Saturday, April 24, 2010
* 2010 WNBA Preseason Review
* Good Ratings for a Bad Game
* Bing Search Engine to Sponsor Seattle Storm
* Laura Harper vs. Turkey
* Updates on the Sherida Triggs Case in Germany
* Mel Greenberg Retires
* Angel McCoughtry Makes the AJC
* This Week's Games
Tomorrow, training camp for the WNBA begins. At least, it begins in Atlanta, your mileage may very. With a flood of players in camp - some teams list as many as twenty "campers" the last time I looked - the 2010 WNBA season is very close to its debut and it's time to start thinking about where teams will end up when the dust has settled.
Predicting is a fun game, but this early in the year predictions shouldn't be taken very seriously. Nobodies have breakout years; superstars get injured. Players with atypically excellent seasons "regress to the mean", or return to their average output. All kinds of unexpected things happen - players can get arrested, have deaths in the family, etc. and a team's win or loss record can hinge on the presence of absense of a player for even a single game. Teams build up winning streaks and ride on momentum; teams suffer losing streaks and seem trapped by self-induced mental pressures.
One statistician put it best when he said that pre-season predictions were "an attempt to predict the past."
The win-loss records projected for each team are based on Adjusted Win Scores for the entire training camp roster - for rookies, the score is based on the average rookie-year AWS for their draft position. (Why Adjusted Win Score? Because it has the highest correlation with winning games.) For each player on the training camp roster, a simple attempt was made to project their 2010 production based on the previous two or three years of play. Even so, it seems that with every new trade or training camp roster acquisition, the numbers change daily. Furthermore, for players who have missed years due to injuries, I've had to make best guesses - after a few attempts, the effort is less hard science and more the reading of entrails.
With new acquisitions, with people entering and exiting camp, my picks are changing almost daily. Ask me in a week, and the numbers could be completely different.
New York Liberty
This year's Liberty will be better than last year's Liberty: how could they not be? Furthermore, they have Anne Donovan at the helm - for one year, anyway, before she takes off for Seton Hall. However, I had New York floating around fourth place in the Eastern Conference unless they could somehow saw Janel McCarville in half and make two players out of her.
Janel McCarville. Nicole Powell. Cappie Pondexter from Phoenix. And now, they've just added Taj McWilliams, who might be the missing piece that New York has been looking for, providing rebounding power and the undefinable "mental toughness". Granted, Taj McWilliams's palm started glowing red a long time ago, but McWilliams has figured out some secret of beating the clock. With that group of players, could the New York Liberty pull the next "worst to first" in WNBA history? There's definitely a core of players that could carry any WNBA team a long distance. Those four players are about the equal of the Bird/Jackson combo in Seattle, if one is thinking of a threshhold of talent that is enough to guarantee a WNBA playoff appearance based on a few players. New York has enough to get to the playoffs and there's not going to be much difference between the #4 spot and the #1 spot in the East.
There is the outside possibility - a weak one - that Kia Vaughn could turn it around after a disappointing rookie season. I wouldn't bet money on that, though. Furthermore, New York has a very weak bench, meaning that the playoff hopes of the Liberty depend on four women, one of which is one of the oldest players in the W. However, if you're going to make the prediction game interesting, you can't follow conventional wisdom. If they don't win the regular season, a playoff spot somewhere shouldn't be surprising.
Last year, the Fever proved that what they needed wasn't Tamika Catchings or Tully Bevilaqua. What the Fever needed was Lin Dunn, the coach who should have been named Coach of the Year last year. Dunn is Indiana's secret weapon, and the perfect folksy coach for a city that is desperate for a basketball championship of any kind.
I don't think that the Fever are going to sneak up on anyone this year, and Chicago still has that potential for the big breakout year. I also don't think that the Fever are that deep beyond their starting rotation. But think about it: Catchings, Bevilaqua, Douglas, Sutton-Brown - those are the kind of players a coach would want to have and Lin Dunn can do a lot with good players. 18-16 doesn't sound like much of a finish, but the West is pretty damned strong and Indiana is likely to regress. Even with the regression expect the Fever to make it to the conference championship - and possibly, another WNBA Finals.
