Tuesday, November 25, 2008

CSKA Moscow Out of Euroleague

The big story in women's basketball right now - at least beyond the spate of upsets in the first couple of weeks of the NCAA season - is the impact the worldwide financial crisis is beginning to have in Russia. As has been rumored, the end has apparently come for Russian power CSKA Moscow, which is no longer in Euroleague, leaving Group B a team short.

There is no direct tie to the Storm, but CSKA was the main rival of Sue Bird's and Lauren Jackson's Spartak squad, so this totally changes the dynamic of the Russian Superleague as well as Euroleague. It's also unclear how much more fallout may still be coming.

To the games of the weekend. Spartak actually played Monday at Ekaterinburg, and as Paul Swanson notes there was an excellent crowd of a listed 5,000 in the house for the showdown between two of Russia's three undefeated teams (CSKA, for now, being the other). UMMC Ekaterinburg led 46-35 at the half only to see Spartak turn it on in the third quarter. Spartak outscored Ekaterinburg 26-8 in the 10-minute period, taking the lead and holding on for a 79-75 win.

Bird had 10 points, five boards and four assists in the win. It was a forgettable night for Jackson, limited to five points on 1-of-5 shooting and five boards in 18 minutes of action. Spartak got 24 points, nine rebounds and seven assists from Diana Taurasi to overcome a strong Ekaterinburg team.

In France, Tarbes Bigorre Elite's undefeated start to the season is over after 15 combined wins in EuroCup and LBF play. This time, Tarbes was unable to win a close game, falling 64-62 to Union Hainaut after being outscored 23-11 in the fourth quarter. In the loss, Tanisha Wright had 14 points, eight assists and five rebounds.

The other Storm team that was undefeated in both domestic and international play stayed that way narrowly over the weekend, Athinaikos holding off Apollon Ptolemaidas 75-74 despite a late scare. Gearlds pulled down eight rebounds, contributing on a night where she could not find her shot (1-of-12 from the field). Four other Athinaikos players scored double-figures.

UL Aughnish worked overtime to outlast DCU Mercury in the Irish Superleague, 68-67. Kristen O'Neill played the full 45 minutes and had a game-high 28 points on 9-of-19 shooting, including four three-pointers. She added 11 rebounds and three steals.

ZVVZ USK Praha is still unbeaten in the Czech Basketball League following another blowout win on Sunday over Basket Slovanka, 110-69. The game was bizarrely close in the first half, with USK Praha leading 47-46. In the second half, Praha outscored Slovanka 63-23. Yikes. Praha needed just 17 minutes from Swin Cash, who had 12 points and eight boards during that time. Six players scored at least 12 points.

Camille Little had her best game in Turkey as TED Kayseri Koleji handled Burhaniye 83-62 on Saturday to improve to 3-2. Little finished with 23 points on 9-of-17 shooting to go along with 11 rebounds.

Cadi La Seu dropped a 71-62 final to Hondarribia-Irun. I'm not quite sure what to make of the boxscore, which shows two stat lines for Kelly Santos. Alas, the one I suspect is correct shows Santos having a very tough night, missing 11 of her 13 shot attempts. She did apparently grab eight rebounds in 29 minutes of action. (This seems more likely than Santos getting shut out on the boards in 35 minutes, which is the other possibility.)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Robinson Diary: Interning in Dallas

Hey y'all! Sorry it has taken me so long to write. I have been pretty busy this offseason. So, let me get you all caught up on what I’ve been up to. …

I decided to stay in the U.S. of A. and not go play in Europe this offseason. I am home in Grand Prairie, Texas. This is my first time being home for longer than two months since I left to go to college in 2000. I am taking advantage of this time to just be here. My little sister, Katrina, and I hang out at least three days a week. I think that’s my favorite part about being home. We have a blast together. I think she needs to move to Seattle this summer with me. I don’t how she will feel about leaving the South for the Northwest! I’ll try to talk her into it.

Other than hanging with Trina, I’ve been doing an internship with the Dallas Mavs Broadcasting Department. I am having a ball. I cannot believe all that goes into having professional basketball games broadcast on TV. When you are playing you don’t really think about it. I just come to the gym, get dressed, warm up, listen to coach and then go play. So, thank you Seattle Storm Broadcast Team! :) My boss lady with the Mavs is Anita Green, AG for short. I heard rumors that she used to be a scary boss! She has been quite lovely! Love, love, love AG! (A little brown nosing never hurt anybody!) LOL!

