Let's see ... hire a new coach ... no, not the Storm as a team. In addition to getting holiday memories, we also asked Storm players about their New Year's resolutions. With the final sand pouring out of 2007's hourglass, it's time to share.
My best memories in life are when I lived life freely and chose to make each day a great day. So my New Year's resolution is to make as many memories as I can. Oh! And to learn Spanish because the Spainards [Robinson is playing for Hondarribia in Irun, Spain] do not understand anything I say over here. Even the ones that speak English can't understand "Southern" English. I feel like Charlie Brown's mom: "WOOMP WOOMP WOOMP WOOMP WOOMP WOOMP!!" LOL!
To be a better Christian!!!!!
Sue Bird is a not believer. We asked how she did on her 2007 resolutions and she answered, "I'm terrible at it so I stopped making resolutions a long time ago. :)"
Monday, December 31, 2007
Let's see ... hire a new coach ... no, not the Storm as a team. In addition to getting holiday memories, we also asked Storm players about their New Year's resolutions. With the final sand pouring out of 2007's hourglass, it's time to share.
Saturday, December 29, 2007
Sports Illustrated's "The Year in Sports" edition is on newsstands now and celebrates the year's best female athletes, one chosen from each sport. For best pro basketball player, the choice was clear: Storm forward Lauren Jackson. Writes SI's Kelli Anderson:
Jackson, 26, led the WNBA in scoring (23.8 points, a career best) and rebounding
(9.7 boards) en route to winning the league's MVP and Defensive Player of the
Year awards. Best of all, Jackson believes she has yet to reach her peak. "My
game is developing," she says. "I'm just getting better and better."
Jackson's teammate here and abroad, point guard Sue Bird, was at KeyArena Thursday to see the Sonics take on the Boston Celtics and got a great hand from the crowd when she was introduced during the game. Bird is back in the U.S. during the holiday break European teams take this time each year.
On WNBA.com, be sure to check out league president Donna Orender's "wish list" during the holiday season.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
I hope most of you check out WNBA.com on a regular basis, but if not you're missing some great content this week, including some Storm information.
- Have You Seen Her? Iziane Castro Marques
WNBA.com's series of off-season Q&As turns its attention to the Storm's Brazilian sensation, focusing on how Castro Marques became a WNBA player.
Q. At what point did you realize that you were a good enough player to really pursue it professionally?
A. "When I was 15, I decided that I wanted to become a pro. That brought a lot of change in my life because I had to move away from home to Sao Paulo to play with a professional team and with the youth national team. And then when I was 19, I had the option to either go overseas to play or to stay in Brazil. I decided to give it a shot overseas and see how it goes… to see how good I am. From there, maybe I'll be good enough to play in the best league, the WNBA. I played in Europe and then I had the option to come to the WNBA, so I was like, 'Yup!'"
- Snap Judgement 2007
WNBA.com is picking the photo of the year tournament style by fan vote. One of the final eight contenders is a favorite around the Storm offices - Tamika Catchings (playfully) squaring off with Lauren Jackson at the All-Star break, when they were the two leading contenders for MVP. LJ and Tamika are trailing a photo featuring Diana Taurasi, the star of this competition, and Cappie Pondexter, so be sure to vote by Sunday.
- Donna Orender Chat
Lastly, the WNBA president took time out of her busy schedule to chat with fans on WNBA.com earlier in the week. Check out what Orender had to say.
Posted by kp at 3:49 PM
Friday, December 14, 2007
After our last update focused on Euroleague, this team we're going to focus on league play with an update on how teams featuring Storm players have performed this season. There are still several undefeated clubs in this group vying for the top spot in their respective countries.
- Spartak, featuring Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson, is 7-0 and tied with UMMC Ekaterinburg atop the Russian Superleague. CSKA Moscow is just behind, however, at 6-0. We won't have a good idea of the relative strength of these powers until they start playing each other. Spartak plays UMMC on Jan. 6 and CSKA on Jan. 12.
Jackson hasn't shot the ball well by her high standards, but is averaging 11.4 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. Bird has hit 69% of her two-point attempts; she has averaged 10.5 points, 2.7 assists and 1.7 steals per game.
- Janell Burse's USK Praha squad is also 7-0 in Czech league play, tied for first place with long-time rival Gambrinus Sika Brno. Those two squads have, in recent seasons, distanced themselves from the rest of the Czech squads, making their matchups very important. Burse is averaging 11.3 points and 7.6 rebounds.
- Katie Gearlds is playing for Kosit 2013 Kosice, and I'm having a little bit of a hard time making sense of the team stats - I've got free throws (Th) and three-pointers (S3), but I'm not really sure why there are both S2 and Sk, both of which are purportedly two-point shots. Maybe shooting foul shots? I think Gearlds is shooting 60.8% from the field. She's averaging 10.2 points and, I think, 3.3 rebounds per game. Anyways, Gearlds and Janel McCarville have led the team to a 10-0 record in Slovakian league play.
- All I can find about the performance of Betty Lennox's K.V. Imperial AEL in the Cypriot League is that the team is 5-0 and tops in the league.
- In Italy, the Storm's players have some work to do. Phard Napoli, with center Astou Ndiaye-Diatta, is at 5-4. Doneeka Lewis' Fiera di Roma Pomezia squad is 0-9. Lewis is averaging 15.0 points and 3.3 rebounds per game. Ndiaye-Diatta is averaging 12.0 points and 5.9 rebounds. And former Storm forward Adia Barnes, Ndiaye-Diatta's teammate in Napoli, is averaging 7.9 points and 5.6 rebounds.
- The Hondarribia Irun squad of Ashley Robinson is in the middle of the Spanish FEB Liga Feminina pack at 3-5. Robinson has averaged 3.5 points and 5.9 rebounds per game.
- Lastly, Tanisha Wright's Raanana Hertzliya team suffered its first loss of the season Monday, a 23-point blowout at the hands of Elizur Ramla. Still, at 9-1, Raanana leads the Israeli DI league. Wright ranks third in the league in scoring at 21.6 ppg and is adding 7.0 rebounds, 5.8 assists (second in the league) and 3.6 steals (second). That's impressive in a league with several WNBA players.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
The countdown is on to Opening Night 2008, which is 156 days away, now that the Storm's 2008 schedule has been released. I've already written about 10 big games during the 2008 season, but I wanted to share a couple of other notes in this blog.
- Games by month:
Month H A T
May 3 2 5
June 6 5 11
July 5 5 10
Aug/Sep 3 5 8
- That chart doesn't really reflect how tough in terms of road games the end of the Storm's schedule will be. 13 of the team's first 21 games are at KeyArena, which means of the last 13, nine will be played away from Seattle. Getting off to a strong start will be important.
- There is no road trip of longer than two games until late July. The Storm has a four-game road trip from July 18-25 that is the team's longest of the season, then plays three games in five days just after the return from the August break.
- The Storm has two back-to-backs, both in June: June 3/4 at New York/Detroit and June 13/14 at San Antonio/Houston. That's tied with the Liberty for the fewest back-to-backs in the league.
- It's mentioned in the press release, but worth noting: 11 of the Storm's 17 home games will be played on the weekend.
- Semi-interesting random note: The final regular-season game at Los Angeles will be precisely the 300th in franchise history, and the home finale against Atlanta will be the 150th home game for the Storm.
Posted by kp at 3:00 PM
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
The presidential election may still be almost a year away, but now is your chance to cast your vote for Lauren Jackson. Lauren is one of the nominees for the 2007 United States Sports Academy Athlete of the Year award, as presented by USAToday.com and MSNBC.com. Past winners include Lance Armstrong, Roger Federer, Mia Hamm, Michael Jordan, Annika Sorenstam and Tiger Woods.
There's a great group of female nominees, including tennis star Justine Henin and sprinter Allyson Felix, but how many of them can claim an MVP award? That's right, only LJ. Not that you need convincing, but WNBA.com's Adam Hirshfield has a great explanation of why she is the best candidate.
Lauren is also up for Australia's best sportswoman of 2007 in a poll conducted by The Herald Sun newspaper. Click here to vote for her for that honor.
Make your vote count and help out LJ!
Posted by kp at 3:09 PM
Friday, December 7, 2007
Many Storm fans have expressed their desire to share their thoughts with Anne Donovan after her resignation from the Storm last week. We invite you to post them in the comments of this blog. If you would prefer, you can also e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org or address your letter to 1201 Third Ave., Suite 1000, Seattle WA 98101 and have them passed along to Coach Donovan.
