In Other News... The WNBA.com Offseason Blog Archive 3
Speaking of the other move from Texas, Edna Campbell just announced her retirement. So much for keeping that one quiet...
For anyone who was at the Houston Rockets game last night, you already know what I'm about to write, but the Comets have signed free agent guard Tamecka Dixon to the squad. The team is waiting on official word from the league office that the transaction has been approved, but look for an announcement in the next day or so.
There is also expected to be another player/personnel announcement out of the Lone Star State in the next couple of days...
In Other News... I'm just back from the photo place and I have Swin Cash and Kristen Mann's pictures from All-Star in my hands - look for them tomorrow, as well as a new Blog update from one Miss Lindsay Whalen.
Teresa Weatherspoon may have been born in Pineland, Texas, but she came of age as a basketball player in the Gulf Region as a student-athlete at Louisiana Tech University. After all, she did graduate as the Louisiana Lady Techsters’ career leader in steals (411) and assists (958), made two trips to the NCAA Finals, was named to the 1987 and 1988 All-Final Four teams and won an NCAA championship in 1988. As a senior, she was named the Broderick Cup Winner and Wade Trophy Winner.
So when one of the most devastating natural disasters in the history of the United States wreaked havoc on the gulf region, you knew Weatherspoon would be involved in the recovery and rebuilding efforts. The New York Liberty legend last played in the WNBA in 2004 as a member of the Los Angeles Sparks, yet never officially retired. However while her playing days may or may not be over, her contributions to the greater good are still quite active.
After Hurricane Katrina changed the lives of so many in the Gulf region, Weatherspoon sprung into action.
“Well, actually what happened was we went to a place where the New Orleans residents were placed, in Shreveport, Louisiana," the four-time WNBA All-Star said. "We initially put together a camp for the children to be able to do and enjoy the day, for those children who were left out of schools because the schools were crowded."
"We were teaching the children to how to create, edit, and produce their own movies, to read and continue to stay educated with mathematics, language, art, and science as far as education tutorials, and we gave them ice cream, food, drinks... whatever. We did it all just so that they can enjoy themselves."
But the camp was just the beginning as far as the lasting impact that Weatherspoon would have.
"We were gonna be there for just three weeks, and fortunately, it turned out to a point where we built a school. So it’s an after school program for the children until they are back to normal. These are kids from kindergarten to twelfth grade, and it’s an awesome, awesome facility for the children."
Her positive attitude buoys the spirits of those affected by the catastrophe.
"The New Orleans children, they are survivors to me, I don’t say evacuees, I call them survivors."
In Other News... As one of the original members of the that WNBA inaugural season in 1997, Weatherspoon talks about the success of the league as it enters its tenth anniversary like a proud parent.
“What’s definitely grown, if you look at it from year to year is that the talent level has risen, that is something we try to make sure of, because the game changes all the time, and you want when you’re playing people to see that the game has changed to a level where the excitement is even greater, the talent level is even greater and the game has moved to another level of points being scored, the excitement of the game has changed, that’s the beauty of it and it’s changing every year because of the talent level that’s coming in.”
Valenciennes and Samara closed out their respective series in two games while two other series will go to a third and deciding game to determine the EuroLeague semifinals matchups. Valenciennes topped MKB, 74-69, on the strength of Kristi Harrower's 20 points and 9 assists. Nikki Teasley had 20 points in the loss. Meanwhile, Samara advanced to the Final Four after eliminating Dynamo after a 78-71 win. Maria Stepanova had 16 points and 13 rebounds and Ann Wauters had 14 and 7. Kamila Vodichkova had 16 points and 7 rebounds in the loss.
Lietuvos Telekomas drew even with MiZo-Pécs after a 79-70 win at home. Once again, Katie Douglas led the way for the Lithuanian team, scoring 21 points, going 3-5 from beyond the arc. Jurgita Streimikyte also poured in 15 points and 5 boards. Bourges Basket and Gambrinus Sika Brno are also even at one game apiece after the French team's 75-65 win in on the road in the Czech Republic. The third game for each series will take place on Wednesday night.
The second half of the WNBA season is now underway and WNBA players are taking notice. At All-Star last week, I asked several WNBA players what they were looking forward to about the second half of the NBA season and which teams and rivalries they liked best as the NBA enters Rivalry Week this weekend.
One of the biggest NBA fans is Nikki McCray, who is currently an unrestricted free agent and played with the San Antonio Silver Stars last season.
"I think you learn a lot about teams in the second half of their season," the 1996 Olympic gold medalist said. "In the first half, you’re just trying to find out who your nucleus is and who you can depend on. The second half is where championship teams are defined. They are a little bit more serious about getting on a roll, getting wins and narrowing their focus. You’re trying to put yourself in a position where you’re 1-4 in the playoffs. There are some great rivalries in the NBA and since was around San Antonio last year, I think the Spurs and Mavericks is a good one, the two best teams in the West right now. So we’ll see.
Kendra Wecker, her teammate with the San Antonio Silver Stars, is a Spurs fan now, but admits that she liked the Heat-Lakers rivalry with their two superstars being former teammates and two top personalities in the league.
Someone who knows a little something about winning down the stretch, Kristin Haynie of the defending champion Sacramento Monarchs, says, "I am a Pistons fan, of course and I think the budding Detroit-Indiana and Detroit-Miami rivalries are really fun."
Rivalries are obviously nothing new in either league. In the WNBA, the Comets and Sparks as well as the Comets and Liberty had the early feuds that halped shape this league, and former Liberty guard Teresa Weatherspoon likened those to the classic NBA rivalries.
“I enjoyed the New York-Miami series back in the day because it was an all-out, knockdown, drag-out battle and they would do anything to get a win," she said. "It even got to a point where they got too physical because they wanted to win. There was so much love lost there that the battles were great, and it was just all about winning. Rivalries are like, 'whatever we have to do to win, were gonna get it done' It’s was just an all out battle.”
Indiana's Tamika Catchings said, “I don’t really have any favorite rivalries. I mean I play 24-7, so I just watch the players I liked. I didn’t really care who they played, I wanted to watch my players, I liked Alonzo Mourning, of course Jordan, whenever I could catch a game it was cool.”
And how about the league's identical twins? Kelly Miller of the Phoenix Mercury said, "I love watching the Phoenix Suns play, especially Steve Nash."
On the other hand, her sister, Washington's Coco Miller, is an old-school NBA fan. “I watched the Bulls growing up but I don’t know if they really had any rivals, but the whole Bulls team that’s pretty much all I watched.”
With great games all weekend, we'll be watching...
In Other News... Back from NBA All-Star, Chicago Sky coach Dave Cowens, who I got the chance to speak with briefly as we were both waiting for departing flights out of Houston on Monday morning, discusses the upcoming end to the college season and how he is looking ahead to the Draft on April 5. Also, in another regular blog update, pregnant Monarchs guard DeMya Walker, who was also in Houston because, well, she lives there anyway, has found a pediatrician for her unborn baby.
Finally this morning, the Liberty have unveiled a new section to their site, Inside the Key, which is designed to help those that play and coach the game of basketball with new tips, plays, and unique ways to improve their game. Very cool stuff.
The next round of the EuroLeague tournament got underway this past Tuesday and four teams are one step closer to the semifinals. Samara holds a 1-0 advantage after a 74-66 win over Dynamo. Maria Stepanova had 25 points and 12 rebounds and point guard Edwige Lawson tallied 5 assists and 4 steals. Diana Taurasi had 13 points and 5 rebounds and Kamila Vodichkova had 12 points and 9 rebounds. in the loss. In Europe, there is no "over the back" calls which means that boxing out can be called a foul. So the tandem of Stepanova and Ann Wauters is very hard to keep off the boards and essentially becomes a jumping contest.
Hungary's MiZo-Pécs also took a 1-0 lead over Lietuvos Telekomas with a 79-66 win. San Antonio Silver Stars teammates Vickie Johnson and Dalma Ivanyi each had 9 points and 5 rebounds and Ivanyi had 11 assists. Katie Douglas had another superb effort in the loss, tallying 24 points and 4 steals and Jurgita Streimikyte had 8 rebounds.
Rounding out Game 1 action, Bourges Basket lost to Gambrinus 62-59 in a nailbiter and USVO blew out MKB Euroleasing 92-55. With the second games taking place Friday night, teams can be eliminated from the competition as early as the afternoon.
In Europe Cup semifinals, Spartak just knocked off Halcon Avenida, 71-55. Lisa LEslie finished with 20 points and 11 rebounds while Ticha Penicheiro had 18 points and 6 assists in the victory. Coconuda and Pays D'Aix are playing later for the right to go to the Finals.
Later this morning, USA Basketball will be announcing the training schedule for the U.S. Women's Senior National Team for this year leading up to the World Championships. There are expected to be three training sessions this spring including trips to Europe, Boston and Australia.
Early in March, the squad will travel to Europe as the team will compete against top European clubs, many of which will contain top WNBA talent. Then they will return to Boston and train there in conjunction with the NCAA Women's Final Four. From there, the team will travel to Australia to compete against Australia, Chinese Taipei and China in the 2006 Opals World Challenge. It will be the third time that the U.S. has competed in the event.
The players invited to participate by USA Basketball will be announced prior to each training camp, but with several still scheduled to be competing overseas, we can expect to see some new faces in the group of elite players participating in the different camps. This will give the committee and coaches a great chance to check out a number of candidates for the 12-man roster that will compete in the 2006 USA World Championship Team. The U.S. will be the two-time defending champions when the tournament opens on Sept. 12.
Dawn Staley has re-signed with the Houston Comets for one more year. The veteran guard will be gunning for a title in what may be her last season as a player.
Well now that NBA All-Star is over and said our good-byes to the 25+ WNBA players who were with us in Houston, we've returned our attention to the pressing business of the league. Primarily, that includes free agent signings, initial Draft preparation and marketing and business platforms for 2006.
In the last day, three new players have been added to rosters. The biggest name is obviously Latasha Byears, who is back in the league after a several year absence. Byears was involved in a legal conflict with her former team, the Los Angeles Sparks, but after settling the disagreement, she has re-joined the league. Byears could be the strong, physical presence in the post that the Mystics need to contend in the Eastern Conference this season.
Back in the league office, preparations are being made for the 2006 WNBA Draft, which will take place in Boston on April 5, less than 24 hours after the NCAA Championship game. Pre-draft camp will be held on the Monday between the Final Four and the championship game and, as always, will be closed to the general public.
Finally, the WNBA will be making some very important announcements in early March regarding tenth anniversary platforms, the All-Star Game and the 2006 season. Stay tuned.
