Michael Cooper, Los Angeles Sparks
West Head Coach
July 9, 2003
Audio: Listen to what Cooper had to say
Iím very honored and pleased and very proud to again be head coach of the Western Conference All-Stars. Iím looking forward to this weekend; itís going to be very exciting. Iíll put a little ploy out there for our team: Letís score 100 points. We are going to get out after it, go up and down the floor and let the fans have a good time; let the players show their true athleticism without putting too many constraints on them.
Q: You have a couple of decisions to make about replacing a couple of starters.
Cooper: I think the first is Cynthia Cooper and the way a coach would make this evaluation is who is the next best player at that position. Right now, our choice, the coaching staff that is, is we are going to start Tamecka Dixon alongside Sue Bird. And now that Iím hearing that Tina (Thompson) is out, weíll look at the next person that is playing extremely well at the forward spot. We donít really have too much time to think about that because we have a game tonight, but those some of the considerations that Iíll take in the next couple of days. Probably by tomorrow, weíll have that starting forward. Itís going to be hard because any one of these players could easily be thrown in there. Iím pretty sure they would be honored to be taking a player such as Coopís and Tinaís spots.
Q: Are you out there to win the All-Star Game?
Cooper: We are here to compete and win. I think the players are thinking the same thing. I think the fans want to see a high scoring, exciting, scintillating basketball game and thatís how we are going to do it. We will just let the players dictate how we will run things.
Q: Is there a chance you could start Lauren Jackson?
Cooper: She is one of the players that we will be looking at. ... Yolanda Griffith [has] been playing well. So those [players] will be considered. I think weíll just look at Ö we will consider all of them equally because all deserve to be starters.
Q: There is no problem with Jackson and Lisa Leslie playing together?
Cooper: We had a situation last year where they played well together. I think Lauren played a little bit better to get the West team rolling. That will be another versatile lineup weíll be able to go with, her and Leslie, Lauren and Smooth (Leslie) playing together because both of them can play outside their original position, which is up under the basket.
Q: With Margo Dydek and Leslie, do you foresee a dunk in the game?
Cooper: I would like to think so. We are going to set her up to get something; maybe cherry pick and stay at the other end. But that is up to Margo. I think she can be a dominating player and if she wants to dunk, we are going to put her in some positions to be able and do some things.
Q: Playing in an East Coast city where teams have such a defensive nature, do you think it will be a defensive game?
Cooper: Itís up to the officials to make the calls, but I think players resort to the way they play. Tari Phillips is a very physical player. But we are just going to get the ball up and down the floor. Hopefully, our running attack will get to their more physical style of play and keep it from becoming a halfcourt game.
Q: Leslie was booed in Washington D.C. last year. Is that speaking about her game?
Cooper: I think it speaks about her game. There is always that one player people love to hate and she fits that role for the moment. She plays just as hard as the rest of players and I donít think she is any more dirty. Smooth is not dirty. She just plays hard; very athletic individual. People Ö Youíve got to love to boo someone.
Q: Talk about Tamecka Dixon.
Cooper: I think what you are seeing is a very healthy Mecka like two years ago, unlike last year where she had the heel injury Ė it was kind of like stepping on a nail or tack, trying to describe what the feeling was like. But she is injury-free other than a little tendonitis in her knee and most players in the league have that. But when she is healthy, this is what you can expect from Tamecka, not only defensively but also offensively. Sheís been one of the key players for our success this year because a lot of players have played a lot of minutes. DeLisha Milton played overseas. Mwadi Mabika is hurt a little bit. New people coming in. So, she has been one of the strongholds this year to keep us going. When she is on her game, she is one of the better guards in this league. She virtually can take over a game at any point in time.
Q: Is how seriously the players take this game one of its best selling points?
Cooper: For sure, they compete and, actually, more so in this game than any other, because here you have 22 of the best players this particular year. I think a lot of the players out West, we get tired of beating up on each other. Finally, we get to come together and play against the East team, and Iím pretty sure they feel the same way. Itís going to be a fun game. It will be nice to play with Yolanda Griffith and Lauren Jackson as opposed to playing against them all the time.
Q: It seems road teams have done well. Is it getting easier to win on the road?
Cooper: By no means. Actually, in this league itís getting harder whether to win on the road or at home. I think for us, itís that we prepared ourselves from a mental standpoint. We knew we would be out on the road early, so we prepared ourselves in practices, getting our game together. I think being on the road, you have to be a little more patient and more conservative with what you do. We like to run, but we canít run every time because we are on the home teamís court. The biggest thing is to keep the crowd out of it, thatís been how we judge ourselves on the road. So far weíve been fortunate.
Q: Do you think the East is better than it has been in past seasons?
Cooper: For sure. That's indicative by the way the Detroit Shock are playing. I'm not here to make any predictions, but I expect Indiana to have something to say about the final playoff spots in the East. All teams are getting better. What you are seeing slowly is the turning of the tide where everybody is ready to win themselves a title.