| ||Linda Cohn, a veteran broadcaster with ESPNspent 14 years guiding Sportscenter into our nation's consciousness on a daily basis. This season, the Long Island native takes on a new role, that of play-by-play broadcaster for "WNBA Tuesdays on ESPN2." With a fresh and unique perspective as the new face on the scene, Cohn will share her stories from arenas all over the country and file her reports from the road. She's so clutch, and she doesn't even know it! And now, for the love of emanation...|
Ready for the Finals
How I am preparing for my first WNBA Finals
Posted by Linda Cohn - July 26, 2006 5:41 PM
This is my first WNBA Finals and I can't wait! All year I've been doing play-by-play and this year I'll be hosting the Finals. It allows me to sit back and think about how both of these teams have gotten to this point.
Back in May, I was asked for my predictions, and I got one half of it right. I picked the Detroit Shock, though I lost out with Houston. They got too hurt and banged up, but the reason I picked the Detroit Shock was because of a game I did in the preseason where they played the Connecticut Sun. I talked to Bill Laimbeer and he told me that it was night and day from 2005. The chemistry that wasn't there last season, but this season, they suddenly came into training camp serious and refocused. They really wanted to get back into the winner's circle and regain that feeling that was so great for the city and the team in 2003. We talked about the addition of Katie Smith, and what that was going to mean in her first full year in Detroit.
Everything came to fruition, and the Shock do really want it. I think it's great that they are facing the defending champion Sacramento Monarchs. The thing that I see with both of these teams is that they both have swagger. They both really do want it and have reasons to want it. With Sacramento, they've felt disrespected since day one. Everyone and their grandmother said Connecticut would have won if Lindsay Whalen wasn't hurt, and they remember that. In an early game I did with Sacramento, I spoke to both Kara Lawson and Yolanda Griffith, and they both referred to that. It still bugs them. Then they poured it on and piled it on when most of the experts this year didn't think they could be a serious title contender. So they were like "what do you have against us?" They've overcome a lot of adversity this year, with Yolanda Griffith's knees and the personal problems that coach Whisenant has gone through.
It's probably the greatest matchup that we can get, because both teams are playing their best basketball. I think that's a key and I think that this can easily get to five games. Another thing that makes these Finals interesting is the small number of individual superstars that are here. Yolando Griffith is a megastar, and Detroit has Cheryl Ford, Deanna Nolan, Swin Cash and Katie Smith. Both teams are playing together and feeding off each other. Swin Cash and Deanna Nolan tell me they look each other in the eye in the lockerroom and know they are winning that night.
I think basketball
fans and not just WNBA fans should watch this series because they are going to
be in for a treat. And the added bonus is Bill Laimbeer on the sidelines. Talk
about a cartoon character, he is so animated. Anyone can find enjoyment from watching
him go at it on the sidelines. The antics are incredible. Whether you have a favorite
or not, it's just so much fun to watch. The antithesis is John Whisenant, who
is like a military general. It's a fascinating concept, so I'm looking forward
to how it plays out not only on the court, but also on the sidelines.
Still Burning Bright
Why Connecticut is the Team to Beat
Posted by Linda Cohn - July 26, 2006 5:41 PM
After Tuesday night's game at the Mohegan Sun Arena between the Connecticut Sun and the Washington Mystics, I really began to get a sense of the playoff atmosphere that is beginning to heat up across the league. Things are getting exciting, especially out West, as teams fight for those final few playoff berths. I have worked a couple of Phoenix games and I keep waiting for them to step up, but it's not happening. Often when they play a game that they really should win if they want to go to the next level and secure a playoff spot, they end up on the short end.
