Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Dream: Net Plus/Minus and Who You Want on the Court

There's a statistic that you'll find in WNBA box scores called "Plus/Minus". It is usually listed with a +/- symbol. I explained how this works on a messageboard, and I'll just cut and paste:

Assume that Betty Basketball (no relation to Betty Lennox) comes into a game two times.

The first time she comes in, the score is 20-20. When the coach finally substitutes for her, the score is 35-30 in favor of Betty's team. In effect, the team increased its lead by five when Betty was on the court. We give Betty a +5 for this interval.

The second time she comes in, her team is ahead 65-50. When she leaves, the score is 70-65 - clearly Betty's presence wasn't helping anything. The lead decreased by 10 points when Betty was out there. We give Betty a -10 for this interval.

These were the only two times Betty was on the court during the game: we add all of her plus-minuses together for each time she was on the court: +5 + (-10) = -5

Next to the box score, there will be a "-5" next to Betty's name. The implication is that the team did five points worth of worse when Betty was out there.

The whole point of +/- is to draw some sort of conclusion as to whether or not the presence of a particular player helps or hurts a team.

Of course, plus-minus isn't a perfect stat for a few reasons. The first is that plus/minus can depend greatly on who you're with on the court. If you're surrounded by All-Stars, your team will certainly do better when you take the court...but it might not be so much because of you. It might just be the fact that the other four players are picking the team up, and she's just along for the ride. Likewise, a player's plus-minus might be dragged down because she has crappy teammates.

The second problem is that the method above calculates something called raw plus/minus. Raw plus/minus is the first step, and everybody can do it. You just count points, and it requires no skill greater than addition or subtraction. However, raw plus/minus, being a cumulative statistic, rewards players proportionally to how much time they get on the court. The more time you spend on the court, the higher your numbers become (in either direction).

We can't fix the first problem, but we can fix the second one. We simply equalize the stats. In other words, we project all players to 40 minutes per game. This gives people who aren't on the court a lot a chance to shine.

(values as of June 28, 2009)

1. Lindsey Harding, Mystics: + 48.3
2. Sue Bird, Storm: + 36.0
3. Barbara Farris, Shock: + 35.1
4. Lauren Jackson, Storm: + 31.2
5. Chelsea Newton, Monarchs: + 30.4
6. Candice Wiggins, Lynx: + 27.2
7. Candice Dupree, Sky: + 23.9
8. Jia Perkins, Sky: + 22.9
9. Seimone Augustus, Lynx: + 21.6
10. Katie Douglas, Fever: + 19.8

The numbers above pass the "smell test" - you would expect the players on the list to be in the top 10 in something, and the list isn't swamped with a bunch of no-name players.

Now, let's look at the Net Plus/Minus Leaders for the Atlanta Dream

Atlanta Dream Leaders in Net Plus/Minus
(values as of June 28, 2009)

1. Tamera Young, + 25.1
2. Sancho Lyttle, + 8.7
3. Iziane Castro Marques, + 5.7
4. Jennifer Lacy, + 3.0
5. Coco Miller, + 1.7
6. Shalee Lehning, - 0.1
7. Erika de Souza, - 2.0
8. Chamique Holdsclaw, - 5.0
9. Nikki Teasley, - 5.9
10. Michelle Snow, - 6.9
11. Angel McCoughtry, - 12.1

You might not expect Tamera Young at the top, but the net score indicates that the team performs better with Young on the floor than without her, despite Young's dismal shooting percentage. Are Little Smooth's teammates simply forced to pick up the slack when she's there, or does she bring something to the Atlanta Dream that can't be qualified in a box score?

Furthermore, Shalee Lehning suporters can take heart. Angel McCoughtry has only played about 11 more minutes than Shalee, but Angel's net plus/minus is significantly lower. Shalee, as a matter of fact, is right in the middle of the Dream in net plus/minus.

Initially, I wondered if individual style would have a lot to do with net plus/minus. Sue Bird is seen as a player who does the "little things" that don't show up on a box score but which help her team, whereas Angel McCoughtry is the "put-the-whole-team-on-my-back" kind of player - if Angel does poorly, so does the team.

However, the streaky Izi Castro Marques is #2 in net plus/minus for the Dream. Clearly, net plus/minus tells us more than we knew before - but we know not to rely too much on one metric.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Shalee Lehning's New Blog Entry

The title explains it all. Go here for the newest blog entry from Shalee's hometown newspaper.

"This past week Joy, Cherianne and Josh Jacquart from Sublette made the trip to Atlanta as well. It was so nice to see familiar faces in the crowd! They even managed to bring the famous “Sublette loves Shalee” sign that was present at every one of my Kansas State games! I sure love that sign. That sign has logged a few miles in its day! The people in Sublette would pass it around to whoever was coming to my games at KSU so that the sign made an appearance at every game! How cool is that? Talk about great community support! Also, Kalona Pence and her dad Robert from Manhattan came to watch three games last week too! Kalona is a great supporter of KSU basketball and for her birthday her family bought her tickets to come to watch a couple games of mine in Atlanta. Isn’t that neat?!"

If you see that sign at a Dream game, walk over and say "hi"!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

9/2008 - Sun 82, Dream 68 - The Roulette Wheel

Okay, with what's going on at home and at work tomorrow, I'm probably not going to be able to do anything substantive with a writeup. However, I will be at the Dream games on Tuesday and on Friday. Yahoo!

The box score can't tell us everything, but what can it tell us?

Quarter by quarter: The Dream started out with a 27-20 point lead after the first quarter, but it fell apart in the second when they only scored eight points in the second. The Sun led at halftime 43-35 and outscored the Dream in every successive quarter. The Dream hung around 10-point land for much of the third, but in the fourth the Sun slowly extended their lead. A Michelle Snow jump seventeen seconds into the fourth closed the score to 60-52, but then both McCoughtry and Snow committed personal fouls - the second one a shooting foul - and Lindsey Whalen made a couple of free throws. After that, the Dream were never within single-digits again.

Dean Oliver's Four Factors: They are:

Field goal percentage: The Dream hit 47.1 percent of their shots, compared to just 40 percent from Connecticut.
Offensive rebounds: The Sun were winners here by a 12-5 margin, and led in overall rebounds 35-33. I believe it was Frisco Del Rosario who noted that every time Connecticut has won the battle of rebounding, they've won the game, and every time they've fallen short, they've lost. So it goes here.
Turnovers: The Dream coughed up the ball 20 times, compared to just 12 from Connecticut.
Free throw visits: The Sun visited the charity stripe 30 times compared to Atlanta's 21. They scored 21 points off free throws compared to 18 by the Dream - the Dream was more accurate at the line, but when you give the enemy multiple chances, she'll make use of them.

The above goes to show: you can outshoot your opponent and still lose the game.

Starter vs. starter: The theoretical matchups are:

De Souza vs. Whitmore - Whitmore was held to four points on 1-9 shooting - edge de Souza
Lyttle vs. Gardin - edge goes to Gardin, who had a double-double
Holdsclaw vs. Jones - edge goes to Jones, who scored 24 points and had the other double-double
Castro Marques vs. Phillips - even
Teasley vs. Whalen - edge Whalen - Teasley didn't score a single point

Was this the worst game we've played all year? I don't know. Game Two against the Mystics was worse, but this game was pretty bad.

Looking at the players from the Sun:

Asjha Jones: 24 points, 12 rebounds, 3 assists.
Kerri Gardin: 10 points, 10 rebounds.
Lindsey Whalen: 14 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists.
Erin Phillips: 17 points: 4-for-5 from 3-point range (the entire Sun - minus Phillips - was 1-for-10)

And now the Dream:

Iziane Castro Marques: Well, someone had to try to do a good job, and in this case, it was Izi. The last time Izi did this well was during Game 3's 81-73 loss to the Sky. 9I think the only good game that Izi had when we won this year was the game against the Shock on Friday.) She went 6-for-12 and had 16 points and 4 steals so I have to give the Dreamer of the Game to Izi.

Michelle Snow: I suspect that the reason Izi and Snow did such a good job was because the players who usually step up were flat out exhausted. Snow only had 6 points, but she had 9 rebounds in just 20 minutes of play to lead all Dream players in rebounding.

Angel McCoughtry: The great thing about playing back-to-back is that if you have awful experience the night before, you can try to erase it the next day. Angel had 12 points in 11 minutes of play, and a +4 plus/minus.

Erika de Souza: 12 points and 8 rebounds, but Erika's had some problems with turnovers in the last couple of games - de Souza turned the ball over five times.

Shalee Lehning: Lehning scored a couple of free throws, and she had 4 assists - tying her career game high - and four rebounds in just 20 minutes of play.

Coco Miller: Miller had 6 points in 11 minutes of play, but also had 2 turnovers.

Nikki Teasley: We are now entering the land of minimal or negative value - please fasten your seat belts. Zero points, 3 assists and 4 personal fouls in 21 minutes of play. Her -18 in plus/minus meant that nothing good was happening when Nikki was on the floor.

Chamique Holdsclaw: Ditto for the Claw. The Claw scored 10 points but turned the ball over 5 times.

Jennifer Lacy: One rebound, one assist and a couple of personal fouls in 13 minutes of play.

Sancho Lyttle: If you were to read the names I listed in reverse order - Lyttle, Lacy, Holdsclaw, Teasley, etc. - you might think that we won the game if those were our best performers. Lyttle only scored 4 points and was held to just 3 rebounds in 18 minutes of play. 1-for-4 shooting. Four personal fouls. Four turnovers. Sorry, Sancho, but you were the Bad Dream of the game.

Come to think of it, that entire game was a Bad Dream. As Ethan might say, when you enter a casino, never expect to win against the house. With the fatigue, the dice were loaded against the Dream anyway. Let's give the Dream two days rest before they play the Lynx on Tuesday.

A Look at All-Star Balloting: The Best So Far

According to the fine folks at the WNBA, the 2009 All-Star Ballot needs to be entered by web or have a postmark date by July 7, 2009 - which means that time is running out. (If you mail it by July 7th, it has to arrive at the WNBA offices by July 10th.)

So let's look at who deserves to be named starters so far:

Eastern Conference

Guards on the ballot: Beard, Bevilaqua, Carson, Douglas, Harding, Moore, Nolan, Perkins, Phillips, K. Smith, Teasley, Toliver, Whalen
Who should be picked: Perkins, Beard

You'd just have to be a blind home rooter not to pick Alana Beard of the Mystics for an All-Star start. In Quentin McCall's point guard ratings, if Perkins isn't the best point guard in the Eastern Conference, then she's at least one of the best.

Forwards on the ballot: Catchings, Christon, Coleman, De Souza, Dupree, Hoffman, Holdsclaw, Holt, Jones, Kraayeveld, McCoughtry, McWilliams, Nan, Pierson, Sanford
Who should be picked: Catchings
Who you should write in: Sancho Lyttle

Face it, one of the big reasons that the Dream has turned itself around is Sancho Lyttle...but how were the balloteers to know that? We need to start a "Vote for Sancho" movement and vote for her every day, because the only way she's going to make the squad is if we write her in. As for the other player, Catchings, her play has helped the Fever to the top spot in the Eastern Conference. She was named the top small forward by the WNBA GMs this year, and their judgment has proven true.

