Kevin Messenger has been the Fever's media relations director since 2003. The son of a high school teacher and coach in Colorado, he has traveled the country with college and pro sports teams since graduating from University of the Pacific in 1987. Somehow, he sidestepped his own teaching and coaching career by venturing into the world of sports media relations. From UNLV to Indiana State, back to Pacific, and to the University of Maryland, he has worked with virtually every sport known to mankind, and lived on both coasts and in-between. The Fever PR guy is now on Twitter -- @kmess65.

April 29, 2012

Training camp has begun! Thirteen players donned Fever blue and white practice jerseys this afternoon for the first workout of the 2012 season on the Bankers Life Fieldhouse practice court. Missing were stars Katie Douglas, Jessica Davenport and Erin Phillips due to obligations overseas, but a nice cast of returning players gave the day a taste of seasons past.

One of the day's most enjoyable observations was watching Briann January run effortlessly up and down the floor, cutting to the basket and acting as if she'd never missed the final 24 games of 2011. Back with a clean bill of health, Bri looked fresh and sharp and, no doubt, excited to be back on the court.

Two other observations that stood out were the play of first-round draft pick Sasha Goodlett and the leadership of Shannon Bobbitt. Goodlett was a beast down low and she spared no effort in getting up and down the floor during an end-of-practice scrimmage. She fills the lane at 6-5 and can certainly be of use working against other big posts in the Eastern Conference. She's young and will need to work in getting accustomed to the pace and speed of the WNBA - but her hustle getting up the floor contributed to a key steal and free throws in the final seconds of that scrimmage. Bobbitt, meanwhile, was seen coaching and instructing the rookies and free agents during the scrimmage. Bobbitt was quick to educate and help the younger players while learning the nuances of the Fever offensive sets.

Earlier in the practice, assistant coaches Stephanie White and Mickie DeMoss took turns working on offensive and defensive sets. For returners like January, Bobbitt, Tamika Catchings, Shavonte Zellous, Jeanette Pohlen and Tammy Sutton-Brown, little has changed. But for the newcomers, there are but five more days to digest and learn the new system before the Fever departs for its first preseason game - next Saturday - at San Antonio.
KM


February 8, 2012

In sports, our lives are littered with acronyms. What is an acronym, you ask?? Like I would explain to a 10-year old, it's when you use a bunch of letters together as initials, instead of using a long string of words. For instance, how often do you see Women's National Basketball Association written in a document? You don't. Instead, you see WNBA. Other examples in the sports world are NFL, MLB and NBA. Closer to home, we now refer to the Fever's wondrous arena as BLF, short for Bankers Life Fieldhouse, which used to be CFH.

So what's this talk about acronyms?

My topic today is to discuss NGWSD which, whenever I write it, I have to do it slowly to make sure I'm saying it right and get the initials in the right order!

National Girls and Women in Sports Day is now celebrated annually, usually on February 1, to recognize the great advances and growth in female sports participation in America. For the younger generation, they may ask, "why do you celebrate that?" The reason is because, for many generations, mine included, sports for girls and women were not always accepted. In fact, when you listen to Fever coach Lin Dunn, you realize that sports for women weren't even allowed. Can you imagine that?

In my lifetime, I have always known girls to have opportunities in sports, at least through high school. Heck, my dad even coached high school girls basketball teams when I was a kid. But until I attended college, I hadn't realized that women really didn't have the same opportunities. When I reached University of the Pacific in 1983, I began recognizing the differences. By then, 11 years after the passing of Title IX, I was becoming aware of advances and growth by women's sports teams. But as a student in the sports information office, and working with the women's basketball and volleyball teams, I discovered that the histories of those sports programs were minimal. Varsity teams had only begun in the '70s. Sometimes, records hadn't been kept even 5-6 years prior. I was often stunned by this, compared to the decades of history for our men's programs. The players weren't always incredibly athletic. Travel budgets, uniforms and facilities often were largely inferior to their counterparts on men's teams. Indeed, the effects of Title IX were only beginning to take shape and our women's programs were literally being constructed right before my eyes.

I have worked with men's and women's teams in my now nearly 30-year career in sports media relations. To me, sport is sport. I suppose I get that from my father who, like I mentioned, coached boys and girls teams interchangeably at the high school level. I have worked with national championship women's teams as well as an NCAA champion men's team. Now, in 2012, I can tell you that resources for women's teams are closer than ever. The talent in girls and women's sports grows significantly every year. The result is that the college game continues to grow and it is eventually reflected here in the WNBA where the rookie class each season becomes more and more extraordinary.

When Tamika Catchings came into the league and won the 2002 Rookie of the Year award, there were those who called her "the next generation." And for over 10 seasons, she has exceled at that same level and put herself among the elite players in the world. But even she will tell you that she is not the most skilled player in the league anymore. You have the likes of Candace Parker and last year's ROY Maya Moore. In 2013, the WNBA will welcome Brittany Griner. The talent level continues expanding and that is a direct reflection of greater opportunities afforded by Title IX legislation that required public institutions to provide equal opportunity and resources for women, or risk federal funding.

Title IX was passed in 1972 and so this year, too, we celebrate the 40th anniversary of its passing. When you realize that Lin Dunn began coaching in 1970, you realize the hardships she has had to endure while embarking on a career even before most schools actually had varsity teams! Her own alma mater, Tennessee-Martin, didn't have a team when she went to school. She campaigned and complained and took her interests to the university administration and, finally, the year after she graduated, UT-Martin began its first varsity program for women's basketball. By that time, Lin was beginning the program at nearby Austin Peay, but the hardships of the era were the same nationwide. It is perhaps the greatest example of why she is so widely regarded as a pioneer for this sport - and why she has been inducted into numerous halls of fame within the past few years.

On Tuesday night, Coach Dunn welcomed a group of young girls from Girls, Inc. of Shelbyville. The girls visited the Fever locker room before attending a Pacers win over Utah. She talked with the girls and shared with them the stories of driving her team to games in a beaten down station wagon; and buying uniforms that would be used for volleyball and basketball, alike. It was an educational experience for the girls and an opportunity to celebrate the growth of female sports participation.

For a great number of our WNBA players, playing professional basketball was not an option when they were in high school. There wasn't a professional league through most of the 1990s. But now, thankfully, that has changed. Girls can grow up and attend WNBA games. They can compete on their own. They can earn a college scholarship and they can work hard and prepare themselves with aspirations of making a career of their own. Women can also coach. They can aspire to be broadcasters, owners, general managers or even work in sports media relations. Opportunities for girls and women have grown immensely and we're only now beginning to see the impact of that growth.

What it means to me is that, whenever you see the long awkward acronym NGWSD ---- GIVE THANKS, even if you can't remember what it stands for.
KM


February 7, 2012

Indianapolis has had a TON of great things going on in the past two weeks and I haven't blogged through any of it!

Alas, I return to blogging this afternoon. There is certainly no way that I can write about all of the events and activities surrounding Super Bowl week in Indy, so I'll touch on just a few random samplings that involve the Fever.

Readers certainly read about Briann January and her visit to the Super Bowl Village. She set the scene on FeverBasketball.com for what would become a week's worth of events and 1.1 million visitors to the downtown area! The Village and the NFL Experience set record numbers -- and all with minimal difficulty or issues. It was a beautiful week for this great city.

On Tuesday of last week, I had the privilege of setting up interviews and taking Tamika Catchings through Radio Row at the Super Bowl's media center in the J.W. Marriott. Besides her MVP award and prowess as one of the top women's basketball players in the world, Tamika is such a great representative of our city. She was an ambassador for the 2012 Indianapolis Super Bowl Host Committee's Super Cure initiative and she also participated in a couple of events. She appeared in an NFL Experience skills contest with Colts playes Pierre Garcon and Adam Vinatieri and she later played in a celebrity basketball game with such names as Terrell Owens, Dez Bryant and musician/actor Chris Brown.

Remarkably though, Tamika's biggest appearance this month might come on Thursday of this week. She will be joining First Lady Michelle Obama as part of "Let's Move Day," in Des Moines, Iowa. The event is part of an initiative to battle against childhood obesity.

Super Bowl XLVI and the past week in Indianapolis were extraordinary. I was fortunate to be attached to a couple events in the Super Bowl Village while also working the game with Westwood One Radio. It was my first Super Bowl and I was thrilled to see Indianapolis so well accepted and appreciated for its efforts. Though it was my first and we can certainly acknowledge our luck with the weather, I heard several media people suggest it was one of the best they had ever attended. I, personally, and the Fever, were proud to be a small part of the festivities.

