Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Dream Hires Steding

Our focus on the last couple of weeks has been the Storm Coaching Network - former Storm players now in the coaching ranks. Well, time for a quick rewrite. Katy Steding, part of that group, was hired by the Atlanta Dream today as an assistant to Head Coach Marynell Meadors. Steding had been the head coach at NAIA Warner Pacific College.

"For us to have a former WNBA player and former Olympian I think it’s just awesome," Meadors said in the release. "It’s instant credibility for our team. It’s going to be a great situation, she is going to come in and do a great job for us."

Steding becomes the second former Storm player to work on a WNBA sideline, the other being San Antonio's Sandy Brondello.

Overseas Update and More 3/26

Lots of recent events to catch up on, so let's not waste any time.

We start in Russia, where the Cup of Russia was contested last week, Superleague teams taking a break from regular-season play. Spartak finished third, defeating Kursk Dynamo 75-62 in the quarterfinals before falling to CSKA Moscow 71-62 in the semis. Spartak rallied to take third by beating Moscow Dynamo 83-70. CSKA Moscow went on to defeat UMMC Ekaterinburg for the championship. Sue Bird was arguably Spartak's most consistent performer, averaging 13.3 points and 5.0 assists in the three games. Lauren Jackson averaged 8.7 points and 5.0 rebounds.

Looking ahead, there are less than two weeks and three games remaining in the Superleague regular season, which wraps up April 6. It's April 11, however, that is the big date forthcoming on the Spartak calendar. That's when they'll take on Ekaterinburg in Brno, Czech Republic for the Euroleague Final Four, with the Euroleague championship set for two days later.

Brno is the hometown of Gambrinus Brno, the archrival for Janell Burse's USK Praha squad, and the two teams faced off today in Prague. Despite 20 points and nine rebounds from Burse, who shot 8-of-16 from the field, USK fell 65-58. Teammate Lindsay Whalen shot just 2-of-11 from the field. Brno has won all four head-to-head matchups this season (two during the regular season, two during the current double round-robin playoff-type competition, which involves four teams) - all four defeats USK has suffered in Czech play. Last year, Burse blogged about USK defeating Brno for the first time ever in the club's history. USK has one last game left in the double round-robin, Friday against Karlovy Vary.

In Poland, Shyra Ely's Finepharm AZS KK Jelenia Góra squad fell 70-61 to Cukierki Odra Brzeg today. Ely had 19 points and a game-high 14 rebounds in the loss. In 10 games since joining the team midseason, she has averaged 10.3 points and 8.9 rebounds.

Katie Gearlds scored 15 points, including three three-pointers, but it wasn't enough as her Athinaikos squad lost 74-66 to Panathinaikos Sunday in a contest that had to be very confusing to broadcast. Gearlds added four rebounds, playing all 40 minutes. With four weeks left in the regular season, Athinaikos is in a three-way tie for third place in the Greek A1 league.

The Italian A1 league last played Saturday, when Doneeka Lewis scored 12 points on 5-of-10 shooting but her Fiera di Roma Pomezia squad fell 87-62 to Famila Schio. Elsewhere, Adia Barnes had 13 points and Astou Ndiaye-Diatta 12 in Phard Napoli's 73-62 loss to Lavezzini Parma. Next Sunday will be the last weekend of the regular season. At 17-8, Napoli is in fourth place while Fiera di Roma is in 12th.

In Israel, the D1 league is preparing for postseason action. At 16-5, Tanisha Wright's Ranaana Hertzliya won a tie-breaker with Electra Ramat Hasharon for first place and will have home-court advantage in a best-of-three series with Maccabi Ramat Hen. Ranaana Hertzliya will host games next Monday and April 7, with Ramat Hen hosting a game April 10.

Wright finished as the league's leading assister at 6.2 apg, fifth in the league in scoring at 21.5 ppg, second in steals at 3.2 spg and fourth in three-point percentage (46.7%).

Competing the blog we started last week, the U.S. Senior Women's National Team completed its training in Spain Thursday by taking on Spanish side Perfumerías Avenida. The U.S. rallied from a seven-point deficit going into the fourth quarter to force overtime and ultimately prevailed, 69-66, in the extra session. In 13 minutes of action, Storm forward Swin Cash contributed two points and two rebounds.