The Sky is an ensemble piece that could be even better than expected if Sylvia Fowles decides to show up for an entire season. Fowles has been amazing the last couple of years, and that's when she was healthy enough to play, but now the surrounding cast for Fowles and Jia Perkins looks even more interesting.
The amazing three-way trade between Phoenix, New York and Chicago in 2010 ended up putting Shameka Christon in a Chicago Sky uni. Will she be the equivalent ofCandice Dupree? No. Will she be a decent acquisition? Yes. Another interesting acquisition is Courtney Paris, who played quite well for the Monarchs when she did play - Paris was a project that was brought along slowly and we could see even more of Paris this year.
I suspect that everyone's eyes will be on Epipphany Prince, the Rutgers player who forewent her final year at Rutgers to play in Europe for a year. Doing well in Turkey won't impress anyone, but Prince is a young player with a lot of upside. Cathrine Kraayeveld will be a good addition, and maybe Tamera Young will finally turn it around this year.
The X-factor in this equation is Steven Key. Key seems incapable of keeping the same five players on the floor for more than a few minutes at a time, and he might spoil the 2010 Chicago Sky's chemistry. I'm sure he knows he can't have another season of disappointment - his job might depend on it - but the fact is that this team can achieve if it's coached well. I'm depending on Big Syl to finally play 30+ games and possibly lead the Sky to home field advantage in a weak Eastern Conference.
The success of the Atlanta Dream rests on the backs of three players: Sancho Lyttle, Erika de Souza, and Angel McCoughtry.
The rest of the league finally recognize how good Lyttle and de Souza are, and they'll be ready - but even prepared, I think that either one or both will end up in a (theoretical) All-Star uniform. The problem is that both Lyttle and de Souza have played a lot of Euroball and you have to wonder how fresh those players are. Marynell Meadors doesn't seem to be worried, but I think everyone else is.
A couple of X-Factors are Chamique Holdsclaw and Shalee Lehning. We were treated to a few brief flashes of brilliance from The Claw last year at Philips Arena, but if Holdsclaw struggles with injuries again many are going to conclude that the Claw is done. (Good thing McCoughtry can step into that role.) Lehning suffered a serious shoulder injury at the end of last season and you have to worry if she can come back. The well-deserved knock on Lehning is that Lehning Can't Score, but the team seems to respond well to Lehning playing quarterback.
Who would I look for outside the obvious? Maybe Armintie Price. However, I think that the Dream are destined to regress to the mean in 2010.
Mike Thibault has won a few coaching awards, and now we're going to learn whether he's a genius or we're just kidding ourselves: he has purchased the proverbial pig in a poke. It's a good thing that the Sun are attached to the Mohegan, because Thibault went straight to the roulette table and went all in.
Either Tina Charles is going to be a great player in the WNBA, or she isn't. Either she's going to capture that UConn Huskies chemistry with Renee Montgomery, or she isn't. Either Anete Jekabsone-Zogota will adjust to the W, or she won't. If the little ball lands in the slot, Thibault walks away with a pile of loot. But giving up Lindsey Whalen for that? Realllllly? I'll probably be proven wrong, but I suspect that Thibault is going to walk out of the casino with nothing but a barrel and suspenders.
"Oh Pet, why are you so hard on the Mystics?" Hey, last year I projected the Mystics to win, what, six games? It made Washington management so angry (I wish) that they headed to the playoffs just to spite me. Mystics fans, maybe another prediction of bottom-dwelling will guarantee extra playoff success.
One X-Factor for the Mystics: Jacinta Monroe. My suspicion is that Monroe is going to be quite good. With Alana Beard out for the season, everyone else is going to have to crank it up a notch and I think that Monroe is capable of the increased responsibility.
I look at everything else though - Matee Ajavon, Nikki Blue, Nakia Sanford - and I just end up shaking my head. (How come Sanford hasn't learned to hit a free throw?) Last year's playoff appearance is a testimony to Julie Plank's skills as a coach, but you usually don't go wrong betting on a sub-par year for Washington. They have Katie Smith, but a team can't rest on one player and unless Marissa Coleman wakes up, it will be a disappointing season.
