Quotes from Eastern Conference All-Stars and coach Lin Dunn from Friday's practice media availability.
Alana Beard (Washington Mystics)
Q: What is it like to be voted in as a starter?
Beard: Itís really an honor and a testament to what weíve done as a team. I mean, Iíve been an All-Star for four years and Iíve never been a starter. But itís clear that our team has really taken a step forward and the fans seem to have taken notice.
Q: What do you think about being the only Mystic All-Star considering how well the team is doing?
Beard: Itís hard to take in, but sometimes you have to just go with the flow. Not to take anything away from the other All-Stars here, but I think that we have two legitimate All-Stars on our team. If Marissa Coleman hadnít been injured from the beginning, I believe that she would have very easily been an All-Star.
Q: Who are you looking forward to playing with tomorrow?
Beard: Iíve play with Tamika Catchings, so I am over that [laughs]Ö.no, probably Sylvia Fowles and Sancho Lyttle because they are some of the best leapers in this league. Iíve got to one-up them and just make it fun.
Q: Do you have anything special planned for the game tomorrow?
Beard: No, Iím a pretty simple person. If you look at my dress, my styleÖIím just simple and I carry the same style onto the court. I just play basketball.
Tamika Catchings (Indiana Fever)
Q: Whatís it like to be here for your sixth All-Star game?
Catchings: Itís always different faces, sometimes itís the same faces, but a lot of times it a lot of new people. I think for me itís just an exciting time because of all the fans that are here and the great support that we get. Not only individually for our teams, but here as a collective unit being able to all be on the same team and play against one another.
Q: How important is team chemistry to the Feverís success thus far this season?
Catchings: I think definitely the ability to keep our core group intact [has been helpful]. Weíve been able to keep our core group, myself, Katie from last year, Tammy [Sutton-Brown], Ebony [Hoffman] and Tully [Bevilaqua]. That core group and being able to build around it has been huge for us. I can honestly say that the players that have come in from different teams, from the rookies that came in down the line, I think as a core group weíve opened up the doors and have accepted everybody in straight from the beginning. It wasnít like ďOh God Iím going to another team.Ē It was like ĎHey, this is our team right off the batí and I think that energy kind of bleeds in between everybody and that created the chemistry that we have.
Q: What areas are you focusing on as a team in order to sustain your early season success?
Catchings: It definitely starts from a leadership standpoint just kind of putting my foot down and saying that we need to go in there as a group and everybody has to come hard. Previous years, weíve gone down hill after the All-Star Game and Iím determined not to let that happen this year. It is a matter of keeping everybody focused. The chemistry is great, we all have the same goal, and I think that every single day that we go out practice, every game we play, we have to stay committed to that.
Sylvia Fowles (Chicago Sky)
Q: With this being your first All-Star Game, what are you trying to get out of the experience?
Fowles: First of all, I hope to get a chance just to learn from these girls who I am playing with because we are all here for a reason. Clearly, we all have something in common that we can do very well, so I hope to pick what they do well and see how I can apply it to my game. That is what I am looking forward to throughout this (experience) besides having fun.
Q: Does it help having two of your Chicago Sky teammates with you this weekend?
Fowles: Yes it helps a lot. But I also think that if I was by myself I would be OK. You have Katie Douglas, Katie Smith, who I have also played with (with USA Basketball), along with Sue (Bird), Lauren (Jackson), Cappie (Pondexter) and all the rest of those girls. So if (my Sky teammates) werenít here, it wouldnít have been so bad, but I am happy that they are.
Q: What is your track record with half-court shots (after making one in practice)?
Fowles: Thatís the first. Put me down for my first.
Q: Before her injury, Seimone Augustus was playing like an All-Star. You are representing LSU in your first All-Star game, but you could be playing with your former teammate. How tough is it that she is not here with you?
Fowles: I havenít talked to Seimone since she had her surgery, but I am guessing that sheís in good hands. They ainít going to let it get to far away. Things happen for a reason, not saying that it should have happened to her, but I wish that she was here. This would have been a great opportunity for us to see each other and also to play (together). Seimone is a great player and she is only going to get better in the years to come.
Q: What are your expectations in your first All-Star Game?
Fowles: Just to learn from these girls and how can I apply it to my own game while having fun at the same time.
Q: Is there something special about playing in Connecticut in front of these fans?
