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Don’t go to OT.

Hill scores career-high 24, Mystics beat Sun 84-76 in OT

The Lib got there two different ways – let the Sparks back in and came back against the Dream. End result? Two losses. Oops.

Inside The W with Michelle Smith

This is why Tina Charles came to New York. She wanted to come to her hometown team and be a part of building the Liberty franchise into one of the league’s elite teams.

The Liberty are 2-2 with both losses coming in overtime, but are still looking poised to build on the success of 2015, when they posted the best record in franchise history and the best regular-season record in the WNBA.

Charles said the Sparks loss, a game in which the Liberty led by eight with 1:16 to go in regulation, leaves “a bad taste.”

Yah, sure, you’re telling me that you thought the Storm would give the Lynx their biggest challenge of the season (so far). (Or that the Merc would be 0-fer) If you don’t have the June 21st Minnesota/LA match up circled, I have no idea what will get you revved in the world of basketball.

Speaking of Seattle:

Go behind-the-scenes of Breanna Stewart’s WNBA debut in a new documentary series

Seattle Times: Storm’s Breanna Stewart is learning from tough early losses in WNBA

Speaking of the Sparks, from Fastbreak’s WNBA Weekly Rundown: Sparks shining early (And stompin’ the Sky)

Nneka Ogwumike is ‘glue’ for Los Angeles Sparks

A year ago right about this same time, we checked in with Ogwumike and she was very optimistic about the Sparks’ potential, despite forward Candace Parker sitting out the first part of the season. But then Ogwumike suffered a sprained ankle in an exhibition game in late May. (The season started in June then, with no major international competition to have to fit in like this year with the Olympics.)

And very little went right for L.A. for nearly two months. 

San Antonio: Moriah Jefferson quickly becoming a shining ‘Star’

Hello, Washington: Jamie Weisner added to the roster.

Some people hate the jerseys, some people love’em. Me, I’m glad the Wings are off to such a great start – and that a sold out crowd got to see a home win. Great job getting the word out in the Dallas-Arlington-Fort Worth area.

Tara Sullivan: WNBA passing the test of time

The first postgame locker room in WNBA history looked like something out of a M*A*S*H episode, exhausted bodies dropping wherever they could. Such was the price of an emotional (participating in the historic debut of a brand new basketball league) and physical (actually playing in the 60-minute game) toll. Players from the New York Liberty and Los Angeles Sparks were worn out.

“Right now, I’m emotionally spent,” Liberty center Rebecca Lobo told me that California day in June 1997. “We had so much emotion running through us for this game. We were wound tight and wanted to explode.”

Stefanie Dolson says decision to come out was ‘mainly to be a role model for the younger girls’

Today, the former UConn star and WNBA All-Star player will come out publicly in print that she is a lesbian athlete. Although it has been out on the web for almost two weeks on ESPN.com, the ESPN The Magazine article about Dolson hits newsstands today. 

“I don’t really see it as an announcement,” Dolson said prior to the Mystics’ game with the Connecticut Sun on Saturday. “It was mainly just to get out that the WNBA, as a league, is supportive of who we are as women. That’s why our fans are so great. They support us, too. I’m just glad that I’m happy.”

Former WNBA legend Ruthie Bolton shares three takeaways from her film ‘Mighty Ruthie’

Former WNBA legend Ruthie Bolton’s film, “Mighty Ruthie,” premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on SEC Network. It highlights the Olympic medalist’s life as a college basketball player at Auburn in the 1980s, as she worked hard to prove her talent and eventually became a star athlete.

A few years later, Bolton led the United States women’s basketball team to the gold medal at the 1996 Olympics in Los Angeles. Throughout her successful career, Bolton kept a secret from her family and teammates: Her then-husband was physically abusing her.

Two days after “Mighty Ruthie” was screened at her alma mater by her former teammates and their coaches, espnW interviewed Bolton. Her older sister, Mae Ola, also a star athlete at Auburn, was present for the conversation. Bolton spoke candidly about the film, but she was adamant about not wanting viewers to pity her.

NCAA

So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, good night…well, not until the end of the WNBA season. No real surprise, as Vandy made it official and named Stefanie White their new head coach. They sure got lucky, timing-wise… I think (ponders how early the process might have started). White will be joined by Carolyn Peck as associate head coach.

The SEC is setting up quite the Indiana/Purdue reunion, an Lin Dunn couldn’t stay off the sidelines. She joins Matthew Mitchell on the sidelines as a. Here’s hoping she can help right whatever’s wrong with that ship (on and off the court).

Hello: Williams-Jeter Added to Penn State Women’s Basketball Staff

Speaking of Connecticut grads: Hartley, Dolson know what awaits next year’s UConn team. It will help that they got another transfer addition (who won’t have to change her clothing color scheme much) Kentucky’s Batouly Camara Joins UConn; Will Sit Out A Season

Bye: Stasha Carey transfers to Rutgers women’s basketball, leaves Pitt

Congrats:

Michele Schmidt, assistant sports information director at South Dakota State University, won the 2016 Fred Stabley Sr. Writing Contest’s coach/administrator/historical category for the College Sports Information Directors of America’s District 7.

Schmidt’s article was on the 1986-87 women’s basketball team making the program’s first trip to Alaska. The Jackrabbits spent Thanksgiving visiting the North Pole, the Alaskan pipeline and a glacier. To read the story, visit http://www.gojacks.com/news/2015/11/26/210534488.aspx?path=wbball.

USA Basketball

You may recall Lubbock Christian as the team who got stomped by UConn in the preseason, made a video about it, and then went on to go undefeated and claim the DII championship. That may explain why LCU’s coach Steve Gomez got an offer to coach for USA Basketball. He’ll get to hang with the fabulous Nancy Fahey (Washington University), the only coach to win five Division III national championships, Washington University who he may have met at the Final Four festivities,  and Pam Crawford from League City Clear Springs High School.

International: Lauren Jackson to the rescue for Melbourne Boomers

AAU: Basketball Rebels Bounce Back After Founder’s Death

The MRC Rebels Girls Basketball Club was founded in 1988 by Oscar Jimenez, who saw a lack of basketball opportunities for San Francisco girls and sought the City’s help to fill the gap. The program received City funding early on, though Jimenez paid for some expenses out of his own pocket. When Jimenez died suddenly in 2010 at the age of 57, many of his youthful club members lost a mentor and father-figure. Slowly, with the help of new talent, the club has successfully rebounded. 

“It’s unique because of its legacy and affordability,” said assistant coach, Mark Reppert. “We have girls coming up from South City largely due to the legacy created by Oscar. The team is made up of girls from an array of backgrounds and cultures, which I think is rare for San Francisco these days. This diversity represents what the Mission is at its heart.”

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“Weeeee are the Champions.” (What, too soon?) Lynx’s ‘fast start’ overwhelm Sky in Delle Donne’s returnFowles scores 24 against former team; Lynx beat Sky 97-80In First Game Against Former Team, Sylvia Fowles Joins Elite Company

Elena Delle Donne may be the face of the Sky. But when it comes to the franchise’s voice, that is all Cappie Pondexter.Chicago Sun-Times: Pondexter lends voice, veteran leadership to Sky

 The 10-year veteran has no trouble being the Sky’s resident vocal leader, but after a disappointing loss in last season’s WNBA Eastern Conference semifinals, Pondexter is done mincing words.

Make no mistake. This is Tamika Catchings’ team.

It is also Marissa Coleman’s team, and Shenise Johnson’s team, and Erlana Larkins’ team … and who knew it could be Erica Wheeler’s team while she fills in for point guard Briann January?

“It could be anybody’s night on any given night,” Coleman said.

That was never more true of the Indiana Fever than on Wednesday night.

Three of the first four possessions for the Washington Mystics in their game against the Dallas Wings on Wednesday night resulted in turnovers. The other produced a missed layup. Coach Mike Thibault was, to say the least, displeased.

The frustration didn’t end with just his players though. The officiating also provoked Thibault’s ire to the point he walked past halfcourt at Verizon Center midway through the first quarter and shouted to referee Sue Blauch: “Give me a technical now.”

 Phew! Sun get first win of season, 72-68 at Stars and Bone spurs Sun past San Antonio.
It’s gonna be tough in San Antonio this year….

While the world rightfully continues to go bonkers over “Hamilton,” I’ve recently found myself pleasantly lost in the past with another Broadway smash hit. The nearly 40-year-old — can it be? — “Annie.”

This was prompted by my nephew playing Oliver Warbucks in his high school’s production. It reminded me of how great a musical this is, even when performed by theater novices (including, in this case, a Harlequin Great Dane named Waffle in the role of Sandy.)

Now, just hang with me; we’re getting to the WNBA, with its 20th season just launched.

 

If Candace Parker was looking to make a point, she made it all right. Thirty-four times, in fact.

The question isn’t whether Parker was trying to make a statement Sunday with her 34-point effort in Los Angeles’ 96-66 win over Seattle at Staples Center. The question is, which statement was it?

Was it a message to USA Basketball that despite not being selected to the 2016 U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Team that she is still on a short list of best players in the world?

Was it a reminder to the WNBA that the two-time MVP is as dangerous as ever and prepared to dish it out over an entire season after taking half of last season off?

WNBA STAR TINA CHARLES ON HOW STRONG, SUPPORTIVE WOMEN HELPED HER SUCCEED

Why are you excited to participate in She’s On Point?

For me, a lot of it was about giving back to Karen Pedrosa [who was the park manager at the time]. She was always keeping Roberto Clemente open late so we were able to scrimmage against the guys. She would travel with us to the AAU [Amateur Athletic Union] games. She’s just an awesome individual. She’s the Deputy Chief of Bronx Recreation now, and it’s a testament to the impact she’s had on the community.

UConn women’s basketball legend Bird wants to end career on her terms

When she re-signed with Seattle in the offseason, Bird made certain she had a multi-year deal. She didn’t want her contract status to determine when the final year of her career arrives.

“Truthfully, the way I view it is a one-year plan. Everybody has their own (way). Tamika Catchings is an example of somebody who announced her retirement early. Then Ray Allen is somebody I communicate with and he is somebody that never announced it. Just stopped. But that was what was right for him,” Bird said.

“I think every player when it comes to their retirement only knows how they are going to feel and how they want to do it. And right now what is working for me in my own little mind is a one-year plan.

LaChina and Carolyn Podcast: We’re Back…For The WNBA

From Charles Hallman: A ‘simple’ job: Marketing the WNBA 

Last Saturday night, after she handed the Minnesota Lynx players and coaches their 2015 championship rings, Borders worked the “room” where nearly 10,000 people were in attendance for the team’s season opener. Madame President earlier told the MSR, “I am the number-one salesperson for the WNBA. That is absolutely true.”

She heads a league that is celebrating 20 years, but to too many eyes — media, Joe Rockhead males and others — it has been 19 years too long. “We are 20 years old, which is remarkable by any standard,” continued Borders. “But we are just getting started. We’re young and nimble.”

The president and this reporter briefly touched upon several topics:

USA Today’s Nina Mandell: Retired WNBA star Katie Smith wants to leave lasting legacy on women’s game as a coach

Long before Katie Smith, a 17-year veteran of the WNBA, knew she was going to become a coach there was no shortage of coaches who told her she would join their ranks one day.

“I’ll say it right in front of her,” Mystics coach Mike Thibault said, walking by Smith as his team prepared to play the New York Liberty, where Smith was promoted to associate head coach this season. “I told her she was going to be a coach and she said no. Years ago when I coached USA Basketball, I said, ‘You know you’re going to end up being a coach.’”

Smith replied that she was going to go to dental school or do something else, but Thibault wouldn’t listen. 

NCAA

NCAA.com Rules group pleased with state of the game

[Use of technology and other] areas the Women’s Basketball Rules Committee will continue to study and discuss include:

  • Widening of the lane from 12 feet to 16 feet.
  • Moving the restricted-area arc to 4 feet from 3 feet.
  • Moving the 3-point line from 20 feet, 9 inches to the international distance of 22-1.
  • Deterring players from faking fouls. A warning would be issued on the first offense, followed by a technical foul on subsequent offenses.
  • In free throw situations, teams would be allowed to substitute only before or after the foul shots are taken. There would be no substitutions allowed in between the two or three free throws.

You stay put: Scott Rueck signed a two-year contract extension

WATN? Langston University hires Elaine Powell to replace Cheryl Miller as head coach

LADY VOLS ADD JUCO STAR – London Native Cheridene Green Becomes Lady Vols’ First International Signee . This calls for a flashback: Junior Colleges: Where Opportunities Knock – November 2007

Last season Shannon Bobbitt (Trinity Valley Community College) and Alberta Auguste (Central Florida Community College) became the University of Tennessee’s first junior college signees since – well most couldn’t remember when last it happened. (1977, by the way.) How’d it work out? Just ask Middle Tennessee State coach Rick Insell.

“First time ever Pat took two [Junior College] kids and what happens? She wins a National Championship. Did those kids play a major part in them winning that? Absolutely. Would she have won it without them? Who knows?”

“But she won it with them.”

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Bob Corwin offers his 1st impressions from opening weekend

Having followed the league since inception, I decided to watch the six WNBA openers and write down some first impressions (many to be proven wrong) from these games.

A WNBA season is a combination of a soap opera and a marathon.  Information can be hard to come by as players listed as “day to day” can, in reality, be out a month.  What impression you get today, particularly very early in a season, may be viewed as very wrong by the next week.

For young players, announcers tend to cling to how the player was as a collegian, especially if she had “rep” at that level.  Above all else, be cautious not to draw too much from a game or two.  Again think marathon, not sprint!

How about this? Draymond Green says he learns more from watching the WNBA than the NBA

In between the time he works on his game, Green also finds time to relax. Of course, Green chooses to chill out by watching basketball, mostly the WNBA.

“In the NBA there’s always a guy who is only around because he can jump,” Greentold Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins in a wide-ranging profile. “He doesn’t have a clue about the fundamentals. I learn more from the WNBA. They know how to dribble, how to pivot, how to use the shot fake.”

Lindsay Gibbs @ Excelle: Washington Mystics point guard Natasha Cloud is finding her voice

In the lead-up to the launch of the WNBA’s 20th season, Washington Mystics’ coach Mike Thibault repeated a few loud and clear messages to his young team: take ownership of the game, get rebounds, play until the whistle, and, above all else, communicate on the court.

The latter message was particularly directed at point guard Natasha Cloud, the Mystics’ second-round pick of the 2015 draft.

From the .com (and points for coming up with a snazzy title, “Web Editorial Associate”): Practice Report | The Importance of the Second Unit

One of the big reasons why the Lynx were able to pull away and maintain a nice lead after that first quarter was the play of their second unit.

“Coach talked about really trying to elevate the second-team’s play in order so there’s not a drop off when anybody comes out from the first unit,” Janel McCarville said. “We had a great first game against Phoenix, it wasn’t much of a drop off at all. Today in practice it was a little bit of a drop off with all of us out there together (the second unit). I don’t think we have the cohesiveness that the first-team has. Hopefully within the next couple of weeks we’ll come together as a second-squad and pick it up in practice and it’ll carry over into games.”

Paging Ms. Whalen: Minnesota’s Hometown Heroes

Seattle Times: Stewart set for big WNBA step

Swish Appeal’s Power Rankings

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

“Symbolically, you have all these women who are role modes for young girls to be able to look up to and say, ‘Those people look like me. They are stars. They have money and a career. I want that too,’” said Mary Joe Kane, the director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sport at the University of Minnesota. “If you aren’t playing basketball, you can take pride that someone who looks like you can achieve at the highest levels.

