Stars at the Sun Practice Report

USA Basketball
By Brian Martin,

Geno Auriemma talks with Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird of the USA Women's National Team during Friday's practice.
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images

This weekend is not your typical All-Star weekend and today’s USA Basketball practice sessions (yes, sessions) were nowhere near what a typical All-Star practice looks like.

There were no behind-the-back passes, half-court shooting contests or the usual plays to entertain the crowd in attendance. Aside from a few choice comments from USA Basketball Coach Geno Auriemma (see below), who was mic’d up for the practice session that was open to the public at Mohegan Sun Arena.

Before the doors had opened to the fans, the USA Basketball team had already put in an over an hour of work. As the fans settled into their seats, the players ran five-on-five full-court drills at full speed. When one team of five finished, the next one took off and with 19 players in attendance things were moving at a rapid pace.

To put it simply there are roster spots to be secured and the players practiced with an intensity that showed that they want to wear the letters U-S-A across their chest this September in the World Championships.

Since Auriemma was named the coach of the national team and the pool of players from which he would choose his squad was determined, the group has had a few short training camps with a variety of players missing each time due to overseas commitments during the WNBA offseason. This weekend marks the first time that the entire group was together and with only three days and two games (the team will play Australia on Sunday) to work with, there isn’t much time to get everything done.

“We’ve never had a lot of time to get prepared for USA Basketball,” Diana Taurasi said after practice. “We’ll never have three to four weeks of training camp, so the minute we get on the court we have to use every single minute to our advantage and that just comes with being focused.”

Focused and intense are not words normally associated with an All-Star practice, but that was the atmosphere today. The fans in attendance were treated to some solid basketball during the 45-minute session, as well as these gems from Auriemma.

“I don’t want tough shots. I want easy shots. If you have a tough shot that means someone is open for an easy shot.”
-- to the group after two straight possessions that featured forced shots in traffic.

“That’s the best play Cappie ever made.”
-- after Pondexter dropped a dime to Sylvia Fowles on the fast break during a full court scrimmage.

“Stop. Stop. Do you like that shot?”
-- to Angel McCoughtry after she took an ill-advised three-pointer from the top of the key that missed.

“Diana is a dirty player.”
-- after Taurasi landed an elbow to the head of Lindsey Harding on a clear-out move. The two met later outside the locker room with Harding showing off the knot at the top of her head and not wanting to hear Diana talk about how her elbow hurt from hitting her on the head.

“No wonder Thibault is pulling out the rest of his hair.”
-- referring to Connecticut Sun coach Mike Thibault after a poorly executed exchange between Sun teammates Tina Charles and Renee Montgomery.

Brian Agler coaches the WNBA All-Stars during Friday's practice.
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images

WNBA All-Stars
By Lauren Zanedis, for

Orange seems to be the color du jour at the Mohegan Sun Arena: the orange-paneled sneakers adorning the WNBA player’s feet, Blaze -- the Connecticut Sun’s mascot -- and Lauren’s Jackson’s hair. She certainly came prepared to accent her surroundings.

The players, awaiting practice to begin, are strewn about the sideline, leaning back in their chairs, arms comfortably resting on their teammates. Sophia Young of the San Antonio Silver Stars and Lauren Jackson, Seattle Storm, usually opponents on the court, pose casually for a picture. “Close mouth smile. CLOSE MOUTH SMILE!” a teammate yells. She is clearly not thrilled by their grills.

Practice begins with a sharp buzzer.

As the players warm up, taking ten-foot jumpers off a screen, Blaze, not just here to pay compliment to the orange hues, runs up and down the bleachers, talking with fans and cheering on the players.

Unlike the intense USA Basketball practice that preceded it, the mood of the WNBA All-Stars practice session was much more casual, more of what you would expect from a typical All-Star practice.

On court, Monique Currie and Lindsey Harding, both currently of the Washington Mystics, seem to share a secret language. Both being Duke Alumna, was it taught in Durham and perfected in Washington? We’ll never know.

Off the court, Iziane Castro-Marques of the Atlanta Dream, boasts a set of royal purple nails to rival any fashionista. To grip the ball better with, my dear…