Centers on the ballot: Ford, Fowles, McCarville, Melvin, Snow, Sutton-Brown, Whitmore
Who you should write in: Erika De Souza
If you don't believe Erika is a center: Fowles

De Souza is in that sort of between-zone between forward and center, and a good case could be made that Erika could slide in as an starting All-Star as a center. I intend to write her in as the center on my ballot; she was a center on the Brazilian national team. If, on the other hand, you believe that de Souza is just an oversized forward, then you could put down Sylvia Fowles. This means that the Eastern Conference starters should either have two Sky players or two Dream players.

Western Conference

Guards on the ballot: Bird, Hammon, T. Johnson, V. Johnson, Lawson, Lennox, K. Miller, Montgomery, Parker, Penicheiro, Taurasi, Wiggins, Wright
Who should be picked: Taurasi, Bird

Really, how can you go wrong with Taurasi and Bird?

Forwards on the ballot: Augustus, Bonner, Brunson, Cash, Jackson, Milton-Jones, Perperoglou, Pondexter, Powell, Thompson, Young
Who should be picked: Jackson, Augustus
If you want an active player instead of Augustus: Pondexter

Jackson is my #1 for MVP this year. Seimone was damn big for the Lynx before they lost her this year to injury. I'm still up in the air if I should name Augustus to the All-Star team just on the strength of six games. In which case, the next logical choice is Pondexter.

Centers on the ballot: Anosike, Burse, Leslie, Riley, Smith, Walker
Who should be picked: Anosike

Most years it would be Leslie. Don't fall victim to sentiment. Anosike belongs as an All-Star starter.

Anyway, the ballot is here. You know the drill! Vote (for Sancho)!

UPDATE: It looks like you only get one write-in vote on the web page. In which case, I'll say it again, Vote for Sancho.

8/2009 - Dream 96, Shock 86: Water Under the Bridge

It was a great game at Philips Arena with a lot of great entertainment. And now, it's time to pass out the kudos and okays:

For the Shock:

Katie Smith: 20 points, and 5-for-6 from 3-point range.
Taj McWilliams: 13 pointss, 9 rebounds.
Cheryl Ford: 11 points, 8 rebounds. However, she fouled out of the game.
Shavonte Zellous: 25 points. 17-19 from the free throw line, but 4-for-11 otherwise.
Deanna Nolan: 4 points on 2-for-14 shooting. Ugh.

For the Dream:

Chamique Holdsclaw: This isn't the best game from a Dream player all year, but it was clearly the best game played this year by Chamique Holdsclaw. The Claw had 28 points, shot 10-for-15 from the field and 7-for-9 from the free throw line. Four rebounds, and a +17 plus/minus. Holdsclaw was clearly the Dreamer of the Game.

Erika de Souza: 20 points and 13 rebounds. The 20 points for Erika is a career high, and she was named the Player of the Game by the Dream organization. Those five turnovers kept her from the top spot, in my opinion.

Nikki Teasley: Waiting for Teasley is looking like a smarter and smarter move by the Dream as time passes. She had 7 points and 11 assists, which is two off her career high for a game.

Iziane Castro Marques: Izi finally woke up and added some value. 11 points, 3 rebounds, and 5 assists. It only took 10 scoring attempts (FGA + FTA) to score 11 points, which is pretty efficient, and her +17 plus/minus matched Chamique's.

Sancho Lyttle: Foul trouble early on in the game kept her from making a greater impact. 12 points and 4 rebounds in 16 minutes of play. She was on her way to another of her amazing nights, but foul trouble topped her.

Jennifer Lacy: Lacy did remarkably better both in this game and in Game 7 against the Sky - could Lacy be turning her season around? She had 9 points for the Dream in only 14 minutes played, although the -11 plus minus is cause for concern - then again, her supporting cast while she was on the floor might have just sucked.

Michelle Snow: Even Snow woke up for this one, as the crowd was screaming "Let it Snow!" 6 points, 2 steals, +13 plus/minus.

Coco Miller: Meh. She had 3 points in 7 minutes of play. Nothing particularly exciting.

Shalee Lehning: Meadors put her out on the court for just six minutes, making her the player with the least time on the court. Zero points, zero point attempts, a lone defensive rebound, and two personal fouls. No assists. If she's adding value to the Deeam, you won't find it in a boxscore.

Angel McCoughtry: The real puzzler. How can you go from the best game of the year for a Dream player to the worst in your career? Angel played 10 minutes, and scored...nothing. Zip. Nada. Not a single point. She was really trying to force her way into the game, but she couldn't break through. She had nothing to show for it but a couple of rebounds and a turnover. Oh...and 4 personal fouls. Angel, just because you look like Izi is no reason to play like her. I have to mark Angel as Still Snoozing.

Dream Lose to Sun 82-68 on Saturday Night in Connecticut

"Izi, Snow, where are we? Detroit? Cleveland?"

Well, Connecticut had...what, five days off?....and Atlanta was forced to play back to back games and go on the road for the second one. So really, this shouldn't have been a surprise. That schedule was just a killer.

Here's the take on the game by the Associated Press.

Here's the WNBA boxscore.

And finally, here's a gallery of images from SPMSportspage.com.

I'll scribble a few lines about this game. Couldn't watch it for two reasons: a) company at home out of town, and b) crappy internet connection. I miss Art Eckman on the radio. But at least I'll say something about it.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

8/2009 - Dream 96, Shock 86

Could the Shock contain the Claw?

All right, you want something to read while we're (hopefully) kicking the asses of the Connecticut Sun? Well, here it is. It's certainly worth the cost of blog membership.

1) As it turned out, Tamera Young wouldn't play tonight due to a left ankle sprain. As it also turned out, Young won't be playing at all for about a week or so. Man, that must be one nasty ankle sprain. I wonder if this was the ankle that caused the delay between the end of her time with Extrugasa in Spain and the beginning of her time with SK Cēsīs in Latvia? I hope not, the last thing Little Smooth needs is a history of ankle injuries.

2) Carol Ross and Erika de Souza were working with each other during the game. They seemed to be having a good time. The drill was for Iziane Castro Marques to pass the ball to de Souza up high, and Souza would turn and make the one-handed jumper with one quick finishing pivot. (A move that Erika would make a lot tonight.)

Carol Ross has that physical appearance that makes you think wise old coach. Ross's part in this exercise was to play the part of the defender - to lean on Erika and push her out of position. Ross was giving it her all, but it has to be hard to move Erika out of the way when she has a mind to stay right where she is.

3) On the overhead, I heard the first of several songs from Michael Jackson, "Rock With You". This was the day after Michael Jackson died in Los Angeles, and there would be songs played overhead from all of Jackson's career, from his days with the Jackson Five to his illustrious solo career. But it wasn't going to end with just music. Oh no.

4) The National Anthem was sung by a girl - either four or nine - named Taylor Jackson. (I wondered if she was related to MJ.) She had great pipes, but there was a sort of "Bleeding Gums Murphy" thing going on. There's a Simpsons episode where Our Favorite Family goes to a minor league baseball game where jazz singer Bleeding Gums Murphy sings the National Anthem, complete with embellishments. The impression given by the audience as time progresses is that Murphy's version must be taking hours in real time.

Jackson sang it straight, just as a slower tempo. It's hard for me to stand, due to hip bursitis, so I was hoping she finished soon before I sat down and looked insufficiently patriotic to attend a WNBA game.

5) I've not been able to figure out who the team captains are for the Dream this year. Last year it was Jennifer Lacy and Ivory Latta. The clue I was given is to see which players greet the referees before the game. The group seemed to be Jennifer Lacy, Chamique Holdsclaw and Michelle Snow.

6) This would be the first game with Kristin Haynie playing in opposing colors. Haynie played for the Dream for the entire 2008 season.

7) The entrance of the Dream to the floor was sufficiently awesome. The staff brought out the side lights, and they lowered the house lights and spotlighted the Dream as they came out to the floor. Something special should be happening whenever the Dream enter the court, ready to play....even if it's just Star waving his Atlanta Dream banner.

8) I was worried when the Dream started play, because it appeared immediately that the Shock were going to come out and try to kill us with the 3-pointer, which we can't defend well. Katie Smith immediately started with a pair of threes, and I thought that the Shock would just attempt to bomb us from long range.

9) There were two players who were looking fine out there for the Dream from the opening bell. The first is Nikki Teasley, who has a really sweet dribble drive and she can make shooting the fadeaway jumper an art form when she wants to.

The other player is Chamique Holdsclaw. All year, Holdsclaw has been good for the Dream, but not truly transcendent - Lyttle and de Souza have been the two best players. But tonight, I finally learned what all the fuss was about with Chamique.

From what I saw, Chamique's greatest ability is to control her speed on the dribble. All season, I've seen players like Angel McCoughtry just attempt going at the basket at full speed, hoping to weave through a pile of defenders and make the shot. However, with Chamique, defenders trailing her have two problems - either The Claw will give a microburst of speed, or she'll stop on a dime. Defenders face Hobson's Choice - they either end up outrunning her and leaving her alone for the shot, or they swallow the stop and Chamique blows right by them.

And Chamique can change her acceleration almost at whim, with the runner trying to make those microscopic changes in acceleration - and usually failing. Chamique is like a good comedian - the talent is all in the timing. And even when she's not in the best position, she'll sink the impossible shot, anyway. I wish I could have seen Chamique play both for the Volunteers and the Mystics - it must have been something special.

10) We led by 27-17 at the end of the first quarter. I quickly saw one of Detroit's flaws as the quarter progressed - the fact that even though we turned the ball over more than the Shock during the game, the Shock's turnovers were really those stupid turnovers that no one should make. It's one thing to have your pocket picked or to have someone intercept your high-arcing pass, it's another thing to just stumble about on your end of the court and through careless ballhandling let the enemy get an easy turnover as you essentially pass the ball to her. Most of the Dream's turnovers were "easy turnovers" from the Shock.

11) When Angel came in during the second, I could tell she was really forcing it. How athletic is Angel? I saw her jump so high she could have been called for goaltending if she was anywhere near the basket. Sure enough, during one sequence I saw Angel:

a) pick up an assist,
b) miss a shot,
c) commit a personal foul, and then
d) turn over the ball.

This all took place in the span of just short of one minute. I just rolled my eyes. With Michelle Snow absent without leave again, I wondered what the fate of the Dream would be.

12) With 5:33 left in the game - on Shalee Lehning's second personal foul of the quarter - the announcer made an announcement that few might have paid attention to:

"Atlanta is over the limit". One of the Dream's faults this year has been its propensity to foul - and in the second quarter, they would be put through a crucible of fire.

13) The clear path foul is still being called in the WNBA: Taj McWilliams got called for it. (By the way - is she not being called "Taj McWilliams-Franklin" any more?)

14) The Dream were up 38-28...and then some bad shit happened. There's no other way to explain it. The Dream must have committed 20 personal fouls in the second quarter, if you believe the likes of referees Moe Brewton, Larry Stevens and Curly Tiven. Dream players were being called if they so much as even looked like they were even thinking of what committing a foul might be like. The ball was being stripped out of the Dream hands through the referee's whistle, and in the words of one of the fans, the game became "like stirring paint" - not with one of those fancy-schmancy paint stirrers but like stirring by hand - a slow, laborious process.

