Have You Seen them?
Phoenix Mercury at Sacramento Monarchs

at
Saturday, 4 p.m. ET on

What to Watch For:

The defending champion Sacramento Monarchs will be hosting the WNBA Season Opener on ABC after receiving their championship rings from WNBA President Donna Orender. A banner will be raised to the rafters, players will get to touch their trophy once more and then the season begins. The Monarchs are a no-nonsense team, all about business. They had the best home record in 2005, winning 15 of 17 games and knocked off the Sun in four games to win the title.

PossibleStarting Lineups
Sacramento MonarchsPhoenix Mercury
Yolanda GriffithKamila Vodichkova
Rebekkah Brunson Sandora Irvin
Nicole Powell Bridget Pettis
Sholanda Dorrell Kelly Miller
Ticha Penicheiro Diana Taurasi

Back for the Monarchs are the veteran tandem of Yolanda Griffith and Ticha Penicheiro. One of the best tandems in WNBA history, this pair has had its share of supporting casts, but none better than the one they had in 2005. Returning from that team are third-year forwards Rebekkah Brunson and Nicole Powell, second-year guard Kristin Haynie as well as supporting players Hamchetou Maiga-Ba and Erin Buescher. They are joined by a pair of first round draft picks in Kim Smith and Scholanda Dorrell.

The Mercury missed the playoffs by only one game last season after losing their final three contests. Yet, the Mercury made some significant changes in the offseason, beginning at the top. Former NBA coach Paul Westhead was hired to infuse the offense with energy and a high-paced tempo. Anna DeForge was traded away and Kelly Miller and exciting rookie Cappie Pondexter join the fray. But make no mistake. This is guard Diana Taurasi's team as she enters her third season as the leader of the Mercury. She will be expected to score and score more. Kamila Vodichkova returns for a second season as the Mercury's starting center, but the rest of the Phoenix frontcourt is still a question that needs to be answered.

The Ring's The Thing

"I'm most looking forward to getting the season off the ground, I mean I think I've been waiting for the season to begin since the last season ended, so I'm really really ready, and getting that ring, everybody wants the ring." -- Monarchs forward Rebekkah Brunson.

"We just want to play the game. It's gonna be crazy, the fans at ARCO are crazy, it's going to be loud, when we get that rings, it's going to be amazing and send chills up my body." -- Monarchs guard Kristin Haynie.

"I'll be thinking about the game, I'm sure it will bother me, because my girls, my players will get distracted, and the job at hand is to face a new coach who's got a lot of NBA experience with a unique style of play. We're just going to do it one game at a time. The first one is against Phoenix and Paul Westhead. He likes to run and press and shoot quick and he gets you to play him out of your normal style, so we've got to deal with that and the ring ceremony is a distraction I'd rather not have." -- Monarchs coach John Whisenant.

Gone, But Not Forgotten

Monarchs vets Kara Lawson and DeMya Walker will be missing the game. Lawson has been out sick and is expected to return to action soon. Walker gave birth in February and will miss at least the first month of the season. Also gone from last year's championship squad are Chelsea Newton (Chicago - expansion) and Olympia Scott (Indiana - free agency). With those changes, expect the two rookies to get significant playing time in the early going.

Phoenix traded Anna DeForge to Indiana in the offseason, but got Kelly Miller in return. Forward Penny Taylor has yet to sign a contract with the Mercury and it is unclear whether she will play with the team in 2006. Shereka Wright is gone for the season with a ruptured Achillies tendon

A Bittersweet Day for the Coach

"My son just graduated from medical school and he gets married on Saturday. It's a conflict the way our schedule works out, so I'm going to his rehearsal dinner on Friday night because I'm missing his wedding. It's in Houston, so I've got the addition of flying all the way to Houston on Friday and flying all the way back on Saturday morning before the game. We have the ring ceremony, then we're playing the game. I'm trying to not even think about it because it makes me too tired." -- Monarchs coach John Whisenant.

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