While the drama is for the third and fourth spots in the West, the intrigue in the East is at the top. Connecticut is machine-like, but there are still plenty of games left for Detroit. The Shock are not going away. They're only two out. Indiana is playing well after Tuesday's win over the Monarchs and holds the three spot and Washington's hanging on at four. I expect Washington to hang on because Charlotte lost their game last night. Those two play Sunday and Washington can sew it up Sunday with a win at home against Charlotte. Richie Adubato can then start fine-tuning and getting his players healthy. Barring a total drop-off for the Sun, which I doubt, we can then look forward to a one-four series between Washington and Connecticut, with nothing to lose for Richie and his Mystics. I think the key is Alana Beard. She has to be healthy. She really had a poor night on Tuesday against the Sun and the frustration kind of set in. Crystal Robinson's back was kind of bothering her as well. I talked to Coach Adubato after the game and he said that Crystal wasn't herself physically, her back was bothering her, and normally if she was healthy, there would be no way that Katie Douglas would have gone off like that.
Never Saw Her Coming
The Mystics also didn't see Erin Philips coming. She came out of nowhere. Erin Philips was my first-ever favorite WNBA player after seeing her for the first time in a preseason game when she elbowed somebody in the Minnesota game in late May. She just ran over someone and me being from a player, I just saw it in her. When I talked to Sun Coach Mike Thibault, he indicated that she is finally being a little more patient and not acting like a rookie. It was such a good show Tuesday night at Mohegan Sun Arena because Phillips' parents were in the stands and she was lighting it up and setting a tone. Erin set the tone with those 3-pointers early on, and that's where she's dangerous. She's acrobatic, she's active, she makes things happen, she's a tremendous rippling effect on that team, she's a great compliment for Lindsay Whalen because they're two different types of point guards and she is just so exciting. She helps Lindsay and takes the pressure off of her. I love them both in the backcourt.
I really loved that Coach Thibault started Phillips against Washington. I wasn't really sure he was going to go that route because of the matchups. and because Washington had a little bit of a size situation, so I thought that he might go with Megan Mahoney or Laura Summerton, but he came back with Philips and she responded. I think that's something that's here to stay until Sales returns. That is also something I do not think they should rush. Let her take some time off so she'll be fresh for the playoffs. If I'm a fan of the Connecticut Sun, I'm thinking ''What's the rush? Keep her out, keep her rested, let her totally heal." Erin Philips just makes this team more exciting. There is just this spark to them now that wasn't really there to them before. Of course, we cannot ignore the improvement of Katie Douglas, a legitimate MVP candidate. Behind Lisa Leslie, you can make a good case for Katie Douglas.
Coach of the Year
If Coach Thibault doesn't win Coach of the Year this year, the voters are nuts. Just look at the way he has put this lineup together. Some people might not agree because he has so much talent, but he has kept them focused. There have been a number of games where they have played without at least one starter. Off the court, he should be commended because the team has gone to two straight Finals and came up empty both times. Yet they are back again and when you are the favorite to win, your players may lose focus. But he succeeded in not allowing them to do that. He also doesn't allow them to make excuses. Fans and perhaps the media might have given them a free pass for missing Taj for a couple of days, maybe Margo and, of course, Nykesha now, but he does not allow it.
The Sun are even deeper than ever. I think they still have the attitude, young talent and the experience. Nykesha Sales's injury is even a blessing in disguise because this gives the Summerton's and the Mahoney's more playing time that Thibault would not have been able to give them. And it's really going to help come playoff time. Connecticut's free throw percentage is also incredible. We all know that whether you're the NBA, WNBA or college, you have to make your free throws.
This team has two MVP candidates. Not only can you make a case for Douglas, but you can also make a strong case for Taj McWilliams-Franklin as the MVP. She has nine double-doubles and she's everything to that team. Her presence allows other players to do what they do best. She helps Margo Dydek become a better player and really come into her own. Dydek leads the league in field goal percentage and she's not afraid to shoot. Mike Thibault told me he'd rather have his players shoot more and that he'd never scold them for taking shots. Margo really feels comfortable with the system right now and she also finally believes that Thibault is not crazy.