Later this week, I'll discuss the re-signing of Erin Phillips as well as the Fever's event on Tuesday night surrounding National Girls and Women in Sports Day.
KM


January 27, 2012

Man, what a cool afternoon I got to spend with Briann January on Thursday! And Fever fans are going to get to see how we spent it this weekend!

First, let me reveal the good news. Short of issuing a press release, let's consider this blog as the announcement that Briann is back! She was cleared to play again by team doctors after tests on Thursday morning! Bri will be in Indianapolis during much of the spring to continue some rehab and training for the upcoming season. She won't play overseas for the rest of this winter, but she is cleared to play again with her knee fully healed from surgery last summer.

Knowing that Bri was going to be in town and knowing that Super Bowl activity was heating up right outside our office walls, I invited Bri and our website producer, Tamba Samba, to tape a new segment of Bri-TV! I actually scouted some of the sights of the Super Bowl Village along Georgia Street on Thursday morning, expecting us to tape a couple small segments. I anticipated 2-3 segments and 20-30 minutes of taping.

Boy, did I get that wrong!

Bri loved it! The Village was hopping with final preparations and you could see just about everything taking shape for the next 9-10 days of madness. Bri and Tamba loved it so much that nearly three hours were spent browsing the three-block area and taping multiple segments. And Fever fans should be able to see just about all of it when her Bri-TV Super Bowl episode hits FeverBasketball.com this weekend!

I won't spoil the details, except to say she was distraught at noticing a San Francisco 49ers street sign. The 49ers are her favorite team and, well, as everyone knows, they fell just shy of landing in Indianapolis next week, themselves. But besides her great news from doctors that morning, her spirits were lifted by the Super Bowl Village - and lifted, literally, by a ride on the zip line to end the day!
KM


January 18, 2012

Time is just flying by these days, isn't it? I can't believe it's mid-January. Within two weeks, we'll be knee-deep in Super Bowl hoopla here in downtown Indianapolis and only a month after that, we'll already have dove into March Madness with Big Ten men's and women's basketball tournaments here at The Fieldhouse!

To keep the conversation going about Jeanette Pohlen who took time last week for a short Q&A with FeverBasketball.com, I wanted to examine just where her 2011 season fits with past Fever rookies. Indeed, she joined Tamika Catchings as the only Fever rookies ever to lead the WNBA in a season statistical category. But how close was she to Catchings' rookie success? How about any others?

The first thing to note is that no other Fever rookie can come close to comparing with Catchings' magical campaign of 2002. The '02 WNBA Rookie of the Year led the league in steals and ranked among league leaders in virtually every statistical category, like she does every year! She was the runner-up in balloting for MVP and Defensive Player of the Year. So we'll place Tamika as having the best rookie season in Fever history. But where should Pohlen rank?

Besides leading the WNBA with 46.8 percent 3-point accuracy, she averaged 3.9 points, 1.4 rebounds and 1.0 assist per game. She was one of just three players to appear in all 34 regular season games and made two starts - replacing Tangela Smith on one occasion and Katie Douglas on the other. The Fever's first-round draft pick (9th overall), Jeanette's rookie summer falls in a class with Briann January (2009), Tan White (2005), Ebony Hoffman (2004), Coretta Brown (2003) and Niele Ivey (2001).

It is tough to compare players between the Fever's non-playoff era (Brown and Ivey) and its current playoff era with seven straight playoff appearances since 2005. For instance, might Pohlen or January have been relied upon a great deal more during their rookie campaigns without a stable lineup with four All-Stars? Probably so.

Statistically, Jeanette falls near the low end of the comparison with 3 of 5 having more points per game - White (7.1), January (6.9), Brown (6.2), Ivey (3.6) and Hoffman (2.0). Ivey didn't score as much, but she started 26 games during what was the franchise's second season. But what impact did each of these six players have? What role did they play relative to her teammates?

If Catchings is No. 1 overall, I'm going to rank Bri and Tan White as 2 and 3. Tan could have started on that 2005 team, but instead played the super-sub role while finishing fourth on the team in scoring. By comparison, she hit 25-of-81 3-pointers (.309) and had a whopping 70 turnovers. Bri played in 33 games with four starts, hit 25-of-87 (.287) 3-point attempts and had 57 turnovers. But why I give Bri the No. 2 ranking is based on her impact in the playoffs and, specifically, the WNBA Finals. No other Fever rookie has reached the Finals to make any comparison, but the impact she had in helping Indiana reach the Finals is reason enough.

I am ranking Jeanette's rookie season as a No. 4/5 tie with Coretta Brown. You'll see their numbers are remarkably similar and where Coretta's are higher, Jeanette's could well have been higher if not playing during the playoff era. Then again, it's worth considering that Coretta played in just a 32-game season -- and on a team that missed the playoffs on the final day of the season. Conveniently, they both played the same position -- coming off the bench mostly as a "2" guard but with backup capability at the point.

Coretta had a relatively short career despite her great rookie season. She started 30 games with two starts (compared to 34 and 2 for Jeanette). She shot 36-of-100 3-pointers (.360), finishing second to Catchings in 3-pointers made and attempted. She had a 26-point game at Connecticut which, shared by Tan White, is the most by a Fever rookie besides Catchings. For comparison's sake, she contributed 21 steals with 36 turnovers. Pohlen had 13 steals and 21 turnovers. Brown played 522 minutes, Pohlen 539.

Pohlen is the more steady player of the two and Brown the more explosive. Jeanette played in more big games than Brown and she was a drop-dead shooter off the bench that helped an Indiana playoff team remain a solid contender. Coretta, though, was a slashing scorer like Tan White who nearly lifted Indiana to the playoffs, but for a home loss to Connecticut on the final Sunday of the year.

I was disappointed that Coretta's career didn't last longer, but she was much smaller in stature at a time that the talent in the women's game was exploding (and the league contracting). Jeanette, however, is a much bigger and stronger guard than Coretta, with college experience at the point.

Where will Jeanette's career go from here? At the least, she could be a regular staple for the Fever longer than the three WNBA seasons served by Coretta Brown. Of those players compared above, the '04 and '05 draft picks of Ebony Hoffman and Tan White were very strong. Though not still with the Fever, both are still in the league and both remain among Fever career leaders in many statistical categories. Including Briann January in 2009, Pohlen's 2011 draft selection could join Hoffman and White -- and Tamika Catchings -- among the best draft picks in Indiana history.
KM


January 9, 2012

I write to you this morning with a little extra "hop" in my step! I am, for those who don't already know, a native of Denver, Colo. And thus, yes, I am by birth a Denver Broncos fanatic! Can you believe that finish to last night's playoff game? As I tweeted immediately after the 80-yard pass play that ended the contest on the first play of overtime --- "WOW, JUST WOW!"

As I thought of writing this blog last night after the euphoria died down, I tried to figure how in the world this Fever PR guy could talk Broncos in today's blog. The truth is, it's probably not applicable. However, I might take that excitement and optimism from last night's game and apply it to the Fever star I have intended to write about!

Briann January was a flash of excitement and optimism for the Fever when, after being drafted in the first round of the 2009 WNBA Draft, she came off the bench to average 10.6 points and 3.0 assists per game during the playoffs of her rookie campaign. She had a 12-point scoring average in the WNBA Finals that year including a 17-point effort in Game 3 of The Finals in Indianapolis. She was almost immediately ordained as the Fever's point guard of the future.

The following year, she started the first two games of the season, only to be replaced as a starter in Game 3 by Tully Bevilaqua. She wound up playing in 30 games of the 2010 season and she averaged 7.4 points and 3.1 assists. At the end of the year, again, she was proclaimed to be the point guard of the future.

By her third season, Bri appeared ready to take the reigns and play the role as the Fever's "quarterback." And after an 0-for-11 shooting night and a less-than-desired-3-point effort in a season-opening win over Chicago, she caught her stride. She scored in double figures in five of the next seven games, including a 12-point, 10-assist double-double on June 14 against Tulsa. Indiana was 6-3 through nine games including a dramatic road win on June 26 against eventual champion Minnesota.

Then disaster struck.

In the second half of a Fever win against Phoenix, on June 28, Bri collapsed to the floor in front of the Mercury bench with a torn ACL in her right knee. She was done for the season. The 24-year old future star was derailed with the first injury of her life. But, important to the Fever staff and its fans is how she has reacted to her situation!

The resilient Fever used athletic combo guard Erin Phillips to admirably fill the point position through the remainder of the 2011 season while January dealt with - and attacked - her rehabilitation.

Within days of her surgery, Bri was riding a bike, walking and even near-jogging. Mind you, the ACL impacts mostly lateral movement, so Bri's forward motion was not as severely limited. However, her range of motion was astounding. At least that is what I heard all summer from our coaching and training staff.

