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Almost.

My brain moved my flight up 36 hours. Luckily I looked at my reservation and went, “Hey, I’m not leaving until Sunday night!” That’s what comes of purchasing a ticket months ago. It also means I can go in to the office Saturday and finish up some final bits of business instead of staying there deep into the night….

Brittney didn’t miss her flight, and Geno seems wicked happy.

“I was worried,” Griner admitted. “I was worried about my eye, honestly. I had a teammate lose her eyesight playing basketball in college, so that was always in the back of my mind. I wanted to make sure my eye was okay, and also, I wanted to play with USA Basketball. So, it would have sucked bad to get bad news twice. When I heard that I was able to come play, I hopped on a plane, came in and started practicing.”

Speaking of wicked happy, if you can’t fly to Turkey for the FIBA World Championship (notice the singular – thanks CW), you’re in luck: the games are being broadcast and, because the US is the featured game (often 9:3opm) the time difference works in your favor. Tomorrow, for instance, USA faces China at 2:30 p.m. EDT.

All games will be carried by NBA TV and ESPN3/Watch ESPNThe gold medal game, regardless of who advances, will air on ESPN2 at 11am PT on Oct. 5. If you don’t have NBA TV, the Watch ESPN app or ESPN via your computer, you can pay a $10 subscription to watch the full tournament on LiveBasketball.TV. Or/And use the hashtag #Turkey2014 on Twitter to get updates and commentary about the competition.

From Geno: Are you happy to finally get the games started tomorrow?

I am. I think the first one is always the most difficult. You’re not quite sure what you’re going to get. You want to obviously get off to a great start and set the tone for the way the tournament’s going to go. In this case, too, we’re anxious to see how Brittney’s going to fit in. We haven’t played a game with her yet. We’ve had two practices with her. I guess by USA Basketball standards, that’s a long time. But I think that all the players and I’ve noticed in the past two days in practice that there’s a sharper focus. Now that we’re here, it’s right there in front of us. So, we’re pretty excited about it.

Thanks to the AP, Doug is in Turkey to cover the game. Support him and click through and read the full story: US women set to defend hoop title at world tourney

The U.S. has only lost once at the worlds since 1998, but suffered a rare defeat in an exhibition game against France last weekend.

That setback raised a few eyebrows heading into the tournament, which begins Saturday in Istanbul.

“There are a lot of really good teams in the tournament and we’re one of them,” said coach Geno Auriemma “For us or anyone else to think we’re anything more than that is not being really objective about this whole thing.”

I don’t know if anyone from ESPN is in Turkey, but Lee from Full Court is: 2014 Women’s World Championship officially opens in Istanbul

“The country should be very proud of the success achieved by the women’s national team,” added Elphinston. “They performed very well at the 2012 London Olympics, as well as at the European level, and most recently also at the youth level. This is an example of what hard work combined with strong government and commercial support can do to take the sport to the next level.”

In Istanbul or not, Mechelle can still write: Team USA ready to take on the world

Those involved with USA Basketball tend to lament the lack of time that the American team gets to spend together preparing for major events, especially compared to most other nations.

But one of the things that’s interesting about the 2014 version that starts play in the 2014 FIBA World Championship on Saturday in Turkey (ESPN3, 2:30 p.m. ET) is how much familiarity actually is a part of this squad — at least pods of familiarity.

NBC OlympicTalk (?!?!)’s Nick Zaccardi is Analyzing the U.S. women’s basketball roster for World Championships

Oh, Canada: Canadian women’s basketball team set for FIBA world championship – At familiar grounds in Turkey, the Canadian women’s basketball team appears poised for success ahead of the biggest stage in the sport.

The vivid recollections washed over them and the wonderful moments became fresh in their minds as members of the Canadian women’s basketball team walked in the Ankara Arena in Turkey for practice Wednesday afternoon.

For the majority of the 12-woman team, recalling the last time they’d played a significant game on the court was enough to buoy their confidence going into the world championship that begins Saturday morning.

More Canada: Special times for the Nurse family

This has to be such an exciting time for the Nurse family.

