Monday, August 31, 2009

Fun in the Sun (?)

This snapshot was taken a few days ago during the Dream's west coast swing. The Atlanta Dream's caption for this picture is "Erika and Izi enjoying the west coast sunshine!"

Then why don't they seem to be enjoying it?

The Liberty Basketball Association

Diana Vines (DePaul) of the Detroit Dazzlers steals the ball. Maria Rivera (Miami) of the LBA All-Stars is the victim, with teammate Linda Godby (Auburn, Seattle Reign) looking on.

On February 19, 1991 the Liberty Basketball Association played its only game.

It seems that the Liberty Basketball Association, or LBA, was doomed from the start. The idea was certainly an interesting one - this would be ordinary basketball with 9-foot-2 inch baskets and a smaller court. The hope was that the scaled-down court and lower basket would promote a style of play more like the NBA - if women could go to the hoop with the expectation that they could dunk, the midrange game would disappear and women's basketball would finally become airborne.

The distance from basket to basket was 82 feet, four feet shorter than the NBA's distance. The foul line was only 13 feet away from the backboard instead of 15 feet. An undersized basketball was used.

There were 10,753 in attendance. Even then, all of the old assumptions were in place. USA Today, which might have the best generalized coverage of the WNBA, couldn't help but report that only half of those tickets were paid for - something which I doubt would have been mentioned if this were a men's game. The audience was crammed into one side of the palace to make the crowd look bigger for ESPN.

Among the players were Tonya Edwards, formerly of the University of Tennessee. Other college players were signed.

The game was played at the Palace at Auburn Hills in Auburn Hills, Michigan between the Detroit Dazzlers and the LBA All-Stars. The game would be televised on ESPN, but even then the LBA couldn't have any luck. The game started at 12:30 pm ET on Monday, a time when you'd expect few viewers. There were two power outages at halftime which turned the halftime into a 40 minute wait, and one wonders how many people tuned out, never to return.

Most intriguing - and perhaps disturbing - were the uniforms. The uniforms were not the floppy shorts and jerseys but were skin tight lycra leotards, so tight that a player's nipples would stand out. Even some men thought that the uniforms were too tight. I don't know what the players thought about them.

Nancy Lieberman was okay with the idea. ""This is all part of appeal marketing...we're in a society where all that matters." Lieberman added, "I will do whatever I can for women's basketball." However, Lieberman didn't take part in the game. Other stars like Teresa Edwards kept their distance.

The Dazzlers would win 104-87. The ball was dunked, at least during the slam-dunk contest. Laurie Byrd scored 25 points for the Dazzlers. Six players scored in double figures. According to the Associated Press, the 22 players each got $250 for their troubles with the Dazzlers picking up an extra $100 for the win.

Some coverage was laudatory. "Women can play aggressive, fast-paced basketball. And with the help of smaller basketballs and lower baskets, women can dunk," wrote the Charlotte Observer. Other coverage focused more on the aspects of male reporters entering the locker rooms. (This was the Lisa Olson era.) A Washington Times said that women's sports would just never work. (It seems that some reporters' attitudes haven't changed over the following two decades.)

Others thought that the league exploited women. Jena Janovy of the Columbia School of Journalism wrote:

When was the last time a player in the National Basketball Association wore a unitard?

The revealing wear is clearly aimed at capturing the attention of the TV fans - most of whom are expected to be male.

Making the players attractive detracts from women's professional abilities and focuses all eyes on their bodies.

In the end, the prospect for a new league failed. A new league was supposed to be launched in December 1991, but the country was in the middle of a recession. The LBA was consigned to keepers of basketball trivia. No box score from their lone game exists or can be easily found.

However, the LBA came back - briefly - in 1997. To avoid any lawsuits from the founders of the Liberty Basketball Association, the New York Liberty purchased all trademarks and indicia belonging to the LBA. I wonder if there are some lycra unitards hidden somewhere in a box deep in the bowels of Madison Square Garden.

The Playoffs: It's an Atlanta Thang

According to a respected blog poster somewhere, the Atlanta Dream will be playing its playoff games in Atlanta. Maybe not in Philips Arena, but definitely someplace in Atlanta. (Or maybe at Gwinnett.)

To which all I can say is "whew". Now we just have to get to the playoffs....

Spanish Women's Basketball Season to Start October 10th

If the Dream go deep in the WNBA playoffs, players like Sancho Lyttle and Erika de Souza won't have much rest as the 2009-10 season of the Liga Feminina - the Spanish women's professional basketball leaguge - begins on October 10, 2009.

The full schedule is here.

Erika de Souza's Ros Casares club opens at home against Hondarribia and Sancho Lyttle starts her season with Perfumerias against Argon. Arminitie Price played for Joventut last season, and if she stays with the Spanish League she'll play against Real Canoe. (Argon and Real Canoe are "promoted" teams from Division 2 of the 2008-09 season.)

The final playoff takes place on April 24-28-May 1st of 2010. If the 2010 WNBA season opens in May 2010, that's not a lot of time to rest if either Ros Casares or Perfumerias goes deep...and both are expected to contend for the title.

Rating WNBA Coaches: The Expected Wins Method

One of two challenges given to me by the author of the Rethinking Basketball blog was to rank which coaches have been the best coaches of the WNBA based on the method used by John Hollinger.

Hollinger - who is mysteriously listed as "Dave Hollinger" in the article - uses a very simple method. Figure out how many games a team should win and compare the actual number of wins to that number. If a team exceeds the expected wins, we credit those wins to the coach. If the team fails to meet the mark, we debit the coach.

The first problem becomes determining the number of expected wins for a team. Hollinger uses the following method:

expected winning percentage for a team = (0.25)*(winning percentage of season before last) + (0.5)*(winning percentage from last season) + (0.25)*(.500)

Note that 1/4 of the formula above is based on a .500 record. This serves two purposes - to give the coach of a sub-.500 team something to strive for, and to give the coach of a winning team a reward for continuing to win.

Hollinger examined all coaches that had five complete seasons of experience. However, the WNBA presents a problem with its multiple expansions. The formula does not handle the case of a coach coaching in the first or second year of a franchise's existence. It's probably a good idea that the formula fails, since it's more difficult to judge a coach given the dearth of talent in those first two years.

For example, Marynell Meadors loses three complete years - the first two years with the Charlotte Sting in 1997-98 and the first year with the Atlanta Dream in 2008. Van Chancellor's first two years with the Houston Comets can't effectively be judged as Houston was an "expansion team". Who is to say that he did a great job? Maybe the talent just fell into his lap.

Therefore, the list of coaches below:

a) have coached five complete seasons in the WNBA, where
b) any season which is one of the first two seasons of a new franchise isn't counted.

This gives us six coaches to look at who meet the criteria: the following lists the coaches name, the total number of wins above expected over the number of seasons evaluated, the number of seasons evaluated, and the wins above expected per year.

Hughes 23 7 3.29
Laimbeer 18 6 3.00
Donovan 13 6 2.17
Thibault 8 5 1.60
M. Cooper 9 6 1.50
Chancellor 0 8 0.00
Adubato -1 8 -0.13

For example, let's look at the leader, Dan Hughes. Hughes started out by finishing Marynell Meador's 1999 season with the Charlotte Sting where Meadors was fired midway through. We won't count that season. Hughes was let go by the Sting after that season anyway, replaced with T. R. Dunn.

Hughes then shows up in Cleveland in 2000 and coaches his first complete season. The franchise has now existed for at least two years, so we can use the formula.

expected wins for Cleveland Rockers in 2000 = (0.25)(1998 win percentage) + (0.5)(1999 win percentage) + (0.25)(.500 win percentage) = 0.40125.

The Rockers played 32 games in 2000, which means that the Rockers were expected to win 32 * 0.40125 = 12.84 games, or 13 games. Hughes won 17 games that year, giving him a +4 in expected wins.

Now let's look at Van Chancellor. He started coaching with the Comets in 1997, but we can't start evaluating his seasons until 1999 since the formula doesn't work for any season which is one of the first two in the franchise history.

expected wins for Houston Comets in 1999 = (0.25)(1997 win percentage) + (0.5)*(1998 win percentage) = (0.25)(.500 win percentage) = 0.73575.

The Comets played 32 games in 1999, which means that the Comets were expected to win 32 * 0.73575 = 23.544 games, or 24 games. Chancellor won 26 games that year, giving him a +2 in expected wins.

(* * *)

Do the results meet the smell test? In other words, if I had asked you to order these coaches from best or worst, would the answers be what you expected?

Seeing Hughes and Laimbeer in the 1-2 positions might satisfy some readers, but others might think that Laimbeer belongs on top. Donovan, Thibault and Michael Cooper at least have positive values in expected wins per year, lending credence to the belief that those three coaches are at least better than average. (Some Sparks fans might dispute that about Cooper, though.)

Van Chancellor coming out with zero expected wins above average per year is a bit shocking. Was the Comets dynasty more a function of its players than its coach? Chancellor doesn't get any credit in the metric for the first two years of the Comets performance. Richie Adubato is the only coach on the list with a negative value in expected wins per year, and both he and Chancellor are the only coaches on the list that are no longer coaching.

Atlanta vs. Los Angeles, Tuesday September 1

Who: The Atlanta Dream (15-14) take on the Los Angeles Sparks (15-14) as both teams sprint to the finish in their respective conferences.

The Dream have Angel McCoughtry (12.4 ppg) as well as All-Star Team members Sancho Lyttle (13.2 ppg) and Erika de Souza (11.2 ppg). The Sparks are virtually an all-star team that includes Candace Parker (12.5 ppg, 9.0 rpg), Tina Thompson (12.5 ppg, 6.3 rpg) and in her final year of competition, Lisa Leslie (15.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg)

What: The second of two games this year against Los Angeles. Atlanta lost the first game August 23rd in Atlanta as the Sparks won 91-87 in front of a sellout crowd.

Where: The Staples Center in Los Angeles.

When: Tipoff is 10:30 pm Eastern on Tuesday, September 1st. The game can be seen on WNBA Live Access.

Why: Despite losing three of its last four games, the Dream have managed to keep their head above water and remain in second place in the Eastern Conference. Why? Because the overwhelming parity has meant that just as soon as one team challenges the Dream, another Eastern Conference contender drags the challenger down with the rest of the pack. Mechelle Voepel said it best that the race to the conclusion might be one of those ice skating races where the competitors are bunched up in a pack, then something happens and everyone goes crashing to the floor - last player standing wins.

Playing in Los Angeles will be tough. Much ado was made about the Spark's long stretch of home games near the end of the season, but the Sparks have won as easily on the road as they have away, winning seven of their last eight. (Including a win at Philips Arena.) Los Angeles's turnaround mojo might have to do with Lisa Leslie and Candace Parker being closer to their physical peaks now than they were at the beginning of the season. When those two are having a good night, the Sparks are nigh unstoppable.

