The Mystics have impressed early, but the East is still up for grabs
In the first half of the season, the Washington Mystics have gone from worst to first. Orlando, under new head coach Dee Brown, is surprising quite a few of the WNBA faithful, while teams such as Indiana, New York and Miami are struggling to find their chemistry and stride. Charlotte is a steady Eastern power while Cleveland and Detroit are looking to make a miracle comeback like last year's Sting, who surged from 1-10 to the WNBA Finals. All told, the Eastern Conference title is up for grabs and parity is the theme du jour.
WONDERS OF WASHINGTON AND MVPS
I don't know if Washington will finish the season at the top of the East, but I expect the Mystics to be in the Eastern Conference Finals. It's hard to say whether or not Orlando and Charlotte will continue to be strong. My MVP for the first half of the season was Chamique Holdsclaw until she got hurt. She leads the league in scoring and rebounding (19.9 points and 11.8 rebounds per game). With Holdsclaw's injury, I think that puts Indiana's Tamika Catchings up there as MVP in the East.
According to Ann Meyers, Tamika Catchings may be the East's MVP so far.|
The fact that the Mystics are 4-1 without Holdsclaw is a big plus for them. I think that a lot of things have come together for Washington. Last year the McCray-Holdsclaw connection wasn't working and changes were made. Holdsclaw is older and more mature and she came to camp ready to play this year. Stacey Dales-Schuman
and Asjha Jones
have really made an impact on this team. Jones' numbers might not show it as much, but she's helping them. Coco Miller
is also having a tremendous season and has helped to make up for the loss of Holdsclaw offensively.
SURPRISES IN ORLANDO
I think people are probably surprised with Orlando. The Miracle are second in the East right now and are playing well. Dee Brown has come in and has done a good job as a new coach rather quickly. I thought the Orlando trade of Elaine Powell
to Detroit for Wendy Palmer
was interesting. I didn't think Detroit needed another guard. The Shock have been seeing some incredible things from Swin Cash
, who is playing All-Star caliber ball, but she's doing it on a team that is struggling. Palmer is a different kind of player than Taj McWilliams-Franklin
(who will miss remainder of season because of her pregnancy), but is a smart, veteran player who is happy to be on the Miracle.
Shannon Johnson hasn't been very consistent, but she's one of the top guards in the league. Adrienne Johnson doesn't get enough credit, but she is the key to the Miracle. Her injury last year really hurt them. She's important for not only what she brings to the floor, but for what she does in the locker room. Katie Douglas has been a solid player. She doesn't get a lot of credit, but she does a lot of the dirty work.
Brown has brought a winning attitude to the Miracle, much like Michael Cooper did in Los Angeles. He played for the Boston Celtics and is teaching these women how to be champions. You have to give a lot of credit to Brown because a lot of the same personnel was there last year.
A GAME HERE, A GAME THERE
New York is 10-9 and Indiana is only 1½ games behind the Liberty. The Fever are 5½ games out of first and they're 8-10, so they need to get some more wins. Tamika Catchings
is having a phenomenal rookie season and is going to be the Michael Jordan of this league, but the MVP award will go to a player on one of the top teams come season's end.
I expect Miami to make a move. The Sol, now that they're healthy and players such as Sheri Sam have established themselves, should improve in the second half of the season. I think in the first half of the WNBA, because the season is so short, people tend to panic about teams such as Miami and Cleveland who haven't gotten off to great starts. However, look at Charlotte last year. The Stinf started off 1-10, earned a playoff spot, and ended up in the WNBA Finals. That's a situation that several teams in the East could be in after the All-Star break.
Another surprise is Cleveland. The Rockers had the East's best record last season and now they're struggling a bit with only six wins so far.
IN THE END
This year is no different than the first five years, which means it will come down to the last week, to the last couple of games. Even the last game played may determine who will be in a position to not only win the conference, but also who will end up in the third and fourth playoffs spots. The conference is tight right now. Only a few games separate the No. 1 team from the No. 4 team -- and even down to the No. 7 team in the East. There will be a lot of jockeying for the top four positions and it will come down to the wire, again, to determine who will make the playoffs.