All of these reasons lead me to believe that Connecticut is the team to beat in the East. In the beginning of the year, I picked Detroit, I know this. I'm not jumping off the wagon because anything can happen, but I'm afraid that the Shock are going to have a grueling matchup with Indiana in the first round if everything stays the same. A tough series like that could be takes so much out of you that you just have nothing left, especially after this packed regular season. Now we're going to see how players and teams will react in the playoffs after playing so many games in so little time. Detroit could face face two of the most physical teams not only in the East but in the entire league. I just think that might take a lot out of the Shock. And that's if they survive Indiana. Detroit is not as deep and not as young as Connecticut. While Connecticut has those veterans, they also have those rookies and second, third year players that they can bring off the bench that just give enough the starters a breather.
The Other Team To Beat
Out West, Los Angeles, is just plugging along. They've got a wonderful mix on their roster led by league MVP-favorite, Lisa Leslie as well as a wonderful mix of youth and veterans. They believe in each other and they love hanging out together on and off the court, which in the past wasn't always the case. Either Thibault or Bryant are wonderful picks for Coach of the Year, but both of these coaches are aided by a player or two that are just All-World. Bryant held that team together without Chamique for the first two weeks of the season.
When I first picked Houston to go to the Finals against Detroit, I fell in love with the Comets' veteran leadership on both ends, but I didn't take into account how these players would stand up to the very tough schedule with so many games in so many nights. We are learning who can and who cannot. Sacramento is also really on a mission. I spoke to Yolanda Griffith earlier this season, and she said with that serious face that she feels that people didn't give them respect when they won last year. They remember and they don't like that. They're kind of on a mission and you can never count out a defending champion.
With a little more than two weeks to go, i am excited for the stretch run.
At the Turn
All-Star and First Half Thoughts
Posted by Linda Cohn - July 6, 2006 5:43 PM
With the All-Star Game just a few days away, I wanted to share some thoughts on the recently named All-Star starters… These are all great players, but I did not agree with all of them. Three of the five Eastern Conference starters are Connecticut Sun players: Lindsay Whalen, Nykesha Sales and Margo Dydek. Yet, Katie Douglas is as deserving, if not more so, than the other three. I hope she will be in there as a reserve because you can make a case that she's been the MVP of that team this year. She is a big reason why that team is once again competing for first place in the Eastern Conference. You can really make a case that she's also an MVP candidate. When looking at important players in the Eastern Conference, another player whose omission jumps out at you is Detroit's Cheryl Ford. She is such a solid defensive player and a rebounding monster. She is also a big reason why Detroit is right there in the top of the East.
Lisa Leslie and Diana Taurasi not being voted as starters is mind boggling to me because Diana is still putting up the points and Lisa is the MVP of the entire league right now. So that is a joke. Not that I want to rip off fans, but are they even watching? Lisa Leslie is flat-out the MVP of the league if the season ends right now and while Diana's chances may have been hurt because Phoenix got off to a slow start, when a player is still putting up those numbers, she deserves to start. And look at the other players who are automatics; Lauren Jackson and Sheryl Swoopes. Can anyone say Taurasi's not automatic? She's putting up the numbers to prove that she belongs as a starter.
Don't get me wrong. I love Dawn Staley. And fans are driven by emotion and loyalty, which is, most of the tim,e a great thing. I'm a fan, myself, of my favorite teams, but sometimes there's no thinking involved where there should be. I know fans wanted to see her in the game, but don't you think some nice coach would have voted in Dawn for sentimental reasons as a reserve? She probably would have gotten in anyway. What Dawn wants more than anything is a championship. She would have been okay with being left off the All-Star Team as long as she's wearing a ring at the end of the year.
In The East...
It's a three team race in the Eastern Conference as we head into the second half of the season. We talked about Detroit and Connecticut, but Indiana is very competitive and playing well behind leading All-Star vote-getter Tamika Catchings. I checked out the game last Saturday when Connecticut played Indiana and you can see why Indiana is right there. That said, I don't think they have enough scoring to carry them to a championship, but they are so good defensively and do so many things right. They have Anna DeForge, who is a shooter that made a great transition to Indiana this season and certainly is an offensive force, and they also have Tamika Catchings and Tamika Whitmore, but they don't have that third every night. I don't think they're going to have enough scoring where Detroit can make it interesting with Connecticut down the stretch.
