WNBA All-Star 2003 Postgame Quotes

Western Conference All-Stars
Saturday, July 12, 2003

Michael Cooper | Sue Bird | Tamecka Dixon
Yolanda Griffith | Lauren Jackson | Nikki Teasley

MICHAEL COOPER, Los Angeles Sparks Head Coach

Cooper: Opening statement, I thought this was a great game, very physical game, but still a great game. I think the WNBA went to another level as far as fan appeal. I think our game being on ABC let the world know that these ladies can truly play the game of basketball, doesn't have to be over the rim but they play a pretty damned good game below the rim.

Second of all, I would like to say, all of the players, but especially our players, and that's all I can speak on, we do a lot of work prior to actually starting the season. And for Nikki Teasley to win the Most Valuable Player award is a contribution, a tribute to the hard work that we put in. Some of the things we talked about as far as individual accolades and obviously our team-orientated goal is to get back to the WNBA Finals but I always ask the players to do one or two goals that they would like to achieve as an individual, and first of all, she named a couple of others but she didn't even name being an All-Star until I started, "T, come on. That's what we've got to think."

So for her, being here, that in itself was a blessing. But for her to win, out of all these great players, 22 great players on the court, she came and showed head and shoulders above, I always told people that my nickname lame for T is Lady Magic because she reminds me of Magic Johnson. She is one hell of a basketball player and one heck of a basketball passer. I have never seen anybody pass the ball the way she does, other than Magic and she, by far, is the other half of a great player, if you want to call that, for women or men, Nikki Teasley has arrived and you will be seeing bigger and greater things in the future from her.

Q: Some of the women coming to play these games with injuries, and you lost Lisa Leslie to a knee injury, where does that leave the Sparks now?

Cooper: I always said our team is not predicated on one other player. Obviously Lisa is a very central focal point to what we want to get accomplished and that is get back to the WNBA Finals. We have not heard anything further on her injury, and speaking to her out there, she just felt a little uncomfortable because she's never had a knee injury. Sometimes you get more scared than you are hurt, so she's at the doctor's now and she's taking tests and hopefully it's not as bad -- it should not be that bad because they took the pressure off when we were walking her off the floor and she was able to put some pressure on it, so that itself was a good sign. Having a medial collateral ligament tear earlier in my career, the knee was not swollen so that was a good sign. I'm not going to make any assumptions because I am not a doctor but hopefully she is not injured. I think we are still good enough to compete for the West. Until we hear anything further, we still are the team to beat because we still have Smooth on our team.

Q: Talk about your defense, especially in the first ten minutes of the second half when you helped the East adjust to eight points?

Cooper: Basketball is a funny game. In the first half, the East team shot like 57 percent from the field and 67 percent from three points. What I told our players is that just stay with our defense and just get a little more stingier, deny the other players, the Catchings and Holdsclaw, deny them out a little further and hopefully that will change. That's what we did. We buckled down. Defense is what wins championships and in this case it's what won the game for us. We made them take some tough shots, although they had good looks. They were not getting the looks they were getting in the first half. We were able to turn them around, by limiting them to one shot -- you know, I had an opportunity to participate with another player on our team about five years ago in a Venice Summer pro league that was held outdoors and Yolanda Griffith still amazes me. She was that player. She dominated the boards as well as offensively in that second half and she is the one that created that little run for us.

Defense is the key and I thought we really tightened the noose on them.

Q: Are you blown away by how hard they played an All-Star Game today?

Cooper: No. I have always said women play this game, per player, harder than men. In the men's game you have three players standing out by the halfcourt line deciding which car they are going to drive home for the night and two other players trying to play.

Women play, all five players and because they play below the rim, they have to utilize all of the fundamentals that Dr. Naismith made this game to be about. That is why I enjoy being involved with the WNBA and with the Los Angeles Sparks. Per player, they play extremely hard and that was indicated by that one that Katie Smith caught, you have to get on those bigs to call those out. I'm not surprised they played -- that's what I enjoy. Women play the way I used to play, get on the floor, get after it any time you are out on the floor.

