Thursday, July 31, 2014

Oh, snap - and a few milestones

Tonight's results:

Were you like me and watched three (but mostly the Big Showdown) games at once, and then stuck around to watch the Storm honor coach Lin Dunn and then play the Fever?

I thought so.

The Mercury's 16-game winning streak came to a screeching halt, as the Lynx beat them, 75-67. It looks like a fight brewing for the Western Conference championship already. Tonight the Lynx looked like they were ready to eat raw meat, but you know the Mercury will be bouncing back in a big way.

The Dream downed the Shock, 85-75.

The Sky got past the Liberty, 87-74. Elena Delle Donne scored 10 points in her return to the court.

The Fever defeated the Storm, 76-67.

Milestones:

Seattle celebrated outgoing COO Karen Bryant before tonight's game, in a big way.

They also honored Fever coach Lin Dunn, who was the first coach of the Storm franchise, from 2000-2002. She will retire after this season.

It was more than heartwarming to see players from those years had made the trip to Key Arena, like Simone Edwards, Charmin Smith, Tully Bevilaqua and Jamie Redd. Those were the days.....

To top it off, Tamika Catchings broke a record. She needed 15 points to move past Katie Smith to third on the WNBA's all-time scoring list, and she got 16. Congratulations to an amazing player and true role model.

More WNBA news......

Lynx:


Cheryl Reeve is guiding Minnesota to the playoffs in the most challenging of years.

Monica Wright podcast.

Sky:

.....are still confident of making the playoffs.

Stars:

What would D-Rob Doo?

Shock:

Riquna Williams will undergo knee surgery and miss the rest of the season.

4.5 hours 'til tipoff

Is tonight's Lynx-Mercury game the most important of the season so far? One writer thinks so.

But Minnesota ain't worried 'bout nothin.'

The game has been picked up by NBA TV. It's at 5 p.m. Pacific/8 p.m. Eastern.

In other games tonight.....

It's Storm COO Karen Bryant's last.

Elena Delle Donne returns to the Sky lineup.

More WNBA news.......

Liberty:

Anna Cruz is a rookie as feisty as she is steady.

Shock:

How Courtney Paris got her groove back.

Hoopism is 6!!

Today marks the sixth anniversary of this blog. I started it on this date in 2008 with the intention of shining light on women's basketball, from the high school level to the pros. As of today, I've had almost one million page views.

The fun I've had blogging for the past six years has been worth at least a million dollars. Writing about basketball, both for this space and other websites, has taken me to arenas far and wide, three NCAA Final Fours, heart-stopping games and great WNBA events. I have met some fantastic and phenomenal people - both coaches and players.

It was captivating and gratifying to watch and chronicle Cal star forward Reshanda Gray ball out in high school, and to see her and USC star guard Ariya Crook play elite ball with club team Cal Sparks. To think they're both about to be college seniors messes with my mind.

Layshia Clarendon is another player who I watched in high school. She also went to Cal, and is now in her second year with the Indiana Fever. I talked with her the other night before they faced the Sparks here in Los Angeles, and she is a grown woman now - not a shy kid anymore. As a teacher, I can't think of anything more gratifying than to see that transformation.

Coaches at all the major colleges I cover have changed over these six years: UCLA, USC, LMU, CSUN, SDSU. I've watched each one of these teams have the ups and downs that go with the cycles of life, and not just basketball. The sport truly is a metaphor for life.

The WNBA keeps getting more talent-laden with each passing year. The game has truly evolved a lot. The new generation is very exciting to watch - Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike, especially, for me. But with veteran Tamika Catchings, you can never go wrong. As the league has become more like a business, I appreciate those that play with intense heart and passion more than ever.

Thanks for your readership. I will be back later to blog more.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Count 'em: 16 consecutive wins

Tonight's results:

Make that 16 consecutive wins for the Mercury - they beat the Sparks, 90-69. It's the second-longest streak in league history.

The Liberty slipped by the Mystics in overtime, 80-76.

The Shock got by the Storm, 80-74.

The Stars routed the Sky, 92-74.

More WNBA news.....

Lynx:


....are preparing for Thursday's showdown with arch rival Phoenix.

Today's practice report.

Shock:

Coach Fred Williams appreciates the talents of center Courtney Paris.

Sky:

Jessica Breland's story: from cancer to All-Star.

Liberty:

Essence Carson has received the WNBA Cares Community Assist Award for June.

One down, four more games to go

Today's results so far:

The Dream downed the Sun, 89-80.

Four more games to go today.

Breast cancer awareness week:

The Fever's Krystal Thomas talks about losing her mother to breast cancer when she was 16.

More WNBA news....

Mercury:


The Mercury have shown they can score in a variety of ways.

Sparks:

A conversation with general manager/coach Penny Toler.

Lin Dunn plans to continue work in basketball after retirement from coaching

Had a chance to sit down with coaching great Lin Dunn last night, who talked about the future, the past and the present.

Wrote a song about it - like to read it? Here it goes.

Following that, the Sparks edged the Fever, 77-73. Four players from each side were in double figures.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Mediocrity or parity?

ESPN ponders the exact question that I have seen on twitter for the last two weeks: is there parity or mediocrity in the WNBA? Because only three teams have winning records: Phoenix, Minnesota and Atlanta. Power rankings for the week:

1. Phoenix
2. Minnesota
3. Atlanta
4. Washington
5. San Antonio
6. Indiana
7. Los Angeles
8. New York
9. Seattle
10. Tulsa
11. Chicago
12. Connecticut

It's definitely not mediocrity. This is probably the best-skilled WNBA we've ever seen, as showcased in the All-Star game.

