Friday, August 31, 2012

Swinging into the last third of WNBA season

Tomorrow is September, and the last regular-season games are three weeks off.

Tonight's result:

Minnesota is back in the groove right now; they rallied to beat the Shock, 92-83. Rebekkah Brunson's double-double of 19 points and 11 rebounds was just the beginning, as all five starters were in double figures. The ever-resilient Shock never gave up.

Other WNBA:

Why Angel McCoughtry wasn't a good trade option.

Tina Charles talks about where her drive to give back started.

Swin Cash is thinking of a broadcasting career after basketball.

Nneka Ogwumike's life on the road as a WNBA star.

Former WNBA:

Chamique Holdsclaw just spent over a week in Senegal, Africa, helping coach young female ballers.

NCAA:

The Big 10 has released its 2012-2013 conference schedule.

UConn Coach Geno Auriemma is in line for a new contract.

Like her predecessor, Tennessee Coach Holly Warlick is emphasizing defense.

Pepperdine Coach Julie Rousseau has a whole new coaching staff.

Kentucky reported violations to the NCAA last year, including one in women's basketball.

Tomorrow's WNBA match ups:

Washington at New York
Chicago at Indiana
San Antonio at Phoenix

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Tonight's WNBA action

Dream 82, Mystics 59. Trudi Lacey must go.

Fever 76, Liberty 63. Tamika Catchings lead Indiana yet again.

Sun 84, Silver Stars 73.

Shock 99, Sparks 85. Ivory Latta had 21 points and a career-high 14 assists to lead Tulsa.

Mercury 75, Storm 68.

Only one game tomorrow: Tulsa at Minnesota.

NCSA offers help with new academic eligibility requirements

NSCA Athletic Recruiting offers an academic eligibility poster for athletes, and a free recruiting evaluation HERE.

Race to the MVP

Candace Parker is still the leading candidate for MVP this season, despite her lower numbers since the Olympics. The entire list:

1. Candace Parker
2. Tina Charles
3. Tamika Catchings
4. Sophia Young
5. Sylvia Fowles
6. Kristi Toliver
7. Seimone Augustus
8. Cappie Pondexter
9. Becky Hammon
10. Angel McCoughtry

Other WNBA:

DeWanna Bonner is not only the Phoenix Mercury's new star, she's third in the league in scoring.

Tonight the Storm are hosting their women of inspiration night.

The Sun has signed Tan White to a one-year contract extension, and will play a smaller lineup on their current road trip.

Dishin & Swishin talks to Alana Beard and Sue Bird about the post-season.

Tamika Catchings visited the Nike store in London between games at the Olympics.

San Antonio's Danielle Robinson explains why she cut off her red dreads.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Angel McCoughtry, new Dream coach meet

Suspended forward Angel McCoughtry and new Dream Coach Fred Williams met today:

Fred Williams, who was promoted from assistant coach earlier this week to replace Meadors, tried to do some damage control for the team on Wednesday.

In a face-to-face meeting in his office, Williams said he gave McCoughtry a written list of requirements she must sign and comply with before he will consider reinstating her.

Williams suspended McCoughtry Monday for breaking unspecified team rules and the Dream lost at home Tuesday night to Tulsa in his Dream head coaching debut.

“I spoke with her briefly today, and we laid out some things on paper,” Williams told The Associated Press Wednesday. “Until the terms we laid out are agreed upon and signed, sealed and met, she is still suspended.”


It's McCoughtry's move now.

League's leading offensive rebounder almost hung up the shoes, once upon a time

Taj McWilliams-Franklin pulled down five offensive rebounds last night in the Lynx's win over San Antonio. In the process, she became the WNBA's all-time offensive rebounder, with 1,052. But almost 20 years ago, "Mama Taj" considered hanging up her shoes.

Her team congratulates her.

All I have to say is - bless her knees.

Other news:

The Atlanta Dream is lacking leadership.

Liz Cambage (sort of) explains herself

From Australia, her decision not to return to the Shock was last-minute:

''Monday morning came and I just couldn't do it, I couldn't go,'' she said. ''It was last-minute and I'm sorry for that. To be honest, it was unfair on the team and the rest of the girls [the Shock] to come over when I wasn't 100 per cent.''

Speaking from her family home in Mount Eliza, Cambage said the past few days had been tough as she came to grips with the need for a break.

''I'm not sure what it was,'' she said. ''I was very emotional.


She also made a flip statement:

''People have been saying I want a trade. I don't want a trade,'' she said. ''I don't know what I will do after China but I know the Shock will always be there; it's just sad I'm too tired to finish the season there.''

ESPN got more in-depth with Cambage, who admitted it's about the money:

"I can make the same amount here in Australia if I wanted to," said Cambage, whose WNBA rookie salary in 2011 was about $46,756. "Some girls are making crazy amounts over in Europe. So it's hard. I think it's easier for Americans, because it's home for them, and the WNBA is their league. Coming over for me for three weeks when I'm in this situation is more of a tough gig."

She also rationalizes her absence:

"But I feel that it's wrong for me to go take someone's spot now when they're playing well. Because mentally, I'm not 100 percent. I felt like it wasn't fair to the Shock family for me to go back and not give 100 percent."

What she'll do next is uncertain:

Cambage is aware that, reputation and legacy-wise, proving yourself in the WNBA long-term is critical for everyone. She knows that's a big part of why -- in spite of it not always being the most comfortable or even salary-maximizing thing for them -- fellow Aussies Lauren Jackson and Penny Taylor have played so many seasons in the WNBA.

"That's the hardest thing about being an athlete: You travel the world and you have to go where the money is," Cambage said. "You do have to make sacrifices, but that's why Lauren and Penny are the best. Because they've made sacrifices to be the best."

Will Cambage do the same thing? She doesn't seem quite ready to say that now. That will frustrate some observers who are tantalized by her talent. Jackson has said she feels sure Cambage is on the road to greatness. But right now, Cambage is really only looking at her next stop.

More on getting USA basketball gear

Remember the survey from Monday, to gauge interest in USA Basketball gear? So far, so good, according to the organizer:

Thanks for your support for Team USA! You asked for updates, so here's the first one.

RESULTS
In the first 48 hours of the campaign, we've got 160 survey takers who've pledged $16,377!

The most requested players are Maya Moore, Seimone Augustus, and Lindsay Whalen. The next tier is Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, Tamika Catchings, and Candace Parker. Those two groupings of players each have near-equal numbers.

Dollar amounts were not required information, so there is actually MORE money waiting to be spent than what the numbers show!

Big thanks to Tamika Catchings and the Catch the Stars Foundation for participating in the campaign! Be sure to thank Tamika.

NEW NEWS
In the middle of the day yesterday, the USA Basketball online store made replica jersey t-shirts available for Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, and Maya Moore. This is great! If you want one of those (and only one of those), let's put our money where our mouths are and buy them all up.

THE REAL DEAL
Here's the truth about what it will take for this campaign to be successful. USA Basketball needs to know they're going to make money off of this merchandise. This campaign is basically a purchase order. It's been suggested to me that 150 orders/item is an absolute bare minimum and really more like 500 is a useful number. So we have our work cut out for us.

WHAT YOU CAN DO
As always, the link to the survey.

Good ol' fashioned email works, too! Forward this email to a friend. My network is Lynx-heavy, but I know a lot of you are fans in other places. Talk to your fellow Sky, Fever, Sun, Storm, Mercury, Husky, and Tiger fans. Post on your fan boards and facebook groups. Talk to your local team reps and media members. This is doable, but the sooner the better. We have a short window. USA Basketball has already started removing some of the men's team gear from the store.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Trudi Lacey needs to go

For all the head-scratching I did yesterday when Marynell Meadors was fired as Dream coach and general manager, I did an equal amount of wondering why Washington Mystics Coach Trudi Lacey still has a job.

If anyone should be let go, it's Lacey.

In her first season as coach last year, the Mystics were 6-28. Tonight the team notched its 20th loss, for a 5-20 record. The players looked as downtrodden and demoralized as ever, and ran the same old offenses. Their unhappiness is palpable, both on and off the court. Lacey is ineffective during game time, and seems to make no adjustments.

