Friday, April 30, 2010
Angel McCoughtry, Shalee Lehning, Brittainey Raven and Chanel Mokango all make appearances in the latest Atlanta Dream video. McCoughtry speaks about taking a leadership role and whipping the rookies into shape, while Lehning plays good cop to McCoughtry's tough cop.
The video link is right here.
The 2010 Atlanta Dream motto: "No cream cheese!"
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
No news from the Dream front office. The only news is one lone sentence on the WNBA website's transaction page.
The Atlanta Dream released Jennifer Lacy.
Wow. I didn't see that coming for a number of unstated reasons. Lacy played two years in Phoenix, and then came to the Atlanta Dream with the expansion draft in 2008. She played two years in Atlanta. In the first year, Lacy started in 22 games, but none in the second year. Over time, her minutes dropped from 18 per game in 2008 to 11 per game in 2009.
The first year with the Dream, she averaged 5.7 points per game. The second year, she averaged 3.0.
What happens next will be very, very interesting. Let's wish Jennifer Lacy the best of luck and hope that she can catch on with some other team.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Today is April 25th. Training Camp. The first picture out of training camp this morning is from this Twitpic. The pic is pretty big, so I can't post the entire pic without shrinking it significantly.
So for you detectives out there, maybe you can tell me which players are there? These two smaller pics are cropped out of the larger one:
UPDATE: More training camp pics posted by the Atlanta Dream on Facebook:
Meadors addresses the assembled players.
Time to play.
McCoughtry hits the iron.
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
Monday, April 19, 2010
* Thinking about Training Camp
* The Meadors Hire: A Geno Conspiracy?
* Tony Wyman and the Gwinnett Post
* Dream Home Games Covered by Fox Sports
* Dream Players Overseas
I can't believe it. Tax Day has come and gone and we are now in mid-April. As I write this we're exactly a month away from the opening game of the 2010 Atlanta Dream season.
Training camp starts on April 25th, and it looks like everyone will be there - with a few exceptions. The first of these exceptions is in Sancho Lyttle and Erika de Souza. Each of those players is still in Spain, and undoubtedly will be dealing with the post-season playoffs. (Their teams are #2 and #1 in the Spanish League, respectively, and both teams went deep into Euroleague play.) The other exception is in Kelly Miller, who might still be finishing up with Spartak Moscow in Russia.
There are a couple of other players still theoretically attached to their European teams, but I don't know how strong that attachment is. Yelena Leuchanka is still on the Galatasaray roster in Turkey, and I don't know if the Dream, or Galatasaray expect her to remain in Turkey when there's a training camp going on. It took the Dream three years to finally get Leuchanka signed, a signing that was always real soon now. It looks like it has finally happened, but as I wrote before, I'll not believe it until I see Leuchanka wearing powder blue.
The other case is that of Demetress Adams, who is playing for Burgos in Spain. Burgos is a top team, but it's a top team in the FirstTop League at the end of the year, and Burgos is the #1 team in LFB2. How bad do they need Demetress Adams....
...and how bad do we need her? If Adams were really good, she'd be in the first league - the best players in LFB2 are usually college players who couldn't make a WNBA roster and are just looking to play basketball for some amount of money, somewhere. Adams should be dominating play in LFB2 if she were pro caliber - can you imagine what a Diana Taurasi would do against the warm bodies of LFB2 competition? - but she has struggled. The hiring of Adams has perplexed me, and the only conclusion I can come up with is that Adams is a warm body - until de Souza and Lyttle show up.
A final question is about Jennifer Lacy. The last I heard, Lacy was still (technically) an unsigned free agent. Can you appear in training camp if you're not signed to a contract?
Other training camp arrivees haven't clocked a single pro game over the past seven or so months. I don't believe that Coco Miller was signed anywhere in the off-season, and if she was, she was probably playing somewhere like Nicaragua where I never heard of it. Armintie Price and Shalee Lehning were busy brushing up on a potential future coaching career - Price at Ole Miss and Lehning at Kansas State.
Lehning had other distractions as well. First, she had to finish her degree. We can proudly say that Lehning graduated K-State in December. Second, she spent the first part of the off-season recovering from a horrible shoulder separation. It was one of the worst separations the doctor treating her had ever seen, and such injuries cast rational doubts about Lehning's power to recover. From my brief interactions with Lehning, she strikes me as a woman with a lot of willpower. If Lehning can recover, she will recover. The problem for both Lehning and Price will be in recovering and shaking off the rust at the same time.
Every other player on the roster (save for the newest acquisitions) spent some time overseas. Erica White was in Israel. The three draft picks spent time on a college roster somewhere. However, not all pro experiences are equal.
Take the case of Chamique Holdsclaw. The Claw started out with Good Angels Kosice in the fall, played a couple of games with them, and was unceremoniously dumped. My understanding is that the Good Angels felt that they had gotten a broken player, basically - that Holdsclaw's knee injuries were worse than what they were led to believe. The Claw returned to the United States for a few months, and then took off again to play for K. V. Imperial in Cyprus.
I hope I'm not insulting Cypriot basketball when I say that...well, it's not top caliber. K. V. Imperial is sorta top caliber - they did well in Eurocup, after all - but I don't think it's the kind of a team that leaves a Perfumerias or an Ekaterinburg or a Brno with night sweats and horrible dreams.
For the rest of the players, however, it has been a really good year overseas. Sancho Lyttle, Erika de Souza, Kelly Miller and Iziane Castro Marques all played for teams that went deep in Euroleague, one of the premier events in European basketball. Each of those players went into the postseason with their respective clubs in the various national basketball leagues. Most national leagues play a game a week; those players played two or more a week as they juggled the obligations of their national leagues with Euroleague. Playing the best top-ranked competition can only make you a better player; playing in the post-season teaches you what it takes to go deep.