In Other News... Seattle's Lauren Jackson has spent her offseasons back home in Australia playing in the WNBL the past few seasons. Amazingly, the 24-year-old Jackson has played in nine WNBL seasons, winning five titles. Just this past Saturday, the 2004 WNBA MVP led her Canberra Capitals to the WNBL title. However, it will be her last WNBL, at least for awhile. She has signed a three-season contract with a South Korean club during the WNBA offseason. She said the shorter season in South Korea had helped her make the decision and that she will definitely continue to play in the WNBA each year.
|WNBA at ALL-STAR PHOTOS|
With another All-Star Weekend now in the books, and everyone heads out Monday morning and the players will all be going their separate ways. Here is where many of the WNBA players will be heading.
Katie Smith - hanging out in Columbus.
Sheryl Swoopes - playing in Taranto, Italy.
Tina Thompson - playing in Korea.
Lisa Leslie - playing in Russia.
Kendra Wecker - rehabbing in Manhattan, Kansas.
Lindsay Whalen - rehabbing in Connecticut.
Kirstin Haynie - attending classes and working out in Lansing, Michigan.
Sancho Lyttle - attending classes and working out in Houston, Texas.
Becky Hammon - playing for the NWBL's Colorado Chill.
Ruth Riley - playing for the NWBL's Colorado Chill.
Tamika Catchings - playing in Korea.
Swin Cash - working out and developing her business in Detroit.
Helen Darling - living in Charlotte and playing one-on-one with Muggsy Bogues.
Brooke Wyckoff - working for an adrertising company in Chicago.
Lisa Harrison - networking and looking for a job.
Kristen Mann - working out and taking classes in Santa Barbara.
Lynette Woodard - working for a financial services company in Kansas.
Coco Miller - heading home, just returned from China.
Kelly Miller - heading home, just returned from China, living in Phoenix.
Betty Lennox - heading home, just returned from China - likes the shorter season.
In Other News... Houston is a city that saw tremendous economic and socio-economic devastation after the hurricanes hit the gulf coast region in the fall of 2005. Thousands of New Orleans sought refuge from Hurricane Katrina in Houston, which opened its arms to those in need. They gave generously. If all of us being here this past week helped make anything better for anyone, it's the least we could do... Non-gaming economic impact for NBA All-Star 2006 is projected at $60 million (source: Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau). Houston put on a great show and everyone around the league did another superb job. Now the countdowns to WNBA All-Star this summer and NBA All-Star 2007 in Vegas begin...
What a night... the NBA's Eastern Conference eeked out a close one, but it was full of sweet dunks, loads of celebrities and good laughs all around. For a full list of my favorite moments, check out the 55 Things From the 55th All-Star Game.
And here we are courtside at the 55th NBA All-Star Game. After a crazy week chock full of a nutso schedule, it all culminates in this. All the NBA stars are here, all of the WNBA stars are in their seats (by the way, they all go pretty amazing seats - from the front row to about eight or nine rows back, they are on top of the action). The game will tip off at 7 p.m. CST live on TNT and ESPN Radio as well as to 215 countries and territories through 103 telecasters in 44 languages. The game will also be broadcast live on ESPN Radio and through audio on 13 languages on NBA.com. Houston also played host to NBA All-Star in 1989 before 44,735 at the Astrodome where the West won 143-134. This is the 21st year Turner Sports has featured All-Star coverage and third consecutive year the All-Star Game will be televised in prime time.
And now, your 2006 Starters:
East: Forwards: LeBron James; Jermaine O'Neal (will not play-torn left groin); Center: Shaquille O'Neal; Guards: Allen Iverson; Dwyane Wade; Coach: Flip Saunders.
West: Forwards: Tracy McGrady; Tim Duncan; Center: Yao Ming; Guards: Kobe Bryant; Steve Nash; Coach: Avery Johnson.
the rest of your NBA All-Stars:
East: Chris Bosh; Vince Carter; Paul Pierce; Rasheed Wallace; Ben Wallace; Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton.
West: Elton Brand; Kevin Garnett; Shawn Marion; Dirk Nowitzki; Pau Gasol; Ray Allen; Tony Parker.
Since the first game in Boston in 1951, the Eastern All-Stars hold a 33-21 lead over the West in All-Star Games played. In 1989, before a record All-Star Game crowd of 44,735 at the Astrodome in Houston, the West won 143-134 behind 28 points and 9 rebounds from MVP Karl Malone. Pat Riley and Lenny Wilkens coached the West and East, respectively. Last year in Denver, Allen Iverson's MVP performance of 15 points, 9 assists and 5 steals powered the East to a 125-115 victory. Gregg Popovich and Stan Van Gundy coached the West and East, respectively. It was the first win by the East All-Stars since 2001 in Washington when Iverson's 25-point effort earned him his first All-Star MVP award in a 111-110 victory.
There about ready to tip off in an hour or so, so it's time I grab my popcorn and a Coke and take my seat. Back later with WNBA reactions.
One of the most special events all week long was the NBA Legends Brunch at the Hilton. Hosted by TNT's Ernie Johnson and televised live on NBA TV, this year's Legends Brunch will pay tribute to a variety of Houston standouts including Comets great Cynthia Cooper, who was recognized as the "WNBA Player of the Decade," Marques Haynes (Harlem Globetrotter) was presented with the Humanitarian Award, Kenny Smith, a member of the 1994 and 1995 Championship Rockets, was given the "NBA Cares Community Service Award," Calvin Murphy was given the "NBA Legends Community Service Award," Clyde Drexler was honored as "Mr. Houston Rocket" and Hakeem Olajuwon ws given the "Legend Award." Also on hand were former Globetrotter and Hall-of-Famer Lynette Woodard and Moanrchs guard Kara Lawson
In commemoration of the 1994 and 1995 NBA Champion Houston Rockets, former coach Rudy Tomjanovich will recognize his former players, including Hakeem Olajuwon, Kenny Smith, Robert Horry, Mario Elie, Sam Cassell, Carl Herrera and several more. Len Elmore, National Basketball Retired Players Association President, led the crowd of more than 1,000 in a moment of silence to honor the 14 former professional basketball players who passed away in 2005. In addition, Shaquille O'Neal addressed the crowd in memory of basketball pioneer George Mikan. It was truly a special event and one that no one who was there will ever forget.
Earlier this morning, WNBA players returned to meeting fans and hanging out at Jam Session. Betty Lennox, Kristin Haynie, Lisa Harrison and Coco Miller led a Jr. NBA / Jr. WNBA clinic as more Jr. WNBA players had their own unique event at Center Court. A Jr. WNBA China team took on a Jr. WNBA Houston squad as Tina Thompson and Katie Smith worked the sidelines as honorary coaches. Meanwhile, Swin Cash and Sheryl Swoopes were greeted with throngs of fans at the autograph stage, signing until their hands got tired. Nikki McCray and Becky Hammon also left the grounds for the Habitat for Humanity build.
So what's on tap for tonight? In just a little while, the WNBA Pregame Party begins at Jam Session. Then the players will walk the Red Carpet and take their seats for the 55th NBA All-Star Game. In what should be one of the night's highlights, Destiny's Child will sing the national anthem before the All-Star Game. It will mark the final performance for the Grammy Award-winning trio. Also, performing "So High" from his Grammy winning album "Get Lifted" in the All-Star Game halftime show is John Legend, who was named Best New Artist at the 48th annual Grammy Awards and collected Grammy Awards for Best R&B Album and Best Male R&B Vocal Performance. Talk about star power...
If you think that Thursday and Friday nights were exciting, Saturday night is really the big party night of All-Star Weekend. But unlike the previous two nights where everyone is pretty much in one place, Saturday Night is so busy that players and other VIPs are spread out all over the town. And with Houston's traffic situation this weekend (not good times), getting to more than one or two was really quite the challenge.
The Commissioner's Reception at the Toyota Center began immediately after the conclusion of the in-arena games. Hosted by NBA Commissioner David Stern, team owners and league executives mingled with players. On hand was an elite list of names... Swoopes, Leslie, Thompson, Cash, Catchings and Hammon as lots of handshakes and pleasantries were exchanged. At the same time across town, Latin Night was in full swing as Club Havana. As a celebration of the strong Latin heritage in Houston and Texas as well as the increasing popularity of the sport of basketball in Latin America, this was one fiesta you would not want to miss. Helen Darling and Kristen Mann chomped on the fajitas as Lisa Harrison and Brooke Wyckoff enjoyed a flavorful margarita.
Elsewhere, NBA TV was throwing its Late Night party at Warehouse Live. In only a short number of years, NBA TV has grown into a cable television staple on most sports packages. Showing NBA, WNBA and D-League games all year round, not to mention some pretty cool features and package shows and the classic games in history, NBA TV is the ultimate source for all of your basketball viewing needs day and night.
This weekend, NBA TV coverage includes a live four-hour high-definition telecast of All-Star Practices, Commissioner David Stern's press conference and the NBA Legends Brunch, complete coverage of All-Star Saturday Night and red carpet access to the All-Star Game. The network's 24/7 coverage began on Friday, when its signature show, NBA TV Live broadcasts from NBA Jam Session. Also, NBA TV will be made available to all of its distributors through a nationwide Free Preview thru early next week.
Other NBA Entertainment facts... NBA.com and WNBA.com have been here all week (as you hopefully know by now), camera crews will shoot 280,000 feet in video and high-definition tape, 30 camera crews will gather elements for NBA TV, NBA and WNBA promos, international specials, the NBA Store, NBA special programming and NBA.com's All-Star Game coverage.
Now that's reason to celebrate... and those on hand to celebrate at the party were Lindsay Whalen, Niele Ivey, Kendra Wecker, Nikki McCray and T-Spoon.
The remaining group of WNBA players headed over to the Corinthian after the Dunk Contest was over for the TNT/NBA Partner Party. TNT has been a primary NBA broadcast partner for as long as I can remember and anytime Charles Barkley is holding court, you don't want to be far away. Luckily for Kara Lawson, Katie Smith, Kristin Haynie, Lynette Woodard and Kelly Miller, they got to enjoy plenty of Sir Charles.
But just as those four parties were dying down, one was heating up. Back in the Convention Center, players and their guests reunited with their NBA All-Star brethren for the Players Association Party. Tickets for this event are nearly impossible to come by unless you happen to have basketball skills that enable you to play the game for a living.
With only one more day left of NBA All-Star Weekend, the players should be beginning to feel the effects of such a demanding and rigorous schedule these past few days. Yet, the adrenaline and excitement of sharing an elevator with Rip Hamilton, reading to 500 children, giving a hospitalized child a stuffed animal or even dancing with Diddy late into the night keeps everyone bright-eyed and ready for the next event.
First up is Team San Antonio. Starting things off is Kendra Wecker, who connects. And we're off. Wow, Kendra Wecker just went 2-2 and Tony Parker hit the half-court shot in his first attmept. 25.1 seconds. I picked it, baby! No one's beating that time. 6-8 shooting... not bad. And a new record.
Up next, Lisa Leslie struggled as Team Los Angeles put up another meager effort and could not beat San Antonio's time despite Kobe hitting the long range shot on his first attempt.
