Monday, August 31, 2009

Sparks 91, Sun 81

Not to be disrespectful, but I don't understand Sparks Coach Michael Cooper's substitutions. Never have. Prime example was last night when Candace Parker began the game playing like a wild woman, pulling down every board possible. For the first few minutes of the quarter, she had all the Sparks' rebounds. Not to mention all the points she was putting up. If this is her version of 80-85 percent back, then people should be scared. But right in the middle of this rampage, Cooper sat her down.

Same thing happened later in the game when he finally put Betty Lennox in. Of course, Betty went to town. She was driving, penetrating - the whole bit. She got her own rebound twice, and was making everyone else on the floor look slow. Lennox was putting up points, but Cooper pulled her too.

It confuses many of us in my section.

Lisa Leslie and Noelle Quinn had been sick and were not up to their respective full speeds, but the Sparks were on fire. The crowd and I loved their energy.

But not everyone was happy. Both Parker and Leslie each took aside a player and talked to her emphatically for a long few seconds. I have no idea what it was about, but I loved that they each did that. Very leaderly of them.

Tan White and Anete Jekabsone-Zogota were beasts for the Sun. But a few Connecticut players had some thuggish moments out there. It didn't help that the reffing was atricious on both ends of the floor.

Attendence 11,072!! Next up, ATL tomorrow. I just wish Chamique Holdsclaw was with them.

CP was hyped before the game.....

.....and during the game.

Delisha Milton-Jones boxes out in the first quarter.

CP passes it to Tina Thompson in the second quarter.

Marianne Stanley stands up to coach the game.

The Sun's Amber Holt tries to get past the Sparks defense.

Holt takes a shot in the fourth quarter.

CP inbounds the ball late in the game.

Post-game huddle.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Ups and downs of west coast WNBA teams

The Seattle Storm clinched a playoff berth Thursday night, only to find out today that all-star center Lauren Jackson has a stress fracture in her back and is out indefinitely. (What a frightening injury!) Tonight the Storm fought it out in two overtimes to beat Atlanta, 91-84. Last year Jackson was injured at about this time, and had to sit out for a spell. This is not the kind of deja vu Seattle wants.

In the meantime, Candace Parker is set to play against Connecticut tomorrow, but teammates Lisa Leslie and Noelle Quinn might not be. And just when the Sparks got a full lineup back......

Sacramento actually won! Beat Indiana, 79-78. Lisa Willis didn't play, and I didn't know Kara Lawson was out with knee tendinitis.

Sparks at da beach today

Kind of an obscure annoucement, as I found out about it Thursday night from a flyer I picked up at the door on the way into the game. But the Sparks will be cleaning up Santa Monica Beach today from 2-4 p.m. I will be at the "end of summer" picnic for the club ball team my kids are on, but I hope anyone who goes takes some pictures. I also hope the Sparks wear sunblock, as it's supposed to be 94 degrees today.

Friday, August 28, 2009

'Round the WNBA, and a bit of college

Heyyyy.....Lisa Willis has a new job playing for the Monarchs. The LA native, who played for the Sparks and the Liberty before being cut last spring, was signed to a seven-day contract today to play up north. I guess all that pickup at the gym has paid off.

Meanwhile, today another LA native and UCLA alumni - Noelle Quinn - hosted a Nike event in Hollywood today for the Chatsworth High School basketball team. Lucky girls.

And surprise, surprise: Kat Lyons is back at Marist, and playing for the team. She is the player whose scholarship was cut after she admitted depression. A lawsuit she brought against the University was thrown out last month.

Finally, Nikki Caldwell hasn't has a "pondering" on twitter in a while, but today's is a doozy:

Nikki Caldwell Pondering: Why do fat chance and slim chance mean the same thing?

I'm still smiling four hours later.

Mercury 98, Sparks 90

The starting lineup was the one I'd been dreaming about: Lennox at the 1, Quinn at 2, Milton-Jones at 3, Thompson hanging on 4, and Leslie at 5. But that lineup stayed in for only a few minutes before substitutions began.

Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton (14) was one of the first substitutions, which surprised me. Above, she battles DeWanna Bonner under the hoop.

The Spark Kids did a tribute to Michael Jackson, who's birthday is Saturday, during a timeout. The kids have mad skills.