My favorite days to work are game nights. Every game I work I get to observe and learn from different people doing their job. Y'all know I have no problem meeting new people, so this is right up my alley. Last week I observed the NBA Loggers. I had great teachers in Damien and Darryl. I logged the fourth quarter of the Cavaliers game and the second half of the Spurs game.

This week, I had to work the Lakers game, but not for the Mavs. I was a runner for the Lakers' Broadcast team. A runner means that I do all the leg work in the arena for that particular team - make copies, get water, bring stats and whatever else the producer needs. I kind of felt like their secretary for the day. HA! LUCKY ME, THOUGH! I got to meet the Lakers announcers, also. I got way excited when I shook the hands of Stu Lantz and Joel Meyers! EXCITING! That was a fun day on the job. I went and peeked in on the interview with Phil Jackson also. Could not miss that! If you didn’t know already, he is so tall! I’m always amazed when someone can make me feel short.

The Mavs have great analysts as well. I’m looking forward to shadowing as many of them as they will let me. Rolando Blackman is one of the Fox analysts for the Mavs. I am super excited to learn from him. Seattle fans that do not know Ro Blackman, please go look him up. I’ve always been a Mavs Fan and he is one of our legends! I was also thinking … since the Sonics are gone, I say all Seattle bball fans just become Storm and Mavs Fans! LOL! Still can wear green!

The most exciting thing I’ve done while being home was going to the Mayor’s Gala. I was so happy to be able to dress up. I went with some of my infamous guy friends from grade school - BJ, Marcus, Brent and Doc. We had a great time. I got to meet the Mayor of Dallas, Tom Leppert. With all the election hoopla this year I’ve been feeling all political. LOL. I came in contact with people that I normally wouldn’t brush shoulders with. It was so inspiring being around a group of successful people. I felt so grown up.

All the Storms (hehe) that I have spoken with are doing well. Balling! Every time I talk to one of them they had 20+ points and 10+ boards. I probably talk to Shyra and T the most. Shyra’s team beat someone by 103 without her. Her coach told her to rest that game. Ha! 103 POINTS! WOW! I haven’t spoken with Kelly, Kristen or Swin! I’m sure they are doing just as well as the rest of my teammates.

To all the girls, Lola (my toy fox terrier) is doing just fine. She gets treated like my mom’s first grandchild. It’s hilarious. If it was up to my mom we would carry Lola everywhere we went. She has taken over my whole family, pretty much. She’s had some sleepover requests; I wasn’t invited. LOL! She is one of the cutest dogs I’ve ever been around so I can’t blame them. She gets it from her Mama!

Well y'all, that’s all I have for now. I’m going to go enjoy this warm Texas weather and make my way to 24-Hour Fitness so I can get a membership. I have to work off these home-cooked meals Kathleen Robinson, my mama, has been whipping up!


Storm Honored at Heroes of Health Gala

The Storm's Sheryl Swoopes with Alicia Vasquez and Veronica Sosa, representing Quincy High School.

Inspiring young basketball players to work on their jump shot may help their team win, but the Seattle Storm recognizes that also encouraging kids to exercise and eat a well-balanced diet will lead to long and healthy lives. That’s why the Storm was honored to accept the Heroes of Health Healthy Living Award, recognizing the team’s work to promote youth fitness.

During the 2008 season, the Storm partnered with PCC Natural Markets, Seattle Children’s Hospital, the Washington State Nurses Association and the Washington Health Foundation to host a series of clinics aimed at educating children about the value of leading a healthy lifestyle.
Anne Levinson, chair of the Force 10 Hoops LLC ownership group, and WNBA legend and Storm star Sheryl Swoopes accepted the award during the Washington Health Foundation’s Heroes of Health Gala Nov. 15. Swoopes also announced that she will be participating in the Storm’s new youth-focused offseason Be Fit initiative, launching in early 2009.

During the Gala, Swoopes joined nearly two dozen Washington state athletes from past Olympics competitions who were recognized as healthy role models. She also signed autographs and posed for photographs with Quincy High School students honored for their work with Promotores de Salud, which breaks down cultural and language barriers between Grant County migrant workers and health care service providers.

