SECAUCUS, N.J., August 9, 2011 – You see it in cereal.
Lettuce, too. And hot sauce. And ice cream. And if you want to go looking for more options, you’ll find them in the other shopping aisles, too. If you prefer to stay at home, Amazon and iTunes should have you covered for this and your next 30 lifetimes.
We live in an era of endless choice. Of paralysis by analysis. Of more colors of mustard than there are in the rainbow.
Luckily, Tina Charles is doing everything she can to make it easy on us.
A week after leaping over Sylvia Fowles into the No. 1 spot on this list, Charles further distanced herself from everyone else this week, following a monster road trip and yet another Player of the Week nod – her third of the year.
Last ranking: 1
August has been good to Charles. Which is to say, a complete and unrelenting disaster for anyone trying to guard her. In three games to start the month, she rolled out three straight double-doubles -- which gives her six in a row and 14 in her last 17 games -- including a 23-point, 17-rebound effort in an overtime win over Phoenix on Aug. 7. Oh yeah, she also hit the game-winning shot in that game with five seconds left. The Sun are pushing the Fever for the first spot in the East, and if the home stretch of a season comes down to which stars shine brightest, Connecticut looks like it’s in good shape. Right now, nobody else is in Charles’ galaxy.
Last ranking: 2
Over Chicago's last 12 games, the Sky have gone 6-6. When they've played well, Fowles has dominated. When they've lost, Fowles has pretty much still dominated. However, her numbers are down – way down – from where they were a month ago. She’d just finished a June that saw her score at least 20 points in seven straight games, and then blast into July with a 34-point, 16-rebound night against the Mystics in her second game of the month. Still, Fowles remains one of the most dominating presences in the league, and it was her 21-point, 12-rebound performance on Sunday that sent the Sky to a massive upset over the first-place Fever. The Sky desperately need her, a point underscored by her minutes – she played 40 minutes against the Sparks on July 30, followed by 37 and 35 against the Liberty and Fever.
Last ranking: 6
Just three weeks ago, it was Rebekkah Brunson, not Augustus, who looked like the driving force behind the Lynx' (Lynx's?) success this season. But that was before she won two of three Players of the Week awards and took home the hardware as July's Player of the Month. Averaging 16.67 points per game in the Lynx' three wins last week, Augustus also chipped in 4.66 boards per contest. While she may 'suffer' -- in these rankings, not on the court (your call as to which one matters more) -- because Minnesota's so deep, a healthy Augustus has taken the reins of a team out to re-write history.
Last ranking: 3
Taurasi's done all she can to stop the Mercury's slide from first to fourth in the West, scoring 23.67 points per game as Phoenix has gone 1-5 since a win over the Mystics on July 15. But she's also had her own semi-secret struggles of late, shooting just 34.7 perent over her last three games. Sure, she scored 29 points in an OT loss to the Sun on Sunday, but only on a 7-for-23 effort that featured 5-for-13 shooting from behind the arc. That came after a foul-shortened game against Minnesota in which she scored 20, but got blanked on the boards and turned the ball over three times, with only two assists. But the leading scorer in the WNBA is scorching from the foul line, going 35 for her last 36 and shooting .913 for the year. When the Phoenix figure things out, expect Taurasi to be behind it.
Last ranking: 4
Hammon’s 3-point touch has cooled from last week’s scalding-hot 66-percent clip from behind the arc, but she’s still the most dangerous player on the court virtually any time she steps on it. Well, outside of whoever on the Lynx has the ball when the buzzer’s about to sound. Despite two losses a week apart on last-second shots to Minnesota, the Silver Stars have proven they can play with the best in the West, and so much of that has to do with Hammon’s work. She’s currently averaging a career-high 5.8 assists per game, in addition to a scoring average that’s outpacing her career line by more than three-and-a-half points per game (16.8 ppg in 2011 compared to 13.2 career). And remember: this is her 13th year. Hammon’s seen a lot in her career, and thanks to what she’s done this year, she might see something new – a title in San Antonio.
Last ranking: 7
Another week, another scoring average of more than 20 points per game. Although the Dream took a tough in-conference loss to the Liberty (after falling to fellow Eastern foe Connecticut a game prior), McCoughtry led all scorers with 17 points in Atlanta's upset win over the Storm on Sunday. That makes 10 out of 11 games with 15 or more points for the third-year phenom, a stretch that's seen her average 24.2 per contest, while, not coincidentally, the Dream have clawed back into contention.
Last ranking: 5
All of a sudden, Catchings is in a bit of a slump. Well, a Catchings-style slump. She's been held to single-digits in scoring in two of her last three games -- including an eight-point effort in an upset loss to the Sky on Sunday -- but has still found ways to contribute. Despite the low point total on Sunday, she did chip in five assists, three rebounds and three steals, although the Fever will need her to get on the board a little more if the team hopes to hold off the Sun in the East.
Last ranking: 10
Whalen may not win the MVP this year, but she's making a pretty good case for herself as the Best Point Guard in the WNBA. Not only is she feeding assists -- at a clip of 6.0 per game (and 6.33 in three wins last week) -- to an offense that's using them like a locomotive used coal, she's getting in on the scoring, too. Her 14.3 points per game are a career-high, and she bumped that number up a little bit last week with a 14.66 ppg pace, including 24 in a win over L.A. Plus, she's grabbed four or more rebounds in four of her last five games. Maya Moore, Brunson and Augustus may steal the headlines, but Whalen's running the show.
Last ranking: 12
As always, Cappie does it all. The Liberty have grasped for consistency as a team over the past month, alternating wins and losses for six games, then winning two last week -- against the Dream and Sky -- before falling to the Mystics. But through it all, Pondexter's been a constant. If Sue Bird's been peaks and valleys (see below), Pondexter's been Iowa. Over her last eight games (including the All-Star Game), she hasn't scored fewer than 13 points or more than 21. She's had at least three assists (and no more than seven) in all but one of those games. And in all eight, she's had just one game with more than three turnovers (when she had four against the Sun on July 19.)
Last ranking: 11
If you were to chart Bird's game-by-game scoring over the past three weeks, you'd have a pretty good facsimile of a heart monitor. Every time she's gone up, she's crashed back down...then gone right back up again. In the seven games between July 3 and 19, she scored in double-figures each time. Then she scored two against San Antonio on July 21. And 18 against Phoenix a game later. Then, four against Minnesota in the next one. And after things started to look like they were stabilizing -- after scoring 29 against Tulsa, she dropped 17 and 20 in consecutive wins over the Silver Stars and Sun, respectively -- she scored four in a loss to the Dream, with six turnovers to go along with only three assists. As Bird goes, so do the Storm -- and thanks to some great performances of late, she's taken them much farther than many predicted when Lauren Jackson went down. And every time her form's fallen, she's bounced back up. Now, on Tuesday night, tune in to ESPN2 to see how she rebounds from the collapse against the Dream when the Storm take on the Liberty in a litmus test for both teams.
Last week, Lauren Hill of Mount St. Joseph University courageously took the floor for her first college game, refusing to let an inoperable brain tumor keep her from achieving her dream – and WNBA stars Elena Delle Donne and Tamika Catchings were on hand to lend their support.