In the east right now we have the three team race, but in the end I feel that it's going to be Detroit and Connecticut in the Eastern Conference Finals. I picked Detroit in the beginning of the year, but I would not be stunned if Connecticut won it all. Mike Thibault can't get enough credit from me because he has a team in position to win the Conference again. The Sun are a great team, but what I really love about them is that it doesn't come down to the starters. It comes down to the bench and getting to the line, and they have really impressed me in both repsects. I know it's not really eye-opening for most people that Connecticut is doing great and competing for another conference title, but Phillips, Summerton and Jones could start on most teams. So while I did pick Detroit in the beginning of the year and won't go back on that, I have been really impressed with Connecticut.
In the West...
I picked Houston and Detroit before the year started and Houston's still right there because of their veteran leadership. But the schedule in the second half really favors L.A. because they play a lot of their games at home. That is a big factor in this league. Houston is all veteran players. For Los Angeles, they have Lisa, Mwadi Mabika and Holdsclaw as the veterans while the rest are young guns. We've seen what happens with this short schedule and back-to-back games. We've seen the ticky tack injuries that are no longer little injuries. Players are usually used to playing with injuries, but now we go into the second half and have to see how much these older bodies can take. I'm not going to back down from picking Houston, but the schedule in the second half favors LA.
A Tale of Two Teams Out West
Mercury Back on the Rise
Posted by Linda Cohn - June 6, 2006 5:47 PM
I just got back to Connecticut, where it is monsooning today, but I wanted to talk about the two teams I got to spend last night watching. I actually just spoke to my husband and the power is out in our house. I just got back from the steamy desert weather to this... oh well. At least we had a great game last night. For me, personally, it was my best game and I'm happy that I'm improving a bit. The atmosphere in the arena was great and the fans got really excited to see the Mercury legends like Michele Timms and Jennifer Gillom.
From the time of the opening tip, the tempo was sensational. It was great to call a game that had that. This was the first time that we saw "Paul Ball" implemented properly. The players really felt comfortable with it and the game had a big-time feel to it. The system really brought out the talent of the players he had on the court. Diana Taurasi and Cappie Pondexter really took Sacramento off their game. They executed everything they had wanted to do. The Monarchs started the game pretty well with Nicole Powell hitting her outside shots. But then they stopped hitting shots and couldn't do anything right. The Mercury played great defense despite coming into the game last in the league in rebounding, averaging just 29. But they totally outrebounded Sacramento all game.
Jen Derevjanik, who was waived by the Connecticut Sun, in just her second game for Phoenix. She made a very quick transition into the system. She has a great demeanor. The Mercury were getting Cappie Pondexter and Diana Taurasi in better scoring position. In talking with Paul Westhead before the game, getting Pondexter, Taurasi and Kamila Vodichkova into easier position to score was one of his keys. Those three were in good scoring position and hit their shots. All along, Mercury coach Paul Westhead has been saying that it would take some time for the players to adjust to the system.
But, wow, was I impressed with Pondexter, who really takes her game to a higher level. She is the real deal. I haven't seen Seimone Augustus yet in person, but she is one as well. You'll be hard pressed to leave these two off of the All-Star team. The two of them are near the top of the league in scoring. Diana Taurasi actually told me that she thinks that Cappie is one of the ten best players in the WNBA right now.
No Surrender in Phoenix
I had been talking with an assistant coach on another team who questioned how easy it would be to implement a new system with such a young team. The Monarchs implemented their system a few years ago, but had a veteran team who had an easier time adjusting to the defensive system. I then talked with Westhead before the game and asked him if they had thought about simplifying the offense or adjusting it and he indicated that it is already as simplified as it can be. And what is the point of changing it to make the players learn something new all over again on the fly? He'd rather stick with it and let them get better at it. The more they play it, the better it will work. And then what happens? They execute it well.
The Mercury players were upbeat and had good body language prior to the game, in practice and at shootaround. They were not down in the dumps at all. They're having fun and you would never have known they hadn't won a game or lost their point guard. They were enjoying themselves and really like Coach Westhead. They like his demeanor and how he doesn't get too high or low. There is no screaming on the sideline or in the lockerroom. Diana later told me he has the same reaction whether they win or lose a game, and the players really seem to like that.
