Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Hall of Fame Projector (2014) - "Everybody Else"

Let's now look at the players who are in the "everybody else" categories.  The Projector classifies these players as

Could go either way (70-79 percent)
Dark horses (60-69 percent)
Longshots (50-59 percent)

We have two players in each of these categories.  Let's look at their careers and try to figure out where they stand.  One of these players is already in the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.

Katie Douglas (73 percent):  Has one ring with the Indiana Fever.  Has six "All-Star Type" selections.  Not a lot of MVP buzz around Douglas though.  Generally, the Hall of Fame belongs to those players that you could plausibly say might be the best ever in some way, and I've never heard Douglas mentioned as the "Best Ever at _______".

Not to say that Douglas wasn't a very good player.  She was never named to an Olympic team.  Her selection to the WBHOF might hinge on her college career - she did help lead Purdue to it's only NCAA women's basketball championship in 1999 and to a Final Four appearance in 2001.

Carolyn Young (71 percent):  Young only played in 131 games in the ABL and the WNBA.  She was a leading scorer in the ABL and holds several records for the league but only played a couple of seasons in the WNBA in 2001 and 2002 for Portland. When Portland folded, so did her career.  Even though she played for a couple of Final Four teams in Auburn, I don't think she'll make the WBHOF.

Adrienne Goodson (67 percent):  Goodson lost many years to playing in Brazil.  At around the age of 30 she played for the Philadelphia/Richmond Rage of the ABL and then went over to the WNBA, playing for Utah, San Antonio, Houston and Charlotte.  She is 33rd all time in the WNBA in rebounds per game at 5.1.  She won an NCAA Championship with Old Dominion way back in 1985, but I don't think anyone's clamoring to put Goodson in the WBHOF.

Penny Taylor (67 percent):  Penny Taylor has played in the WNBA since 2001 but only sporadically - she has only eight seasons out of a possible 15.  She was a three-time MVP in the Women's National Basketball League of Australia and has made several appearances for the Opals in the Olympics and FIBA World Championshps.  She's played with domestic championship women's teams in Italy, Russia and Turkey.  The Projector only considers her years in the United States, so even though she scores low she'll probably get in considering her accomplishments for Australian and for European teams.

Jennifer Gillom (55 percent):  Gillom is another one of those early players who lost time due to lack of a professional league.  It didn't seem to hurt her candidacy for the Hall of Fame - she was named to the WBHOF in 2009, probably on the strength of her college career at Mississippi from 1982-1986 and a 16 year career playing professionally in Italy, Greece and Turkey.

Cheryl Ford (51 percent): Ford, the daughter of Karl Malone of the NBA, player her college basketball at Louisiana Tech.  She was the #3 overall pick in the 2003 WNBA Draft by the Detroit Shock and played seven seasons there, averaging ad ouble-double per game and earning three rings.

When Detroit's franchise was moved to Tulsa.  Ford was cored by the new Tulsa Shock, but she had torn her ACL in 2008 and couldn't play in the 2010 season because her knees were inflamed.  She decided to remain overseason until Bill Laimbeer signed Ford to play for the Liberty in 2013, but her knees had given out on her and she was cut by the team.  Who knows what Cheryl Ford could have done with a few more healthy years?

(* * *)

There is also a list of players not considered because they simply haven't played enough games yet to make the Hall of Fame Projector.  Maya Moore has 136 games as of the end of 2014 and will undoubtedly qualify at the end of this season, and she'll probably have a 100 percent score.

 Next behind her is Elena Delle Donne.  Elena Delle Donne is only at 32 percent, due to not having a lot of games, or rings, or MVP votes or All-Star selections.  Something tells me that by the time she does have enough games to qualify, none of those other factors will be a problem.

How can the WNBA break out of the "niche" category?

The New York Times recently posted an article called "Women's Teams Still Struggle for Fans".  The focus was on women's basketball, and its the kind of article where a 95 percent male sports department sticks its collective finger it its nose, says, "Gee, why don't people watch women's sports?" and goes back to devoting 95 percent of its coverage to men's sports.  (In Atlanta, it's 98 percent of the coverage.)

I thought about what I had read, and I began looking on line.  I found an article from The Atlantic written in 2012, written about a different sport, lacrosse.  The question was "Will Lacrosse Ever Go Mainstream?" 

The questions asked in that article are very pertinent to women's basketball.  The writer, Kevin Craft, identifies what he thinks a sport needs to break out of the niche and into popular culture.

1) Is there a crystallizing event that can help the sport get a toehold in the market?  For women's basketball, that event was the 1996 Olympics held in Atlanta.  The USA women's basketball team got great ratings.  The ratings were enough of an impetus to start the American Basketball League in 1996 (co-founded by US Olympian Jennifer Azzi) and the WNBA one year later.

2) Are there sports appropriate venues?  In order for a sport to get buzz, it has to look like its games are well-attended. 