A concern for anyone following how well players do overseas is fatigue. NBA players get a few months off where they don't have to play any basketball if they don't want to. Not so for the women: women's pro basketball pays poorly and it's a necessity to go overseas if you want to make a living. One would expect these players to be exhausted come the WNBA.
I believe that Marynell Meadors, on the other hand, might come to an opposite conclusion than the fans would come to. The Dream players are ready. Many played for clubs still in contention, so they're not dealing with an enforced four to eight week layoff caused by their European clubs not making the post-season. Their basketball reflexes are still fresh.
I know that Meadors has definitely been keeping up with the successes and failures of her various players. I also expect very little to surprise her. However, you never know what's going to happen until the 2010 WNBA season starts - let's hope that the 2010 Atlanta Dream training camp is a positive experience for the fans, for the players, and for everyone.
(* * *)
One of the most joyful/frustrating things about following women's basketball is the tendency of its fandom to attribute the worst possible motives to every single action that anyone could possibly undertake. Given the struggles of the game, I can understand why - betting on the worst, cheapest, most petty motive is usually the winning bet. (*) However, when taken to extremes the paranoia and hostility exhibited can be very very frustrating.
Take the case of Dream coach Marynell Meadors. Meadors was given the honor of being named to the coaching staff of the USA Women's Basketball Team, whose head coach is currently Geno Auriemma. Women's BB fans immediately began attempting to fit the hire into their existing world-view. The take: this hire had nothing to do with talent, and was merely the end result of the need for Auriemma to be in absolute control of his surroundings - since Meadors was such a bad coach (so the story goes) she would be a mere cipher on the coaching staff compared to the manaical brilliance that was Geno.
However, there are many other good reasons for Auriemma to have hired Meadors, none of which have to do with control fantasies. Let's look at some plausable theories:
As honorarium: As I've written before, Meadors is the oldest coach in the WNBA. She's contributed to the sport for decades. Last year, she was named the WNBA's Coach of the Year - I don't think she deserved the vote, but one could argue that she deserved to win on the basis of the team's turnaround from bottom-basement dweller from the previous year to playoff team in 2009.
If Auriemma really doesn't "need" a new coach - so the conspiracy goes - then why not Meadors? Of course, Meadors could be coaching into the 2020s but she might also decide at some point to hang up the clipboard. Maybe USA Basketball decided to add to Meadors's resume as a reward.
Management: You have to remember that Angel McCoughtry is currently on both the Atlanta Dream and the USA Women's Basketball Team. If there's anyone who knows Angel McCoughtry besides the women who have played against her, it's Marynell Meadors. Having Meadors on the team might give Auriemma some extra insight into McCoughtry's noggin. (Or he could just call Jeff Walz.)
Actual coaching: If you don't know Meadors's background, there are two things you should know. First, she has served as an assistant coach before. Meadors's career hasn't gone in a straight line of "first assistant coach, then coach." In her pro career, she's gone back and forth between head coach and assistant coach. Meadors knows what the role of assistant is. A person who had been head coach for the last twenty years might have find sliding into the assistant role more difficult.
Evaluation and building: The Atlanta Dream is not the first team that Meadors has built from the ground up. The other team was the Charlotte Sting, so Meadors knows what its like to build a cohesive team out of...well...nothing.
Furthermore, Meadors seems to have a good eye for evaluating talent. Some might claim that Meadors's acquisitions were either no-brainers (McCoughtry) or from luck (Lyttle, Holdsclaw) but I think that the proof for such claims lies on the one making the claim - choices such as Erika de Souza panned out when no one thought they were, and Shalee Lehning did a fairly decent job of running the point guard spot for a rookie.
In short, I suspect the complaints are more an attempt to insult both Meadors and Auriemma than they are attempts to explain the hire. One thing I know about Auriemma - he loves winning and he is the kind of man who would "run through Hell in a gasoline suit" to win a ball game. (**) If he signed Meadors to his coaching staff, there is only one logical conclusion: he thought she would help guarantee his team a FIBA medal. But of course, even American gold won't sway those that have made up their minds otherwise.
(*) - This is true for other professional sports as well. However, as women's pro basketball is on shakier ground, the creaks in the floorboards make more noise.
(**) - Quoted initally by Pete Rose, describing his own love of baseball.
(* * *)
The Gwinnett Daily Post writes an article about Toby Wyman, the new Chief Operating Officer of the Atlanta Dream. I'm glad to see that the Gwinnett paper is writing about the Dream; the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's treatment of the Dream is either neglect (in the print edition) or abuse (in the blog sections).
Whether the Gwinett paper will cover more Dream stories remains to be seen. The author is Christine Troyke, I think you should send a comment if you were glad to read the article. It looks like some Georgia paper might end up leading the pack on Dream coverage; the sad story is that the leader in Dream coverage might not be Georgia's supposed flagship paper.
Other than that, the treatment of Wyman's career is interesting. They ask him what the #1 goal of the Dream is, and it is not "to win games". It is this:
"I think what we want to do is, No. 1, it’s like anything else, we want to be a viable, successful franchise that is relevant in this marketplace. Which means putting people in the seats every night."
I like the phrase "to be relevant". The Number One goal of any franchise is survival, and in order to survive you have to be relevant enough to get the turnstiles turning. You have to be on the map in the local scene, and this is very difficult in the college-football crazy South. Over the off-season, I've watched Kathy Betty try to sell the team seemingly to one person at a time - appearing pretty much anywhere she can get the word out. You have to admire the effort, but at times I feel a little embarrassed. In my mind's eye, I see Betty appearing in front of sparse crowds anywhere she can hang her shingle, trying to convince potential fans and trying to drum up interest. Can you build a fan base that way? Yes...but is that method the best use of your time and money?