Not only is UConn freshman Kia Nurse preparing to play for Canada in the FIBA World Championship for Women which starts on Saturday, but her older brother Darnell is making a serious push at making the opening-night roster for the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers.

So who’s the competition? WNBAlien Richard meets Dishin’ & Swishin’ Dave. Richard knows his international basketball players.

You’ll know some of them, too: 35 Current and Former WNBA Players to Compete in 2014 FIBA World Championship

From FIBA: Global celebration of women’s basketball officially open

“This tournament is about a lot more than Turkey. It is about continuing the emergence of basketball across the globe, in all five continents.

“Hosting this Championship is part of a journey that began over 20 years ago, when we set out to become a leading basketball nation and that meant doing so both in men’s and women’s basketball. The great sporting results we have achieved in recent years are a proof of this.”

Also from FIBA: USA the team to beat as 2014 FIBA World Championship for Women set to tip off Saturday

Mechelle and Graham argue about who’s the most important player on the National Team.

Brittney Griner is a presence unlike any other available to Team USA. Or available to the rest of the world, for that matter.

The opportunity in front of her is unlike that in front of any other player on the American roster.

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I voted for Minnesota’s Maya Moore as the WNBA’s MVP this season, and had no qualms about that. But we saw that the MVP for the playoffs was Phoenix’s Diana Taurasi, and I think that status will continue into the upcoming world championship.

I’d say “Ignore Angel at your peril:” Talking Turkey With Olympic Champion Angel McCoughtry

Earlier this month Angel McCoughtry was practicing with her USA Basketball teammates in Annapolis, Maryland, not far from her hometown of Baltimore.

Now she is prepping her teammates for her second home of Istanbul, Turkey. 

McCoughtry, a 6-foot-1 forward who helped Team USA to gold medals at the 2010 FIBA World Championship for Women and the London 2012 Olympic Games, plays professionally for Fenerbahҫe in Istanbul. The upcoming FIBA World Championship for Women, set for Sept. 27-Oct. 5, will be played in Turkey with the gold-medal game being held in the same arena where McCoughtry plays with her pro team. 

“The people there love basketball, both for the men and the women,” McCoughtry said. “And I’m so excited to show my teammates around Turkey

Sue says : “The five that start on the bench could be the starters”

LH : What’s the strength of this team ? Your physicality ?

SB : Well, you know, we have a lot of strengths, we are very lucky ! One that is think is huge, and will help us in a tournament like the World Cup where we have 3 games in a row then a little bit of a break before three other games in a row, is our depth. We are not going to rely on 6-7 players, like some countries do. We have a very talented team. The five that start on the bench could be the starters, easily. Like I said, I think that is probably our biggest advantage. Then, yes, of course, we have some very talented players.

Espana: Laia Palau : “Sancho Lyttle represents more than half of this team’s strength”

Ladyhoop : You lost one of your team’s important figures in Amaya Valdemoro, who retired.

L.P. : Indeed ! She did great things for us and we are going to miss her but we have to look forward. We gave the ball to other players, like Alba or Xargay. The youngsters are playing very well, furthermore. This year, we got Ann Cruz, coming from the WNBA. We have young players with a lot of experience.

The Opals say: “We’re not fazed by loss of Lauren Jackson and Liz Cambage

While Joyce stressed only a team effort would cover the losses, he singled out veteran Penny Taylor as a figure capable of inspiring the team.

Taylor, 33, will captain the Opals in Turkey after fighting her way back from two injury-plagued seasons.

“Penny has the ability to raise the standard in others and that’s what leadership is from my point of view,” Joyce said of Taylor, who this month won a WNBA title with Phoenix.

“We certainly need that right now with everything that’s happened.”

And let’s not forget they have Mini Mi! Leilani Mitchell : “We played our first three games together here in Paris”

I’m waiting for something new from Paul Nilsen, but until it arrives, you’ll just have to settle for this piece from May pondering, Who will be the center of attention in Turkey?

Kevin Tresolini hits the big time as his piece on EDD lands in USAToday: Elena Delle Donne hopes home cooking will be the cure

A basketball season undermined by illness and injury is over sooner than Elena Delle Donne would have preferred.