Team Houston... Swoopes hits, but they are not matching this time...
And now for the defending champs... the Phoenix team. Kelly Miller hits her first and then struggled... but no one beats San Antonio. The first place San Antonio Team splits $45,000. Did I call it or did I call it?
Time to go celebrate!
Saturday night and I'm feeling alright... because we'll get to see, even for just a few minutes, WNBA players in action on a national stage. That's right, as a part of All-Star Saturday Night Presented by AOL, WNBA players will be in the spotlight for the Radio Shack Shooting Stars Competition. Each team, comprised of an NBA player, WNBA player and NBA legend, must shoot at six numbered locations of increasing difficulty.
Team Phoenix will attempt to defend their RadioShack Shooting Stars trophy this year, but don't count out the hometown heroes. The mix of NBA talent, WNBA talent and NBA legends is considerable from the competition they face. The host city Houston will be represented by Tracy McGrady, Sheryl Swoopes and Clyde Drexler. For Phoenix, there will be a tweak to the defending champ's roster, however. While Shawn Marion and Majerle are back, Diana Taurasi is not. She's currently playing in Russia during the WNBA offseason. Phoenix Mercury sharpshooter Kelly Miller will replace her. Dan Majerle, for those of you who don't know, made a career out of hitting 30-foot three-pointers during his NBA days. And this competition is all about shooting.
All eyes will be on the elite squad of Los Angeles, whose hopes are pinned on Kobe Bryant, Lisa Leslie and Magic Johnson. Kobe recently made headlines scoring 81 points in a game. However, Leslie once score 100 points in a half back in high school. But my darkhorse pick to win it all is Team San Antonio, which boasts a roster of Tony Parker, Kendra Wecker and Steve Kerr. Just trust me. They're money.
So the crowds are beginning to file in to see that and other events here on All-Star Saturday Night Presented by AOL which will be braodcast on TNT beginning... right now.
Worldwide superstar Andrea Bocelli will highlight NBA Cares with his performance of "Because We Believe," from his new CD, Amore, during All-Star Saturday Night as well. NBA Cares-themed video and imagery featuring NBA players working in communities around the world will be thread into the performance.
In Other News... Those of you not in attendance tonight (and if you're reading this, you are probably not here...), there will be a tribute to the Houston Comets tonight in the arena. I can't wait.
Out bright and early, Teresa Weatherspoon and Katie Smith were back at the Toyota Center at 7:30 a.m. this morning as the NBA and WNBA opened up the floor, literally, to its valuable marketing partners. So let's say you work for Nokia and want to play Katie Smith one-on-one. Well, this would have been your shot. Nokia has actually been quite the topic of conversation this weekend. Not only do they have the biggest display at Jam Session (As title sponsor, you'd expect that, right?), but they have offered a new, free phone to every WNBA player. Not a bad perk, especially considering how much these players use their phones for texting one another.
Also out early were last night's ESPN crew... Lawson, Whalen, Haynie, Mann, Wyckoff... and headed over to the Four Seasons Hotel for the annual newsmaker breakfast for a bit of a change of topic. You see, not everything with us is just about basketball this weekend. The Tech Summitt yesterday was one of the biggest events of the weekend as figures from sports, business and technology came together to discuss the future of wireless technology. This morning, New York Times columnist and best-selling author Thomas Friedman held court about a number of current buzzworthy topics.
Elsewhere around town, the Swin Cash Retreat was going on at neighboring Lamar High School and Tina Thompson and Tamika Catchings were putting on a Nike Clinic at the Fonde Rec Center. After the clinic, Thompson was on hand as the Nike Hall of Fame inducted late Comets legend Kim Perrot posthumously. Katie Smith was a guest at the Nike Wives Luncheon and everyone else had their run of the circuit at Jam Session.
There were Niele Ivey and Coco Miller at the Read to Achieve stage. There was Becky Hammon being shuttled from the T-Mobile Clinic to the autograph stage as Lisa Leslie and Sheryl Swoopes left that stage and were heading over to the Toyota Center for a run-through of tonight's Shooting Stars event. There were Kelly Miller and Lisa Harrison conducting a shooting contest on the Be Fit court. Then everyone rotated on to the next event. Haynie and Harrison took their turn at the Read to Achieve stage as McCray and Snacho Lyttle signed autographs for fans at the autograph stage. You have to wonder just how many miles each player has walked without even leaving the Jam Session floor.
In related news, Jam Session is also full of yummy treats. Just wandering the floor, you can find anything and everything. I lost count, but I've already eaten cotton candy, three bags of Craisins (more on this later), a pretzel, a hot dog and about five bottles of water. I'm now going to try my hand on the dunking court. With all that Jam Session food in my belly, I'll be sure to soar.
In Other News... just about everyone had a prediction for tonight's All-Star Saturday Night event lineup - who would win the Shooting Stars competition (The Los Angeles team of Lisa Leslie, Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson is the prohibitive favorite at this point, though I'm going out on a limb and picking the San Antonio team). Later this evening, Kara Lawson will be wearing her broadcast hat and taking over the NBA TV set. Tune in at 6 p.m. ET to see her on the air.
Upon the conclusion of the Rookie Game, a gathering of WNBA players met in the hotel lobby to head over to the annual ESPN All-Star Party. Just a few blocks from the players' hotel, the ESPN "Doin' It Up Star Style" party was held at the Mercury Club in downtown Houston, a three-leveled club with wide open space. However, one of the highlights of the party was an ESPN Deportes Dominoes Tournament downstairs in the VIP room at the club. As celebrities like Diddy, Lebron James and Snoop Dogg rolled by, the WNBA's Tamika Catchings, Kara Lawson and Lindsay Whalen were invited tot take part in the contest.
As fellow WNBA players like Brooke Wyckoff and Kendra Wecker tried to watch from afar, Catchings and Whalen teamed up in the international-rules game and took on Kara Lawson and a ringer, the dominoes expert that taught them how to play. Things got out to a fair start when the teams were tied at two apiece, but Whalen and Catchings finally fell after losing six games. Other games included former New York Knicks guard Allan Houston, rapper Lil Flip and more. While they may have been a bit outside their element, the WNBA competitors were just that - competitors. They learned the game quickly and picked up on strategy as they went along and even did a little trash-talking as they went.
Among the onlookers were WNBA President Donna Orender, the band members from Lifehouse and ESPN.com's favorite WNBA fan Bill "The Sports Guy" Simmons. In fact, and this should come as no surprise, but most of the ESPN personalities were on hand. From PTI's Michael Wilbon to NBA analysts Tim Legler and Stephen A. Smith, the basketball celebration brought together prominent journalists, athletes and entertainers.
The entertainment was quite the balanced affair. The opening act was Diddy's "Making the Band 3" group of young women that were featured on the MTV reality show. A bit later, rapper Neo Young performed from a perched balcony and staircase, who Kristin Haynie was particularly impressed with. The headline act was world-renown rapper Snoop Dogg, a big sports fan.
In Other News... Congratulations to the finalists for the Basketball Hallof Fame... among them are Houston Comets coach Van Chancellor and University of Connecticut Coach Geno Auriemma.
Coming to you live from the NBA Rookie-Sophomore Game, where the Sophomores are leading 80-64 over the Rookies. But we just made out way over from Center Court at Jam Session where the annual All-Star Celebrity Game just concluded. Featuring the likes of Nelly, Donald Faison, Ice Cube and Bow Wow, the event was certainly more celebrity than it was game, but with a WNBA star on each squad, it did have some degree of respectability.
Detroit's Swin Cash was a part of the Clutch City team that wore throwback Rockets jerseys while Becky Hammon represented on H-Town. The game was composed of four quarters, lots of bad shots and turnovers, but a handful of impressive basketball moves out of the WNBA All-Stars that you would probably expect. Cash cut through the lane to score and Becky knifed her way acrobatically to the hoop for several of her signature buckets. Of course it wouldn't be a basketball game without Swin complaining to a referee, and she did that at least twice that I could see from courtside, but the game was, of course, all in good fun.
There may have been more celebrities in the crowd than on the floor. With coaches Eva Longoria and Queen Latifah on each bench, NBA All-Stars like Shaquille O'Neal, Jermaine O'Neal, Dwayne Wade and Longoria rumored squeeze, Tony Parker, all took in the action. Also sitting courtside were more than 20 WNBA players there to cheer on Swin and Becky. New Chicago Sky owner Michael Alter was working the crowd with his daughter and ESPN's Stuart Scott emceed the festivities. Of course, no Celebrity Game would be complete without All-Star entertainment, which meant the Heat Dancers, the junior Knicks dancers, drumliners, trampoline dunkers and the band Lifehouse.
In the end, Clutch City pulled out a four-point win with Nelly taking MVP honors, but if you were watching, you will likely remember several of Hammon and Cash's impressive moves that drew oohs and ahhhs from the crowd.
After the game, many WNBA players offered their congratulations to Swin and Becky, then headed over to the Toyota Center for the first event here of the weekend. Many, like Sheryl Swoopes, Ruth Riley and Kara Lawson, headed upstairs to meet and greet sponsors while others retired to get ready for another evening of festivities.
Next up, the ESPN party and Dominoes tournament hosted by rapper Snoop dogg. Lindsay Whalen and Tamika Catchings will be competing. Neither has ever played the game before, so it should be interesting...
Our interview time ran a little long today as Sheryl Swoopes has to head over to the eye doctor to get new contact lenses. Having been abroad for months, Swoopes was on her last pair this week and desperately needed new lenses in order to compete in the Shooting Stars challenge tomorrow night. Somehow those glasses might have been a hindrance. The Houston team of Tracy McGrady, Kenny Smith and Swoopes is clearly the local favorite, though Team Los Angeles will be tough to beat.
Lisa Leslie also spent the afternoon having a nice lunch with her new husband here in the Hilton. We'll catch up with her in a bit before heading over to the Celebrity Game, which will feature Swin Cash and Becky Hammon.
Some more random thoughts today...
Friday morning is always the busiest day here at All-Star Weekend, and my apologies for not checking in sooner. However, I just spent the last five hours interviewing all 26 WNBA personalities here in Houston. We talked about just about everything from free agency to season preview content to Draft and NCAA analysis. But WNBA.com was not the only stop on the circuit. In fact, all of NBA Entertainment rolls out the red carpet for these personalities... NBA TV, video production teams, the NBA photographers and anyone else who can possibly get a word in edge-wise.
Katie Smith was the first to come by bright and early to help us get off to a great start. Some highlights include Kelly Miller talking about how much she is looking forward to playing in Phoenix with Diana Taurasi next year (after kindly introducing herself and her sister to us to avoid any confusion). We also talked to Coco about returning to Washington and she definitely seemed happy about the signing.