“Achievement and performance in America, it’s hard to top that right. For your girls to see that, it sends a very powerful message.”

The league opened its 20th season this weekend with more media coverage than I personally can remember seeing before. It’s an anniversary year, sure, but also I think most people didn’t expect the NBA’s sister league to come this far or last this long. Take a look at the women’s soccer professional league, which has had three different iterations, the most recent of which is only four years old.

Not only that, but the WNBA is now also filled with a number of household names – not just one or two token players used in Under Armour campaigns and Lean In ads. This is a competitive league with players comparable to their male counterparts in both ability and in some cases name recognition.

The concept of ability has come into contention while I’ve written this article, but I think it comes down to how you define it. Personally, I don’t think ability means how often or ferociously you can dunk. When I think of how able a person is to play basketball, I think of the sport as a whole.

Wait, they heard and acted? WNBA to offer advanced box scores after each game.

Cool. Now… about that hideous website, might I make a suggestion? Set up a “So you think you can code” competition working with suggestions from fans. Anything folks came up with would be better than the hot mess we’re slogging through today.

From Mel: Guru’s Addendum and Context to ESPN Magazine’s Story on Founding and Growing the WNBA

In reading Mechelle Voepel’s very fine piece with voices on the creation and development on the WNBA the Guru’s memory was jogged to some of the discussions people had with him prior to rolling out the league.
Also clues exist from comments in the narrative to recent discussions so here is a combo of Guru comments, some recollections, and further interpretations.
We begin right from the top with this comment in the piece from Adam Silver, NBA Commissioner. To avoid confusion in the thread, Guru will be in front of items that are his remarks, etc.

NCAA

Bonjour: Mickie DeMoss Joins Lady Tiger Basketball Staff

Au Revoir: Kentucky’s Mitchell tweets letter to fans denying rumored ‘scandal’ as UK resignation letters, personnel file offer little insight into women’s basketball turmoil and  Chanin Scott gets her release and opens recruiting process

The Minnesota Athletics Department may be a mess, but the  Gophers women’s teams have no shortage of star power

By the time she took the mound for her 24th inning pitched in two days, Sara Groenewegen’s right arm was running on fumes. Nearly 400 pitches in the Big Ten softball tournament — 395 to be exact — tested her physical limits.

**

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 Her display of individual domination was not uncommon for Gophers women’s sports this school year. Those who didn’t pay close enough attention, myself included, missed one heck of a show.

Nine Gophers women athletes in seven sports rank among the best nationally in their respective sports.

Any Olympics is special and Rio 2016 could be incredibly so, on the simple basis that some of the biggest names in the women’s game are ready to step out at the event for the first time.

Ahead of what promises to be a spectacular showcase of women’s ball, I have had some real fun drawing up a list of 12 players from around the globe who are likely to tread their first ever Olympic boards.

Random thought about the Zika virus: has anyone thought about all the non-athletes working the Rio Olympics?

 

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Or, better, “Let’s play one more!”

The Liberty took care of the pesky Mystics with authority borne of lessons learned.

“”Did we play hard Friday? Yes. Did we play focused? Yes. We did not do the little things that win playoff games.

“[The players] knew it. They watched the film; they saw their defensive mistakes. Saw their not-boxing-out mistakes, saw their unforced turnovers and their missed free throws. They knew they had that game and gave it away.”

From Kelyn Soong at the WaPo:

The New York Liberty quickly silenced the Verizon Center crowd that showed up Sunday afternoon to watch the Washington Mystics attempt to advance to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 2002. The buzz, palpable before tip-off, was gone by the time the Liberty took a seven-point lead barely two minutes in. Instead of letting the Mystics close out the series, New York showed why it owned the WNBA’s best regular season record with an 86-68 rout.

While Boyd may be missing from the court, that doesn’t mean she’s not still learning. From the Players’ Tribune, “Growing Up.

“Why don’t you talk?”

Swin Cash was at the next locker, staring at me. I was frozen.

It was my first day with the Liberty and my locker was between Swin and Tanisha Wright. It felt like I had stumbled into a class in a grade above me on the first day of school. Playing for the Liberty, it’s pretty hard not to be next to a veteran or two at all times. They didn’t wait long to start in on me.

Tanisha was staring at this quiet girl next to her. “Come here girl, give me a hug.” And so Tanisha gave me a hug. Tanisha’s a hugger.

When I went to say something, nothing came out. I was just smiling awkwardly and sitting there. It was all really overwhelming. This was my first week in the WNBA.

Parker made some noise, and the Sparks made Maya almost human, so they’re on their way to Minnesota for a deciding game three.

Digging deep is nothing new for the Sparks.

No one in the league dragged themselves out of a bigger hole to end up in this place, fighting and scrapping to stay in contention for a title.

Los Angeles has been dealing all season with obstacles, players in and out of the lineup with injuries, a superstar who didn’t show up until the All-Star break, a nightmarish start that had the Sparks wearing the league’s worst record for a long stretch.

So this little thing on Sunday, the matter of having to play at the Pyramid on the campus of Long Beach State, more than an hour away from their home floor, in a gym they hadn’t seen all season — and facing elimination against the West’s top seed to boot — was not the scenario that was going to take out the Sparks.

Next, they need to worry about Nnek’s neck: 

The Los Angeles Sparks have been dealing with adversity throughout the season.

Heading into their biggest game of the year, they’ve been dealt another major blow.

The Sparks are unsure of the status of three-time All-Star Nneka Ogwumike for Tuesday night’s decisive Game 3 of their Western Conference semifinal series against the top-seeded Minnesota Lynx.

Tonight, the Stage Is Set For Winner-Take-All Game 3 Between Chicago And Indiana

Will Tamika Catchings’ laser focus lead to upset over Sky?

“I think tonight we just came out with a lot more focus,” Catchings said. “Not to say we weren’t focused in game one, but definitely down the stretch our focus it seemed like it magnified.”

The focus for Catchings seemed to be everything—with 22 points, nine rebounds and five steals, the six-foot-two forward was an unstoppable threat all night.

“We executed offensively and defensively,” Catchings said. “Everybody zoned in.  You could see it in their eyes.”

Sky, Fever to play decisive Game 3

Following a Game 1 victory Thursday at the UIC Pavilion, the Chicago Sky had the advantage and looked to close out the Indiana Fever on Saturday.

But despite a strong offensive effort from the Sky, the defense loomed large as the Fever rallied to win 89-82 and even the series at 1-1. The two teams return to action Monday at 8 p.m. EST for the decisive Game 3.

In other news:

I may have some nits to pick with some of the reasons, but there’s no denying that they have reasons. From Lady Swish: Why it’s hard for us to embrace the WNBA

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After that “instant classic,” the Liberty are in D.C. needing a win over the Mystics to extend their season. From the Suffolk Times: Sugar: An ingredient of success

The mid-season return of veteran guard Epiphanny Prince from overseas has reduced Rodgers’ minutes this year, but the Suffolk standout has been an undeniably significant contributor to the Liberty’s success.

“It’s been great,” Rodgers said. “To be honest, I’ve just been living in the moment. It’s always good to make history at a franchise, because they’ll remember this for a long time. So, like I said, I’ve just been living in the moment, appreciating the fact of just being here, just being thankful.”

From bulletsforever:

1. Knock the Libs out of the gym early 

There’s no need for me to talk about stats on this one. But if the Mystics can overwhelm New York from the start along with hometown support, that could very well be the push needed.

In 2013, the Mystics defeated the Atlanta Dream in Game 1 of their playoff series on the road. That gave fans a lot of optimism for Game 2 at the Verizon Center for an elimination game on September 21, 2013. But they came out totally flat in the first quarter and shot 25 percent from the field en route to a 63-45 loss.

In Tulsa, the short-handed Shock kept it close early, but Phoenix Griner made sure they ended their residency in Tulsa on a loss.

Watching Saturday’s night’s WNBA playoff doubleheader, I couldn’t help but think of the differing fates of two franchises and their cities.

Indiana beat Chicago 89-82 to extend their series to a deciding third game Monday in the Windy City. Tulsa, however, was not able to do the same against Phoenix. The defending champion Mercury won 91-67 and move on to the Western Conference finals, where they await the Minnesota-Los Angeles winner.

Now next season, the Shock will pack up and go to Dallas, or more specifically, Arlington, Texas. You could tell how much the Shock players deeply appreciated the loyal fans who kept showing up at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, this season even after they knew the team would be theirs only a little longer.

Catch and her Collaborators were on point during a delightful back-and-forth game against Chicago.

“One of the things you have to continue to do against a team like Chicago is try to keep them off balance because they are so good,” Fever coach Stephanie White said. “They get a bead on you, and they exploit you. I thought our players did a good job of changing defenses and changing schemes, and executing those schemes.”

L.A. will see if they can push Minnesota to a Game Three.

Arena logistics aside, the main challenge for the Sparks will be slowing down Lynx forward Maya Moore, who put up a playoff career-high 33 points to go with five rebounds and four steals in Minnesota’s Game 1 victory. She and guard Seimone Augustus combined to score 50 of the team’s 67 points. Earlier in the week, Ogwumike predicted that the key to the Sparks’ success would be how they responded to Minnesota’s offensive attack.

“Our defense is really what’s going to hold our team together,” she said.

BTW, Mechelle sent out an encouraging tweet:

 16 hours ago:Had good conversation w/ NBA exec re: open letter to Adam Silver. Think we understand where each other is coming from, want best for WNBA.

Conversation! We LIKE conversation! Action is better, though…

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Today’s four games are all about staying healthy, building momentum WHILE staying healthy, and settling some traveling logistics….

Atlanta hosts the Mystics, 3pm
L.A. hosts Tulsa, 5pm
Chicago hosts Seattle, 6pm
Minnesota hosts New York, 7pm

Even though there aren’t “x’s” next to the teams’ names, it’s *almost* safe to say that the playoff standings are set (and Chicago will return to the UIC for their games) (and the Mystics really need to win and seal their place in the post-season).

For me, the most intriguing matchup of the day is the Lynx-Lib: Will Maya (and her nose) be on the court? How will the Lib react to losing Boyd, who’s been an invaluable, hard-nosed energizer off the bench? How will the Lynx react to the Montgomery for Whalen reality? Who wants home court... through the playoffs… more?

So… who’s your MVP, and might these last few games solidify your choice?

NCAA:

Nice to have some good news: Gophers’ Women’s Basketball: Rachel Banham On Track to Return At Start of Season

A little history: UK basketball notebook: In stop at UK, Yow recalls support from P.A. man Ingle, Joe B. Hall

When she learned that former Kentucky public address announcer Jim Ingle passed away last month, Debbie Yow called and left a voice mail message. She wanted one simple fact known: “He was nice to me.”

Those five words begged for a return call and an explanation. Here it is:

Ingle did the P.A. for UK’s women’s basketball team when Yow was the coach in the late 1970s. At that time, few women’s teams across the country had full-time coaches. Typically, the women’s basketball programs were part of campus recreation. Coaches were barely more than volunteers.

From San Antonio: Title IX changes the face of high school athletics, equality

Christina Camacho, now the girls head basketball coach and coordinator at Wagner High School in San Antonio, grew up before Title IX, playing basketball with her brothers in the neighborhood.

“My parents were very supportive of me playing basketball,” she said. “Maybe some parents kept their kids inside playing with dolls.”

Camacho, laughing, said she was more athletic than her three brothers, anyway. The scrimmages instilled a competitive attitude in her and she went on to play basketball for the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Though she was only in the fourth grade, Camacho was aware of the commotion surrounding the arrival of Title IX . “I remember it being a big issue about equality,” she said. But it took people a while to understand what the change would mean.

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by the players. From Layshia Clarendon

Arian Foster doesn’t believe in God.

I do.

We could easily fit into the believer/non-believer binary that religion has constructed over time; a Christian praying for the soul of the faithless and the godless rebuking salvation. There should be tension between us. I should be defensive about my faith when he criticizes Christianity. But I feel more of a kinship with him than most of my fellow believers.

We’re both outsiders in the Christian community — two people who don’t believe in religion as an institution but who invest in and love Jesus’ teachings; Arian, the Agnostic, and me, the Believer, both driven away by Christianity’s exclusivity. We’re the same yet different all at once — religious rebels who are forced aside as they look in on the Christian majority.

From Candice: Full Circle

Every athlete dreams of playing just one game at Madison Square Garden. It’s more than a cultural mecca; it’s a place that inspires the best players in the world to display a level of greatness beyond the imaginable. Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James — some of their most memorable game-time performances happened at the Garden. I watched those games. I imagined what it would be like to take that court, surrounded by fans, the clock ticking overhead — to have my own moment of greatness at a place that makes, and sometimes breaks, legends.

I got that chance in 2010. Life is interesting, though. Even when a dream comes true, it doesn’t play out the way you imagined.

Today’s Fast Break has their All-Time Starting 5: Chicago Sky
No surprise, guess who’s on their list? For WNBA star Elena Delle Donne, it’s all Sky, no limit

August may not be the time you usually think about basketball. But if you haven’t been paying attention this summer, you have been missing perhaps the greatest single season ever put together by a professional basketball player – better than LeBron James, and better than Michael Jordan.

That player’s name is Elena Delle Donne, and if you’ve never heard of her, now would be a good time to start paying attention.

It’s hard to compare players between the NBA and WNBA. That’s why statistics like player efficiency rating (PER) exist. The metric is a normalized stat, such that the league average – no matter what league, no matter what year – is always 15.00. A player’s performance across his or her game, from field goals, to assists, as well as negative results like missed shots and turnovers, are all taken into account. It is also judged by minutes played to account for a player’s contributions per minute.

Delle Donne leads the WNBA in minutes played. She also leads the league in PER. In fact, she leads every league — ever.

From Scoop Jackson: How Elena Delle Donne Is Handling The Pressure Of Her Monster Season

Every now and then, an athlete challenges and possibly makes history. Elena Delle Donne is in the middle of one of those seasons.

Receiving her fourth player of the week award a little more than four weeks before the season even ends, and leading the WNBA in scoring while being in the top five in field goal percentage are only part of it. Her 33.5 efficiency would set a WNBA record if it stands through the end of the season — a PER on pace to be two points higher than the NBA mark set by Wilt Chamberlain (31.8). Put another way, Delle Donne is having a more efficient season than the man whom basketball touts as the king of efficiency — LeBron James — has ever had.

From Bustle, re the above:

A recent interview with espnW presses Delle Donne to talk about how the pressure of the season might be affecting her, asking numerous questions about the “responsibility,” feeling the need to step up her game, “[feeling] the spotlight,” and the possibility of “hitting…a mental wall.” In fact the questions seem so fixated on this angle that I have to wonder if male NBA stars get these same questions stressed so heavily. (I can’t remember ever seeing it, but maybe that’s just me.) However, Delle Donne seems to be doing just fine with all the pressure, regardless.

From Mid Level Exceptional: Elena Delle Donne and the boundaries of usage and efficiency

From Ned Grffin at The Day: Sun’s Lacy is a true pro

The baseball field was a second home of sorts for Jennifer Lacy during her childhood. Her father, Lee, played 16 years in the major leagues, so she grew up around the likes of Dusty Baker and Tommy Lasorda.

