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*lifts head up from the start of the new school year*

Tonight on the Deuce, we get Washington v. Atlanta (congrats, Coach T!), followed by Phoenix v. L.A.

Discuss:

Mechelle: Mystics ride momentum into playoffs – Washington seeks first playoff win since 2002

It was three years ago — although it might seem like a lifetime to Mystics fans — that Washington and Atlanta met in the first round of the WNBA playoffs.

The Mystics had finished first in the Eastern Conference for the first time in 2010, while the Dream were fourth. But Atlanta swept Washington 2-0, Mystics coach Julie Plank and general manager Angela Taylor both departed (with some acrimony) after the season, and Washington won a combined 11 games over the next two seasons under coach/GM Trudi Lacey.

OK, just try to put that all out of your minds, Mystics fans. This season was a fresh start under veteran coach Mike Thibault.

The WaPo brings back Gene: Washington Mystics hope to continue recent strong play in WNBA playoffs

After directing a cultural shift within the organization during the regular season, first-yearWashington Mystics Coach Mike Thibault’s rebuilding project moves into Phase 2 on Thursday night when his club faces the Atlanta Dream in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

The Mystics (17-17) are the No. 3 seed following a season in which they more than tripled their win total from last year. They are making their first playoff appearance since 2010.

From WNBAlien: 2013 WNBA Playoff Previews: Eastern Conference First Round – Atlanta Dream vs. Washington Mystics

These teams finished tied with .500 records in the Eastern Conference, but arrived there by very different routes. Washington were a ‘win two here, lose three there’ kind of team all season long. They’d fight out a few results, then lose their way for a while, then remember what they needed to do to win games again. Just to make it this far has to be considered a success for Mike Thibault and his squad, considering the disastrous couple of years under Trudi Lacey that preceded this season. Meanwhile, Atlanta started the year 10-1, and then dropped into something resembling freefall. For those of you who can do basic math, you’ll be able to calculate that they went 7-16 over the remainder of the season. Injuries hit them hard, and it was a struggle to overcome them enough to regain real form in the second half of the year – plus not everyone is back. Both these teams are somehow predictably unpredictable, which makes foretelling how their series is going to play out rather tricky.

From Bob Corwin at Full Court: ATL vs. WAS playoff preview: Can the Dream put the pieces back together in postseason?

On paper, this series should be easy to call. Look at the Dream roster: It has more world class players and thus should be expected to win. However, the games are not played on paper and the subplots in this series could make it much more competitive and interesting than a casual fan might anticipate.

In spite of what pundits predict, the WNBA narrative often does not behave according to the script laid out for it.

Michelle: Stars, offenses take center stage – Best-of-three series opens in Los Angeles on Thursday

With a pair of high-scoring, star-studded teams, this might be the best first-round matchup of the WNBA postseason. The two teams, which haven’t met in the playoffs since 2009, split the season series after Los Angeles closed the regular season with a 34-point win over the depleted Mercury on Sunday.

And more Michelle: Sparks look to step it up in playoffs

 There’s an edge to the playoff conversation in the Sparks locker room.

Hunger, no doubt about it. But the Sparks don’t necessarily feel like they’ve played their best basketball yet.

And they’re impatient to get to that level.

“There are a lot of areas where we still need to improve,” coach Carol Ross said.

From Clay at Full Court: LA vs. PHX playoff preview: Can the Mercury pull it together for the postseason?

It comes down to this: Did Phoenix have time to put the pieces of the puzzle together despite the injuries and the coaching change?

If so, the Mercury have lots of weapons, and enough firepower to give anyone trouble. The timetable, though, was a little rushed, and if the team hasn’t completely gelled, it could be a rough postseason ride — as was indicated in the 89-55 pounding the Mercury took by the Sparks to close the season on Sunday.

No surprise, the ‘Kellians have some issues with that last observation, so they discuss it with Clay.

From Melissa at the LA Times (finally!) Sparks’ Candace Parker aims to go the distance in postseason this time

During a recent Sparks practice, Candace Parker paused the scrimmage three times to give her teammates instructions on defense.

She wasn’t going to allow the Sparks to make any mistakes before they begin their best-of-three first-round playoff series against Phoenix on Thursday at Staples Center (7 p.m.; TV: ESPN2).

“It certainly helps when the face of your franchise is locked in, because it makes it a lot easier for everyone to get in there as well,” Sparks Coach Carol Ross said.

The Sparks haven’t won a WNBA championship since winning titles in 2001 and 2002. The drought seems endless to Parker, who was selected by the Sparks as the top overall pick in the 2008 draft.

From Odeen at Arizona Central: Whether shooting or passing, Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi makes her point(s) (take that, .com dude)

No other player in the league affects her team’s scoring output more than the Mercury’s Diana Taurasi. Whether she puts the ball in the basket or helps a teammate do it, Taurasi influences the scoreboard as much as the person who pushes the button to change it.