Since its first WNBA tip-off nearly 10 years ago, the Storm and its players have focused on youth fitness and nutrition, an effort aimed at turning around sobering recent statistics that indicate more than 16 percent of U.S. kids are obese and another 16 percent are overweight.
- Eileen Norton and Teresa Wippel from the Storm staff

Lupe Cortes of Quincy High School was particularly thrilled to meet Swoopes because she was her No. 22 as a basketball player.

Swoopes poses with Cortes and Karina Valadez.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Spartak Wins; Dunk Steals Show

Spartak's 70-62 win over Famila Schio Wednesday isn't one the team will look back on as a highlight, not after struggling to put away a Schio team with just a single Euroleague win and scored but eight points in the fourth quarter. However, there was a highlight. The big story from the game was Spartak center Sylvia Fowles dunking in transition during the second quarter, her first dunk as a professional (and a likely portent of what's to come stateside). WNBA.com has the grainy, Zapruder-esque video:

From the Storm's perspective, the bigger news is that Lauren Jackson got her first start since ankle surgery (I can't remember her starting previously) and played a robust 28 minutes, scoring 14 points and grabbing eight boards. Sue Bird nearly went the distance, playing 39 minutes, and scored five points with seven rebounds (how about Sue scrapping in the paint?) and three assists.

Spartak also got good news when TEO Vilnius lost at Fenerbahce, meaning at 5-1 Spartak is now all alone atop Group 2.

In the Storm's other Euroleague game, ZVVZ USK Praha broke out in a big way by blowing out Union Hainaut Basket 83-58. The victory improves USK Praha to 2-4 and moves the team into a four-way tie for third place in Group C. Swin Cash led USK Praha with a huge game, scoring 27 points on 12-of-21 shooting and pulling down eight rebounds with four steals as well. Cash played the full 40 minutes. Lindsay Whalen chipped in 20 points and eight boards, making all eight of her two-point attempts.

Turning our attention to the EuroCup, I think Dynamo Moscow is about ready to move on from group play. There's simply no compeition for Dynamo in Group A. Earlier today, they defeated MBK 88-41, outscoring the opposition 25-3 in the fourth quarter. Janell Burse, with 10 points and six boards, was one of six Dynamo players to score double-figures.

Athinaikos hasn't had quite an easy time of it, but the Greek side too is 5-0 in group play after defeating Ragusa 81-61 yesterday. Our resident overseas blogger Katie Gearlds led the way in this victory by shooting the lights out, scoring 18 points on 6-of-8 shooting, including a pair of threes. A commenter asked about Gearlds' season stats, and she's now averaging 15.6 points in EuroCup group play while shooting 54.7 percent from the field and a cool 51.9 percent from beyond the arc. While looking at her stats, I also noticed that Gearlds is listed as a forward/center by the FIBA Europe Web site. Can this possibly be true? We'll have to find out in the next blog.

In Group F, K.V. Imperial AEL improved to 3-2 with a 71-59 home win over Gran Canaria. As usual, Shyra Ely dominated the paint for Imperial, making 10 free throws in 12 attempts. She finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds in 30 minutes.

Lastly, Tarbes Bigorre Elite continues to master the art of wriggling off the hook. The latest Tarbes win, by a 56-51 final over Extrugasa, saw the team score just eight points in the fourth quarter and overcome 23 turnovers. I don't know that I've ever seen a team win so consistently by so few points. Anyways, Tanisha Wright was held in check by the Extrugasa defense, a big reason the game was so close. Wright got off just six shot attempts, scoring nine points with four assists. Still, Tarbes remains unbeaten in both league and EuroCup play.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Gearlds Blog: Hello From Athens

Hey Storm fans! I hope this blog finds everyone doing well and getting ready for the holidays. I can't believe it's almost that time of the year again. Before we all know it, we'll be back in KeyArena ready to start another season. Since the end of the season, things have been kind of crazy on this end. I had about four days to get packed up in Seattle, head home to see my family and friends, and then head over to Athens. Needless to say, I didn't quite get the amount of time I wanted with all the people I love. But, the job calls and this is what pays the bills, so ... .