Other coaches, like Mystics assistant coach Jennifer Gillom last year with the Sparks, have been fired in less time with far more wins.

Lacey's resume is dotted with short stints at numerous colleges, including Queens University in North Carolina, the University of Maryland, the University of South Florida, Francis Marion College, Manhattan College and James Madison University. The 53-year-old has never stayed anywhere for very long.

Lacey was the head coach of the defunct Charlotte Sting from 2003 until August 2005, when she was fired. The team had started the year 3-22. Her overall record in Charlotte was 37-56.

As much as Meadors was a proven winner, Lacey is a proven loser. What's more, she doesn't seem to make sound personnel decisions.

For example, Ashley Walker and LaSondra Barrett were reportedly two of the best players in Mystics training camp last spring, but they were cut from the final team lineup. Could their young legs have helped an aging roster? Yes.

I don't know why Mystics management won't do the obvious and give Lacey the boot and hire a real coach. But they need to do something soon. They owe it to the few loyal fans they have left - not to mention their players.

Couldn't have scripted it better

All the WNBA drama so far this week has swirled around the Atlanta Dream and Tulsa Shock. So of course, they faced each other tonight, in Atlanta, where the Shock prevailed, 84-80.

Two of the West's best faced off, but the Lynx dominated overtime to take the 96-84 win.

The Sun handed the Sky their tenth loss, defeating them 83-72.

The Fever continued their winning ways with an 83-68 victory over the Mystics.

Other WNBA:

This week's power rankings see the Sparks back on top -

1. Sparks
2. Lynx
3. Silver Stars
4. Sun
5. Fever

Interesting change of events.......

Minnesota Lynx guard Candice Wiggins has won the WNBA Cares Community Assist Award for the month of July.

Angel McCoughtry suspended indefinitely by the Dream

To add to the drama:

ATLANTA — The Atlanta Dream suspended WNBA scoring leader Angel McCoughtry indefinitely on Tuesday for violating team rules.

Dream spokeswoman Tonya Allene said that new coach and general manager Fred Williams told McCoughtry before a game against Tulsa that she was suspended.

It was unclear if McCoughtry’s feuding with former coach-GM Marynell Meadors, who was fired on Monday, played a role in Williams’ decision.


More on Liz Cambage's decision not to return to the Shock this season:

"I did not have any inkling that this would happen until this morning when I spoke to her agent," (team president Steve) Swetoha said by phone Tuesday afternoon. "She said, 'She's fatigued, and if you don't mind, she'd like to take the rest of the summer off.'"

If they don't mind? Heck, why would they mind? She's just the Shock's No. 2 draft pick from 2011 around whom they are hoping to build the franchise. Tulsa has been marketing her return for Thursday's home game against the Los Angeles Sparks ever since the London Games ended.

Well, so much for that promotion. But the thing is, Swetoha really didn't sound angry … more just tired, a little sad and frustrated. And yet, not to the extent of saying anything negative about Cambage, nor the Shock's prospects for the future.

As the WNBA turns: Liz Cambage isn't coming

First, Liz Cambage was going to miss five games for the Shock after the Olympic break. Then word came yesterday that she missed her flight back to the U.S. Today, the Shock announced she won't return this season at all.

Just for once, I'd love it if someone were made to explain WHY they're taking the actions they are.

Atlanta Dream:

A fairly scathing piece by ESPN's Mechelle Voepel on yesterday's firing of Dream Coach and GM Marynell Meadors:

McCoughtry, er, Williams takes over

So now we know who is really in charge in Atlanta. It isn't Fred Williams, the new head coach who moved up from his assistant's job when Meadors got the boot Monday on her birthday. Williams is another longtime coach who has worked at the college, WNBA and NBA levels. He knows the score.

And it isn't really owners Mary Brock and Kelly Loeffler, either, although in name they are running the show. We are aware now who's really pulling the strings for the Dream: Angel McCoughtry, the former No. 1 draft pick, current leading scorer in the WNBA, Olympic gold medalist, and malcontent who left her team for a few days and now has what she wants: a new puppet to play with.

Sorry, Coach Williams, but if they fired Meadors after she led the Dream to back-to-back Finals and was with the franchise from the ground up, what do you think they'll do if McCoughtry turns on you?


Wow.

Yesterday on my twitter feed, I posed the question, "does this have anything to do with Angel McCoughtry?" Someone, who looks to be her sister Kristina, responded to me, "NO!" and we had a twit-convo. I offered the chance for Angel to tell her side of the story, but her sister said no.

Until Angel McCoughtry decides to speak, she will most likely see more pieces like Voepel's, and more tweets like that of Geno Auriemma.

Monday, August 27, 2012

USA Women's Basketball gear interest survey

Take the survey, and maybe it could lead to us finally getting some USA Basketball gear for our gold medal-winning team.

New faces in 'players of the week' spots

Kristi Toliver of the Sparks and Sancho Lyttle of the Dream are the Western and Eastern Conference players of the week, respectively.

Toliver:

The University of Maryland product began the week with 21 points, three steals, three assists and four rebounds in a 79-68 win over visiting Indiana that clinched a playoff spot for Los Angeles. She then equaled her season-high of 29 points, distributed six assists, and grabbed two rebounds in a 101-77 home win over conference rival San Antonio. Toliver closed out the week with 26 points (her fourth consecutive game of 20-or-more points and her ninth straight with 19-or-more), four assists, and two thefts as Los Angeles downed New York at Staples Center.

Lyttle:

Lyttle opened the week with a season-best 24 points at Chicago, where she also grabbed seven rebounds, dished out five assists, and recorded one blocked shot. She then notched 14 points, six boards, four assists and three steals at Washington on the first night of back-to-back games, and followed that up with another 14 points, nine rebounds and four steals against Minnesota.

More fun stuff:

Sparks forward Candace Parker talks about her daughter Lailaa Williams, the little world traveler:

Like I said, she has no problems on planes, in hotels or in foreign countries. If you ask her about the Olympics, she will tell you "WE won the gold medal, and I saw a big clock." Some mornings she wakes up, and asks if we can go to Spain. What 3-year-old asks their parents that?!

Atlanta Dream coach Marynell Meadors fired

In the midst of her fourth winning season as Atlanta's head coach and general manager, Marynell Meadors was fired today - her birthday. Assistant coach Fred Williams has stepped into her spot.

Team owners gave no reason for the firing.

Fans, coaches and players are scratching their head over a move that doesn't make any sense:

Meadors was named WNBA coach of the year in 2009 after she lead the Dream to the second-biggest one year turnaround in league history. The Dream followed up their four-win 2008 inaugural campaign with 18 victories and a playoff berth.

Meadors also led the Dream to consecutive WNBA Finals appearances in 2010 and 2011.

This season, the Dream are currently third in the Eastern Conference with a 12-12 record.


Earlier this month, Meadors helped coach the US Olympic team to a gold medal, as an assistant coach. Head coach Geno Auriemma weighed in on twitter with his displeasure at the move.

Some are speculating that all-star forward Angel McCoughtry's two-game absence last week had something to do with Meadors' departure. McCoughtry's tardy return to the Dream after the Olympics had already been cause for curiosity.

What to make of all of this? Why fire one of the best coaches in the league, while other under-achievers are allowed to hang around? It's mind-boggling.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

US teams are champions!

First up this morning, USA time, the U17 team claimed gold at the FIBA World Championships in the Netherlands, by defeating Spain, 75-62. Diamond DeShields was named tournament MVP, and both she and Linnae Harper were named to the all-tournament team.

Four US players were in double figures, and Rebecca Greenwell had a double-double.

Quotes.

Game photo gallery.

Medal stand photo gallery.

This afternoon, the team of Skylar Diggins, Chiney Ogwumike, Bria Hartley and Ann Strothers claimed the first 3X3 world championship by putting away France.

Diggins also won a silver medal in the skills contest.

USA!

Four WNBA games last night

Sparks 87, Liberty 62 (by yours truly)

The MIA Angel McCoughtry returned to the Dream, but the Lynx prevailed in the rematch of last year's finals, 84-74.