But not unstoppable. One of the Dream's four wins last year came at the Staples Center, proving that in the WNBA, there isn't a team that's free from challengers. Another win in Los Angeles would be a high point for the Dream's season.

Chamique Holdsclaw remains at home, trying to rehab from knee surgery. The Dream have been looking for another leader but no one appears to have stepped up. Angel McCoughtry went 5-for-14 and Iziane Castro Marques went 6-for-23 in shooting in the Seattle loss and the Dream can't afford a night like that. On the other hand, Erika de Souza had six offensive rebounds against the Storm and Atlanta won the battle of the boards against Seattle. If the Dream can keep the Sparks off the glass - a mighty big if - it could be another amazing Atlanta/Los Angeles game.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Dream Lose to Storm in Double Overtime

My understanding is that the Dream had a sad loss last night, losing in double-overtime 91-84 to Seattle. Sancho Lyttle had a chance for a last-second shot that could have won the game clearly for Atlanta, but she missed it.

Ow. Detroit and Seattle have proven to be missed opportunities. I suspect that the Sparks won't be offering Atlanta much hospitality, either.

Today is a travel day. The blog should be on its regular schedule by Monday.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Gallery of Pictures from Dream vs. Shock

I understand they had a lot to say.

While we’re waiting for the Dream/Storm game to start, Sports Page Magazine has not only a new look for their wonderful website, but they also have a new gallery of images from the game.

Try to repress the bad memories, and take a look.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Atlanta vs. Seattle, Saturday August 29

Who: The Atlanta Dream (15-13) take on the Seattle Storm (17-11) as both teams try to cement a second place finish in their respective conferences.

The Dream have Angel McCoughtry (12.3 ppg) as well as All-Star Team members Sancho Lyttle (13.1 ppg) and Erika de Souza (11.2 ppg). Seattle has perennial MVP candidate Lauren Jackson (19.2 ppg) and the very popular Sue Bird (12.3 ppg, 5.8 apg)

What: The second of two games this year against Seattle. Atlanta won the first game two weeks earlier, 88-79.

Where: Key Arena in Seattle, Washington.

: Tipoff is 10:00 pm Eastern on Saturday, August 29th. The game can be seen on WNBA Live Access.

Why: This game might be a glimpse of how our road swing will turn out after the loss to Detroit. Yes, Seattle's second place position is more secure than the Dream's - you'd hope that Seattle might slack off - but Seattle is 12-3 as a home team. Key Arena is a notoriously tough place to play; a win here would show that Atlanta can win anywhere in any circumstances. And once again, Atlanta has to play a team on a hot streak - Seattle has won four straight games.

Furthermore, I'm sure Sue Bird wants to forget that first game against Atlanta - 12 assists was great but only eight points was not so great. Shalee Lehning chased Sue Bird all around Philips Arena and I'm sure that Sue Bird will have her own plans for Shalee Lehning.

Seattle's bench scored only 13 points in that first game. Katie Gearlds and Ashley Walker were out in the first game with various maladies. Gearlds's knee is still bad but Ashley Walker has recovered.

For Iziane Castro Marques, it's a return to Seattle - Iziane played in Seattle from 2005 to 2007. She'll want to show off for the home fans.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Dream Fall to Shock as Detroit Wins

Just briefly checking in. The Detroit Shock won its fourth straight game as Atlanta started its road trip with a loss, 87-83.

Blogging will be spotty. Wish we had won. Oh well, time to go get 'em in Seattle.

Chioma Nnamaka Making It Work in Sweden

Even though Chioma Nnamaka had a rough time with the Dream in 2008 - she was at the bottom in points scored on that awful 2008 team - she is finding new life in Sweden, participating in the Eurobasket Tournament Division B.

Division B is the division of the lesser lights of European women's basketball. There, Nnamaka has helped lead Sweden to a 6-0 record in their group. Over three games Nnamaka has averaged 12 points per game and is shooting almost 70 percent.

Nnamaka, a graduate from Georgia Tech who was born in Hel Trefald, Sweden, seems to be doing well. We haven't forgotten about her, you know.

Lifelocked in Phoenix

Blogging might be scant for a short while as I take a brief visit to Arizona. I wish I had the opportunity to see a Mercury game, but I don't think it's going to be possible.

Enjoy the non-106 degree heat in Atlanta!

Holdsclaw Has Knee Surgery

From an Atlanta Dream press release:

Atlanta, August 27, 2009- Dream forward Chamique Holdsclaw underwent successful arthroscopic surgery on her right knee, the team announced today. A full recovery is expected. Holdsclaw did not make the trip to Detroit with the team, which faces the Shock tonight in a battle for playoff position. She is listed as day-to-day.

Okay. There doesn't seem to be any normal time frame for recovery from athroscopic surgery. They say that the recovery time can be as little as two weeks. Which means that two weeks is a minimum recovery time.

Holdsclaw might be out for the entire Western Conference road swing. If she came back on September 11th, that would be the absolute minimum rest time. If I were the Dream GM (or coach), I would have Holdsclaw rest the rest of the regular season. You can't take chances with knees, no way, no how.

27/2009 - Dream 103, Monarchs 83 - "Out of the Frying Pan...."

The win over Sacramento was a nice boost to send the Dream into a five game road trip against some tough competition: Detroit, which is in a hot streak. Seattle, which is in a hot streak. Los Angeles, which is really in a hot streak. And Sacramento and Phoenix, where we:

a) play back-to-back, and
b) both teams are looking to avenge blowout losses. (If we keep to within 20 of Phoenix, I might be happy.)

So what kinds of statistical goodness can we take away from our Tuesday night win against Sacramento? Maybe Dean Oliver's Four Factors will tell us something.

Field goal shooting: Sometimes the best explanations are the simplest ones: we just out shot Sacramento. Whisenant bemoaned his team's lack of defensive intensity, and it showed in the numbers. The Dream shot 55.6 percent from the floor whereas the Monarchs shot only 40 percent. When there's a 15 percent gap in field goal shooting, you have to do a lot to lose the game.

Looking at effective field goal shooting - which counts 3-pointers as 1 1/2 field goals - makes the gap even more painful. Atlanta's effective field goal percentage was 60.4 percent. Sacramento's was 41.4 percent. Egad.

Turnovers: Sacramento had 18, Atlanta had 17. Thanks for the extra turnover.

Offensive rebounds: Atlanta's numbers aren't that great, but really - we didn't have anything to offensive rebound since we were shooting so well. In total rebounds, we only had 9 offensive boards to Sacramento's 11. However, we got 32.1 percent of our available offensive rebounds, and Sacramento got 32.3 percent of theirs.

Free throw visits: We sent Sacramento to the line 33 times, compared to just 21 visits for the Dream. It didn't matter. We actually shot 76.2 percent from the free throw line; the Monarchs shot 75.8 percent. Sacramento got nine more free points than we did from the line, but it wasn't enough.

Now, let's look at Sacramento's players:

Rebekkah Brunson: 15 points and 7 rebounds. 4-for-13 shooting.
Nicole Powell: 13 points, 4 assists. 5-for-17 shooting.
Ticha Penicheiro: 9 points, 11 assists.
Scholanda Robinson: 5 points, but 6 turnovers.

Raw plus-minus of Monarchs starters: -21, -20, -20, -14 and -20

(* * *)

And now, let's peek at the Dream:

Iziane Castro Marques: 30 points off 13-for-21 shooting. What's more amazing is that out of those 30 points only one point came from the free throw line. She also had four assists. Iziane was clearly the Dreamer of the Game.

Angel McCoughtry: 20 points, 4 rebounds. 6-for-10 shooting with 7-for-8 from the free throw line. She had a very good game and got a couple of nice steals.

Shalee Lehning: Her 10 assists were a career high, and she pulled down 4 rebounds and had 3 steals. After a horrible start to the season Lehning is beginning to peak.

Erika de Souza: 12 points on 6-for-9 shooting. Only 4 rebounds, though, but Erika's power wasn't needed.

Sancho Lyttle: Lyttle had 13 points and 9 rebounds, with 3 assists. However, 4 personal fouls and 3 turnovers.

Coco Miller: This is about as good as a game is for Coco Miller. 10 points and 2-for-3 from 3-point range.

Michelle Snow: She didn't play much - less than 10 minutes total. Shot 1-for-3 and had 4 rebounds but 4 fouls as well.

Ivory Latta: Latta got 10 points in 11 minutes played. However, she had 3 turnovers - two occurring during the final two minutes of the game, and she let Whitney Boddie take a steal from her, too. Latta was starting to snooze with a comfortable lead.

Jennifer Lacy: Four personal fouls in six minutes of play. ("What are you trying to do, break Kasha Terry's record?") We liked the two offensive rebounds, though.

Armintie Price: Sort of a wash. Six minutes played, missed a shot, had a couple of rebounds, turned over the ball. It all sort of cancels itself out. who is winning the Still Snoozin' demerit? No one. Good job, everyone! Now go out on the road and get us a couple of wins!

Atlanta vs. Detroit, Thursday August 27

Who: The Atlanta Dream (15-12) take on the Detroit Shock (12-14) as Atlanta begins a five-game road trip.

The Dream have Angel McCoughtry (12.1 ppg) as well as All-Star Team members Sancho Lyttle (13.1 ppg) and Erika de Souza (11.0 ppg). Deanna Nolan (14.9 ppg) leads the Shock, which have the old in Katie Smith (13.8 ppg) and the new in Shavonte Zellous (11.6 ppg) to vex opponents.

What: The final game of the four games this year against the Shock. The Dream are 3-0 against the Shock this year, winning 96-86, 98-95 and 90-75.

Where: The Palace of Auburn Hills in Auburn Hills, Michigan.

When: Tipoff is 7:30 pm Eastern on Thursday, August 27. The game is available on WNBA Live Access.

Why: If you had bet me $100 on the Dream to potentially sweep the defending WNBA champions this year, I might have taken the bet against. Detroit looked like it had enough going into 2009 to have a shot at repeating. Then Plenette Pierson got hurt five minutes into the 2009 season, Bill Laimbeer folded his coaching tent, and the Shock went into a tailspin.

However, Rick Mahorn might have been underestimated as a potential head coach. He was a head coach in the Continential Basketball Association for one year and led his team to a 15-7 record. He has experince as a Hawks assistant. And now, it looks like Mahorn has the Shock playing good basketball again.

Of course, part of one's comeback depends on the players. Like Los Angeles and Sacramento, the Shock are playing hot right now, with the Shock winning three straight and crushing Connecticut 90-70 in Uncasville. The Shock could still go to the playoffs and they don't want to be swept on their home court.

