The Europe Cup and EuroLeague regular seasons are set to begin this week. Europe Cup regular season action tips off on Friday, November 3 and will finish on January 18. The EuroLeague regular season begins tonight and will end on January 17. The top 16 teams in each league will then go on and play in an Eighth-Finals followed by Quarter-Finals and Semi-Finals until the two best teams play in the Finals. EuroLeague Finals will take place on April 1 and EuropCup Finals will be played from April 4 to April 11.
While nearly all of the European leagues have gotten underway in the past few weeks playing within their own nation, both the EuroLeague and Europe Cup competitions are comprised of the best individual teams from several leagues throughout Europe. Each team is allowed up to two non-European players on the active roster at one time. However, some teams have more than two non-European players listed on their roster, but only two can play with the team at certain times. For example, Spartak Moscow signed three American players -- Diana Taurasi, Tina Thompson, Taj McWilliams-Franklin -- but each player will be coming and going at different times during the season. Taurasi will not play until December when McWilliams-Franklin leaves the team to play in Korea.
Last season, Lisa Leslie led Spartak Moscow past Linda Fröhlich, Ticha Penicheiro and Pays D’Aix, 72-66, to claim the 2005-2006 Europe Cup Women’s title. Spartak won the two-game series by a combined score of 152-131. In the EuroLeague championship, Nykeshia Sales and DeLisha Milton-Jones led Gambrinus to a 68-54 win over Samara.
Throughout the entire Europe Cup and EuroLeague seasons, WNBA.com's official blog will keep you posted on all the overseas action.
Today's EuroLeague opening day matchups:
MKB Euroleasing vs. Wisla Can-Pack
Halcon Avenida vs. Bourges Basket
TEO Vilnius vs. Spartak Moscow Region
BC Volgaburmash vs. ZVVZ USK Prague
UMMC vs. Gambrinus
Today's matchups will feature a total of up to 20 current WNBA players.
In Group A action in the Euro League, there will be seven current WNBA players on hand when the defending Europe Cup champions, Spartak Moscow (who made the jump to EuroLeague this season) take on TEO Vilnius. Spartak Moscow, who currently hold a 1-1 record in Russia's Superleague play, are led by San Antonio's Agnieszka Bibrzycka, Minnesota's Svetlana Abrosimova, Sacramento's Ticha Penicheiro,and Houston's Tina Thompson. TEO Vilnius of Lithuana are led by Sacramento's Kristin Haynie, Indiana's Ebony Hoffman and Charlotte's Yelena Leuchanka. TEO Vilnius is currently undefeated at 2-0 in the LMKL standings.
Three 2006 WNBA All-Stars and one former All-Star will highlight today's Group C meeting between Samara and Gambrinus. Washington guard Nikki Teasley, who won the All-Star M.V.P. honors in 2003, joins 2006 rebouding champ Cheryl Ford and Samara as they take on 2006 Finals M.V.P. Deanna Nolan, 2006 All-Star Sophia Young and their Gambrinus teammates. Samara (UMMC) is currently 2-1 in Russia's Superleague while Gambrinus is 3-0 in the 1Liga Czech league.
In Other News: Six-time NBA champion Michael Jordan met with Ros Casares players Margo Dydek, Delisha Milton-Jones and Allison Feaster last weekend in Valencia, Spain.
If you believe everything you hear, then you are likely waiting for the Minnesota Lynx to name their new head coach any day now.
After replacing Suzie McConnell Serio during the regular season earlier this summer, the search immediately began for a full-time replacement to take over the Lynx, who have not been to the postseason since 2004. So while the COO's and other league executives were meeting in New York last week, I caught up with Lynx COO Roger Griffith to ask him about the search and when they expect to be able to make an announcement.
Q. How do you go about looking for and ultimately finding a new head coach?
"The process for us was to sit down at the end of the year, solicit input from players what they felt the attributes they felt would help the team and individuals, took all of the input into account. The organization added some other things to the mix that we felt were important for the team and developed a list of characteristics and qulifications that we would go and actively look for. Then we came up with a list of names and began to talk with people on that list and started to rank and prioritize that list."
Q. How important is previous head coaching experience at this level?
"We want a person who has been a head coach before. We definitely think there is value in having been a coach at the professional level. We are trying not to limit ourselves in terms on where that head coaching experience might have come from but we do feel that we need to hire someone who is an experienced professional coach."
So where in the process are you right now?
"We think we are relatively close to being able to name our decision. We had three candidates who really rose to the top during the process. Our focus has been there in trying to get something complete. I've never put a timeframe on it but it is important to us to get it done soon. We want to finish it sooner rather than later. It is important that the person we hire has the offseason to work with players, to get to know players, get them working on things that will be incorporated into a new system. To wait until closer to training camp is not beneficial for us. We want the person to get out there early and start working."
Q. How much input will the new coach have in putting the team together that he or she will ultimately be responsible for?
"The input of our coach is extremely important in the free agency and draft processes. We look at that as a collaborative effort amongst myself and the entire coaching staff. That's one of the issues that gets discussed with all of our candidates. We explain how the process works as well as their role in it. The input of the head coach is very important. It doesn't work if we select a player that the head coach doesn't really want. You want to make sure that the new players fit into the new system as well. "
After months of planning, organizing and fund-raising, Build Day is finally here for Diana Taurasi and her team of volunteers working with KaBOOM! to install a big, new playground in Bridgeport, Connecticut's South End.
But more than just lauding Diana for her efforts, she actually invited friends, fans and members of the community to help build the new playground. After the city had flattened an old, abandoned building on the corner of Walnut and Gregory Streets to create an empty lot, we started the day bright and early with a huge pile of wood chips and all of the tools needed to build the playground.
"It's been amazing here today," Taurasi says. "We got here at 8 in the morning and slowly, but surely, we are getting this done. It should be done by 3 p.m. Everything is up already, the slides, the swings, the wood chips... It is looking good! We have a new playground in Bridgeport."
With the help of lots of dedicated volunteers, the large group is transforming the space into a brand new playground in a single day. Spiral slides, high-flying swings, the Play Engine Express and adventure tubes... who would have thought it could all get done in one day? But it is happening despite the frigid, fall, New England temperatures. The new playground’s design is based on drawings provided by children who attend the Bridgeport YMCA at a Design Day event in July.
"It's pretty much a party out here," she says. "I think we have the entire community out here. There are over 200 volunteers and it has been a great project to work on. The Mayor is on his way and we will be cutting the ribbon in just a little bit."
Among the volunteers are members of UCONN Women’s Basketball Alumni, Barnum Financial Group, the Bridgeport YMCA, the City of Bridgeport, Junior League of Eastern Fairfield County, the South End Neighborhood Council, Marina Village, University of Bridgeport, residents of the South End of Bridgeport and organizers from KaBOOM! KaBOOM! is a national nonprofit organization that envisions a great place to play within walking distance of every child in America. But it all starts with a single community, which is why, thanks to the generosity of Diana Taurasi and supporters Barnum Financial Group, People’s Bank, and Chemworth, Inc., they partnered with the Bridgeport YMCA to build the playground.
Guests and visitors include Mayor Fabrize, Congressman Shay and the Secretary of HUD Alfonso Jackson too. Ashley Valley (who is supplying us with these photos from her camera phone), Rita Williams, Jessika Taurasi, BDA superagent Lindsay Kagawa, Maria Conlon, Geno and Kathy Auriemma and other alum as well.In fact, today was just proclaimed "Diana Taurasi Day" in Bridgeport, CT by Mayor Fabrize!
The playspace is the first built by KaBOOM! and Diana Taurasi, and one of over 200 playspace builds KaBOOM! will lead across the country in 2006 in an effort to provide a great place to play within walking distance of every child in America.
As for the Mercury getting the first pick...
"How about that, huh? Another good day to be a Mercury fan," Taurasi says.
For the first time in WNBA history, the team with the worst odds (2.5%) came out on top and will have the first overall pick in the 2007 WNBA Draft.
Mercury Coach Paul Westhead:
"It's just a great, but lucky, break for us. We expected to wind up fifth or sixth but we got the first pick. It's nice to know we will be able to select the best collegiate player."
"It's a natural boost. It will help the entire Phoenix market get even more excited about the team. We finished very strong last year. There was a lot of enthusiasm that last month of the season and we just missed out on the Playoffs due to a tiebreaker. But the fans were really into our team which was great, but this gives us the opportunity to be even better."
"I'm sure Ann Meyers' phone will be ringing off the hook with potential trades or deals. The pick has a high value in this league. It reduces our need to scout. It's relatively easy to pick out the top players. With the 14th pick, you have to watch 9,000 players. So that will be enjoyable to isolate those top stars and then follow them in their college season."
"We have to see who is available, especially once the free agency period begins. If there is an experienced player who is available who can help us rebound, it is nice to be able to make those choices."
Mercury Vice President Ann Meyers:
"This is good karma. Anytime you are involved with something like this, you have a chance."
"Our entire table was good luck. The people that I'm with are great in Phoenix."
"Who will the first pick be? We have to wait and see how the college season plays out and how the free agency signing period plays out. It is no secret that we need rebounding."
With the coaches and general managers of all 14 teams assembled for the Sales and Marketing Meetings and the Competition Committee Meetings later this afternoon, the WNBA held its annual Draft Lottery this afternoon to determine the top six picks for the 2007 WNBA Draft next April.
And the winner is...
THE PHOENIX MERCURY!
Despite have the longest odds at taking the top spot, the Mercury have won the top overall pick for the second time in three seasons.
The complete order is as follows:
1. Phoenix Mercury
2. San Antonio Silver Stars
3. Chicago Sky
4. Minnesota Lynx
5. Charlotte Sting
6. New York Liberty
More from the Mercury coming up...