It wouldn't be All-Star Weekend without the lavish parties, which kicked off tonight in grand style. On one side of town, Heat center Alonzo Mourning hosted his annual pool and billiards party. But for my money, the best party in town was the EA Sports 2K6 party at a club called Belvedere around 20 minutes out from downtown.
Piled into two All-Star-branded vans were Niele Ivey, Kristin Haynie, Kristen Mann, Tamika Catchings, Kendra Wecker, Brooke Wyckoff, Helen Darling, Lindsay Whalen and a whole crew of NBA rookies and sophomores. The guys were invited to play in a video game basketball tournament - elimination style - while everyone else danced, ate some food and kicked off the weekend.
On the way over, a ride which included a tour of some of Houston's biggest homes (note to self: get into the oil industry FAST!), Haynie admitted she was not a big video game player, saying they were for the guys, mostly. During the matches, there was not much NBA-WNBA mingling, but once the players from both leagues found their way into the VIP room (with a nice buffet), the players caught up with one another and filled everyone in on what they've been up to. Wyckoff, for instance, is working in Chicago with an advertising company. While she has never worked in the field before, she is enjoying it, especially working with her client, Gatorade. She rented an apartment in the Windy City already and is looking forward to the season.
Once everyone was packed in tightly, everyone who was anyone (including Donna Orender, I will add) was there to party. Ultimately the tournament came down to a tight match between Chris Paul and Josh Smith, which Smith won, but once celebrity guest deejay D.J. Jazzy Jeff got up to start spinning some tunes, the crowd forgot why it was there and crowded onto the dance floor and went on well past closing time.
A late night and an early start tomorrow... it's Media Day!
Betty Lennox will be back with the Storm, I'm hearing. Good for Betty, great for Storm fans. The unrestricted free agent signed a new deal today. And we'll ask her all about it in the morning.
After having so much fun at Jam Session last night before it was open to the general public and before any WNBA players were really on the scene, I thought I'd head back over this evening. Wow, what a whirlwind of player movement and activity. I put on my sneakers just to keep up with the scene.
First up, Nikki McCray and Katie Smith were on the sidelines for the NBA/WNBA All-Star Wheelchair Classic at Center Court at Jam Session. That is actually a familiar spot for Smith, who coached at Ohio State this year, but is not working with the team this season. Then, across the floor, a trio of WNBA legends, Jennifer Azzi, Lynette Woodard and Teresa Weatherspoon were conducting a Be Fit Clinic at the Be Fit Court, signing autographs and even conduction a Read to Achieve event. While they may not be active on the court these days, this trio us certainly still as fit and in shape as they were just a few years back.
Azzi, who retired after the 2003 season, is now working as a motivational fitness speaker, touring the country and helping to get kids and adults alike into better shape. And who better than Azzi to inspire?
"I actually just ran a half-marathon in the fall up in San Francisco," she said. "It was beautiful. We ran across the Golden Gate Bridge. I ran with a friend of mine and we started with a beginner program and it totally motivated us."
Then Darling, Lindsay Whalen and Niele Ivey took their turn at the Read to Achieve stage as Be Fit Shooting contests got underway. Betty Lennox and Brooke Wyckoff hosted the first series of games, then Becky Hammon and Kristen Mann ran the contest.
Now everyone is back in their rooms resting and recovering from a busy day, but getting ready for some of that famous All-Star nightlife. Tonight, a whole group of players will be heading to the EA Sports party across town as others attend Alonzo Mourning's annual Billiards Party co-hosted by TNT. I'll do my best to keep up and report back later or first thing tomorrow. Of course, tomorrow is the WNBA media circuit, where all the players stop by to talk with WNBA.com, NBA TV and ESPN and get their picture taken. Should be a fun one.
Just about every WNBA player here in Houston that is not over at Jam Session (where I'm about to head over) joined WNBA senior staff for an extensive, comprehensive meeting to discuss the future of the WNBA and how the league can move forward with everyone working together.Topics included, but were not limited to, the WNBA as a brand, marketing platforms, national sponsors, on-court and competition matters, player appearances, salaries (yes, union officials were present...) and then an open forum for discussion.
For a transcript of today's proceedings, please send a self-addressed, self-stamped envelope to... ok, that was a joke. Not even I was allowed in the room.
Lindsay Whalen was the last WNBA player to arrive this afternoon, stopping off for lunch before taking a nap. After having surgery a few weeks ago, Whalen is off crutches, but the cast remains. More specifically, she is wearing a brace protecting that ankle. The black, clunky looking brace is certainly obvious to anyone who looks at her, but the Minnesota-native is determined not to let that spoil her fun this weekend. With invites to many of the parties around town, many more than the one party invite she got last year in Denver, she is looking forward to "being big time."
As we speak, a vanload of players is on its way to Memorial Hermann Hospital to visit with patients. Tamika Catchings, Betty Lennox, Ruth Riley and Tina Thompson will be back in time for the important Player Advisory Meeting, where all of the players will discuss serious league issues with senior league staff and talk about how to help move the league forward in year ten and beyond.
From there, all of the players will then divide up and hit various events as Jam Session opens to the general public. From Be Fit Clinics to shooting contests to the Wheelchair Classic, we'll have it all covered.
...re-signed by the Mystics. In other news, Coco Miller is a recent addition to the WNBA players at All-Star weekend. As soon as we see her wandering the hotel, we'll hit her up with some questions.
In Other News...Comets forward Tina Thompson arrived with son Dylan and her mother this morning. Thompson gave birth last April and returned to the Comets later in the season. Little Dylan was the hit of the party, being passed around and held by just about everyone in the house. As the progeny of basketball greatness (his father is Cavs guard Damon Jones) is already quite the dribbler.
With almost everyone in town now, current and former players alike, the WNBA staff gathered everyone together for a briefing and an overview for the rest of the weekend. It is always interesting to see players together who do not play together or get to hang out much... like who is friends, who likes to chit-chat and what they are talking about. We already talked about the younger crowd having breakfast together - the Haynie-Mann-Wecker crew of second-year players. But it was also a nice reunion for a pair of former teammates. Teresa Weatherspoon and Liberty guard Becky Hammon were already reminiscing before the meeting started and Ruth Riley and Swin Cash were hanging with Helen Darling.
Three Detroit Shock players are here this weekend: Cash, Riley and Katie Smith. If you remember correctly all the way back six months ago, the Shock ended last year with a slate of All-Stars on their team - Swin Cash and Ruth Riley were voted to start in the 2005 WNBA All-Star Game, Deanna Nolan and Cheryl Ford were named as reserves and guard Katie Smith represented the West before being traded to the Shock later in July. Now, the Detroit men have their shot at All-Star glory. The Pistons will have four players competing in the NBA All-Star Game, the most from the same team since the L.A. Lakers sent four players to New York in 1998.
In Other News... Houston's Yao Ming and L.A.'s Kobe Bryant led all players in votes received in the balloting program that determined starters for the All-Star Game. Yao (2,342,738), the leading vote-getter the past two years, edged out Bryant (2,271,631) in the closest finish among the top two vote-getters since Vince Carter finished 33,385 votes ahead of Alonzo Mourning in 2000. Yao and Bryant's voting totals this year place them among the top five all-time single-season vote-getters (five of the top 10 are active players). WNBA players voted for their All-Stars, and almost all of them named Yao and Kobe on their list... Looks like they know their stuff.
In what should be a relatively quiet morning as the NBA players and the remaining WNBA participants arrive, we'll head over to Jam Session later this afternoon and catch up with the WNBA stars participating in a long list of activities with fans.
Ever wonder what a WNBA champion eats for breakfast? Well, it's pretty standard, actually. But not when it's Sacramento Monarchs guard Kristin Haynie, right? Last year during the WNBA Draft and then again at Finals, her medical condition that requires her to eat like a billion calories a day was well-documented. So I was curious what she would eat when she sat down, but it was just eggs and potatoes and some fruit. At least she still has all day to catch up and load up.
Also at breakfast were Kristen Mann, Kendra Wecker and Nikki McCray. Wecker and McCray, teammates in San Antonio, were actually together for the first time in several months, and it was quite interesting to overhear their discussion about San Antonio's offseason moves. Needless to say they are excited.
In Other News... Congratulations to Dawn Staley, Sun coach Mike Thibault and Duke coach Gail Goestenkors, who will be added to Anne Donovan's USA Basketball coaching staff later today. It wouldn't be an Olympic team without Staley somehow involved, that's for sure.
Also, on a personal, it is already Thursday and I still have no idea whether or not the stars at night are big and bright, here, deep in the heart of Texas. The investigation continues...
All-Star Weekend is about players, fans and fun. Jam Session combines all three in a unique format. Taking up the entire convention center across the street from the Toyota Center, NBA Jam Session features games, unique product displays, the largest NBA Store outside of New York and plenty of basketball hoops and balls for fans to test their skills. It also features a mini arena (where the Celebrity Game will take place on Friday night) and an autograph stage.
While Jam Session does not open to the general public until tomorrow, its doors were open this evening for a select group of VIPs - Rockets and Comets season ticket holders and NBA marketing partners, to name a few. The buzz was only matched by the sheer size of the event, more than six city blocks long. Kristen Mann and Sancho Lyttle were the first WNBA players to arrive at the autograph stage, followed by Kendra Wecker, Kristin Haynie and Betty Lennox. WNBA legend Lynette Woodard was stationed at the Read to Achieve theater. Too much to see, too much ground to cover...
But before the general public can see the inside, here are some of my photo snapshots of things I hit up this evening:
In Other News... Here are some Jam Session facts... The 13th NBA All-Star Jam Session Presented by Nokia, the league's premier interactive fan event, will feature 450,000-square-feet of basketball activities and games, exhibits, musical entertainment and player appearances and is expected to attract more than 100,000 fans. More marketing partners than ever will be activating at Jam Session, including activities such as FedEx Global Village; EA SPORTS NBA Live '06 gaming tournament; T-Mobile Courtside Coach; Hannspree kiosks where fans can create highlight videos; and Toyota Reading Rallies.
All 21 NBA and WNBA marketing partners will be conducting promotional and advertising activity including adidas; America Online; Anheuser-Busch; The Coca-Cola Company (Sprite); Dell; EA SPORTS; FedEx; Gatorade; Hannspree; McDonald's; Nestle; Nike; Nokia; Novartis (Lamisil); RadioShack; Reebok; Sirius; Southwest Airlines; Spalding; T-Mobile; and Toyota. More than 1,000 NBA products will be available to fans at The NBA Store at NBA Jam Session that will cover 12,000 square-feet of retail space. 2,006 limited edition Spalding All-Star basketballs, the same balls that will be utilized during the Celebrity Game and All-Star Saturday Night events, will be available to fans.
All-Star Wednesday... and a lot more to report today from overcast Houston. For those of you who know the city, NBA Headquarters is here at the Hilton, directly between the Toyota Center and Jam Session. It's quite possible I will not leave a 2 block radius all weekend. The players are all here (or will be staying here once they get in), too, so there is plenty of "inside access" that we should be able to report.
