Friday, July 31, 2009

Katie Mattera Released

Katie Mattera was released today by the San Antonio Silver Stars.

We might know her better as Katie Feenstra. Mattera played for the Dream during the 2008 season. We wish her the best of luck at the Atlanta Dream Blog.

Dream Make Atlanta Paper

Incredible. Not only is there a blurb for the next game - "Who: vs. Liberty, When: 7 pm Saturday" - but there's actually five paragraphs about the win from what is probably the AP.

No quotes. But there is a full box score. Huzzah! And it's good to see a "hype" for the upcoming game, even if it's just two lines.

It's the very last column of the paper - back page, under the weather map - but at least, it's there. I hate to thank the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for doing their job...but I want to thank the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for doing their job.

19/2009 - Dream 106, Mercury 76

Erika de Souza, Iziane Castro Marques...and her twin sister.

This is the beginning of a new era for the Atlanta Dream.

Let me explain that. We could lose every game we play for the rest of the year (God forbid it) and this would still be the beginning of a new era. The first era, the era of B-Money, was one marked by inevitable losses (in 2008) or situations where one could never count on a win until the final minutes (in 2009). The players were gone from the 2008 season - we virtually turned over the whole team - but the stench remained.

The fact is, the Dream had never delivered an out-and-out ass whipping to a team, never in its brief history of 53 regular-season games. Much less a whooping of a good team like Phoenix. We could point to lopsided defeats, but never to lopsided victories. With this win against the Mercury - a win in which we beat our previous scoring record by five points - we have not ascended to the great teams of the WNBA...not yet. But the stench from last year has now been replaced with a piney-fresh new car smell. On our own home court the demons of last year were finally and irrevocably exorcised. There is no denying that this is not the Atlanta Dream of the past.

I might not feel like this after Saturday's game against the Libs, but I'll give you my thoughts on this game.

1) I got to watch Diana Taurasi warming up with her team. She was palming the ball - holding it upside down and keeping gravity from grabbing the ball using only the strength of her fingers. It's such a simple thing, but it amazes me any time I see anyone doing it.

She was goofing around, at one time, trying to score with a 1-on-3 drill. She practiced it once. Maybe she should have practiced it some more.

2) Sighting of first Diana Taurasi jersey: 6:40 pm. My fear was that there would be a bevy of Taurasi fans in the audience loudly cheering her on, and they'd take the crowd out of the game.

3) The sign on the moving electronic sign reads that Delta Airlines is the official airline of the Atlanta Dream. How can that be when I know they take AirTran sometimes? Does AirTran become the "unofficial airline" of the Atlanta Dream?

4) I spoke with an Atlanta Dream insider. I can't say who, but I got some numbers on WNBA Live Access. Supposely, the number of people watching WNBA Dream games on Live Access are around 6,000. (I forgot to ask if that was per game, or in total.)

The insider said that this was more than the Dream organization expected. For all the doom and gloom WNBA fans hear, that's a good sign.

5) Looking at the Dream floor, I noticed that it was "upside down". If I recall correctly, the Dream logo is read right-side up if you sit on the "players benches" side of Philips Arena. Last night, it was upside down. I wondered if that was going to jinx us.


6) The Dream were dressing "green" in the warmups. Last night was Green Night for the Dream. MARTA (Atlanta's rapid transit system) was giving away water bottles to the first 3,000 fans in attendance, and the Dream was wearing cotton green shorts in the warmups.

I didn't like them. They looked like the color of yellow teeth. It gave fans the impression that the Dream were a rec league club that had mistakenly wandered out to the court.

7) It looks like the Dream has some new warm-up music. More hip-hop. Someone was singing about a Gucci Rag. Someone more fly than me will have to tell me if this was the song by T. I.

8) The fans seemed to just trickle into the arena at the beginning. I bemoaned Dream fandom - "what's wrong with you, you have Diana Taurasi here and you're not showing up?"

But as the game progressed, more and more fans came, entering the arena like lines of orange and yellow and blue ants. (Rec leagues? Church groups?) We had a big crowd tonight, and they were into it.

9) Tonight's anthem singer: a young girl named Clara Hong. Have no idea who she is. She started a bit flat, but she finished strong.

10) Mercury starting lineup: Pondexter, Willingham, T. Smith, Taurasi, T. Johnson
Dream starting lineup: Castro Marques, Holdsclaw, Lyttle, de Souza....

...and Shalee Lehning, to my surprise. I would have figured that Ivory Latta's last few games would have earned her the starting spot, no question. It appears that coach Marynell Meadors wants to hit them with Shalee Lehning early on, and then bring Ivory Latta off the bench to change up things. As long as we win this way, I don't think anyone will mind, not even Latta.

11) We brought the lowered-lights, runway lights out for the introductions. What surprised me were the cheers for Mercury players. There must have been quite a few Auburnites in the crowd to cheer on DeWanna Bonner. Taurasi got a lot of cheers.

And of course, the Dream were cheered loudly - and the cheers for Erika de Souza were louder than they've usually been. I think Dream fandom is starting to realize how great Erika is.

12) Then, the game started. How do you describe it?

How's this for a try: Phoenix didn't hit a damn shot. They missed their first 12 baskets. We went ahead 5-0, then 7-0, then 9-0. I wasn't impressed. The Dream have started out 10-0 and lost games. But the baskets just kept falling. I was sitting with my companions and we watched in astonishment as the scoreboard read: Dream 15, Mercury 0.

My friend said, "I'm not seeing anything from the Mercury. No rotation. No offensive boards. No nothing."

13) Usually, this is where we fall apart, and the basketball guards wanted to provoke us. The Mercury answered with an 11-0 run, that involved Diana Taurasi going to the line to shoot a couple of free throws.

Someone shouted from behind me, "Lay off the booze!" This was directed at Taurasi, who had a high-profile DUI arrest in Phoenix. Whatever the Dream fans were going to provide, it wasn't going to be 100 percent Southern hospitality.

14) During this run, Shalee Lehning tried to make a layup, but Temeka Johnson had grabbed Lehning before she could make the shot. Lehning was going to be making that layup from 5 feet above the floor. Taurasi, smelling a victim, made like an arrow across the court and gave the best block of a potential shot that I've seen all year in the WNBA.

The ball hit the floor so hard you could have heard that block in Savannah. Taurasi's face said it all: "Stay out of my way, little girl." It looked like Dee had come to play tonight.

15) Phoenix was shooting 17.6 percent in the first quarter. The Dream had 18 first-quarter rebounds. We finished the first quarter with a 26-11 lead - but having a 26-11 lead against the Merc is like trapping a rattlesnake in a corner: okay, you've got the snake trapped, but then what do you do?

16) Atlanta answered my own question: "you shoot it." After Phoenix's 11-0 run, the Dream answered with another 15-0 run and led 30-11. The Dream boosted the lead to 23 points on a reverse layup (!!) by Jennifer Lacy. When Lacy is hitting reverse layups on your team, your team has a problem...and supposedly Lacy wasn't even at 100 percent health.

Diana Taurasi simply...vanished. Atlanta's defense was just demolishing Phoenix as the Dream played with furious intensity. It was as if Harry Potter lent her his Cloak of Invisibility. Taurasi started the game 1-for-6 while the Dream pushed the lead to 25 points. Then 29 points. Then 30 points.

17) I could tell that Marynell Meadors was in a good mood. The ball was inadvertantly thrown out of bounds, and was recovered by a fan sitting behind the Atlanta bench. The fan handed the ball back to Meadors, who handeded it back to the referee...and then high-fived the fan.

18) Ivory Latta was now in the game for Lehning. She was on her way to scoring 12 first half points. Lehning came back in and made a silly foul on Taurasi. We prayed that Lehning wouldn't wake the sleeping giants of the Mercury.

However, Iziane Castro Marques punctuated the first half by ending it with a 3-pointer that put the Dream firmly in control. The Dream now led 59-29 going into the break. I told my friend, "if Meadors loses this game, she deserves to be fired".

Taurasi had been flattened. 2-for-9 shooting. That block on Lehning was going to be her game highlight. Ivory Latta had 12 points. Angel McCoughtry had 11 points.

19) Halftime wasn't much of anything. I don't think people were even paying attention to the skills display by the "Top of the Key Kids" because the crowd atmosphere was so animated. "We're leading by 30! How about that?" The crowd rushed to the concession stands en masse for physical fuel.

The Shooting Stars dancers came out to give free T-shirts, delivering the shirts by sling shots. They were wearing their own version of "green wear" - standard green cotton shirts with an all-white Dream logo. For once, the men matched the women in appearance - and they all looked sharp.

DFO: Maybe you want to keep the green tees?

20) It was at least mathematically possible that the Mercury could come back. All they needed was two strong quarters - granted that they'd have to be very strong quarters - and theoretically, the Merc could tie in the final minutes. This was a run-and-gun team, one of the best offenses in WNBA basketball.

But whatever the Mercury tried, the Dream countered. The Mercury were inexplicably charged with a "delay of game warning" (you'd think that the last thing Phoenix wanted to do would be to delay the game). Iziane Castro Marques missed a free throw, but Erika de Souza rebounded the free throw, kicked it out to Castro Marques - who sank a three. It was going to be that kind of night for the Mercury.

21) With the score 75-40 in favor of Atlanta...Shalee Lehning tried a reverse layup. (Facepalm.) It didn't go in. A word of advice - if you're not known for being a scorer, eschew those low-percentage shots.

22) The Dream entered a zone where they were doing everything right. Holdsclaw went for a ball, then saw that she couldn't bring the ball back without going out of she threw it off of Diana Taurasi's les. The Dream went up to a 40 point lead.

By this time...the game was over. The Dream were so confident that I swear they were just trying shots to see if they would go in. Erika de Souza making a 20 foot shot? Oh why not, let's give de Souza a 3-pointer in her career. The Dream were extremely relaxed, exchanging jokes on the court.

