WNBA.com is heading to the woods of central Connecticut for the 2005 WNBA All-Star game at the Mohegan Sun Resort. From the Skills Challenge to Summer Jam and team practices, it's all taking place under one roof. Throughout the week we'll be keeping you informed of the latest happenings on and off the court, photos, video and Q&As with players and coaches. The WNBA.com All-Star Blog will be updated several times daily.
Breaking It Down
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on July 9, 2005 7:15 p.m. ET
WNBA President and WNBA All-Star MVP Sheryl Swoopes.|
Ray Amati/NBAE/Getty Images
About 45 minutes after the West All-Stars scored their sixth consecutive All-Star win, an easy, breezy 122-99 win at Mohegan Sun Arena, the arena crew started breaking down the house. First came the hoop where Lisa Leslie dunked for the second time in WNBA competition, the chairs, the lights, the sound boards soon followed.
As for breaking down the game, well, that was easy: The West had too much for the East to handle. The West's roster read like a Who's Who of women's basketball greats: Leslie, Swoopes, Smith, Griffith, Holdsclaw, Jackson, Bird, Taurasi. Of those, Sheryl Swoopes shone the brightest on Saturday, scoring 15 points and her first WNBA All-Star MVP trophy.
That Swoopes, surrounded by 21 of the best women's basketball players in the world, and with her son Jordan at her side, was holding the little crystal basketball symbolic of her being the best of the best was no surprise. At media availability on Friday, Swoopes gave her thoughts on the WNBA All-Star Game:
"The West will not lose."
True to Swoopes' word, they didn't. And they never have in an All-Star Game (and only one West team has lost in the Finals, too...).
The East put up a valiant effort throughout the game, but as we noted before, the West had too much firepower to overcome. And despite record-setting deficit and the now-six game All-Star albatross hanging around the East's collective neck, everyone seemed to be having a great time, especially near the end, in an arena half-filled with kids, when every All-Star turned into kid.
Diana Taurasi nailed a 40-foot jumper. (The play-by-play listed it at 27 feet. Don't believe it.) The 5-10 (listed) Deanna Nolan tried to two dunks. Lisa Leslie nailed one. Although the players cleared the way for all three attempts, it's hard to argue the thought process behind it: It's an All-Star Game. The fans want to see the best players do their thing and have fun doing it.
Look at the picture to the right. That's Deanna Nolan trying her first dunk. After the game Taj McWilliams-Franklin would relay this bit of info about Nolan's second attempt:
Nolan goes up and so does Donovan.
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images
"She said she didn't have the legs for the second one," McWilliams-Franklin said.
But on her first attempt, as Nolan rises toward the hoop, in the picture's lower left corner, West coach Anne Donovan is on her feet, arm raised, cheering Nolan on.
For that moment at least, the coach of the best women's team in the world turned into a 6-7 fan, lifted and thrilled by the anticipation of seeing something we may not have seen before. More than 9,100 fans shared in that feeling, and it, like the game itself, was a good thing.
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on July 9, 2005 5:59 p.m. ET
With the game well in hand, the East and the West cleared the runways (the paint) and went to dunking.
Yes, dunking. First, as we noted earlier, Deanna Nolan tried to slam it home in warmups and had a good chance to do it in the game, but the ball rimmed out. Well, she tried it in the game ... and lo and behold ... the same thing. But considering only some were watching when Nolan tried it in pregame warmups, the full 9,100-plus fans saw her attempt a dunk near the end of the game.
The East then stepped aside and watched as Lisa Leslie drove down the lane and slammed one home.
Nolan made one more go of it, and just missed again. But the exhibition had the crowd on its collective feet.
In the end, it was the West for the sixth time in All-Star history with a record-setting 122-99 win. Sheryl Swoopes, "representing, not the older, but the more experienced players" won the WNBA All-Star Game MVP.
We'll be back in a bit.
Oh, and don't forget, WNBAStore.com has all your WNBA All-Star gear. Get it while it lasts.
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on July 9, 2005 5:48 p.m. ET
Can we call Guinness for a check on the record for the biggest conga line? During the last time out it looked as if there were about 200 people, many of them kids, on the court.
When It Rains ...