Wyman speaks about what I call the pro paradigm. It's the belief that the WNBA must promote itself like any dull NBA game. Troyke asks Wyman if a better model for the WNBA wouldn't be something like Triple-A baseball:
"But, yes, absolutely, from an accessibility standpoint, from and entertainment standpoint, one of our goals is we need to broaden ourselves out a bit. Certainly we’re a women’s product, but at the end of the day we just want to be perceived as good, sports, family entertainment.
That means we’re also committed to winning on the court. We want to win championships. But certainly we want people to feel like it’s a great entertainment product and, just like anything else, enjoy themselves and keep coming back."
Troyke then addresses the canard advocated by some that summer basketball is a bad idea because people would rather be outdoors. She writes, "People think of summer being meant for outdoors, but frankly, it’s too dang hot here most of the time — I’d like to be in an air-conditioned arena, you know?" I have to concur there - that argument might play out in Chicago or Seattle, but it's too damn hot in the South during the summer.
An illuminating question Troyke asks is whether or not the Dream should just tank in 2010 to pick up Maya Moore.
CT: "So you’re not going to try to lose all your games so you can draft Maya (Moore) in a year?"
TW: "No (smiling). Being from Boston, Red Auerbach drafted Larry Bird a year early. They closed that loophole and that was my first question to our GM, has the WNBA closed that same loophole?"
I suspect that Wyman might know what he's doing on the business end. Whether he'll have input on the pro acquisition end remains to be seen - it appears that Marynell Meadors will continue to wear the dual hats of GM and coach. However, the more I look at Wyman the more I like what I see.
(* * *)
Some great news today, where the Atlanta Dream announced that Fox Sports and SportSouth will cover 16 of the 17 home games of the Atlanta Dream this year.
The link to read is right here. But has Art Eckman moved on? God knows we loved Art Eckman and his interesting observations, particularly those involving Katie Feenstra-Mattera. The two announcers will be Bob Rathbun and LaChina Robinson. We all know Robinson from the previous two years covering the Dream and covering Georgia Tech women's basketball, but Rathbun comes from the Atlanta Hawks. He has his own Wikipedia entry, as he was the play-by-play announcer for the Braves from 1997-2006. He's also a member of Virginia Sports Hall of Fame.
It will be interesting to hear Rathbun's take on the game, as generally the NBA announcers don't watch WNBA games. His bio on the Hawks page is here
(* * *)
I'm going to report briefly on what players are doing overseas. You can read the boxscores yourself. The format is borrowed from P. D. Swanson, the creator of Swanny's Stats.
Euroleague: Ekaterinburg 84, Krakow 50. The third place game took place on April 11th, with Ekaterinburg facing down Krakow.
EKA: Parker 21, Wauters 14, Bibrzycka 9 (Stepanova 8, Nolan 4, Abrosimova 3, Pondexter 2)
KRA: Burse 11, Fernandez 10
Iziane Castro Marques: 14 points, 7 rebounds, 6-for-17 shooting, 2-for-4 3-points shooting, 37 minutes played
Spartak Moscow 87, Ros Casares 80. Spartak Moscow wins their fourth straight Euroleague championship.
SPA: Taurasi 29, McCarville 20, Korstin 16 (Bird 5, Fowles 4, Jekabsone 0, Miller 0)
ROS: Milton-Jones 19, Valdemoro 14 (Snell 12, Montanana 10, Vesela 5)
Kelly Miller: 0 points, 2 rebounds, 5 minutes played
Erika de Souza: 16 points, 7 rebounds, 7-for-16 shooting, 30 minutes played
Russia: Spartak Moscow 102, Dynamo Kursk 87. Spartak Moscow wins the first game of their post-season semifinals match, and then....
SPA: Taurasi 20, Korstin 20, Osipova 14 (Fowles 13, Jekabsone 11, Bird 10, McCarville 4, Miller 4)
KUR: Snow 28, Lapteva 15, Bimbaite 10, Robbins 10
Kelly Miller: 4 points, 2 assists, 2-for-2 shooting, 9 minutes
Spartak Moscow 92, Dynamo Kursk 69. Spartak Moscow sweeps the best-of-three series and moves on to the finals against the winner of Ekaterinburg-Orenburg.
SPA: Taurasi 21, Osipova 16, Fowles 10 (Jekabsone 11)
KUR: Snow 11, Lapteva 10 (Psareva 14)
Kelly Miller: 3 points, 1-for-5 shooting, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 14 minutes played
Turkey: Galatasaray 68, Ceyhan 49. The final regular-season game of the year. Galatasaray goes 18-4 on the year and finishes in third place. (Fenerbahce finished 22-0; Kocaeli finished 0-22). Galatasaray plays #6 Tarsus in the quartefinals; the next games are on Thursday, April 22 and Sunday April 25th - doesn't look like Leuchanka will be back in Atlanta soon.
GAL: Catchings 20, Douglas 14, Sencebe 13
CEY: Campbell 19, Ervin 12, Yalcin 5 (C.Smith 3)
Yelena Leuchanka: 4 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 2-for-6 shooting, 20 minutes played
Spain: Perfumerias 68, Rivas Ecopolis 65. Perfumerias wins the best-of-three series in Game 2 and moves on to the Semifinals against the Ros Casares-Mann Filter winner.
RIV: Cruz 16, Ujhelyi 16, Langhorne 15 (Tornikidou 4, Joens 3)
PER: Domínguez 19, Sánchez 10 (Willingham 6)
Sancho Lyttle: 12 points, 9 rebounds, 6-for-9 shooting, 27 minutes played
Ros Casares 80, Zaragoza 64. Ros Casares wins the first game of their best-of-three series at home against Zaragoza. If they win on Monday, they'll play Perfumerias in the finals.
