Sunday, May 31, 2009
In my earlier post today about the presence of a LifeLock logo on the "lockout" splash page of the Phoenix Mercury, I provided visual evidence that the picture on the lock looked exactly like the logo used by LifeLock, a Tempe, AZ based identify-theft prevention company.
However, if you go to the Mercury website now (link is here until Monday), you will find that the logo has now been scrubbed. The "lock" that locks (theoretically) the entire website now no longer has the LifeLock logo stamped on it.
Curiouser and curiouser? Did we unlock something we were never intended to unlock?
I reported with an earlier blog entry that Chantelle Anderson has informed the world via both Yardbarker and Twitter that she has been waived from the Dream.
The problem: the Dream haven't announced it. Neither on their own web page, nor on the WNBA Transactions page.
Could it be...possibly...that the Dream are either a) thinking of cutting someone else, or b) thinking of a trade deal which would not involve cutting Anderson loose, with Anderson being part of the deal?
This failure to announce Anderson's waiver is extremely annoying. Either the Dream need to announce it, or they need to let Anderson know that they are having second thoughts, or they need to let the public know that Anderson was mistaken.
UPDATE: The waiver has finally been announced on the WNBA Transactions page.
With WNBA fans going nuts trying to figure out the major announcement coming from both NBA Commissioner David Stern and WNBA President Donna Orender on Monday at 9 am regarding the Phoenix Mercury, longtime WNBA fan pilight has discovered a major clue.
First, note that the Phoenix site is on "lock down". Look at the locking device which you can see at the website:
It sort of looks like a little person with a head and legs, doesn't it. Now, look at the following unnamed corporate logo:
BINGO. We have a match. (*)
So which corporation does the person-lock logo belong to? It belongs to a company callled LifeLock. LifeLock has a sort of bumpy history, but they're in their fourth year of existence. They are based in Tempe, Arizona.
Bleacher Report has already posted the LifeLock connection.
My conclusion: LifeLock is going to be involved with the Phoenix Mercury in a "game changing" way, one so big that it's beyond the ordinary story of a corporate entity acquiring a company. My most recent guess is that the Phoenix Mercury will either:
a) be the first WNBA team to have its name changed to that of the sponsor, to be officially known as the LifeLock Phoenix Mercury or some variation thereof, or
b) be the first WNBA team to wear the sponsor's logo on its journey, or
c) possibly both.
My guess is "c". This is something that is done in Europe all the time - all of the teams there are sponsored by corporations, and wearing corporate logos on the jersey is simply a given. The name of the team usually reflects the corporate name.
Undoubtedly, David Stern is there to give his official and public blessing to this project, as a way of telling potential sponsors, "I, David Stern, approve of this direction." ("And, if you want to sponsor an NBA team, please bring a truckful of money with you. Gracias.")
If this happens, the Pleasant Dreams blog will give its blessing as well. If Lifelock is going to help out the Mercury, I'm going to help out Lifelock. I'll call the team the "Lifelock Mercury" or somesuch. Corporate sponsors who want to sponsor the Pleasant Dreams blog know where to write.
(*) Either that, or the graphic designer for the Mercury's lockdown page is horribly lazy and is just grabbing logos and recycling them. In which case she might be looking for a new job soon. According to other sources, the Suns/Mercury web design team is very competent, so I only give a 1 % chance of this being the explanation.
Saturday, May 30, 2009
Supposedly, on Monday, the Phoenix Mercury will be joined by NBA Commissioner David Stern and WNBA President Donna Orender for a major announcement. The announcement will theoretically be so major that the Phoenix Mercury web site will shut down on Monday in order for the staff to handle other things. (And, one surmises, to keep the site from continually crashing due to the massive amount of hits.)
(UPDATE: The site went on lockdown today. Visit the locked down site to see what it looks like.)
Diana Taurasi and Cappie Pondexter will both be at the announcement.
This has involved...well, a lot of speculation regarding what this announcement is and why they couldn't give up more detail. Knowledgeable posters with insights into the Atlanta Dream' s inner operations stated that this was actually slated to happen in 2008 with the Atlanta Dream franchise, but it fell apart. So fans, it coulda been us. The e-mail received by some Mercury fans said that it was the biggest story in the Mercury's history...and the Merc is an original franchise of the WNBA, dating back to 1997.
Here are some of the theories:
1. The Phoenix Mercury will change ownership. Okay, the Phoenix Mercury will be independently owned instead of being owned by the same guy who owns the Suns. The question is why would David Stern bother to show up for that? NBA franchises change ownership and Stern doesn't show up for those annoucements.
Furthermore, the Atlanta source says that this is not an ownership change. I find this poster's information to be highly reliable, as good as gold bullion in most cases.
2. It's a major coaching change. Someone monstrously important is going to coach the Mercury. I'm thinking Summitt. Or Auriemma. Or Stringer. But I don't think that will happen for a number of reasons.
3. A change in the ownership structure. The same owners might be involved, but there could be some switch over to a new ownership model:
a) allowing foreign ownership to buy in, or
b) alllowing player shares in the Mercury, where the players can own some of the equity, or
c) allowing the Mercury to become a publicly traded company.
a) isn't anything special.
As for b), this has been done before. One of the more reliable RebKell posters states that the ABL did this and the WUSA (the first of the pro women's soccer leagues) did this and it ended up a "hot mess". Even though I agree with his points, I don't think this killed the ABL - the ABL's problems were caused by a top-down franchise ownership model where individual franchises had little power to make decisions on their own and therefore couldn't take advantage of local opportunities.
c) on the other hand would be truly interesting. The major reason that American sports franchises aren't corporations and are privately owned entities is that a privately owned entity never has to show its books to anyone. Whereas a corporation does have to show its books, so to speak.
If it's c) I don't see how Stern would agree with it. Unless it's a "poison pill" - maybe the Mercury aren't doing well and if they're publicly owned, the world can see that, which would make it easier to fold the franchise without any muss or fuss.
As for me...I'm holding out for #1, above. Michael Jordan is going to buy the Mercury. Or Bill Gates. Or Oprah Winfrey, or some sort of new super-owner, someone so astonishing that even Bill Stern had to pay homage. Could it be that the Gloved One is going to buy the Mercury?
Nikki Teasley ready to FIGHT for her roster spot. Pic by "Big Smooth", on Twitter.
According to the WNBA Transactions page, the Dream have waived Marlies Gipson. There has been no announcement on the transaction page of the waiver of Chantelle Anderson. We'll assume that the reason that the WNBA hasn't reported it is because Chantelle reported it first; and that Chantelle is indeed gone.
We'll also assume that Leuchanka is going to be a no-show. This leaves the Dream with a roster of 12 players.
F/C de Souza
G/F Castro Marques
G C. Miller
With just one cut away from a final roster, one would think, "Oh, it's easy. Lehning will go." However, I've heard the names Coco Miller, Tamera Young, and even Ivory Latta mentioned as possible trade/waivers.
There could be some drama in that last week of the preseason. Stay tuned.
Friday, May 29, 2009
Guess who is resting those knees in the hot tub above? I'll give you a hint: it's "Big Smooth". And she's included another Twitter pic of Little Smooth's car, which finally has its rims.
I suspect that Big Smooth is just jealous. She wants that car.
I've been looking at the Hall of Fame Probability indicator from Basketball-Reference.com with a bit of envy and I wanted to do the same thing for WNBA players. Since WNBA players have not appeared in great enough numbers yet at the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame to give an indication of the kinds of stats that make a Hall of Fame, I decided to look at the NBA model.
The creator of the predictor used a pool of 668 players. Of the 668 players, 78 had been elected to the (Men's Basketball) Hall of Fame and 590 had not. He then ran a statistical model - probably a multivariate regression using something which is a lot more powerful than an Excel spreadsheet. He found a formula that takes the following values
NBA points per game
NBA rebounds per game
NBA assists per game
NBA All-Star Game selections
NBA MVP "award shares"
NBA championships won
for any player whose final season was after 1959-60. The creator comes up with this formula.
Probability of Hall of Fame selection
Step 1: Find X, where X = a*height + b*PPG + c*RPG + d*APG + e*(all star selections) + f*(MVP award shares) + g*(championships). The values of a through f are in the link.
Step 2: Calculate e^X/(e^x + 1). The value, expressed as a number between 0 and 1, is the Hall of Fame probability.
My question: until we have enough WNBA Hall of Famers to determine a formula of our own, could we use this NBA's formula in the meantime?
There were two problems. The first is the fact that a NBA game is 48 minutes long, and a WNBA game is 40 minutes long. This means that points, assists, and rebounds per game would have to be expanded to a 48-point game for WNBA players. One could either multiply the per-game values by 48/40 - or, much more easily, multiply the game-based coefficients by 48/40 or 1.20.
The other problem is the height problem. We can't generalize NBA height to WNBA height. We would have to run our own complex height-based multivariate regression based on data we don't have. Therefore, we either have to throw height out of the equation, or equalize it.