David Stern has a message for everyone in the room: "This is a long-term proposition."
The WNBA Sales and Marketing Meetings entered Day Two this morning as NBA Commissioner David Stern addressed an overflowing ballroom stocked not only with executives, but also the entire roster of team coaches and general managers as well. And his message was clear: The league remains committed to the continued growth of the Women's National Basketball Association.
The NBA's new mission statement introduced earlier this year is "The Game is Our Passion," but it applies to the WNBA as well.
"We are not only leaders in social responsibility, but can sell this game on the court, at the highest level featuring the world's best athletes," Stern said.
But there was another message in his unscripted remarks: We can all do better. From sponsorships to getting the story out to selling tickets, we can all do more to support movement in the right direction.
"The league, after ten years, is poised for great success," Stern said. "And I am delighted to be apart of it."
Oh, how the tables have turned.
Oscar Dixon, the Pro Basketball Editor at USA Today, has covered the WNBA since its inception back in 1997. He knows the league, he respects the game and its players and he cares deeply for it. As part of the Sales and Marketing Meetings, Dixon facilitated a discussion with all of the team and league public relations and shared some of his tips, suggestions and insights into getting even more coverage and media attention for the WNBA in the years to come.
"The quality and level of play is ten times better than it was in 1997," Dixon started off his presentation.
He admits that there are challenges and that even he fights for every inch of space he can get in the daily edition. But he encouraged the media relations representatives to pitch him as many stories as they can. Be annoying, essentially. The same goes for beat writers in local markets as well. Of course, Dixon is used to getting all kinds of crazy story ideas and pitched, but he came out and made an open pitch to the group.
"This is a league of stars. The challenge is connecting the dots. You need to expose the stars to the rest of the world."
After lunch, WNBA President Donna Orender turned the tables on the veteran journalist as the entire group reconvened, asking him some tough questions. What makes a compelling story? How do we get local and national media outlets to give the WNBA even more space? Does less airtime or media coverage lead the public to believe that women's sports are less important? Do teams need to win to to get greater coverage?
Of course, the answers are not simple. But one point that Dixon repeatedly emphasized to the entire assembly was that we need to emphasize and focus on the game. The Game.
"There is great, young talent in the league and the new changes allow that talent to be showcased," he said. "There are great players doing marvelous things. In order to show even more growth in the next ten years, we need to focus on the game itself. This is a viable sport, not a cause-marketing job."
The bottom line is that Dixon, along with producers and executives at ESPN, have done as much as anyone to promote (even though they would cringe at the idea of promoting a sport since they are journalists, not in the business of marketing or promotions) the growth of the WNBA. As the pro basketball editor at one of the largest newspapers in the country, Dixon has a lot of control... and it's good to know he's on our side.
Donna Orender has a message for everyone in the room: There is "no off" in the offseason.
The group of nearly two hundred strong gathered at the 2006 WNBA Sales and Marketing Meetings know this better than anyone. As fall has arrived in New York City, so has much of the brains behind the WNBA operations, representatives from all 14 teams and a large portion of the league staff - marketing managers, sales staff, community and public relations coordinators.
After a relaxed welcome reception on Tuesday night at a hotel in Times Square, Donna Orender convened the meetings bright and early Wednesday and immediately fired everyone up to do some good work, driving home the message "Yes We Can." It promises to be the spirit of the next two days. Not only is the WNBA about athletic greatness, but teamwork, dedication, hard work, execution and the authentic spirit of everyone who has a part in driving the WNBA towards success.
The truth remains that we are working harder than ever and remain committed to the growth and prosperity of the WNBA. Attendance is trending up by more than 12 percent since the 2006 All-Star Game, the 2006 Playoffs and Finals saw record viewership and attendance numbers and new sponsors continue to be added. But there is more work to do. And that is why we are here. The groups are discussing specific goals, targets and expectations. All of them revolve around sales.
"Sell. Sell. Sell."
Donna's opening message to the team support staff was exactly that.
The morning breakout sessions brought together some great groups talking about actionable and achieveable ways to sell the WNBA in a number of ways. The hourlong discussions featured teams' best practices - sharing the things that worked best to promote an even stronger league.Team COO's and sponsorship groups discussed the importance of building a ticket sales culture while the marketing personnel talked about the importance of one-to-one fan relationship marketing (Liberty guard Becky Hammon made a surprise appearance, driving home the power of the one-on-one interaction)
Also this morning, team P.R. met with broadcast partners and other journalists to strategize on how to maximize national and local coverage of the league and teams. These smaller groups then switched things up a bit for the second of the two morning breakout sessions as the COO's and marketing groups converged to gab on fan data analytics while the sponsorship and community relations gurus converged to discuss the art of "building the proposal."
Throughout the next 36 hours, the smaller groups will mix and match to hammer out a number of specific plans for the remainder of the offseason and building up for Year 11. It is an exciting time, but it's time to get back to work.
All photos: Steven Freeman/NBAE
This past weekend, Liberty forward Barbara Farris was in New Orleans to participate in the ongoing efforts to rebuild the city after Hurricane Katrina did its damage more than a year ago. Along with a number of volunteers, Farris and her construction crew took over an entire street in Gray, Louisiana to rebuild homes and bring supplies and even toys for children. About 45 minutes outside of New Orleans, you may have seen this on the Oprah Winfrey Show, as Oprah and Bon Jovi are building a large number of homes in this region.
Among the people that Farris met were Richard Zuschlag, who owns the biggest private ambulance company in the U.S. and the guy who ran the ambulance rescue operations during the week immediately following Katrina.
In Other News... This past Thursday and Friday around New York City, a number of athletes, entertainers, corporate executives and dignitaries took part in an annual event known as "Principal for a Day." Young public school students got to meet and learn from a number of positive role models, including Shock center Ruth Riley and WNBA Vice President Renee Brown, who visited IS 211 in Brooklyn.
It looks like the 2007 FIBA Americas Championship for Women will be held in Chile. Secretary General of FIBA Americas Alberto Garcia signed the deal to give Valdivia, Chile the 2007 Championship, which is a qualifier for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China.
According to the Houston Chronicle, it has been confirmed that Houston Comets owner Leslie Alexander has determined to sell the team to concentrate on the NBA's Houston Rockets. Coach Van Chancellor is confident that the WNBA's first dynasty team will remain in Houston. Take a look at what the message boards are saying about the announcement.
Along with several local college coaches, New York Liberty head coach Pat Coyle will conduct a coaches clinic on Saturday from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. at Brookdale Community College.
Former WNBA player Valerie Still is launching a program called Holding Court for Youth in her hometown of Powell, Ohio. The former Washington Mystics player and Orlando Miracle coach wants to set up outdoor courts throughout central Ohio and establish mentoring and after-school programs for children.
USC women's basketball is retiring Lisa Leslie's jersey at 7 p.m. on Friday, November 10 in their home opener
Former Sacramento Monarchs guard Ruthie Bolton will be the guest speaker at the second annual “Meet the Falcons” banquet for the Solano Community College men’s and women’s basketball teams on October 30 starting at 6 p.m. at the Hilton Garden Inn in Fairfield.
Back on the blogging scene and ready to share all of the fun and exciting events this offseason...
Unfortunately I missed a lot while taking some personal time to nurse my injuries and recover from the grueling season, including the annual Women's Sports Foundation Dinner here in New York City, which is always a great night. This year I missed out on Nykesha Sales, Ruth Riley, Katie Smith and Tamika Catchings rubbing elbows with their fellow athletes and a number of entertainers. My loss, though I hear the evening was another smashing success.
Congratulations are in order for Marie Ferdinand and Silver Stars teammate Shanna Zolman, who both tied the knot recently. I also missed out on another Sue Bird birthday, who recently escaped to the Bahamas with friends to relax. Happy 26th!
And just this afternoon, Liberty guard Becky Hammon joined Knicks center Malik Rose and NBA Hall-of Famer Bob Lanier at the NBA Store to take part in a reading event with NBA and WNBA partner Penguin Classics. The three star ballers took part in a panel discussion about their favorite books and what makes a classic. The discussion moderated by the head of the New York Public Library, who openly called out Becky for having overdue books, as well as the publisher and president of Penguin. The audience was made up of Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club members.
You may recall that the league joined forces for the 60th Anniversary of Penguin to promote literacy and a greater interest in the classics. Earlier in the summer, Hammon read Arthur Miller's classic The Crucible, a dramatic look at the Salem Witch Trials of the 17th century. The event's theme: "Aim High, Live Classic."
In case you are curious, my most recent favorites have been Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, Ken Kesey's Sometimes a Great Notion and, of course, Little Women, which, to my surprise, was not about Becky Hammon at all.
In catching up with Hammon, she just got back from a vacation in Puerto Rico and is both looking into doing college broadcasting this offseason and potentially going over to Europe. She also just moved and has no cable or internet access, which is making her life not so fun these days as she misses reading WNBA.com every day.
In Other News...European and overseas player updates will begin in the next couple of weeks as players begin their journeys abroad. Until then... Mercury guard Cappie Pondexter was named the Most Valuable Player of the 3rd Fenerium Tournament in Turkey as her Fenerbahce team won the cup. Teammate Tammy Sutton-Brown was named the Most Valuable Center. Also stay tuned for news regarding the WNBA Draft Lottery.
We'd like to say congrats to San Antonio's Marie Ferdinand and Shanna Zolman on their recent marriages and to Chicago's Liz Shimek on her upcoming wedding. Ferdinand tied the knot on October 8 in Miami and Zolman became Mrs. Zolman-Crossley on Saturday. Shimek, who is considering playing overseas this winter, is getting married next weekend.