Here is where the WNBA has a problem - its venues really don't work well for it.  Its venues are NBA pro stadiums, which are sized for NBA crowds, crowds that took fifty years to grow.  And this problem can't be solved as long as either a) NBA owners put WNBA teams in their NBA arena or b) independent WNBA owners rent NBA arenas. 

There are only three arenas in the WNBA that don't serve as NBA arenas. One, Key Arena, is an ex-NBA arena.  The other two are Allstate Arena in Rosemont and the Mohegan Sun Arena.  The crowds show up very well on screen during a Mohegan Sun game.  If a core of committed fans can be depended to show up, they can fill small arenas at first, and then larger arenas later.

3) Do the characteristics of the sport mesh with long-term social trends?  The "basketball" part of women's basketball is a plus.  Sports where movement is constant should become more popular as the culture moves more quickly.  As for the "women's" part of women's basketball, women's liberation is still a work in progress and the sport still has to fight the typical male chauvinism.

4) Will parents pass on the love of the sport to their children?  This is the big one.  Women's basketball needs some heavy evangelization.  There needs to be an emphasis at the grass roots level, and I don't mean high school basketball - I mean at the elementary/middle school level.  This is hard, since there is a lot of social pressure on young girls to be "girly" as opposed to "sporty".  There is still some work to do here. 

If I were running the WNBA, my efforts would be focused on the grassroots and attempting to move the games into cozier venues.  Yes, I know that people think that a pro venue adds legitimacy for some strange reason.  I disagree - playing in an empty cavern doesn't do anyone any good.  If financial reality means that WNBA teams are wed to NBA arenas, then the seating/television angles have to be changed in order to provide a real crowd experience that not only shows well on TV but electrifies the arena.

As for the grassroots, I don't know how that piece of the puzzle is solved.  It's one thing to make an occasional appearance at an elementary school, but it's another to grow a culture where girls can succeed as basketball all the way up from elementary school to high school to college.  Philadelphia had that kind of culture with its Catholic Leagues.  Transplanting that culture will be the big challenge.

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Hall of Fame Projector (2014) - The "Strong Candidates"

The next list of five players scored between 80 to 89 percent on the Hall of Fame Projector.  The people over at basketball-reference.com would call these players "Strong Candidates" for a future Hall of Fame membership.  One of these players is already in the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame but it might take some consideration for the other ones.

Deanna Nolan (88 percent) : Nolan is an odd case.  She's 30th all time in Win Shares with 31.3, she has three WNBA championship titles.  She falls a little short in MVP votes and All-Star (or Olympic/FIBA) selections, but there's a reason for that.

At the end of the 2009 season, the Detroit Shock franchise was transferred to Tulsa.  Nolan had played nine years with the Shock.  She stated that she didn't see herself personally willing to relocate and start with a rebuilding squad, and decided to not return to the WNBA.

From this article:

"I don't think I will return to the WNBA," Nolan said. "Of course, I would love to play in America, but there's no way any player can live off of a WNBA salary. The NBA players make millions of dollars and the top WNBA player probably makes $100,000 to $105,000 before taxes."

Nolan currently plays with UMMC Ekaterinburg and is still active overseas.  But we've seen the last of Nolan in the WNBA, barring her being released from UMMC and needing a job.  I don't think Hall of Fame voters will be prejudiced against her; the question is if they'll have her in mind at all now that she's been playing outside the US for the last six years.

Swin Cash (88 percent):  Cash also has three rings with Detroit.  But was she the best player on Detroit's squad?  In 2003 and 2004 she was, after that she never had years with any team as good as those years.  Having two national championships with Connecticut will definitely have pull on the Hall of Fame voters.

Janeth Arcain (87 percent):  Arcain gets the bonus for having a career that ended before 2005, but that didn't seem to hurt her too much.  She won four rings with the Houston Comets.  She's already in the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.

Andrea Stinson (82 percent):  Who is Andrea Stinson?  She played nine years in the league, eight of them with the now defunct Charlotte Sting.  She had her number retired by the Sting, but after the Sting folded her number has come down from the rafters (and no one in Charlotte seems to know what happened to it).  As the Sting haven't been around for almost a decade, is there anyone who really remembers Stinson?  She played one year for Detroit in 2005 before retiring.

Taj McWilliams (80 percent):  I used to joke that when the sun died and the Earth was reduced to a crusty cinder, the only life forms left on the planet would be Katie Smith and Taj McWilliams playing with the last basketball. Grandmama had 538 games spread across two leagues. She played for the Richmond/Philadelphia Rage in the ABL, then with the Orlando Miracle in the WNBA, then moved with the Miracle to Connecticut, then to Los Angeles.  Then a year split between Washington and Detroit, a full year in Detroit (which was the team's last), then New York, and finally Minnesota.  In her final year in 2012 with the Lynx she started in every game she played.