Throwing height out of the equation in Step 1 might mess up Step 2 completely. Therefore, we will equalize instead and assume all players are "average height". The average NBA height is 6 feet 7 inches. We multiply (-0.20518 * 79) to get -16.209. The "height based part" of our equation is therefore always "equalized" to a number around -16.209.
We come up with a new formula:
WNBA Hall of Fame Probability Calculator
Step 1: Calculate X = -16.2 +
0.54 * points per game +
0.45 * rebounds per game +
0.47 * assists per game +
0.49 * number of All-Star/Olympic selections since 1997 +
3.18 * MVP shares +
1.03 * WNBA championships.
Step 2 : Calculate
Prob (WNBA Hall of Fame) = e ^ x / (1 + e ^ x)
e is the "Euler number" on the calculator. ^ means "to the power of". The above equation would be read "e to the power of x divided by quantity one plus e to the power of x").
(* * *)
Okay. We have a formula. But does it mean anything? We'll try to calculate Chamique Holdsclaw's Hall of Fame Probabililty.
Chamique's career totals are 17.66 ppg, 8.28 rpg and 2.6 apg. We get those from her career statistics.
For Number of All-Star selections, Holdsclaw's number is five (5). This number would include any appearances on your nation's Olympic team during a year when the All-Star Game wasn't played. This number only counts appearances from 1997 and beyond.
WNBA championships is simple. Holdsclaw has never appeared on a WNBA championship team. The number is zero.
Now we have this strange number called "MVP shares". It's a way to look at how popular a player was in MVP voting.
Example: Jane Doe was named WNBA MVP in 2010. She received 500 votes. Rhonda Roe received 100 votes for MVP that year. How many MVP shares did each player earn in 2010?
We consider the number of votes earned by the WNBA MVP winner for any given year to be the basis of a share. For the 2010 example above, 500 votes equals one WNBA MVP share. Therefore, Jane Doe receives 500/500 MVP Shares in 2010, or 1.0. (The MVP for the year always gets 1.0.) Rhonda Roe gets 100/500 = 0.2 of a share for that year - Rhonda's performance is "twenty percent" of the MVP's for the purposes of MVP voting.
The following quotients are number of votes Holdsclaw received divided by number of votes earned by the WNBA MVP winner that year.
The sum of all those fractions is 0.69. This is how many MVP Shares Chamique Holdsclaw has earned in her career.
Let's do the calcuation:
X = -16.2 + (0.54 * 17.66) + (0.45 * 8.28) + (0.47 * 2.6) + (0.49 * 5) + (3.18 * 0.69) + (1.03 * 0) = 2.93
e ^ 2.93 / (1 + e ^ 2.93) = 18.73/19.73 = 0.9493
According to the formula above, Holdsclaw has a 94.3 percent chance of being named to the WNBA Hall of Fame (if it existed) based on her current statistics.
I'd love to have a value of this metric for every WNBA player. I'll run some numbers for the Atlanta Dream roster to see what comes up.
1) If you follow the original link, you'll notice that there's a negative coefficient next to height. This makes sense, because this has the effect of punishing players for beyond-average height and rewarding players with below-average height.
2) Also note the large coefficient associated with MVP shares. This also makes sense, since the best measure of how good a player is should be reflected by the number of MVP votes they've received over their career. By definition, a Hall of Fame player should be someone who is thought to be "MVP worthy".
3) I would set a minimum of 175 games played to be even considered for an accurate calculation. The people at basketball-reference use 400 games, a somewhat equivalent number. Chamique's 225 games fit the bill.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
There's a great gallery of images to be found at SPMSportspage.com. You can usually find great articles and photo galleries there, and this Dream photo gallery is particularly good. Check it out!
At her familiar spot at YardBarker. It's a very thoughtful post.
The first sign was when Coach stopped looking at me and correcting me in practice about three days ago. Then when we had our team dinner at the owner's house on Tuesday night, and the routine interactions with people I had been around for the last year all of the sudden seemed forced and fake, I knew something was up.
Forget Angel or Chamique. Erika was the number one scorer.
Ah, the empty seats! Ah, the smell of food wafting down from the concessionarium! Ah, the attendees that don't think the WNBA is some sort of book club! It all adds up to one thing - the WNBA preseason.
And don't think that I haven't waited long enough. I was having to play WNBA basketball with hand puppets.
We begin with a new laborious round of observations:
1. We have some new warm-up music. I think it was a song sung by a young lady swearing that various names were not hers with the plaintive cry of "that's not my name". If anyone can inform this old man what the name of this song is, let me know.
2. It was good to see Tamera Young again. Pigtail Power is back for 2009.
3. I was on the lookout for Tennessee jerseys. I found two young women wearing Tennessee t-shirts, but they were inexplicably sitting behind the Connecticut bench.
4. The announced attendance was 4,890. I understand that this is
a) a weeknight, during
b) the Memorial Day week, during
c) the preseason, when
d) an NBA game is on….
…but I think that attendance has to be off by at least a factor of three. Either that, or there were 3,000 people sitting behind me.
5. National Anthem Update: No, we haven't forgotten how to sing the National Anthem in Atlanta. The singer was a guy named Micky McCauley…I think he was an amateur, but he was actually very good. If he was 17, he could have had a good shot at American Idol, at least in the auditions.
6. Starting lineups:
Dream - Teasley, Castro Marques, Holdsclaw, de Souza, Snow
Sun - Whalen, Phillips, Gardin, Jones, Black
7. It looks like the new hot jersey number is going to be #1 - Chamique Holdsclaw's number. I caught two people in the front row wearing #1, and they didn't look like Big Smooth.
8. The start of the game: immediately, there was something wafting from the court that had never wafted from it before…the sweet, sweet smell of competence. The Dream had a formidable inside game. The problem was that we didn't watch any part of the perimeter. The Sun's Erin Phillips went four for five from the field and rained down buckets from the perimeter. Either she wasn't being guarded, or she got open pretty easily - I couldn't even tell who was supposed to be picking Phillips up.
9. The starters were down 16-12 - not too bad - when Meadors made her first substitution with 4:07 left in the first quarter. (The Dream's first 2009 substitute - Coco Miller for Izi.) The joke was that Meadors was so surprised by competence that she forgot how to substitute. 2008 made it easy for coach Meadors - just wait until the Dream fall behind by 10 points, call a timeout, then substitute. In 2008, it didn't take long.
10. With 35 seconds left in the first quarter, the McCoughtry Era began.
She didn't have much to do in that first 35 seconds. The first quarter ended up with the Sun up 23-18. Part of the problem was that Teasley tried the same 22-foot 3-pointer two times, an it sank neither time.
11. Down 23-21 in the second quarter, McCoughtry had her first breakout move. She stripped the ball from her defender, and sprinted down the court for an easy layup to the cheers of the crowd.
You can tell that McCoughtry plays intense defense. Not in the sense that "I'm going to wave my arms up and down like a maniac." She has this preternatural ability to remain within point blank range of a defender, and she moves her hands as if she's poking for a soft spot.
Having her on the court brought the entire team's defensive intensity up by one click. Angel is the real deal, or at least she was on May 27, 2009.
12. One problem right away was that Atlanta got into foul trouble…and stayed in it virtually the entire game. They had 10 fouls during the second quarter - Meadors said in an article that she'd never look askance at an aggressive foul, but isn't 10 fouls too much of a good thing? It seemed as if the Sun were on a perpetual conga line to the charity stripe.
At least, no one would have to teach the Dream how to be aggressive in 2009.
13. Chantelle Anderson and Shalee Lehning made their first appearance in the second quarter. Their appearance meant that all of the Dream's training camp attendees would be playing in this game.
Chantelle went 0-1 with one defensive rebound and one personal foul during the three minutes that she played. As we found out today, Chantelle was told by the Atlanta Dream organization that she would be released. As she said in her Yardbarker entry, she wondered why they didn't at least give her the chance to play longer so that she could showcase herself for a few minutes for some other team.
Side note: Chantelle had the longest hair of any player. Her extensions came down to almost mid-back. She certainly wasn't wearing her hair up.
14. Shalee Lehning almost had a steal, to the cheers of the crowd. Marlies Gipson proved to be a capable shooter, hitting one from 3-point range (that fell with a little bit of luck). The fans really took a liking to our visitors from Kansas State. The impression I got from Lehning's play was that she acquitted herself well.
We managed to turn things around and actually led 42-39 at halftime.
15. As it turned out, they were giving out free passes to "Land of the Lost" at the game. See, you should have been there.
They interviewed Fred Williams at halftime. Or rather, someone shoved a mic in his face as if he had nothing better to do. He said that the Dream had to avoid "ticky-tacky fouls" as he put it. (As it turns out, the Dream would commit a grand total of 29 ticky-tack fouls.)
16. During the third quarter, Meadors stepped out almost to the coach's box outer line to yell instructions to her team.
Eight feet behind her was assistant coach Carol Ross. Yelling out instructions to her team. Talk about feeling someone's hot breath on your back, figuratively speaking.
