EASTERN CONFERENCE ALL-STAR PRACTICE QUOTES
All-Star Quotes: East
Adubato | Baranova | Holdsclaw | Johnson | Jones | McCray | McWilliams-Franklin | Melvin | Phillips | Sales | Staley | Stinson | Weatherspoon | Williams
Q: Talk about one of your All-Stars, Tari Phillips.
Adubato: She has more or less carried our team. Since she got to our team, she has become the Most Improved Player, then an All-Star player. And right now, I have to say that she is one of the top 10 players in this league. The big thing about Tari is she plays center, but she's only 6-1, so she is really out-heighted most evenings. But she's very versatile, very athletic, and she's a fierce competitor. She has been a tremendous asset to our team and our success.
Q: What's the big challenge in coaching an All-Star team?
Adubato: The big challenge is, because it is a fun time period, you have to explain to the players that even though this is an enjoyable time, that we also have to try to win because we have to have pride in our own conference. We're representing the East. Last year, I don't think I got that across. Maybe this year, I will be able to get the motivation necessary for us to prove that the East can compete with the West. We know we do when we play interleague games, but we haven't proven it yet in the All-Star Game.
Q: What is the biggest difference between coaching men and coaching women?
Adubato: I think the big thing is the emotion. Women are very emotional as we all know. They take every little thing serious. I think they're very easily motivated. They're so happy to have their own league. If you check the rosters you'll find out that these women have played in every country in the world before they got the opportunity to play right here in the WNBA in the United States. Hopefully, this league will continue to be successful. No doubt in my mind that it will be successful.
Q: Once again it's you and Van Chancellor in the All-Star Game.
Adubato: It's always Van and me. Van always has the height. It's one of those things. Van is a terrific coach. I think he has proven it this year with the loss of the Swoopes and Cooper, he's got them right there as a contender, fighting for the Western Conference. Again, every time we play, it seems like I'm giving up four or five inches, or there are five bigs to my two bigs inside.
Elena Baranova, Miami Sol
Baranova: There are a couple new sets I have to learn and the assistant coach has given me some papers to help me learn them. So I have to work on them and learn our new sets and play tomorrow.
Q: Are you excited to get out there and play with Teresa Weatherspoon?
Baranova: Of course. It's been six years, and now we're going to play together tomorrow. I'm so excited. We were teammates for a year and again tomorrow.
Q: It looks like there is a big shortage of big players on the East compared to the West. Are you prepared to play a lot of minutes?
Baranova: Coach told us before practice that he was going to have to find players who can jump higher. I think that is going to be Nykesha (Sales). Her size is either big forward or small post player.
Q: How does it feel to be playing in the All-Star Game?
Baranova: Awesome. This is my first time. Especially after the injury, I didn't expect this. It was an early morning call and we were playing in Orlando. My coach came early in the morning and said, "Congratulations, you're playing in the All-Star Game." It was a big surprise for me.
Chamique Holdsclaw, Washington Mystics
Holdsclaw: It's definitely a tremendous honor. It's a fan-friendly league. The fans come out to support us and come to these venues and watch us play. I'm just honored that they recognized me.
Q: Will it be hard not being able to participate?
Holdsclaw: Yeah, but I'm going to go out there and be the best cheerleader that I can be. Hopefully, we'll conquer the dragon and that's the West.
Q: What are the East's chances?
Holdsclaw: When you look at the East we have eight guards and two post players. The West, they have tremendous post players. We just have to go out there and try to beat them with our quickness.
Q: What does Washington need to do in the second half?
Holdsclaw: We just have to go out and grind it out. We just have to go out there with renewed confidence. I told everybody yesterday to just get home safe and come back with a renewed focus and to be ready to go.
Vickie Johnson, New York Liberty
Johnson: Different players have different personalities, because on the court, you really don't know. You're out there to do a job. You don't really speak or whatever, you just go out and do what you've got to do to win. Sometimes your attitude on the court might come out aggressive, when you're not really aggressive off the court. For example, Tamecka Dixon and I got into it when we played L.A. in New York. When she came in this morning, I gave her a hug because it's just a part of the game. We're both professionals, but once the game's over and we step off the court, everything's forgotten and it's time to move on with life.