She's the all time WNBA leader in offensive rebounds with 1,062, and she "lost" a couple of years to the ABL.  But the press never really thought of her as a MVP player.  For her first three years in the WNBA she was the best player on the Miracle.  She should get in on the strength of longevity and offensive rebounding alone.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Hall of Fame Projector (2014) - The "Virtually In" Class

My previous post on the Hall of Fame Projector (see here) listed those players that scored 100 percent - those that would be lead pipe cinches to make a pro basketball hall of fame based on traditional stats, MVP voting, rings, and All-Star appearances.  We're only considering players who have played at least 160 combined games in the ABL and WNBA.  For those players whose careers ended before 2005, we give them credit for the missing years of their pro career.

There are seven players who scored between 90 and 99 percent, the ones that the HOF Projector method considers "virtually in".  Three of these players are active players, so with a few MVP votes or a couple of All-Star selections, they'll probably join the 14 other players listed previously.

Teresa Edwards (99 percent):  she was already past 30 when she played for the Atlanta Glory of the ABL and was selected by the Lynx in the second round of the 2003 draft even though she was 38 years old.  She has five Olympic medals (four gold) stretching back to 1992.  And even with this horribly scant modern pro career she almost makes it in.  Edwards is one of those players like Nera White or Nancy Lieberman or Cheryl Miller that you could argue is the best player of all time.

Edwards is already in the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.

Katie Smith (99 percent):  there were some complaints about the previous post - why didn't Smith make the list of Lead Pipe Cinches that got 100 percent in the projector?  Most likely, it's the relative lack of MVP votes and a fairly low points per game - the only players above her with fewer points per game are Sue Bird and Lindsay Whalen, and their assists totals make up for it.

I have Katie Smith has having played 568 games in her career across the ABL and WNBA.  The player behind her is Taj McWilliams at 538.  Smith's longevity alone should be a voting factor, and I can't see her not making it into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.

Angel McCoughtry (98 percent):  Despite not winning any titles, McCoughtry makes it to the list on the strength of her scoring.  How many players other than Maya Moore or Elena Delle Donne (neither yet eligibile for the list yet) could carry an entire team on her back like McCoughtry? I see her being named to the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame someday, even though she doesn't have a reputation for being so angelic.

Becky Hammon (98 percent):  I think Hammon's lack of height gives her a boost - never has a player done so much with so little (so to speak).  Her overall assist averages don't compare to Bird's or Whalen's or even Cappie Pondexter.  But she was an amazing force in women's basketball and I see her as a Hall of Fame Player.

Seimone Augustus (97 percent):  A great mid-range shooter, but her problem is that she really don't have many MVP votes.  Having two rings really helps her make her case, but I wonder if future Hall of Fame voters are going to recognize her value.

Chamique Holdsclaw (92 percent):  She was at one time considered to be the Michael Jordan of women's basketball.  Unfortunately, I think most people think "what might have been" when they think of Holdsclaw.  She had really great moves with the ball, but her emotional problems might have eclipsed her game.  If you take her college career into account, however, she really belongs in the Hall of Fame.

Sylvia Fowles (91 percent):  I think Fowles's candidacy is hurt by the fact that she was the best player on a bad team for an awfully long time.  Idiot WNBA voters said, "We can't vote her for MVP if she's not on a winning team!"  If she had been on a good team, she might have one or two MVP titles already.  Maybe this is why she's decided to sit out a year; she figures that if she plays for the Lynx people might finally figure out how good she is.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Last Night's Game: Washington @ Atlanta

Thoughts on last night's Mystics-Dream game

* I had the chance to sit courtside last night, and let me tell you, it is worth it.  If you ever get a chance to get courtside seats, or even have to pay for courtside seats, do not pass it up.  You will not regret it.  Hearing all the little conversations, hearing the coaches yelling, the players talking, adds a new dimension to the game.

* I got to shake hands with WNBA referee Eric Brewton.  He must have thought I was someone important.

* About the Dream's woes.  One of the people (not a coach or a player, by the way) I spoke with thought that the Dream's problems stemmed from their lack of 3-point shooting.  The theory goes that the only player on the roster who can beat anyone off the dribble is Angel McCoughtry, and in order for McCoughtry to get rolling opponent defenses have to be spread.  But without anyone shooting threes, defenses can just pack the lane and kill any momentum that McCoughtry might get in a drive to the basket.

* I believe McCoughtry has four technical fouls now.  Shades of Taurasi a couple of years ago?

* Only seven players played last night for the Dream, and Burdick was among them.  The current roster looks like:

McCoughtry *
Lyttle *
de Souza *
Hodges *
Ajavon *
Wheeler *
Burdick *


Tiffany Hayes and Aneika Henry will return to the roster.  So who goes?

