Ask Nancy: August 31, 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. Thanks for taking my question last week. I know you said I'm banned ;) , but I wanted to ask it again: Among the four remaining teams, who do you see as being the Finals MVP if their team wins?
-Sally, Bangor, Maine

OK, OK, I'll give you one more chance. If Indiana wins, I'll go with Catch. With Phoenix, I'll go with Penny Taylor. If it's San Antonio, it's got to be Becky. And Cheryl Ford for Detroit. Now if you ask any more questions, I'm taking your passport away. ;)

I love you Nancy, but I can't believe you described Becky Hammon -- aka the Becky-babe -- as "squat" on the air. You didn't really mean that, did you?
-Rich, Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

I didn't say "squat," I said "squatty." She and I were texting each other both before and after that game and Becky told me that "squatty" is the new sexy. So I'm submitting that to Webster's. And I'm agreeing with Becky's take on it. Squatty now means sexy.

But seriously, you obviously missed all of the glowing compliments we paid to Becky and her game. I could also change "squatty" to "amazing little person with lots of skill." (Laughs.)

Hang on a second. Catch is calling.

I told her I was busy. I'll call her back.

Who wins Coach of the Year, Dan Hughes or Pat Coyle? I could make an argument for both, but I think Coyle's done more with less experienced players. What are your thoughts?
-Earl, Somerset, N.J.

I think they're both fabulous candidates and I feel like New York really had a remarkable season, because to be honest, I didn't think they would make the playoffs. Shame on me.

And we shouldn't forget Bo Overton when we're having this conversation. It's easy to pick someone whose team has made a quantum leap in its win total, but Bo brought a ton of improvement to the Sky. And we shouldn't exclude Bill Laimbeer and Paul Westhead, either. You can't penalize Westhead for having three of the best players in the world. You can't penalize Laimbeer for having a starting lineup of All-Stars.

But I'm going to stick with "Thunder" Dan Hughes. He's brought his team to the conference finals and he's who I'm going with. They're all incredible coaching jobs, but Hughes is my guy.

Nancy, I always appreciate your perspective on WNBA issues, and I hope you can shed some light on this one. I know the "W" is very image conscious, with tremendous outreach programs to their respective communities. This is GOOD! However, I feel that the behavior of coaches like Bill Laimbeer toward the refs flies in the face of the positive image the league tries to portray. Yes, I know, "discussion" with refs on their calls is acceptable to a degree, but his CONSTANT negative bellowing seems to teach youngsters that when things don't go your way, blame the refs and you're entitled to be belligerent about it. What do you think?
-Amy, Chicago

Let's get this straight: the referees in this league should be treated with the utmost respect. They're professionals, they do their jobs to the best of their abilities, they study film and they know the league. And I promise you that when they go out on the court, their goal is to get it right. If they're not sure about a call, they collaborate. It's not a perfect science, but their hearts, their minds and their skills are in the right place.

Now with the coaches, it's hard to put this into perspective, but have you ever been in an office before where everyone has different personalities? One might scream, one might bark, one might be quiet, one might be always agitated. It's life. Like in any industry, you're going to get a hodgepodge of personalities with all of the head coaches and assistants in this league. Everybody handles their business differently.

Bill is a big guy, and big words come out of big guys. The tone is a little bit different. I'm not saying he's perfect, but I've seen worse in my day. His players love him and he has brought a ton of credibility to our sport, and you have to be willing to take his good with his bad. But I think there's more good in Bill Laimbeer than bad.

Could you explain to me the financial dynamics of playing overseas? Is women's basketball really so much more popular in these other countries that it pays that much more? It seems shocking to me to hear about players being able to make six-figure salaries in countries nowhere near as big as the U.S. What's up with that?
-Dan, Carl Junction, Mo.

The overseas situation is a whole different business model than the WNBA. A lot of the owners overseas are independently wealthy. Also, with a lot of teams in Europe and South America, the money is tied to soccer teams which can create a ton of revenue. If you want to sponsor a soccer team in Poland, for instance, and your company is willing to pay $100 million, a portion of that is typically allocated to the women's basketball team owned by the same club. The WNBA, on the other hand, is basically a stand-alone business right now.

The other thing to consider is that it's really only the top of the top, the best American and international players from the WNBA, who are heading overseas and raking in the big money in places like Israel, New Zealand, Russia and Poland. Not everyone makes such incredible money. It's really just the stars from the WNBA and a handful of the great Europeans who pull in six figures.

Hi, Nancy. I was wondering if there is drug testing for the WNBA. Katie Smith has sure bulked up and I don't see how she can do that without the help of something besides weights. Hope you answer this question for me.
-Sharon, Twin Falls, Idaho

I'll say this once: Katie Smith is ALL NATURAL. Katie was built like she is now back in college at Ohio State. As she's gotten older, you start valuing your body more, so you start eating better. Nutrition becomes a bigger factor in your athletic performance. So she has progressively cut bad things out of her diet and lost some of that baby fat. Other players have done the same thing: Teresa Weatherspoon, Catchings, Lauren Jackson… They were all heavier, but they began to value their bodies more when they realized that their bodies were their living.

Nancy, I'm a Mystics fan (sigh) and I wonder what you think they should do to bolster the team in the offseason. Thanks.
-Nat, Washington, D.C.

They first have to address their defense. They have a terrific offense with a star in Alana Beard, a good point guard in Nikki Teasley and some solid shooters. But I think it's really important that they work on their defense. That where they really struggled this season.

I think Tree Rollins did a great job as the interim coach most of this season. He got them to rally and make a run at the playoffs and they were really playing the way they were capable of at the season's end.

A couple of weeks ago, you discussed the USA National Team. It seems two of the best point guard prospects, Loree Moore and Becky Hammon, are being overlooked for 2008 (and Becky has been overlooked for a few years now). Also, Kelly Miller isn't even being mentioned as a point guard prospect, despite good shooting, a solid A/TO ratio, excellent rebounding and good defense (better than other PG's who are being considered). If you were in charge of USA Basketball, how many point guards would you take, and which players would they be?
-Barry, Phoenix

If I were in charge of USA Basketball, I would follow the lead of Carol Callan, the committee and Val Ackerman. They're trying to develop Lindsey Harding into an eventual national team point guard. I think Lindsay Whalen's grit and toughness also make her someone worth looking at for that team.

But honestly, I scratch my head every time someone asks me about Becky Hammon not being on the U.S. team. I scratch it so often, I think I'm getting a bald spot. If it continues, I'm going to end up looking like Britney Spears after her haircut. HOW CAN THERE NOT BE A SPOT FOR BECKY HAMMON ON THE USA BASKETBALL TEAM? Even if she doesn't make it, how is she not at least getting a chance to COMPETE for a spot on this team? Do what you want with her when she's in camp, but you have to take a look at her, don't you? She's just getting better and better every year. She's a winner. The future is bright for Loree Moore, too, don't get me wrong, but Becky is at the top of her game. There aren't two point guards in the league better than Becky.