My team is currently undefeated in the Greek league and in our EuroCup pool. We've got a pretty solid team and I like our chances in the Greek championship. We've kind of lucked out because our pool in EuroCup isn't the greatest, but we are gladly taking advantage of it and hoping to move on to the next round. We've been pretty lucky because all of our games have been here in Athens; next week starts the traveling, so I'll have more stories later on the countries we visit! I get along very well with everyone on my team, but it would surely take a lot for me not to get along with anyone because I am pretty easy going, as if you didn't know that!

Outside of basketball, life is okay here. Almost everyone speaks English here, so the communication barrier is not a problem. I know a few Greek words - mostly the bad ones, of course! :) The pace of Europe is just so much slower than the USA. I went three weeks with no Internet and no phone line!!!! I was miserable. It just seemed like the people who were supposed to take care of that for me were in no hurry to get it done. Thank God I had my PlayStation with me to pass the time, but my cell phone bill was getting ridiculous.

On top of all that, I couldn't even take a shower in my own apartment because it was shocking the you-know-what out of me. Something was wrong with the water heater and the wires, so after about two weeks of showering in other places, besides my own home, it got fixed and now I can shower at my own place without any fear. Things like that just irritate me because I know in the States something as serious as those issues would be taken care of the next day!

I miss my family and friends more and more each day, but I think I have talked a few people into coming over to visit - I mean, it is Athens! Back home, just this past Thursday, we had to put my golden retriever, Peyton, down. She would have turned two years old this Christmas day, but in September she was diagnosed with Stage 5 cancer. We were going through chemo with her and she had been in remission. She was the same free-spirited dog we came to know and love, but over the past weekend, the cancer took over her whole body and there was nothing more we could do besides let her go peacefully and remember all the good times we had with her. We were only able to have her for a short amount of time, but she gave my family and me some wonderful memories and she's someone we will never forget - she was definitely our little Peyty-Pie!!!!

Until next time, KG

Monday, November 17, 2008

Happy Birthday Simone!

Happy Birthday to our favorite Shakin' Jamaican, Simone Edwards, who is 35 years young today. (Hat tip: Storm Fans.) That's a good excuse to bring everyone up to date on the latest on Simone.

After spending last season as an assistant coach at Radford University, Edwards has moved on to George Mason University this year, joining former Radford Head Coach Jeri Porter. The new staff is hoping to build a program to match the success the George Mason men have enjoyed in recent years, including the surprising run to the Final Four in 2006.

It sounds like Simone is already winning over another community. A few weeks ago, I received an e-mail from Lucy in Virginia, who plays for a 65+ basketball team and met Edwards at a local community center.

"We are proud to have her as an assistant coach for George Mason University," she wrote. "We hope to work with her to help her sent shoes, clothing, etc. to support the Jamaican children. She does have a beautiful smile and personality."

In other news ...
- Voting continues in WNBA.com's "Snap Judgment" photo competition, and a couple of Storm players are featured in the miscellaneous photos.

- With the college season tipping off, Patrick Sheehy at the Chasing the Title blog is taking a look at the top prospects for the 2009 WNBA Draft by the numbers.

- While you're thinking offseason, we're now less than a month away from teams and players being able to negotiate with each other on Dec. 15 (contracts can't be signed until Jan. 5, 2009). WNBA.com has a list of the available free agents, and this year that list is a little more complete since many teams (including the Storm) have already used their core designations.

Last Unbeatens in Greece

With Apollon Ptolemaidas falling over the weekend, Athinaikos has emerged as the last unbeaten team in the Greek A1 lead. Athinaikos remained unblemished with a 72-59 victory over Apollon Kal. Katie Gearlds scored four points and grabbed six rebounds, content to watch LaToya Davis do damage in the paint. The former Texas Tech star scored 28 points, grabbed 12 rebounds, shot 9-of-16 from the field and made 10 free throws in 11 attempts.

In the Czech Republic, where USK Praha reasserted its Czech Basketball League superiority by beating third-place Kara Trutnov 91-66. Swin Cash had an excellent game, scoring 22 points on 9-of-17 shooting and grabbing nine rebounds. If I'm reading the box score correctly, Cash drew nine fouls over the course of the game.