Hodges will stay since she's a vet and was a significant free agent signing.
Ajavon will stay since she's healthy this season.
Wheeler will stay because a) Coach Cooper seems to like Wheeler, and b) she's from Rutgers, which gives Ajavon someone to chat with.
Burdick will stay because a) Coach Cooper wanted to draft Burdick, but she wasn't available, and b) according to Cooper, Burdick gives him the opportunity to try different things on the court.  He's played Burdick a lot, he likes her, and the fans like her.

So that leaves the bottom five players listed as targets for cuts.

My personal theory is that Carter is gone.  But who is the other player?

  Nope.  Colhado can back up de Souza when Atlanta needs size.
Schimmel?  Nope, not unless we get something for her in a big trade.

That leaves Milton-Jones, who has been in the league since what, 1999, or Logic, a player who was probably in diapers when Milton-Jones was graduating high school.  Use your common sense.  Who do you think is going to go?

Friday, June 26, 2015

Hall of Fame Projector - The method and the Top 14 Players

It's time to update the Hall of Fame Projections.  I used to do these for Swish Appeal, but since I'm not writing there now, I'll be adding them to my blog.

What are the Hall of Fame Projections?  The idea, essentially, is to see if a WNBA player has a career anything like that of an NBA Hall of Fame player.  We then assign a percentage that indicates the chances that a WNBA player, based solely on her pro career, would make it to the Hall of Fame.

It's important to note that we are not looking for the best players, just the players that look the most like Hall of Fame players.  So what do Hall of Fame players look like?

A big weight on "traditional stats".  The "traditional stats" in this case are Points Per Game, Reounds Per Game, and Assists Per Game.  Obviously, those three stats don't tell the whole story of a player - they say nothing about defense - but the Projection System weights them for two reasons.  First, those are the stats that get quoted a lot.  Second, when a player fades away from memory, and fewer and fewer people living have seen her play, all that's really left are the stat sheets to look at.

MVP Shares.  How many votes for MVP did the player get over her career?

All-Star Selections.  How many times was the player voted an All-Star?  Note that the WNBA occasionally doesn't hold All-Star games in even-numbered years, so when that happens I have substituted selection for their national FIBA or Olympic teams.

Height.  Feats by smaller players are more impressive than feats by bigger ones.

Rings.  Hall of Fame voters value championships.

A few notes:

* American Basketball League stats have been included.  For those who don't remember, the ABL competed with the WNBA from 1996 to 1999.
* Players who stopped playing before 2005 get added weight to their scores, as they lost productive years in their career to the lack of a women's league.
* You have to have played at least 160 games by the end of 2014 to make this list.  This is why Maya Moore is not on the list.  She will be next year.
* I didn't invent Hall of Fame projectionThe wonderful people at basketball-reference.com did.  However, they have tweaked their method to include Peak Win Shares, which my method doesn't have.  Maybe after 2015, I'll add that to my method.

So who are my leaders as of the end of the 2014 season, and what are their chances of getting into a Pro Basketball Hall of Fame?  This post might be stretched out over several days, so watch this space!

Lead Pipe Cinches

1.  Lisa Leslie (100 percent):  Two WNBA titles.  If she were a NBA player, she would have averaged a double-double for her career.  Three-time MVP and eight-time WNBA All Star.  First player to dunk in a WNBA game.  Women's Basketball Hall of Fame member.

2.  Tamika Catchings (100 percent):  One WNBA title.  One MVP award, nine-time All Star.  Member of the All-Decade and Top 15 teams.  Since the Projector doesn't take into account her defensive skills, she might rank above Leslie for greatest of all time in the modern era.

3.  Lauren Jackson (100 percent):  Two WNBA titles. Three time MVP winner, seven-time All Star.  Member of the All-Decade and Top 15 teams.  A post player who could shoot threes like anyone's business. She has four WNBL (Australian league) MVP awards.  Injuries, however, have hindered her and I don't think she'll play in the WNBA again.

4.  Diana Taurasi (100 percent):  Two WNBA titles.  One MVP award, seven-time WNBA All Star.  One of the most dangerous players imaginable.  She was paid a seven-figure contract by a Russian team to sit out the 2015 season.

5.  Cynthia Cooper (100 percent):  Four WNBA titles.  Two-time MVP.  Three time All-Star, four time WNBA Finals MVP.  And when she started playin in the wNBA...she was 34 years old.  If she had started playing at age 22, they'd consider her the true Greatest Of All Time.  Women's Basketball Hall of Fame member.

6.  Sheryl Swoopes (100 percent):  Four WNBA titles.  Three-time MVP.  Six time All-Star.  Was 26 when the WNBA started.  Fist women's basketball player to have a Nike shoe named after her, the "Air Swoopes".