“He’s been a big influence on me and my career,” Lacy said about her father. “He always said that sports are peaks and valleys. It really resonates with me. My career has kind of been up and down and in and out, just doing what’s asked of me. I think without that mindset that it would’ve been a lot harder to assume the roles that I have assumed.”

From the Washington Blade: Mystics’ Dolson embraces straight ally role

The Washington Blade caught up with Stefanie Dolson who is playing in her second season with the Washington Mystics in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA). The 6’5” Dolson played center at UConn and the team won back-to-back national championships in 2013 and 2014. She was the sixth overall pick in the 2014 WNBA draft and began playing for the Mystics shortly after graduation. During her college years, Dolson stepped forward as a straight sports ally, lending public support to help break down stereotypes, stop discrimination in recruiting and create positive role models for all people, not just the LGBT community.

Sue has Brittany Boyd having a good time on her perfect-fit team and Pondexter-Prince trade paying dividends for all

Sometimes player trades work out so well that it’s hard to tell who has benefited most – the team or the athlete.

Such has been the case for the New York Liberty and Chicago Sky this season, who exchanged Cappie Pondexter and Epiphanny Prince over the winter. Both guards have become rejuvenated in systems that seem to fit them perfectly, to the delight of both themselves and their coaches.

As a result, both Pondexter and Prince are leading their teams in a fierce race for the Eastern Conference title. Going into today’s match ups, Prince and the Liberty are in first place, one game ahead of Pondexter’s Sky. And there is plenty of time left in the regular season.

’cause I know it’s some people’s obsession: WNBA STAR MAYA MOORE KICKS BIG GAME WITH EXCLUSIVE JORDAN SNEAKERS

As to the games, clearly, we’re going to have to wait to see if that coach/player conversation had any impact in Minnesota, ’cause Washington sure didn’t see any change.

Really? It’s been THAT long since New York won in San Antonio?

With Indy and New York on hot streaks, Washington getting feisty, and the Sky feline’s their way, the East’s race to the finish is intriguing.

And, the West is all tipsy-turvey, with Minnesota’s fickleness, Parker’s return, Phoenix’s tank-free-ness and Tula’s stubbornness. Looking at the standings, I had a flashback to when the East was mocked for sending under .500 clubs to the playoffs…Welcome, shoe, to the other foot!

in college news:

You stay put: Women’s Basketball Coach Sue Semrau Signs Extension Through 2020

You stay put, too: New contract keeps Ali Jaques with Siena through 2020

You stay put, three: Texas State’s Zenarae Antoine Signs Contract Extension Through 2017-18

WATN? Rhonda Mapp: 

Rhonda Mapp is helping less fortunate families get ready for school.  

Her Kool Kutz Barbershop and Salon is offering 100 free haircuts and hairstyles as well as book bags and school supplies to children August 23. Doors open at 10 a.m.

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Coach Stephanie White is pulling ahead in the Coach of the Year polls. Her Indy team flew into L.A., handed the (rejuvenated, yet Nneka-less) Sparks a nice big lead, only to storm back and get the win. Ouch, playoff run!

Speaking of Indy and Coach White: Former Maryland Star Marissa Coleman Gains Confidence From Indiana Coach

Marissa Coleman is home in the heartland.

It’s taken some time, tears and toughness, but Coleman has found a comfort zone that has the veteran Indiana Fever guard among the elite players in the league, a place she always believed she belonged. Her recent selection to the WNBA All-Star presented by Boost Mobile confirmed that status.

“From day one when I signed here, the conversations coach (Stephanie White) and I shared instilled immediate confidence in me,” Coleman said last week before the Fever defeated the Mystics, 73-62 at the Verizon Center.

In Phoenix, there was no haunting after this beautifully designed play:

The (Pierson-less-cause-she-has-a-sprained-knee-phew!) Shock had a rebound-a-pa-looza against the Mercury on the way to a convincing 74-59 win. (No, you didn’t call that.)

Tulsa also received 15 points each from Karima Christmas and Odyssey Sims, and Courtney Paris added 11 points and 11 rebounds.

Included in those totals were the 1,000th career WNBA point by Christmas and the 1,000th career rebound by Paris.

The Shock are 12-14, solidly in third place in the Western Conference.

In other WNBA news:

Ouch: Meesseman to play through finger injury as Mystics fight for playoff spot

The Washington Mystics have managed to remain in the thick of the WNBA’s Eastern Conference playoff hunt despite a litany of injuries, but with 11 games left in the regular season, Coach Mike Thibault was bracing for a stretch run perhaps without one of his best players after Emma Meesseman dislocated her right index finger Sunday against the Minnesota Lynx.

Nylon Calculus offers their 3-2-C (Don’t tell Tina):

(Ed: In our first season, The Nylon Calculus covered almost exclusively the NBA from a statistical standpoint. This is largely due to the fact that with the advent of SportVU technology, the NBA game has the most robust underlying data. However, that isn’t to say new and interesting observations from a statistical standpoint are not available from other basketball leagues such as the NCAA, FIBA play and especially the WNBA. We are thrilled to have Howard Megdal to provide regular coverage of that league and hope you enjoy.)

As the WNBA season enters its final four weeks, the question of just who will win the Most Valuable Player award depends largely on which areas of emphasis you value most.

The candidates still in consideration for me will come as no surprise to you: Elena Delle Donne of the Chicago Sky, Brittney Griner of the Phoenix Mercury and Maya Moore of the Minnesota Lynx.

Speaking of Maya: Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve, four captains hold 3-hour meeting, skip practice- The Lynx coach huddled with her four leaders in the wake of loss at Washington. 

“I can’t really talk about what we talked about in the meeting, but it was much-needed and I think it’s going to help catapult us to where we need to go,” Augustus said.

Roar: BearShare: Brittany Boyd, WNBA Rookie

Since you don’t actually live in New York City, does that mean that you haven’t had the chance to explore the city?

No, I’ve had opportunities to come into town. Especially on off days, I come. On practice days, I don’t come into the city, because at 2:30, I’m tired so I just want to sleep and just chill and relax my body and prepare for the next day. But if I do want to do something, I can easily come down to the city and look around. On an off day, I’ve walked around Times Square. I’ve been hanging out with Tina Charles, so she took me around to Brooklyn, Queens, and Harlem, so I’ve been getting out a little bit.

From Jayda: Evie Goldstein, director of operations for the WNBA players’ union, wants to explore revenue opportunities and give the players a more powerful voice.

Q:The WNBA and players’ union signed an eight-year collective-bargaining agreement in 2014, which can be terminated after six years. Will top WNBA salaries ever reach NBA minimums ($500,000)?

A: When you negotiate a CBA, the salary part is unlikely to change. But that’s not the only source of revenue for the women. There is a provision in the CBA that gives money back to players after an average team-ticket revenue reaches a certain point. The other source of revenue is licensing. More can be done with that. I’ve only been on the job six months, so I’m talking generally. But in our CBA, revenue share is based solely and singularly on averaged ticket revenue.

10 Years Later: 

As part of an ongoing series of stories centered around the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune reflects on the massive storm’s impact, its devastating aftermath, and its enduring legacy for individuals and the sports community today.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, McDonogh 35 was one of the first public schools in Orleans Parish to reopen the doors and begin the next chapter of its story.

Even before that post-storm decision, McDonogh 35 girls basketball coach Danielle Allen-Lewis had begun searching for her team.

She had good reason.

Lot’s of good news for Rio-Bound Canadians:

Canadian women’s basketball team living a perfect storm a year ahead of Rio 2016 Olympics
Women’s basketball team hopes to keep rolling into Rio – Waterloo Record
Canadian women’s basketball charts map to Rio after clinching Olympic berth – Toronto Star

Slightly OT, but related: Sucky news for not-Rio-Bound Brits (say what!). Luckily, they have English Football to offer them some comfort: ‘Our Lionesses go back to being mothers, partners and daughters today.” Just warms the cockles of my heart… how ’bout you?

“See Ya Soon” news for Seattle: Tokashiki to Miss Four Storm Games for 2015 FIBA Asia Women’s Championship; Rejoins Seattle in September

Congrats: Patriot League Announces Women’s Basketball 25th Anniversary Team

American: Jen Dumiak (2011-15); Lisa Strack (2008-12); Alexis Dobbs (2010-14)
Army West Point: Kelsey Minato (2012-present); Katie Macfarlane (2000-04); Cara Enright (2004-08); Erin Anthony (2007-11); Alex McGuire (2005-09); Lisa Russell (1991-95)
Bucknell: Molly Creamer (1999-03); Desire Almind (2000-04); Hope Foster (2004-08); Vicki Quimby (1998-02)
Colgate: Emily Braseth (2001-05)
Holy Cross: Amy O’Brien (1995-99); Kathy Courtney (1993-97); Lauren Maney (1992-96); Anna Kinne (1996-00); Norinne Powers (1990-93)
Lehigh: Anne Tierney (1999-03); Erica Prosser (2007-11); Jessica DePalo (2001-05)
Navy: Jade Geif (2010-14); Courtney Davidson (2000-04); Becky Dowling (1994-98)

More history: Pioneering Spirit Part III: Salem’s Evie Oquendo overcame the odds as basketball star, role model

For every accomplishment, every moment of greatness, there was an obstacle Evelyn Oquendo had to overcome.

Those obstacles ranged from the small, like the forgotten sneaker on the first day of basketball tryouts at Salem High School, to the prodigious, like a family expectation to join the work force after high school graduation.

One detour off her path and it’s unlikely Oquendo ever would have become the star high school basketball player, the three-time college All-American and national champion at Salem State, or the teacher and role model she is today for the students of Salem’s Collins Middle School.

Oquendo’s story is one of perseverance and destiny. The trail she blazed is a blueprint for how athletics can bring harmony and direction into life.

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… a hard working, fast-paced, everyone plays kinda of team (and no Isiah Thomas in the house), but i know better than to trust early W returns. Yes, the win vs. the Dream was against a team with its full compliment of players, but the same cannot be said for the W’s v. Phoenix and Indy.

That being said, Tina is playing like she gives a hoot about basketball, Essence is playing like her body is 100%, and Boyd is bringing a Becky-esque energy to the floor. And we’re undefeated at home. Can’t ask or much more than that…except, maybe, Piph returning early and healthy.

The Dream – everyone’s “with caveats” anointed Eastern champ stumbled badly out of the gate. They seemed to have regained their footing, coming away with a tough win over the Mystics, who had been galloping out of the gates.

Speaking of galloping, how about the Connecticut Sun? Most folks didn’t think they even had a horse in the race!

Storm warnings in Seattle, as Loyd and Mosqueda-Lewis discover just how hard it is to adjust to the WNBA’s skill level and pace.

Catch and Shavonte are working herself back into both sides of the lineup and Indiana is happy.

It’s not easy being Cardinal: Former Stanford players get WNBA season off to rough start

For an overview on the season so far, check out Jeff House in da house. 

Scatter shooting around the W, after the opening weekend of games, and there were a few games that catch the eye and make me say, “Hmmmm.”

Pitt’s McConnell-Serio embraces new rules for women’s basketballGary Blair Reacts To NCAA Women’s Basketball Rule Changes  and Mike Strange: Men’s basketball should be watching women’srule changes

If there’s a wall, build around it: Muslim Girls Design Their Own Culturally Appropriate Basketball Uniforms

WBHOF: 

When Door Opened For Women’s League, Lisa Leslie Walked Through It

Lisa Leslie, former OSU coach Kurt Budke among inductees into Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame

On the day before the Fever honor Lauren, she’s Honored By Indiana Basketball Hall Of Fame

A woman who never even met the late Lauren Hill was so touched by her story that she donated an engraved brick in her name to the the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame. The brick reads: “Lauren Hill: Hero.”

Swoop, there it goes: Nike (NKE) Becomes Exclusive Oncourt Apparel Provider for the NBA, WNBA

Long-term NCAA planning: 

The pre-season WNIT field is set.

Not yet set is the Maggie Dixon Classic at MSG… but rumors include Kentucky and UConn. Maybe we can break 180 WHB tixs??

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Adversity preps Sky for postseason

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

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

From Michelle Smith: Five questions for the postseason

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

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

1. Can Phoenix finish what it has started?

From Mechelle: WNBA playoff X factors, predictions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We’ll see soon enough.

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

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

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

Augustus needn’t worry.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The dial is back at 11.

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

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

Instead, her sensation is one of relief.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Atlanta Dream in an unfamiliar position at the top

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

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

Chicago Sky are the wild card

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

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

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

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

The young Washington Mystics look to make some noise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the “have nots…”

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

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

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

WATN? Former WNBA president continues to promote female empowerment

FYI: 5 Memorable Moments From The WNBA Season

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

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

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

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

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

Tim Sension experienced both.

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even after my fabulous trip to Omaha (with a drive by workshop with the amazing folks at the Omaha Community Playhouse), visits with various parental units book-ending an intense Summer Professional Development Institute with Early Childhood educators…and then my cable/internet access goes out (Thanks TWC!) …I find that nothing much has changed in the W. Folks are still pounding the heck outta each other and nothing seems guaranteed. Unless you’re Phoenix. (Now if that doesn’t put the kibosh on ’em, NOTHIN’ will…)

Catching up on the games I missed with Richard at WNBAlien.

On the good news side: Catch is back. (No, the pun wasn’t intended, but I’ll take it!)

Faith, fitness and a new pregame routine are allowing Tamika Catchings to perform as if she is 25 again — not 35, which is what she turns on her birthday Monday.

She scored 14 of her 25 points in the fourth quarter Thursday night, leading the Indiana Fever to a rare 82-64 blowout of the Chicago Sky at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

On the bad news side: Delisha is out. How is it possible that she is 39? Yes, I know she didn’t start with the league in ’97, but I still group her and Becky as “one of the originals.” Totally sucks. 

And yes, I was surprised when Milton was switched out of Cash. Really? Why? But, Swin Cash is happy to be in New York

On the “huh!” side, just when I thought Cappie and the Lib were on their deathbed, the revive enough to annoy the heck outta the Dream. Still, my eyes aren’t shining with joy when I think about NY.. sigh.

Looking at the standings, it’s a bit shocking to see where Chicago has landed – even with all their injuries. (I point to Indiana and coach Dunn’s effort.) The Sky has a helluva a lot of talent, and yet??? (Oh, and Delle Donne won’t attend WNBA All-Star Game.)

The same could be said for LA – and they don’t really have an injury excuse. Makes me wonder about chemistry and coaching.

It just shows that coaching in the W IS important — and hard to quantify/qualify. Just like Donovan hasn’t been the “disaster” that some folks presumed, Mike hasn’t been the Mystics’ miracle worker (yet?). Albert Lee wonders: Who will be the Washington Mystics’ best player over the next several years?

Lots to look forward in the second half of the season — especially if Augustus and Brunson return. Ditto for EDD. Games I’m looking forward to:

  • July 22: Atlanta @ Minnesota (How does the Dream hold up against the West second time through?)
  • Juy 24: Phoenix @ L.A. (This is the time for LA to make their push)
  • July 29: L.A. @ Phoenix (see above)
  • August 5: Atlanta @ Phoenix (Deja vu West Coast Test)
  • August 7: Chicago @ Minnesota (If they have their full compliment, and they’re making a run at the playoffs, this game could be key)
  • August 8: Connecticut @ New York (This game could be about draft picks and/or a playoff spot.)
  • August 10: Atlanta @ Chicago (Again, health and a run for a playoff spot could be at stake)
  • August 16: LA @ Phoenix (These two teams don’t like each other… the end of the season is approaching… playoffs are at stake…. what’s NOT to like?)