17. McCoughtry would make her second steal-plus-sprint-plus-layup and get the crowd up to its feet. The Dream led 52-45.
Betty Lennox + defense = Angel McCoughtry.
18. During a Dream 10-3 run in the third, we saw the first of Lyndra Littles, the second round draft choice of the Sun in the 2009 draft. I hate to say it, but she was unimpressive. Nothing special. She was only 5-for-8 at the free throw line, and she was 0-for-5 shooting. (She did have four offensive rebounds, though.)
All in all, the Sun had 38 visits to the free throw line, hitting 25 shots for a 65.8 percent free throw percentage. If the Sun had been just a little better at the free throw line - say 73 percent - they could have sent the game into OT.
19. Regarding these fouls - it seemed that any time a member of the Dream made incidental contact with the Sun, they were charged with a foul. I'm not saying the referees did a bad job; rather, in tough to call situations I suspected that the refs assumed that "the Dream started it".
20. Chamique Holdsclaw: still able to fake out defenders and make impossible shots.
21. Ahead 64-57, the Sun went on an 8-0 run in the fourth quarter to take the lead, 65-64. Part of this was because the lineup for the Dream looked like this: Coco Miller. Jennifer Lacy. Sancho Lyttle. Shalee Lehning. And aside from Lyttle, that lineup doesn't strike fear in anyone.
22. So would this be another game where the Dream would fall apart? Not this time. The Dream answered the Sun's 8-0 run with a corresponding 8-0 run to take a 72-65 lead. By this time, they had McCoughtry, Holdsclaw, and de Souza back on the court.
23. About de Souza: 16 points, nine rebounds. Fast. Powerful on the inside. Coming off her season from Ros Casares didn't seem to wear her out in the least. I think this was the game where she earned her spot on the team, if she hasn't earned it in training camp.
24. When Nikki Teasley was called for a foul late in the fourth, Chamique virtually lept out of her seat. Can't say that Chamique doesn't support the team.
25. A free throw from Lauren Ervin put the score at 74-71 Atlanta with just 34.4 seconds left. (It was the first of two free throws. She missed the second.)
De Souza got the rebound. She got it to Angel, who made the shot and put the Dream up 76-71 with 13.3 seconds - defense kept the game out of reach for the Sun. When they scored their final bucket, there was only 1/2 second left in the game.
26. The scoreboard operator - who must have been drunk, being slow with baskets and putting up the incorrect score more than once, made his final mistake - Erika de Souza was the player of the game for the Dream, with 16 points…and 98 rebounds. I think for the Sun, it only seemed like 98 rebounds.
(* * *)
The game was over. For the first time - ever - the Dream has a record over .500, even it's only the preseason.
You know what? That game was just so damned good I want another one. Thank goodness that we get another one next Saturday, at home against the Indiana Fever.
Leading Dream Players
Erika de Souza: 16 points, 18 shot attempts. Nine rebounds. Plus-minus of +5 (the Dream scored five more points than the Sun when she was on the floor).
Chamique Holdsclaw: 16 points on just 10 attempts. Great shooting. +1
Nikki Teasley: 2 points, 5 shots. Seven assists. +3
Angel McCoughtry: 14 points, but 17 shot attempts. However, she had five rebounds and an astonishing +14 in plus-minus.
Michelle Snow: 2 points, 3 attempts. Six rebounds. +3.
Iziane Castro Marques: 4 points with a -11 plus/minus. It might just be the fact that the less talented players were on the floor when Izi was there - other bad players can drag your plus-minus down.
Shalee Lehning: -4. Zero points, but three assists in nine minutes of play.
Sancho Lyttle, Chantelle Anderson: -3
From Twitter, via Slovydal, via Rebkell:
@MissChantelle Lettin every1 know I'll b cut by Atlanta 2mrw. Sucks but thats how it goes. Dont know where I'm going now. Agent is workin on it. Packing...
Very sad. Chantelle had high hopes for a comeback. She had taken the year off, had gotten healthier, had dedicated herself to the Dream organization and created a social media presence for herself that could have been a big thing for both her and the WNBA. Unfortunately, the three minutes of play she got last night wasn't an argument either on her side or the coaches' side for her to remain on the roster.
It looks like de Souza. I don't see the Dream choosing Lehning or Gipson over de Souza.
My very best wishes to Chantelle.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
How many times did I have a chance to write that last year? Four?
We won our first preseason game against the Connecticut Sun, 76-73. Trust me, there will be a full post-mortem. But not right away. Busy day at work tomorrow.
I will say this. It was a lot different than watching the incompetence that marked last year's Dream. I don't know how to deal with games where we're not down by 10 in the first quarter.
Many WNBA fans fall between two extremes. The first group of fans believes that everything is just swell, the other group believes the sky is falling. It's hard to predict the WNBA's future because predicting the future depends on what set of assumptions you care to hold.
I read from a political blog that futurists - those whose business it is to predict oncoming trends - create multiple scenarios based on a given situation. The first case considered is the most likely case. Then, the best case is considered, a case where "everything goes right". The outlier cases are considered next - these are low probability events that could spark high-level, disruptive changes. Finally, the worst case scenario is considered, where all negative trends come into play.
The futurist is therefore prepared for each of the outcomes, depending on which direction the winds of time blow. I decided to do each of the above with the WNBA:
(* * *)
The most likely case: This case automatically assumes that all current trends will continue. By "current trends" I would mean everything that has happened up to 2008. The most likely case for the WNBA would mean that it continues its eventual struggle towards franchise stability, the same as every other league during its history. There might be a franchise that collapses, but there will probably be some franchise additions. The most likely case is that at some point in the future, the WNBA stabilizes with somewhere between 12 to 16 familiar and stable teams. (I do not see the collapse of the Comets as a strong sign of a negative trend. If two franchises had gone under, it would be another story.)
The best case: There will be no more franchise suspensions or relocations. The WNBA has at least 14 teams, and maybe more teams than that. Revenue begins to climb across all franchises. The hostile press moves out of its "anger" phase and into its "bargaining" and "despair" phases. The WNBA gets routine coverage from its home newspapers, with one regular, non-intern beat writer per city. The WNBA can be seen routinely on ABC or ESPN during its regular season. Players begin to get real media name recognition, which might lead to salary creep.
High impact but low probability:
* A European league goes into direct competition with the WNBA. Suppose the Russians start a summer league?
* Another pro league starts up in the United States, drawing players away from the WNBA.
* The players decide to strike.
The worst case: The depression hits hard. The NBA, faced with preserving its own franchises or the WNBA, puts its money into its weaker franchises and drops its alliance with the WNBA, leaving it on its own. Some of the WNBA owners prove to be undercapitalized and their franchises fall into insolvency. Corporate sponsorship drops to a trickle.
The WNBA drops down to 10 teams or fewer, and enters a period of instability as long as the economic downturn lasts. The very worst case is that the ABC and ESPN drop their contracts with the WNBA, limiting the WNBA's visibility to NBA TV and local sports networks. This sparks a cascade effect that sends the entire league into insolvency, as one benchmark of a "successful" league is "do they have a TV contract with a major network?"
(* * *)
So where do I sit? The crucial lynchpin is in the TV contracts - as long as they exist, the WNBA is a viable league. Generally, a league isn't considered respectable if it can't get on TV. I don't see those contracts disappearing as long as the NBA can lend its influence.
One thing to look for is in the top leadership of the WNBA "jumping ship". If Donna Orender unexpectedly resigns, that's not a good sign. You'd expect the captain of the ship to know the most about the condition of the waters. Another sign is the number of foreign players in the WNBA. If foreign players see the WNBA as a stable and successful league, their numbers should increase even if the WNBA drops roster spaces. If, on the other hand, they see the WNBA as a league in trouble, they become more likely to stay home.
Just remember: there is always a worst case (to quote a fellow blogger). "Movements (and franchises) that endure are the ones who are always mindful of just how close or far away they are from ending up there."
I've not heard anything just yet about the Dream broadcast radio schedule. Last year, Dream games were broadcast on AM 1230 and AM 1340 here in Atlanta. Many's the night from last year that I tuned in to good old Art Eckman.
I don't even know if tonight's game will be broadcast. Being the pre-season, I expect that it will not.
From USA Today:
LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) — Sheryl Swoopes has lost years of memorabilia from her celebrated basketball career after she reportedly failed to pay rent on a West Texas storage unit where she kept awards, team jerseys, fan mail and her college diploma.
The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reported Tuesday night that contents of the storage unit were sold at an auction Friday. The newspaper said the three Olympic gold medals Swoopes won were not among the belongings in the unit in Lubbock, where she played for Texas Tech.
Swoopes knew she had a storage unit from her marriage, but was not aware the contents had been sold, her agent, Kim Blackwell, said in a statement to the newspaper Tuesday.
I only recently learned of Swoopes's financial troubles. Sheryl Swoopes filed for bankruptcy in 2004, owing nearly $750,000 at the time.
