Saturday, October 27, 2007

U.S. Falls in Final

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." 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

U.S. Women Into Final Game

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

U.S. Women in Russia

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

Sparks Hit Lotto Jackpot

Jamin DershowitzThe 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
2. Chicago
3. Minnesota
4. Atlanta
5. Houston
6. Washington
7. New York
8. Seattle
9. Connecticut
10. Sacramento
11. Detroit (from San Antonio)
12. Indiana
13. Phoenix
14. New York (from Detroit via San Antonio)

Friday, October 19, 2007

LJ Resumes Training

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

Welcome to the WNBA, Atlanta

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);'s Fan Voice is soliciting suggestions now. Also be sure to check out's Q&A with Terwilliger.

A Fantasy Note

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

Horton Headed to Minnesota

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.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Taurasi Defeats Bird

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

Simi Blogs

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 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.