It's some serious parity, as all of that talent is spread out amongst the league's 12 teams.

Players of the week:

....are Ivory Latta for the East and Maya Moore for the West.

More WNBA news.....

Lynx:


Maya Moore has become the face of the league.

Storm:

....have signed Waltiea Rolle to a second seven-day contract.

Eye of the Storm: Tanisha Wright.

Mercury:

Mistie Bass blogs.

Mystics:

Ivory Latta discusses a recent cancer scare.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Second half of the season off to a new start

Well now.....

The Mystics are now second in the East after knocking off the Dream, 77-67.

The Lynx are all back finally, and it shows: they beat the Sun, 76-65. Maya Moore lead the way with 17 points.

The Shock downed the Sky, 79-69. Birthday girl Glory Johnson was Tulsa's leading scorer, with 15 points and 11 rebounds.

More WNBA news.....

Storm:


Awesome interview with outgoing COO Karen Bryant.

College news:

Arkansas State coach Brian Boyer's contract has been extended through 2017.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Three-game night

Tonight's results:

The Mystics survived a bad fourth quarter to overcome the Shock, 82-77.

The Sky beat the Stars, 88-78.

The Sky edged the Dream, 79-75.

More WNBA news.....

Mercury:

Shay Murphy is providing a spark off the bench.

Liberty:

Swin Cash and Cappie Pondexter are launching blogs.

Storm:

Outgoing COO Karen Bryant interview, part two.

Lynx:

Lindsay Whalen podcast.

College news:

Central Michgan's new assistant coach is former Michigan State star Kristin Haynie.

High school:

Is Miami High School's Beatrice Mompremier the next Sylvia Fowles?

Mercury star Brittney Griner celebrates Pride night with fans

Brittney Griner celebrated Sparks pride night with fans.

Shoni Schimmel's achievements are inspirational to many

I had a great talk with Shoni Schimmel's parents, Ceci and Rick, after last weekend's All-Star game. Awesome people.

Story.

Last night's games

The Mercury routed the Sparks, 93-73, for their 14th consecutive win. One more victory and they tie the Comets' record for second-longest winning streak.

The Liberty outlasted the Storm in overtime, 84-80, despite a triple-double from veteran Temeka Johnson. "Mighty Mouse" made franchise history.

More WNBA news.....

Lynx:


Minnesota finally has a healthy starting five.

College news:

Indiana coach Curt Miller has abruptly resigned.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

WBCA college honor rolls

Tops in Division I:

1. University of Missouri-Kansas City
2. Eastern Washington University
3. University of Northern Colorado
4. St. Francis College
5. Western Illinois University
6. Drake University
7. University of Northern Iowa
8. DePaul University
9. Illinois State University
10. Utah Valley University
11. Florida Gulf Coast University
12. Houston Baptist University
13. American University
14. University of Denver
15. Northern Kentucky University
16. Austin Peay State University
17. Lehigh University
18. Belmont University
19. South Dakota State University
20. Cornell University
21. Arizona State University
22. Colorado State University
23. Yale University
24. Brown University
25. Bowling Green State University

All divisions.

WNBA news.....

Sun:


Alyssa Thomas is adapting to life as a pro.

Storm:

Lineup changes.

Mystics:

Bria Hartley and Stefanie Dolson are continuing their smooth transition to the WNBA.

Lynx:

Today's practice report.

Liberty edge Sparks 66-64

My game story.

More pictures:


Sparks bench, with Candace Parker on the left and new coaching staff on the right.


Sparks confer during a pause in the game.


Liberty meet at a time out.


Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer doesn't like a call.


Gary Kloppenburg coaches from the sidelines.


Gary Kloppenburg coaches from the sidelines.


Liberty on the fast break.


Alana Beard tries to get around Alex Montgomery.


Tina Charles grabs one of her 15 rebounds.


Nneka Ogwumike looks to pass.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Becky Hammon to retire after this season

Becky Hammon told the Stars last night and the rest of the world today: she's retiring after this season. She leaves a legacy.

The 37-year-old Hammon is a six-time All-Star who ranks seventh in WNBA history in total points (5,756), second in three-point field goals made (817), fourth in assists (1,663), sixth in games played (440) and first in free-throw percentage (89.6 percent, minimum 300 attempts).

"Throughout the years" photo gallery.

Today's results so far:

The Mystics surged past the Sun, 89-75.

In a bit, the Liberty take on the Sparks, to begin the Penny Toler era in Los Angeles.

More WNBA news.....

Stars:


The Stars have signed Astou Ndour, as Heather Butler's seven-day contract expired.

Mystics:

The Mystics are trying to overcome turnover and age issues the second half of the season.

Mercury:

Coach Sandy Brondello's preparation has set the standard for the red hot Mercury.

Sun:

Chillin4Charity part two.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Maya clinic

It took two overtimes, but the Lynx prevailed over the Dream, 112-108. Sounds like an All-Star game, right? It was for Maya Moore, who had a career-high 48 points. That's right: 48.

The Sky finally won one, edging the Fever, 60-57. Sylvia Fowles lead the way with 21 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks.

The Stars squeaked by the Shock, 95-93.

The Mercury are in the midst of beating the Storm at the moment.

More WNBA news....

Dream:


Q&A with new COO Maureen Brown.

All-Star game MVP Shoni Schimmel's performance Saturday was highlighted on ESPN SportsCenter.

Liberty:

Swin Cash has embraced New York.

Storm:

It's time to get tough.

Sky:

Sylvia Fowles threw out the first pitch at the White Sox game last night.

College news:

Olivia Ogwumike - little sister of Nneka and Chiney - has signed with Pepperdine. She will be a freshman this fall.