When the other team is treating the game as if it's a glorified practice session? That's when Corey Gaines should have benched his starters for the rest of the night.

23) We hit 90-45. A forty-five point lead. The quarter ended with the Dream up 90-48.

24) Present at the game: Hawks announcer Ryan Cameron. Never heard of him, but I'm sure he's a great guy - he looked happy.

25) It was good to see Coco Miller come back out on the floor. Miller took an elbow to the ear at the end of the second half, but she had recovered from it. Miller is hella tough.

26) What else to say? The Dream began to slack - how could you not slack when you're up by 40-plus?

Taurasi batted the ball out of Lacy's hands from behind. It was Taurasi's fourth foul, and if Taurasi had fans, they were silent. "Go find a bar!" someone screamed from the crowd.

For those for whom such crowd behavior is inexplicable - the American South has a much more negative attitude towards alcohol than other parts of the country. Go to Wikipedia and look up "dry county".

27) At the end of the first half, I turned to my friend. "Why isn't Tamera Young in this game? We're leading by what, 32 points, and you don't feel confident enough to put Young on the court?" With about six minutes left...Tamera Young finally came into the game.

She lost the player she was guarding on the Dream's first defensive possession - but can you blame her?

As is turned out, it would be the first of two free throws that Tamera Young made that broke the all time scoring record for the Dream franchise. The rest of the game was a snoozer.

27b) A first: Dream fans leaving early because the win was secured and they wanted to beat the traffic. What is this, the Los Angeles Dodgers?

28) At the end, Phoenix had closed the game to within 30 - but declined to take a final shot as the crowd applauded. At the end of the game, it was the Dream players that were throwing T-shirts to the crowd.

Great game. Great everything, pretty much. The post-mortem comes later.

Atlanta vs. New York, Saturday August 1st

Who: The Atlanta Dream (9-10) take on the New York Liberty (6-11) in an Eastern Conference battle. (And not, not an Ashley Battle.)

The Dream have Chamique Holdsclaw (14.8 ppg) as well as All-Star Team members Sancho Lyttle (13.6 ppg) and Erika de Souza (10.9 ppg). Shameka Christon (18.2 ppg) and Janel McCarville (11.8 ppg) are the mainstays of the Liberty.

What: The final game this year against the New York Liberty. The Dream have lost at home 93-81, then on the road 71-69 and 89-86, all losses from this year. The Dream are 0-6 all time against the New Yorkers.

Where: Philips Arena, Atlanta GA

When: Tipoff is 7:00 pm Eastern on Saturday, August 1st. Arena opens one hour before tipoff. For everyone out there who wants to be on TV, this one will be shown on NBA-TV as well. Bring your signs.

Why: Well first, New York and Atlanta traditionally don't get along, so there should be a thematic battle right there - Arrogant Northerners vs. Ignorant Hillbillies. (I think that's the theme of every Mets/Braves game.) Atlanta sports teams hate New York, New York saves its ire for the other New England teams and views Atlanta as an imposition.

Furthermore, the last two matches against the Liberty were very close, coming down to the last minute of play. Cathrine Kraayeveld sank two free throws with 11.5 seconds left for the 71-69 loss and Shameka Christon had a 32-point career high when she sank two free throws with 4.9 seconds left in the second game that put it out of reach for the Powder Blues.

The Dream have never beaten the Liberty, and they know it. A little bird told me after the Phoenix game, there was only one thing written on the Dream's locker room whiteboard: "NY 0-3 LAST CHANCE!!!" Last chance until 2010, anyway....

...or on the rare chance that the Liberty make the post season. The Liberty are suffering, unexpectedly sitting in last place in the Eastern Conference after losing three straight games. They lost 78-75 to the Mystics last night at home last night and get rewarded by going two weeks on the road. They're 12th in the league in scoring and 12th in field goal percentage. If there was any time in the world to put a team on the ropes, this is it.

Unfortunately, the Liberty seem to wake up when they play the Dream. It's time to close the chapter on this bedtime story for good.

UPDATE: The Liberty are trying to beat us again. They just fired head coach Patty Coyle. You know, "best interests of the team", yadda yadda yadda. Surrrrrre. They did this with us in mind to get that "new coach" bounce. I just know it.

Midrange Shooters

Swanny's Stats has their list of top (and bottom) "midrange" shooters. These are shots taken between 6 feet and 20 feet away from the basket and are split into three categories: 6 to 10, 11 to 15 and 15 to 20.

You can read about the 2009 league leaders there. Surprisingly, Erika de Souza is in the bottom 10 shooters when it comes from shooting from 6 to 10 feet. She shoots 30.8 percent for 7th place, but not as bad as Laura Harper of the Monarchs who is 2-for-16 from this distance.

In the 11 to 15 range, the Dream have two accurate shooters. Angel McCoughtry hits 50 percent of her shots that she makes from this range - good for 7th place - and Sancho Lyttle is 10th with 45.3 percent. Lyttle has made 24 field goals from this range, and even though Chamique Holdsclaw isn't on the list of most accurate shooters, she's made 19 field goals from 11 to 15 feet.

It's almost the same story from 16 to 20 feet. Sancho Lyttle is 9th on the list with 47.1 percent shooting from 16 to 20 feet - and once again, Holdsclaw isn't on the list in accuracy, but she's there in volume. She's tried 110 field goals from this range, and she's hit 43 of them, both tops in the WNBA.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Dream Set Scoring Record With 106-76 Home Win Over Mercury

53 games. 53 f#$%ing games.

In 2008, we were 4-30. The laughing stock of the league. Those of us who stuck it out during the second season told ourselves that someday, it would be our day. Someday, other teams would be looking up at our butt instead of the other way around.

We led by 45 points at one point. The 106 points set a franchise record in scoring. After 53 regular season games, we got our most amazing win in Dream history.

Feels good.

More later.

Diamond Ratings: Hot Players, Cold Minutes

The Diamond Rating consists of players who might be great if they could just get starter's minutes. (I've limited the list to players who have played at least 100 minutes so far this year.) A player has to play > 2 minutes a game but < 21 minutes a game to get on the list.

The formula is based on Wins Score. For a deeper explanation, search the blog and look up "Diamond Rating".

Diamond Rating Leaders

1. Kara Braxton, Shock (23.59)
2. Courtney Paris, Monarchs (20.98)
3. Megan Frazee, Silver Stars (18.58)
4. DeWanna Bonner, Mercury (17.01)
5. Michelle Snow, Dream (15.22)
6. Kristin Haynie, Shock (13.88)
7. Rebekkah Brunson, Monarchs (13.63)
8. Vanessa Hayden, Sparks (13.44)
9. Tiffany Jackson, Liberty (13.34)
10. Sidney Spencer, Liberty (13.07)

Many of these players could be spoken of as "trade bait" - you can expect rookies like Paris, Bonner and Frazee to stay right where they are unless the right deal is made.

Already on some message boards, Snow is being spoken of as someone that another team might want to acquire. Meadors made a deal last year, trading Kristen Mann to the Fever for Alison Bales - the first game that Bales played in, we won and the trade turned out to be a plus for the Dream.

So my question: if we trade Snow, what would we want in return?

Candace Parker = Shaq?

According to the Daily Herald, Candace Parker of the Los Angeles Sparks has a Q-Score of 26. The Q-Score is generally used to advertisers to determine how popular a celebrity is. In short, when asked about Candace Parker, 26 percent of people agree with the statement "Candace Parker is one of my favorite people."

There are only three other female athletes with higher scores. Volleyball stars Kerri Walsh and Misty May each have a 29, and figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi has a 27. Parker's 26 ties her with NBA players Larry Bird, Shaquille O'Neal and David Robinson.

Celebrities get paid for advertising partly on the strength of their Q-Scores. Which explains why Candace Parker makes a lot more in endorsement money than she ever makes playing for the WNBA.

A sample Q-Score ranking for an unknown target demo can be found here.

The Rules of Basketball

I'm going to end my series of mini-posts by discussing the rules of basketball.

On a basketball blog - on a WNBA basketball blog, no less- this might seem like a candidate for Dumbest Post of the Year. If you're reading about the Atlanta Dream, then the WNBA, then the basketball universe in that order, most people would assume that readers would actually know the rules of the game they're reading about.

However, one of the goals of this blog is to make the fan experience as easy as possible. A lot of people who might consider going to an Atlanta Dream game or a WNBA game might be intimidated because - well, they don't know the rules of the game. They feel overwhelmed by the technical terms used to describe the game, they don't understand the insider commentary on television or don't know how to watch a game on television because they don't know what they're seeing.

So to any readers out there who might be in that boat, let me tell you: I was in that boat. I was in that boat until just a few years ago. I didn't follow basketball all that closely until a year ago, when I began to follow it intensely - but not as intensely as those out there who are basketball mavens. I found the plunge into the basketball world fairly confusing. There was no "one place to go" to learn about basketball, and as a result I had to patch my knowledge together from a multitude of sources. I was left to follow my own interests, which means that my knowledge is deep in some places and shallow in others.

When you go to places on the internet to learn "the rules of basketball", the descriptions are horribly wordy. But this wasn't always so.

Back in the day, a man named Dr. James Naismith was a teacher at the YMCA Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts. One of the problems with the PE courses was that there was lots to do outside but there were no interesting games to play inside. Naismith was asked to create a new indoor game. Inspired by some games he played with his friends during childhood, he attached a peach basket to the wall and created a new game.

This game only had 13 rules. That's it. Here they are. The rules aren't as important as the commentary below, because those rules have changed/been added to in the last century. However, the rules provide the framework of the discussion.

(* * *)

1. The ball may be thrown in any direction with one or both hands.

If you've watched basketball, it's a game of ball movement. The object is to get the ball in the basket (duh) and the best way to do that if that if you can't get there yourself, you give it to someone else.