Connecticut Sun coach Mike Thibault and his assistants, Scott Hawk and Bernadette Mattox, are inviting coaches of all levels to join them as they present techniques on developing players and coaching basketball on October 22, 2006 from 9:30 AM – 4:30 PM at several WNBA players favorite arena, Mohegan Sun Arena. .
Last week, we mentioned that the 'Spirit of Detroit' statue was still wearing a Detroit Shock jersey despite a World Series run by the Detroit Tigers. And now the Tigers are officially in the World Series and can't win over the storage tank at Marathon Oil's Downriver refinery on I-75. A tribute to the Detroit Shock and Pistons will remain painted on the tank.
Want to know which player has the most career points or assists when combining WNBA and ABL statistics? Do you want to know who holds several professional women’s basketball records in the United States? Well, thanks to DetroitShock.com's new Statistical Warehouse, statistics are readily available for you. Every week throughout the offseason at least five new statistical categories will be added to the site. And don't forget that you can also take a look at WNBA stats on WNBA.com's statistics page and history section.
Even though the Detroit Tigers have a 2-0 lead over the Oakland A's in the MLB American League Championship Series, the 'Spirit of Detroit' statue is still rocking a Detroit Shock jersey.
New York Liberty guard Erin Thorn returned for the third time to her alma mater, Brigham Young University, to serve as a Cougar's assistant coach. Does that mean she thinks like a coach while playing in the WNBA? Check out a full interview with NYLiberty.com.
In Other News... WNBA President Donna Orender will be the keynote speaker for the National Association for Sport and Physical Education's annual convention in Baltimore on March 14, 2007.
It may be the offseason, but that doesn't mean community work is done for these polite WNBA athletes. Seattle's Betty Lennox continues to reach out to the communities of Seattle and Kansas City through her charity, the Lennox Foundation 22, and Charlotte's LaToya Bond recently made an appearance at a YWCA after-school program in Decatur, Illinois.
In Other News... According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the Minnesota Lynx still are waiting on Michael Cooper to decide whether he wants to coach the WNBA team.
WNBA player and Australian Opals guard Tully Bevilaqua will be playing in the WNBL after barely having any break between the WNBA season, World Championship in Brazil and now the WNBL season. Belivaqua, who is a WNBA unrestricted agent, will play for the Canberra Capitals during the WNBA offseason. But don't expect her to play at her normal level during the first couple of games for the new-look Capitals. The World Championship gold-medalist told the The Canberra Times that she "might be a little out of sync" while coming down from the "incredible high" of winning the championship.
Phoenix Mercury's Kristen Rasmussen will join Bevilaqua in Australia. The WNBL's Lightning pulled off an eleven-hour deal last week to sign the center.
In Other News... Connecticut Sun head coach Mike Thibault will headline the Gophers women's basketball staff's annual Coaches Clinic on Oct. 21... Tamika Catchings and her Catch The Stars Foundation will unveil a reading corner Tuesday at Christel House Academy at 10 a.m.... According to columnist Art Thiel of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, it is not beyond reason to think that new owner Clay Bennett might sell the Storm to local buyers.
Hello, I am trying to find out where the 2007 WNBA all star game will be
held. Is there a particular web site where this info can be located? Thank You,
-BMW, Redding, CA
A. The game date and location have not yet been announced, though I know they are working on it. The date will likely be in early July again since that is the midpoint of the season. As far as location goes, teams have to submit their request to actually host the game. So even if fans want the game to take place in their city but their front office has not made their presentation, they will not be granted host city status. So fans, get on your team to host the game!
If you are an excellent player but you live in england can you
play for america's team?
A. If you are an American citizen, you could certainly play for the United States internationally no matter where you live. Residence is not as important as nationality. Of course, if you are British, then you would play for the national team of England. But there are no international barriers to playing in the WNBA as we've had players from all over the world come play with and against the best in the world.
FOR 2007 DRAFT. I AM PERSONALLY INTERESTED IN WHAT THE SCOUTS ARE SAYING ABOUT
CHRISSY GIVENS,MIDDLE TENN. STATE UNIVERSITY.--GUARD--MVP-PLAYER OF THE YEAR-SUNBELT
-GREG, MONROE, LA
A. Wow, we're on this already? I guess college hoops season is just over a month away. Wow. I'll admit that I have not seen her play, but I know she was like top five in scoring last season in the NCAA. I'll be watching for her, though, so thanks. As far as my top prospects, it's obviously early, but here's who I like so far. Obviously OSU's Jessica Davenport and UNC guard Ivory Latta are at the top of my list. I like UCLA's Noelle Quinn and Duke's Alison Bales as well. Some sleepers are Eshaya Murphy from USC and Tulsa's Jillian Robbins. You know who else I like in college... Candace Parker and Sylvia Fowles. Unfortunately, I may have to wait a bit for them.
Deanna Nolan a better all around basketball player than Sheryl Swoopes, in your
-Emory, Chesapeake, VA
A. Wow, not an easy answer... See, I was just looking to blow through these and clean out the inbox, but you had to go there and get me thinking really hard, didn't you? Let's first eliminate some points of contention from this answer... Sheryl Swoopes is a three-time WNBA MVP and one of the top players in the history of women's basketball. So if you are talking about all-time, there is no comparison, Sheryl wins hands down. Defensively, Sheryl is still near the top of her game and she is as smart a player as there ever has been. She is also one the most competitive players and best leaders in the game. As far as pure physical skills in the court, five years ago I would not be able to answer, but Nolan has proven herself as the most athletic player in the game. She is faster than anyone else and can outjump everyone else. When she wants to be unstoppable, she can be. She is fun to watch and one of my favorite players. That said, she does not always feel the need to show it, while Sheryl never takes plays off. So all-around game, I still have to say Sheryl. You cannot underestimate leadership and veteran experience in this game. Now that said, Nolan has a bright future ahead of her and can still emerge as a star in the game, but she has a long ways to go before catching Swoopes in the stardom department.
that the WNBA season is over, are you just on a big vacation? I know many players
go overseas, but what do you do in the offseason?
-Inez, Ticonderoga, NY
A. No, there is no vacation for me, but thanks. Now that the WNBA season is over, we are still following all of the offseason action, from overseas play to player movement. The Draft Lottery will take place later this month and players will be out in the community. Of course, the NBA season is starting up again very soon as is the NBA Development League, both of which I also halp manage, cover and coordinate. I'm no one-trick pony, you see. I am also the Commissioner for the NBA.com Premier Fantasy Challenge, which will pit the best NBA fantasy players against each other this season. So you see, there's always fun to be had when working with the game of basketball.
Tattoos are a Male turnoff! As a 9-year
Houston Comets season ticket male fan, I represent the crossover fan required
for the growth of the WNBA. My peers and I are being turned off by the tattoos
being displayed by a number of players such as Detroit's talented Deanna Nolan.
The WNBA will not survive if there is feeling by male fans that it is a forum
for Lesbian lifestyles. Do you think the WNBA should get involved and regulate
if not outlaw this fashion statement as a potential distraction to the conventional
lifestyles expected to be displayed by a WNBA player?
-Ervin, Houston, TX
A. Unfortunately, Ervin, it is not up to you or me to tell someone what they can or cannot do with their lives. Since you asked my opinion, professional sports leagues should not be in the business of telling its athletes what they can and cannot do in their private lives. Outside of the drugs or steroid use or other behaviors that may harm them or affect the competition on the court, we need to respect all lifestyles and market to all lifestyles. There was a lot of talk when tattoos became more prevalent with NBA players and how it would affect the fanbase, but people are still coming to watch those games. If WNBA are really turned off by the ink on a players arm or their perceived sexual orientation as opposed to being won over by the quality of play or the talent of the individual, then that makes me sad not only as a fellow WNBA fan, but as a human being. Judge not the player, but her play.
Will there be a francise in Kansas City, Dallas,
Brooklyn, Las Vegas and non-NBA cites.
-SK, New York, NY
A. We already have WNBA teams that are not apart of the NBA ownership model in Connecticut and Chicago. Expect more to come... Personally, I'd like to see a team in Hawaii, just so we could go check in on them every once in awhile and make sure things are okay out there in the sun. Are you listening, Mister Wagdy A. Guirguis, President of the GMP International Corporation located in Honolulu, Hawaii?
My name is Jameka Buchanan and I am in the 8th Grade. I am a very good basketball player. I just want to know what you have to do to be in the WNBA.
-Jameka, Cheraw, SC
A. Be older. No I'm kidding! Hi Jameka, and thanks for writing. As someone who never fulfilled his dreams of playing in the WNBA due to obstacles beyond his control, I am not sure I am the best person to give advice on this subject. But just keep playing, learning and working at your game. Challenge yourself to improve and become a multi-talented player. In a few years, if you are still as good as you say, start writing to colleges to learn about what it takes to play there.
I've been a fan of the Shock for ten years.
I was there when wins were far and between. With two championships in the last
four years. From the nose bleeds seats to the floor. I love this game and the
Shock have kept it real. Thank you,
-Darrell, Detroit, MI
A. You're welcome. And thank you.
You can submit a comment and be world famous here on WNBA.com. Ask the editor something...
It's been three weeks since the 2006 WNBA season finished and a little over a week since Australia brought home the gold at the 2006 World Championship in Brazil. So what's next? Don't worry fans, WNBA.com will be keeping track of several players as they make their way overseas. Check out which country your favorite players are going to. Also, take a look at how the FIBA EuroLeague and FIBA Europe Cup format works.
Along with the current WNBA players making their way around the world, former WNBA All-Star Jackie Stiles will make a trip as well. The 2001 Rookie of the Year will give professional basketball another try with the Canberra Capitals of the WNBL (Australia) after 13 surgeries in three years forced her to retire.
In recognition of her charitable efforts, Detroit Shock center Ruth Riley earned the WNBA's Community Assist Award for August. Riley recently made her second trip to Washington, D.C. to attend the National Book Festival on Saturday, September 30.