The contract of Wichita State coach Jody Adams has been extended through 2019.

Shay Robinson is Maryland's new assistant coach.

UC Santa Barbara has added Matt Schiff as an assistant coach.

Duke's Rebecca Greenwell says excitement is building for the fall.

WNBA, NCAA missing an opportunity

Like the rest of the sports world last week, I watched rapper Drake serenade Skylar Diggins with words on the ESPY Awards show. The significance of the moment was real: one of the biggest entertainers in the business was giving props to one of the faces of the WNBA.

But the incident also highlighted a profound disconnect by both the WNBA and NCAA: not leveraging attention from musical megastars to facilitate the growth of the game.

The ESPYs weren't the first time women's hoops has received love from hip hop artists. Lil Wayne showed up at several Minnesota Lynx games a few years ago wearing a Seimone Augustus jersey, as a tribute to the fellow Louisiana native. Wayne also gave frequent twit-outs to Diggins, at one point calling her his wife. Rapper Common attended a Notre Dame at UCLA game in November, 2012 and waited afterwards to talk to Diggins. He has also attended Los Angeles Sparks games. Ludacris has been spotted at Atlanta Dream games.

In maybe the biggest nod of all, Jay Z signed Diggins to his Roc Nation sports agency last year, after she graduated from college.

All the love is great, but women's basketball needs to make it work for them. Both college and WNBA teams always need more butts in seats, and if there is one group that has more power, influence and money than male sports stars, it's entertainers. It's amazing what you get when you just ask. I suggest the WNBA and NCAA do just that.

Why not start with Jay and have him make appearances at Shock games, to support his protege? I have a feeling the entire city of Tulsa would show up if he had a courtside seat. If he came to Madison Square Garden - in his hometown - regularly to support the Liberty, the team would find itself with a bigger fan base. (This would also indirectly help Jay's client).

If Nicki Minaj can rap about Lisa Leslie, as she did in a song a couple years ago, I'm sure Lil Wayne could be persuaded to drop in a line about Augustus, or another player he appreciates. Jay could also easily finesse in a Skylar Diggins reference as he hits the tour circuit with wife Beyonce.

If Jay Z, Drake, Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj started talking about how cool and fun women's basketball is, I bet that would translate into an attendance bump for the sport. We've already seen, countless times, how well music and sport go together. During last week's ESPYs, for example, one of the best skits featured Drake and Los Angeles Clippers star Blake Griffin.

The WNBA and NCAA need to get off their rears and start reaching out to entertainers. It would be a match made in heaven.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Back to business tomorrow

ESPN's power rankings:

1. Phoenix
2. Minnesota
3. Atlanta
4. Indiana
5. Washington
6. Los Angeles
7. San Antonio
8. New York
9. Connecticut
10. Tulsa
11. Seattle
12. Chicago

Tamika Catchings and Maya Moore were Eastern and Western Conference players of the week.

Games resume tomorrow, with a four-contest line up.

More WNBA news......

Lynx:


Rebekkah Brunson makes her on-court season debut tomorrow.

Today's practice report.

The Lynx are ready to roll after the All-Star game.

Storm:

.....have signed Waltiea Rolle to a seven-day contract.

The story of outgoing COO Karen Bryant, part one.

All-Star interview with Lauren Richie:

The WNBA President answered questions from the media prior to Saturday's game.

Women's Basketball Hall of Fame:

Gail Goestenkors was elected to the WBHOF 2015 class the same day she opted to resign from the LA Sparks as assistant coach, as head coach Carol Ross was let go.

College news:

Tennessee coach Holly Warlick wants the Lady Vols to have a stronger finishing touch.

Good God, UConn's Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis is a senior already? I remember her as a sophomore in high school.

Ebony Wells joins LaSalle from Florida State.

Sparks first practice under Toler has intensity on tap

I talked to new Sparks coach Penny Toler, and players Nneka Ogwumike, Jantel Lavender and Lindsey Harding today. Intensity and collaboration are on tap.

Dream coach Michael Cooper has early-stage cancer

Dream coach Michael Cooper has early-stage tongue cancer, and will have surgery this week. He will miss two weeks for recovery, during which time assistant coach Karleen Thompson will act as head coach:

''I'm fortunate that my condition was diagnosed early, and this episode illustrates the importance of screening and early detection,'' Cooper said. ''I know the team will be in good hands with coach Thompson at the helm during my absence, and I look forward to returning to the court soon.''

Prayers up.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Sparks' firing of Carol Ross not unexpected

The official announcement came just after 5 p.m. today: the Los Angeles Sparks relieved coach Carol Ross of duties. General Manager Penny Toler will be the coach for the rest of the season.

ESPN cites a source that says assistant Gary Kloppenberg will remain, while Gail Goestenkors chose to leave. Taking her place will be former Sparks assistant coach Steve Smith.

Am I surprised? Not in the least. I could see this day coming for a while now.

To begin with, the Sparks have fallen short of expectations for the last two seasons. In 2012 - Ross' first year - she received the Coach of the Year award. Days later, the Sparks lost by one point to Minnesota in the Western Conference finals. Last season the Sparks lost in the first round to Phoenix by one point.

This year Toler assembled an all-star cast, and the future looked bright after the team's first two preseason games. They had energy, worked together, executed plays and dominated on defense. Then suddenly, they began losing. And losing, and losing. Right now they are 10-12 for fourth in the West, after spending most of the first half of the season at fifth or sixth place.

The Sparks look listless and discombobulated on the court. They don't play together, and they don't play defense. It's especially baffling considering the talent level of team members.

