Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Fullcourt.com goes independent

After 13 years with scout.com, fullcourt.com will become independent tomorrow, July 1. Publisher Lee Michaelson explains why.

WNBA news: Parker's back, Agler benches stars

Candace Parker participated in her first practice today since last season. Of course the WNBA promptly posted a bunch of pics of the Sparks' sweaty, smiling star player.

It cracks me up the way Parker refers to daughter Lailaa as "lil momma."

In the meantime, it's come out that Seattle Storm Coach Brian Agler benched his two stars, Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird, during the fourth quarter of Sunday's game at Staples Center in LA. I wondered why they weren't in.

Possible USC recruit

Former high school basketball standout Tailor Jones left the University of Florida this past spring after her freshman year to transfer to another school. Last week she reportedly visited Northwestern University, and this week she is supposed to be checking out the University of Southern California. After losing a few major recruits when former coach Mark Trakh was fired, the Trojans could use some players to fill those spots. We'll see what happens.

She's baaaaaaack!

Yesterday Shelden Williams tweeted: "While Mommy is at the doctor, it's dad and daughter day!"

In the afternoon, Candace Parker tweeted that she "can't wait for tomorrow."

About 40 minutes ago, Parker tweeted that she's "bbbbaaaaacccccckkkkkkk!! headed to first practice!"

What sweet words to start the day.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Indiana Fever chill with the elephants

In one of the WNBA's most unique publicity opportunities, the Fever washed elephants.

I'm jealous.

NCAA reprimands Texas Christian University

I wonder what was said during this incident.

Augustus speaks, around-the-W quotes

Seimone Augustus talks about her ACL injury and recovery. I'm not at all surprised to hear her mention how hard it is to watch and not play. She's more positive than I would be in her situation. I hope her doctor's appointment today went well.

There are quotes on this page that will please just about everyone.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sparks 82, Storm 55

What a difference from Friday night's battle between the same two teams.

Two nights ago it was the Storm that took a big lead and fought off a surging Sparks team to salvage the win by two points. Tonight it was LA that took a strong lead in the second quarter, and never looked back. It was a balanced scoring attack on the part of both teams, but the Storm needed to be balanced in double digits, not single digits.

The refs: sucked. But that's what you get when you have Kurt Walker and Bonita Spence. I surmise they watched the physical matchup between these two teams on Friday, because they called tonight's game tighter than hell. Lots of ticky tack fouls.

The Storm: surprised me. Janell Burse and Suzy Batkovic-Brown each flopped once. Since when did Seattle become a flopper team? Stop it already.

Brian Agler: usually stands, but I don't remember him standing at all this evening. Is he ill?

Shannon Bobbitt: is getting her Tennessee swag back. She's playing with confidence lately, and it shows. She was really getting into Storm guard Sue Bird's head tonight and throwing her off her game. Bobbitt isn't messing up much anymore, either; tonight she had four points, eight assists and zero turnovers. Late in the fourth quarter she did some fancy dribble crossovers between her legs, and crowd went "oooo!" As she ran into the tunnel toward the locker room, she yelled back at some fans and pointed at them. Did a little hop skip and ran away. It was pretty damned funny. I'm glad the kid is feeling good about herself. She worked really hard on her game between last season and this one.

Kathy Goodman: predicted it. The Sparks' co-owner said they were going to "kill" the Storm. The picture at that link well illustrates what Bobbitt has been doing to Bird lately.

Sparks still need to work on: offensive movement and continuing the box out late into the game. Bobbitt has been criticized for dribbling too much, but it's usually because the rest of her teammates are just standing around the paint like trees. Move, ladies! The Sparks were boxing out effectively in the first half, but weren't doing so in the second. Gotta play a full 40 minutes, ya know.

Anthem: was sung by a children's choir, and it was great. Towards the end, the Storm players (with their backs to the choir) were turning around to look at the kids, and smiling. It was cute. Personally, I prefer the anthem be sung by at least a quartet, because the notes are too easily messed up by a solo artist.

Michael Jackson: was remembered with a moment of silence before the game, and in player videos. Several different players spoke about what he and his music had meant to them. It was really cool. And the Sparks played a few more MJ songs than usual during timeouts tonight.

Funniest moment: Late in the fourth quarter, Bobbitt went in for a layup and was forcefully shoved backward. She reeled, taking about six cartoon character-like steps backwards before she regained control and stopped herself, without falling, at half court. Everybody was just giggling.

Candace Parker and Lisa Leslie: weren't on the bench tonight. Leslie were at the BET Awards. CP was reportedly at home with fussy Lailaa. When are we going to get to see this kid?



Shannon Bobbitt and Kristi Harrower during pre-game shoot-around.



The Storm warm up before the game.



The Storm watch Betty Lennox shoot her free throw after Lauren Jackson flagrant-fouled her.



Bobbitt sets up the play in the fourth quarter.

In the other league game tonight, Detroit stopped a four-game losing streak by beating Sacramento. It's new coach Rick Mahorn's first win.

Edit to add: Kathy Goodman's reaction to the win.

Dawn Staley = bigger fan base

Staley is courting a bigger fan base at South Carolina, and the University has also given a grant to increase awareness of women's basketball. That's ridiculously cool.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Why ask why?

With tonight's four games added in, here are the current WNBA standings:

East

Indiana 6-2
Chicago 5-3
Washington 4-3
Connecticut 4-3
Atlanta 4-5
New York 2-6
Detroit 1-5


West

Seattle 6-2
Minnesota 6-3
Phoenix 6-3
San Antonio 3-3
Los Angeles 2-5
Sacramento 1-6


So, in the East there are three teams at the top that aren't usually there. Detroit, at the bottom, hasn't been in that position for years. Phoenix is back up top in the West, Minnesota might finally be living up to its potential, and Los Angeles continues to fail to live up to theirs.

No wonder some fans are cranky and asking why. It's human nature to ask why, after all. But we only find out the answer to that question part of the time, and this is one of those times that we don't.

There are so many factors that go into a successful team: a good coach, the team's responsiveness to coach(es), solid players, team chemistry, effective plays, effective defense, execution of game plan, coach and team's ability to adjust - among other things. There are also off-court issues.

Several years ago I became friends with a player from another WNBA team. She told me a few things about her team and its players matter-of-factly, but that I didn't know about. Let's just say the experience taught me that you really never know what's going on behind the scenes of a team unless you're either a player or a staffer, and any outsider who thinks they do know is kidding themselves.

Who really understands what exactly "it" is that's keeping the Shock, the Monarchs, the Sparks and the Liberty in the basement of their respective conferences? It could be, and probably is, a myriad of factors in each case. I'm not going to torture myself trying to figure it out. That's the job of each team.

But I can understand the urge to ask why. Personally, I spend at least a few minutes every work day trying to figure out why some kid said or did something.

Good thing there's not a message board for that.

Seimone Augustus optimistic in face of injury

"It's still tough....."

It's also difficult to look at the stats on wnba.com, because right now Augustus is still third in total points per game. She will eventually fall down the chart, but I'm enjoying seeing her in third right now, and pondering what her season would have been like if she hadn't been injured.

*sigh*

Kathy Goodman blogging for LA Times!!

The Sparks co-owner speaks about the team's trip to Seattle.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Candace Parker's "twitterview"

I was out of the house yesterday when the Michael Jackson news broke. As I was headed to my girl's game and reflecting on the passing of an entertainer whose music is much of the soundtrack to my life, Candace Parker was answering questions via twitter.com.

She did indeed have locker room duties last year

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Bruin freshmen are here

UCLA Coach Nikki Caldwell announced, via twitter, that incoming freshmen Markel Walker (Pittsburgh) and Mariah Williams (Colorado) are on campus and begun summer school this week. Caldwell seems pleased with them so far, and said "Welcome, Bruins" in one post.

The lineup should be interesting after December 8, when transfer Jasmine Dixon is allowed to join the line up.