The Russian Superleague largely took the weekend off and Spartak did not play. Dynamo Moscow was in action, using a big fourth-quarter comeback to win 92-74. Dynamo actually trailed heading to the fourth before holding a commanding 29-8 edge in the final period. Janell Burse saw relatively limited action, 16 minutes, scoring eight points and grabbing two rebounds.

In the French LFB, Tarbes Bigorre Elite continues to stay undefeated in rather unconvincing fashion, escapting unscathed from a series of close games. This time, a Tanisha Wright three-pointer lifted Tarbes over Aix en Provence, 57-56, in a game that saw both teams shoot below 40 percent from the field. Wright's triple capped a night where she had 21 points, eight rebounds and six assists. She didn't shoot the ball particularly well, but then again neither did anyone else.

A weird game in Spain between Cadi La Seu and Rivas Ecopolis. La Seu's linescore by quarter: 17-29-9-10. Rivas went 26-10-12-19. The lead swung wildly in the first half, but the outcome ultimately favored Rivas by a 67-65 final. Kelly Santos was in foul trouble much of the night, playing 21 minutes with five points and four rebounds.

Another weird game in Turkey featuring Camille Little's TED Kayseri Koleji squad. Kayseri Koleji won 77-68, overcoming a combined 61 points from Lindsay Bowen (24), Seda Erdrogran (20) and Bojana Vulic (17, 16 rebounds). The other eight Cankaya University players who saw action totaled seven points on 2-of-16 shooting in 90 minutes of action. Wow. As for Little, she had 14 points and six rebounds.

The Cyprus Women's Basketball League has started play and Shyra Ely's K.V. Imperial AEL squad is predictably 2-0 with a pair of blowout wins. No boxscores available, but presumably Ely is putting up big numbers. Lastly, the Irish Superleague took the weekend off, so no result for Kristen O'Neill.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Costly Loss for USK Praha

ZVVZ USK Praha was badly in need of a win Thursday against Lotos PKO BP in a matchup of 1-3 teams in Euroleague's Group C. Falling behind 23-11, USK Praha was unable to rally and lost 71-57 to drop to last place in the group. Lindsay Whalen had 21 points and six rebounds for USK Praha, but Lotos BP was able to keep her teammates in check, including Swin Cash. Cash had six points and five rebounds in 27 minutes of action.

In EuroCup play, it wasn't pretty but Dynamo Moscow defeated Municipal Targoviste 58-50 to improve to 4-0 and assure a spot in the round of 32. Dynamo missed Janell Burse, who did not play. Still, its defense held Targoviste to sub-30 percent shooting and 19 points in the second half to allow for a Dynamo comeback.

The news was not as good for K.V. Imperial AEL, which dropped a 77-60 decision at Cras Basket Taranto to slip to .500 in EuroCup play at 2-2. Shyra Ely had a relatively quiet game by her standards, scoring 12 points on 3-of-6 shooting and adding three rebounds and three steals. Megan Mahoney had a huge night for Taranto, scoring 23 points on 9-of-14 shooting.

Tuba Man Memorial

The late Jim Valvano once famously said that you've had a full day if you laugh, you cry and you think. That being the case, those of us in attendance packed a full day into the hour of Wednesday's public memorial to the life of Ed "The Tuba Man" McMichael.

We were moved to sadness trying to understand the tragic way McMichael was taken from us. But we also laughed hearing several speakers share the anecdotes that endeared the Tuba Man to an entire city. And we thought about how we could use our own tuba and funny hats, as Seahawks PA Announcer Randy Rowland explained metaphorically, to bring the same joy to others that McMichael brought to all of us.

What most struck me over the course of the memorial was the breadth of people who were touched by the Tuba Man and the many different ways they related to him. My connection, naturally, was through sporting events, particularly those at KeyArena. Certainly, Seattle's sports community played a prominent role in the service, with Seahawks CEO Tod Leiweke and Mariners President Chuck Armstrong speaking, as well as Art Thiel from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Also, attendees signed a Seahawks 12th Man flag that Leiweke announced would be flown at team headquarters the remainder of the season, while jerseys from several local sports teams including the Storm (at right) honoring the Tuba Man stood in front of the stage.

What I never realized was that McMichael was so well known through his connections to other speakers, including de facto emcee John Maynard of the long-running Robin and Maynard radio show, which largely organized the event, as well as KOMO's Ken Schram. John Tangeman, manager of audience services for Pacific Northwest Ballet, spoke to the Tuba Man's ubiqutous presence outside of McCaw Hall.

