WNBA Finals 2003 Media AvailabilityLos Angeles Sparks
Thursday, September 11, 2003
Michael Cooper |
Tamecka Dixon |
Jennifer Gillom |
Lisa Leslie |
Mwadi Mabika |
DeLisha Milton |
MICHAEL COOPER, Head Coach
Q: What is it about Bill Laimbeer in particular that gets under your skin?
Cooper: Bill doesnít get under my skin. He gets under your (the media) skin, which makes you think he gets under my skin. Bill has the gift of gab. As coaches, this is all part of the hype that goes along. We canít play anymore, so we have to talk our game. Again, itís a situation where talk is cheap. Itís time to play now. The players are going to make this happen on the court, so there is nothing more we can say.
Q: So your rivalry is in the past?
Cooper: Exactly. Thatís the only reason we have a rivalry, because we played each other in the past. It was very competitive. Bill was the glue to his team, and I felt I was the glue to our team. We did all the little things that no one else wanted to do.
Q: Detroit has said it doesnít change its gameplan for anybody. Do you think thatís a mistake playing your team?
Cooper: No, thatís his coaching philosophy. We donít try to change much either. But there are things we have to do, you have to make adjustments. Right now, neither team has to make an adjustment because neither of us has lost yet. But I am pretty that if we were to get this game on Friday, they will have to make some adjustments because you canít come out and play the same way you lost the game with.
Q: Do you give the edge to your team in the intangibles Ė team chemistry, experience?
Cooper: A lot of people say we donít have the bench the other team has. I think thatís an intangible thatís a plus for them. But our bench is the type of bench that is successful for us. Obviously, it doesnít produce a lot of points, but it does other things for us. You can only play five at a time. We feel that any five we throw on the floor are the best in the WNBA.
Q: Is this the toughest team youíve seen in the Finals?
Cooper: Itís the most athletic team. I donít think the toughest. Charlotte was the toughest. They had Tammy Sutton-Brown who posed a big problem, which Iím pretty sure Ruth Riley will too. But this is probably the most athletic team we see getting up and down. New York was very tough Ė a very physical team. But this team is similar to us. Cheryl Ford might be a little bigger than DeLisha Milton, but I feel Milton gets up and down the floor a little better.
Q: Does this team reflect your style when you played?
Cooper: A few of them, but the team doesnít. We play hard. In L.A., everything has to be Showtime glitz, and in a sense thatís what we try to do by getting up and down the floor and putting some points on the board. People want to see that. It reflects a bit of our Lakers Showtime days, and I think the team reflects more of that than me as an individual.
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Q: Coach Cooper has said that rebounding could be the most important aspect of this series. Do you agree, and does that also involve you and Nikki Teasley getting rebounds from the backcourt?
Dixon: Yeah, I think so. I think when we rebound well and out-rebound our opponent, our record is incredible. When we play a team even on the boards or they get the best of us, we struggle. Itís going to be important for the guards to come in and do a great job on the boards, because their guards are pretty intense as far as going to the boards.
Q: Do you think people are overlooking the experience factor in this series?
Dixon: It doesnít really matter in my eyes what the media is overlooking. I think our experience is what it is. No matter how good you are or how talented you are, sometimes it doesnít help if you donít have a certain amount of experience.
Q: What worries you about this Detroit team?
Dixon: They can score with us. They definitely have some talented players offensively. I think the key is defense. Whoever sets the defensive tone is the one whoís going to win the series. We always prided ourselves on defense.
Q: Is it important not to rely on the last two games, even though you know that youíre capable of playing well on the road?
Dixon: I think weíve done a great job at protecting home court here in the playoffs. I think weíre going to do our best to keep that going and put the pressure on them to have to win two at their place. Itís not easy in the playoffs.
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Q: Is this the end? Will you retire after this series?
Gillom: After sitting on the bench a lot this year, it kind of rested me, rejuvenated my body, so you never know. I wonít know until next year when the season comes around again. It would probably be good to retire on a championship note, but I havenít made up my mind yet.
Q: Has it been a tough year for you not playing much?
Gillom: It really hasnít been a tough year. When I came here, I knew what to expect. These girls had been together for two years, had won two championships together, I wasnít about to come in here and disrupt anyoneís system. All I wanted to do was come here and contribute where I can. I knew my time would be limited, so it didnít bother me at all. I accepted my role right away. Whenever I can contribute, I will.
Q: Looking back at your WNBA career, what will you remember most?
Gillom: I had the best six years in Phoenix. I had wonderful fans, wonderful support. I had a wonderful year in L.A. even. We went through a lot and thatís what will make this championship much sweeter if we won because we have been through a lot of adversities.
Q: What will you do if you donít play?