The other MIA, Phoenix's Diana Taurasi, also made her way back to her team, but it wasn't enough as the Fever won 85-72. Phoenix has lost 10 straight.

Tulsa hung in for a long time, but the Silver Stars stepped it up late for the 91-71 victory.

Today it's Sky at Sun, and Liberty at Storm.

U17's:

Less than an hour ago, our U17 team beat Spain for the gold in the World Championships, 75-62. Story not up yet, but it will be.

Mystics cut Natasha Lacy, sign Iziane Castro Marques

Yesterday the Washington Mystics signed Iziane Castro Marques, cutting Natasha Lacy to make room.

A call to the Mystics last night for comment wasn't immediately returned.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

USA 3X3, U17 teams on fire

The USA 3X3 team rolled to a quarterfinals victory today with a sound defeat of the Netherlands. They face undefeated Australia in the semifinals tomorrow.

Skylar Diggins relishes her chance to play on the team.

The U17 team dismantled Canada in the semifinals, 84-59. They will play for the gold medal tomorrow, against Spain.

Box score.

Quotes.

Photos.

Friday, August 24, 2012

USA Basketball love

The USA 3X3 team continued to steamroll opponents on day two, beating Argentina. The team - Chiney Ogwumike, Bria Hartley, Skylar Diggins and Ann Strothers - conclude preliminary round play tomorrow with a game against the Netherlands. This weekend at the tournament in Greece, the women will have a skills tournament.

In the meantime, the U17 women defeated Australia, 89-68, to advance to the semifinals of the World Championship.

Today's WNBA action:

The hard-working Shock rallied to outlast the Sky in overtime, 81-78.

The Dream overcame the Mystics, 81-69, despite the absence of forward Angel McCoughtry.

Four games tomorrow:

Minnesota at Atlanta
Tulsa at San Antonio
Indiana at Phoenix
New York at Los Angeles

You can deal with this, or you can deal with that

Last night's WNBA action:

Fans thought the red-hot Silver Stars vs. the eight-game winning streak Sparks would be the match up last night, but LA dominated the game from start to finish. They won easily, 101-77, snapping San Antonio's 12-win run. Sparks guard Kristi Toliver tied her career high with 29 points.

The game of the night turned out to be the Fever vs. the Storm. Indiana came from behind in the fourth quarter, and with 13 seconds go to, calmly ran a play to Shavonte Zellous on the left wing, who sunk it at the buzzer for the 68-66 victory.

The Liberty upended the Mercury, who were again without Diana Taurasi due to dizziness from having her wisdom teeth removed last Friday.

Tonight the Dream is at Washington and Jasmine Thomas.

Will Dream forward Angel McCoughtry play tomorrow?

The Sky is at Tulsa, who never gives up.

NCAA:

The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame will have its first women's college basketball challenge in 2013-2014.

Kansas State junior guard Stephanie Wittman has been dismissed from the program for a violation of team rules.

NASCAR is showing its support for Pat Summitt.

USA Basketball:

The women's 3X3 team won earlier today, but there's no story yet on USA Basketball. The U17 team just won their game too, moments ago. Links to come later.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

USA 3X3 team wins the first round

USA Basketball 3X3 team:

Team USA won their first-round match today, against Germany. World Championship play continues tomorrow.

Dishin & Swishin podcast on the event.

NCAA:

The SEC Tournament expands to include an extra day next year, marking the second format change in tourney history.

A proposed state bill in California would give academic scholarships to athletes who suffer career-ending injuries. Stanford University is the lone school protesting.

WNBA:

Lauren Jackson's return tonight could equate to many more wins for the Storm.

Maya Moore's jersey is the league's top seller.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A legendary coach stays in your head

Ex-Tennessee players have long told stories about legendary Coach Pat Summitt staying in their heads at times during games. Not only do they hear her actual voice once in a while, but her philosophies are so engrained in them that they come as automatically as breathing. This was glaringly apparent during last night's Fever vs. Sparks game in Los Angeles.

Indiana forward Tamika Catchings and Sparks forwards Candace Parker and Nicky Anosike all played for Summitt as Lady Vols, and all demonstrated her commitment to defense during the contest over and over.

Summitt's "four back" stipulation when a rebound is collected always meant that her players better be the first ones back up the court after a board. Last night they always were, as can be seen in the pictures below.

It is a tribute to Summitt that even numerous years after their college days, that her former Lady Vols still practice the defensive urgency she taught them.


Candace Parker has just got the defensive rebound in the first quarter, and fellow ex-Vols Tamika Catchings and Nicky Anosike are the only two players who are already on their way down the court.


In the last period, Anosike pulls the board, and Catchings is again first back on defense.

Last night's WNBA results, and more

The Sun barely pulled off a victory last night in overtime, squeaking by the Shock 82-80.

The Silver Stars struggled to take their 12th straight, beating the Mystics 75-72.

Liberty 77, Sky 67.

Lynx 86, Storm 73. But, Lauren Jackson is finally back in Seattle and ready to play next game.

Other WNBA news:

The Sun's Kara Lawson, who hit the game-winning shot last night, is in it for the long haul.

Despite their losses, the Sky continue to think positively.

Mystics guard Shannon Bobbitt continues to defy the odds.

USA Basketball:

Our U17 team cruised into the quarterfinals today with a 98-28 rout of Mali that is the largest victory margin in tournament history so far.

Olympics:

Assistant Olympic coach, aka DePaul Coach Doug Bruno, reflects on the London Games.

Sparks 79, Fever 69

The Sparks easily put away the Fever last night, 79-69.


Prior to the game, the Sparks honored Olympians Tamika Catchings and Candace Parker. Team owner Paula Madison, above, presented them both with flowers.


Erin Phillips passes the ball for the Fever in the second half.

Game notes and quotes:

• The Fever’s first and only lead came in the opening minutes, as Indiana led Los Angeles 3-2.
• With 4:07 remaining in the first, the Sparks jumped out to a commanding 18-3 lead.
• The Fever converted one two-point field goal in the first quarter.
• In the opening quarter, Kristi Toliver and Nneka Ogwumike combined for 15 points, seven rebounds, two steals, one assist and one block.
• Fever forward Tamika Catching was limited to 16 points on 7-19 shooting.
• Through the first half, the Sparks were shooting 57.7 percent, while holding to the Fever to 30.6 percent shooting.
• Each Sparks starter scored in double figures Tuesday night.
• Fever forward Katie Douglas scored 11 third-quarter points to pull Indiana within seven points with one period to play.
• The Sparks defense recorded 10 blocked shots, while limiting the Fever to 34.2 percent shooting.
• Inside the paint, Los Angeles outscored Indiana 38-26.
• Ogwumike recorded the seventh double-double of her season/career thanks in part to five offensive rebounds against the Fever.
• As a team, the Sparks converted seven of 10 second-chance opportunities. Although the Fever grabbed seven more offensive rebounds than the Sparks, they could only score three more second-chance points.

Sparks Coach Carol Ross

On the play of Candace Parker…

“It’s never easy when there’s two or three people hanging on Candace everywhere she goes, but that’s the case most of the time. We get caught trying to force it in there more than I would like. The great thing about Parker is that she can get the ball in a lot of different spots. She’s not the kind of player who will sit and wait to get the ball. She’s good enough to get her own touches.”

On the Olympic Break…

“We worked on fundamentals. We’re always going to work on defense and do that consistently. The energy and intensity came back to STAPLES tonight, largely because we came out very flat and unfocused in Seattle last game. We stepped up big tonight.”

Candace Parker

On necessary improvements…

“We have to set the tone right away. We have to do a better job of holding onto leads for sure. Everyone came in and contributed well. We’re a good team, and it’s going to take us a couple weeks to get back and get everybody acclimated.”

Alana Beard

On the Olympic break…

“This break, we really gained more chemistry together. With the way the first half went, it was game after game and we didn’t have time to work on much. This month off helped us tremendously by working on offense and defense, and knowing each other’s strengths. We have the type of team where we can play against anyone.”