The "I wasn't aware the contents had been sold" is particularly strange. Did she simply forget that there was a pile of stuff in her name somewhere in Texas? Was the company that held her stuff simply unable to get in touch with her, or did they contact her but a) Swoopes blew them off, or b) she was so poor that she didn't have the money to pay even locker rent?
A 66-year old retiree bought the entire locker:
"It was a steal for a poor man on Social Security," said Jordan, who frequents auctions and garage sales and resells the items at an area flea market. "You don't get rich," he said, "but it's enough to keep our vehicles running."
Poor man on social security? Good Lord, what was the final auction price? $20?
He plans on selling the stuff on eBay, and may sell some at area flea markets. Hopefully, this West Texan can tell the difference between the value of a 1993 Kodak's Women's All-American trophy and a set of "save the date" cards for "Eric and Sheryl's Wedding". (Actually, those save the date cards, if they existed, would have some ironic value.)
I just hate to think of something like, say, a U. S. Olympic Team jersey ending up in a remainder pile somewhere because no one could recognize its value. I guess I'll be hunting down eBay.
A new article from C. L. Brown in the Louisville Courier-Journal interviews Angel McCoughtry.
McCoughtry recounts a humbling experience at the beginning:
But before she could deposit the ball through the net, Michelle Snow, a 6-foot-5 center in her fifth WNBA season, closed in from behind. Snow pinned the ball to the backboard and sent McCoughtry tumbling to the court.
While standing over the WNBA's No.1 draft pick, Snow screamed to the rafters before looking down at McCoughtry and uttering with disdain, "Rookie."
The truth is, as Angel puts it, "Everybody is just as athletic as you are, so you have to use a little bit more fundamentals." Hope you haven't forgotten those, Angel.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
There's a new article by Rana L. Cash at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Dream Move Forward With Holdsclaw".
Give it a read and vote on the poll question.
Dream coach Marynell Meadors wasn’t worried about the past when she invited Holdsclaw, a 6-foot-2 guard/forward who lives in Smyrna, to lunch late last year. A regular at Dream games, she would see Meadors afterward and tell her, ‘Coach, you need a finisher.’ “
1. Will Star show up? We've been asking about Star recently, so we want to know that Star is alive and well and ready to perform.
2. Last year, the Dream used the same warm-up song for what appeared to be every single game. It was a rap song whose lyrics, I'm sad to say, I couldn't translate. I think it went "give me two fries with that shake" or something like that. Let's see if they found a new song for the CD changer.
3. In 2008, only one player had a personalized announcement whenever she made two points - Betty Lennox. It went something like "Basket scored by B-Money - cha-CHING!" Maybe someone else will get the announcement this year.
4. What will the new "let's announce all the players" movie on the big screen on the scoreboard look like?
5. Will they dim the house lights and bring out the special alternating lights when the new members of the 2009 Atlanta Dream are announced, the way they do during a televised game (sometimes the smoke machine is turned on)? Or will the lights be fully up?
6. Is the "get the game started" song still going to be Supergirl, or will the Atlanta Dream move on?
7. Will Dr. J show up? He showed up at a couple of games last year. It would be cool to see his continued interest.
8. Will there be a ton of Tennessee jerseys in the crowd, indicating that Atlanta Dream fandom has Turned Orange?
9. Who will Art Eckman fall in love with this year, now that Katie Mattera is a) married and b) out of Atlanta?
10. What will the attendance be like? The attendance for the preseason game will be a good indicator not just for the health of the Dream, but the health of the WNBA as well.
Monday, May 25, 2009
Katrina Price was planning to earn her master's degree at Stephen F. Austin and had enrolled for the fall semester. She was sharing an apartment with her younger sister and sometime early in the morning, she went into either the hallway or the bedroom of their shared apartment.
It was January 18th, 1999. She had taken a shotgun with her. She wasn't successful the first two times, but on the third attempt, the shot hit its target. She was 23 years old.
Just less than one month before, Katrina Price played her final professional basketball game on December 20, 1998. Against the Columbus Quest in Philadelphia she played five minutes, attempting two shots and missing them both. The Rage would win 77-70.
Price had graduated from Stephen F. Austin university in the spring of 1998. She was the leading career scorer for the Ladyjacks. During a game where Nancy Lieberman-Cline was the broadcaster, Price challenged Lieberman-Cline to a game of HORSE.
Price had been made the seventh overall pick for the Long Beach Stingrays in the 1998 ABL draft, but the Stingrays folded before she could play a minute. That was how she ended up with the Rage in Philadelphia.
Price had tried out for the WNBA but went undrafted. According to the New York Times, she was offered the chance to attend a free-agent draft but joined the ABL instead.
Her prospects for employment didn't look good. She might have been able to go overseas and play, but FIBA had a rule - I don't know if this is still the case - where if a player wishes to play pro ball in Europe directly from playing in a professional league, then that league must give its permission. The problem was that the ABL had declared bankruptcy and was a non-functional legal entity. Price was caught in a Catch-22.
Price was the best friend of Chasity Melvin. Both were rookies on that 1998 Philadelphia Rage team and Melvin took her loss hard.
She had no known debts. She had occasionally mentioned being depressed during the gap between the demise of the ABL and her suicide, but it wasn't considered as being serious. Price was known to be a hard worker and someone who wasn't the kind of person to crumble under pressure. (She was a salutatorian and graduated cum laude.) However, she had suffered losses. Her mother had died of cancer in 1993 and her father died of a heart attack in her senior year of college. Two grandparents died between the loss of her parents.
On January 18th Price, the eighth of nine children, had an hour long conversation with her sister Glenda Shead. Price confided in being deeply depressed - she was crying, and telling her sister that she felt "lower than low". Shead told Price that she and her other sisters would help Price get through this moment of sadness. Price managed to compose herself and told her sister that she was going back to bed. One hour later, Price committed suicide.
She left behind two notes. It's not known what the notes said. Most suicide notes are attempts to absolve other people of blame - the person writing the note usually writes it to take all of the guilt.
Even athletes can suffer from mental illness. Russ Johnson and Jimmy Piersall from baseball. Mike Tyson from boxing. Ricky Williams from football. Kendall Gill from men's basketball. To this day, mental illness is still seen as a personal failing instead of something that can be treated with therapy and medication.
What happened in Katrina Price's case? Was it the pressure? Was it a chemical imbalance in her brain? Was it her personal losses? Was it all of the above? These are the kind of questions that will probably haunt Katrina Price's family forever. We can only hope that Katrina is free of her pain, and that her family has recovered in some measure from the pain that Katrina left behind by taking her life.
Rest in peace.
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Vicky Bullett of the Sting vs. Heidi Burge of the Sparks on July 21, 1997. The Sting won 75-64.
W/L: 15-13, third in the Eastern Conference
Pythagorean W/L: 16-12
Points Scored Per Game: 67.3
Points Allowed Per Game: 66.0
PG: Nicole Levesque
SG: Andrea Stinson
SF: Andrea Congreaves/Penny Moore
PF: Vicky Bullett (*)
C: Rhonda Mapp (*)
(*) - both were F/C type players
Last of the 1997 Sting to leave: Andrea Stinson would play with the Sting until the end of the 2004 season.
Last survivor: Stinson, who played her final season in 2005 for the Detroit Shock.
It might have been a very different story if Van Chancellor had been hired for the head coaching job at Charlotte. Instead, Chancellor would go to Houston and Charlotte would hire Marynell Meadors as their head coach. Meadors would look to the ACC for coaches, picking up Sue Panek as one of her assistants (Panek and Meadors would reunite when Meadors became head coach of the Atlanta Dream in 2008.)
She also made it clear that she was looking for a point guard that had "speed, quickness, and scoring ability", according to a April 27, 1997 article from the Charlotte Observer. Her starting point guard would be Tora Suber, a young tattoo-sporting point guard when tattoos were still a novelty instead of de rigeur among WNBA players. Meadors knew Tora Suber when she was coaching at Florida State and Suber was playing for Virginia, and made Suber her first round draft pick and seventh pick overall.
The Charlotte Sting started the season ugly. They struggled in their season opening loss to the Mercury in Phoenix, 76-59 and lost 74-54 on the road to the Sparks in their second game - in each of those losses the Sting shot 33.3 percent...or less. The Sting would start 0-3 before finally winning their home debut 67-44.
Despite their 0-3 start, the Sting managed to hang in there and were 6-6 after their first twelve games. The Sting were schizophrenic - they had won their six games all at home and lost all of their away games. Their home win streak would come to an end when the then 12-3 Liberty came to Charlotte on July 23rd to win 65-63 on a pair of free throws by Rebecca Lobo with 4.6 seconds left. Defensively, the Sting were okay but offensively, they needed punch, at least in those early losses.
One of the unexpected bonuses for the Sting that year was when they signed Nicole Levesque as a replacement point guard. Levesque had joined the Sting one game into the season. She had not only played in training camp, but had been yanked out of her job at a resort in Vermont. Suber struggled with injuries - a sore back, a broken nose - and fell out of the starting lineup. Clearly, Suber wasn't ready to run the Sting offense - but Levesque was.
