Doris Burke Opening Statement
I'm as excited as I've ever been for WNBA
Playoffs. I've been around for all of the post seasons and I don't know that I
can remember a year when you couldn't look at a series and say, "You know,
this team has no shot." I think this is going to be fun and I think the rule
changes have really had an impact. Clearly, from a sill level, we were prepared
for a 24 second clock and four quarters, and the players have really responded.
The scoring has been great, I think it's enhanced the product, so I'm really,
really excited to get underway.
Linda Cohn Opening Statement
this is my first year doing the WNBA ... doing play-by-play for the WNBA ... obviously
my first post season for the WNBA, and what I've seen [is] how deep each team
is and how it is wide open. And if you look at any sport how important it is heading
into a post season, what makes it more exciting is that the unpredictable can
happen and I think that's in the WNBA's favor. I also think that considering the
adjustment team's had to make during the regular season with the compressed schedule
and some teams hit by the injury bug more than others, it'll be interesting to
see how these teams can bounce back from that and these players can do that when
it matters most, when everything is on the line. But one thing that I would notice
as a newcomer, as a rookie to the league, was that winning a championship was
the most important thing to these players. From the rookies to the veterans like
Lisa Leslie -- just listening to her, you'd never know she's won twice before
-- that's what makes it all the more exciting.
Q: Will teams have a tendency
to make it a half-court game?
Burke: I think championships inevitably
-- I don't care what level of basketball you're talking about, whether it's the
NBA, WNBA or men's and women's college basketball championship basketball -- clearly
it's a lot easier to slow the pace then it is to generate fast pace. So yes, I
do believe, like the NBA and collegiate championships, you will see things slowed
down, it will be more physical in all likelihood, cutters will be bumped, people
will check out a little bit harder, there will definitely be more contact I think.
I don't there's any question; typically they're [Playoff games] decided in the
half court. I remember listening to Jeff Van Gundy on the Playoffs on TNT and
the first hard foul occurred and he said, "Welcome to the Playoffs."
It was kind of a telling moment. I would anticipate the same in this post season,
Q: Talk about the Sparks road to the finals.
I have been -- from the very earliest part of the season -- just so impressed
with that team. I know there were some questions raised when that trade was made
(Teasley for Johnson). I honestly believe it was good for both teams and both
franchises. Nikki Teasley to me had not been the same player since Michael Cooper
departed Los Angeles, and for her to have a chance to go home was ideal and I
think was refreshing for her. That said, and Temeka Johnson, you've got a player
who like Teasley is a pass-first mentality point guard and with all the wealth
of ability that she's got around her, clearly you need that. So I think the Sparks
have a great shot. I think they've proven that they're the best in the West to
this point. You've got two of the best players in the history of the league. Holdsclaw
and Leslie can dominate and either or can carry you through a situation where
maybe the offense is struggling. I think if Mwadi Mabika averages 15 points a
game in the Playoffs, the Sparks are going to be very tough to beat, I don't care
who they're playing.
Q: How about the way the opponents line up for the
Burke: When you look at Seattle, the first question that
comes to mind is their health. Lauren Jackson has not had a ton of practice time
because of the health of both shins and now the plantar fascitis clearly compromising
her ability to play extended minutes and also to practice. She's been able to
weather that storm and be effective, but when you factor in Betty Lennox and how
healthy her knee is; Janell Burse and how healthy her shoulder is; the fact that
Sue Bird's foot is not 100%. I think they are a team with a wealth of ability
and clearly ... they have talent and they can play with anybody in the league
when they are healthy. I just question their ability to win a series because I
don't think they're healthy enough to be quite honest.
Q: With your ESPN/Sportscenter
perspective, how can the WNBA gain more media attention?