Take a look at this ticket pakage in Indiana -- For $5,750 per seat, you can sit in a new luxury area for all Pacers and Fever home games, which includes free parking, drinks and food.
Quite the busy weekend for WNBA All-Star Diana Taurasi, who committed herself to the people of Connecticut several years ago and continues to do so today. Before the 2006 season, Taurasi teamed up with Kaboom! to raise money for a playground in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
On Friday, Taurasi hosted a cocktail reception at
the People's Bank in Bridgeport with proceeds to benefit KaBOOM! Fans and boosters
and friends alike all pitched in to join the event. All proceeds raised will go
directly towards constructing a community built playground for kids in the name
of UCONN Women’s Basketball Alumni. Former UCONN point guard and newly drafted
NJ Nets Rookie Marcus Williams joined the party as a special guest.
“I’ve known since the day I won my first championship at UConn that I wanted to give back to the people of Connecticut; it’s just been a matter of finding the right project,” Taurasi said.
Then on Saturday, Diana headlined a benefit game for The Forman School for children with learning challenges. The game showcases Diana Taurasi and the entire 2003-2004 NCAA Championship Team along with Sue Bird and Rita Williams. Not a bad All-Star game... All proceeds from this event went towards scholarships for students whose families are in need of financial assistance. Prior to the game, fans got to meet and chat with the players while there was also an autograph session after the game.
Then yesterday, Taurasi wrapped up her weekend with a set of clinics for girls at the Cardinal Shehan Center in Bridgeport. Each two hour program was designed to help players develop and refine their fundamental basketball skills led by Diana. Diana was joined at the clinics by a host of UConn basketball friends including Marcus Williams, Rita Williams and Ann Strother. The KaBOOM! build day for the UCONN Alum Playground is on Oct, 27th.
Over the next few weeks, a big number of WNBA players will be heading overseas... Italy, Russia, Turkey, Spain, Wales, Czech Republic, Korea, France, Belgium, Israel, Lithuania and Slovakia just to name a few...
So with so many players getting ready to pack their bags for the next few months, I wanted to take this opportunity to address you personally, since I know you read this and are as big a fan of me as I am of you. Okay, maybe not, but here goes anyway...
Dear Talented WNBA Player (you know who you are),
How are you? We haven't spoken in awhile, but I wanted to let you know that I am still thinking about you and hope you are doing well. You remember me... Matt, your friendly web guy. Anyhow, just wanted to hit you up while I still had the chance, because, well, who knows if they have Internet access where you're going. Just kidding, of course they do. It's 2006!
First off, congratulations on a successful WNBA season. You had a great year. Or maybe you didn't. Either way, it's all about being a good sport, isn't it? Also, as far as signing an offseason, overseas deal... way to go! Very exciting. In playing basketball overseas, you have a great opportunity that many people would be jealous of. As a seasoned traveler myself, allow me to share some thoughts and advice with you.
Iif you are traveling abroad for the first time or are heading to a city you have never played in, really make an effort to get out and see the sites, both in your city and when you can on the road. You can sidekick and Blackberry your friends when you get back. Befriend a teammate from your country who can show you around and can help you to learn the language. Try new foods, though be careful of potential allergies (yes, I'm talking to you, waiter in Florence who served me that blowfish and told me it was a flounder). Perhaps even take in a local show or custom. Who knows, maybe you'll want to take flamenco lessons or become a loyal Chopin enthusiast. If you are returning to a city in which you are familiar or have spent time, perhaps you might want to explore a new restaurant or unknown part of town. You also have no excuse for not learning the language, at least as a novice.
Some other helpful travel tips... In your entertainment bag, you'll have your magazines, music and portable DVD player (get the box set for Arrested Development). Remember to pack a power adapter that fits your country. You would not want your iPod battery to die on the third day and have to go six months before you can recharge it. Puzzle books help kill time, and there is this thing sweeping the nation called Sodukoai or something like that. I'm too busy to know what it's all about, but I hear it's all the rage. Also bring a few books to read. Maybe we can start up a book club!!! Think Oprah, but with less hair. Yes. Let's do it! Here are three books you can read (with links to Amazon.com) and we can discuss... The Known World by Edward P. Jones, The Book of Fate, by Brad Meltzer (think DaVinci Code, but in America) and Teresa Weatherspoon's Basketball for Girls by Teresa Weatherspoon.
In your food bag, load up on the things you like but might not find overseas... cereal, cookies, oatmeal, energy bars, etc. Be sure to eat healthy and work out. This is not a vacation, because when you get back and WNBA training camp starts, you know you're going to be doing a lot of running. Gum is huge. You may not find your favorite gums abroad. Also be sure to look up where the nearest American base is. Those are good places to find some of your favorite staples from the States at a cheaper price
As far as clothing goes, it's not how much cloting you pack, but the right clothing that makes the difference. don't forget to include a WNBA team sweatshirt and a few t-shirts, also. Once your fans there fall in love with you, do your part to educate your new fans about the WNBA. We can never have enough fans, especially those from far away.
Do not forget to check in with the WNBA league office and your friendly player personnel department to let them know where you will be and when. This way we can not only keep track of how you are doing over there, but can also check in with you from time to time. Also, make sure we have your email address and IM screenname if you have one just in case I want to write and say hi and see what you're up to. Bloggers, we look forward to hearing from you, too.
And of course, always think about your safety and personal security. That goes for everyone, really.
Good luck, have fun and take care of yourselves,
As we all know, both sides of USA Basketball came up short at the 2006 World Championships, but both made up for their disappointing losses by destroying the opposition in the bronze medal games. This past weekend, before Lauren Jackson and Australia defeated Russia, 91-74, for the gold, the U.S. women took their frustrations out on Brazil by routing the host nation, 99-59.
The next big international challenge comes in the form of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, which the U.S. must now qualify for. And now that the 2006 World Championships in Brazil are wrapped up, where will the world's best meet for this tournament in 2010? One location being discussed is the same country that currently owns the women's basketball world. Australia could make a great host, what do you think?
Picture this -- Fans coming out of an arena wearing their favorite WNBA team jersey, cheering as they fill up side walks and local restaurants -- Fever fans may know what this vibrant scene feels like, but Monarchs fans don't. Well, at least not until the city of Sacramento agrees on a new downtown arena. The Maloof brothers recently successfully negotiated an agreement with the city for a new arena, but the developer refused to accept certain terms that were previously negotiated. Check out their letter to the fans.
Good morning, friends
Hope everyone is enjoying the on-time arrival of fall and stocked up for another winter of WNBA-less discontent... With the World Championships now officially in the rear-view mirror, the WNBA offseason has begun. The good news is that we are already under eight months to go until the start of the 2007 season next May.
Sound like a long time? Well, it won't be so bad. And we'll be here to help guide you along the way. After all, this is the one year anniversary of the daily Blog (Wooo hooo! We made it without getting shut down!). So let's take a look at what we have to look forward to over these next few months.
Players have already begun leaving for Europe, Asia and Australia as the overseas leagues pick back up again. We are in the process of putting together that list of who is going where, which should be ready later this week. Of course, we will keep track of who is doing what in the Euro League and Europe Cup, and check in with many of them along the way. There are also plans in the works to send a video crew overseas a few times this offseason to catch up with players. And who knows... maybe I'll even get to go!
One month from now, WNBA teams will come together for the annual meetings in New York City to discuss businessy things. The Competition Committee will gather to talk about competitiony things and the 2007 Draft Lottery will be held. More info on that to come...
Also along the way, we will see what players are doing here in their local communities and show you some pictures when we can.
For now, though, sit back and enjoy the respite. If you are missing your regular basketball action, the NBA and NBA D-League pick back up again soon and will at least keep you distracted until the real games start again.
In Other News... Connecticut locals, get ready for a fun weekend with Diana Taurasi coming up... Dee will be back in Connecticut on September 29th – October 1st , hosting three events are to benefit charities in the area. Visit her new, official web site for more information.
Stunning, shocking, embarrassing, surprising... There are a million ways to describe Team USA's 75-68 loss to Russia last night, but no word describes the upset better than 'disappointing'. Just three weeks after the United States Men's Senior National Team lost to Greece in the semifinals of the World Championship in Japan, the women's gold medal dream ended as Russia snapped their 26-game winning streak in the event. The United States, who won't be bringing home the gold for the first time since 1994, will play Brazil in front of an 'insane' crowd for the bronze on Saturday. Russia will meet Australia in the final.
In Other News... Partly due to the popularity and excitement of the WNBA, the NBA estimates that 46 percent of its fans are women.
One of the big challenges of my job is remaining objective, unbiased and fair in spite of all of the influences and factors... you know, not cheering or even showing any emotion while sitting courtside at an NBA or WNBA game, covering both sides of a story and sharing the great sport of basketball without sounding too much like a pitchman or league shill. Not having a favorite team to root for is easy, a part of the job... but that all goes out the window when big international competitions featuring the world's best players take place.
Every two years, the Olympics and World Championships pit the world's best players against each other not for professional pride, but representing an entire nation. It becomes okay for me to root for one team because I come from one country. Fortunately, the country from which I hail has dominated the game of basketball on the international stage for a number of years. But recently, a number of challengers have stepped up and made history.
When the U.S. men lost in the World Championships in 2002 on home soil, then in Athens at the 2004 Olympics and again in Japan just last month, shock gave way to surprise and ultimately acceptance. We were the world's best no longer, just another knight at the roundtable, no longer the king. But the one thing we could always count on as American basketball fans was the guarantee that the U.S. Women had our backs. From soccer to softball to basketball, the American women were winners. Our Senior Women's National Team had won three straight gold medals and two straight WCOB's. That's 50 games!