Littler girls need bigger girls

One of the six (baller) kids I took to the Sparks game Sunday night is the daughter of a friend of mine. All the kids were sitting in other areas, but when the seat next to me was open, I invited J to come sit there.

After the final buzzer and the handshakes, Sparks players started heading towards the tunnel to get to the locker room. J and the other kids crowded towards the railing with others and stretched out their hands toward the players as they walked by. I noticed that Candace Parker reached up and touched J's hand as she strolled.

J is a quiet kid, so I had no idea what that moment meant to her until yesterday, when I talked to her mom. My friend said J texted her right after the incident and said, "I touched Candace Parker's hand and I didn't even cry." Because I guess J had done the low-five thing with CP once before, and she got all emotional afterwards.

I was a bit blown away by that. Basketball players are such role models for the young women who look up to them. They exemplify strong women, and they show them that anything is possible.

I'm glad that most WNBA players seem to understand and appreciate that fact, and that they are good to their fans. Because little girls need big girls.

Dawn Staley's youth foundation making an impact for kids

At a recent banquet, five products of the basketball legend's foundation spoke about how they benefitted from the programs there. Mel Greenberg was there.

Marissa Coleman blogs

The injured Mystics forward details life on crutches, including an incident with her dog.

Adventures of the Young and Crippled

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Candace Parker nominated for an ESPY again

There are four other nominations. Wonder who will win?

Sparks practice report, and other yellow and purple-related items

LA season ticket holders get great "insider" emails with lots of goodies, and today is no exception. For one, there's a video featuring interviews with Coach Michael Cooper and guard Shannon Bobbitt.

Then there's this great interview with some of co-owner Kathy Goodman's students....have I mentioned lately that I love the Sparks owners?

Sparks Co-owner
Kathy Goodman
Passes the Test


When school gets out for the summer at High Tech High in Los Angeles, English teacher Kathy Goodman quickly switches roles to Co-owner of the Los Angeles Sparks.

Having taught high school for many years, Kathy Goodman knows how to run a classroom. But in 2007, Goodman, along with Carla Christofferson, added another title to her resume: Owner of the Los Angeles Sparks.

While High Tech High students Alicia, Maya, and Jessica learn from Ms. Goodman in the classroom on a daily basis, they, along with many other students have also become fans of Ms. Goodman's Sparks team.

Q: What is the best part of having Ms. Goodman as your teacher?

A: ALICIA: My favorite thing has to be her sense of humor. She is very funny in an intelligent way.

MAYA: My favorite thing about Ms. Goodman is that she treats us as adults and challenges us. She lets us figure things out for ourselves and challenges us everyday.

JESSICA: One of the greatest qualities that Ms. Goodman has as a teacher is that you can tell that she really loves what she does, which makes it a lot easier to learn.

Q: What's your favorite memory of Ms. Goodman as your teacher?

A: ALICIA: One of the funniest days was the day after the Sparks were eliminated from the playoffs last year. She came to school the next day, and in our first period class you could tell she was not in a good mood. So someone stood up in the middle of class and pretended to shoot a basketball and miss. Everyone was so nervous to see how Ms. Goodman would react and she just burst into laughter. It was a really great moment to show how we could make her forget about everything business related and just laugh with us.

MAYA: Some of my favorite memories about Ms. Goodman are her telling funny little stories. One of my favorites was her telling us the story of her dad convincing her that he had a hotdog tree in the backyard. She loves to tell little stories like that or jokes to keep class enjoyable.

Q: How does Ms. Goodman being the owner of the Sparks affect her being your teacher?

A: ALICIA: One of the best things about it is that every time the Sparks win a game, we get to have a "Casual Dress Day" the next day. We all get to celebrate together by not having to wear our uniforms.

JESSICA: I think it's a cool perspective to have someone with real-world business experience being your teacher. To know that she has a business outside of school is really neat.

Q: What is it like seeing Ms. Goodman at the games, not as your teacher, but as the owner?

A: ALICIA: It is hysterical to watch Ms. Goodman at a Sparks game because she seems so focused and serious. But then when the Sparks make a basket, she jumps up and starts cheering.

MAYA: The really cool thing about High Tech High is that you really get to know teachers as teachers, but also as friends. So it's always fun to see Ms. Goodman sit in her courtside seat and get so excited when the Sparks score. She also always comes to visit us at halftime, which is really nice.

JESSICA: It's always a little strange to see teachers out of the classroom, but it is also interesting to see Ms. Goodman in more of a business setting. She comes up to us to say "hi" but then gets right back to business.

As all three girls can attest, Ms. Goodman succeeds both in the classroom and at Sparks games and never fails to bring her humor and enthusiasm with her.


Finally, Sparks PR Director Alayne Ingram has a nice blog that is full of goodies. My favorite entry so far is April 29, when she explains how Candace Parker had discussions with her unborn daughter to keep the labor short.

Bringin' the A-game

Her entry right after that reminds me what a conundrum of accents there are on the Sparks team. There is Shannon Bobbitt with her thick Bronx accent; Kristi Harrower, who's an Australian, mate; Vanessa Hayden, with her Southern accent; and Betty Lennox, who has a distinctive flat, Midwestern way of speaking. I love it.

Plenette Pierson out for the season

The Detroit Shock forward had surgery on her shoulder today from an injury she sustained in the season opener in LA on June 6. Now Pierson is out for the season.

There are injuries every year, of course. But I don't remember when there have been so many severe injuries less than three weeks into the season.

Yolanda Griffith and Semione Augustus both suffered season-ending injuries in a torn Achilles tendon and a torn ACL, respectively. Rookie Marissa Coleman is out six weeks - a lifetime in the WNBA season - with a high ankle sprain. Lisa Leslie is sitting out six games due to a severe knee sprain.

I don't like this trend, and I hope it stops.

"Those who are fearless are far less compelling than those who overcome fear"

School is out for the summer now, so I'm able to get to some things now that I have been meaning to but haven't had time for. Like Louisville Coach Jeff Walz.

Watching him at the press conferences at the Final Four in April, I noticed that he stuttered - not much, but some. I made a note to discuss that with him at some point. When I contacted him a few weeks ago for my June 11 blog entry, I mentioned it. Walz said that ESPN had written about his stuttering issue, and that he wasn't at all ashamed to acknowlege the problem.

I looked up the piece, by Graham Hays, and was struck by Walz' integrity and honesty:

"The hardest thing for me, and this is the honest truth, when I'm recruiting and I start to call a kid for the first time, saying, 'Louisville' -- I'm telling you, it kills me," Walz said.

"I joke with my staff; I'm like, what I want to do is call up and say, 'Hey, Graham?' and you say, 'Hey, yeah,' and then I press play on my tape recorder and go, 'This is coach Walz from the University of Louisville,' and then press stop. Because then, I'm fine after that. I'll stutter some, but it might take me a minute to get 'Louisville' out."

What is remarkable about Walz is how at ease with himself he appears in public, joking during an answer at a news conference that he might just keep talking because he's on such a roll without stuttering. Talking to him on the phone, even as he jokes that e-mail is his preferred means of communication, he offers up a familiar litany of stresses and frustrations, but here he is, running a college basketball program that is four games from a national championship and drew a crowd of 19,123 to Freedom Hall earlier this season.

Those who are fearless are far less compelling than those who overcome fear.

"I'm going to have to do it, and if someone doesn't like the fact that I stutter, well then, they can leave," Walz said. "It's just a part of you."


Walz is also a speaker and spokesman for the Stuttering Foundation, a non-profit organization that helps those who have the problem.

Hays' column is over a year old, but maybe you're like me and you didn't know that this rising star of a coach has worked to overcome stuttering. I admire him for that.

"Coach, I got you"

Monday, June 22, 2009

USC names two assistant coaches

Michael Cooper's staff is taking shape, as Kelley Gibson and Mary Wooley join the ranks.

