August 5 -
When the ball is tipped tonight, don’t expect to see an ordinary basketball game. Don’t even expect a typical All-Star Game. The Game at Radio City will be very different from anything you have seen before.
Of the 23 players competing in the game between the U.S. National Team and the WNBA All-Stars, 13 will have a WNBA teammate on the opposing side. Not in the WNBA, the NBA, college basketball or international tournaments such as the Olympics do teammates split up and go at head to head.
Representing only five WNBA teams, seven of the 13 players are on the WNBA All-Star team while six U.S. National Team members will face a friendly foe.
Anna DeForge and Diana Taurasi.
Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE Photos
Diana Taurasi of the Phoenix Mercury will represent the United States with backcourt mate Anna DeForge was chosen as an All-Star starter by the voting media.
“Diana and Anna will be great,” WNBA analyst Nancy Lieberman said. “After a game last week when Anna had 21 points and was the Player of the Game, Mercury announcer Ced Ceballos was interviewing her and she said tongue-in-cheek about the matchup ‘Well the bad news is also for Taurasi because I’m going to have to light her up.’ The fact that they can banter with each other and have such a high level of competitiveness, I think that will be a fun matchup.”
“I won’t hold anything back, but we will go at it,” Taurasi said. “But who knows? We probably won’t even match up against with each other.”
For the Indiana Fever, Tamika Catchings will play for the U.S. and former Olympian Natalie Williams for the WNBA. And who knows how to stop a player better than someone they play against every day in practice? However, at the end of the day, the All-Stars are rooting for their teammates to bring home the gold medal.
“I have to play against Catch sometimes in practice and she’s tough,” Williams said. “She hustles 100 percent. She runs the floor well, she shoots, she drives, she does everything and she’s going to continue to get better. I just wish her the best and hope she does a good job over in Athens.”
And while some players may opt to share secrets with their new team on how to stop the familiar faces, most will probably remain tight-lipped, aware that they have the WNBA Playoffs to prepare for.
Charlotte Sting stars Dawn Staley and Allison Feaster are also friends that will also face each other in the game tonight. But for these two, the trash talking started awhile back as well.
“I told her that every time I get the ball I’m going to shoot, especially if she is on me,” Feaster said.
“I told her she won’t touch the ball,” Staley said.
But Staley happy that Feaster is finally getting the recognition she deserves.
Mwadi Mabika, Lisa Leslie, Nikki Teasley.
Jesse D. Garrabrandt/NBAE Photos
“I am really happy for her. She is the kind of player who has been left out of the All-Star experiences. I am glad that she is able to experience this. Sometimes she gets overshadowed by myself and Andrea Stinson, but she has been one of our most consistent players in her stint with the Sting. I am happy for her. I hope she plays well, but now well enough to disrupt the flow and give them the victory.”
The Los Angeles Sparks have the best record in the WNBA thanks to their chemisty and experience playing together. But while Sparks center Lisa Leslie is about to make her third Olympic appearance for the U.S., Nikki Teasley and Mwadi Mabika will each be wearing their customary Sparks jerseys in the game on the other team.
“Hopefully Nikki doesn’t get mixed up because I will try and intercept some of her passes since I know her so well,” Leslie said. “I am used to being on the receiving end of her passes anyway. Mwadi can knock them down from anywhere, but she has to be comfortable. I’m not sure how comfortable she will be on an All-Star team.”
Perhaps most interesting of all is the defending champion Detroit Shock. Coach Bill Laimbeer will coach the team of WNBA All-Stars, including forward Cheryl Ford and guard Deanna Nolan. Laimbeer and his squad will face a U.S. team with some familiar faces, Shock center Ruth Riley and forward Swin Cash.
“It’s gonna be weird, but we’ll do some trash-talking back and forth and it will be a lot of fun just to be out there in a relaxed atmosphere” Cash said. “At the same time, we really want to win this game.”
So how does Coach Laimbeer plan to handle his unique situation?
“Well, our game plan is to get in there and anybody that played for the Sparks or the Comets, stop them” Laimbeer said. “And anybody that plays for the Shock, let them score. That’s our game plan. So we’re not going to guard Ruth and we’re not going to guard Swin. We’re going to triple-team everybody else.”