But somewhere along the way, the rest of the world closed the gap. Australia became a force in the last decade while our old nemesis, Russia, continued to churn out talent. This was no secret. But the Americans always rose to the occasion.
Until last night. In winning so many games in a row, the U.S. had a confident air of invincibility that scared most teams away and led to an easy victory. The few challengers that we did have late in games would succomb for a different reason - a mismatch in talent. Even when we were down big in the first half and into the third quarter, you just knew the Americans would pull another trick out of their sleeve and sneak off with a victory. But somewhere in fourth quarter, when you saw the U.S. players with their heads buried in the hands, even I gave up.
"I guess what I'm trying to say is, if I can change, and you can change, everybody can change."
That dominant luster which dates back to the 1995-96 U.S. teams must now be rebuilt. Sure, the talent remains and the United States will be the favorites heading to Beijing in 2008, but the mental hurdle has been cleared for the rest of the world.
As a basketball fan, it was amazing to see the game result as the top story on ESPN.com and as a blurb on CNN.com. That's national and international consciousness that we work so hard to achieve. But as an American, it made me sick that it took us losing to get that kind of coverage.
A lot will be made of this loss,and rightly so. It is historic. Players and coaches alike will be asked where we go from here. Well, the answer is clear, at least to me. First to practice, then a game against Brazil for the bronze medal, then back home, then the diaspora of overseas play begins... players will head to Russia, France, Korea, Spain, Italy and Australia to play for teams most Americans never heard of. They will play with and against many of the same players from this World Championship tournament. Sometime in 2007, the United States will come together to train again and will likely build up another impressive winning streak against international competitors.
There is no time to dwell on this or get down. Sure, Diana Taurasi and Tamika Catchings and their teammates will likely spend a lot of time thinking about last night's game and just what went wrong, but these are resilient women... basketball players who are at home on the court... role models who set good examples by working hard and never giving up... Americans who do not like to lose.
Bring On Russia, Again... Team USA is only one win away from playing Lauren Jackson and Australia for the gold as they get ready for another battle with the 4-3 Russian team tonight at 6:45 p.m. ET. The U.S. won the previous meeting a week ago, 90-80, and have rolled to a 4-0 record since, winning each game by an average of 30.5 points. Last night, USA got a good warm up for today's matchup as they used aggressive defensive to beat up on Lithuania in a 90-56 victory.
Swatting Away The Competition... The United States is getting it done on both ends of the court and owe much of their success to the team's youngest player and the future of women's basketball. Candace Parker, who is not even old enough to buy a beer, recorded two blocks against Lithuania yesterday to set a USA World Championship record by blocking a total of 12 shots in just seven games. The record was previously held by Katrina McClain, who recorded 11 blocks at the 1990 World Championship. The University of Tennesse star is also averaging 13.1 points and 5.9 boards to go along with her 1.7 blocks per game.
The Winning Streak... The United States Women's Senior National Team has dominated the Olympics and World Championships since the 1996 Olympics. Team USA will look to extend their winning streak to an incredible 51 games tonight. Now if only the men's team could still dominate like that...
As Predicted... The four finalists are the same four teams that have ran major women international competitions for the past ten years. Australia, Brazil, Russia and the U.S. have won all Olympic and World Championship medals since the 1996 Olympics. The only other team to hold a medal in the past decade-and-a-half is China, who won silver medals at the 1992 Olympics and 1994 World Championships. This years Chinese squad will play Cuba later today for 11th place.
Who's Next..? Australia beat Brazil, 88-76, earlier today to advance to the gold medal game. If the United States pulls off another victory tonight against Russia, they will play Australia for the gold on Saturday at 1 p.m. ET. In the case of a rare U.S. loss, Parker and Co. will play Iziane Castro Marques and Brazil for the bronze.
As last night's quarterfinal game against Lithuania was about to begin, KC and the Sunshine Band's "That's The Way I Like It" was pumping through the arena at volume eleven and the Lithuanian coaches were handing each of their players a long yellow hair tie. This seemed very strange, as pre-game rituals go. While the Lithuanian players sported the typical Euro womens' basketball look - too tall, too skinny, like shy girls huddled together at a high school dance - their coaches had a most unusual appearance. The mullet is still in in Lithuania, apparently, as is the moustache, and very busily patterned polo shirts draped over what can only be described as billowy green jodhpur pants.
To this American a million miles from home, this whole scene seemed a little tweaked, but perfect, three cultures under one roof all in their separate happy spheres: the American team bopping up and down to KC and the Sunshine Band, the Brazilian fans in the stands trying to figure out who to root for, and the Lithuanians enacting this strange ritual in which garishly attired middle-aged men who look like Soviet weightlifting coaches from ABC's "Wide World of Sports" hand scrawny tall girls long yellow hair ties immediately before they take the basketball court.
I was wrong, of course. They weren't hair ties but instead lanyards, those things you hang around your neck onto which you clip a credential or a backstage pass. And the Lithuanian players were giving the lanyards to the approaching American players to fulfill the traditional FIBA pre-game exchange of gifts. I'm sure the American players will forever treasure their lanyards, as will the Lithuanians the USA baseball caps they received.
After the gifts were exchanged, and the tip-off completed, an enormous roar came form way, way up in the stands - fifteen Lithuanian fans decked out in every manner of fandom - t-shirts, horns, blankets, even Lithuanian cowlneck mumus - not to mention incredibly crappy seats for people committed enough to travel all the way form Lithuania to Brazil for a basketball game. The gym was, charitably, less than half full, and these people still clung to their Bob Uecker seats and screamed their heads off. Sneak down, for God's sake. Buy some scalper seats. Something.
America has no fans here, no flags or banners, nothing. Just a mind-boggling collection of basketball talent, with its requisite swagger and fabulously complex hand slaps. DeLisha Milton and Candace Parker have one worked out that's a hopped-up adult version of Patty Cake, with footwork and timing and everything. This could be big, if Terrell Owens ever rips it off. The only thing their Lithuanian opponents have going is pretty cool unis - very Oakland A's circa Rollie Fingers with green and yellow piping. Did I mention that the Lithuanian players look really, really Soviet bloc? Talk about white. Like they all just suffered through a bloodletting on the way to the arena.
Anyway, the U.S. starting five once again featured Tina Thompson and DeLisha Milton as the bigs, an undersized concession by Head Coach Anne Donovan that the youngsters Michelle Snow and Cheryl Ford - true bigs - can't yet be trusted in a do-or-die game. The starting five also did not include Sheryl Swoopes, who's walking around Sao Paulo with more ice strapped to her than Jay-Z. Back problems, knee problems. As my grandmother would say, she knows problems.
Without Swoopes, the Americans fell into a very quick hole, down 7-2, with the crowd in a swelling riot of Lithuanian love. The Brazilian guy sitting next to me explained that the Brazil team had reached the final four earlier in the day, and that the home crowd wanted nothing to do with the American team down the road. They wanted us to lose because they were alive.
Happily for them, the U.S. was obliging their desires, bricking point-blank shots one after another, letting Lithuania dictate a slow-paced game with repeated post penetration and completely shutting down the American's fast break super-weapon. Lithuania was up big early, and the Americans looked stunned. The only thing keeping them close in the first quarter was a combination of Tina Thompson's three point marksmanship and the otherworldly hustle of Tamika Catchings. University of Connecticut Head Coach Geno Auriemma used to say that his team would win because "We have Diana Taurasi and they don't," and I'm starting to think that the USA will win this tournament because they have Tamika Catchings and the other guys don't. Once again, Catchings was orchestrating the game Leonard Bernstein-style from the defensive end, almost by herself, everywhere all at once. When the first quarter ended and the U.S. was somehow up by one, it made no sense. How did that happen? Oh yeah, we have Tamika Catchings and the other guys don't.
Plus which, the Lithuanian players brought a really old school game to the court. I mean old school like Red Holzman shooting two-handed sets for the Rochester Royals. You just sensed this game wasn't going to stay close.
You might think this is a misprint, but the Lithuanian team scored eleven points in the second and third quarters combined. Eleven. Catchings and Katie Smith relentlessly ball hawked to the point where Lithuania just wanted to hide and end this thing. It got so bad I was wondering what the Lithuanian coaches were saying in the huddle with their team down 48. I assume dinner options were prominently discussed.
Not only was the U.S. defense stifling, throttling, whatever words you want to use to equal cremation, but a 19 year old girl named Candace Parker was simultaneously putting on a "wow" display for the ages in the low blocks. The mini-oop, that is, an alley oop without a dunk, is a guaranteed USA two points with Parker as the recipient, and the Americans ran that play to death tonight. Parker can seal off her opponent at will, and her footwork, hands and ambidextrous finishing ability would make Dr. Naismith drool. It was all too much for Lithuania, which was playing in an entirely different, lower, atmosphere. Parker was playing for admission into the Pantheon, proving to Thompson and Swoopes that she belongs at the big dogs' table, while the Lithuanians were wondering how to explain it all to their friends back home tomorrow.
By the fourth quarter, the score was 69-37, Parker had set a tournament record for blocked shots (oh yeah, she's insane on defense as well), and the jodhpur'd coaching crew looked ready to hit the road. Their team seemed barely on the court at all; dazed, tired, kind of delighted just to be involved in such mastery, like a fatigued, unpaid Washington Generals squad. I just wanted the game to end so nobody would get hurt.
Inexplicably, the Lithuanian cheering section way up in the rafters chose this exact moment to finally unveil their color coordinated yellow and green Lithuanian replica unis en masse. Another mystery, another USA blowout, another lot of sad-faced tall girls heading home.
On to a rematch with Russia tomorrow night and a chance to reach the Finals on Saturday. More tall Euros, but will they bring more game?