Shavonte Zellous came to the line for two shots.
Then another two shots.
Then another two shots.
Then Taj McWilliams got a pair of shots.
Then Zellous for two more shots.
Then later on, Zellous for two more shots.

You get the picture. Zellous went 11-for-13 at the free throw line...IN THE SECOND QUARTER! What the fusck? There are players who don't see 13 free throws all season!

By now, the fans were booing loudly, and their ire was aimed at the referees as the Captains of the HMS Foulfest. Those referees should be happy that the Atlanta Dream is great with handing out T-shirts...nice, soft, T-shirts with minimal range that can't clock a referee.

15) One thing I don't like about Zellous - I suspect that Zellous has a tendency to flop. I don't mean flop as to take fouls, but I don't have a word for a player who tries to get the referee's sympathy for a foul call.

Izi made some incidental contact with Zellous in the second and Zellous hit the floor like she'd had her eye poked out like Darryl Hannah in Kill Bill. She collapsed to to the floor...only to recover seconds later, as if nothing happened, and hit both of her free throws. This wouldn't be the only time we saw Zellous looking for a Best Actress nomination.

16) Detroit regained the lead after their 13-2 run at the free throw line. They led 44-41 at one point, and it looked like the Shock would take the lead into halftime, but Erika de Souza scored a bucket as time expired to give the Dream a 50-49 lead.

17) The Shock went 19-for-24 at the free throw line in the second quarter. Zellous went 11-for-13 and scored 15 second quarter points.

18) Remember when I said that the tributes to Michael Jackson weren't over? Well, as it turned out, during halftime Atlanta Dream mascot Star prepared his own special tribute to the Moonwalker.

He started off slow...but as he (she?) worked up steam, we saw all the great moves: the flipping of the hat. The stomping of the feet. The "claws left, claws right" move from Thriller. (Somehow, Star had found a Thriller jacket.) The tearing of the T-shirt move from the 90s Michael. And of course...the moonwalk!

The crowd goes wild! It was a great tribute to a great entertainer.

19) It wasn't all pretty, thought. The Shooting Stars dancers were throwing T-shirts into the audience, and I saw two overweight ladies dive for a T-shirt. Please, ladies, it's just a T-shirt, and it might not have fit you anyway.

20) The starters for the second half - Holdsclaw, Teasley, Lyttle, Izi and de Souza. Holdsclaw made the first bucket of the half - her 20th point of the game.

21) Back when I saw the Shock in 2008, they were bruisers under the boards - you just knew they would get offensive rebounds almost at will, and get second or third chance points. Not anymore.

22) The Shock couldn't hit the side of a barn in the third quarter, and the Dream went on an 8-2 run. I looked up at the board that listed player points, rebounds and assists and I saw that Erika de Souza had 16 points and 13 rebounds. Holy crap. It's Spanish League basketball again!

23) It was looking good. The Dream lead 67-55, and had recreated their biggest lead in the game. And then, two luminaries were spotted in the crowd:

The first was Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic. He's called "Superman", and for a guy who doesn't follow the NBA, even I've heard of him. Apparently, Atlanta is his home. I hope he liked what he saw on the court on Friday.

The second was Julius Erving, good old "Dr. J." himself. He didn't have his crutches with him this time, and I understand that he greeted the Dream players after the game. (Chamique Holdsclaw tweeted about it.) This is the third time that I've seen Dr. J. at an Atlanta Dream game.

24) We led 74-61 at the end of three quarters. However, I wasn't sitting pretty. I think the second quarter really shocked the crowd. We were all fearing that the Dream would send the Shock to the charity stripe 20 times in the fourth quarter.

25) At one time during the fourth, I looked up at the score board. Angel McCoughtry didn't have a single point. What the fusck?

26) The Shock toyed with a comeback, but we kept ahead of them by at least 10 points throughout the fourth. We went over the limit in fouls with 4:59 remaining, and I thought, "Oh God, don't let the Dream screw this up."

Whichever deity I was talking to must have listened. Cheryl Ford would pick up her fifth personal foul and her sixth personal foul in short order, fouling out of the game as the strains of "Hit the Road Jack" by Ray Charles rang out overhead.

27) Smith tried to spark a mini-run. She scored five points in the last part of the fourth quarter, including the 3-pointer that was the last field goal scored in the game. Zellous performed "Hamlet" to the joy of the referees and earned another trip to the free throw line, scoring two points. But not this time. The Dream had not only their first win ever against Detroit, but they had matched their win total from all of 2008 with their fourth victory.

Okay. Enough. Still waiting on company to get here. I'll probably break down box scores tomorrow.

UPDATE: The picture of Dr. J. talking to the Dream after the game? Right here!

Kristi Toliver Hazed

Rookie hazing. Well, not quite rookie hazing. Let Kristi show you who's the most demanding member of the Sky....

Dream Beat Shock on Friday Night in Free Throw Festival

Chamique can make it look easy.

In case you didn't know, the Dream beat the Shock last night 96-86. It was a great win that we almost lost at the free throw line.

SPMSportsPage.com is providing an image gallery, which is right here. I definitely wasn't going to post a pic of Shavonte Zellous making yet another free throw.

We have company this weekend. More later.

Tamera Young Out for a Week

My sources tell me that Tamera Young twisted her ankle pretty badly. She'll be out today and out against the Minnesota Lynx on Tuesday for sure.

Get well, Little Smooth.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Dream Could Match Record Tonight Against Shock

Some info regarding tonight's Shock-Dream Game:

* The Dream played the Shock three times last year, and lost all of them. The first was a home game on May 23rd where the Dream lost 88-76. The Dream led that game 45-32 at the half, and then the Shock woke up, beating the Dream by double-digits in both the third and fourth quarters. Our leading scorers were Betty Lennox (21), Camille Little (13), and Ivory Latta (10), none of whom are with the franchise anymore.

* The second game was a 21-point loss at home, 97-76. Ivory Latta had a 26-point game against her former team along with 10 rebounds. Those were both career highs for Latta. So why did we lose? Probably because Betty Lennox had zero points and four personal fouls.

* The third loss was a 100-92 loss in Detroit. We managed to get it to within 96-92 but with 41 seconds left, Deanna Nolan scored a jumper to make the score 98-92. Still a two-possession game, but Tamera Young had the ball stolen by Alexis Hornbuckle and the Shock converted it.

* The Shock went on to a WNBA championship. The Dream finished at the bottom of the league and almost set a record for futility with a 4-30 season.

* Since those awful days, Atlanta is 3-4 in 2009. Detroit is 1-4 and has Cheryl Ford fighting off the effects of an injury and Kara Braxton still suspended for a DUI. With Plenette Pierson out for the season and with Braxton suspended, they're playing with nine players and new arrival Sherill Baker.

* Furthermore, Trader Bill is gone. That leaves Rick Mahorn as the Shock's coach. I don't know if Meadors is better than Mahorn but Lin Dunn depantsed Mahorn in front of a paying crowd in Indianapolis, coach-wise.

* If the Dream win tonight, it will be their fourth win of the season, tying their entire total from 2008.

In short, if the stars could ever be aligned for a Dream win, it looks like they're lined up. Of course, I thought that about the Liberty, and look what happened.

WNBA Legends Game to Take Place in Atlanta

From the press release: Women's Sports Talk Radio will be hosting the WNBA Lady Legends Charity Classic. Among the players appearing:

Lynette Woodard
Katrina McClain
Teresa Weatherspoon
Kym Hampton
Ruthie Bolton
Andrea Stinson
Fran Harris
Tammy Jackson
Rushia Brown
Linda Burgess
Teresa Edwards

Those first two names? Those are Women's Basketball Hall of Famers. The rest of those names have the potential to go to the hall someday.

The game is scheduled to be played at the Woodland Middle School on August 15th at 2 pm. Hmmm...let me see if I can get off work...boy, I hope my wife's high school reunion isn't that Friday....

Thursday, June 25, 2009

McCoughtry Shouts Out to Holdsclaw and the Vets

Angel McCoughtry has a few words to say about the veterans of the Atlanta Dream in the WNBA Fan Voice section of the WNBA's webpage.

System Shock

Tomorrow's Dream-Shock game is previewed at CBSSports.com.

First, a comment from CBSSports.com regaring a "controversial" decision from Marynell Meadors:

The Shock look to snap a three-game losing streak Friday night when they face a Dream club that dropped its last contest amid a controversial coaching decision.

...

Meadors opted to go with reserves Jennifer Lacy and Tamera Young rather than reinsert Holdsclaw, who is averaging 13.4 points on the season.

That's the closest I've seen a print source out and out criticize Meadors's coaching.

"She's finally starting to get our system and understand how to play as a professional," Meadors said.

Angel was having trouble with Meadors's system? Interesting. (I can just hear the cynics out there, crying, in unison, "WHAT system?")

Diamond Ratings for 2009

The idea behind the Diamond Ratings is explained in this post. What we're looking for are "diamonds in the rough" - players who might actually be pretty good if they were just given enough minutes per game. These are the kind of players you start looking at when you're thinking of making a trade - or if they're on your team, they're the kind of players you should think of giving more minutes.

Basically, here's how it is calculated:

a) Figure out what the Wins Score would be if the player played 33 1/3 minutes and divide that by games played,
b) Subtract their current Wins Score per games played,
c) Add the difference between their win score per 33 1/3 minutes divided by games played and the league's average win score per 33 1/3 minutes divided by games played.

A and B determines how close the player comes to a starter. C gives them credit if they're producing more than an average player.

We then exclude certain groups of players. Anyone who's playing less than 2.5 minutes per game is chopped off -- we don't have enough data on them. Anyone playing more than 21 minutes per game is chopped off -- they're earning close to starter's minutes already.

Top 10 Diamond Rating (*) Performers in 2009
(as of June 24, 2009)

1. Kristi Cirone, Sun, 28.59
2. Eshaya Murphy, Fever, 27.42
4. Megan Frazee, Silver Stars, 21.62
5. Katie Mattera, Silver Stars, 20.12
6. Janelle Burse, Storm, 19.21
7. Kiesha Brown, Sun, 18.99
8. Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton, Sparks, 18.21
9. Sidney Spencer, Liberty, 18.19
10. Courtney Paris, Monarchs, 17.86

(*) - This is an adjusted version of the Diamond Rating for the WNBA.

Rookies are in bold face type. By the way, the leader in Diamond Rating last year? Sancho Lyttle, with 18.05.

Shalee Lehning in the News

The Garden City Telegram -- apparently Shalee Lehning's home town newspaper - has a brand new blog entry from Shalee. An excerpt:

We now have a four game home stand so we will be in Atlanta for a while. It will be great to play a couple games in a row at home! Hopefully this will be a great chance for us to gain some momentum! My mom is coming to spend a week or so with me so I’m very excited to see her. She worked so hard in her rehab from her knee surgery so now she gets to come watch me play! My dad was scheduled to come visit as well but my brothers wife is due to have her baby any day now so he is staying close in case our little man decides to come soon! My mom will also be going to Wyoming when the baby comes so that will be an exciting time for our family. I just wish I could be around to see more of my nieces and nephews as they grow up. Being in college and now the pros has really taken time away from my family so I haven’t been able to see a lot of their special moments.

