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NEW YORK, June 4, 2008 —
Like every week during the season, it's time for the latest edition of the WNBA.com
Power Rankings. Yes, the Sparks narrowly retain the top spot, but who would
have thought that there would be one unbeaten team left in the league... and
that they would come from the Land of 10,000 Lakes? The East is looking top-heavy
and the defending champs finally have something to cheer about. Beyond that,
there's plenty of room for discussion.
Take a look at our full list below, then let
us know what you think in our Fan Voice. Post your own Power Rankings and
discuss them with your fellow fans.
Yes, this week saw
the Sparks' first loss of the Candace Parker era and a narrow OT victory
Wednesday in Chicago. But the Sparks are still the league's biggest, best
all-around team. When Parker fouled out against the Sky, both Lisa Leslie
and DeLisha Milton-Jones stepped up in major ways to guide the team to victory.
After a 10-24 campaign in 2007 and
a preseason injury to Lindsey Harding, did you really think Minnesota would
be the league's last unbeaten team? Rookies Candice Wiggins, Nicky Anosike
and Charde Houston are playing far beyond expectations, Seimone Augustus
is continuing the stellar kind of play that earned her a spot on the Olympic
team and Anna DeForge's veteran leadership is proving to be an important
part of keeping these youngsters happy and energized. Don Zierden gets our
Coach of the Year vote so far.
Since an opening
weekend loss to the Lynx (see above), the Shock have been a perfect 4-0.
They'll face a tough test tonight against the Storm and former Shock All-Star
Swin Cash, but Plenette Pierson has been a beast down low so far despite
not yet starting a game and Deanna Nolan looks to be recovering nicely from
an early injury. Cheryl Ford is third in the league in rebounding and could
play a major role in the paint tonight as she matches up against Lauren Jackson and Yolanda Griffith.
It's fitting that the Fever sit just
behind the Shock in the rankings, as Indiana has already twice sat just
behind Detroit when the final buzzer sounds in 2008. Yes, the historical
problem of losing to Detroit has continued this season, but a 75-46 win
over previously unbeaten Connecticut and a subsequent victory over L.A.
prove that the Fever are a force to be reckoned with. Katie Douglas may
be the league's MVP so far this season, Tan White and Ebony Hoffman have
both stepped up their scoring and Indiana has by far the league's stingiest
defense, allowing just 65.4 ppg. All of this is without Tamika Catchings,
The Sun stumbled
-- HARD -- against former star Katie Douglas and the Fever last week, but
Mike Thibault continues to get the very most out of vets Lindsay Whalen
and Tamika Whitmore, both of whom are averaging well above their career
marks in scoring. Barbara Turner has been an enormous help off the bench
since returning to the land of her college ball and Sandrine Gruda should
continue to improve as she gets more and more used to the American game.
The Storm were soundly beaten Tuesday
by the Liberty in New York and face another tough test tonight in Detroit,
but this is still a profoundly talented team. On the rare occasion when
Lauren Jackson isn't on, Sue Bird or Sheryl Swoopes or Swin Cash or Yolanda
Griffith is more than capable of stepping up. Provided everyone stays healthy,
there's no reason the Storm won't stay near the top in the West.
It's fair to assume
that the Liberty will hover around the .500 mark all season long, but in
an Eastern Conference with so much parity, that could well earn them a spot
in the playoffs. Tuesday night's win was a breakout game for Shameka Christon,
who is quietly leading the team in scoring at 15.6 ppg and shooting 48 percent
from three-point range. Rookie Essence Carson got her first start on Tuesday
and provided quickness and energy at both ends and Tiffany Jackson is showing
the speed and skill to be a dangerous post player.
Sacramento hasn't played up to the
level many expected this season, and a big reason is that their long-vaunted
defense has allowed 75.6 ppg, fifth worst in the WNBA. Couple that with
an anemic scoring average of 69.8 ppg and their record ought not be that
surprising. Rebekkah Brunson continues her surge toward WNBA stardom and
Kara Lawson has stepped nicely into a starting role. Center Adrian Williams-Strong
is having one of the better starts of her career and rookie Laura Harper
has been a solid contributor off the bench. But between getting Nicole Powell
more touches and stepping it up at the defensive end, the Monarchs still
have work to do.
The Mercury finally
earned their first win of the season -- and the first of new coach Corey
Gaines' career -- last night against the Mystics. And despite their less-than-stellar
start to the campaign, you have to be impressed with the production of Cappie Pondexter and Diana Taurasi. Both were named to the 2008 U.S. Olympic
team, they are the top two scorers in the WNBA and they have carried the
defending champs, who otherwise return only Tangela Smith, Kelly Miller,
Kelly Mazzante and Jen Derevjanik from their championship team of last year.
Tuesday's loss to the previously
winless Comets shows just how far Dan Hughes' crew has to go. Yes, they've
handled Phoenix and spanked Seattle at home, but last night's loss dropped
them to 0-3 on the road. Becky Hammon came alive with 20 points and seven
assists after several subpar performances and Sophia Young continues to
impress, but they've been without Ruth Riley for two games with a sprained
ankle and Ann Wauters is still re-adjusting to the American game.
Despite last night's
defeat and the loss for 4-6 weeks of Sylvia Fowles, who injured her
knee making a remarkable third-quarter block, the Sky should be happy with
taking the Sparks to overtime, right? "I don't want these moral victories,"
Sky coach Steven Key told the Chicago Sun-Times. "We will find
some positives out of this." How about these? (1) They stayed with
the Sparks despite only three points from Rookie of the Year Armintie Price.
(2) Two-time All-Star Candice Dupree scored her second straight double-double
and continues to put up terrific numbers. It's obvious that getting Fowles back healthy
is at the top of the priority list, but once that occurs, the Sky have the
ability to make the playoffs in the wide-open East.
Alana Beard has been
ridiculous for the Mystics after missing their opener, averaging 20.6 ppg
including a season-high 33 last night against the Mercury. And even with
solid play inside from Taj McWilliams-Franklin and Nakia Sanford, the Washington
offense has struggled to a league-low 69.0 ppg. They're getting outscored
by over six points a game on average, second worst in the league to the
Dream. Tree Rollins' crew is leading the league in three-point percentage
at .389 (including Laurie Koehn's remarkable .636 clip), but their opponents
are shooting a combined .420 from beyond the arc.
Congrats to Karleen
Thompson and her no-longer-winless Comets on their first triumph of the
season. Tina Thompson is still remarkable at age 33, a point that is backed
up by her inclusion on the Olympic team last weekend. Rookie Matee Ajavon
continues to impress (10.8 ppg) as well, but veterans Michelle Snow, Shannon Johnson and Mwadi Mabika need to be more consistent to complement the young
and more impetuous talent on the roster.
Everyone knew the Dream would struggle
in their inaugural season, and they have. But there are positives to consider:
Betty Lennox is among the league's leading scorers at 19.8 ppg. First-round
pick Tamera Young had nine points and five rebounds in her first game as
a starter last night against the Lynx, a game in which Jennifer Lacy also
tied her career-high with 16 points. Marynell Meadors has a long way to
go with this group, but there's plenty of young talent to keep things interesting
in the WNBA's newest market.
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.