Fever Coach Lin Dunn

On the start of the game…

“First off, we didn’t start off the game the right way. We started out so lethargic, not near enough energy to match the energy they had in their first game back from the Olympic break. We dug ourselves a hole early, and then we had to spend the whole second half coming back. I give the Sparks a lot of credit. They are awfully good at home, and if we had brought the energy and the intensity in the first quarter that we brought in the second and third, we would be in the game.”

On the rest of the road trip…


Hopefully we’ll shoot a little better. When you’re on the road, and you only shoot 34 percent, it’s going to be tough. We also have to defend a lot better. We rebounded better than the first time we played them. We have to do the little things better like finishing layups around the basket.”

Tamika Catchings

On coming off the Olympic break…

“We’ve been fortunate enough, or not fortunate enough, to have two games at home right when we got back (Thurs & Sat). It’s one of those things where you have to make that shift fast, especially when your emotions are so high. When I think about the ride that we had in the Olympics, and now being back with my teammates, just knowing that they worked so hard over the break, I’m excited to be back on the court with them.”

On playing with Candace for Team USA...

“It’s all in fun, especially for Candace and I. We had a friendship beyond that, way before she got to the WNBA, so kind of like the little sister I have. For us, we always have a good time, but obviously it’s a lot better when you’re on the same team rather than going against each other.”

Full photo gallery.

Box score.

Nick Hamilton interviews three-time Olympian and reigning WNBA MVP Tamika Catchings.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Five games tonight

Right now Tulsa is at Connecticut, and next up is New York at Chicago and Washington at San Antonio. Later on, it'll be Minnesota at Seattle and Indiana at Los Angeles. Yours truly will be at the Sparks-Fever game, and you can look for that game report tomorrow.

WNBA news:

Nate's power rankings for the week -

Rank Team

1 San Antonio Silver Stars
2 Minnesota Lynx
3 Los Angeles Sparks
4 Indiana Fever
5 Connecticut Sun
6 Atlanta Dream
7 Seattle Storm
8 Chicago Sky
9 New York Liberty
10 Tulsa Shock
11 Washington Mystics
12 Phoenix Mercury

The Silver Stars are aligning.

Stating the obvious: the 11-woman roster limit hurts the WNBA.

USA Basketball:

The U17 team beat Belgium, 80-50, to advance in World Championship pool play.

NCAA:

The University of New Orleans will join the Southland Conference in 2013-2014, sources say.

UConn assistant coach Shea Ralph and senior guard Caroline Doty have bonded as survivors of ACL injuries.

Cool former great bonus:

Olympia Scott is teaching basketball and life skills in South Dakota.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Dog days of August

WNBA:

We have Western and Eastern Conference Players of the Week again - Maya Moore and Tamika Catchings, respectively.

The Sun's Tina Charles is re-charged and in charge.

Sue Bird is back with the Storm after a bout with the flu.

USA Basketball:

Our 3X3 team is getting ready for the World Championships, which begin in three days.

U18 gold medal win story - USA 71, Brazil 47.

More on athletes and social media:

The Universities of Louisville and Kentucky monitor and regulate their athlete's social media posts.

Is the Mercury tanking on purpose?

The controversy began on social networks last night, after Phoenix Mercury forward Diana Taurasi missed her second consecutive game since the WNBA resumed after the Olympic break. Phoenix lost to San Antonio, 47-89, in a new season low.

Is the Mercury tanking on purpose, to try and get Brittney Griner as first pick in the 2013 WNBA draft?

Some think Taurasi needs to play, or pay.

What's your take? People have been talking to me on twitter a lot about this issue already.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Lynx clinch playoff spot, Mystics win on all-team night, and U18 team gets gold

Today's games:

The Lynx beat the Shock, 83-59, and clinched a playoff spot in the process.

The Mystics took the Sky in overtime, 75-71. The win capped off a night when Washington honored its all-time team. Chamique Holdsclaw, Vicky Bullet, Nicky McCray and Muriel Page were all on hand, and signed autographs after the game.

The Silver Stars thrashed the Mercury, 89-47. Diana Taurasi didn't play for Phoenix, after having dental work done Friday.

More WNBA:

Kara Lawson is still fundraising for Alzheimer's research, in honor of Coach Pat Summitt.

USA Basketball:

Less than 30 minutes ago, the U18 women defeated Brazil, 71-47, to take the FIBA World Championship. No story quite yet, but USA Basketball tweets that Breanna Stewart, Bashaara Graves and Morgan Tuck each had double-doubles, and Stewart was named tournament MVP. Excellent.

Earlier today, the U17 team annihilated Italy, 83-43, in preliminary World Championship play.

Skylar Diggins, Chiney Ogwumike and Bria Hartley have been at 3X3 camp, and now Ann Strother has been added to the team to replace Alyssa Thomas.

In a social media world, potential recruits need to watch what they say

The vast majority of young people have a Twitter account, a Facebook page, or both. They tend to put their random thoughts on Twitter, and more elaborate info and pictures on Facebook.

But increasingly, what young athletes post on either social medium is being scrutinized by college coaches, and weighed when recruiting. Sometimes, a potential recruit is dropped from consideration due to something she's posted. Numerous colleges now school the athletes they already have about appropriate social networking, and they monitor what is posted.

Cal State Northridge Coach Jason Flowers has taken athletes off of his recruiting list after seeing their Twitter or Facebook posts. He said it is part of getting the entire picture of someone, to see if she'd fit into the Matador program.

"It is about not only the skill set, but who the character of the young woman is and what she does off the court," Flowers said. "We take all this into consideration when we're looking at an athlete."

In recruiting, Flowers said he and his staff will talk to the athlete, her coach, and others who know her to get a picture of her character. Often times, what she puts on Twitter or Facebook is an affirmation of what he and his staff have already gleaned.

"It's just one of the pieces on which we make a decision about whether or not to pursue an athlete," Flowers said.

One mid-major coach said he and his staff have dropped athletes from consideration because their posts show patterns of not being able to handle relationships with maturity.

"If someone is constantly retweeting nonsense, personal stuff, drama, and using obscene language, we don't need that type of person in our school," the coach said. "Who cares if you're fighting with your boyfriend/girlfriend? Who cares if you're pissed at your friend/mom/dad/coach? Control yourself a bit."

Another red flag is when an athlete has sexual content in her posts.

"We need to have high-character people around," the coach said. "This place is too small for selfish drama queens, I think most programs follow recruits on twitter. I've heard a number of coaches tell me they dropped a kid because they follow the kid And her twitter feed is a 'mess.'"

Seattle University Coach Joan Bonvicini said she's not crossed a recruit off her list for social media posts, but she does ask them about their Twitter and Facebook participation.

"We have a social media seminar with our athletes every year at Seattle U," Bonvicini said. "I do monitor what our recruits and current players post, and I do think most coaches do that as well."

Flowers said he also talks with his players about what they post.

"I've had to explain to them that 'www' means the World Wide Web, and it has the ability to be seen across the world," he said. "We represent ourselves and our program every day, so I tell them, don't put up anything that would reflect badly upon yourself or this program in any way, whether it's pictures or words used."

Younger coaches are more apt to be on Twitter or Facebook than older coaches. But more and more veteran coaches now have another staff member monitor athletes on social networks, if they don't do it themselves.

"It depends upon the program as to how much value they place on monitoring that," Flowers said. "But most coaches do, in some way."

Most top recruits and athletes are careful about what they say on social networks, but some still need to get the message: every post counts, and everyone can see it.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

U18, U17 teams both showing out at the FIBA World Championships

Today the USA U18 team cruised past Canada, 95-46, and into the gold medal game:

A pair of USA Basketball veterans, Breanna Stewart (Cicero-North H.S. / North Syracuse, N.Y.) and Morgan Tuck (Bolingbrook H.S./ Bolingbrook, Ill.), combined for 42 points and 11 rebounds to leadthe 2012 USA U18 National Team (4-0) to a 95-46 victory over Canada (2-2) in the FIBA Americas U18 Championship semifinal game on Saturday night in Gurabo, Puerto Rico. Advancing to the championship game for the ninth time in as many U18 tournaments, the U.S. will face also undefeated Brazil (4-0) for the gold medal on Aug. 19 at 8:15 p.m. (all times EDT).