The U.S. begins play in the FIBA World Championships on Saturday in Turkey. But Delle Donne is not on its 12-woman roster because of a bulging disk in her lower back.

Still, the former Ursuline Academy and University of Delaware All-American, less than two weeks removed from the Chicago Sky being swept in the WNBA Finals, has already made progress toward recovery.

And 2016, with the Summer Olympics positioned on the August calendar, remains firmly in her sights as well.

In other news:

Nate is keeping busy: 2014 WNBA rookies who deserve All-Rookie honorable mentions

As the 2014-15 NCAA season approaches, we’ll begin breaking down the top prospects for the 2015 WNBA Draft in the next few days. But before moving on completely to next year, it helps to take stock of how the 2014 rookie class performed beyond those who got All-Rookie recognition.

Sorry haters, it doesn’t look like the 18-year-old WNBA is going to collapse just yet: High quality competition boosts WNBA, fans

Across many regions including these Twin Cities, the WNBA is establishing a root that is growing. 

As proof, look no further than the exciting three-game Western Conference Final (WCF) series between the Minnesota Lynx and eventual WNBA champion, Phoenix Mercury. With central young stars Maya Moore and Britney Griner at the root of the rivalry, both the Twin Cities and Phoenix can lean back and look forward to a decade of should-see-TV.

Awesome: 21 ways we love WNBA champ Brittney Griner

It was the summer of Brittney – not the singer with one T but the gay Houston native with two. Hang on tight, because you’re about to love this lesbian WNBA All Star, even if you’ve been living under a sports-free rock.

Brittney Griner’s reign actually goes way beyond this past summer. It’s Griner’s whole year, and we’re just living in it. In a relative flash, the Nimitz High School basketball star has gone from Texas phenom to national treasure. Now everything she touches makes gay Houston proud.

Griner put the LGBT nation on notice in 2013. That’s when the No. 1 draft pick out of Baylor came out as gay matter-of-factly to the roar of lesbian basketball fans. Her star’s rise gained momentum off the court when she stood up to bullies, became a Nike menswear model, wrote a book “In My Skin,” and wowed a star-studded gay crowd.

OK. I admire Becky as much as anyone (thanks, Robin). But can some please break the pencil of the next writer who uses “undrafted” and “Hammon” together with out the qualifier: Because the bloody ABL talent flooded the bloody WNBA pool. I mean, friggin’ Jennifer Rizzotti was drafted 48th!

WATN? Tangela Smith: Western Michigan.

WATN? Le’Coe Willingham: Tennessee State.

Surprise! (NOT): Stephanie White takes over as Fever’s head coach

“I’m so glad that it is happening in this state. I’m so glad that it is happening with this franchise. To play at every level in my home state and now to be the head coach of the pro team is a pretty surreal moment,” White said in a phone interview Tuesday night. “I’m just realizing how humbling and special this moment is.”

More on Steph from the Indy Star: New Fever coach Stephanie White altered her career plan from astronaut to WNBA leader

Speaking of coaches, nice to see that hullabaloo was nothing but smoke: Holy Cross, Coach Bill Gibbons Agree To Contract Extension

Old Big East Flashback: Ieva Kublina, whose stellar career helped the women’s basketball program to four consecutive postseason appearances and ended with 95 consecutive starts, is the newest member of the  Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame.

Jayda continues her Storm exit interviews: All-Star Crystal Langhorne filled a void in the paint

Unfortunately, this doesn’t surprise me: Qatar out of women’s basketball over hijab row

The wearing of hijabs has become a hot topic in sport in recent years with Muslim athletes complaining that they are being discriminated against.

Judoka Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shaherkani hit the headlines at the 2012 London Olympics when Saudi Arabia demanded she be allowed to compete wearing a hijab.

While international judo federation rules at the time barred her from doing so, Shaherkani was eventually allowed to compete wearing a modified veil.

Human Rights Watch told Reuters it should have been up to FIBA to prove why Qatari players should not wear headscarves.

“We oppose any general ban on wearing of headscarves and onus should be on the regulator to prove why a ban is necessary on the basis of health and safety,” it said.