Sounds like they're ready to go.

Sparks 67, Monarchs 47

Last night the Sparks looked more like they did in their opening game: they were hustling, playing good transition game and working together like a unit. I like the team that comes to Staples better than the one I have to watch online.

Shannon Bobbitt played with a lot of confidence, and put seven points and had five assists.

There was a short piece in the Sparks game program about how Betty Lennox and Marie Ferdinand-Harris have both been starters for roughly 75 percent of their pro careers. And now that MFH is now off the bench behind Lennox, she is "accepting her role with grace and professionalism." MFH is also fiesty, and matched Lennox' 10 points and two assists. Lennox won the battle of the boards, however, garnering eight to MFH's one.



This is not a sight you want to see if you're a Sparks fan.



Shannon Bobbitt puts up one of her ace shots.



Assistant Coach Marianne Stanley talked emphatically in Bobbitt's ear for a good 20 seconds. Then she said one more thing, strongly, swatted her on the ass and sent her back out on the floor.



CP has them laughing at the timeout.



Second half action. Sacramento is the second team to make us play offense at the opposite end of the court in the last half. I don't like teams that do that.



Courtney Paris finally got to play in the second half. She did fine.

Non-game-related note: Me and those in my section are relieved that the grown woman who wore her hair in two pigtails on the sides of her head, and roller-skated around the arena, is no longer there. She has been replaced with an easy-going white guy who doesn't have her annoying, high-pitched voice. He's nice and easy on the ears.

Footnote: CP twittered earlier this evening that she met with Penny Toler today to discuss her time table for returning, and "July is looking good."

*praying*

Sparks issues

Oh cripes, Lisa Leslie was sitting on the bench last night. I'll have a picture of that later tonight.

Nice piece on Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton, including this quote:

"She's eager to learn," Milton-Jones said. "Her eyes are wide open and it seems like everything is going a million miles an hour. I'm impressed with her poise. There were times she could've been rattled and turned the ball over but she allowed the game to come to her."

Finally, I need to give the Sparks organization props for giving free tickets to last night's game to those who attended the pep rally in May. I was gifted with four tickets, and one of my best friends and section mates gave me two of hers. So I brought six of my kids to the game, and they had such a great time. Thanks, Sparks, for providing those opportunities for kids to go.

I'll have pictures from last night's game later this evening.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Watts Games finale

Semifinal one: Washington Prep 43, Cajon 35

Prep came out flat, and stayed that way. For a long time, guard Cheyenne Bonam seemed to be the only one who was hustling. Even so, the Generals lead the entire game, and withstood a Cajon run at the end.

I'd never seen Cowboys Coach Mark Lehman actually stand up and coach before these Watts Games. Today he took it one step further and publicly humiliated center Jazzmeen Williams. Displeased with her play, he pulled her out of the game a few minutes into the first half and shouted at her to go into the corner and face the wall.

"Seriously!" he yelled.

I found out the name of Cajon's other big girl whose shot I'd been impressed with last week: Patricia Brown, who will be a junior this fall. I'll be watching her and Williams.

Semifinal two: Long Beach Poly 34, Narbonne 23

Narbonne lost all but one player coming into the 08-09 season, and it was tough going for a while. But the Gauchos are beginning to show signs of a comeback. The players who had moved up from the JV team now have a year of experience under their belts, and they're looking better. They have all the right ideas and moves getting the ball to the hoop; they just can't finish. If they can fix that problem, they'll be lethal.

Poly lost a lot of people to graduation this spring, and they're the weakest I've ever seen them. But who knows - with Poly, they might just have some girls on vacation.



Washington Prep, in blue, and Cajon, battle in the first semi-final game.



Coach Mark Lehman sent center Jazzmeen Williams, above, to the bench early in the first half, with the admonishment to "sit facing the wall." Not sure if she made it there, but she sat like this for the rest of the game, and for a while afterwards.



Narbonne, in white, and Long Beach Poly go at it in the second semi. Narbonne is looking much improved from last year, while Poly looks weaker.



In the championship game Washington Prep, in blue, and Poly players watch a shot by the Generals' Kejuana Gardner go up.



Players scramble for a rebound.

Championship game: Long Beach Poly 38, Washington Prep 23

Prep again wasn't playing like themselves, and Poly stepped it up from their semifinal game. Prep's biggest problem in this game was not taking care of the ball, while Poly's asset was good teamwork in passing the ball to the right people on the floor.

Participants each got a pretty gold medal for their efforts.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Seimone Augustus out for the season

Words can't describe how tired I am of ACL injuries in female ballers.

Sadness.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

LA Times: Candace Parker tweeting the night away

They actually care about a female basketball player.

I signed up to be a CP follower a long time ago and wondered why she hadn't been "tweeting." Glad she is now.

Apparently Shelden Williams reports that they duel back and forth changing the baby in and out of Tennessee clothing. :-D

Kendall Hackney gets USC release, will attend Northwestern

Congrats to Hackney and her family. Ohio's Ms. Basketball will start school this summer.

Cheryl Ford set to return tomorrow

The last time we saw her play was during the infamous "brawl" game between the Detroit Shock and Los Angeles Sparks last July 22. Cheryl Ford went to go separate some players and twisted her knee in the process, tearing her ACL. But now she's ready to return, longtime athletic trainer Laura Ramus says:

Ford passed her biggest test to date during a 5-on-5 scrimmage Wednesday, all but ensuring she’ll be in uniform against Indiana Friday for the first time since tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee last July. Ford is eager to rejoin her teammates on the court – for as long as her lungs will allow her.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Staley gets one from Maryland

Marah Strickland transfers.

I believe that's three lost for the Terps.

Twitter update

The Los Angeles Sparks at last provide some updates:

1. Practices have been "grueling" the last couple days as the team prepares for Friday's game against Phoenix.

2. Tina Thompson had to get three stitches on her chin to repair the damage done in Friday's Indiana game.

Candace Parker's in-laws are in town, and she and her mother-in-law both beat husband Shelden Williams in bowling tonight. CP then went on to gloat about it fiercely.......I feel sorry for Williams. It would be hard being married to a person who is that competitive. She probably races him down the stairs.

Nikki Caldwell has been having a lot of amusing ponderings lately.

Shyra Ely thanks god for just about everything. No matter who you think is responsible, gratitude is a beautiful thing.

Dawn Staley's campers wore her out today dancing to dances she doesn't necessarily know.

WNBA happenings

Unofficial word on the street is that Mystic rookie Marissa Coleman has sustained a high ankle sprain and will be out for six weeks. Saddest thing I've heard since Sylvia Fowles went out for a bit last year in her first year.

Perhaps because of that, Washington has signed Kristen Mann.....again.

Epiphany Prince leaving Rutgers to play overseas

A first for women, this decision.

It's interesting that 1. Vivian Stringer wasn't told until today and 2. that Prince plans to use her earning to help fund a Brooklyn AAU team.

Some will decry this decision, but I can't blame Prince. If she's got the talent and wants to make the money, it's her choice. She's taking the extra steps to make sure she finishes her degree.

It will be interesting to see if other female ballers follow her lead.

Big Syl speaks

Wnba.com interviews Sky center Sylvia Fowles

Monday, June 15, 2009

Urban vs. Suburban female ball players

Interesting piece in today's New York Times about the discrepancy between the number of suburban girls (50 percent) who play sports versus the number of urban girls (36 percent) who do:

In the suburbs, girls’ participation in sports is so commonplace that in many communities, the conversation has shifted from concerns over equal access to worries that some girls are playing too much. But the revolution in girls’ sports has largely bypassed the nation’s cities, where public school districts short on money often view sports as a luxury rather than an entitlement.

Coaches and organizers of youth sports in cities say that while many immigrant and lower-income parents see the benefit of sports for sons, they often lean on daughters to fill needs in their own hectic lives, like tending to siblings or cleaning the house.