For example, Tamika Catchings arrived this morning straight from Korea. Talk about jetlag... She stopped by the offices, had some fruit and looked for where to go next. Aside from Kristen Mann and Nikki McCray, who arrived on Sunday, a bunch more WNBA players arrived today as well. Tina Thompson arrived last night and was up bright and early to appear on the local Fox morning show here in town. Then Tina, Tamika, Cynthia Cooper, Sancho Lyttle and Teresa Weatherspoon headed over to the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center to visit Kim's Place. The center is named in honor of Comets guard Kim Perrot, who passed away from cancer in August, 1999 at the age of 32.
It was Kim's fierce determination that led the Comets to the WNBA's first two league championship titles in 1997 and 1998. Perrot joined the Comets as an undrafted developmental player after a tryout for coach Van Chancellor and went on to average 7.2 points, 4 assists and 2.64 steals per game over two WNBA seasons. She was the WNBA Defensive Player of the Year runner up in 1998. As the NBA and WNBA celebrate this weekend in Houston, it was great to see everyone remember such an inspirational figure.
From there, the players continued their good work by heading over to the Houston Center Gardens for the Habitat for Humanity Build. With plywood, lumber, nails and tools ready to go, the players got to work and helped construct a home for a deserving family.
Quite the busy morning, as you can see. Up next, everyone is heading over the the Denver Harbor Community Center for the WNBA 10th Anniversary and Be-Fit Clinic. Recap and photos coming later today. And later tonight, Jam Session opens for a select group of ticketholders. Lynette Woodard, Catchings, Lyttle, Betty Lennox and Kendra Wecker are scheduled to appear.
Tomorrow is really going to be the first big day of the week as far as city-wide events and lots of players and events taking place simultaneously, so get your rest and sleep well. But before getting into bed for the night, get your bid in for the night. The annual NBA Cares auction is underway in conjunction with All-Star Week, and you can get some really hot stuff
Just back to the hotel after a great afternoon of clinics and learned about some WNBA transactions to pass along. First off, unrestricted free agent Ticha Penicheiro, the all-time WNBA assist leader, re-signed with the world champion Monarchs. No real surprise there. Also, the Chicago Sky have inked Deanna Jackson, who they claimed in the expansion draft, to a new contract.
The New York Liberty also got busy filling their recently-depleted roster. First they signed forward Iciss Tillis, a top draft pick in the 2004 Draft with the Shock. She was out of the league last year. The Libs also signed Svetlana Volnaya. In the New York Times, Liberty G.M. Carol Blazejowski admitted that center Ann Wauters and forward Elena Baranova will not be returning to the Liberty this season. Both are staying Europe to play with their national teams. That leaves just All-Star Becky Hammon remaining from last year's starting lineup. But at least they are buy, and are certainly celebrating the Valentine's spirit.
The Sky also signed Bernadette Ngoyisa to a new contract and te Monarchs will bring back sharpshooter Anne O'Neil.
The Jr. NBA/Jr. WNBA, presented by Gatorade and Nike, hosted hundreds of children from Jr. NBA/Jr. WNBA member leagues at a series of skills and fitness clinics. At each site, NBA Legends and WNBA stars will reinforce the importance of basketball fundamentals and good sportsmanship through the new Pledge To Be a S.T.A.R program. In addition to the clinics, a court has been refurbished by the NBA and Nike will be dedicated at the Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club. Nikki McCray was on hand for the dedication.
The NBA and WNBA Cares program got off to a great start yesterday in Houston as Kristen Mann, Nikki McCray, Van Chancellor and NBA legends Bob Lanier and Clyde Drexler visited elementary schools in the Houston area as a part of the Read to Achieve program. Stops included Ketelsen Elementary School , Alcott Elementary School and Carrillo Elementary School. The players loved it loved it, the kids loved it and good times (and good messages) were had (and heard) all around.
But this is really just the start. Sure, everyone is in Houston for the All-Star Game. But NBA Cares and WNBA Cares is something you'll be hearing and seeing a lot more of. Jr. NBA/Jr. WNBA basketball clinics will take place later today, including the joint dedication with Nike of a new NikeGo basketball court at The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club in Houston, which was used as a disaster relief shelter for hurricane survivors, which resulted in damage to the gym floor. Each clinic will consist of both basketball fundamentals and fitness tips.
Then on Thursday, Ssme of the world's best wheelchair basketball players who make up the National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA) All-Star team will host a clinic for nearly 40 physically challenged youth from Houston at the Fonde Community Center. The top wheelchair basketball players will also meet in the eighth NWBA All-Star Classic on Center Court at Jam Session. NBA legends and WNBA stars will serve as honorary coaches. On Friday, more than 1,700 local school children will join NBA and WNBA players, legends and celebrities for a Reading Rally at Jam Session that will celebrate the students' participation in the Houston Rockets Read to Achieve program.
On Saturday, the NBA and WNBA Cares Caravan will feature a week of events, including the unveiling of one of the first 100 NBA Cares Learn and Play Centers at McDade Elementary School. Then the NBA, WNBA, the National Basketball Players Association and Turner Sports will team up with Habitat for Humanity and build two homes for families in need. One of those homes will go to a family in Houston and the other will be delivered to the Gulf Coast Region. The work on the houses will take place outside of the George R. Brown Convention Center. Both builds will be conducted by volunteers and current and former NBA and WNBA players and celebrity fans. In addition to the events in the Houston community there will be a number of activities during the All-Star events at the Toyota Center. Throughout the weekend, the league will partner with the Make-A-Wish Foundation by granting the wishes of four terminally ill children and their families.
Between NBA.com and WNBA.com, we'll be at all these events and will be sure to have details and photos for you.
And a Happy Valentine's Day to you and yours and mine. So while we are here in Houston, we're hearing news that the Comets have re-signed All-Star center Michelle Snow. Expect an official announcement later this morning.
In Other News... The photos from yesterday's NBA Cares Reading Caravan are back and we'll post them this morning as well, along with the complete schedule for our week of fun here in the nation's fourth largest city.
With shovel in hand, Operation Big Dig here in the northeast is coming to a messy end. But 27 inches of snow here in New York won't keep the group here from heading down to Houston in the next day or so to begin the festivities (and coverage of) for NBA All-Star Weekend.
An American poet once wrote of Houston, "Of the west, Texas thunder roll." Well, for the next week, we will be the visitors and the city of Houston and its fine residents will be our hosts and hostesses. In total, there will be more than 25 current and former WNBA players participating in community relations events, Jam Session competitions, the Celebrity Game and All-Star Saturday's Night's Radio Shack Shooting Stars competition.
Yesterday, the league announced the four teams that will be participating in the unique event that pairs a WNBA player, an NBA player and an NBA legend representing a particular city. The Houston team consists of All-Star starter Tracy McGrady, two-time WNBA MVP and Defensive Player of the Year Sheryl Swoopes of the Comets, and Hall of Famer and hometown legend Clyde Drexler. The Los Angeles team is represented by All-Star starter Kobe Bryant, Sparks center and the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer Lisa Leslie and Hall of Famer and five-time NBA champion Magic Johnson. Representing the Phoenix team are All-Star Shawn Marion, rently acquired Mercury guard Kelly Miller, the 2004 WNBA Most Improved Player, and former NBA All-Star and NBA legend Dan Majerle. The San Antonio team consists of All-Star Tony Parker, Silver Stars forward Kendra Wecker and NBA legend and TNT’s NBA analyst Steve Kerr.
There will be a flurry of activity beginning later today as the NBA and WNBA Cares Caravan kicks off in Houston. Stay tuned for photos.
The San Antonio Silver Stars were, in fact, not finished after the Biba signing earlier. The team is set to announce that they have re-signed guard Dalma Ivanyi, who currently plays on Hungary's Pecs team with her new Silver Stars teammate, Vickie Johnson.
Well it didn't take long for the Sun to match the Liberty's offer to Asjha Jones. The defending Eastern Conference champs re-signed the restricted free agent just hours after New York submitted the offer sheet to the league office. It's looking like most of the key pieces to the Sun's successful run last season and best overall regular season record will be back in 2006.
Guess who will be back in San Antonio this season... that's right... Biba. Guard Agnieszka Bibrzycka, who played with the team during the 2004 campaign, will return to the club in 2006. The Polish national team star signing caps a busy week of signings for the Silver Stars.
The New York Liberty signed an offer sheet with Sun forward Asjha Jones early on Friday. This means that Connecticut now has until Feb. 20 to match.
In Other News... The Sacramento Monarchs have signed new training camp contracts for Cisti Greenwalt and Dionnah Jackson. Both players were selected in the 2005 WNBA Draft. The Monarchs actually selected Greenwalt, a center out of Texas Tech, with the 35th overall pick while Jackson was drafted 13th overall by the Detroit Shock with the last pick in the first round.
The San Antonio Silver Stars have announced the signing of free agent guard Vickie Johnson.
After spending her first nine WNBA seasons with the Liberty where she averaged 11.7 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 31.7 minutes per game. She leaves New York as the Liberty’s all-time leader in points, rebounds, games played, minutes played, field goals made and attempted, and free throws made and attempted. Johnson helped guide New York to the playoffs six times and to the WNBA Finals on four occasions.
In Other News... The last Euro League quarterfinal match took place earlier today... the third and deciding game between MiZo-Pécs and Lotos Gdynia. Vickie Johnson's Hungarian Pecs team emerged victorious and the newest Silver Star had 13 points, 5 assists and 4 steals. Teammate Dalma Ivanyi led all scorers with 17 points. Pecs will now play Lietuvos Telekomas.
Also, the Detroit Shock are set to name Cheryl Reeve as an assistant coach on Bill Laimbeer's staff.
Before we get to the transaction of the day (and there may be more than one, but we know of just one for now...), here is some random WNBA info...
Lindsay Whalen is hobbling around Connecticut, visiting high schools and talking with students...
Kevin Pelton at storm.wnba.com wasted no time doing a Q&A with new Storm assistant coach Heidi VanDerveer.
Detroit's Swin Cash has joined up to promote Oakland County’s Count Your Steps Program for 2006. The purpose of the Count Your Steps program is to increase physical activity in children. Pedometers are being provided to third and fourth graders in Oakland County in an effort to encourage behavior change with fun activities.
In Other News... The list of WNBA players who will be in Houston at NBA All-Star with us next week grows longer by the day (we're already over 20!!). More info early next week on who will be there and what they're doing, but you can count on full blanket coverage all week-long from The Lone Star State. But we can say that the celebrity game and shooting stars challenge will be your chance to see WNBA stars on television next week... and lots more.