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on July 9, 2005 5:38 p.m. ET
It Snow(s)? Well, when it's cold, but the West has been red hot all day. A layup by Houston's Michelle Snow gave the West 101 points, the first time a WNBA All-Star team has gone over 100.
Just a Reminder
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on July 9, 2005 5:38 p.m. ET
You can now cast your ballot
in the 2005 WNBA All-Star MVP fan voting.
It's A Record
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on July 9, 2005 5:32 p.m. ET
Well, it's official. Marie Ferdinand's layup gave the West 85 points (they now have 90) for the WNBA All-Star Game record. They look well on their way to 100 today.
Putting on a Clinic, Part II
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on July 9, 2005 5:23 p.m. ET
Minnesota's Katie Smith is putting on a clinic on how to shoot from long range.
Meanwhile, every time the East pulls within single digits, the West steps on the gas to pull a little bit further ahead. At this timeout, the West leads 83-66.
Would you like to know what the record by a team for most points in an All-Star Game is? We thought you would. The West scored 84 points in 2003. They will break that record with their next bucket.
The Fast and the Furious
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on July 9, 2005 5:12 p.m. ET
Right now, the game has good pace as the teams are trading hoops at an accelerated pace. It looks like the West could go racing past the century mark.
And just after Lauren Jackson hit a free throw, Diana Taurasi came by and yelled, "Way to go, Oi!"
Head to the Polls
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on July 9, 2005 5:12 p.m. ET
, vote often
in the 2005 WNBA All-Star MVP fan voting. The fans' votes count as one collective vote toward deciding the MVP. So, go now
Chant From Down Under
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on July 9, 2005 5:08 p.m. ET
As we tipped off the second half, we heard the first "Aussie, Aussie, Oi! Oi! Oi!" chant of the second 20 minutes.
Also, if the East wants to win its first All-Star Game, they need to get on the move. They're down 14, make that 11, after a Becky Hammon three-pointer.
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on July 9, 2005 4:56 p.m. ET
At halftime, the ABBA tribute group "ABBA, The Music!" entertained the crowd. They were rockin' the 70s! The long feathered hair (on the men as well as the women), the platform shoes, the white satin pants. Me, my pet rock and the fans enjoyed the presentation immensely.
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on July 9, 2005 4:53 p.m. ET
WNBA President Donna Orender addressed the media before the game. You can read the transcript here
Firing Up the Crowd
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on July 9, 2005 4:40 p.m. ET
The Liberty's junior dance team -- The Junior Torches -- had the crowd thoroughly entertained during the latest timeout. Some of the smallest dancers had some of the biggest moves.
Tamika Fever, It's Catchings
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on July 9, 2005 4:34 p.m. ET
What's not to like about Tamika Catchings' game? She can shoot, board, pass, defend and run the floor. And as we noted before, she's like The Terminator: She does not stop!
Right now, she leads all scorers with 11. Make that 13. She scored just as I typed 11.
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on July 9, 2005 4:24 p.m. ET
The East may have five players on the court, but with the lineup they have now, only Becky Hammon and Tamika Catchings have scored. They have nine points apiece.
West's All In
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on July 9, 2005 4:24 p.m. ET
Sacramento's DeMya Walker is in the game for the West. Walker was the last West All-Star to enter the game. Ann Wauters is the only East All-Star still left on the bench.
And now, so's the East. Wauters entered the game with the East's starting five sans Ruth Riley.
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on July 9, 2005 4:22 p.m. ET
Before the game, Nykesha Sales was aked what she expected to do in the All-Star Game.
"I'll expect us to win and I think we can score 100 points," she said to the crowd's delight.
With 12 minutes remaining in the first half, the East leads 23-20 and is on pace to score 115 points.
Needless to say, that'd be a record.
Here Come the Sun(s)
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on July 9, 2005 4:20 p.m. ET
Hometown heroes Nykesha Sales and Taj McWilliams-Franklin entered the game to a thunderous ovation.
A Whole New Team
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on July 9, 2005 4:15 p.m. ET
After the first timeout, West coach Anne Donovan just put in five new players -- Leslie, Holdsclaw, Snow, Ferdinand and Smith -- to take on the East.
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on July 9, 2005 4:09 p.m. ET
Indiana's Tamika Catchings only knows one speed -- all out! She just rifled a pass off Lauren Jackson's knee and out of bound to keep the ball with the East. As you know, the East is still looking for its first WNBA All-Star Game win.