ROS: Milton-Jones 27, Montañana 19, Valdemoro 14 (Aguilar 0, Snell 0)
ZAR: Feaster 16, Sten 11, Palomares 9
Erika de Souza: 12 points, 10 rebounds, 5-for-11 shooting, 23 minutes played
Spain, Second Division: Valbusenda 83, Burgos 70. Valbusenda upsets the #1 team in the LFB2. There are only three more games left in the LFB2 regular season.
BUR: Nascimento 18, Pablos Villarroel 15, Lozana Adan 11
VAL: Louden 18, Lassiter 15, Szoke 12
Demetress Adams: 0 points, 1 rebound, 0-for-1 shooting, 10 minutes played
Thursday, April 15, 2010
I'm going to beg the patience of my infinitely patient readership and post another poll. But first, you have to hear my litany of woe.
If you've been paying attention, posting has dropped off in recent months. This is not something I wanted to have happen, but it seems that I can't avoid it. With limited internet access at work - and with work becoming busier despite the decline in the economy - my opportunities for posting on a daily basis are now significantly restricted. When I get home, I have very little time to read message boards like RebKell, to follow the Dream at home and overseas through Google News and international basketball websites, and to keep up with all of the great women's basketball websites out there everywhere.
The problem was that when I started the Pleasant Dreams blog, I had hoped that it would be a day-to-day, up-to-the-minute update on the goings-on of our favorite WNBA team. That if a reader needed Dream news - and needed it now - this was the blog that you would visit. Unfortunately, not only can I not do up-to-the-minute, it seems that I can now longer do day-to-day either. Another problem is that I had hoped for the blog to have several thoughtful posts mixed in with the updates - essays on the state of the game, statistical research and observations, etc. However, it takes time to write long posts or to grind out statistical stuff, and I can't keep all of this up at the same time.
My love for the Dream is as strong as it ever was. My enthusiasm for women's basketball has not flagged. I'll still be attending Dream games, and hopefully, still commenting on them. The problem is that the blog can't remain the way it is now.
There are two directions in which the blog can go. The first direction is to simply transform the blog. Posting would be restricted to perhaps just on the weekends - the blog would become "digestified" if you're familiar with an e-mail digest. The blog would probably not keep up with news on a daily basis, not even for breaking important news. You could read the Women's Hoops Blog or RebKell if you needed to know what was going on now in the WNBA. You would probably go to the Dream website or the Dream Facebook page to get day-to-day Dream information. In essence, it would be a very different blog than it is now. Fewer pictures. Fewer updates. What would show up on the blog on the weekends - well, it's difficult to say. We'd cross that bridge when we come to it.
The other direction is to simply halt the blog - but not to halt my writing. I try to make contributions to the Swish Appeal blog whenever I can, but this time - the news would show up there in the fan posting section (and Swish Appeal has been kind enough to make some of my posts front page posts). This way, whenever you read Swish Appeal - and if you don't visit it day-to-day, what's wrong with you? - you could check in for whatever my future contributions happen to be. Moving the "operation" to Swish Appeal would give me a lot more flexibility, in that I would no longer have to post on a regular schedule - I would post when I had something to say, and shut up otherwise.
And of course, the "Game Breakdowns" of Dream games will not stop. I don't plan on giving up my little essays on Dream posts, come what may.
I'm posting a poll that will run for three days. Based on what the readership decides, that's the direction we'll be going. Either we'll turn the blog into a digest, or the posts can be read on Swish Appeal with the other writing there.
Once again, thanks for your indulgence. And Go Dream!
Monday, April 12, 2010
Saturday, April 10, 2010
Burgos stays on top of the LFB2 - the Spanish League second division - with a 81-64 win. Burgos advances to 23-3 with Arxil falling to 5-21 and facing relegation even further below the LFB2.
The box score is here.
For Arxil, Alexandria Anderson scored 13 points and six rebounds. Anderson played at UT-Chattanooga from 2005-08. Camila Blands, a Danish player on the team, played from Alabama from 2006-09. Blands scored eight points and seven rebounds.
As for Burgos and Demetress Adams, she played 19 minutes and had virtually no game:
19 minutes played
In the opening game of the Spanish League semifinals - Ros Casares will have its hands full on Sunday playing Spartak Moscow in the Euroleague finals - Perfumieras gets the first win at home in Salamanca in a close 65-59 battle. The semifinals is a best-of-three series and if lucky, Perfumerias can close the series with the second game on April 14th.
The box score is here.
Crystal Langhorne came out strong for Rivas Ecopolis in the first quarter, scoring 12 points in just under seven minutes. Sancho Lyttle picked up two quick first quarter finals and found herself on the bench. Down 21-17, Perfumerias managed to close within one point, 23-22 at the end of the first quarter.
Lyttle picked up her third foul in the middle of the second - an important distinction, as in Euroball players only get five fouls. Le'coe Willingham and Olga Podkovalnikova (playing hurt) had to carry the load for Perfumerias. By halftime, Perfumieras was only up 36-34 and both teams would get a rest for the second half.
In the third quarter, the game became a defensive struggle. Perfumerias scored six points, and Rivas Ecopolis scored five in the first five minutes of the third quarter. Perfumerias got a boost and held off Langhorne to end the quarter 46-42 in favor of Perfumerias, giving Lyttle a chance to come back into the game with four fouls. Lyttle was out of kilter but Perfumerias managed to hang on and take a 56-49 lead, a lead which they would keep throughout.
Crystal Langhorne led Rivas Ecopolis with 16 points and eight rebounds. Catherine Joens scored 12 points and Petra Ujhelyi scored seven points and four rebounds.
For Perfumerias, Le'coe Willingham scored 14 points and eight rebounds. Alba Torrens scoed 12 points and four rebounds and Olga Podkovalnikova scored four points and four rebounds.
