Ask Nancy: July 5, 2007

Basketball Hall-of-Famer and ESPN analyst Nancy Lieberman answers your questions and e-mails throughout the year. Click here to submit a question of your own.


What do you think is happening to the Shock right now? I obviously want them to repeat, but right now I don't feel like they are playing up to their potential.
- Laura, Detroit

"The Shock are really struggling right now. They started off 10-1 and have lost three of their last four. Katie Smith hasn't shot the ball particularly well over the last three or four games. But you also have to remember that Cheryl Ford missed six games with her injury. Getting her back in the lineup is huge for Detroit. And they'll come out of this slump. They're too good of a basketball and have too many good players not to. Ford and Deanna Nolan are All-Stars. Even though Smith is struggling, I think she's an All-Star too."

With the Diana Taurasi suspension, do you think that she and other star players are lacking the fire that they had last year? If so, do you think that the big-name players playing overseas has anything to do with their fatigue and injuries. What about the age of players? I am beginning to hope that Sheryl Swoopes retires. She had her time, now she's just slowing down at a very rapid speed. What do you think about her?
- WM Lady Lakers, West Memphis, Ark.

"Anytime you play a lot, you're going to be fatigued. So does the yearlong schedule play a part? Yes, it does. But these women are all professionals. They've learned -- or they will learn -- to pace themselves. They know their bodies and they know when they need a rest. I don't think it's that big of a deal, especially for the younger players like Diana.

"For the older players, it's slightly different. Sheryl had a tough season even before her injury. And she's another who has played a lot of basketball over the years. There has been a lot of demand on her body. And it's eventually going to happen: you are going to slow down. It's the reality of sports. Athletes have short life spans when it comes to their peak years. Sheryl has had many years at the top of her game and she's gotten the most out of her body. It's going to take her right to the Hall of Fame, but when she gets back out there, she'll still be doing her best."

Hi Nancy! Jia Perkins has really stepped up her game in the absence of Dominique Canty. That was a great performance by her against the Monarchs at ARCO, which is a tough place for opponents to shoot. Do you see Perkins as a starting shooting guard in the near future?
- Joy, Bolingbrook, Ill.

"Jia played for me on the Dallas Fury and I was very impressed with her game. She goes to the rim hard, she's improved her ball-handling and she now has an opportunity. So it's not a surprise that she's continuing to grow her game. She's very efficient and she's very smart. I think she's a fabulous player and I'm a fan of Jia Perkins. She was the East's Player of the Week this week and I'm very happy for her."

What does Becky Hammon have to do to be considered a serious MVP candidate?
- Tony, El Dorado, Ark.

"I think Becky has to keep putting up great numbers. Her numbers are certainly MVP-worthy right now. I feel like she'll stay in the mix with Tamika Catchings and Lauren Jackson as long as the Silver Stars continue to win."

Hi, Ms. Lieberman. I live in the Bahamas and there are not a lot of opportunities to succeed in women's basketball here and my dream all my life has been to go to the WNBA. I don't have all the skills I would need, but I am willing to work hard to achieve it. Still, there aren't many coaches here who can help. Please, what can I do?
- Denecia, Freeport, Bahamas

"You have to keep working on your skills. Go to camps, go to clinics, get some exposure. There are players at Division I colleges and in the WNBA that come from other countries, so there is precedent for this sort of thing. And part of getting some exposure is selling yourself. You have to get yourself and your name out there. Send tapes, call college coaches… that marketing of yourself is very important."

I really enjoy the women's game, but the problem is that there is just not enough TV coverage of the games. What can we as fans do to change this?
- Suzie, Waldorf, Md.

"Well, Suzie, you can continue to watch the games. The more viewers the games get, the more sponsors will sign on. The more sponsors the league has, the more games get on TV. It's a snowball effect. Because it's a business, we all have to play into it and buy into it to get the league where we want it to be. Businesspeople respond to numbers. The better ratings the games get, the more games the executives will want to show. Fans have to make it a priority.

"That's part of the reason we decided to do the WNBA Tuesday Nights on ESPN2. Every Tuesday night, fans know there's at least one game on ESPN2, and hopefully they'll continue to watch. ABC has been phenomenal about the weekend games, too. I think that ABC, ESPN and NBA TV are all doing a great job with it. But we have to keep working to get the fans in the stands and watching the games on TV."

Hi Nancy! I'm a big Chicago Sky fan and I'm wondering if you think they can hang on and earn a playoff berth? And if so, how well do you think they can do once they get there? Thanks!
- Brian, Gridley, Ill.

"Let's take one step at a time (laughs)! I think that the Sky have overachieved so far this season. I attribute a lot of that to Bo Overton and his coaching staff. They've been very impressive.

"And I do think that they'll be very competitive in the fight for that third or fourth spot in the East. Everybody thought it was going to be Detroit, Indy and Connecticut as locks, with Washington as the likely best choice for fourth. But New York is in there and Chicago is definitely in there. It's going to be a dogfight. That's why it's so important that you win your conference games. You have to hold serve in your conference games, because in this short of a regular season, playoff spots will often be decided by that tiebreaker.

"If Chicago can stay above .500 in conference and sneak a couple of wins, they'll be right in the mix. And then if you get into the playoffs, anything can happen, especially in a best-of-three format."

Hi! I read your book Basketball for Women and I got some great tips that helped me make it to the college level! Thank you so much for your insight on the game! I do have one question for you: What made you decide to be a basketball commentator instead of continuing as a basketball coach?
- JB, Ouachita, La.

"My little boy, TJ, was four or five at the time, and although I loved coaching very much, I felt at the time that going into commentating was better for my family. My husband at the time was living in Dallas, my son was there and I felt that we all had to be under the same roof. And I've been a part of ESPN since 1981, so that seemed like a great opportunity and it has worked out well.

"The schedule as a commentator is a little bit easier, though we do work very hard to get the information and insight to give to you viewers and fans. And I get to promote the game that I love, I get to sell great players, tell you extraordinary things about them and how they got to where they are. And I feel very fortunate to play a part in promoting this game and its future."