Ask Nancy: August 2, 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. I was wondering, do you think that the Detroit Shock have what it takes to win another championship if Cheryl Ford's knee gets better? I would also like to know if you think that Swin Cash is close to the level she was playing at back in college and during her earlier years in the league?
-Jesse, Houston

I think Detroit has a chance to win another championship with or without Cheryl Ford. They're that talented. They've been getting enough of a contribution from Katie Feenstra and Kara Braxton, and, of course, Plenette Pierson is having a career season. There are enough stars around them to do it again.

That said, having Cheryl Ford is obviously to Detroit's advantage. She's a high-percentage shooter, she's a deterrent on defense and arguably the league's best rebounder. Would I rather go to war with Ford? Absolutely!

I'm very proud of Swin, and it's taken her a long time to get back to this level. She might be back at the level she was at when she came into the league, but the league around her has gotten better. Swin may or may not be an All-Star again, but she's playing at a very high and consistent level. The most important things for her are her confidence and aggression, and she has found both of them.

The way the Shock are playing right now, they're clearly the favorites heading into the postseason. They've weathered some ups and downs, but they're physical both on offense and defense, they have a championship mentality and I think they're the favorites.

Do you think San Antonio will come out of the West and win the 2007 WNBA championship?
-Trisha, Brooklyn, N.Y.

The Silver Stars have certainly proved that they're capable of winning the West, yes. Who among you can raise your hand and say that before the season started, you had the Silver Stars being in first place at this point of the year? Not me. I did think they could make it to the playoffs, but this is different. Dan Hughes and his staff have done a beautiful job preparing their team.

Erin Buescher's season-ending injury is going to affect San Antonio more than Cheryl Ford's will affect Detroit. Even though there are individual stars on San Antonio, everything they do, every play they run, is based on the team concept. Buescher was a big part of that.

But Sophia Young has been playing great. Becky Hammon is an MVP candidate. Vickie Johnson helps hold the team together. I also think the fact that Chantelle Anderson is back is a huge asset for the Stars. I've always liked her game and she now has a reason to come back and play hard. Her minutes will increase gradually, but she's a very skilled player.

Oh, the Fever! Of course we all knew they were going to miss Tamika Catchings… she's all everything. But I definitely thought the other starters and the bench were good enough to play well, though not AS well, without her. There have been bright spots: Anna DeForge has finally started to believe those who voted her in as an All-Star, and Alison Bales and Ann Strother got off the bench finally and put in some good minutes. But other than that what happened to this team? Are they this incapable of playing without Tamika Catchings?
-Katherine, Indianapolis

They finally proved on Tuesday night against the Mystics that they are capable of winning without Tamika. They showed against a very good Washington team that they can still defend, that they can still get the points they need. Tamika Whitmore has not had a great season, but when she and Tammy Sutton-Brown add any inside production, it takes pressure off the guards. Tan White has had 20 and 25 points in her last two games, but she's taken 17 and 18 shots. She's been great, but she's taken a LOT of shots.

We've talked a lot about Indiana's depth so far this season, but I bet that when they get to the playoffs, Brian Winters will shorten the bench a bit and go only eight deep. Still, the players who play have to be ready to score.

From what I hear, Catch is trying to come back for this Saturday's game at Connecticut. The problem I see is that the Fever have a really tough schedule ahead: they're 0-2 against the Sun, they don't match up well against them and they play them twice more… along with Detroit twice more. It's a tough call from Catch's perspective: come back early to try to keep Indiana in the No. 2 spot ahead of Connecticut or wait another week to come back until she's 100 percent with the possibility that the Fever slip to No. 3 and lose that home-court advantage. I would probably wait until I'm fully healed to come back, because whether they finish second or third, the Fever will be playing Connecticut either way and I'm not sure how much the home-court really favors the better team. Even though the Fever are 1-6 without her, there's no way I'd risk reinjuring it and being without Catchings for the playoffs.

Before Catchings' injury, her stats were blowing everyone else out of the water and her team was leading the league. Without her, the Fever had dropped six straight before winning on Tuesday. Don't you think the Fever's slump without her strengthens her case as the Most Valuable Player?
-Speedy, Bloomington, Ind.