This season, Taurasi scored 20.3 points and recorded 6.2 assists per game. Both averages were second-highest in the league. The assists average is a career high.

For Taurasi, accumulating a high assist average is simple.

“When you have DB (DeWanna Bonner), Penny (Taylor), (Candice) Dupree, BG (Brittney Griner),” Taurasi said, “if you don’t average six (assists per game), you suck.”

Odeen also offers up: Phoenix Mercury hitting stride as playoffs begin

“As a unit, I definitely think so,” forward Penny Taylor said. “We’ve made adjustments and, obviously, we have everyone healthy. We have had everyone out there for a couple of games. In implementing a lot of things that we’re doing, especially in the defensive end, I feel like everyone is getting it together.”

Ummm…. Yummy? Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner taste test: Bacon

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Just when I was feeling all pessimistic and such, what with me attending the last Lib home game and seeing lots of folks in the stands and NO ONE AT THE EXIT DOOR HANDING OUT PLAYOFF INFORMATION much less COME BACK, BRING SOMEONE AND THEY GET 50% OFF!!! (It was fun watching ‘tude Sr (Plenette) go hip to elbow against ‘tude In Training (Glory)). Oh, and BTW, Michelle’s not particularly optimistic about the Libs chances: Liberty have no answer for Charles

Anyway — back to the miracle: Mystics, Lacey To Part Ways

How much does the possibility of snagging Griner play in to Marynell’s thought process?

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but who’s holding the bomb: Trudi or the franchise as a whole?

A little news outta Chicago: Young stepping up when Chicago needs her most

Tamera Young is the definition of a swing player. She can switch from forward to guard and back. Need her to shut down the opposing team’s best perimeter player? She’ll do it. Having problems with the point guard penetrating the Sky defense too easily? Young is on it. Heck, she’ll even play the point if Chicago head coach Pokey Chatman asks her to.

 

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A Q&A with Coach Stringer about the 40th Anniversary of Title IX

When you think back on your life, how might it have been different with Title IX?

I didn’t have the advantage of a Title IX. As a result, I saw women in the more traditional roles (housewife, teacher, etc.). Now, you see women doing everything. They’re CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. I think, with Title IX, I might have been given a full scholarship to play basketball. Think about it, maybe I would’ve wanted to become a doctor. Who knows? But I couldn’t have done that. Look at how many women simply couldn’t afford to go to college. I was a poor kid.

Another Q&A, this time with Ann Meyers Drysdale: The former basketball star, the first female athlete to receive a four-year scholarship from UCLA, discusses the landmark equal-rights legislation Title IX (passed 40 years ago) and her new memoir

Q: What athletic performance — your own included — would you point to as the ultimate validation of Title IX?

“For me, it has to be my own. . . . We didn’t have enough money for me to ever attend UCLA, but because of Title IX, I got an education at UCLA. I think my Pacers tryout is part of the history of Title IX, as well. I know Lynette Woodard, an All-American at Kansas, told me it gave her the courage to try out for the Harlem Globetrotters, and I’d hope it gave others the courage to pursue their dreams.”

Michelle Smith writes about a couple of folks who’ve benefited from Title IX: Guard play puts Sun atop East

Kara Lawson, in her 10th season in the league, is experiencing the best start of her career. Through Sunday, she is averaging 13.8 points a game (second on the team) and has scored in double figures in 10 straight contests. Through 12 games, she has established career-best numbers in scoring, minutes played (29.0), field goal percentage (52.5), 3-point percentage (47.1) and free throw percentage (94.9).

Lawson, in the best shape of her career after switching to a vegan diet late in 2011, is also motivated to avoid being brought off the bench again as she was last season.

“It wasn’t something that I liked, but I don’t think anybody likes that,” Lawson said. “Nobody grows up dreaming of coming off the bench or wanting to be a role player. Everybody wants an opportunity to play a significant role and I would expect nothing less.”

Missed Mechelle’s chat from last week, and she was in rare form:

Judith (Broiling in DC):  After the Mystics’ loss to NY on June 8 that dropped DC to 1-5, Trudi Lacey required every player on the the team to write her a letter, at least one-page long, about why the team couldn’t finish and was losing. Since then, they eked out a 1-point win over Indy (scoring only 7 points in the last quarter), were blown out by LA, and last night couldn’t beat the Mercury bench. If you were a Mystics player writing a letter today to Trudi, what would it say?

Mechelle Voepel: “Trade me, please?” But that woudn’t take up a whole page, unless I wrote in first-grade script. I just think the vibe there is hard to overcome. Although I guess you could say there are a few other WNBA teams now that aren’t experiencing roses and sunshine, either.