Sancho Lyttle managed to get 22 minutes in despite four personal fouls:
Friday, April 9, 2010
Pierce W. Huff over at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution speaks with #1 Draft Pick Chanel Mokango:
Mokango led Mississippi State with an average of 7.2 rebounds per game and was third in scoring at 10.8 points per game. She had 174 blocks in 31 games.
The key word to describe Mokango’s game now is “potential.” She thinks she will improve in her shot-blocking and shot-making abilities.
“My basketball is only going to get better,” she said.
Meadors also loved Mokango’s potential.
“I think we filled a tremendous need at that post position,” Meadors said. “I think her upside is just out of sight.”
In addition, we learn about Brigitte Ardossi of Georgia Tech's Draft Day activities:
Ardossi, a 6-2 post player who was selected all-ACC this season, averaged 15.8 points and shot 48.6 percent from the field for the Yellow Jackets.
“She has so much fire and passion for playing the game, and that’s what the Atlanta Dream is all about,” Meadors said. “Not only that, but she’s very talented. She’s got great footwork. She’s got a face-up jump shot, and she does a lot of really good things.”
Ardossi said she was eating cheeseburgers and watching the draft with her teammates when her name was called.
“The whole table got up and started cheering,” she said.
Wow. I guess the WNBA doesn't call you when they're drafting you.
Erika de Souza is looking forward.
In front of 6400 spectators, Krakow hoped that they could extend their amazing season a few steps further by making it to the European finals. Unfortunately, the best Krakow can hope for is third place in Euroleague, as they were thumped on Ros Casares's home ground with a 86-57 loss.
The win by Ros Casares sends them to the finals on Sunday to play Spartak Moscow, who have been Euroleague champs for three years in a row. Krakow plays Ekaterinburg in the consolation game.
The game report, box score, play-by-play and a small gallery can all be found here.
Krakow fell behind 31-15 in the first quarter, and it got worse. With two minutes left in the first half, Krakow was down by twenty points and El Ros took a 57-35 lead into the intermission. In the third quarter, Krakow was held to just seven points and it was all over except for a temporary celebration. Ros Casares shot 53 percent from the field; Krakow only shot 35 percent.
Ewelina Kobryn scored 16 points and nine rebounds for Krakow. The only other player to break double-digits for Krakow was Liren Cohen, who only scored seven points.
Iziane Castro Marques was the third leading scorer for Krakow with nine points, but it was a poor shooting night for Castro Marques:
2-for-4 free throw shooting
27 minutes played
As for Ros Casares, Delisha Milton-Jones scored 17 points and five rebounds. Anna Montanana added 12 points for Ros Casares and Belinda Snell scored just 10 points. But the player of the game, and the winner of the Battle of the Brazilians was Erika de Souza:
3 offensive rebounds
Diana Taurasi, "Russian" to another Euroleague final.
Those "in the know" in European basketball were watching this semifinal of Euroleague, as it was very likely that one of these two Russian teams would probably win it all. Spartak Moscow has been Euroleague champion for three straight years, and the rules of Euroleague have forced any two teams from the same country left in the semifinals to play each other. In the last two years, Spartak Moscow has faced Ekaterinburg, and beaten them both times. Furthermore, this year Spartak Moscow is undefeated in the powerful Russia Superleague A.
Nothing would change in this game. Spartak Moscow won 87-79, moving into the finals on Sunday against the winner of Ros Casares-Krakow. Ekaterinburg plays the loser in the 3rd place consolation game.
The game report, box score, play by play, and a small photo gallery can be found here.
What to say? After a tight first quarter, Ekaterinburg built an eight point lead late in the second, but Spartak Moscow fought back to 40-40 on the second of two free throws by Kelly Miller with 23 seconds left. A buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Cappie Pondexter put Ekaterinburg back in the lead, 43-40 going into halftime.
Both teams resumed the battle in the third quarter, neither side getting more than a couple of baskets ahead of the other. Ekaterinburg took a brief four-point lead in the fourth but Irina Osipova's tip in with 5:19 brought the score to 69-69 for Spartak Moscow. Tied again at 71-71 with 3:27 left, Spartak Moscow went on a 9-0 run that gave Spartak Moscow the lead for good.
Every player that scord in double-digits for Ekaterinburg had a WNBA pedigree. Candace Parker led Ekaterinburg with 18 points and six rebounds. Cappie Pondexter scored 16 points and four rebounds. (Both players would end up fouling out.) Deanna Nolan scored 13 and Ann Wauters added 10 points.
But for Spartak Moscow, it was Diana Taurasi who put the team on her back, hitting 8-for-13 from behind the 3-point line and scoring 37 points and 12 rebounds, also adding six assists. Sylvia Fowles added another double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Anete Jekabsone-Zogota scored 12 points.
Kelly Miller played for eight minutes. Spartak Moscow did pretty well without her.
1-for-2 free throw shooting
8 minutes played
Thursday, April 8, 2010
Mokango's moment in the sun.
The 2010 WNBA Draft is in the history books, and the newest prospective members of the Dream have been chosen. Let's introduce them.
First Round, 9th Pick: Chanel Mokango, Mississippi State.
“Chanel had a terrific year and her upside is just out of sight,” said Dream General Manager and Head Coach Marynell Meadors. “She has only been playing basketball since she was 15. She is a shot blocker, a terrific defender and she runs the floor extremely well. She’s just going to continue to get better.”
Mokango, a native of Kinshasa, Congo, played two years for Mississippi State after beginning her collegiate career at Southeastern Illinois College. As a senior, Mokango led the Lady Bulldogs to a 21-13 record and the program’s first Sweet Sixteen appearance in the NCAA tournament. She averaged 10.8 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in the 2009-10 season. The two-time Southeastern Conference All-Defensive Team selection also set the Mississippi State record with 180 career blocked shots.