“In the case of basketball, it’s difficult to see how a ban on the headscarf is anything other than an unnecessary restriction on the players’ rights to religious freedom and personal autonomy.”

We’re not surprised, because we know the history:

You may have heard the story of former Memphis and Indiana State women’s basketball player Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir: she was the first Muslim woman to play NCAA Division I basketball wearing hijab (after breaking Rebecca Lobo’s high school scoring record in Massachusetts).

Yet since graduating from Indiana State, she has led the fight against FIBA’s rules restricting headwear in international competition.

As with most women’s basketball players, the Massachusetts native aspired to pursue a professional career internationally. However, FIBA’s ban on wearing headgear (that also affects Jewish and Sikh men) has kept her from playing overseas.

It’s been a long, tough day, so we’re going to add (and end on) a positive note: Just put in an order for 170 tickets to the Maggie Dixon Classic on January 4th at the Garden. I had — just HAD to round it up, so I do have three extra tickets in case you’re cranky you missed your chance to join us. Just email me: womenshoopsblog @ gmail.com.

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Richard fills in the void: Top seeds defend home court in contrasting fashion

With Catchings and Douglas both having mediocre offensive nights, the Fever were fortunate that some of their supporting players decided to show up for this game. Zellous off the bench continued to add her driving and aggressive mentality to the mix, while Tangela Smith was firing away from outside and hitting more than she missed. Early in the game it was McCoughtry leaving her far too open, attracted to the ball when she should’ve stayed home with Smith on the perimeter. Later it was the post players, used to their assignments to close down the paint, and unable to rotate out quickly enough to close down the space and challenge Smith’s shots. It was almost like she was playing the Tina Charles role from the previous series – except Smith wants to be out there, and you need to worry about her beyond the three-point line. Already with 15 points (3-5 from beyond the arc), Smith continued to punish the Dream in the fourth quarter. She hit another three to take the Fever lead to 63-59, and yet another to stretch it to 68-62 with five minutes to play – at some stage, Atlanta were probably going to have to pay some attention to her out there.

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Both home teams won, putting each just this close to the Finals.

In Minnesota, the mayors are getting into some fun smack talk, but it was Phoenix that was smacked around. Writes Jim Souhan at the Star Tribune:

Then, on Thursday, [Glen Taylor] got to watch the most dominant playoff performance by a Minnesota basketball team since Kevin Garnett was jumping onto scorers’ tables.The Lynx beat the Phoenix Mercury 95-67 at Target Center, for the first time in four playoff games this season demonstrating just how dominant this team could and should be.

That’s 95 points in 40 minutes for a team that doesn’t benefit from the automatic baskets known as dunks. It’s hard to score 95 points in 40 minutes in a layup line. The Lynx did it in its first appearance in the Western Conference finals.

Coach Gaines recommends fans and other such folks not get ahead of themselves:

“It is one game, we’ve been there, done that,” said Mercury coach Corey Gaines, referring not only tp the Seattle series but championship runs in 2007 and 2009. “We didn’t play well, it happens. Are you guys writing us off?”

Oh, and do you agree with Richard’s tweet? Hilarious listening to Geno say the same stuff we say on boards to a national TV audience. And Ward and Lobo stunned into silence :).

In Indy, Dunn was fined for her comments about the officiating, but it may be Angel who may be wondering what the heck happened: it took her 17 minutes to foul out.

(WHB note: Now, someone I love and respect recently suggested I love officials.

I don’t, per se. I know they make mistakes. And I certainly know that everyone and their father has an opinion about their profession and thinks they have a bias for/against a team or a certain players. And, heck, in some cases, they may have a point.  But I am beyond weary of folks whining and complaining about the officiating and not either 1) taking responsibility for the possibility that their own actions put them in a situation or 2) actually playing the game instead of nagging the officials while the rest of their team gets back on defense.

You can disagree and be upset. But show some respect. Or else, allow the officials to mouth off, too. Heck, I’d pay the fine to hear what they had to say about some decisions coaches and/or players have made…. Back to our regularly scheduled programming.)

So, in Indianapolis, the “old” Tan Smith reappeared and lifted her Fever to a win.