From Mechelle: WNBA first half: The good, the bad

Right now, there is no WNBA team flying higher than Phoenix, which has the best record in the league and is host to the All-Star Game on Saturday (ESPN, 3:30 p.m. ET). Now there’s some serendipity.

When the 2014 season began, defending champion Minnesota appeared to be the favorite, and the Lynx are still a threat to win it all. But they need to get healthier, and they know that the Mercury’s confidence is brimming.

Phoenix and Minnesota also have Diana Taurasi and Maya Moore leading the MVP race, along with Atlanta’s Angel McCoughtry. The Dream are atop the East but are thinking bigger than that. After coming away empty-handed from three trips to the WNBA Finals, Atlanta — with Michael Cooper now as its coach — wants to get past that ceiling. 

In terms of the schedule, we are actually already past the midway point of the season. Seattle, in fact, has just 10 games left. But it’s still a good time to assess where every team is and  hand out some grades. Considering most of the league is around or below .500, it stands to reason that there’s a pretty big gap between those earning A’s and everyone else.

From Swish Appeal: How is each WNBA team faring at the All-Star break?

Speaking of the All Star Game: Albert is cranky at these decisions: 2014 WNBA All-Star Game: Sue Bird and Ivory Latta named as injury replacements. Which is a little goofy (infuriating?). Mostly, I think, because, even when they DON’T intend to, it always seems folks are blaming the players for the selection process. (Flashback to Sue Wicks’ selection). ‘sides, Sue herself is honest enough to wonder how she got the nod to attend. But, USA Basketball thinks she’s still got enough to do a feature on her: Before They Made It: Sue Bird

Nate points out the “snubs.” (Another word I dislike, ’cause it brings it to the personal, where there are always so many intangibles involved…)

Obviously, folks on Twitter weighed in about the selections almost immediately. Swish Appeal readers have already commented and voted about the matter. And I pre-emptively posted a table of statistics that should make it pretty easy to glean who I think the biggest snubs, er, candidates for replacement spots are.

With some time to think things over, let’s try to bring that together to see who are the players most deserving of a replacement spot.

Oh – and it bloody-well be a sellout so the West Coast franchises will stop ducking the responsibility for hosting the beast. (And West Coast fans can stop whining about it “always being on the East Coast.”) Put your money and your organizational skills where your mouth is, I say….

More on the game:

Can’t avoid it: Diggins an All-Star on, off the court

Not even Drake’s infatuation can throw Skylar Diggins off her game.

From Elliot: Stanford graduates Chiney and Nneka Ogwumike meet again as WNBA all stars

Nneka Ogwumike could afford to play the charitable big sister last weekend when her Los Angeles Sparks demolished Chiney Ogwumike’s Connecticut Sun 90-64 in basketball’s version of Family Feud.

While running down the court in the second half, Nneka told Chiney, “Hey, tie your shoe.”

Always the protector, Chiney recounted this week as she and her sister prepared for round two Saturday in the WNBA all-star game at US Airways Center in Phoenix.

More on the sisters from Doug: Ogwumike sisters headline WNBA All-Star reserves

Chiney and Nneka Ogwumike became the first pair of sisters to be chosen to participate in the WNBA All-Star game when the league announced the reserves on Tuesday night.

“It means the world to me because, honestly, I didn’t expect to come to the league and be able to feel like a confident player,” Chiney Ogwumike said of the honor. “You expect rookie struggles, and I have struggled at times, but I have great teammates who lift me up, and I have an organization that gives me so much confidence. And to be there alongside my sister. … I think it’s just awesome and I feel blessed.”

The sisters are amazing enough for the NY Times to have given them some space: Rivalry Begins for Sisters With Ambition – Chiney and Nneka Ogwumike, Sisters and No. 1 Picks, Face Off

Shortly after she was selected in April as the No. 1 overall pick in the W.N.B.A. draft by the Connecticut Sun, Chiney Ogwumike moved into her own apartment. During her first visit, Ify Ogwumike, Chiney’s mother, presented her second-oldest daughter with a housewarming gift that carried a not-so-subtle message, a study guide for the Graduate Record Examination.

“She put it purposely on my night stand,” Chiney Ogwumike said this month. “It’s ominous, watching me all the time.”

Brittney Griner set for 1st healthy WNBA All-Star Game

Around this time a year ago, Brittney Griner wasn’t in a good place. The Mercury center was struggling to recover from a sprained left knee and brooding over the realization that she would have to miss the 2013 WNBA All-Star Game.

Sitting out any game is no fun for an athlete. Sitting out your first All-Star Game after being voted in by the fans in your rookie season — that takes disappointment to another level.

“It sucked,” Griner said. “It definitely sucked, not being able to play and having to sit there and watch everybody else. It was horrible.”

And yes, we noticed: Griner blossoming in WNBA after rough first year

Which is why Swish Appeal has a Q&A with Diana Taurasi: Phoenix Mercury’s hot start, Brittney Griner’s improvement, the WNBA title chase

What about those Merc? Deflecting Brondello leads Mercury rise

Right, the players make the plays and it’s wise for a coach to keep everyone aware of it.

“Obviously, the organization and detailed work that Sandy’s put in every day has kind of made us really focus going into games,” Taurasi said of Brondello, a former world-class guard from Australia whom she played for in Russia the past two winters. “Knowing what we’re doing on both sides of the ball … that’s really helped.”

VIDEO: From Ben and the .com: Taurasi and Catchings (Please, please, pleeeease let them both be in Turkey!!!)

From Jayda: The Storm’s Brian Agler talks about his team and its struggles

Q: The roster has suffered a few setbacks. How do you think the team has handled adversity headed into the All-Star break?

Agler: There’s been a lot of inconsistencies with our team this year. Like a lot of teams, we haven’t had a lot of time to practice because the season is 2½ weeks shorter. … I don’t think our defense has been up to par with the (Storm) teams in the past. I see that as a lack of court time because there are some things that need practice repetition. But we talk about it and understand the importance. So, that’s our focus, to become consistent on the quality of our play.

Shoni rules the World of Jersey. (The jersey that you wear, silly!)

Speaking of Shoni, from the Journal-Courier: Schimmel, McCoughtry stick with U of L roots

Shoni Schimmel and Angel McCoughtry are enjoying their first season as teammates on the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream, and the partnership of the two greatest alumnae in University of Louisville women’s basketball history will reach new heights on Saturday when they both start in the league’s All-Star Game in Phoenix.

From USA Today, David Woods asks: Who is the greatest women’s basketball player ever?

It’s easy to ignite discussion in a bar or chat room on who’s the greatest male basketball player of all time. M.J. or Kareem? Wilt or Russell? What about LeBron?

What about the female players?

That might be a more difficult conversation. Not because there aren’t candidates, but because it’s a list that can’t easily be pared.

“It’s just like the NBA or the NFL. You can’t say there’s one player because that’s how good the game is, and that’s how much it’s evolved over the years,” said Kelly Krauskopf, president and general manager of the Indiana Fever. “That’s the way it should be.”

In other news:

Catching up with Texas Tech’s “no tolerance” policy: Texas Tech reinstates Nigel Bethel II and Video of Nigel Bethel Punching Amber Battle During Texas Tech Pickup Basketball Game Emerges After Grand Jury Dismisses Charges

Cool: Sugden makes history at the Women’s World Wheelchair Basketball Championships

From Paul (who I hope to cross paths with in Istanbul): Waiting for the youth scene to catch fire in 2014

Having written last week about the various shortcomings on court at the FIBA U17 World Championship for Women, I have to confess my spirit was barely lifted by the U20 European Championship Women.

The play seemed to me at least, to be of an inferior quality to many previous editions. The Final itself, between eventual winners France and their opponents Spain, was exciting in terms of its conclusion due to the fact it went to overtime.

But, whichever way you dress it up and even taking into account the mitigation of some excellent defense – which was highlighted by Spanish senior team boss Lucas Mondelo – it was not the spectacle you would expect and epitomised much of the tournament.

From Connecticut: KML ready for senior moment

For three years, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis has talked about looking up to the likes of Kelly Faris, Bria Hartley, and Stefanie Dolson on the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team.

But the tables have now turned on the Anaheim Hills, Calif., native. She and Kiah Stokes are the only seniors on the Huskies’ 2014-15 roster.

“There is definitely a lot more pressure, and a lot more responsibility,” Mosqueda-Lewis said. “But the people on this team, they take care of themselves.”

Oops and ouch: Naje Gibson, a talented women’s basketball recruit, will not attend Pitt this year as she is academically ineligible.

From the Ames Tribune: “Fab Five” freshmen add versatility, depth to ISU

Rare has been the year in Iowa State women’s basketball coach Bill Fennelly’s tenure that he could call upon nine or 10 players in a given game or even play a proper five-on-five scrimmage without one team blowing out the other.

That may change this season.

More from Iowa: Polish team takes a chance on injured Poppen

Chelsea Poppens knew that her stock was down after rupturing her ACL in January during her stint in Australia and that any overseas professional team picking her up for the upcoming winter season would be taking a chance.

Lublin of the Polish league took that chance on the 6-foot-2 former Iowa State forward this week, signing Poppens for the upcoming season that starts in September, about one month after she is tentatively projected to fully recover from her injury.

More international basketball news: For Fort Gibson ex, this move requires a passport

Slowly, over the course of time, Carissa Crutchfield has drifted away from home.

That current joins with a tidal wave in a few weeks.

From Fort Gibson to Oklahoma State to the University of Arizona, Crutchfield will head to Krasnoyarsky Russia, to begin a pro basketball career. It’s Russia, but smack-dab in the middle of Siberia, 2,500 miles or a five-hour flight from the capital city of Moscow.

From the Daily Californian: Cal women’s basketball must develop role players

Depth was a major issue for the Bears last season, and it was evident in their lack of a second-string point guard to back up Boyd. When Boyd left the floor to rest or because of foul trouble, Gottlieb was forced to play Afure Jemerigbe at point guard. The Bears also had little depth behind Gray and hit lulls in scoring whenever she left the floor.

Despite losing a major cog in Brandon, Cal projects to bounce back, improving its role players as well as its main stars. Gottlieb’s quick-paced tempo complements Boyd and Gray with the Bears running up and down the court every chance they get. Gottlieb plays to the team’s strengths, allowing Boyd and other wings to gamble and trap around the perimeter to force turnovers, leading to easy buckets in transition.

Tough news from down the road:

Former Campbell Hall girls’ basketball standout Lauren Holiday has taken a medical retirement from basketball at UCLA.

She will remain with the team as an undergraduate assistant.

Holiday suffered from multiple concussions and was the subject of a Times’ story last February looking at head injuries among women athletes.

Fun stuff: Central Kitsap’s new girls basketball coach Nikki Nelson a dribbling phenom

Nelson, a Chewelah native (that’s about an hour north of Spokane if you didn’t know) was a ball-handling wunderkind and can probably still get it done today.Check out this video of Nelson performing at halftimeat a Seattle SuperSoncis game (remember them?) on April 4, 2014

More from the Courier-Journal crew: Walz ready to replace U of L women’s vets (and congrats on the munchkin, Jeff!)

On Tuesday, U of L coach Jeff Walz said his program is on task and headed in the right direction, despite the challenges presented by the departures of WNBA All-Star Shoni Schimmel, standout forward Asia Taylor and two other key seniors.

Having five freshmen ready to play is a big factor in that transition, Walz said.

“I’m really excited about where they are now and even more excited about where they’ll be in two or three months,” Walz said.

The freshman class is built around wing Mariya Moore, a McDonald’s All-American who will play for the USA under-18 team this summer. Walz is an assistant coach for that team.

A little more from Louisville: Jeff Walz summer Q&A, WNBA, newcomers, more

All right, I’m going to admit something. University of Louisville coach Jeff Walz held a news conference to update some news with his women’s basketball program today, but I got distracted by his 13-month-old daughter, Lola, during the news conference and only caught about half of what he said.

So here’s a transcript of a portion his news conference from today — with the obligatory Lola photo gallery attached

Good news in Nashville: Vanderbilt’s Rebekah Dahlman back after health scare

“I stepped off the court and I was like, ‘Something is wrong,'<TH>” Dahlman said. “I took off my arm sleeve and I just noticed that my arm was completely black and blue and very swollen. Like double the size of my left arm.”

What happened next is a blur in Dahlman’s memory. Trainers rushed her to the emergency room at the university’s medical center.

“I’m kind of freaking out,” Dahlman said. “I didn’t know what to think and didn’t know what to do.”

From Georgia’s Telegraph: Lady Vols’ Massengale eager for comeback

Tennessee is preparing to welcome back a senior point guard while monitoring the status of an ailing post player.

Ariel Massengale is looking forward to returning for her senior season after missing the final 16 games of the 2013-14 season with a head injury. Massengale, who also underwent offseason surgery on her right knee, says she’s hoping to be 100 percent by the start of the school year next month.

While Massengale awaits her return, sophomore center Mercedes Russell is recovering from offseason surgery to her right foot. Lady Vols coach Holly Warlick said Russell is out kind of indefinitely right now” and was uncertain whether the injury would affect the 6-foot-6 center’s status for the start of the season.

Sports Illustrated on a former Vol: Where are they now: Catching up with Chamique Holdsclaw

She turned herself in to the police two days later and spent a night in jail, where heckling inmates challenged her to  games of one-on-one. Holdsclaw finally decided to deal with her depression. “This wasn’t the court saying that I had to do therapy or anything of that sort,” she strains to note. “This was all me trying to get things right in my life.”

On her lawyer’s recommendation, she hired a forensic psychologist to audit her medical records; he referred her to another psychologist who, after a 15-minute review, revealed that she didn’t just have clinical depression she also had bipolar II disorder. “And I’m like, Man, you got all that in 15 minutes?”

The news was upsetting but also came as a relief. Now there was and explanation for the the emotional swings she had experienced. Furthermore, the psychologist noted, Holdsclaw was not only taking the wrong drugs to treat the wrong ailment, but also taking them at the wrong times. After switching to a new drug, Depakote, a mild mood stabilizer, and a new therapist with whom she meets with once a week, she has noticed a major difference. “Looking back,” she says, “I really should’ve been in therapy more. It’s changed my life. It’s like you come in one person and leave another.”

The fabulous Nancy Fahey and her amazing Washington U (St. Louis) program goes dunlin‘.

Dicky V is all wet:

And are the stripped shirts!

Signing off! Thank you, oh Coffee Shoppe, for your internet access….

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in the MOOOOOOORRRRNing!

At least when I get up Friday AM, it will be to catch a 6am flight to Omaha to present at a conference and work with some of the fine folks at the Omaha Community Playhouse. But 50% of the players who got up bright and early yesterday morning for afternoon Kid Camp days got a loss for their trouble.

The Mystics ended a four-game skid by taking down San Antonio AT San Antonio, 81-70. Nice to see Dolson fight through a knee sprain and Meesseman and McBride back filling up their stat lines.

Tired Storm legs meant tired Storm shooting. LA managed to defend home court against Seattle, though they almost let their third quarter doom’em again. Sue over at Full Court says the Sparks are collectively dealing with chemistry, line up issues

“I loved how we won,” Los Angeles coach Carol Ross said. “We were resilient, tough, and battled through fatigue. We finished all the way to the end and kept a positive attitude until the end. We never doubted we would win it.”