Only playing basketball since she was 15? Maybe Meadors thinks she's getting another Sancho Lyttle, who is also a play who picked up basketball later in life than most girls. Makongo scored a pitiful 84th on the Senior Prospects Metric - as a junior, she only had 190 rebounds and the SPM wasn't happy with her rebounding as a 6'5" forward. But as a senior, she picked up an extra thirty rebounds. She is an incredible shot blocker. She blocked 2.5 shots per game in her senior season...and 2.9 in her junior year. She finished 88th among all players from BCS teams in boxscore values.
It's going to be interesting to see if Chanel Mokango develops the way that Marynell Meadors thinks she will. It will certainly be interesting to watch her blossom, and hopefully she won't fade from the challenge of the WNBA.
Second round, 21st pick: Brigitte Ardossi, Georgia Tech.
The Dream selected Ardossi in the second round with the No. 21 overall pick. Ardossi, a 6-2 forward, was a four-year starter and appeared in all 130 games in her Georgia Tech career. The Melbourne, Australia native led the Yellow Jackets in points and rebounds during the 2009-10 season, posting career-high averages of 15.8 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. An Atlantic Coast Conference second team selection, Ardossi scored in double figures 29 times this season. She was part of a senior class that finished with four straight 20-win seasons and NCAA Tournament bids. Ardossi was named the Georgia Women’s Basketball Player of the Year by the Atlanta Tipoff Club.
“Brigitte has so much fire and passion for playing the game and that’s what the Atlanta Dream is about,” said Meadors. “She’s a really talented player and her versatility is a huge asset.”
I followed Brigitte Ardossi's career at Georgia Tech all year. Generally, everyone expected Alex Montgomery to carry the team this year, but when she couldn't, Brigitte Ardossi stepped up to the challenge. I didn't even have her listed on the Senior Prospects Metric.
However, in terms of Boxscore Values, Ardossi is 14th out of all BCS players, all classes concluded. She's seventh out of all seniors with 6.22 out of Georgia Tech's 23 wins. Georgia Tech's performances on the big stage - the post-season - have been somewhat lacking. The team made it to the semifinals of the ACC tournament and lost in the opening round of the tournament this year, upset by Arkansas-Little Rock.
Ardossi might be a steal. We remember the last player that Marynell Meadors got with a second round pick - Shalee Lehning. No one thought that Lehning would even start. Could Ardossi make it into the rotation? We'll find out.
Third round, 33rd pick: Brittainey Raven, Texas.
In the third round, the Dream added Raven with the No. 33 pick. Raven, a 6-0 guard from the University of Texas, was a three-time All-Big 12 second team honoree. Raven led the Longhorns in scoring, averaging 14.6 points as a senior. She also contributed 4.9 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game.
I didn't even have Raven listed on the SPM and in terms of Boxscore Values, Raven is 114th. Oddly enough, Raven is a shooting guard and not a point guard. I guess the message is that it's going to be either Lehning or Kelly Miller at the point.
In any event, welcome to the Dream! Hope to see you at training camp on April 25th!
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
An interesting article from the Rochester (Minnesota) Post-Bulletin tells how a decision made by Coco and Kelly Miller on March 29th saved the twins' lives.
On most Sundays, the Millers, 31, travel to a church by way of the Sokolnicheskaya train, or as locals call it, the Red Line. The route allows them to avoid the city's traffic-choked streets.
On the Monday of the explosion, the Millers again used the metro, but instead took the Arbatsko–Pokrovskaya train, known as the Blue Line.
Eight minutes after they boarded the Blue Line, the first explosion ripped through a train on the Red Line.
A very scary thought that the Millers could have been killed playing overseas basketball.
P. S.: Interestingly, the editor states that WNBA training camp says May 2nd for the Millers. My understanding is that training camp starts April 25th.
Before tomorrow's draft, Pierce W. Huff of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution got a chance to speak with Atlanta Dream coach Marynell Meadors about the needs of the Dream:
"It’s going to be a question of whether a player can make our team,” Dream general manager/coach Marynell Meadors said. “I hate to say it, but it’s going to be tough.”
“I think the No. 1 position for us in the draft still is to try to find a post player, and then a guard or a player at small forward,” Meadors said.
My guesses: Jacinta Monroe of Florida State, Brigitte Ardossi of Georgia Tech or Kelsey Griffin of Nebraska.
More on PASE, or "Performance Above Seed Expectation". In this fanpost, I provide the values for all NCAA coaches that appeared in three or more tournaments at the time.
I write about Jim Foster of Ohio State, Pat Summitt for Tennessee, and the best performing coach against seed expectations over the past three years - and it ain't Geno or Tara....
Monday, April 5, 2010
Maybe Phoenix vs. Indiana in 2011?
From the Associated Press via USS Today:
The Los Angeles Sparks will host the Seattle Storm in the WNBA's second outdoor game.
The Sparks said on Monday that the night game on June 5 will be played in the Home Depot Center's tennis stadium, which has a capacity of 8,000.
Before we begin open celebration of Outdoor Classic II, let's review Outdoor Classic I, which took place two years ago in July 2008 when the New York Liberty hosted the Indiana Fever at Arthur Ashe Stadium in Queens, NY. Even though the court was the same, the conditions were very different - 90 degree weather in a stadium whose sightlines were built for tennis.
And we didn't exactly see the greatest basketball game in the world. The Liberty shot 28 percent from the field and were held to eight first-quarter points. They were held to seven third-quarter points. Both teams had over 20 turnovers and it was probably of one of the worst games played that year.
Shameka Christon shot 2-for-13. Janel McCarville shot 3-for-10. Tiffany Jackson led the Liberty with six rebounds. Indiana was shooting well from behind the arc, but 3-points don't bring people back.