Lots of scrambling in this physical game. Here, Marie Ferdinand-Harris fights with Cappie Pondexter for the ball.

Second-quarter action.

Bonner = ROY?

Both teams fought hard in the fourth quarter, but the Mercury squeaked it out.

I've never seen Pondexter with the 'do she was sportin last night. She played like an animal.


The Sparks tried, they really did. No one could fault them for not finishing, because they left it all on the floor - especially Lisa Leslie and Betty Lennox. But when you're missing Candace Parker, you're missing a lot.

Before I'd left for the game, I saw Parker's twitter that her daughter was sick, indicating how worried she was. So when I got to Staples Center and saw she wasn't on the floor, I knew what was wrong. Mechelle Voepel summed it up well. Co-owner Kathy Goodman was philosophical.

Much of it was a slugfest between the two teams. Lookit all the fouls on both sides. Then there was the score; the Sparks haven't put up that many points since the last time Phoenix came to town. This tells me that LA plays to the level of the other team, which has disturbing implications.

The Sparks players who get the most applause when they come out are, in no particular order because there is none: Shannon Bobbitt, Marie Ferdinand-Harris and Betty Lennox. Crowd favorites, one and all.

Finally, I've been impressed with the size of the Staples crowd the last several games. Almost 10,000 last night.

Hopefully CP will help us kick Connecticut butt Sunday.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

You've had Bear warning

You don't want to get chased by a Cal Bear this year.

Holdsclaw has knee surgery

Whoa - didn't see this one coming. And she's listed day-to-day? Wow.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Slamonline produces great Sparks story


I've felt this way for years, as I've seen some extremely cute moments:

I’ll also say this for the women — it’s really, really, really hard not to love any women’s team sport when you see the genuine team spirit and affection the players have for one another just before they come out. The Sparks show the team’s in-tunnel warmup ritual just before they come out, and it’s impossible not to crack a smile when you see just how much these women love what they do for a living, and how much they love playing with each other.

And in the "THANK you!" Department:

The women come out for warmups, and I can say this much — when the women take elbow jumpers, they really do seem more fundamentally sound than the guys do. The elbows are in, they go straight up every time, and they drain the 15-footers with stunning regularity. The results aren’t nearly as good when they start taking deeper jumpers, but it’s clear that the WNBA really does feature more players who truly understand how the mid-range J is meant to be shot.

Giving the women credit - love it.

Sparks on a six-game winning streak (!!)

Tamera Young puts one up for the Sky in the first quarter...but it misses. Sparks Coach Michael Cooper let Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton play a lil bit in the first quarter (left, boxing out).

The Sparks had all-pink uniforms, the first time I'd seen a team do that. The T-shirts were pink. The "Old School Crew" had on pink. It was too much.

Another Sky shot rims off.

I forgot Mistie Bass played for the Sky until last week when I was (trying to) watch a Chicago game online. I think the reason is because Bass has dropped so much weight. She really looks great now.

Before the game, Shelden Williams had reminded fans, via twitter, to wear pink to the game. Big homey represented himself, too.

This is in the fourth quarter when the Sparks were coming on strong.

Note: school has started again for teachers, hence the late post. Weeknight games will probably be like that now......

Monday, August 24, 2009

Walz and Louisville "cashing in" on last season's success

Recruiting has become easier for one of my favorite NCAA coaches since playing for the championship last April.

More pictures and stories for Lady Vol nuts

So many warm fuzzies in this piece on yesterday's Sparks-Dream game. All those huggin pics, and all that orange in the house warms a fan's heart. But maybe the cutest pic of the bunch is of Shelden Williams feeding Lailaa. Awww.

In the meantime, three-degreed Nicky Anosike is never satisfied. She's such a hard worker - I wish the Lynx were doing better right now.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Reversal of fortunes

So let me get this right: Eastern Conference first-place Indiana is on a two-game losing streak, while last-place New York just won their second in a row.

In the Western Conference, Los Angeles is solidly in third place after a big win over Atlanta today that puts them at 13-13. They are two games ahead of both San Antonio and Minnesota, both of whom lost today and have 11-16 records.


The biggest change in the league is with the Sparks, who have won five in a row after dropping a home game Aug. 14 to Sacramento. The night after that they beat the Monarchs at their house, and in back-to-back games last week, the Sparks took care of Washington and Minnesota. Still, I didn't want to say anything or get too excited in case what seemed to be a comeback wasn't for real.