Charlotte's main adversary seemed to be fatigue rather than their Eastern Conference opponents. The Sting hovered around .500 for the back half of their season, with some ugly losses, including a 81-49 loss to Cleveland in August 17th the day after they beat Houston at home on August 16th. With the Cleveland Rockers right behind them, the question was whether or not Charlotte could squeeze its way into a playoff spot. On August 20th, the Sting traveled to Houston and lost 77-69, dropping them into a tie with Cleveland at 13-12 with just three games to go.
However, one of those games was against the Utah Starzz, the worst team in the WNBA - and it would be played at home, where the Sting were very successful. With their record at 14-13, the Sting learned that the Cleveland Rockers had lost in overtime to New York just minutes before tipoff - if they defeated the Starzz, they were in the playoffs. The Sting started with a 20-4 run to sink the Starzz 70-52
This earned the Sting a seed in the playoffs, where they would face the Houston Comets in Houston. Andrea Congreaves said that the pressure to win would be on Houston, and not Charlotte. Charlotte led the game at halftime by four points but Houston's Wanda Guyton suffered a concussion during the second half, and the injury timeout broke Charlotte's magical spell. They had won the 12 previous times they had led in halftime, but they fell apart in the final eight minutes of the game. The Comets were down 46-44 after being down by four at the half, but turned the deficit into a 56-48 lead with 6:33 to go. Cooper would score 10 of the next 12 Houston points to finish wtih 31 points overall despite the Comets shooting 37.7 percent in the game.
And the last team that had stolen a halftime lead from the Sting before the Sting started up its win-after-leading-at-halftime streak? It was the Houston Comets. They had beaten the Sting three out of four times in the regular season, and Charlotte finished the year with a 1-4 record against Houston.
Andrea Stinson would receive an odd consolation prize. She would finish second to Cynthia Cooper in Most Valuable Player voting - despite not even being elected to the league's All-Star team. As for Tora Suber, she would never be a reguar starter again and be known more for the anti-tattooing backlash than for her accomplishments as a player.
Saturday, May 23, 2009
Tamera Young's ride.
Chamique Holdsclaw on Twitter asks "Why does Tamera (Young) have a 22 sign in gleam on the hemi charger but is rolling on factory, hmm?"
Being tragically unhip, I didn't understand that sentence. My wife suggests that Big Smooth is talking about Little Smooth's rims, and that Big Smooth is puzzled that Young has factory rims for her nice car.
Angel McCoughtry pipes up. "Wow, all the vets have Hummers, Maybacks, Bentleys and Ferraris...must be nice." To which Chamique responds, "Girl, you got a Bentley, what are you complaining about? ::LOL::" Later, Young opines that factory rims are only for BMWs.
Friday, May 22, 2009
"I see the WNBA overpowering the ABL with money." - Dawn Staley, "EX-Virginia Cavalier Dawn Staley: Once shy, now a star." - July 29, 1996.
"It's not going to do a 2.0 rating. But it's all not about ratings points all the time. Tell me what the women's professional sports franchises are, and I'm there. It's not that we don't want them, it's because they haven't been made available." - Doug McCormick, President of the Lifetime Network, "Inside Media", August 17, 1996
"I'd planned to try out for the WNBA and would love to come to the Hartford/Springfield team (of the ABL) because of my connections with the area and all the talent they have." - Nancy Lieberman-Cline, "ABL Rule Separates Blizzard, Lieberman", September 11, 1996
"Bulls marketing representatives believe Chicago fans wouldn't embrace the women's game. When the U.S. Olympic team, the darlings of the Atlanta Games and the best women's team in the world, made a stop in Chicago shortly before the Opening Ceremony, a crowd announced at only 5,233 showed up at the UIC Pavilion." - "Unenthusiastic Bulls Scuttle WNBA Entry", October 31, 1996
"The Chicago Bulls' begging out of the fledgling Women's NBA is an embarrassment to Chicago sports fans." - Editorial, Chicago Tribune, November 1, 1996
"That said, this will not be an outright criticism of the Bulls' recent dismissal of a new women's basketball franchise in Chicago. With a diplomatic no, thank you, the Bulls told the NBA, which is running the new league and placing each of the eight franchises in league cities that will sponsor them, that they can't be bothered. And actually, they have a point. A WNBA franchise in Chicago, for now anyway, would probably falter under the current climate. In a supposedly sports-crazy town, fans are ambivalent about the White Sox, losing interest in the Bears and clinging capriciously to the Bulls. The Bulls, in looking at the support, or rather lack thereof, of recent women's basketball ventures here, cited the poor attendance for a brief stop by the women's Olympic team last summer, the women's NCAA tournament at the Horizon last spring and the Hustle of the WPBL some 15 years ago, which actually drew better than any team in the league." - "In Time, Chicago Might Regret Passing on Women's Hoops", November 3, 1996
"I don't see why two leagues can't co-exist because it's two different products with two different launch dates, two different life cycles and two different shelf lives," said Pam Batalis, general manager of the ABL's New England Blizzard. "I don't feel the WNBA competes with us because you're talking about two entirely different job opportunities for athletes coming out of college." - "How Good Is Their Shot? Is There Room Enough for Both, ABL and WNBA?" - December 15, 1996
"Holdsclaw doesn't need the WNBA, she needs the NBA, and she should go hardship." - Andy Landers (Georgia head coach), "Lost Luggage the Least of Iowa's Problems", December 15, 1996
"Clarissa Davis-Wrightsil, a forward for the New England Blizzard, was fined $1,500 and suspended without pay for two games for hitting a Seattle player in the head during the first American Basketball League all-star game in Hartford, Conn. Davis-Wrightsil, who was playing for the East squad, was ejected Sunday after striking Cindy Brown of the West as the two tangled for a rebound. Brown, who had a concussion, was treated and released from Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center." - "She's No Rodman", New York Times, December 17, 1996
"If the NBA starts a league, the men will always come first". - Dawn Staley, "A Survival Guide", Sports Illustrated, December 23, 1996
"A lot in the ABL is really positive. But I see some players not recognizing their responsibility as pro athletes. They're out of shape." - Tara VanDerveer, Ibid.
Poor Joanne doesn't even have an internet pic. As for her sister....
If there's any justice, I suppose it will be granted to Joanne McCarthy in the next world. It wasn't granted to her in this one.
She was the third of four sisters. Her older sister was Jenny McCarthy - yes, that Jenny McCarthy - born two years earlier.
Joanne: "I just had a great high school senior year."
Jenny: "Did you see me in Playboy? I'm gonna be Playmate of the Year!"
Joanne: "I just set the UIC career records for scoring and assists."
Jenny: "I'm going to have my own television show!"
In 1998, Joanne was drafted in the fifth round of the American Basketball League draft by the Chicago Condors. True to Joanne McCarthy's luck, the Chicago Condors lasted a grand total of 12 games before the league slid into bankruptcy. She only played in six games, and didn't start in any of them. She shot .300 from the field, going 3-for-13 from the 3-point line. She played 45 minutes in front of spartan crowds (although more people must have seen Joanne McCarthy play than had ever seen Jenny, which was cancelled after 10 of 17 planned episodes).
As I've said, in the History of Suck, there had to be nothing more sucky than playing in that 1998-99 ABL season as a rookie, having the rug pulled out from under you with the league's bankruptcy, and not being picked up by the WNBA afterwards.
McCarthy never made it to the WNBA. In 2001, the University of Illinois-Chicago retired her number, and when someone explains to someone attending who the number belongs to, I'm sure some fool will leave the arena at UIC with the impression that Jenny McCarthy played basketball between Playboy shoots and movie openings.
However, Joanne never resented her older sister's success. Furthermore, Jenny cheered her sister on at UIC whenever she was able to.
After her ABL career finished, Joanne McCarthy disappeared from the public spotlight. We wish we could say the same about Jenny, who has become an anti-vaccination nutcase. (At least shooting .300 from the field never caused people to die.) I would venture to guess that some people have only heard of Joanne McCarthy because they looked up everything they could find out about Jenny McCarthy. I wouldn't say that I'd never heard of Jenny McCarthy, but I only found out the connection second-hand - which is as it should be.
There was a contrast between the announced crowd of 15,000 at Madison Square Garden versus the announced crowd of 4,875 at Key Arena last night - making me wonder how many really showed up as the Storm beat the Monarchs 64-55.
The box score is here.
For the Monarchs, Nicole Powell led all comers with 15 points. Courtney Paris made her debut in a WNBA uniform, only scoring two points but picking up five rebounds in 16 minutes of play. Ashley Walker of the Storm had a better go of it, with 10 points and 5 rebounds in 26 minutes of play.
Miao Lijie showed up for the Monarchs for the first time since 2005. She played six minutes and scored three points.
Kasha Terry is already at her seasonal form. 11 minutes played, 3 points, and four personal fouls. (Kasha Terry holds an interesting WNBA record - fewest minutes played in a game before fouling out.)