7.  Candace Parker (100 percent):  Two time MVP.  First player on the list not to have a WNBA championship.  Second woman to dunk in a WNBA game.  Missed several games due to injury.  Still active, but taking some time off (how much time?) to recuperate for the 2015 season.

8.  Natalie Williams (100 percent):  Won an MVP award with the American Basketball League. Three seasons with the Portland Power, then played with the Utah Starzz and Indiana Fever, which weren't the greatest teams in the WNBA.  Excellent power forward.

9.  Yolanda Griffith (100 percent):  One WNBA title, one MVP, eight time All-Star.   WNBA All-Decade Team Member.  In the 1997-98 ABL season, she was MVP runner up to Natalie Williams.  Women's Basketball Hall of Fame member.

10.  Tina Thompson (100 percent):  Four WNBA titles.  Nine time All-Star.  All-time leading scorer in WNBA history.

11.  Cappie Pondexter (100 percent):  Two WNBA titles.  Six time All-Star. Top 15 All Time list. 

12.  Sue Bird (100 percent):  Can't have Diana Taurasi without Sue Bird.  Two WNBA titles.  Eight time All-Star.  WNBA All-Decade team. Top 15 All Time list.

13.  Tina Charles (100 percent):  One MVP award.  Three time All-Star  Incredible rebounder.

14.  Lindsay Whalen (100 percent):  Two WNBA titles.  Five time All-Star.

Next time:  The seven players in the 90-99th percentile, the ones that are "virtually in". One of these players is already in the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

24 June 2015 - Chicago Sky 100, Atlanta Dream 96 (OT)

Random comments about last afternoon's game in Chicago:

* Eric Collins and Stephen Bardo are a good announcing team.  I really enjoyed their play-by-play and particularly the comments of Bardo.  Furthermore, Bardo will give the visiting teams credit and will point out bad calls that favor the home team.

* There was one point at the end of the first quarter where Ajavon was under the basket, and McCoughtry noticed it and passed her the ball. Problem was, Ajavon stopped looking for the ball and McCoughtry's pass led to a turnover.  McCoughtry was not a happy camper.

* Pondexter can shoot off the bounce.  I suspect that a lot of the great shooters can.

* Pokey Chatman has an interesting phrase that I've heard her use and that the announcers reminded me of - whenever she wants to see multiple defenders on a offensive dynamo (like McCoughtry) she uses the phrase "We want to take a team picture whenever X has the ball".  This means that if you were to snap a picture of McCoughtry with the ball, you want to see a lot of Sky players next to her.

* An interesting comment from the announcers.  According to Chatman, without Fowles the Sky are "offensively better and defensively worse".  I suspect they're offensively better because they don't have to worry about Fowles's (relative) lack of speed on transition.  However - and this proved to be a problem - Chicago couldn't get de Souza in foul trouble because they had no dominant post player to challenge her.  The Dream should do what they did in the fourth quarter, push the ball to the posts and make Chicago work.

* How many players fouled out of that game?  Vandersloot, Ajavon, Hodges....

* The game ended with Delle Donne blocking McCoughtry's final shot.  How apropos.  I think Delle Donne set a career records in blocks, too.

* If Elena Delle Donne keeps playing like this - and if she stays healthy, which is a BIG if - it might be the most amazing season in professional basketball, men's or women's.  Her PER is like over 40 right now.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Elena Delle Donne's amazing game

It will be a while before I report the results of the game we played this afternoon against Chicago.  But here is a list of WNBA All-Time statistical leaders in some categories.  Elena Delle Donne of the Sky added herself to the record books today:

This list was orignally posted at Rebkell by Paul Swanson.

Most points, game
51 -- Riquna Williams, Tulsa at San Antonio, September 8, 2013
48 -- Maya Moore, Minnesota vs. Atlanta, July 22, 2014 (2OT)
47 -- Lauren Jackson, Seattle at Washington, July 24, 2007 (OT)
47 -- Diana Taurasi, Phoenix at Houston, August 10, 2006 (3OT)
46 -- Katie Smith, Minnesota at Los Angeles, July 8, 2001 (OT)
45 -- Elena Delle Donne, Chicago vs. Atlanta, June 24, 2015 (OT)
44 -- Diana Taurasi, Phoenix vs. Seattle, July 14, 2010 (3OT)
44 -- Betty Lennox, Atlanta at Connecticut, June 27, 2008 (OT)
44 -- Deanna Nolan, Detroit vs. Minnesota, June 20, 2008 (OT)
44 -- Cynthia Cooper, Houston at Sacramento, July 25, 1997
42 -- Cynthia Cooper, Houston vs. Utah, August 16, 1999
41 -- Diana Taurasi, Phoenix at Houston, July 27, 2006
41 -- Lisa Leslie, Los Angeles vs. San Antonio, June 25, 2006
40 -- Elena Delle Donne, Chicago at Tulsa, June 6, 2015
40 -- Maya Moore, Minnesota at Tulsa, August 2, 2014
40 -- Cappie Pondexter, New York vs. Indiana, July 18, 2010
40 -- Candace Parker, Los Angeles vs. Houston, July 9, 2008 (OT)
40 -- Katie Smith, Minnesota at Detroit, June 17, 2001

