Ask Nancy: Pre-All-Star Q/A with
Hall-of-Famer Nancy Lieberman

Basketball Hall-of-Famer and ESPN analyst Nancy Lieberman answers your questions and emails throughout the WNBA season. Click here to submit a question of your own.


Hi Nancy. Will you be at the WNBA All-Star Game? I could conceivably see all five Sun starters at the game, but that probably won't happen, right?.
-Pamela (Framingham, MA)

A. "It sure wouldn't be a bad team, but I'm not sure it will happen that way. Lindsay Whalen and Taj McWilliams-Franklin will likely be there. To me, who has played Margo Dydek at center in the east? Ann Wauters has been pretty solid. I don't think it will happen, but they certainly deserve to be All-Stars."

Who are you most looking forward to seeing go up against their fellow stars? Enjoy the season,
-Marta (Scottsdale, AZ)

A. "It's not just one player. This Game is a celebration of basketball. It gives some of the great players in the league a chance to be recognized and rewarded for their great efforts. I really appreciate what they've done for the game. It's pretty cool. It's great for the fans and for all of us involved."

How can one possibly choose the forwards to vote for in the Western Conference? Swoopes, Jackson and Holdsclaw all should start. Who would you pick as two out of those three?
-Linda (Beaverton, OR)

A. "The most important thing is that the fans pick who they want to see play and who they enjoy the most. That is first and foremost. Everyone has their favorite. When it comes down to who makes the team and who the coaches vote for, a lot of it has to do with respect and how well you have played and reputation. But it's a tough pick. They are all playing so well. It just shows you the level of where the game is at when we can debate these choices and who should make it. We are talking about the best of the best here and someone might be left off. To me, Sheryl Swoopes has shown so much resilience and pride in what she has done for her game and I am really proud of her."

Nancy, Please help... What is it going to take to get my beloved Charlotte Sting on track? I believe we have excellent talent and outstanding leadership from Dawn Staley and Allison Feaster. How much longer do we wait for the chemistry to happen?
-Margaret (Charlotte, N.C.)

A. "That is a great question. They just don't seem to have found any chemistry at all as of yet. I thought they had great player movement in the offseason. But maybe we are finding out with all the new acquisitions that too many new pieces creates a lack of continuity because they don't really know each other that well. What is happening to them is a good learning experience for other coaches around the league. You really have to stay with your core group. They might be a year away from figuring it out now, but I never thought they would fall that far in the hole. I never saw that happening, but year nine, live and learn."

Hi Nancy. So in watching the Sparks a few times this season, it seems like they are a different team on any given night... or even any given half. How is it that a team with such talented players can't get it together more consistently?
-Miranda (Van Nuys, CA)

A. The Sparks do have tremendous talent and when you look at their team on paper, you wonder how they are not dominating. But let's remember that they are playing without forward Mwadi Mabika. She is a perennial All-Star, so her absence hurts them. Lisa Leslie had Mabika, Tamecka Dixon and Nikki Teasley, which opened up the middle for them. You really had to come out and guard them on the perimeter, so without Mwadi, you can cheat in a little bit or maybe even play a little zone against them. They are missing a key ingredient. Then, they brought in Chamique Holdsclaw, who is taking a lot of different shots that nobody had taken before. Lisa has career lows across the board: in shooting percentage, points, foul shooting and rebounding. And they have a new coach. I played for Henry Bibby in a men's league and his style isn't the easy to pick up. I'm sure the players on the Sparks haven't played zone in years. So despite the talent, there is a tremendous amount of learning going on right now. It's a big adjustment period."

The Liberty have essentially the same team as last year, plus Ann Wauters in the middle. Shouldn't they be better than they were last season? How are they still only a .500 team?
-Martin (Bellmore, N.Y.)

A. "I still say that as good as Ann Wauters is, they are not the best rebounding team. They live and die with Becky Hammon, Crystal Robinson and Vickie Johnson delivering the goods day after day. I'm a little surprised that Becky Hammon is not getting more shots. For everything that people say about Becky, that she is not a good defender, this that and the other, she has been very strong defensively and I believe there was a three-game period where she had like 15 steals. She's smart, in better shape then she has ever been before and she shoots the basketball better than like 90% of the people in the WNBA. That is her gift. You have to let her do that. I just don't think she is getting as many shots within the flow of the offense this year as she normally does. I think that is crucial for the Liberty. They don't have a lot of depth on the bench and they are very starter-heavy. Wauters and Elena Baranova, two Europeans in the post, are not the kind of players that are going to stay under the basket and bang with you for 40 minutes. Their natural game is to migrate away from the basket."

Do you think the Washington Mystics have a chance this season?
-Shanavier (Valdosta, GA)

A. "Yes, I do. The only reason I picked the Mystics to finish in last place this season . They have tremendous talent at every position. They have speed, a defensive quickness, rebounders, inside post presence and a heck of a coach in Richie Adubato. But to me, they had so many new players. That was the toughest thing for me - how were they going to get their chemistry together. Temeka Johnson is a wonderful point guard, tremendous post play in Charlotte Smith-Taylor who can go away from the basket, Chasity Melvin can post you low, Alana Beard is great and they have people off the bench. I really like their team. Once they get confidence and understand Richie's scheme, I think they can develop quicker than people think (or I thought). It just depends on how they come together."

What, if any, was your reaction to the incident between Diana Taurasi and DeLisha Milton-Jones?
-Nelli M (Union City, N.J.)

A. I'm not an advocate of fighting. But DeLisha Milton, Diana Taurasi, Tina Thompson, Cheryl Ford, Lisa Leslie - they are competitors. They want to win. I'm sure Diana Taurasi is frustrated, I'm sure she wants a higher level of excellence. I think Dee is a physical player, she is an in-your-face player and she uses her God-given ability, which makes her stronger than most people in the league. And you know what? I don't have a problem with it. I think people need to not blow one incident out of proportion and just chalk it up to something that happens in sports. Everytime there is a bench-clearing incident in baseball, no one harps on it. It's part of the game. I would take a Diana Taurasi and how she plays any day of the week. Dee is going to be Dee and she is not going to change her game for anybody. She should keep doing what she is doing because she is great for the game. DeLisha and Diana will have more respect for each other having dealt with it. And it's over. I love DeLisha Milton-Jones and the toughness that she brings to women's basketball and she is doing what she has done for her entire career as well, which is to play tough and physical. She just met someone who has the same mindset, who is tough and physical. I don't think it will be recurring. It is something that happened. Let it go."

 

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