2. The ball may be batted in any direction with one or both hands, but never with the fist.
3. A player cannot run with the ball. The player must throw it from the spot on which he catches it, allowance to be made for a man running at good speed.
4. The ball must be held in or between the hands. The arms or body must not be used for holding it.

There are very special rules for moving the ball. Note Rule #3, that the ball must be "thrown from the spot". In ye ancient days, you could only pass the ball back and forth. Then one player thought, "why can't I just pass the ball to myself by bouncing it against the floor?" and the dribble was born.

Without getting into the complicated rule of the pivot foot, the idea is that you move the ball down the court by dribbling it, and when you stop moving, you have to pass the ball to someone else. If you stop with the ball - if you hold the ball "in or between your hands" - you either have to pass the ball or take the shot. A "double dribble" means that you have tried to start the dribble again, and must give the ball up to the other team.

5. No shouldering, holding, pushing, striking or tripping in any way of an opponent. The first infringement of this rule by any person shall count as a foul; the second shall disqualify him until the next goal is made or, if there was evident intent to injure the person, for the whole of the game. No substitution shall be allowed.
6. A foul is striking at the ball with the fist, violations of Rules 3 and 4 and such as described in Rule 5.

Basically, any infraction of the rules where you make contact with another person is a foul. Theoretically, this is a non-contact sport. If you pick up six of these fouls in a WNBA game, you are removed from the field of play and can't return.

7. If either side make three consecutive fouls it shall count as a goal for the opponents (consecutive means without the opponents in the meantime making a foul).

If a player is fouled while in the act of making a shot, she gets to go to the "free throw line", the line that's in the middle of something that looks like a cylinder. If she made the goal but was fouled doing so, she gets one extra shot. Each free throw is worth one point. If she didn't make the shot because she was fouled, she gets two extra shots at the free throw line, possibly earning two points.

"Big deal. I'll just get my worst player to beat up the best players on the other team. Who cares if she 'fouls out'?" The problem is any foul a player makes is also charged to the player's team. Whenever a team's players rack up five fouls in a quarter, on the fifth foul the opposing team is awarded an extra free throw for that infraction and for any subsequent infractions. Don't foul!

8. Goal shall be made when the ball is thrown or batted from the ground into the basket and stays there, providing those defending the goal do not touch or disturb the goal. If the ball rests on the edge and the opponents move the basket, it shall count as a goal.

A field goal is worth two points. If it's a long field goal, it's worth three points if it's made from beyond that big arching parabola drawn on the court.

9. When the ball goes out of bounds, it shall be thrown into the field and played by the first person touching it. In case of dispute the umpire shall throw it straight into the field. The thrower-in is allowed five seconds. If he holds it longer, it shall go to the opponent. If any side persists in delaying the game, the umpire shall call a foul on them.

Believe it or not, this rule has remained mostly intact. Players have five seconds to bring the ball in after it goes out of bounds; if they cannot they must turn over the ball.

10. The umpire shall be judge of the men and shall note the fouls and notify the referee when three consecutive fouls have been made. He shall have the power to disqualify men according to Rule 5.

There are three referees in the game, and they have the right to call fouls. As for disqualifying players, they are "high level" fouls like technical fouls (get two of those and you're out) or "flagrant fouls" which are so bad that sometimes even if you get just one, you're out.

11. The referee shall be the judge of the ball and decide when it is in play in bounds, to which side it belongs, and shall keep the time. He shall decide when a goal has been made and keep account of the goals with any other duties that are usually performed by a referee.

There's a whole bevy of support persons now - referees don't have to do the whole job anymore. But yes, their word is law.

12. The time shall be two 15-minute halves with five minutes' rest between.

A WNBA game is divided into four ten-minute quarters. There is approximately two minutes of rest between quarters one and two and quarters three and four. The time between quarters two and three is "halftime" which I believe is 15 minutes in the WNBA.

13. The side making the most goals in that time shall be declared the winners.

These days, it's "whoever scores the most points before time expires wins".

(* * *)

All of the other rules are just modifications of the ones above. You now know the basics of basketball. Now go out and cheer!

Best Fourth Quarter/Overtime Performers

Well, Swanny's Stats has done it again. This time, he's given us a list of the best - and worst - performers of the WNBA in the fourth quarter or overtime.

In terms of fourth quarter/overtime points, Nicole Powell of the Monarchs leads all players with 114 points. (You'd think that Angel McCoughtry would be on that list, but no.) Sancho Lyttle is tied for 9thh in the WNBA so far this year with 77 points, along with Shameka Christon of the Liberty.

In terms of highest field goal percentage, we have not one but two players in the top ten. For those players with 30 fourth quarter/overtime field goal attempts, Nicky Anosikie is first with a 60 percent shooting percentage - but Erika de Souza is 5th at 56.3 percent and Sancho Lyttle is 6th at 55.6 percent.

Unfortunately, we have a member of the Dream in the bottom ten in fourth quarter/overtime field goal percentage. Angel McCoughtry is 7th at 35.1 percent, going 20-for-57 in fourth quarter shooting. At the bottom? Deanna Nolan of the Shock only shoots 21.4 percent in the fourth quarter.

As for free throw attempts, there are four players who haven't missed a fourth quarter free throw (minimum 10 attempts) - Shavonte Zellous, Nicole Powell, Essence Carson and Candice Dupree. Tamika Catchings of the Fever leads all players in fourth quarter free throw attempts with 37.

Who has the highest 3-point percentage in the fourth quarter (minimum 5 attempts)? Ebony Hoffman of the Fever has taken 8 fourth-quarter 3s and has hit 6 of them, for a 75 percent accuracy rate.

In fourth quarter rebounds, Crystal Langhorne of the Mystics is the leader with 38 - but Erika de Souza has 33 final quarter rebounds for 3rd place in the WNBA.

Who has the most assists? Cappie Pondexter of the Mercury leads that list with 26 fourth quarter assists. Looks like the Dream will find out how good she is tonight.

Maybe Angel McCoughtry isn't the most accurate fourth quarter shooter, but defensively, it's a different story. McCoughtry is tied for 3rd place with Tamika Catchings of the Fever for most fourth quarter steals with 10. Nicky Anosike of the Lynx and Tanisha Wright of the Storm are in first place with 11 steals each.

Lauren Jackson of the Storm leads the WNBA in fourth quarter blocked shots with 8 blocks.

"Most turnovers" is a misleading stat, because there are certain people who are always going to have the ball in the fourth quarter, and those players tend to be good. Tied for first is Lindsey Harding of the Mystics and Candice Wiggins of the Lynx with 16 fourth quarter turnovers - but Sue Bird and Cappie Pondexter are right behind them with 15 turnovers.

Part of the reason Lindsey Harding's fourth quarter turnovers are so high is because she leads in the category of most minutes played in the fourth quarter with 161. In 10th place is Sancho Lyttle. Lyttle has played 139 fourth quarter minutes.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Shalee Lehning: Back to the Court

Shalee Lehning writes her newest blog entry for her hometown paper.

Much more blogging of a family nature than about anything Dream-related, but you get an idea of the things players do on their breaks.

Angel McCoughtry Given Key to the City by Baltimore Mayor

If you had blinked in the news, you might have missed it, but on July 25th Atlanta Dream player Angel McCoughtry was awarded the key to the city of Baltimore by Major Shiela Dixon.

A quote from the accompanying article by WBAL:

"Some of you guys are going to be great students -- A students. But for some of you, it's going to take extra. Everybody is not gifted to be an A student. I was the type of student that I had to study more, and it's OK," she told students.

Here's another picture from the event. However, they got something wrong. The Phoenix game is not McCoughtry's first game with the Dream, but I guess I have to be glad that she at least got some notice.

(Thanks to @AtlantaDream on Twitter.)

Philips Arena: Where the Dream Play

The Dream play at Philips Arena. If you've never attended a Dream game, but if you've attended one of the many concerts held at Philips, you're in luck. Many of Atlanta's major concert events are held at Philips, so getting to the game is just the same as if you were going to a concert at Philips. Furthermore, if you've ever been to the Georgia Dome, then Philips isn't that far away.

Philips actually has its own website which provides its own instructions as to how to get to the arena and what to expect when you get there. There is also a Wikipedia article.

From what Dream fans have written in the comments section of other posts, you should be able to get to Philips Arena directly by MARTA, which is Atlanta's subway. It's stop W1 on the East-West line - the Dome/GWCC/Philips Arena/CNN Center stop. If your coming up the North-South line, you would get on the westbound line by transferring at the Five Points stop.

Philips is actually a nice place. It's fairly new as far as arenas go. It was built in 1999, so the new still hasn't worn off of it and you don't have to worry about sitting behind a post the way you might at a more ancient structure. There are a bevy of food stands when you get to the main arena - trust me, you don't have to worry about finding something to eat - and there is a Taco Mac connected directly to the arena. (Although, I couldn't tell you where the connection is if you paid me.) There didn't seem to be many souvenirs for sale - but I haven't looked at what was on sale at the souvenir stands since early 2008.

Going into the arena, if you look up - high up - you'll find some sections of the arena closed off by large, black curtains. Philips at full capacity seats 21,000 people, so the black curtains keep the place from looking empty on TV.

During the game, there's a lot going on. Most modern sports teams know that it's a good idea to keep the fans occupied during stoppages in play. The Dream usually has some local group or singer to sing the National Anthem, and the Shooting Stars dancers - the Atlanta Dream dance troupe - and Star the mascot are usually giving out T-shirts and other items. There are audience participation games, like when two kids from the audience are giving the daunting challenge of putting on a Dream uniform and racing to the basket. There's generally a half-time show of some kind, so kids will never be bored.

The audience tends to skew in two directions - African American and older. Not only will you see the occasional member of the Atlanta Hawks or Falcons in the crowd, occasionally there will be a rap or R&B star there as well. It's not exactly a festival, but there tends to be a boisterous vibe that brings the crowd on its feet.