The Monarchs turned the ball over 23 times. Gonna be a long season in Sacramento.
I suspect that the reason the attendance was so low is because, oh, Sue Bird didn't play. And Lauren Jackson didn't play. And Swin Cash didn't play.....
UPDATE: It appears that Q at Rethinking Basketball was actually at the game last night. And his analysis is a lot better than mine is. Go to the website. GO!
Thursday, May 21, 2009
The box score is here.
The attendance for the game was 15,958. A poster at RebKell stated that the majority of that 15,000 were probably kids, though, but you gotta admit that 15,000 is impressive for a meaningless pre-season game.
Nakia Sanford led the Mystics with 17 points and 8 rebounds - however, she shot 11 for 19 at the free throw line. Shameka Christon led the Liberty with 12 points and 2 rebounds.
* Marissa Coleman debuted in a Washington Mystics uniform. She shot 3-for-8 with no free throws and one 3-pointer, scoring 7 points and 7 rebounds in 27 minutes of play.
* Kia Vaughn did not play. Twelve other members of the Liberty did play.
* The Mystics outrebounded the Liberty 39 to 27. However, they only shot 36 percent from the field compared to the Liberty's 43 percent. At the free throw line the Mystics were 27-for-37 compared to the 24-for-28 of the Liberty. The Mystics had more opportunities for points from free throws and couldn't capitalize. The Libs only turned the ball over 11 times compared to 19 turnovers from the visitors.
There will be another game tonight at 10 pm ET with Sacramento visiting Seattle.
From StormTracker - the Official Blog of the Seattle Storm. Just about thirty minutes of practice with the storm on tape.
What's interesting is that the practice squad playing against the Storm is a male practice squad. They might have been setting up like a specific opposing WNBA team, but at least for 30 seconds or so, they weren't doing so good.
Josh Bagriansky of Score Atlanta writes about the upcoming Dream season. Definitely worth a read.
"(Angel McCoughtry) highlighted Monday’s practice by picking point guard Nikki Teasley’s pocket in the backcourt while the team practiced its transition offense and defense, which resulted in plenty of hoots and hollers from her teammates.
“A lot of people look at her on the floor and they think she’s not very big, but she’s built very well,” Meadors said. “She’s smart on the court. She plays beyond a rookie mentality, I think.”
The Pleasant Dreams Blog hits one year old today.
This is an attempt to blog the WNBA franchise known as the Atlanta Dream. It's the Dream's first season in Atlanta and it's my first attempt to blog about basketball in any way, shape, or form.
Put on your pajamas. Give the WNBA nightmares. The Dream is alive in Atlanta.
That was the very first Pleasant Dreams blog post. We didn't give the WNBA nightmares the way we thought we would, but our pajamas are still on in Atlanta. One Team, One Dream.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Lil' Wayne, eat your heart out.
Some more pictures. These were supplied by the Atlanta Dream on Twitter.
1. Ivory at the iPod, above.
2. Chamique Holdsclaw against the green screen.
3. Angel McCoughtry poses for the green screen.
4. Coco Miller interviewed at Media Day.
5. Coach Meadors interviewed at Media Day.
Yet Another Bad Idea ranks sports logos from seven sports leagues: NBA, MLB, NFL, WPS, NHL, and MLS. And of course, the WNBA.
He puts the skills of the WNBA logo creators right smack in the middle. According to the author, the NBA has the best logos and MLS has the worst.
His ranking of WNBA logos from best to worst:
1. Indiana Fever (#9)
2. Seattle Storm (#12)
3. New York Liberty (#42)
4. Detroit Shock (#56)
5. Phoenix Mercury (#59)
6. Connecticut Sun (#66)
7. Houston Comets (#69)
8. Los Angeles Sparks (#90)
9. Washington Mystics (#99)
10. Minnesota Lynx (#117)
11. San Antonio Silver Stars (#120)
12. Sacramento Monarchs (#140)
13. Chicago Sky (#150)
14. Atlanta Dream (#155)
The Atlanta Dream: last again. He puts the New York Islanders, Pittsburgh Pirates and Oklahoma City Thunder as the only teams with worse logos. I disagree with his placement of the Monarchs at #140 - it's one of the more creative logos - but beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
You might be asking "Why did he put the Houston Comets on the list? Doesn't he know that the franchise folded?" The answer is yes, he does know, but he writes:
"I did something controversial with the WNBA. Technically, the Houston Comets are not a current team: the team folded after the 2008 season. However, as the 2009 season hasn't started yet, I included them (plus, there's a push to bring the Comets back. It would be devastating to the WNBA to lose the most successful franchise in its short history). The first number you see for the WNBA above includes the Comets; the number in parentheses does not."
This is the first I've heard of such a push. I suspect this is just idle speculation, but it would be fantastic if it were true.
From NBA Team Jobs:
This position will be required to be in costume for various appearances, as well as, serve in a support role to the Mascot Coordinator during all home games. This position will also work to grow the character’s visibility and presence in the Atlanta community.
It's 5-20 hours a week, and it is unpaid. However, if you wanted to get your foot into professional sports management, why not start here? A good way to get the attention of WNBA and NBA staff members at Philips.
The big question: was this a paid position in 2008 (in which case it could be the sign of trouble), or has it always been an internship position?
I have a theory that states, "if you want to get a young person to know something about a sport, give them a sports board game to play." For example, if you watch the opening scene of Crooklyn, if you look very carefully you'll see two Brooklyn kids on a stoop playing APBA baseball, rolling the dice and simulating a game.
I had simulated games before. I had kept records and played out these dice and card games faithfully. For some reason, I had decided to give Statis Pro Basketball a try. I had played Statis Pro Baseball and I had enjoyed it so there was no reason to conclude that my experiences would be different.
My problem was that I still didn't know much about basketball other than "put ball in basket = two points". I didn't know how many fouls there were to a quarter. I didn't know if you got to take free throws after every defensive foul, or if the "plus one free throw" rule applied to fouls on 3-point shots. In the 1980s-1990s, this information wasn't easy to find. You needed to look up a sports reference book, or you could just ask a fan. The problem was that for some supposed fans their knowledge of the rules of the game wasn't much better than yours.
In the past, I had simulated either a) teams that I liked (like the Cincinnati Reds) or b) teams chosen at random. For the first time, I decided to choose a historically bad team and to see if I could do better. The team I chose was the 1987-88 Golden State Warriors.
So what about that team? I can only name a handful of names from 1980s basketball - Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley - but I could probably name more names from that 1987-88 Warriors team, even till today.
Joe Barry Carroll
This team finished 20-62 in real life. I had no schedule to work with and I had to make up my own. There were injury values on the cards, so injuries were determined at random. A player would theoretically miss as many games over an 82-game season as he missed in real life.
However, I got lucky. Ralph Sampson was not the injury-prone person he was in real life in my universe. Somehow, he dodged the bullets and stayed healthy. With a healthy Sampson, I managed to steer the Warriors to a 40-42 season, a #7 seed in the Western Conference where they fell 3-1 in the first round to the Dallas Mavericks.
(* * *)
So what was the point of all that? The first point was that even twenty years later I remember those names. Do you want to teach kids to love the WNBA? Then make a WNBA board game (or computer game) that they'll enjoy. Trust me, if it's a good game they'll remember those names even if they don't follow the WNBA.
The second point was that this was the first time I got slightly serious about a simulation. It was very frustrating not to be able to find information when I needed it, or to have to rely on secondhand information of dubious veracity. You can't imagine how frustrating it was before the internet, you youngsters. If your library didn't have it, then you didn't have it, and the autodidacts of that era would keep a well-stocked reference library of their own which included a good set of encyclopedias.
After "A League of Their Own" came out, I was inspired to create a women's baseball league card game. Since this was the pre-internet era, I had to do this all by myself. I managed to complete a 40-game season in a horribly frustrating experience. I had to create all the player cards (using Statis Pro Baseball rules) and figure out some way to generate them, as well as to play all the games. I don't recommend this to anyone. There had to be some better way.
(* * *)
Everything came together in the late 1990s. I had the internet, which meant that if I wanted to find out the facts about something, all I needed to do was to do a web search. If I wanted to write online, I could write and find likeminded people. And if I wanted to play games, I could purchase them at the local Try-N-Save.
In the late 90s, I managed to come across a game called "Baseball Mogul". This game promised on the box that it could deliver the entire experience of being the owner of a baseball team. (Actually, it only delivered the experience of being a GM of a baseball team, but that's still a hell of a lot.) It supposedly had all of one's favorite players. It promised that you could make trades just like a big league owner/GM.
Most of the sports games at the time were what I call "emulators". (The version of NBA Live 09 I have for the Wii is an "emulator".) An "emulator" is a game that has you play the role of a person, sort of like a "first person shooter" game. If it's a baseball game, you punch the button and the guy swings his bat. If it's a basketball, you make the little fellow dunk the ball by going up-down-left-right-control-A. If it's football, you aim the up-down-joystick-whatever in the direction of the receiver.
