Richie Adubato, New York Liberty
East Head Coach
July 9, 2003
Audio: Listen to what Adubato had to say
I think it’s going to be a great game for the fans because there is much more parity in the league with the teams, and that is a result of a lot of new individuals that can really play the game. I look at the Western Conference, and you have a Lauren Jackson, who, now in her (third) year has become a force in this league at 6-5. I see that Margo Dydek has made it. She’s having an outstanding year, at 7-2. And then of course we know what Lisa Leslie can do. In the Western Conference, they have a lot of size and excellent players in Sheryl Swoopes and Tina Thompson, and the new addition of Adrian Williams, who’s having a banner year out in Phoenix.
For the Eastern Conference, I would say that we are going to give up some height, but the addition of Natalie Williams, as a result of the trade that sent her to Indiana, gives us a powerful force at 6-2. My center, Tari Phillips, is 6-1, but she plays bigger and she’s very active and she’ll take the challenge most of the time. The two people that could really help us has been a result of an emergence of Swin Cash and Tamika Catchings ... But they have emerged as two of the best players in the Eastern Conference. I think at their respective positions, it gives us an opportunity to have some scoring in a lot of areas that we haven’t had before. I think it’s going to be a big challenge, but I think it’s going to be a treat for the fans to see these great athletes. I just have to add that Becky Hammon would have been a nice addition to this team. You know she blew her ACL out, but the way she was playing, she is worth the price of admission, making shots from everywhere. And of course at only 5-6, she’s a real fan favorite and would have been one for this league. But I expect a terrific game and a very competitive game.
Q: Can you understand the Rockers' disappointment from being the only team without a representative?
Adubato: I can understand their thoughts on the situation and I think that Chasity Melvin has certainly played well for them. I think their young players Deanna Jackson and LaToya Thomas have played extremely well. I think a lot of times they will get overlooked in All-Star situations because the fans vote early and they will vote for the perennial people that they know. Those two players had just gotten into the starting lineup and are producing real well. So I would say that when you are looking at Cleveland, Chasity Melvin was probably the one that they could have gotten in. In the past, Merlakia Jones and Penny Taylor had been All-Stars, but right now they’re not in the starting lineup, so I think it would be very difficult for them to be selected. But I do think that Melvin should have been on the team. A lot of times, things don’t work out.
Q: Do you see this game as exhibition or are you in it to win?
Adubato: Well, I would hope that the East would be in it to win because the West has won it every time ... There is a certain pride factor just like in the NBA. It’s almost identical. The powerhouses are in the West for the most part, but when you are playing against the other conference I think you have to have pride. You have more pride when the West has been able to dominate it. I feel like we have a lot of play for.
Q: Can you talk about coaching first-time All-Stars?
Adubato: Well I think what enters your mind is that they are new, they are young and this is a great honor and a lot of times when players receive an honor at such a young age, they are more or less happy to be there. And I think that they are excellent players. That’s why they are there. Of course Swin Cash is a little older, Cheryl Ford and Deanna Nolan are just people starting for the first time. Cash, I think, is an All-Star player because she has so much talent, but the only thing that you worry about is are they going to be happy to be there or do they come in with the determination that you would like to see due to the fact that the West has won every single time.
Q: Margo Dydek has never dunked. This looks like a good opportunity. Do you worry about that?
Adubato: She hasn’t done it yet. I don’t know why she hasn’t done it yet, there must be a reason. I’d be happy to have her do it. It would be great if she would dunk in this game. I think the fans would love it. It would be another step toward more enjoyment of this game like Lisa Leslie last year when she dunked. Because it’s the All-Star Game and we’re not playing for a championship, if she did it, that would be great.
Q: Is playing the game at the Garden like having a sixth man?
Adubato: I don’t think it can be a factor in the All-Star Game because I think you may not have a partisan crowd. You’re going to have a lot of people that are coming to see these great athletes perform, but some just want to see the individuals and who are enjoying it. It’s entertainment, no question about it. It’s a little different than your game situations. So I don’t know if the home court will apply and I know we are going to have a lot of New York fans and I would appreciate it if they did come and cheer Teresa Weatherspoon and Tari Phillips. Unfortunately, Becky Hammon won’t be with the group because of her injury, but I think people love to play in Madison Square Garden. It’s the place to play. It’s the place to coach. It’s the greatest basketball arena in the world. There’s no question about it. But I don’t know if the home-court advantage is the same as when you are playing with your home team.
Q: Is there a way to balance the minutes?
Adubato: The formula that we’ve tried to use in the past is in the first three quarters of the game try to distribute the minutes evenly so everybody gets their share of minutes. And then if you have a close game then I think in the last three to four minutes of the game, you put the team on the floor that has had the best day, that is playing the best basketball, and you take your chance at winning the game. That’s more or less what we’ve done in the past. It’s what most coaches do. So you give everybody a chance. It’s an honor to be there. The fans want to see them play, their individual teams. It’s a nationally televised game so everybody’s watching. They want to see their hometown favorites or their home team favorites play. So I think you give them that opportunity for three quarters of the game and then if it is a close game, you just roll with the people that are playing the best and you hope that you can win the game.
Q: Can you talk about Cheryl Ford? She’s the only rookie. How is her size going to help?
Adubato: It is an honor for her to make this All-Star team in such a short period of time as a rookie. She is the only rookie actually. Deanna Nolan is making it for the first time, but she’s not a rookie and Swin Cash also. So it’s an honor for her. You’ve got to give her credit because obviously she’s worked very hard. But we watched her at Louisiana Tech. We’ve watched her get better and better every year. We’ve loved her. We would have liked to have had her in the draft, but we didn’t get up that high. So we couldn’t get that opportunity. So it’s really helped Detroit to have a big strong rebounder like her and also have a person that we know if she is going to take after her father, because being in the NBA as long as I was ... and Karl Malone just got better and better and that’s one of the reasons that we thought Cheryl Ford was going to accomplish many things in this league. She’s proven us right. Unfortunately, she’s on the Detroit team. But I think she’ll hold her own. She’s a strong rebounder, she’s proven that. She’s in the top three in rebounding in the league and we’re going to need every rebound we can get when you’re talking about Lisa Leslie, Lauren Jackson, Yolanda Griffith, Adrian Williams and Tina Thompson. They have a great rebounding team, so we’re counting on Ford to contribute her strength which is rebounding.
Q: Can you talk about Tamecka Dixon and her strengths?
Adubato: I know her very well because she is from Linden, New Jersey. I happen to know her father. He went to my camp a long time ago, so I know her game. She is a gamer. She’s a terrific basketball player. The biggest thing about her is that she can get her own shot. She has a great crossover and a terrific pull-up jump shot and she can go all the way to the basket and finish. So the combination of being able to shoot the jumper, cross over, get your own shot makes her a threat at any time. Two things: She’s been a clutch player for them over the years without question. She also will have a lot of hometown fans there like she does whenever they play the New York Liberty, and she usually performs very well at Madison Square Garden.