We Got Gov
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on July 9, 2005 4:03 p.m. ET
Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell, WNBA President Donna Orender and Sheryl Swoopes took to the court before the game to present a check to the Susan G. Komen Breast Health Awareness Foundation. Remember, you can bid on some of the cooler memorabilia available at WNBA.com's Breast Health Auction
Husky Welcome Home
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on July 9, 2005 3:59 p.m. ET
Sales, Cash, Bird, Taurasi all received thunderous cheers during their introductions. Sales a little more considering she plays for the home team.
All-Stars All the Time
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on July 9, 2005 3:54 p.m. ET
The Eastern Conference All-Stars.
The Western Conference All-Stars.
I Thought I Saw A ...
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on July 9, 2005 3:30 p.m. ET
As the teams were in their layup lines, Liberty center Ann Wauters, who is 6-4, went up and slammed one home, much to the delight of the Mohegan Sun Arena crowd.
And then, all of a sudden, the Shock's Deanna Nolan goes flying through the lane and almost slams one home, also much to the delight of the crowd ... and her teammates. Nolan, whose nickname is "Tweety" and is all of 5-10, could have used another inch for the dunk, but still, amazing.
Putting on a Clinic
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on July 9, 2005 3:30 p.m. ET
Whenever a sportscaster says someone is putting on a clinic, they're referring to a performance so excellent, so text-book, you could take the tape and show it at clinic.
Well, they put on a clinic before the WNBA All-Star Game today. No, really. About a half-hour before the game, Shock coach Bill Laimbeer and former WNBA player Carla McGhee ran a Jr WNBA Clinic for about 30 Jr. WNBAers. Ah, the future generation getting a workout with the pros.
Rooting for Ruth
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on July 9, 2005 3:11 p.m. ET
What's up with Ruth Riley's shot?
I look up for a moment and she's missing shot after shot after shot and by a wide margin. And why is she turning her head toward the crowd after every air ball?
Turns out the Shock All-Star was filming a commercial for the WNBA's Fan Appreciation Day and acknowledging a fan holding a sign for her in the crowd. Ah, so that's the ticket.
To restore her "confidence" Ruth nailed a couple shots between takes. We knew she still had it in her.
2005 All-Star's Neil Armstrong Is...
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on July 9, 2005 2:30 p.m. ET
... Washington's Alana Beard is the first All-Star to step foot on the sea of tranquility that was the Mohegan Sun court.
Moments later, New York's Becky Hammon took to the court and, well, didn't miss. OK, once. But no one has better shooting form than the Liberty guard/icon.
At the Arena
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on July 9, 2005 2:15 p.m. ET
We are LIVE! (love shouting that) at Mohegan Sun Arena for the 2005 WNBA All-Star Game. And as you can expect, a couple of hours before game time, things are relatively quiet. The ABC crew goes through their tests for broadcast and the WNBA events and operations staff makes sure everything is tip-top for tip-off.
As usual, two racks of basketball await the players' arrival to the court. And, as usual, I must ... resist ... the urge ... to shoot ... around! Alas, I must balance my love for hoops with my love for food, clothing and shelter. But seing an empty floor and a bunch of basketballs waiting to be hoisted and splashed through the net, well, it takes every ounce of fortitude to resist that siren's song.
As for the arena itself, we like. We like a lot. With about 10,000 seats (about 20 rows in the lower level and 12 in the upper level), this place is intimate. The ceiling is low and covered with a metal sheeting, which means this place gets loud. We've experienced that first-hand last year with the WNBA Finals.
All right, we're going to snoop around a bit. Be back in a few moments.
Gettin' Our Jam On
Posted by Matt Wurst (WNBA.com) on July 9, 2005 12:44 p.m. ET
After a day of torrential rain threatened to wash the fun away, the Sun was shining this morning and the 2005 WNBA Summer Jam opened bright and early on the rooftop of one of the Mohegan Sun's several parking facilities. And talk about fair-weather fans... once they saw the sun shining, the fans flocked...
Kicking off the day at Center Court, Jennifer Azzi and San Antonio Silver Stars center Chantelle Anderson put on a Be Fit clinic for approximately 50 local youngsters, teaching them about the importance of health and fitness in the context of fun basketball exercises. And if you don't think that Azzi is a fitness guru, think again.