We Sonics & Storm employees got a chance to talk with Anne yesterday, but I wanted to be sure to publicly thank her for all her help over the last five years. I can't imagine a coach who would be more helpful or more accommodating than she has been over that span, and I learned a tremendous amount from her about the game she so obviously loves.
Thanks for everything, Anne.
Posted by kp at 10:02 AM
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Before we head overseas, a quick stop in Atlanta, where the newest WNBA franchise is soliciting fan feedback on a name and colors. In the interest of full disclosure, I voted for the Flight and for a blue and red color scheme, though I would get a certain kick out of a team wearing hot pink.
Anyways, it's long overdue to take a look overseas. Euroleague teams are in action today, and while we have yet to get results from USK Praha (with Janell Burse), there's still plenty of Storm action.
Spartak is 4-1 and tied atop Group C after beating US Valenciennes 91-70 earlier today. Lauren Jackson had 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting and five boards in the win; Sue Bird handed out a game-high nine assists and had three steals, scoring two points. Diana Taurasi scored 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting to go with nine boards and six assists.
Katie Gearlds' Kosit 2013 Kosice squad pulled out a 79-77 victory over Lotos Gdynia when teammate Janel McCarville scored late in the game. Gearlds had a quiet night, attempting only six shots and scoring all six of her points from beyond the arc, but McCarville carried Kosice with 28 points and 13 boards. Kosice is tied for third in Group C at 2-3.
Phard Napoli, including Astou Ndiaye-Diatta, fell 63-55 to TTT Riga despite Ndiaye-Diatta's 20 points and seven boards.
EuroCup teams are also in action today, and Betty Lennox's squad (KV Imperial AEL) suffered a 74-64 loss at the hands of Galatasaray. Lennox had a solid game in the loss, scoring 22 points on 9-of-20 shooting from the field. Lennox added five boards and three, count 'em three, blocks. Sophia Young scored 32 points for Galatasaray.
Hondarribia Irun blew by the Rhondda Rebels 86-64. Ashley Robinson had two points and six boards for Hondarribia, which got 22 points from Shameka Christon. Hondarribia, at 3-2, will be tied for second in Group J after the results of another game in the group later today.
That's plenty of overseas action for today, but I'll try to check in later in the week with a look at league play and the Storm players overseas who are not in either Euroleague or EuroCup.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Since I've last updated the blog, the U.S. Women's Senior National Team has completed its college tour ...
... but first, let me make sure everyone sees this link: WNBA.com has an interview with MVP Lauren Jackson as part of its "Have You Seen Her?" series.
Q. Do you have a motivational saying or motto that you look back at whenever you need that extra bit of motivation?
A. Yeah, something that got me through a lot of hard times and some difficult situations is this: 'Power and control come from letting go.' Once you let go of everything, power and control come back. That's my thing."
... alright, back to our main topic. The U.S. women finished up at 8-0, completing the West Coast portion of their tour last week.
Last Sunday, it was at Texas A&M, where they overwhelmed the host Aggies 75-24. In a pair of matchups in the state of California, we saw a familiar theme - close games in the first half that turned into easy victories late. USC put a real scare into the U.S., leading 36-33 at halftime before the USA put together a 19-3 run early in the second half to take command. Thursday in Stanford, the U.S. women finished up the tour with a 97-62 win over Stanford. Sue Bird scored 19 points in that one to lead the USA.
"The college tour was really good for us," Storm Head Coach Anne Donovan said after the final game. "We had goals with every game and it wasn't until this eighth game that everything came together, from the first minute to the 40th minute. Everybody played well in this last game against Stanford. We had great competition on this college tour. I don't think we could have asked for anything more from these eight games."
"Coach stated what our goals were and those were to finish strong and have a complete game," added Bird. "We kind of struggled at times, but I'm really glad that we can finish this tour with a good taste in our mouth.
"As a whole, it's been a lot of fun. We all got to play, a lot of us got to visit, see our old college teams, like Jamie (Carey), or even our hometown teams like Diana (Taurasi) and Lisa (Leslie) getting to play in L.A. It was really a good experience."
Check out USABasketball.com's quotes for more from Donovan on the college tour. I also enjoyed this response from Bird on playing for Donovan on the National Team as compared to for the Storm:
"At the core of it she's the same, has the principles, the same game plan," Bird said. "For me it's very valuable, especially as a point guard. People might not always understand a play or why we're doing what we're doing and I can be a voice during the game. That's very helpful. She's pretty much the same. If anything I think she probably has to coach a little less here because we're so good. At the core of it, it's the same."
With the college tour in the books, the U.S. women won't reunite until the spring. As for the blog, it's time to begin focusing on the action overseas. Bird and Taurasi were scheduled to fly to Russia to join their Spartak Moscow squad this week, while Lauren Jackson arrived and made her season debut last week and Euroleague play is well underway. StormTracker will have all the details through the spring.
Friday, November 9, 2007
In a game of alphabet soup, the USA - the Senior Women's National Team, to be exact - prevailed over ASU, Arizona State University, 82-48 Thursday night in Tempe.
The No. 12 Sun Devils were hanging in, down just 10 with 10:21 to play, before the U.S. Women finished the game with a 32-8 run to win going away.
"It was another good challenge for us and another good win for us," said Head Coach Anne Donovan. "It's our fifth game, and there has not been one game that we've played solid from start to finish. Once again, we were challenged in the first half and it took the second half before we could really put them away. Give ASU a lot of credit."
The USA got balanced scoring contributions, with six players in double-figures, including three reserves. Seimone Augustus and Swin Cash led in scoring with 14 points apiece. As a team, the U.S. Women shot 56.9% - an even 60% in the first half. Sue Bird led the attack with three assists.
After a couple of days off, the U.S. will play at Texas Tech on Sunday before heading West to California to wrap up the college tour.
- I mentioned the other day that I would get Paul Westhead's thoughts on Corey Gaines being selected as his replacement in Phoenix. I wrapped that into this story on the decision to hire Gaines.
- If you read just one thing today, well, I hope it's my breakdown of the U.S. Women en route to the Olympics. But if you read two things today - and you probably should be at least there - be sure to check out Steve Kelley's column on Tia Jackson in the Seattle Times, in which we learn that Jackson has a close relationship with Storm veteran Wendy Palmer.
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
It's becoming a familiar story for the U.S. Women's Senior National Team. On their current college tour, the U.S. Women have tended to start slowly and finish strong. Tuesday's 82-56 win over Baylor was a dramatic example; the U.S. led by just one at the half but outscored Baylor 48-23 in the second half to earn the easy victory.
"Baylor came out really aggressive, we didn't come out so sharp and they made us pay for that," said Head Coach Anne Donovan. "We did a good job regrouping and then coming out in the second half and really getting after it."
Diana Taurasi (21 points, 11 boards) and Lisa Leslie (10 points, 11 rebounds) both recorded double-doubles. Sue Bird had her high scoring game of the college tour, posting 14 points on 4-of-9 shooting.
"They played very well, they're a very scrappy team that forced a lot of turnovers and we didn't really come out with our best game," said Bird. "We regrouped at halftime, coach said some things and we were able to turn it around in the second half and play more our style. I think a lot of that was just being aggressive, both defensively and offensively."
Elsewhere, hat tip to posters on the StormFans.org message board for finding a couple of good stories.
Lauren Jackson, scheduled to fly to Russia Monday, talked to The Daily Telegraph about the experience.
When you focus on playing basketball that's great, but you still have 18 hours of the day, which makes it very difficult. And you can either become a television junkie or go shopping and spend all your money or you can study.
I got my diploma in business management (through Thomson Education Direct). I go to training for half a day, read the other half of the day and then at night someone shows up and takes me out around Moscow, so that's all good.
Also, from Israel, a report on Storm guard Tanisha Wright earning "MVP" honors for Round 4 of league play, which took place in late October. Wright had 25 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists in a victory by her Raanana Hertzeliya team.
Lastly, congrats to Corey Gaines, the new head coach of the Phoenix Mercury. Gaines had assisted Paul Westhead in Phoenix the last two seasons and should continue the Westhead style of play that has proven so successful for the Mercury. Phoenix players and Westhead were lobbying for Gaines to be the choice. I'll try to get Westhead's thoughts in the next couple of days.
Sunday, November 4, 2007
Three games into its college tour, the USA Basketball Senior Women's National Team is 3-0 but has gotten some good competition from the best the college game has to offer (including two of the last three National Champions and the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 4 ranked teams in the preseason poll).
The tour started Wednesday, when the U.S. Women played the 2006 National Champions, Maryland. The U.S. held a two-point lead at the half, 40-38, but went on a 22-6 run early in the second half to win 90-73.