As for neighborhood, the surrounding is "downtown tourist Atlanta". A lot of people in general. It's worth seeing Philips Arena at least once, even if you don't go to a Dream game.

Any comments are welcome from established Dream fans regarding the atmosphere, other fans, the structure itself, about the staff or services offered, or anything else. What would you tell a new fan about Philips Arena if they had never gone there?

Your Local Sports Coverage

Every now and then, just for spits and grins, I'll open up a major metropolitan newspaper and see if I can find coverage of women's athletics. I got into it after they stopped printing those "Where's Waldo" books. The name of the paper in question is withheld, as all parties are innocent until proven guilty.

Page 1: Nothing at all. Essentially, there was a human interest story on Paul Johnson, the coach of Georgia Tech. (Did you know he played golf in Scotland this summer?) There was also a report about football camp...high school football camp. The only mention of women in any way, shape or form was a comment that Phil Mickelson was coming back to the PGA tour after taking some time off to be with his wife and mother as they fought breast cancer.

Page 2: Michael Phelps. Some hype about an upcoming Marlins game. (Ever notice women's sports never get hyped? Hmmm.) GM is going to end its Buick Open golf deal. A completely woman-free page two.

Page 3: Baseball standings. The ancient Randy Johnson tore his shoulder. I remember reading somewhere that if men were judged by their appearance in the exact same way women are judged in the WNBA for it, Randy Johnson would never have been allowed to leave his house, much less attend a major league baseball game.

Page 4: Four columns above the fold about Brett Favre not playing football. More about on-line clinics for high school coaches and officials and a continuation of the high school article from the front page. In the first four pages of the sports section, there have been a grand total of two mentions of women, and they weren't even athletes.

Page 5: The penultimate page, where you throw in all the crap that didn't fit in anywhere else. In the "Etc." section of "Briefly", the results of the Zvonareva-Koryttseva match and the Schnyder-De Los Rios match in the Istanbul Cup in tennis are mentioned. See if you can say those names three times fast.

In the eyestrain type, a few women got hired for some college spots, like Samantha Huge being named the senior AD at Delaware - and at Point Park University, Katie Mahall was named volunteer assistant softball coach!

The WNBA standings were listed. No boxscores of the previous night's games. The only mention at all of a game tomorrow night is a brief, "Phoenix at Atlanta, 7:30 pm." At least they put Atlanta in bold.

Results from the WTA tour are listed under the "Tennis" section. In the bottom right hand corner - a list of LPGA money leaders.

Page 6: An advertisement for Fry's. Remember who is paying for your sports coverage, folks.

Atlanta vs. Phoenix, Thursday July 30th

Who: The Atlanta Dream (8-10) take on the Western Conference leading Phoenix Mercury (14-5).

The Dream have Chamique Holdsclaw (15.1 ppg) as well as All-Star Team members Sancho Lyttle (13.6 ppg) and Erika de Souza (11.1 ppg). The Mercury counter with Diana Taurasi (21.6 ppg), as well as Cappie Pondexter (20.1 ppg) and Aussie Penny Taylor who has just returned and has yet to play a game this year - she could take the court for the first time against the Dream.

What: The first of two regular season games with the Mercury, and the only home game the Dream have with Phoenix this year. The Dream are 0-2 all time against the Mercury.

Where: Philips Arena, Atlanta GA

When: Tipoff is 7:30 pm Eastern on Thursday, July 30th. If I'm right, the arena should open up one hour before tipoff. Lots of food.

Why: If the Dream is going to show that they're deserving of a playoff spot, they're going to have to beat the tough teams. The Mercury is definitely one of them, and now that Penny Taylor has rejoined, they've become that much more dangerous.

Another reason is a chance to look at two of the top rookies in the WNBA. The Dream have Angel McCoughtry (9.4 ppg), the number one draft pick of the 2009 draft that doesn't get as many minutes as she should...but she makes full use of her time. The Mercury have DeWanna Bonner (11.6 ppg), a draft choice out of Auburn that might have a long career in the WNBA.

Furthermore, the Mercury are 12-0 when scoring more than 90 points a game - but they're 2-5 when they don't. If Atlanta can shut down the Phoenix perimeter, it could be a big upset for the Dream. If you have a family member whose knock on the WNBA is that teams can't score(don't mention the fact that WNBA games are shorter than NBA games), the Mercury scored 97 points against us at home in our loss last year...and 110 in the road loss. Trust me, scoring isn't going to be a problem.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Schedules: "When do the Atlanta Dream play?"

Any discussion about the schedule of the Atlanta Dream leads into a discussion about the WNBA season, and how long it is.

There are only 34 games in a WNBA regular season. This lets one compare the length of a WNBA season, say, to the length of a college basketball season. The WNBA season is approximately four months long, lasting from early June to late September or early October. The NBA schedule, in comparison, is eight months long, lasting from early November to early June including the playoffs.

Part of the reason why the NBA's season seems to last forever is that the NBA plays 82 regular season games a year, and with 16 teams going to a post-season playoff where every series is a best-of-seven series, following a championship contender could mean watching 90 games of basketball. However, the WNBA only sends eight teams to the postseason and the first two rounds are best-of-three series. Only the finals is a best-of-five series.

The advantage is that following the WNBA seriously doesn't require a massive time commitment. Furthermore, with only 13 teams and only 11 players per team, that means that only 143 players are playing in the WNBA. It would be theoretically possible to memorize the name of every single player on every team.

Now, about the schedule itself. On weekdays, games usually start at either 7 pm or 7:30 pm, and it's rare that a game will run over two hours beyond its start point. Games in the WNBA are only 40 minutes long (not including stoppages of play and timeouts) as opposed to the NBA and their 48-minute games. This allows one to attend a game and get back home at a reasonable time - as opposed to say, football or baseball.

On the weekends, there will be some variation. Games can be scheduled in the late afternoon around 3pm or 4 pm. Once a year or so there will be a "kid's game" where kids from basketball camps or community centers will be invited to a rare game starting at noon or so on a weekday. These games are generally well attended, but you have to like kids.

The only rule in the WNBA seems to be that games are not scheduled on Monday night. I don't know if this is a fast and firm rule, but it seems to be the case.

Note that 34 regular season games add up to only 17 home games. Unlike other sports, the WNBA doesn't have a long preseason - part of the reason is that players play in Europe and are wrapping up their obligations to the European clubs. All in all, there will only be 18 chances to see the Dream at home if the Dream don't make the postseason. There are only nine chances left this year.

Your best bet? August. There is a homestand of six straight games from August 8th to August 25th.

WNBA Game Explained to NBA Fans

Someone named "Stop-n-Pop" on the Canis Hoopus blog - a blog devoted to the NBA Timberwolves - begins a blog post with:

"One of the big goals for this site over the summer is to build some interest in the women's game, specifically the Minnesota Lynx. It will never cease to amaze me that the women's professional game does not have a greater following."

The post is primarily directed to NBA fans and details the differences between the NBA game and the WNBA game. He speaks with Jim Petersen, television commentator and assistant coach for the Lynx:

"The women don't rely on dunking and the 3 pointer or backing people into the deep post," continues Petersen. "They are more true to the pass and cut game which is predicated on ball movement and player movement. So often in the NBA you'll see a point guard dribble to the sideline and run a pick and roll and that's it. In the women's game you'll see a ton of weakside action that is just as important as the initial strongside action and I'm amazed at how good the players are with this type of game."

I must admit that I used the post for a different purpose than it was written - since I don't watch the NBA, the post told me about how the NBA works as well.

"Continuity basketball means that there is not just a single option, or a quick hitter. There are 2nd and 3rd options built into the playsets and you just don't see that in the NBA all that much. In the NBA you'll see the defense broken down on a pass or two. In the WNBA they might not play the greatest defense at all times but you may have to get to a 2nd or 3rd option in order to score."

It's a great post, and it's worth a read.

Tulsa: the WNBA and the D-League

If a team arrives in Tulsa, it will be the only city which currently has both a WNBA team and an NBA Development League team. (I don't count Los Angeles, which is so massively big that parts of the metropolitan area should be rightly considered as different cities, and if you look at a Los Angeles D-Fenders box score, the attendance at home games is inexplicably listed at "0".)

For those who have never heard of the D-League (as it is called), the D-League is an attempt by David Stern and the NBA to develop something akin to a minor league development system for men's basketball. Stern hasn't quite turned the D-League into what he wants it to be - there appears to be very little "development" going on in the D-League even though many successful NBA players have passed through the D-League. Most of men's basketball's development takes place the same way it always has - either through the colleges, or in Europe, or in some cases where a player has natural talent, on the NBA court itself. The D-League simply takes the place of formerly independent leagues like the Continental Basketball Association, a place where a NBA team could grab players for a few days if it was desperate.

If you thought the WNBA's development was bumpy...well, you ain't seen nothing yet. From what I've been able to read on line, WNBA attendance might as well be the attendance of Rose Bowl games when it comes to comparisons with the NBA D-League. Write-ups I've read talk about games with real attendance in the hundreds. As for franchise folds and relocations, the D-League has surpassed the WNBA twofold despite being four years younger.

I have nothing against the D-League. The D-League has some handicaps that the WNBA doesn't have. First, it plays pretty much concurrently during the NBA's season and has to compete with college basketball and sometimes even the NBA in both the local community and on TV. Second, the players clearly aren't the best players in the world (NBA) or players who are going to be (college).

What will be interesting is whether the Tulsa 66ers can survive the comparisons - because they're going to come. With a WNBA team in Tulsa and a D-League team, the two will invariably be compared. I'm looking at the 66ers schedule, and I'm seeing attendance of about 2000, and if Tulsa counts its attendance the way a lot of other teams do, I know that a lot of those tix are freebees and giveaways. Finding attendance figures on a per-team basis for D-League teams is almost impossible, but the NBA D-League home attendance is claimed to be 4,000 per game - and I've also read that Tulsa isn't meeting that mark.