Q: That's all well and good, but, you know, in other All-Star Games that have had more longevity than the WNBA All-Star Game there's always talk and concerns about big players on a team getting hurt in order to finish up their season, and you've experienced that now and the possibility of one of your big players getting hurt, that could affect your season. Will you have a different perspective on next year, about playing big players and how hard they play?

Cooper: Not at all. I think if I were to limit their playing minutes, you take away what the ultimate reward is, MVP. All players need minutes -- they may tell you different, but believe me, all those ladies are playing for that MVP award but they are doing it within a team concept. If I had to do it all over again, would I do it the same way? God forbid that's a career-ending or season-ending knee injury. You have to go with the game and injuries is part of the game. I would be doing a disservice if I did not play her. If she's injured going into the game, that's on me. I got an injury report, and I'll let them go until I see them having a hard time getting through picks, getting up and down the floor or if I know coming into the game. But injuries is part of the game and we have to get over it. Not just the Sparks, many teams. Look at Houston, Cooper, Swoopes came in with an effort tonight. If we have to deal with that, hopefully we won't, but if we have to, we'll make adjustments.

Q: Do you feel the officials allowed the players to play real physical which caused Lisa to get injured?

Cooper: Well, I don't mind the officials letting them play, but I think when play gets -- you know when it's getting a little bit overly aggressive. I think that's what I saw the first couple of times, I'm not naming any players, they went over the back and the officials let that go and this happened. I think you have to call this one to kind of calm them down a little bit and then you can dictate or walk them through the game by the way that they are playing, but you just don't say, "OK, we are going to let them play," because now players are going to start swiping -- taking liberties more than they are supposed to, cheap shots. I'm just an advocate of letting a team play hard or play fair and the best team will win. I don't think officials have to become part of the game, because a great WNBA game to me is when I don't know the officials are out there.

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SUE BIRD, Seattle Storm

Bird: I always love coming here to play and having the opportunity to play, and so I'm very thankful for that.

Q: You are two for two in All-Star games, can you compare the two?

Bird: Well, for me, this one is definitely a lot better, only because it's in New York. In terms of the games, I also think this one was probably a little bit more exciting, a lot more fancy plays out there, thanks to Nikki. I don't know. It was competitive, but at the same time I think we put on a good show. So if I had to pick one, it would definitely be this year's.

Q: Can you talk about your bounce pass to Lauren?

Bird: Yeah, you know, I know where LJ is at all times. She was on the receiving end. Good thing she made it or I would have been pissed.

Q: What were your thoughts of Nikki Teasley playing the point guard position and winning the MVP?

Bird: She had a great game. You know, she definitely was the MVP out there. She came in and made a difference, and that can be hard on an All-Star Game and she was able to kind of lead us to a victory. I don't really see it any other way.

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TAMECKA DIXON, Los Angeles Sparks

Q: Another All-Star Game, another victory?

Dixon: Iím just enjoying everything, man. My teammate won MVP, my other teammate went down. So itís kind of bittersweet. But Iím excited.

Q: How concerned are you about Lisa Leslieís injury?

Dixon: Iím concerned. Iím concerned anytime any one of my teammates goes down. I donít really know the severity of the injury, but Iím anxious to get out of here and give her a call and see whatís going on with that.

Q: You are from nearby in New Jersey, what did you think of the crowd?

Dixon: The crowd was great. They came and supported us. Itís nice to actually get cheered in the Garden, because usually Iím on the other side of the stick with them booing us. It was nice.

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YOLANDA GRIFFITH, Sacramento Monarchs

Griffith: I think it was an exciting game. I think the best All-Star Game so far, because the East competed with us tonight. They were determined to win. I think the West is the best. That's all I've got to say. (Laughter).

It was an exciting game and I hope the fans enjoyed it. It was on ABC. Can't ask for anything else.

Q: Do you think the game was a little physical in the first and second half?