On Friday, UConn alumnae Sue Bird, Swin Cash and Diana Taurasi returned to their alma mater and Gambel Pavilion, where they teamed up to lead UConn to the 2002 Championship. The Huskies were as close as 64-60 with a little more than eight minutes left, but the U.S. Women pulled away to win 90-74.
Today, the U.S. took on the defending National Champions, Tennessee. The Lady Vols got within three points on a 9-0 run, but were held without a field goal over the final 3:48 as the U.S. finished on a 10-1 run and earned an 83-72 victory. Candace Parker, who played with many of the opposing players during the FIBA Americas Championship in September, scored 22 points for Tennessee.
The storied UConn-Tennessee rivalry played out in interesting fashion over the last two games. At UConn, Tennessee product Kara Lawson hit several big shots down the stretch. Today, Taurasi scored a game-high 28 points against her former rivals.
"We expected this to be very competitive, as was the case at Connecticut and Maryland," said Anne Donovan. "There was lots of good pressure by them and it was a great game for us in terms of having to get our composure at the end of the game and finish a game off. They really challenged us down the stretch. You expect nothing less from Tennessee, they gave us a great ball game from start to finish."
Bird has averaged 9.0 points and 3.0 assists over the first three games of the tour. She enjoyed the matchup with UConn.
"I was really excited for this game coming in and playing on this floor again," Bird said. "I was really excited and glad to be out there and play my heart out."
The big story of the college tour is that Lisa Leslie is making her return to the court for the first time since giving birth to daughter Lauren in June. There have been few signs of rust; Leslie has averaged 15.0 points and 9.3 rebounds, including a double-double today.
"My focus is split with my baby, obviously, and not being able to be at 100 percent because it's only been four months," Leslie said. "I keep seeing glimpses of what I'm going to be capable of doing so that keeps me hopeful of coming back. "
Some other notes:
- Today's game was the Tennessee debut for highly-touted freshman Angie Bjorklund, from Spokane's University High School. She started and scored 13 points, hitting four three-pointers.
"Bjorklund's a nice player," said Lawson. "She's got good composure. You can tell that she knows how to play the game. She doesn't seem rushed when teams are going pretty fast out there."
- Got a surprise watching yesterday's UW-Stanford game (go Dawgs!): Former Storm forward Kate Starbird was honored during halftime as part of the group inducted into the Stanford Athletics Hall of Fame.
- While we're on college hoops, the Tia Jackson era started with a win. The Huskies beat Love & Basketball 84-59 in an exhibition matchup on Saturday.
Saturday, October 27, 2007
As hot as they were in the early going Friday, the U.S. Senior Women's National Team was equally as cold Saturday and fell to CSKA Moscow 75-65 in the championship game of the FIBA World League Tournament.
The U.S. Women shot just 34.8% from the field and were 3-of-15 from three-point range in the loss. Center Janel McCarville (18 points, nine rebounds) was the only U.S. player to score in double figures.
"This was a disappointing loss," said U.S. Head Coach Anne Donovan. "We knew we had to hold them to a lower scoring output and we did that, we kept them in the mid-70s, but we just couldn't put the ball in the hole very well tonight. I don't know if it was fatigue or the fifth game in six days, but we just didn't play our best - that's for sure. Offensively, we didn't make shots, we had some turnovers at the wrong times when we were trying to make a run. It just wasn't our night."
The U.S. Women did a pretty good job defensively, limiting CSKA Moscow to 36.7% shooting int he second half and forcing 18 turnovers in the game. However, Moscow took advantage of its formidable frontline of Ann Wauters and Maria Stepanova, who combined for 27 points and 16 boards. Russian vet Ilona Korstin scored 16 points.
The U.S. simply wasn't able to keep up on offense. In particular, Diana Taurasi had a tough night, shooting 2-for-12 from the field and missing all five of her three-point attempts. Taj McWilliams-Franklin was outstanding on the boards and had a double-double, but she shot 2-of-10 from the field.
Storm guard Sue Bird had nine points and four assists and earned the award given to the best guard in the tournament.
This was a weird tournament because a national team was squaring off with club teams. Though the U.S. had something of a talent advantage, the other squads have the benefit of having practiced together for some time. There's a core group of players that remains from the FIBA Americas Championship for the U.S., but the group added several new players.
"I thought that even though there we do have some people who played in Chile, it's pretty much a new team," said Bird. "You can go down the list: Janel McCarville has never played for USA Basketball before at this level and I thought she came in and did a great job; same with Katie Feenstra, someone who's never played (for) USA Basketball. The plays are new, the defenses are new, playing with everybody here was new.
"We definitely had some growing pains, especially in the Lithuania game, but the two wins we had against CSKA and UMMC, I don't think people realize how difficult those games were and how good those teams are. Those are teams that my Russia team has always played against and they're all-star teams. So for us to come in, especially on UMMC's home court, and to win, is great. I see a lot of positives in what we did this week, even though we didn't take home the gold."
USABasketball.com has more coverage, including the box score and quotes.
The National Team returns home and will have little rest, kicking off their college tour on Halloween night at Maryland.
Friday, October 26, 2007
The U.S. Senior Women's National Game advanced to the championship of the 2007 FIBA World League Tournament early Friday, blowing by host Ekaterinburg 97-79. The U.S. women started fast, hitting four threes in their first five possessions and putting up 33 points in the first quarter. They never really looked back, leading by 22 points at halftime and holding off an Ekaterinburg comeback attempt in the fourth quarter that got no closer than 10 points.
"I tell you what, we shot the ball so well in the first half," said U.S. Head Coach Anne Donovan. "We get excited about our defense because as well as we shot it, we made them very uncomfortable running their sets. It's a beautiful thing when you shoot the ball well and you're playing like that on the other end of the floor. In the second half we didn't shoot as well, but we still shot very good. Even though they made the run, which we knew they would, we kicked it in defensively and got stops when we had to had them. "
The U.S. had plenty of firepower, including the best statistical night of the tournament from Storm guard Sue Bird. She scored 13 points, including a trio of three-pointers, and handed out six assists. Bird's buddy Diana Taurasi led the U.S. with 25 points, adding five triples. And veteran Taj McWilliams-Franklin was an anchor in the paint with 15 points and 10 boards.
Defensively, the U.S. women shut down All-Star forward Penny Taylor, who scored seven points and attempted only six shots in 30 minutes. Sandrine Gruda (20) and Agneiszka Bibrzycka (19) had big nights for Ekaterinburg, but it was not enough. A pair of former 2005 Storm teammates also play for Ekaterinburg - forward Natalia Vodopyanova and center Suzy Batkovic.
In the other semifinal, CSKA Moscow crushed CBA Beijing to set up a rematch of Wednesday's game won by the U.S. The two teams will square off in the final very early Saturday morning Seattle time.
"I'm sure it'll be another very tough battle," said Donovan. They've got great inside players. (Ann) Wauters and (Maria) Stepanova are big players. Stepanova had a good game against us, Wauters was not as effective so I'm sure their focus will be to get the ball inside and see if they can attack our post game a little better than they did the first time."
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
The USA Women's Senior National Team traveled to Russia last week to participate in the 2007 FIBA World League Tournament.
In addition to the U.S. Women, the World League Tournament features seven top club teams from around the World. Pool play is now complete, and the U.S. advanced to the semifinals as the second team from Group B after going 2-1 in the preliminary round.
On Monday (actually Sunday night our time), the U.S. women got off to a good start by blowing past the two-time defending WNBL Champion Canberra Capitals 93-49.
The U.S. won that game with defense, holding Canberra to 22.6% shooting in the first half. Meanwhile, Kara Lawson (20 points) powered the U.S. attack. Four other players scored double-figures, including an efficient outing for Janel McCarville (15 points on 6-for-7 shooting). Sue Bird handed out two assists.
Old friend Tully Bevilaqua had 10 points but nary an assist for the Caps. Canberra's leading scorer was another familiar name - Jessica Bibby, the one-time Storm signee whose career was derailed by a back injury. Bibby scored 13 points on 5-of-16 shooting.
On Tuesday, the U.S. took on Lithuanian side TEO Vilnius and was handed a surprising 79-76 defeat. The U.S. Women trailed by as many as 13 in the first half and never came all the way back. They got within three in the final 30 seconds, but Kristin Haynie hit one of two free throws, Katie Smith missed and that was that.
The U.S. shot just 28.6% from the field in the first half.
"We didn't start the game with very much intensity at all and we had to play catch up to come back," said Storm and U.S. Head Coach Anne Donovan. "We thought we did that at one point, then we gave up four straight threes. Our intensity ebbed and flowed throughout the whole game and that certainly caught up with us.