I knew the end was near last month, when Candace Parker was taken out of a game against the Lynx, and a verbal altercation between her and Goestenkors ensued. I posted pictures, along with a call for change.

Things had looked better recently, with the Sparks winning three out of four games on the road. But last Thursday's four-point loss to the Mystics proved to be the death knell for Ross.

To be clear, Ross is a great coach. I don't, however, think her style was the right fit for the Sparks. And fit is everything in the pros.

Toler as coach is an interesting situation. She retired in 1999 and began working in the Sparks front office the following year. She hasn't coached. Her appointment now will give her a chance to coach one of the many dynamic teams she has assembled over the years. She's got to earn their respect, get them back on track and motivate them.

It sounds like a lot of pressure.

Another thing the Sparks must do if they want to survive is get their fans back. There are no more fan giveaways and there are precious few autograph sessions, and thus less connection with fans and season ticket holders. I've noticed the disconnect - and the empty seats at Staples Center. Attendance is really down, and it's not just due to the team's performance. If fans felt like the Sparks cared that they are there, more would show up.

The Sparks are having a press conference tomorrow, which I will be reporting on. They have back-to-back home games this Wednesday and Thursday, against the Liberty and the Mercury.

It's safe to say that for now, all eyes will be on the Los Angeles Sparks.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

East edges West in All-Star game, 125-124 (OT)

As you no doubt witnessed, the East hung on to beat the West in today's All-Star game, 125-124. As the story I co-wrote isn't up yet on fullcourt.com, here is the AP piece.

Highlights.

Records fell:

For the first time in All-Star history, the game went to overtime.

Shoni Schimmel broke the scoring record, set just last year by Candace Parker, with 29 points.

It was the highest combined team scoring in All-Star game history. Records were also set for team shooting, team assists and team rebounds. In all, 11 records were broken in the game.

And though Schimmel the rookie was the MVP, it was veteran Tamika Catchings who made the driving layup - and then the defensive stop four seconds later - to seal the win for the East. Catchings was at her ninth All-Star game, tying the mark set by Tina Thompson.

"If I had to tie someone, it's great that it's Tina Thompson, because she's amazing," Catchings told me after the game.

With over 14,000 screaming fans in attendance, it was the second largest All-Star crowd in history.

Skylar Diggins had a stellar game, with 27 points. Maya Moore added 24 points for the West, Brittney Griner 17, including a dunk, and Candice Dupree had 12.

For the East it was Tina Charles with 19, Katie Douglas with 15, and Catchings and Angel McCoughtry with 14 and 13, respectively.

What an thrilling, fun game. It definitely exceeded my expectations. There was a lot of excitement in the arena, from the fans to the players to even the media.

WNBA blog.

The mood this year was more competitive than last, with players really hustling for the ball. Players took turns putting in gluts of points at a time.

The crowd was fantastic from tipoff, "ooo"ing and "aaah"ing at every turn.

There were several funny game moments. McCoughtry, when she made a couple shots, would run down the side of the court and hand slap fans.

Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike would make it a point to stand next to each other when someone was shooting a free throw. In one instance, Nneka extended her arm absent-mindedly to smooth Chiney's hair. The ball went up into the air and then the sisters were suddenly pushing and shoving each other. I posted a picture of the moment on my twitter: twitter.com/hoopism. Chiney said post-game that this was the first time she and her sister had got to play together and have fun. She also said Nneka was the first to start talking trash after it was announced they were both All-Stars.

Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike discuss playing in their first game together.

There was a lot of joyful screaming after the game. The buzzer sounded and media members flooded the court, along with others. It was pure pandemonium, and as I like to do in such occasions, I stood there and watched. Some of the things I saw:

Lisa Leslie sporting a Schimmel #23 headband. She also went over to give the young buck a hug.

ESPN's Holly Rowe walked past me yelling at a co-worker to "stop her!", meaning the 6-foot-8 big kid Brittney Griner, who was running off the court. Rowe just wanted an interview.

Then walking in front of me the other way suddenly was Candace Parker with her extremely tall daughter in hand. She walked over to East coach, and former Sparks coach Michael Cooper, and they had a hug.

I went to both locker rooms. It was funny because though Diana Taurasi only scored four points in the game, most all of the media was crowded around her. So I just walked up to Skylar Diggins and started asking questions. She was truly appreciative to be there, and seemed humbled by it all. She really worked hard in the off-season to improve all aspects of her game, from outside shooting to ballhandling right and left to conditioning. I respect that.

I don't know if fans truly grasp just what a silly person Maya Moore is. I appreciate her for that.

Tamika Catchings talked to me about her changing perspective as a veteran, and about how she'd like to impart her legacy as being one of hard work and having the fire to play hard. I think that's in the bag.

Chiney and Schimmel shared a press conference for the East, and were very complimentary of one another. Chiney stressed that most of the players have played together for a long time, and said she and Schimmel go way back, to a big smile from Schimmel.

As I stood in the back, Schimmel's family started flooding in, surrounding me. The WNBA had let them come in for the conference. Seventeen members in all, of four generations, with most wearing Schimmel 23 headbands. I will have a story on this later.

I hope next year's All-Star game is somewhere in the middle of the country, so I can go again. What a blast.

2015 Women's Basketball Hall of Fame to induct six

Next year's inductees into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame will include Lisa Leslie, Janeth Arcain, Gail Goestenkors, Janet Harris, Brad Smith and the late Kurt Budke.

All-Star roundtable

Catchings, Taurasi, Parker and Moore discuss.

Friday, July 18, 2014

All-Star madness

Festivities began today in Phoenix, with an open practice by the East and West teams for fans.

My story on the open practices.