Meanwhile, more than 25 other stations were spread out across the Summer Jam space, from pop-a-shot free throw shooting games to a unique bungee-run basketball hoop. What can be better than combining the intense run of bungee and the game we love? Not even a little whiplash could snap the excitement off of the faces of those lined up to play.
And nothing goes on this weekend without the All-Stars checking it out and putting their unique stamp on things. In fact, the only lines longer than those waiting for free goodies from our sponsors were the lines for the player autograph stage. First up, loaded up with their own Krispy Kreme breakfasts for fuel and energy (WNBA Stars, they're just like us...), Tamika Catchings, Dawn Staley, Cheryl Ford and Taj Franklin were signing and greeting the patient fans.
Meanwhile, all the way across the lot, Deanna Nolan, Becky Hammon and Alana Beard were giving shooting tips to lucky fans. Why Alana was not chosen to participate in the dancing competition booth remains a mystery.
Eastern Conference All-Stars make new friends for life at Summer Jam.
Nokia had one of the cooler booths as well, allowing fans to take pictures on a Nokia phone with Sue Bird, Lauren Jackson, Chamique Holdsclaw and Michelle Snow. Now that's a photo I'd want sent to me.
This picture was NOT taken with a Nokia phone, but this fan is in heaven.
But without question, the most popular event took place at the Nike court. Just before 11:30 a.m., Connecticut's saint, Diana Taurasi came out to play a game of "Nike Knockout" with 10-15 lucky fans. What would the winner get? Well, a new pair of Air Taurasi's, of course. After much anticipation, Dee's shoes finally launced on July 1 and are pretty neat. Not only did she help design the shoes (that comes in three different colors), but the unisex sneaks have a few little secrets. Like some of the stitching resembles a soccer cleat and is a tribute to her father, a former soccer player.
Diana is a graceful loser in Knockout.
Shockingly, Diana did not win the game (despite her best efforts and even a little shady sportsmanship...). As the game, which essentially has players knocking each other out by making a shot before the player who shot before them, got down to the final three, Diana was in trouble and tried to steal her competitor's ball. But alas, she was eliminated as well. Diana does not like to lose, especially in Connecticut.
Perhaps her West team will fare better. After all, they are 5-0 in All-Star Games. It's almost time to head to the arena, where we will check back in shortly.
Posted by Matt Wurst (WNBA.com) on July 9, 2005 2:30 a.m. ET
With the All-Star Game just a little more than 13 hours away, the entire Mohegan Sun complex is abuzz with excitement. People are still walking around at this late hour and everyone seems ready. So what happens the night before the WNBA's biggest party of the year? Well, a party, of course.
That's right, and what happens when 100 invited guests turns out to be more like 400 guests? An even bigger party!
Tonight, WNBA president Donna Orender held a reception at the Michael Jordan Steakhouse here at the Mohegan Sun for distinguished guests and VIPs. The night also included a brief presentation, an interactive video and plenty of player participation. It was a celebration of the WNBA's sixth All-Star Weekend, the league's ninth anniversary and the continued growth of the league. But it was also a great way for people to get to know each other in a more relaxed environment.
Diana Taurasi and Jordan Jackson (Sheryl's son) share a moment at the President's Reception at Michael Jordan's.
We were also joined by our good friends from AOL, 1-800-FLOWERS.com, ESPN and ABC, Proctor and Gamble (Mr. George Grody, himself), not to mention more than 100 WNBA and NBA league employees, the Lindsays, the Klatskys, UConn coach Geno Auriemma (already a legend, but imagine walking through a Connecticut hotel with him on one of the biggest weekends in women's basketball) as well as all of the COO's and team executives (in town for the league executives' meetings), new WNBA owners Sheila Johnson and Michael Alter, at least four WNBA head coaches, all 22 All-Stars and more hor'deurves than you could shake a stick (or, more appropriately, a shish kebob skewer) at.
The night was also a celebration of another kind: All-Star center Lisa Leslie's birthday. When the big cake was brought out, the entire room sang Happy Birthday to the league's all-time leading scorer. We never got to taste the cake, but I hear it was scrumptulescent. In other news, Sacremento's DeMya Walker is enjoying her time in the spotlight and had everyone rolling. A real character, stay tuned for plenty of WNBA.com features on her...
