Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Turkish Finals Tied at Two

Despite 12 points from Storm forward Barbara Turner, her Fenerbahce team fell 62-55 to Besiktas Thursday. The Turkish Finals series between the two teams is now tied at two games apiece. That's bad news for the Storm, hoping to get Turner back as quickly as possible. The best-of-seven series continues with the following schedule:

Game 5 - Thursday, May 10 at Fenerbahce
Game 6 - Saturday, May 12 at Besiktas
Game 7 - Tuesday, May 15 at Fenerbahce (if necessary)

If the series goes a full seven games, Turner will have a practice or two at best with the Storm before Anne Donovan and the coaching staff have to decide on the competition between Turner and Shyra Ely for a spot on the Storm's roster.

As we await Thursday's deciding Game 5 in Russia, I wanted to blog quickly about a question I've heard within the office: Why is the star-studded Spartak team going to five games with CSKA?

When you hear the names on Spartak - Sue Bird, Lauren Jackson, Ticha Penicheiro, Diana Taurasi, Tina Thompson - it sounds like a WNBA All-Star squad in many ways. CSKA's biggest WNBA stars are DeMya Walker and Ann Wauters - solid players, both All-Stars in 2005, but not superstars.

There was an excellent discussion of this seeming anamoly at the RebKell Junkie Boards yesterday. To quickly sum it up:

- The Two Russians Rule
Both teams (and every team in the Russian Superleague) has to have two Russian players on the floor at all times. Spartak has a very good one in Svetlana Abrosimova, but CSKA center Maria Stepanova is the best player in Russia and a star in the WNBA when she deigns to play for the Phoenix Mercury (which hasn't been very often of late). Ilona Korstine gives CSKA a second Russian standout.

- Limited Time for Non-Russians
The first two reasons are opposite sides of the same coin. Because Spartak has to play two Russian players, it can only play three non-Russians. Tamika Whitmore, a fine WNBA player, is largely worthless to Spartak because there are no minutes available for her. Meanwhile, Penicheiro and Bird are splitting time at the point (with Bird playing the majority of the minutes), limiting their combined impact.

- Not All Stars are in the WNBA
Like Stepanova, Spanish forward Amaya Valdemoro could certainly play in the WNBA, but prefers to take her summers off. Even those who do play here are not necessarily as valuable. While Edwige Lawson-Wade did a solid job for the Storm as a reserve behind Bird last season, she's never been a consistent WNBA regular. Overseas, however, Lawson-Wade is an experienced veteran.

- Team Chemistry
Spartak's roster has largely been built this season, with Jackson added just before the playoffs. Bird certainly knows how to play with LJ and Taurasi, but the team as a whole is probably not as cohesive as CSKA.

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