Team USA continued destroying the competition in Brazil as improved to a perfect 6-0 record after a 63-50 win over the Czech Republic on Monday. Diana Taurasi, whose success has carried over from the WNBA season, scored 13 points and grabbed four rebounds in the victory. The U.S. will look to continue their dominance tonight when they battle Lithuania at 6:45 ET on NBA TV.
In order for a franchise to stay in a city there is one thing they need: An arena. Which unfortunately means that the Seattle Storm and the Sacramento Monarchs could be on the move if they don't fix up their homes. Seattle voters will soon decide if the Storm owners should receive the $220 million subsidy they have been seeking to renovate KeyArena while the Monarchs ownership, who have been seeking a new arena in Sacramento for years, are still in disagreements with Sacramento politicians about a new arena plan.
Speaking of the Monarchs, today marks the one year anniversary of the Monarchs first WNBA championship. And I'm sure all you Shock fans out there are happy that the Monarchs didn't recently celebrate their second because then you wouldn't have a chance to get a championship ring of your own.
The U.S. team shifted its base of operations today from the suburbs of Barueri
to the big city of Sao Paulo, just in time for the single-elimination medal round
games which begin on Wednesday. The team was all set to check into the official
World Championship Tournament hotel, which is swarming with basketball players,
coaches, athletic trainers, agents and equipment managers from Sengeal, Nigeria,
Korea, Australia, and probably Lichtenstein too, except that their hotel reservations
were all completely lost and they had to scramble to find 30 hotel rooms in a
crowded frenzied city within one hour.
Crisis averted, the team made it into Sao Paulo just in time to take advantage of their one allotted hour of practice time on the tournament playing floor before their win-or-go-home game the next day against Lithuania . The practice started well enough, with Assistant Coach Gail Goestenkors running the team through serpentine offensive sets, so complex that all I could comprehend was her shouting, "Taurasi, you're the permanent cutter," which set Sue Bird off on a giggling spasm at the choice of her friend as the one player designated to keep running back and forth for the next ten minutes.
Just as they were about to resume their maze of picks
and curls, an ear-splitting rendition of The Rolling Stones' "Sympathy For
the Devil" overtook the arena, causing Head Coach Anne Donovan to look around
and ask the team's P.R. Director Caroline Williams if she could somehow "turn
it down." Turns out, there was a rock concert beginning in the arena's parking
lot, so turning it down wasn't an option. As "Sympathy for the Devil"
melded into a particularly poor version of Janis Joplin's "Take Another Little
Piece of My Heart," the team began working on ways to break the zone defenses
they are anticipating from Lithuania on Wednesday. Team Equipment Manager B.J.,
who looks to be a 22 year old kid, joined the "white" or defensive team
and ended up guarding, alternately, Katie Smith and Tina Thompson. Much hilarity
ensued for the players when B.J. effectively defended Smith's drive to the bucket,
then much chagrin and embarrassment for B.J. when Thompson sank a deep three directly
in his face.
As the players continued through five-on-five drills, Brazilian basketball analyst Denys Lima turned to me and marveled, "The U.S. players - they just move differently than players from anywhere else. It's like Brazilian soccer. Everyone in the world wants to play like Brazilians. These Americans, I don't know what it is, they are just better, more athletic, like they play a different game."
I nodded and theorized that they hear a different
music in their heads, a funky hip hop rhythm that permeates their bodies and their
moves, something they learned through osmosis in playgrounds and gyms and bus
rides from all those years together. He nodded, but I don't know if he was agreeing
or silently thinking I was insane.
As my amateur theorizing was taking place, high above us, at the top of the empty arena, massive klieg lights were shining for a cable television roundtable program about the Womens' World Championship Tournament, being carried live on Brazilian Sport TV. It made me sad that our American team is so dominant and brilliant, but that something like this would never, ever happen in the States, a live chat show where five experts spend half an hour analyzing a women's tournament. Ah well. At least I get a front row seat to see Swoopes, Taurasi, Catchings and Bird.
Speaking of Swoopes, she seems to have found a perfect way to tweak teammate Alana Beard, by constantly calling her "A-Lon-A" rather the correct pronunciation of her first name "A-Lane-A." Sheryl finds this endlessly funny, and Alana constantly gets pissed off. It's the little things that carry you through four weeks on buses and hotels together.
Such, such are the joys, from the front lines of team USA practice.
On the scene in Brazil for the second week of the tournament...
Last night's game against the Czech Republic took place in a suburb of Sao Paulo named Barueri. It is very clean and upscale, like Westchester to Sao Paulo's Manhattan. Barueri has a brand new arena, which drew a decent crowd for a Monday night when two teams having nothing to do with Brazil slugged it out.
The game before the USA match featured China against France. It was a nail-biter won in an upset by China, which sent their large and passionate crowd into a state of delirium. Mini flags, maxi flags, banners - the Chinese are a well-organized cheering machine. Right near where I was sitting, a French player named Dumeric cried her eyes out after the buzzer, falling onto the bench and being held up by teammates as she wailed and wailed. It was ten pounds of drama four feet away from me, and the U.S. team hadn't even taken the court yet.
Instead, the Czech Republic took the court first, and they looked like nothing less than very pasty-white sacrificial lambs. They are very tall but don't look particularly athletic. Honestly, they look like a JV high school team. I know they won the European championship last year, but they look ready to be creamed by the Americans. Just one man's opinion.
The U.S. takes the court and immediately the mood in the arena shifts. It's like a very cool rock band just sauntered onto the court and was bopping around to its own music. Diana Taurasi and Kate Smith look so cocky, it doesn't even seem like they know who they're playing tonight. All the players are strutting around and slapping five in the warm up lines to the same J Lo music they hear every night in every gym in every country, so they must feel at home, in a sense, three thousand miles from there.
The two teams exchange gifts before the tip off -American baseball caps and Czech flags -and then the two start exchanging gifts on the court for most of the first half. Honestly, this was a drearily played, sloppy game from the start. The Americans couldn't buy a bucket and the Czechs refused to handle their good fortune well, turning the ball over 12 times by halftime.
The Americans played very sloppy offense in the first half - too much one-on-one and rapid decision making - but a lot of that has to be credited to the Czech defense, as the Czechs are the best team America has seen so far in this tournament. The Czech bigs kept doubling and collapsing on the U.S. ball handler and making the U.S. take forced, bad shots. When it was 16-10 at the end of the first quarter, the Czechs were smiling and laughing on their bench, sensing that, even though they were losing, this was a game they could win.
The Czechs were able to get closer in the second quarter by playing to one of their strengths - offensive post play - which also happens to be one of the American team's weaknesses. With Lisa Leslie and Yolanda Griffith not playing in this tournament, the Americans are very young and inexperienced inside, not to mention undersized and skinny, and the Czechs took it to them repeatedly with successful bounce passes into the post for buckets. In fact, it looked like the Czechs could have blown open the game if they would ever stop trying to run with the Americans, which inevitably led to turnovers because none of the Czech post players could move it down the court in time to hang with their own guards. It was a calamity for them, much to the benefit of team USA, which escaped the first half leading by three, but sensing for the first time that they had a legitimate challenge on their hands. I guess I was wrong about the whole JV high school team thing.
By the way, Coach Donovan's walk from the bench to the locker room at the end of the first half was priceless. She looked beside herself with fury at her team and transferred all of that emotion into trying to untangle her wind breaker while simultaneously staring at the floor. Would not want to be in that locker room at the break.
Speaking of "at the break," the halftime entertainment was, well, strange. A forty-year-old, extremely fit man, festooned in a spangled, ruffled gymnastics outfit, twirled around and threw into the air a similarly-attired five year old girl for what seemed like fifteen minutes. My man got exhausted about midway through and started lying on his back so she could just walk on top of him. It was different.
As the second half started, it was kind of exciting, as a basketball fan, to have a genuine game on our hands. The U.S. has been blowing everyone out by so much that it was interesting to see how they would respond to a threat. And this was a real threat: the Czech Republic was second in the USA's division, one game behind them. So a Czech win would give the Czechs the tiebreaker in a tied division, sending America into second-place heading into the Quarterfinals; not where Anne Donovan wanted her team at all.
And Coach Donovan made some bold and gutsy moves to start the second half. First off, Sheryl Swoopes was nowhere to be seen when the third quarter tipped off. The unofficial captain of Team USA was nailed to the bench for the entire third quarter and didn't enter the game until four minutes remained to the end. Instead, Donovan decided to go young and small. During the first half, she had experimented with different combinations up front - young pivot players Michelle Snow and Cheryl Ford - or the more veteran combo of Tina Thompson at center and DeLisha Milton at the four. But none of these were working, so Donovan went young and small in the second half, and it paid off immediately. Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi in the back court, Tamika Catchings and Candace Parker at the forwards. Remember those names, because last night's second half showed that they're not only the future of USA women's basketball, but they are also the present. Those four completely transformed the game from the second half tip, dominating the Czechs through a variety of means, which highlighted all the young Americans' best skills: Taurasi and Bird fast-breaked them to death, repeatedly throwing Montana (Taurasi) to Rice (Bird) button-hook bombs which led to repeated buckets in transition; Catchings was a monster defensively; it got so bad that the Czech point guards literally looked scared as Catchings came flying over at them and then proceeded to bounce the ball off their legs over and over, handing the ball back to Montana and Rice. And Candace Parker, "The Evolution," proved once again why she is the future of the game.