"This was a very disappointing game for us, that's for sure. We didn't play with a lot of intensity tonight and I give Vilnius a lot of credit, they played very well."
McCarville was again strong, posting a double-double (15 points, 10 rebounds). Diana Taurasi added 16 and Smith 13. Bird scored eight points, hitting a pair of threes, and handed out three assists.
Nykesha Sales led Vilnius with 21 points. Yelena Leuchanka, who saw time with the Washington Mystics last season, had 17 points and 18 rebounds, and Haynie scored 15 points and dished out six assists.
(Much) earlier today, the U.S. women concluded pool play against CSKA Moscow, needing a win to advance to the medal round. They got it, defeating Moscow 81-72. The game was tight throughout, with the U.S. women holding on.
"You saw a team out there that was on a mission, knowing we had to win this game in order to advance and trying to make up for our poor performance yesterday," said Bird, who finished with six points, five steals and four rebounds. "It was really good to see how focused we were."
Seimone Augustus, in a reserve role, scored a game-high 19 points, with the duo of Smith and Taurasi combining for 31 more.
The U.S. beat a loaded team in CSKA Moscow which has elite foreign talent including one-time Storm guard Edwige Lawson-Wade and Ann Wauters as well as WNBA stars Becky Hammon and Nicole Powell - both of whom came off the bench today.
As a result, TEO Vilnius, CSKA Moscow and the U.S. all finished 2-1 in Group B. Moscow won the group, with the U.S. second and Vilnius third and out of the semifinals. After a day off Thursday, the U.S. Women will play another Russian team, Ekaterinburg, on Friday at 7:00 p.m. local time and 6:00 a.m. Pacific. The winner of that game will face the winner of Moscow-CBA Beijing, the other semifinal.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
The WNBA's Draft Lottery was held this morning by conference call from New York, where Jamin Dershowitz, the league's legal counsel (at right), and WNBA President Donna Orender ran the show. I listened in to the call with Storm COO Karen Bryant.
If you're not familiar with the NBA/WNBA Draft Lottery model, there are 14 lottery-style ping-pong balls placed in a hopper (that is not, alas, the technical term). One at a time, four are drawn without replacement. There are 1,001 possible combinations when four numbers are drawn out of 14 without regard to order. One of those is thrown out; the other 1,000 were assigned ahead of time to the five teams in the lottery. (My hope was that the 1,001st "dead" combination would come up; no such luck.)
When the Draft Lottery results are televised, the order goes backwards, saving the drama for the end. The actual drawing goes in the proper but less dramatic order - first pick, then second, then third.
We didn't have the combinations up in front of us, but when the number one came up during the drawing for the first pick, Bryant quickly noted that the Los Angeles Sparks owned the combinations that included a one. Lo and behold, it is the Sparks - who tied with the Minnesota Lynx for the WNBA's worst regular-season record - who got the top overall pick.
I surely won't be the first or only to note the eerie parallel with the San Antonio Spurs, who won the NBA Draft Lottery in 1997 and picked Tim Duncan, who teamed with an existing superstar (David Robinson) whose season had been cut short by injury (Lisa Leslie and pregnancy in the parallel case) to win a championship early in a brilliant career. Yikes.
The second pick went to the Chicago Sky, who will continue to add to a young core of Candice Dupree and Armintie Price that allowed them to be in contention for a playoff spot most of last season. It was good to see one of the top three picks head to the Eastern Conference.
The Minnesota Lynx were denied in their quest to land a third straight No. 1 overall pick (which was done by trade last year). Minnesota will pick another top young player to go with Seimone Augustus and Lindsey Harding.
The complete draft order:
1. Los Angeles
7. New York
11. Detroit (from San Antonio)
14. New York (from Detroit via San Antonio)
Posted by kp at 4:47 PM
Friday, October 19, 2007
After taking the last month and a half off following the conclusion of the Storm's season, Lauren Jackson is back on the court preparing to head to Russia to play for Spartak Moscow, Australian newspaper The Age reports.
There's also word straight from the source on Jackson's plans for next season.
"I'll just be back in Seattle probably," she told the paper. "What I want to do is get a couple of weeks off and be able to tour with the Australian team.
"I don't think it will be a problem if I go back there and commit to the Storm and then also commit to the Opals."
- Some Storm players have already headed overseas, including wing Katie Gearlds. She's playing in Slovakia with New York center Janel McCarville, who is keeping a blog that occasionally features Gearlds.
- The WNBA has scheduled its annual Draft Lottery for next Tuesday. Minnesota and L.A. are the favorites to earn the top overall pick, followed by Houston, Chicago and Washington.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
The WNBA welcomed Atlanta into the league today as its 14th franchise, with Atlanta businessman J. Ronald Terwilliger introduced as the owner of the expansion franchise.
Terwilliger and WNBA President Donna Orender participated in a conference call this morning with members of the WNBA media.
Clearly, Terwilliger is excited about the prospects of what the WNBA can do for the city he has called home for nearly three decades. While he has ownership of the team, Terwilliger explained, he hopes the city can adopt it as its own.
Orender described the three criteria used for expansion franchises - smart, impassioned ownership; a supportive corporate base; and a rich tradition of basketball, especially the women's game. Atlanta, she said, is near the top of these categories.
Expanding to Atlanta also gets the WNBA back to the Southeast portion of the country. Terwilliger suggested the franchise could be "the hub of of women's basketball in the Southeast," while Orender joked that the move means there's no longer an empty area on the map when she gives presentations and shows the locations of the WNBA's teams.
The Atlanta franchise will have an opportunity to build its roster in an expansion draft. The rules of that draft, Orender said, will be subject to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, which means a date will "most likely" wait until after the CBA has been finalized. Atlanta will have the fourth pick in next spring's WNBA Draft; Chicago picked sixth in its inaugural season.
The next step for Atlanta is picking a team name (and colors and jerseys); WNBA.com's Fan Voice is soliciting suggestions now. Also be sure to check out WNBA.com's Q&A with Terwilliger.
Posted by kp at 11:02 AM
Many months ago, before the start of the season, I posted on the Storm WNBA Fantasy League and said I would update our progress throughout the season. Well, obviously that promise was not kept but I do want to give belated credit to our eventual victor, Ticket Operations Coordinator Derek Long.
Throughout the year, Senior Coordinator of Sales & Marketing Analysis Kris Kolehmain led the league on the strength of Lauren Jackson's performance. Kolehmain got LJ with the third pick, after Diana Taurasi and Tamika Catchings. When LJ missed two games late in the season, Kolehmain's team was knocked off track and Long pulled the upset in the finals.
As for your humble blogger, the defending champion, I finished the year in fourth place. That allowed me into the playoffs but meant a tough matchup with Kolehmain in the first round, which I narrowly lost.
There's always next year. We're just seven months away from next year's fantasy draft, right?
Friday, October 12, 2007
Congratulations are in order for Alan Horton. The Storm's play-by-play broadcaster in 2007 has been named to the same position for the Minnesota Timberwolves and Lynx, starting immediately.
Hearing the news from Alan on Wednesday was somewhat bittersweet. We're all very excited for his opportunity, but he will be missed here in Seattle. It was a blast working with Alan throughout last season.
The good news is we'll get a chance to see Alan as a visiting broadcaster several times each year. On the Timberwolves side, he'll be working with another old friend - former Storm GM Billy McKinney.
Goodbye and good luck, Alan - hope Minnesota treats you very well.
Posted by kp at 10:00 AM
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Okay, not exactly. Actually, Taurasi's West All-Stars beat Bird's East All-Stars in the Connecticut Basketball Starz charity game in Hartford, Conn. last Sunday. The two WNBA stars and UConn teammates led two squads made up of several other former UConn stars as well as 18 Connecticut high-school players.
The group of UConn alumni - which also included former Storm players Ashley Battle, Barbara Turner and Rita Williams - was back home for the wedding of one of the players, Ashley Valley. That allowed them to take part in an exhibition that raised money for charities sponsored by Taurasi, Williams and Ann Strother.
"Because of the wedding, we were all back in town and it just worked great," Taurasi told the Hartford Courant. "It's awesome. It's just great to be back together, playing. Some of us haven't seen each other in three or four years."
Thursday, October 4, 2007
Long-time Storm center Simone Edwards blogged from Chile during the FIBA Americas Championships. You can check out her posts at the Radford Women's Hoops Blog. Edwards is beginning her first season as an assistant coach at RU. (Credit to StormFans.org for the link.)
Edwards' travel and lodging situations were aggrevating, and Jamaica lost its final game to Mexico despite losing much of the way, but she still enjoyed cheering Anne Donovan, Sue Bird and the rest of the U.S. team to victory.