Right now, with freebies, etc, the WNBA feels strong enough to claim average attendance of 8,000 per game. (All attendance figures are statements of "how confident do we feel as a league?") Given that the WNBA will be a novelty and not have to compete with D-I basketball in Tulsa, it is very likely that the WNBA team in Tulsa (and I think there will be one) will outdraw the Tulsa 66ers.

The question in my mind is how this will affect the perception of both leagues. Among the gatekeepers of those who define their sports as masculinity and their masculinity as sports, it is taken on faith that anything women do must be inferior - which would put those gatekeepers into the position of having to move a men's basketball team to a position below that of a women's basketball team. The WNBA has, to paraphrase Quentin McCall, been "demeaned and dismissed as some sort of irrelevant sideshow" whereas the D-League has been peacefully ignored - despite the fact that one league is clearly more successful that the other.

If the WNBA Tulsa team outdraws its D-League brothers, will that prove anything to the haters? Probably not. Nothing will prove anything to the haters, their critiques are more matters of faith than reason. However, it might indicate to some that the WNBA has not been as unsuccessful as the haters claim it is.

Monday, July 27, 2009

All-Star Game Viewership Drops

From Sports Media Watch:

The 2009 WNBA All-Star Game drew a mere 0.5 overnight rating on ABC Saturday afternoon, down 38% from a 0.8 for the '07 game, and the lowest overnight ever for the WNBA All-Star Game on broadcast.

Excluding events on FOX, the All-Star Game finished tied as the lowest rated sporting event of the weekend on broadcast.

I have no strong theories. Maybe it wasn't promoted by ABC - no hype, no viewers. Maybe people tuned out when they saw the lay-up fest. Maybe it means that people are less interested in the W. Maybe the time slot sucked.


Dream Games and Seating

In putting together a "how-to" collection of links, I want to mention briefly the cost of attending the game, and ask the question, "what are the best seats for the cost?"

First, it's quite possible to get good seats if you're willing to wait for them. Sometimes, the Dream does a promotion, particularly if the game is going to be on ESPN2 and the Dream want to sell out the game - you can get "all tickets $10" or freebies or some such thing. However, I don't think there are any more Dream games that are going to be on ESPN2 this year.

Second, you can get good seats in what I call the $10 - $20 - $30 range. The $10 dollar seats are generally seats on the upper level (see the seating chart.) Those are the seats in dark blue with sections in the 200s. I've never sat in the upper level seats, but I know that there are people up there and they are cheering.

The $20 seats are behind the backboards. Which means that you'll get to see one team close up and personal each half - but it will be a different team as the teams change baskets at halftime. I don't know what that experience is like, either.

The $30 seats are closer, either closer to the player baskets or at cattycorners to the court. I've sat in the $30 seats before - the "off corner ones" - and I found it quite pleasant.

Anything above $40? That's up to you. For $100 a ticket you're basically at courtside. Try getting that at a Hawks game.

What kinds of experiences have commenters had with seats at Philips? Where are the best places to sit at Philips? What kind of "seat protocol" is there?

Dumbest WNBA Article of the Year: Nominations Now Open

Mike Wise at the Washington Post tries to create a controversy where none has existed.

A question to WNBA fans out there: does anyone really miss the KissCam? Did anyone even want the KissCam? Seriously? Hell, I never even noticed its absense! A quote:

A rite of spring in the NBA -- where couples of mixed creeds, ethnicities and ages are suckered by peer pressure into puckering -- is somehow taboo in the WNBA.

"Rite of spring"? You gotta be kidding me. It's a frigging promotion used to kill time, nothing more. This isn't a hate article, but it has to be the dumbest article ever written about the WNBA that I've read about in my two years of following the league. I mean, you actually have to click on the link for not just its stupidity, but its offensiveness as well. This article manages to offend both straights and lesbians, which is a rare two-fer.

Come to think of it, I would like to thank Ron Terwilliger, Bill Bolen, and the rest of the Atlanta Dream organization for not using a ball cannon like the Liberty uses. Following Mr. Wise's logic, I'm sure that the reason we don't use it is to avoid offending any sufferers of testicular cancer.

De Souza Enjoys her All-Star Experience

Prodep has an interview with Erika de Souza posted. (The link leads to the translated version). De Souza talks about her All-Star experiences, but the translation from Google leaves a bit to be desired. Just a heads-up.

At two p.m. began competitions and three-point shooting ability, the flag was starting to fill up and as I did not take part, much enjoyment and fun to participate with all my mates, then started and began heating the great match.

The meeting was very like all the All-Star, decentralized, fun, the whole world to believe in attacking people for fun. I was very important and frankly I was happy to see among the audience many people in Atlanta and Brazil.

If you think about it, Erika de Souza is an international superstar. She's a major figure in women's basketball in three countries - the United States (where she plays for the Dream), Spain (where she plays for Ros Casares, an elite team in the Spanish league) and of course, her native Brazil.

(Thanks to the Painel do Basquete Feminino blog.)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Better Instructions

Looking at the Atlanta Dream Directions Page and the Atlanta Dream Alternate Directions Page, it looks like there has been some thought put into how to tell people to actually get to the game.

I think, however, that the instructions can be fleshed out a little bit more. Written instructions can't tell you everything you really need to know. For example, I come to the games down I-85N, and the instructions, such as they are, are exactly right. You take the 248C Williams Street Exit, you turn right on Baker Street and then you turn left on Centennial Olympic Parkway. After you pass Marietta Street, Philips Arena is on your left.

These facts, stated above, are correct. However, there are a few things that the instructions don't tell you.

* They don't tell you how far it is from 248C to Baker Street. It's about five or six blocks. You'll want to be in the far right lane when you finally get to Baker Street.

* Furthermore, when you hit Baker Street you pretty much have to turn right. I don't think you can go straight ahead when you hit Baker.

* When you turn right on Baker...there's not much of Baker left. Just a small lane essentially that "T"s out to Centennial Olympic Parkway, where you can only turn left or right. (Hint: Turn left at the "T".)

* Centennial Parkway tends to curve a bit. You'll cross Marietta Street - it won't be long till you get there, and the signage is clear. One thing you have to think about is that downtown Atlanta has a lot of tourists, who will be trying to cross the street exactly when the light turns green.

* That parking isn't free. Some places near Philips Arena charge $10 for it. Myself, I turn right on Marietta and then left on Park Avenue to go under Philips Area, bending around and ending up in an area called "The Pit", where parking is $5. Keep left whenever you can, and you'll get there.

* If you get lost, can you find your way back? Good question. I don't know what the signage is like to Philips Arena.

They also don't tell you that traffic on days where gametime is 7:30 pm can be tricky. You want to leave early, because Atlanta downtown traffic can be heavy. On the other hand, you don't want to get there too early, because the Arena doesn't open its doors until 30 minutes before tipoff.

If, as readers of this blog, you have

* experiences of your own
* alternate instructions (South I-85, West and East I-20, or MARTA instructions)
* recommendations for parking
* tricky things to watch out for

...then I'd love to read about them. As fans, how can we make the "getting to Philips Arena" experience as quick and as painless as possible for potential new fans?

Why Women Don't Watch Women's Sports

"If the empty seats at sporting arenas could speak, what would they say?" - Annemarie Farrell

If you're really interested in why women don't watch women's sports, a dissertation by Annemarie Farrell at Ohio State University can be read here. (Farrell earned her Ph. D. and now teaches at Ithaca College.)

For those who are willing to slog through all 190-some pages of it, I am going to give it a very high recommendation. Farrell was interested in why women didn't attend women's sports. She focused her study on college basketball, and in particular, focused it on interviewing women who attended men's basketball games - but not women's basketball. The qualitative research, based on in-depth interviews with her participants, is very illuminating.

So why don't women attend women's sports? And maybe, why don't women attend WNBA games in greater numbers? There are Farrell's basic conclusions:

1. They never see women's basketball on television. It's never seen in the media. It's hard to develop a connection with something that you're not aware of.

2. There is an expansive lack of knowledge among potential consumers. This includes what some sports fans would consider to be elementary information:

- where do you buy your tickets?
- how much does it cost to go to the game?
- where do you find schedule information?
- where is the location of the game?
- what are the rules of the game?

3. The payoff might not be worth the effort. The study interviewed women who attended men's college basketball but not women's basketball. They knew the mechanics of how to attend men's games - where to sit, where to park, etc. - but these women were hesitant to learn how to attend women's games when they didn't know if the overall experience would pay off. Furthermore, attending the men's games was difficult enough in terms of time and limitations; for some women it would have to be either one or the other.

4. Women want fast paced basketball with a loud, animated crowd. The current perception is that the women's game is neither - the perception is that the game is slow and the crowd is either less passionate or less numerous. To many women, the crowd experience is very important to their perceived enjoyment.

5. For most women, their gateway to sports was through the men in their lives. The men in their lives don't watch women's sports, and therefore, they don't.

6. Sports is a world which is a production of male supremacy. Women see sports as exclusively a male domain. Women are made by society to feel abnormal for taking interest in a sport. Some men resent women having an interest in sport, and the roles of women in sport are strictly circumscribed by men - to be supporters, helpmates and cheerleaders.

7. Men gain part of their social identity through sports. They need sports so that they can share a common experience with other men. However, women don't need sports to socialize, and there is no social imperative for women to attend sports in order to bond with and socialize with other women.

8. The world of sports coverage is dominated by men - the overwhelming majority of sports editors and sports reporters in the media are men. The men decide what gets covered and what doesn't, and they simply don't hype women's sports the way men's sports are hyped. "Most schools make the men's team like 'the' team and the women's team is just a side team, just to accommodate women, but the men's basketball team is like 'the' basketball team."

9. There is a lack of human interest stories in women's sports. Psychologist Steven Danish suggests that human interest stories are more important to women than to men. Women are much more interested in the back stories of the participants, while men "value clear-cut measurements of ability and achievement".