The NCAA Tournament tipped off over the weekend, and with the Sweet Sixteen set, I hope your bracket looks better than mine does. The right side is in terrific shape - I got all eight Sweet Sixteen teams correct over there, but just half of the eight teams on the other side of the bracket (the one- and two-seeds, natch). With Cal getting upset at the buzzer by George Washington, Kate Paye at Stanford is the only member of the Storm Coaching Network still alive in the tournament, though there are still plenty of alma maters, including favorites UConn and Tennessee.

In Australia, Jackson is now featured in a TV commercial for RADD (Recording Artists, Actors and Athletes Against Drink Driving).

"It is really upsetting and painful for those involved, and the friends and family," Jackson told the Herald Sun, citing experience with those she knew growing up in Albury killed in crashes. "It made me think twice. I can't even have one drink and drive.

"I am too paranoid to do that. I couldn't risk me, my family, my friends or anybody else on the road. I just couldn't live with myself."

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Cash in Spain with USA Basketball

Swin CashSwin Cash and her teammates on the USA Basketball Senior Women's National Team are spending this week in Spain training and playing against two local squads as preparation for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing continues.

Earlier today (and extremely early this morning Seattle time), the U.S. Women defeated Ros Casares Valencia 82-72. The home team led 20-5 early before the U.S., coached by Anne Donovan, rallied for the win.

On Thursday, the U.S. will take on Perfumerías Avenida in Salamanca, Spain.

Through, you can also e-mail potential questions for the players.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Sue Bird on KJR

Sue Bird will discuss her new multi-year contract to stay in Seattle tonight on KJR 950 AM at 6:05 p.m.

UPDATE: Here's the audio file from the interview.

Also, hat tip to, had Sue go behind the camera to interview USA Basketball teammates DeLisha Milton-Jones, Cappie Pondexter and Diana Taurasi.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Continent Takes Euroleague All-Star Game

On paper, the Rest of the World team had a clear advantage over the Europe squad in Thursday's Euroleague All-Star Game, played in Vidnoje, Russia, the home of Sue Bird's and Lauren Jackson's Russian squad, Spartak Moscow.

In addition to Bird and Jackson, the Rest of the World boasted six WNBA All-Stars headlined by Chamique Holdsclaw, Cappie Pondexter, Nykesha Sales and Diana Taurasi. Europe had stars in its own right, including new Russian citizen Becky Hammon, but most of the roster consisted of players, like Maria Stepanova and Ann Wauters, who have forsaken the chance to play key roles in the WNBA in favor of taking a break after their seasons in Europe.

Despite the potential talent disadvantage, the night belonged to the European squad, which took a 12-point lead by halftime and cruised to a 111-86 victory. Amaya Valdemoro led all scorers with 25 points to earn MVP honors, while Hammon scored 17 points and Stepanova controlled the paint with 16 points and 14 boards.

The Rest of the World got big nights from Pondexter (24 points on 10-of-15 shooting) and DeLisha Milton-Jones (18 points on 9-of-12), but had just those two players score double-figures. The Storm's All-Stars had relatively quiet nights. Bird was scoreless in 12 minutes of action, picking up two steals. Jackson started and finished with five points and six rebounds, handing out two assists and blocking two shots.

Storm CEO Karen Byant, along with Head Coach Brian Agler, is in Russia and attended the game. Look for more of the color in her post-game blog coming soon.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Overseas Update 3/11

Tanisha Wright's team, Raanana Hertzliya, lost a close game to Maccabi Ramat Hen 80-78 on March 10. Despite the loss, Wright continued her strong play and led her team in scoring with 23 points. She also had seven rebounds, 11 assists, five steals and one block in 38 minutes.

Wright has jumped to fourth place in the Israeli DI National League in points per game with 21.2. She is making 54.3% of her two-point field goals and 40.4% of her three-point field goals. Raanana Hertzliya plays again on March 24 against Maccabi Ashdod.