This was more like a text based game. You didn't actually watch the game at all - but the boxscore was generated with realistic results. Yes, you could trade players. You could negotiate with players and they would either accept or reject your offers.
What I was getting was something very close to what I had tried with that "League of Their Own" game. It couldn't offer everything, of course. But it could offer a hell of a lot, a quantum leap over what could have been offered by card games. For once, I was in control of my own universe, my little Yahweh.
I spent a good nine years or so with this game. I loved it. As time passed, the versions of the game got better and better with each passing year. You could generate fictional players. You could create your own teams in your own cities, changing and altering the configuration of the league itself, and the computer controlled teams in this league would trade with each other. You could run everything or just run a small part of the universe.
Since I enjoyed writing as a hobby, I was all over the internet. I wrote science fiction. I wrote fan fiction. And now, I could write sports fiction. One of the Baseball Mogul message boards was devoted to "Dynasties". Dynasty threads were threads devoted to players recounting the tales of their fictional universes, complete with posted game files one could load to see what was going on in some fellow's universe. (I never encountered a female poster.)
My dynasty was based on a scenario where the Boston Braves did not move to Milwaukee.
I wrote it for three years. It's still out there on the Baseball Mogul boards.
Writing a dynasty thread - and being believable - required that you truly research your sport. For example, in my fictional universe, when Ford Frick left as baseball commissioner I replaced him with Pete Rozelle. This required some understanding of who Pete Rozelle was and how he would have handled the issues of 1960s baseball. I became a maven of baseball history, reading Bill James, who combined my love of mathematics with a love of the game's history.
So what does all of this mean?
1) By now, I knew how to write a compelling story.
2) I was familiar with sports on something deeper than a surface level.
3) I had a real interest in history.
I probably would have keep writing this dynasty and kept writing fan fiction if not for two circumstances.
The first was simply burnout. The dynasty required a lot of background work to make it believable, and I began to truly dread writing new chapters of it. Therefore, I stopped active work on the baseball dynasty.
The second circumstance was that I had turned away from writing fan fiction. This left me with a big hole in my free time which demanded that something fill it.
It was May 2008. I heard that the WNBA was starting a team in Atlanta. The team would be called the Atlanta Dream.
I found this very interesting, for lots of reasons. The first reason was that I was looking for a team of some kind to support, hell, of any kind. I had been to a few Braves games at Turner Field (and when I lived in Florida, I watched Marlins games and I followed the Nashville Sound when I lived in Nashville). I found watching games enjoyable for the most part, but I didn't like the jock culture that followed baseball. I realize that for many men, sports is a support for masculinity (there's a whole essay coming about this) but I found such behavior annoying. Just read, oh, Bleacher Report and YardBarker for a few minutes. You'll see what I'm talking about, it's as if sports fandom is just an excuse for loutish behavior. I didn't want to be sitting with a bunch of drunks watching a Falcons or Hawks game. My family had drunks in it; I didn't like drunks or drinking. That wasn't my idea of a good time.
The second was that I believed in supporting the home team. My rule is that you support the home team unless you have a compelling reason not to. I supported the Mets in New York. (Never the Yankees, I hated them since 1976 when the Reds swept them.) I supported the Marlins in New York, the Sound in Nashville (and the parent club at the time, the Pittsburgh Pirates) and the Braves in Atlanta. If the WNBA had a team in Atlanta, I would support it.
The third reason was that there was a low barrier of entry. The best way to explain this is by a story about Dr. Joyce Brothers who would appear on the popular 1950s quiz show The $64,000 Question. The premise of the show was that you faced off answering questions against a panel of experts. You had to be an expert in something, and Brothers was told that she couldn't get on the show unless she was an expert in something unexpected, to play against type - like a short order cook who was an expert in opera, for example.
Brothers, being a smart woman, had to figure out something to become an expert in. It couldn't be something like opera, which has over 200 years of history. She chose boxing for a simple reason - boxing hadn't been around that long and pretty much all of its facts from the late 1800s on could be summarized in a twenty-volume set of books which Brothers virtually memorized. The sponsors hated Brothers and designed obscure questions to try to get her off the show.
They failed. She had become smarter than the experts in a short time.
To become a baseball fan or a basketball fan or a football fan is intimidating - you almost have to grow into it as a child. The history is so ridiciously long that you're always going to come up short. There's going to be someone who knows more than you, and will probably be glad to rub it in.
The WNBA, however, had only been around for 11 years. If you sat down one afternoon, you could probably not only memorize every WNBA champion year for year, but also every conference finalist. Since there were only 14 teams with 13 players each, that was 182 players. Football or baseball or men's basketball would have required getting to know over 300 players. A dedicated person could learn all there was to know about the WNBA in a much shorter time and not have to put in many years understanding the sport.
Everything about the WNBA was relatively new. All it required was a willingness to learn and an eagerness to dive in. Granted, I would have to learn about basketball - what the rules were, how it was played, what were the optimal strategies, and how to recognize what was going on in a live game. However, it seemed that a lot of so-called fans didn't even know the rules of their own sports. Certainly, I could bring myself up to speed.
This was May 2008. It is now one day short of a year since I started following the WNBA. I know I have a lot to catch up on...but in a lot of ways, I feel like I've come home.
(*) - I am still waiting for that text-based emulator basketball game out there that focuses more on trading and acquiring like a real GM and less on getting the guy on the screen to do a 360-degree stadium-shattering dunk. Hope springs eternal.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
At Moneyfoxs.com, Sheryl Swoopes made the list of their "25 Rich Athletes Who Went Broke". (This list was probably cribbed outright from BusinessPundit.com.)
Swoopes shows up at #17. A quote: "She filed for bankruptcy in 2004, citing mismanagement by her agents and layers (sic). She owed nearly $750,000."
The "estimated lifetime earnings" of $50 million? As Rebecca from Game Notes of Doom would say, "NO WAI."
She isn't the only female athlete to make the list. Dorothy Hamill made the list at #14, and Marion Jones made the list at #6.
Monday, May 18, 2009
One pic among many great pics.
If you like Atlanta Dream pictures...well, we've got plenty of them from media day at Yahoo! Sports.
There are thirty-three pictures and they are all just jaw-droppingly good. If you only click one link on this blog today, the link above is the one you have to click. The pictures are "picture perfect" professional quality pics. Furthermore, we get some insight into player numbers:
Furthermore, we know all the numbers that will be worn by potential Atlanta Dream players. Trust me, the players are wearing their numbers in the pics.
#1 - Chamique Holdsclaw
#2 - Michelle Snow
#5 - Shalee Lehning
#7 - Chantelle Anderson
#8 - Iziane Castro Marques
#9 - Coco Miller - Chioma Nnamaka wore the number last year
#11 - Tamera Young - Tamera has changed numbers from #23 last year - Kristen Mann previously wore this number
#12 - Ivory Latta
#14 - Erika de Souza - I believe she was a no-show for Media Day...there weren't any pictures of her among the 33 pics above
#20 - Sancho Lyttle - Camille Little wore the number when she was with the Dream last year
#21 - Jennifer Lacy
#35 - Angel McCoughtry - Kasha Terry wore the number last year
#42 - Nikki Teasley
#51 - Marlies Gipson - the first player ever for the Dream to wear a number in the fifties
...oh yeah, I forgot. The other ninety or so pictures are from other WNBA teams. But who cares about them? One Team, One Dream!
From the Washington Mystics website:
Tasha Humphrey is not listed on the official training camp roster because she reported to camp unable to perform. www.washingtonmystics.com.
It sounds vaguely sexual, doesn't it? They should have chosen another euphemism, or at least have been more specific.
I just wonder if Trader Bill fleeced the Mystics.
All Eyez on Me
* We have two new nicknames for Dream players. Chamique Holdsclaw is known as "Big Smooth" and Tamera Young is known as "Lil Smooth". You have to watch out for that "Smooth/Smoove" nickname. Ivory Latta nicknamed Kristin Haynie "K-Smoove" last year, and look what happened.
* Some more pictures from Big Smooth.
** The beginning of the long day.
** Tales of the sleeping rookie.
** More snoozin'.
* From Chantelle Anderson: "Media day is taking 4ever. I just want to go home and lay down! :)"
* More from Big Smooth (I think Chamique Holdsclaw might become the Designated Twitterer.):
"Our rookies are great! They have been awesome on the first 2 days of rookie duty. They had donuts and bagels waiting for us this morning!" I think this horrible rookie hazing is inexcusable and should be reported to the WNBA, Chamique - but I'll keep my mouth shut for a donut.
* Another reason to follow Big Smooth: two "Bubble Tweets" of a sleeping rookie waking up.
As far as I can tell, of all of the ABL and WNBA players who have played the game, only two of those players are deceased.
If you're more than just a casual fan of the WNBA, you know the first one. Kim Perrot. She died in 1999 from metastatized lung cancer. She was diagnosed in February 1999 and died in August of the same year.