For those who hoped that Phoenix would lose a step with the subtraction of Cappie Pondexter and the loss of cap space, my answer is that you're probably wrong. This is a team that has won two of the last three WNBA championships, and they have Diana and you don't.
I mean...good Lord. Do I have to take the Almighty's name in vain again? Good Lord! Diana Taurasi. Penny Taylor, theoretically for a whole year. Candice Dupree, (theoretically) happy in Phoenix. DeWanna Bonner, who could have been Rookie of the Year Last Year? Tell me, WNBA, how are you going to stop all of that?
I'm not saying that we should just mail the trophy to Phoenix and all go out to the bumper car track - the West is stacked this year. Minnesota and Seattle haven't gone anywhere, and they will fight. But last year, Phoenix showed the world how the women's game should be played - high scoring and high skilled. With Tangela Smith and Temeka Johnson ready to pick up any slack, Phoenix is a team ready to repeat. They might be a little thin in the bench, but Phoenix has so many weapons that I can't see them not repeating, unless Diana Taurasi can't find a designated driver.
Oh, Minnesota Lynx. How you burned me last year when I projected a WNBA Finals appearance. And I am not the only one you've burned - you've been burning the faithful in Minneapolis for many, many years now.
Do you remember the story of that really talented kid in high school who you thought was going to be president, and you learn that ten years later she's a waitress at the Burger Barn out on Route Seven? That, my friends, is the story of the Lynx written large. It is a team with a crapload of potential that never gets it together. A room full of explosives, and no one with a match for miles around.
If you can't win games with Nicky Anosike - a pleasant surprise with a stellar season in 2009 - and with Lindsey Whalen and Rebekah Brunson, then what the hell are you doing in the WNBA? If you're not winning games, then you're stealing money. If Seimone Augustus can get her health together, you have a group that can rival the Phoenix Mercury.
The problem is that the Mercury have passion, and the Lynx...well, I don't know what the Lynx have. No one knows, not even the Lynx. (Answer "Rashanda McCants" and I'll clock you.) But hope springs eternal. This year will be the year that the Lynx finally get it together and mock everyone else, and I'll believe that until we're eight games in and the Lynx are resting at 2-6.
As long as the Storm have Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird, they will contend for a playoff position. Hey, if a WNBA team just had either of those players, they'd contend. Having both guarantees that the Storm will always be scribbled in somewhere in the post-season.
What keeps the Storm from the top, though? The first thing is an absence of really dominant players beyond those two. Le'Coe Willingham and Tanisha Smith are no slouches, but who else will pick up the team? Loree Moore might prosper being in Seattle. Camille Little looks slim and trim and might get the WNBA to stand up and take notice.
Another problem is that coach Brian Agler likes to give his starters a lot of minutes - I think last year he depended on the same seven players game after game after game. The advantage is that staying away from the bench keeps your best on the floor a lot; the disadvantage is the wear and tear. I predict that somewhere along the way, someone on the Storm will get hurt, and that will keep Seattle out of home field advantage in the first round.
San Antonio Silver Stars
Usually, when you're a new coach, what you get are a bunch of talentless bums - those bums are the reason why the old coach isn't hanging around. For new head coach Sandy Brondello, she can't say that the cupboard was bare when she took the job - but the West is very competitive and San Antonio is left to try to put something together beyond Sophia Young and Becky Hammon.
One X-Factor will be the arrival of Michelle Snow to the Silver Stars. Snow has been one of those players that has been a disappointment, and Atlanta basically let Snow go away for nothing. Then again, maybe Meadors and Snow were a volatile combination, as Meadors trusts her players about as much as Steven Key does. Snow should shine, and without Ann Wauters, she'd better shine.
Beyond Snow, who else? Maybe Roneeka Hodges. Maybe Edwige Lawson-Wade will have a great season. Other than that I don't see the Silver Stars moving beyond fourth place in the West.
Los Angeles Sparks
There will be a lesson learned here - Lisa Leslie is very hard to replace and the era when both Leslie and Parker roamed the courts together is over. Parker is still the superstar of the Sparks, but I look at the rest of the team and I just don't see very much there.