But then they beat San Antonio Friday night - the first time they'd won there since 2006. And the win moved the Sparks into third place. I started to believe in the comeback. Now today's win over Atlanta, in which Candace Parker put up a season-high 23 points, while four other players scored in double figures. That looks like some team basketball. (Mad props to the Dream, too - especially Iziane Castro-Marques and Angel McCoughtry).

QMcCall at RethinkingBasketball says the Sparks are setting the stage for a hero narrative if they keep it up, because team members have had so many obstacles thrown at them this season. I agree that the hero's comeback is a theme that's missing from women's sports.

Game story here from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Love this:

“”It was funny,” Parker said, “I was standing at the free throw line and one of my teammates shot the ball and I swear I could hear Pat in my head saying, ‘Go to the boards’. She didn’t say anything on the sideline, but I could hear her in my head. And I ran up there knowing what she was thinking."

I guess we'll see if any other teams want to attempt a comeback, and we'll see if the Sparks can keep theirs up. They play the Chicago Sky on Tuesday.

Edit to add: Shelden Williams just twittered wife Candace Parker to say he'll never doubt her again. That she'd said they'd win the next four games but he had his doubts because of the way the Sparks played earlier this season. Now, he says, he's a believer.

That's deep.

I wonder what Candace thinks about the next four games.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Lady Vol fans: pictures of first practices

MM Cornelius always keeps us updated. She's got general photos, post photos and guard photos.


News: judge throws out Marist player's lawsuit, former UW players unite for a cause

Katheryn Lyons' lawsuit was dismissed last month by a judge. Lyons had claimed discrimination after school officials suspended her and rescinded her scholarship after they found she was suffering from psychological problems. What a sad story.

In Seattle, former University of Washington players have united to help another former teammate who suffers from Multiple Sclerosis. I would comment on the story, but I'm too disturbed and bothered by the fact that longtime Seattle Times sports columnist Steve Kelley referred to former UW coach June Daugherty as "Jill Daugherty" in the piece. The copy editors didn't catch it either, as they put the errant name in the online subhead, too.

Unusual circumstance: Notre Dame returns entire roster

Though the second sentence of this piece is a little misleading, the point is that the Irish have plenty of returning experience this year.

"Good" coach

The other day I asked for reader comment on what defines a good coach. I really liked what two readers had to say:

Different levels of coaching have different skills attached in addition to some of the basic necessities. A good coach at any level has to recognize what their players bring to the table and come up with ways to use those skills effectively. They should also be able to change their game plan when circumstances change. Sitting in the stands, I should be able to figure out what that coach has in mind- why they're doing what they're doing. Their moves shouldn't seem random. A good coach should also be able to communicate effectively with their team so those strategies get put into place, and understand that communication takes different forms.

A professional coach has to be a people person- they're dealing with people who are pretty well set in their ways, and are adults in their own right. They have to be good at explaining themselves, because their players have the background to question their ideas.

A college coach has to be a little more nurturing. I hate that word, but it's the only one coming to mind for what I want to say. You've got people who maybe are far from home, maybe for the first time, and in a prime position to do really stupid things.....I think force of personality is more important here than it is on the pro level.

A high school coach has to balance the two- be diplomatic enough to deal with parents, principals, and other official-type people (while at the same time maintaining a backbone to tell any of the above to fuck off as necessary), while being a good influence on their players, who are in prime years for influencing.

If you prefer "answer by example", Mike Thibault is one of my favorites for his strategizing. Pat Summitt is the queen of changing her game plan to adjust to circumstances. Geno Auriemma is one of the best communicators I've ever seen. Ron Rothstein was incredibly skilled at fitting the right players into the right places. I could watch any of them coach and know why they make the moves they're making, which is my most basic criterion.

- Rebecca


I guess to keep it simple I'd say the following:

a) developing a strategy that b) maximizes player talent and c) being able to communicate and build relationships in ways that d) allow individuals to put faith in each other and function as a unit within the system.

At different levels the need to be a PR rep/player development expert/recruiter obviously effort vary...

And I know people say we cannot judge coaches because there is so much going on behind the scenes, but I think you can tell when a team is just completely uncoordinated simply by whether there are patterns in what they do.