Others, like Tiffany’s father, Gavin Binning, are worried for their daughter’s safety, another roadblock to playing.


The story is OK, but it's not as simple as babysitting and safety issues.

There are those players - mostly Hispanic - who get stuck with childcare duties. But it's not that often, and it's not enough to keep a girl off a team. There have been times in the neighborhood where I teach that gangs are warring and parents are concerned about their daughters. So we let them out of practice in time to get home before it gets dark, and/or give them a ride there ourselves. (A common practice of coaches in urban schools, at least here in Los Angeles).

What the New York Times writer left out was that inner cities are full of gangs that lure kids in with enticements: acceptance, cameraderie, excitement, and distraction from a sometimes otherwise miserable existence. A stunningly large percentage of students in certain inner city schools are, at the very least, affiliated with a gang.

Secondly, there aren't many good role models in inner cities with regard to physical fitness or sports. Low-income neighborhoods are populated by liquor stores rather than Fresh and Easy Markets or Whole Foods.

Last fall I had my students write a response paper to an LA Times brief I read to them about how park space relates to exercise. A study had compared open space in Beverly Hills to South Los Angeles, and found that South LA residents had less parks and were more overweight than their higher-income counterparts. Several of my students wrote that everywhere they went, people smoked pot and were just sitting around, if not gang-banging. They thought those problems should be addressed before more parks were created.

For an inner city girl to regularly participate in sports, she has to be willing to go somewhat against the grain. And this is something many teen girls aren't willing to do.

I give the New York Times props for trying to write this story, though.

Three leaving Cal

Kelsey Adrian, Casey Morris and Angelei Aguirre are leaving the team. This is the first time players have left on Coach Joanne Boyle.

Oh my, Bill Laimbeer to resign as Shock head coach

As much as people claim to hate the bad boy, his swag will be missed.

Laimbeer expected to resign today

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Fun at the Watts Games

I wish the bracket was online. I tried to re-create one here, but it isn't happening, so I'll recap the left side of it as well as possible.

First round, yesterday:

Carson beat Monroe and Crenshaw beat Palisades.

Alemany beat Long Beach Poly 2 and Cajon beat Dominguez.

Washington Prep beat Arleta and Culver City beat Southeast.

Dorsey beat Canoga Park and North Torrance beat Peninsula.

Second round, today:

Carson beat Crenshaw and Cajon beat Alemany.

Washington Prep beat Culver City and North Torrance beat Dorsey.

Third round, today:

Cajon took two overtimes to beat Carson, 65-59.

Prep started to pull away from North Torranace big time, right as the second half started, and they never looked back. Final score was 54-24.



Cajon (green) and Carson do the handshaking thing before the game commenced.



It was a fierce battle back and forth.



North Torrance (in white) was quick, but Washington's athleticism ran them into the ground.

I was wondering what Cajon would bring, since they just graduated the two reasons they've been a power team for the last two years in Cal-bound Layshia Clarendon and Darshae Burnside, headed to Arkansas. But after checking them out against Alemany this morning, it looked like the returning players have stepped up. I had a feeling the game against Carson - a fiesty team loaded with shooters - would be a good one, and it was.

Kori Walker, who will be a junior at Cajon this fall, was balllin today. I'd seen flashes of it in the Cajon games I saw this past winter. She looks like she's ready to shine right now. The Cowgirls also got a lot of play from a big girl whose name I wish I knew, but all teams wear just their practice jerseys at the Watts games, which don't usually have their real numbers on them. So I don't know her name yet. But maybe Cajon won't be so bad off this year after all.

Neither will Carson. They graduated only three last year, and Coach Marcel Sanders always has more in the tank. He is a talented coach.

On the other side of the bracket, Washington Prep only graduated three seniors this year, and none of them were starters. So the team is already in good shape. Though they had some rusty moments on the court today, they caught up to their former selves quickly and maximized the mistakes of their opponents.

Soon-to-be junior Cheyenne Bonam has taken over at the point guard spot, and it's a great choice. She seems to be a natural at the position, and her presence there lets almost-senior Kejuana Gardner focus solely on the 2-spot, her best place on the court.



Next year's Washington Prep squad will be lead by (left to right) Cheyenne Bonam, Reshanda "Too Tall" Gray, and Kejuana Gardner.

On the right side of the bracket, the two victors today were Long Beach Poly and Narbonne. This Saturday, the two semi-finals will take place at LA Southwest College: Prep vs. Cajon at 9 a.m., and Poly vs. Narbonne at 10 a.m. The championship game will take place at 1 p.m.

The Watts Games are always interesting because seniors have just graduated, and teams haven't played together consistently for a while. New players have been moved up and transfers have come aboard. So it's the first, raw glimpse of what will be each team's constitution next year. It's exciting!

Happy Birthday, Coach Summitt



Happy birthday to the best coach of all time, who has never had a losing record.

Head coaching record

Season Team Overall Conference Standing Postseason

Tennessee Lady Volunteers (AIAW) (1974–1979)

1974–75 Tennessee 16–8 TCWSF Eastern District Champions 4th Place TCWSF
1975–76 Tennessee 16–11 4th Place TCWSF 6th Place AIAW Region II
1976–77 Tennessee 28–5 2nd Place TCWSF AIAW Region II Champions 3rd Place AIAW
1977–78 Tennessee 27–4 2nd Place TCWSF AIAW Region II Champions 4th Place AIAW South Satellite
1978–79 Tennessee 30–9 TCWSF Champions 2nd Place AIAW Region II
AIAW East Satellite Champions 3rd Place AIAW

Tennessee Lady Volunteers (SEC) (1979–present)

1979–80 Tennessee 33–5 TCWSF Champions 2nd Place AIAW Region II
AIAW South Satellite Champions
2nd Place AIAW
1980–81 Tennessee 25–6 TCWSF Champions AIAW Region II Champions
2nd Place AIAW
1981–82 Tennessee 22–10 NCAA Final Four
1982–83 Tennessee 25–8 7-1 1st (East) NCAA Elite Eight
1983–84 Tennessee 23–10 7-1 T–1st (East) NCAA Runner-up
1984–85 Tennessee 22–10 4-4 T–2nd (East) NCAA Second Round
1985–86 Tennessee 24–10 5-4 5th NCAA Final Four
1986–87 Tennessee 28–6 6-3 T–4th NCAA Champions
1987–88 Tennessee 31–3 8-1 2nd NCAA Final Four
1988–89† Tennessee 35–2 8-1 2nd NCAA Champions
1989–90 Tennessee 27–6 8-1 1st NCAA Elite Eight
1990–91 Tennessee 30–5 6-3 3rd NCAA Champions
1991–92 Tennessee 28–3 10-1 2nd NCAA Sweet Sixteen
1992–93 Tennessee 29–3 11-0 1st NCAA Elite Eight
1993–94‡ Tennessee 31–2 11-0 1st NCAA Sweet Sixteen
1994–95 Tennessee 34–3 11-0 1st NCAA Runner-up
1995–96† Tennessee 32–4 9-2 2nd NCAA Champions
1996–97 Tennessee 29–10 8-4 5th NCAA Champions
1997–98‡ Tennessee 39–0 14-0 1st NCAA Champions
1998–99 Tennessee 31–3 13-1 1st NCAA Elite Eight
1999–00 Tennessee 33–4 13-1 T–1st NCAA Runner-up
2000–01 Tennessee 31–3 14-0 1st NCAA Sweet Sixteen
2001–02 Tennessee 29–5 13-1 1st NCAA Final Four
2002–03 Tennessee 33–5 14-0 1st NCAA Runner-up
2003–04 Tennessee 31–4 14-0 1st NCAA Runner-up
2004–05 Tennessee 30–5 13-1 2nd NCAA Final Four
2005–06 Tennessee 31–5 11-3 2nd NCAA Elite Eight
2006–07# Tennessee 34–3 14-0 1st NCAA Champions
2007–08† Tennessee 36–2 13-1 2nd NCAA Champions
2008–09 Tennessee 22–11 9-5 5th NCAA First Round
Tennessee: 1005–193 † Also won SEC Tournament Championship.
# Also won SEC Regular Season Championship.
‡ Also won both SEC Regular Season and
Tournament Championship.