Last note before going to bed for the night... fans will once again have the opportunity to cast their vote for the 2005 WNBA All-Star MVP. The polls will open at the start of the second half of the game and will remain open until the outcome is decided. And what better birthday present is another All-Star MVP award for Leslie? It would be her fourth time winning the award. We'll know soon enough.
We're Talkin' About Practice!
Posted by Rob Peterson (WNBA.com) on July 8, 2005 6:30 p.m. ET
Yes, this was a practice that even a certain Sixer named Allen I. (No, that's too obvious. Let's go with A. Iverson...) would have loved.
Then no one would complain if every practice were like the one the WNBA All-Stars had today at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn.
The good times started with the West All-Stars and the jovial spirit carried through the Eastern practice -- as they often do with All-Star practice sessions. That's not to say these talented women don't work during the A-S session (after their efforts today, no practice jersey remained dry), but an All-Star practice has a level of delight that most practices during the season or a walk-through on the morning of the second game of a back-to-back just can't match.
One of the reasons All-Star practice is a buoyant event is that people can see it. We threw the doors open to the public and much of the arena's lower bowl filled with fans of all ages, especially children (more on this later).
That, and the fans are watching players who are the best of the best at what they do. And when they get together such excellence is, well, excellent to watch.
And if you have someone who is willing to play class clown, that helps too. Today, Phoenix Mercury guard and former UConn goddess Diana Taurasi was more than willing to play to the crowd.
Taurasi clearly enjoyed her first All-Star practice and looked to be at home among a group of players with a combined 13 Olympic gold medals (including hers) in their collection. From flying in from halfway across the court with a huge smile on her face to try to block Sheryl Swoopes' son Jordan's three-pointer to being the first West All-Star to hit a half-court shot after 11 tries, Taurasi looked like a 16-year-old who had just been given the keys to the family Porsche.
D-Money, as some call her, also showed that she was willing to put her (D-)money where her mouth was. In being the first to hit the half-court shot, West coach Anne Donovan presented Taurasi with a little prize (it had a picture of Benjamin Franklin on it). Taurasi then began pulling kids onto the floor. She placed the bill on the floor behind the three-point line and motioned to the kids that if they hit the shot, the quintuple sawbuck was theirs.
Soon, a line had formed behind the three-point line as Taurasi grabbed more and more kids from the crowd. And poof! The Franklin was gone.
"It was Sue, it was Sue," a couple of kids began to point. The practice MC (Yes, the practices have an MC and both coaches are miked.) began asking where it went.
Taurasi's former UConn teammate and Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird, with a sly smile on her face, walked over and returned the bill to Taurasi.
By that time, more than 60 kids had taken to the court. A quick solution made everyone happy. You get one shot to hit a free throw. Make it, get a t-shirt. While not every kid won 100 percent cotton WNBA All-Star tee, it appeared a good time was had by all.
OTHER PRACTICE NOTES
Houston center Michelle Snow nearly brought the crowd to its feet when, in a break between drills, she tried to snap off a 180-degree dunk. The ball appeared to be halfway through when it popped back out, and the crowd let out a half-ohhhhhhhhh, half-ahhhhhhhh! after the attempt.
Sparks center and six-time All-Star Lisa Leslie also won a prize from coach Donovan as she was the first player to slam it home during practice. Snow would also later successfully rock the rim.
Poor Katie Smith. As the East were about to take the floor for their practice session, the Lynx All-Star guard was taking questions from reporters. After quickly erasing the silly thought --"When did Minnesota move to the Eastern Conference?" -- from my brain, we found out why the Smith was still around.
She had just arrived.
Thanks to the dreary weather here in New England, Smith, after the Lynx finished their contest against the Sting in Charlotte, took the less-than-direct route to Connecticut. On her way here, she was delayed Richmond, Va., Washington D.C and Hartford.
Oy! Still, Smith was smiling as she talked to reporters.
And one final practice note, Sheryl Swoopes son Jordan is going to be good.