Tina Thompson? Age is already catching up with her. Betty Lennox? A locker room breakdown waiting to happen. Shannon Bobbitt? Yes, exactly. Tisha Penicherio might be the greatest disher of anyone to play in the W, but she's not going to be a replacement for Lisa Leslie.
If Los Angeles is going to contend against the teams listed above them, Parker is going to have to have a season like her 2008 tilt. Then, of course, the Lynx could melt down again and that would boost the Sparks into another post-season appearance. Los Angeles is not better than the Mercury and really, if they're better than the Storm or the Silver Stars, it's not by much.
Poor Tulsa. When they got the Shock to jump over from Detroit, I'm sure that Cameron and Box thought they might bring a title to Tulsa in their very first season. No one thought much of Detroit last year, but they made it to the Eastern Conference Finals on sheer momentum.
How much can change in a year! Deanna Nolan has gone AWOL and odds are, she's decided she's rather have rubles than dollars. Katie Smith has gone to Washington. Cheryl Ford? Will Cheryl Ford play this year?
That leaves Tulsa depending on Plenette Pierson's injured shoulder and not much else. Nolan Richardson is a great coach, but he isn't God, and I think you'd need a God-like coach to make something out of the collection of spare parts (Marion Jones!) that has been assembled under the glorious name of the Shock. Essentially, Richardson is coaching an expansion team and they're going to play like an expansion team. I suspect that anyone on that roster could get cut before the year is over - Richardson might even walk away from the disaster in the making. There's just too little talent in Tulsa for too tough a division. Now if Tulsa had remained in the East....
(* * *)
Over the last couple of weeks, women's basketball fandom has basked in the post-season glow of the 2010 NCAA Championship. It was almost a dream matchup - in one corner were the Connecticut Huskies, which were shooting for a second consecutive undefeated season. In the other corner were the Stanford Cardinal, a challenger which only had one loss to blemish their own record...and that loss was to Connecticut, a team they were leading at halftime in their previous matchup.
The ratings for the finals game on ESPN were at 2.7. You might not think much of a 2.7 rating if you know anything about television ratings, but for a women's basketball game it's a great rating. The rating was 29 percent above the previous year's Connecticut-Louisville finals matchup. After months of ignorant writing by clueless sportswriters that Connecticut's dominance of the women's game was bad for the sport - a criticism rarely hurled at the John Wooden UCLA Bruins or the Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls - women's basketball advocates could show that if Connecticut dominance was hurting anything, it certainly wasn't hurting the television ratings.
I overheard the men at my day job - men who keep up with all sorts of macho sports like football - mention the game in passing. The game was clearly on their radar, and they were at least aware of its existence, if nothing else. But before women's basketball fans jump to the conclusion that women's basketball is ready to enter a new era based on those ratings, let me pose a question in response: what kind of game did those new viewers see?
The game they saw, frankly, was a mess. Connecticut won the game by shooting 32.8 percent from the floor, a staggeringly low number by anyone's standards. Stanford's shooting was 26.5 percent, even worse. The Cardinal's shooting percentage was so low that their 3-point shooting (36.4 percent) eclipsed their shooting from close range. Jayne Appel, Stanford's prize player, went 0-for-12 during the game and probably cost herself a chance at being picked #2 in the WNBA draft.
Add to that the fact that Stanford committed 20 personal fouls and sent the Huskies to the line 22 times, where Connecticut proceeded to hit exactly nine of those free throws. Maya Moore, possibly the best college player in the country, went 2-for-5 from the free throw line. Tina Charles, the #1 pick in the WNBA draft, went 1-for-5. The Huskies only shot 40.9 percent from the free throw line. (Stanford's 75 percent free throw percentage might seem impressive...but the Cardinal only went to the line three times.) In Dean Oliver's Four Factors, the Huskies certainly had the Free Throws Attempted stat wrapped up. And there was definitely a lot of rebounding, due to a lot of missed shots.