Awards and Titles

14-time SEC Champions (1980, 1985, 1990, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2007
13-time SEC Tournament Champions (1980, 1985, 1988, 1989, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2005, 2006, 2008)
7-time SEC Coach of the Year (1983, 1995, 1998, 2001, 2003,2004, 2007)
7-time NCAA Coach of the Year (1983, 1987, 1989, 1994, 1995, 1998, 2004)
8-time NCAA Champions (1987, 1989, 1991, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2007, 2008)

Inductee, Women's Basketball Hall of Fame, 1999
Inductee, Basketball Hall of Fame, 2000

There has been many a video of Coach Summitt over the years, but my favorite is from 2007, when she was coaching son Tyler's AAU team:

"You can't say can't to me - I can't relate to that"

Have fun today, Coach Summitt.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Homophobia still looms in the WNBA

Balanced job of addressing this issue in the Southern Voice:

Lesbian stigma in battle for fans

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Iraqi girls win Summitt over with their aggressive play

Awwwwww

Jennifer Gillom's going to be a success in the WNBA

Lots of good things in this piece about the Lynx' new head coach, grandmomma: she's being inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame this weekend, and she's meeting her goals faster than she'd anticipated.

"Because everybody on our team loves Coach Jen."

I have a great feeling about Gillom, who's already achieved success on the high school level as a coach.

Good girls don't always finish last

Two of the nicest and hardest-working almost former WNBA players were signed by the Fever today:

Jessica Moore and Shay Murphy to Indiana

Moore had an outstanding training camp with the Sparks before she was cut. She had obviously worked hard on her game this winter, and on any other team that wasn't stacked with four Olympians in the front court, she would have made it. Now she's getting her chance.

Murphy was such a fun player to watch at USC, whether on the court or off - where she would celebrate big plays by walking down the bench and slapping hands with each teammate. She was unfairly relegated to the Minnesota bench for the longest. Maybe she can get some PT with the Fever.

Of course, it's unfortunate that Erica White and Khadijah Whittington had to be waived for these acquisitions to happen.....such is life in the 11-player roster days.

Coaching women

Last week when Minnesota Lynx Coach Don Zierdan resigned four days before the season opener, I ran a blurb on it in this space. "Anonymous" commented, "will other men coaches jump ship as the WNBA weakens?"

I'm not completely sure about this person's implications, so I'm not going to try and guess. But seeing that some writers/columnists in general will, occasionally and for no apparent reason, slam women's basketball, I thought it was time for something positive instead.

So I asked some of the most esteemed male coaches of the women's game to explain why they enjoy coaching women, and here's what they had to say:


Well I've been doin it for a long time, obviously, and just enjoy how coachable they are, wanting to get better, the ability to build team and cameraderie. I like the way they accepted coaching.

- Brian Agler, Seattle Storm coach


For years I always told myself and others that I don't coach women, I coach basketball. But after reading a book by Anson Dorrance, the women's soccer coach at UNC, who for years coached both the men's and women's teams at the same time, I started to change my thinking. The difference isn't in the X's and O's or game strategy or levels of competitiveness; I think those things are exactly the same regardless of gender. The difference is in the emotional makeup and personalities of the athletes and the resulting wants and needs of their experience in competitive athletics. Women want to compete and win and excel as much or who knows, maybe even more, than men. But the difference is that women are looking for MORE than that - they are also looking for a personal connection with their coaches and teammates - and for me it is that connection that has made coaching more rewarding for me than ever before. I can’t imagine anyone having more fun at their job than I have at mine!!

Sometimes I think it's funny when I read that a certain school has hired a female coach to lead their team because she will be, among other things, a good role model for the women athletes involved. What no one ever mentions or even realizes for that matter, is that women need positive male role models in their lives too. Many of the women that I coach come from broken, dysfunctional and/or single parent homes. The males in their lives have often been abusive, irresponsible, non responsive or even non existent and that has had a profound negative impact on them.

As a coach I can be tough on them and I can make them work harder than they have ever worked before in their lives. I can let them know that it’s okay to be strong and competitive and fearless as athletes. But at the same time I can also show them that they have a personal worth as women and as human beings. I can teach and show them that one is not dependant on the other – that their worth as athletes is not dependant on them being women – and more importantly their worth as women is not dependant on their performance as athletes. I can be a living example that males can be open and honest and trustworthy and responsible. Long after the wins and losses are forgotten, that example may still have a positive impact, and the time they spent on my team may still be influencing their lives.

I like to win more now than ever before but the connections and relationships with the athletes have made winning much more enjoyable. I just don’t see the men’s coaches I know getting the same kind of satisfaction. If you’re going to dedicate your life to something you might as well have as much fun and satisfaction as you can doing it.


- Dave Stricklin, longtime Umpqua Community College coach and Northwest Athetic Association of Community Colleges Coach of the Year


I have always coached female athletes my entire coaching career. I started off coaching 7th grade girls basketball at Highlands Middle School in Ft. Thomas, KY for two years, 1993 and 1994. I then coached AAU Girls basketball for two summers and since then, I have been coaching in college for the past 14 years. I enjoy working with female athletes because of the passion they show for not only succeeding on the court but in the classroom and in life. We are fortunate to have the opportunity to coach these athletes for 4 years since they can't leave early for the WNBA and that helps us develop long lasting relationships.

- Jeff Walz, University Louisville coach, National Championship runner-up team, 2009


With the guys, you have to work on getting them to class and to help them see the importance of education later in their lives, whereas with the women, you don't. But when it comes to basketball, I don't differentiate between one or the other. The game is still the same - you pass, you play defense. The similarities in coaching women and men vastly outweigh the differences.

- Ned Mircetic, Ventura College coach for 19 years, National Junior College Coach of 2009; coached both women's and men's basketball teams in 2008-2009 season.


One of the best things about coaching women is their desire to have a team
feel like a true family......they don't like players all going their
separate ways once practice or the game is over - they feel a
responsibility to each other.

Another thing that I have found is that they have a better ability to
focus for longer periods of time in practice and preparation. They are
attentive to detail as a general rule. Most don't act as if they are beyond
needing coaching.

I don't have a preference of coaching males or females in general, but I
have had a very positive experience coaching womens' basketball
.

- Mike Thibault, longtime coach of the Connecticut Sun

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

I choose to laugh

The Sparks just dropped their second game in three days tonight, to Minnesota. Bad shooting by all the bigs, Lisa Leslie fouled out in the third quarter, and the guards couldn't do it by themselves.

I'm not sure what to think at this point. It's only the third game of the season, and it's a short but long season, so anything can happen by October. But I am a little surprised at the Sparks dropping two games in a row. I hope they don't keep this up, as I'm not in a mood for a repeat of last year.

Sports Page Magazine always takes good photos, and two particularly funny ones came out of the LA-Detroit game Monday night. Both feature one of my least favorite referees, longtime official June Courteau.



Katie Smith is getting in Courteau's grill! The only thing funner than that is the look on Bill Laimbeer's face.



Perhaps Courteau is trying to enrage the Shock by helping Tina Thompson up. (Since when do officials help players up, anyway?)

Other teams are feelin it too, as the Storm lost their first game last night in Indiana, and Detroit lost to the now 3-0 Mystics tonight.

This is why I don't make predictions.

It's official: Yo Griffith out for the season

Just sadness

McCoughtry checks in

She's a quick learner:

"I’m studying myself to see how I can get better."

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Oh no - Yo!

Yolanda Griffith was injured during the first quarter of tonight's Indiana-Seattle matchup in what was originally reported as a left ankle injury. Word is out now that it is instead a torn achilles.