Fowles: Connecticut is a tough place to play, but to also bring us girls (Fowles, Jia Perkins and Candice Dupree) back together and have Chicago as one, I think it is going to be a great atmosphere and it is going to be fun. We will enjoy ourselves tomorrow.
Asjha Jones (Connecticut Sun)
Q: How was the Sun able to win four straight games heading into the All-Star break?
Jones: I think that when you have that ability to shoot a three when you have no other shot thatís huge. A lot of players donít have that ability to create for themselves. They need the pick and roll or they need the screen, so I think that when we do have to take the coverage on our own, we do a great job of creating our own opportunities. I think thatís how we turned it on going into All-Star.
Q: How has your relationship with former UConn classmates Swin Cash and Sue Bird transcended your WNBA careers?
Jones: I think we can probably call it more along the lines of sisters. We donít always see each other, we donít always talk. In college itís easy because youíre roommates and youíre right there spending every day together, but now weíre adults and we have our own lives so we just donít see each other. But today I just saw Swin and I havenít seen her in almost a year and it feels like when I see her itís like we donít miss a beat. We just catch up real quick and get moving. In college we become so close that no matter what weíre always going to be friends.
Q: How did the members of your recruiting class first meet?
Jones: Swin and I went on a recruiting trip to North Carolina together and Sue was in New York so we had played each against other. But I only saw Tamika [Williams] when she was playing in competition. I actually met her Dad before I met her, which is kind of interesting. But by playing against each other during the recruiting process we got to meet each other before we came together at UConn.
Q: Did you ever consider that three of you were going to develop into WNBA All-Stars?
Jones: I didnít think about, Swin probably did though. Swin came to school to looking for blood and she came for a starting job. Thatís how she is, sheís just gets the job done. I think she probably was the one who could dream that, the rest of us had no idea, we were just happy to be around. Swin is always a little different because she just knows what she wants.
Q: How do you like all this attention this weekend?
Jones: Itís a little different because Iím the only Connecticut player here representing our team so the fans know me. So when I come out theyíre cheering and everything. Itís really nice because it doesnít happen that often, itís only my second time being an all star, so I really just enjoy myself and enjoy the moment.
Sancho Lyttle (Atlanta Dream)
Q: What is it like to be in your first All-Star game?
Lyttle: I think that it wonít set in until tomorrow- today we are just practicing and meeting everybody. Tomorrow when the whistle blows for tip off is when it will all hit me.
Q: Who are you looking forward to playing with the most?
Lyttle: I guess everybody because it is the first time that Iíve played with any of these girls.
Q: You are playing great this year and have really improved from last year-- Whatís different about you this year?
Lyttle: I am getting more playing time. The first four years I was just coming off of the bench and now my minutes have gone up.
Q: What does it mean to have both you and Erika [de Souza] here and on a team that is a lot better than last year?
Lyttle: Itís a big accomplishment. If two of us can make it to All-Star, then that means that there is something special going on in Atlanta.
Q: Do you have anything special planned for the game tomorrow?
Lyttle: No [laughs].
Head Coach Lin Dunn (Indiana Fever)
Q: Is it a luxury to have Katie Douglas, your lucky charm, on your team?
Dunn: Iím lucky to have two lucky charm Katies, Katie Douglas and Katie Smith, on my team. Weíve got the lucky charm Katie team.
Q: Every All-Star team that Katie Smith has played on has won. Do you think that will continue this year?
Dunn: I certainly expect it to, because if we donít, then Iím going to blame it on Katie Smith.
Q: Can you talk about the difference in seeing all of this great talent on a night-in, night-out basis via the competition in the league, and what it means to then bring together the best of the best here for the All-Star game?
Dunn: I think anytime you get to work with, coach and be around the very best players in the world, it is really special. The WNBA is so talented this year that Iím sure it was very difficult to select only 10 or 11 players from each conference. Just being around these people, theyíre not only great players, theyíre also great ambassadors of the game and theyíre great people. Itís a real treat for me.
Q: Obviously this is a weekend which focuses on the celebration of the game, but both teams also want to win. Are you employing a certain strategy with that in mind?
Dunn: We have no strategy other than everybody play, everybody have fun, everybody stay healthy. We want everyone to enjoy the moment and connect with the fans. Those are some of the things weíre going to try to do. Then, at the end of the game, weíll both try to win Ė but the number one thing is for the fans to have a great experience.