10. Many women haven't seen a women's basketball game since before 1991. They remember empty arenas, quiet fans, no promotions. Their perception of women's basketball is that of women's basketball as it was 20 years ago.

11. The media frame women's sporting events to undermine women's achievement in sports. Players are called by their first names more than in men's sports. When male players fail when the story of the game is being told, it is because they faced tougher competition, but women's failures in team sports are usually blamed on one team's ineptitude. The women who get the most attention are the ones who are the most attractive. As a result, many women think that women's sports are less exciting, less talented, and less entertaining.

12. All in all, women expect that they will not have a good time at a women's sporting event.

(* * *)

After reading the dissertation, I drew some conclusions of my own, including conclusions regarding how I would cover the WNBA and the Atlanta Dream on this blog. There might be a few changes in the future. Trust me, as a Dream fan I want as many people attending Dream games as possible, and there are ways to promote women's sport and the Atlanta Dream that I had never considered.

P. S.: To add to the Great Dunking Controversy, one participant had this to say: "I think the lack of dunking hurts women's basketball a lot. There is just an excitement about getting that high up over someone and dunking. There's something girls basketball lacks because dunking is a big part of the excitement of the game. When somebody dunks the crowd just goes nuts." If the goal is to make WNBA games more exciting, this is something to think about - even if we're not in agreement with the particpant regarding the role of dunking, pro or con, in basketball.

Thoughts About the 2009 All-Star Game

I generally find All-Star Games (including the ones from MLB, NBA, NFL) to be unsatisfactory entertainment, and very hard to watch. The WNBA's version is no exception.

Why? It's an exhibition game, but unlike the exhibition games at the beginning of the year, there's nothing to fight for. No one's job is at stake and as a result, no one is really putting any effort into this thing. Winning would be nice, but losing wouldn't be a let down. This is true of the All-Star Games of all of the major sports.

During yesterday's WNBA All-Star Game defense was non-existent, and each side was pretty much given the opportunity to shoot at will. Both sides took 3-point shots that no one would have been able to get away with in a real game. I knew this was going to be a downer when I saw Erika de Souza not trying to get the offensive rebound. She had nine rebounds, but could have had more.

However, Erika and Sancho acquitted themselves well, Erika in particular. De Souza went 5-for-5 for shooting, and had 9 rebounds for 12 total points. Sancho scored 6 points on 3-for-6 shooting and 8 rebounds, and Erika and Sancho were the East's leading rebounders.

Swin Cash scored 22 points to set an All-Star scoring record, but that doesn't mean much as both teams broke the All-Star scoring record. The final score was West 130, East 118 - and this is a 40-minute game. If this were a 48-minute game like the NBA, the West would have probably broken 150.

My opinion was that they gave the MVP to Cash based entirely on the scoring record. Myself, I would have given it to Sue Bird, who had 16 points, 10 assists and 5 rebounds. But Cash came close to Bird, and giving the MVP to Cash wasn't exactly a grievous insult.

Maybe part of my problem - the West turned the ball over 19 times on the way to their victory. Also: the West went 18-for-39 from 3-point range, with the East going 11-for-34. Those...just aren't real 3-point shooting numbers in a game.

There was a lot of talk among WNBA fans about Sylvia Fowles's "dunk" at the end of the game. It wasn't a real game dunk, because everyone from the West stood aside and gave her a clear path to the lane - and even then, it took her two tries. If people want to see dunks, why don't they have an exhibition with the rim lowered to 9 feet for a "dunk contest"?

Oh yeah, that's right. ABC didn't show any of the pre-game festivities. Thanks, ABC. One thing ABC did get right, however, is miking several of the players. The players at least were having fun, and I found some of their in-game commentary amusing. Thanks to Becky Hammon, I now know what "ups" are.

Also: the East had three players wearing #20. What's up with that?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Teresa Edwards Named to Women's Hall of Fame

John Altavilla of the Hartford Courant reports that the newest six inductees to the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame were announced at today's All-Star Game.

Among the inductees are Teresa Edwards, formerly at the University of Georgia and the American Basketball League's Atlanta Glory.

Altavilla's writeup:

Edwards is the most decorated Olympic basketball player on the planet, men or women, owning four gold medals and one bronze medal in five Olympics. She is the youngest (1984) and the oldest (2000) U.S. Olympic basketball player to ever win a gold medal. Edwards is a member of the historic 1996 USA Olympic and 1995-96 USA Basketball Women's National teams that compiled a combined 60-0 record. She played 4 seasons in the ABL, three of those with the Atlanta Glory. Named the USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year a record four times.

The other inductees for 2010 - Leta Andrews (winningest HS girls basketball coach in the country), Rebecca Lobo, Gloria Ray (first women's athletic director at Tennessee), Teresa Weatherspoon and Chris Weller (former coach at the University of Maryland).

"Don't Raise the Bridge, Lower the Water"

There's a lot of talk on a message board - I'll not say which - regarding an idea to lower the rim in the WNBA to 9 1/2 feet. The current height of the rim in both men's and women's basketball is 10 feet. The argument is that dropping the rim six inches would be a benefit to women's basketball in terms of increased viewership. As Austin Burton put it in the link, "the premise (of the critics) is that if it’s easier for women to dunk, more of them would dunk, and all of a sudden a wave of guys and kids who stayed away from the WNBA would come running to the arena and the TV ratings would skyrocket."

The rest of the article is the argument from the opposition, so to speak. The first counter is that this isn't just a minor change; it changes the fundamental nature of women's basketball itself and changes it to a sport where one player's athleticism can simply dominate the field. The WNBA would suddenly become the Vertical Leap League, one of my long-standing criticisms of men's basketball. His best quote: "Dunking isn’t a main component of basketball. It’s a luxury, a singular move, kind of like a spin move in football. You don’t alter the field of play just to make one move happen more often."

However, women's basketball is already fundamentally a different sport than men's basketball, and the problem with critics is that they try to compare the two as if they were the same. Heavyweight boxing and bantamweight boxing aren't the same thing - they take place in a ring, they both follow the same general rules, but different things happen in each of those rings. One of William Haarlow's Five Rules of League Survival states:

"4. ...There must be an evaluation of alternative formats and rules to make the sport appealing to the widest range of potential patrons and viewers."

So the idea should not be discounted out of hand. The WNBA must be willing to try new things to appeal to people, even if purists - like myself - might find the change offensive. If people want to see dunking as an addition to basketball, we shouldn't discount their wishes out of hand.

However, if I were to go forward with such a plan - there should be a trial run. The WNBA should either get a small "winter league" of players together - some players on the periphery of the WNBA/European basketball would probably play for room and board - and experiment with lowering the rim to 9 1/2 feet to see what comes of it. There's one thing that the WNBA, however, should never do, and that is to just simply throw the new rim height into the mix without giving the players ample warning and without testing to see how the changes would affect field goal percentages.

What would be the effects of changing the rim? It's hard to say, and really hard to guess. Yes, a few more players would dunk - Michelle Snow would probably join Lisa Leslie and Candace Parker on the list of dunkers, and I'm sure those latter two players would probably dunk more frequently on the fastbreak. Shooting percentages would suffer, at least in the short term. One can't say what would happen over time because we don't know how quickly the players would adjust to the new rim height.

It would certainly put the WNBA out of sync with the rest of women's basketball. I doubt that Europe and Asia will move to a 9 1/2 foot basket - Euroball is less dependent on gate receipts. There might be some players in the United States who might just go to Europe and stay there - why change the way you play the game when you can get amply compensated in Europe for not changing at all, and players make more money overseas than they do in the US? Some European stars might decide not to ply their trade in the WNBA, for similar reasons - why go overseas where you don't speak the language, they don't pay you well and you have to play with a shorter rim?

But...what if the adjustments were easy to make, or what if the increase in gate justified it? Lowering the rim might be the start to a new era in women's basketball, and for all we know, the rest of the world would follow suit. ("Just like they play 12 minute quarters all over the world," goes the counter argument - only the NBA does this, and the world remains sold on 10 minute quarters.)

Burton's second argument, however, is hard to discount.

"So really, the only benefit of lowering the rim is that it’d become easier for players to dunk, to please one segment of fans — and yet those people who claim they’d start watching the women’s game if they dunked more often would most likely stop watching after the novelty wore off, anyway."

I'm in firm agreement with Burton on this one. I've been reading on-line essays, dissertations, and the like about men and their relationship to sports, and my conclusion is that if every player in the WNBA had supermodel looks and could dunk the ball like Michael Jordan or Shaquille O'Neal, not only would their be no major increase in attendance - but there would be a large and vocal group of men who would still put down women's basketball.

To simplify a complex argument, some men like sports because it creates a world for themselves, a world where even as spectators they can affirm their own masculinity on a daily basis. The Male Sports Universe is a universe of all-male players, mostly male spectators, all-male announcers, a universe where Men Can Be Men, untouched by Title IX or women's liberation or the demands of women in any way - at least for a few hours out of the day where they can escape the complexities of the real world. These men have problems with women having a professional league and threatening to insert themselves into this Male Dominion. These guys see women's basketball as the first beachhead in an invasion. Dunking would simply be treated as a shot across the bow.

The more vocal detractors would claim that women's basketball wasn't "real" basketball - "they play with a girls' rim!" These guys are like the guys in Little Rascals who have hung the "No Girls Allowed" sign on their clubhouse. And dunking is supposed to get them take down the sign?

I've said it before - the WNBA doesn't need to try to appeal to this particular group of men. The best message the WNBA can send is to simply exist, because by existing it proves that there's more than one path in the world. "Woman" and "jock" no longer have to be mutually exclusive.

On the other hand, we shouldn't look at experiments with rules as attempts to appease one unreachable (and implacable) group of critics. We should look at these experiments on their own merits, and our minds should always be open to change. I'm not averse to lowering the rim if it actually puts more fannies in seats - but I don't want the rule change dumped on the league and I want some proof that lowering the rim will actually be a benefit for attendance. Maybe we could try it in an exhibition game? The Sky played a group of men in an exhibition game this year; why not have a "Lower The Rim" night for an exhibition game and just watch what the hell happens?