It's what impresses me so much about the Sun. Even when they are missing Whalen or Jones, they are sticking to the same plan and everybody seems to buy into the system. You see patterns in what's occurring play to play, even if you don't know exactly what's occurring..



I like the way Rebecca defined good coaching per level of play, and she's right on the money. Being a good coach on the high school level is a completely different bag than being effective on the college and/or pro level. High school and college coaching does require more nurturing, for lack of a better word, which includes motivation. If a high school or college team gives up at the end of games or finds themselves in a slump, their coach better get in there and pump them up as well as give them the X's and O's. When motivational issues happen on the pro level, adult athletes need to take it upon themselves to regroup and elevate. What the Sparks are doing right now is a prime example of that.

QMcCall's example of the Connecticut Sun is outstanding. Even when missing two of their top players, they still play the same way, and according to the same system. This underscores his point D, having faith in teammates and functioning as a unit. That is key to a successful team, and of course it begins with the coach. This relates back to Rebecca's criterion of preferring to know why a coach is doing what she/he is doing, aka that the team seems to have some sort of scheme in mind during play.

Now for my own "good" coach hypothesis:

The first definition of a good coach is competence. That's an obvious one, because what's the first thing fans say when their team is on a losing streak? That the coach is an idiot and/or needs to go. A coach must have the faith of her/his players, or there will be no team upon which to build. Example: In June I was talking to a young woman I know who is playing for a major conference team that had a new coach last year. She said the coach is "dumb" and that she will leave the school after this year, and that other players felt the same way. If this is true, and the community feels the same way, this coach is in trouble.

Part of a coach's competence involves having a solid, working system that is also flexible. It's not enough to just have a team of athletes well-versed in the fundamentals that the coach has taught them; they must all be put together into a functional unit. Part of that depends upon the available personnel, and the coach must adjust every year. For example, are the players fast and can they run? Or are there a lot of tall athletes that can easily clog the lane? If there is a mixture of talent, how best to put them together? Whatever the case, the coach needs to get the team on the same page, and she needs to get atletes to buy into the system. When athletes believe in what they're doing, they execute.

Good communication is another essential component of effective coaches. A good coach needs to communicate well both with the team as a whole, and with individual players. The coach also needs to facilitate good communication between players on the high school and college levels. Studies (including my own Master's Thesis a few years ago) have shown that relationships with coaches and teammates effect female basketball playere more than their male counterparts. So effective coaches need to refrain from taking good relationships for granted, jump in and do some team-building exercises with their crew. Pat Summitt has been doing this for years, and young women who didn't know each other at all coming into Tennessee leave as good friends. Not to mention those eight large trophies.

Motivation is something else good coaches don't leave to chance. Particularly with younger athletes, it is not safe to assume that they will become or stay motivated on their own. I have seen many a good team have a bad few minutes, get discouraged and give up, and the game spiral downward. While this is happening, the coach isn't doing anything but providing game strategies and/or chewing them out.

Good coaches set goals with their athletes, both individually and as a team. And the coach keeps reminding her charges of those goals all season long. An effective coach also displays a positive attitude that she believes in her athletes. A counter-example of that is former Oregon Coach Bev Smith, who always looked like she needed severe doses of Prozac, and barely raised her voice at her team in any way. Why did Rutgers players ask Coach Vivian Stringer to stand up more during games last year? They probably wanted to feel like she was there for them instead of sitting on the bench shaking her head. Enthusiastic, interested coaches that quickly come to mind are Joanne Boyle, Geno Auriemma, Nikki Caldwell, Mike Thibault, Dawn Staley and Summitt.

Finally, there's caring. Kids consider their best teachers the ones who care about them, and the same is true of coaches. A good coach cares about the player both as a person and an athlete, and is willing to go to extra effort to help her, if necessary. Athletes who feel supported by their coach will play harder and be more loyal to her.

I have one more question for readers about coaching: is it possible to be a good coach at one school and a bad coach at another? Let me know what you think.

Pre-season Wooden Award candidates named

30 (actually 31 this year) young women are on a list now that will continue to be narrowed down throughout the season to one award winner. The Wooden Award is presented before the NCAA Championship each April.

Connecticut, Ohio State, Stanford and Gonzaga are the only schools with two-pre-season candidates.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Kristen O'Neill a Seattle U assistant?