"The US was impressive in their win and showed off their young talents and veteran leadership," wrote Edwards. "I cheered for them and in return they cheered for me when I got my award for most points in the tournament. I hugged Anne and congratulated her for the gold and she did the same for me and my award. It was a good to take that final picture with coach Donovan with the trophy and me in my Radford top. It seems like a great end to a lovely career as a player and a new start to an exciting one as a coach."
Make sure to go read the whole thing. We'll check in from time to time on Radford and Coach Edwards during the course of the season.
Sunday, September 30, 2007
The U.S. Senior Women's National Team traveled to Chile with one goal: Winning the FIBA Americas Championship and qualifying for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Mission accomplished.
In a rematch with a Cuban team that led much of the second half of an eventual 85-79 U.S. victory in Wednesday's FIBA Americas opener, the U.S. Women demonstrated their improvement over the course of the tournament. That was evident from the opening tip, as the U.S. opened the game with a 16-0 run and never looked back in a 101-71 victory.
"Cuba came out and we jumped on them right away," said Storm and U.S. Head Coach Anne Donovan. "I thought we stayed focused throughout the game with our bench. It was a really great effort throughout this tournament, five games in five days. We started with the best team in the tournament, we finished with the best team in the tournament. We could see Cuba start to wear down throughout this tournament and that's where our depth and our bench comes into play."
The depth of the roster allowed Donovan to use a 10-player rotation; 11 of the team's 12 players scored, with only Cappie Pondexter failing to scratch. Tina Thompson's 18 points led the U.S., while Diana Taurasi posted a double-double (15 points, 12 rebounds). Katie Smith also scored 15 points and Kara Lawson added 14 off the bench.
Storm guard Sue Bird led the team from the point. In 20 minutes, she made both of her shot attempts and did not commit a turnover, scoring five points and handing out three assists.
"I think today's game was the sum of everything that we've been working on," said Bird. "Everybody coming together, playing the way we can, being comfortable, being confident."
While winning was the goal, the tournament also provided the U.S. valuable experience as a team leading up to next summer's Olympics. That will continue later this fall with an exhibition tour in the U.S. against several major college teams.
"If we could take this team, this effort that we've made, this progress that we've made in these three or four weeks, if we could pick up where we leave off, this team will be in great shape come Beijing," said Donovan. "I really can't say enough about where we are defensively and where our focus is, our energy and concentration. We have great offensive powers. But it's the other end of the floor that we've figured out. As long as we don't take any steps backwards and every time we get together for a training camp we move forward, we're going to be in good shape."
While Bird and Donovan secured gold medals, Iziane Castro Marques and Brazil claimed bronze. Brazil rebounded from a loss to Cuba in the semifinals by crushing Argentina in the third-place game, 73-41. Castro Marques had a quiet game, scoring eight of her 10 points from the free-throw line and shooting 1-of-6 from the field.
Brazil will attempt to qualify for the Olympics in the FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament, which will be held next June 9-15. Castro Marques has said she will represent her team in that tournament, which would take her away from the WNBA season.
Despite her off night, Castro Marques finished as the tournament's second-leading scorer at 18.0 points per game. The leader? Long-time Storm center Simone Edwards, who averaged 18.8 points. Bird's 4.0 assists per game ranked her second behind teammate Pondexter (4.8).
Once again, for more coverage check out USABasketball.com and Adam Hirshfield's live blog at WNBA.com.
One last Olympics note: New Zealand took advantage of Australia's automatic berth to qualify for Oceania's spot in Beijing despite losing to the Lauren Jackson-less Opals 87-46 on Saturday. There's a local aspect to the story, as incoming Washington freshman Jessica McCormack is headed to the Olympics. McCormack played 35 minutes against Australia, posting six rebounds and seven boards for the Tall Ferns.
Saturday, September 29, 2007
For the third straight day, the U.S. Senior Women's National Team rolled at the FIBA Americas Championship, beating Argentina 104-53 in their semifinal matchup. The U.S. defense once again proved stout, holding Argentina to 15 first-half points as the Americans took an insurmountable 41-point lead to the locker room. The U.S. Women racked up 24 steals and forced 28 turnovers against the overmatched opposition.
"I thought it was another great effort on our part," said Storm and U.S. Head Coach Anne Donovan. "Defensively we came out focused and took charge of the game right from the beginning, I was really pleased with that. Our running game was top notch. From start to finish I thought we handled it well."
Rebekkah Brunson powered the U.S. with 20 points off the bench on 7-for-9 shooting. Candace Parker added 17 and Seimone Augustus, also off the bench, 15. All 12 players scored as Donovan was able to continue the democratic distribution of playing time she has favored over the last three blowout wins.
Storm guard Sue Bird handed out four assists and had three steals, scoring two points in 18 minutes.
The final test for the U.S. comes tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. against Cuba, which proved a troublesome opponent in a six-point U.S. win in the first game of the tournament for both teams. Cuba reproved its legitimacy Saturday by upsetting Brazil 69-67 in the other semifinal matchup to advance to the finals.
Storm forward and leading Brazilian scorer Iziane Castro Marques had a weird game in scoring 16 points. She made eight of her 11 two-point attempts, but was a dismal 0-for-9 from long distance. Meanwhile, U.S. nemesis Yakelyn Plutin had a huge game, scoring 28 points on 12-for-19 shooting.
"They're playing with such confidence and with an intelligence we haven't always seen from them before," said Donovan, who has cited the scare from Cuba as sharpening the team's focus over the last three games. "We're going to have to come out and play just as intelligent, take care of the basketball and take advantage of some of the things they do and switch defensively. We really didn't capitalize on that the first time out. The second time out we need to take advantage of the mismatches that they give us."
"I think it served as a wake-up call," confirmed Bird. "The bottom line is that we really haven't played together that much. The Cuba game, when we went back and watched film we saw a lot of miscommunications. Passes that people thought players were cutting one way when they weren't. Little things like that. I really think we've been able to sharpen things up since then."
We'll see just how much the U.S. has improved over the course of this tournament tomorrow. A spot in the Olympics is on the line. The loser of this game will have to attempt to qualify for the Olympics via a worldwide qualifying tournament which will be held next summer.
As always, the links: USABasketball.com and Adam Hirshfield's live blog for WNBA.com.
Friday, September 28, 2007
Thursday, September 27, 2007
After getting tested by Cuba in their FIBA Americas Championship opener Wednesday, the U.S. Senior Women's National Team enjoyed a much more comfortable victory Thursday, defeating Jamaica 115-47. Already leading 48-28 at the half, the U.S. women outscored Jamaica 67-19 over the final 20 minutes.
The lopsided margin gave Head Coach Anne Donovan an opportunity to substitute freely. No player saw more than 21 minutes of action, and Donovan was pleased with all of her players.
"Everybody got to play and everybody did very, very well," Donovan said. "You look at our bench statistics and they're right in there helping us shoot 60 percent from the floor. There were a lot of good things on both end of the floor tonight."
Seimone Augustus came off the bench to score a game-high 19 points on 8-of-8 shooting. She was one of two reserves to score double-figures (Kara Lawson, with 11, was the other).
"We knew we were going to come in after the starters played their 10 minutes in the third quarter," explained Augustus, "and we didn't want to have any kind of drop off."
Lawson also deserves to be singled out for an impressively well-rounded effort: seven assists, seven boards and five steals.
As for Storm guard Sue Bird, she shot 5-of-7 from the field and scored 11 points, handing out two assists.
Former Storm post Simone Edwards led Jamaica with 18 points and nine rebounds, but only three Jamaican players had more than two points.
For more coverage of the game, be sure to check out USABasketball.com and Adam Hirshfield's live blog. The U.S. Women take on Canada tomorrow in their final game of group play at 1:00 p.m. That game will be televised live on NBA TV.
Elsewhere in Chile, Brazil defeated Chile 104-60 to join the U.S. as the only teams undefeated through two games (stats remain unavailable for that game). Barring stunning upsets, the U.S. and Brazil will be the top seeds from their respective groups.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
In their opening game of the 2007 FIBA Americas Championships, the U.S. Senior Women's National Team was tested by Cuba. The U.S. trailed 58-55 after three quarters and the game was tied at 71-all with a little more than four minutes to play.
A veteran guard keyed the decisive U.S. run. Katie Smith hit back-to-back three-pointers to untie the game as the U.S. went on a 11-2 run over the next two-plus minutes to take command of the game. The U.S. Women held on for an 85-79 victory.