Chamique Holdsclaw is now day-to-day, or so I've heard. She is coming with the Dream on the road swing; whether or not she'll play is another story. Until then, we'll just have to be happy with Angel McCoughtry's performance - she has scored in double-digits in her last 10 games.

Dream/Monarchs Gallery

SPMSportsPage does it again. They provide not merely an article, but a gallery of images by Craig Cappy to keep us interested.

Click and save your favorite pictures.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

More Updates From Tulsa

An anonymous board poster reported on a meeting in Tulsa that hypothesized that there might not be an expansion team in Tulsa, but a relocated one.

Relocation possibilities weren't identifed.
He only said that there were 2 teams in which that may be a possibility, but the chances are greater for expansion.

The translation (in my opinion) is that the guys in Tulsa are trying to swing a deal: "I know you want to sell, who can give me the best price?"

All I can say is that people better show up for that Dream/Sun game at Philips on September 11th.

Wars and Rumors of Wars

When I suggested great places that the Dream might play, it looks like I forgot about one of them...I found this message on a women's basketball board and when I read it, I was flabbergasted.

At the game last night I spoke to a person deep within the DFO who noted that if we make it to the playoffs there is a conflict with some of the playoff dates and the availability of Phillips Arena. Indeed if you look at the Phillips calendar events are scheduled for some of the dates.

The real surprise was an alternate site being considered....Knoxville. Was that Pat's price for bringing 11K to the game on Sunday?

That's a friggin long hike for a game. Don't know if I could see it, but I'm sure that someone would probably fill my seat.

UPDATE: potential clashes of events at Philips Arena with WNBA Schedule

Potential Semifinal Clashes (Semifinals either 16-18-19 or 17-20-21)

September 18: Elmo's Green Thumb at Philips Arena
September 19: Elmo's Green Thumb at Philips Arena
September 21: Atlanta vs. Carolina, NHL Pre-season

Eastern Conference Final Clashes


WNBA Final Clashes

October 4: Metallica Performance
October 9: Kings of Leon Performance

(Thanks to nickv1025.)

Extra Time on the Clock

From the Associated Press:

TULSA, Okla. — An Oklahoma businessman says the WNBA has extended a Sept. 1 deadline by a few weeks for his investment group to line up funding to bring a WNBA team to Tulsa in time for the 2010 season.

Bill Cameron said Wednesday that WNBA President Donna Orender gave his group "a few more weeks of leeway" to get the deal done. He did not specify exactly how long his group has.

The group announced in July that it intends to bring a professional women's basketball team to Tulsa. It is unknown whether Tulsa would get an expansion team or whether an existing team would relocate to the city.

You just read the article in its entirety. What's left is for people to read the tea leaves. Donna Orender plays 3-dimensional chess; I don't know if this is good news or if it's bad news - or what President Orender wants the news to be.

UPDATE: From a post on a message board....

I was at the luncheon today. It sounded like a couple of weeks. It was also stated that it would most likely be an expansion team, but the chance did exist that it may be the relocation of another team. They have almost 75% of the financing secured.


27/2009 - Dream 103, Monarchs 83

Okay, since I'm under time pressure, here's my writeup of Atlanta/Sacramento:

1) I thought the warm-ups were slow for both teams - I'm sure they were both tired and were just going through the motions. Sacramento was engaged in a random shootaround with Walker, Brunson and Powell taking turns with random shots.

2) I further noticed that Chamique Holdsclaw was not dressed. Later I'd found out that she was day to day. She was supposed to be somewhere close to the bench in the first half and left the second half. I didn't see her at all.

3) When the Sacramento Monarchs took the court, and we were supposed to give a polite visiting cheer for the Monarchs, the place was virtually silent. I wondered how many fans there remembered that Rebekkah Brunson knocked Ivory Latta's front tooth out during the last time Sacto visited Atlanta. You could have heard a pin drop when Sacramento took the court, but I don't think the quiet in Philips Arena that night had anything to do with some slight, real or imagined. (See #30, below.)

4) Bonnie Leadbetter sang the National Anthem and I thought she did a respectable job. Then again, I'm no music critic.

5) A fan wearing a gold polo shirt and a cowboy hat who was sitting at the seats along the baseline had a sign that read, "I LOVE THE LADIES". I couldn't make out which ladies were being mentioned. It could have been just a philosophical statement, in which case more power to you, ma'am.

In any event, some advice for sign makers: whenever you draw a sign with black marker that leaves a 1/4 inch wide markon the paper, that sign is going to be virtually invisible from a distance. You don't use markers to make a sign, you use paint: those letters have to be a least one inch wide if they're going to be seen by anybody.

6) With regard to #3, above - one player on the Sacramento bench got some cheers. That was Kristin Haynie, the former player for the Dream. Our resident Haynieac - he wears a T-shirt that wears "Haynieac" - made sure to be there that night.

7) One patron of the game showed up wearing a Tennessee T-shirt. My how things change over just a couple of days. On Sunday, the place was swimming with Tennessee gear; on Tuesday Tennessee gear was few and far between.

8) Atlanta starters: Lehning, Castro Marques, de Souza, Lyttle, McCoughtry
Sacramento starters: Robinson, Powell, Penicheiro, Walker, Brunson

9) The Dream started out a bit sloppy - McCoughtry threw a pass over de Souza's head. Another McCoughtry shot was too short and hit the rim. A 3-pointer by Iziane went in-and-out. Castro Marques picked up a travel call in the first two minutes.

10) But then, it came together for the Dream and they went on an 11-4 lead. Iziane - I'll call her "Iziane" since in Brazil, it is customary to call great players by their first names - scored 7 of the first 11 points of the game.

Lehning, however, took what must have been a glancing blow to the head. She left the court, and Latta came in for Lehning.

11) Tonight was going to be "dog night" - I wonder if the dog theme was part of an aborted pets promotion. Two dogs - Buttercup and Prost?? - were show on the screen and we were asked to whom the dogs belonged - Lehning, Snow, or Erika (I'll use the Brazilian custom and refer to de Souza as Erika hereout, even though I have forgotten the accent mark, which would lead any speaker of Portugese to roll his or her eyes. "Americans.")

These were Erika's dogs! It must be a pain to have to arrange travel for them, Erika must really love her dogs.

12) Atlanta continued to roll. We were up 17-6 with around four minutes left. Latta got away with a grab that wasn't called for a foul, but she picked up two quick fouls nonetheless so it could have been three. With about 3:06 remaining, the Dream had a 21-6 lead after a pair of baskets by Lyttle.

Sacramento called a time out. The audience was strangely subdued, as if they couldn't believe the scoreboard.

13) From there, the point was to defend our double-digit lead. Shalee Lehning came back into the game. However, with about 1:30 to go Atlanta was over the limit in fouls. A few free throws by Sacramento whittled down the lead, but Iziane ended the quarter on a run to the basket that ended with a one-handed layup. McCoughtry and Iziane each had 9 points and we were up 27-17 at the break.

14) The Dream brought out some kiddie dancers. Yes, I know, "dressed like tramps, blah blah blah." But does every drawn conclusion people jump to have to be nasty? (They could tone down the hoochie wear, though, it ain't necessary.) I've always liked the kiddie dancers, who were doing a new disco-super-pop remix of the Hokey Pokey. There's something comical about it, but also something quite innocent. I suspect that the fans like the kid dancers, too.

More kid dancers, I say. Put Miss Grand Supreme to work!

15) In the second quarter, Lehning put some acrobatic skill to work. She blocked a pass from Kristin Haynie and managed to rescue the ball and get it to Angel McCoughtry. The ball got back to Lehning and she turned it into an assist to Erika for the basket.

At about 3 minutes in, I saw the sweetest behind-the-back dribble where Lehning transferred the ball from her right hand to her left. Yeah, I'm sure you've seen a thousand of them but I've only followed women's basketball for a short time - I'm amazed at what these players could do.

Later, Lehning would come at Penicheiro from behind and steal the ball. Shades of Angel McCoughtry!

16) On the other hand, despite the acrobatics Atlanta was getting sloppy. McCoughtry picked up another of her patented steals but sprinted down the court so fast that she couldn't come to a stop. The ball was lost. Lehning threw the ball too high and Nicole Powell ended up with the ball. Sacramento had worked the lead down to single digits, 40-33.

17) With 3:04 to go and the score 42-33 Atlanta, Armintie Price came onto the court. Frankly, Atlanta needed some defense, as neither McCoughtry nor Iziane were scoring.

18) There was another picture of dogs on the screen. This time, it was a snapshot of three well-cared dogs. A fan was give a trivia question, and the fan answered correctly that these dogs belonged to Marynell Meadors. Coach Meadors has some nice looking pooches.

19) I saw another sign - "CHB UK Atlanta Dream". I think it means something, perhaps a code to our secret Dream overlords.

20) With the Dream up 42-33, there was a two minute drought where neither team could score. Someone had to make a run, so it was Ivory Latta who stepped up to the task. She would hit the next three baskets for the Dream, including a 3 pointer for 7 points to end the first half. However, the Monarchs scored as well. Ivory Latta attempted a 3-pointer from half court as time expired - and it actually made it to the backboard - but didn't fall. The Dream led 48-40 at the half.

21) Atlanta was still shooting hot. They were hitting 53 percent of their shots in the first half. The Monarchs were stuck at 39 percent.

Ticha Penicheiro had 9 assists at halftime. She's really one of the great point guards of women's basketball. As they'd say in baseball, she's "A Hall-of-Famer Fer Sure".

22) The Teen Special Winners of Henry County were honored. I think the proper term is intellectually disabled - it's the term used by the Special Olympics, so I'm going to go with it. I was glad to see the kids get the honors and I think the spectators were happy for them too.

23) The dog theme continues. There were some frisbee dogs entertaining at halftime - trainer throws frisbee, dog makes amazing catch of frisbee in teeth. I was a bit distracted during halftime, but the parts of the show I saw were great. I liked the star-spangled cape one dog was wearing - clearly, that was James Brown's dog.

24) In the beginning of the third quarter, we had some ugly misses. Iziane missed a 3-pointer. Erika missed a mid-range jumper, and in the W you have to hit midrange jumpers because you can't dunk your way to two points. However, Ticha Penicheiro had picked up her fourth personal foul. The Monarchs remained within single digits.

25) Shalee Lehning made the second "junior high miss" of a shot that I've seen in two games. She runs for the drive, stops at around the baseline, shoots...and hits the underside of the backboard. A friend of mine said, "No focus." Lehning said she wasn't a shooting guard, and let me tell you, she ain't kidding.