The Sparks demonstrated the same play last week in defeating the visiting Tulsa Shock. It was a noticeable difference for a team that has been known to lose momentum during games, and have lackluster showings on both the offensive and defensive ends of the court.

“This game we were able to correct our problems, and make plays down the stretch and do what works for us,” All-Star forward Candace Parker said.

She’s baaaaack: Minnesota Lynx today announced the team has signed guard Nadirah McKenith

She’s also baaaaack: The New York Liberty signed free agent forward Charde Houston

Deborah Fleck asks: So how’s Irving MacArthur and Baylor graduate Odyssey Sims doing in the WNBA?

Jayda’s got some stuff to say about WNBA Pride & TV. Meanwhile, Rose Scott at NPR says, The WNBA Televises Its Pride With LGBT Campaign

Ned Griffen says the Sun continue to follow Douglas’ lead

Katie Douglas wanted to talk to Connecticut Sun public and community relations manager Bill Tavares at a recent practice, so she walked over and lowered her shoulder into him.

Laughter ensued.

Douglas was asked about her back, which caused her to miss most of last WNBA season. She had lumbar microdiscectomy surgery last October to correct it.

“The back is good,” Douglas said. “How does it look?”

More laughter.

Honestly, ESPN, that’s the best photo you could find?

BTW: Vote early, vote often:WNBA releases first tally for All-Star game, voting ends July 2

In college news:

UNCW women’s basketball team ready to reap rewards of patience

Adell Harris tried not to take it personally when a parade of UNCW women’s basketball players invaded her office in May 2012looking to leave.

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’cause that’s what game threes should be!

Atlanta v. Mystics @ 8pm. Sparks v. Mercury @ 10pm.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution couldn’t be bothered. (Probably recovering from the Falcons’ meltdown.)

From Roman at the WaPo: Washington Mystics must rebound in Game 3 of WNBA Eastern Conference semifnals (sic)

Small pockets of boos could be heard circulating through Verizon Center during the third quarter of the Washington Mystics’ 63-45 loss to the Atlanta Dream on Saturday night. The jeers began when the Dream, leading by 16, pulled down four offensive rebounds on one possession, the last leading to an Erika de Souza layup that gave Atlanta its largest lead.

That possession was a microcosm of the Mystics’ problems during Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. The Dream had more second-chance opportunities (18 offensive boards) than Washington and made 11 more field goals to send the series back to Atlanta for a decisive Game 3 on Monday night. The quick turnaround affords the Mystics little time for self-reflection — and even less time to rediscover the offensive identity they need to keep the season alive.

Melissa writes: Sparks, Phoenix brace for deciding game of series

Parker said that after Thursday’s 86-75 Game 1 loss at home, the Sparks made some major adjustments. They didn’t have much to do with basketball though.

“We just changed our mind-set more than we changed our play,” Parker said.

From Odeen: Phoenix Mercury focus on execution for decisive Game 3 against Los Angeles Sparks

“I thought the ball wound up in one person’s hands too long,” Mercury coach Russ Pennell said after Saturday’s loss. “The shot clock is so short. If you hang on to it too long, you are going to wind up taking a marginal shot. And I think (Saturday night), we took a lot of marginal shots, and we need to get that corrected before (Monday night), for sure.

“We did some things that were not really characteristic, I think, of this team. Bottom line is, we just didn’t get it done, and we have to try to correct it before we play again.”

Who ya got?

In those other games: Yup: Catchings, Fever overwhelm Sky Indiana advances to Eastern Conference finals to play either Atlanta or Washington

Sometimes, Indiana rookie guard Layshia Clarendon suddenly will remember that her down-to-earth, low-key, friendly teammate is actually a very big deal.

 “I see the way people cheer for her, the way the other team reacts when they announce her name,” Clarendon said. “And I think, ‘Oh, my gosh, that’s right. This is the Tamika Catchings, three-time gold medalist, awesome community leader.’ They are those ‘oh wow’ moments. But she makes you feel like she’s just another person.”

Of course, Catchings isn’t just another player. She is a future Hall of Famer, someone who is at least in the MVP discussion every WNBA season. And in the Fever’s Eastern Conference first-round series victory over Chicago, Catchings displayed her usual relentlessness. She was the best player on the court.

Nice to have the MIP on your team, too: Zellous’ play helps fill Douglas void – Guard’s offensive improvement paying dividends for Indiana Fever

From Mark Ambrogl: Why the Indiana Fever are on the verge of another title run (or maybe not)

From Philip Hersh

“We know how to play basketball,” said Sky guard Courtney Vandersloot, who spent several minutes after the game with her head buried under a towel. “We have enough experience and talent and skill in this room to win games in the playoffs.”

It went missing in both playoff games.

“In the end, it always comes down to toughness — rebounds, loose balls, deflections,” Chatman said. “It starts in the fight areas. You’ve just got to have some dog in you. You’ve just got to get it done.”

Nate explains How the Minnesota Lynx swept the Seattle Storm (Though it t’weren’t as easy as they might have thought it would be)

Clay offers Analysis: A tale of two series

From Jayda: Storm ousted from playoffs – Tina Thompson ends her career trying hard to extend Seattle’s season

Tina Turner’s “Simply the Best” blared from the speakers as the announced crowd of 3,457 chanted “Thank You Tina” until she exited the court. Thompson, a 6-foot-2 power forward, finished with 13 points and nine rebounds. She announced in May she would retire from the WNBA after this season.

“I can walk away and feel OK with how we finished because we gave as much as we possibly could,” Thompson said Sunday. “I’ve always wanted to retire from the game and not the game retire from me. So, when I leave on my own terms, it’s a lot easier to settle with.”

From Jim Caple: Tina Thompson retires on her terms

After Minnesota beat the Seattle Storm 58-55 Sunday afternoon, the Lynx asked the league’s all-time scoring leader if she would honor them by posing for a team photo with them. This is not the way teams generally celebrate sweeping a first-round playoff series. But then, teams don’t usually end opponent’s careers that are as old as the very league in which they play.

“It was a bigger-than-basketball moment,” Lynx forward Maya Moore said. “We have so much respect for her, and we just battled it out with her. And we just wanted to get a picture. ‘Hey Tina, can we get a picture?’ It was really kind of childlike and beautiful. And she was great. She said, ‘Go ahead and win the whole thing guys.”’

Yes, I sense the irony: Minnesota Public Radio has a link to some great game shots.

Jayda redux: End of Tina Thompson’s career is end of an era for WNBA

“The WNBA is the best-kept secret in the world in a sense that in every single season that I’ve been a part of, this product has been amazing and the level of competition has been very high,” she said to Storm teammates, Tulsa Shock players and a crowd of 8,978. “You guys are the future of the WNBA. Continue to work and play as hard as you do.”

It’s one of those scary moments to which parents can relate. At some point, you have to let go of your baby in order for it to flourish. Now Thompson, 38, embarks on the final days of her career beginning with a first-round playoff game Friday at Minnesota.

Thank you Tina. May joy follow you the rest of your days.

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So much for “home court advantage,” huh.

Angel started slowly, Erika never got started, and there was a whole lotta Latta. Suddenly, BOOM!, the Mystics are a win away from playing for the Eastern Conference Championship. Yup, Washington Mystics’ Mike Thibault finds coaching home in WNBA

The league, this team — he’s never envisioned it as a last-ditch stop on the circuit.

“I want to be here,” said Thibault, who became the WNBA’s leader in career coaching wins this past July. “I get up every day and I enjoy coaching here.”

Candace Parker enjoyed the MVP trophy for the first half, but when Nneka went to the bench with foul trouble, it was Taurasi-time. Understandably, Melissa sounds a little peeved – Sparks don’t win any awards in Game 1 loss to Mercury

At least Thursday began as a good day for Sparks forward Candace Parker.

The WNBA announced that she won the most-valuable-player award in the early evening. It was downhill from there, as the Sparks lost, 86-75, to the Phoenix Mercury in Game 1 of the first round of the playoffs at Staples Center later that night.

So much for a celebration.

“We let it slip away,” Parker said after scoring a team-high 28 points and grabbing eight rebounds.

Sue and a fellow WNBA addict, have some long Contemplations on the Sparks’ first-round loss to Phoenix

If Griner can figure out how to play without fouling, things could get interesting as the game moves to the Land of the Bun. ’cause hell already froze over: Look who’s liking the W!

We saw the best women’s player of all time, Diana Taurasi, who is absolutely brilliant and killed the Sparks in the second half as I repeatedly told my daughter (who loves basketball) to watch her command of the court, watch how hard she tried on every play and watch all the subtle things she was doing.

Continuing the day’s theme, Rookie of the Year Delle Donne did all she could, but Defensive Player of the Year Fowles, (Brin January? Really, ESPN Highlight guy?) along with the rest of her team, forgot to bring it. Indiana schooled playoff rooks and now look who’s eyeing the next round? (Nate’s not surprised)

Fowles was asked how it felt to be in the playoffs after five seasons of futility.

Her answer was a prolonged shriek of joy.

“Those five years we struggled are a blur now,” Fowles said.

A Sky season that included first place in the Eastern Conference could look the same way in the future if the team cannot beat fourth-place Indiana, the worst shooting team in the WNBA at 39 percent.

And the Sky are in grave danger of having that happen losing the opener of the best-of-three series 85-72 at Allstate Arena. against a Fever team for which 82 points had been the regular-season high.

I will be really sad for the Sky fans and franchise if Chicago can’t bring a third game home.

It was close through the first quarter, then there were back-to-back steals capped by free throws, and the Lynx were off and running. And then Seattle said, “Not so fast.” And then the Lynx said, “Yes, that fast” and, as Tim’s headline reads, the Minnesota Lynx avert the WNBA’s upset-special trend

“It was a trend that we were focused on bucking,” Reeve said. “I told the team, ‘Big dummies, the home teams.’ It was great fuel for us. It won’t be easy. If you think it is going to be easy, we are going to get beat.

“We had three examples of games that if you don’t come to play (you will get beat). Seattle, quite frankly, played harder than us (at times in the early going). Seattle played with a tremendous sense of urgency.”

And yes, Tom, perhaps the Dominant Lynx make it hard not to look ahead, but you know what they say about eggs and counting…

Adi Nelson at USA Today give the Warrior Princes her due: WNBA’s first ever pick Tina Thompson finishes with style

“I’m not retiring because I can’t play basketball; I’m retiring because I don’t want to play basketball,” Thompson said. “I’m just tired. My approach (was to play) until I stop having the same feelings and passions.”

Ah, memories – Rebkell puts together a great Tina tribute.

Speaking of memories:

In case you hadn’t noticed, the WNBA CBA set to expire on Sept. 30 before playoffs end. Wheeeee!

And lucky us, Mechelle had some extra time: Thinking of Billie Jean and the (ongoing) battle

A headline on The Kansas City Times front page the morning after King’s victory trumpeted: “Male chauvinism stamped out in three sets.”

However, inside the paper, a story on a Carnegie Commission of Higher Education report said more women graduated from high school than men, received better grades in college and applied themselves as diligently to their work – yet did not achieve anything near parity with men in rank and salary. The commission concluded that women were “the largest unused supply of superior intelligence in the United States.”

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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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51: The number of  points scored by Riquna Williams to set a new WNBA record. (+0: The number of OT’s she needed to set it.)

40: The minutes played by Chicago’s bench against Washington.

28: The number of turnovers committed by Phoenix in their 8pt win over the Dream.

9: The number of years in a row Indy has reached the postseason.

6: The winning streak the Lynx are on.

2: The number of women enshrined into the Naismith Hall of Fame. Congrats to coach Hatchell and Staley.

1: The number of articles written about how, with Tina sitting for the rest of the season, it’s clear that the Sun are tanking to either 1) increase their chances at the #1 pick or 2) increase their leverage in case of a Tina trade.

0: The number of times the USA Women’s Basketball Senior National Team has had the same coach in back-to-back Olympics.

And it has to matter to you. That might seem automatic: Who doesn’t want to play in the Olympics? But the commitment for players is much more than that. It’s showing up for training camps even when they’re tired or have other things to do. It’s accepting whatever role they are assigned, even if that means being a WNBA superstar on the U.S. national team bench.

This is a mindset that has been passed down from players who are now retired to current standouts. And Auriemma, in taking another four-year term with USA Basketball, is setting the same example as a coach that he hopes to see in the upcoming generation of American young women playing this sport. Whether they attend UConn or anywhere else.

Best one-liner of the weekend: “It’s nice that he would sacrifice his golf game for the good of the country.” (If you can’t guess who said that, you’re no fan of women’s basketball. <g>)

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This time it was the .comCurse (Candace Parker’s Road to RedemptionParker is in midst of her prime playing some of the best basketball of her career right now) and Jayda (Welcome to hot seat Candace Parker; your must-win title push starts now.):

The Sparks, starting a season-high five-game road trip, were without All-Star Game MVP Candace Parker due to an injured right wrist. Her status for Los Angeles’ next game, Sunday at Washington, was uncertain.

Parker’s absence shouldn’t diminish the Shock’s win, nor Cambage’s career high 28pts. 

“It’s good to beat a good team,” Tulsa coach Gary Kloppenburg said. “We really want to push for the playoffs and we know we’ve gotta beat some of these elite teams to get there.”

Guess Diggins got her birthday wish.

The Laurel was in Minny: 

She was asked about a pre-season survey of league general managers, who picked Phoenix to finish first in the Western Conference, followed by Los Angeles and Minnesota. The Lynx have the league’s best record (14-3) at mid-season. “Maybe there were some bright, shiny toys in the window that got people excited,” she said, referring, perhaps, to highly-touted rookies like Skylar Diggins and Brittney Griner. “But I can’t imagine anyone affiliated with the WNBA considering the Lynx an afterthought.”

The Lynx confirmed their non-afterthought status by sluggishly starting and then slugging the stubborn Stars, 85-63.

“Everybody says, ‘What do you have to work on?’ ” Reeve said, acting as though the question was preposterous. “There is a ton we have to work on. … We played in spurts. We feel we have to play better, for sure. But in the end, statistically, we had a pretty good game.’’

Guess so.

In Chicago, Big Syl was…well, BIG as her 10-14 (32pt-15rebs) shooting made up for Prince & Cash’s double-double (3-13) carried the Sky over the Mystics.

“You know, she’s a beast,” Chicago coach Pokey Chatman said. “I call that her beast mode. … Look at her toenail polish when you go in there (to the locker room). She’s got that Incredible Hulk Green on.”

“Pack Up Your Basketballs In Your Old Kit Bag:” USA Basketball Announces Plan To Relocate Headquarters To Tempe, Arizona

USA Basketball today officially announced that it has agreed to relocate to Tempe, Arizona, as part of a $350 million development project. USA Place, LLC, has been selected to develop a new national headquarters and training center for USA Basketball on a 10.5-acre site located next to Arizona State University’s Tempe campus on land owned by ASU at the southeast corner of Mill Avenue and University Drive.

I can see the financial lure. Wonder how the staff will feel — and what impact it will have on the athletes (bball and other sports).

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Chicago news: Zoll-Norman broke her thumb against the Mystics while Swords has a knee ligament injury that will require surgery on Saturday.

A little something to counter the bad news: In Its 17th Season, The WNBA Continues To Defy Odds

The WNBA is well-managed but is fighting for its life,” said a world-renowned sports journalist.

