2008 WNBA Season Re-launch Conference Call: Eastern and Western Players

2008 WNBA Season Re-launch Conference Call
August 26, 2008

Eastern Conference Players | Western Conference Players

Participants: Tamika Whitmore (Connecticut Sun)
Taj McWilliams-Franklin (Detroit Shock)
Sylvia Fowles (Chicago Sky)

Opening Statement, Taj McWilliams-Franklin:
"The break is going well for a lot of teams and players; you have a lot of players coming from overseas that get a chance to rest. The break allows a lot of the players to rest and get ready for the remainder of the season. Especially for me, since I have been traded, the break has given me time to get acclimated to a new team and system. I am sure many of the teams have added new things and are doing a lot of individual work with players. Once we resume play we are going to start moving toward, and working, for the playoffs. Most teams have seven or eight games. Most players will renew play with a harder, tougher, quicker mentality and try to gel again as a whole unit, like they were before the break. Once the Olympians get acclimated from jet lag, you will see all the teams in top form and get ready for the big playoff push."

Opening Statement, Tamika Whitmore:
"The break has definitely allowed for those players with injuries and everything to heal up and to refocus. The Connecticut Sun definitely got to gel more since we had a lot of new faces at the beginning of the year and didn’t have anyone on the Olympic squads. Our whole team has been here and it’s been good for the cohesiveness on the court and for understanding each other as players. It has definitely been a plus for us."

Opening Statement, Sylvia Fowles:
"I certainly didn’t have a break, but I am happy to be back and get things rolling with my teammates. Before heading to Beijing, I didn’t have a lot of playing time because of an injury; I am definitely happy to get things rolling and pick up where we left off."

Q: Sylvia, can you describe the impact that working with Lisa Leslie during the Olympics had on you? Lisa said that one point she taught you the running hook and then you used it in the games, is that true?

"Just the overall experience with working with the veterans and Lisa was great; it helped the game situations a lot easier. I appreciate everything they did for me to prepare me. After practice, Lisa would always go over things with me and teach me a lot of different things."

Q: For Sylvia…I saw a different player on the court in Beijing. The confidence you showed was at a different level then LSU and early during the season. What happened, if anything, that led you to this confidence that you showed?

"Just the coaches and veterans getting on me everyday. I had a good work ethic and did everything I could do to get the job done."

Q: Sylvia, in terms of your knee how much did your experience in the Olympics boost your confidence and assure you that your health was at 100 percent right now?

"I wanted to play before Beijing, but this was a breakout moment for me and made me comfortable to get out there and play."

Q: Tamika, how much of the break were you bonding and spending together and how much of the break were you resting?

"We had a couple of days in the beginning to rejuvenate and see our families, and then we got back to work. Everybody was back here in Connecticut on the August 11 and we have been practicing ever since. Basically just practicing against guys and holding our own against them, making tweaks on our offensive schemes. We definitely had a huge focus on our defensive end and getting better."

Q: Taj, did you have any idea you were going to get traded and after you learned you were traded to Detroit? What were your thoughts on being traded to a championship contender?

"I had a premonition about being traded and it came true, you kind of see it coming. It wasn’t a complete surprise; I was more surprised on where I went, especially with Washington only being a few games out of fourth place. I am happy I landed in Detroit. I think Coach Laimbeer has been trying to get me since I landed in Connecticut that first year. I am real excited about being here and playing for Coach Laimbeer and the Detroit Shock who have been in the playoff picture year in and year out since 2003. It’s great for me. The attitude with the girls here is great, they are very competitive, even in practice."

Q: Tamika, with Detroit getting Taj, where do you see them in the playoff run in the East?

"I think it’s a great opportunity for Taj and a great move for them. They got someone with veteran leadership. Taj is the type of player that knows how to win. She has the will to make her team better. You need somebody like Taj on the court, even when I am playing against Taj, she still will tell me what to do and will teach me on the court. Her acquisition by Detroit will definitely help a lot of the younger players."

Q: Sylvia, what are your expectations to adjusting to the new plays and your jet lag?

"I have had a few problems sleeping, but once I get back on the court, I shouldn’t have any problems adjusting to the new plays."

Q: Taj, how difficult is it to switch from different teams with different dynamics?