Griffith: Yes, that's how the WNBA is regardless. Like I said, the East was determined to win, so they pretty much was being physical with us, trying to take it to us. We were like looking at the referees a little bit but then we had to not worry about the referees and just come back and play, and that's what we did in the second half.

Q: In an All-Star Game, there's always a chance of injury, did you think about that or talk about that in the huddles?

Griffith: We did. But, you know, you're going to have an All-Star Game and when you go out there and try to be careful, that's when you get hurt. I think, like you said, the game was physical. I feel bad for the situation Lisa was put into. Calls wasn't made and it got a little out of hand, and we pulled together as a team. We talked to each other, just saying we've got to be careful. We've got to attack the team, but we've got to be careful.

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LAUREN JACKSON, Seattle Storm

Q: You are three-for-three in All-Star Games. How does this one feel?

Jackson: Cool. It always feels good, but this one was really cool. Unfortunately, Lisa got hurt, but aside from that everything went pretty smoothly.

Q: What did you think of Nikki Teasleyís performance?

Jackson: She was awesome. Not many people can do what she does with the ball. Sheís got skills. It was a really good performance.

Q: You and Sue Bird hooked up on a couple of plays.

Jackson: They just came in the flow of the game. We didnít really plan anything.

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NIKKI TEASLEY, Los Angeles Sparks

Q: You were there when Lisa went down and you were one of the players helping her up off the court. Did she say anything about her injury, and what do you think of this in terms of the rest of your season?

Teasley: Well, she just said her knee was hurting. I was asking her what was wrong.

Lisa is a very strong individual. This is obviously nothing that we want to happen to any player, but for me, I'm so close to Lisa, to see her go down like that, the only thing I could think to do was pray to God and ask for safety and health and make sure she's okay. From what I hear, her ankle is sprained but she's doing pretty good. And as soon as I can get out of here, I'm definitely going to go see her in the hospital.

Q: Coach Cooper said that you had set a number of goals for yourself at the beginning of the season but the All-Star Game was not one of them. What were they?

Teasley: Well, winning another championship, obviously. I'm always a team player, I think of team first. But individually Coach Cooper and I have been doing a lot of things in the off-season, setting goals for myself as a team, meaning me and him have been doing different things for me.

The All-Star was kind of in the back of my mind. Being my second year in the league, I didn't think I would make the All-Star, but God is definitely blessing me with all of my goals and all of my dreams. Definitely playing on the Olympic team is one of my goals. Winning a third championship is one of my goals. So this is an extra, this is an extra blessing and I'm enjoying every moment of it.

Q: Would you talk a little bit about what it means for you to come from the time that you had to take off at Carolina to today, being the 2003 All-Star WNBA MVP?

Teasley: I came a long way from college, and everything that I went through was for a reason. God put me through a lot of different things to strengthen me for these moments so they came I would appreciate it, and I would really love what I'm doing and I wouldn't have any problems; I would not break down and be weak. I don't regret anything I went through. Taking a year off was something that I had to do, to find myself, find my identity so know who I am so I could be ready for moments like this.

I'm so blessed, so happy, I'm kind of lost for words at times because I'm so excited.

Q: After Leslie went down, you guys really stepped up your game. Did you say anything on the sideline sort of in her absence to sort of dominate the game or decide that was the time for you to step up your own game?

Teasley: Well, for me being my first year, knowing the history of the West, has won all the games so that was another thing. We were down, at the time, I believe when she went down. Obviously she was our leading scorer, so everybody had to pick it up to score some points. We knew we had to score points somehow but at the same time we knew that our defense was going to win. So we just talked about being more aggressive and not letting the East take this game and keep it on the West, and that's what we did.

Q: Is that really where the competitive intensity came from, the fact that West is trying to keep their streak and they are playing on the Eastern court?

Teasley: Yeah, I think so. The West is -- we are very strong. Everybody is competitive. Obviously, we would not be here; we are All-Stars. We want to give the fans a good show because the league would not last without the fans. We love their support and we thank them dearly. But everybody wants to win. When you want to win and you're a competitor, you'd do anything and that's why I got kind of grimy down there, but it's a lot of fun, also.

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