If the rumor is true, I'm deeply saddened. What a terrible way to go out in what was supposed to be her final season to cap off a stellar career.

Many prayers to Yo.

If Tim Floyd resigns.......

....as he did today, does this mean Michael Cooper will move to the USC men's side?

Jacki Gemelos has yet ANOTHER setback!

The USC guard is now out until next January, following another surgery. Is this young lady ready to call it a career? Is USC?

ACL graft replacement surgery

Rivals united

Love this story about the way former Blue Devils and Terps are working hard together on the Washington Mystics team:

"Booooo!"

I don't think much of (usually media-created) rivalries, because a lot of the women who end up playing college and pro together have known each other for years, since they were kids. I loved Duke back in the Alana Beard years, and have enjoyed the Terps for five. Here's hoping they can finally have a winning season in D.C. The fans deserve it.

Iraqi girls attend Lady Vols camp

I hope somebody blogs about this experience

Quotes of note

“I’m going to be the Jack Nicholson of the L.A. Sparks.”
- Hip hop artist Snoop Dogg on becoming the team’s biggest celebrity fan.

"It is a family outing for us. We want to come see Lisa Leslie and all of the Sparks play. Everyone is going to the NBA Finals, we wanted to come to something that is less about what fans are at the game, and more about the game."
- Hip hop artist Snoop Dogg on attending Sparks games following the Sparks' 78-58 win over the Detroit Shock


I love the Snoop Dogg comments with all my heart, but there's something on this page for everybody:

Quotes on the dot-com

UO, Briann January updates

The LA Times, which pays no attention to women's basketball, finally figured out that Paul Westhead was hired as the University of Oregon coach two months ago:

Another "that crazy Westhead" story

And Briann January gleans from the pros.....but in today's 11-player roster world, what rookie isn't.

Learnin' the ropes

Monday, June 8, 2009

LA Watts games kick off this Saturday

After the Watts riots in 1965, the community set about to repair not only the physical damages to the area, but the wounds to the psyche. One of those efforts was the creation of the LA Watts Summer Games - a multi-day sports festival showcase of the best high school teams, in all sports.

As the 42nd annual games is set to kick off this weekend, events are no longer only in Watts; they haven't been for years. Instead, they are spread throughout the southern Los Angeles area, at various high schools.

The girl's basketball brackets look to be very competitive this year. There are four school sites that host the showcase round and first round Saturday, with the first four (showcase) games at 9, 10, 11 a.m. and 12 p.m., and the first round games at 1:30, 2:30, 3:30 and 4:30 p.m.

Kicking off the showcase round at Crenshaw High School at 9 a.m., Carson will face Mayfair, Crenshaw will take on Culver City at 10, Cajon will play Serra at 11, and Village Christian will go against Long Beach Poly #2 at noon.

Down the road at Washington Prep High School, Prep faces El Camino Real at 9 in a playoffs rematch from February. Peninsula will take on Des. Mirage at 10, Dorsey and Narbonne will have the battle of the green at 11, and Hamilton will play South Torrance at noon.

At 9 a.m. at King-Drew High School in Watts, the host team will face Monroe, Long Beach Poly #1 will take on Palisades at 10, Dominguez and Hawthorne will go at it at 11, and Alemany will go against Locke at noon.

The final site is Morningside High School in Inglewood. Lynwood plays North Torrance at 9, Morningside goes against Arleta at 10, Canoga Park faces Huntington Park at 11, and Long Beach Millikan and Southeast take each other on at noon.

From there, most teams travel to other sites for their first round match ups in the afternoon. The only guaranteed exceptions are the host teams at each site, which stay put in their home locations.

In the past, I've gone from school to school for the action, but this year I'm staying at one school for the duration of the weekend. It's going to be wonderful to see some high school ball (my first love) again. It's only been three months since the season has been over, but I miss it.

LA Watts Summer Games home page

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Hackney set for Northwestern visit

Kendall Hackney hasn't been granted a release from her letter of intent to USC, but has been promised she will be once she finds another school.

Almost gone?

Holdsclaw joins the 4000-point club

Atlanta may have lost today, but Chamique Holdsclaw scored her 4000th point in the WNBA on a pair of free throws. She is only the ninth player in the league's history to do so. Not bad for her second game back.

Welcome to the club

Quotes on Sparks-Shock from LA Times, + pictures

Of course the LA Times put the short game story on page 15 of today's sports section, and naturally, the story isn't online.

Reporter Mark Medina writes on the Pierson-Thompson incident:

Laimbeer said afterward that 'Tina did it on purpose.' Cooper wanted to see the replay but noted, 'Bill is always going ot have a different take on things.' And Thompson said, 'I've never intentionally hurt or fouled anyone in the game.'

People either assume everyone else is lying, or they assume everyone else is telling the truth. I'm the latter, so TT's comment is good enough for me.

Medina quotes Cooper on the Sparks:

'You don't want anything like last year to happen again,' Cooper said. 'I'm glad we just kept our focus. What we were doing was playing good basketball.'

That first sentence is telling. Indeed.

Pics from wnba.com:

Happy Bobbitt and CP

LL and Snoop Dogg

Sheryl Swoopes deserves better than this



Sheryl Swoopes is one of the legends of the women's game.

Her jersey was retired after she played only two years at Texas Tech, where she won the national championship as a senior and set school records. She is a three-time Olympic gold medalist and a four-time WNBA champion. She was the first woman to have a Nike shoe named after her, and she was the face of the game for many years, inspiring countless girls to pick up a ball. In 2005, Swoopes also became the first professional player to publicly come out.

So where is the legendary player now? Sitting at home in Seattle.

Last year she ended an 11-year career with the Houston Comets by signing with the Storm as a free agent. In January, Swoopes was abruptly waived by Seattle, and the team owners thanked her for her contributions. She didn't receive any training camp invitations, and didn't try out for any WNBA team. So I guess Swoopes is out of work and officially retired.

It reminds me of the stanza in the T.S. Eliot poem, "The Hollow Men":

this is the way the world ends
this is the way the world ends
this is the way the world ends
not with a bang but with a whimper


Indeed.

But if the WNBA allows the career of this great player to end with a whimper, they should be utterly ashamed of themselves. Swoopes may not be a part of the swan song that is this summer, with the impending retirements of other legends like Lisa Leslie and Yolanda Griffith. But she is no less deserving of fanfare.

Leslie reportedly will be honored in other arenas this summer as the Sparks hit town, and Swoopes should also be honored in some way. Though there is no more Comets since they folded last year, that venue might be the All-Star game, or one of the WNBA finals games. But she should be honored.

WNBA, do the right thing. Give Swoopes the send off and the closure that she deserves for all she has given to the game for the last few decades.

Rookies shine on opening day, and other tidbits

Not quite like CP last year, but damned good nonetheless:

Brian Martin writes on the .com

Other Sparks opening day tidbits I forgot last night in my fatigue:

- 13,000 in attendance! Booyah.

- Snoop Dogg was there! Sitting in some expensive seat with his wife Chante. And of course, he had the shades on. Football player Warren Sapp was also in attendance.

Snoop D-O-double gizzle

- I didn't read the game program until I got home, but inside was a brief interview with Lisa Leslie that included this comment:

"I'm strong, I'm tough, and I still wear my eyeliner," Leslie said.

Leslie has managed to maintain her femininity while becoming one of the best to ever play the game.


The implications of this statement are many, and all are disturbing. And why the Sparks felt the need to insert this quote into a program where kids could read it is beyond me. So I'd like to make the following points:

1. Being feminine doesn't make one a better or more desirable basketball player or person than a tomboyish woman.

2. Women should be able to be who they are.

3. Female basketball players, from high school to the pros, do a MUCH better job of accepting one another (regardless of appearance or sexuality) than their male ball playing counterparts. For the most part, people just get along. If they publicized these attitudes more, it would help influence fans and others to also be more accepting. But instead, the WNBA goes out of its way sometimes to hype and promote feminity and/or heterosexuality.

