Ask Nancy: July 12, 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.


Hi Nancy, with the 2007 season about halfway over, who are your picks for the end-of-season awards? Who should be the MVP? The coach of the year? The top defender? The rookie of the year? And who will win the title? Thanks, I'm a big fan!
-Becky, Ann Arbor, Mich.

MVP-wise at the moment, it's a two-horse race between Tamika Catchings and Lauren Jackson. Jackson has been just spectacular and has been putting up career numbers across the board. Catchings is just so consistent and has really improved her outside game. She's led the Fever to a 14-4 start, the best record in the league, and she's also my pick for Defensive Player of the Year.

In the Rookie of the Year, Lindsey Harding has played really well, but last night's announcement is a huge blow. Presuming she doesn't play the rest of the season it's pretty much down to two players. Armintie Price has been getting a lot of minutes in Chicago and Marta Fernandez is fantastic. Harding was the frontrunner for one reason: I think the point guard position is the hardest to come in and play as a rookie. You have to know a lot about your team and teammates to come in and be successful. The plate is being set for Marta and Armintie, but Lindsey had to come in and set the plate for her teammates. That's much more difficult.

Coach of the Year? Brian Winters is doing a terrific job in Indiana. But I think that Bo Overton in Chicago has to be considered for what he's done with that team. He has taken a team that won just five games last year, turned them into an 8-11 team so far and is a big part of their big-time turnaround. I love what he's done there.

And I think Indiana is going to win the championship because they have just so much depth. They have shooting, they have balance and they have strength and size. And Tammy Sutton-Brown has been everything they hoped she would be. She's their second-leading scorer and she's a true presence in the middle. Her presence allows Winters to move Catchings around as well. Sheri Sam and Tan White have come in and provided valuable minutes off the bench. And when White comes in to replace Anna DeForge, they'll typically move Catchings to the four, which makes her a really difficult matchup for the less mobile power forwards around the league. Winters and the Fever force teams to adjust to their lineup. I just think they have everything: youth, experience, depth, they can run, they can defend and they can shoot the 3. They're good.

It's All-Star time, Nancy, and I'm sure you're headed to the big game in Washington. What is your favorite part about the midsummer extravaganza and who is the player you're most excited to see this weekend?
-Brendon, San Antonio

The All-Star Game is really the crème de la crème. You get to see so many veterans, so many wonderful players, real legends like Tina Thompson and Yolanda Griffith. Tina is the only original player from 1997 who's even in the game this year. This is also the first time there are no Houston Comets in the starting lineup. So you're seeing a definite change in the landscape of this league. And that's just amazing.

Individually, I'm just so excited to see Lauren Jackson play this weekend. I just think she has it all together. There aren't many other players who have that combination of speed and quickness, smarts and toughness. She can go inside, she can go outside. I really appreciate her skill set.

I'm a huge Liberty fan, Ms. Lieberman, and I realize it's been an up and down season so far in New York, but how do we not have an All-Star? Between Loree Moore, Cathrine Kraayeveld, Shameka Christon and Erin Thorn, someone deserves to go, don't they?
-Stevie, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Yes, someone does deserve to go, and as a Liberty fan, it was your obligation to make sure that that happened (laughs)! Obviously, you didn't vote as much as the Detroit fans did! Still, I agree with you that someone deserved to be an All-Star, and I'm disappointed that Thorn and Kraayeveld aren't on the roster. But on the other hand, I don't think it's been an up-and-down year for the Liberty. I think it has been an incredible year for the Liberty so far!

What is going on with Connecticut? We seem to be so out of sync. Yes we lost Taj, but Ashja is just as good. I feel like our defense is no longer there. What do we have to do to get back to our old selves? DEFENSE, DEFENSE AND MORE DEFENSE, right?
-drester, Norwalk, Conn.

The Sun aren't out of sync. Their defense is out of sync. They're giving up over 80 points a game, second worst in the league behind the Mercury. And it's just amazing to me, a team that used to be so successful because of its defense now struggling so much at the defensive end. But the problem is that if you struggle on the defensive end, you can't translate anything over to offense. I think the quickness of the game has caught up with the Sun backcourt. Although Katie Douglas is still a big-time player, Nykesha Sales has slowed down a step and Lindsay Whalen hasn't shown the improvement we'd hoped to see out of her. They're still solid, but I still feel like they're really missing Taj's leadership.