For those who don't know, Parker is going to be a sophomore at Tennessee next season, but is already so good as to be the second-leading scorer on the U.S. Women's Senior National Team. I call her "The Evolution" because she brings a previously unseen blend of talents to women's basketball. She's a 6-4 forward who can create her own shot off the dribble, finish equally well with either hand and throw down dunks like quarters in a laundromat. All with ease. It's two steps and she's dunking, no big thing, and no one has been like that in the women's game before. Ever. Parker's game most closely resembles not another woman's, but a former NBA great, Clyde "The Glide" Drexler. Parker's smooth like that and glides around the court like a gazelle. She has great court awareness and spacing, as proven last night when she kept being in the right place at the right time to receive and convert one of Taurasi or Bird's ridiculous no-look passes. I know she has a few more years left of college eligibility, but as a guy who is more of a pro hoops fan than a college fan, can't we get this girl up to the WNBA already, please? And, as a New Yorker, would it be so bad to see her in a Liberty uniform, transforming the Garden, selling two zillion Rebook "The Evolutions?" I?m just saying...
Anyway, Parker, Catchings, Bird and Taurasi were the core of last night's victory over the Czech Republic and it felt like a coming of age for USA Basketball. It was a three-point game in the third quarter, either team could have seized control, and it wasn't Leslie and Swoopes and Dawn Staley bailing them out. It was four kids under 25 years old, with an occasional wise head like Katie Smith or Tina Thompson running alongside them. These kids aren't the future anymore... and they destroyed one of the world's best teams when it counted most.
After the game, Coach Donovan said it was hard to sit Swoopes for so long, but that Catchings was playing far too well to take out of the game. Amen to that. If you haven't seen Catchings play defense in person, make a point of it. She?'s like Dennis Rodman, but for 94 feet: tenacious to the point of being slightly unhinged. The ball should be hers and she is determined to go get it. Between Catchings' defense zeal and the football stylings of Taurasi and Bird (who Taurasi said after the game is more Wayne Cherbet than Jerry Rice), the U.S. team is looking great heading into the medal round games as the tournament switchs from the suburbs of Barueri to the big-city of Sao Paulo.
Next up, Lithuania on Wednesday in the Quarterfinals. See you then.
The United States simply looked like a different team in the second half, blowing away the Czechs with their depth and athleticism on their way to a 63-50 win, but it wasn't really that close. It's on to the quarterfinals now, where you need to win or go home. The first opponent will be Lithuania. I'll be curious to see if the United States brings it for the full forty minutes, because they really showed what they are capable of in the second half tonight.
After seeing their lead shrink to three at halftime, the United States has snapped out of their offensive malaise by using the fast break. I doubt there are many players in the world who can keep up with Sue Bird, and right now the Czech Republic is trying to figure out how to do just that as they gave up nine straight points to open the third quarter.
The United States' game against the Czech Republic is underway, and both teams look a bit sluggish after playing so many games in a short amount of time. A game like this is where the team's depth will give them a great advantage, as players coming off the bench such as Candace Parker and Katie Smith have really given the United States a jolt. Even if the offense isn't at it's best it looks like the United States can wear down teams with their numbers off the bench, as well as the defensive intensity which never seems to let up. It's a 22-16 lead for the USA early in the second quarter.
One word to describe Team USA's performance so far at the World Championships: Cruising... After defeating Russia last Thursday, ending the preliminary round with a perfect 3-0, the U.S. rolled past Cuba on Saturday before shutting down France on Sunday. Tonight they will look to remain perfect when they meet the Czech Republic at 6:45 p.m. ET.
Cowen's is on the move after "leading" the Sky to a 5-29 record last season. So who's going to be the next head coach of the leagues newest franchise? The Pioneer Press says don't be surprised if they hire former Laker Michael Cooper.
Mark it on your calendar, September 16th was officially Tamara James Day. Well, at least in her hometown of Dania Beach, Florida, it is. The Washington Mystics' 2006 first round pick, who is engaged to Chicago Bears rookie cornerback Devin Hester, was celebrated by her community for her accomplishments on Saturday.
WNBA fans were out in full-force during the playoffs. In fact, San Antonio Express-News staff writer Natalie England gave WNBA fans her Performance of the Week award for increasing WNBA Finals attendance by 28 percent from last season.
>While watching the first few days of Women's World Championship basketball from our office here in Secaucus, I noticed a few things...
The impact of the Storm... Three Seattle Storm players are not just participating at the World Championships, they are starring. Brazilian guard Iziane Castro Marques is averaging 17.3 points, United States guard Sue Bird has averaged 11.3 points and 4.7 assists while starting all three games for the star-studded U.S. team and Australian forward Lauren Jackson is looking like the best player in the world while averaging 27 points and seven rebounds in two games.
A player to look forward to... The only non-WNBA player on the United States roster is arguably the best offensive player on the top-ranked U.S. team roster and she's still in college! I wouldn't be surprised if University of Tennessee star Candace Parker averages over 21 points and breaks Lisa Leslie's career dunk total of two in the first month or so of her rookie season, whenever that may be.
Where are the fans...? The best female basketball players in the world are battling it out for world domination and the stands are empty. I know that preliminary rounds normally don't draw the biggest crowds and that Brazil is a soccer country, but these are still the best women basketball players in the world and are definitely worth going to see. Just watching the United States alone is like watching any All-Star team.
Let it rain... No, I'm not talking about the weather here in New Jersey, I'm talking about the United States' 3-point shooting last night against Russia. After struggling a bit from beyond the arc against a much weaker Nigerian team the night before, the United States came out firing, making three consecutive 3's to start the game while finishing 11-of-17 from three-point land.
A lot of offense... The three top-ranked teams, United States (96.0 ppg), Russia (86.7 ppg) and Australia (96 ppg), are all averaging about the same or more than the 2006 WNBA points per game leading Phoenix Mercury (87.1 ppg). The WNBA champion Detroit Shock averaged 74.8 points in ten postseason games.
The United States Women's Senior National Team continued its dominance at the 2006 World Championships with a 79-46 lopsided victory over Nigeria on Wednesday. But things didn't look so easy for the two-time defending world champs the following day as they barely held onto an early lead to squeak by a very talented Russian team, 90-80, finishing the preliminary round with a 3-0 record.
Seattle Storm players are clashing at the World Championships. Sue Bird is running the point for the United States, Iziane Castro Marques is representing Brazil, and Lauren Jackson, who scored 31 points in a 95-55 victory over Senegal, is leading Australia.
The 2006 WNBA champions are still in the news. NBA Access with Ahmad Rashad will feature exclusive coverage of the five-game championship series this Sunday at 12:30 p.m. ET on ABC. And don't forget to buy your glossy, full-color poster of Sunday's Shock championship page from the Detroit Free Press.
The United States looked a bit ragged in the fourth quarter as Russia rallied but fell short by a final score of 90-80. I'm sure that Anne Donovan will have a few "suggestions" for ways the team can improve heading into the next round, as the team is still suffering from too many turnovers for the coaching staff to be completely satisfied with the effort.
Two big three pointers in a row by Diana Taurasi puts the United States up by 18. Just when Russia looked like it could make a run towards getting back in the game, Taurasi stepped up and might have put this game out of reach, especially with Stepanova on the bench.
Russia's best player Maria Stepanova picked up her fifth and final foul midway through the third quarter.
Candace can do it all. Parker, who is listed as a 6-4 G/F/C, was matched up against Russia's 6-7 veteran center Maria Stepanova for much of the second quarter.
Sheryl Swoopes grabbed a rebound in the final seconds of the first half and threw the ball down the court to an open Sue Bird, but her layup came too late. The half ended with the United States leading Russia, 55-39. Diana Taurasi sat out most of the first half due to foul trouble while her former teammate Maria Stepanova scored a team-high 14 points for Russia. The only non-WNBA player on the United States roster, Candace Parker, is leading the U.S. with 14 points.
After the first quarter, the United States leads 33-25. After that inital stretch where the U.S. couldn't miss and the game looked like it had blowout potential, Russia did not back down and has outplayed the United States at times. The Russian guards are having a lot of success penetrating the defense, which was not the case for the American's other opponents in Brazil so far.
The United States has opened the game against Russia with three straight three pointers to take a 9-0 lead. I'm sure they were reading the blog last night and saw what they needed to improve. Right?
After withstanding a mild rally in the third quarter, the United States defeats Nigeria, 79-46. Nigeria played hard and weren't blown out of the building as much as China was, but the outcome was never really in doubt from the start. Coach Anne Donovan will definitely be stressing cutting down on the turnovers for tomorrow's game, as the team had 22 tonight.
DeLisha Milton Jones led the team with 13 points, but once again every player on the roster scored for the United States. The depth of the United States is always an asset, but especially in the World Championship format where teams will play three games in three days.
Tomorrow's game against Russia should be a bigger challenge, and will be for first place in Group C. Tune in to NBA TV at 4:30 p.m. EDT to watch the proceedings.
The United States has a 54-34 lead, but if you want to nitpick, the team is 0 for 8 from three point range. The United States players are getting open but the shots just haven't fallen tonight. Nigeria has as many three point field goals as regular field goals, five of each.
Nigeria is showing some signs of life as the halftime score is 38-15. Barring a furious comeback, the United States team should be dialing in their defense in the second half and making some adjustments in order to prepare for their next game against Russia, who should be a much tougher opponent.
Russia defeated China 86-66 earlier today, leaving their record at 2-0 in Group C. The United States beat China by nearly 50, but according to reports China played a much better basketball game than it did against the United States. Of course many teams might look better when they aren't playing the United States, who it seems have come to Brazil looking to dominate games from start to finish.
The United States leads Nigeria 25-4 after the first quarter. That's right, Nigeria has been held to four points, with it's first field goal coming nearly nine minutes into the game. Now that's what you call good defense.
The United States team is getting ready to tip off against Nigeria in their second game of group play. Coach Anne Donovan will be using the same starting lineup tonight, although if yesterday's game is any indication every member of the team should be making an appearance before halftime.