Can they build on this win as they next play Detroit and the schedule gets tough beyond that. There are no lay-up games in the Western Conference. Every game is important.
Why Monarchs' Are Struggling
Monarchs assistant coach Tom Abatamarco told me that the only way that the Monarchs will be successful is if the offense goes through Yolanda Griffith. So prior to the game, I spoke with Griffith and she agreed. But she admits that they got away from that in the previous games they lost. She said that in the first five games, there had been a lot individuals, but not team play. I wanted to know if this team was still hungry to win another. Her response: "I'm hungry, and if my teammates see that I am hungry, then they will become hungry, too."
So I brought that up with Kara Lawson, who had a different take. She does not think that there is any selfishness on anyone's part, but that this is a young team. There are eight players on the Monarchs roster with four years or less of experience, including the rookies. They are not being selfish or acting as individuals, Kara said, but they are learning. This is a part of the process as they learn to play as a team. The Monarchs are looking at it like their hunger will return once they get later into the season and the Playoffs.
Yolanda Griffith is also hungry again for another reason. She thinks that there are doubters out there, people who think their first championship was a fluke. She did not get into it, but Lawson explained that they have heard that because Whalen was injured in last year's Finals, they had a much easier time. So there is something burning deep in the hearts of these players so despite their struggles, do not count them out.
But I am worried about Sacramento if they think they can turn on the desire later on. With the talent and depth not only in the West but in the entire WNBA, you can't get away with that. Time will tell.
The Spark in Her Eyes
Up Close and Personal with Lisa Leslie
Posted by Linda Cohn - May 31, 2006 11:58 AM
Last night I got a chance to see the Los Angeles Sparks take on the Chicago Sky, and it was my first opportunity this season to see Lisa Leslie play in person. She is an unbelievable presence. Lisa Leslie is 33 years old, happy now off the court as well as on the court. I got a chance to talk with her before the game, and it was amazing that she still has the passion to want to get better, considering what she has already accomplished in her career, especially the WNBA.
She was explaining how she got better, and I thought it was a fascinating story. When she was in Russia during the offeseason, on how she wanted to improve her free-throw percentage, her field goal shooting, and her rebounding, especially offensive rebounding, and I got a kick out of the story. She tapped into her one her teammates in Russia, Tamika Catchings. She said, "I might as well tap into their brains, find out things on how I can be a better player." Can you even imagine at this point in her career, Lisa Leslie wanting to do that? It was really cute because she said to Catchings, "If you teach me something I'll teach you something," so I thought it was really funny that two of the best players in the world were learning from each other. You're never too old to learn.
Lisa just never ever rests on her laurels, and she loves this team she's playing with. Apart from being more athletic and young, she loves their work ethic, she loves how they work hard especially on defense. She kept pounding on the work ethic, because let's face it, that's a reflection on her, that's what she believes in, but she still knows how to have fun. That's what her teammates are doing now, because she is explaining to me that they like each other, they'll all go out to dinner together, which is rare for her. Another incredible thing was she thought last year's team was a lazy team, and this year is not just a reflection on Lisa's work ethic, but the guy running the team, Joe Bryant. There's a difference between the disciplinarian style of what Henry Bibby was, and you bring Joe Bryant in and he more resembles the Michael Cooper, the guy that led the Sparks and Lisa Leslie to two championships.
I'm really impressed with the Sparks. Temeka Johnson is a delight, and I'm impressed with the pieces they have because they have the role players and they have the stars. They have Leslie and a young star, Temeka Johnson, and Lisa Leslie couldn't stop talking about these role players, like the Jessica Moores who has come into her own defensively, and Muriell Page's work ethic, she had a great game last night shooting the ball, but she will do whatever you want her to do. But I sat there, locked into Lisa, on how excited she was and how it's amazing that she is still fired up. I think she would love to win another title and I think she believes that it can happen with this team. The question coming in was chemistry, but that isn't a question mark anymore.