The WNBA has an All-Star blog going, which includes video of the amazing dunks of Glory Johnson and Brittney Griner.

The WNBA's twitter has so many great pictures and videos from today.

Sky forward Jessica Breland is basking in the All-Star glow.

Shock guard Skylar Diggins is an All-Star on and off the court.

Diana Taurasi interview.

Non-All-Star news:

The Sun have signed Ebony Hoffman and waived Kelley Cain.

Lindsay Whalen and Maya Moore are filling the void for the Lynx.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Heading into the All-Star game with a bang

Today's results:

The Shock edged the Stars, 95-90.

The Fever routed the Sky, 82-64.

The Mercury crushed the Sun, 101-85.

The Mystics squeaked past the Sparks, 79-75.

All-Star game:

Diana Taurasi is the star of the All-Star show, one publication says.

Brittney Griner is set for her first healthy All-Star game.

During Friday's open practices, the Ogwumike sisters will interview Tamika Catchings and Maya Moore.

General WNBA:

ESPN gives midseason team grades.

A conversation between Tamika Catchings and Diana Taurasi.

Team news.....

Lynx:

For the Lynx, home court advantage is key.

Minnesota enters the All-Star break on a roll.

Nadirah McKenith podcast.

Mercury:

A deflecting coach Sandy Brondello leads the Mercury's rise.

College news:

The trial date for former Tennessee associate director of sports medicine Jenny Moshak and strength coaches Heather Mason and Colin Schlosser has been moved to next June.

In the meantime, Pat Summitt won't have to testify in former media relations director Debby Jennings' lawsuit against UT.

Taj McWilliams-Franklin is a new assistant coach at Boston University.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

ESPY basketball winners

Winners in tonight's ESPY Awards include the following:

Best WNBA player: Maya Moore, Minnesota Lynx

Best Coach/Manager: Geno Auriemma, UConn

All-Star replacements named

Sue Bird will replace the injured Seimone Augustus, and Ivory Latta will step in for the ill Elena Delle Donne in Saturday's All-Star game. Now all 12 WNBA teams will be represented in the festivities.

Star-like contemplations:

The Indy Star ruminates on who the greatest female player might be.

Today's other game result:

The Lynx beat the Shock, 93-82. Maya Moore had 32 points.

More WNBA news.....

Sparks:

Well well well: looks like the Sparks are having a Pride night after all.

Mercury:

Brittney Griner is blossoming after a tough rookie season.

Lynx:

...are getting healthy.

College news:

Michelle Baker is Drexel's new assistant coach.

Minnesota player are adjusting to the style of new coach Marlene Stollings.

So far today......

Today's results so far:

A Cappie Pondexter bank shot as time expired lifted the Liberty over the Dream, 77-75.

Dream:

Delisha Milton-Jones is out for the season with a partially-ruptured Achilles tendon in her right foot. She will remain in Atlanta, with the team.

Lynx:

Damiris Dantas has overcome the language barrier to solidify her spot with Minnesota.

ESPY's:

....are tonight at 6 p.m. PDT/9 p.m. PDT on ESPN.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Notre Dame-bound Brianna Turner is Gatorade's POY

Brianna Turner of Manvel High School in Manvel, Tex. is the Gatorade girl's basketball player of the year.

Turner, whose accomplishments are many, is headed to Notre Dame this fall.

Sun, Sparks and Mercury prevail

Tonight's results:

The Sun trounced the Storm, 86-63.

The Sparks came from behind to beat the Fever, 86-78. Candace Parker's season-high 34 points put her 10 over for 3,000 career points.

The Mercury downed the Mystics, 90-78.

More WNBA news.......

Shock:


Skylar Diggins' former college coach, Muffet McGraw, is not surprised by the point guard's second-year success in the pros.

Lynx:

Rebekkah Brunson takes another step towards returning to the Minnesota starting lineup.

Young players are stepping up for the Lynx.

Today's practice report.

Bidness

WNBA business items:

Atlanta rookie Shoni Schimmel currently has the league's most popular jersey, followed by Skylar Diggins, Elena Delle Donne, Maya Moore and Candace Parker.

The Dream have named Maureen Brown as their Chief Operating Officer.

All-Star news:

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton and the Mercury dedicated "All-Star Way" today.

Shoni Schimmel is ready to embrace her All-Star appearance.

College news:

UCLA's Lauren Holiday will take a medical retirement from basketball.

A settlement has been reached in the lawsuit over the plane crash that killed two Oklahoma State University coaches in 2011.

The NCAA made a $32 million profit last year.

Louisville coach Jeff Walz is ready to replace the veterans he lost last spring.

Daisha Simmons - first of Rutgers and then Alabama - is now at Seton Hall, after a messy transfer.

All-Star reserves named

The Eastern and Western Conference All-Star reserves were named earlier today. Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike are the first sister pair to be All-Stars in the same season.

Eastern Conference Reserves:

Jessica Breland, Frontcourt (Chicago Sky)
Tina Charles, Frontcourt (New York Liberty)
Erika de Souza, Frontcourt (Atlanta Dream)
Katie Douglas, Backcourt (Connecticut Sun
Briann January, Backcourt (Indiana Fever)
Chiney Ogwumike, Frontcourt (Connecticut Sun)

Western Conference Reserves:

Seimone Augustus, Backcourt (Minnesota Lynx)
Candice Dupree, Frontcourt (Phoenix Mercury)
Glory Johnson, Frontcourt (Tulsa Shock)
Nneka Ogwumike, Frontcourt (Los Angeles Sparks)
Danielle Robinson, Backcourt (San Antonio Stars)
Lindsay Whalen, Backcourt (Minnesota Lynx)

Monday, July 14, 2014

League still chasing the Mercury

ESPN's power rankings for the week:

There have been shifts on the list.....