The other player is a little bit more difficult to name. Corissa Yasen died in May 2001 from a drug overdose. High levels of several anti-depressants, painkillers and anxiety medications were found in her toxicology analysis according to the Font of All Knowledge, Wikipedia. The death was ruled as a suicide; I'll leave others to argue whether the death was planned or incidental. If it was a suicide, there was no note - but if you've been watching House, MD you know that it is more likely for a suicide not to leave a note than otherwise.
She was only 27 years old when she died. A graduate of Purdue University, at the time of her death she was the most decorated track and field athlete in Purdue's history. She started her professional basketball career with the WNBA in 1997 - the only year she ever played in the WNBA. She played 19 games for the Sacramento Monarchs, not starting in any of them, averaging 9.9 minutes a game and 2.7 points a game.
She had graduated with a pharmacy degree from Purdue and returned to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho to work at a pharmacy in Medicine Hat. She seemed happy.
It just goes to show you that you can play along side someone if you're a player, or you can study a player's history, statistics, listen to interviews, watch them play, and yet not really know who they are. Some people are mysteries, and they remain mysteries no matter how much we would like it to be otherwise.
These are some of the estimated vertical jump distances for well-known NBA players. These are said to be "stand-still" vertical jumps, and we don't know if these are "average" vertical jumps or "best ever" vertical jumps.
David Thompson: 48 inches
Darrell Griffith: 48 inches
Spud Webb: 46 inches
Vince Carter: 43 inches
Michael Jordan: 43 inches
Julius Erving: 41 inches
Shaquille O'Neal: 32 inches
Now, some vertical jump distances for WNBA players.
Deanna Nolan: 34 inches
Candace Parker: 28 inches
Lisa Leslie: over 20 inches, at least
I don't know why I put this up, but I thought it was interesting.
The Eurobasket Summer League has its registration for female players on June 9-10th in New York City.
According to the website at USBasket.com (linked from Eurobasket.com, the #1 stop for news about how WNBA players are doing in the off-season) the event is to sign up players for the Eurobasket summer league.
According to the page "Over 46% of the players who participated in the ESL in 2008 landed professional contacts in forty (40) different leagues around the world this season." Of course, you should take this with a grain of salt:
a) these numbers might refer to men's basketball players only, and
b) the contract signing might not have had anything to do with playing in the ESL, and
c) this 46 percent covers anything that might be considered a professional league. You might end up in the French A league, or the Kazakhstan B league, or anything in between.
The cost of signing up is $399 per player for the New York women camp. Players are responsible for their transportation to the city and hotel expenses. The ESL will provide special hotel rates for players.
The Pleasant Dreams Blog does not endorse the ESL - we're just putting the information out there. Contact marketing @ eurobasket.com if you're interested.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Shalee Lehning warms up.
From @atlantadream on Twitter:
1. Ivory Latta
2. Danielle Donehew and Coach Marynell Meadors
3. The first team huddle
4. Angel McCoughtry
5. Marlies Gipson
6. Shalee Lehning, above.
7. Chamique Holdsclaw, Chantelle Anderson, and Nikki Teasley
8. Coco Miller.
From the She's a Baller blog:
The WNBA lost one of its biggest sponsors in Discover Financial Services, as the credit card company opted not to renew with the league after its three-year agreement expired this spring.
Discover’s departure comes as little surprise given the economic pressures on the financial services industry, but it leaves the WNBA without one of its most active partners.
Tough times all over. The WNBA picked up Hewlett-Packard and Starwood Hotels. Nike and 1-800-Flowers have renewed, according to the article. However, there's just less money to go around in sports in general, and the credit industry is particularly hard hit.
The photographer? Chamique Holdsclaw.
The source? Twitter. Chamique shared her shot with the world.
The location? Dream Training Camp, May 17th 2009.
My question: who is the subject?
Update: The second picture, this from Chantelle Anderson. Even a soopergenious like me was able to figure this one out. Also: thanks to all the commenters for identifying the subject of the picture above. My only comment: I feel really stupid right now.
ESPN's SportsNation interviewed Scott Hastings. If you don't follow men's basketball, he's described thusly: "An 11-year veteran of the NBA, Hastings played for five different teams including the Knicks, Hawks, Heat, Pistons, and Nuggets. While with the Pistons, Scott won a NBA Championship defeating the Trail Blazers four games to one. Currently Hastings co-hosts a daily sports talk radio show on KOA in Denver. He is in his fourth season as a play-by-play analyst for the Denver Nuggets and in his sixth season as the color analyst for the radio broadcasts of the Broncos."
The amusing thing is that someone asked him about the WNBA:
Tristan (Bronx, NY): Do you think Denver deserves a WNBA franchise and would you be the voice of it?
Scott Hastings: I coached girls high school basketball for two years, so I would love to be affiliated with it, whatever it might be. I appreciate the women's game. Look what Laimbeer has done. Forget being the voice of it, I may want to be the coach.
(* * *)
I'll just say that I think the WNBA could work in Denver and leave it at that. And the new owner, of course, should at least give Hastings a courtesy call.
With WNBA training camp now started, and with Iziane Castro Marques and Erika de Souza probably back in Atlanta by now, Iziane took care of one last piece of business before leaving.
Hortência, famous former Brazilian player and now director of women's basketball in Brazil, had to get Iziane Castro Marques and women's coach Paulo Bassul to agree to work together. Through e-mails and conversations, Iziane finally agreed that she'd do whatever was best for the Brazilian team.
There had been some question about whether or not Paulo Bassul should be reconfirmed as the coach of the Brazilian women's national team. That matter has now been settled - he's back. And he says that if Izi qualifies for selection (which is pretty much a given) that he welcomes her return and that she just needs to show a different attitude.
It will be interesting the first time the two take the court as coach and player for the same team.
(From globoesporte.com with help of the Painel do Basquete Feminino blog.)
Saturday, May 16, 2009
There was an article in the New York Times called "The No-Stats All Star". The article is about Houston Rocket forward Shane Battier, and the fact that he has the ability to take great players and turn them into so-so players - usually by forcing them into areas of the court where they shoot less well. However, his ability to do this is not reflected well in traditional basketball statistics.
It was written by Michael Lewis, the author of "Moneyball", the book that brought advanced sports statistics to public attention. There was a line in the article that caught my attention.
A team scores on average about 100 points a game, but two out of three N.B.A. games are decided by fewer than 6 points — two or three possessions. The effect of this, in his mind, was to raise significantly the importance of every little thing that happened.
I was very surprised. I looked up the 2008-09 NBA regular season stats at basketball-reference.com. Sure enough, the average team in an NBA game scored 100.0 points.
A team scored about 76.3 points in the average regular season WNBA game. However, in the 276 games that took place in the WNBA in 2008 from the start of the regular season to the end of the finals, only 66 games were decided by five points or less - that's only one out of four games. 25 percent of all games being close (WNBA) is a big difference from 66 percent of all games being close (NBA).
What can we take away from this? Is there an explanation for why this is true? I don't know one, but this might be one of the reasons that the WNBA is not seen to be as "exciting" as the NBA.
ThePainel do Basquete Feminino blog has some quotes from Erika de Souza, who will be playing for the Dream after helping Ros Casares win its sixth Spanish League championship. (The link is translated into English.)
It was with great nostalgia for my country. The first thing I did was hug my family and true friends. The Atlanta gave me a few days off before the presentation and decided to review the staff, and resolve some issues as bureaucratic renewal of visa for the United States. I have one more year of contract.
Hmmm. Looks like the Dream have more tough decisions after 2009.
On her relationship with Iziane Castro Marques:
It's great to have company in the Brazilian team. I have a very good relationship with Iziane. Despite all that talk about it, we believe in. We were team mates of the NCB and has defended the Brazilian team at the same time. We started together in basketball, we are friends and, furthermore, it helps me a lot with the English, because my stuff is not there.
Definitely a euphemism. I've never seen Erika speak a word of English, Izi does all the speaking for her.
Friday, May 15, 2009
The new issue of Sports Illustrated should have an article about Chamique Holdsclaw. The article has been posted at the SI website; I don't know if this is the article in its entirety or not.
An interesting quote from the article:
After leaving the Sparks, Holdsclaw said she was finally diagnosed with chronic tendinitis. She underwent a new procedure known as "platelet-rich plasma,'' in which a person's own blood is used to treat the injury.
"It was painful as hell,'' she said. "Oh my God. They're basically pumping the tendon with blood. The pressure! Oh my God. I almost collapsed there one time.''
That was something I never knew before. It looks like Chamique really wants to play basketball, because who would go through something like that if they didn't want to play?
Chamique Holdsclaw has polished off the crab cakes and onion rings at Ted Turner's downtown restaurant when a fellow diner notices a tattoo on the inside of her wrist.
"Freedom,'' she says, holding up her arm proudly.
She got the tattoo shortly after "retiring'' from the WNBA, a tumultuous time in her life when she was called everything from star to selfish to head case.
That must be Ted's Montana Grill. I've not eaten at the one downtown, but the food is good. Chamique also likes the Flying Biscuit, and I've tried that too.