The Windy City
Last night's game was also my first trip to the WNBA's newest city, Chicago. I think that the Sky has a future. I think Michael Alter knew what he was doing when he invested, he got some minority owners together and invested to buy this franchise, because all this team needs to do is find themselves, figure out how to play with each other, and win some games. Once they win some games the fans will come out. Chicago will come out for a team that wins and works hard, and if you work hard more than half the time you're going to win. Their coach will make sure that happens, Dave Cowens is a perfect mix of a teacher who just blows players away with that NBA knowledge but he doesn't overdo it, he teaches them with the ways of going about and creating their own shots.
The one thing I will say about Chicago, with the WNBA the way it is, it's hard because the training camp is so short, and half the players don't even get into the training camp before it ends, and then just throw into the mix an expansion team like Chicago that makes it even harder, because the other teams can pick up where they left off a year ago. It's doubly hard a challenge for Dave Cowens and his assistants to find the right combinations in terms of starting and coming off the bench, and that's going to take time. I asked him on Draft Day what are your expectations for this season and he said playoffs, and I asked him again last night if anything has changed and he said absolutely not. Playoffs are the goal for this year and it's a long season. I think if these players fine tune and get to know each other, then they have a realistic shot. If they finish .500, lets face it, that would be incredible, that would be a great accomplishment for an expansion team.
I was having a conversation with Sparks forward Mwadi Mbaki about how the league has changed over the past ten years, and she said a few years ago the team would just have to worry about a few teams; they would go into an arena knowing that they had a game won. That is not the case anymore, and each team you would worry about one or two players, but now you worry about five players. A typical example of that was Los Angeles against Chicago, the Sky came back and made a nice run, and that experience they're going to learn from. All of the tight games they are involved in are going to help them for the next one. The atmosphere is good, I think it's a good idea to play in that Pavilion, last night wasn't a sellout but when they made that run you could hear the people there loud and clear.
Lots of people have been asking me about my All-Decade
selections, and here they are. You have to be obvious and start with the Comets,
Sheryl Swoopes, Cynthia Cooper, Tina Thompson. Lisa Leslie obviously. It's hard
with the new guard to put them in the mix, but I'm going to put Lauren Jackson
in there. Yolanda Griffith and Ticha Penicheiro, who is the all-time assist leader.
Tamika Catchings should be on there, and I'm going to name Sue Bird. And my last
one is Teresa Weatherspoon because of her intangibles and she's still known for
her shot. She has been a great spokesperson for the league and her passion and
excitement for the game. And that's ten.
WNBA and Play-By-Play Debut
Thoughts, reactions and reflections from my first WNBA game
Posted by Linda Cohn - May 24, 2006 11:26 AM
My first WNBA game from the broadcaster's table and I loved every minute of it. In case you missed it, WNBA Tuesdays on ESPN2 tipped off last night with a doubleheader.
While I was getting ready for the Houston-Seattle game at KeyArena last night, I was able to peek in and watch the first game between the Lynx and Sun game. It was really a great game for three quarters. Then the Sun woke up and realized that they are the Sun. But what I really enjoyed about that game was watching Seimone Augustus. If there was ever an example of what young women's college basketball players have to look forward to, she is it. I feel like she is the epitome of everything we have been talking about surrounding the celebration of ten years of the WNBA, especially the future and promise of the WNBA.
The arrival of Augustus and so many other talented rookies that we welcomed into the WNBA on Draft day in Boston shows how deep the player pool is. Why is it deep? Because young women are playing basketball earlier and they are better from high school up. In her first game, Augustus almost single-handedly stunned Connecticut. You can see what a talent she is. Yet Minnesota still lost because there will be a period of growth and development for her and her team. There are veterans in this league who know how to win and who have been together for a number of years.
Meanwhile, Back in Seattle
Fast forward to the game that I did last night between Seattle and Houston, the second of the doubleheader.