Controversial website owner Glenn Nelson is reporting that Joan Bonvicini has hired former University of Washington forward Kristen O'Neill as her assistant coach at Seattle University. Nothing on the school's website or online yet.

Pure comedy

Courtesy of my man jammer at SportsPageMagazine, from Wednesday's game:

Good times, good times.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Define "good coach"

I haven't done this before, but I'm interested in reader opinion of one or more of the following questions:

What defines a "good coach"?

What makes a coach good or bad? Obviously there's winning. A coach that wins is never questioned. But there's more to it than winning.

What else defines a good coach besides winning?

How do winning/good coaches get their teams to win?

Can you be a good coach if your team wins but hates you/you're an asshole?

Can coaches whose teams have losing records more often than not be considered "good coaches"?

How many losing seasons does it take for a coach to be moved from "good" to "bad"?

I have my own thoughts, but I'd like to hear yours. Post your initials or a moniker after your statement so I can easily refer to you.

Noelle Quinn thriving in LA

I guess that permanent smile Quinn always wears is because she's so happy to be playing in her hometown. This is some great testimony from teammates past and present, and I love Coach Michael Cooper's quote:

"She's a great role player. I thought she came in and stepped up, played some big minutes and knocked some big shots down," guard Betty Lennox said of Quinn's career-high performance against Seattle. "That's what we need."

Yet Quinn is more than a spark off the bench. Blue described her as "one of the greatest people I've ever met," citing Quinn's friendship and support, which often entailed sending cards full of Bible scriptures. Sparks center Vanessa Hayden says she can "tell Noelle anything and I know it will remain between Noelle and I."

But it is Quinn's presence on the court that prompted Cooper to say, "She's linoleum, because she's all over the place."

Draft pick number doesn't mean much during regular season

Funny that in the WNBA, quite often the higher-picked rookies aren't the ones who end up shining as the season goes on. Mark Bodenrader talks about the issue on the dot-com. Terps Kristi Tolliver (third pick) and Marissa Coleman (second pick), have struggled to get their games on this summer, while DeWanna Bonner (fifth pick) and Shavonte Zellous (eleventh pick) have come out of nowhere and become leaders on their teams.

Some players adjust better to the WNBA game than others. In the same way that the International game is different from the US game, the W game is not the same as the college game. There are so many variations in the college game, too, with the number of coaches out there.

The moral of the story is that even if you play for a smaller school like Pittsburgh, as Zellous did, you can make it in the WNBA. That sounds so American.

Lady Vols begin individual workouts


(Thank god) there are only three frosh this year. Taber Spani sounds like she ate metal for breakfast. Kamiko Williams and Faith Dupree are probably laying in bed right now, staring at the ceiling:

Freshman Faith Dupree:
"The intensity was a lot higher than what it was in high school and I learned that we need to be loud and communicate with everyone on the floor. Having gone through high school with Coach Collier (former Lady Vol and Webb School coach Shelley Sexton-Collier), I thought I would be somewhat ready for the first day, but things were definitely more intense than high school."

Freshman Taber Spani:
"We waited all summer to get in here with the coaches and it's finally here; I'm really excited. This is my dream becoming a reality. I love the hard work, the focus and the intensity. You can tell what makes this staff and program special and why they've won eight national titles. I'm excited to go after number nine this year."

Freshman Kamiko Williams:
"This was a very different experience from high school, but I enjoyed it. In only a day, I was able to learn a lot and know what I need to improve upon. I've never had to play defense like this, so that was clear that I need to work on that part of my game. The coaches are all very good with details and communicating exactly what they want us to do."

Tina Thompson says no to 2012 Olympics

She's being honest, but this quote makes me sad:

"I'm tired," Thompson said after the Sparks' 78-63 victory over the Minnesota Lynx. "I'm getting older."

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Sun Devils have a new facility

And two players graciously take us on a tour in this video. Nice place! Love the humor, too.

Sparks 78, Lynx 63

Lisa Leslie had a ridiculous game, and in the process, lifted the Sparks to the win over Minnesota. She went an incredible 13-15, and was hitting shots from everywhere on the floor. She's had some big-scoring games lately, and frankly, I'm glad to see it. If you're going to retire, go out the way your fans remember you. Too bad Yo Griffith and Sheryl Swoopes couldn't do the same.

