentlemen – one of whom had been a basketball coach in Boston year’s back. Fun listening to what they saw happening on the court.

As voiced by my Garden neighbors, our biggest concern was that the egg the team just laid might move Indiana down into fourth – and no one wants to play Catchings in the playoffs… in her next-to-last (last – thx L.E. Brain freeze.) season… even if the Fever are on a 50-50 stretch lately. This Sunday’s games will settle the East, ’cause the Fever won yesterday.

Playoffs:

New York vs. Washington or Indiana

  • Game 1 – Friday, September 18, Washington or Indiana at New York, 7 p.m., NBA TV
  • Game 2 – Sunday, September 20, New York at Washington or Indiana, 1 p.m., ESPN
  • Game 3 – Tuesday, September 22, Washington or Indiana at New York*, TBD, ESPN2

Chicago vs. Indiana or Washington

  • Game 1 – Thursday, September 17, Indiana or Washington at Chicago, 8 p.m, ESPN2
  • Game 2 – Saturday, September 19, Chicago at Indiana or Washington, 7 p.m., NBA TV
  • Game 3 – Monday, September 21, Indiana or Washington at Chicago*, 8 p.m., NBA TV

Western Conference

Minnesota vs. Los Angeles

  • Game 1 – Friday, September 18, Los Angeles at Minnesota, 9 p.m., NBA TV
  • Game 2 – Sunday, September 20, Minnesota at Los Angeles, 3 p.m., ESPN
  • Game 3 – Tuesday, September 22, Los Angeles at Minnesota*, TBD, ESPN2

Phoenix vs. Tulsa

  • Game 1 – Thursday, September 17, Tulsa at Phoenix, 10 p.m., ESPN2
  • Game 2 – Saturday, September 19, Phoenix at Tulsa, 9 pm., NBA TV
  • Game 3 – Monday, September 21, Tulsa at Phoenix*, 10 p.m. ET, NBA TV

At ESPN, M&M offer their picks for the end of the season award winners.

David talks to Ros on Dishin’ & Swishin’ to answer the question: “Are the Liberty the Best Team in the WNBA?”

History Heads Up for tomorrows Connecticut Sun/Chicago Sky game: Joanne Lannin will have a table on the concourse before, during, and after the game, where she’ll be selling and signing her book Finding a Way to Play. Drop by and visit!

ALSO, if you want to buy a last-minute ticket to the game at the box office, mention Lannin’s name and say you are part of her “group” and you’ll get a discount ($10 for a $22 seat).

Speaking of (Naismith Hall of Fame) history: Lisa, Lisa, Lisa.

When Lisa Leslie enters the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Friday, she will do so as one of the greatest WNBA basketball players of all time. 

Leslie won the WNBA MVP award three times and was named to the All-WNBA first team in eight seasons. Her Los Angeles Sparks teams won the WNBA title twice. In 2002, she became the first player in the league’s history to dunk. 

Leslie – along with a group of players around since the inception of the league like Sheryl Swoopes, Rebecca Lobo and Teresa Witherspoon [sic] – is part of the fabric of the WNBA. She’s a major reason the league was successful, and the league was a major reason Leslie’s profile made her internationally recognizable during her career. 

However, none of that was clear when Leslie entered the new league in 1997 and joined the Los Angeles Sparks. 

WATN? Pee Wee Johnson named Coker women’s basketball coach

Former WNBA all-star and Olympic gold medalist Shannon Johnson was named head women’s basketball coach at Coker College.

Johnson returns to her hometown to lead the NCAA Division II program after four seasons as assistant at Northwestern State.

WATN? Cleveland Rockers: Toreros Add Mery Andrade to Coaching Staff

Sending healing thoughts: Cancer battle sidelines longtime Corcoran girls basketball coach Jim Marsh

For the first time in 32 seasons, Jim Marsh won’t be on the bench for the Corcoran High School girls basketball program.

The 54-year-old coach, whose teams have won eight Section III titles and two state championships, is in a battle with Stage 4 liver cancer.

It’s a fight in which school administrators, fellow coaches and teachers, and scores of former players and students all are pulling for a victory for Marsh, whose 493 careers wins at Corcoran are the most by a girls basketball coach in Section III.

From the Players’ Tribune: Sugar Rogers.

I’m going to tell you something I haven’t even told most of my New York Liberty teammates. When I go to bed at night, I triple check the lock on my door. Then I slide a chair in front of the door. Then I keep the TV on mute to keep me company while I fall asleep. 

I’m still dealing with anxiety from something that happened to me when I went back to visit my family in the South. A relative who I am very close to had just moved out of the projects and into a nice neighborhood. Let’s call her Tanya. She’s a little older than me — she’s 29, and I’m 25. So Tanya’s three young kids are like my nieces and nephews. It was a big deal for the kids to get out of the public housing atmosphere. When I got down there, they were all excited to show me the house. 