Q: Who have you bonded with this weekend?
Johnson: Taj McWilliams [Franklin]. She's the greatest. I really enjoy her. And especially my teammates, being with Spoon [Teresa Weatherspoon] and Tari [Phillips], makes it easy for me to be here -- and the coach. It's a very relaxed atmosphere. Spoon knows my game and I know her game and Tari knows both our games, so it's going to be very exciting, and we're all here to have a good time.
Q: Can you talk about the Liberty's prospects for the second half going against Cleveland in the East?
Johnson: Same as the first half. It's going to be a dog fight. It's going to come down to the last two minutes of the game, who takes care of the ball the best, who has less turnovers, that's who's going to win the games, because we're both going to play aggressive defense and we may not make shots. It's going to come down to turnovers.
Q: So is it going to come down to the little things?
Johnson: Yeah, loose balls, making the shots, the open looks you may get, but it's going to be very key for us to just come out more aggressive, because we play Cleveland back-to-back. We come from Detroit, and it's going to be tough, but we've just got to forget about being fatigued and just go with it.
Merlakia Jones, Cleveland Rockers
Jones: I think it's been our defense. Everyone has their roles, and they know what they have to do. New York has a great team and we're going to have to be just as strong in the second half to be successful.
Q: Are you going to do the "Lake-and-Bake" out there tomorrow?
Jones: I might try to get it going, we'll see. Most of all, we just want to enjoy the break and have fun before we get back to work.
Q: What does it mean for you to be an All-Star?
Jones: It's a big honor to be here. You're here with all your peers, and it'll be exciting to be on the floor with all the great players at one time.
Q: What do the Rockers have to do to stay strong in the second half?
Jones: Just keep doing the same things we've been doing in the first half. If we can continue to play our game and be consistent, I think we'll be OK.
Nikki McCray, Washington Mystics
McCray: I think D.C. is a great city. I think we have the best fans in the WNBA. To be a host is just a great opportunity for our fans and a great opportunity for the city of D.C.
Q: Talk about your different hairstyles.
McCray: Well, I think I have to set the trend. The little girls look up to me, so as always, I try to be cute (smiling). No, but I try to do something different. The person who's got us on the hairstyles is Sheryl Swoopes. Just note it: Sheryl's got me on the hairstyles.
Q: Handicap tomorrow's game.
McCray: I think I'm going with the East because the West has beaten us two times now and we had the WNBA Tour and we beat them two out of three games. But I think that they know that we can potentially beat them and if we come ready to play and really have a lot of fun out there and take a little bit more seriously, it's going to be a competitive match.
Q: The West seems to have most of the size.
McCray: The West is stacked with post players, but we have quickness. They have size but we have quickness, so it all balances out.
Taj McWilliams-Franklin, Orlando Miracle
Q: How does it feel to be an All Star here in Orlando in front of the home fans?
McWilliams-Franklin: It allows me to be more relaxed. I am just here to have fun and represent Orlando. I am just happy to be here. We have a great group, and we are always in the locker room acting crazy and having fun.
Q: Is the East going to win this year?
McWilliams-Franklin: We came in different this year -- with more determination than last year. Every year they say we are outmatched, but this year we have a different objective -- make them chase us.
Q: What change if any are the Miracle going to make the second half of the season to get yourselves ready for the playoffs?
McWilliams-Franklin: Besides getting rest, just to get away from it. Your mind gets so bogged down with wins and losses that you forget about your love for the game. We need to get away and remember our first love and why we love the game, that is what our team is doing. And do some things away from basketball, go fishing, as Pee Wee (Shannon Johnson) says.
Chasity Melvin, Cleveland Rockers
Melvin: Everything has been frustrating. I've just been sitting out. This is the first time I've actually had to sit out and not do anything. This is my first real injury. It could be worse, so I'm being positive about it. At least it's not a knee injury or something like that, where I can't walk or anything.
Q: How scary was it when it happened?
Melvin: The whole thing was scary, because I just thought it was a black eye, so I went back in the game, and then I practiced on Monday. I got a little dizzy after practice, so I went to see the doctor. But other than that, I would have just kept playing and things could have been worse. I could have gotten hit at practice or back in the game.