From Richard (you can tell he’s an Alien because he insists on adding extra vowels.): WNBA Today, 06/24/2012: Favourites all cement their superiority. Just.

Sorry for the lack of post yesterday – it’s been a busy few days in WNBAlien-land. Everything should be back to normal next week. For now, we’re going to catch up on Friday night’s game, as well as everything that happened on Saturday. Everyone who was supposed to win eventually took care of business, but some of them did it with far greater ease than others.

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The W launches: Sparks v. Storm.

The team GMs venture their opinion of the season.

If you’re watching via Live Access, good luck. I sure hope this anonymous rep doesn’t end up eating their wordsThe WNBA has angered fans in the past because of glitches on the site. I was told by a few officials that those were fixed, one even stating that problems can be worked on while not going live and will be ironed out.

From Mel: Guru’s WNBA Report: Season Opens With Familiar Faces In Brand New Places

From Lady Swish: Liberty’s Warley makes WNBA roster in Phoenix

Hoopfeed has is Previewing the 2012 WNBA season: The Western Conference and the The Eastern Conference.

There’s also the Dishin & Swishin podcast: http://www.hoopfeed.com/content/2012/05/17/dishin-swishin-51712-podcast-a-roundtable-preview-of-the-2012-wnba-season/

Richard, L’Alien, has been busy:

2012 In-Depth Season Preview: Washington Mystics

You know what’s strange – I actually see the logic here. It’s easy to rag on the Mystics and head coach/general manager Trudi Lacey. This team was a disaster last year. They failed to retain the coach and general manger that produced their best ever season in 2010, and everything went downhill from there. Constant comments about injuries and blatant nonsense about how young the squad was did them no favours with their remaining fans, and when the season finally ended after just six wins all year, it was a blessed relief. But Lacey’s moves in the offseason made sense.

2012 In-Depth WNBA Season Preview: New York Liberty

You’ve gotta love Liberty fans. A bizarre draft pick (in a draft everyone said was horrible), and a couple of poor performances in preseason (for a coach whose system is notoriously hard to adapt to) and the sky is falling.

2012 In-Depth WNBA Season Preview: Indiana Fever

Yes, as you can see from the squad listing above, I’ve bowed to popular opinion and indications from the Fever themselves and moved Tamika Catchings to the 4. I hate it, and we’ll examine why below, but it does at least add an interesting wrinkle to the outlook for this Fever squad.

2012 In-Depth WNBA Season Preview: Connecticut Sun

Should I just refer you to everything I wrote about them last year? Head coach Mike Thibault apparently spent the offseason sitting on his couch knocking back a few cold ones, because as far as he’s concerned, this team is already good enough.

2012 In-Depth WNBA Season Preview: Chicago Sky

Big changes in Chicago, as head coach/GM Pokey Chatman proved that you can get a lot done in the offseason even when you’re in Russia coaching a different team at the time. In her first year in charge last season, the Sky were ultimately just as mediocre as they’ve been for their previous four season, and missed the playoffs yet again. The endless turnovers and poorly chosen shots drove Chatman nuts, so she’s kept her young backcourt and a couple of backups – along with, of course, superstar center Sylvia Fowles – and brought in a swathe of veterans with winning pedigrees to build around them.

2012 In-Depth WNBA Season Preview: Atlanta Dream

Significant losses: de Souza (Brazilian National Team for first half of the season), Lyttle (unconfirmed absence midseason to join Spanish National Team), Iziane Castro Marques (currently with Brazilian National Team, remains WNBA unrestricted free agent), Shalee Lehning (injured and retired from WNBA), Alison Bales (retired from WNBA), assistant coach Carol Ross (left to take head coach position in Los Angeles)

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Well just reading that list above doesn’t paint a pretty picture, does it?

On the subject of the W, a couple of WATNs:

EMU Names Kristin Haynie Assistant Women’s Basketball Coach. I wonder if they’re ordering extra food rations, ’cause you know how many calories it takes to hire a Haynie?

UMMC Put Lange, Brondello In Charge. Lucky them: ’cause they’ll have Diana and you won’t.

Speaking of Diane: ‘ware the prankster!

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with diamonds!” (the stuff that happens when you’re hunting down DII NAIA info!). From Nate: Quick Analysis: Chicago Sky Sign Unrestricted Free Agent Ticha Penicheiro

And, since we’re on the subject of the W: Thoughts from Washington Mystics Season Ticket Holder Event on February 21

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well, seems like Mystics fans ain’t buyin’.

Pretty amazing, huh. It was one thing for Trudi to keep handing that “youth” line to the press after every loss and long after she’d cut half the rookies and parked Dunlap on the bench, but it’s quite another to have this go out post-season to fans.

