Week 3 - June 9, 2004

Ask Nancy: Q/A with Nancy Lieberman - Week 3

Each week, Basketball Hall-of-Famer and ESPN analyst Nancy Lieberman answers your questions and emails. Click here to submit a question of your own.

I am a 16-year old girl who lives in London, England. I play the Point Guard position. I would like to know at what age do you think I should go to the United State to play ball?
-Lily (London, England)

A: The European game has come a long way - there are such great players in the WNBA that came from Europe. But I still think the best coaches, athletes and basketball is played in America. If you come over here and get with the right people and in the right system, you will have every opportunity to learn and play the game at the highest level depending on your talent. There are great coaches at the A.A.U. and college level - there is solid teaching if you are willing to seek it out. But that is a committment that you must be ready to make and must figure out depending on your individual situation.

If you had to pick a "sleeper" to win the title, who would it be???
-Scott (Appleton, WI)

A: I don't know if I would call New York a sleeper anymore, but they are it. The Liberty have always been contenders, but they have been the bridesmaid so many times. But New York is routinely getting four or even five starters scoring in double figures. That is just a compliment to what Richie Adubato has done with that basketball team. It has just been awesome. We knew he was a great teacher, but the way New York is playing right now, they will have every opportunity to contend for a championship because they have veterans and rookies, balanced scoring inside and outside and All-Stars and role players. Most importantly, they have the glue... and that is Vicke Johnson, who gets it done every step of the way.

I have followed the Sun (formally the Miracle of Orlando) from Day 1, was a loyal season ticket holder. I continue to follow them even after their move, but cannot understand why they would trade a player like Shannon "Pee Wee" Johnson? Nancy, you've coached in the WNBA, so what gives? What enters a coach's mind to make this sort of decision? Pee Wee always gives 200%. Help me understand this! Thanks!
-Lynne (Orlando, FL)

A: First and foremost, coaches have to be comfortable with their players. Just because someone is traded doesn't mean that they aren't a good player, but everyone has their preferences. Maybe Mike Thibault decided that Shannon didn't fit in the mix or blend well with his style in Connecticut. While she has tremendous leverage, he might have viewed it as an opportunity to turn that into draft picks and continue to build with youth. In women's basketball, trades do not necessarily mean that we don't like someone - it just means that we are trying to get better in a different way. It happens in men's sports all the time. If they can trade Babe Ruth, Wayne Gretzky and Barry Bonds, they can trade Shannon Johnson. I really love her game, but it is paying off for both teams now.

I was just wondering why Chamique Holdsclaw isn't on the Olympic team? Did she decline the invite or just not get one?
-Nikki (Columbia, MD)

A: From what I am told, she was not offered a spot. I can't tell you the reasons, but a lot of people think Chamique actually turned down USA Basketball. You never know who is telling the right story, of course... I have heard both stories.

What can the Houston Comets do to step up their game? Who do they need to step up off the bench?
-Chi (Tulsa, OK)

A: I love Houston's history in the WNBA and I think the world of Van Chancellor and his players. But I think they are underachieving. They absolutely must have good games from Tina Thompson and Sheryl Swoopes. No one is playing better than Tina Thompson right now - she is playing at an MVP and Olympic level. But Sheryl Swoopes has really struggles this year and I don't know why. I know she has had some injuries that she is coming off of, but she is not the type that would ever tell anyone or make excuses. She had toe surgery and she was in pain when I coached her in the NWBL, but she never said anything. But all that said, Houston will only go as far as Thompson and Swoopes take them. Kedra Holland-Corn and Michelle Snow have also got to give them some additional points. It's not the bench as much as the starters that have to step up and give them something. You can no longer win in the WNBA with only two scorers.

Hi Nancy!! I just wanted to ask you about people who put down the WNBA, and say that it is not "real" basketball. I absolutely love watching the WNBA. I think I learn more from them than even the NBA. What would you say to some of those people who hate or put down or don't "believe" in the WNBA?
-Jackie (Pipe Creek, TX)

A: I have not come across anyone that says they hate the WNBA. It may not be someone's favorite sport and maybe people like the men's game more, but you cannot deny the talent, the ability, the passion and how hard the WNBA players work everyday. If somebody who had never seen women's basketball ventures into an arena on a whim, they would walk out thinking 'Wow, they are a lot better and lot more athletic than I thought.' People who say they don't like the style of the basketball really should go see it just once. Give it a chance, and if you don't like it, then you never have to come back. But there is no reason for people to hate the game at all. It's a sport, not a candidate for office.

Nancy, Why do the WNBA games receive such poor television coverage compared to the NBA. In my area and other areas around the country,next to nothing is mentioned about the WNBA games on television networks. Whenever games are aired, it's late at night or at some other odd time. This is wrong. What is the problem? I love the WNBA and would like to see more games in their short, short season.
-Clara (Olive Creek, MS)

A: You have to remember that we have come a long way in such a short period of time. Eight years is nothing compared to the NBA and other sports. Kudos to the NBA and the WNBA for really pushing for what we have now. The NBA has been around for more than 50 years and there are 30 teams in 30 markets across the country. That is more than twice as many teams as the WNBA has now. The markets that we are in are committed to exposure of the WNBA, but sometimes if there is not a team in that city, they will cover other sports. The NBA, NFL and Major League Baseball was not even close to the level of coverage that the WNBA has in just its eighth season. We have games of the week on ABC and ESPN, studio shows, local cable and radio coverage in all of the markets - that was not happening for the men in the 1960's. They were playing in the local armory in front of a few thousand people. So we are so far ahead, from salaries to ratings to to venues to just about everything.

I'm hoping you can answer a "where are they now" question about two pioneering and legendary coaches in women's collegiate basketball -- Cathy Rush and Billie Moore. Are they still actively involved in any phase of women's basketball?
-Jo (Pitman, N.J.)

A: Billie Moore was my Olympic coach in 1976, she is a Hall-of-Famer and works very closely with the women's basketball Hall of Fame in Tennessee. She was the president and is still very close to Pat Summitt and very much a mentor to Pat. But she is retired from the game. Cathy Rush should be in the Hall of Fame and will be one day - she is a great pioneer of the game and has run her basketball camp and businesses in the Philadelphia area for years. She is a bright businesswomen and was one heck of a coach who, in my opinion, was never given her due, which is very disappointing. And I had the privelege of playing for both, which tells you how old I am...

Check back next week for more or submit a question of your own.