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Fun intros, leaked in (ha. ha.) to a clangy first two minutes, then the teams settled in and put on a show. Player after player making a bid for MVPdunks, sneaky passes, uncontested threes… Then Betty Lou stepped up and sealed the game and earned the trophy. But really, at the WNBA All-Star Game: Seriousness, Defense Take Backseat To Fun

More on the game:

West rides MVP Maya Moore late, takes down East in All-Star Game

Maya Moore scores 30 to lead West to WNBA All-Star Game victory

Former UConn star leads West to win in WNBA All-Star Game

Louisville’s Shoni Schimmel brings the fun in WNBA All-Star Game 

WNBA All-Star Notebook: Sun’s Alex Bentley Has Big Game

WNBA All-Star Game 2015: Complete Recap and Highlights

Power Of Sneakers Unites Elena Delle Donne And Innovative Fan

WNBA All-Star Game showcases league’s growth, future

WNBA President: League to Form Committee to Study Expansion

The league, in its 19th season, currently has 12 teams — down from the high of 16 in the early 2000s. The WNBA last added a team in 2008 when the Atlanta Dream joined.

“I always say it gets closer and closer,” Richie said. “We will be forming an expansion committee to look at it and make a concrete plan and strategy on how we think about it, approach it, the timing. I’m not saying expansion is absolutely on the horizon. There is no date.”

What I really appreciated? The extended post-game interviews. When was the last time THAT happened on national (not cable) T.V.?

Far, far away, another bunch of “maybe some of these will be WNBA all-stars” were battling a stubborn team from Spain.

“I was really proud of this team tonight,” said USA U19 and University of South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley, who is a perfect 20-0 as a USA Basketball head coach. “We needed a game like this. It was a gut-check type of game that will prep us for what we’ll face tomorrow. I know the environment will be hostile, so we needed this kind of win. We had different players step up and we got great contributions off our bench. Our starters did a great job, and it forced us to come together as a cohesive group when we needed to.”

The US’s front court was the key to victory, but it’s likely the guards will have to step up when the battle Russia for the FIBA U19 gold Sunday, 1:15 p.m. EDT on ESPN3 or FIBA’s YouTube channel.

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The FIBA19 semi finals are up at 1:30pm EST. After making a tasty goose pate of the Canadians, the US will face Spain. Dawn and company seem to have the team cooking on all cylinders. Will they be feasting on tapas tonight?

After that game, tune in to ABC (what! rabbit ears television channel?) at 3:30EST for the All-Star Game. Nice mix of “old” and new talent this year… looking forward to some fun. And, no pressure, I hope the players put on a show that builds on the nice summer of success (and attention) female athletes have had…

Speaking of fun, Back as a WNBA All-Star, ex-UConn star lets her hair down and Former UConn star Stefanie Dolson the life of the party

Always animated and always colorful – “Look at her, her hair’s purple,” Connecticut center Kelsey Bone said with a laugh – Dolson stole the show when she won what has become tradition to end a WNBA practice: the halfcourt shooting contest.

Lots of other stories floating around the game:

From the – Elkhart Truth: Tamika Catchings ready for WNBA All-Star Game finale 

The .com has tons of backstage stuff. Check out an appearance by Betty Lou in the middle of Nneka and Maya’s interview.

About the crew covering the game: Entering third straight WNBA All-Star assignment, ESPN’s trio appreciates chemistry

Saturday, Ryan RuoccoRebecca Lobo and Holly Rowe will call their third straight WNBA All-Star game together (ABC, 3:30 p.m.ET). The 2015 edition will feature some of the biggest stars in the league including Maya Moore, Elena Delle Donne and Shoni Schimmel. Ruocco and Rowe chatted with Front Row about working together and their thoughts on the midseason showcase.

How has it been working together over the last three seasons?
RR: I absolutely love working with Rebecca and Holly. It’s one of my favorite activities in life, never mind work. They’re both terrific at what they do and so much fun. The great part about an All-Star Game is it lends itself to a fun atmosphere, which plays right into our wheelhouse. Holly really bounces all over the place in All-Star Games, bringing the fans truly unique access, and Rebecca and I love teeing her up for those opportunities.

HR: We have so much fun together it hardly feels like working. Rebecca and Ryan are so supportive and include me in the broadcast so much. It is a joy to work with them!