26) The third quarter slogged down. With 5:38 left Sacramento went over the limit and with 5:16 left the Dream were similarly busted. This meant The Long March to the Free Throw Line....

...or did it? McCoughtry hit her 3-point attempt that she has to try at least once per game. Iziane hit a 3-pointer with 2:47 left and Atlanta had broken back into double-digits, eading 67-53.

McCoughtry sank a pair of free throws for her 19th and 20th points of the night. They would be the last points scored by McCoughtry in an amazing perforance.

27) Courtney Paris came in. She got a shot in at 1:30 but it was taken away - she charged Shalee Lehning. Iziane would hit another pair of jumpers in the final two minutes, and the Dream were up by 15, 74-59 at the three quarter break.

28) We let Sacramento score the first points but then went on a 6-0 run. Now we were up by 20 points.

Two Brazilians - one wearing a #8 jersey - were asked to play the iPod Challenge. Ivory Latta was the singer and she sang a song which I believe is called "Knock You Down". (If you heard it, you would want to knock her down.) I think the Brazilians should have gotten extra swag due to the degree of difficulty.

29) A new song was unveiled by the Dream sound guy - "Peanut Butter Jelly Time". I like Peanut Butter Jelly Time.

30) I learned the announced attendance of Tuesday's game - 5,159. My friend and I each rolled our eyes after looking out into the stands. If the crowd rushed the players on the court, I'd give the players even money in the fight. That was a Detroit estimate, and it was the lowest announced attendance in Atlanta Dream history.

31) There was still a fourth quarter to play. The Monarchs brought the gap down to less than 20, but time was going to run out on them unless they could put on an offensive display. Sacramento remained at just under 18 behind us...

...then Iziane hit a shot. After Penicheiro hit a bucket to answer, with 4:23 to go, Iziane fired a 3-pointer from 24 feet away with ridiculous arc on of those bombadier shots... went in, and the crowd went nuts. 91-71.

Ever hear of a shot where you say, "when they made that basket, the game was over?" That was the shot. When Iziane made that shot, everyone knew that the Monarchs were dead in the water and the only question left was whether we could set a franchise record for scoring.

32) In the fourth quarter of every Dream game, they have something called the "Jam Cam". Random spectators are asked to make fools of themselves by dancing, and the crowd judges three candidates.

As selected fans cavorted, I saw Erika standing on her feet during a time out, watching the Jam Cam and swaying to the music. She knew this game was over, too.

33) Latta added another 3-pointer to push us up over the century mark, 101-75. After a Laura Harper free throw, Kristin Hayie andwered with another three.

The clock was winding down. Normally, one side just dribbles the clock out, but the Monarchs were playing rough basketball. I'm sure Latta remembered that "accidental" elbow, so she played it as if we were in the first quarter, taking an extra shot with less than 10 seconds left. But there was no more scoring left in the game.

Final: Dream 103, Monarchs 83.

There might be a post-mortem tonight, or there might not. Blogging will be scant on Thursday through Saturday.

SLAM Examines the WNBA

SLAM Online has one of the best articles I've read about a WNBA game. John Krolic covers the Sky/Sparks game and this is what he has to say:

So, what did I learn from this foray into the highest levels of women’s basketball? First off, don’t let all the jazz about how the women’s game is a fundamental, almost Marxist affair on the court fool you — this is just as much of a league of stars as the NBA. The division between the money players and the role players might be even more pronounced than it is on the men’s side of things, and the stars are just as impressive to watch. Watching Dupree explode from the high-post and look at once forceful and serpentine as she got an and one, Leslie work like a professor in the paint at both ends of the floor, and Candace Parker do just about everything that can be done with a basketball is just as impressive as watching the LeBrons, Wades, and Kobes of this world, believe me.

The other lesson, and this is one that could inform how we watch the men’s game, is that the WNBA really is a bastion of all the skills that many have lamented no longer exist in the men’s game — post moves, floaters, bank shots, mid-range jumpers, weak-side feeds, ball rotation, flex sets that take three screens and five passes before a good shot. But it’s also apparent that women utilize all of these things because they’re forced to — as beautiful as a made basket ends up looking in the women’s pro game, it cannot be ignored that the baskets also come far less frequently. The women can’t explode to the rack or drain three-pointers as well as the guys can, so they’ve been forced to adapt with mid-range strategies. The mid-range game in the NBA is a casualty of logic — dunks and threes are the focus in the NBA because they work, to put it simply. The WNBA game is wonderful to watch because the women have to show the kind of ingenuity and perseverance to get buckets that was necessary in the NBA’s early days, but it should be realized that the nostalgia for these skills in the NBA game is what it is — a desire for strategy to take a step backwards on the macro level, even if the game appears dumbed-down on the micro level.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Dream Whallop Monarchs 106-86; Retain Second Place

Last year, the Monarchs were joking and laughing about how they knocked Ivory Latta's tooth out of her mouth. True story. Well, after a 20-point whalloping where McCoughtry scored 20 and Castro Marques scored 30, I guess Sacramento will have to find something else to laugh about on their trip to Minnesota.

Great game. I'm going to try to report on this one, but a word of warning - I'm probably going to miss both the Thursday game against Detroit and the Saturday game against Seattle. Won't get to see them, which is a real bummer.

In the meantime, enjoy this win!

26/2009 - Sparks 91, Dream 87: More Shots Matter

The Atlanta Dream/Los Angeles Sparks games have proven to be pretty memorable. There was that amazing road win in 2008. There was that great Pat Summitt game a couple of days ago. Not that a statistical post-mortem is necessary, but let's look at the game a little bit:

As always, we look at Dean Oliver's Four Factors:

Field goal shooting: The Dream was held to just 40.2 percent shooting overall, compared to 47.8 pecent from the Sparks. Adding in 3-point goals for effective field goal percentage bumps the Dream up to 45.7 percent and the Sparks up to 50.7 percent. Either way, the Sparks had an advantage in field goal shootings.

Turnovers: This might be a key to the game that no one has considered - the Sparks were good at hanging to the ball. The Dream coughed up the rock 19 times, which is about their average. However, the Sparks only lost the ball 12 times during the game, a decisive advantage.

Offensive Rebounding. The Sparks had 11 offensive rebounds, and the Dream had only 10. But when you look at offensive rebounding percentage, the Sparks's percentage was 34.3 percent and the Dream's was only 24.3 percent. Another advantage for the Sparks.

Free throw visits: 25 for the Sparks, 17 for the Dream. And the Sparks hit 84 percent of their field goals, particularly the crucial ones in the fourth quarter. The Dream only hit 71 percent of theres.

It's odd. We lost every single one of the four factors, but only lost the game by seven points. Then again, we took 15 more shots than the Sparks did.

And now, the individual Sparks players:

Candace Parker: 23 points, 8 rebounds. 8-for-13 shooting. I think someone at Full Court Press reported that Candace Parker is only at about 80 percent of her pre-pregnancy form. Well, 80 percent of fantastic is pretty fantastic.
Betty Lennox: "Noox" scored 14 points and 8 rebounds. Her +11 raw plus/minus was best among the Sparks. Clearly, Lennox had something to prove, and she proved it.
Tina Thompson: 12 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists.
Delisha Milton-Jones: 13 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists.
Lisa Leslie: Only 6 points on 2-for-9 shooting.

(* * *)

Now, let's look at each player from the Atlanta Dream:

Angel McCoughtry: With Chamique Holdsclaw not playing, McCoughtry had The Claw's shoes to fill. She did an admirable job with 23 points, 4 rebounds, and 5 steals. She shot 11-for-20, the only Atlanta player hitting more than 50 percent of her shots. But McCoughtry has to share her award with....

...Iziane Castro Marques: 26 points from Castro Marques, but her 9-for-23 shooting is awful. However, Castro Marques had 7 defensive rebounds and four assists. Togther, McCoughtry and Castro Marques are the Dreamers of the Game.

Erika de Souza: A very good game, but not as good as McCoughtry or Iziane. De Souza went 5-for-10 with 13 points and 9 rebounds. However, she had five personal fouls.

Shalee Lehning: Lehning only got 21 minutes, due to her lack of effectiveness. She scored 3 points but had 4 assists and no turnovers. Compare that with....

Ivory Latta: Latta had 10 points on 2-for-6 shooting. Eight of those ten points came during a brief window of time in the second quarter; after that, not much of anything. She also got five personal fouls although she didn't deserve a couple of them. Sorry, but this Lehning vs. Latta bout comes up with a "no decision".

Jennifer Lacy: An average game for a WNBA player, which is a good game for Lacy. 10 minutes, four points, five assists.

Coco Miller: She only played 7 minutes, and went 1-for-4 in shooting. Her -10 in raw plus minus, believe it or not, wasn't the worst.

Sancho Lyttle: 27 minutes played and just two rebounds. Those Sparks had Lyttle's number and reduced her effectiveness to that of Chamique Holdsclaw, who was sitting on the bench. Despite her +11 in raw plus minus, she shot 3-for-10 on Sunday.

Michelle Snow: we have three true posts, and the Sparks made two of them disappear. Snow played 12 minutes, took two shots, missed them both, and had a -16 in raw plus/minus.

Armintie Price: Played the fewest minutes of the game. We needed her out there with Holdsclaw on the bench, but Price was no help. Picked up a personal foul and a turnover in her 150 seconds of play. Took a shot and missed it. -4 in raw plus/minus in just two minutes. I'm going to give Price the Bad Dream award. She really needs to turn on the power for the Dream, whether it's on the offensive or defensive side.

Atlanta vs. Sacramento, Tuesday August 25

Who: The Atlanta Dream (14-12) take on the Sacramento Monarchs (9-18).

The Dream have Chamique Holdsclaw (13.9 ppg) as well as All-Star Team members Sancho Lyttle (13.1 ppg) and Erika de Souza (11.0 ppg). Nicole Powell (16.3 ppg) leads the Monarchs in scoring and Rebekkah Brunson (10.6 ppg, 6.6 rpg) leads Sacramento in rebounding.

What: The first of two games this year against the Monarchs. The Dream are 0-2 lifetime against the Monarchs.

Where: Philips Arena in Atlanta, GA

When: Tipoff is 7:30 pm Eastern on Tuesday, August 25. The game is available on WNBA Live Access.

Why: The Dream are getting ready for a western road swing that can decide Atlanta's playoff fate. After tonight, the next five games are on the road, with their final four games a pair of back-to-backs. The Dream have been 3-2 so far during this six-game home stand and with Atlanta barely hanging on to second place in the Eastern Conference, every game counts.