Bri has passed test after test and continues meeting all of her rehabilitation goals. In a conversation I had with her last week, she talked about beginning to strengthen the knee and doing some basketball conditioning on the court.

I asked her the possibility of being ready in time for any action overseas, prior to the WNBA season in May. She said it had been considered, but that she and her doctors, and presumably the Fever staff, have suggested a more long-term approach meaning that she likely won't play much before Fever training camp begins.

Bri is a very dynamic player who was beginning to find her place in the WNBA. She has been very positive in her approach to rehab and it helped that she was surrounded by her teammates all of last summer. She will begin her fourth year in the league this season and should be on pace to become a regular contributor again. One looming question that fans may have is, "who will be the starting point guard?"

In theory, either Bri or Erin could start at the point; and both are versatile as combo guards that they could probably share the backcourt together. However, with the 2012 Olympics looming and considering Erin's place on the Australian team, it is likely that she could miss parts of the season. [And, she, too, is recovering from arthroscopic surgery from an injury sustained in Poland.]

Barring further setback, Bri should be in position to contend for that starting spot again. Her progress certainly will be something to watch this spring.
KM


January 5, 2012

In the past two days, we have seen two coaching changes in the WNBA. Wednesday, the Tulsa Shock announced former Fever assistant Gary Kloppenburg as its new coach. On Thursday, the Los Angeles Sparks named former Atlanta assistant Carol Ross as its new coach.

One thing that both hirings have in common is the naming of longtime assistants with quality teams to their first pro head coaching positions. Kloppenburg was a longtime assistant here in Indiana whose teams won the Eastern Conference twice and reached the WNBA playoffs in four straight seasons. Ross' three-year tenure in Atlanta was very similar, helping the Dream to a pair of WNBA Finals out of the Eastern Conference.

Rather than hire from a list of recycled former WNBA head coaches, or from a selection of college or NBA candidates, both the Sparks and Shock drew from very firmly established and successful teams - the Fever and the Dream. Kloppenburg and Ross both will be welcomed to new cities, but neither will have much of a learning curve when it comes to learning their new teams; or knowing personnel across the league; or scouting for free agents or college prospects. Both should be able to hit the ground running -- which will certainly be important as the WNBA approaches its season of free agency.

Speaking of free agency, teams may begin speaking (negotiating) with restricted and unrestricted free agents on Jan. 15. February 1 is the date which teams may begin signing any new players. Indiana will certainly be active in this market, as always, so be sure to stay tuned in coming weeks for player movement with the Fever and around the league. WNBA.com annually posts a page with player movement that lists all trades and free agent signings which should be active shortly.

The core of the Fever roster probably won't change much, as Indiana prepares for an eighth consecutive playoff berth and once again makes a bid to reach the WNBA Finals. And just as Kelly Krauskopf added Tangela Smith as a key free agent in 2011, fans can expect Indiana to be active in trying to lure some top players again.

Also on the horizon is the announcement of the league's 2012 regular season schedule, which could be coming within the next week or two. I have actually seen the new Fever schedule, though not all dates are final across the league. What we do know, in order to accommodate the 2012 London Olympics, is that the regular season will begin in late May and there will be a month-long break during the second half of the season.

Beyond free agency, of course, is the annual WNBA Draft which still is over three months away. And interesting this year is that the date of the draft, April 16, is later than it ever has been. Typically, the draft date closely follows the NCAA national championship game. Last year, the national title game was conducted on the Fever's home court on April 5 and the draft took place April 11. This year, the NCAA title will be decided on April 3 with the draft almost two weeks later. Rookies will arrive in their new cities for training camp barely a week after their draft selection.

It's still winter time in Indianapolis, but the seasons are changing.
KM


January 4, 2012

My sincerest congratulations and heartfelt best wishes are offered to Gary Kloppenburg. I know that I speak for the entire Indiana Fever franchise when I wish him the best of luck with his new head coaching gig in Tulsa. I also know that the entire Fever franchise would echo my sentiment that Gary deserves this opportunity.

Klop, as he is known universally within our franchise, is a worker. He knows the WNBA and its personnel inside and out. He has scouted the college game and he will work endlessly to get the job done.

He has played the loyal assistant's role under Lin Dun for seven seasons, between here and Seattle. He also was with the Phoenix Mercury for one season and with the NBA's Charlotte Bobcats for three. He has helped develop players - male and female - in the CBA and internationally. He and his dad, Bob, who was a longtime NBA assistant coach himself, have traveled internationally conducting clinics and helping develop coaches worldwide. In short, Gary Kloppenburg has paid his dues.

Klop is a player's coach in that he will do everything within his means to assist in the development of his athletes. He will take time as a communicator with them and he'll work tirelessly to ensure they get the attention that they need and deserve. Klop was always the first Fever assistant onto the floor prior to any game or practice, when it meant passing to players and providing extra work. Likewise, he always was the last coach off the floor for the same purpose. Klop always had a singular message with his players during his summer months in Indianapolis - "call me if you want to get any shots up."

Klop was always the practice defender when post players needed to be challenged during a particular drill. He was the passer and motivator for any perimeter player putting up shots or working on moves. He was a constant. His efforts and even his demeanor never changed. While writing this "Ode to Kloppenburg," I am challenging myself to ever remember a time when Klop was ever angry, emotional, upset or miffed by anything. Certainly, yes, like any coach, he was bothered by losses or poor performance. But in my four years with Klop, it is difficult to recall any of those moments. He wore his struggles on his sleeve in much the same manner that he celebrated his successes - very calmly.

The laid-back native of San Diego was often the most casual in any setting, whether with staff or with players. I often kidded him that if it was at least 60 degrees, I knew he'd be in flip-flops just about any time that he wasn't on the court, whether for game or practice. His demeanor was casual and he very rarely displayed much emotion - except for the trademark smile and grin.

He was assertive when he needed to be and other coaches, staff and players took notice. The man spoke from experience and passion, and his dedication was earned. He may be mild mannered, but his message was certainly heard. When Klop speaks, people listen.

For someone who practiced what he preached; for someone who treated people as they would wish to be treated; and for someone who put in his dues in every level of the game, I wish Gary Kloppenburg all the success in the world. I hope the Tulsa Shock go 32-2 next season - those two losses coming, of course, at the hands of the Indiana Fever. I would love to see a Fever-Shock matchup in the WNBA Finals.

My favorite Kloppenburg memories often came while kidding him about the flip-flops and his relaxed, Southern California mentality. Or kidding him about his favorite sports teams -- which usually included any and every team that claimed the West Coast as its home. At one point or another, I think he identified the San Diego Chargers, San Francisco 49ers, Oakland Raiders and Seattle Seahawks as his favorite NFL team. By the same token, I know that I have heard him proclaim the San Diego Padres, L.A. Dodgers, L.A. Angels, Oakland A's and Seattle Mariners all to be his favorite baseball team. C'mon, Klop!! You can't claim the entire coast as your favorite!

Another fond memory came during what was an 11-hour road trip between Tulsa and Indiana. Following the Fever's first venture to Tulsa in 2010, Klop joined Chris Denari and I on an all-night drive back from Tulsa, in order to get Denari on the air for the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway the next morning. I guess it is fitting that Klop return as Tulsa's new coach because he was, in part, responsible for the team's first home win at BOK Center. Yes, the Shock beat Indiana 79-74 for the franchise's first win in Tulsa, barely 24 hours after the Shock-Fever trade that landed Shavonte Zellous. Following the loss, Klop, Denari and I - along with most of Zellous' personal belongings - boarded our rental SUV for that memorable overnight drive along I-44 and I-70.

Gary Kloppenburg has certainly deserved this head coaching gig and we all congratulate him. We'll stay in touch and we'll wish him well. He also owns distinction as the first Fever assistant coach ever to leave the franchise at the call of a head coaching position elsewhere.

To Klop - congratulations. You deserve this. We're rooting for you 32 games per year!
KM


December 30, 2011

On the day before New Year’s Eve and without having offered specific Christmas wishes for each of our Indiana Fever players and coaches, I figured it appropriate to offer a few New Year’s wishes!

First, let’s look back to 2011 and congratulate Tamika Catchings once more. The elusive and long-awaited MVP award was much-deserved and as much appreciated by the Fever franchise and fan base. What gift can you wish for the talented woman who’s seemingly got everything? For Tamika, I can offer three big wishes --- a WNBA championship, a third Olympic gold medal and another big endorsement or advancement for her Catch The Stars Foundation.

Speaking of championships, so many of our Fever stars and staff are deserving. In particular, my thoughts focus on GM and franchise-architect Kelly Krauskopf; veteran coach Lin Dunn; All-Star sharpshooter Katie Douglas; and veteran center Tammy Sutton-Brown. With Catchings, together, this core has led the Fever franchise through the past four seasons and beginning a fifth in 2012. But that would be the easy way out, for me to offer the same gift to everyone!