Mechelle writes about one of the bestest we’ve had the pleasure of watching: All-Star Tamika Catchings preparing for life after hoops

A little girl is battling her jump rope — she accidentally hit herself with it — and appears close to meltdown mode. Uh oh, her shoulders are slumping, her eyes are watering, her face is scrunching up …

Time for Indiana Fever forward Tamika Catchings, the WNBA standout so famed for her scoring, defense and rebounding, to come in with the assist.

So does Doug: Tamika Catchings ready for WNBA All-Star Game finale

Tamika Catchings didn’t want to get sentimental thinking about her final All-Star Game.

Catchings, who announced last fall that 2016 would be her final season, will be playing in a record 10th game Saturday. The WNBA usually skips the All-Star Game during Olympic years.

“I’m excited,” Catchings said. “I think everybody thought I’d be sad about this coming to the end, the last this, the last that. I’m really not. It’s time. The young players are playing so well.”

NY Times: Elena Delle Donne Emerges as Face of the WNBA

With the league’s best players gathered at Mohegan Sun Arena for Saturday’s W.N.B.A. All-Star Game, Delle Donne’s colleagues, including Brittney Griner — the player selected No. 1 in 2013 — and the league president are acknowledging that she has arrived at that moment.

“She’s doing what everybody expected,” Griner said. “Elena, she’s a dominant player. It’s good for the league, how everybody always is talking about Delle Donne.”

Chicago Daily Herald: Elena Delle Donne top hit for Sky

School’s out, but there are progress reports to write up.

It’s mid-term time for the WNBA, which plays its All-Star Game in Connecticut today (2:30 p.m., ABC 7). The Chicago Sky has logged 17 of its 34 games and is one game out of first place in the Eastern Conference with an 11-6 record.

Not a bad showing so far. Here’s a more detailed breakdown of the first-half hits and misses for the Sky:

Hit: Elena Delle Donne. Duh.

Swish Appeal: Delle Donne happy, healthy and confident

USAToday: Behind Elena Delle Donne’s touching gesture at the WNBA All-Star game

When Elena Delle Donne heard about Nike’s new shoes designed for people with disabilities and the college student behind them, she thought immediately about her sister, Lizzie.

Hartford Courant: Griner Puts Past Behind, Focuses On Mercury’s WNBA Title Hopes

The past few months have been anything but simple for Brittney Griner.

A household name for any follower of women’s basketball, Griner’s WNBA career — which includes the league record for most dunks in a game with two — has been eclipsed by events in her personal life.

USAToday: Brittney Griner faces promising future as she moves on from off-court issues

Late Friday afternoon, the WNBA fans assembled for All-Star Weekend gathered in the Mohegan Sun Arena to watch the East and West teams conduct an open practice.

The star power is immense for both teams. Transcendent Elena Delle Donne of the Chicago Sky, legendary Tamika Catchings of the Indiana Fever and the East will be remarkable to watch together when the teams take the floor at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday on ABC. The West features defending league MVP Maya Moore and future Hall of Famer Sue Bird.

And yet, there is something magnetic about the combination of Brittney Griner and a basketball court that kept all eyes on her from the moment she stepped out of the Mohegan Sun Arena tunnel Friday, and every time she goes anywhere, on and off the court.

Hartford Courant: Changing Of Guard: New Faces Join Stalwarts At WNBA All-Star Game

Before the season, the conversation about the WNBA mostly centered on what the league wouldn’t have. You likely heard that Diana Taurasi wouldn’t play at all, Candace Parker wouldn’t play for a while, Sylvia Fowles wanted a new contract to play and Brittney Griner couldn’t play for the first seven games. Four stars, four voids to fill, four issues.

But as always, time and progress never stand still. The WNBA has managed to plow through the cloud of uncertainty and adopt a new identity based on a number of fresh-faced stars. On Saturday, it will play its All-Star Game at Mohegan Sun Arena with its familiar core surrounded by many first-time participants.

New Haven Register: New wave of young stars taking over WNBA All-Star Game

“I think for a while you saw the same people, and that speaks to those players’ consistency and their ability to get into the all-star games, but now there is definitely a fresh crop,” said former UConn star and Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird, who will start for the Western Conference. “There are some people who aren’t playing in the WNBA this year, there are others who came late and some pretty talented players. But everybody in this game deserves to be here.”