On the other side of the world, the U17 team also tapped Canada, 86-47, in preliminary round play:

Behind 29 points from Diamond DeShields (Norcross H.S./Norcross, Ga.) and a defensive effort that limited Canada (0-2) to an icy 20.8 percent from the field (15-72 FGs), the USA Women’s U17 World Championship Team (2-0) earned an 86-47 win in the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship on Saturday night at Sporthallen Zuid in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Great job, ladies.

Mid-season reports and tonight's results

The WNBA has mid-season reports/second half outlooks for each team. Check it out:

Lynx

Dream

Fever

Liberty

Mercury

Mystics

Shock

Silver Stars

Sparks

Storm

Sun

Sky

Tonight's results:

Sun 85, Liberty 74

Fever 86, Dream 72

Sparks 82, Storm 71

Sparks post-game quotes:

Sparks Head Coach Carol Ross

On the difference in the second half: You have to commend Seattle. I thought they came out and played the game with great passion and effort – the way the game is supposed to be played. I thought we played the second half with passion and effort. Effort will beat talent any day and in the first half, it was beating our talent. We did a better job of stepping up in the second half and trying to match their effort.
On playing Seattle without Sue Bird: It’s Seattle against L.A., it’s not L.A. against Sue Bird. The rivalry is strong enough, it doesn’t matter who is in what uniform, you have to be ready to play.

On their strong guard play: They needed to. I thought (Alana) Beard was rock solid and fierce. DeLisha (Milton-Jones) was steady in the storm, no pun intended, just playing that leadership role and keeping people where they needed to be. (Kristi) Toliver has offensive gifts and she used them and hit some big shots when we needed them.

On winning the rebounding battle: We’re the best rebounding team in the league offensively and we should rebound the ball well. We should do it every time we step on the floor, but again we weren’t doing it that well in the first half because rebounding also requires effort. But we did pick it up a lot in the second half and that finishes possessions. When you can get stops, you can control the game.

On battling for the top spot in the West: I’m not too worried about that. Our goal is to get into the playoffs. If we get to that point, then we’ll readjust. We’re just really trying to be a better team every time we step on the floor and not take steps backwards.

On sweeping Seattle in the season series: You know it’s good because it is Seattle, but at the same time we have not faced Seattle at full strength. That’s disappointing, but I’m sure they’re more disappointed than I am. I really wanted to be able to play them in the regular season with their roster full, but we haven’t been able to.

Sparks Forward Candace Parker

On the difference in the second half: We played with a lot more effort in the second half and made a couple of adjustments, but it was mostly just playing harder.

On their slow start: I’d like to say it was a little rust from not playing. We came out a little lax and in the second half we really turned it up. We saw what we could do when we really disrupted them offensively.

On sweeping Seattle in the season series: If we should face them in the playoffs, it doesn’t matter … I don’t think the series matters. In the past it hasn’t. I think we’ve done what we’re supposed to do and we have to continue building from this point on.

On battling for the top spot in the West: We’re in it with two great teams and will face both of them in the next couple weeks so we’ll see where we stand.

Storm post-game quotes:

Coach Brian Agler:

(on being shorthanded in the game): Honestly, respectfully to our team I don’t want to even talk about being shorthanded because that disrespects the people in the locker room. I thought we had a good effort. I thought we came out flat in the third quarter. They got a lead and we fought back and had an opportunity to get back within three with a three-point shot. We couldn’t cut it back anymore. From your standpoint I’m sure you’re looking at our roster and who is on it, but my focus is more on who played. I thought LA really played well in the third quarter.

(not having size inside): They outrebounded us by 12. At the same time we had opportunities. We missed a lot of free throws; we turned the ball over in the second half a lot more than we did in the first. Four turnovers in the first half and we ended up with 15. I thought Tanisha (Wright) really played well. That was nice to see. I think that she’s starting to come back to be herself. We’re going to need her down the stretch.

(Tanisha said she was disappointed in her play against Kristi Toliver): That’s because she’s got a defensive mind set. She looks at it that way and Kristi had a good game. She shot well; she shot a high percentage. I’m sure Tanisha, thinking the way she does, that she’s not real happy with that. In regards to her energy and effort and running the point and scoring for us and being aggressive, I thought she did a good job.

Tanisha Wright:

(on playing against Kristi Toliver): I didn’t do a good job on her today. I let her get too comfortable. I didn’t really do a good job of forcing her to do some things that she doesn’t like to do. I just think overall I didn’t do a good job of handling her.

In the second half we didn’t need to come out with the aggression that we needed to come out with. They jumped up on us, and from there it was a battle. We fought we just didn’t have enough gas in the tank.

They did a good job in the second half of starting to deny some passes. We just weren’t getting in to our sets quick enough. We didn’t reverse the ball quick enough to take advantage of that. We just didn’t adjust quick enough.

Shekinna Stricklen:

I think they came back on a lot of our mistakes. They were getting and-ones. We weren’t rotating right. They’re a great team. They have great players. We just had a lot of miscommunications at certain points. We just started picking it back up, but we were too deep in a hole.

(on Lauren Jackson coming back next week): I’m so excited to finally get to meet her. The team is ready for her to be back. We’re excited to have another post player with size. We’re proud of her. She’s being honored in Australia, but we are ready for her to get back.

(on the lack of size inside): It was difficult, but for the most part we held our ground. Sometimes we didn’t have each other’s back and we had some miscommunication, but we battled hard. We didn’t give up and that’s one thing we’re proud of even though we lost. We hate to lose, but with just seven battling in the second half I think we did good.

Gold medal team bonus:

Great video.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Lynx, Silver Stars and Dream back to form

The Lynx pounded the Mystics, 98-69. Seimone Augustus lead Minnesota with 20 points, and fellow Olympian Maya Moore, as well as Monica Wright, each added 17.

The Silver Stars outlasted the Shock, 89-79. Sophia Young headed up San Antonio's effort with 20 points.

Dream 82, Sky 76. Angel McCoughtry put up 25 for Atlanta. The good news for Chicago is that Epiphanny Prince is back and she scored a team-high 16.

USA Basketball:

Holy momma.....the U17 team opened their bid for a championship with a 131-89 annihilation of South Korea.

The U18's whipped Columbia, 87-36.

NCAA:

The SEC has released its 2012-2013 season schedule.

Mercedes Russell down to two schools

The class of 2013's top recruit, Mercedes Russell of Oregon, says she's down to two schools: Tennessee and Louisville.

She will visit both colleges this fall before making her decision. National Signing Day is Nov. 14.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Tonight's WNBA games

Feels good to be able to say that again.

The Fever topped the Mystics, 84-66.

The Liberty took down the Eastern Conference-leading Sun, 79-66.

The Storm beat the Mercury, 72-58.

Up tomorrow:

Washington at Minnesota

San Antonio at Tulsa

Atlanta at Chicago

Rollin' in news

WNBA:

State of the season.

Liz Cambage will return to the Shock in time to play in the Aug. 30 game. The Australian star turns 21 Sunday.

League President Laurel Richie hopes the WNBA can build on the Olympic momentum.

Former NBA player Awvee Storey is a player personnel manager for the Washington Mystics.

Phoenix Mercury injuries are helping give Dymond Simon another shot.

Carol Ross and Delisha Milton-Jones are reunited.

(More on the winners of today's three games in the next post)

USA Basketball:

In the second round of the U18 FIBA Championships today, the US beat Argentina 68-28. Breanna Stewart lead the Americans with 17 points and 12 rebounds.

Photos.

Linnae Harper of the U17 team is leading by example.

The U17s warmed up for their championships with a friendly scrimmage against Spain.

College news:

The season is around the corner......

ESPN has announced their Big Monday schedule, which includes three double-headers.

The Atlantic-10 will play their conference championship at the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Old Dominion has ended a 34-year pre-conference series with Tennessee, and picked up a four-year bid with Virginia Commonwealth.

Kansas hopes to build off their Sweet 16 finish last season.

Olympics:

Geno Auriemma isn't interested in returning as an Olympic coach.