For Krauskopf and the franchise, I wish for an Opening Night sellout crowd, still another 20-win season, an eighth straight playoff appearance and another trip to the WNBA Finals.

For Dunn, I wish for a powerful, dominant rebounder. Whether a power forward or center, I wish for a go-to post player to contribute 10 boards and 10 points nightly.

For Douglas, another All-Star campaign with a scoring binge of 20 and 30-point scoring games to challenge her own single-game scoring record.

And for Sutton-Brown, a publisher and another successful book in the Cree & Scooter children’s series she began in 2011.

For Tangela Smith, I’ll wish for yet another year of good health and as many trips as she needs to her fountain of youth!

For Smith’s Turkish teammate Jeanette Pohlen, what better gift to wish for a rookie 3-point champion? How about another year of WNBA-leading 3-pointers?

For Shannon Bobbitt, I’d love to wish for a few more inches of height. But, for the diminutive star whose spark and fire are probably drawn from her deep-seeded motivation to succeed despite her stature (trust me, I understand this – I just never had her athletic talents!), I wish for another season as Indiana’s reserve point guard.

For Shavonte Zellous, I wish for more trips to the foul line. As a rookie with Detroit, she was second in the WNBA in FTs. In a more regimented system and as a backup to Katie Douglas, Shavonte doesn’t get as many looks as she did in her first season in the league. For her, I wish for more chances to create, more chances to score and more chances to drive to the bucket.

For Briann January, my New Year’s wishes are simple. For Bri, besides another season of Bri-TV, I wish for a healthy return to the playing floor where she can again become the combo guard that helped the Fever through the 2009 WNBA Finals.

For one of Bri’s best friends, Jessica Davenport, I wish for more aggression. Dav showed glimpses in 2011 of becoming more assertive offensively. My hopes for JDav are to become still more assertive on offense and equally as dominant on defense.

For Bri’s backcourt mate Erin Phillips, I wish for another game-winning bucket, an additional 2.0 points for game and one fewer turnover per game. Erin was outstanding not just as a point guard fill-in last year, but as a leader and key figure in the Fever’s seventh straight playoff berth. No matter what shape the backcourt takes next season, Phillips’ strength and athleticism can be a key for any team in the WNBA. Further, I’ll also wish her success and a possible starting assignment with the Australian Olympic Team.

Last but not least, for Ben Davis grad Shyra Ely, I wish for a continued great season in Switzerland and continued improvements after missing all of 2010.

Knowing that the Fever will add at least a first-round draft pick this spring and knowing that through free agency, the Fever stands to gain or lose at least one player – the 11 players mentioned may not all return to Indiana. For those who don’t, I still wish them the best of luck in 2012. For those who do, and for all the fans and staff of the Indiana Fever and Pacers Sports & Entertainment, I wish you all a very happy, safe and healthy year in 2012.

See you at The Fieldhouse!
KM


December 29, 2011

Told you I'd be back! Yes, just one morning after proclaiming my resolution to blog more frequently, I am starting my day with more thoughts! Today, though, I'll share some random thoughts as the NBA season gets underway and our WNBA stars prepare to return to their teams around the globe.

  • Congrats to the Indiana Pacers and everyone in this great organization. After recent years of some struggle for a large variety of reasons, Pacers management has persevered and worked extremely hard for this opportunity to re-build its product. Money was available to spend during the recent offseason and the acquisition of veteran center David West was a huge get for David Morway and Larry Bird. So far, the Pacers are 2-0 with a great sellout crowd on opening night. Friday night vs. Cleveland should bring another great, raucous crowd into Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Hopefully, Indiana can begin 3-0!

  • Speaking of Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the home to the Pacers and the Fever, a great many of our staff within Pacers Sports & Entertainment and our friends with Sport Graphics, deserve high praise for this building's changeover within the past week. Since the Fieldhouse's name change last week, virtually every piece of signage was changed almost instantly. Certainly there will be references to the former name that still need to be changed - somewhere - but those will be few and far between. For such a massive undertaking to be made so swiftly and so seamlessly - and virtually without notice - lots of credit is deserved within our Facilities and Corporate Partnership divisions.

  • I tweeted with Jessica Davenport and Shyra Ely yesterday as some of our Fever players are headed back overseas to start 2012. Shyra will return to Switzerland where she has played since November. Dav, though, is returning to Vologda, Russia where she played last winter. She stayed stateside in her home of Columbus, Ohio, for the past couple of months and has returned to Russia just this week where she'll play in the same league as Katie Douglas.

  • Only Tamika Catchings, Briann January and Tammy Sutton-Brown are not playing overseas currently. We'll update our Overseas page on the website during the first week of January when play resumes in most leagues, but here is a look at where our other Fever stars currently are located:
    Russia - Jessica Davenport (Vologda) and Katie Douglas (Orenburg)
    Turkey - Shannon Bobbitt (Antakya), Jeanette Pohlen (Tarsus), Tangela Smith (Tarsus) and Shavonte Zellous (Mersin)
    Poland - Erin Philips (Krakow)
    Switzerland - Shyra Ely (Helios)

    Ely, in particular, has been playing well overseas. In her final game before the holiday break, she scored 22 points with 12 rebounds in a win over Bassel, keeping Helios in first place in the Swiss League. She is currently the fourth-leading scorer in the league with 21.3 points per game.

    Stay tuned for a Friday update, but for those who miss it, have a happy and safe New Year's holiday!
    KM


    December 28, 2011

    It is WAY past time to update my blog, so here I am four days before the new year going to make my first and only New Years resolution --- I will blog more frequently! I also know that I have said that before. This time, I want to say that I’ll even blog daily. I won’t make that a promise and often, I am sure that nobody would want to even read what I have to say every day! But alas, in this world of social media, content is content; and content is valuable. And thus, even if it may not be Fever-related on occasion, yes, that will be my plan. So, if it winds up being 3 to 4 times per week, that’s certainly better than my once per month frequency since the 2011 Fever season ended!

    Without further adieu, I’ll wish everyone a Happy Holiday season and offer the warmest of wishes for the upcoming new year. Personally, I spent a week of family Christmas gatherings during the week before the holiday, then my fiancé (Melissa) and I spent three relaxing days together in Nashville, Tenn. OK, so for those who don’t know me, now I’ve spilt the beans. Melissa and I have been engaged for a year now, and we’ll celebrate our marriage in early April, just before the WNBA Draft and the start of the 2012 WNBA season. Her 10-year old daughter, Madison, has become a Fever fan and a participant in occasional camps and clinics conducted by Tamika Catchings.

    So that is what’s new in my world! Can I blame Melissa and Madison for my lack of writing over the past two months? No, that wouldn’t be either fair or accurate.

    Currently, as I return to semi-normalcy this week from my desk inside the newly-named Bankers Life Fieldhouse, I am working to repair a spreadsheet I use to compile statistics for the many college prospects the Fever staff is following the upcoming draft. A recent upgrade to Microsoft Office 2010 has been wonderful and I should thank the IT staff with Pacers Sports & Entertainment. However, one of the basic functions which I rely on very heavily, has changed in the new version and I’ve been stumped for two days trying to get this spreadsheet to work as I need it to! So, in my moments of frustration and wanting to do something productive rather than continue banging my head against the wall, that was my motivation to change gears and write today’s blog!

    Tomorrow and Friday I’ll discuss some of what may be new in Feverland in 2012. Check back tomorrow for a new edition!
    KM

    November 29, 2011

    As the calendar has moved past Thanksgiving and reaches December this week, it is time to give a little thanks and recognition.

    First, let’s be thankful for our health and families – and the ability to love our lives in sports. We all are very fortunate and we should be appreciative for our freedoms. Along the same lines, we should also add a little bit of reflection and offer our thoughts and prayers to the families of those involved in the recent Oklahoma State plane crash. OSU women’s head coach Kurt Budke and assistant coach Miranda Serna were among four who died in a Nov. 17 crash during a recruiting visit to Arkansas. To the OSU and women’s college basketball communities, life was a little more about family and a little less about basketball the past few weeks.

    But speaking of the women’s college game, I want to be sure that our Fever community is aware of a recent advance by our TV analyst Debbie Antonelli. She has grown her college basketball podcast into becoming a new contributor on ESPNW.com and ESPN.com (please be sure that this URL - http://sports.espn.go.com/espnradio/podcast/archive?id=7252135 - is hyperlinked to “ESPNW.com and ESPN.com”).