Taj McWilliams-Franklin is currently on a train from her home in Connecticut to the NBA TV studios in New Jersey to serve as a broadcast analyst for the World Championships. She will be on tonight and tomorrow night. Additional WNBA players past and present will take on that role as analyst over the next two weeks.
A day after the Detroit News reported that Dave Cowens would likely join the Pistons coaching staff, the Hall of Fame center and former head coach and GM of the Chicago Sky officially announced his return to the NBA, joining Flip Saunders' staff in Detroit. Cowens recommended his Sky assistant, Steven Key, to be considered as a replacement.
Cowens wasn't the only Hall of Famer in the headlines yesterday. Ann Meyers put her successful broadcasting career on hold to become general manager of the Phoenix Mercury and vice president of the NBA's Phoenix Suns.
Led by Sue Bird's 20 points and Candace Parker's 12 points and 8 rebounds, the United States defeated China, 119-72, on the opening day of the women's FIBA World Championship.
In Other News... Australia did not get to play against Lithuania as a result of a vaccination conflict that prevented the European team from entering Brazil... University of Connecticut's women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma wants Rebecca Lobo to follow him to the Hall of Fame... Former WNBA coach Marianne Stanley has been named assistant coach at Rutgers... Houston Comets top assistant Kevin Cook is coaching the Nigerian women's national basketball team.
The buzzer sounds, and the United States has started the World Championships with a 119-72 victory over China. An impressive effort as the United States totally took apart a China team that is currently ranked 9th in the world. Sue Bird led all scorers with 20 points, and Candace Parker recorded a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. The United States had four players in double figures, and every player on the team scored at least 4 points.
Next up for the United States is Nigeria tommorrow night at 6:45 ET on NBA TV. Nigeria lost to Russia 84-50 in their first game of group play, and the road will not get any easier judging from the powerful performance by the United States tonight.
The United States has crossed the century mark and now leads 108-65. Sue Bird leads the team with 20 points, altough her college teammate Diana Taurasi might have just upstaged her by hitting a three-pointer that could have been taken from a different zip code than the basket.
The United States closed out the third quarter with an impressive sequence, when Candace Parker used her wingspan to block a shot by without leaving the ground, leaving Sue Bird to collect the loose ball and turn on the jets to beat the buzzer with a layup. The United States leads 96-56, as Tina Thompson put up 17 points in the third.
In other games, Canada held on to defeat Senegal in a 65-64 nailbiter. Tammy Sutton-Brown led Canada with 15 points and nine rebounds, while Kim Smith added 12 points.
Some impressive hustle by Diana Taurasi as she dives to save an airball from going out of bounds and knocks it back into the hands of Sue Bird. The United States is not letting up a bit even though the lead has ballooned to 86-51.
Tina Thompson got off to a late start offensively compared to her teammates, but now has 13 points, all in this quarter.
Tina Thompson scores and every member of the United States is now on the board. The lead has grown to 72-39 early in the third quarter.
The United States leads China 62-34 at halftime. Diana Taurasi leads all scorers with 14 points, and Candace Parker is also in double figures with ten.
This has been a total team effort, as 11 players have scored for the United States, including 35 points off the bench. Four different players have made three-pointers, as Anne Donovan is not hesitating to use her entire roster.
The defensive effort has also been solid, forcing China into 9 of 31 shooting from the field. I'm not expecting the team to let up at all in the second half, as there is still plenty of time for China to mount a rally. However it seems that the United States is just too deep and too athletic for China to compete with, especially with the shots falling from the outside for Team USA.
As if China didn't have enough problems, Diana Taurasi is starting to feel it. She just drained a long three right over her defender and on the next posession nailed a rainbow turnaround fadeaway from the baseline. The United States leads 46-23.
Elsewhere, Canada leads Senegal 36-27 at the half. Tammy Sutton-Brown has nine points for our neighbors from the north.
With one quarter in the books, the United States is all over China by a score of 29-13. Sheryl Swoopes leads the USA with eight points, and the team has looked sensational so far, dominating the glass and playing suffocating defense, forcing nine turnovers.
One aspect that stands out is that players are coming off the bench and being very aggressive offensively, with players like Swoopes, Alana Beard, Michelle Snow, and Katie Smith making immediate impacts. The United States already has nine players who have scored.
Make it ten as Seimone Augustus scores merely seconds after checking into the game.
After a sluggish start where they were whistled for five quick fouls, the United States has opened up a 10-5 lead. China is struggling from the field, and the United States is really pushing the tempo. Candace Parker and Sheryl Swoopes have been the first two players off the bench for the USA.
After a 20-minute wait, the clock is working correctly and the game is ready to begin. China's coaching staff used the delay to practice some card tricks on the bench, while United States head coach Anne Donovan did not look quite as amused about the long delay.
A clock malfunction is delaying the start of the United States - China game at the Jose Correa Gymnasium. This delay is giving the Chinese fan contingent some more time to practice their chanting. They're even wearing matching red shirts.
We are minutes away from the first game for the United States in group play. Tonight's starters against China are Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, Tamika Catchings, Tina Thompson, and DeLisha Milton-Jones.
In the other game which will get underway shortly, Senegal will take on Canada. Team Canada includes WNBA players Tammy Sutton-Brown and Kim Smith in the starting five.
In what was a showdown of Little League World Series powerhouse nations, Cuba completed one of the great comebacks in history against Chinese Taipei as Yayma Boulet Peillón, a 6-4 forward, had the best statline performance of the day. 36 points and 16 rebounds! Up next on the Barueri court... the United States of America...
France defeated the Czech Republic, Brazil barely held off Argentina and Russia dominated Nigeria. Liberty guard Emilie Gomis led the French in scoring with 19 points. Janeth Arcain and Seattle's Iziane Castro Marques combined to score 26 points for the hometown Brazilians. Maria Stepanova had 11 points and 8 rebounds in what proved to be a well-balanced Russian attack.
As we speak... Taiwan was beating Cuba by 24 points at the hald, but the Cubans have comeback to tie the score and have jsut taken the lead with four minutes in the fourth quarter as this is being written...
Lithuania was forced to forfeit its opening match with Australia, but could be ready to play tomorrow against Canada.
Now that the official rosters for the World Championships are in... 49 of 192 players from 12 of the 16 countries participating in the 2006 World Championship have played in the WNBA at some point in their careers. Another three players have been drafted or participated in training camp only.
25 of the World Championship participants played in the WNBA this past season, spanning seven countries: USA, Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Senegal and Russia.
In all, 12 of the 14 WNBA teams are represented at the 2006 World Championship (all but SA Silver Stars and CHI Sky):
Several coaches also have WNBA ties: USA Head Coach Anne Donovan (Seattle Storm), USA Asst. Coach Dawn Staley (retired player), USA Asst. Coach Mike Thibault (Connecticut Sun), China Head Coach Tom Maher (former Washington Mystics Head Coach), Nigeria Head Coach Kevin Cook (Houston Comets Asst. Coach).
Spain is on the board, winning its opening game on Tuesday. The Spaniards knocked off Korea, 87-57, led by Amaya Valdemoro's 17 points and 15 from Elisa Aguilar. The two combined to shoot 9-for-11 fro 3-point range.
A correction to my previous entry, Lithuania has not yet gained clearance to enter Brazil.
If they are not ready to play today against Australia by 5:30 local time (4:30 p.m ET), they will have to forfeit. Even if they miss today's game, which they likely will, they can still participate once they arrive, yet they will lose valuable classification points needed to advance to the next round.
The Phoenix Mercury just named Ann Meyers Drysdale the new general manager of the Phoenix Mercury. Annie has been an invaluable contributor to WNBA.com over the past few years and we wish her the best of luck in her new role with the Mercury.
The 2006 FIBA World Championships begin today in Brazil with 16 teams vying for the title of Best in the World. The United States is the defending champion and opens up against China in the final match of the day at 6:45 p.m. ET.
Split between two venues, there will be eight preliminary round matches today, Wednesday and Thursday to determine seeding for the elimination rounds. The United States will also play Nigeria (coached by Comets assistant coach Kevin Cook) and Russia. All U.S. games will be shown live on NBA TV and later on replay by local Fox Sports affiliates.
The final two pieces to the U.S. roster arrived in Brazil last night. WNBA champions Cheryl Ford and Katie Smith do not have much time to prepare with their teammates after celebrating on Saturday night in Detroit. Unfortunately, they will miss the parade and celebration in downtown Detroit today.
Other games today South Korea-Spain and France-Czech Republic at noon ET, Argentina-Brazil and Russia-Nigeria at 2:15 p.m. ET, Lithuania-Australia and Cuba-Taiwan at 4:30 p.m. ET and Senegal-Canada also at 6:45 p.m. ET. The Lithuanian team has finally been cleared to arrive in the country, though it was unclear whether they would be able to play. The team did not have required vaccinations after stopping over in French Guyana.
In Other News... The Phoenix Mercury will announce a significant basketball operations move to the media today at a 10:00 a.m. local time, (1 p.m. ET).
So what's next for the Monarchs..? Unrestricted free agent Yolanda Griffith has indicated she would like to return. Veteran guard Ticha Penicheiro, who is also an unrestricted free agent, "couldn't imagine playing anywhere else." Erin Buescher and guard Hamchétou Maïga-Ba are unrestricted free agents and Kara Lawson is a restricted free agent. Each free agent will have the opportunity to explore their value around the league.
In Other News... Injury-prone Australian forward Lauren Jackson will play restricted minutes at the World Championship in Brazil... Detroit's Plenette Pierson and Charlotte's Monique Currie will play for Elizur Ramla during the offseason.
Look back on all of the fun of Finals blogging...
2006 WNBA Finals
March - April 2006
January - February 2006
November - December 2005
September - October 2005
2005 WNBA Finals
2005 WNBA All-Star Game
2004 WNBA Finals
2004 Game At Radio City