USAToday: WNBA President Laurel Richie aims to take league to new heights

Newly-minted all star Alex Bentley of the Connecticut Sun made a beeline for WNBA President Laurel Richie as she sat for an interview Thursday afternoon in the lobby of the Mohegan Sun, days before the league’s All-Star Game there on Saturday, and gave Richie a warm embrace.

It’s the kind of reception Richie receives virtually everywhere she goes lately. Two off-court challenges this past offseason — Isiah Thomas’ bid to become part-owner of the Liberty and a domestic violence incident between two WNBA players — are thought to be handled in a way that upheld the values of the league and drew near-universal acclaim.

Sporting News: WNBA All-Star Game shows league’s best — and players’ difficult reality

Shanxi is on a plateau surrounded by North China’s mountains, a province smaller in area than Wisconsin with more people than Canada. It served as a major economic center thousands of years ago and is bound by its rich culture and history. And by Maya Moore.

SlamOnline: NBA and WNBA Photos Of The Week

Not at the game, but an All-Star in her own right: Dishin & Swishin 7/24/15 Podcast: Perseverance rewarded, Jacki Gemelos joins the Chicago Sky

Mechelle writes about the fabulous WBHOF class:

UCLA‘s Natalie Williams played at a superstar level in basketball and volleyball and is one of the most accomplished athletes in Pac-12 history.

An avalanche of injuries took Missouri State‘s Jackie Stiles away from playing basketball long before she was ready. But you would be hard-pressed to find anyone who could have packed in more points scored in a relatively short college and pro career than Stiles did.

Both former players lead the way for the 2016 class of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tennessee. The class — which includes coaches Sherri Coale and Joe Lombard, referee June Courteau and administrator Bill Tipps — will be formally announced at Saturday’s WNBA All-Star Game at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, a source confirmed to espnW.

Speaking of history: Thank you: Bishop Grimes girls basketball coach leaves lasting legacy, retires after 46 years

Pfefferle started coaching at Bishop Grimes in 1969, three years before Title IX, the federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity. The girls basketball program had no uniforms, outdated equipment and unusual practice times due of lack of access to the gymnasium.

“It was a different time,” Pfefferle said. “We pushed to get everything we needed.”

Pfefferle’s coaching style was also different from how the girls were used to being instructed. She yelled, she made them run, she yelled some more and she made them run a lot more.

“I didn’t treat them like girls,” she said. “I treated them like athletes.

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their successors were making a statement about the future of USA Basketball: “We got this.”

The second quarter of the U19 team against Australia was impressive. (You can watch it on ESPN3 replay) That didn’t hold a candle to the second half of their gold medal match against France. Yes, a key player of Les Bleus went down with an injury, but still: Hold a team to 8pts? In the entire half!?!

“Obviously we had to grind it out on the offensive end,” said Meier. “At halftime we talked about our defense. They had only scored 20 points and that was huge for us. So, we just said that when push comes to shove, you win championships with your defense, so go out there and lock down and stay together as a team. That was just an amazing performance.”

In other news:

Don’t forget to check out tonight’s installment of 9 for IX: Sheryl Swoopes’s Hoop Dreams and Whole Truths

LZ chips in: Sheryl Swoopes being herself

On the one hand, you had a high-profile athlete, one who had just won her third WNBA MVP trophy, tell the world she was gay. And she did so a mere few months after another high-profile Texan, President George W. Bush, endorsed an amendment banning same-sex marriage to the U.S. Constitution.

While having someone of Swoopes’ stature be openly gay provided activists with an important figurehead in the fight against the proposed law, having that figurehead insinuate she chose to be gay, was not — as politicos would say — on message.

But that’s Sheryl Swoopes — not a spokeswoman, not a contrarian, just herself.

Speaking of stars, Carl Ademac says Moore has Lynx lurking

At the ripe old age of 24, Maya Moore of the Minnesota Lynx is one of eight women’s basketball players in the world to win a NCAA title, a WNBA crown, and gold medals in the FIBA world championships and the Olympics.