The emotional centerpiece of the evening came when McMichael's brother Kelsey took the microphone, clearly overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from the Seattle community and amazed at the response. His speech concluded with a communal thumbs up from the crowd, imitating Tuba Man's trademark gesture.

Even if you couldn't make Wednesday's memorial, you can still watch the video that concluded the evening (embedded below) or donate to a couple of memorial funds. Donations can be made to the Edward "Tuba Man" McMichael Memorial Fund in person at any Bank of America branch, or by sending a check to the fund at P.O. Box 4985, Federal Way, WA 98063. Also, the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestas has set up a scholarship fund in McMichael's name. Donations can be made via their Web site.

Other recaps come from the Seattle P-I (featuring video and photos), the P-I at McMichael's private funeral, The New York Times and Seattle Sports Online.

My other thought during the memorial related to our routines at sporting events. It occurred to me that in recent years I never really consciously took notice of Tuba Man outside the occasional Sehawks and Mariners games I attended, but the memories came flooding back over the last few days.

I've been thinking about routines because, with the departure of the Sonics, I've started going to a handful of Blazers games at the Rose Garden. I know KeyArena inside and out, having covered about 60 games a year there since joining the Sonics and Storm. The Rose Garden is a completely new experience, and it's weird feeling like a newcomer again. At the same time, I appreciate things in a different way. We take fixtures like the Tuba Guy for granted as people who attend games regularly, and it might be worth trying to pay attention to all those little things and appreciate them before they are taken away.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Storm on KONG Thursday Morning

Storm CEO Karen Bryant and star Sheryl Swoopes will be on King 5 Morning News on KONG 6/16 tomorrow morning around 8:20 a.m. to talk about an honor for the Storm organization as well as staying involved in the community during the offseason. Make sure to tune in.

Also, WNBA.com has an "On the Road" feature with the Storm's Lauren Jackson in which she proclaims her love for the Emerald City.

Dot-com: What's the best WNBA city to shop in?
Jackson: "Seattle, of course. It's amazing! Seattle is the best city in the world! I shop, I enjoy the water, I have friends there, cafes, restaurants… I love it."

Read on for some of Jackson's other favorite cities.

Athinaikos Will Move On

With a win Wednesday over Greek rivals Panionios (their second head-to-head meeting this week), Athinaikos has assured itself a spot in the Round of 32 in EuroCup action. At 4-0, Athinaikos can finish no worse than second in Group E. Katie Gearlds scored 10 points in a 73-56 win that was a better offensive showing than it sounds, with Athinaikos scoring 73 in just 63 possessions, a very slow pace.

In the day's other EuroCup action, Tarbes defeated Olivais Coimbra 88-78 to stay undefeated on the season. Tarbes will finish no worse than tied for first in their group and is also assured of moving on. Tanisha Lovely Wright, as she's called on FIBAEurope.com, led the way, scoring 21 points on 8-of-13 shooting, handing out eight assists, grabbing five rebounds and pilfering four steals with one turnover in 31 minutes. Not a bad day at the office.

In the lone Euroleague game of the day involving Storm players (ZVVZ USK Praha does not play until tomorrow), Spartak stayed strong with a 93-70 win over Lattes Montpellier. Spartak led 27-14 after one quarter, and Lattes was never able to get much closer despite playing even in the second half.

Spartak was on fire from downtown, canning 15 triples in 29 attempts, while Lattes shot 3-of-16 from beyond the arc. Both Sue Bird (3-of-5 on threes) and Lauren Jackson (2-of-3) played a role, while Diana Taurasi knocked down five triples in nine attempts. Bird finished with nine points and eight assists, while Jackson had 12 points and nine rebounds in 20 minutes of action. Center Sylvia Fowles led Spartak inside, scoring 25 points and grabbing 17 rebounds, nine of them at the offensive end.

Elsewhere, TEO Vilnius - the one squad to knock off Spartak this year - won a showdown with Maxima Broker Kosice to remain tied with Spartak atop Group D at 4-1.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Spartak Defeats Dynamo

Saturday brought the first of two regular-season matchups between Storm teammates in Russia, as Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson led Spartak against Janell Burse and Dynamo Moscow. Spartak cruised to a 104-71 win to remain unbeaten in the Russian Superleague.

