The Watch: Ten Games You Can’t Miss in 2008!
1. Saturday, May 17: Los Angeles at Phoenix (ABC)
Come on, it's the season opener! Witness the pomp and circumstance as the defending champion Mercury -- including the big three of Cappie Pondexter, Diana Taurasi and Penny Taylor -- get their WNBA championship rings and the team's championship banner is raised to the rafters of the US Airways Center. Behold the brilliance of the legendary Lisa Leslie as she makes her return to the WNBA court after a season off. Need another reason to tune in? The No. 1 pick in the 2008 WNBA Draft -- whomever it might be -- makes her regular season debut for the Sparks. And have we mentioned it's Opening Day?
2. Tuesday, May 20: Sacramento at Seattle (ESPN2)
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, WNBA Tuesdays on ESPN2 are returning with a bang. WNBA MVP Lauren Jackson and the Storm make their 2008 national TV debut against the Monarchs, a team that has been to the WNBA Finals in two of the last three seasons. Will legendary Sacramento center Yolanda Griffith be in the lineup? Will Monarchs forward DeMya Walker be ready to go after her crippling patellar tender tear early last season? Who will be manning (or woman-ing) the sidelines for Seattle? You had best drop in on The Deuce to find out.
3. Saturday, May 24: Seattle at San Antonio (ABC)
In another national TV matchup of Western Conference playoff squads from 2007, we'll see the aforementioned Aussie Lauren Jackson matching up against her runner-up in the MVP voting, Becky Hammon of the Silver Stars. Will Storm point guard Sue Bird be able to keep Hammon from heating up? How will rising star Sophia Young deal with the wonder from Down Under? Can 2007 Coach of the Year Dan Hughes continue to work his magic and lead San Antonio to the promised land. The road begins here.
4. Tuesday, June 10: Connecticut at Minnesota (ESPN2)
Former Minnesota Golden Gopher Lindsay Whalen makes her return to her home state with a Connecticut team still looking to earn its first WNBA title. With Whalen, Katie Douglas and Asjha Jones all in their primes, could this be the year? And what of the up-and-coming Lynx? With Seimone Augustus and a healthy Lindsey Harding -- not to mention the third overall pick in the draft -- Minnesota is a team on the rise.
5. Saturday, June 14: Detroit at Phoenix (ABC)
Can someone please remind me which two teams played in the WNBA Finals this past September? You remember… the five-game, up-and-down, back-and-forth, hard-fought series? Come on… the series between two of the best teams ever assembled in this league, featuring a combined 10 (go ahead, count 'em yourself!) former WNBA All-Stars? Matchups that included Deanna Nolan on Cappie Pondexter, Swin Cash on Diana Taurasi and Cheryl Ford on Penny Taylor? Oh, right… it was the Shock and Mercury. Cancel whatever other plans you might have on this day.
6. Tuesday, July 1: Phoenix at Atlanta (ESPN2)
The defending champion Mercury make their first visit to Atlanta to face Marynell Meadors' currently unnamed expansion squad. The DreamFlightSizzleSurge may struggle in their first season out of the gate, but what a great occasion it will be to see Dee, CP, Penny, et al. in action. But one fascinating connection between these two teams? The Mercury play in Phoenix. The phoenix is the symbol of Atlanta's rebuilding after Sherman's Union troops burnt down the city during the Civil War. Discuss.
7. Thursday, July 24: Detroit at Houston (ESPN2)
Last season, these teams were heading in different directions: the Shock to their second straight WNBA Finals, the Comets to one of their worst finishes in team history. But these are two of the league's proudest franchises and between them sport both six titles and arguably the league's most dedicated fans. And if Sheryl Swoopes and Tina Thompson return to the Comets healthy and ready to roll, there's no reason to think they can't bounce back in 2008. Also, this will be the last WNBA game before the league takes its month-long break for the Olympics in Beijing.
8. Sunday, August 31: Seattle at Connecticut (ABC)
Welcome home from China, WNBA players! Hopefully, some of you will have some fancy, new gold necklaces to declare in customs upon your return to the States. Like Sue Bird of the Storm, who will return from Beijing to play in front of many of her UConn faithful at the Mohegan Sun. Of course, former Huskies Asjha Jones and Nykesha Sales play in front of them all season long. It will be interesting to see how certain teams -- especially those with multiple players heading over to play in the Olympics -- bounce back from the break for the abbreviated 2½-week second half of the season.
9. Sunday, September 7: Chicago at New York (ABC)
Talk about a perfect matchup for the playoff stretch… Last season, these two teams battled down to the final day for the fourth and final postseason berth in the East before the Liberty finally clinched it by topping the upstart Sky 58-52 at Madison Square Garden. This year, with both teams expected to continue their rise to the top -- with young stars like Candice Dupree, Janel McCarville, Armintie Price and Jessica Davenport -- this game will no doubt have major playoff implications once again.
10. Sunday, September 14: Seattle at Los Angeles (ABC)
This is the last day of the regular season, which is later than normal thanks to the month-long Olympic break. But despite the longer season, these teams will still have plenty of fire and incentive to win this game as it could influence the playoff matchups in the Western Conference. As if the historical Lauren Jackson-Lisa Leslie battle needed more fuel thrown on the fire…
What a shame we have to wait until May for all of the fun to begin!