Gillom: I would like to least try coaching after this. I am tired of all the traveling, but if I want to stick around basketball, thatís a part of it. I would like to stay at the WNBA level, but if thereís a collegiate spot open, I would do that as well.
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Q: What separates you from other players?
Leslie: I have a passion for the game. I love playing, I love getting better. I think what really motivates me is practicing in the offseason and being able to do it during the season, that gets me excited. I think I like learning the game in general.
Q: How do you stay hungry?
Leslie: I donít think I take losing well. Iím a very competitive person, on and off the court. Iím very competitive with my family when weíre playing backgammon, Pictionary. Iím just a competitive person, and when it comes to basketball, I just want to be the best. I work really hard at it in the offseason.
Q: Was it tough to defend last year, and how has it been this year, especially with the injury?
Leslie: Itís been the toughest year of my career. Physically, mentally, and having the injury, and rehabbing two and three times a day has been very tough. The playoffs have been tough, with both series going three games. It hasnít been easy, a threepeat would be a nice reward for all of the hard work.
Q: Is the Bill Laimbeer vs. Michael Cooper thing a distraction?
Leslie: No, because I never read about whatís going on. I wait until after the season to look back. People save me the articles. But as far as whatís going on now, I have no idea.
Q: What can you say about the play of Nikki Teasley?
Leslie: Nikki T. has definitely been a great addition for me personally because sheís an excellent passer and sees how Iím sealing the defense most of the time before most players are able to. Sheís an excellent reader and we just play well together. She makes playing point guard look a lot easier than it really is, which is so impressive for a younger player.
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Q: Does it matter that you donít have home-court advantage in this series?
Mabika: Weíre just going to have to win tomorrow. Itís the most important game, be we also know that we play well on the road. With our experience, we should be comfortable in any situation at this point.
Q: How tough have the first two series been? Are you guys tired?
Mabika: Weíre ready to go. Being tired is not going to get it done. Weíre ready to just get it over with.
Q: Coach Cooper has said that he thinks rebounding could be the deciding factor in this series. Would you agree with that?
Mabika: Yeah. They have big players down low, and weíre going to have to box them out, and also itís important for us to stop their transition game.
Q: What are some of the other concerns about Detroit?
Mabika: Swin Cash is having a great season. Of course, you have to be concerned with her. But we know that we have players that can step up and defend her. We know we have good team defense. Itís not one personís job to stop Swin Cash.
Q: Do you feel like your best five is better than theirs, and depth wonít be as much of a factor?
Mabika: I think we have the best five. Itís always good when you get help from the bench. I think that our first five is the best in the league. Weíve been together for a while, we know how to play with each other, and I think that helps a lot.
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Q: Were you surprised by Michael Cooperís outburst the other night regarding a perceived lack of respect for your team?
Milton: I agree with him, and I think itís sad that heís not able to celebrate a huge feat in being the three-time Western Conference Champions. Itís sad that he has to go into the media room and fuss, and rant and rave about us not getting any respect. He deserves better.
Q: How is the team not getting any respect?
Milton: Look at the WNBA web page, look at the newspapers. You hear other coachís comments. People counted us out early this year. Weíre the two-time defending champs. You should never count us out. We never counted Houston out, when things went down for them. Weíve been to hell and back this year and now weíre fighting for out third championship in a row. I think people need to give us our props.
Q: Did Bill Laimbeer picking Sacramento to beat your team have an affect on the team?
Milton: It did. It added a little fuel to the fire. Itís definitely something that sticks in the back of your mind but weíre going to use it as ammunition to get ourselves fired up. Not that we should really need it, because playing for the championship should be enough.
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Q: Can you talk about the road to get to this point?
Teasley: Weíve had a tough road to get to this point. Weíre pretty much going in with a clear mind right now, just trying to win. Weíd like to do it in two, but if we had to do it in three, thatís what we have to do. Detroit is a very good team, but theyíre very young and weíve been here before. They have a great coach who understands how to win in the playoffs.
Q: Have you thought at all about last season and the big shot you hit in the Finals?
Teasley: A couple of times in the beginning of the year, especially when we got our rings. Now, itís a different time. Iím a totally different person. Iím playing with much more confidence. Back then I was just trying to fit in.
Q: How has hitting that big shot and being the All-Star Game MVP this year helped your confidence?
Teasley: It helps, knowing that I can make a big shot when the team needs it, or knowing that I can be out there as a rookie leading the defending champs last year. It gives me a lot of confidence, and Iím prepared for anything this team is going to throw at us.
Q: What does making Second Team All-WNBA mean to you?
Teasley: I have to give a lot of credit to Michael Cooper and my teammates for having confidence in me, which helps me have confidence in myself, and have a better work ethic and to be able to work hard and do some special things in this league. I get the honor and the privileged to practice with Lisa (Leslie) every day, and see what type of person and player she is. I hope that I can do half as much for the game as she has.
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