You know what you have to do to read the rest: click the link, above.

Shalee was also honored by Kansas State University, her alma mater. Kansas State University created a women's basketball scholarship in Lehning's name.

Didn't Lehning already get a scholarship to play basketball? My understanding is that this is a supplemental scholarship which provides financial assistance (in Lehning's name) to future ball players - a lot of basketball players get the scholarship to play, which pays for some but not all expenses. A lot of players struggle financially to make ends meet.

"Big name" men's basketball teams usually offer these scholarships, which are usually in the name of one of the past greats. Women's basketball is slowly building its scholarships, and Lehning should be proud of the honor.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Thought Exercise

Thought Exercise: Assume the following players were assembled as a team:

Ruth Riley
Katie Douglas
Cathrine Kraayeveld
Kara Lawson
Noelle Quinn

Tasha Humphrey
Candice Dupree
Rashanda McCants
Erlana Larkins
Delisha Milton-Jones
Marie Ferdinand-Harris

1. How well would the 2009 Atlanta Dream fare against this team? Would home advantage matter?

2. How well would the 2008 Atlanta Dream fare against this team? Would home advantage matter?

7/2009 - Sky 99, Dream 98 (OT): Just Warming Up

Two hands, Angel! Two hands!

Okay. We finally have some pictures of this game by the great Craig Cappy. Go to the gallery at SPMSportsPage.com and see what I'm talking about.

I decided to look at how well the Dream has been doing during the season in two stats: the Dream's field goal shooting percentage, and opponent 3-point shots made.

G1: Win vs. Indiana, 39.7 percent, 9-for-20 (*)
G2: Loss vs. Washington, 47.7 percent, 6-for-14
G3: Loss vs. Chicago, 41.8 percent, 6-for-11 (*)
G4: Win vs. Connecticut, 46.6 percent, 4-for-24
G5: Win vs. Washington, 45.9 percent, 6-for-14
G6: Loss vs. Liberty, 42.6 percent, 9-for-18 (*)
G7: Loss vs. Chicago, 50 percent, 7-for-15

Looking at the above numbers, note the asterisks. These were cases where the opponent's 3-point field goal percentage was better than our overall shooting percentage. The Dream's opponents shoot 40.5 percent as a whole from 3-point land, which is the second worst in the WNBA. The Dream itself shoots 27.1 percent from behind the 3-point arc, which is 11th out of the 13 WNBA teams.

Not having the power to down the 3-pointer hurts. With the closing seconds of overtime and the Dream down by three, both Angel McCoughtry and Jennifer Lacy tried to sink a 3-pointer. Neither were successful.

However, there is some good news. The Dream's shooting is getting better over time. Furthermore, we are the third best rebounding team in the WNBA, behind the Monarchs and the Sparks. If we can figure out how to defend the 3-pointer, the team can get significantly better. Our losses were by 1 point, 6 points, 8 points and 12 points. That means that in two of those losses, it was essentially a "two-possession" game.

Take away some of those 3-pointers from Washington in Game 2 and Game 2 becomes closer. Take away one 3-pointer from the Sky and we win Game 7.

We seemed to be doing a lot right in Game 7. True, the Sky had one more rebound than we did but we had 12 offensive boards to the Sky's 6. We didn't significantly turn the ball over more. We sent them to the free throw line a little bit more. Hades, we shot 50 percent. There are WNBA teams that don't see 50 percent in a month of games.

Okay. Enough mourning lost chances. Let's look at each of the two teams:

For the Sky:

Candice Dupree: 20 points, 10 rebounds. Good lord. She also had three assists and three blocked shots.
Sylvia Fowles: 10 points, 7 rebounds. Four blocked shots, but also four personal fouls.
Jia Perkins: 22 points, 6 assists, 3 steals.
The starting lineup: 77 of Chicago's 99 points.

Now, let's look at the Atlanta Dream and see what the box score is trying to tell us. (I'm removing the categories of "Best Players", "Murky Middle" and "Not Up to Snuff" because they can be quite arbitrary, particularly when the dividing line is hard to draw.)

Angel McCoughtry: I'm going to go out on a limb here and write that Angel's performance was not just her best performance of the year, but the best performance by any Dream player this year, even knocking out Sancho Lyttle's 20 point-15 rebound performance against the Sun. Clearly, by any standard, McCoughtry is the Dreamer of the Game. Let me count the ways: 26 points, 3 rebounds, 8 assists and a couple of steals. A +5 plus/minus.

She had only 3 personal fouls, and overfouling has been a problem for Angel all year. Not this time. Before this game began, I believe Angel was 0-for-8 from 3-point range. This time, she was 2-for-4.

I said in an earlier comment that one game doesn't really mean much. The big thing is "can they do it again"? Even crappy players can find a good game in a blue moon. I suspect that Angel not only can do it again, but she will.

Sancho Lyttle: 18 points and 6 rebounds are a nice silver medal. Part of Sancho's problem was not only that she had 4 personal fouls, but 3 blocks against. If Lyttle could have had 8 assists she might have contended, but you can't do that when you're in the paint.

Erika de Souza: I say Lyttle and de Souza so often I should follow it with "attorneys at law". ("If you've been in an auto accident...!") 12 points and 7 rebounds, but the worst plus/minus of the game with -15.

Tamera Young: Little Smooth has just fallen short of medal contention. However, this was the best game of the year for Young despite the fact that Young was once again short-changed in minutes. She bumped up her 2009 shooting percentage from around 30 percent to 35 percent. She had 9 points, 3 rebounds and 2 steals in just 13 minutes played. This was a game that Young had been waiting all year for, but Little Smooth...I'm worried. If you can't shoot 40 percent, you won't make it in the W unless you're a point guard.

Jennifer Lacy: Oddly enough, Lacy is the third player who probably had her best game of the year. She had 11 points and 3 rebounds. Her +16 in plus/minus led the team.

Chamique Holdsclaw: 10 points and a couple of assists. She shot better than 50 percent, but only had one rebound.

Michelle Snow: 8 points and 4 rebounds, but 3 fouls and 2 turnovers. What has happened to Michelle Snow? She seems to have just shriveled away while playing on the Dream. She's certainly not been what I expected.

Shalee Lehning: Added really nothing to the team. She did get 4 assists, but she doesn't score any points. At least she took 3 shots in her 28 minutes on the floor, but didn't hit a single one.

Nikki Teasley: Another player who went AWOL. She only took one shot and missed it. Three personal fouls and a -11 plus/minus. Teasley played the fewest minutes of the five starters with 16.

Iziane Castro Marques: What are we going to do with you, Izi? 4 points on 2-for-8 shooting? I keep seeing you either at the bottom or near the bottom of these little lists I'm obsessed with. Someday, I swear that I'll find those pictures you have of Marynell Meadors shooting a man to death in Reno.

Coco Miller: Okay. Five minutes played. One shot, and missed it. One personal foul and two turnovers. It was a toss-up between you and Izi, but I'm going to give Coco the Bad Dream award.

Okay. Let's forget this game, and go pound that Budweiser.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

7/2009 - Sky 99, Dream 98 (OT)

The box score is here.

Candice Dupree had a double double. Every Sky starter scored in double digits.

Angel McCoughtry scored 26 points and 8 assists, which are highs for her.

Jennifer Lacy scored 11 points with a +16 plus/minus. Tamera Young scored 9 points, but it all wasn't enough. We had two attempts at a 3-pointer to tie the game, but couldn't do it.

The Dream shot 50 percent, but the Sky shot 52.1 percent.

More later.

Craig Cappy has just posted his Photo Gallery of the Atlanta Dream game from June 21st against the Liberty at SPMSportspage.com.

I'm sitting at work, following the box score of today's game. No streaming internet. Dream down against the Sky in the second quarter.

Monday, June 22, 2009

6/2009 - Liberty 93, Dream 81: Grasping at Statistical Straw

Without further ado, let's look at the Liberty performance from the Sunday afternoon game, and then break down the Dream performance just by looking at the box score. The box score can't tell you everything, but it can tell you a lot more than just who scored how many points.

First, the Liberty:

Shameka Christon: "Sister Christon" scored 17 points and 7 rebounds, with two blocked shots.
Janel McCarville: 15 points in only 20 minutes of play. She had five personal fouls, which most likely limited her minutes.
Ashley Battle: The Battle Zone had 14 points and 5 rebounds. She led the Liberty in plus/minus with +18.
Loree Moore: 7 points, and led the Liberty with 8 rebounds.

And now the Dream:

Best Players

Sancho Lyttle: Okay, the first question is "have you fallen in love with Sancho Lyttle?" I don't know, I suppose I've moved the furniture in and have changed my answering machine message. She hits 58.5 percent of the shots she makes and averages 8.3 rebounds per game. She holds down her turnovers and her personal fouls. Tell me: what's not to like? Even in a game where the Dream lost the rebounding battle, she still picked up 9 rebounds with 3 offensive rebounds. Like it or not, she's the Dreamer of the Game.
Chamique Holdsclaw: It doesn't really categorize as a great game for The Claw, but her game was a lot better than several other players. The fact is that Mique is shooting an abysmal 38.6 percent for the season. She missed 12 field goal attempts on Sunday, but she did get 5 rebounds, second among all Dream players.
Nikki Teasley: You gotta take those superlatives where you can get them. It's the 5 assists that put her up here. The Dream had 12 total assists; Teasley accounted for almost half that total.

The Murky Middle

Erika de Souza: It just goes to show you how important Erika de Souza is. De Souza's season average in rebounding is 7.3 per game; the Liberty held her to just four rebounds. She had some good shooting, but she had 4 turnovers and had her shots blocked twice.
Angel McCoughtry: 10 points in 10 minutes played. It took 11 attempts (7 FGA + 4 FTA) to get those 10 points, which isn't bad. If she had played more than 10 minutes, maybe she would have moved up into the upper tier.
Michelle Snow: You can really feel the dropoff from here on down. 12 minutes played, 3 points, and a couple of assists and a couple of steals.
Shalee Lehning: Lehning is finally shooting, but she played 13 minutes and only had one assist to show for it.
Iziane Castro Marques: 14 points here, but not a single rebound of any kind in 21 minutes played. Seven missed field goals. Three turnovers.

Not Up to Snuff

Tamera Young: The first of three players in the "didn't show up/didn't contribute much" category. Young was shortchanged in the minutes category, only playing 4 minutes and 20 seconds. Young is at the bottom of the Dream in the Total Minutes Played category - her 30 percent shooting percentage might have something to do with that. Could her 30 percent accuracy have to do with the fact that she never gets the chance to warm up?
Coco Miller: 1-for-5 shooting, -10 plus/minus.
Jennifer Lacy: But at least Miller didn't turn the ball over. Lacy turned it over twice with no points to show for it. Played only nine minutes. Eenie, meanie, miney...it looks like Jennifer is going to get tagged with the Bad Dream award, but truth be told, neither Young nor Miller should be patting themselves on the back.

Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot

Jeez. Just got back home, and I feel that I'm so far behind in blogging that I'm not going to catch up. I'm thinking that I might have to simply skip re-watching both the Mystics and the Liberty games, if I want to stay married. I suspect that I'm not going to want to watch that Liberty game anyway.