Cohn: I wish I
was running the network, then we would instantly get that in there. But I think
the WNBA is continuing to move in the right direction. I think even more so as
I've seen it up close this year is that the fact that the talent coming out of
college and going right into the WNBA is making an instant impact as we saw this
year with the Simone Augustuses and the Cappie Pondexters who were dueling for
much of the season for the scoring title until Diana Taurasi heated up and actually
she's obviously leading that college charge from a few years ago. And I think
what has to happen is -- as we've seen during the regular season -- the quality
of play. And we saw that the WNBA by far should be involved more in Sportscenter
highlights. Why it isn't, I don't know, but that's not up to me. But if it continues
to show the quality of play that it continues to show on the basketball court
as it also in the post season with the stepped up intensity and such, we will
see highlights from that. I think the league is going in the right direction and
promoting the talent and the personalities, but has helped it, especially up close
and personal this year, is the fact the instant impact that college players make
going right into the WNBA, and we've seen it. It's going to take time; it's not
going to be instant. The NBA took time. The WNBA is only 10 years old and we've
seen these incredible shots and certain things that capture the eyes and makes
the top 10 plays on Sportscenter, especially in the last few years. So it's on
the right track.
Q: Thoughts on Asjha Jones?
Burke: The last two
years, I have asked Mike Thibault consistently whether I was crazy or should Asjha
Jones be a double digit scorer in this league. And he sort of concurred and as
far back as when he first acquired her, he believed in her abilities offensively.
There's not an offensive skill that she does not have in her repertoire. She can
put the ball on the floor both left and right, she can score with her back to
the basket or facing the basket, and I think with Mike he just clearly defined
her role, made her comfortable with what she was expected to do. She had always
been one of the best post defenders I had seen, both collegiately and at the point
she entered the WNBA. She can guard pure post players -- those who want to play
back to the basket -- or she can step out and guard an athletic three, which is
the most dangerous position in the WNBA. So I just felt that it was a matter of
Asjha having the light bulb go on and saying, "You know what, I am very good,
and I can be a highly productive player in this league." Mike seems to be
able to draw that out of each player. He seems to clearly define her role, put
faith and a level of expectation on his players that makes them want to step up
and reach and Asjha is one of those prime players that has done that for him.
Q: How important is she to how far the Sun can go?
Burke: I think
this is the most balanced, versatile, deep team in the league at this point. If
they have a weakness, I don't know what it is, to perfectly frank with you. They
had rebounding and turnover issues early. In the latter stages of the season they
have clearly put those behind them -- I think in the last 10 games they've averaged
12 turnovers per and they're second in the league in rebounding to Detroit. But
I think that Asjha is very important and here's why: there are certain matchups
where Margo Dydek -- despite her 7-2, highly skilled frame can't be a factor.
If they start going at breakneck pace, or if teams they face don't have a legitimate
post presence, somebody that she matches up well on both sides of the ball, then
Asia has to come in and sort of pick up the slack in that regard. She's huge for
Q: Who's the dark horse team?
Burke: When I look at Detroit's
roster, I like what I see. In Katie Smith you have a legitimate perimeter threat;
Deanna Nolan hasn't been as proficient from three ... she's made enough. They've
got two slashing-type players who can get to the rim either in transition or in
the half-court set in Swin Cash and Deanna Nolan. They have the biggest, most
physically intimidating front line in the league. The one thing I question about
them ... I just have two questions about Detroit: Which teams shows up? For all
of their ability, sometimes they seem to coast on their physical talent and that
will no longer get it done in the WNBA. My other question about them is their
consistent bench play; I don't think they've had it. Pearson has been consistent
with energy, but in terms of productivity I think Braxton has been up and down.
And the league has gotten too good at this point now that you need players off
the bench who can be consistent and productive.
Cohn: I picked Detroit
to go to the Finals and it's hard to even look at them as a dark horse with all
that talent, but if you're going to look for a dark horse -- and it's strange
to even say this because I don't think this even qualifies -- but when you see
how LA dominated the West, I then have to look at Sacramento as my dark horse
because everybody's forgetting about the defending champs. They seem to be forgotten.
They seem to be creeping up there behind LA and just saving everything, saving
their energy. John Whisenant, of course, the reigning coach of the year, molding
and trying to figure out everything for this playoff run and just how they did
last year and really came out of nowhere to stun Connecticut. I think you can
classify Sacramento as that, because once again, people are looking at the LAs
and the Connecticuts and forgetting about what is lurking. And I think if you
look at the West, Houston -- age has caught up -- and the injuries for Seattle.
I would have to say Sacramento.