Nancy, when I look at Erin Buescher (she is 6-3 and 183) vs. Lauren Jackson (6-5, 187), it seems like she is in a position to be a real impact player like Tamika Catchings, Jackson and Katie Douglas. It seems like all that was missing for her was playing time and she got to show her abilities with Hammon out last week. It seems like she is an established defender and seems quick with her hands. What do you think she needs to develop to be an everyday player after PATIENTLY playing the roles she was asked to play in Sacramento and San Antonio?
-Dave, Fort Collins, Colo.

This question kills me! Erin Buescher was a role player in this league for four years. She took it upon herself to get in better shape and to expand her game. The best thing that ever happened to Buescher was to go to John Whisenant's team. He's an amazing technical coach who helped Buescher with her fundamentals, her footwork, her balance, her step-throughs and countermoves. She was an energy-type player who did a lot of dirty work, but coming to the Monarchs really refined her game. She has managed to take her game to another level, where she can hit a face-up shot and she can shoot the 3.

But I think she's gotten to about as close as she can get to an All-Star level. She is squeezing every ounce of talent she can out of her body because she's so mentally and physically tough and smart. She is never going to be Lauren Jackson or Tamika Catchings. That's the plain and simple truth. But she's a fabulous, fabulous role model for every kid to emulate. And her maturation from a role player into an impact player is something more people should take notice of.

I have been a Washington Mystics season ticket holder for 10 years and I am close to losing all hope. We have had male and female coaches. We have had some very good players who only after leaving our team produce for their new team and become great players. Do you have a clue what's wrong? Nothing seems to help. Are the Mystics uncoachable?
-Joy, Washington, D.C.

I think the Mystics are a pretty good basketball organization. The one thing they've never had is coaching stability. And if you don't have stability in the front office, it's hard to create stability with your players. You have to be solid at the top... and I think Sheila Johnson and her group will do that because they're passionate and they get it. Tree Rollins has done a fabulous job, I like the chemistry he seems to have brought and he has really settled in with a team that struggled early in the season.

And remember, this was a team everyone was picking to make the playoffs in the East, behind Detroit, Indiana and Connecticut. But whatever problems they had early seem to have been worked out: they're rebounding, they have two All-Stars in DeLisha Milton-Jones and Alana Beard, Nakia Sanford is becoming a legit post player and Nikki Teasley's good. But the problem with such a short season is that it's tough to come back from a bad start. It creates a lot of pressure later in the season. Having gotten off to an 0-8 start like they did, they'll have to play incredible basketball -- like .700 ball -- to really make a run for the playoffs. And they can't just beat the Lynx, they have to beat Indiana and Connecticut and Detroit.

Nancy, two simple questions: 1) Why is Molly Bolin not in the Naismith HOF? 2) Considering that league President Donna Orender played in the league, why hasn't the WBL and the stars from that league (other than yourself and "Blaze") been a part of the WNBA? The level of play was really high and the WNBA players should know and celebrate their forebearers. Your thoughts, Lady Magic?
-James, Cincinnati

I played against Molly Bolin in the WBL and she was just a tremendous scorer… one of the best I've ever seen. The reason she's not in the Hall of Fame is that there's a committee -- I'm on it -- that gets information on the candidates, evaluates it and votes. And she has never gotten the votes. Of course that doesn't mean she isn't at that level. She is a pioneer. Is she a Hall of Famer? It's a tough call… there are a lot of great players who aren't Hall of Famers. That's why it's an elite group.

As far as your second question is concerned, I think the WNBA with both Val Ackerman and Donna Orender in charge has done a great job of embracing the history of our game. It's an interesting dichotomy, the "then" versus "now." There's a lot of respect that we former players get from the players in the league now. But I think that the toughest thing is that Taurasi never saw me play. Lauren Jackson never saw Blaze play. Most of these players have heard about me, Anne Meyers, Lynette Woodard and the others, but sometimes it takes a visual memory of it to really hit home. Because they don't have those memories of watching a lot of us, it's almost like blind faith. It's too bad they never got the chance to watch us on TV, but it's certainly not their fault. But as long as Annie, myself, Blaze, Wood and some others continue to connect with the current stars, we'll be very supportive.