And saying that making the playoffs is the goal of a team that will be in its 15th season? As bballfan2005 said recently in another thread, when 4 of the 6 teams in a conference make the playoffs, that’s hardly an accomplishment.

The Sheila and Her Cohorts can’t undo the damage they did with the October Massacre, but until this letter, I was still holding out some hope that they’d take some positive steps forward after this last season. With this letter, though, I think it’s clear they really don’t care about the franchise or the fans, and they have no intention of spending the time or money to do things right now. They took the cheap and easy way out by keeping Trudi. They have their jersey sponsor, and they seem satisfied with that.

What a mess they have made of this franchise. Crying or Very sad

And only in a little niche sport like the WNBA would the things they’ve done, and a letter like this, go unmentioned and unridiculed by most of the sports media

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Oh, the pain

of being a Mystics fan.

The much anticipated retrospective from the DC Basket Cases is up (or, should it be down):First Among Worst

Over the years, we’ve suffered through many a miserable season. But without a doubt, the recently concluded Mystics 2011 season was, for us, the very worst ever. Worse even than the 3-27 inaugural season? Yes. Having a women’s professional basketball team in our Nation’s capital was all new and exciting. There were large and enthusiastic crowds, and, most important, there was the promise of better things to come. We had fun. Worse even than the season of 2008, which we used to think of as the franchise’s low point? Yes. Because most of the misery and the failure of this season, unlike 2008, was the result of self-inflicted wounds. This season need never have happened this way, and should never have happened this way.

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What’s next?

From the WaPo: Mystics looking forward after dreadful WNBA season

Her team’s season already lost long ago, Washington Mystics Coach Trudi Lacey spent the final six games of the 2011 season making a concerted effort to plan for the future. She moved three reserves into a starting lineup — including a rookie she allowed to run the offense — and she mixed in a former all-star who was recovering from a torn knee ligament suffered in January.

The results? During that stretch, the team — which finished in the basement of the WNBA’s Eastern Conference with a 6-28 record — did not visibly improve. The Mystics gave up 82.8 points per game and scored 67.5. They won once. So what, exactly, did Lacey learn?

You can find out what the Basket Cases learned (It’s Been a Long Dark Mystics Season, but finally, the BCs have something to look forward to . . . the Terps!) in a few days.
Blake Whitney (Washington, DC): So, what do you think the Mystics’ offseason will be like? :-)

Mechelle Voepel: Well, it probably can’t get any worse than last off-season, right? Maybe I shouldn’t tempt fate like that. I think of myself as an optimistic person, but the Mystics’ history doesn’t suggest they’ll suddenly surprise us in a good way.

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unless it’s censored like a North Korean newspaper. (Anyone takin’ odds?)

Trudi Lacy will have an online chat on Thursday at 2:00PM.  http://www.wnba.com/mystics/news/lacey_110410.html

Gottal love the timing, what with it conflicting with Mechelle’s 2pm ESPN chat.

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(Considering what DC fans are saying, I can’t imagine it was….)

From Mechelle: Mystics brass baffles fans – Despite coming off of team’s best season, Mystics coaching carousel continues

Maybe Sonny & Cher’s “I Got You Babe” should accompany Washington Mystics fans through what appears to be their perpetual voyage of the damned.

Just as Bill Murray woke up again and again to the same song in “Groundhog Day,” the Mystics’ faithful must wonder how many more times they have to hear about a new coach/new direction for a franchise that never seems to run out of ways to pull the rug out from under them.

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who may be feeling like the Great Pumpkin is headed right at’em.

As you our readers know, we were incredibly upset over the news about Angela Taylor. Now, hearing about the loss of Julie, we are simply numb. Why should we continue to be emotionally invested in this franchise? We were told when Angela and Julie were hired that this time it would be different, but as with Charlie Brown, the ball still just keeps getting snatched away. Why should we continue to invest our money and emotions, only to be disappointed time and time again? Those are the questions we have been asking ourselves today. Frankly, right now, we just don’t think we have it in ourselves any longer to care . . . certainly not to the extent we did. Congratulations, Mystics Front Office. Your business acumen has succeeded in driving a wedge between your product and your heretofore most loyal customers. A few months ago, we would’ve said such a thing was impossible. You proved us wrong.

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Oh. Dear. Really?

Trudi Lacey hired as Mystics coach, GM

Let me let Clay say what I was thinking:

So much for Sheila Johnson running a quality franchise …

Dumping a proven GM, and a proven coach, for a nice woman who has proven to be hopelessly inadequate as a WNBA coach or GM is simply incomprehensible.

This is not only bad news for the dwindling number of serious Mystics’ fans, it’s very bad news for the league as well.

My second thought was, “Shit. You mean if we had waited we could have gotten Angela AND Julie??!! SHIT!”

Poor Mystics fans. And I thought we had it bad in Newark.

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