“That just really humbles me and makes me realized how blessed I am,” Moore said Saturday after helping the West beat the East 102-98 in the WNBA All-Star Game at sold out Mohegan Sun Arena. “There are so many talented players, ones that are taller than me, jump higher than me, are quicker than me … I’ve just been fortunate and my timing perfect to play with great players at the world championships when I was still in college at UConn and come to a team as talented as the Lynx and have even more success.”

Jayda Evans talks with Storm guard Tanisha Wright

ST: Which was tougher, 2012 with the injuries, or 2013 without Bird and Jackson and with all the new faces?

Wright: Last year was much harder. This season has at least been enjoyable. It isn’t all for nothing. The way we’re playing this year — the grit, the attitude, the not laying down — that’s a lot better than what we had last year. We’re doing a good job defensively. There are games where we’ve held teams to 60, 65 points. It’s fun when you have people to play with who have that type of (defense-minded) attitude.

This ought to make the off-season fun: WNBA Facing Labor Issues As CBA Expires After Season

The NY Times is revisiting Tennessee: Anniston Star – HOT BLAST In Tennessee a unique school for teenagers

If you read nothing else on this Monday morning, then grab a cup of coffee and spend some time with New York Times journalist John Branch’s latest work.

Between Nashville and Memphis is Carroll County, Tenn., which, according to Branch, “is a rural place, quietly troubled by the hollowing plagues of small-town America — unemployment, drug abuse and teenage pregnancy among them. The problems lurk in the shadows between landscaped brick homes and the bucolic countryside.”

The Carroll County Juvenile Court operates Carroll Academy, a public school for troubled and at-risk teens. Students are sent there for all sorts of reasons, including behavioral issues and drug use. Branch is a sports writer for The Times, and his stories focus on the school’s girls basketball team, which has lost more than 200 games in a row.

However, the stories are not about the basketball team. They’re about life in a version of small-town America beset with economic problems that are seemingly overwhelming. Branch’s stories are long, but they are worth your time. I can’t help but wonder how many Alabama counties would benefit if their respective juvenile courts had the resources to open this type of school.

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Scarlet night past, bright days ahead

They are linked through a college experience in which they shared some triumphantly transcendent moments … and some frustratingly distracting ones, too.

Now, still quite young in their professional careers, former Rutgers teammates Essence Carson and Epiphanny Prince are WNBA All-Stars. Both are having a breakout kind of season, which merited their selections as reserves for Saturday’s game (ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET).

Looking at the photo…hmmmm…why do I have a sudden urge for candy corn??

Keeping with at Big East theme, from ESPN’s Page Two there’s a little on Rookie Hazing and  Sue Bird set for reunion at WNBA All-Star game

Saturday is the WNBA All-Star Game in San Antonio, but it will be more like a University of Connecticut family reunion.

For the Western Conference, four of the five starters — Swin Cash (2002), Maya Moore (2011), Diana Taurasi (2004) and Sue Bird (2002) — played for the Huskies. On the Eastern Conference side, Tina Charles (2010) is starting and Renee Montgomery (2009) is a reserve.

Page 2 had a chance to catch up with Bird, who has won a championship with UConn, an Olympic gold medal and a WNBA championship. Even though she’s been playing for the Seattle Storm since 2002, she still has a Connecticut cellphone number

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Ben Jones, Indy Star: Shooting stars – Fever dynamic duo of Catchings, Douglas will start for the East

The biggest thing I look forward to is having the opportunity to play with players that you never get a chance to play with,” Catchings said. “It’s always fun to sit in the locker room, talk about different organizations, what goes on everywhere you go.”

From Mike Carmin at JCOnline: Skill, wisdom help Douglas remain WNBA All-Star

Katie Douglas turned 32 in May, but doesn’t feel her age is bringing an end to her WNBA career anytime soon.

In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

“My body feels like I’m 25 or 26,” the former Purdue women’s basketball standout said.

From Brett LoGiurato at the Star-Ledger: Liberty’s Essence Carson, WNBA All-Star, learned it all at Paterson Eastside High School

When Essence Carson was a high school freshman, Paterson Eastside High School coach Ed Black pulled her aside after one practice to have a conversation. It turned out to be the most important conversation of her budding basketball career.

From the AP’s Paul Weber: WNBA All-Star Game features new faces
With 10 first-time All-Stars, the game will showcase the next generation.