Astou Ndiaye-Diatta and Phard Napoli beat Pool Comense 82-65 on March 9. Ndiaye-Diatta had a great night shooting, making 8 of 9 shots (88.9%) to finish with 16 points. She also had six rebounds in 19 minutes. Phard Napoli will play again on March 19 against Italmoka Pozzuoli.

Doneeka Lewis' team, Fiera di Roma Pomezia, won a close game against Gescom Viterbo 57-55 on Mar. 9. Lewis led her team with 19 points. She also had three rebounds in 35 minutes. Fiera di Roma Pomezia will play again on Mar. 19 against Banco di Sicilia Ribera.

In the Russian SuperLeague, Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird's team, Spartak, beat DC Moscow 83-59 on March 10. The win improves Spartak's record to 16-1, but they still trail CSKA (Moscow) by one game in the standings.

Jackson finished the game with 21 points, three assists, two blocked shots, and eight rebounds in 23 minutes. She made 8 of 11 shots (73%) from inside the arc. Bird had nine assists which was a team high. She also had seven points, four steals and one rebound in 28 minutes.

Up next for Spartak is a matchup against UMMC Ekaterinburg on March 16. UMMC will present a tough matchup for Spartak as they try to keep up with CSKA. They are right behind Spartak in the standings with a record of 16-2.

On March 8, Katie Gearlds' team, Athinaikos of the Greek A1 National League, beat Aris Holargou 59-47. She finished the game with nine points, eight rebounds and one assist in 40 minutes.

Athinaikos will play again on March 23 against Panathinaikos. Athinaikos is curently ranked third in the standings with a record of 14-7. They trail Esperides Ravenna by three games.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Today's Random Storm Fact

Did you know that newly re-signed Storm forward Shyra Ely and Voice of the Sonics Kevin Calabro both attended the same high school, Ben Davis in Indianapolis, Ind.?

Me neither until I was googling about Ely's high-school exploits (she was Gatorade's National High School Girls Basketball Player of the Year, which is today's other random Storm fact) and came across Wikipedia's list of notable Ben Davis alumni. I figure that's worth passing along.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Swoopes on KJR Wednesday

Listen to the newest member of the Seattle Storm, Sheryl Swoopes, tonight. She will appear on KJR 950 AM with Elise and Ian in the 8:00 p.m. hour.

UPDATE: Listen to the interview here.

Cash, U.S. to Train in Spain

The U.S. Senior Women's National Team will be heading to Salamanca and Valencia Spain to resume training for this summer's Olympics. Storm newcomer Swin Cash is one of 12 players from the WNBA who will be in Spain from March 14- 20 with the team.

The first stop for the National Team will be in Valencia, Spain from March 14-16, where they will train in preparation for a game against Ros Casares, considered one of the top EuroLeague teams. They are one of the EuroLeague's quarterfinalists and are one win away from reaching the EuroLeague Final Four. The U.S. Women will then take two more days to practice and get ready for their trip to Salamanca, Spain, where they will take on Perfumerias Avenida on March 20.

After the Spain trip, the U.S. Women will hold a training camp in Chicago from April 13-16 to further train for The Good Luck Bejing Tournament, which will also feature teams from Australia, China, Cuba, New Zealand and South Korea. The tournament will be played from April 19-26. That will keep members of the National Team out of the first week of WNBA training camps, which open April 21.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Overseas Update 3/4

Tanisha Wright's Raanana Hertzeliya squad beat Elizur Ramla 77-71 on March 3. Wright was the game's leading scorer with 23 points. She also had five rebounds, three assists and five steals in 37 minutes. Wright is currently ranked fifth in the Isreali DI National League team in points per game with 21.1. She is also ranked first in the league in assists per game, with six and third in the league in steals per game with 3.1. Raanana Hertzelia plays again on March 10 against Maccabi Ramat Hen.

On Mar. 2. Astou Ndiaye-Diatta's team, Phard Napoli, won a close game against Germano Zama Faenza 66-63. Ndiaye-Diatta finished the game with two points and three rebounds in 20 minutes. Phard Napoli will play against Pool Comense in their next game on March 9.

