Cash in for Gold With Team USA
The day after her team's Finals setback, Cash made her way to Connecticut to meet up with Team USA to prepare for Wednesday night's exhibition against Australia, a warmup game for the team's upcoming FIBA Americas tournament in Chile. If the USA wins gold, it will earn a spot at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, a feat the team missed out on last fall when it finished a disappointing third in the World Championships.
WNBA.com's Adam Hirshfield caught up with a somewhat weary but happy Cash after her team's 70-66 victory over the Aussies.
Q. How are you feeling physically after a grueling five-game Finals series against Phoenix and now coming straight here to join Team USA in Connecticut?
A. "Yeah, I got into the game for a little bit today and I felt really good to be out there. It's a totally different atmosphere (than the one in Detroit), and it felt good."
Q. What's it like coming back to play in front of the Connecticut crowd, which has such fond memories of your time as a Lady Husky?
A. "It's always great to come back here and play. And it doesn't even matter if you're wearing the opposing team's uniform or that of the team everyone's rooting for. When Connecticut fans adopt you, they adopt you for a lifetime. You have to respect that and I really appreciate it."
Q. When Seimone Augustus went down with her shoulder injury, you looked particularly troubled. Obviously you don't like to see teammates get hurt, but what was going through your mind at that moment?
A. "I was just sending out a prayer for her. As a player who has gone through a serious injury, you never like to see bad things happen to other players. You always hope for the best. Those kinds of things are tough to see. I just hope she's OK. And it doesn't seem that serious. I think she'll be OK to play in Chile… we're all happy about that."
Q. You're a National Team veteran, having won a gold medal at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. But Candace Parker is a relative newcomer and was impressive against Australia, leading the team in scoring with 23. What role do you see this Tennessee All-American playing on Team USA heading into the FIBA Americas competition?
A. "She's a phenomenal player. She's a young talent -- she's only 21 -- and the scary thing is that she has the talent to get even better. She was a huge presence in the post for us tonight, which is especially important when we're missing players like Lisa Leslie, who are so dominant on the block. It's great to have a player like Candace who's hungry to get in there and battle. That's good for her, but it's also good for USA Basketball."
Q. With Lisa out, is there a concern about the lack of a true center on this team heading down to Chile?
A. "No, that's not really a concern, because if you look at most of the teams around the world, there aren't a lot of 'true centers.' All of the players from the five out are capable of playing around the perimeter, so the lack of a back-to-the-basket, post-'em-up type of five doesn't worry us at all.
"The great thing about Lisa is that even though she's a terrific post-up center, she can also step out and play the perimeter game really well. The game is evolving and there are still some of those true centers out there, but it's a luxury to have one that's versatile. Lisa is incredibly versatile, and we think Candace is capable of being that style of player, too."
Q. What are you and the rest of Team USA most worried about tactically heading into the FIBA Americas Championship?
A. "I think we're all focused on our defense. If we get that in order, we have a chance to beat just about everyone."
Q. What do you see your role on this team being right now for the tournament ahead?
A. "I need to come in with energy and do what I do well: be aggressive defensively, rebound from the three spot and knock down open shots. There's so much talent on this team, that's how I think I'll stand out and be best able to contribute."
Q. Aside from Candace, there are a couple of other youngsters on this U.S. team. As a veteran, do you find yourself tutoring Candace or Courtney Paris or Candice Wiggins at all?
A. Are you saying I'm old?
Q. No, no, no… you're not old. I said "veteran."
A. "Haha, I'm only 27 (though she turns 28 on Saturday, Sept. 22). Yes, I talk to them. I basically try to do the same things that were done for Sue (Bird) and me and Dee (Diana Taurasi) when we were that age. It's all about being positive. Sometimes they get down if they miss a shot or commit a foul, but it's our job to reinforce the positives. We tell them, 'Hey, you're gonna make mistakes. Just don't make the same mistake twice and try to stay after it.' It's a great group."
Q. Do you as a team feel any sort of responsibility or pressure to bounce back in a big way from the disappointment of the World Championships last fall?
A. "The pressure in the long term is to win gold at the Olympics next summer. Whatever it takes to lead up to that, we need to get it done."