As for Sacramento, the Monarchs could make a push for the playoffs. They've changed coaches, firing Jenny Boucek and replacing her with John Whisenant, the only coach to win it all for Sacramento. The Monarchs don't have Yolanda Griffith anymore but Sacramento has won four of the last five under Whisenant and would love to prove that their a team to be taken seriously. Despite a 9-18 record, the Monarchs are just two games out of playoff contention in the weakened Western Conference.

There are two interesting sights to see on the Sacramento bench. One is rookie Courtney Paris, the highly touted draft pick out of Oklahoma. Paris gets about 13.5 minutes a games, and is still being brought along by the Sacramento organization. The other is Kristin Haynie, a member of that 2005 WNBA title team and former member of the Atlanta Dream. Expect some spare "Haynieacs" to be floating around Philips Arena.

Another question is whether or not Chamique Holdsclaw will play. Holdsclaw's gimpy knee kept her out of the Los Angeles Sparks games. Will she or won't she? Only her MD knows for sure. If not, expect to see Rookie of the Year candidate Angel McCoughtry get the start.

Monday, August 24, 2009

WNBA Rotations and Rotation Indices

In my post called Worst Coach in the W?, Q from Rethinking Basketball semi-challenged me to take two metrics and apply them to the WNBA:

a) The John Hollinger index of measuring coaches by performance vs. expected wins, and
b) The David Sparks metric called "Rotation Index" which measures how much of a rotation each team has.

I've already completed a). The work is at home, and will show up on the blog later. As for b)....

Sparks writes:

One difficulty with identifying team rotations is that it isn't as simple as counting then number of players who appear in any given game. There is a subtle difference between identifying the number of players who might be used in a game versus the number of players in a rotation, and that difference mainly has to do with playing time.

As such, it is common to see a threshold of playing minutes employed to identify where the rotation ends. Perhaps the rotation is all players who see more than 10 minutes of playing time in a game... but perhaps the number should be eight minutes. Regardless of the cutoff employed, this method will give an authoritative-sounding answer, but using a minutes cutoff only means that rotation size is a function of the threshold chosen, which is a telltale sign of arbitrariness.

Sparks solves this problem by using something called the Herfindahl index, which is used to determine how much competition there is among firms in an industry. Sparks simply took the same idea and used it to determine the competition among players for minutes.

For example, here are the minutes played for all members of the Dream so far:

Holdsclaw 708
Castro Marques 656
Lyttle 699
McCoughtry 488
de Souza 703
Snow 377
Miller 330
Latta 221
Lehning 510
Lacy 285
Teasley 234
Young 72
Price 16

This adds up to 5,299 minutes. (Really, 5,300 but the missing minute is a rounding error.) We are now going to determine the percentage of total minutes played by each player. This is expressed as a decimal number and is the second number following each player's name.

Holdsclaw 708 0.13
Castro Marques 656 0.12
Lyttle 699 0.13
McCoughtry 488 0.09
de Souza 703 0.13
Snow 377 0.07
Miller 330 0.06
Latta 221 0.04
Lehning 510 0.10
Lacy 285 0.05
Teasley 234 0.04
Young 72 0.01
Price 16 0.00

What we do is add up the squares of the second numbers. In the end, we get the value 0.1016. We could take numbers like this for each team, and see which one has the biggest Herfindahl index. To use the example in economics, we find out which of the businesses (players) are closest to a monopoly (in minutes).

However, there's no easy intuitive grasp of 0.1016. Sparks created the "Rotation Index" by taking the inverse of this number, or 1/0.1016. The number you get is 9.8388. To quote Sparks again:

I think that you will agree that these numbers look very much like what you would subjectively conclude after viewing the above minute distributions.

In short, you should conclude that Meadors has a 9 to 10 player rotation - she's playing almost with two full units of players. This is a subjective measure - it doesn't really spit out the number of players in a rotation, but you can imagine it as such.

Here are the numbers for the entire WNBA before the games of August 24, 2009:

Seattle 7.44
Washington 8.11
Detroit 8.55
Indiana 8.60
Phoenix 8.61
New York 8.83
Los Angeles 8.98
San Antonio 9.27
Minnesota 9.34
Chicago 9.48
Atlanta 9.84
Sacramento 10.23
Connecticut 10.43

We can see that the Storm depend strongly on certain players who eat up the bulk of the teams minutes - if you want an imaginary number of players in the Storm rotation, why not choose "7" or "8" as suggested by the Rotation Index? Whereas Sacramento and Connecticut practically use everyone they can find.

Q suggested this might be a way of looking at whether coaches were strong coaches or weak coaches. A weak coach has an inconsistent rotation and is always flipping players in and out, whereas a strong coach identifies her best players and sticks with them. Theoretically, a high Rotation Index should equal a good coach? Right?

Sparks disagrees.

Based solely on these results, it is difficult to discern whether smaller or larger rotations correlate with success. Many good teams appear to have small rotations, but many other good teams appear to have large rotations.

Furthermore, these results can be skewed by trades or injuries. Each of these events break up the distribution of minutes. Connecticut and Sacramento might simply have had a lot of injuries - or trades - or maybe it's just Mike Thibault's style to use up a lot of players.

So if you're the fan of a particular team, you can ask yourself: "does my team's place in the Rotation Index list say more about my coach's style of play, or does it say more about external circumstances, or does it say something about my coach's inability to play players consistently?" I'll let the reader be the judge.

26/2009 - Sparks 91, Dream 87

Old meets new.

It's odd that I've been to about 20 or so Atlanta Dream home games - probably more - but have never been to a major college basketball game. I'm not going to put down Georgia Tech and the fine work they do - I see a lot of Tech games - but they can't fill the rafters at Alexander Memorial Coliseum, and that's a shame. Atlanta has a great women's team of its own and it's just being ignored. (The local media probably isn't much help, but I don't want to turn this into an ongoing rant.)

I've never been to, say, a Tennessee game. I'm sure that they have packed crowds. I've never been to one, but after attending the Dream/Sparks game, I understand what the charm is about. It was almost like attending a Tennessee basketball game. The intensity both of the crowd and of the players was phenomenal. It might have not been the best WNBA game I've ever seen, but it's one of the most enjoyable experiences I've ever had at Philips Arena. If you didn't see this game - you missed a good 'un.

My thoughts:

1) I could guess that this was going to be a hot ticket. Marynell Meadors appeared to be entertaining visitors from the bench, or just schmoozing patrons. During practice, the team was working on free throws, and they should work on free throws. At least Jennifer Lacy was.

2) On the other end, Vanessa Hayden was working out with I think Bruce Deziel, the Sparks conditioning coach. This is the first time I've actually seen someone other than the Dream run serious drills before a game started. Most of the times, the visiting teams are involved in an unfocused shootaround, or someone like Becky Hammon will work on her 3-point shooting. The Sparks were clearly doing a perimeter shooting drill.

Carol Ross, meanwhile, continues to work with our post game. We might not hit a lot of 3s, but we hit a lot of 2s.

3) B-Money was back. I saw Betty Lennox embracing Jen Lacy on the Dream side of the court. There aren't a whole lot of people left for Lennox to say hello to - Lacy, Castro Marques and Latta are the sole survivors. Lennox, however, seemed like she was in a good mood, even giving Michelle Snow a hug.

4) I managed to catch a Mystics #23 jersey in the crowd as the gates opened - this was Holdsclaw's first number when she was with the Mystics. Talk about your throwback jerseys.

5) Then, the gates opened and a flood entered Philips Arena. I saw more Tennessee gear that you could have sold in a life time, even if you opened up a garage sale in Knoxville. It was a suburban, middle class crowd that skewed older - the kind of people that could take the time to make it all the way to Atlanta for a Dream game. The joke being that you could have walked from the upper level down to center court on the heads of those wearing Tennessee gear and your feet would have never touched ground until you hit the sideline.

6) Of course, there were other jerseys - Candace Parker's #3, in both home and away versions. I saw at least three such jerseys. Some people aren't only team fans, they're player fans. (A Candace Parker Tennessee jersey would have impressed me more. Then again, I've never seen a North Carolina Latta jersey, either.)

7) Walking around on center court - Ron Terwilliger, owner of the Atlanta Dream. He had a beer in his hand. Seeing the crowd, he must have been happy. Drink up, Mr. Terwilliger!

8) The anthem was sung by LaToya Jones. It was a good performance, although I think it was a little long.

9) Game time. Of course they were going to lower the lights and pump Philips Arena full of 120-decibel noise. The crowd could have eaily matched that.

Getting huge cheers were Candace Parker, obviously. Lisa Leslie got huge cheers - the crowd knew it was her final appearance. (Unless we meet in the finals.) Michelle Snow? Big cheers too, being a Tennessee alumna.

However, Ivory Latta also got hugh cheers. Erika de Souza also got a huge response from the crowd. Maybe Lady Vols fans know their WNBA better than I thought they did.

10) Chamique Holdsclaw was announced along with the reserves. She got big cheers - but I could tell by the way she moved that she was virtually crippled. She was just hobbling out there, not limping but clearly not at full speed and with an awkward half-jogging gait.

We need The Claw. Meadors would decided not to start Holdsclaw, a wise move. Give that knee all the time in the world.

11) Starters for Atlanta: McCoughtry, Lyttle, De Souza, Castro Marques, Lehning. This was McCoughtry's second start of her career.
Starters for Los Angeles: Milton-Jones, Thompson, Leslie, Parker, Harrower. I looked forward to a Milton-Jones/McCoughtry matchup.

12) The game started out good. Tina Thompson made a bad pass, McCoughtry got the steal and went to the other end of the court by herself. 2-0 Dream.

13) Los Angeles, however, decided to put the screws to us early. They went on a 10-0 run, marked with a couple of 3-pointers by Thompson and Parker.

It was almost comical at times. Lehning thought she had an open drive to the basket, only to find Parker at the other end. Our distributor-style point guard found no one to distribute to and an ugly surprise at the end. Lehning might be good, but Lehning vs. Candace Parker is a mismatch. You can guess how that possession ended.

McCoughtry's initial solution was to just shoot over Los Angeles's height. But L. A. has a lot of height. Her jumper, arced too high, fell short.

14) Now I know where those Latta cheers are coming from. One gentleman had a sign that simply read: "LATTA!" I guess when you say Latta, you've said it all.

15) During this awful run, the entertainers for the Dream went to the audience to ask them trivia questions. The first one: "Which city is the #1 ozone-polluted city?" There were three choices, one being Los Angeles. Of course, the fan got the answer correct. The theme of "torment LA" had been established.

16) We had a hard time getting traction. Lehning would beat Kristi Harrower one possession and Lyttle would be stripped by Harrower the next. McCoughtry missed an open look shot.

At that moment, the announcer pointed out the presence of Pat Summitt in the front row. Summitt stood, and the crowd stood and applauded. Finally, they were applauding something that wasn't L. A. scoring.