I still think this is one of the tightest races in years. You cannot discount what Lauren Jackson has done this season. I think Tamika and Lauren are the top two, and with Becky Hammon in the mix it's really a three-horse race. Indiana's recent losses, like you're saying, just prove how valuable Catch is to that team. We know what she means to the Fever. I don't know if that necessarily solidifies her position for the award, because she still has to get healthy and go out and play and continue what she was doing before the injury. And her stats were great, but they certainly weren't blowing Lauren Jackson out of the water! That's why they're the favorites.

Hey, Nancy. I would like to know why you never mention Penny Taylor for MVP. She's in the top 10 in scoring, rebounds, FG%, 3FG% and she leads the league in free throws, not to mention that she's one of the most efficient players. And she's not taking all the shots either (hint, hint, Lauren Jackson).
-Joe, Riverview, Fla.

Ha, you just answered your own question! Penny Taylor is a great basketball player, but she is not the MVP because she's NOT taking all of the big shots for her team. The Mercury have a lot of balance with Diana Taurasi and Cappie Pondexter, and Penny benefits from that balance. They all benefit from having each other on the court with them. I've never disputed the fact that Penny Taylor is an All-Star, maybe even one of the best players in the world, but the Mercury are going to win a lot of games because all three of their stars score points. If Catch or LJ don't play for their teams, it's a different story, but Phoenix is good because of its offensive depth.

Hello, Nancy! I always appreciate your insight, and was hoping you could provide us fans with some more. My questions are centered on "The Dunk" and its role in the women's game. It's not a big factor yet, but as many great basketball gurus have noted, the game becomes very different when it's played consistently above the rim. Do you feel its boost to the fan interest makes it worth cultivating that element of the game? And has 7-2 Margo Dydek ever been known to dunk? I'd love to see her become even more unstoppable! Thanks!
-Howie, Philadelphia

The dunk serves its purpose in several ways: 1.) It's entertaining. 2.) It's an exclamation of power. And, 3.) it's the highest percentage finish there is in our sport. If the women in our league could do it consistently, I think they would… and I think we should. And there are probably 7-10 players in the league who can dunk, but you don't see it in games, and even in the All-Star Games, you never see someone dunking ON somebody else. That, hopefully, is somewhere down the road. Sure, there's an entertainment side to it, but there isn't anyone who can do it as consistently as in the men's game. At some point in the future, it might be a bigger part of the women's game. But I love dunks… I hope to eventually see them become more of a part of the women's game.

And Margo can dunk, yes. I've seen her dunk donuts into coffee. ;)

Hi, Nancy! I really like Stacey Dales and she seems to have picked up her game for the Sky. Do you see her, if she continues to play this way, maybe making it onto an Olympic Team in 2008, considering she was snubbed for the 2007 All-Star team?
-Donavan Terry, Ada, Okla.

You think Stacey Dales was snubbed for the All-Star team? I love your loyalty to the former Lady Sooner…that explains a lot.

Stacey is having a tremendous season, probably her best as a pro. She's been playing with a lot of confidence and we highlighted her on TV on Tuesday night. But I wouldn't go so far as to say that Stacey is an All-Star this year. She's taken a team that had five wins a year ago, brought leadership and experience, and now they have a good chance at making the playoffs. During a three-game stretch last week, she averaged about 19 points a night and shot over 50 percent from three, and I think it's awesome.

Her body gets beaten down and Stacey still always gives you the best she has and she's so unselfish. In fact, I talked to her Tuesday before the game and tried to get her to talk about how well she was playing, but she wouldn't. All she wanted to talk about were her teammates: how Jia Perkins should be the Sixth Player of the Year and how Armintie Price should be the Rookie of the Year. "But what about you?" I asked. All she wanted to talk about was her teammates. She's a great teammate to have.

And I'm not sure which Olympic team she'd play for, since Dales was born in Canada. She would absolutely be in the mix for the Canadian team, but I think she'd have a tough time cracking the U.S. roster.

Nancy, if you had to choose a 2007 All-Rookie WNBA team, which five players (1-C, 2-F, 2-G) would you choose?
-Tim, San Francisco

Armintie, Lindsey Harding (even though she went down with an injury), Marta Fernandez and Sidney Spencer…. And who else? Camille Little hasn't had a bad year, but I'm not loving any of the centers, so I'll say Evanthia Maltsi. We'll go with a small lineup. I'm sticking with the rankings (laughs).