July 2, 2005 - The 2005 WNBA All-Star Game is less than a week away and it is a very exciting time for the league, the players and the fans. There was no game last year as we took a break for the Olympic Games, but if last year's Finals is any indication, Connecticut will put on a great show all weekend long.

It is hard for me to believe that the season is reaching its midpoint, but teams have played anywhere from 12 to 15 games already, and fans had a decent body of work to study when voting for the All-Stars. I am excited for the fans because they selected the players that they wanted to see. They did a great job and it's hard to criticize any of their choices. At one point during the process, there were three Houston players, Snow, Swoopes and Arcain, who were in the lead. That's impressive that the fans in Houston got behind their players. East forward Swin Cash has been injured all year, but her getting voted in is a credit to the Detroit fans as well.

Mercury Diana Taurasi is a first-time All-Star.
J. Pottheiser/NBAE/Getty Images

So far, the rosters have a good mix of young players and experienced veterans, representative of the league as a whole. I think it shows that we are seeing a changing of the guards a little bit in the WNBA. Fans still remember the veteran players and the quality of play that they are still producing. Sheryl Swoopes was the top vote-getter once again, which is really interesting, but the fans are also recognizing and acknowledging that the younger players are here to stay and are showing their popularity. We will also have three University of Connecticut kids from the past few years that were voted in. That's great, but it's also amazing that nine of the ten starters were Olympians last season. Eight of the U.S. players and Australian Lauren Jackson. That is pretty impressive, but it also shows you that USA Basketball knows what it's doing. I am also excited for Diana Taurasi and Ruth Riley, who will be playing in their first All-Star Game.

A big surprise for me is that no one from Connecticut was voted to start. They are off to such a great start and I think Mike Thibault is a strong candidate for Coach of the Year (I actually thought he could have won it last year). This is his third year with the team now. In his first year, they made the Playoffs, last year they made the Finals and this year they are just dominating. I think the Connecticut fans can get more active in All-Star balloting. All five of their starters merit All-Star consideration, especially with them hosting the game and Mike Thibault is the coach. I think Taj McWilliams-Franklin is having an MVP-type year. Lindsay Whalen is also having an All-Star year. But Becky Hammon and Dawn Staley, the starting guards in the east, are fan favorites and will represent the East well.

In the West, Yolanda Griffith deserves the starting nod at center. She has had a very solid first half. Sacramento has been the best team in the conference this season. But look at who else has been playing well. Houston is probably one of the surprise teams so far, especially without Tina Thompson. Think of how much stronger they will be when she comes back. Sheryl Swoopes has been great this season. You can't forget the trade rumors early on, but I give her serious kudos. She is 34 years old, but playing so well and I'm proud of her. I mean, she leads the league in steals, she is scoring and it just shows you that she didn't let all of the other stuff affect her. I think it helps that they are flying a little bit under the radar. They won the championships but then struggled the next few years. Van Chancellor looks like he has some players there that are starting to play well, so I give him and the coaching staff a lot of credit for getting them to come together.

I also think it is surprising that nobody from the Sparks was voted to start. That said, I don't know the extent of Chamique Holdsclaw's sprained ankle and I know that Lisa Leslie has not been 100% this season or on top of her game. Her numbers are not as good as people would expect and neither has the team, but there have been a lot of changes in L.A. But it is a surprise as you consider that four of the five All-Star MVP's have been a player from the Sparks between Lisa Leslie and Nikki Teasley.

It will be hard for coaches to select the reserves with so many deserving players. The coaches from each conference all submit their votes, and if a starter is injured, she is replaced by another player as per President Donna Orender's decision, but the coach can decide who of the remaining players will start. Swin Cash will likely not play even though she has been working out and rehabilitating her leg, so perhaps McWilliams-Franklin will get chosen. I think she is a lock to at least make the team either way.

The Eastern Conference starting guards are small, so Lindsay Whalen, Alana Beard and Deanna Nolan would give you some size. Some other names in the East that could be there as well are Connecticut's Nykesha Sales, who has played in every All-Star game (though I'm not sure we can have three Sun players), and Indiana's Kelly Miller has had a good season. Shock forward Cheryl Ford and centers Ann Wauters and Margo Dydek could also get in. Rookies Tan White and Temeka Johnson probably won't get in as there aren't enough roster spots, but they have had very good years so far. I think they have potential to be All-Stars down the road in this league.

Sacramento's DeMya Walker
R. Widner/NBAE/Getty Images
In the West, there are the two L.A. players, Holdsclaw and Leslie, who you think would be natural picks. Holdsclaw is at the top of the scoring and rebounding lists and Leslie has been the best player in the world for several years. Sacramento's DeMya Walker and Nicole Powell could also get serious consideration. Nicole Powell is my Most Improved Player so far, with Dydek being number two. Nicole averaged like three minutes per game last year, but look at her numbers this year. Katie Smith, another Olympian, and Marie Ferdinand will probably make it. San Antonio lost LaToya Thomas and Ferdinand's numbers have risen a bit, though that team isn't designed for Ferdinand to go off or anything like that. Out of the starters, eight of the 13 teams are already represented, and the only teams without a player yet are Los Angeles, Minnesota, San Antonio, Washington and Connecticut. There is a good chance that all 13 will have a representative when all is said and done.

Now is also as good a time as any to look at some other stories across the league...

In the Eastern Conference, we all thought it would be Detroit and Connecticut on top. Connecticut has exceeded expectations, but Detroit has struggled. The Shock have all that power on the front line, but are a .500 team, lost four in a row and five out of six. That is a story. New York has also been inconsistent this season. I really think they need to get younger. They'll have some tough decisions to make. I am not surprised that Ann Wauters is playing well because she came into the league at 19 years old and has been able to grow, get more involved and understand the game and deserves to be on the All-Star team.

The Sparks are another team that needs to get younger. The nucleus of Leslie, Tamecka Dixon and Mwadi Mabika (who has been out) has been together for a long time. Look at the two best teams in the league this year. The Sun got younger as did Sacramento. The Sun went to Finals with five or six rookies last year and they have a great mix. Then the knock on the Monarchs was that they were the oldest team in the league, but they no longer have Ruthie Bolton, Edna Campbell, Lady Grooms or Tangela Smith. Minnesota was able to do this and have been one of the top teams this season as well. I'm sad that Teresa Edwards is not with the team anymore, but Katie Smith, Svet Abrosimova and Tamika Williams are veteran players, but there are Nicole Ohlde and Vanessa Hayden are each in their second year. I also think Kristen Mann will be helpful for them down the road.

But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves yet. The second half is shaping up to be one of the closest and most competitive finished ever, but the All-Star Game should be a fun break featuring the best players in the world. If you are in the area, I strongly encourage you to come out and experience WNBA All-Star weekend. The UConn presence will be strongly felt with lots of their fans coming out to see them, but this is also the chance to see so many Olympians together in one game. Tune in on ABC at 4 p.m. ET on Saturday.