"I compare it to the adjustment that I make to going overseas to play. You come from a WNBA team that understands a lot of the defensive and offensive principles. You then go overseas to a team that you can basically do whatever you want to do. You have to make adjustments quickly to go overseas and be successful anyway. For me, once I got traded I shut down all the stuff mentally and then just restarted; I am on a new team so I just forget all the old stuff. It took me about three days to shut it all down and restart."

2008 WNBA Season Re-launch Conference Call
August 26, 2008

Transcript of Western Conference Players

Patricipants: Candace Parker (Los Angeles Sparks)
Becky Hammon (San Antonio Silver Stars)
Sue Bird (Seattle Storm)

Opening Statement, Sue Bird:
"We went to Beijing with one goal, and we achieved that goal, it was everything you could hope for in an Olympics. Now that I am back in Seattle, I have to switch gears. I know with Lauren Jackson having surgery a lot of people question if we can even make the playoffs, but we feel really confident only a half a game out of first in the West."

Opening Statement, Becky Hammon:
"My experience over at Beijing was a great one, everyone was gracious and kind over in Beijing, and everything was first class. I am very happy to walk out of there with a bronze, my club worked very hard. Coming back here to San Antonio, I am definitely eager to get back with my team; we just want to finish strong. I am looking forward to getting ready for this last stretch."

Opening Statement, Candace Parker:
"With this being my first Olympics I had a lot of expectations, Beijing exceeded my expectations and there couldn’t have been a closer knit team then our twelve. Winning the gold medal was amazing and coming back here to Los Angeles was great, we jumped back in. Coach Cooper has been working them really hard and has made a lot of improvements. We have seven games left and we are tied for third in the West, with definitely our work cut out for us."

Q: In the transition back to WNBA, how do you feel with having to make that jump back to the WNBA without that much time to rest like others did?

“I tried really hard not to sleep on the plane and the jet lag has been bad but I am just trying to do what I can do to get back in the mix with my team here in San Antonio.”

SB: “You have to just deal with the jet lag, we all know how it feels to flip a switch back to the WNBA. The first couple of days are trying to remember things and then you pick it up quickly.”

CP: “Coach Cooper put us through a tough practice today and we just have to switch gears and jump right back into it.”

Q: Sue, how different were these Olympics for you from the first?

“For me personally, these Olympics were much different because my role was a lot different. I had to take the torch in the first Olympics and this Olympics in China I had to become more of a leader. The venues in China were extremely great, the city of Beijing was definitely ready for us, and everything was first class. As a team, we were really tight, everything, on and off the court. This was a year to beat the U.S. and taking care of business in the fashion that we did was great.”

Q: For Sue…In 2004, you came back from the Olympics and Seattle made a run and won the title. This time around, as you won’t have Lauren Jackson, is the ’04 experience something you can draw on with the current Western Conference race being as tight as it is?

“Yes, absolutely. 2004 was similar with the Olympic break and the one thing I learned from that year is it’s actually more what you do before the break than what you do after. I don’t remember exactly the standings from that year back then but I know that we were in a very good spot…good enough where we actually lost five of our games after the break and we still were able to finish second. We know we have our work cut out for us, just like every other team. It’s going to be a fight but we did well prior to the break and hopefully we can get back to that level in these next few games and see what happens from there once we hopefully make the playoffs.”

Q: How do you think the break and the returning Olympians dealing with jet lag will effect the league competitively and in terms of fan interest?

“I think this is a great time. When people come back from overseas earlier in the year for training camp, I don’t think people get in the mix quick enough so the basketball at the beginning of the season is a little bit rougher until they get settled in and then you start seeing better basketball throughout the season. So I think the Olympic break, for people who stayed behind and got to work out…there’s one thing that coaches and GMs complain about and that’s that they don’t get enough practice time with their players because, once you’re into the season, you don’t get those really hard practices that you get in preseason and in training camp. So, for them, it’s a great time to get their key players involved and working well together. I think coaches probably loved it and players probably hated it. But I think, ultimately, the basketball level will be higher after the break. It might take a couple of games to get back into the groove but people are in great shape right now and they’ve been playing together for a long time which isn’t the case at the beginning of the season.

“As far as fan support, we have a good base and the playoffs and that kind of energy will be generated in each city. I think it will be the same or better heading into the playoffs.”