    Debbie has teamed with Chris Denari on Fever television broadcasts since 2001. She has made her name in the women’s basketball world, though, by becoming one of the most highly-respected analysts in the college game. Besides annually calling the NCAA Women’s Final Four on Westwood One Radio, she is the lead TV analyst for at least three major conferences (ACC, Big XII and SEC among them). She spends the traditional winter basketball season on the road almost constantly, doing most of her work on FOX and ESPN affiliated networks.

    Many years ago, she joined forces with longtime broadcast partner Beth Mowins, to originate the “Shootaround with Beth & Debbie” podcast that was produced by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA). FeverBasketball.com has made reference to many of those podcasts and Debbie has been a regular blog contributor to the Fever website. The weekly podcast was carried on WBCA.com and, together, Beth and Debbie grew the product to the point that it is a highly regarded, regular voice in the world of women’s college basketball.

    Congratulations to Beth and Debbie, both, on the continued growth of the Shootaround podcast. It is a tribute to their dedication to the sport.
    KM

    August 13, 2011

    It has been sorely lacking this summer, but alas, here again is another blog by your Fever PR guy. Fortunately, the Fever has had lots of good news this summer, so missing a Straight From The Messenger blog probably hasn’t been too tough on any of you.

    But it is time to discuss some of the Fever’s good news and so, what better time to unveil a new blog?

    The calendar has reached mid-August and the Indiana Fever is clinging to a 1 ½-game lead in the WNBA’s Eastern Conference. Amazingly, after winning 7 of 8 heading into tonight’s contest, the lead is only 1 ½ games over second-place Connecticut.

    Tonight is a big night. And for a lot of very, very good reasons.

    First, in a basketball sense, Indiana can extend its lead to 2 games with a win, and create a 3 ½-game gap between first and third place, where the Liberty currently reside. New York is playing on the second night of a back-to-back road swing, following a loss Friday night at Washington. The Liberty is always explosive with Cappie Pondexter pulling the trigger, but in front of an anticipated large crowd tonight at Conseco Fieldhouse, an inspired defensive effort could help the Fever to its eighth win in nine games.

    Let’s just say that happens, just for fun and sake of conversation … should the Fever win tonight, Indiana would reduce its magic number to clinch a playoff spot to just 4. That means any combination of 4 – Fever wins, or losses by Chicago (the current 5th place team) – would land Indiana in the playoffs for a seventh consecutive season. It’s fun to begin calculating those numbers with more than 10 games left in the regular season!

    Here is another nice note … Fever coach Lin Dunn is just two wins shy of tying Brian Winters for the most wins by a coach in Fever history! She has 76 entering tonight’s game. Brian had 78 through four seasons (2004-07).

    And speaking of Lin, that leads me right into why tonight is such a big night of celebration for this franchise.

    Breast Health Awareness, as you all know, is a very significant of both the WNBA and the Indiana Fever. Last year’s initial postgame live auction raised more than $44,000 for breast cancer research. Tonight, hopefully, Fever fans will eclipse that mark, and certainly Lin will play a large role by auctioning the customary pink hat she’ll wear on the sidelines, in addition to a pair of personal cooking and coaching experiences she will share with top-bidding fans.

    What’s more, there also is a silent auction that takes place on the Main Concourse from the time the doors open, through halftime. Those proceeds benefit Indy’s Super Cure, a community initiative of the 2012 Indianapolis Super Bowl Host Committee that promotes tissue donation at the Komen Tissue Bank.

    Tonight is a big night. I’m about to change into my own pink shirt and tie, and I know the arena will be filled in pink this evening. From pink jerseys to pink shoes, pink ties and pink caps and outfits – to pink program covers and pink décor around Conseco Fieldhouse.

    Hopefully all the pink can bring the Fever another “W” this evening and create a literal win-win for the team and our community.
    KM

    June 23, 2011

    Tuesday night’s Fever win in Washington was really a great win for the club. For that matter, holding onto the late lead in Phoenix two nights earlier should also have been a great win, but let’s face it … three games in five days on a cross-country trip is a tough journey. To salvage the trip with a win against an Eastern Conference opponent and while playing without Katie Douglas was a very good sign for this team.

    Indiana sits 4-3 entering weekend play. A 5-2 record would have looked much nicer and, for sake of this blog, I’m looking at us like we’re worthy of being a 5-2 team.

    Saturday, the Fever hosts Connecticut (4-1), who currently is in first place in the East prior to its Thursday game in Chicago. Mike Thibault will have his team ready to play in Indy, certainly. But should Chicago (3-3) happen to beat the Sun this evening, Indiana would have a chance to take over first place with a Saturday night win.

    Is the Fever a first-place team?

    Here is why I say “yes!”

    • Experience. Yes, and some critics might say Indiana is old. Blah, blah, blah – these players have just entered their 30s, not their 40s. To their point, yes, an injury kept Douglas from playing at Washington; and Tammy Sutton-Brown and Tangela Smith both saw very few minutes at Washington. But perhaps those points lead wonderfully into my next two arguments of depth and balance.

    • Depth. The fact that Lin Dunn is able to go 11 players deep in her lineup without missing a beat is really remarkable. No matter the circumstances, the Fever seems to have the personnel to match the task at hand. Numbers-wise, an injury here or an illness there may not be much of a factor during short stretches this season. Indiana has got 11 players capable of seeing substantial minutes – and performing, not just seeing court time. When Shavonte Zellous came off the bench Tuesday, she played 30 minutes and scored 21 points. She was the eighth Fever player this season to score in double figures. Prior to Tuesday’s game, she had logged a total of just 27 minutes with seven points.

    Perhaps the greatest depth is in the post where Jessica Davenport looms as the club’s third-leading scorer (11.3ppg). If Tamika Catchings plays the power forward slot, that leaves Smith, Sutton-Brown and Davenport to share minutes at the center spot. That allows Dunn to play the hot hand. That allows Dunn to rest the so-called aging veterans. That allows Smith and Sutton-Brown to shine in spots where they are needed. That allows Davenport to shine as perhaps the best sixth-man in the WNBA.

    Different players have stepped up when they have been needed. Call it timely; call it rising to the occasion; call it good coaching or even good guessing. I don’t care what you call it, the fact of the matter is that Davenport, Zellous, Jeanette Pohlen, Erin Phillips, Shannon Bobbitt and Shyra Ely all played substantial minutes over the past 4 to 5 games. Davenport, Zellous, Pohlen and Phillips each were stars during key moments of those games.

    • Balance and Versatility. I mentioned Catchings seeing time at the “4” or power forward position. That’s not uncommon and, in fact, Catchings has seen time at the “3” and “4” positions throughout her career. While the presence of Smith, Sutton-Brown and Davenport allow the Fever to play bigger than they have in years past, playing Catchings at the “4” allows greater versatility and athleticism. And as a counterpoint to those arguing that the 31-year old Catchings is suddenly too old to continue posting All-Star numbers, note that as a “4” she will spend less time chasing other team’s perimeter players. Named four times as the league’s top defender, she will be equally effective closer to the basket.

    Over the past few games, due in part to Douglas’ lower back injury, we have seen Briann January, Shannon Bobbitt and Erin Phillips each play the point. And Pohlen can play there for minutes at a time, also. January is clearly this team’s point guard, but her ability to play the “2” allows Bobbitt or Phillips to log minutes at the same time. Depending on matchups or who has the hot hand, Dunn can go in a variety of directions. Pohlen’s versatility allows her to play the “1,” “2” or “3” positions – as she did so admirably while scoring 17 points in place of Douglas at Phoenix last Sunday. Moving Catchings to the power forward allows for Dunn to take advantage of her deep and versatile bench.

    With Douglas, the Fever is obviously a better team than without. Certainly, Dunn is hoping for a return from the superstar this weekend. Having the ability to employ those other six players off the bench was a key to letting Douglas rest against the Mystics. Dunn’s ability to use all 11 players will go a long way to keeping the veterans healthy. Perhaps a game or two will be missed here and there … but in any event, the Fever seems to have the ability to replace, recover and re-align its lineup to fit the challenges it faces.

    On tap are three games in four days again – East-leading Connecticut at home on Saturday; at West-leading Minnesota on Sunday; back home again for Phoenix next Tuesday. There will no resting for the Fever as they pursue an eventual first-place tag themselves.

    Tuesday night’s Fever win in Washington was really a great win for the club. For that matter, holding onto the late lead in Phoenix two nights earlier should also have been a great win, but let’s face it … three games in five days on a cross-country trip is a tough journey. To salvage the trip with a win against an Eastern Conference opponent and while playing without Katie Douglas was a very good sign for this team.

    Indiana sits 4-3 entering weekend play. A 5-2 record would have looked much nicer and, for sake of this blog, I’m looking at us like we’re worthy of being a 5-2 team.