"I’m glad I could do my part," Smith said after the game. "It gave us a little energy when it was needed, but I got some good picks from my teammates in that zone, Sue (Bird) got me the ball and I’m just glad I was able to contribute and do my part. It kind of got us on a little bit of a roll, gave us a little bit of a cushion in the home stretch. Then everyone else helped take it home."
Bird and Head Coach Anne Donovan both lauded the Cuban team, which got 23 points and 10 rebounds from post Yakelyn Tizon.
"Cuba is probably the second or third best team in this tournament," said Bird. "To play them in the first game, we knew it was going to be a challenge and we knew it was going to be a test and I’m glad we passed."
"I think it was a great win for us," added Donovan. "Cuba is a great team and we’ve known that for a long time, they’re very solid. The difference between this game and games in the past is that we’ve come out strong and shot the ball real well in the first quarter to make them lose their confidence in themselves. Tonight that wasn’t the case and they kept their confidence throughout the game. I have to hand it to Cuba, they played a great game. You could see how well they play together and then give credit for us for pulling that nice win out with good execution in the fourth quarter."
Bird led the U.S. attack, scoring six points and handing out nine assists in 28 minutes of action.
"Sue did a great job of controlling this game and keeping everyone into it, focused and trying to fight through some pretty bad shooting," said Donovan.
Tennessee forward Candace Parker scored a team-high 21 points, while Diana Taurasi - fresh off a WNBA Championship - scored 16. Veterans Smith and Tina Thompson scored 13 points apiece.
In other Day 1 action, Canada handed Jamaica a 68-47 defeat despite 25 points and seven rebounds from long-time Storm post Simone Edwards. Brazil was leading Argentina 67-59 at last check, with Iziane Castro Marques leading all scorers with 19 points.
The U.S. Women take on Jamaica tomorrow at 10:30 a.m. Pacific. Adam Hirshfield's live blog will have coverage and you can also check out FIBA's live stats if you're unable to watch all the action on NBA TV.
Monday, September 24, 2007
Less than eight months until the Seattle Storm tips off 2008.
Okay, that still seems like an awfully long wait, but now we can put the opener on the calendar in pen after Professional Basketball Club, LLC Chairman Clayton Bennett announced Friday that the Storm will play the 2008 season at KeyArena.
That announcement shouldn't come as a surprise to fans who heard Storm COO Karen Bryant express her optimism about 2008 at the viewing party with Lauren Jackson a couple of weeks ago. Here at Storm HQ, efforts have already been directed toward next season, but it's good to have confirmation the Storm will be here.
On the other coast, the U.S. Women's Senior National Team was preparing for the FIBA Americas Championship. The U.S. swept a pair of exhibitions with a short-handed Australian Opals squad (playing without Lauren Jackson and Penny Taylor), winning 96-64 and then 70-66.
Now the U.S. Women are in Chile, where the tournament to qualify for the FIBA Americas spot in the Olympics begins Wednesday.
While the U.S. was in Connecticut for the second exhibition, WNBA.com's Adam Hirshfield caught up with Sue Bird and Anne Donovan for Q&As.
Q. How do you feel the team is coming together at this point with just a
couple of days until your opener in Chile?
A. "We've only been practicing for two weeks or so, but I think we're coming together great. Even though we play on different teams in the WNBA, almost all of us have played together at some point in our careers. And when you have a group of people that just wants to win -- a group that doesn't care about points, rebounds, any of that stuff, and is just focused on winning a gold medal -- good things are going
to happen and chemistry comes pretty quickly."
Q: How does the current wide range of ages on the team benefit the
future of USA Basketball?
A: "I think the women have done very well with that over the years, where we have always had our steady players that are two-, three-, four-... sometimes five-time Olympians that bring the experience and bring the heart and bring the know-how of what it takes to compete at this level and win gold medals. It's also nice to bring along the younger players that get to be a part of that in a smaller role. But as the older players leave the program, Teresa Edwards, Katrina McClain, they have passed that torch on to Dawn, and she is now passing it on to Lisa Leslie, Sheryl Swoopes, Katie Smith, Diana Taurasi, Catch and Sue Bird."
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
"It's a great opportunity for me being that it's not too far from where I live," Redd told the Seattle Times. "Obviously, the program has had some success, but they're moving in a new direction and I wanted to be a part of that."
After the conclusion of her three-year Storm career, Redd has remained in the area and been a regular at KeyArena for Storm games. She had worked as a corrections offer for the Washington State Department of Corrections and will continue that work in addition to her coaching duties.
Redd joins a sizable group of former Storm players now coaching basketball. One interesting note: When Storm assistant Heidi VanDerveer returned to the NCAA level as an assistant at San Diego State, she replaced former Storm guard Kate Paye. Paye moved on to coach under VanDerveer's sister, Tara, at Stanford, where she replaced ... former Storm guard Charmin Smith, now part of the Cal coaching staff.
Small world, isn't it?
Monday, September 17, 2007
A year and a half ago, I decided the big question of the WNBA preseason was whether Paul Westhead's fast-paced style of play - better known as "Paul Ball" - could succed in the WNBA.
That question was firmly answered in the affirmative Sunday when Westhead's Mercury became the first team in league history to win a WNBA Championship on the road, rolling up 30 first-quarter points and never looking back in a 108-92 victory.
In that column, I concluded that, "Based on Westhead's NBA track record, it's fair to apply the same assessment to him as most any other coach: He's won when he's had talent, and has struggled when he hasn't had it."
(Then I cited Sandora Irvin, whose breakout I am still awaiting, as an example of the talent Westhead might have.)
Anyways, I don't think any of us realized back in May 2005 quite how special Phoenix's talent was. We knew Cappie Pondexter was talented, but who would have imagined she would average 23.9 points per game in the Playoffs in her second season, hit the winning shot in Game 4 of the Finals and earn Finals MVP? I've long considered Penny Taylor underrated, but who saw her playing power forward at 6-1, dealing with nasty, physical defenders and still scoring a game-high 30 points in the deciding Game 5 by shooting 18-of-18 from the free-throw line?
Looking to kill a few hours? Find a WNBA fan and debate which of the Mercury's "big three" is the most valuable. The conventional answer is Taurasi. She is Phoenix's emotional leader and without her dominant Game 2 performance, the Mercury would not have won this series. Taylor was my regular-season pick for Phoenix's MVP and I don't think Paul Ball would work if not for Taylor's ability to play out of position and score so efficiently. (Plus, is anybody in the world better at initiating contact and drawing a foul?) Then there is Pondexter, unquestionably the MVP of the Finals and Westhead's choice to create whenever the team needed a bucket down the stretch.
Maybe that discussion needs to include four players, not just three. At the start of this season, my question about the Mercury was whether they could replace the grittiness provided by departed posts Kristen Rasmussen and Kamila Vodichkova. That was never an issue, in large part because Kelly Miller had enough toughness to go for two or three teams. Westhead has described Miller as "the engine" of Phoenix's attack, and her ability to run the break is without parallel. Miller deserves to be considered the honorary MVP of sorts.
You have to give Westhead credit for his unbending faith in his system even as doubters appeared at every turn. He put his players in situations that allowed them to take full advantage of their skills and they rewarded him by embracing Paul Ball.
“People were saying, ‘You can’t win shooting threes, you can’t win playing zone, you can’t win playing run and gun,’" Taurasi said after Game 5. "But you know what? You can, and we did.”
I thought Phoenix's Game 3 loss might be one of those "what if?" games that would haunt the team for the foreseeable future. Instead, it is now the Shock that is left wondering what might have been had Cheryl Ford - who managed just 12 minutes in Game 5 - been healthy. The final possession of Game 4, which did not result in a good look with the Shock down one, is an even more direct "what if?"
I figured home-court advantage would be enough for Detroit, but the Mercury was unfazed. I should have known better. Phoenix ended the postseason 4-1 on the road with three lopsided wins, and it took foul trouble for Taurasi to produce that one loss. Truly, the Mercury earned a WNBA Championship. So did Paul Ball.
Saturday, September 15, 2007
By tomorrow evening, we will have a new WNBA Champion ... or not.
For the second straight year, the Detroit Shock is hosting a winner-take-all Game 5 of the WNBA Finals. Last year, the Shock defeated Sacramento to earn a second championship in four years. Can Detroit win again and make it a dynasty?
A pair of knee injuries could go a long ways toward answering that question. When we exchanged Finals previews a couple weeks ago, Steve Burt from the Women's Hoops Blog (and Full Court Press) pointed out "When we look back on it in two weeks we're going to be looking at somebody's injury or somebody's declining health as the key."