Will be at work tomorrow, and there's no way that I'm going to get to watch the Sky-Dream game - don't have the internet ability to watch that even if I could. (At work, it would definitely be considered a frivolous use of the internet. The nerve!)

I'll get out a box score post-mortem of the Sky game tomorrow, and somehow work my way to the Liberty game at some point. Definitely plan to be at Philips on Friday night to see us beat the Shock.

Hey, until they pay me to blog, this is how it has to be. To paraphrase Suze Orman, "People first, then money, then blogging."

Dream Lose to Liberty 93-81 at Home

Heading back into Atlanta today. In the rare case that you didn't hear the news, the Dream lost 93-81 to the Liberty (just two days after beating the Mystics with the exact same score).

The box score is here.

Wow. You just look at a couple of numbers - 57 percent field goal shooting, 9-for-18 3-point shooting - and you wonder "what the hell happened"? The game I saw in NY had the Libs beating the Silver Stars handily, but the Liberty had both a weak second-unit and weren't rebounding particularly well.

I guess I'll know more when I have a chance to watch the game.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

I will probably be in a temple somewhere in Fort Lee, NJ at a wedding, so I'll be missing the Dream-Liberty game today at Philips at 3 pm ET. Thus the free thread.

Let's hope for the fourth win of the year for the Dream! If the Dream win, they match last year's season win total!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

5/2009 - Dream 93, Mystics 81: The Mighty Mighty Walkthrough

As it turns out, I missed this game. I'll miss the one on Sunday and I'll miss the one on Tuesday as well. Blame the first miss on my wedding and the second on the hour of the game. Can't see all of the games in a year, it seems, no matter how hard I try.

As it turns out, even if you can't watch a game, the box score can tell you a lot about the score besides the obvious. Just looking at the quarter-by-quarter score implies a close first quarter, then implies the Dream establishing its lead in the second and third quarters, with the Mystics trying to fight their way back in the last quarter.

The Dream pretty much took the lead in the bottom of the second. The Mystics led 26-22 at one point in the second but were outscored 19-8 for the rest of the quarter. Looking at the play-by-play, I can see that Holdsclaw had nine points at the half...and five of those nine points were in that 19-8 Dream run.

Michelle Snow and Shalee Lehning were also working it during that run. Snow had four rebounds during the run, and Lehning had two points (her third and fourth points career) and two assists. Lyttle was working it, too, but no more or no less than she had been working it during the whole game.

As for Washington's "comeback," Atlanta led 65-49 going into the final quarter. Washington managed to close the lead to 11 points, but only in the final minutes of the quarter where the victory was effectively conceded by the Mystics.

Now, we'll look at the Dean Oliver's Four Keys to Victory:

Shooting percentage: Atlanta 45.9 percent, Washington 39.7 percent. The Dream has had at times 10 point leads in the stat, but has come close to losing.

Offensive rebounding: Atlanta 17, Washington 12. A lot of stat-heads say that defensive rebounding should be given more attention by Oliver acolytes, and overall Washington was crushed 46-31 in the rebounding department.

Turnovers: Atlanta 14, Washington 15. Atlanta has had major problems keeping the handle on the ball this year. Keeping turnovers down made the Dream look great.

Free throw VISITS: Washington 37, Dream 29. The Dream are still a foul-prone team - Iziane Castro Marques had five personal fouls and de Souza and Teasley had four each.

Washington could have presented the Dream with some real trouble here...but they only hit 67.6 percent at the line. As a result, they only scored three more points at the charity stripe than the Dream. In short, the Dream beat up the Mystics...and then got away with the assault.

Looking at the starter vs. starter matchups: it looks like the Mystics starters were having a tough time of it, particular Chasity Melvin who only scored 2 points and 2 rebounds in 15 minutes played. However, both Monique Currie and Lindsey Harding had 7 assists each and Alana Beard scored 20 points against the Dream (but with a -17 plus/minus).

In terms of shooting efficiency, no one was particularly efficient for the Mystics: only one player made more points than shots attempted (FGA + FTA), and that was Alana Beard: 20 points, 17 shots attempted. For the Dream, Erika de Souza had 13 points on 11 attempts, Nikki Teasley had 12 points on 8 attempts, Michelle Snow had 9 points on 9 attempts, and Jennifer Lacy had 4 points on 4 attempts. With the exception of one Dream player, most of the Dream were hitting their mark and shooting hot.

Before the Dream begin patting each other's backs, a reminder: only nine players played for the Mystics. Coleman was out with an ankle injury. Kristen Mann didn't play at all. The outcome could have been a lot closer if the Mystics had Coleman, at least.

Two conclusions:

1. A message board poster somewhere said that Sancho Lyttle and Erika de Souza might be the best front court combination in the Eastern Conference. The question is will they fulfill the "Star Hypothesis"? That hypothesis states that there is no such thing as a "star" on a losing team. If your losing team becomes winners, the losers become stars; if your all-star team flounders, the all-stars lose their luster and become losers.

I'm not saying that Lyttle and de Souza have gone unrecognized, but they definitely haven't gotte press. That might change.

2. An interesting fact: Lyttle, de Souza and Michelle Snow are supposedly all 6' 4" and taller. Their height and their mobility present significant problems to teams that will try to shove the ball down the Dream's throats like they did last year. Most teams will try to beat the Dream with the 3-pointer, which the Dream isn't good at defending, rather than face down Lyttle and de Souza. They are intimidators who beat you not with a snarl, but who scare you with their quality of play.

So let's look at both teams:

Alana Beard: 20 points and 5 rebounds, but she had four turnovers two.
Matee Ajavon: 13 points, but only one rebound and four fouls.
Crystal Langhorne: Great off the bench with 10 points and 10 rebounds for the only double double of the Mystics. Normally a double-double would make you the player of the game -- but not tonight.

And now, let's look at the Dream:

Best Players

Sancho Lyttle: I think of Sancho in the same way that I think of Sancho in that video of "Santeria" by Sublime: big and imposing. 20 points and 13 rebounds with stats as if the Washington Mystics were Gran Canaria of the Spanish League. She's clearly the Dreamer of the Game.
Erika de Souza: The red-haired terror had 13 points, 5 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks. Lyttle and de Souza in the paint cause woe. De Souza also had a +9 plus/minus.
Nikki Teasley: She had 12 points with the help of a couple of 3-pointers. Four assists, but four personal fouls.

The Murky Middle

Chamique Holdsclaw: Why would I have ever put someone who scored 13 points and 10 rebounds in the murky middle? Well, there were the four turnovers to account for. Holdsclaw also needed 12 FGA and four free throw tries for all those points. Don't think that I'm knocking The Mighty Claw: a great performance, but not like the three above. She can take solace in her +16 plus/minus.
Michelle Snow: 9 points and 7 rebounds - the Dream could have had three double-doubles. Snow only got 16 minutes of play but she had a +6 plus/minus and was a big part of that run I was mentioning.
Shalee Lehning: FINALLY they allow Lehning to shoot. I was in the middle of a post before I left for New York, looking at players who had taken low percentages of shots per minutes played, and determining if those players were successful in the WNBA. (Answer: No. ) 5 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists and some defensive hustle from what I understand.
Angel McCoughtry: It might not be a case of Angel in the doghouse as a case of too many good games and someone had to lose out. Angel only played nine minutes.
Coco Miller: The same story as Angel. She only had two points in nine minutes played.

Not Up to Snuff

Jennifer Lacy: Okay folks, philosophical question: if a player doesn't actually do anything to hurt her team, but is simply out-competed by her teammates, is she "not up to snuff" or "murky middle". In Jen's case, it just the case that not doing bad herself but everyone doing better. She played 11 minutes, and scored 4 points. The four personal fouls really hurt her.
Tamera Young: It's kind of unfair to put a player who only played three minutes down here. But she did take a shot and miss it, so no pie after the game for you.
Iziane Castro Marques: Clearly at the bottom. Yeah, she had 12 points - but she had 16 field goal attempts. If you take away Izi's crappy 5-for-16 field goal shooting, the Dream goes from 34/74 to 29/58 - the rest of the Dream was shooting 50 percent! Izi lowered the team's shooting percentage by four points all by herself. She had five personal fouls and three turnovers. Since the Dream won the game instead of losing it, I'm giving Izi the Still Snoozing award and asking coach Meadors to please set Izi's wake-up call.

Game Five Dream-Mystics Gallery from June 19

Nikki: "Stop! In the name of love!"

SPMSportsPage.com has posted a brand new game gallery of our 93-81 win against Washington.

Craig Cappy is getting some good snaps. Check it out and see.

Dream Gets 93-81 Win over Mystics on Friday

Marynell: "A winning team? How am I supposed to cope?"

As you might have known - or perhaps not - I'm on vacation in the New York area. Actually, I'm attending a wedding, so it's more of a working vacation.

I'm busy catching up with everything, but today was the first day I heard of the Dream's 93-81 win over the Mystics. During the Liberty-Silver Stars games, they announced some halftime scores and announced that the Dream were up 41-34 at halftime. I don't think the Dream have ever lost a game when they were up at halftime, and I told myself, "I think the Dream are going to win this one, particularly without Marissa Coleman." And so, it occurred.

The 93 points scored is the second-highest number of points ever scored by the Dream.

This gives the Dream their first ever win against the Mystics. (And this calls up a trivia question: "Which WNBA team will always have a perfect W-L record against the Dream?" Can you answer it?)

* The Washington Post's take on the game is right here.
* Since I'm on vacation, I probably won't have time to watch the game itself, not until I get back home. However, I'll probably have some chance to do some post-mortem analysis. (Ignores groans of readers.)

Friday, June 19, 2009

In the Big Apple

I'm at tonight's game at Madison Square Garden against the Silver Stars. Section 106, Row A, Seat 11.

More blogging later.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Gimme a Beat!

No, the title isn't about a Janet Jackson/WNBA retrospective. Rather, the name of the new Women's Professional Soccer league franchise in Atlanta has been revealed. The new franchise will be called the Atlanta Beat, and start play in 2010.

Dream president Bill Bolen gets a quote:

“The good thing for a franchise like the Dream or the new WPS team is that our investment is not as large and therefore we do not have to achieve the same revenue targets that a larger sports franchise has to reach in order to be successful,” Dream president Bill Bolen said via email.

Best of luck to the new Atlanta Beat. Maybe I'll cover it if I can figure out the mysteries of soccer.

The 1800 Club

I first heard about the 1800 Club from Frisco Del Rosario. Members of the 1800 Club are known to be good all-around shooters.

So how do you know if your favorite player is an 1800 club member? Simple: you add their field goal percentage, 3-point field goal percentage, and free throw percentage. You then multiply that by 1000.

Out of all WNBA players who have played 500 or more minutes in a career, the club only has one member: Simone Edwards, who had a FG % of 478, a FT % of 647....and a 3-Pt % of 1000 (1-for-1 lifetime) to end up at 2125. If you put the restriction that the person has to have made at least 10 3-point attempts in a career, the best finisher is Elene Tournikidou at 1758. Jennifer Azzi, who just went into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame, had a career number of 1741.