Q: Are you happy about still being able to take in the All-Star experience?
Melvin: Yes. All my teammates are happy for me. They wanted me to just come here and relax. It's kind of bad sitting out games, and I was a little depressed, but now I'm getting better. I'm just trying to wait for my eye to heal, so I can get back on the court. I'll probably miss about another week. It could be a lot worse, so I'm not really complaining much.
Q: What will be the key for your team in the second half?
Melvin: Actually, we took it one game at a time. And I think more than just going out and trying to win each game, we tried to learn about how teams are playing us, and trying to learn what it's going to take at the end of the season to do well or do even better. We can't look at the beginning of the season. It's where we want to be at the end of the season. We're trying to be consistent game in and game out. We know our defense is there, but offensively, we're still coming together. Hopefully, by the time the playoffs come, we'll have both at the same level.
Tari Phillips, New York Liberty
Phillips: It's a big, honor, a great honor to be back in my hometown and to be able to be in the All-Star environment. Just the whole atmosphere is electrifying and I'm just having a really great time right now. I did start my WNBA career in Orlando and that didn't work out, but the fans in New York really embraced me. They just expressed that they really wanted me to go there and to do well. I'm happy right now, I've moved on to a different place and I'm really happy where I am in New York and I'm just enjoying myself right now.
Q: You seem to really like New York.
Phillips: I was really embraced by New York and their system right away and the Liberty are really doing well this season, we're tied for first place. They let me know that they wanted me to be productive and to be an integral part of their system right away, and that's what I've been doing. They (the Liberty) had a lot of faith in me to get out there and get the job done, and that has meant the world to me. So it motivates me to give them my best.
Q: Now that you're an All-Star, are teams playing you differently?
Phillips: Each team has gotten better over the past couple of years and everyone is bringing their A-game to play against me now. I have to go out there and work really hard to get what I get each night and I guess the fans have noticed.
Q: It must be very special for you to return to Orlando?
Phillips: This is where I was born and raised, and I really want to put on a show for the fans in Orlando. I just want to come out and play well and enjoy the time that I have at this game. I really enjoy it. And not go out there and give it my all would be robbery.
Q: Playing a regular season game back in Orlando is exciting. Describe how it feels to play an All-Star Game here.
Phillips: Well, I think the excitement for me is probably tenfold. Everyone's been so supportive, I've gotten hundreds of calls and just congratulations from around the league. I feel very honored to be here right now. I just want to go out and play well and have a good time. Hopefully, this will be the game where we bring it back to the East on this side.
Q: Have you received many ticket requests?
Phillips: Does anybody have any extra tickets for me? Wow, I need about a hundred more tickets, really. If anyone has even a couple dozen extra, I'll take them, but I need about 100!
Nykesha Sales, Orlando Miracle
Sales: The only difference is that I'm not as nervous, the first one I didn't know what to expect, the second one I got to get a feel for it and now I am a lot more comfortable. I am here at home and know what to expect.
Q: What changes if any are the Miracle going to make over the break to get ready for the playoffs?
Sales: The biggest thing that has been killing us is our defense, so we are going to try to pick it up. Find ways to make us recognize that boxing out and no middle penetrations are the keys to wins. We have the offense there, we just need to work on our defense.
Dawn Staley, Charlotte Sting
Staley: Well, I think anytime you bring together what is supposed to be the best in your league, I think fans expect a good game. Media expect a good game. That is a tremendous amount of pressure to put on a player, especially in a game where you don't have great preparation. You have two hours. One shootaround and one practice, but I think it is going to be exciting. You will see some great athletes go out there and try and give an exciting game, whether we come up with that or not, I think anytime you play a game like this, you are going to have people who didn't like the game. You going to have some that walked away from it, so you can't please everyone. Hopefully, the people who are here tomorrow night are going to come out and enjoy a great basketball game.
Q: What do you think of the Australian players you have seen so far? What do they bring to the league that we might have not seen before?
