Games Not to Miss in 2004
Saturday, May 22: Phoenix Mercury at Connecticut Sun (4 p.m. ET, ABC)
Diana Taurasi returns to the state of Connecticut for her just second game as a professional. ABC will be there, as will most of the New England media. But this game will not just be about the No. 1 overall pick in the 2004 Draft. Also making her WNBA debut will be Sun guard Lindsay Whalen,
another highly coveted rookie who went fourth overall in the Draft. Looking to improve on the league's worst record last season, the Mercury will have not only an impressive class of rookies, but also 2003 All-Star Adrian Williams
and Dispersal Draft pick-up and 2002 All-Star Penny Taylor
. The Mercury will feature many other new faces this season, including rookies Shereka Wright and Ashley Robinson, as well as new head coach Carrie Graf, a former assistant in Phoenix. The Sun advanced to the Eastern Conference Championship during the team's first year in Connecticut, but Coach Mike Thibault
must find a way to replace the leadership of All-Star point guard Shannon "Pee Wee" Johnson
, who was traded to San Antonio in the offseason. Whalen should provide some support, as will Taj McWilliams-Franklin
, who has been playing well in the EuroLeague this offseason, and Asjha Jones, another UConn alum who was recently acquired from Washington.
Saturday, May 29: Los Angeles Sparks at Detroit Shock (4 p.m. ET, ABC)
Fans don't have to wait long for a rematch of the exciting 2003 WNBA Finals. Last we
saw of these two teams, Ruth Riley
put on an MVP performance to help the Shock overcome Lisa Leslie
and the two-time defending champion Sparks. Well, fast forward to 2004 and the Shock are the defending champs as Swin Cash
, Cheryl Ford
and company try to prove that they can make a run of it again. Throw in the long-standing Laimbeer
rivalry, and this game has a little something for everyone.
Sunday, May 30: Sacramento Monarchs at Houston Comets (3 p.m. ET)
Plus: Thursday, Sept. 16 (8 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
When these two teams last met, Ticha Penicheiro connected with 2.8 seconds left to lift
the Monarchs to a 70-68 victory over the Comets in the decisive game three of their first-round playoff matchup. After losing Cynthia Cooper
to a rotator cuff injury a few games into her comeback in 2003, Houston hopes to have its "Big Three" of Cooper, Sheryl Swoopes
and Tina Thompson
intact for 2004. Sacramento meanwhile will draw on four-time All-Star Yolanda Griffith
and point guard Penicheiro, who has led the WNBA in assists in each of her six seasons and finished the 2003 season dishing out 6.7 assists per game.
Tuesday, June 22: Los Angeles Sparks at New York Liberty (7:30 p.m. ET)
In one of the biggest surprises of the offseason, veteran guard Teresa Weatherspoon left the New York Liberty and signed with the Los Angeles Sparks as a free agent.
After spending all seven of her WNBA seasons as the leader of the three-time Eastern Conference champions, T-Spoon now leaves the Liberty in the hands of Becky Hammon
, who is coming off of a serious injury last season, Vickie Johnson
and Crystal Robinson
. Also expected to step in and make a contribution right away is the Liberty's first round draft pick, Shameka Christon
, the fifth overall pick. Many across the league have compared her style to Houston's Sheryl Swoopes. But Los Angeles is still a force to be reckoned with out West. Losing in the game three of the Finals to Detroit left a sour taste in their mouths, and you can bet that Lisa Leslie
, Nikki Teasley
and Tamecka Dixon
will be stepping up their game until Delisha Milton-Jones
comes back from her ACL injury sustained while playing with the U.S. Women's Senior National Team.
Thursday, July 1: Indiana Fever at Washington Mystics (8 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
Two of the WNBA's premier players, and two former University of Tennessee stars, match up in this Eastern
Conference showdown as Tamika Catchings
and the Indiana Fever face Chamique Holdsclaw
and the Washington Mystics. Despite each team boasting one of the league's top players, neither franchise advanced to the postseason in 2003. Holdsclaw led the league in rebounding in 2003 for the second year in a row. The Rookie of the Year in 2002, Catchings picked up where she left off last season, scoring in double figures in all but one game for the Fever. Both of these stars make this game one to watch. Also worth a note is Indiana's new coach Brian Winters
, who brings experience as an NBA head coach in Vancouver and Golden State with him to the Fever.
Sunday, July 18: San Antonio Silver Stars at Detroit Shock (12 noon ET, Oxygen)
In Oxygen's first broadcast of the 2004 WNBA season, the San Antonio Silver Stars must test their mettle
against the defending champion Detroit Shock. The Silver Stars will have a new head coach for 2004 in Dee Brown
, who has WNBA coaching experience from his days with the Orlando Miracle. The Silver Stars have three 2003 All-Stars in newly-acquired Shannon Johnson
, Margo Dydek
and Marie Ferdinand
, but San Antonio is looking to improve on its 12-22 record from last season. The Silver Stars picked up the 2003 top draft pick LaToya Thomas
with the third pick in this year's Dispersal Draft. The Shock, on the other hand, will look to continue their winning ways after capturing the title with a team that entered last season with the youngest average age in the league (24.87), including Rookie of the Year Cheryl Ford
Sunday, August 1: Phoenix Mercury at Washington Mystics (12 noon ET, Oxygen)
First there was Larry and Magic, then Lebron and Carmelo. Good friends Diana Taurasi and Alana Beard were the top two picks in the 2004 WNBA Draft and kick off the WNBA's newest rivalry
just before the WNBA takes a break for the Olympics. Diana is tough as nails, a three-time national champion at Connecticut and a two-time Naismith Award Winner. Alana is a lights-out defender who put women's basketball on the map at Duke and won the inagural women's Wooden Award in her senior year. Diana comes in with several other talented rookies to help shoulder the burden. Alana has Chamique Holdsclaw to help shoulder the burden. Diana is playing for a first-year coach. Alana is playing for a first year coach. Tune-in to see who gets the better of the other in their first meeting in the WNBA.
Friday, Sept. 10: Seattle Storm at Minnesota Lynx (7 p.m. ET)
The Seattle Storm had back-to-back No. 1 draft picks in Lauren Jackson
and Sue Bird
. Both were All-Stars in 2003, and Lauren Jackson earned WNBA MVP honors. But injuries plagued the Storm down the stretch last season, and the team failed to advance to the postseason. On the flip side, Minnesota capitalized and captured the fourth and final Western Conference playoff spot in 2003. With perennial All-Star Katie Smith
and coach Suzie McConnell Serio
with a year of experience under her belt, the Lynx are looking to prove that they are playoff-worthy, making this a potential key game for two playoff hopefuls in the West.