Most free throws made, game
22 -- Cynthia Cooper, Houston vs. Sacramento, July 3, 1998
19 -- Elena Delle Donne, Chicago vs. Atlanta, June 24, 2015 (OT)
19 -- Tina Charles, Connecticut vs. Phoenix, June 29, 2013
18 -- Katie Smith, Minnesota at Los Angeles, July 8, 2001 (OT)
17 -- Angel McCoughtry, Atlanta vs. Chicago, June 2, 2012
17 -- Tamika Catchings, Indiana vs. New York, August 13, 2011
17 -- Shavonte Zellous, Detroit at Atlanta, June 26, 2009
17 -- Diana Taurasi, Phoenix vs. Houston, September 7, 2008
17 -- Tina Thompson, Houston vs. Sacramento, June 11, 2007
17 -- Cynthia Cooper, Houston vs. Utah, August 16, 1999

Most free throws made, none missed, game
19 -- Elena Delle Donne, Chicago vs. Atlanta, June 24, 2015 (OT)
17 -- Angel McCoughtry, Atlanta vs. Chicago, June 2, 2012
16 -- Elena Delle Donne, Chicago vs. Los Angeles, June 6, 2014
14 -- Kristi Toliver, Los Angeles vs. Tulsa, June 20, 2012
14 -- Diana Taurasi, Phoenix at Minnesota, July 24, 2010 (2OT)
14 -- Tamika Catchings, Indiana at Washington, July 21, 2009
14 -- Lisa Leslie, Los Angeles vs. Minnesota, July 15, 2000

Last night's game: Los Angeles @ Washington

I watched last night's Los Angeles / Washington matchup on ESPN. I was hoping for a Los Angeles win simply to keep Washington from picking up any speed in the Eastern Conference.

I don't have any deep analysis to give you.  I still can't identify the pick and roll when it happens.  I can tell you that:

* Nneka Ogwumike, still recovering from a high ankle strain, can single-handedly bring an abysmal Sparks team up to the level of the San Antonio Stars.  Who can figure what she can do when she's fully healthy?

* Emma Meesseman is the real deal.

* It is funny when a player whose hair is dyed purple puts on the "what, lil' ol innocent me?" look when called for a foul.  That's the same player that made a stupid foul on a buzzer-beating shot in the first quarter that sent the player to the line.

* Yes, Ivory Latta can come up big in games, but there are nights when she won't hit anything.  She a "high variance" player in statistical lingo.  Generally, it is better to have a player who will either score 5 points or 25 poitns on a night than a player who will score 15 every night - those 25-point games will bring you closer to a championship if you have a good bench.

* Big game for Tierra Ruffin-Pratt.

* Everyone really hates Carolyn Peck/Pam Ward.  I can see why they do, sometimes they get caught up in their own little universe and completely ignore the play-by-play aspect of the game.  But they also tell you things that you might not have known - that Meesseman is as quiet and unassuming as Latta is talkative (and Latta is very talkative), that Thibault looks for high IQ basketball players and that he doesn't buy into the "Power 5 Conferences Only" theory of drafting.  Useful information to know.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Hot Takes and Modern Sports

A member of the Sports Illustrated staff named Andy Benoit tweeted that he's not a fan of women's sports....in general.  The text of his now deleted tweet reads:

Not women's soccer……women's sports in general not worth watching. 

When asked to clarify, he doubled down on the stupid.

Women are every bit as good as men in general, better in many aspects, their sports are just less entertaining. TV ratings agree, btw.

From what I understand, Andy Benoit is not so much a journalist as he is an opinion writer who dabbles in journalism.  His Twitter feed and his writing in general suggests that his specialty is "hot takes".

The hot take is well defined in Tomas Rios's "A Brief History of Bad Sports Writing", which I suggest you read.  He writes about Dick Young, the iconoclast sports writer who worked so hard at demolishing the myth making sports writers of the era before his that in his own mind he became the judge of all that was Good and Decent (TM), and as much of an old fraud as the myth-makers himself.  Rios writes:

The most obvious legacy Dick Young left sports writing is the idea that it’s a sports writer’s job to serve as the self-appointed moral arbiter of sports. The hot take was Dick’s baby, and it’s grown into the vile thing we now know it to be.

Most of the Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith puffery you'll see on ESPN falls strongly under the hot take category.  As someone once wrote about sports writers, the most important thing in sports writing is to have an opinion and express it, regardless of if there's any reflection behind that opinion.  In which case, Mr. Benoit falls strongly into that tradition.