Who knows? We might start to get used to dunking. And who knows, maybe some of those residents of the Male Sports Kingdom might cross the border to see what they've been missing.

UPDATE: Q has an excellent article at Rethinking Basketball which touches on the same points.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Preview: 2009 WNBA All-Star Game

Erika de Souza (#14) of the Dream at All-Star practice.

Who: The best players of the WNBA, minus some major names like Lisa Leslie and Lauren Jackson -out due to injuries. Your guess as to who will actually start is as good as mine. Expect Sancho Lyttle and Erika de Souza of the Atlanta Dream to get some court time.

What: It's the WNBA's answer to the mid-season classic. For fans, it's a chance to get together - the tight-knit community of superfans makes the trek to wherever the All-Star Game is being held, like a pilgrimage to Rome. You won't see any of these superfans on TV, but you can watch the game - some of those injured players are sure to show up. This is Lisa Leslie's final year in the WNBA, and the over-under on how many times Lisa Leslie's name will be mentioned during the game is probably at 100.

Where: The Mohegan Sun Arena at Uncasville, Connecticut, home of the Connecticut Sun.

When: Saturday, July 25th at 3:30 pm Eastern. Televised on ABC-TV. There will be some preliminary fun on the court but it won't be shown on ABC. It's the fate of women's sports programming - no lead in, and they leave immediately after the game is over.

Why: Well, for one, this is the first WNBA All-Star Game in two years. Last year, the All-Star Game was canceled for the 2008 Olympics. Now, it's back, and back in Connecticut.

I'm sure we won't see the players gambling at the casinos, but it's a rare chance for players that are normally rivals to play on the same team. It's also a chance to relax, as the game is an exhibition - but it doesn't mean the players don't want to win it. In 2005, the West team scored 122 points and Lisa Leslie dunked at the end. There's always the opportunity to see weird stuff during the game, so don't miss it.

2009 WNBA Awards: The Mid-Season Special

She's standing up, and it's time to recognize her.

Ah, if there's a chasm in which a WNBA follower can easily fall, it's letting his or her picks for yearly awards face the scrutiny of others. (Good thing I have blog space to fill!)

If I were handing out awards, here's who I'd give them to, based on the halfway point of the season.

Most Valuable Player: Nicky Anosike - C - Minnesota Lynx

I would put Nicky above just about anyone - even above the major names like Jackson and Taurasi. She's tough and fearless and one of the reasons why the Lynx have suddenly become a team to be feared. She's just in her second year in the league and I think she's going to be one of those players that can just do it all. She's averaging 14.4 points per game and 7.4 rebounds per game for the Lynx, as well as 3.1 steals per game.

All WNBA Teams: I had to bang on some position designations for this one.

First Team

C - Nicky Anosike, Lynx
PF - Lauren Jackson, Storm
SF - Tamika Catchings, Fever
SG - Diana Taurasi, Mercury
PG - Cappie Pondexter, Mercury

Second Team

C - Erika de Souza, Dream
PF - Shameka Christon, Liberty
SF - Sancho Lyttle, Dream
SG - Tanisha Wright, Storm
PG - Jia Perkins, Sky

Rookie of the Year: DeWanna Bonner - G - Mercury

Angel McCoughtry is really good, but I would have to give the nod to Bonner just from the minutes played.

All-Rookie Team

C - Courtney Paris, Monarchs
PF - Megan Frazee, Silver Stars
SF - Angel McCoughtry, Dream
SG - DeWanna Bonner, Mercury
PG - Renee Montgomery, Lynx

Sixth Woman of the Year: Crystal Langhorne - F/C - Mystics

Having 11.6 ppg/7.6 rpg out of only 3 starts in 15 games? She makes a pretty strong argument for the honor.

Coach of the Year

This is a tough one. How do you quantify the difference between the coach and the players? If a coach is also a GM, does player acquisition figure in the ratings?

My rule: best record unless there are other considerations. That makes Lin Dunn of the Fever my nominee.

Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award: Shannon Johnson - G - Storm

This is usually given to one of the oldest players in the league as an honorarium. Some charity work and general good behavior is required. Lisa Leslie is retiring, but she's a bit too whiny to get the award. Tina Thompson is too much of an intimidator. Since Shannon Johnson has put in her time, and since she hasn't won the award yet, I'll nominate her for the award.

Most Improved Player: Kara Braxton - C - Detroit Shock

Braxton is scoring 11.8 points for game and sh'es been on fire, hitting 64 percent of her field goals. She's getting 7.3 rpg, almost two more than last year. The Shock are banged up, but this has left opportunity for Braxton to show what she can do.

Defensive Player of the Year: Nicky Anosike - C - Minnesota Lynx

Yes, she throws her elbows but with 53 steals and 16 blocks on the year, Anosike is a force to be reckoned with. There aren't too many centers leading the league in steals.

All-Defensive Team:

C: Nicky Anosike, Lynx
PF: Lauren Jackson, Storm
SF: Tamika Catchings, Fever
SG: Tanisha Wright, Storm
PG: Alexis Hornbuckle, Shock

Dream/Shock Gallery

"It's a bird! It's a plane! It's Snowtime!" has posted its gallery of images from the Dream/Shock game.

If you're a pic collector, this is where you find them.

Sancho Lyttle to Take Part in All-Star Pre-Game

According to a press release released by the WNBA, the Atlanta Dream's Sancho Lyttle will take part in the All-Stars Skills Challenge which starts at 2 pm ET.

I'll quote from the release:

The All-Star Skills Challenge will feature four teams comprised of three All-Stars. Two teams from the Eastern Conference and two teams from the Western Conference will compete to make a series of baskets while navigating an obstacle course. The team with the fastest time will claim bragging rights.

Team 1 (East) is comprised of Jia Perkins, Tamika Catchings and Sancho Lyttle. Team 2 (East) consists of Alana Beard, Asjha Jones and Sylvia Fowles. Team 1 (West) participants are Cappie Pondexter, Sophia Young and Charde Houston. Team 2 (West) players are Swin Cash, Nicole Powell and Nicky Anosike.

Perkins, Catchings and Lyttle. I don't know, that looks like a pretty tough team to beat. Good luck, Sancho!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

18/2009 - Dream 98, Shock 95 (OT)

Great night for Kara, but the Dream were just a little better.

Pity these noon games. You can't see them at work, obviously. I have a computer, but unfortunately, the amount of bandwidth that WNBA Live Access sucks down could be spotted by my IT department from space. Therefore, all I could do was follow message board postings and a live boxscore blow-by-blow as the Dream won a strange game against the Shock 98-95.

This is a win that I felt we backed into. I'm not condemning the players, by any means - I think that the players would have won the game under most circumstances. The Dream have been playing better and better as the season's progressed, and the Shock have a lot of problems with injuries and the disappearance of Trader Bill. They've treaded water at the bottom of the Eastern Conference and we've played a lot of close games on the road. I was confident that we could knock off the Shock for a road win.

When the first quarter started, we had Holdsclaw, Lyttle, de Souza, Castro Marques and Lehning as our starters. Ivory hadn't won the role of starting point guard, not just yet. It might have not mattered in the first quarter, because the Shock started with a 6-0 shot and no one was hitting anything. At one point in the game, Chamique Holdsclaw was 1-for-6, Sancho Lyttle was 1-for-3 and Erika de Souza was 1-for-5. We were shooting in the 20s, and whenever that happens you're going to have trouble.

Detroit kept a six point lead. At 2:14 left in the first, Shalee Lehning was replaced by Ivory Latt. One minute later, Ivory would hit her first 3-pointer to close us to within 20-14. That six-point buffer would not be seriously challenged, and a quarter where the Dream shot 36 percent gave the Shock a 22-16 first quarter lead. (The fact that the Shock only had one turnover in the first definitely helped.)

The Shock marched out to a 10-point lead in the second. Sancho Lyttle was forced to the bench to be replaced with Michelle Snow early in the second. It was a puzzling decision. Lyttle wasn't in any sort of foul trouble, she just wasn't shooting well. Snow, on the other hand, wasn't exactly a game-changer in 2009.

Detroit sent the Dream to the foul line enough, and Latta hit another 3-pointer - her 9th point in the game - to bring the Dream back within six points. McCoughtry made it into the game and Atlanta went on a 9-2 run. A layup by Angel with 2:05 to go gave the Dream its first lead of the game, 37-36. Lyttle, back in the game, was still having trouble, travelling and getting a shot blocked by Deanna Nolan. McCoughtry made a 3-pointer with about a minute left, and then sank another couple of free throws for her 11th point of the game. The Dream took a 42-38 lead into halftime.

It was Detroit's tendency to foul that was keeping Atlanta in the game. We were still shooting great from the stripe - 13-for-13.

The Dream, however, had a hard time getting started in the 3rd. Lehning was replaced by Latta just two minutes in because no one from the Dream was hitting anything. Detroit took a 49-42 lead but the Dream cut their lead down to 3 points with 2 minutes left to go in the third. By the final minute of the third quarter, the Dream cut the lead down to two....

...but Chamique Holdsclaw was called for a flagrant foul against Alexis Hornbuckle of the Shock with just 0.7 seconds left to go. Initially, the call was going to be a "flagrant #2" which would have called for an immediate ejection, but the call was changed to a "flagrant #1". Claw got to stay in, Hornbuckle hit her free throw and Detroit led 65-62 after 30 minutes.

McCoughtry was really pouring it on. She had already scored 16 points off the bench. What shocked a lot of Dream fans was that neither Jennifer Lacy, Coco Miller, nor Tamera Young had played any minutes. Their entire 30 minutes were spent as spectators.