If that somebody was Cheryl Ford, who is doubtful for Game 5 after reinjuring her left knee late in Game 4, that wouldn't be a surprise. However, Ford had a surprise companion on the Shock's injury report; guard Deanna Nolan is also listed as doubtful with a hyperextended left knee.
The headline in the Detroit Free Press, in part: "title chances look bleak."
I'd be surprised if Nolan didn't play in the deciding game, but it is tough to imagine the Shock winning without her. Nolan has been a primary source of offense, particularly down the stretch, in addition to guarding Cappie Pondexter.
The Mercury pulled out a close Game 4 at the US Airways Center, but if this game goes down to the stretch and Nolan is healthy Detroit has to be the favorite. Phoenix's offense has tended to bog down in the fourth quarter, and I think part of the issue is how often the Mercury tends to simply go one-on-one with either Pondexter or Diana Taurasi on the perimeter or Penny Taylor in the post.
I'd love to see more pick-and-rolls with Taylor as the screener - Pondexter scored off just such a play late in Game 4 before making a brilliant individual play to beat Nolan for the game-winner.
Of course, the Mercury's offense might seem fine if Tangela Smith could buy a shot. She was 0-for-10 from three-point range in Phoenix after hitting 7-for-10 in the first two games of the series.
If Nolan sits out, the Mercury should steal Game 5. If not, however, home-court advantage will probably prove the difference in favor of Detroit.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
There are some games that stay with you, that haunt you because of missed opportunities and remind you of the thin line between victory and defeat. Something tells me Game 3 is going to be one of those games for the Phoenix Mercury unless the Mercury wins the next two games and its WNBA Finals series against the Detroit Shock.
How many chances was Phoenix unable to convert in the fourth quarter tonight in front of 12,000-plus at the US Airways Center? Too many to count.
The Mercury held a 47-42 advantage on the glass, including an astounding 18 offensive boards, and shot 38 free throws to Detroit's 15. Both numbers boded well for a Phoenix win, but the Mercury simply could not make enough shots, hitting 34.7% from the field and a dismal 16.1% (5-of-31) from downtown (not to mention just 73.7% at the charity stripe).
Part of that reflects shot selection, as much as anything Phoenix's Achilles heel in this postseason. The Mercury hoisted up 31 triple attempts despite misfiring on the vast majority; center Tangela Smith was 0-of-6, Cappie Pondexter 0-of-4 (of course, Pondexter was just a 33.3% three-point shooter during the regular season, making her an odd choice to attempt a game-tying three on Phoenix's last best chance).
At best, the Merc's propensity to fire a shot at any time and from almost anywhere on the floor makes the team impossible to defend. At worst, it leads to the extended scoring droughts we've seen in three of the team's last four games, dating back to the Game 2 victory over San Antonio in the Western Conference Finals. I don't mean to be too critical here; the conscience-free style has worked very well for Phoenix overall (obviously) and is essentially impossible to change now, but it has played a major role in why Detroit holds a 2-1 lead in this series.
I watched the game with several dozen Storm fans at the jam-packed Spitfire Sports Bar. Fans crowded the back room during halftime to congratulate Lauren Jackson on winning MVP honors. The love affair between city and player only continues to grow, as Storm COO Karen Bryant could scarcely make it through the list of highlights from LJ's 2007 campaign because of the regular rounds of applause directed from the fans to an appreciative Jackson.
Jackson did share, as has been reported in the Australian press, that she will not be joining the Opals in their exhibition matches against the U.S. National Team later this month after feeling under the weather following the conclusion of the Storm's season. Jackson will get a well-deserved chance to head home to Australia and relax at week's end.
Friday, September 7, 2007
Join your 2007 WNBA MVP Lauren Jackson and Storm staff for a special viewing party when the defending WNBA Champion Detroit Shock takes on the Phoenix Mercury in Game 3 of the WNBA Finals!
What: Viewing Party for Game 3 of the WNBA Finals
When: Tuesday, September 11 at 5:30 p.m. (Tipoff is at 6 p.m.)
Why: A good excuse to see our most loyal fans, and to congratulate LJ on her MVP award!
Where: Spitfire Sports Bar
2219 4th Ave
Seattle, WA 98121
As a courtesy, please RSVP by clicking here. Enter Finals in the subject line and include how many people will be attending. All fans over 21 years of age are welcome! We apologize to our younger fans and appreciate your understanding.
Posted by kp at 2:32 PM
Storm Assistant Coach Shelley Patterson will provide the perspective of a veteran WNBA assistant throughout the WNBA Finals, giving fans an indication of what to watch for in the Coach's Corner. Today she offers her thoughts on Detroit's 108-100 Game 1 victory and how the Mercury can even the series in Saturday's Game 2 (12:30 p.m., ESPN).
What stood out to you from Game 1?
I figured both coaches would stick to their gameplans. Phoenix would try to play up-tempo and use their zone. Detroit did play a little smallball, but then they went to their bigs and started pounding the offensive glass and getting to the free-throw line.
Diana Taurasi's absence [because of foul trouble] hurt Phoenix, especially in their rover defense. She makes that zone defense go. Without her, Detroit found more gaps in the zone. Also, her size helps with rebounding.
Still, Phoenix was in the game at the end and the score (a 108-100 final) plays into their hands.
Do you see the Mercury making many adjustments going into Game 2?
I don't see them changing their philosophy. I think Paul Westhead is hoping his guards break out of their slump. He figures it's a case of his team not making shots.
Phoenix does have to tighten up their defense. Detroit took advantage of the short corner [on the baseline about 10 feet away from the hoop] and really overloaded one side of the zone. Phoenix's posts have to box out so they can get out and run as well as cut down on Detroit's second-chance points.
Looking back at Phoenix vs. Detroit, one or two of the Mercury's perimeter players haven't played well in each of the matchups. Diana just wasn't there in Game 1 [she scored 10 points on 3-for-8 shooting]. As a coach, you hope somebody is off, but Detroit is able to lock down on the perimeter and matches up really well. They really did a good job of containing dribble penetration and staying away from having to give help 2-on-1, which gives up open shots. Katie Smith is a really tough matchup for Diana.
How important is whether Cheryl Ford plays?
Kara Braxton had a big Game 1 [19 points and 12 rebounds in 20 minutes] to help replace Ford, but will she show up in every game? Ford is still going to give you that rebounding edge despite her knee injury. There's also a psychological edge - Detroit feels better if she's in the game. With her knee, though, you do wonder - can she keep up with the pace? Phoenix will want to make her run.
Is the outcome of Game 2 critical?
I think Westhead is thinking we have to get one of the two games in Detroit. When they get home and have the crowed behind them, their shots will fall a little more, but they have to get a win in Detroit to win this series and Game 5 would be tough to win on the road.
I also think Phoenix needs one game to get their confidence back against Detroit, having lost all three matchups this season.
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
Storm Assistant Coach Shelley Patterson will provide the perspective of a veteran WNBA assistant throughout the WNBA Finals, giving fans an indication of what to watch for in the Coach's Corner.
First of all, this is the classic matchup: the fast-paced game of the West vs. the half-court, physical game of the East. Two very different styles. ... One thing to look for, especially in Game 1, is how Detroit handles that rover defense the Mercury plays. Because Detroit finished its Eastern Conference Finals series a little later, they're getting only one practice and one shootaround to prepare for that style Phoenix plays. That makes it very tough for them, especially tonight.
Three keys for Phoenix?
1. Keep doing what they're doing. They can't change now.
2. Force Detroit to shoot outside and get into more of a run-and-game game.
3. Rebound and box out. They have to focus on the rebounding aspect of the game..
Three keys for Detroit?
1. Take advantage of every missed Phoenix basket and capitalize on them. When Phoenix misses, Detroit has to make them pay for it.
2. The Big 3 have to come to play - Katie Smith, Cheryl Ford and Deanna Nolan. No days off, no plays off until the series is over.
3. Force Phoenix to guard them inside. Put the pressure on rebounding.
What's the X-factor in this series?
Homecourt, for both teams. Detroit has great fans. The atmosphere there can really push Detroit to another level. But Phoenix has the same thing. I went to the game against San Antonio, and they feed off that sixth man energy. You can just feel it happening, you feel the roar. That extra energy makes you want to go get that loose ball a little more. ... The other X-factor, obviously, is the play of the bench.
For the series, I think Phoenix is going to win it. They're confident. Tonight? I'm hoping for a great game. Detroit has had slow starts in the playoffs. If that happens tonight, they could be in trouble.
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
So it will be the Detroit Shock (as many people predicted entering the season) and the Phoenix Mercury (as few people predicted) playing for the 2007 WNBA Championship. My impression is this should be a very entertaining matchup, and I don't have a pick yet pending my research for my Finals preview (which should be up later today).