But there's something else going on.  In a just world, his own colleagues would be looking for rope for the hanging, but that's not happening.  Why?  My own opinion is that the Benoits of this world get away with it because sports departments are 95 percent male and 98 percent of the sports section is devoted to the coverage of male sports, with women occasionally showing up in the role of supportive wife/girlfriend.  (Take the AJC, for instance.)

There is something that stinks about the masculinity as defined by our very toxic patriarchal culture that dismisses the contributions of half of humanity.  My own hot take is that the axe has to be taken to those roots before we can even start to solve that problem.  Then, and only then, will the Benoits of the world be limited to handing out mimeographed screeds on street corners. 

Monday, June 22, 2015

WNBA and New York Liberty suspend ownership application of Isiah Thomas

From the Worldwide leader in sports - in the USA, anyway.

I don't know what to think about this one.  It sort of leaves us in limbo until the New York Liberty/James Dolan decide(s) to make a move.

It violates Chekhov's rules of play writing:  "Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it's not going to be fired, it shouldn't be hanging there."

But the gun is still hanging there and it hasn't gone off.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Angel's three-point shooting

On Twitter, someone asked if anyone shot 3-point shots in the WNBA with as little success as Angel McCoughtry in as many attempts?

Let's see.  From 2009 to 2015, McCoughtry had 550 3-point attempts.  She made 149 of those for a 27.0 percent success rate.

Out of all WNBA players who have 550 3-point attempts, only one has a lower success rate.  With 571 attempts, she hit 154 of those.  Do you remember Bridget Pettis?  Probably not.  She played with Phoenix from 1997 to 2001, spent a couple of years with the Fever from 2002-03, and then returned to Phoenix for 11 games in 2006.  She did have a career free-throw percentage of 80.8 percent, so she had that going for her. 

These days, Pettis is an assistant coach for the Tulsa Shock. 

The active player closest to McCoughtry is Lindsay Whalen of the Lynx.  Looking from 1997-2014 at all players with at least 550 3-point attempts, in order of lowest percentage you have Pettis, then McCoughtry, then Whalen at 27.9 percent.

The player with at least 550 3-point attempts with the best 3-point percentage is...Kristi Toliver.
Toliver is 292-for-723, shooting 3s with a 40.4 percent accuracy rate.

(Thanks to basketball-reference - which has now added player uniform numbers to their pages.  Take a look!)

Random thoughts: the North Carolina scandal, player transfers

Tar Heel Blog over at SBNation.com is reporting that Stephanie Mavunga is now considering a transfer from the North Carolina women's basketball program.  She follows Diamond DeShields, Jessica Washington and Allisha Gray.

So what the hell happened?  It might be a case of rats leaving a sinking ship.  UNC is about to be hit with some serious penalties due to an academic fraud scandal centering around the African and Afro-American Studies departments.  The TL;DR version is from the NCAA's notice:  “...counselors in the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes (ASPSA) leveraged their relationships with faculty and staff members in the [AFAM] department to obtain and/or provide special arrangements to student-athletes that were not generally available to the student body.”

Read the actual report:  It's pretty damning.  Basically, the athletics department at UNC was funneling students into a program where "Certain AFRI/AFAM courses were anomalous because they were designated as lecture courses but were taught as independent study courses with little, if any, attendance requirements, minimal to no faculty interaction, lax paper writing standards and artificially high final grades.  In some instances, athletics academic counselors within ASPSA made special arrangements and used these courses to help ensure the eligibility of academically at-risk student-athletes."

This went on at the very least for 10 years - 2012-11.  Maybe even longer.

Will UNC get the Death Penalty?  Hell no, they've got a money making basketball/football program!  Using the same figurative language as "Death Penalty" a rational person would expect the NCAA to at least break a kneecap of UNC but all I expect is a slap on the wrist.

A lot of the report mentions Jan Boxill, a women's basketball academic counselor, adding content to the papers of WBB players enrolled in these courses.  Sylvia Hatchell, frankly, should resign.  No excuse not to know what's going on.

There have been a lot of transfers recently in women's basketball, more than anyone following the sport can remember.  My theory is that women's basketball players are finally flexing their muscles.  Most of these young women have followed the NBA (and occasionally, WNBA) for years and now realize that they hold the power in the relationship.  The women's basketball landscape is a lot bigger than just a couple of good programs.  If you're talented and you can't get along with your coach, it's not a death sentence anymore.  With schools committing more money to WBB, trust me, if you're good enough the coach will get along with you.

That and a fact that if the truth be told, a lot of college WBB players don't want to be in college that badly anyway.  They're only there because it's a place they can play basketball, or because the WNBA makes them wait a full four years.  I asked someone who follows the game closely if Diamond DeShields would declare for the WNBA draft before she graduates from Tennessee, and he said, "Diamond DeShields is no scholar.  You can make bank on it."