17) Iziane Castro Marques sensed that we were falling behind. Usually, when it looks like we're getting buried, Iziane figures, "hey, if we're going to lose I might as well score 30 points". (The "Izi effect".) She brought us back up to within 3 points, 18-15.

It was then that Michael Cooper decided to bring Betty Lennox in. You remember "B-Money! Cha-Ching!" which was the old announcement whenever Betty Lennox scored? Well, when Betty Lennox scored the announcer said, quietly, "Betty Lennox". Sic transit gloria mundi.

18) I believe I said earlier that the key to the Dream winning is that our bigs - Lyttle and de Souza - intimidate the hell out of anyone trying to play them off the glass. De Souza has that spin move that's just fatal. Unfortunately, the likes of Lisa Leslie and Candace Parker are very hard to intimidate and they begin to push the Dream off the glass, since it's really the only game we've got.

The Sparks went on a 13-2 run, interrupted only by a McCoughtry basket. Latta came in for the helpless Lehning, but that didn't help. Betty Lennox hit a couple of threes. Armintie Price came in, made a bad shot, and committed a double-dribble. (I think jaye might be right when he said that Price watches her own dribble.) By the end of the quarter, the score was 30-19. With Betty Lennox's three to start the second, the Sparks would be up by 14 points.

19) I thought the place was looking pretty full. A friend and I were talking about attendance and I said, "you know, this might be the best turnout we've had since Camp Day".

20) Ivory Latta vs. Shannon Bobbitt - a matchup for the ages. It's the first time I've seen Latta matched up with someone who was smaller than she was.

The first time Latta had the ball, she lost it. Then she hit a 3-pointer. Then another 3-pointer. Then she got the foul from Shannon Bobbitt and sank two. In 90 seconds, Latta had scored eight points.

21) Some high weirdness - Michelle Snow taking a 3-point shot from the top of the arc and having it clank off the rim. The temperature must have risen 10 degrees as Pat Summitt's heat vision bored right through Snow.

22) Iziane, on the other hand, kept the hot hand and showed Atlanta "what would the Atlanta Dream be like if they had a consistent 3-point game?" I think the answer is "unbeatable". Castro Marques began to dig the Dream out of the hole all by her lonesome. She hit a 3pointer, then later sank two free throws off a foul by Delisha Milton-Jones. Then, when Lisa Leslie missed a layup, Castro Marques hit another 3-pointer eight minutes later. The gap was down to six points, 43-37 Los Angeles.

23) There is one thing that Los Angeles can do that really impresses me - it is their ability to pass the ball. When they decide that they want to pass it, not only can they pass it with precision but their height is absolutely a killer. If they find Leslie or Parker with a lob pass, not only can either of those players bring the ball down but a smaller player can't stop them. Lyttle and De Souza can't do that since they are the targets of passes from shorter players.

24) I got to see a Georgia Tech commercial at the game! Huzzah! And guess who was at the game? Head Coach Machelle Joseph and the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. (But where was Georgia State? Why didn't you represent?)

25) With 2:22 going in the first half, Lacy hit a 3-pointer to close the score to 45-40.

26) An amusing sequence:

01:55 Castro Marques Rebound (Off:0 Def:2)
01:51 Castro Marques Layup Shot: Missed
01:50 McCoughtry Rebound (Off:1 Def:1)
01:48 McCoughtry Putback Layup Shot: Missed
01:47 DeSouza Rebound (Off:2 Def:2)
01:47 DeSouza Putback Layup Shot: Missed Block: Parker (2 BLK)
01:47 Lacy Rebound (Off:1 Def:3)

After four Dream players got their hands on the ball, Lacy finally got the foul, hitting one of two free throws. It was now 45-41. Los Angeles was over the limit in fouls.

27) McCoughtry was going to the boards as hard as anyone else, but she couldn't get the shots to fall. During the last 1:15, the Dream missed four shots - although one was a desperation time-expiring shot with Angel McCoughtry playing 1-on-3. The half ended with the Sparks leading 47-41.

28) Halftime: The big spectacle at halftime was the awarding of an Atlanta Dream jersey to Pat Head Summitt. This brought the crowd on their feet. Coach Summitt's number in the Dream pantheon is #1000, or "1K". Summitt is the only NCAA basketball coach in Division I (male or female) to win 1000 games.

29) The Atlanta Dream instituted a new program, modeled after the successful "Cash for Clunkers". It was called "Cash for Cluckers" and featured Atlanta Dream mascot Star and two fans, one wearing a Dream shirt and the other wearing L. A. colors. The game was to see who could act the most like a chicken. Each fan would be blindfolded and begin imitating corn-eating fowl. The winner got a prize.

The joke was that as the Los Angeles fan started her chicken dance, the Atlanta fan's blindfold was removed and she and Star sat down and ate popcorn. Silly Sparks fan! You got punk'd! (I suspect, however, that this was not an actual Los Angeles Sparks fan. Maybe the SparksFO will plan revenge.)

30) A lot of the fans disappeared at 1/2 time. Why? The Lady Vols were out in the lobby signing autographs. I don't see why they left, since I suspect that most of these fans have enough Lady Vols signatures to fill a family bible - "The Gospel According to Pat".

31) The Dream had been held to 5 rebounds in the first half and only shot 38.9 percent to the Sparks's 46.3 pecent. We were losing the battle of the boards. On the other hand, we went 5-for-8 from 3-point land.

32) Lyttle, after being held scoreless in the first half, got her head on straight. She scored the first four points for the Dream in the third, beating Parker one-on-one for the second basket. It was now a two point game, 47-45.

33) Angel McCoughtry was the participant in the iPod Challenge. Her task was to sing "Bootylicious" by Destiny's Child. She substituted a few Dream-centric lyrics and sang something which only had a slight resemblance to Destiny's Child and a stronger resemblance to a cat in a blender.

34) The Dream brought out the Sugar Hill Gang song "Apache" to move the crowd. Usually, we don't get to hear "Apache" until the fourth quarter. Maybe both teams were playing so hard that it seemed like 40 minutes.

35) The T-shirts the Shooting Stars Dancers were wearing under their red zip-ups? They read "BEAT LA". The announcer tried to get a "BEAT LA" chant going, with limited success.

36) The Dream were finally fighting back on the boards, not assuming that LA would fold. Iziane hit a 3-pointer to close the game to within one, and with 6:50 left, McCoughtry made a layup that returned the lead to Atlanta, 52-51.

37) The next minute or so categorizes Los Angeles's temporary third-quarter meltdown:

Quinn Foul : Shooting (2 PF)
Leslie Foul : Loose Ball (3 PF)
Harrower Foul : Personal (1 PF)
Harrower Foul : Shooting (2 PF)
Leslie Foul : Offensive (4 PF)
Leslie Turnover : Foul (2 TO)

Iziane hit another 3-pointer. McCoughtry hit a jumper with 5 minutes left. The Dream were up 58-53 and the attendance was announced....

...11,304! A sell-out crowd! The announcer played another fourth quarter staple, "YMCA".

38) Los Angeles woke up. For the rest of the quarter, it was very intense and Los Angeles closed to a one-possession game. Latta was in the game but it seemed that the Sparks had figured out Latta. With 30 seconds left, Noelle Quinn hit a pair of free throws to finish the third quarter with a 63-63 tie.

The Dream announced Iziane Castro Marques as the Player of the Game with 23 points. My friend and I rolled our eyes. They play four quarters. I don't know if the DFO remembered that, but I'm sure that the Sparks did.

39) The "BEAT-L-A" chant came back, but in the fourth quarter, Los Angeles started with a 10-4 run. Thompson was left wide open on a jump shot. Michelle Snow threw up an airball and it seemed like Atlanta was regressing. Latta picked up her third personal foul - why, I can't figure out because I don't think she was doing anything wrong.

With 6:08 left, the Sparks had a 75-67 lead. The trivia people went out in the audience and asked which city had the worst traffic: Atlanta, New York, or Los Angeles? Can you guess the answer?

40) The Dream had an advantage - Lisa Leslie had picked up her fifth foul. The question was if the Dream could make up the deficity. Los Angeles began to push the Dream back off the boards again.

Time was starting to run out. Down 81-73, Lyttle, McCoughtry, Castro Marques (from three), and Lehning all tried shots - but the Sparks closed the basket. An Iziane Castro Marques brought it to a two-possession game, 81-75, with 1:58 left.

41) Unfortunately, Erika de Souza and Ivory Latta committed three personal fouls each in the fourth quarter. With 49.2 seconds left, Atlanta was already over the limit. This began what I call the Long March to the Payback Bar. Atlanta would foul, and try to force the Sparks to flinch at the free throw line.

The Dream sent Parker twice. They sent Milton-Jones, Lennox, and Thompson once. Ten free throws...and the Sparks hit nine of them. The game had bogged down so much that one fan screamed at the referees, "Are you getting paid by the hour?!"

42) With 13 seconds left, Thompson hit two free throws to put the game effectively out of reach, 89-82. Six seconds later, Mccoughtry hit a jumper - her 20th point - to close the gap to 89-84 with 7 seconds left. So Parker got sent back to the foul line, and as before, hit both shots.

McCoughtry hit a final 3-pointer with 2 seconds left to close the Dream to 91-87. But the Dream couldn't come back. Our 3-game win streak was over.

(* * *)

After the game, Pat Summitt spoke to the collected crowd. It was a short speech - maybe 3 1/2 minutes or so. She talked about the need to support the WNBA and women's basketball, and by extension, the Dream. I fully concur.

Whew. I feel like I just played the game. The statistical post-mortem comes later.

Dream/Sparks Gallery from

Craig Cappy's gallery of pictures from the Dream/Sparks game is up.

SPM sports also has an article about the game.'s "Tennessee division" has a Tennessee-centric summary as well.

A Tough Ticket

The haters love to mock WNBA attendance, but Clay of the Clay and Robbie Blog found that getting tickets to the Dream/Sparks game wasn't so easy:

I search the ticket office and found there were indeed tickets left. To my thinking, I could wait and grab the $5 off coupon from Sherie and I would be in the door for $5. At 12:04 no tickets were available. OMG I thought. What will I do? How did I left myself pass the opportunity to see Pat Summitt?


We parked and headed to the Box Office. OMG at all the Knoxville buses letting fans off. I swear it looked like Tennessee on football game day. I have never seen so much orange. Anyway, we walked on and one of the fans told us that Pat Summitt had bused all the fans down for free that wanted to come and had tickets. Is she not precious? How sweet.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sparks Have Too Much Spark; Dream Lose

Man, that was the biggest crowd of the year. I suspect that half of the people there were either:

a) Tennessee fans,
b) Sparks fans, or
c) Both.