Even though it's hard to keep up that level of shooting for a career, it's good to look at seasonal numbers.

1800 Club Contenders 2008

(minimum 100 minutes and 10 3-point attempts)

1. Lisa Willis, 1856
2. Roneeka Hodges, 1785
3. Erin Phillips, 1782
4. Ebony Hoffman, 1751
5. Kara Lawson, 1751
6. Sidney Spencer, 1734
7. Jamie Carey, 1733
8. Deanna Nolan, 1690
9. Jia Perkins, 1680

The best performer for the Dream last year? Betty Lennox with 1628.

Worst to First?

Kevin Pelton over at the Storm Tracker blog has applied his statistical talents to the WNBA using his SCHOENE statistical projection method to try to make sense out of the current WNBA season:

His projected order of finish:

West

1. Los Angeles
2. Seattle
3. Sacramento
4. Minnesota
5. Phoenix
6. San Antonio

East

1. Atlanta

2. Detroit
3. New York
4. Connecticut
5. Chicago
6. Indiana
7. Washington

Well, how about it? Do you think that we've got a shot of doing a "worst to first" in Atlanta?

Pelton also supplies some best comparible player projections. You definitely want to visit his post and see who compares with who.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

"Atlanta, We Have a Pronunciation!"

Pri3 from the WNBA Brasil Blog writes in the comments about the correct pronunciation of Erika de Souza's name.

about erika`s last name.. sounds like "sOW-za" ..and believe me cuz im brazilian :)

I guess we have to give the WNBA's announcers more credit that we wanted to. The "Sou" in de Souza is pronounced like "soul" and the "o" sound is a lot like that in "window".

Michelle Snow's Video Blog Entry

I've waited for the new Michelle Snow video blog to hit YouTube so I can finally post it on the blog. So for those of you that haven't seen the blog entry on the Atlanta Dream website, here it is.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Women's Basketball Star Leaves School Early for Pro Career

It's official. Epiphanny Prince, one of the better Rutgers players, will leave school to take up pro ball in Europe during the 2009-10 college season, effectively skipping her senior year of school in hopes of making a bee line to the pros.

There's not so much as a beeline in the WNBA as a wandering of the ol' crow. The WNBA's rules for entry are considered to be more stringent than those of NBA draft prospects who are one-and-out. Essentially, you have to either:

a) Enter the WNBA Draft at the same time that your college class graduates. If you didn't go to college, you have to wait until four years after your senior year of high school and enter when you would have entered if you had attended four years of college, or

b) Play two years overseas. This is how Europeans make it into the W. I've never heard of a high school player skipping college to play two years in Europe, but it could theoretically happen.

Signs on jerseys. And now, female college basketball players skipping school for the European option. I'm telling you, it's a whole new ball game.

Kristen Mann Signed by Washington (Again)

The Mystics have let Josephine Owino go and signed former Atlanta Dream player Kristen Mann. Mann had been signed by the Washington in the pre-season of 2009 but she didn't make the final cut. Mann remained unemployed for a grand total of 12 days.

Wonder what kind of reception Mann gets coming back to the ATL? Maybe she'll get some court time in the Mystics game this Friday.

Owino never played a minute of a regular season game. It just goes to show you...even if a team lets you go, that same team can always change its mind and hire you back.

UPDATE: The mystery is solved. Marissa Coleman is out 4-6 weeks with a high ankle strain. Someone has to fill the gap, and as a result, someone had to leave the roster.

Coaching: The 'Five and Out' Law

With Bill Laimbeer leaving the WNBA Detroit Shock, all kinds of theories have been posited as to "why". Theories such as:

a) Laimbeer has a NBA/NCAA men's basketball job lined up, or he will soon.
b) Laimbeer wanted to go out of the WNBA as a champion
c) The Detroit Shock might not be around next year, and Bill wanted to leave a sinking ship.

However, I was thinking that there might be another explanation.

There was a book called "Up The Organization" written in the 1970s by a businessman named Robert Townsend. Townsend's book is a nice little manual of business maxims that an interesting read even if you're not a businessman. Townsend had a strong believe that five years was the "sale by" date for the leadership position in any organization:

Nobody should be chief executive officer of anything for more than five or six years. By then he's stale, bored, and utterly dependent on his own cliches - though they may have been revolutionary ideas when he first brought them to the office.

Also, decisions aren't based on consensus, but on one man's view of what's best for the organization. And that means even the best decisions will make some people unhappy. After five or six years a good chief will have absorbed all the hostility he can take, and his decisions will be reflecting a desire to avoid pain rather than to do what's right.

There's a lot of sense in the above. Think of yourself as being in Bill Laimbeer's large shoes. The life cycle of coaching is the same - preseason, season, (hopefully) postseason and off-season. The mechanical aspects aren't difficult to manage, but people management is the heart of the pro coaching job.

You come into the job with tried and true motivational techniques you've either picked up during your years of playing the sport, or you develop your own. The first few years, they work for the simple reason that no one has heard any of them before. (Laimbeer took an 0-10 team and led it to a championship in the following year.)

After five years, however, the tropes get stale. You end up giving the same rookie speech year after year after year, and the vets tell your rookies, "Listen, Coach is full of @#\$@# about 'x' and 'y'." You attempt to motivate your stars but after five years, there are no more buttons left to push. They've figured you out. They know when to listen, and think they know when to tune you out...and over time, they start tuning you out more and more and more.

They're tired of you.
You're tired of them. And maybe it's time for you to go when you have nothing more to say.

This isn't to say that you can't have a long and successful professional coaching career. (See: Jackson, Phil.) However, as time progresses it's tough to bring something new to the table.

In college, this isn't a problem, and long careers seem to be much more the rule than the exception. Pat Summitt can play the same mind games with her freshmen in 2008 that she tried in 1998, because her motivational methods will always be "fresh" to a team of neophytes.

Look at the WNBA's big winners in coaching. I think the only coach who coached as long as Laimbeer who was as successful as Trader Bill was Van Chancellor, and even he knew when to wrap it up and move on. The other challengers for WNBA coaching wins have coached at more than one franchise, where they can bring their act to a new audience (so to speak).

Maybe Trader Bill is smarter than anyone is giving him credit for. Maybe this was the perfect decision to make. And Laimbeer knows that he'll always be welcome anywhere in the WNBA. You might hate him, but trust me, after he starts winning games for your team you won't hate him so much anymore.

New Dream-Sun Gallery

The arrival of Pigtail Power to our pics should remind everyone that SPMSportsPage.com has a new mini-gallery of pictures from Sunday's game against the Sun. Go over there and give it a look.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Some Dream Demographics

On the sponsorship page of the Dream, we find this interesting bit of demographics:

77.7 of Dream game attendees are women.
The average age of a game attendee is 39.

Of course, we don't know if that average is a median, a mean, or a mode. I generally agree with the assertion that the Dream audience skews towards older women.

There's an article from Advertising Age. Their definition of "older women" is women between 50 and 70, but it's an interesting read nonetheless.

Women 50 to 70 are particularly important to banks, brokerages and insurance companies.

It's a pity that the kinds of businesses best able to take advantage of this demographic opportunity are the ones that are suffering the most in the Great Recession.

4/2009 - Dream 67, Sun 62: Kudos and Cuddles

We don't have another game until a four-game homestand that starts on Friday with a return match against the Washington Mystics. Unforunately for me, I'll be missing three of the those games, and most likely, I won't even be watching them on WNBA Live Access.

Why? I'm going to a wedding in the metropolitan New York area - Jersey City. So I won't be around for those days and blogging will be either light or non-existent. I suspect I'll have to play some catch-up.

Anyway, let's look at how both teams did on Sunday:

For the Sun:

Lindsay Whalen: 16 points, 7 points, and 5 assists. She was 7 for 8 from the free throw line, but had a -8 plus/minus.
Erin Phillips: 11 points, 6 rebounds, 4 steals. Four personal fouls, and 1-for-6 from 3-point range.
Barbara Turner: 5 points in 23 minutes played with a +6 plus/minus.

As for the Dream....

Best Players

Sancho Lyttle: How could you not give the honors to someone who scored 20 points and 15 rebounds? She's the Dreamer of the Game, without a doubt. Lyttle had a +12 plus/minus. I suspect that the league is waking up to how good Sancho Lyttle really is - she might have won a starting spot, who knows?
Erika de Souza: 10 points, 4 rebounds. A +9 plus/minus. She was 4-for-5 in shooting with two blocked shots. Rumor has it that Sancho and Erika simply intimidated the Sun out of a win.
Coco Miller: 6 points and 3 assists in 18 minutes played.

The Murky Middle

Chamique Holdsclaw: Mique had 12 points in 5-for-13 shooting. Two assists, two rebounds, two steals, two personal fouls, three turnovers.
Nikki Teasley: Only two points, but 5 assists. A +6 plus/minus, but four personal fouls.
Iziane Castro Marques: She cooled off a little, with 4 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists. She led the club in plus/minus with +13. Only played 20 minutes.
Jennifer Lacy: 4 points, 3 rebounds. Only played 10 minutes, 2-for-5 shooting, -4 in plus/minus.
Michelle Snow: Snow also only got 10 minutes. 4 points, 2 rebounds, 3 personal fouls.

Not Up To Snuff

Angel McCoughtry: Kind of unfair to put Angel down here because she didn't hurt the team, but she didn't help it with 2-for-7 shooting as a -10 plus/minus.
Tamera Young: One point. A pair of shanked free throws. Only six minutes of playing time.
Shalee Lehning: Okay, now the Kansas State fans are going to start a lynching party. 10 minutes played. No shots taken. A couple of assists, but three turnovers. Lehning gets the Still Snoozing award - because I figured it's mean to award a "Bad Dream" award when we win.

Article about Angel McCoughtry at the AJC

Sekou Smith of the Atlanta-Journal Constitution writes about Angel McCoughtry and her transition to pro ball.

Give it a read. An interesting little segment:

After working her way through the crowd and then back out on the floor to meet up with her father Roi and a small group of friends, she dragged her exhausted body and everyone with her to Gladys and Ron’s Chicken and Waffles for a late-night celebration dinner.

It was only after the party was seated that the servers and a manager came over to offer congratulations on the opening night win and welcome her back — McCoughtry had shown up just days before, dining alone with a smile on her face as she eased into her new life.

“I don’t need a chaperone,” McCoughtry said with a smile. “Like I said, I love it here. I’m definitely trying to make Atlanta home.”

Bill Laimbeer to Leave Shock

According to Mel Greenberg at Philly.com - a man who's about as knowledgable about women's hoops as you can get, being a member of the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame - Bill Laimbeer is about to leave his job with the Shock. Expect an announcement from the Shock front office (both of them) at 3 pm Eastern Time.

He will be replaced by his assistant coach Rick Mahorn.

The big question: does Bill have something lined up after this, perhaps in the NBA? If he does, the mystery is solved. If he doesn't, expect a metric ton of speculation to ensue.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

4/2009 - Dream 67, Sun 62

Sancho Lyttle plays Atlas.

I had a lot of hope that I'd be able to watch this game on WNBA Live Access. I watched the Washington game on WNBA Live Access. I've watched other WNBA games on Live Access. However, the problem with Live Access is that if you have a spotty internet connection, you can pretty much write off Live Access. I've seen some versions of Live Access that you can click and there will be a link that reads "Click This Link for Audio Only."