My jaw dropped when I read that statement earlier this year. Since 1997, the WNBA’s inaugural season, the same recycled storyline has been printed year after year.

Despite continued criticism and predictions of failure, the longest-running women’s professional basketball league in the U.S. is holding its own and not folding anytime soon.

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Vets, rookies give Mystics new life

Snow, an 11-year veteran, and Hill, the No. 4 draft pick in April, represent the extremes in experience for the Mystics.

On one hand, you have the 6-foot-5 center who has seen it all in the pro game and been able to steadily keep a job. On the other hand, you have a 5-10 guard who’s learning more every day about what it takes to earn minutes in this league.

“When you’re young,” says Mystics point guard Ivory Latta, “you need that veteran who will get in your grill and say: ‘Hey, you are at the next level. Everybody is faster, quicker, they jump higher, they get in the passing lanes. You have to adjust.’

“Tayler — she’s going to be great. She just has to get into the rhythm of how the WNBA is played, and it takes some time.”

Where I’m going to be tonight: Liberty Host Eastern Conference Rival Connecticut Sun, by Ros Gold-Onwude

The Connecticut Sun (2-3) are hampered by injuries of their own. Streaky shooter and solid defender Renee Montgomery is out with an ankle injury. Shooter Tan White is out with a broken finger. Kara Lawson missed a game with a sore back but returned to play on Wednesday against the Indiana Fever. Due to all the injuries the Sun brought in veteran guard Iziane Castro Marquez who brings size and another scoring option to the wing. The Sun bounced back after a three game losing streak with a 73-61 win over the Indiana Fever on Wednesday June 12th. Reigning MVP Tina Charles carried the Sun with 30 points and 10 rebounds in an inspired effort. Lawson returned to the court to add 12 points but seemed limited, only shooting 5-14 and giving up 6 turnovers.

Speaking of New Jersey,  C Viv in the Nine for IX Short: ‘Coach’ Preview

Check out a preview clip from the Nine for IX digital short film “Coach,” the Best Documentary Short winner at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. “Coach” will debut on espnW.com on June 18, while the Nine for IX documentary series begins July 2 on ESPN.

Nate ponders the Three keys to the Atlanta Dream succeeding without Sancho Lyttle

Adding to the discussion of rosters and money, Clay says, In the WNBA, injuries change everything

So even though the Liberty knocked off Atlanta Sunday, starting 75-year-old Katie Smith every night is simply not the way to win consistently in this year’s very tough and competitive WNBA. As time goes on, the 12 teams are not only getting more talented, they are developing identity and pride, and a group like the San Antonio Silver Stars, hampered as they are by their own injuries, are going to play tough almost every night out. Even downtrodden and unlucky Tulsa is not guaranteed win, as the Shock have taken some of the league’s best into overtime.

This flew under my radar — and it’s interesting, because about five years ago, a NCAAW coach was talking to me about “concerns” at Nike. Nike LGBT Sports Summit underway in Portland

Folks are tweeting the event: #LGBTSportsSummit

The second annual Nike LGBT Sports Summit started this week at the same time the city gears up for the Portland Pride Festival.

The summit held in downtown Portland includes more than 100 leaders in LGBT sports community.  There are various initiatives, all centered around ending bias and discrimination of LGBT athletes and their fans.

Cyd Zeigler of OutSports.com is one of the founders of the summit, and credits Nike for hosting the event.

And Nike unveils line of sneakers celebrating gay pride – The colorful #BeTrue Free Run 5.0 shoes are available in the U.S. for $115, and profits will benefit the LGBT Sports Coalition.

In addition to the professional activists and media, the attendees include athletes, coaches or representatives affiliated with colleges and universities around the country, as well as the NCAA, USOC and USA Wrestling. And there’s an anticipated increase in the participation of active and former athletes and coaches. More than a dozen current college athletes (gay and straight) will be joined by another dozen coaches, including Portland State women’s basketball coach Sherri Murrell. Murrell is the lone out coach in Division I, and her perspective — on her responsibilities as a mentor to her athletes and as a responsible citizen to the wider community — might help move the national conversation beyond questioning an LGBT person’s fitness to coach, or beyond concerns over sexuality or gender identity, and back to simple ability.
Bill Laimbeer is standing in a piece of real estate that he used to own. Both his feet are firmly planted in the paint as he’s calmly instructs the players that Bill Laimbeer the GM has provided him how to feel for the balance and weight of a defender. Later he’ll show some of his guards how to properly curl off of an off-ball pick. Every now and then he’ll smile, too.In their 16-year existence, the New York Liberty, one of the WNBA’s original eight teams, have never won a title. There have been three finals appearances, but the last one was in 2002. Last year they finished the season 15-19. Laimbeer, on the other hand, is a three time WNBA champion—2003, ’06 and ’08—the second most in league history. It took him less than two full seasons to lead the Shock to their first WNBA title. The Liberty are hoping for an even faster clock this time around.

And some sad news that I saw, but couldn’t get to: Memorial service set for Melissa Erickson, former Washington player
Melissa Erickson, a former Washington basketball player, died Wednesday after a seven-year battle with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). She was 34.
A public memorial service has been set for June 21 at 5pm at Alaska Airlines Arena, or Hec Ed as Erickson and her teammates knew it when the Huskies advanced to the NCAA Elite Eight her senior season in 2001.

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basketball “stuff,” but it is cool how basketball can distract you from “stuff.”

So, I did manage to catch my first live Lib game of the season last Sunday. Thoughts:

  • Shout out to Hasim, the Lib’s media person, for being so welcoming. (RU! RU!)
  • It’s REEEEALLY easy to get lost in the bowels of the Rock.
  • Yes, back in the day there WAS a lot of media at Lib games. Not so much now. But it still was heartening to see some familiar (stubborn) faces doing what they want to do – and love to do – in service of the game and players.
  • Speaking of someone who loves to do what she does: lovely chatting with coach Coyle. She knows next year will be a challenge, but is excited to be in the MAAC.
  • The best part of going to the game was seeing the “regulars” in the stands. And shouting “REEEEFFFFFFFF SCHOOOOOOOL!”
  • The game: The ESPN headline credits Cappie with the win over the Dream, but really it was Mini Mi and the Old Lady. Watching the 39-year-old Katie Smith dog Angel all game was a lesson in ferocity and stubbornness. Yes, Angel got her points, but on 4-16 shooting.
  • What about Mini Mi? Well, in the season preview, coach Bill stated he wanted “strong-minded women that want to be themselves, but want to play within the structure, and want to know where they stand every minute of every day.” Leilani Mitchell sure as heck knew where she stood at camp: “In front of everyone he said, ‘I don’t like small guards.'” Mitchell is generously listed as 5’5″. “It’s hard when your coach doesn’t have confidence in you.” Her response? Play with a sense of freedom and abandon. She made the team (to the surprise of some) and, while she only made one basket Sunday (a key 3), it was everything else she did that made an impression: 7 rebounds, 3 steals and +13. Which earned her praise from her not-short coach. And the fans.
  • Cappie looked outta sorts in the first half, her shots all coming up short, as if she had no legs. And then something clicked in the second half. After the game coach Laimbeer spoke about her leading by being part of the offense, “not just jacking up shots.” So I started wondering about her transition to working under a Laimbeer-esque coaching style and how that will impact her attitude and game-sense.
  • The rooks did good. Honestly, was there EVER a time when you could say, “The Lib have three rookies on the floor” and not have it because the game was outta reach? Favorite moment: Angel and Bone arm wrasslin’ each other for the ball. Bone does not let go, and Angel gets in to her face a bit, as if she believes a rookie should release control to an All-Star. Yap, yap, yap like my miniature Dachshund used to do at our bigger Kerry Blue. Bone just stood there, patiently, until her teammates stepped between the twosome.
  • Yes, it’s fun to watch the Dream get all emotional. But, while it’s tempting to draw a conclusion about their “chemistry,” don’t get fooled. It works for them. “That’s how they’ve always been,” said Smith post-game. The only thing “bad” I can see about Atlanta folks barking at each other or the refs is when they use their barking as an excuse not to get back on defense.

Speaking of Smith, the fabulous Jim Massie catches up: Former Buckeye Smith, 39, still climbing upward

Check in with L’Alien for more info on this past week’s games, like:  Charles dominates ice cold Fever

Check this week’s Top Plays. (Mark, you’d a very poor inspirational speaker…)

Other stuff:

Ah, yes, INJURIES!!! John Altavilla writes: Short WNBA Rosters Are A Problem For Sun, Other Teams. On a related note, Pilight wonders: Is there enough talent for WNBA expansion? The Rebkellians discuss.

Kwai Chan at the Meniscus: WNBA 2013: One year, big difference for the Washington Mystics

There is no jumping or shouting in the Verizon Center…yet.  But what a difference a year makes for the Washington Mystics, who defeated the Minnesota Lynx, 85-80.

Mike Thibault, who has the most wins of any active coach with 209-135 (.608) record in the last 10 years, is the new head coach of the Mystics.  Eight of the 12 players on the 2012 roster are gone, and have been replaced by four rookies and three veterans.  With these changes, one would think that just getting a team on the floor would be an accomplishment in itself.

Not so much fun being in Indiana these days: Fever not feeling, looking like champions – Defending WNBA titlists are off to 1-4 start, worst 5-game start since 2001

Michelle says: Griner’s popularity reels in fans

It’s more than two hours before tipoff at U.S. Airways Center on Memorial Day, and a Phoenix Mercury staff member is erecting a banner of Brittney Griner that shows the exact physical dimensions of her height and wingspan and the size of her hands and feet.

Immediately after he is done, a group of kids rush over and put their hands and feet up against the banner to compare.

The big girl is a big deal here.

From Media Planet:  WOMEN IN SPORTS: NO LONGER ON THE SIDELINES: Title IX opened the gates for female athletes—a halo effect empowered women to own, manage and work in the once male-dominated industry.

Case in point: Laura Gentile, espnW vice president, launched the digital initiative as a voice for women who love sports. “One of the best parts of starting this business was connecting women in sports to discuss issues and work together. Women have made a lot of strides,” she adds, ticking off names including WNBA’s president Laurel Richie and USA Today’s Christine Brennan. 

No Sancho? Williams is going to change things up a bit.

Prince leaves Chicago. Again.

No Ice, Ice Baby Tonight: From Odeen Domingo:#WNBA suspends @phoenixmercury Candice Dupree 1 game for making contact w/ game official Sat. Will not play tonight vs @LA_Sparks cc: @WNBA

All Star Voting Time! Who do YOU think deserves a $5000 bonus?

So what did you think of the Complaint Cam… I mean Borg Cam … I mean I Need my Dramamine Cam… I mean Ref Cam? WNBA debuts live high-definition ‘Ref Cam’. A ref speaks. And this: WNBA successfully debuts ref cam in Indy.

Nate keeps his promise: 2013 WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year watch list: Weighing scoring & value added in the post-Bonner era

After a three year run of Sixth Woman dominance (it’s difficult to argue that anyone was snubbed in the three years she won the award), Connecticut Sun guard Renee Montgomery won the award last season in familiar fashion in the world of basketball awards: she had among the highest scoring averages of any reserve in the league on a team that won its conference.

However in a year in which Bonner is starting (for now?) and Montgomery will miss significant time due to injury (WNBA voters tend not to give awards to players who missed significant time, which is fair in 34-game season), there is a chance the award will go to someone who isn’t quite a dynamic scorer.

In college news:

Swish has Gary Blair, Jim Foster reflecting on their careers at induction ceremony and some Hall of Fame interviews: Peggie Gillom-Granderson, Jennifer Rizzotti, Annette Smith-Knight and Sue Wicks:

Who had the greatest influence on Wicks?

“When I was a professional in Europe, players I would see, the way they held themselves, the pride that they had, the way that they played in total obscurity most of the time, I modeled myself after them. Along the way I would find someone who had a quality I really admired and I would try and emulate them.”

Coming back from an ouch: CU Buffs’ Rachel Hargis healing after MCL tear

Bye: Beckie Francis out as Oakland women’s basketball coach and Mines, women’s basketball coach Felderman part ways

Ooops: NCAA bans UNO men’s and women’s basketball from 2013-14 postseason

Yikes: Memphis Tigers women’s basketball team loses four players – Starter Abdul-Qaadir off to Indiana State as grad transfer

Wow! Congrats! Meia Daniels named new HPU women’s basketball coach

“We are pleased to be able to promote Meia Daniels to our head coaching position as well as our Senior Woman Administrator (SWA),” said Howard Payne Director of Athletics Mike Jones. “She has been mentored by two outstanding coaches in Chris Kielsmeier and Josh Prock and was a great collegiate player. She knows how to win and how hard you have to work to be successful at this level. These experiences will serve her well as she enters this new phase of her career.”

As a player, Daniels was 109-12 over four seasons leading the Lady Jackets to three American Southwest Conference championships, four NCAA III national tournament appearances and a NCAA III National Championship in 2008. A 2008 graduate of Howard Payne, Daniels holds numerous HPU and ASC records and is second in career scoring at Howard Payne with 2,118 points.

Some of you may remember Howard Payne’s run to perfection in 2008 because of the WHB or from this piece.

From Storming the Floor:

“After the incredible, unprecedented run through the 2013 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament that Shoni and Jude Schimmel, Umatilla, led the Louisville Cardinals on, ICTMN reached out to some of the most amazing and historically important Native hoops players to get their thoughts on the state of Native basketball, how to succeed in life and where they’re headed next—including from the Sisters themselves. “Let’s give them something to talk about!,” we promised. And so we kicked off a Conversations With Champions series, sitting down with eight basketball trailblazers, champions and builders for some one-on-ones. Here is a recap of the series, in case you missed any of the engaging discussions. These are men and women you need to know.”

Thank you: Iconic Elba coach Nowak retires and  Elba girls basketball coach Tom Nowak retires – Popular basketball coach compiled a 457-133 record

“It was really very rewarding to have gone through generations of family,” said Nowak. “To see the dads play football for me and then their daughters playing basketball — maybe both parents and children winning sectional titles.”

In the 2011-2012 season, Nowak coached his girls to their first state championship in the program’s history. Fittingly, the Lancers earned a perfect 25-0 season in their quest for the Class D title in Nowak’s 25th year as coach.

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The Prince-less Sky fall to the undermanned SASS. (Perhaps Tony Parker inspired them?). ESPN’s headline highlight’s EDD, and for good reason: she battled the classically physical vet Delisha Milton-Jones and still managed a nice line: 17 Pts, 6 Reb, 1 Ast, 4 Blk

Snap judgment: Dan Hughes, COY.

The more undermanned Sun (add Lawson to the DNP list) were outscored in the final quarter by 11, and Mike T and his Mystics team left Connecticut with the win (and a standing ovation).

Snap judgment: All these injuries are making me feel like it’s September, not June. If folks get healthy, this really may be a tale of two season halves.

The soon-to-be more undermanned Liberty (fingers are crossed that Carson’s knee injury is a bad sprain) went down to Georgia and got spanked by the Dream, 75-56.

Snap judgment: Yes, the Dream are 4-0, but look at who’ve they played (and are going to play). It’s not until July 9th that they’ll get a real test.

Wig and Dig are still shooting like figs, but Seattle was equally putrid from three-point land. End result, Tulsa gets their first win. (They gotta win at home, though!).

Snap judgment: Yes, if you’re the Storm, this season may mean you live and die by the three, but how does a team come out “flat?” Not okay.