Great game. It was like watching the playoffs, but the bad part was that we lost. I think it was the best game I've seen all year. That was how basketball should be played.

More later, obviously.

UPDATE: Here's the link to the AJC story. Be sure you take a look at the picture of Jennifer Lacy comforting "Michelle Snow". Just remember, for expert coverage, your local paper is right on it.

Atlanta vs. Los Angeles, Sunday August 23

Who: The Atlanta Dream (14-11) take on the Los Angeles Sparks (12-13), a game between two potential WNBA playoff teams.

The Dream have Chamique Holdsclaw (13.9 ppg) as well as All-Star Team members Sancho Lyttle (13.4 ppg) and Erika de Souza (10.9 ppg). Lisa Leslie (15.1 ppg) and Tina Thompson (12.2 ppg) lead the Sparks in scoring, and Candace Parker (10.9 ppg, 8.8 rpg) is always a threat.

What: The first of two games this year against the Sparks. The Dream are 1-1 lifetime against the Sparks.

Where: Philips Arena in Atlanta, GA

When: Tipoff is 3:00 pm Eastern on Sunday, August 23. The game is available on WNBA Live Access.

Why: There are so many whys that it's very difficult to pick one of them. As a matter of fact, if I were only allowed to see one Dream home game this year, this one would be the one.

1. This will be the last time Lisa Leslie appears in Atlanta as a player. She's retiring after this year. She is a 3-time WNBA Most Valuable Player, is the only player in the WNBA to score 6,000 points in a career and is a four-time Olympic gold medalist. If you don't see her during her last game in Atlanta, you have no one to blame but yourself.

2. This is the final weekend home game of the year. Furthermore, there are only two more home games left after this one - Tuesday's game against Sacramento and a game in Saturday against Connecticut. Of course, there's always the playoffs....

3. Tennessee head coach Pat Summitt is going to speak to the crowd after the game. Summitt is the only head coach, male or female, in NCAA Division I basketball to win 1,000 games in a career. And you don't even have to pay extra to hear her speak.

4. The Dream have won three straight. The Sparks have won four straight. So someone's winning streak has to die.

5. If you're a Betty Lennox fan, you get to see her in the enemy uniform. Lennox was the lead scorer for the Dream during the 2008 season.

6. Dunkamania. Lisa Leslie and Candace Parker are the only two players who have dunked in a regular season WNBA game. Michelle Snow of the Dream has dunked in college, but not in the pro game. It is not out of the realm of possibility that someone could throw down.

7. Really, who doesn't want to beat the damned Sparks? They get all the popular players. They're always in the news. It's always "Lisa Leslie this" and "Candace Parker that" in the print media. (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution might even show up!) It's time to develop some good old fashioned hatred and cheer for the home team against the Sparks.

25/2009 - Dream 93, Silver Stars 87 - The Fiery Angel

A quick post-mortem of Thursday's Atlanta-San Antonio game because I want to prepare both physically and mentally for today's Atlanta-Los Angeles game.

McCoughtry's 34-point game is at the very least tied for the best game this year played by a Dream player, tied with Erika de Souza's game in that 84-79 loss to Indiana where she had 23 points and 14 rebounds. If McCoughtry's game wasn't the best game by a rookie this year, it was certainly one of the best and has the potential to shake up the Rookie of the Year race against DeWanna Bonner of the Mercury.

Dean Oliver's Four Factors:

1. Field goal shooting: The Silver Stars hit 45.1 percent of their baskets compared to 44.6 percent by the Dream. Comparing effective field goal shooting - where you include 3-pointers - San Antonio still holds the edge, 48.6 percent to 46.0 percent.

Normally, San Antonio and Becky Hammon can shoot the lights out. However, they only went 5-for-22 from 3-point range.

2. Turnovers: It was a great, low-turnover game. The Dream held the edge with 10 total turnovers compared to 13 from the Sparks.

3. Offensive rebounding: The Dream held a decisive edge here, earning 17 offensive rebounds to the Silver Stars's eight. Offensive rebounding percentages were 37.7 percent for the Dream and 23.5 percent for the Silver Stars. Despite having Wauters and Riley, the Dream kept San Antonio away from the Boards.

4. Free throw visits: The Dream went to the line 36 times compared to just 22 times from San Antonio - however, it only figured to be seven more points for Atlanta. The Dream hit only 69.4 percent from the line, compared to 81.8 percent from the Silver Stars. We won the battle in volume, but not in quality.

Let's look at the individual Silver Stars players:

Becky Hammon: 23 points, 5 assists, and the hearts of fans everywhere. Let's not talk about the six turnovers (half the team's TOs!) or four personal fouls or 1-for-8 shooting from 3-point range.
Ann Wauters: 21 points, 7 rebounds. 9-for-14 shooting, and Wauters led the team in raw plus/minus with +7.
Sophia Young: 20 points, 6 rebounds. 8-for-13 shooting.
Vickie Johnson: Played 21 minutes, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists - but only two points, both on free throws.
The San Antonio Bench: 19 total points. 5-for-19 shooting.

And now, a peek at the beloved Dream:

Angel McCoughtry: 34 points on 12-for-18 shooting. She had 7 rebounds and 4 assists. The only detractions were five personal fouls and a 10-for-17 performance at the free throw line - if she had hit just one more free throw, she would have "shot her number" (she wears #35). Her +17 in raw plus/minus led the team. Clearly, Angel McCoughtry is the Dreamer of the Game.

Erika de Souza: Of the two posts who were close to a double-double, de Souza had the better game. 8 points and 11 rebounds, although unimpressive 4-for-11 shooting. De Souza also had a couple of steals.

Sancho Lyttle: 14 points and 8 rebounds. 6-for-14 shooting. She was really working on that midrange jumper on Thursday night.

Shalee Lehning: Lehning might not have been ranked this high after the first three quarters - she shot 0-for-3 during the game. But she went 6-for-8 at the free throw line in the fourth quarter, and she led with 6 assists. We might be winning because of her, or in spite of her, but we're winning nonetheless.

Iziane Castro Marques: Castro Marques's rebounds at the end of the fourth quarter sealed the game. 15 points and 3 assists over 24 minutes of play.

Michelle Snow: She scored 8 points and 6 rebounds in just 13 minutes and she had a raw plus/minus of +13. Not bad at all.

Coco Miller: Now we're dropping to the average-or-below level in player evaluation. She scored 5 points on 2-for-3 shooting in the eight minutes she played.

Armintie Price: 2 assists and 3 rebounds in almost 10 minutes of play. No points though, and she missed both of her free throws.

Ivory Latta: 1-for-4 shooting. But she hit a 3-pointer and had a +4 in plus/minus. Aside from that horrible sequence, was she really that bad?

Jennifer Lacy: One rebound, two personal fouls and a turnover. Zero points. Only played six minutes. She must be providing leadership, I suppose.

Chamique Holdsclaw: The Still Snoozin' award was named aptly in The Claw's case, who started the game 0-for-3 and only had one rebound in the first seven minutes. Marynell Meadors decided to sit The Claw down and let her rest, and when McCoughtry turned on the juice, Holdsclaw simply grabbed her pajamas and a pillow and watched the game from the comfort of the bench. Get your rest, because we're going to need you against Los Angeles.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Derek Jackson's Dream/Silver Stars Pics

They can be found right here on Flickr.

Definitely worth a look.

The Atlanta Dream Bridal Show

A link from The Wedding Boutique Blog. This involves a promotion for the September 11th game, not the game coming up on Sunday:

Atlanta offers a lot of bridal shows to choose from but this one is truly unique. After three successful years with the NBA, Brides and Basketball is coming to Atlanta in conjunction with the Atlanta Dream!

This creative idea is being supported across the country. The bridal exhibitors are put right in the arena, and all attendees - brides and basketball fans alike - have the opportunity to mingle with many of Atlanta's wedding experts.

In addition to all of the media sponsors, there will also be great giveaways such as trips to NEW ORLEANS, 8-DAY STAYS IN MEXICO, and THE FIRST 100 COUPLES TO ATTEND WILL RECEIVE A CERTIFICATE FOR FREE WEDDING BANDS!

The actual link is here. Hey, I'm all for the promotion! It's a pity this wasn't in effect last year, or it might have been cheaper for Katie Feenstra to buy a gown.

Dream/Silver Stars Gallery

Photo by, cropped by me. has both the gallery of images from Thursday's Dream/Silver Stars matchup and they have a game writeup as well.

Go visit. Soak it in. More posts today, maybe.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Why Lyttle and McCoughtry are Sleepy

They were awake at 4 am taping a segment at CBS Better Mornings this morning.

If you want to see a picture of them getting ready, here it is.

(Thanks to @atlantadream at Twitter.)

25/2009 - Dream 93, Silver Stars 87

"I'm taller than you! I'm taller than you!"

We've now won 7 out of 8 games, but not everything is happy in Atlanta Dream fandom, with the Lehning/Latta wars still turned up to "11" on a scale from 1-to-10. ("You young whippersnappers! I would have let Marynell Meadors send five kindergarteners out if they could have won five games in a season!")

While the fans were arguing, the Dream was going on about its business. The victory over the Silver Stars marked the first time that the Dream have swept a team during the season - ever. The win put us at 14-11 and still clearly in second place. Furthermore, the Dream still have two games left in our homestand before the brutal part of our schedule where we finish the regular season with 6 out of 7 road games.

Here's what you missed last night:

1) As I was walking to my seat, I actually passed a Silver Stars player walking up the stairs. I didn't greet her, she didn't greet me because I didn't recognize her by sight. She was a white player with a stern-looking look on her face. It wasn't Ruth Riley or Becky Hammon; I would have recognized them.

2) Ross continues to work with players before the game: this time with Lyttle, Erika de Souza, and Lacy. Even Fred Williams was out there. And Sue Panek! This is a big difference from last year, when it seemed that no body really got out there and worked on anything before gametime except for Betty Lennox. Meadors was out there, but she took a seat on the opposite side of the court from practice, drinking everything in.

3) The Dream were wearing orange T-shirts that read "BUZZKILL". I have no idea what "Buzzkill" stood for. Is it a sponsor? Is it a charity? Or did one of the coaches decide to create a motivational T-shirt. If so, I like the idea - the Dream might not be the best WNBA team, but we'll be the "buzzkill" for a lot of teams this year.

4) I saw an older woman wearing a #25 Hammon jersey. She looked old enough to be a season ticket holder; our STH's tend towards gray. A few minutes later, I saw a couple of young women wearing Hammon #25s as well. Clearly, the Hammonite base extends to the ATL.