I didn't have one of those links.

Anyway, I'll just write about what my experience. There will be mass applause, because it will be short.

1) Guess who showed up at the game? Donna Orender. Apparently, she was there to announce the opening of on-line voting for the All-Star Game. That, apparently, was the big announcement out of Connecticut.

In the meaning, she did pose with a very big check. I expected Drew Carey to come out and ask her to spin the wheel.

2) There was a color guard of soldiers standing at attention as a group of children sang the National Anthem. The kids did a nice job. Like I said, the singing of the National Anthem should just be farmed out to amateurs.

3) The starters were Holdsclaw, de Souza, Lyttle, Castro Marques, and Teasley. It was a pity I didn't actually get to see any of them play! (In the meantime, the starters for Connecticut were Gardin, Jones, Black, Phillips and Whalen. I didn't get to see any of them play, either.)

I notice that Lyttle finally got a chance to start. She deserves it after her play over the last three games.

4) I did, however, get to see the Connecticut Sun's "James Bond" opening. The players for the Connecticut Sun are introduced from 007's barrel's-eye view famous in such cinematic masterpieces as "A View to a Kill". However, there's the danger that someone in the audience might be overstimulated and try to assassinate a Suns player by throwing a bowler with a sharpened brim.

5) The Sun darken the lights and use the "spotlight method" when introducing their players. Nice touch.

6) Unfortunately, the Connecticut Suns announcer had no better luck with pronunciation than the Chicago Sky's announcing duo. He pronounced Erika de Souza "de-SOW-za" as if the middle syllable rhymed with "know" or "go". I suspect that the WNBA announcers that don't live in Atlanta are just pulling our legs.

7) The Dream got off to a fantastic start - a 7-0 run marked by a bucket by Lyttle, two free throws by Lyttle and a 3-pointer from Holdsclaw. In that time span the Sun had turned the ball over three times. In generally, it was a ominous portent for the Sun, which started the game with 1-for-10 shooting.

8) When the game went to 11-7, Live Access began to fade out as if the announcer had an incurable stutter. Listening to the broadcast was like one of those games with the refrigerator magnets where you put together words at random....

"hesitation D"
"gives for Turner"
"off the back rim"
"by de-SOW-za"
"b"
"g"

9) I learned that the Dream lead the league in turnovers per game. Who said that you can't learn something listening from the announcers? Just not pronunciation.

10) By the end of the first quarter, Atlanta led 15-10. The Sun were shooting only 17.6 percent from the field. Of course, I had to look for the black cloud in the silver lining. I figured that the Sun couldn't shoot that poorly all game. Sooner or later, the Sun would wake up and we'd have a problem.

11) "she hits her first"
"and the sun chipping away they're now 22"
"Jones now has"

12) With the Dream ahead 26-18, the Sun would score the next 12 points of the quarter. The Sun led 30-26 at halftime. I never saw it. I gave up on WNBA Live Access completely just before the second quarter ran out.

I think we missed four shots and had four turnovers. Ignominiously, Tamera Young went to the free throw line and shanked both of them.

13) At halftime, Atlanta's shooting percentage dipped to 39.3 percent. However, Connecticut was still only shooting at 28.1 percent. However, the Sun were out-rebounding Atlanta, they were turning the ball over less frequently and they had visited the free throw line 14 times compared to just five times for Atlanta. It just goes to show you that it doesn't matter how well you shoot. The Dream were shooting 10 percent better than the Sun, but if you slide in the other parts of the game you will definitely struggle.

At least, Atlanta's players were all shouldering an equal part of the burden. Five Atlanta Dream players had four points each at halftime to "lead" the team. The best of the group was Lyttle, with four points and 7 rebounds, with a plus/minus of +5.

Lindsay Whalen led the Sun with 10 points, followed by Erin Phillips with four points. Phillips also had a +6 plus/minus.

14) With no WNBA Live Access, and with the WNBA boxscore updating itself only randomly, this meant that my only sources of game action were message boards...until I discovered the ESPN Women's Basketball Scoreboard. ESPN does a great job of updating the score, and watching the written play by play is sort of like watching the game, if you have a good imagination.

In the third quarter with the game tied 32-32, Atlanta managed to regain the lead on back to back shots by Chamique Holdsclaw, the second a 3-pointer. Atlanta had now taken a 39-34 lead.

Shalee Lehning came in during the third quarter. She would pick up an assist but would turn the ball over twice in the third quarter, the first on a bad pass within 24 seconds of her substitution and the second on a lost ball turnover.

But it didn't matter much. Sancho scored eight points in the third quarter alone. At one point, the Dream led by nine points, but we would close the third quarter up by six points - it could have been eight, but Kristi Cerone made a jump shot with 2.2 seconds left in the third.

15) By this point, Atlanta was out-shooting the Sun by 20 percent : 45.2 percent versus 25 percent. However, the Dream had turned the ball over 17 times and had sent the Sun to the free throw line 17 times. The Dream had a good shot at victory - they had strengthened their rebounding - but had to be careful not to throw the game away elsewhere.

16) During the fourth quarter, neither side could really break free of the other - the Sun couldn't shoot better, but the Dream had the same problem they had in their previous three games - an inability to defend the 3-point shot. Both Erin Phillips and Barbara Turner hit threes, the second to close the score to 55-51.

17) With 3:51 left, the servers at both the WNBA website and at ESPN decided to flip me the Finger of Scorn. The play-by-play stayed frozen at 3:51 for the longest time, no matter how many times the browser was refreshed. When my browser woke up again, there was just 60 seconds left and the Dream had a 63-58 lead.

18) With 20.3 seconds left, Erin Phillips hit a layup off a Lindsay Whalen assist to close the game to 63-62 Atlanta. However, with the Dream holding onto the ball, the Sun would be forced to foul.

The target: Coco Miller. Miller sank both shots with 13.7 seconds left to put the Dream up 65-62.

19) The Sun needed a 3-pointer. The Dream were atrocious at defending 3-pointers. With 3.9 seconds left, Barbara Turner attempted the 3-pointer that would have tied the game...and she missed.

Sancho Lyttle got her 15th rebound. All the Sun could do was foul and hope for the best. Instead, Sancho Lyttle hit both free throws for her 19th and 20th points. Sancho Lyttle had had one of those kinds of games from the Spanish League, where she would score 20 points and 15 rebounds on a regular basis. The Dream won the game 67-62, and the Dream had their first regular season win against the Connecticut Sun...and they did it in the Sun's house.

Awesome.

Keeping Up: Dream Win in Connecticut and Other News

Contains all of Little Smooth's daily nutritional requirements.

It's a pretty nice Sunday, and one that was made even nicer with a 67-62 win on the road in Connecticut. It was our first regular season victory ever against the Sun, and the fact that it was a road win made it all that much sweeter. I wasn't able to watch the game, but you can bet I'll be writing about it!

Other news: Mechelle Voepel, premiere women's basketball reporter, turns her reporter powers to Atlanta Dream point guard Nikki Teasley in an interesting article from ESPN.

We also have some new pictures. Big Smooth critiques the neatness of Iziane Castro Marques during mealtimes. And Little Smooth proves that the foundation of a road win is a good breakfast, as we can see above. (Don't tell Connecticut!)

2009/3 - Sky 81, Dream 73: Back to the Past

With the Dream-Sun game coming up this afternoon, let's look back at the last game at the performances of individual players from the Dream-Sky game.

For the Sky:

Candice Dupree: 23 points on 23 shots taken, with 3-for-5 shooting from 3-point range. Eight rebounds. It was Dupree that really put the screws to the Dream. +8 game plus/minus
Sylvia Fowles: 18 points, 6 rebounds
Jia Perkins: 17 points, 7 rebounds and 8 assists. A +15 plus/minus.

As for the Dream....

Best Players

Iziane Castro Marques: Maybe Marynell oughta make sure she never starts, if this is what it takes to motivate her. 20 points, 20 shots taken, +3 plus/minus. A big difference for Izi compared to the first two games. That's why she gets the Dreamer of the Game honors.
Sancho Lyttle: Lyttle is coming up Byg for the Dream. She scored 11 points on 9 shots, and had 3 rrebounds. Yes, her plus/minus is -10, but only three players had positives in this column.
Erika de Souza: De Souza had to fight off Sylvia Fowles all night, and still managed four points and eight rebounds.

The Murky Middle

Angel McCoughtry: 11 points on 15 shots taken. Four personal fouls. (I'm starting to suspect that Angel will break past 100 personal fouls this year.) Great comeback in the last quarter, but someone should tell Angel that her life in the WNBA will be easier if she does well in the first quarter instead of the last one.
Michelle Snow: Snow woked up. In the 13 minutes she played, she scored 4 points and 5 rebounds and showed a lot of passion.
Coco Miller: The acquisition of Coco is starting to look like a smart move. 6 points and 4 assists for Coco.
Tamera Young: In her brief time on the court - six minutes - she scored 5 points and picked up a couple of steals. Nice job.
Nikki Teasley: Only five points in 25 minutes of play. But she did hit a couple of threes.

Not Up To Snuff

Chamique Holdsclaw: I really hate to put the Claw down here, particular since she scored 7 points. But it took her 12 shots to do it and her -15 led the team in the bad kind of plus/minus. The Sky beat her up all night.
Jennifer Lacy: No points and three rebounds in 15 minutes played. Lacy only took two shots, and missed both of them.
Shalee Lehning: 6:25 played. No shots scored, no shots taken and no assists. (Lehning's shooting percentage over the last three games? 0-for-1.) All three of her rebounds were defensive rebounds. Sorry, rookie, but you'll take the Bad Dream award this time.

Phoenix Plays Record-Setting 115-104 Game on Saturday Night

Generally, I don't write about games that aren't Dream games, but if you're unaware the Phoenix Mercury broke the record for most points scored by a team in a WNBA game with a 115-104 overtime win over the Sacramento Monarchs.

The former record was 114, set by the Minnesota Lynx in 2006. The person who scored the points that put the Lifelock over the top? Diana Taurasi of course.

There are writeups of the record-setting game at Bright Side of the Sun and at the Mercury community at Fanster.com.

By the way, the Dream's record for most points scored in a game is 101, against the Connecticut Sun at Mohegan on June 27, 2008. Unfortunately, we lost 109-101.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Photo Gallery of Game Three vs. Sky

Here we go from the with a photo gallery from the Atlanta Dream's latest game where they visited the Chicago Sky. SPMSportsPage.com is always good with the pics.

3/2009 - Sky 81, Dream 73

Is Candice Dupree counting her 3-pointers?

For the first time this year, I'd be sitting in front of NBA TV and not ESNP2. In particular, I would be privy to the experiment that is Chicago Sky TV. My understanding is that Comcast Chicago is going to show five Sky games in their 100 band of channels; NBA TV must have just simply picked up Sky TV's feed.

It was for the first time that we'd meet Brent Stover and Patricia Babcock McGraw. Both of them were rookies. Stover had been working Big Ten games. McGraw had also worked Big Ten games but at least had the advantage of covering the Sky during every season of its existence. We'll see how they do.