It was an exciting game because the Sparks were doing everything right: defending, rebounding, shooting. More importantly, they were taking the ball to the rack! Some really slick plays in the process - pure Hollywood - that got the crowd screaming and on its feet. Now that's more like it! It's the team I remember from last year (most of the time).

I feel sad for the Lynx, who I like. They were held in check tonight despite the efforts of Candice Wiggins, with 13 points. I can't help but wonder how they'd be doing if Seimone Augustus hadn't been injured.

So the battle for third and fourth place continues, as LA travels to San Antonio Friday. It's goin down!

There are two huddles before tipoff: the starters and the non-starters.

I wish this picture had come out better, because it was fun to see Shannon Bobbitt and Renee Montgomery square off again.

It was "UCLA Night," which meant both the female and male Bruin mascot were wandering around with Sparky during the first half. It also meant the Bruin team was recognized at a timeout (above). Very cool.

Another reason it was UCLA night is that Coach Nikki Caldwell (above) was honored at halftime as an Inspirational Woman. Excellent choice.

Grandmama (Coach Jennifer Gillom).

The Sparks took turns guarding Nikki Anosike. (#21)

That's Candace Parker's foot. She needed a stretch toward the end of the second quarter.

A grip of players, including Anosike and Leslie (above), were wrestling for the ball in the fourth quarter, and it took the refs forever to blow the whistle. I'm convinced they did it on purpose to see what would happen.

This is Halle Berry's back (doncha love the "Berry 1"?). Because as she was walking through the tunnel right below me, I was standing there staring for a minute before I remembered I should be taking pictures. She's shorter than I thought she would be.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Sparks 72, Mystics 69

The Sparks won at home!

Candace Parker gave Marie Ferdinand-Harris credit for her nine points in the final eight minutes. The authors of this recap also gave the credit to CP, who had yet another double-double. Lisa Leslie added a whoppin' 20 points. But I'd like to give credit to the entire Sparks team, which looked more like a team tonight than they have at points this season.

They were playing better defense, and were actually taking the ball to the hole instead of standing outside the perimeter jacking up shots. There was in-the-paint play! I was delighted.

The one thing I didn't like, though, was the intense physical play that the Mystics brought. They were taking it too far with the shoving and the pushing. I haven't seen the Sparks players hit the floor as many times in all the home games of the season than I did tonight. Washington's Chastity Melvin was T'ed up in the third quarter when she took her hand off the ball to push away the hand of Leslie, who was defending her. Nakia Sanford fouled out of the game in the fourth quarter, and the crowd was so happy they stood up to wave. Matee Avajon also fouled out, thankfully.

The irritation built up until the third quarter, when Leslie was going to the basket. She charged into (I think) Melvin and left her sprawling, then walked away. It was one of those things where there was just enough doubt that the refs didn't call it, but those of us who'd been watching the entire WWF match until then had a feeling Leslie probably did it on purpose. We giggled.

In the fourth quarter Leslie and Sanford tangled under the basket and Sanford landed on her butt as the whistle sounded. Leslie looked down at her, giving her the classic stare, and walked off. In the past, Leslie has been one of those physical players, and I didn't like her for it. But tonight I couldn't even be mad at her for pushing back at the Mystics; I would have done it too. And I even laughed when she did it.

Credit to the Mystics goes to Avajon, who came off the bench to lead her team in scoring, with 20. Lindsey Harding added 19.

Noelle Quinn continues to impress. The Sparks have a big gem in her.

Tina Thompson continues to slump. Hope she pulls out soon.

Tomorrow, Minnesota. I'm looking forward to seeing them in person.

First half play had the Mystics trying to score in front of the Sparks bench.

This is how timeouts have been looking lately: Assistant Coach Marianne Stanley talks to the team first......

.......and then steps aside while Cooper has a turn.

Candace Parker playin mad D in the second quarter.

In the third quarter, Tina Thompson (far right) swings a pass to the top of the key.

The handshake line was very civil in light of the way the teams had just played against one another.

Givin' my Lady Vols a bad time I: Shannon Bobbitt makes a muppet face during a timeout.

Givin' my Lady Vols a bad time II: A few seconds later, Candace sees something she doesn't like (I couldn't tell what it was).