The San Antonio Silver Stars agreed to a new contract with All-Star guard Marie Ferdinand, the team is set to announce today. Ferdinand recently announced that she and her fiancée are expecting their first child in June and will likely miss the first half of the 2006 season with plans of returning sometime after the WNBA All-Star Game. Ferdinand has spent her entire five-year career with the Silver Stars/Utah Starzz organization
In Other News... Speaking of babies... Sting guard Allison Feaster gave birth to a baby girl on Friday, February 3 at 6:50 a.m. Sarah Aleece Strong weighed 9 lbs. Allison is currently in Spain, where her husband, Danny Strong, is playing basketball. Reports are the little girl is already a strong dribbler...
Just a heads up. Later this morning, the Washington Mystics will announce the free agent signing of Crystal Robinson. She had previously played her entire WNBA career with the New York Liberty.
In Other News... In the Coco Miller deal she signed with Minnesota yesterday, Washington officially has until February 16 to match. Also last night, the Connecticut Sun agreed to a new contract with Nykesha Sales and the Liberty agreed to a new deal with center Cathrine Kraayeveld. The Liberty also signed former UConn star Ashley Battle to a training camp contract.
Just a few days after her sister was traded to the Phoenix Mercury, guard Coco Miller could be packing up and heading west as well. Miller, a restricted free agent, signed an offer sheet with the Minnesota Lynx. Her current team, the Washington Mystics, have ten days to match the contract offer to retain her on the roster.
In Other News... Check out Mechelle Voepel's latest musing on the WNBA Draft date being moved up... We've all been stuck writing from an airport waiting area with deadlines. Hopefully this draft date change will make things easier for everyone. Either way, we'll probably be seeing each other at an airport near you sometime soon... (And Mechelle is great no matter where she writes from...)
And a good evening to you all. Some news from the West... First, the Los Angeles Sparks signed South Korean national player Ha Eun Joo. She is the sister of Ha Seung-Jin, a 7-3 center on the Portland Trail Blazers. She's probably pretty tall.
Also, the first reports of a team signing a restricted free agent to an offer sheet have hit the fan. While multiple sources, including people close to the player, have confirmed the report, neither team has made any official announcement yet. So stay tuned. Worst case scenario, we'll all know more in nine days...
In Other News... The Seattle Storm today named Heidi VanDerveer as assistant coach for the 2006 WNBA season. Does that name sound familiar? Yup, she is the sister of Stanford women's coach Tara VanDerveer. But she has made quite the name for herself as well. She was named head coach of the Minnesota Lynx in 2002 and served as an assistant under Brian Agler for three seasons prior. VanDerveer was head coach of the Sacramento Monarchs in 1997 and 1998.
The second game of the second round of the Euro League playoffs took place around the Eastern hemisphere yesterday as seven of the eight series ended in two-game sweeps. Top-seeded Valenciennes knocked out Familia with an 84-70 win in Italy. Former Mercury center Slobodanka Tuvic led the way with 16 points in the win while her former teammate in Phoenix, Penny Taylor, had 16 points as well in the loss. Samara also advanced with a tight 77-74 win over Dexia Namur in Belgium. Ann Wauters had 17 points, Maria Stepanova had 8 points and Svetlana Abrosimova finished with four assists and four steals. On the other side, Nicole Ohlde had 15 points and Rebekkah Brunson grabbed 8 rebounds in the loss. Valenciennes and Samara are the two top seeds in the tournament.
In Poland, Bourges Basket advanced to the quarter-finals of the EuroLeague Women with a 68-53 triumph over Wisla Can-Pack despite Anna DeForge's 18 points. DeLisha Milton's 21 points led Gambrinus to a 92-58 win over USO Basket in Mondeville, France. Euro League All-Star Katie Douglas, the competition's leading scorer, had a dominant performance in Lietuvos Telekomas' 62-52 knock out of Napoli in Naples. Douglas had 23 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists and 7 steals. Another Euro League All-Star, Diana Taurasi, had 8 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists in Dynamo Moscow's 64-43 win over the eliminated Ros Casares in Valencia, Spain. And across the continent, Player of the Week Nikki Teasley poured in 27 points in MKB's 89-79 win over Ekaterinburg. Yolanda Griffith had 22 points and 8 rebounds, but it was not enough as the traditional powerhouse was eliminated.
The only series that was pushed to a third a final game, Lotos Gdynia drew even with MiZo-Pécs after a 79-66 victory. Agnieszka Bibrzycka had 18 points and 4 assists. The deciding game will take place on Wednesday, February 8.
The quarterfinals will begin on February 21, with subsequent games on 2/24 and 3/1. Samara will face Dynamo, the Gdynia and Pecs series winner will play Lietuvos, Bourges Basket and Gambrinus will go at it and Valenciennes matches up against MKB Euroleasing.
The rosters for the inaugural EuroLeague Women All Star Game (set for March 8, 2006 in Pecs, Hungary) were released today. Katie Douglas led all vote getters with 8,059. Of the 24 players, 16 were active on WNBA rosters during the 2005 season. Only 4 players selected have never been on a WNBA roster and only one player on the "Rest of the World" team is not currently on a WNBA roster.
The rosters are:
Rest of the World
In three seasons with the Mercury, DeForge established herself as one of the best 3-point shooters in the game. She averaged around 13 points per game and shot nearly 39 percent from beyond the arc. She was selected as an All-Star representing the WNBA in The Game at Radio City against the U.S. Olympic Team in 2004. Miller was the WNBA's Most Improved Player in 2004. She is entering her sixth WNBA season and joins her third team. She averaged 10.2 ppg in each of her two seasons with the Fever and shot around 40 percent from 3-point range. She had started in all 34 of the Fever's games the past years.
The Fever also will announce the signing of forwards Olympia Scott and Charlotte Smith. Busy day for the Fever...
The Mercury have the second pick in the 2006 WNBA Draft while the Fever select 12th.
Get ready for your first trade... happening at 12:30 ET.
So in between hitting the refresh button on your browser button to see when all of these transactions are going to go down (and they will... perhaps even today...), we figured we would take a moment and join in the media circus that surrounds the biggest sporting event of the year. The Super Bowl!
This year, Super Bowl XL in Detroit pits the NFC's Seattle Seahawks and the AFC's Pittsburgh Steelers and while we'd love to talk about the WNBA office pool (wow, did I pull some great numbers this year!), we figured we'd get the WNBA's take on the annual contest. Of course, no one loves Seattle more and is more beloved in the city than Storm guard Sue Bird, who has been keeping up with American sports and television in Russia thanks to her sling box.
WurstMattWNBA (1:29:34 PM): So what do you
think about this Super Bowl? Going with the home town?
StormBird10 (1:29:29 PM): Seattle, of course.
WurstMattWNBA (1:29:34 PM): why?
WurstMattWNBA (1:29:59 PM): just because you live there?
StormBird10 (1:33:40 PM): Um.
StormBird10 (1:33:48 PM): Yes b/c I live there.
WurstMattWNBA (1:35:29 PM): score?
StormBird10 (1:36:11 PM): Annnnd the score will be....24-17 seattle...
And then there is Shock forward Swin Cash, a native of the Pittsburgh area now living in Detroit. Can you guess who she is rooting for? In between rehab and training sessions to get ready for the 2006 season, Cash has made the rounds, attending swank parties and mingling with the high-brow in Detroit. Earlier in the week, she told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that she knows several Steelers players and is looking forward to the game. She even ran into Steelers coach Bill Cowher earlier in the week, and Cowher even spent some time talking with Cash despite his busy schedule. Look for Swin in the stands during the game waving her yellow towel.
And now for some professional analysis, as someone who has watched way too many hours of football this season, I can honestly say that I am not sure what to expect. The Steelers completely dismanted my preseason pick, the Denver Broncos, last week in the AFC Championship Game. They exude a toughness that can be intimidating. Their young, poised quarterback combined with the running game should be enough to overpower the Seahawks defense, but Seattle has the NFL MVP in running back Shaun Alexander.
Don't expect a shootout. Defense will be the word of the day (actually, pizza will probably be the word of the day for me...). The Steelers are favored by a few points, but if there is anything I have learned by attending WNBA Finals over the past few years, it's that you should never count out an underdog. The Monarchs and the Shock proved that in two of the last three. Final prediction: Seattle 23, Pittsburgh 20.
The Connecticut Sun announced just now that it has signed Candace Futrell and Megan Mahoney to contracts. Futrell played as a rookie in the 2004 season before being waived due to an injury in 2005. Mahoney was drafted in the third round of the 2005 Draft but was unable to play due to a ruptured Achillied tendon. She is currently playing overseas to prepare for her first season with the Sun.
The Minnesota Lynx have just signed former All-Star center Adrian Williams. Neither of the two fee agents signed so far were in the league last year. More news to follow.
And we're rolling... The Shock have signed Kedra Holland-Corn. She was with the team when they won the championship in 2003 and will provide depth and experience in the backcourt.
The first games of the eight Euro League playoff series tipped off earlier today and the top seeds had little trouble with their elimination round foes. So let's take a look at how some of our WNBA talent fared around Europe. Starting out with top-seeded USVO, the French squad topped Familia, 95-60. Kristi Harrower had 7 points and 5 assists in the win while Penny Taylor posted 26 points in the opening loss. The Italian team held a 35-30 advantage with 3:49 to play in the second quarter but were then outscored 10-0 before the break. Samara also opened with a win, a 75-52 victory over Dexia Namur. Ann Wauters went for 21 points and 9 boards in the win and Maria Stepanova finished with 18 and 8 while Rebekkah Brunson led Dexia with 23 points and 13 rebounds. Nicole Ohlde went for 13 and 10 in the loss as well.
Elsewhere, Vickie Johnson's Hungarian Mizo Pecs topped Lotos Gdynia, 85-55 as V.J. had 10 points and 6 assists in the win, Bourges Basket topped Wisla Can-Pack, 77-69 as Anna DeForge had 23 points in the loss and Gambrinus defeated USO Basket, 62-44 behind 17 points and 11 rebounds from Nykesha Sales.
In a matchup between Lietuvos Telekomas and Phard Napoli, the Lithuanian squad came out victorious, 71-62. Once again, Katie Douglas led the way for Lietuvos, netting 23 points and 8 rebounds. Douglas was nine of 17 shooting, including two of five from behind the arc. Another exciting game took place between Dynamo and Ros Casares. Dynamo's 72-59 win does not reflect how close the game was and the impressive second-half comeback. Diana Taurasi had 15 points and Natalia Vodopyanova weighed in with 13 for Dynamo, who trailed 39-31 at half time and entered the final quarter trailing 46-45 before outscoring the visitors, 27-13 over the final 10 minutes.
The only visiting squad to win today came in the 8-9 game between MKB Euroleasing Sopron took and host UMMC Ekaterinburg. Nikki Teasley had 14 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists in the 80-77 win while Yolanda Griffith and Suzy Batkovic combined for 33 points in the loss.