Wake Up, Sleepy Heads
Posted by Matt Wurst (WNBA.com) on July 8, 2005 10:45 p.m. ET
The busy day has already begun, with players getting up bright and early to begin their rounds with the media, ESPN, photographers and the WNBA.com station. Nykesha Sales, Lauren Jackson, Yolanda Griffith, Marie Ferdinand and DeMya Walker have already been by to chat us up, so stay tuned for some interesting stuff with them in the second half of the offseason.
Many of the players flew in on overnight flights after their games, and needless to say, are quite tired. But the excitement of the weekend has wiped the sleep from their eyes and the opportunity to participate is more than enough to give them energy for the day ahead.
Lauren Jackson was rearing to go.
"All-Star, I think it gets better every year, definitely," the Storm forward said. "For me, every year, Iím a year older and have gotten to know people a little bit better. So, coming back here, itís sort of like reuniting with my friends. Itís even better because Anne [Donovan] is our coach."
Her teammate Sue Bird, as well as several other All-Stars were already out and about in the community. A busload of players, including Diana Taurasi, Taj McWilliams-Franklin and even Donna Orender headed over to the Groton Subase Youth Center for an All-Star Read-to-Achieve event. But they are already back and getting ready to head over for their first team meeting, where they will also be signing balls and jerseys which you can bid on in the WNBA.com Breast Health Auction.
Time to get the camera ready for more...
Marie Saves the Day
Posted by Matt Wurst (WNBA.com) on July 7, 2005 9:55 p.m. ET
The good folks at ESPN sure know how to throw a party. The activities in the evening were just as fun as the commercial shoot for the players and staff involved. As a treat for ESPN employees and their families, Marie, Diana, Sue, Carla and Teresa agreed to compete in a series of skills events with ESPN staffers. With WNBA President Donna Orender, Rebecca and Annie Meyers on hand to emcee, as well as hundreds of onlookers, the WNBA players first teamed up with an employee in a game of Two-Ball. The shooting competition was ultimately won in a squeaker by Carla McGee and sweet-shooting Andy over Diana Taurasi's team in the Finals.
Prior to taking the court, the WNBA players past and present posed with some ESPN staffers.
Then the court was cleared for the half-court shot contest. Now with the barbecue all set up around the corner and everyone starting to get hungry, this could have gotten ugly had no one made a shot. We would have been there for hours. One-by-one, Sue, Diana, the employees, Teresa and Carla all hoisted up shot after shot. Finally, after 36 attempts, the last person to shoot was Marie Ferdinand. Her first shot was a little right, her second a little left, but the third was dead on.
Finally, we could eat. With Linda Cohn of "SportsCenter," Al Jaffe of "Dream Job" and plenty more in attendance, the barbecue was a good chance for players and ESPN personalities to interact -- and for everyone at the WNBA to lobby for a few more clips a night on the ESPN family of networks.
Donna Orender shows Marie Ferdinand her All-American moves.
After the sun set, the vans headed back to Mohegan Sun where the first few players to arrived checked WNBA.com for scores of the other games, the final night of WNBA action before the break. Quietly each one slipped off to bed early in preparation for an exciting week ahead.
The Worldwide Leader
Posted by Matt Wurst (WNBA.com) on July 7, 2005 4:26 p.m. ET
Thanks for all of your e-mail with directions and for everyone's concern, but we made it to the Mohegan without a problem this time (Whew!) as players, staff and various members of the media began checking in this afternoon.
Without much time to get settled, we were back on the road, this time heading north to Bristol, Conn. home of ESPN, broadcast partner for the WNBA as well as the mecca for the entire sports universe. Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird sprawled out in the back of a stretch limo and got some rest after their red-eye flight from Phoenix Wednesday night. Diana popped in a Heavensent CD, the two cracked open mini-bottles of Poland Spring water and toasted each other, fellow All-Stars, and promised each other a great weekend. Just 12 hours removed from going head-to-head in a WNBA game, these two old friends were yapping it up about everything from Cleveland Cavs center Zydunas Ilgauskas to their old favorite UConn hangouts.
Upon arriving in Bristol, the two were met by a film crew that will be documenting their every move this weekend. After changing into their uniforms, the Sue and Diana were whisked away to a control room that had been converted into a TV studio. The two began taping promos for Saturday's game on ABC (have we mentioned that it begins at 4 p.m. ET?), though you'd be surprised how many times it took Diana to say "Diana Taurasi, guard, Phoenix Mercury." (Eight is enough.) The two then showed a glimpse of their acting skills in having to interact with a blank green screen and react to images that will be inserted behind them later on. Let's just say that it's a good thing they are good basketball players.