Class of 2013 top 100 list

ESPN's new class of 2013 rankings feature 100 players instead of 60, and the same suspects are at the top of the list:

1. Mercedes Russell
2. Kaela Davis
3. Diamond DeShields
4. Taya Reimer
5. Linnae Harper
6. Rebecca Greenwell
7. Allisha Gray
8. Jannah Tucker
9. Tyler Scaife
10. Oderah Chidom

Chris Hansen weighs in.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Has the WNBA finally settled on a marketing strategy?

An amazing amount of interesting information and thought-provoking concepts in this piece about selling the female athlete. But here's the key for me, under the second stanza, "NBA and WNBA: One sport, two worlds":

The WNBA wants to use its affordability as a selling point -- the league markets the players as accessible and the games as family fun. Going forward, the WNBA will hone in on three key groups, Shaev says: African-Americans, lesbians, and youth.

Really?

"Of course," she adds, "there's something to be said for reaching that mainstream American sports fan who knows everything about sports and [wants] to know every stat. We want them all to be our fans."

But the WNBA might not get the growth it needs, Shaev admits, if it focuses on 18-34 year-old male sports addicts. Networks like ESPN have those fans on lock.


Hey, that's what I've been saying!

If they're serious, I say, hallelujayer! Gotta have a plan.

Pac-12 Network open for business

As of 6 p.m., the Pac-12 networks are open for business. Though it's in time for football season, this is the best part:

And many of them competed in women's sports, which will have equal play in Pac-12 Networks exposure as the men's sports.

Sign me up.

Other gigantic news:

The USA U18 team opened FIBA championship play in Puerto Rico today with a 99-26 whomping of the Dominican Republic. They face Argentina tomorrow.

Life in the SEC:

Pat Summitt opened the door.

WNBA season resumes tomorrow

WNBA teams have seven weeks until they hit the playoffs.

The WNBA recommends five games to keep your eyes on in coming weeks.

Dishin & Swishin has a roundtable discussion on the Olympics and resuming W season.

Players returned to their teams, and Tamika Catchings, Candace Parker, Sue Bird and Lindsay Whalen each talked about what their gold medals mean to them.

The three Lynx gold medalists are back to doing their jobs.

Asjha Jones and Tina Charles were showing off their medals.

Australian Liz Cambage will miss at least five Shock games before returning to the team. Boo!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

WNBA players discuss the resumption of the season

Kara Lawson, Taj McWilliams-Franklin, Nneka Ogwumike, Ruth Riley and Tina Thompson answered questions from the media today about the second half of the WNBA season, which begins Thursday. Here is the transcript:

Q. You have been charged with keeping the home fires burning while some of your teammates have gone to Olympic glory. How have your practices been going, and how do you think you've done in working to maintain cohesion and team chemistry during this long break?

NNEKA OGWUMIKE: Well, this Olympic break is interesting because as a rookie I understand that people aren't used to this break. It was really nice, though, after the first half of the season to be able to go home and kind of relax.

But when we got back to LA we've been practicing pretty hard, not too hard, but kind of keep our team cohesiveness going. We've had nice days off, but for the most part, Coach Carol Ross and the rest of the staff have us working well, and it's also helpful that Candace (Parker) was the only person who wasn't on the team during the break. Although she's a huge part of the team, it's good for us to been able to keep virtually our entire team together and get better individually and collectively.

Q. The Sparks were positioning themselves quite well as contenders in the West. Have you or your Sparks teammates been able to completely detach yourselves from the challenges that are coming and enjoy the Olympics or have you guys expressed that you might be interested in getting the WNBA season going and see how it all shakes up, and what have your coaches said to you to keep you focused during this break?

NNEKA OGWUMIKE: I think we've definitely been able to enjoy the break. Obviously we wanted to cheer on not just Candace but all of the other renowned players that represented our country and won the gold.

But the near future isn't far removed from us. We're working to get better the second half of the season. I think it was in May that we kind of had a slump, and we talked about that and how we don't want to go back to that point when we had that stretch of games where we weren't playing well and we're trying to nip it in the bud early and understand what is necessary to succeed as a team. The coaches have been encouraging me to keep doing what I'm doing, had me working on individual skills as well as a lot of team skills to get better as a team coming this weekend.

Q. Tina, you've obviously had experience coming off the Olympic break as an Olympian and coming back to the league. Can you talk about that experience that your teammates coming back will be going through in terms of energy and focus and sort of redirecting everything back to their WNBA team?

TINA THOMPSON: Well, my experience has always been great. When you come off of a high like winning an Olympic gold medal then everyone is very high-energy and kind of looking forward to just getting back to a little normality, as well. Olympics are really tough, and it's pretty much of a grind. You're playing every other day against like really high competition. So coming back home and kind of getting -- becoming a part of the WNBA schedule again -- is actually a little more relaxing than kind of being in the Olympic environment.

I know Sue (Bird) as well as Lauren (Jackson) are going to come back really excited to be here, but their energy level is going to be high, as well, simply because of the occasion that they are coming from.

Q. With Sue and obviously Lauren, who hasn’t been with you guys yet, what does that change for the Seattle Storm… you guys had some momentum going into the break, so what's your expectation with Lauren coming back?

TINA THOMPSON: It's pretty high. Lauren is a big part of this team and just how we're going to move forward, so having her back is great. Everyone is just kind of excited for her return and just kind of getting her acclimated with the offense and working on our cohesion. Sue, of course, she ended the break really well going into the Olympics, so having both of them back is going to be really good for us. It'll definitely team our take to another level.

We were pretty, I don't want to say excited, but happy about the fact that we kind of changed our picture as far as the WNBA season goes and pulling it together going into the break, so we want to use that momentum going into the second half.

Q. Taj, now that the second half is about to begin, what does the Lynx in your opinion need to do, what little things to resume their skills, their progress - you had a little bump before the break started - to get back on track?

TAJ McWILLIAMS-FRANKLIN: I think that a lot of the things we did towards the end -- after the little bump of the four-game losing skid that we endured during the first part of the season -- I think that as a team we found a lot more cohesion in our defense than we had even when we were winning previously. So for us it's going to be just about building on the things that the eight of us worked on during the Olympic break and adding in our three Olympians and resuming what we've done well before the break, and that's as it is for many teams in the WNBA, much of the same things: working on our defense, being aggressive defensively and leading to easy baskets on the offense.

Q. Taj, how have you been doing because you've been playing a little more minutes this year because of the injuries to Amber and Jessica?

TAJ McWILLIAMS-FRANKLIN: Well, I'm doing what I always do, plugging away. For me it's really about maintaining, making sure that every part of my game is solid and straight, and that's normally off the court what I do anyway, my swimming … during the break we've done a lot of Pilates and yoga, non-impact things, which is really helping. As an athlete I do pretty much what everybody else does, so for me it's just been about maintaining my normal body type, my conditioning, which includes a lot of non-impact, off-the-court workouts.

Q. Kara, Coach (Mike) Thibault has talked the last couple years about this franchise building, growing. He was relying on some younger folks to grow into roles. You guys went into the Olympic break on a high, and I'm wondering how you about the second half. Do you feel like this franchise is sort of blossoming in the way that you were hoping that it would and does that bode well in terms of making a potential long playoff run?

KARA LAWSON: I think we like where we ended before the break for sure. You know, we have the bulk of our rotation that's third-year players and that came in as rookies and got a lot of experience in their first two years in the league. So we've made some huge strides, probably bigger strides from year two to year three than we did from the first year to the second year.

So we feel good about the second half of the year, understanding that everybody got healed up over the break and everybody feels like they're ready for a good second half. I mean, I don't think there's a team out there that doesn't think they're going to improve.

I just think the intensity of the games will be a little bit higher here as everyone tries to position themselves to be playoff teams. I guess it remains to be seen. Hopefully we make the Playoffs, and we'll see if we've grown enough to actually win a playoff game because we haven't done that the last two years.

Q. Ruth, you guys probably -- I know a lot of teams were affected by injuries, but you guys were definitely dealing with some injuries. Has the time off been good for you guys in terms of you probably went into the break a little bit more on a down note and maybe are looking to turn that around in the second half of the season?