1. Mercury
2. Dream
3. Lynx
4. Fever
5. Sparks
6. Mystics
7. Storm
8. Stars
9. Liberty
10. Connecticut
11. Sky
12. Shock

Players of the week:

Maya Moore and Angel McCoughtry are the Western and Eastern Conference players of the week.

Shock:

Angel Goodrich's adjustment.

Liberty:

Katie Smith has transitioned from player to coach.

Lynx:

The success of Maya Moore.

Moore played in a celebrity softball game yesterday, after the game against Seattle.

Mercury:

Penny Taylor's belief in herself is paying off.

Storm:

Coach Brian Agler talks about the team's struggles.

Minnesota fans showed impressive sportsmanship when Shekinna Stricklen was injured yesterday.

Sun:

The Sun just aren't ready to be good right now.

Stars:

Unsung Jayne Appel doing little things for the Stars.

For Ogwumikes, rivalry begins with ambition

Awesome story on Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike:

“I don’t use the term leader lightly,” said Rice, who was Chiney’s faculty mentor at Stanford. “Whatever career they find themselves in, they will eventually end up on top of that career. They’re going to be transformative personalities.”

Before the game, both sisters were more eager to talk about a basketball clinic they held Saturday for local girls, rather than the impending rivalry. During family visits to Nigeria, where Ify and her husband, Peter, lived before moving to the United States for college, the sisters decided to prioritize the promotion of sports and education for young girls in Africa.........

Nneka’s bruising interior strength helped the Sparks pull away in the third quarter, as they outscored the Sun, 30-10. Nneka finished with a game-high 24 points, and Chiney led the Sun with 18.
Continue reading the main story Continue reading the main story
Continue reading the main story

Chiney also played a game-high 32 minutes. In only 21 professional games, she has established herself as a potential franchise player. Recently, Coach Anne Donovan called Chiney a “very unique, very special” player.

Though Chiney was under her sister’s tutelage as an underclassman at Stanford, Rice said she saw tremendous maturation after Nneka graduated. “Chiney had to carve out her own territory in a place where Nneka was revered,” Rice said, noting that as a senior Chiney received the Sterling Award, one of the university’s top individual honors.


In other news:

The Liberty have signed Natasha Lacy to a seven-day contract. She replaces Chucky Jeffery.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Mercury and Dream still red hot

Today's results:

The Sparks pounded the Sun, 90-64. Nneka Ogwumike lead Los Angeles with 24 points, and Chiney lead Connecticut with 18. Very fitting, as a large contingent of the Ogwumike's family made the trip for the sister's first meet up as professionals.

ESPN cautions that it's much too early to say the Sparks have turned a corner.

I couldn't agree more.

The Lynx routed the Storm, 77-60, lead by Maya Moore's 26 points. Minnesota had overcome a funky start.

Prayers are up for Shekinna Stricklen, who was taken off the court on a stretcher after colliding with Tan White.

The Mercury have won ten straight, after downing the Stars, 90-61. Phoenix looks like they may never lose again.

The Dream edged the Sky, 81-79, thanks to a pair of free throws in the game's closing seconds.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Dream and Mystics romp

Tonight's results:

The Dream routed the Fever, 93-74.

The Mystics downed the Shock, 91-74.

Tomorrow's games:

As the Sparks visit the Sun, the Ogwumike sisters will go head-to-head. But it's all love.

More WNBA news.....

Shock:


The Shock are dealing with a string of close losses, and look to break the streak.

Lynx:

Rookie Tricia Liston is turning the corner with confidence.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A night of no surprises

Today's results:

The Mystics beat the Sky, 72-65.

The Mercury routed the Storm, 78-58.

The Stars downed the Liberty, 80-66. Rookie Kayla McBride lead San Antonio with 30 points.

More WNBA news.....

Sun:


Kelsey Griffin is doing all the right things for the Sun.

Renee Montgomery talks about reading.

Mystics:

A minute with Kia Vaughn.

College news:

Vanderbilt's Rebekah Dahlman is back after last December's health scare.

Top Pitt recruit Naje Gibson didn't meet academical eligibility requirements and is off to junior college.

Off topic, but cool as heck:

Six powerful women in men's sports.

Liberty trade Milton-Jones to Atlanta for Cash

The Liberty and the Dream have traded Delisha Milton-Jones and Swin Cash.

Strange trade. Not sure what to make of it.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

All-Stars lead the way tonight

The just-named All-Stars were shining tonight.

Angel McCoughtry paced the Dream past the Sun, 83-71, with 22 points.

Tamika Catchings lifted the Fever over the Shock, 78-76, with 23 points.

Maya Moore lead the Lynx over the Sparks, 83-72, with 30 points.

More WNBA news.....

Sun:


Chiney Ogwumike visited CNN yesterday.

Sky:

Rookie Jamierra Faulkner is catching on quickly in the WNBA.

Dream:

Q&A with Angel McCoughtry.

Storm:

....are dreaming of the playoffs.

College news:

LSU has added transfer Alexis Hyder, from North Texas.

Ashley Saia is now an assistant coach at Miami, Ohio.

Jimmy Colloton has been named an assistant coach at Navy.

All-Star starters announced

The WNBA All-Star starters:

Western Conference

Diana Taurasi
Skylar Diggins
Maya Moore
Candace Parker
Brittney Griner


Eastern Conference

Shoni Schimmel
Cappie Pondexter
Elena Delle Donne
Angel McCoughtry
Tamika Catchings


The reserves will be chosen by coaches, and announced next week.

More details on voting.