Game 2 in each of these series will take place on Friday, February 3.
In Other News... It's now officially midnight and February 1 is here. But we're not giving anything away until the teams do first. See you in the morning. In the meantime, digest this (Seattle's free agency page and Detroit's free agency page) tonight and ask questions tomorrow.
FIBA has announced the results for the 2006 Women's World Championship Draw. The United States is the top seed in Group C and draws Russia, China and Nigeria as first round opponents. Brazil, Australia and the Czech Republic are the other three top seeds in their respective groups. The preliminary round begins on Sept. 12-14. A complete schedule can be found here.
The U.S. has not announced it's roster yet, but Anne Donovan has been named the coach of the squad.
On tap for tomorrow:
WNBA teams may begin signing free agents. The Detroit Shock have plans to announce a major signing. Fans can chat with the signee tomorrow on the Shock's web site. At least a few moves that we already know about could go down, including a sign-and-trade deal with All-Stars (Editor's note - all of this is still unconfirmed, obviously, so we'll see...).
There is also a news conference in Boston tomorrow afternoon for a major WNBA announcement. Right around 5 p.m. ET. The announcement will also take place right here. I'm packing my lunch tonight...
In Other News... Katie Douglas is currently leading the Euro League All-Star voting and all eight Euro League elimination rounds get underway today. Updates to come tomorrow. In fact, they are getting started in the next hour or so.
In what will be a busy week these next few days, check back with us right here on WNBA.com for information about the 2006 WNBA Draft, initial 10th anniversary plans, free agency signings, National Women and Girls in Sports Day and the World Championships draw.
Last Monday, members of the Charlotte Sting and Bobcats pitched in to turn a simple room at the Reid Park Elementary school in Charlotte into a brand new Reading Corner. Helen Darling and Bobcats forward Emeka Okafor are picture below.
Courtesy: Sting photos
This past Wednesday, the WNBA and the Washington Mystics unveiled the “COURT OF DREAMS” basketball court for the Mount Vernon community outside of Washington D.C. Virginia Pride, a youth basketball program based in Alexandria was awarded an official regulation WNBA basketball court for winning the nationwide WNBA “Court of Dreams” ticket sales contest. Construction at the group's chosen site, Mount Vernon Recreation Center tipped off in November and the new basketball facility, game room, teen literacy center and cyber café was officially unveiled on January 25th.
In addition, a basketball clinic was conducted for community youth following the ribbon cutting ceremony.On hand were Mayor of Alexandria William Euille, Mystics owner Sheila Johnson, my main man Curtis Symonds, the Chief Operating Officer, Washington Mystics, Mystics forward Chasity Melvin, Baltimore Ravens Tight End Daniel Wilcox, Former Washington Redskin Charles Mann, Ledell Eckles, a former Washington Bullets player and Rodney Hunt, the President & General Manager, Virginia Pride AAU Team.
Mitchell Layton/NBAE/Getty Images
In Other News... the 2006 Women's World Championships draw will be announced next Tuesday. The United States is the clear favorite. Also, as we approach the February 1 free agency period, some other news and notes... One of last year's Sun draft picks, Megan Mahoney, is working her way back from injury sustained at the end of her senior year at Kansas State and should be ready to go by training camp. Also, New Zealander Donna Loffhagen is considering a U.S. career. Remember to check back daily beginning next Wednesday for the latest transactions.
For women's basketball players looking for a chance to show their stuff and stay active while not traveling too far from home, the National Women's Basketball League returns next week for another season. The NWBL, which will feature four teams this season in the south and western United States, begins play on February 4.
This season, the San Francisco Legacy, San Jose Spiders, Colorado Chill and San Diego Siege will play a modified schedule full of a few WNBA talent and even more WNBA hopefuls that will conclude at the end of March.
Last year, Becky Hammon and Ruth Riley teamed up to lead the Colorado Chill to the title. Both of the All-Stars will return to Colorado and will certainly be the team to beat once again, especially with the addition of Connecticut Sun guard Jaime Carey. Other players on rosters with WNBA experience include Katie Cronin, Amisha Carter, Tera Bjorklund, Lindsey Yamasaki, Loree Moore and Caity Matter. And with more players returning from Europe over the next few months, several more could still sign with teams.
More importantly, the league is a showcase and an audition, of sorts, for former college standouts looking to make their mark and get noticed by WNBA scouts and coaches. Against the type of competition that the league should produce, it will be a fair test.
Hammon led the league in scoring and Riley led all players in rebounding in 2005. In previous seasons, Sheryl Swoopes, Cheryl Ford, Anna DeForge and Tamika Catchings all played in the league and Nancy Lieberman is a former coach. The league, in various stages, has actually existed since 1997.
Weren't invited to Lisa Leslie's dream Hawaii wedding late last year? Well we weren't either, but according to those who were there and the below spread in February's Ebony Magazine, it looks quite beautiful.
The final series of games in the opening round of EuroLeague action took place yesterday and things could not have been more excited all across the continent. While 16 of the 18 teams advance the first round is important for seeding and matchups. In Group A action, Mizo-Pecs held on for dear life against one-win Praha, 66-64 to finish with a 9-1 record. Dalma Ivanyi had 12 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists in the win. Praha is one of the two teams eliminated from the second round of 16. Meanwhile, Samara also eeked out a close win, 69-58, over Ros Casares to finish at 9-1 as well. Maria Stepanova tallied 12 points and 13 rebounds and Ann Wauters also finished with 12 points. In the final game in Group A action, Dexia Namur beat USO Basket of France, 74-68. Rebekkah Brunson had a monster effort, finishing with 22 points an 15 rebounds. Recent newcomer Nicole Ohlde also had 14 points and 11 boards in the victory. They will be a tough draw in the next round, which begins on January 31.
In Group B, the two top teams met with first place on the line. Trailing by one game in the standings, Bourges Basket knocked off Gambrinus, 73-67. Both teams finished the round with identical 8-2 records. Delisha Milton had 14 points and 6 rebounds in the loss. Also, Ekaterinburg defeated Lotos Gdynia, 92-75 on the strength of 17 points and 5 rebounds from Yolanda Griffith, 14 points from Suzy Batkovic and 10 points from Margo Dydek. Finally, MKB Euroleasing easily handled Familia, 78-63. Nikki Teasley had 3 points and 4 assists in the win while Raffaella Masciadri had 20 points and Penny Taylor had 13 points and 8 rebounds in the loss. All six teams from Group B have advanced.
Finally, in Group C action, US Valenciennes Olympic secured the top seed with a 68-61 win over Lietuvos. Kristi Harrower led the way for USVO with 20 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists. Katie Douglas had 25 points in a losing effort. Lietuvos and Dynamo Moscow both finished with 7-3 records after Dynamo bested Wisla Can-Pack, 72-65. Diana Taurasi had 18 points and 7 rebounds for the formidible squad. Finally, Napoli eliminated K Cero IP from the next round with a 81-67 victory. Vicki Bullet had 26 points, 12 rebounds and 4 steals in the victory for the Italian team as Francesca Zara also finished with 8 points and 9 assists.
The 16 teams that qualified from the Qualifying round will be seeded 1 to 16 and will meet in a Best-of-Three series culminating on February 8. The matchups are as follows:
US Valenciennes (1) vs. Famila Schio (16)
VBM-SGAU Samara (2) vs. Dexia Namur (15)
MiZo-Pécs (3) vs. Lotos Gdynia (14)
Bourges Basket (4) vs. Wisla Can-Pack (13)
Gambrinus (5) vs. USO Basket (12)
Lietuvos Telekomas (6) vs. Phard Napoli (11)
Dynamo (7) vs. Ros Casares (10)
UMMC Ekaterinburg (8) vs. MKB Euroleasing (9)
Get the complete schedule here.
Also, do not forget to vote for the EuroLeague All-Stars in a Europe vs. Rest of the World format...
So with the final 9 preliminary round EuroLeague games tonight featuring all 18 games, we will know the pairings for the elimination-style playoff series beginning in a few weeks. Action is just getting underway now...
Also, the first ever EuroLeague Women's All Star Game will take place on March 8 in Pecs, Hungary. Fans are encouraged to vote via the FIBA site until January 27.
Speaking of overseas competition, the 2006 World Championships web site is now up with more info regarding the tournament. While matchups are not yet set, the United States is still considered the favorite to defend its title.
In Other News... The New York Liberty were the first team to kick off its tenth anniversary coverage... more to come later this spring... perhaps an All-Decade Team, maybe we will re-live the greatest moments of the past ten years and maybe, just maybe, we will look back at our history with an eye on the future...
Also, in case you were wondering what happened to former coach of the USC men and the Sparks, Henry Bibby, well he was hired Tuesday by the Philadelphia 76ers as an assistant on Coach Maurice Cheeks' staff, replacing Jim Lynam. No announcement has been made regarding the vacant Sparks head coaching position. Bibby's assistant, Joe Bryant, replaced him on an interim basis at the end of the 2005 season.
A new year and the WNBA free agency signing period is nearly here. Some simple answers...
Today was the deadline for sending Core Player Designations and Qualifying Offers to unsigned players. Teams can begin to negotiate with their own Core and Reserved Players and any Restricted and Unrestricted Free Agents tomorrow. However, deals may not be finalized, and contracts and offer sheets may not be signed, until February 1, so don't expect to hear anything big as of yet.
Teams are free to make public statements regarding player negotiations beginning tomorrow, but no official announcements will be made until February 1.
Players who ended the 2005 season on the Suspended List remain suspended and can negotiate only with their prior team.
Everyone have their cell phones handy?
Some random thoughts on this Friday, the 13th...
Is it just me or does everyone have their own web site these days? To help inspire fans around the globe to check out the future of women's basketball, the LSU, Rutgers and Duke athletic departments have all launched websites highlighting three of the best women's basketball players in the 2006 senior class: Seimone Augustus (LSU), Monique Currie (Duke) and Cappie Pondexter (Rutgers). Why do I have a feeling I will be typing these names a lot over the next few months?
Congratulations to Stom coach Anne Donovan, the next head coach for the U.S. Senior Women's National Team, which will soon be the World Championship Team and, in 2008, will become our Olympic team. Donovan was a three-time Olympian, a two-time gold medalist as a player, was an assistant to Van Chancellor for the 2002-04 team that won the gold in Athens and has won a WNBA title with the Storm. So clearly this isn't a surprise, but this could not be more well-deserved. Think she won't know how to get inside the head of her Storm forward Lauren Jackson, who seems poised to lead Australia to the gold? Oh, and Coach, if you are reading this, I'd like to apply for one of the vacant assistant coaching positions. Sure, I've never coached before, but with you at the helm, all I need to do is hand out towels and look pretty. I can do that.
Oh, and I broke a mirror this morning. On Friday, the 13th. Not good. With the bad luck that I am doomed to incur, I might as well just kiss any chance I ever had of being an assistant coach for the U.S. Olympic Team good bye at this point...