    Saturday, the Fever hosts Connecticut (4-1), who currently is in first place in the East prior to its Thursday game in Chicago. Mike Thibault will have his team ready to play in Indy, certainly. But should Chicago (3-3) happen to beat the Sun this evening, Indiana would have a chance to take over first place with a Saturday night win.

    Is the Fever a first-place team?

    Here is why I say “yes!”

    • Experience. Yes, and some critics might say Indiana is old. Blah, blah, blah – these players have just entered their 30s, not their 40s. To their point, yes, an injury kept Douglas from playing at Washington; and Tammy Sutton-Brown and Tangela Smith both saw very few minutes at Washington. But perhaps those points lead wonderfully into my next two arguments of depth and balance.

    • Depth. The fact that Lin Dunn is able to go 11 players deep in her lineup without missing a beat is really remarkable. No matter the circumstances, the Fever seems to have the personnel to match the task at hand. Numbers-wise, an injury here or an illness there may not be much of a factor during short stretches this season. Indiana has got 11 players capable of seeing substantial minutes – and performing, not just seeing court time. When Shavonte Zellous came off the bench Tuesday, she played 30 minutes and scored 21 points. She was the eighth Fever player this season to score in double figures. Prior to Tuesday’s game, she had logged a total of just 27 minutes with seven points.

    Perhaps the greatest depth is in the post where Jessica Davenport looms as the club’s third-leading scorer (11.3ppg). If Tamika Catchings plays the power forward slot, that leaves Smith, Sutton-Brown and Davenport to share minutes at the center spot. That allows Dunn to play the hot hand. That allows Dunn to rest the so-called aging veterans. That allows Smith and Sutton-Brown to shine in spots where they are needed. That allows Davenport to shine as perhaps the best sixth-man in the WNBA.

    Different players have stepped up when they have been needed. Call it timely; call it rising to the occasion; call it good coaching or even good guessing. I don’t care what you call it, the fact of the matter is that Davenport, Zellous, Jeanette Pohlen, Erin Phillips, Shannon Bobbitt and Shyra Ely all played substantial minutes over the past 4 to 5 games. Davenport, Zellous, Pohlen and Phillips each were stars during key moments of those games.

    • Balance and Versatility. I mentioned Catchings seeing time at the “4” or power forward position. That’s not uncommon and, in fact, Catchings has seen time at the “3” and “4” positions throughout her career. While the presence of Smith, Sutton-Brown and Davenport allow the Fever to play bigger than they have in years past, playing Catchings at the “4” allows greater versatility and athleticism. And as a counterpoint to those arguing that the 31-year old Catchings is suddenly too old to continue posting All-Star numbers, note that as a “4” she will spend less time chasing other team’s perimeter players. Named four times as the league’s top defender, she will be equally effective closer to the basket.

    Over the past few games, due in part to Douglas’ lower back injury, we have seen Briann January, Shannon Bobbitt and Erin Phillips each play the point. And Pohlen can play there for minutes at a time, also. January is clearly this team’s point guard, but her ability to play the “2” allows Bobbitt or Phillips to log minutes at the same time. Depending on matchups or who has the hot hand, Dunn can go in a variety of directions. Pohlen’s versatility allows her to play the “1,” “2” or “3” positions – as she did so admirably while scoring 17 points in place of Douglas at Phoenix last Sunday. Moving Catchings to the power forward allows for Dunn to take advantage of her deep and versatile bench.

    With Douglas, the Fever is obviously a better team than without. Certainly, Dunn is hoping for a return from the superstar this weekend. Having the ability to employ those other six players off the bench was a key to letting Douglas rest against the Mystics. Dunn’s ability to use all 11 players will go a long way to keeping the veterans healthy. Perhaps a game or two will be missed here and there … but in any event, the Fever seems to have the ability to replace, recover and re-align its lineup to fit the challenges it faces.

    On tap are three games in four days again – East-leading Connecticut at home on Saturday; at West-leading Minnesota on Sunday; back home again for Phoenix next Tuesday. There will no resting for the Fever as they pursue an eventual first-place tag themselves.


    May 21, 2011

    On a partly sunny Saturday morning, after attending a 9-year old soccer game to begin my day, I offer a blog update during what is the Indiana Fever’s seventh consecutive day of practice to open 2011 training camp. Lin Dunn and her club will break for a day on Sunday before practicing Monday and traveling to Minnesota for a preseason opener on Tuesday afternoon.

    In short, by all indications, the Fever is having a great camp. I know, I’m the PR guy, right? I’m supposed to spin it positive, right? Well, those of you who have read my blogs in previous years know that I’ll offer criticism or a critique when it is due. Today, I’m offering not just my own observations, but I’ll paraphrase a couple conversations I have had this morning and yesterday with Coach Dunn and Trainer Craig Stull.

    • I casually asked Coach for any random observations she has made about her team six days into camp. She told me she’s pleased with not only how hard the players have worked, but how quickly they have learned.

    • I asked Craig this morning, “what has been the mood and atmosphere this week,” in his opinion? He said he was pleased with how positive everything has been. Reiterating some of what I wrote in my blog earlier in the week, he cited the players’ attitudes and mentioned how they all like each other. New players and returning players have gelled very nicely. It has been a very energetic training camp so far.

    • When I watched practice on Friday, I wrote down two observations. One was that Jessica Davenport looked really improved, I thought. She was taking it hard to the basket in a scrimmage against guys. She was asserting herself on the block and her teammates were looking for her. When I asked coach about my observation, she echoed the thought. She said that JDav made her greatest improvement last year, in her second year with the Fever. But she played well overseas in Russia last winter and her progress with Indiana has just continued. I am not predicting a starting role for her … I don’t do that and it’s a congested frontcourt with Tammy Sutton-Brown and the addition of Tangela Smith. But I will say is that no matter what role she plays this year, it wouldn’t surprise me to see her value increased and there could be situations in which Coach Dunn could go to her in a starting lineup.

    • The second line that I wrote was this, “Phillips – very strong physically, good offensive presence.” Again, I asked Coach Dunn if that was accurate. It resulted in a smile and a lengthy elaboration. We both noted her raw strength for a 5-8 guard. The daughter of a very prominent Australian Rules Football star in her homeland, Phillips is solid muscle and she doesn’t back away from physical play. Lin talked about how smart she is, too. A WNBA and Olympic veteran, Phillips has worked out with the Fever for exactly three days now, but she’s picked up the system just as if she was running it last season. Comparing her to Tully Bevilaqua, she is a bigger, stronger, more athletic and younger Aussie than Tully – and probably with the same Aussie flair. Indy fans will love her.

    • Adding one more comment on the addition of Erin Phillips, I’ll refer to WNBA.com’s annual GM Survey which should post online this week. One question asked, “what was the most unheralded transaction in the WNBA offseason?” I can tell you that at least one GM answered, “Erin Phillips to the Fever.” I am certain others will look back with the same thoughts later. Whether Briann January or Erin Phillips starts at the point, Indiana has gotten significantly bigger and more athletic in the backcourt. Both January and Phillips can play the 1 (point guard) or the 2 (shooting guard). Teaming with Katie Douglas, an improved Shavonte Zellous and good-looking rookie shooter Jeanette Pohlen, the Fever backcourt is very diverse and improved.

    • Another observation from Coach Dunn: one player she cited as being much more aggressive and physical, and with an improved 3-point shot, is Zellous. Dunn noted that she had obviously worked hard in the offseason. In my opinion, if Zellous gets minutes, that is good for the Fever. She is perhaps the club’s quickest and best all-around athlete who gets to the rim and draws fouls better than anyone besides Tamika Catchings. Year one under Coach Dunn was an adjustment for Shavonte, compared to her time with the free-wheeling style employed by Bill Laimbeer where she played her rookie year in Detroit. If the Fever can successfully deploy Zellous’ athleticism, good things will happen.

    • Another Dunn observation with regard to being aggressive and physical, she noted the play of Abi Olajuwon. Just a second-year player who saw time with the Sky in 2010, she’s a “banger” according to Dunn. She initiates contact and gets on the boards. On a roster that’s tight and for a coach looking for greater rebounding presence, she’s making a case to stay.

    • Generally speaking, Dunn thought her “bigs” were quicker and faster than in years past. The biggest loss from a year ago is in longtime Fever vet Ebony Hoffman. But wily 14-year WNBA vet and All-Star Tangela Smith is taller and quicker and also shoots the 3. Plus, the presence of Shyra Ely adds to the increased height, quickness and versatility. Ely can play the 2 or 3 spots held down by Catchings and Douglas and will also make for tough decisions during the final weeks of camp.