Apparently, we've still got a long way to go.

- On the upside, I saw a father and son in the parking garage before the game. The father playfully bopped the son on the head because he forgot the tickets. They turned around to walk back to the car, and as the dad walked by me, I could see he had a "Dunkin Divas" T-shirt on.

OK, maybe not as far to go as I thought.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Holdsclaw is back in the building(!!)

23 points? Wow. Katie Douglas had 22 for Indiana.

Dream 87, Fever 86

Other scores:

Storm 71, Monarchs 61
Mystics 82, Sun 70
Lynx 102, Sky 85
Mercury 90, Silver Stars 79

Sparks 78, Shock 58

Both teams got off to a slow start today, but Sparks guard Betty Lennox ignited her new team with two quick baskets from the left corner, and two steals. Then Tina Thompson started getting into the act. Between them, they were ridiculous; Lennox with her quick drives, and Thompson with her long, sweet shots. Lennox finished with 17 and Thompson, 18.

Noelle Quinn came in at the end of the first quarter and hit two quick jumpers. Then at the start of the second quarter, Vanessa Hayden started doing damage with two baskets of her own. Her second bucket put the Sparks up 30-18 at 8:19, and LA never looked back.

Deanna Nolan (15 points) and Taj McWilliams-Franklin (12 points) tried hard for the Shock, but the Sparks are just so deep this year. Starting point guard Kristi Harrower, 35, was even blocking shots if she wasn't stealing the ball. LA lead 51-29 at the half.

The third quarter was worrisome, as Nolan began with a 3, and the Sparks looked sluggish. Visions of last season started popping into my head, but in the fourth quarter, guard Marie Ferdinand-Harris came off the bench and started hitting. She looks much more sharp than last year, and finished with 7. Hayden had 12 and Quinn, 8. Lisa Leslie didn't have her best game, finishing with 6 points.

Overall, I was very pleased. Last year's Sparks had trouble playing 40 minutes because they couldn't hang, and one minute they'd be there and the next, they wouldn't. Today I saw a similar lapse, but it wasn't because the Sparks weren't capable, as was the case last year. It felt like they are still learning each other and the systems. If they can kick the crap out of the defending champions with a half-staff Lisa Leslie and no Candace Parker, just think of what the end of the season will be like.

I get chills.

For now, the Sparks really need to work on boxing out. That's the only thing that was really glaring to me and those in my section. The offense is coming right along, and the defense isn't far behind it.

At the end of the first quarter, Thompson and Shock forward Plenette Pierson went down under the basket in an incident that was freakishly similar to an injury Pierson sustained in a game last season. And just like last year, there is now a "controversy" around who was at fault and who did what to whom.

You be the judge

It's too bad that some always like to assume the worst about others, and that bad intentions are the norm. But what would sports be without some drama? It's part of the reason why some watch.

Quote of the day from thesixthwoman, on twitter: "Why does Plenette keep getting flipped over?"

I wonder that too.

On the Farmers uniforms, I guess I don't care. I sit in the eighth row, so when you're watching them play, you're not looking at the name on the jersey. The team shop was still selling stuff that said "Sparks" on it today, so I'm happy.

Cute moment: late in the game, a Shock player was at the line for a free throw. Former college teammates Bobbitt and Alexis Hornbuckle leaned toward each other, shoulders together, and said a few words. I tried to catch it on camera, but the second shot fell and they were off again.

My thought: Go Betty! So nice to have you in the house, girl. Thompson too. By the way, Lennox is 32 and Thompson, 34.

My other thought: It was great to see everyone again, from the other Staples Center regulars to the ushers to the staffers. The first day of WNBA season is always like a family reunion. Lotsa hugs.

Barring major injuries, I don't see anyone else beating the Sparks for the big trophy with the ball on top this year.



Kiesha Brown isn't there to lead the "whoops" in the tunnel anymore, but they did allright on their own today.



Delisha Milton-Jones takes a shot while Betty Lennox cuts to her spot.



Candace Parker makes her entrance during team warmups. Wherever she goes, people ask, "where's the baby?" It's kinda dumb when you think about it. The baby is only 24 days old.



CP gives somebody a hug.



Before the game, Sparks co-owners Kathy Goodman and Carla Christofferson gathered a group of Lovedy Brydon's friends and family on the court to pay tribute to the long-time Sparks and UCLA fan, who died April 26. In the spot where she used to sit, at the back of my section, was her wheelchair, decorated for the occasion.



Bruins Erica Tukianien and Moniquee Alexander strode up to the Staples Center in their bold blue jackets about 10:45 a.m. They are very friendly, and made their way around the arena saying hello to fans. UCLA Coach Nikki Caldwell and assistant coach Tasha Butts were also there.



Claims were made on the rebkell message board that Sparks fans were cheering Shock forward Plenette Pierson's injury. LA fans are entirely too quiet and complacent for my taste, and I didn't hear any of that. But they did boo Shock Coach Bill Laimbeer, who strode over to where Pierson was lying on the floor (above), took a look and then doubled back and approached Sparks Coach Michael Cooper to give him a piece of his mind.

I wouldn't have done that.




The new trend of all the coaches huddling to talk before they talk to the team gives teammates/friends a chance to giggle.



CP and TT are homies.



And they even do the serious faces together.



During second half play. Yes, just about everyone hooks arms at some point during games.



Shannon Bobbitt (far left) and Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton (near right) got in at the end of the game, and each had some nice moves.



The last huddle of the game was very animated, with Lennox and Bobbitt doing all of the talking and gesturing. (It's a Sagittarius thing)

Box score

Sparks preview story

Friday, June 5, 2009

Kaleena Mosqueeda-Lewis has a long commute to her travel ball team

The Mater Dei star has made the US Olympic U16 team, as noted in this space earlier in the week. But Mosqueeda-Lewis also been playing for the nationally-renowned Tennessee Flight. Her coach says she wanted to cut back her travel ball schedule.

And there weren't any closer teams?

Western Conference preview

My wish is their command, apparently:

Sports Page Magazine Western Conference Preview

What does this mean? :

Penny Toler may have her issues as a GM (and there are plenty if you listen to stories from behind the scenes of the WNBA), but she has to be given credit for working to improve a team that was one miracle Sophia Young basket away from the WNBA Finals last season.

Accurate comment on Sac:

Sacramento’s post is populated by talented yet injury-prone veterans and youngsters who are still looking to improve. Yet, as mentioned before, they do tend to get things done, whoever they put on the floor.

Stars:

Significant additions: Shanna Crossley's ability to stand up, Katie Mattera (née Feenstra), Belinda Snell, Megan Frazee

The predictions at the bottom are very interesting.

Eastern Conference stuff

Outstanding Eastern Conference preview piece:

Sports Page Magazine nails it

Hope they hurry up with the Western Conference run-down.

Courant.com explains that Connecticut Sun Coach Mike Thibault hates to have to cut players:

Tossin and turnin

I've always been a secret Thibault fan.

WNBA rosters set, + stats

The fortunate women who get to play this summer

A rebkell poster named p_d_swanson laid down this beauty of a stat sheet, breaking down the ages, heights/weights and colleges of those in the league. Dig:

--Averages--
Team Age Exp
----------- ----- ----
Los Angeles 29.50 5.73
Indiana 28.90 5.64
San Antonio 28.88 5.45
Detroit 28.58 5.36
Seattle 27.58 4.82
Sacramento 27.31 4.73
Atlanta 26.94 4.27
Chicago 26.56 3.91
Phoenix 26.17 3.73
Washington 26.08 2.91
Connecticut 26.02 3.27
New York 25.05 2.55
Minnesota 24.24 2.18
----------- ----- ----
League 27.06 4.20

Oldest
39.27 -- Yolanda Griffith, Ind.
38.63 -- Taj McWilliams-Franklin, Det.
37.14 -- Vickie Johnson, S.A.
36.91 -- Lisa Leslie, L.A.
36.88 -- Tully Bevilaqua, Ind.
35.01 -- Katie Smith, Det.
34.80 -- Shannon Johnson, Sea.
34.74 -- DeLisha Milton-Jones, L.A.
34.72 -- Ticha Penicheiro, Sac.
34.32 -- Tina Thompson, L.A.