I'm hoping that Outdoor Classic II is better than Outdoor Classic I. And if it threatens not to be, I hope it rains.
Sunday, April 4, 2010
There's a slight change in the Spanish women's semifinals: since the finals of Euroleague are this weekend, the Ros Casares-Zaragoza opening round game was booted to next Wednesday. Valencia will be hosting the Euroleague Final Four, so Ros Casares will have home field advantage. Erika de Souza 's Ros Casares will play Iziane Castro Marques's Krakow on Friday, giving the two Brazilians a chance to say hello again.
Euroleague Semifinals: Ros Casares vs. Krakow
LFB Semifinals: Perfumerias vs. Rivas Ecopolis, Game 1
TBBL: Tarsus (10-10) vs. Galatasaray (16-4)
LFB2: Arxil (5-20) vs. Burgos (22-3)
Euroleague Finals: Ros Casares-Krakow winner vs. Spartak Moscow-Ekaterinburg winner
Euroleague 3rd-4th Place: Ros Casares-Krakow loser vs. Spartak Moscow-Ekaterinburg loser
The Turkish women's league is about four games away from wrapping up its regular season. With Mersin having the secnod best record in the league, third-place Galatasaray needed a win to strengthen its position and it got the win on its home court, 65-61.
Galatasaray moves to 16-4 on the year, and Mersin falls to 17-3. The final boxscore is here.
The first quarter battle was between Barbara Turner and the team of Yelena Leuchanka and Tamika Catchings. Ahead 15-11 with slightly less than three minutes to go in the first quarter, Galatasaray boosted their lead to 15-12. Ivory Latta came on strong to start the second quarter but Galatasaray recovered and extended their lead to 37-27 at halftime.
Galatasaray extended their lead slightly to 50-39 after the third quarter, but Erlana Larkins and Barbara Turner took off for Mersin, lowering the gap to six points with slightly over six minutes to go in the game. However, Galatasaray was able to keep control of the game and seal the victory.
Barbara Turner led Mersin with 18 points, six rebounds, and five assists. Erlana Larkins scored 11 points and 13 rebounds, the only double-double for Mersin. Former Atlanta Dream player Ivory Latta added 12 points in the loss.
For Galatasaray, Katie Douglas scored 13 points and four rebounds, and Tamika Catchings scored 12 points and 10 rebounds. Yelena Leuchanka played 21 minutes but didn't have a good shooting game:
21 minutes played
Saturday, April 3, 2010
Before the first basketball is unwrapped in training camp on April 25th, Angel McCoughtry will be getting in some extra work in Storrs, Connecticut. (Storrs is becoming the center of the women's basketball universe.) The USA Women's National Team will be holding a spring training session between April 11th and April 18th.
The schedule, from the news release:
Led by University of Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma, available members of the USA National Team will begin training at 5:00 p.m. (all times EDT) on April 11 at the University of Connecticut’s Gampel Pavilion. The U.S. will return to Gampel Pavilion for 10:00 a.m. practices April 12-14. Following a day off, the USA will resume training on April 16 at 10:00 a.m. at Gampel Pavilion, and April 17 at 10:00 a.m. at the University of Hartford’s Chase Arena, with a 6:00 p.m. scrimmage scheduled both evenings at Chase Arena. The USA will close out its training camp on April 18 (location and time TBD).
No matter what, you can't say that Angel McCoughtry didn't get a good workout pre-camp.
Burgos advanced to a 22-3 record with a 84-61 win over Carmelitas in the second-level Spanish League. Just keeping tabs on how well Demetress Adams is doing. Adams has been invited to the pre-season training camp.
The box score is here.
Carmelitas has a couple of American players. Renee Taylor scored 13 points and six assists. Taylor graduated from Miami University in 2007. Rachill Robinson, a graduate from Bowie State, scored eight points and five rebounds.
It looks like Adams has picked up her game - maybe in preparation for the Dream training camp?
6 offensive rebounds
25 minutes played
In their final regular season game of the year, Perfumerias had no trouble with visiting Joventut Mariana. Perfumerias advanced to 23-3 to finish the season, but were stuck in second place behind top finisher Ros Casares (25-1). As for Mariana, the loss keeps them out of finishing at .500 for the year.
Only the top four teams in the Liga Femenina will make it to the posteason. Ros Casares plays Zaragoza and Perfumerias will move forward to play third-place Rivas Ecopolis on April 10th. The second game will be played on April 14th, and if necessary Game 3 will be played on April 17th.
The finals will be a three-game series. The games will take place on April 24th, April 28th and May 1st (if necessary).
The box score is here.
It doesn't seem like much of a game - a game in which Perfumerias extended its lead quarter by quarter. Perfumerias won each of the first three quarters and tied the fourth quarter. Perfumerias led by 15 points at halftime and by 24 at the end of thirty minutes.
Shay Murphy led Mariana with 20 points and 10 rebounds - the only double-double in the game. Murphy is a five year veteran who played with the Indiana Fever last year. Gisela Vega scored 14 points for Mariana and Murriel Page scored 11 points in the loss. Page formerly played for the Mystics and the Sparks.
Five players scored in double figures for Perfumerias. Anke de Mondt scored 17 points and six rebounds, Marta Xargay added 16 points and seven rebounds, Silvia Domingues scored 10 points with five assists and Le'coe Willingham scored 15 points for Perfumerias.
Sancho Lyttle played less than a half of basketball, but still had a great game.
19 minutes played
For Ros Casares, there was nothing to fight for. They had already sealed up first place in the regular season. However, for Estudiantes, it was a fight for their lives to stay in the upper league. They also needed Hondarribia to lose, but if Estudiantes lost they would be relegated - sent down to the bottom league. Unfortunately, their dream of being El Ros was just that - a dream - as they lost 79-58 at home.