A pair of free throws from Ivory Latta finally gave us the tie at 67-67, and a jump shot by Michelle Snow put us in the lead 69-68. For the rest of regulation, the lead would swap places with no team getting beyond a possession of the other. With the game tied with 15.3 seconds left to go on a layup by Michelle Snow, she was fouled by Kara Braxton. Snow got three throw and the Dream were up 87-86...but the Shock had the final possession.

For some...bizarre reason...Coco Miller was pulled off the bench with 15.3 seconds left. The Dream would end up foulding Taj McWilliams, and the ball game was in Detroit's hand. However, with 8.4 seconds left, Taj missed the first one but hit the second one. The game was tied 87-87 and the Dream would have the last possession.

McCoughtry would miss the final shot, but Michelle Snow would rebound and hook the ball in as time expired. The Dream thought that they had walked away with a victory...but the instant replay showed that Snow wasn't even close to making the shot before the buzzer. The game would go to overtime.

The Shock would turn the ball over five times in the overtime period, and the Dream would take a 95-91 lead. Kara Braxon would put it up with 1:33 left to close the score to 95-93 in favor of Atlanta. McCoughtry would miss a 3-pointer, but Michelle Snow would steal the ball the Dream would have the ball with 50 seconds left.

Unfortunately, Ivory Latta turned the ball over, giving Deanna Nolan a chance to tie the game with 17.9 seconds left. She missed. The Dream would get the rebound, and the only hope for the Shock was to foul. Sancho Lyttle would hit one of her two shots, and the Dream led 96-93 with 14 seconds left.

Detroit had one more possession. Deanna Nolan tried the 3-pointer with 5.9 seconds left, but missed it. Kara Braxton would get the layup and score, but the Dream had the ball for the final three seconds. Detroit would have to foul and send Ivory Latta to the line.

Latta hit both shots. 98-95 Dream. And then...Miller comes back into the game, once again for inexplicable reasons. Shock ball, 2.6 seconds left. Katie Smith - one of the premier 3-point shooters in women's basketball history - tried the shot, but it wouldn't go down. The Dream would walk away with the overtime win.

(* * *)

Now let's look at the Dean Oliver's Four Factors.

Field goal shooting: For once, the Dream would not outshoot its opponents. The Shock shot 48.1 percent from the field, the Dream 42.3 percent. Both sides were 4-for-13 from the 3-point arc, so 3-point shooting was a non-factor for once.

Offensive rebounds: The Dream outrebounded the Shock 12-9 on the offensive boards, and led overall in rebounding 37-32.

Turnovers: A wash. We had 18 to the Shock's 17 - but those five turnovers in the overtime period hurt Detroit.

Free throw visits: This killed the Shock in the end. We sent Detroit to the line 19 times, but the Shock gave the Dream 39 chances to make a free throw. We hit 34-for-39 at the free throw line. Ivory Latta's career night partially resulted from going 10-for-10 from the free throw line.

(* * *)

Let's take a look at the Detroit Shock:

Kara Braxton: 25 points and 12 rebounds on 12-for-16 shooting. She was the firepower for Detroit.
Shavonte Zellous: 20 points. 8 of those points came from free throws. Remember that awful game when we sent Zellous to the line about 200 times?
Taj McWilliams: 15 points, 5 rebounds, but 4 turnovers.
Deanna Nolan: 10 points and 9 assists, but she couldn't get those last shots to fall.
Katie Smith: 11 points, but 6 turnovers.

And now let's look at the Atlanta Dream:

Michelle Snow: I'm sure a lot of people, when asked who the Dreamer of the Game would be, would have said, "Ivory Latta, because she had a career night." But look at Snow: a 16 point, 12 rebound double-double with 5 offensive rebounds and just 2 personal fouls. And all of this in just 30 minutes of play. Clearly, it was Snowtime in Detroit, and Snow gets her first Dreamer of the Game accolade.

Angel McCoughtry: And then, Angel would say, "well, what about me?" For the limited minutes that Marynell Meadors is giving McCoughtry, Angel does the most with them. She had a raw plus/minus of +22, with 20 points and 6 steals.

Ivory Latta: Her 22 point-game was a career high - do you think that Ivory still has some resentment against the Shock? She was 10-for-10 from the free throw line and 5-for-5 from the floor, with 2 3-pointers. You can also add three assists to that.

I think that Latta now deserves the starting spot. If she doesn't start after the break, we're going to be wondering why.

Chamique Holdsclaw: Awful shooting: 13 points, but 13 missed field goal attempts. However, Claw had 4 rebounds and 4 steals. She simply found other ways to contribute.

Iziane Castro Marques: Or is it "Castro-Marques"? I'm not sure. She made it to 10 points, and her shooting was okay.

Sancho Lyttle: An off-night for Sancho. She had 14 points and 7 rebounds. I'm sure a lot of WNBA players wish they had off-nights like that.

Shalee Lehning: The typical stat line for Lehning - zero points - but she did have a couple of assists and a couple of rebounds. Lehning only played 10 minutes. Took a 3-pointer in the first quarter, missed it, and didn't shoot again.

Erika de Souza: What a letdown. They couldn't keep her from the boards - she had 6 turnovers - but only 3 points on 1-for-5 shooting. Also, three turnovers.

Coco Miller: She played twenty seconds and earned a "trillion" - a stat line filled with nothing but zeros. At least Meadors brought Miller in when it was exciting...but why did she keep her on the bench for 38 minutes?

So who is Still Snoozin' for the Dream? I'm not giving out the demerit - there's a first time for everything, and this is it. There wasn't a single player on the Dream that hurt us in the win. Everyone helped a little bit, or at least in Miller's case, they didn't hurt us.

On the other hand, two things bothered me. First, the weird substitutions. Second, the lack of use for either Jennifer Lacy or Tamera Young. Maybe they're still hurting, and Meadors decided to let them get healthier. But hasn't Young been healthy for some time now? Furthermore, it's not as if there's a game coming up and there existed a need to keep Lacy and Young rested.

This is just weird. If we're talking sleeping metaphors, our coach might need an alarm clock, or the front office might need a wake-up call.

Tulsa Works Out Deal With Arena

The group of investors seeking to put the WNBA in Tulsa has worked out a deal with the BOK Center, the arena where a Tulsa WNBA team would hypothetically play.

A quote:

One factor that helped ease Bolton's concern was the WNBA's season, which runs from late May through mid-September. Bolton said major concert tours often play outdoor shows in summer and, "traditionally for arenas, that is our slowest time of year" for them.

The BOK Center pays labor and utility costs when it hosts events. Bolton said a WNBA team would need an average attendance of 5,000 fans per game for the arena to cover its costs on 17 WNBA home dates.

One of the reasons that arenas generally like the WNBA is that it helps keep the staff paid. Indeed, this was one of the WNBA's selling points during the "dual ownership" era that ended in 2002. NBA teams knew that they could get ticket sales even during the summer months.

The Tulsa World appears to be behind the effort. In cities where the local sports reporters and jock radio seems rather indifferent to the success of the WNBA, it's quite odd to see the print media on board so quickly. Coverage has generally been positive in Tulsa.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Angel McCoughtry: "This One is for Heather"

Angel McCoughtry writes for her rookie WNBA blog. Ever read about WNBA players not wanting to attend season ticket holder events? Well, if that soured you a bit, Angel's blog post will make you think.

Before our Indiana game I got a phone call from someone in Louisville they said a young girl named Heather wanted to come to one of the games but she can't! The reason was because she had cancer. Heather is only 12 years old but she has leukemia in the blood.


Before I got to know Heather I was very frustrated because I wasn't getting a lot of playing time. I would be the first one in the gym and the last one to leave, I would lift extra and do everything coach asked me to do but I still couldn't figure out why I wasn't playing. But after meeting Heather I realized my problems just aren't that bad and I am truly blessed! God has a plan for us all.

Photos from Dream/Shock Game on Wednesday

If you click on this link, it will generate some pictures from today's win over the Shock at Detroit. It's good to have the pictures, because some of us were working and we couldn't see the game.

Tulsa WNBA Presentation...on YouTube

If you go to the WNBA Tulsa, this is the promotional video that you'll see.

It's gone beyond just talk, at least to the point of paying someone to put together a video. (How much does that cost now?)

Tulsa WNBA Investors Have Deadline: September 1, 2009

If Tulsa wants a WNBA team, they've got one month to prove it. According to Tulsa World, Bill Cameron and David Box - the potential major investors - have been told exactly what the WNBA needs to accept Tulsa.

Obviously, investors have to be in place, and there is the opening franchise cost which is quoted at $10 million (which is probably smaller that what is quoted, or which can be paid off in installments). There have to be ticket sales, corporate sponsors and a deal with Tulsa's BOK Center, which hasn't been concluded yet.

The money quotes:

Orender cautioned not to read too much into her appearance in Tulsa.

“It’s not done,” she said of Tulsa’s work in landing a franchise. “I have visited with other cities.”

Orender said four other cities also are seeking teams but didn’t name those cities. She said Tulsa is the furthest along in the process.

“When you look at the business model and the scale of the WNBA, a city lilke Tulsa can be enormously successful,” Orender said. “We’ve had ongoing discussions (with other cities) and there have been times in discussions that we (as a league) have said we weren’t sure we wanted to continue this process. But never with Tulsa. “They have continued to come back to us. They have passed the ultimate test in terms of continuing to display their interest and commitment to women’s basketball. The model they put together, their commitment to Tulsa, their willingness to really contribute if you will is a real community asset. They believe in this city and it is something that I think the citizens of Tulsa will partner with them and together create success.”

Now, this could be complete BS from Donna, but that last paragraph is about as close to saying, "Tulsa will have a team in 2010" without selling tickets and choosing a team name. Futhermore, Clay Bennett in Oklahoma City states that he won't make a fuss about Tulsa having a WNBA team.

I'd like to know the names of those other four cities, myself. However, with regards to Tulsa, all will be revealed come September 2009.