Friday, June 19, 2015

2015-16 NCAA women's basketball players to watch

Thinking about the upcoming off-season.  This is my current watch list.


Baylor - Johnson, Niya - G - Sr. - 5-8
Connecticut - Stewart, Breanna - F - Sr. - 6-4
Connecticut - Jefferson, Moriah - G - Sr. - 5-7
Florida State - Bulgak, Adut - C - Sr. - 6-4
Ohio State - Alston, Ameryst - G - Sr. - 5-9
Oklahoma State - Martin, Brittney - G - Sr. - 6-0
Oregon - Alleyne, Jillian - F - Sr. - 6-3
Oregon State - Hamblin, Ruth - C - Sr. - 6-6
Saint John's - Handford, Aliyyah - G - Sr. - 5-9
Seton Hall - Richardson-Smith, Tabatha - F - Sr. - 6-0
South Carolina - Mitchell, Tiffany - G - Sr. - 5-9
South Florida - Jenkins, Alisia - F - Sr. - 6-1
South Florida - Williams, Courtney - G - Sr. - 5-8
Tennessee - Graves, Bashaara - F - Sr. - 6-2
Washington State - Galdeira, Lia - G - Sr. - 5-11


Arizona State - Brunner, Sophie - F - Jr. - 6-1
Baylor - Davis, Nina - F - Jr. - 5-11
Kentucky - Epps, Makayla - G - Jr. - 5-10
Maryland - Jones, Brionna - C - Jr. - 6-3
Maryland - Walker-Kimbrough, Shatori - G - Jr. - 5-11
Miami (Fla.) - Motley, Adrienne - G - Jr. - 5-9
Michigan State - Powers, Aerial - F - Jr. - 6-0
Missouri - Frericks, Jordan - G/F - Jr. - 6-1
North Carolina - Mavunga, Stephanie - F - Jr. - 6-3
South Carolina - Coates, Alaina - C - Jr. - 6-4
Syracuse - Peterson, Alexis - G - Jr. - 5-7
Syracuse - Day, Bria - F - Jr. - 6-4
Washington - Plum, Kelsey - G - Jr. - 5-8


Notre Dame - Turner, Brianna - F - So. - 6-3
Ohio State - Hart, Alexa - F - So. - 6-3
Ohio State - Mitchell, Kelsey - G - So. - 5-8
South Carolina - Wilson, A'ja - G/F - So. - 6-5
Tennessee - DeShields, Diamond - G - So. - 6-1 ***


Connecticut - Samuelson, Katie Lou - Fr. - G/F - 6-3
Louisville - Durr, Asia - G - Fr. - 5-10

*** Sat out one year due to NCAA transfer rules

Scylla and Charybdis

I threw this one up because I've been thinking about a recent article from the Orange Country Register:

The TL;DR version:  the Los Angeles Angels (baseball) have seen a decline in their ticket sales.  But their marketing guy isn't worried, because even though they # of fans through the gate has dropped greatly, the "per-cap" expense per fan is greater - the remaining fans are spending more money.

The man got into some trouble by explaining that even though the Angels had high attendance in the past, the higher attendance was made up by fans who might have gotten in with bargain tickets, the kind of fans that don't spend lots of money on souvenirs or concessions.  (It is implied that those fans really aren't missed.)  The remaining, financially better off fans are more freely spending money, so the Angels are still happy.

This makes me think about the WNBA.  In New York theatre, there's an expression called "papering the house".  It means that one gives out discounted tickets, even free tickets, if sales aren't what one wants.  The reason someone would sell tickets at a loss is to increase positive word of mouth among the attendees.

So what should be the goal of WNBA owners? 

To fill up the joint, even if it means marking down tickets and possibly angering season-ticket holders, or even driving existing sales *down*, since there would be a greater incentive for the casual fan to wait for a bargain-price ticket? 

Or should it be to increase the amount of money spent by fans - the "per cap" - and to make the season ticket holder/full price purchaser's experience exemplary, even it if means playing to even smaller crowds?

Right now, I'm in the first camp.  The reason the Angels can afford this strategy in the first place was because they had huge attendance, huge enough to attract these well-heeled fans looking for a big experience.  It doesn't do the sport good to play in front of lightly-attended crowds. Fill the place, first, then upsell.

By the way, the marketing manager in the quoted article got fired for his honesty.   At first I would have wholeheartedly agreed with his firing, now, I'm not so sure.

The Official (for now) Re-Opening of the Blog!

Well, what's been up with you?

A few updates on my side:

* I am no longer writing for Swish Appeal.  (If there's any sports blogging organization that needs a contributor, I'd love to hear from you.)

* I am currently writing for dream.wnba.com under my real name.  Yes, my prayers have finally been answered!

* As I no longer have a place where I can write about off-topic kind of stuff, I have reopened the blog for now.  Who knows, maybe someone will come by and visit?