Seattle came in riding a high after a big win on Sunday night after putting 90 points on the board against Los Angeles. For the Comets, it was a different story. When 11,000 fans show up for opening night and the team falls flat, they needed to respond. So the Comets, although they loved being in the moment as well, had a totally different demeanor. These competitors had a look in their eyes, even during the team practice. Staley, Swoopes and Thompson's leadership filtered down to the rest of the team and there was no way they were going to lose this game. They knew they could do it because they had been here before, winning the two games in Seattle in the postseason last year.
While the Comets ran away with the game in the second half, it really was a good game for a half. But this is exactly what I was talking about Connecticut being a veteran team and knowing how to turn it up a notch and win when they had to. Now Seattle does not have as young a roster as the Lynx, but when you compare it with Houston's lineup of Swoopes, Thompson and Staley, they do not have as much experience as that group.. The Comets just took control of that game and said "We cannot go 0-2 to start out the year. We just got waxed in our season opener by San Antonio."
The first thing Van Chancellor said to us during the shootaround before yesterday's game was that he was very impressed with San Antonio and their development. He did not want to take anything away from what they have done to improve. They are an example of how deep this league is now. Anyone can beat anyone on any given night and that had not been the case in the past. No one knows that better than Coach Chancellor, who has been there from the beginning.
It goes to show you that parity makes the game so much more exciting. We love sports because of their unpredictable nature and that an underdog can not only make it a close game, but win the game. We've seen that in the last three years, especially, with three different champions. And the same applies to this season. We don't know who is going to win this thing. And fans should love that. We want to be surprised. While it was great to have the stability of a dynasty early on as Houston and Los Angeles won their championships, now it's great to know that anyone can win a title with the right mix of players and a good work ethic. We are talking about teams that we have never talked about before... Indiana, Washington, San Antonio and the list goes on. These players believe they have a shot. By the way, what I love about watching Washington play is how Alana Beard has made this her team. I love watching what she can do.
What I'm Learning
I cannot emphasize enough how you really have to see this game up close. It is still early for me, but I am learning from watching the league, being at the games and seeing these players that the quality of play is at such a high level. Even the games last night that ended up being blowouts were watchable games.
People were worried that the new :24-second clock would lead to more bad shots, but we saw maybe one or two shot clock violations the entire game last night. I really like this rule. And scoring is up, so it's working. People around the league have to be happy, and for me, calling my first game, it's exciting when you can call baskets and end-to-end action. Yet, you still have the great passing. The Storm and the Comets had some great exchanges in the game.
In addition to having such great personnel around me that made me look good in my debut, I am so fortunate that I got to see Sheryl Swoopes, Lauren Jackson, Tina Thompson and Sue Bird all on the same court in my first game. These are arguably the best players at their respective position in the world. That was so cool, and if you don't get jacked up for that, you're nuts.
The other thing I take away from this game is just how great these players are as people, not even on the court. I've been around every league and every sport in my 14 years at ESPN. These players are so accessible. For us, when you want to talk to them or interview them, they could not be happier to accommodate. Many of the players came over to me to welcome me and make me feel comfortable. Sue Bird did that and she is one of my favorites and always has been. The point is, this is a different world. The point is, they get it. They make an impact even with the media. And that is why we all love being a part of this league.
Another thing I take from this is that the players look like they are having so much fun. I'm not even talking about during the game, but during practice and shootaround, they enjoy being around each other. They love doing what they are doing and were in the moment. There is nothing better in life than to be somewhere and not want to be anywhere else at that moment. That's what I got from these two teams in my first game.
Back At It Again
Up next, we'll be in Chicago next for another WNBA Tuesday doubleheader on ESPN. The Los Angeles Sparks visit the Chicago Sky. The Sky are 1-1 after last night's loss to the defending champions. Yet, their hanging close for much of the game is another example of how deep and talented even an expansion team is. If they're hanging with the Monarchs, Dave Cowens has to be happy (though I bet a win would make him happier). I am looking forward to seeing where they are at, and obviously looking forward to seeing a superstar in Lisa Leslie and Coach Bryant. There is so much human interest with that team as well and I am interested to see how they gel.