Interesting WNBA transactions

Yesterday the Detroit Shock traded Kristin Haynie to the Sacramento Monarchs in exchange for Crystal Kelly. Today the Shock let Barb Farris' seven-day contact expire and signed Nikki Teasley.

If I didn't know better, I'd think Bill was back in charge.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Atlanta Dream explained

Pet at Pleasant Dreams answered my question as to why/how Atlanta is making a surge late this WNBA season. A big reason has to do with rookie Angel McCoughtry.

I shoulda known.

Eight players named to 2009-2012 US National Team

Eight gold medalists return:

Seimone Augustus
Sue Bird
Tamika Catchings
Sylvia Fowles
Kara Lawson
Candace Parker
Cappie Pondexter
Diana Taurasi


Sunday, August 16, 2009

WNBA standings

As of this moment, the league standings look like this:

Western Conference

Phoenix 17-8
Seattle 13-11
San Antonio 11-13
Minnesota 11-13
Los Angeles 9-13
Sacramento 7-18

Eastern Conference

Indiana 19-5
Atlanta 13-11
Washington 12-11
Connecticut 12-11
Chicago 13-12
Detroit 9-13
New York 8-15

Random musings:

Seattle. What happened? They started out so strong, and have had a grip of losses this month that have dropped their standing and killed their momentum. Jayda Evans of the Seattle Times promised she'd have some answers in a blog the other day, so I look forward to her theories.

Atlanta. What happened? No one expected them to be in second place in the East. What kind of Wheaties are they eating, juice are they drinking to keep winning so many games lately? Have they clicked together as a team? Maybe pt will know.

Is the Western Conference really that much more difficult than the Eastern Conference? I don't think so, but for some reason, four of six Western teams are below .500, compared to two of seven Eastern teams.

Sacramento. After seeing them in person Friday night, me and mine don't understand why they have the record that they do. As one of my section mates commented last night, "they've got some ballers!" Brunson and Powell, for starters. If Whisenant can't bring more out of them, he should fire himself.

Los Angeles. I didn't mention Friday that both Lisa Leslie and Candace Parker had heated words with Coach Michael Cooper during the game at one point. Tension on the team was visibly high, and as they all sulked into the tunnel after the game, I was thinking that you couldn't pay me enough to be on the plane yesterday morning. But they won in Sacramento, and handily, too. LA fans are hot, though. On the Sparks message board, people are calling for Cooper's head. Some have said that it's not his fault if all the vets can't mesh, and others say its his job to make them fit together.

I wonder if owners Kathy Goodman and Carla Christofferson have started thinking about a replacement for next year, yet? I really hope so.

T's Titans win Say No League high school division title

T's Titans defeated Fastbreak 48-17 yesterday for the Say No League high school division title. The Titans got off to a fast start, and never looked back. Their strong defensive play disrupted Fastbreak's offense, and their own cache of shooters kept knocking down shots through all four quarters. Titans Coach Therese Berner was extremely pleased with the efforts of her team.

"They played flawlessly - I couldn't have asked for more," Berner said. "It wasn't that Fastbreak played badly, but we just played so well today."

The Titans (blue jerseys) dominated the game from beginning to end.

Fastbreak battled valiantly until the end.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Fastbreak takes Say No League title

When all was said and done today, it was Fastbreak 44, LA Spirit 31.

Both teams were without 1-2 of their key players, so it was an even matchup. Fast Break got out to a strong start, but towards the end of the first half, defending champs LA Spirit went on an 8-0 run, cutting Fastbreak's lead to two. After a timeout, Fastbreak again hit the gas.

During the second half Fastbreak continued to dominate, even as play between the two teams got rough and the referees seemed hesistant to call fouls. Towards the end of the period, LA Spirit made a couple of mini-runs, but Fastbreak responded each time. They never trailed in the game.

Player of the game goes to Fastbreak's Crystal Givens-Johnson, who stepped up when a couple of her teammates were struggling and began putting up shots and pulling down boards. She is a fun player to watch because of her obvious passion for playing.

Tune in tomorrow for coverage of the high school championship game.

In the first half, Fast Break (white jerseys) built a strong lead from baskets such as the one above.

LA Spirit, shown above in the second half, was hustling hard........

......but often failed to finish the shot (above).

LA Spirit collects their second-place trophies (apologies for the bad flash).

New champs Fast Break are all smiles. Say No League director Rhonda Windham is at left.