When sportswriters - who are usually males that don't watch women's sports - deign to report on a women's game, they tend to frame games differently than a match between two men's teams. When reporting a men's game, games are won because one team was better than the other team - yes, Disco Tech went 0-for-5 during the last couple of minutes because Gotham U applied its famous killer defense: those boys at Tech tried, but couldn't break the wall. Whereas if this were a women's game, the conclusion drawn would be a different one, namely that Disco Tech got the yips and Gotham U merely took advantage of Tech's ineptitude. Reporters look at men's games through one frame and women's games through another.
However, I don't think you can look at those percentages in Connecticut-Stanford II and conclude that this was a game of thrilling defense. Neither team turned the ball over that much, so no one was having their pockets picked. When I think of a team that got the short end of a defensive struggle, I think of 35 percent shooting as "low shooting caused by defensive pressure". When both teams can't reach 35 percent, my conclusion is simply ineptitude and sloppy play on both sides.
So what would have a casual viewer have seen if he or she had tuned in to watch the two greatest women's basketball teams in the country?
* A horrible shooting game where neither team could find the basket for long stretches of time.
* One of the supposedly best players in the country (Appel) not hitting a single shot.
* Super-duper most-elite-of-all Connecticut racking up a grand total of 12 points in the first half....
* ...but Stanford only had 20 first half points. Furthermore, they held the Huskies to approximately 25 percent shooting in the first half...and lost.
The game at times threatened to degenerate into the type of game played by junior high girls in any local middle school across the country. There was a lot of furious running around but very little basketball being played. To sum up: the game stunk.
What would a casual viewer conclude? Probably that there might be a lot of smoke sent up by women's basketball advocates regarding this game, but very little fire in the final product. Given an argument between a clueless college sportswriter who claims that women's basketball is just an affirmative action sports product consisting of gangly women that can't shoot and a women's basketball advocate that states that women's basketball is a thrilling spectacle where elite clashes are action packed thrillfests...the casual viewer might end up siding with the former if this was that viewer's only look at the women's game.
All right. Put down your guns. I agree with the women's basketball advocates and not the clueless sportswriters. In 99 out of a 100 matches, Connecticut-Stanford would be a thrillfest, but every now and then you get a disappointment of a title game. Anyone who watched the Phoenix-Indiana 2009 WNBA Finals or who sees a Spartak Moscow-Ekaterinburg match - like the one today - knows that the women's game can be flat-out amazing to watch. Besides, not every NBA Game 7 or Super Bowl matchup is a Game For The Ages; we shouldn't expect that to be true of the Women's NCAA Finals either.
Ratings interest me to a certain degree - they indicate the amount of interest there was in an event at the time of the event. Clearly, even though the jockocracy attempted to claim that Connecticut's excellence was bad for the game, people wanted to tune in and see what all this hubbub about Connecticut was about. That's good - a team playing at a high standard of excellence will attract viewers no matter what the sport. However, every advocate of the women's game knows that we have to take the long view. We have to treasure our triumphs, but not be complacent. So my question is this: if the only women's basketball game you saw in 2010 was Connecticut-Stanford II, what would be the chances that you'd come back next year to see another one?
(* * *)
I didn't believe there was a force on earth that could get me to use Bing's search engine. I admit it. I'm a snob. But now, you can bet I'll be using "Bing" and using it a lot. Why?
Bing will now be a jersey sponsor of the Seattle Storm. By "jersey sponsor" we mean that Bing will appear on the front of Seattle Storm jerseys. Seattle joins Phoenix (LifeLock) and Los Angeles (Farmers Insurance) in gaining a sponsorship for their jerseys.
To say that this is merely interesting news is an understatement. It's wonderful news. With WNBA teams operating on both thin operating budgets and thin profit margins, a jersey sponsorship deal can guarantee the existence of a WNBA team for as long as the deal is in place.
Furthermore, Bing is the biggest sponsor of a jersey so far, with all the power of Microsoft's endless zillions behind it. Bing is a sponsor that everyone knows. It would be the equivalent of Coca-Cola sponsoring the Atlanta Dream. With all due respect, Lifelock has many detractors (but not in women's basketball) and as for Farmers Insurance, no one has heard of it on the east coast. Bing - so far - is the biggest name out there in women's basketball.
