Midseason Glance: Mercury Rising From Last Year’s Marks

By Mark Heller
July 6, 2007

It’s not normally his style, but with the WNBA season 50 percent gone (and, in some ways, forgotten), Mercury coach Paul Westhead allowed his mind to go back in time Thursday.

So we’ll do the same. Friday’s win at Minnesota cracked the midway point of the Mercury’s summer, but before tonight’s second-half opener against Connecticut, let’s take a look back at what was, why, and what’s next.

  • July 6, 2006: The Mercury were 6-9, 1-5 on the road.

    Today: The Mercury are 10-7, 5-4 on the road.

    Why: They had a full team by the end of training camp this year but are 3-4 against the four worst teams in the league (Washington, Houston, Minnesota and Connecticut), and 5-1 against the best (Sacramento, San Antonio, Detroit and Indiana). “It’s been a lack of focus on our part,” guard Cappie Pondexter said.

  • July 6, 2006: Penny Taylor landed in Los Angeles from Australia in time to play her first game of the season against the Sparks, having played without a practice in Westhead’s system.

    Today: Taylor has averaged 25 points, seven rebounds and four assists per game the past four games, and the Mercury won both games in which Diana Taurasi was suspended. She may be named an All-Star reserve on Monday.

    Why: Could be the flak jacket she wears to protect her injured midsection. Could be nothing new from the 2004 All-Star and 2006 MVP of the World Championship Games in Brazil. “It’s not like she’s gotten better, she’s that good anyway,” Westhead said.

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  • July 6, 2006: The Mercury allowed 86 points per game and grabbed eight fewer rebounds than opponents, both last in the league.

    Today: The Mercury allow 82 points a game and grab eight fewer rebounds than opponents, both last in the league.

    Why: The rebounding woes aren’t likely to change because of this team’s lack of size and its style of play, but opponents shoot only 39 percent against the Mercury.

  • July 6, 2006: The Mercury fought injuries and inconsistency and were two games out of the final playoff spot, which they missed despite winning their final seven games.

    Today: The inconsistency remains (8-2 against the West, 2-5 against the East), but the Mercury sit a half game behind second-place San Antonio and one game behind Sacramento.

    Why: The West hasn’t shown itself to be as strong on top as last year with Seattle struggling (until recently) and Lisa Leslie and Chamique Holdsclaw not playing in L.A.

    Diagnosis: More of the same. The trade deadline is two weeks away, but getting another quality post player will be difficult without trading one of the team’s stars, and that’s unlikely. The Mercury are a playoff team when healthy, but will only be a deep playoff team if they shoot better than 40 percent and at least aren’t blown out of the paint chasing rebounds.

    BONUS SHOTS: Point guard Kelly Miller suffered a hip injury midway through Friday’s win at Minnesota. She played four “spectacular” minutes in the third quarter, according to Westhead, but left the game and didn’t return. She didn’t practice Thursday and is questionable tonight.

    With an open roster spot, the team signed 6-foot-3 forward Teana Smith to a seven-day contract. Smith missed the 2004 and 2006 seasons due to pregnancy, and spent time in Washington this preseason.

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