    The Fever’s offseason moves may have fallen under the WNBA radar so far as making the biggest news splashes of this past offseason. But Dunn and Kelly Krauskopf may have filled exactly the right holes to make another championship run with core stars Catchings and Douglas. Time will tell. Literally every team in a parity-driven WNBA has improved just as the women’s game continues improving overall – so it won’t just be Indiana that thinks its team is better.

    Two weeks of camp remain. Stay tuned.

    KM


    May 19, 2011

    The time has come for the Fever’s annual media day festivities. Thursday morning at 10:00 a.m., players will be dressed in uniform to smile pretty, take photos, answer questions, take some more photos, shoot some video … and answer more questions.

    For the PR guy, it’s a three-hour time for coordination between 18 players and coaches and a dozen or more assembled media. Plus, it also is the day that most of the team’s promotional photos and video are shot. You know the bits that appear on the Jumbotron during every Fever game? Those will mostly be shot during media day.

    But at this stage of training camp also comes the reality that many of these players are competing with each other for jobs. Taking photos and conducting interviews will be 14 players. In less than two weeks’ time, three of those players will be told they didn’t make the squad. And so, with free agent center Aisha Mohammed becoming the first player to be cut from Fever camp, earlier today, I’ll take a quick opportunity to examine “who’s safe” and “who’s playing for a job.”

    Keep in mind, I have no real foresight into this process, but I can give you a general perspective.

    Catchings, Douglas, Sutton-Brown, Smith, Davenport, January and first-round draft pick Pohlen are no-doubters. There is no debate on those seven players. Similarly, I have no doubt that Shavonte Zellous and recent trade acquisition Erin Phillips (who arrived in Indy this afternoon) should be safe, barring any major, unforeseen surprises.

    That leaves five players vying for two roster positions:

    • Among them are Shannon Bobbitt, the diminutive point guard out of Tennessee who played two seasons with the Los Angeles Sparks. With the recent acquisition of Erin Phillips, after Bobbitt was signed to a training camp contract, she joins a very guard-heavy roster which was only made better by the Phillips trade.

    • Another former Vol and a local product of Ben Davis High School, Shyra Ely, also is among these candidates. Ely missed the 2010 WNBA season due to an injury overseas. She is healed now and looks to be in great condition. If she is healthy and makes the club, it’s a big plus for the Fever as she can backup Catchings and provide another player of local interest.

    • Returning guard and 2010 first-round draft pick Jené Morris saw limited minutes last season, but remains perhaps the quickest player on the floor besides Zellous and Bobbitt. A key for Jené will be her shooting. If she can hit the 3, she’s make her case for a spot.

    • Jessica Moore is a six-year WNBA veteran who has started games and played quality minutes for the Fever. She belongs among the “safe” category, but for offseason rehabilitation following knee surgery last fall. As rebounding is a key area of improvement for Lin Dunn, Moore can play a role if she can prove she is a healthy, dependable rebounder.

    • Last on the list is Abi Olajuwon, the daughter of former NBA great Hakeem Olajuwon. Abi played last year in Chicago before she was waived at midseason. Her assistant coach in Chicago was Stephanie White, and it was Stephanie who had influence in bring her to Indiana’s training camp. Again looking at rebounding, Olajuwon can earn a role with the Fever if she can prove reliable in the paint.

    Stay tuned for more fun in the days to come.

    KM


    May 15, 2011

    The new season is upon us as the Indiana Fever conducted a spirited, high-energy workout for three hours on Sunday afternoon from the practice court at Conseco Fieldhouse. Fourteen of 15 roster players participated on an otherwise soggy day in Central Indiana. The 15th player to report, fourth-year guard Erin Phillips, is scheduled to arrive from Australia on Wednesday.

    Attending the first practice of the new season, I had a few observations while watching a squad that remains very much intact from the unit which has produced six consecutive playoff appearances.

    Observation #1: These players like each other. Watching the reunion of returning players such as Tammy Sutton-Brown, Jessica Davenport, Briann January, Jessica Moore and Shavonte Zellous while exchanging laughs and high-fives, it is evident that this club thoroughly enjoys playing together.

    Observation #2: There still is nobody that out-works Tamika Catchings. But while a good number of players including Catchings took extra shots after practice, the last to leave the floor on Sunday afternoon were January, rookie guard Jeanette Pohlen and free agents Aisha Mohammed and Shannon Bobbitt.

    Observation #3: There is a sense of urgency in this camp. Lin Dunn has addressed the need to start quick in camp because the Fever plays an actual game in just nine days (preseason game at Minnesota, May 24). The long workout included scrimmages with practice guys and officials on the team’s very first day. There is no easing into this training camp.

    Observation #4: For the first time in six seasons, Bevilaqua and Hoffman were absent from the Fever roster. But in their place and making impact early were free agent veteran Tangela Smith and former Ben Davis High School product Shyra Ely. Smith aims to begin her 14th season while starting at power forward for Indiana. Ely plans to return from a year out of the league due to injury as a very valuable, versatile backup to Catchings.

    Observation #5: Stephanie White is right where she belongs! Watching Steph on the court was so natural, I almost forgot that she was on the opposite side of the court for the past four seasons. Welcome back, Steph!

    More observations will follow as camp continues. I’ll be blogging regularly as the season has begun again. You can follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/kmess65.


    March 7, 2011

    The Big Ten women’s tournament is now behind us and Fever coaches are dispatched around the country scouting players for the final times before the WNBA Draft next month.

    Ohio State on the league’s tournament title again at Conseco Fieldhouse, but the championship day was one with a bit of a Fever theme to it. For those watching the game on ESPN, not only did you see Stephanie White as the analyst for the game between the Buckeyes and Penn State, but you saw another former Fever guard, Coquese Washington, patrolling the sidelines for the Nittany Lions.

    It was Penn State’s first visit to the Big Ten championship game in more than a decade and it was the first time the Nittany Lions had reached the final game under Coquese’s guidance. Throughout the telecast on ESPN2, it was acknowledged that Steph and Coquese had been Fever teammates.

    The owner of a law degree, Steph remarked on one occasion that Coquese can be successful at just about anything she does. On Sunday, her team failed to topple the defending champion Buckeyes, but Penn State put itself back on the proverbial women’s basketball “map” this year as the league’s No. 2 seed. Coquese and the Nittany Lions certainly will have a place in the NCAA Tournament which, for Coquese will be her first as a head coach.

    Many Fever fans know of Stephanie White’s place in Fever history, but newer Fever fans may not remember Coquese. Her tenure with Indiana was short, appearing in just 31 games during the 2002 and 2003 seasons. Steph and Coquese teamed in the backcourt in 2003, before Coquese retired from playing.

    Washington won a WNBA title with Houston in 2000, but what she is most known for with the Fever was her mid-season trade acquisition from the Comets in 2002. Upon her arrival, Indiana won 8 of its final 11 games en route to qualifying for its very first playoff appearance. With Coquese as its starting point guard, the Fever won six of her eight starts.

    Nowadays, the Fever is regarded as a perennial playoff contender – qualifying for six straight postseason bids, three conference finals appearances and a shot at the WNBA championship in 2009. If you look back on history, Coquese Washington was very much a catalyst in putting the Fever into that playoff picture.

    She is now doing the same as the head coach at Penn State. Yesterday was a fun day at The Fieldhouse with Steph and Co both playing such prominent roles in the event.
    KM


    February 14, 2011

    First, Happy Valentine’s Day to Fever fans everywhere. The topic to write about today, appropriately, is one that I always love writing about!

    We have already reported on FeverBasketball.com that Tamika Catchings has returned to Galatasaray in Istanbul, Turkey, but for the next eight days, her scheduled calls for a whirlwind return to the United States for four cities worth of activities.

    After scoring 17 points with seven rebounds and a few assists and steals while helping Gala move back in to first place with a Turkish League win over rival Fenerbahce, Catchings boarded a plane on Sunday to return to Indianapolis. And what an active week she has planned!

    Monday, Tamika flies to Knoxville where a partnership will be announced between her Catch The Stars Foundation and the University of Tennessee. The university will officially recognize her programs as part of a study to enhance the ways that we can reach out to youth in our communities.

    Wednesday evening back in Indianapolis, the Catch The Stars Foundation will host a private fundraiser to give people an opportunity to learn more about the Foundation – what it is all about and what it is trying to do.

    She boards a plane on Thursday again, this time to fly to Los Angeles for activities surrounding the NBA All-Star Game through Sunday. Then, it is back to Indy again for another CTSF event on Monday, Feb. 21.

    She returns to Istanbul the following weekend where she will play the remaining two months of the Turkish season.

    Needless to say, Tamika Catchings is active and she is everywhere. This week is a perfect example of her willingness to do everything that it takes to be successful – both in her playing career and in reaching youth.