I was asleep on a couch in the living room when I heard their side door slam. Bam. It shook me awake. My first thought was that it was Tanya’s boyfriend coming home. But then I pulled out my phone and I saw the time: 3:49 a.m. For some reason, I’ll never forget that. Years and years of survival instincts took over and I thought, Uh oh. This isn’t right. 

When I rolled over and looked toward the back door, I saw a man in a red hoodie holding a gun. He walked towards the couch. Behind him, another man held a machine gun.

Also from PT: Full Court and  Liberty 1440.

In the second episode of 1440, we follow four New York Liberty players on a rare occasion: an off day. From mini golf with Kiah Stokes’ mom, to a Brooklyn museum with Candice Wiggins, to a charity event hosted by Epiphanny Prince and back on the court with Sugar Rodgers, each player decompresses and regenerates in their own, personal way.

And more: Swin Cash, City Kids

And more: Jewell Loyd, Going Home

And more: Real Fan Life: Layshia Clarendon and Jeremy Sisto

And more: 

In the latest installment of Players’ POV, New York Liberty players and WNBA veterans Swin Cash, Tanisha Wright and Essence Carson speak personally on race, gender and the visibility of all professional female athletes, from media coverage and stereotypes, to the need for diversity and inclusion. 

Theirs is a message for all.

One would hope that it would be a “message for all,” but there’s no guarantee “all” will hear it. Women’s Basketball fans, players, coaches, journalists, parents have encountered the fear-based misogyny, homophobia and racism that comes with being associated with women’s athletics. It’s amazing how insecure folks are when their perceived “norm” within an established power structure is challenged. There are some who can’t just “not like” women’s sports. They feel the need to insult, attack and demean all those involved (Flashing back, in this “Summer of Female Athletes,” to that aptly titled classic – “The Stronger Women Get, the More Men Love Football.” And, of course, we know that this fear-based cowardice is not a uniquely male territory).

That need to demean and insult is one of the reasons I don’t have comments on this blog. But, folks can email me, because I believe in dialogue. Over the years I’ve been fortunate enough to get lots of lovely notes (and news links), some spam and very little trash. Recently, I engaged a sad excuse for a human being who inhabited the twitter-sphere. Why? Because he wished something particularly vicious upon Serena Williams. It read as a form of instigation/inspiration to other hate-mongers  – and there are too many examples of people reading that dreck and taking it upon themselves to put thoughts into action.

Secondly, I took further action against this quivering ball of misogyny because he’d identified himself an aspiring journalist and contributor to an area news service. AND he was stupid enough to name that organization (as well as his current “alleged” employer, Genentech, a company he claims could care too hoots about employees publicly wishing death on female athletes.)

I am very aware that what say I as “Helen, basketball fan and opinonator” in my itty-bitty space in the social media world is connected to my role in my professional world. It amazes me that others forget that – even as example after example play out in today’s news. Besides, media outlets are under enough pressure to survive – they don’t need the kind of attention the original tweet was drawing… So, I wrote a polite note to his sport editor about the twit-comment, suggesting that have a conversation with his employee about professionalism and the fact that “What happens on social media stays on social media.” The news outlet responded quite quickly (seems, despite his claim, it had been a long time since the twitter-author had been a contributor) and promised to take action.

No surprise, being held accountable for his public hate-think upset this poor twitter-putz. So, of course, he sent me an email full of attempts to insult me. But, honestly, I just had to laugh because they were sooooooo old-school-lame. And I quote:

blah, blah, blah an old, lonely cat lady blah, blah, blah anything to keep you busy and make you feel connected to the actual world blah, blah, blah uppity feminist pain in the ass blah, blah, blah reporting’ about women who look like men, struggling to make lay ups and simple bounce passes blah, blah, blah easier to win when you are built like a man blah, blah, blah you probably just need to get laid blah, blah, blah

I mean really, aren’t you tempted to send him that “How to be a Racist, Misogynistic Homophobe in the 2010’s” handbook that gets passed around in certain man-caves? Might not help, though, cause it’s clear none of what he’d heard during the Walter Cronkite seminars he allegedly attended seems to have stuck.

Anyway, this is just to that, as a slightly wise, semi-old, very un-lonely cat lady with plenty to do in the actual world, I embrace being an “uppity feminist pain in the ass.” (Hmm, is there another t-shirt in the making?). I will continue to reporting about women executing fabulous feats of athleticism on the court. I will celebrate the fact that there are other men and women who embrace the female athlete’s embodiment of physical strength and determination. And I will do all that knowing it has absolutely no impact on my sex life.

But I also know what I encountered is just a fraction of what others experience on a daily basis. And that not everyone can be resilient in the face of such bone-deep, destructive and irrational hate.

So I encourage all who can to acknowledge, address, and engage those who use cruelty to tear down what they fear (in themselves and in the world). Embrace all those who make up our community. Be an ally. Be a resource. Be a supporter.

Because, if we do, in the end the scoreboard will read: #FearStrikesOut and #LoveWins.

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