I'll say this to Microsoft: you can bet I'll be paying attention to Microsoft products and to the Bing search engine for as long as this deal lasts. Congratulations to the Seattle Storm for snaring such a high-profile sponsor. And the logo looks great, too!
(* * *)
Recently, the arbitrator from FIBA - the governing body of international basketball - delivered a final judgment in a tribunal pitting Laura Harper against her Turkish club, Besitkas. Harper was a forward for Sacramento for the last two years and will be playing for San Antonio in the 2010 season. It was a joint complaint filed by Harper and her agents against Besitkas.
Here's the entire decision of the arbitration. The issues of complaint:
* That Harper was owed two round trips from Istanbul to any American city during the season.
* That her agents were owed $20,000, and one round-trip ticket to Istanbul.
* That her payments for the 2008-09 season were as follows: $20K, $20K, $15K, $15K, and $15K. All of those payments were approximately one month late, and the final payment was never made.
After that, player and agents and club had their spats. The agents said that Harper would go back to Turkey but she'd come straight back home if she wasn't paid. The culb said that she returned several days late and missed practices. Furthermore, she was "absent from her domicile" several times after 11:30 pm. (Do pro players have a curfew in Turkey? Really?)
Harper gave a notice of termination to the club. The club filed with FIBA for arbitration. The arbitrator filed in favor of Harper - she had a right to terminate because the club had been late for 30 days with a payment. Furthermore, the club had admitted it was late in paying Harper, so that was that. Looking at the document, I can't figure out why the club thought they could win the arbitration.
All in all, it's a very interesting look at the entire issue of salary. If Besitkas had paid Harper - and they had to pay Harper in the end, anyway - she earned $85,000 during the 2008-09 season in Turkey. I found another judgment by Besitkas on behalf of Alexis Hornbuckle - Besitkas owed Hornbuckle $130,000 for 2008-09. (That judgment is very interesting, with some more details of life overseas, about bug-infested apartments and vehicles provided by the club that break down.)
Harper (and Hornbuckle) have two years of experience. During the seasons above in question - they were rookies. As a #4 pick, Hornbuckle could see her WNBA salary start at $44K and end at $56K after three years. As a #10 pick, Harper's WNBA salary would range from $36K to $46K. The most any player can see in salary according to the 2008 collective bargaining agreement was $102K; who knows what that was lowered to after negotiations this year? And when you're naming players who could qualify for max salary (now or someday) you think of Diana Taurasi and Lauren Jackson, not Alexis Hornbuckle and Laura Harper.
And yet, those players were pulling down $85K and $130K respectively. In Turkey! As rookies!! Can you imagine what the Spaniards would have paid those players if they were good enough to play in the Liga Femenina? What the Poles would have paid them if they were in the PLKK? What the Russians would have paid them in Superleague A? (I shudder to think what Epipphany Prince is earning now.)
The WNBA simply can't compete with that kind of cash. If Turkish clubs are throwing around six figure salaries now, with free lodging and club cars provided, with round trip tickets - for rookies - then imagine what Euroleague contenders are offering. All I can say is this: be glad that players are playing in the W. Be glad that the majority of American roundballers aren't pulling a Deanna Nolan and remaining overseas. The women's pro basketball world is split between the haves and the have nots...and it looks like we're the have-nots.
(* * *)
I posted earlier about the case of Sherida Triggs, an American player in Germany who is facing prosecution for assualt after two injuries suffered by opposing players at her hands during regular season play.
According to MZ-web.de, the judge assigned to the case has been reassigned to another court - and there is no replacement judge.
If it were me, I'd just never come back to Germany - Triggs is supposed to be playing for the Atlanta Battlecats of the Women's Blue Chip Basketball League this season. Of course, I don't know if Triggs would be eligible to play anywhere else under FIBA rules the following season if that happened. If I find out more, I'll let you know.
(* * *)
In women's basketball, reporter Mel Greenberg of the Philadelphia Inquirer is retiring.