RUTH RILEY: For teams that have momentum going into the break, I'm sure they're not looking forward to it. But teams like us, you know, where we heading into the break with a lot of injuries. It was a blessing for us to get Piph (Epiphanny Prince) healthy and able to join us because if it was a regular year, Piph might have been out the whole season. But because it's an Olympic year we had the rare opportunity for her to get healthy and to rejoin us; and we're a much better team with her on the floor.

Q. Taj, for veteran players is this month off during the break good for you guys? I know you play basketball year-round but how is this month break for you?

TAJ McWILLIAMS-FRANKLIN: I think most veterans would say that they love the break. The first few days -- the first seven days that we had off where we were really just relaxing, having some quality downtime -- was great for us, great for me. But coming back in and just slowly acclimating back into our normal practice times, practice speed has helped tremendously as far as saving your legs, being able to play harder, longer, in the end while you're vying for a playoff spot, having allowed your vets to rest now, you have a bigger push during the final part of the season, during the Playoffs.

For me, my perspective, it can only help us because we do get that extra rest after you've been playing overseas and previously before that the WNBA season.

Sometimes most of the vets play year-round for more than one year, so any type of break is definitely a welcome break for us, whether it's mental or physical.

Q. Does it take long for you guys to get back up to speed, or does that depend on the team you're on?

TAJ McWILLIAMS-FRANKLIN: I think that's each individual person actually and the team they're on. For me I'm a basketball junkie, so during the off time I'm still watching some of our DVDs of the games we played where we had mistakes or losses. I'm looking at the teams we're going to play as we come up into the first part after the break. So I don't really take a serious break, but physically I do. It really depends on the individual, I believe, and their team.

Q. For Taj and Tina, specifically about the rookies and their development over the course of the season, I'm curious what kinds of things you might see from Devereaux (Peters) and Shekinna Stricklen after the break and how this might hurt or help their development in their first year?

TINA THOMPSON: I think this break was great for our rookies. They got to go on vacation a little bit and go home, and that was good. I mean, we're pretty tough on our rookies here, so I think that that break was good for them physically and mentally. They came back energized and ready to work. I've seen so much improvement with them already with their game and also with confidence. We're really excited that we got to have this break simply because it just gave us an opportunity to get better.

TAJ McWILLIAMS-FRANKLIN: For Devereaux, she was injured at the end of our first part of our season, so for us, it really was just about getting her healthy with the break in her hand, so she really didn't do much when she came back on the court. She just recently was able to go with us full-out this past week.

For Devereaux and her mental aspect of the game, it was great for her mentally just to relax after playing the whole year NCAAs, making it to the Final Four, and then coming directly into the WNBA. She had an opportunity now during the break just to take a mental break and relax and take it all in and go see her family and hang out. She came back in, and she's been rehabbing her hand and getting, I think, acclimated to -- I think Coach Reeves has about 50 play -- so just getting acclimated to the bulk of the offense and the intricacies of our defense and our schemes that we do in the WNBA, and I think that's helped her more than just playing, because we haven't had enough people. We had three Olympians so we only had eight players here, and so we couldn't do as much as other teams were able to do.

Q. Just a follow-up on Devereaux learning the plays, how much of that playbook has she really acclimated to during training camp and the early part of the season?

TAJ McWILLIAMS-FRANKLIN: Well, Devereaux is really smart so she picks up things really well. I think for her more it was about her confidence in her abilities and our coaching staff teaching her some nuances of the game that's a little different than college. I think as a vet, and the spot that she plays is the same spot that I play, just teaching her some things that I might know that the playbook does not teach you … that I know you can get away with this when you're playing in a game and you can't do that in a game, so just being able to sit down and say, hey, that play works great, but if you tweak this it'll work even better and it'll get them an open shot. That's as far as learning the plays and the nuances of the offense and what we do here in Minnesota.

Q. Kara, you've been there, as well. How do you think your gold medal teammates will be coming down from this, and one of them is very young, coming down from this global spectacle in London and focusing on the remaining WNBA season that's ahead of them?

KARA LAWSON: I think they'll be fine. I mean, they're both super goal-oriented and both of them really want to win a WNBA Championship. So I think they're just both really focused on coming back in and enjoying playing with us and enjoying trying to keep the momentum that we established in the first half.

You know, players have an easy time separating. I don't think it's that difficult. You know, you do what you're supposed to do and all of the emotions are positive, it's not like there's negative emotions coming back. So they're excited, and I got a chance to see them today, and they're ready to go.

Q. Taj, what's your view of how the West is going to be a little different in the second half if you've got Lauren (Jackson) back for Seattle, if Diana (Taurasi) comes back to Phoenix and plays? How does it change the West in the second half?

TAJ McWILLIAMS-FRANKLIN: Well, thanks (laughing), it makes it much harder. I mean, gosh, you just -- you're talking about the greatest players in the world. They proved it in the Olympics. Bringing back Lauren Jackson and Diana Taurasi full speed, it's just going to be harder and harder for the Minnesota Lynx in the West.

For us, though, we're going to take all the challenges that we have to take to prove that we deserve to be in first place, and I think that's one of the things that we've been showing as we've been playing, that this is for real. We're serious about our goals and being the best in Minnesota. It's going to be much tougher because those are such great players, and their teams rely on them. But for us it's another challenge, another step to try to become a consistently great team.

There are teams that are great for periods of time, but we have to work on our consistency with believing that we deserve to be mentioned in the top teams in the league this year, and I think with all the great players coming back who have been on break, who have been in the Olympics, who took the year off to get ready for the Olympics, all of those great players that are flooding back into all the teams all around the league, it makes it that much tougher for not only the Minnesota Lynx but for every single team in the league to do what we did in the first half.

So we're definitely … everybody is going to have to be on their P's and Q's. And I know every one of us that's on the call, and every other team … everybody has definitely been working on defense and their defensive intensity. It's going to be some great battles, some great games coming out for this second part of the season, and I look forward to it. As a player, as a competitor, that's what you want, and you can't wait for it to start.

Q. Ruth, to sort of follow up on what you said earlier, we saw (during the Olympics) Sylvia (Fowles) still looks like she's not 100 percent, so she's going to come back without having that break, and you guys are still trying to get over that hump of the franchise making the playoffs. How much is your experience as a veteran who's won in this league, who knows what it takes in the clutch and at the end of the season, how much do you think you'll be able to maybe help this group get to a place that Chicago hasn't been to yet?

RUTH RILEY: I hope my experience is going to help a lot. I've been on great teams. I've had the opportunity to go through a lot of battles that you face to be successful, and I see … you know, we have a lot of young players, and it's been a while since I've been on a young team. I think a lot of the games that we played early on we were making obvious mistakes that you can't make if you're trying to get into the playoffs.

But I think we are growing in the league. We have a lot of new faces here in Chicago, so it takes a little bit of time to get to know each other on the court. I think my job is just to bring the experience and come in here and help our young players view the game and see where we can get better to make our team a contender.

Q. Nneka, at Stanford obviously you guys dominated, Pac-10, Pac-12, regular season competition. What's it like now you're in the WNBA and you're in a conference that is extraordinarily competitive, it's every game is such a fight. How has that been for you, and how much are you looking forward to the second half of the season, sort of experiencing that battle just to try to win the Western Conference?

NNEKA OGWUMIKE: I think it's great. I think as Taj mentioned, the competition is strong, and it's going to be even stronger now that most of the players are returning. I don't think necessarily that the Olympics will really affect the productivity of the players that are coming back. I think it'll boost the morale of a lot of teams, both in the West and the East.

It's definitely different because at Stanford we were so used to kind of being a top-tier team, the team to beat, and when you come into the league, it's interesting, as well, because the rosters are shorter. Everybody who is on the team can play. The competition is wild, and it's exciting. I think it's really great for the league.

But at the same time, it gives kind of a feeling of you're working hard for what you really want because everybody in this league is great, everybody is talented, the teams are solid.

Q. Nneka, you've had a chance to look back on the first half of your first postseason, and it has been a very successful start to your career. But does anything jump out at you in terms of adjustments or improvements that you will be trying to make when play resumes?

