Get Ready for The Stars at the Sun
Kevin Pelton, stormbasketball.com | May 26, 2010
This summer, the WNBA's annual midseason showcase of the league's best talent will have a twist. Instead of a traditional All-Star Game, the league will help the U.S. Women's National Team prepare to play in this fall's FIBA World Championship by picking a team of WNBA standouts to face the National Team at Connecticut's Mohegan Sun Arena on Saturday, July 10 in a nationally televised game known as WNBA vs. USA Basketball: The Stars at the Sun.
As usual, fans will have their chance to help select the roster of WNBA stars. This time around, balloting will work a little differently. Because there is no distinction between the two conferences, ballots will ask fans to pick their 10 top players from a pool of 60 candidates - five from each team - plus write-in nominees. The Storm's entire starting lineup - guards Sue Bird and Tanisha Wright, forwards Swin Cash and Camille Little and center Lauren Jackson - appears on the ballot. Voting will take place online and in-arena through June 21.
As USA Basketball has yet to finalize its roster, the way voting will work is that the top 10 vote-getters (announced on June 29) will be guaranteed spots in the game, with players who are not selected for the U.S. National Team taking spots on the WNBA roster. After the USA roster is filled out, WNBA head coaches will vote to complete the WNBA team as they usually do with reserves for each conference.
In practice, this should produce rosters similar to 2004, when the U.S. National Team took on a team of WNBA stars in The Game at Radio City before traveling to Athens for the Olympics. One big difference? Then, international players like Jackson were unable to participate because they were training with their own respective national teams. This year, Jackson will be eligible and will likely end up opposing Bird, the starting point guard for the National Team, and possibly also Cash, who is also one of the 20 players currently part of the National Team roster.
"I don't think it will be that odd," Bird said of playing her long-time teammate and friend in an All-Star setting. "I think at this point, because we play overseas all the time, international, All-Star Games, no big deal. We're pretty good at adjusting to those scenarios."
Last year, Storm fans helped vote three starters to Connecticut - Bird, Cash and Jackson, who led the Western Conference to a record-setting 130-118 victory. Cash, who scored an All-Star record 22 points, was named the game's MVP.
"Last year was just a great moment for me," said Cash, "not only because I won the MVP, but to be back in Connecticut and have my family there and know how hard I worked to come back after having back surgery only a few months before that. I just felt really blessed. Hopefully I'll get another chance to give it a shot this year. I'm excited that it's going back to Connecticut because I thought they did a masterful job last year."
Storm players like the setting. As well as last year, Mohegan Sun Arena also played host to the 2005 All-Star Game, another West victory.
"It's a great venue for an All-Star Game," explained Bird. "They have a lot of great facilities there and everybody's in the same place. The one thing about Mohegan is there's not much to do outside the casino, so everyone stays on grounds and it makes for a fun weekend. This time's a little different because it's the national team, but it will be fun regardless."
"They do an excellent job," concurred Cash. "Obviously people's families love to come there - you have the casino and other entertainment. This year, with Coach (Geno) Auriemma being the head coach (of the U.S. National Team), it's going to bring not only a great draw but a good feeling for all of Connecticut."
Certainly, it doesn't hurt for Bird and Cash, who both starred for Auriemma at UConn, to enjoy a homecoming among fans who have supported them throughout their careers. Last year, five former Huskies appeared in the All-Star Game.
"It's always great to go back there," said Bird. "It's definitely got more meaning for the UConn players because it's a place where we played for four years in college and have a lot of great memories. For the fans, I think it's fun as well. I'm glad that it's there this year."