Staley: Well, I don't know if they bring anything different than what we see here in America. I think they have some players, like Lauren Jackson, who can be potentially the best player in the world. I think the fact that she came over and is playing here can only help her game. It is a different style of coaching and playing, and I think it will help her on a personal level, as well as the other Australian players, but it will also help us in international competition. Getting to know their tendencies, so it works both ways.
Q: First-time All-Star. How does it feel?
Staley: It feels fine. For me, I'm 31 years old and have been through a lot of All-Star Games. But the way I was selected for the All-Star team is a compliment, in that the coaches felt I played a good enough half of the season to be a part of this game. Coming from them, it is always something special for me.
Q. Did you think you had a pretty good shot coming in before they announced?
Staley: My stats are not any different than previous years. I think that we were riding a six-game winning steak helped out a lot. It opened some eyes up, especially in the Eastern Conference to, what are the Charlotte Sting are doing that they weren't in the beginning of the season.
Andrea Stinson, Charlotte Sting
Stinson: I love playing the game. To be compared to Michael is an honor, but I don't need that to play the game the way I do.
Q: What does it mean to be on this team?
Stinson: Oh, it's an honor. It tells you that the coaches respect you as a player and you've been working hard all year. I think a game like this is a game that you use to come out and showcase your talent.
Q: What do you have to do to win?
Stinson: Just come out and play hard. The West is a tough team inside, they have better size inside than we do, but we are just going to come out and play hard and play the game that know how to play -- rebound and run.
Q: What does Charlotte have to do in the second half of the season?
Stinson: We just have to continue to play hard and get better, hopefully, then move up. We are a team that has a lot of weapons, but it has to be on the defensive end.
Teresa Weatherspoon, New York Liberty
Weatherspoon: We knew that having a good start is very, very important in this league because of how short the season is. It's very important because you don't want to get to the midseason point and to be struggling to try to become the team that you want to become. We're glad we kind of got that out of the way and we have everything in hand as far as our chemistry. So hopefully, in the second half, we can just continue to work to become a greater basketball team as we progress.
Q: Talk about Tari Phillips and what she's meant to the team.
Weatherspoon: I can't find the words to describe her, I have no words. We're happy, we're very, very happy. She's done a tremendous job for us in the paint, rebounding the basketball and blocking people's shots, running the break. She's just done a tremendous job and has helped us get to where we are today (tied for first place in the Eastern Conference).
Q: Where do you get your energy and enthusiasm from?
Weatherspoon: I love the game, I'm very passionate about what I do, and I believe that and think about that everyday. I'm doing what I love to do for a living, I get excited just thinking about it. I love what I'm doing and I do what I love.
Q: You have played in front of your home crowd at an All-Star Game. Any advice for Taj McWilliams-Franklin and Nykesha Sales?
Weatherspoon: I think it's great that Taj and Keesh are a part of this All-Star team and it will be great for them to play in front of the whole All-Star sellout crowd. The fans are going to be there for them and cheering for them extra hard.
Q: You have a lot of company here from the Liberty.
Weatherspoon: To have Tari and VJ and the coaches here with me, I feel like I'm back at home. When I look at my two teammates and see them getting the recognition that they deserve from the fans around the world, I'm happy for them.
Q: How does it feel to be voted a three-time All-Star starter?
Weatherspoon: I really can't answer that, I don't know how to answer it. I'm just thankful, I'm very thankful. The selection to the All-Star teams means more than anything because I was selected by the fans. These are the people that you travel all over the world for and perform for and entertain and when they choose you, it's a special moment. You really can't find the words to describe it, all you want to say is thank you, thank you for voting me in.
Rita Williams, Indiana Fever
Williams: It's great. I'm really happy and I can't wait to get started. I'm going to enjoy all of the festivities and just have fun.
Q: What do you need to do to win?
Williams: We just need to play hard. We know there are going to be mismatches in the game, but we have to guard them and they also have to guard us. We know that the West has a great team, but we have great players here, too.
Q: How do you feel you are playing?
Williams: I know that I'm not content at where I am. I'm happy to be an All-Star. Happy for all the things that are happening to me, but I am not content. I just want to continue to get better.
Q: What do you need do as a team in the second half?
Williams: We just need to be more consistent. We need to stay focused and continue to play hard.