Bird was outstanding, hitting nine-of-13 from the field in scoring 25 points while handing out nine assists in 34 minutes of action. Jackson added firepower off the bench, scoring 16 points and grabbing seven rebounds in 19 minutes and shooting 6-of-10 from the field. Burse was solid for Dynamo, finishing with 12 points and seven boards, but her team simply lacked the firepower to keep up with the loaded Spartak squad, which won the third quarter 30-10.

Another game, another win for Tarbes Bigorre Elite. And another nailbiter, with Tarbes surviving a fourth-quarter run to beat Mondeville 73-69. Tanisha Wright was strong as always, scoring 22 points on 7-of-13 shooting, grabbing six rebounds and handing out four assists.

Kelly Santos' 20 points were not enough in Cadi La Seu's 77-57 loss to Mann Filter Zaragoza. Zaragoza boasted more balanced scoring, with LaToya Thomas (17) leading five players in double-figures. Meanwhile, just two other Cadi La Seu players topped four points. Cadi La Seu was also beaten badly on the glass, 39-14, with Santos (two rebounds) having a quiet night there.

In Turkey, TED Kayseri Koleji suffered a tough 78-74 loss to traditional power Fenerbahce. Camile Little contributed 10 points, seven rebounds and four assists. However, Matee Ajavon's 21 points proved the difference.

USK Praha got little competition Friday from Sparta Praha, winning 124-65 after outscoring Sparta 34-9 in the second quarter alone. With the lopsided score, Swin Cash finished her night early, having scored 15 points and grabbed eight boards in 20 minutes of action. Seven players scored 15 or more for USK Praha.

Athinaikos escaped a scare from Panionios, winning 58-56 to remain undefeated in Greek A1 play. Athinaikos led by 11 at the half before the game got tight. Katie Gearlds chipped in six rebounds on a night where she could not find her shot, finishing 1-of-9 from the field for three points. Athinaikos and Apollon Ptolemaidas are the lone undefeated teams remaining in Greece at 4-0.

Kristen O'Neill returned to action for her UL Aughnish squad in Ireland after missing three games and immediately helped lead a second-half comeback. Aughnish rallied after trailing by 14 in the third quarter for a 72-67 win over the Waterford Wildcats. O'Neill scored a team-high 22 points in the win.

Tribute for Tuba Man Wednesday

The Seattle Seahawks will be hosting a free public tribute to the life of the Tuba Man, Ed McMichael, this Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Qwest Field Event Center. Complete details are here, while Robert Jamieson of the Seattle P-I also has more on the event. I'm planning on being there.

Here's a recap of Saturday, when musicians gathered to play outside McCaw Hall and at some of Tuba Man's other former haunts on the Seattle Center campus. Photographer Rod Mar of the Seattle Times also has a moving tribute to someone he considered a friend.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Tragic News for Seattle Sports Fans

Like so many others in the Seattle sports scene, I was saddened and horrified to hear of the death of Ed McMichael, better known as "Tuba Man." McMichael passed away Monday from injuries suffered when he was beaten and mugged on Oct. 25. As he was at sports venues and other locations throughout the city, McMichael was a fixture outside KeyArena. When I was attending games as a fan, the night wasn't complete without seeing McMichael and hearing his repetotire of songs as well as a gravelly, "Go Sonics!"

Already, a memorial fund has been set up for McMichael. You can find details here. Also, one local musician plans to honor McMichael by playing outside McCaw Hall Saturday morning. Stay tuned for more, including how McMichael is honored at the Key.

Here's a pair of moving columns from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on what McMichael meant to local sports fans, one from Robert Jamieson and one from Art Thiel.

RIP Tuba Man. The Seattle sports scene won't be the same without you.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Spartak Ascends to First Place

In the wake of their surprising loss to TEO Vilnius two weeks ago, Spartak had been tied for second in Group D Euroleague play. Wednesday, Spartak got a chance to face previously undefeated Maxima Broker Kosice. The result? An 89-75 victory that created a three-way tie atop Group D.