There's interesting stories with the losers. I've been a San Antonio hater all year, honestly, first doubting how much good their off-season additions would do and then questioning their mediocre point differential. In the end, however, the Silver Stars were very impressive despite being swept, and put together something of a blueprint for beating the Mercury - even if they weren't ultimately able to execute it.
Indiana's defeat is much more tragic because of the Achilles injury suffered by Tamika Catchings. Who knows how the game might have gone had Catchings been able to go the entire way. The Fever hung tough during the third quarter without Catchings, but Detroit's advantage in talent was too much to overcome. That's tough luck for the Fever, which was more than talented enough to win it all.
Ah, well. For everybody except Detroit and Phoenix ... wait 'till next year.
Friday, August 31, 2007
A game apiece into the Conference Finals, nothing has happened to change my picks.
Of course, the San Antonio Silver Stars would argue that might not be true were it not for the controversial (to put it mildly) call that went against them in the final seconds. That said, at worst Phoenix played even on the road and probably should have put the game away before that call. Becky Hammon is terrific and Dan Hughes has San Antonio playing very well, but the Mercury is the better team in this series.
Detroit and Indiana, in my mind, played to form Friday night. Indiana should have had the narrow advantage at home. Now it's up to the Fever to try to steal a game at The Palace of Auburn Hills. By the way, what's up with the Shock's free-throw shooting? 8-of-17 (47.1%) tonight and barely above 50% for the postseason. Bizarre.
- Congrats to former Storm guard Tully Bevilaqua on winning the WNBA's Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award. Tully's easy smile and great attitude will never be forgotten by those who worked with her when she was in Seattle (or elsewhere in the league, for that matter).
- I came across the Shock's 10th Anniversary Team on DetroitShock.com. Nice feature, and look for something similar in a few years on storm.wnba.com. There's several Storm tie-ins on the second team, which includes Storm posts Astou Ndiaye-Diatta and Wendy Palmer as well as former Storm guard Sandy Brondello.
Shock Basketball Information Specialist Eddie Rivero calls Palmer "probably the first true all-star on the team."
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Hey, at least I predicted something right.
I said Sunday I expected some very competitive Game 3s after the mismatches that marked the first four days of WNBA Playoff action. That turned out to be a vast understatement, with two of the games going into overtime and the third decided with 0.5 seconds left. The last two days have been WNBA action at its finest.
While waiting for players to complete their exit interviews tomorrow at The Furtado Center, I'll be working on my preview of the two Conference Finals series, which I hope to have posted by day's end. Then again, after I correctly picked only one of the three First Round series - that being Detroit-New York, which, ahem, I did not see going three games and an extra five minutes before being decided - I'm not sure said preview will hold much value.
By the way ... if you're into semi-random WNBA stats (you know I am), Paul Swanson has some great numbers on his blog. Former Storm guard Tully Bevilaqua finished third in the WNBA, drawing 20 offensive fouls. In 2004 I made it my mission to track how many charges Tully drew, but I don't recall getting very far. Storm center Janell Burse drawing 16 offensive fouls in 29 games was more surprising and impressive.
Sunday, August 26, 2007
PHOENIX - We really believed. When the Storm rallied to tie the game at 85-all, it looked like a miraculous comeback was well within the team's reach. Alas, Diana Taurasi and company destroyed that vision. Taurasi's three-pointer seemed to be worth even more points, it was such a shocking turn of momentum and came from so deep. The Storm never recovered.
The nature of the WNBA Playoffs is that a defeat comes very suddenly; two games, in this case, and the season is over. It's hard to process right away. There were so many highlights to the seson, including Lauren Jackson's play all year long, but the ultimate result was the Storm falling short of what it set out to do.
The next couple of days, including exit interviews, should allow us to put the season in better perspective.
When the Storm blew out Phoenix on May 23, my big question was whether the Mercury had enough grit after losing Kristen Rasmussen and Kamila Vodichkova. I would say that over the last two games Phoenix has conclusively answered that question. Turns out Kelly Miller has more than enough scrappiness to cover the entire team.
It's more than Miller, however. The Mercury may not be physically tough, but there is a mental resiliency provided by Taurasi and Cappie Pondexter, amongst others. Phoenix answered every Storm run over the two games in this series and wasn't rattled even when the Storm rallied from 22 down to tie the game.
Based on this series, the Mercury has to be considered the clear favorite in the Western Conference Finals against either Sacramento or San Antonio. How far could Phoenix go? There's no reason to believe the Mercury can't win this whole thing.
Posted by kp at 8:02 PM
PHOENIX - Since the WNBA went to its current eight-team Playoff system in 2000, there have never been a full four Game 3s in the First Round. Just last year, the Seattle Storm participated in the only Game 3 of the four series. This afternoon, however, the Storm has a chance to make four Game 3s in two days by beating the Phoenix Mercury.
The first four days of the WNBA postseason have been competitive to the extent that all three series thus far have gone the distance, but the individual games have been surprisingly uncompetitive. Thursday's triple-OT clash between Indiana and Connecticut was an instant classic and Detroit and New York went down to the wire today, but every other game has been lopsided. That's a surprising outcome, and one I don't think that will continue with the Game 3s starting tomorrow.
The other surprise - one the Storm hopes does not continue today - has been the dominance of home teams, which are 6-1 so far, with Phoenix earning the lone road victory to date.
The Storm traveled to Phoenix yesterday afternoon after practicing in Seattle, then held a shootaround at the US Airways Center this morning. I got in about 11 a.m. this morning and, after a quick lunch with some co-workers, now it's killing time until we head to the arena. Once again, make sure to check out our inaugural road Live From Press Row.
You can pass the time by reading about this series, starting with our Insider Preview. Diana Taurasi blogged about Game 1 in her blog with Sue Bird, while the Mercury Web site has behind-the-scenes video from Game 1, including Bill Russell's visit to the Phoenix locker room after the game.
Posted by kp at 1:05 PM
Thursday, August 23, 2007
After taking Wednesday off, the Storm went through its final practice in preparation for taking on the Mercury starting tomorrow. During the portion of practice open to the media, the Storm was again working against Phoenix's 3-2 zone with Adia Barnes playing the Diana Taurasi role of rover. Talking to Adia afterwards, she's been very impressed with how the Storm has played this week in practice.
Storm Head Coach Anne Donovan cited the "good focus" in practice this week and praised the practice unit for playing as close to Phoenix's style as possible.
Most of the discussion after practice centered on the relationships on both sides. Speaking of that, I need to work on my feature on that topic.
Update: As I transcribe, I want to make sure I find a place for this quote from Sue Bird on comparing the Storm with the Mercury:
"Their inside game is not as tall, not as Lauren Jackson as ours is."
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Day two of the Storm's prep work in practice for the Phoenix Mercury focused more on working against the Mercury's junk defenses - a triangle-and-two and, notably, the box-and-one against Lauren Jackson I wrote about yesterday.
"We put somebody on Lauren to frustrate her today," explained Storm Head Coach Anne Donovan, "so hopefully she can get that frustration out in practice and not be so frustrated when she sees Diana (Taurasi) on Friday."
Storm color analyst and former player Adia Barnes has been part of the practice squad the last few days, and today - at least during the portion of practice open to the media - she was assigned the task of filling Taurasi's role in the Mercury's zone.
There was a brief moment of shock when we walked into the practice court and saw Sue Bird on the sidelines having her foot worked on, but it turned out to be precautionary. Bird has a fourth metatarsal contusion, which means she's got a bruised toe on her right foot. She sat out the end of practice, but the injury isn't a serious concern.
I was interested to hear Wendy Carpenter of The News Tribune use the same word I did yesterday - "loose" - to describe the Storm's attitude.
"I think we feel good about having enough time to rest, so nobody's overworked - and it's a mental and a physical rest - and yet when they've come here, they've come to work," responded Donovan. "I would say loose, because we know our opponent and we know what we need to do. We're in a good place. I guess that's how I'd say it."
Lastly, Izi Castro Marques delivered a perfect line one day late - I would have loved to use it in yesterday's story on what a good matchup this is from the perspective of fans and the media.
"It's a fun game," she said. "I think everybody likes to watch that game, everybody likes to play that game because it's a high-scoring game - the best offensive teams in the league. It's going to be a fun game, but we know we can't keep up running with them, so we've got to limit our turnovers and defend as much as we can because that's what they do: Shoot and run, shoot and run."
Also ... if you haven't checked out Taurasi's latest entry in her blog with Sue Bird, be sure to do so. Apparently, she doesn't talk much trash on the court. We'll have to double-check with LJ on that one.