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Whoa, who’s going to guard EDD? (Paging Nneka! Paging Nneka!).

Snap judgment: EDD for ROY.

To Russia with love? Sure, Piph wants to play in the Olympics, but damn, girl, you’re important to this team (see last year).

Snap judgment: Sky needs to get a comfortable lead in the East so they can hold on and make the playoffs.

Who’s going to light a fire under the Mercury? They couldn’t have looked less interested in playing yesterday — and that was on defense (as always) and on offense.

Snap judgment: Corey’s on the hot seat.

What a difference a year makes: How much fun was the Tulsa (Yes, TULSA, ESPN!)/Mystics game?!? Whoop! Whoop!

Snap judgment:  Coach K & T split COY awards.

Rome wasn’t re-built in a day, nor was the Detroit Shock/Newark Liberty. Even if Ford and Pierson get healthy, defense and offense are an issue.

Snap judgment: Liberty don’t make the playoffs.

Yes, it’s going to be a loooong season in San Antonio and Seattle.

Snap judgment: Storm and Silver Stars get the first and second picks in the 2014 draft.

“Baby, you can drive my (reaaaaally, reaaaally) nice car!” The happiest point guard in the west is Ms. Harding. The happiest MVP candidate is Ms. Parker.

Snap judgment: The Minny/LA rivalry will heat up big time. Expect technicals.

Snap judgment, two: Hollywood rediscovers the Sparks.

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but the rest of the world sure did.

Here’s hoping you and yours are safe and hugged.

As for the basketball world, here’s what I missed:

It’s never too early: The early NCAA women’s basketball preseason top 10

Job filled: Pepperdine promotes assistant Ryan Weisenberg to job as women’s basketball coach. I guess only folks near the program can say whether this is a good or lazy hire.

Another job filled: New women’s basketball coach Randy Norton’s UAB connections go way back

Another job filled: Wright leaves Gannon to coach Miami (Ohio) women’s basketball

You stay put: Duke extends women’s basketball coach McCallie’s contract through 2018-19 season

It’s about time: Alabama reassigns women’s basketball coach Wendell Hudson to administrative role

And well they should: Special year treasured by Irish fans

 They came with basketballs to be signed, and cameras to snap photos.

They formed a line that snaked down the north dome of the Joyce Center, around the concourse, and past the basketball office in the south dome, to get autographs.

They showed up more than 1,200 strong, forcing a move from Purcell Pavilion to the north dome.

Notre Dame women’s basketball fans showed up in record numbers to celebrate a remarkable season, and bid farewell to seniors Skylar Diggins and Kaila Turner at the Fighting Irish women’s basketball banquet on Tuesday night.

From Sean Farrell: Syracuse Women’s Basketball: A Season In Review

With the selection of Kayla Alexander in the WNBA Draft last week, the women’s basketball season officially came to a close. Between a 24-8 record, an appearance in the Big East semifinals and the NCAA Tournament, it was arguably the most successful season in Quentin Hillsman’s seven years at Syracuse.

From jords: Kentucky Women’s Basketball 2012-13: Year In Review

Congrats: Schimmel Sisters, Angel Goodrich Win Prestigious NABI Honor

Angel Goodrich, Native American Basketball Invitational (NABI) alumnus who recently was selected by the WNBA’s Tulsa Shock, only the second Native player to be drafted into the league, and Shoni and Jude Schimmel, the first Native Americans to play in an NCAA women’s basketball tournament championship game, were named the recipients of the 2013 Phil Homeratha Leadership Award. The award, named after the late Haskell Indian Nations University women’s basketball coach, Phil Homeratha, will be presented during the NABI Championship games taking place at U.S. Airways Center in Phoenix on Sunday, July 21.

Cool: Roonie Scovel Talks About Seeing Former Player Drafted by WNBA

Podcast: Brenda & Mechelle:  WSC Radio Show: April 19, 2013: The end of the NCAA basketball season, the WNBA Draft and more

A blog entry from Elena: A little girl’s dreams realized

My days leading up to the draft were spent with 11 other rookies going to meetings to help ease the transition into the professional sports world. Rookie orientation was only three days long and as you can imagine, there is a lot of information that can be helpful in preparing to enter the WNBA. So, because of the short time period, we had to fit a lot of meetings into those three days. Because I was so busy focusing on the tips and information I was being presented with, I barely had time to focus on the fact that I was just days away from one I had dreamt of for as long as I could remember. Playing professional basketball was a lifelong dream and I was lucky enough that, due to the fact that the league existed for most of my life, this was a realistic dream.

From Full Court: Making sense of the Mystics’ Meesseman mystery pick

From the Pittsburgh Courier: Brittney Griner is Gay — Can the WNBA finally move on?

Last Wednesday during a press conference the #1 Draft pick in the WNBA, Brittney Griner did the unspeakable. She casually, matter of factly and openly came out as gay in her first press conference as a professional basketball player.

Griner enters the WNBA as one of the most successful college basketball players (male or female) ever, and she will do wonders for the Phoenix Mercury as a low post defensive stopper. However, what is more important than her play on the court is that her openness about her sexuality shows that as a league and a business the WNBA has finally grown up. Griner’s admission shows that the WNBA is no longer obsessed with finding that “crossover” star to “save” the league and might actually get back to the business of promoting good basketball.

More: Brittney Griner discusses being gay

From Kate Fagan: What does it mean to be an openly gay athlete?

From Jemelle Hill: Brittney Griner’s inspiring message

From LZ Granderson: No perfect time- Society’s not waiting for NFL to be fully prepared for an out player

From AZ Central: WNBA is fine with gay athletes such as Brittney Griner; why can’t men’s major pro sports seem to handle it?

From Fox Sports Arizona: Mercury embrace Griner as player, person

From Outsports: Podcast: Brittney Griner comes out to little fanfare

From HoopFeed: Before Brittney: Emily Nkosi talks about Griner and life since leaving Baylor after coming out

Will her play translate into the W season? WNBL grand final MVP Kelsey Griffin has re-signed with the Bendigo Bank Spirit for next season.

Movie time! Former Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt’s life, career chronicled

Pat Summitt smiled, laughed and shook her head at times.

The Hall of Fame coach, who has early onset dementia, was part of the audience watching a screening of a documentary about her career. “Pat XO.”

“It’s a wonderful film and they did a great job with it,” Summitt told The Associated Press. “It was really incredible to see all those people share their stories.”

Four losses:

Hall of Fame Clemson women’s basketball coach Tribble dies at age 80

Hall of Fame coach Sheridan dies: Shadle Park great won five state volleyball titles, two state girls basketball titles with Highlanders

Crash kills former Orange Park women’s basketball star, Alicia Gladden

Godwin Heights mourns girls basketball player who collapsed, died during practice

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SI’s Richard Deitsch, dat is! WNBA Draft gets interesting following top three picks

Mike Thibault sees opportunity where others see misery. The new coach and general manager of the WNBA’s Washington Mystics, a franchise with 11 wins over the past two seasons, is confident that the No. 4 pick in this year’s WNBA Draft will produce a quality player.

What it is unlikely to produce is a shot at one of the following players: Brittney Griner, the game-changing 6-foot-8 center from Baylor; Elena Delle Donne, the 6-foot-5 forward from Delaware whom many consider a cross between Lauren Jackson and Diana Taurasi, or Skylar Diggins, the heady and popular Notre Dame point guard who will be a box-office draw for the team that drafts her. That trio of college All-Americas are near-locks for the first three picks for the April 15 WNBA Draft

The Courant’s John Altavilla says, Sun Face Difficult Decisions In Monday’s Draft

Things will be quite different with the Connecticut Sun this season. Not only is there a new coach, Anne Donovan, but a team within one win of playing for the WNBA championship in 2012 will be without pillar Asjha Jones, who is taking the summer off to rest.

“You can’t take a veteran off a team who has been a significant contributor without expecting an adjustment for everyone, in the locker room and on the floor,” Donovan said. “But the positive is we already understand she will not be with us and we know we have to fill the hole. It presents a new opportunity for others to establish themselves. We know what we have and we know what we don’t have.”

From Tim Leighton at the Pioneer Press: Tayler Hill expected to be top-10 pick

Tonsillitis slowed Tayler Hill during her senior season at Ohio State, but it won’t be a hindrance on the biggest night of her basketball career. The former Minneapolis South High School guard played the final half of her senior year with strep throat and missed two games to have her tonsils drained.

Hill, who recently had her tonsils removed, is healthy and ready to find out where she will play when the WNBA draft is held Monday, April 15.

Gina Mizell thinks Several former Oklahoma high school standouts could hear name called

Dawn Lee Wakefield notes: Kelsey Bone among 12 candidates in historic first live WNBA draft broadcast

Nate wonders: Who’s the best center prospect after Brittney Griner?

Part of the reason I like keeping track of draft prospect statistics, both before and after they’ve played a year in the league, is because it helps to really put in perspective just how good WNBA stars were in college.

They’re not only the elite or All-American caliber players but the most efficient and productive players in the nation.

And that helps to put both the hype and reality of Brittney Griner into perspective. But it also helps to demonstrate just how strong this year’s group of centers could be: there are three centers not named Griner who also appear on first round mock drafts and the stats suggest that at least two of those “other” centers could end up being better than any of those drafted last year. Digging back further – and taking Liz Cambage’s two year absence from the league after her rookie season into account – this year’s group has a chance to become the best overall in a number of years in terms of the number of players that actually make a roster.

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From the .com, where they continue the “Three to See” theme, they also have have Prospect Files and Q&As:

Bone:

When did you know you wanted to be a professional basketball player? And, given that dream, when did you realize that you had a legitimate shot of doing so? 
I knew I wanted to play professional basketball when I watched the Houston Comets win four consecutive championships, and I was at all four of them. I knew I had a legitimate shot at being a professional when I went overseas for the first time to France and played international basketball at the age of 16. I played against superior talent and several of the players from foreign countries were going pro. I was able to do well in that environment and realized that I could play this game professionally.

Delle Donne:

What do you expect to be some of the biggest challenges or adjustments at the next level?
Defending the guard spot. I play this spot on offense and need to be able to defend this spot on the defensive end.

Faris:

What do you expect to be some of the biggest challenges or adjustments at the next level?
With each new level the competition gets tougher and tougher. Players become smarter and stronger than they were in college. Just as I learned when I got to college, I will have to learn to adjust again in the WNBA.

Hawkins:

What strengths, qualities or skills will be able to bring to a WNBA team?
Relentless rebounding ability; the ability to run the floor, the ability to shoot the midrange to 3-point range.

Rogers:

When did you know you wanted to be a professional basketball player? And, given that dream, when did you realize that you had a legitimate shot of doing so? 
When I won Rookie of the Year for the Big East and I was sitting on that podium with soon to be professional players Maya Moore and Tina Charles.

Young:

When were you introduced to the game of basketball?
Sophomore year in high school

Sue and Richard l’Alien speak in Mike Peden’s: After top three, WNBA Draft a top-heavy toss up

“Previous drafts show that (Pokey) Chatman and Chicago have been influenced by NCAA tournaments,” Cohen said. “Chatman is very hands on and picky with the way her guards play, seeing as Vandersloot has had her growing pains.”

However, the Sky suffered migraines after Epiphanny Prince was sidelined with a broken foot. Without her offense, opponents harassed Fowles, quashing a promising start to knock Chicago out of playoff contention.

“Delle Donne is so skilled. She represents the type of player you have to be now,” Favor said. “She has the greatest potential to succeed.”

The Hartford Courant adds: Top 3 Picks Predictable, So Suspense Starts With No. 4

There is a running joke about Monday’s 2013 WNBA Draft. It’s the one about the how one draft can suddenly resemble two.

“The joke around here is that I have the first pick in the other draft,” said Mike Thibault, the coach and GM of theWashington Mystics and owner of the fourth selection. “I tried to come up with creative ways to get one of the three, but none of it worked.”

Mike Brown at the Tulsa World is thinking: Shock could land Skylar Diggins in Monday’s WNBA draft

Nate reminds folks that Tianna Hawkins leads this year’s group of scoring interior forwards

Roger Cleaveland at the Republican-American warns: Sun not in position to draft impact player

From Virginia’s Daily Press, David Teel has Suffolk product Sugar Rodgers awaits Monday’s WNBA draft

Sugar Rodgers set Georgetown career records for points and steals. She was the nation’s No. 4 scorer this season and exited the college game with a 42-point epic in the Big East tournament.

So it’s no surprise to hear Mike Thibault, the Washington Mystics‘ coach and general manager, say Rodgers is among the top four perimeter players available in Monday’s WNBA draft. And it’s no surprise to read mock drafts — yes, such shenanigans have trickled down to professional women’s basketball — that project Rodgers as a top-10 lock, a perhaps a top-five selection.

Yet Thibault, whose team owns the No. 4 pick, has some reservations about Rodgers, a 5-foot-11 guard from Suffolk’s King’s Fork High.

The writer who makes me wish I were an Ohio State fan wonders: Ex-Buckeye Hill should go early, but to which team?

“She is not afraid,” said Laimbeer, who has the fifth and seventh first-round picks. “I think that’s the thing. She will attack the basket at will and can get to the free-throw line. She creates contact. Those are good characteristics to get to the next level. We’ve definitely eyeballed her.”

Speaking of Ohio State, the job that no one seems to want (According to a message from Wendy Parker on Mike Flynn’s Twitter page, Jeff Walz said this about the Ohio State job rumors: “The only person who has offered me a job job is Geno at his restaurant.”), here’s something on the Search for the Next OSU Women’s Basketball Coach: A Progress Report

Some interesting discussion of skill building in the women’s game: Nebraska’s Connie Yori: Game is ‘overcoached, undertaught’

Nebraska women’s basketball coach Connie Yori recalls a telling conversation with a seventh-grade girl who was on hand for one of Yori’s camps a few summers ago.

Yori told the girl that she hopes the camp is a good experience for her, and that she learns a lot.

“She said, ‘I played 100 games this summer,'” Yori said. “In other words, she thought she really didn’t need to work on her (individual) skills. Here’s a kid playing all these games and basically thinking she has it all figured out.”

Perhaps what Nebraska men’s basketball coach Tim Miles says about youth boys basketball — that it has become game-heavy and skill-light — also applies to the girls game.

Said Yori: “I’m not saying this about all kids, but there are some kids who are just not working on their individual skills enough. So, therefore, it isn’t as commonplace for people to make open shots.”

And finally, who says players are the only ones who can do videos? Check out this rockin’ ‘tube by the Trainers. (I mean, ATHLETIC Trainers – get it right, get it right).

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we find that CViv is cranky: Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer blasts her critics as she nears 900 career victories

Stringer, who has an 898-326 career mark over 41-plus seasons, vigorously defended her program this afternoon, sprinkling in several expletives. She said the only opinion she listens to is that of athletic director Tim Pernetti.

“I could (not) care less about any of those people,” Stringer said of her critics. “The only thing that matters to me is Tim Pernetti. He needs to be who he is supposed to be and step up and declare who you are, and that’s it. I don’t care about anybody else. ”

There’s also a little Cviv flashback from the Des Moines Register: Another View: 1993 tested the rule on ‘no crying in journalism’

For athletes and sports fans, the seasons of glory tend to stay in your mind forever. Championships clinched, big games won and the chance to breathe some rarified air are what anyone who loves sports wants to experience.