ESPN the body issue is out

Angel McCoughtry pictures......wow:

One

Two

Three

Monday, July 7, 2014

Larry Burnett: a Sparks life well-lived

Not too many can say they've been with a professional sports team for 17 years, but longtime broadcaster Larry Burnett can.

He called games, did color commentary and conducted post-game interviews for the Los Angeles Sparks since their first season in 1997. He saw the Sparks raise two WNBA Championship banners, witness numerous heart-stopping game moments, and he watched dozens of players cycle through the roster over the years.

But prior to the beginning of this season's training camp, Burnett was one of a few employees that weren't retained by the Sparks after Magic Johnson bought the team in February. Burnett has since moved on, but he carries many memories of working with the Sparks. He recently sat down with me to reminisce.

"In the early days of the team especially, there was a lot of laughter. The team had so much fun together," Burnett said. "The bus rides were some of the best times, as players told jokes, sang songs and played pranks on each other."

Coach Michael Cooper, who now heads up the Atlanta Dream, and Karleen Thompson, who is his assistant there, were once coach and player for Los Angeles. Burnett said Thompson was one of the funniest people he'd ever met.

"Cooper and Thompson had a running joke, and it would carry throughout the duration of road trips," he said. "They had us all laughing."

Then there was Haixia Zheng - the 6-foot-8-inch, 254-pound center from China who played for the Sparks their first two seasons. At the time, she was the biggest player in the league, and intimidated opponents.

"She was huge," Burnett recollected. "Trying to fit into airplane seats was an episode for her."

Zheng, however, was a gentle giant, and she loved children.

"In airports she'd see a complete stranger with a baby and she'd walk over and pick it up," Burnett said. "You should have seen the looks on some of those mom's faces."

Burnett recalls one of the Sparks' Championship parade celebrations, which ended at City Hall. At one point during the festivities, then-Mayor James Hahn got up on a table and started dancing.

"I'd never seen a politician do that," Burnett said.

For all the memories, Burnett can rank his top three:

1. Lisa Leslie's dunk against the Miami Sol in 2002, which marked the first time a WNBA player dunked in a game. (The record stood until 2008, when Sparks rookie Candace Parker dunked).

"I was glad to be in the upper broadcast area that night, because I could see the play - and the possibility - evolving," Burnett said. "The call might not have been as good had we been broadcasting courtside. I was pleased that I didn't screw up the call for history sake."

2. Nikki Teasley's three-point shot, which was good enough to put LA over the Liberty for the 2002 Championship.

"I don't think anyone has ever heard it, but I loved the call," Burnett said. "Since it was the Finals, the television network took over and we weren't allowed to do our Sparks' broadcast, so I took a tape recorder to Staples Center and called the game."

"I thought that if the Sparks won the title, they should have a copy of the game with their broadcaster calling it. That finish was exciting! I can still see Nikki T stepping up and knocking down that shot."

3. Kristi Toliver's game-winner versus Tulsa in 2012.

"That was pure passion and excitement from my perspective," Burnett said. "The game had so many ebbs & flows, so many momentum shifts."

"Kristi had a horrible game, but never gave up. Her persistence paid off in a huge way. Sometimes I surprise myself when I listen back to a tape and hear how excited I got. That may have been as excited as I ever got during my 16 seasons with the Sparks. That was a really fun call."

Larry Burnett's website is: www.larrybmedia.com, and his twitter is @larryburnett.

Rank this

This week's ESPN power rankings:

1. Mercury
2. Dream
3. Lynx
4. Stars
5. Fever
6. Sun
7. Sky
8. Sparks
9. Liberty
10. Storm
11. Shock
12. Mystics

Seattle Times reporter Jayda Evans also has power rankings:

1. Mercury
2. Dream
3. Lynx
4. Stars
5. Sun
6. Fever
7. Sparks
8. Sky
9. Liberty
10. Shock
11. Storm
12. Mystics

swishappeal.com has a WNBA team midseason report card:

Atlanta A-
Connecticut B
Chicago C-
Indiana B-
New York D+
Washington B

Phoenix A
Minnesota B+
San Antonio B+
Los Angeles D+
Seattle C-
Tulsa B

Statistical explanation for rankings is here.

swishappeal.com ranks the rookies:

1. Chiney Ogwumike
2. Odyssey Sims
3. Bria Hartley
4. Anna Cruz
5. Alyssa Thomas
6. Jamierra Faulkner
7. Kayla McBride
8. Damiris Dantas
9. Natasha Howard
10. Stefanie Dolson

Honorable mention:

Shoni Schimmel
Jordan Hooper
Tricia Liston

My team groupings are more simple for now. Teams are either surpassing preseason expectations, meeting expectations, or falling below expectations:

Surpassing expectations

Sun - They had such a dismal season last year, and this year had almost an entirely new roster. But they are pulling together and grinding out wins. When they get more experience and team chemistry, they'll be dangerous.

Mercury - Though Sandy Brondello has been a head coach before, she hadn't been known for a firebrand personality, and Phoenix is loaded with stars. Penny Taylor is healthy, Diana Taurasi has still got it, and Brittney Griner has grown leaps and bounds since last year. They are killing.

Stars - San Antonio didn't make out like bandits in the draft, with their only big fish being Kayla McBride. They began the season slowly, too, but have picked it up and are winning games. In numerous interviews, different players talk about team chemistry, playing for each other and coming together. That is the talk of champions.

Meeting expectations

Dream - No surprise that Atlanta is kicking butt. The defending Eastern Conference champs returned almost everyone, added super-rookie Shoni Schimmel, and got Michael Cooper as coach.