What can you say about Mel Greenberg if you follow women's basketball? Greenberg was following women's basketball before anyone either loved or hated it. The Women's Basketball Coaches Association's media award is named after Greenberg. (Yes, Mel Greenberg has won his own award.) He was a women's basketball reporter for 39 years at the Inquirer and covered virtually every women's basketball finals back to the old AIAW days.
He has covered the WBA, the AIAW, the NCAA, the Olympics, the ABL and the WNBA. He was the first reporter ever inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame. Some new fans might not know this story, but Greenberg put together the first women's college basketball poll for the Associated Press. Greenberg would call every coach - personally - on weekends to get votes, and in those first polls Greenberg had to do a lot of calling to get basic information about teams - there was no national news service, and definitely not one for women's basketball.
You know...Mel's not dead yet. Hopefully, he'll blog or do some stuff for free, and we hope The Godfather still attends those NCAA Finals games. You can never keep a Hall of Famer down.
(* * *)
Angel McCoughtry writes an article for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution with the help of Michelle Hiskey. She reports on her positive experience with the Good Angels Kosice team in Slovakia.
Among other facts:
* McCoughtry was originally supposed to play in China.
* At least for the Good Angels, there is a strong fan base: "They always have sellout crowds, and the support system is great. If you lose, they make you feel as though you just won by 30 points. And if you win they celebrate as if you just won a championship."
* It was very odd for McCoughtry to go to a place where there were no black people.
"In that part of Europe, there are no people of color. People would stare at me, and sometimes I would feel weird. When I was driving, I saw a black guy on a bus and we stared at each other, I almost had an accident.
I went to the mall and left my cellphone in a store. I didn’t realize it until I went to meet Candice in the theatre. Candice had my phone. A storekeeper had said to her, “Another girl like you left this in the store.” She thought we knew each other because we were both black.
* Hair care was also a real problem:
t was a disaster for my hair. I had to wear it in a bushy ponytail. They have no hair products for my type of hair, only a perm for the soccer players who like to straighten their hair. They had to order it, so instead I waited until I went home for a visit to get my hair permed. When I came back to Kosice they said, “Who are you?” I laughed and said, “I got my hair done."
* The summation:
Living overseas made me more disciplined and humble. I didn’t have a clothes dryer and had to wring out and put my clothes on a heater to dry. I don’t ever want to take what I have for granted. I don’t want to complain. I am blessed. I have a lot.
(* * *)
And here we go with this week's games: most national leagues are deep into the post-season.
Ekaterinburg 70, Spartak Moscow 62. Ekaterinburg surprised home team Spartak to take a 1-0 lead in the best of five Russia Superleague finals.
The game can also been seen in its entirety at this link. Look for Kelly Miller about three minutes left in the first quarter playing in the white Spartak Moscow uniform.
EKA: Parker 19, Bibrzycka 12, Stepanova 12, Pondexter 9, Gruda 8, Nolan 5, Abrosimova 0
SPA: Fowles 22, Taurasi 13, Bird 8, Korstin 5, Jekabsone 4, McCarville 4
Kelly Miller: 2 points, 1-for-2 shooting, 2 rebounds, 8 minutes played
Ros Casares 79, Zaragoza 52. Ros Casares sweeps the best-of-three series two games to none and will play Perfumerias in the finals. The best-of-three finals will take place April 24th-April 29th-May 1st.
ZAR: Cuidariene 11, Pascua Suarez 11, Feaster 10
ROS: Milton-Jones 10, Vesala 6 (Valdemoro 15, Montanana 8)
Erika de Souza: 19 points, 8-for-10 shooting, 1-for-1 in 3-point shooting, 7 rebounds, 21 minutes played
Galatasaray 82, Tarsus 61. Galatasaray, the higher ranked team, gets an automatic 1-0 advantage in this bizarre best-of-five format, and by winning their first game against Tarsus goes up 2-0. They can advance over the weekend with one more win over Tarsus.
GAL: Douglas 23, Catchings 17, Young 15
TAR: Black 13, Lennox 11, Siyahdemir 8, Zeren 8 (January 5)
Yelena Leuchanka: 7 points, 1-for-5 shooting, 5-for-5 free throw shooting, 2 rebounds, 18 minutes played
at 4:59 PM