In Iowa, 1993 was a year with plenty of that rarified air, and I’ve been thinking about that year — specifically the 1992-93 basketball season — a lot lately. Yet in my mind, I don’t remember it as a season of glory. It was a season of grief.

Another coach who is feeling the heat: Utes blow out Oregon

Another coach who is feeling the heat: No. 4 Stanford women’s basketball team routs Arizona 73-43

A coach that’s bringing the heat: No. 6 Cal women’s basketball takes down hapless Arizona State

With the way the Cal women’s basketball team has been playing, Arizona State would’ve needed more than a deal with the devil to win.

The Bears soundly defeated the Sun Devils, 66-53, in Haas Pavilion Friday night to cement their eighth consecutive win.

Coach G tweets: Lindsay Gottlieb ‏@CalCoachG Talia Caldwell is 1st Cal WBB player in Haas school of biz. She’s now 1st Haas student, male or female, to have 1,000pts. We are very proud.

From Greg Alan Edwards: UK Hoops, TV, and The Real World: A Mini Rant

As most of you know, we have been doing live blogs, in-game and post-game coverage of the UK Hoops Squad all season and back into last year. We have made a conscious effort to improve the coverage, do more insight work on the players, and to make Women’s Hoops a priority here at A Sea Of Blue.

On Tuesday, WKYM did a segment with Coach Mitchell about the fact that the UK women have been filling Memorial Coliseum in game after game as the team as climbed in national prominence. So what happens when the season hits it’s peak and the drive to the finish kicks in? We lose the TV coverage.

Speaking of TV, Mechelle previews: Terps’ season still full of potential – Game will help decide ACC — and which center is the best in the league

I was sitting courtside at the XL Center in Hartford in early December waiting for Maryland to take the floor for shootaround when something caught my eye. Looking like the Imperial Walker from the “Star Wars” movies, four very long crutches emerged from the locker room tunnel and clank-clanked their way to the court. Attached to the crutches was Maryland’s starting backcourt — Brene Moseley and Laurin Mincy — both lost for the season with torn ACLs. Behind them was another be-crutched ACL casualty, 6-foot-7 Essence Townsend. And attached to all of those crutches, I thought, was Maryland’s chance at an ACC title and run to the Final Four.

Speaking of the surprising Terps, Graham offers up: Little gets between Hawkins, rebound – When discussing nation’s top seniors, Maryland forward must be in the mix

The job Tianna Hawkins hopes to land when she is done with basketball is considerably more consequential than one in which success and failure are separated by points on a scoreboard. If her career plan comes to pass, her future team will be that of a presidential protective detail with the United States Secret Service, the federal law enforcement agency with which the University of Maryland criminology major interned two summers ago.

The skills that set her apart in one endeavor seem far removed from those she might need in the other, a smooth jump shot from the elbow or nose for the ball presumably not the first thing the Secret Service looks for on a résumé. 

Then again, nothing much gets between one of college basketball’s best offensive rebounders and her current inanimate protectee — not the thicket of bodies in the paint, not fatigue. Not anything.

Speaking of injuries: No. 11 Louisville thrives despite rash of injuries

Few teams can afford to lose one key player without damaging chemistry or competitiveness.

Louisville is down four and yet is two games better than this point last season minus two regulars. The No. 11 Cardinals (19-4, 7-2 Big East Conference) enter Saturday’s home game against Pittsburgh aiming to extend their five-game winning streak before traveling to No. 2 Notre Dame on Monday night.

Stuff on the W: Beth and Debbie discuss the latest WNBA news, get ready for a Big Monday doubleheader and talk to Connecticut Sun head coach Ann Donovan.

From Nate: What the Temeka Johnson and Noelle Quinn signings mean for the Seattle Storm

For years now, the Seattle Storm have tried to find someone to serve as an alternate distributor when Sue Bird is injured or needing to rest.

Yesterday’s signings of Temeka Johnson and Noelle Quinn are this season’s attempt to fill that role of distributor whenever Bird is off the floor.

From thewiz06: Washington Mystics Offseason: A roundtable with three fellow Mystics fans on what they would like to see for 2013

thewiz also looks at the Lib: How will Bill Laimbeer make his mark on the team?

M Robinson has an Interview with former USC guard Jacki Gemelos about pursuing her WNBA dream with the Minnesota Lynx

The .com has Five Games to Watch in 2013

The Messenger is back, and he’s Helping Americans Understand Overseas Leagues

Whenever I speak of our Indiana Fever players playing overseas — whether in China, Australia, Israel, Turkey, Russia or elsewhere in Europe — I frequently sense that the conversations lead to more questions than actual answers. Certainly the cultures and languages are often different; and certainly there are rules that are different and in many leagues, there are limitations on the number of foreigners or Americans that can play; and salaries, sponsors and attendance all vary greatly. Those discrepancies vary from league-to-league and from country-to-country.

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writes: 

This seemed the most breathtakingly obvious move that Washington could have made. On Nov. 20, after the Connecticut Sun announced they were parting ways with Thibault, my first question when I talked to him was, “How are you doing?” Followed by, “Have the Mystics called yet?”

This took no great insight; everybody who follows the WNBA had to think of Thibault as the top choice for the Mystics. But because they are the Mystics, you just couldn’t be sure.

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From Blue Devil land: Williams’ frustrating foot injury lingers for Duke women’s basketball

After being decimated by injuries late last season, this year was supposed to be different for Duke. But with the season just beginning, the Blue Devils already face a daunting obstacle as preseason All-American Elizabeth Williams has not yet recovered from a stress fracture suffered last March.

Dabnabbit! UTEP women’s basketball guard Jenzel Nash out for the year due to injury

From Bear land: Women’s basketball season begins with simple question: Can anyone stop Griner and Baylor?

Graham offers a possible answer: Breanna Stewart preps for debut – All eyes on the freshman expected to be the next great thing in Huskies history

Detroit has its auto show. Women’s basketball has media day at the University of Connecticut.

Come, crowd around to see the latest innovation, the new design that will set a standard and capture the public imagination in years to come.

Same time, same place every year.

But even at a school for which the annual unveiling of the next highly anticipated star seems as much a part of the autumn calendar as hot cider and pumpkin carving, this year feels different. Breanna Stewart has yet to play a game for Connecticut. She has yet to score her first point, grab her first rebound, block her first shot or draw her first regular-season rebuke from Geno Auriemma. And still people in Storrs sound a little like they’re talking about the flying car of tomorrow come to life when discussing the unassuming 6-foot-4 forward from upstate New York and consensus next great thing in women’s basketball.

Baylor’s women’s basketball team offered spectators plenty during a perfect season in 2011-12. There was the consensus national player of the year in center Brittney Griner. An exceptionally quick point guard, Odyssey Sims, with both great scoring potential and a natural zest for defense.

Destiny Williams, an eloquent team spokeswoman who also works the boards ferociously. The shouldn’t-be-overlooked tandem of Jordan Madden and Kimetria “Nae-Nae” Hayden, who hurt foes on both ends of the court.

And the maestro of it all was coach Kim Mulkey, who set the tone for a group of players who never seemed the least bit rattled by not just the hope, but the expectation that they would win it all. Even a flare-up of Bell’s palsy during the NCAA tournament didn’t seem to rattle Mulkey in the least. She downplayed it, even cracking jokes at her own expense.

Michelle gives us the A-to-Z rundown of what to expect
A: Arizona State. Coach Charli Turner Thorne took a year off to recharge and spend time with her family, a rare opportunity in the coaching universe. But she’s back on the floor with the Sun Devils and it’s time to rebuild a program that fell to the middle of the Pac-12 in her absence.
Z: Zero. Is Baylor ready for another zero-loss season? It could happen.
Charlie give us a Big 10 preview, and busy Mechelle gives us her Big 12 preview.

For decades it seemed as though Michigan regarded women’s basketball as a part of the athletic department it didn’t want anyone to see.

It was as if U-M fielded a team because it had to, not because it wanted to, and it was reflected in thousands of empty seats in Crisler Arena. A perennial nonfactor when it came to contending for Big Ten championships and NCAA tournament bids, the program suffered its biggest embarrassment last spring when coach Kevin Borseth resigned to return to Green Bay, the program he left to take the U-M job.

From their in-state rival: Michigan State women’s basketball putting puzzle together

From Terp land: Maryland women’s basketball: It’s Final Four or bust for the Terrapins (no pressure) and 2012 ACC women’s basketball preview: Can Alyssa Thomas carry the Maryland Terrapins to the top again?

Also, “YAY! The BasketCases are back!” : Early Late Returns

From the land of the Bluejays: 2012-13 Creighton Women’s Basketball Profiles: Sarah Nelson

From Bluegrass land: Kentuckiana women’s basketball at a glance and Western Kentucky women’s basketball | Young Toppers hope speed offsets height

More from the land of Bluegrass: (no pressure) SEC coaches pick UK women’s basketball as favorites to win 2012-13 conference title

From the Land o’ Bisons: (a really short)  Howard women’s basketball preview

From the Land o’ (Washington) Huskies: Washington women’s basketball: Five things to watch

From more of the West Coast folks: OSU women’s basketball: Beavers excited to play a better schedule

There are still some games that could be considered cupcakes, but the Beavers will get to face two NCAA tournament teams, with the possibility of another, and two teams that made the Women’s National Invitation Tournament before opening the Pac-12 season

“I think we’re in a position where we need that,” Rueck said. “This year we open Pac-12 play with the L.A. schools coming in. We need to know who we are and where we need to go before that weekend happens.”

From the land of the Commodores: Holzer out for season Center suffered injury in exhibition game versus Alabama-Huntsville.

From the Land o’ Swish Appeal, Nate says: Tennessee Lady Vols built to run after losing stars to the WNBA draft

Speaking of the W, thewiz09 asks: Does Regionalization and “Our Girls Syndrome” Adversely Affect The WNBA?

…to take a page out of the words of a former Washington Mystics head coach, the WNBA is a league that is building its identity, so teams often look for quick ways to get more fans to sit in. The largest overlapping fanbasewith women’s professional basketball is Division I women’s college basketball power program fanbases. A very quick way to attract fans from the local college power team is to draft or acquire players from that team. That leads to the regionalizationof a team.

One reason why a team may regionalize is also because there is a fear that fans of the WNBA team may not even want to watch the team at all unless some players are from the local college power or are from the area. This leads to a term called “Our Girls Syndrome (OGS).” This term, to the best of my knowledge, was introduced by Clay Kallam of Full Court. Kallam laid it out and showed applications of it really well in a piece for Scout.com back in 2003 (and it was updated in 2005). The concepts he lays out in that piece will be reapplied to today’s league.

From the Land of the Bun: Corey Gaines keeps his nose to Phoenix Suns’ grindstone

From the Times-Picayune: Temeka Johnson blogs: Russian team builds toward EuroCup game Thursday

WANT? Vicky Bullett? Winning: Women’s Basketball: HCC opens season with a Bullett

Speaking of the Washington Mystics, delve deep down in to Mel’s post to find out some stuff about the hot mess they’re in and the Rebkellians have some coaching suggestions.

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Seems to have happened with the blog formatting (nothing I did, I can assure you! on edit: But, hey! I fixed it! Magic!), but perhaps it’s the internets reflecting the wacko-ness of the ping pong balls.

Karma’s a b*tch, ain’t it Sheila?

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Playoff time.

But first, it’s PING PONG time! Says Mechelle: Draft lottery will be ‘game-changer’

There have been much anticipated drafts in the WNBA before, but likely not one that will prompt quite as much chatter as that which will take place next April. That’s because there are three marquee seniors with very different games — Baylor’s Brittney Griner, Delaware’s Elena Delle Donne and Notre Dame’s Skylar Diggins — who will bring not just talent, but a kind of “presence” to the league next year. Or at least, that’s what is hoped for from them.

Whoever’s picked 1, 2 or 3 will have a chance to sit with their future team and watch the WNBA playoffs where, no surprise: Lynx are heavy playoff favorites – Defending champion Minnesota leads the way as the playoffs open Thursday

How big a favorite is Minnesota to repeat as WNBA champion? Let’s put it this way: After finishing first in the Western Conference again with the league’s best record, the Lynx are very, very hard to pick against.

With two MVP candidates in Olympians Maya Moore and Seimone Augustus, a third London Games gold medalist in point guard Lindsay Whalen, an experienced front line and a bench that understands and fulfills its role … there isn’t a weak spot to attack when facing Minnesota.

Michelle has some previews:

Storm face uphill climb against Lynx: Best-of-three series opens in Minnesota on Friday (ESPN2, 9 p.m. ET)

Silver Stars cooling at wrong time – Best-of-three series opens in Los Angeles on Thursday (ESPN2, 10 p.m. ET)

(We know this) Liberty have no answer for Charles

Defense will determine East semifinal – Best-of-three series opens in Indiana on Friday (ESPN2, 7 p.m. ET)

Mi & Me do a little preview video.

From the players:

Becky Hammon: A shot I’ll never forget

Sue Bird: Handing out some awards

Lindsay Whalen: Nothing compares to a title

Other stuff:

Jayda gets busy:  WNBA Talk: Catching up with former Storm player Swin Cash and My WNBA Ballot for the 2012 Regular-Season Awards

Oh, and echoing Jayda’s tweet: Why does someone who “doesn’t like” and “doesn’t watch” the WNBA have a place at the espnW roundtable? Tina Charles the MVP favorite. I’m awaiting the call from ESPN to sit and discuss the NBA’s MVP….

From Jerry Brewer at the Seattle Times: Eye of the Storm: Can women’s professional basketball succeed on and off the court in Seattle?

Ginny Gilder points to a dry-erase board in her South Lake Union Office. A handwritten note best explains her challenging life as a WNBA owner.

Defiant, not defeated

The best doesn’t come easy,

that’s why there’s nothing like it

Professional sports owners are commonly perceived to be rich white men who desire a toy, and that stereotype is often reflected in the erratic way they run franchises. But owning the Seattle Storm, in a 16-year-old women’s sports league still establishing itself, is neither a luxury nor a hobby. It’s an assignment, and sometimes a burden.

From the Sacto Bee: Leading off: Ex-Monarch Penicheiro left her mark on the WNBA

Ticha Penicheiro, the former Monarchs star who retires after tonight’s WNBA game between the Washington Mystics and her Chicago Sky (5 p.m., NBA), said the decision was easy.

She’s 38 years old, and she’s been bothered throughout her final season by sore hamstrings, sore Achilles’ tendons and more sore body parts than she can count.

“I’m like an old car,” Penicheiro said in a quick phone chat Friday. “Too many miles.”

From Phoenix Center Krystal Thomas: What My Mom Taught Me

Achieving my dreams has not come easily. When I was 11 years old, my life took a turn that seemed to put everything on hold. My father was incarcerated and sentenced to 7 years in prison. A few months later, my mother was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer. I have four younger siblings, and as all of the trials occurred, my life as a “normal” teenager changed. My role at home shifted and my responsibilities became enormous. My mother battled with breast cancer for 5 years, until she passed away in January of 2006.

My mother was a huge influence in my life. She challenged me to be the best person that I could be, and she never let me give in to the failures and disappointments that life brings. She helped raise me to be the person that I am today, and I thank God everyday for that. After she passed away, I had two choices: throw my dreams aside, or keep chasing them no matter the consequence. I chose the latter, and repeated the words that my mother preached to me each day to conquer my dreams.

 Swish Appeal has a new look, but still has lots of info.

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