It didn't come easy for Spartak, which trailed midway through the third quarter before taking the lead for good and outscoring Kosice 25-12 in the fourth quarter. 84 of Spartak's 89 points came from five players - Sue Bird (15), Sylvia Fowles (19 and 11 boards), Lauren Jackson (14 points, six rebounds in 21 minutes), Tatiana Shchegoleva (11) and Diana Taurasi (a game-high 25). Sidney Spencer paced Kosice with 22 points and 10 rebounds.

ZVVZ USK Praha was no match for UMMC Ekaterinburg in Group C, falling 94-64 after trailing by 18 at the half. Swin Cash played 27 minutes, but was unable to get into an offensive groove. She missed eight of her 10 shot attempts, scoring six points and grabbing five rebounds. With Ekaterinburg also holding Evanthia Maltsi to 2-for-10 shooting, USK Praha struggled on offense.

Turning our attention to EuroCup play, K.V. Imperial AEL suffered a heartbreaking 67-65 home loss to Gospic. Former UTEP guard Natasha Lacy, Shyra Ely's Imperial teammate, split two free throws with a chance to tie the game with five seconds left on the clock. A win would have put Imperial in great position to win Group F; instead, the two teams are tied atop the group. It was a strong night in defeat for Ely, who scored 22 points on 10-of-20 shooting with seven rebounds and four steals.

Lastly Wednesday, Janell Burse and her Dynamo Moscow squad cruised past KSSSE AZS-PWSZ Gorzow 93-64 in Poland. Burse anchored Dynamo in the paint with 14 points and 12 rebounds, dishing out an impressive five assists. Belinda Snell scored 23 points and dished out seven assists. Through three games, Burse is averaging 11.3 rebounds, good for sixth in the EuroCup rankings.

On Thursday, Katie Gearlds (Athinaikos) and Tanisha Wright (Tarbes) will be in action to wrap up international play for the week.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Wright, Tarbes Still Unbeaten

It was a perfect month of October for Tarbes Bigorre Elite in both French LFB action and in EuroCup. November started unblemished as well with a 62-57 win over Challes Les Eaux. Tanisha Wright helped Tarbes survive the challenge by scoring a game-high 21 points on 9-of-17 shooting, adding four rebounds.

The most meaningful game of the weekend involving Storm players came in the Czech Republic, where USK Praha eeked out a 70-68 win over historical rivals Gambrinus Brno. Swin Cash and Lindsay Whalen both had eight points and seven reobunds while Evanthia Maltsi came up with a huge game of 27 points on 11-of-20 shooting to lead USK Praha. If you want to know how big of a deal beating Brno is for USK Praha, check out Janell Burse's blog a few years ago from when USK Praha handed Brno its first domestic loss in over nine years.

The competition got a bit more challenging for Spartak in Russian Superleague action Saturday against Euroleague foe Nadezhda - albeit a short-handed version. So no lopsided score this week, but a comfortable 89-70 victory for Spartak. Sue Bird had 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting and dished out five assists, while Lauren Jackson scored nine points off the bench.

The big Superleague matchup of the weekend pitted CSKA Moscow against Dynamo Moscow, with the former emerging with a 79-77 win to remain unbeaten and a half-game ahead of Spartak in the standings. Burse had 17 points and nine rebounds in the loss, but outside of leading scorers Burse, Anete Jekabsone-Zogota and Belinda Snell (16 apiece), Dynamo got little production.

Despite Camille Little's 16 points, Kayseri Koleji suffered a 76-61 defeat at the hands of Tarsus Belediye to drop to 1-1 in TBBL play. Kayseri Koleji could not overcome a big night from Tarsus star (and former Storm forward) Barbara Turner, who had 26 points and was 7-of-12 from beyond the arc, adding 11 rebounds. Little's teammate Lisa Willis couldn't find the range, missing six of her eight shot attempts.

Foul trouble limited Kelly Santos to 20 minutes against Ibiza-PDV Saturday, but she got some help from her teammates, three of whom scored double-figures. That combined with terrific defense which held Ibiza to seven fourth-quarter points gave Cadi La Seu the win by a 79-70 final. Santos had 11 points on 5-of-8 shooting and four rebounds when she was on the floor.

We wrap up in Greece, where Athinaikos did not need a big night from Katie Gearlds (eight points, three rebounds) to blow out Faliro 86-65. At 3-0, Athinaikos is one of three teams tied for the top spot in the Greek A1 league thus far.