Also in the LegA Basket Femminile League in Italy, Donneka Lewis' Fiera di Roma Pomezia team beat New Wash Montigarda 64-60 on March 3. Lewis had 15 points and one assist in 32 minutes. Fiera di Roma Pomezia plays again on March 9 against Gescom Viterbo.

In the Russian SuperLeague, Lauren Jackson's and Sue Bird's team, Spartak Moscow, crushed Shelen-ETK 105-24. Bird finished the game with four points, three assists and one rebound in 17 minutes. Jackson did not play in the game.

In Euroleague play, Spartak beat Dynamo 98-58 Feb. 29 in quarterfinals play. With the win, Spartak advances to the EuroLeague Final Four. Bird had 14 points, eight rebounds, three assists and one steal in 3o minutes. Jackson had 16 points, five rebounds, one assist and one blocked shot in 22 minutes.

Spartak's final four opponent will be fellow Russian side UMMC Ekaterinburg. They will not be playing the first game until April. 11. UMMC Ekaterinburg is coming off a huge win against CSKA Moscow, who was undefeated going into the series.

On March. 2, Katie Gearlds' team, Athinaikos, lost to Kastoria 78-74 in a Greek A1 National League matchup. Gearlds finished the game with 19 points.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Swoopes Odds and Ends

Observation No. 1 from this afternoon's press conference introducing Sheryl Swoopes to the Seattle media: I walked away feeling like I had enough material for at least two or three features, though alas time for only one. Surely we'll get to the rest over the next few months, but for now the odds and ends go to the blog.

Observation No. 2: Not sure if anyone else remembers "The Chris Farley Show" from Saturday Night Live, where the late Farley stumbled his way through fawning interviews, but I felt a little like that before interviewing Swoopes and Brian Agler in the latter's office just before the press conference began.

Me: Hey Sheryl, remember that time you had the first triple-double in WNBA history?
Swoopes: Yeah, I do.
Me: That was awesome!

I mean, come on, it's Sheryl Swoopes. Not that we've lacked for elite talent with the Storm; far from it, even this off-season with the addition of Swin Cash. Still, you look at what Swoopes has accomplished in her career and it's simply remarkable.

On a more serious note, here's some quick video of the press conference shot by my boss:

And here's Swoopes showing off her new jersey:

To the notes:

- It's incredibly rare to have two multiple-time MVPs as teammates. Swoopes actually has been involved in the other such pairing in WNBA history, playing with Cynthia Cooper in Houston. To get a sense of the historic natue of the pairing of Swoopes and Lauren Jackson, I looked at other sports.

I found only one set of multiple-MVP NBA teammates, Lakers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson. Same with the NFL, which is less surprising because quarterbacks so frequently win MVP. So Joe Montana and Steve Young were teammates in San Francisco, but obviously they never played together.

With one MVP in each league and more multiple-MVP winners, baseball has the most sets of teammates. I found five, but I can't be certain my list is exhaustive. Joe DiMaggio was part of a pair of sets, overlapping at the start of his career with Lou Gehrig and at the end of it with Mickey Mantle. Mantle played in the same outfield with Roger Maris. Johnny Bench and Joe Morgan played together for the Big Red Machine and Jimmie Foxx and Ted Williams were teammates for the Red Sox.

- Storm COO Karen Bryant and Agler are headed to Russia next week to see Jackson and Sue Bird and take in the Euroleague All-Star Game. The trip will give the Storm a chance to negotiate with Bird, one of the team's two core players (Janell Burse is the other). That guarantees Bird a one-year contract at the max salary, but there is the potential for the two sides to come to agreement on a long-term deal.

- Swoopes said she is still in the process of making a decision on whether or not to play for the U.S. Senior Women's National Team in this summer's Beijing Olympics.

"My number one focus is to come back to the WNBA and be the best player that I know I can be," she said. "If the National Team thing happens, then I'll do that, but that's not my focus."

- Can't remember where I had read it, but Agler confirmed that the new WNBA CBA has loosened the restrictions around training-camp contracts. You'll remember last year that the Storm carried few players in camp in large part because of the fear that a camp invitee would be injured and count against the team's salary cap, a problem with the WNBA's hard cap. The new system allows more flexibility, so look for larger camp rosters.