Youngest
20.56 -- Quanitra Hollingsworth, Min.
21.71 -- Courtney Paris, Sac.
21.79 -- DeWanna Bonner, Pho.
22.05 -- Kristi Cirone, Con.
22.14 -- Christina Wirth, Ind.
22.19 -- Megan Frazee, S.A.
22.28 -- Ashley Walker, Sea.
22.31 -- Candice Wiggins, Min.
22.36 -- Kristi Toliver, Chi.
22.37 -- Kia Vaughn, N.Y.

Tallest
6'8" -- Katie Mattera, S.A.
6'6" -- Kara Braxton, Det.
6'6" -- Chen Nan, Chi.
6'6" -- Sylvia Fowles, Chi.
6'5" -- 10 players

Shortest
5'2" -- Shannon Bobbitt, L.A.
5'3" -- Temeka Johnson, Pho.
5'3" -- Erica White, Ind.
5'4" -- Kristi Harrower, L.A.
5'5" -- Leilani Mitchell, N.Y.
5'6" -- Helen Darling, S.A.
5'6" -- Becky Hammon, S.A.
5'7" -- Tully Bevilaqua, Ind.
5'7" -- Shannon Johnson, Sea.
5'7" -- Renee Montgomery, Min.
5'7" -- Kristi Toliver, Chi.

Heaviest
250 -- Courtney Paris, Sac.
240 -- Vanessa Hayden, L.A.
240 -- Katie Mattera, S.A.
225 -- Kara Braxton, Det.
215 -- Ebony Hoffman, Ind.
215 -- Tamika Whitmore, Con.
208 -- Nicky Anosike, Min.
208 -- Kia Vaughn, N.Y.
206 -- Christi Thomas, Min.
205 -- Janel McCarville, N.Y.
205 -- Olayinka Sanni, Det.

Lightest
130 -- Shannon Bobbitt, L.A.
130 -- Edwige Lawson-Wade, S.A.
130 -- Leilani Mitchell, N.Y.
130 -- Kristi Toliver, Chi.
133 -- Armintie Price, Chi.
134 -- Kiesha Brown, Con.
135 -- Erica White, Ind.
136 -- Kristi Cirone, Con.
136 -- Becky Hammon, S.A.
139 -- Lindsey Harding, Was.
139 -- Kristi Harrower, L.A.
139 -- Renee Montgomery, Min.

By College
13 -- Tennessee
9 -- Connecticut
7 -- Georgia
6 -- LSU
6 -- Rutgers
5 -- North Carolina
4 -- Duke
4 -- Maryland
3 -- Louisiana Tech
3 -- Penn State
3 -- Purdue
3 -- Southern California
3 -- Stanford

International
6 -- Australia
2 -- Brazil
1 -- China
1 -- France

Now those are some stats I find interesting.

Link to post page

There sure are a lot of Vols on these rosters

WNBA-ssee

Sparks go corporate too

Oh my goodness, what is this world coming to?

Farmers/Sparks

And the final cuts are.........

Lynx: Tye'sha Fluker, Anna DeForge, Emily Fox.

Mystics: Bernice Mosby.

Silver Stars: Joyce Edworomadu and Bernadette Ngoysia.

Sun: Lyndra Littles, Danielle Page and Carrem Gay.

Sparks: Jessica Moore.

It's unfortunate for Moore because she's really cool, and she sure tried hard in training camp this year.

The team Sparks fans have left gives us three options at the point in Bobbitt, Harrower and Quinn, and we're absolutely loaded in the middle.

Season kicks off tomorrow with six games. Bring it on!

Here's one thing both parties can agree on

House honors Pat Summitt for 1000 wins:

1005-193, baby

We're in for a heckuva season

Though this is from a few days back, it's one of Mechelle Voepel's best so far this year, looking forward to seeing all the living legends play the game once more before they retire:

Before the torches are passed

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Second-to-last round of WNBA cuts

The Storm waived A'Quonesia Franklin and Aja Parham.
The Mystics waived Kristin Mann and Kelly Schumacher.
The Fever waived Tan White and Danielle Campbell.
The Monarchs waived Charel Allen, Whitney Boddie and Morgan Warburton.
The Liberty waived Jessica Davenport and Lisa Willis.
The Sparks waived Ashley Paris and Marta Fernandez.

It's sad that so many talented players are out of work. Mann and White have been around for a spell. Davenport, Franklin and Willis have their fans. And so many - myself included - were looking forward to seeing the Paris twins play against one another. I like Ashley Paris and was so hoping she'd make it.

What's even worse is that there will be more cuts tomorrow morning, as the deadline to turn in final rosters to the WNBA corporate office is noon. The Sparks still have one more cut to make, and other teams are in the same boat.

Ugh.

WNBA season starting later this year to accommodate overseas play

So says USA Today:

I hope that's the real reason

Resilience = Kiesha Brown

Brown, 30, knows nothing is guaranteed, but that didn’t stop her from driving to Connecticut in the middle of the night. Given a heads-up by her agent that the Sun were interested, Brown started the trek from Washington, D.C. on Tuesday night, even though she hadn’t cleared waivers yet.

Arriving in the state around 3:30 a.m., she slept six hours, woke up to meet Thibault and officially cleared at 3:30 p.m.

“This is all new for me,” Brown said. “In the eight years I’ve been in the league, the cuts and the waiver wire and everything that has to take place in its own time, at this point, I try not to worry about it. You just kind of have to base it on chance and fate. So I’m all or nothing; I didn’t want to be half here or half there. So I told Coach Thibault, ‘I’m bringing everything.’ ”


"Yeah, I remember that play"

The Sun also picked up Ketia Swanier yesterday, and the Mercury/LifeLock waived Alison Bales.

Transactions

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Jennifer Gillom to lead the Lynx

Grandmomma is boss

Ivory Latta waived!

If this isn't a sign of how tight the league is this year, I don't know what is.

Holy Momma

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Lynx coach resigns.......

....four days before the season starts

Boy, what a - oh wait, I already called Lauren Jackson that, and I upset an Australian.

No matter, as it seems that many on that message board think this will actually help Minnesota. I hope so. Their time is long overdue.

Sports Illustrates writes about the Claw

Nothing new to those of us who have followed Holdsclaw's career, but a nice piece nonetheless. And extremely candid about her struggle with depression and suicide attempt:

"Actually, I feel like a rookie again"

(Don't tell that to Michelle Snow)

Monday, June 1, 2009

The hurtin season

The week leading up to the first WNBA regular season games is never fun, because this is when the cuts that really hurt start going down.

Kiesha Brown was waived by the Mystics today, making her the second Spark from last year (after Murriel Page) to find themselves out of work this summer. San Antonio waived Candyce Bingham, which bummed me out, as I was so hoping she'd make it. Ketia Swanier and Ashley Hayes were also let go by the Sun.

With the slim 11-player rosters this year, there will be more carnage to come, unfortunately.

Mater Dei has three on the U16 National Team

They might not have won the state title, but they're freaking loaded for the next 2-3 years, at least.

Two sophomores and a freshman

Mercury is now Lifelock (?)

The Phoenix Mercury is the first WNBA team to have a branded jersey, as the league and the Lifelock company announced this morning a contract that extends through 2011: the Phoenix LifeLock

I know money is always good for the league, but ugh. The Mercury should be able to keep its name. No way are fans going to be chanting "go Lifelock!"