1) McGraw started out with a comment about Chamique Holdsclaw: "She is fresh and ready to go." Anyone who has been following the Dream closely knows that this is not so, or at least wasn't so at the beginning of the season, when even Claw herself was saying that she didn't quite have her stamina. When listening to a broadcast there is always the danger in taking the commentator's generalities literally.

2) That being said, I have to say that the Sky have a really great mascot, sort of the Zapp Branigan of WNBA mascots. Unlike other mascots, the Sky Guy is all man - we are left to guess the genders of the other anthropomorphized WNBA mascots. For example, is Atlanta mascot Star a he, or a she, or what? I've always assumed that Star was a "he", but I'm not quite sure.

He? She? What the hell is it? At least with Sky Guy, there's no gender confusion. Sky Guy is male, but he loves women's basketball.

3) Marynell Meadors's record over the past two seasons: 5-31. That ought to give you pause.

4) The starters for the Dream: Teasley, Miller, de Souza, Holdsclaw and McCoughtry. Note: no Iziane Castro Marques, who was just awful in those first two games. One thing you can say about Meadors, she has no qualms in benching starters for poor performance. This can be good or bad. It lets the coach show that she means business, but at the same time, players accustomed to starting roles go completely nuts because of it, and it was - for better or for worse - one of the reasons that Lennox and Meadors clashed so strongly.

5) The Sky starters, for completion: Wyckoff, Fowles, Dupree, Canty, and Perkins.

6) A few matters about the NBA TV/Chicago Comcast experience vs. WNBA Live Access. With Live Access, you get it all sometimes. On some of the broadcasts I've heard no commercials, and the camera will pan out into the audience like the Jumbotron camera at a real game, or you can watch the promotional stunts that take place during timeouts.

Not so with NBA TV. It was all game, so there was no color in the atmosphere. That means that most of my comments will focus on the game, because that's where NBA TV focused.

7. By the time the score was 4-4 in the first quarter, I began to suspect...inadequacy in the Chicago Sky broadcast team. Brent Stover had pronounced Erika de Souza's name incorrectly, and this would not change during the entire game. De Souza's name is pronounced with an "oo" sound, like "loot" or "shoot" - er-IH-ka dee-SOO-za. Stover persisted in pronouncing it with an "ow" sound like "plow" or "how" - er-IH-ka de-SOW-za.

And it persisted. And at no time during the commericals did Patricia McGraw interrupt him to say, "you're sounding like a complete fool". Stover was making Art Eckman look positively Shakespearean and the Atlanta viewers just had to sit there and take it. My theory: McGraw didn't know how the names were pronounced, either. There really isn't an excuse for this because the WNBA press is sent a pronounciation guide to all names. Is the explanation incompetence, or just apathy?

Then again, the overhead announcer also announced the name as de-SOW-za. Egad.

8. At 4-4, Sylvia Fowles hurt her arm and she was nursing the injury. Everyone panicked. Last year Big Syl only played 17 games due to injuries, and Big Syl's absence really hurt the Sky. Chicago fans were thinking the worst. Fowles refused to take the bench and went out to take both free throws. With her right arm hurting, the first free throw was off the mark. The second free throw was thrown up in a "granny shot" with both hands in an attempt to get the ball to fall in. No suck luck.

9. Angel McCoughtry was 0-for-3 in shooting to start. McCoughtry's start was not starting out good.

10. Candice Dupree was just hot in the first quarter. Everything was going in and Chicago extended its lead. Dupree had 9 of Chicago's first 11 points. McCoughtry, on the other hand, was now 0-for-4 and tried to muscle Chen Nan out of the way, but she couldn't muscle away Nan's height - McCoughtry had a shot blocked.

11. Atlanta was down 11-6. Then down 17-10. Chicago was starting to put distance between themselves and the Dream, and this was just the first quarter. Michelle Snow would replace an ineffective McCoughtry, and Shalee Lehning would make her first appearance in the game.

12. Down 19-13, the announcers shared one of those "color" tidbits that I didn't know. It seems that Sancho Lyttle didn't play competitive basketball until she was essentially a senior in high school. You learn something new every day.

13. On the court though, not going so well for the Dream. Shalee Lehning ended up throwing the ball out of bounds because her target couldn't grab the pass. The pass might have been catchable, and the miss might have been the target's though, but I'm reminded of a quote from Magic Johnson - "if your man misses the pass, it's automatically the passer's fault, regardless of circumstances".

Tamera Young wasn't doing much better. She threw a pass to Chen Nan, but made up for it later by breaking up a Sky play. Little Smooth decided to take on Chen Nan too, and suffered the same fate as Angel McCoughtry - getting her shot blocked.

14. Iziane Castro Marques's arrival to the game wasn't promising - not initially anyway. Chicago ball handlers drove right by Izi - they didn't seem to be too impressed by Izi's defense. By the end of the quarter, Chicago led 21-13.

15. The first quarter stats were pretty much exemplified the entire game - Chicago shooting above 50 percent, and keeping turnovers down. They only had two turnovers in the first quarter.

16. In the second quarter, Sylvia Fowles showed that for such a large woman, she could work magic. Not only did she appear to be recovered from her arm injury, but she slid her way between a group of three Dream defenders and somehow found a way to make the shot.

17. Down 28-16, the Dream made a mini-run of seven straight points. Teasley made a 3-pointer. Erika de Souza and Iziane Castro Marques followed up with shots, and the gap was closed to 28-23.

18. It was at this point in the game that Dream fans got a sinking feeling. First, Dupree hadn't cooled down between quarters. She hit back to back 3-pointers as Chicago answered with a run to put the Sky up 36-25.

The second point is best illustrated by the second of Dupree's 3-pointers. Dupree was floating around out on the perimeter all by herself, unguarded. All Chicago had to do was get the ball to Dupree and let her take aim at her target.

This problem has persisted in all of the Dream's game. Here are some people who noticed it:

Candice Dupree: "I felt good about the shots I mean they left me wide open and I can’t miss open shots."
Angel McCoughtry: "I think defensively we’re good at clogging up the paint. One of our weaknesses is guarding the three pointer."
and of course, Marynell Meadors - on Dupree, she said, "We knew she had really expanded her game and we left her open that was a defensive mistake on our part."

The announcers said that part of it was because Chicago set such efficient "high screens". But in many cases, Chicago shooters were open while all of the action was taking place on the other part of the court. Yes, Chicago has a killer inside game and you want as many warm bodies in the paint as you can get. On the other hand, you just can't let players wander about on the perimeter, leading on commenter to note that the Dream look like "the best 5-on-4 team in the WNBA".

19. Down 36-27, there were a few good points. Chamique Holdsclaw has the best...I don't know how to say it. It's not a back to back pass, but the ability to dribble behind yourself as you're moving and pick up the ball with the other hand, instantaneously changing the hand on the dribble. Iziane Castro Marques had 9 points.

As for Coach Meadors...she had a new haircut. Every little bit helps.

20. Late in the second quarter, Nikki Teasley somehow hurt her legs. Even with the replay you couldn't see what had happened...however, it ended with Teasley hobbling off the floor and into the locker room. Every Dream fan out there was praying that Teasley wasn't out for the season, given her history of knee problems.

21. Down 41-32, Angel McCoughtry returned to the game - and finally hit her first shot. The Sky went into halftime with a halftime lead of 43-34.

22. The Sky were shooting 53.3 percent from the field in the first half and had only turned the ball over six times. Dupree led the Sky with 15 points, and Jia Perkins and Sylvia Fowles both had nine points. Chen Nan had a +15 plus/minus.

As for the Dream, Izi had 12 points and the next closest player was Holdsclaw with six points. However, Holdsclaw had a -12 plus/minus and Sancho Lyttle had a -10 plus/minus in the second half with only three points to show for it.

One interesting stat: Fast Break Points: Chicago 11, Atlanta 4.

23. Surprisingly, Nikki Teasley came back out to start the second half as Atlanta fans breathed a sigh of relief. The Dream starters were Teasley, Lyttle, Castro Marques, Holdsclaw and de Souza. With only a few seconds into the second half, the shot clocks had trouble during the game, causing a delay of game. The shot clock was flashing "20" - I took that flashing #20 as a sign that Lyttle would have a good second half.

Sure enough, Lyttle scored a bucket and broke up a Sky play when play started up again. However, the Dream still had all of their flaw. Brooke Wyckoff was left wide open for a three. How wide open? She could have pulled up a folding chair, sat down, and then shot a three. Don't tell me that it was a "high screen" that left her open.

To add insult to injury: Chicago Sky TV showed the shot five straight times. I thought I had accidentally tuned in to a Tribute To Brooke Wyckoff.

24. According to the commentators, Erika de Souza and Sylvia Fowles were left to battle each other for the entire game. With Erika evenly matched, we missed her on the offensive end. In the meantime, the Sky were putting bodies on Chamique Holdsclaw all night. We weren't going to get any free shots. The Sky maintained their 10-ish point lead well into the third quarter.

25. Angel McCoughtry and Michelle Snow came back in for the rest of the indecisive third quarter. You could tell Snow certainly cares about when she wins or loses - she almost went nuts when she was called for a foul. As for McCoughtry, she went to the line four times and missed two of her shots. The fact that Angel was going to the line meant that she was definitely playing hard. Unfortunately, it didn't add up on the box score and the Dream were down 59-50 after three quarters.

Chicago was still shooting at plus-50 percent and were even with us in rebounds. They were turning the ball over more frequently, but not enough to matter.

26. Comments from a message board poster.

"Teasley's back, but she's limping."
"Actually, the whole team looks lame now. :( "

27. The shot clock machinery was going crazy again. It was emblematic of that third quarter which seemed to take forever.

Or maybe it was emblematic of the Dream waking up and going on a 13-3 run. Snow made a shot. McCoughtry drove to the basket with an amazing shot, and then picked up the foul and made the three-point play. With 8:30 left, the Dream had closed the gap to four points, 59-55. The Dream were back in the game!

28. But then the same problem - the Dream leaving players open. Wykcoff scored an almost 3-pointer (her foot was on the line, though) because the Dream simply let her roam the perimeter. The next time the Sky set up a play, I could swear that Chen Nan was thinking, "Hmm...maybe I could shoot a three!"

29. The game stayed with six to ten points - the Dream were clearly hanging around because Chicago couldn't administer the coup de grace.

We actually saw some good basketball, or at least better basketball than in the third quarter. With the score 70-61 in favor of the Sky, ta-MEHR-a Young (that's the pronunciation used by Brent Stover) sank a three-pointer to close the game to 70-64.

With 4:57 left, Tamera Young stole the ball from K. B. Sharp and took the ball to the hoop six seconds later. The score was 72-68, and the game was winnable!

30. But then...it all fell apart. The Dream hit a scoring drought that lasted over three minutes. The Dream went 0-for-6 in that span, with Young and Coco Miller missing two shots each. McCoughtry couldn't put the team on her back, turning the ball over once and committing her fourth personal foul.

By the time the Dream got back on track, there were less than two minutes left and we were down 79-70. Miller would get a jump shot, and Izi would make a free throw, but that was it. The Dream had lost in Chicago, 81-73.

Okay, enough of the blow-by-blow. The post-mortem will come later.