Silver Stars guard Marie Ferdinand is getting married next month and will be giving birth to her and fiancee Cedrick Harris' first child in June. Great news for their family, though the Silver Stars will be without another key player, at least in the early going. So much for my dream of seeing their best lineup on the floor for an extended period of time...
In Other News... Rounding out the week's Euro League news, the four games on Thursday featured stellar performances from WNBA stars... Mizo-Pecs beat USO Mondeville Basket, 76-67 as Vickie Johnson dominated down the stretch. Her 19 points led all scorers while Damla Ivanyi finished with 14 points and six rebounds... Rebekkah Brunson's 22 points and 17 rebounds and a 19-point contribution from Nicole Ohlde were not enough to win as Ros Casares secured a 74-70 victory over Dexia Namur... Euro League Player of the Week Penny Taylorcapped a magnificent performance for Famila Schio as they snatched an 81-79 win from the jaws of defeat in a game with Lotos Gdynia. Taylor, who finished with a game-high 31 points as well as eight rebounds and four assists, made a jump shot with under a minute to go to tie things up and then sealed victory with a jump shot just eight seconds before the buzzer... Lietuvos Telekomas won again, 80-67, over Wisla Can-Pack as Katie Douglas finished with 20 points and eight rebounds as well as four assists. Douglas was outscored by Anna DeForge, who poured in 32 points for the defeated Poles. Next Wednesday's EuroLeague games are the final contests of this round.
Becky Hammon will be on hand today as Bloomingdale’s celebrates National Mentoring Month and the store’s long-term partnership with Matilda Raffa Cuomo’s Mentoring USA program, New York City’s largest site-based, one-to-one mentoring program with a special window dedication. For the fifth consecutive year, Bloomingdale’s Chairman & CEO, Michael Gould will personally unveil the Lexington & 60th Street window to the children of PS 59.
This year the theme of the window at Bloomingdale’s is “Reach for the Stars!” Mentees from PS 59 have been asked to draw their interpretations of the qualities that they feel their mentors help them strive for in life, such as ambition, perseverance, good sportsmanship, creativity and faith. After the unveiling ceremony two special guests will join the PS 59 mentees and mentors to celebrate mentoring. Joining Hammon and the students will be Broadway star Kissy Simmons, who plays Nala in the Lion King, both of whom will talk to mentees about the guidance that helped them become successful in their respective fields.
Bloomingdale’s recognizes the vital role that mentors play in the lives of today’s youth. Through the Mentoring USA program at nearby PS 59, Bloomingdale’s volunteers have mentored elementary school children for the past eight years. Currently 90 Bloomingdale’s executives spend an hour every week with their mentees, talking, sharing, tutoring and encouraging their mentees to dream big for their future. In Other News... While we were scanning players' stats from overseas, we came across the WKBL, the Korean basketball league where several top WNBA players like Alana Beard and Taj McWilliams-Franklin are currently playing. Oddly enough, the WKBL player files look eerily similar to the old WNBA.com player file. I guess we should just remember that immitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Good luck deciphering it all!
Just a quick update as preliminary Euro League games resumed yesterday, the second the last game for each team before the end of the round. In Group A action, Samara rolled to 8-1 with a 89-71 victory over USK Praha (Prague). Maria Stepanova and Spanish forward Amaya Valdemoro combined to score 40 points between them. Stepanova also had 13 rebounds and 3 blocks while Edwige Lawson tallied 8 assists, Ann Wauters had 15 points and 7 rebounds and Svetlana Abrosimova chipped in with 6 points for Samara. Janell Burse had 11 points and 4 boards in the loss.
In Group B, Brno also stayed atop the standings with an 8-1 record after beating Ekaterinburg 66-53. Nykesha Sales went for 12 points points and 3 assists while DeLisha Milton-Jones chipped in with 10 points and 5 rebounds for Brno. Yolanda Griffith netted 5 points and 7 rebounds, Seattle's Suzy Batkovic had 13 points and 4 rebounds and newcomer Elaine Powell had a team-high 16 points in the loss. Also in Group B, Bourges kept pace just a game behind Brno with 89-69 win over MKB Euroleasing. Nikki Teasley posted 19 points in the loss.
Group C saw Dynamo defeat Napoli, 57-44 and Valenciennes beat up on the last place team, K Cero ICP Kosice, 86-52. Kristi Harrower had 8 points and 7 rebounds and Slobadanka Tuvic finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds for Valenciennes, which also moved to 8-1 in the standings. Dynamo is now 6-3 after the win, a low-scoring affair in which Diana Taurasi led the way with 14 points, Tammy Sutton-Brown grabbed 14 rebounds. Sue Bird finished with 5 points and 2 assists.
With the remainder of this week's games taking place today (four in total), teams only have one more game (all on January 18) to secure their finals spots for the elimination round, which begins later this winter.
In Other News... Meanwhile, in the Europe Cup tournament, the last games of the Preliminary Round concluded yesterday and the pairings of the final 32 teams are set. Of the 47 teams originally competing, the two best placed teams from each of the 12 groups qualify alongside the 8 best third-placed teams. Israel's Anda Ramat Hasharon finished 6-0 as did three other teams. In Anda's 60-43 win yesterday over Mersin, Deanna Nolan had 21 points, 4 assists and 8 steals while Cheryl Ford had 22 rebounds and 3 blocks. Spartak Moscow finished 5-1 in Group F as Tamika Catchings had15 points and 10 boards in a 76-72 win over Nicole Powell's Fenerbahce team. These teams are full of WNBA talent... too many to list here, so check it out for yourself...
The biggest story during the 2005 WNBA Finals was the health of star guard Lindsay Whalen, who missed time and was not at 100% due to an injured knee and ankle. Well, the knee has healed, but the ankle has not. Whalen took some time off after the season rest and rehab the injuries before heading over to Russia to play for Ekaterinburg. However, the ankle has not healed as quickly as she would like, so team doctors recalled Lindsay to Connecticut in the past week and have scheduled her for surgery today.
In a release from the team, Whalen said “I just felt it was better to take care of this now, rather than wait."
The timing of her return is not fully known and she could miss some of the WNBA season. However, not all the news is bad in Connecticut. the Sun drafted Australian point guard Erin Phillips in 2005 and she has committed to playing for the Sun in 2006.
Meanwhile, Phillips' fellow Aussie Lauren Jackson is on the opposite end of the injury spectrum from Whalen. Seattle Storm franchise forward and current star of the Canberra Capitals has been cleared to return to her Women's National Basketball League team this weekend. She had been on the sidelines with a stress fracture in her left shin since mid-October.
In Other News... ESPN and ESPN.com is celebrating 25 years of its coverage of college women's basketball with an impressive spread featuring key moments over the past 25 years as well as the top 25 college players over that span. Naturally it is full of WNBA stars past and present as well as a few coaches and commentators sprinkled in. Kudos to Melanie Jackson and her staff for some really fine work.
Okay, so the former Soviet Union may be long gone, but Russia is still drawing many of the top international and American players during the WNBA offseason. And now we can add another one to that list. Just this past weekend, Sparks center Lisa Leslie arrived there and will finally join Spartak in the Russian league. Spartak also competes in the Europe Cup.
All European leagues heat up this month and now that that the holidays are over, many of the WNBA players who had returned to the States for a few weeks vacation to visit family and enjoy a little rest and relaxation are back overseas. The next series of Euro League games resume this Wednesday and Thursday while the next round of the Europe Cup games also begin this week and the elimination rounds are finally here.
Meanwhile, speaking of Europe, Liberty center Ann Wauters has been chosen as the top female player in Europe by Gazzetta dello Sport, an Italian newspaper, which is giving her its Euroscar award. She garnered 48 votes in the Euroscar voting, beating her Volgaburmash team-mate and Russian international center Maria Stepanova (29 votes) into second place.
In Other News... Recently deposed Mercury coach Carrie Graf is being mentioned for several assistant coaching positions around the league. Having spent two seasons as head coach in Phoenix, Graf has spoken to the Charlotte Sting and the Seattle Storm (where she has previously been an assistant) and a decision could be made in the next few weeks. She is currently coaching in her native Australia.
Also, the MCI Center in Washington D.C., home to the Mystics, Wizards and other capital-area events, has been re-named the Verizon Center. Can you hear me now? Good.
The Detroit Pistons will honor Shock Coach Bill Laimbeer, arguably the most
hated Bad Boy in the history of the NBA, on Friday, January 6 when they host the
Seattle Supersonics at 8:00 p.m.
The Pistons will honor Laimbeer, who spent 13 seasons with the Pistons and now serves as a television color analyst, is the head coach of the WNBA Detroit Shock, won two championships and was one of the original "Bad Boys." Laimbeer is the all-time leading rebounder in Pistons history (9,430 career) and still ranks in the Top Ten in 11 Pistons all-time career categories.
As part of "Flashback Fridays" during the 2005-06 regular season, the Pistons are honoring Laimbeer and will unveil his name and number 40 permanently secured on the sidelines of the Pistons court. Before the game, 10,000 commemorative Laimbeer figurines, courtesy of Marathon and The Detroit Free Press, will be distributed.
"Putting the names of our legends courtside has been a very special honor for our organization," said Tom Wilson, president and CEO of Palace Sports & Entertainment. "The ceremonies have been wonderful and have given us all a chance to 'remember when'. I'm sure the ceremony for Bill will be pretty special because we can run the gamut of memories with him: from 1986 with Larry Bird to 1990 with Kevin Duckworth to 2003 with Swin Cash."
The Pistons have planned a halftime ceremony where they will play a video detailing Laimbeer's life and career. George Blaha, the voice of the Pistons, will introduce Laimbeer to the crowd and the organization will unveil the permanent "signage" on the court. Laimbeer will briefly address the crowd.
The Pistons/Palace Foundation will present Laimbeer with two checks, in the amount of $2,500 each, for donations to be made on his behalf to the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and Children's Hospital of Michigan Reading and Learning Center Renovation.
www.pistons.com is currently featuring an in-depth profile of the Pistons legend, including stats and photos of the legend, analysis from former teammates and coaches, live online chats or 20 questions and a historical timeline reviewing the events of the era that the legend played.
Other Flashback Friday nights scheduled include Vinnie Johnson Night on January 27 and (Former University of Pennsylvania Coach) Chuck Daly March 12.
In Other News... In case you missed the Sporting News feature this week on various "Power" plays, specifically the restaurants to "Power Lunch..." Clearly the information in the article on Mister Chow was taken straight from this very Blog. However, it should be noted that the Sue Bird birthday meal was a Sunday night dinner, a far cry from a "Power Lunch." Okay, so maybe we're taking this a little too literally, but I can promise no "deals" were made that night. However, the Peking Duck was quite delicious.
September - October 2005