Sue Bird represents the WEST COAST during the promo shoot.
But the whirlwind tour of ESPN's campus continued with a trip to the second floor, where Sue and Diana would be participating in the filming of two new SportsCenter commercials.
Meanwhile, 30 miles away, San Antonio Silver Stars guard Marie Ferdinand had just landed and was being taken in a car of her own to Bristol to ultimately meet up with Sue, Diana and former WNBA players Teresa Weatherspoon, Rebecca Lobo and Carla McGhee...
But in the meantime, Sue and Diana were being given their scripts for the commercials, which they shot with Sportscenter anchors Scott Van Pelt, Steve Levy and John Anderson. Now we don't want to give too much away and never get invited back, but the two spots are very funny and will turn out great. Stay tuned... but one note to Scott, who is a loyal reader ... you are definitely the most handsome SportsCenter anchor we know.
Sue, Diana and a masked Scott Van Pelt watch an outtake from their commercial.
It looks like Marie is here and the rest of the day's events here at ESPN are about to begin. Good thing I have my Air Taurasi's on because we are headed outside to the basketball court...
On the Road Again
Posted by Matt Wurst (WNBA.com) on July 7, 2005 9:04 a.m. ET
Welcome once again to the WNBA All-Star Blog, your backstage pass, your behind-the-scenes guide, your exclusive access, your... (okay, we're pretty sure you get it)... for the 2005 WNBA All-Star Game at the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Conn. You might remember us from such blogs as the 2004 WNBA Finals Blog and Radio City Game Blog, and we're back at it with insider reports from all of the events, activities, practices and happenings leading up to and including the big game itself.
The excitement is already beginning to build as the weekend approaches. The fans have voted in their starters, the coaches have selected the reserves for each team and everyone and their mothers has publicly questioned how it's possible that Sun guard Lindsay Whalen was left off the team.
So here we are, live from beautiful, sprawling, majestic, bounteous... Secaucus, New Jersey. Riiiight. So we haven't left just yet... but before we hit the road, we just need to pack up the WNBA.com-mobile. In addition to our trusty road map (so we can avoid getting lost like we did before the Finals last October), we will be armed with several bottles of Gatorade and Dasani water, our Dell laptops, our American Express cards, our Reeboks and our Verizon cell phones in our Toyota automobile. Oh, and by the way, we are looking forward to seeing our great sponsors once we get there!
So what will this Blog have that you can't get by reading the message board or requesting the hotel room next to Tamika Catchings? Well, we'll be all over the place. From Friday's Read to Achieve Event and other community events to practices to team meals, we'll be there. We will also be sharing our own unique photos... photos, I may add, which only further prove that real NBAE photographers are the best in the world. But for these next few days or so, we pledge to you, loyal reader, that we will bring you the scoop from any and every event that will let us into (...all while staying away from the casino again) that you have come to know and love from The Blog Squad.
For example, several WNBA players are coming into Connecticut early for a barbecue on the ESPN campus in Bristol this afternoon (hence, the rush). In addition to some fine, grilled cuisine, players like Marie Ferdinand, Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi will be hanging out with ESPN employees and their families and maybe even playing a little Two-Ball or some H.O.R.S.E. with them. We'll be there to let you know if Dave Revsine has a sweet jumper or if the Linda Cohn dunk rumors really are true.
A few more notes before we go (and yes, co-blogger and WNBA.com staff member Jeff Dengate may or MAY be getting upset with me now, as he is honking the horn at me to get a move on so we don't hit traffic):Come to the Game. Even if you don't have a ticket, come to Summer Jam. Imagine a big carnival with WNBA Players. That's like the best of both worlds right there, and if they have cotton candy there, that's an even greater bonus.
Saturday's pre-game show will be broadcast live from the lobby of the Mohegan Sun Arena, ESPN2 at 3:30 p.m. ET. The game tips off at 4:03 p.m.
The Skills Challenge is back! Players will be taking a break from their respective All-Star practices to compete in the Skills challenge on Friday afternoon. It will be shown in its entirety on the Discovery Channel on Sunday.
More details to follow...