NNEKE OGWUMIKE: I'm definitely grateful for these past few months, ending at Stanford, graduating at Stanford early and being a part of the Sparks and also starting off the season right. Granted, we had a slight slump in May, but I think those are the best times for you to learn, and I've been through some experiences that I haven't been through before on any other teams, but I think it's maturing my game and myself.

For the most part, I think a lot of the success that I'm seeing individually is because of my team and my teammates, the coaching staff and the overall Sparks organization because a lot of the people here believe in me, and it really garners confidence in myself, and I'm just really excited to be a part of this program.

In terms of things that I look forward to enhancing in my game, I think I'm looking more forward to being -- more of a leader. Despite me being a rookie, I think I can contribute to the leadership aspect of the game, and I always want my teammates, every time I step out on the court, I have fun, and I want my teammates to have fun playing with me. I want them to have fun when they're out there. So I try to make everybody's jobs easier by being the best teammate I can be.

I look forward to being more of a leader and also possibly more of an offensive threat as we kind of develop as a team in the second half of the season.

Q. Ruth, Chicago started the season really strongly and then kind of limped into the break once Epiphanny went down. Now that she's scheduled to return, can you talk about how you think that's going to impact the team as well as the race in the East?

RUTH RILEY: Well, obviously she's a huge part of our success and she was playing at a really high level and I think leading the league in scoring before she got injured, so we miss her tremendously. I think that while she was out, we learned a lot about ourselves and what we need to get better as a team without her, not expecting her to take over games. I mean, she made some unbelievable plays winning three games down the stretch in a row.

But I think we're a better team with her on the court and look forward to just having her back for the second part of the season.

And the East is tough. I mean, Atlanta is possibly going to get better as I think we all saw. With all the teams coming back, everyone is focused; it's going to be a race; a lot of games in a few days. It's really anybody's ballgame right now.

Q. Ruth and Taj, about Liz Cambage, I don't know how much of the Australia games you watched, but maybe just some outlook on her performance, comparing what you saw from her during the Olympics this year versus what you saw last year and some areas of growth you saw in her game playing with Australia this year.

TAJ McWILLIAMS-FRANKLIN: I definitely have seen a maturity level in her game that was not there her first season in Tulsa. I think she's stronger on the block. Her moves are much more defined. She's not floating around as much. And when she does shoot jumpers, she's shooting them with a confidence she didn't have in Tulsa.

I think she's still really young and still really raw and has a long way to grow. But from Tulsa last year to what I saw in the Olympics, and I watched all of their games except for one, she has really developed a confidence in herself that might have been lacking. Given her young age and the fact that it was her first year overseas - well, for her overseas - and in the pros and we're really physical here in the WNBA, so with all of those different factors, I think now the Liz Cambage that I saw in the Olympics is a force, and it's a force that each team is going to have to look after when she comes back to Tulsa. I think they are really lacking that person that I saw in the Olympic games. That's the player that Tulsa needs right now to kind of complete their game that Coach Klop (Gary Kloppenberg) is trying to get them to understand.

I think that strong, physical inside presence will open up a lot of stuff for them on the outside. I'm really excited. I'm always excited about players in our league coming in and being stronger and better because it only makes the WNBA stronger and better, and she's one of those players that I am really thrilled to see has developed her game and made history as she's developing. So I'm excited for her to come back.

We play them Sunday, so I can't -- I hope she's going to be with them, and I'm going to come up and tell her how excited I am to see the rest of her game evolve as the years go on.

Q. And Ruth, if you had any comment on Liz Cambage as someone who also plays the post?

RUTH RILEY: Absolutely. Taj pretty much summed it up. I would say that there's definitely growth, but there's also a comfort factor playing with your national team. Coming over to the WNBA for the first time as a young player is not an easy transition. So for her to go back to Australia and play in a system that she's familiar with and with players that she's familiar with, I think that gave her a little bit more of that confidence that Taj was talking about.

FastScripts by ASAP Sports

A few odds and ends from all corners

Some colleges have finalized their 2012-2013 schedules, and are sending them out to media like myself. Check your favorite college's website to see if your team's schedule has been released.

Other NCAA:

Ryan McCarthy is the new coach at the University of Alaska at Anchorage.

U18 team:

The U18 squad is in Puerto Rico and is ready to kick off their quest for a FIBA championship tomorrow.

WNBA:

Many of the members of our gold medal-winning team have returned to practice, and the rest are expected tomorrow.

Sparks rookie Nneka Ogwumike is ready for a leadership role the second half of the season.

Loyola Marymount Coach Charity Elliott creating a family atmosphere

New Loyola Marymount Coach Charity Elliott and her staff, including former hoops star Jackie Stiles, are starting out on the same page, paragraph and sentence.

Monday, August 13, 2012

'Tweener days again

You know, WNBA season resumes Thursday:

Players are ready to go.

So much so that Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton sustained a broken nose in Mercury practice today, going up for a rebound against Nakia Sanford. Yikes.

WNBA mid-season report and second half outlook.

Ivory Latta is having a career year for the Shock.

The Dream will host their first LGBT Pride Night later this month.

On Thursday it's Washington at Indiana; Connecticut at New York; and Phoenix at Seattle.

In the meantime, we're still looking back at the London Games:

Road to glory for our basketball team.

Angel McCoughtry's legacy is now trimmed in gold.

The US women are hoping they've inspired a million girls.

Lasting impressions.

Ten things to take from London.

Women dominated the Games.

U17's:

They overcame a slow start to beat Italy in exhibition play yesterday.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Another gold for the US women

Team USA captured their fifth consecutive Olympic gold yesterday by beating France, 86-50. Candace Parker came off the bench to lead the stats category with 21 points and 11 rebounds.

Box score.

Game quotes.

Photo gallery.

The US made it look easy.

ESPN analysis.

There has been a debate during these last three US games as to whether or not Coach Geno Auriemma was justified in changing Candace Parker's role from starter to reserve. Logically, it didn't make sense to bring the WNBA's leading MVP candidate off the bench. Auriemma explained it this way:

“We started Candace for the early part of the tournament and there just wasn’t any kind of a rhythm or any kind of a flow, because what happened is that Tamika Catchings is out of position,” said Auriemma. “So I took a shot and said ‘well I don't think there's anyone else in the world that has someone like that coming off the bench, so let’s see where that goes.’

“And tonight she was spectacular; I think she was the Candace Parker that everyone hopes they can see every single night.”


No rhythm and flow in blowouts?

Auriemma also limited Angel McCoughtry's minutes, despite her being one of the team's top producers. This included yesterday's match up, when he pulled her after a few moments after she had gone in and scored immediately:

“We knew that our role was going to be different here coming in,” said WNBA scoring leader Angel McCoughtry.” I accepted my role; I wanted to be the one that brings energy off the bench. But the great thing about our team was even when we subbed, it was still like you had stars in, we didn't lose a thing.”

Throughout the tournament, McCoughtry was often the best player on the floor for the United States in her limited minutes. In less than 15 minutes per game, McCoughtry finished second on the team in scoring (10.9 ppg), while leading the team in FG percentage (.602) and steals (2.5 spg).


The Chicago Tribune, Parker's hometown daily, says she succeeded in spite of Auriemma:

That attitude came in handy for Parker when Auriemma decided after the Games began to replace her in the starting lineup with Maya Moore. Moore is one of six of players on Team USA who played for Auriemma in college. He could not have had more of a Connecticut influence on the roster without adding an insurance agent to the staff.

If the decision frustrated Parker, she took it out on her opponents.

"I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to start," said Parker, who averaged 10.5 points over eight Olympic games. "It's definitely a different mindset. But I just tried to provide as much energy as possible when I came in."

Parker's response typified the maturity she and her teammates showed throughout an Olympics in which Team USA often was taken for granted.

They paid more attention to who was watching — their irrepressible coach — than anyone who wasn't here. They tuned out and locked in, Auriemma style.

"We just played," Parker said.


I have no doubt that Auriemma wasn't being consciously biased towards his former players. But there's no doubt he was being subconsciously biased.

In the meantime yesterday, Australia beat Russia for the bronze medal.

U17 bonus:

The U17 national team whooped Australia 103-58 yesterday in their second exhibition game en route to the world championships in a few weeks.