5) Becky Hammon. Then, Hammon started to warm up. I counted the number of consecutive 3-pointers she hit. She hit 17 straight. I swore, "if we leave Hammon open, we'll pay for it."

6) On the other hand, I saw a fan wearing the pink Shalee Lehning #5 jersey from the previous game. That jersey was signed by Lehning, but it didn't end up in a glass case - the fan that won it was wearing it.

You go, girl.

7) The national anthem singer tonight was Audra Martin. There was a friend from out-of-town who attended the game, and I spent a lot of time chatting with him. Not much random observation. I don't know how well Audra Martin.

He said that he had heard that the Dream had a 5-year contract with Philips Arena. Hopefully, that means that the Dream will be there for five years. However, the Arena at Gwinnett Center had lost the Georgia Force with the folding of the Arena Football League and supposedly, the Arena wanted a tenant to replace the Force. Interesting.

8) The Dream starters: Lehning, Castro Marques, Lyttle, de Souza, Holdsclaw
The Silver Stars starters: Johnson, Young, Wauters, Lawson-Wade, Hammon

9) The Dream brought out what I call the "running lights". I like the running lights; it looks like they're going to be a permanent thing. If we could afford extra smoke, I'd like that too.

10) Noting that Lehning followed Bird around everywhere in the last game, she stayed away from Becky Hammon. Clearly, the Dream were going to start the game in the zone defense, where everyone guards a certain area of the court. Lehning's first shot was what I like to call a "high school miss" - where you shoot and the ball hits the rim from below.

We got off to a 8-4 lead. Then, San Antonio put in what I like to call the "Twin Towers", Ann Wauters and Ruth Riley.

11) This was enough to spark a 10-0 Silver Stars run. Riley was left wide open by the Dream defense and Lehning was forced to foul her. Holdsclaw didn't look all that great, missing her first three shots. Iziane Castro Marques's shot bounced inside the rim and went right back out again.

12) We then put in Angel McCoughtry. Or rather, Meadors did. McCoughtry's first score was a steal from Becky Hammon that led to her scoring all by her lonesome. Less than a minute later, Lehning found McCoughtry and she scored again. We were on a 6-0 run (really an 8-0 run as we scored first in the second). The score was 14-14 at the end of the first, and Meadors must have said, "I think I'll try this Angel McCoughtry person. See if she works out or not."
12a) Minor note. We might have scored again at the end of the first if Iziane Castro Marques didn't hang onto the ball with 2.5 seconds left, and then get the call for traveling.

13) The start of the second was tough. We still led, but could never get more than two possessions in front of the Silver Stars. Snow put a nasty block on an Ann Wauters (!) jump shot, and Snow looked like she was going to roar like a lioness.

However, San Antonio tied it 23-23 and a layup by Lawson-Wade put the Silver Stars in the lead again, 25-23.

14) Now it was a one possession game. Becky Hammon woke up and scored her first basket in the second quarter.

I turned to my friend. "We must be doing something right to keep Becky Hammon from scoring."

"Mark my words," he said, "she'll have 20 points by the time the night is over."

15) Hammon is known as a great shooter, but what makes her so effective is that she's a great ball handler like Chamique Holdsclaw. She can come off either hand, and she has this bizarre reverse spin move layup that my friend called a "cobra". Probably because by the time that you learn that you've just got bitten, you're dead.

16) The Dream brought Armintie Price into the game in the second quarter. Looks like the Dream plan to use her.

17) McCoughtry, meanwhile, was laying into San Antonio like a pinball to bumpers. If there was even a six-inch gap in a lane, McCoughtry said, "I'm going to hit that". She worked her way through San Antonio's defenders time after time after time. In order to stop McCoughtry, they would have needed three extra players, and the refs weren't going to cooperate.

Atlanta took off on a 7-0 run that broke the logjam and put us up 38-31. San Antonio had hit a rough patch. Megan Frazee was left wide open but it didn't matter because Frazee missed the three. Hammon drove to the basket on a fantastic dribble but the ball wouldn't fall in from four feet away.

18) Latta was now in the game. The last 1:22 of the second half pretty much characterize Latta's 2009 season and her relationship with Meadors.

Latta moved up the ball and worked the clock down to its last seconds. We were getting really antsy. The ball ended up in Latta's hands outside the arc and just as time expired, she shot - one of those "shoot or we have a 24-second violation" shots. It went in, out of 1/2 practice and 1/2 luck.

The next time the Dream got the ball, Latta uncorked too early - she had about 7 seconds left on the clock, the ball clanged off the rim and went into the hands of Vickie Johnson. Johnson raced down the court with Atlanta's defense behind her and only Ivory Latta in front of her. Latta was forced to foul. Instead of having an eight point lead at halftime (assuming we set up the shot), Johnson hits two free throws on Latta's foul and we lead 41-37 at the half.

That was when Meadors should have just told Latta, "Just go take a shower, because I won't put you back in for the rest of the game." It would have been a lot nicer than leaving Latta on the bench. Not a good sequence from Latta, but a harsh punishment.

19) The Silver Stars were only shooting 37 percent in the first half. Furthermore, San Antonio only hit 1 out of 10 3-pointers in the first half. The Dream shot 44 percent.

Angel McCoughtry scored 13 points in the second quarter and led all scorers with 17 first-half points. Ann Wauters led San Antonio with 11 points and Hammon had been held to six points. Sancho Lyttle had eight points and six rebonds, and Erika de Souza had 6 points and 9 rebounds. I figured one of the two of them would have a double-double before the game is over.

20) The 2009 Power of Girls Mentoring program was honored. It was a great idea for a program - a program to teach self-image, communication, confidence and community service. I hope that the DFO decides to do it again next year; I think that the Dream's community service efforts this year have been laudable.

21) Guess who was at the game? Katie Feenstra Mattera. Trust me, no one can miss Katie Mattera. She was with her husband, wearing a maroon top, jeans, and a brown leather purse. She looked styling, and very happy.

Supposedly, Art Eckman's play-by-play demeanor perked up considerably. He had learned that his Katie was in the house.

22) At the beginning of the second half, Holdsclaw didn't come out. Some of the fans were puzzled. You notice that.

It was still a two-possession game, but at least we led it. Iziane hit her first basket of the game in the third quarter, but we were still wide open in some cases. Hammon hit a wide open jumper on us.

23) However, McCoughtry was still out there on us. She was getting fouled, hitting free throws, and scoring baskets. As we were mid-third quarter McCoughtry had 22 points.

24) There was some sort of weird free throw shooting contest from a native Brazilian who was found in the audience. He missed every shot but his last one.

The Dream announcer thanked him for playing. He had to get the last word in. "Hi, Erika!" Clearly, he was a very happy man.

25) Something much have happened and Iziane heard there was another Brazilian in the building. THe Dream went on an 8-0 run. Iziane basket. Then Iziane 1-on-3 for a basket. Then another Iziane basket. Then Angel scored her 24th point on a basket. The Dream were now up 59-49.

We really should invite more Brazilians to see the Dream.

26) The attendance was announced at 5,848. My friend and I were so shocked our mouths were hanging open. If there were 5,848 people in that crowd then half of them were at the concession stands, 'cause we didn't see 'em.

27) The Dream kept on roll-roll-rolling along. Angel McCoughtry blocked a Becky Hammon 3-point attempt. Both teams went over the limit in fouls and from there on it was the Great March to the Foul Line which is seen in such situation. The Silver Stars were getting dinged with offensive foul calls and at one point, the Dream led 69-51.

An 18 point lead! No WNBA team has ever lost an 18 point lead this year! Surely, this game was in the bank! We finished the 3rd quarter 71-57 and had every reason to feel confident.

28) Now, it was time for the San Antonio comeback. They had Hammon and Frazee out there, and you know they can shoot threes. Even Ann Wauters, under the right circumstances, can hit a 3-pointer. Michelle Snow got a basket on a roll and a prayer, but Frazee followed with a 3-pointer and cut our lead to 10, 73-63 with over nine minutes to go.

29) The iPod Challenger singer last night was Shalee Lehning. She sang something by Britney Spears that ended, "I'm not that innocent!" Suuuuurrrrrrrre.

30) From then on, it was a fight. Sophia Young, Ann Wauters and Becky Hammon were determined to pour it on. Hammon, in particular, was on fire in the final quarter, scoring 13 points.

Angel McCoughtry was back in though, and the fans were going to get their money's worth.

31) Angel had 32 points and the Dream lead 86-74. My friend asked, "Is she going to get her number?" Her number being #35, or 35 points.

The frustration was showing from the women in the black jerseys. Becky Hammon grappled Armintie Price despite the fact that Atlanta was not over the limit yet. Price shoots about 52 percent from the free throw line; it might have been worth something if Atlanta was over the limit. But we weren't.

32) A loose ball foul by Shalee Lehning put Atlanta over the limit in fouls at 3:18 to go. It was now time for the Dream to hold their breath.

33) We sent Hammon to the line for two: she hit both of them.
We sent Young to the line for two: she hit both of them. It was an 88-78 game with 2:39 to go.

34) Armintie Price finally got a chance to go to the line with 2:22 go.

The first free throw was an airball. The second one hit the backboard, but not the basket. Coming to Atlanta has not improved Price's free throw shooting skill. She needs to be taught how to shoot granny-style, which is a more accurate way of shooting that no one - man or woman - will use because it looks too wimpy.

35) The Brazilian fans started waving the Brazilian flag. I should have started singing: "Ouviram do Ipiranga as margens plácidas/De um povo heróico o brado retumbante...!"

36) With less than two minutes left, McCoughtry was starting to look gassed for the first time in the game. She missed a couple of free throws - either would have given her her "number" and followed it up with her fifth personal foul on a Hammon layup.

Hammon hit the free throw. It was now an 89-84 game with 1:24 remaining.

37) What followed was nothing short of amazing. McCoughtry tried the shot with 1:05 remaining - and she missed it. It was her final shot of the night....

...but Castro Marques got the rebound. (That Brazilian flag working its magic.) She let the clock wind down...slowly...slowly...down to 39.9 seconds before she shoots....

...and she misses. But she gets the rebound! Now, San Antonio has to foul.

38) Lehning hits both free throws. (She's only shooting 77 percent from the field.) It's a three possession game, 91-84, and San Antonio takes a time out.

39) On the next play, they get the ball to Megan Frazee, who tries a 3-pointer. Nada. Lehning gets the rebound this time, and San Antonio fouls her.

Both shots go in with 22.4 seconds in the game. 93-84 Dream. This game is essentially over. Ann Wauters finally finds the 3-point shot, but there's only 11.3 seconds left the game. The ball is dribbled down, time expires...and the Dream win another won.

Coming up soon, tomorrow, whenever - the statistical post-mortem.