That was fast: U16s win the gold!

USA 103, Canada 52.

Look at all those happy faces. A hell of a thing to have on your basketball resume - kicking the living crap out of all the competition at the games.

Congrats, young ladies.

"Lady Vol strength" - Amber Gray interview

Another deep piece by Maria Cornelius. Warning: you will get misty on this one. Here's how it starts:

One moment is seared in Tonya Carter’s mind. Her daughter, slumped in a wheelchair inside a warm van, is headed to a rehab center. Amber Gray can’t keep her eyes open, and she tells her mother that she is so tired. Carter turns away so her daughter can’t see the tears. When she turns back around, Gray, using her fingers to prop open her eyes, manages a smile and tells her mother not to cry.


Gray ended up boosting everyone’s spirits with her sense of humor, even when she could not even open her eyes to see.

“The way she’s handled it I will always remember that,” Summitt said. “Everybody is fighting back the tears, and she’s upbeat and positive. We’re all worried to death and, for her, everything is positive. One day I walked in her room and she said, ‘I smell you, Coach.’ She smells my perfume. I was sitting in the room, and she was asleep and Tonya and I were whispering. She goes, ‘I hear you, Coach.’

It looks like Gray now has an appreciation for life like never before:

It’s also easy to look back and realize that some of Gray’s struggles on the court could also have been related to the ticking time bomb in her head as the bulging area in the wall of an artery pressed on her brain. But Gray refused to look back.

“As much as I could use it as an excuse I really can’t at the same time because there are a lot of tough things in a lot of people’s lives, and you can always come up with an excuse, but you know what? At the end of the day we found it, we moved on, we got it out, and I’ve got to look forward,” Gray said.

Summitt smiles in admiration when Gray’s words are relayed to her.

“I remember when she first got here as a freshman she struggled to make the runs, and she would pull herself from practice,” Summitt said. “She is the complete opposite now. She understands how precious life is and just her will to get through what she got through is amazing."

And this is one of the reasons Pat Summitt is my only living hero:

“It’s so easy to respect Coach Summitt for what she has accomplished on the basketball court, but there’s not a member in my family that would not tell you that the level of love and support and compassion and care that she’s shown to Amber and the family over this time it takes my respect for her as a person to a completely different level.”

So happy for you, Amber Gray. Keep fighting.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Monarchs 85, Sparks 79

I figured out what's wrong.

Don't ask me how I found out, but the problem with the Sparks this year is that they can't all get on the same page. There are too many chiefs and not enough lieutenants. All those vets are used to playing their way, and are having trouble breaking out of two decades of those ways and habits to play with a team.

It's a valuable - albeit sad - lesson of team sports: you can have all the talent in the world, but if you can't put it together, you won't be much good for each other.

I'm not convinced it's all Coach Michael Cooper's fault. I've seen coaches whose players can't or won't execute what they tell them to. I've come across other coaches who were very knowledgeable but had zero ability to motivate their team. Things happen.

But it's just sad, because it seems like such a waste and a lost opportunity.

Highlight of the night for me: watching CP stand with the ball at the top of the key on one play. When the defender lunged toward her, CP put the ball behind her back - by palming it. Then she swung her arm back and forth twice, ball still in hand.

Someone (who obviously doesn't understand Lisa Leslie very well) on the rebkell board suggested LL would be the Sparks' new head coach next year. Someone else said Assistant Coach Marianne Stanley was being groomed for the job. If you saw their timeouts, where Stanley often does most of the talking (above), it would seem like that. But I was told three weeks ago that considerations for a new coach haven't begun yet. So we'll see.

Candace Parker was trying so hard tonight. She out-rebounded everyone on both teams, and took care of a lot of little things for the Sparks, who seemed like slugs compared to her. Parker, who had a baby three months and one day ago, also played more minutes than anyone on either team.

I see you, CP.

Nicole Powell unleashes yet another bucket for two of her 18 points on the night. The Sparks didn't seem to make any adjustments to her when she began the game strongly.

Ticha Penicheiro drives for the layup with about a minute to go. I wish the Sparks would attack the basket more.

Edit to add: Cooper is angry after loss:

"We had players running into each other like they don't even know each other," he said. "A coach can't coach that. I can only coach plays. I can't coach pride on defense. I can't coach on decision-making or shots or passes."

I knew it......