The WNBA will celebrate its 15th anniversary Saturday by honoring the 15 best players in history during halftime of the All-Star game. The game itself, meanwhile, will look distinctly like the WNBA’s future.

In a similar theme (and with profiles) from My San Antonio: Young stars living WNBA’s old motto

In 1997, the WNBA launched its inaugural season with a catchy slogan that proclaimed: “We Got Next.” Fourteen years later, with many of the players who helped the league get off the ground either retired or nearing retirement, the WNBA’s future appears as bright as ever.

Check out the video previews of the game with interviews and such here.

Also, over at SlamOnline, Ben has WNBA All-Star Sights and Sounds: The scoop from San Antonio

…after the Storm beat the Silver Stars in Seattle Thursday night, Swin Cash and Sue Bird didn’t arrive in San Antonio until after ten in the morning on Friday. They got to the hotel, slept for about an hour or so, and then had to catch the bus to the AT&T Center for practice and media availability.

Why am I telling you this? Simple. If I didn’t, maybe you’d never know.

After all, based on the smiles, laughter, eager participation in multiple community events, and selfless interaction with fans there’s no way anyone would think these players were mentally or physically exhausted.

That, is the consummate definition of a professional.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: WNBA outlives early growing pains, sees bright days ahead

The WNBA is celebrating 15 years, quite an accomplishment if you gave weight to cynics who said the league wouldn’t last 15 minutes. The last decade and a half hasn’t been without some pain, but everyone can agree the league has learned how to get through it.

Some franchises folded, others shifted. In order to generate cash — always a challenge in a male-dominated professional sports market — jerseys now serve as billboards, with “Bing” replacing “Seattle” for one example.

And yet, the league outlasted a rival (ABL) and still serves as a haven for women wishing to play beyond college.

Did you see that the ESPN experts picked the top 15 players of all time

From Eric Bailey, Tulsa World: Shock ready to step up in season’s second half

“Our goal is to set goals immediately and to set those that (can be) reached and (accomplished) … so that we can win,” Edwards said. “We have to clean up the turnovers, we have to become a dominant defensive team …

“I’m looking for maturity. I’m looking for a team that’s willing to do what we have to do to mature into a winning personality as a Tulsa Shock team. As we do that, I really feel like we’re going to end the season with some wins.”

Ellen Horrow, USA Today has: Charles-Fowles WNBA rivalry grows by leaps, rebounds

If a great rivalry can elevate a sport or a league, then the WNBA could be on the verge of a huge leap forward.

All-Star centers Tina Charles, of the Connecticut Sun, and Sylvia Fowles, of the Chicago Sky, are young, fierce and dynamic — and set to challenge each other in the post for years to come.

From Odeen Domingo, Arizona Central: Phoenix Mercury’s Big Three could equal a WNBA championship – Candice Dupree, Diana Taurasi and Penny Taylor leading Mercury to a big year

The three-headed monster, dreaded and envied.

In Greek mythology, there was Cerberus, the three-headed hound that guarded the gates of Hades. Thou shall not pass.

The Mercury have their own three-headed monster: Candice Dupree. Diana Taurasi. Penny Taylor.

From John Altavilla, Hartford Courant: Terrible Tulsa And Other Things About The WNBA
If you want to see what’s different in the WNBA this season check the Western Conference standings where competitive balance has suddenly reappeared.
Last season, the Seattle Storm went 17-0 at home on the way to the league championship and were the only team above .500 to qualify for the postseason in the conference.Parity is now more apparent with the resurgence of San Antonio and Phoenix and the rise of the Minnesota Lynx. Seattle could win it all again, but they will need to work harder for it this season.
As to what else has been interesting in the WNBA prior to Saturday’s All-Star game….
Bob Corwin at Full Court Press (which needs to do something about tagging their work — it NEVER comes to me via my news alerts): San Antonio Silver Stars 2011: Basketball Makeover 101
Hughes takes a cautious approach to where his team stands.  “There is a lot of evidence yet to be played out,” Hughes stated. Still, acknowledging that his team had a better start than many—the Silver Stars went 4-0 to start the regular season and stood atop the West with a 7-1 record at the end of June before dropping three in a row in early July—Hughes expressed his pleasure with his team’s unexpectedly strong performance this season:  “There is a good energy [and] a bench that has not always been part of the Silver Stars,” Hughes stated. 

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