There’s something endearing about a player who, after being the star in a very important game for her team, jokes that it was about time.

“I just took advantage of how they were playing us,” said Indiana Fever forward Tangela Smith, who led the way with 25 points in the Fever’s 82-74 Game 1 victory in the Eastern Conference finals Thursday against the Atlanta Dream. “They were so focused on Catch, Tammy and Dougie that they left me wide open. Maybe because I haven’t been hitting all year.”

Smith, you may be saying, what about Tamika? Well, noted Bob Kravitz, Game 1 epitomized Catchings’ MVP credentials

Catchings’ statistics in Thursday night’s 82-74 Game 1 victory over the Atlanta Dream didn’t scream “MVP,” but if you saw it, if you felt it, you knew it was so much more than merely 12 points and 13 rebounds. On a night when she struggled with her shooting, Catchings simply willed herself and her team to a victory.

She did it with defense, drawing two charges against Atlanta’s top scorer, Angel McCoughtry, who fouled out of the game. She did it with rebounds, grabbing six of her 13 in the fourth quarter. She did it with unselfishness, twice passing to Smith for open 3s in the fourth. She did it with aggression, altering the tone of the fourth quarter with one memorable play: She stole the ball at midcourt, drove fearlessly to the basket and tossed up a flying prayer that you wouldn’t dare try in a H-O-R-S-E game. It went in.

NEXT!

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the Lib are lobbying to play SASS for the rest of the season.

Fortunately for the Merc, they had the Shock on their schedule, so the got to notch another win. (Are Shock fans grateful?)

Talkin’ about an evolution *listen* (Hey, if you remember when Tracy had that first hit, then you’ll forgive the alteration) From the Washington Examiner (who tap the AP’s Cliff Brunt): WNBA changes game in 15 years

Tamika Catchings knew she couldn’t settle.

The two-time Olympic gold medalist starred for the Indiana Fever for nearly a decade as one of the WNBA’s best and most popular players, but she was disappointed in her outside shooting during the 2009 season and felt the world’s rising basketball stars nipping at her heels.

Seeking an edge, she hired shooting coach Marvin Harvey. After tireless offseason work, she shot a career-best 45 percent from 3-point range in 2010 and was second in league MVP balloting.

Tangela Smith, Catchings’ teammate with the Fever, made her WNBA debut 14 years ago as a traditional post player with mostly back-to-the-basket moves. Now, she’s best known for making 3-pointers and stretching defenses — she made just 106 3s her first 11 years in the league, but has hit 100 in nearly 2½ seasons since.

The players’ stories offer examples of how much women’s basketball has changed.

Speakin’ of evolution, from the Pioneer Press’  Tim Leighton: Minnesota Lynx’s Maya Moore hasn’t made a huge impact in WNBA

Assigning herself a letter grade for the first nine games of her WNBA career was a humbling exercise for Lynx rookie Maya Moore.

She was pleased with her hustle and scoring in transition but said she wanted to be a more aggressive rebounder and better perimeter defender.

“I’d give myself something in the B range,” she said. “I’m not totally happy about that. I still have plenty of work to do.’

Still speakin’ of evolution: From the Indy Star’s Bob Kravitz: Let’s not kill WNBA over NBA lockout

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Graham has his mid-major poll (‘ware the owls. Especially if they’re long-eared). Hello, ‘spoon!

Chris Hansen has news of a top recruit going to UConn. HoopGurlz lasho has the Powerade Fab 50 rankings – Week 9.

Charlie chatted about brackets and such.

Mechelle tweets that Tangela Smith is going to the Fever.

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“I’m not done yet!”

As reported by others previously, Washing Mystics guard Alana Beard and Phoenix Mercury center Tangela Smith are currently doing a management internship with Jamba Juice in Emeryville, California. Both have visions of owning their own business after their basketball careers and are getting their feet wet doing everything from washing dishes to going over PNL models with the CFO.

I had a chance to chat with both Beard and Smith on the job today and discussed the experience and their aspirations after basketball. For Smith, who already holds the WNBA record for games played, life after basketball could begin in the next couple of years.

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