The box score is here.
For a few minutes in the first quarter, it looked like Estudiantes was going to fight. They fought to a 6-6 tie after three minutes, led by Laura Herrera.
And then Ros Casares rolled off 20 straight points. 20-0 run. At the end of the quarter, the score was 26-6 in favor of Ros Casares. The game was, for all intents, over. Oh, Estudiantes won the second quarter to close the gap to 44-30. However, Ros Casares stepped on Estudiantes again in the third quarter and led by 28 points after three quarters, 75-47.
In the fourth quarter, both sides mailed it in. Ros Casares scored a grand total of four points, but it was a foregone conclusion anyway. Why get hurt in the final quarter when you have the playoffs to think of? Estudiantes only scored 11 points, so it wasn't as if Estudiantes could take advantage of the ten-minute nap by Ros Casares in the final quarter.
Thyra Liljestrand led all scorers for Estudiantes with 12 points and four rebounds. Marta Zurro scored 11 points and eight rebounds for Estudiantes, and Ashley Battle contributed 11 points in the losing effort. Battle is a five-yeaer WNBA veteran who has played for the Seattle Storm and the New York Liberty.
The only player on Ros Casares who played more than 30 minutes was Laia Palau who only scored five points. Delisha Milton-Jones led all scorers with 21 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Jana Vesela scored 12 points and Belinda Snell scored 10 points.
Erika de Souza took a serious rest this game. She played for 20 minutes, but even so she did a great job:
20 minutes played
A new post on Boxscores Values is up on Swish Appeal. This is a sequel to a post I did about the 2008-09 season and the allocation of team wins to the college basketball players of the BCS conferences. It looks like the leader in team wins is...Kelsey Griffin of Nebraska?
Anyway, to read more you'll have to visit the link above.
Friday, April 2, 2010
Wearing Powder Blue in the future?
It almost sounds like the name of a fictional secret agent than a basketball player. According to thesouthern.com, the Atlanta Dream have gotten in touch with Neptune:
The news appears to be much better for recently graduated standout Stephany Neptune. Neptune, who won the MVC's Newcomer of the Year award in averaging 11.6 points and 10.9 rebounds a game in her only SIU season, has drawn interest from the Atlanta Dream of the WNBA.
Tiber said that the Dream has called twice about Neptune - who is in the process of hiring an agent - and is interested in the 5-foot-8 guard's versatility in being able to play the 1 through 4 positions.
According to her bio at Southern Illinois University, over three years at Tusculum College she averaged 11.7 ppg, 10.3 rpg as a freshman and 10.9 ppg and 11.3 ppg as a sophomore. Not bad for a 5-9 guard! Over her career at Tusculum she recorded 36 career double-doubles. Tusculum College is a Division II school in Tennessee and Neptune was a Division II All-American.
She honed her game on the streets of New York City. According to the southern.com, it's a story often told - girl growing up in a single-parent household plays ball on the streets of New York, and blossoms.
I don't know if the Dream will draft her, but it's definitely a compelling story even if we don't choose her.
Thursday, April 1, 2010
The following comes from the WNBA 2008 Collective Bargaining Agreement. For further information, consult your local lawyer.
PLAYER ELIGIBILITY AND WNBA DRAFT
Section 1. Player Eligibility
(a) Only players who are women are eligible to play in the WNBA.
(b) A player is eligible to be selected in the WNBA Draft if she:
-(i) will be at least twenty-two (22) years old during the calendar year in which such Draft is held and she either has no remaining intercollegiate eligibility or renounces her remaining intercollegiate eligibility by written notice to the WNBA at least ten (10) days prior to such Draft;
-(ii) has graduated from a four-year college or university prior to such Draft, or "is to graduate" from such college or university within the three (3)-month period following such Draft and she either has no remaining intercollegiate eligibility or renounces her remaining intercollegiate eligibility by written notice to the WNBA at least ten (10) days prior to such Draft, or
-(iii) attended a four-year college or university, her original class in such college or university "is to graduate" within the three (3)-month period following such Draft and she either has no remaining intercollegiate eligibility or renounces her remaining intercollegiate eligibility by written notice to the WNBA at least ten (10) days prior to such Draft.
(For purposes of subsection (b)(ii) above, "is to graduate" shall mean that such player would graduate from the college or university she is currently enrolled in if she were to successfully complete the coursework she is enrolled in at the time of such Draft and such course load is commensurate with the previous course loads she has successfully completed. )
(For purposes of subsection (b)(iii) above, "is to graduate" shall mean that the majority of students in such class would graduate from the college or university upon successful completion of the coursework she is enrolled the members of such class are enrolled in at the time of the draft.)
(c) A player who:
-(i) is competing in a NCAA season (including any NCAA Tournament) during the period that begins ten (10) days prior to a Draft;
-(ii) has remaining intercollegiate eligibility beyond the season in which she is currently competing, and
-(iii) is otherwise eligible for selection in such Draft, may make herself eligible for such Draft by renouncing her remaining intercollegiate eligibility within the period beginning at the conclusion of her final NCAA game in the season in which she is currently competing and ending twenty-four hours thereafter (but in no event later than (3) hours prior to the Draft.)
(d) Notwithstandin section 1(b) above, an international player is eligible to be selected in the WNBA Draft if she will be at least 20 years old during the calendar year in which such Draft is held.
(e) For purposes of this Section 1, an "international player" means any person born and residing outside the United States who participates in the game of basketball as an amateur or a professional. An international player who exercises intercollegiate basketball eligibility in the United States shall be subject to the eligibility rules set forth in Section 1 (b)(iii) above.
(f) No player may sign a Contract or play in the WNBA unless she has been eligible for selection in at least one (1) WNBA Draft.
(g) No player shall be eligible for selection in more than two (2) WNBA Drafts.