Lynx - I may have been the only one who predicted Minnesota wouldn't have an easy walk to the Western Conference playoffs this year. Beginning the season with eight healthy players takes a while to come back from. Whether or not the Lynx can pull it together still remains to be seen.

Storm - Coach Brian Agler has a penchant for veterans, and Seattle may have the oldest roster in the league. They're going to need more young players if they want to stay relevant.

Shock - They are doing about as well as I expected them to, and the improvement from last year is sharp and optimistic for fans. Skylar Diggins gets props for improving her game over the winter.

Falling below expectations

Sky and Fever - I put them together because it's the same story: none of the injuries/illnesses that have plagued both teams could have been foreseen. If either squad had been healthy so far this year, things would be much different.

Sparks - What can I say that hasn't been said by seemingly every fan of the league? No one expected an all-star roster to under-perform the way Los Angeles has so far this season. Of course some of that has been due to the absence of key players, but a lot of it has been lack of chemistry and just plain bad basketball. In a post-game interview last week, one of the Sparks' starters said they hadn't yet addressed the issues. They might want to before they're automatically eliminated from the playoffs.

Liberty - Coach Bill Laimbeer won two rings with the former Detroit Shock, and fans thought last season's poor Liberty record was just a fluke. Their terrible start this year indicates otherwise. New York has won three straight as of yesterday, putting a glimmer of hope in the hearts of fans. Let's see if they can maintain it.

Mystics - Washington did well last year, and they only embellished their roster this season with two top rookies and a great veteran. Coach Mike Thibault's basketball IQ is through the roof. So why are they struggling? More importantly, are they going to get it together?

Feast your eyes on these interesting tidbits

Sparks:

Candice Wiggins has tweeted that her first night back from injury will be tomorrow night, against the Lynx.

Liberty:

The Liberty are starting to get it together.

Sun:

As Allison Hightower undergoes a knee procedure, the Sun have signed Briana Gilbreath-Butler to a seven-day contract.

Sky:

Courtney Vandersloot discusses hard screens and injury recovery.

Dream:

...have launched a program for youth basketball coaches, student athletes and their parents. Good for them.

Storm:

Jenna O'Hea plays on.

Mystics:

A minute with Ivory Latta.

General WNBA:

The league has named Tina Charles and Diana Taurasi the Eastern and Western Conference players of the week.

College news:

The NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Committee is exploring ways to reduce championship expenses.

Duke's Alexis Jones will transfer to Baylor.

2016 Olympics:

Preparations for the 2016 Games are "the worst ever," says the IOC commissioner. Uh oh......

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Do we have a problem, Houston?

...because the Liberty upended the Lynx, 87-80. Tina Charles lead New York with 32 points.

The magic number for Diana Taurasi was also 32 points. She lead the Mercury over the Sparks, 94-89. Brittney Griner threw down a one-handed dunk in the fourth quarter.

More WNBA news.....

Lynx:


Janel Mccarville is a subtle difference in Minnesota's lineup.

College news:

Vanderbilt transfer Kady Schrann has a fresh start at FGCU.

USA Basketball:

The U17 team fought to the finish with Spain, and pulled out a 77-75 victory for the World Championship title.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

WNBA "cashing out on pride" campaign - well, nine teams are

Apparently, the WNBA's new LGBT Pride campaign this year is a success:

At that game two weeks ago between the Chicago Sky and the Tulsa Shock, the Sky Guy, Chicago’s aviation themed mascot, wore a rainbow boa. A couple of players wore rainbow colored shoes. Sky fan Chris Woodard admitted that rainbows aren’t exactly a new sight around the league.

“I have a Mystics t-shirt that’s a rainbow and that must be 10 years old,” Woodard said. “Of course, sometimes a rainbow’s just a rainbow. But it’s very impressive that they took that step, I think. Very impressive.”

That anything at all was different on that Sunday afternoon was lost on some fans. Bryce Jones-Leonard, a veteran of at least ten Sky home games, didn’t even seem to know what it meant when he was told that he was attending the WNBA Pride game.

“Oh yeah, my spirit is up for that,” he said. “Just ready to see this win!”


Bryce Jones-Leonard's attitude is freakin awesome.

It's ironic that the Los Angeles Sparks courted the lesbian community 13 years ago, because they're one of three WNBA teams this summer that don't have a Pride game. The other two are the Sun and Stars.

It makes me wonder why. If it was good enough in 2001, why isn't it OK now, when Los Angeles is that much more advanced - as the rest of the world - in LGBT acceptance? Connecticut is one of the most supportive women's basketball states, and has never been known for homophobia.

Why, when players are doing "pride twitter takeovers," and gay and straight players alike are sporting rainbow-colored shoes, don't all 12 of the league's teams have a Pride night?

Gotta fix that.

Still nothing certain in the WNBA

Today's results:

The Stars slipped by the Fever, 71-70, thanks to a last-second Kayla McBride trey.

The Sun snapped a losing streak by edging the Shock, 78-76.

The Storm beat the Sky, 80-73.

In tonight's only big win, the Dream downed the Mystics, 86-73.

More WNBA news......

Liberty:

Analyst Ros Gold-Onwude analyzes the Liberty at the halfway point of the season.

Mercury:

Brittney Griner has taken on bullying in a big way.

College news:

Jenni Benningfield has been named an assistant coach at Colorado.

USA Basketball news:

The U17 women ran away with a semifinal win in the World Championship games, routing Hungary 91-63. Katie Lou Samuelson set a USA record with six three-point shots in the game. The USA will play also-unbeaten Spain for the gold medal tomorrow.

Dori Oldaker has been named head coach of the Youth Olympic Games team.

Friday, July 4, 2014