    KM


    February 3, 2011

    Fever fans, I told you that the season of free agency could be busy! And yesterday, certainly, was a busy news day across the WNBA – especially for the Fever.

    Essentially, what the Fever got was a taller, leaner, more experienced power forward than what it lost. But what it lost in Ebony Hoffman was a fixture to our franchise. I’ll talk much more about Tangela Smith in upcoming blogs and features, but for now, I want to offer some thoughts on the departure of one of my favorite personalities.

    Ebony had a private nickname between us. I called her “Showtime,” because she was always “on.” Always. Her personality was always glowing. She was seemingly always happy, smiling and laughing and busting a joke. Whenever there was a need for a quick interview with a news camera, Ebony was a smiling face that was, as usual, “on,” right in time for the camera and questions. There was rarely a time that I saw her in a bad mood.

    Her enthusiasm was contagious for her teammates, her coaches, the Fever staff and fans, alike. She spent seven years with the Indiana Fever. Her professional career grew before our very eyes. She got married to Ronald Cass during her time in Indy, and together, they bought a Westside home in Indy. They will certainly be missed.

    With Ebony, I always knew I had not only a good interview prospect for wanting media requests, but she had her share of stories, as well. From her love of dogs; to cooking; to the effervescent personality; to selecting a wedding dress in Spain with Katie Douglas; to having Tamika Catchings as her maid of honor --- Ebony was never short on stories to tell.

    I will miss those stories and that glowing personality. I will miss her 2008 season in which she transformed her game and became the WNBA’s Most Improved Player. That was yet another story … and how she trimmed down the previous winter by eating pasta in Italy. Are you kidding? [She said the actual pasta overseas is healthier; not loaded with preservatives like it is in most American restaurants.]

    Ebony was a delight. And for that, I, we, all of us with the Indiana Fever, will miss her.

    From the Fever PR guy, “Good luck, Showtime!” [She was also known as “Big Dog” as she was named at USC. She had more nicknames than any player I know.] I know you’ll be happy in front of friends and family in your hometown of Los Angeles. I know you’ll continue to shine. I look forward to seeing you down the road.

    KM

    January 31, 2011

    Well, tomorrow begins the month of February and thus begins the season of free agency in the WNBA! Be sure to keep an eye on WNBA.com and FeverBasketball.com for player movement during the coming months!

    Elsewhere, I saw an interesting college note last weekend. When Auburn hosted South Carolina on Sunday afternoon, it was Adopt A Pet Awareness Day. Sound familiar? It should, and for good reason! The Fever has conducted Adopt A Pet Night since at least 2002. It has been a staple on the Fever calendar ever since I have worked with the franchise. Credit for its origination belongs to former Fever coach Nell Fortner, who now is the coach at Auburn. It was Nell’s affinity for animals that led to the Fever promotional night many years ago.

    For Fever fans tracking the promotional calendar for 2011 already, the September 7 game against the Washington Mystics has been identified as Adopt A Pet Night this summer.

    I’ve got one more connection to Nell and another ticket special for Fever fans, too! We all are excited to have Stephanie White back with the Fever franchise, of course. She played for Nell both at Purdue and with the Fever, and with her recent return to the Fever, the club has announced a “Welcome Back Steph Fan Pack.”

    For any Stephanie White fans who have not yet purchased their season tickets for 2011, here may be your perfect opportunity. Besides a savings of $90 off single-game ticket prices, the purchase of a lower level season ticket with this package also includes a VIP full season parking pass; a lower level ticket to the March 25th Pacers game against Sacramento; a pizza party with Steph and a Fever player; a souvenir photo with Steph and a player; a Fever t-shirt; and entrance to six pregame chalk talks at which Steph will be the key speaker.

    Prices for the Welcome Back Steph Fan Pack begin at $359. A limited number of seats are available with this package and it will run only through mid-March. If you have interest in this package, call (317) 917-2528 or visit FeverBasketball.com.

    KM

    January 25, 2011

    I attended a really good women’s game last night when I working on the stats crew during the Butler vs. Green Bay showdown at Hinkle Fieldhouse. Green Bay is the defending league champ and was an NCAA Tournament team a year ago. They are very good. Both teams came into the game 7-0 in the Horizon League and Butler was looking for an upset.

    Needless to say, Green Bay led the entire contest but the Bulldogs wouldn’t go down without a fight, turning it into a two-possession game in the final minute. If only one rebound had gone the other way in the final 20 seconds, Butler may have been playing for a chance to tie or take the lead.

    Why do I lead my blog with this today? Simply because the tensions and drama in college hoops are rising. I have spent many hours in the past weeks as part of committee meetings for the upcoming Big Ten men’s and women’s tournaments, as well as the NCAA Women’s Final Four – all of which will be conducted here at Conseco Fieldhouse. If all the games in the upcoming Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments are as fun to watch, we’re going to be in for a treat the next two months!

    Just as I and many colleagues will take part in hosting these great tournaments in March and April, Fever coaches will be out scouting the best college talent in the country. Newly hired assistant coach Stephanie White will join Kelly Krauskopf and Lin Dunn and Gary Kloppenburg on the scouting trail this year, though she will have a different vantage point.

    Steph, as many Fever fans know, is an analyst with the Big Ten Network. She works a Big Ten women’s game every weekend and, beginning in February, she also will work an ESPN game every Monday night. During the Big Ten Tournament, Steph is one of the hosts of BTN’s studio show. During the NCAA Tournament, she will have analyst assignments with ESPN while covering the Road to the Final Four!

    Just like last night’s Butler game, there are tons of games that will have tournament implications in the coming weeks. I encourage Fever fans to attend a Butler game, get out to IU or Purdue, or get over to Conseco Fieldhouse for the Big Ten Tournaments. Or, you can watch Stephanie White from the comfort of your living rooms! Here is a schedule with some of Steph’s upcoming games, beginning with IU at Purdue this Sunday!

    Sunday, Jan. 30           Indiana at Purdue, BTN, Noon
    Sunday, Feb. 6            Purdue at Michigan State, BTN, 3 p.m.
    Monday, Feb. 7           Duke at North Carolina, ESPN2, 7 p.m.
    Sunday, Feb. 13          Penn State at Indiana, BTN, 12:30 p.m.
    Monday, Feb. 14         Oklahoma at Connecticut, ESPN2, 7 p.m.
    Saturday, Feb. 19        Michigan at Wisconsin, BTN, 1:30 p.m.|
    Sunday, Feb. 20          Minnesota at Northwestern, BTN, 1 p.m.
    Monday, Feb. 21         Georgia at Tennessee, ESPN2, 7 p.m.
    Sunday, Feb. 27          Wisconsin at Ohio State, BTN, 4 p.m.


    January 25, 2011

    Two signs that a Fever preseason is about to heat up:

    1. 10 of 11 players are now committed to playing overseas;
    2. WNBA free agents may begin signing contracts on Feb. 1.

    This week, Tammy Sutton-Brown returned to her familiar overseas haunt in Istanbul, Turkey, to resume play with the Fenerbahce club with whom she has won four consecutive Turkish League titles. Tammy rested for four months following the 2010 WNBA season and, for the first time in her career, did not go overseas soon after the “W” season ended. She did, however, take a restful break before signing a contract to return this month. Essentially (the way I look at it), she has signed a nice contract for good money the next three months which also serves as an extended training period to prepare for the 2011 WNBA season.

    Joining TSB will be Tamika Catchings, who has told us that she also will return overseas to Turkey. Catchings had verbally committed to returning to cross-town rival Galatasaray, who battled Fenerbahce for last year’s Turkish crown. Fever fans will recall Tammy Sutton-Brown teaming with Ebony Hoffman, doing battle in a Turkish Finals series against Catchings and Katie Douglas. This year, Hoffman is in China and Douglas is in Spain, but TSB and Tamika are returning to the same teams after giving their bodies a rest the past three months.

    When I entered my office this morning, Tamika was diligently shooting and practicing on the Conseco Fieldhouse practice court. She is planning to report to the Gala club in mid-February. She will return to the U.S. briefly for activities surrounding the NBA All-Star Game, then return to Turkey again for the final two-plus months of the Turkish and EuroLeague seasons.

    The only Fever player not committed to playing overseas is Jessica Moore who has rested and rehabbed in Los Angeles this winter following a successful knee surgery in September.

    As for free agency, Indiana has three free agents on its roster. Jessica Davenport is a restricted free agent, which means the Fever may match any salary that JDav may be offered by another team. Regardless of who speaks to Davenport about a contract, Indiana can keep the 6-7 center with the ability to match any other offer. Unrestricted free agents are Tully Bevilaqua and Ebony Hoffman. Bevilaqua, 38, was at one time thought to have been retiring, though her career has been sparked by a double-digit scoring average with the West Coast Waves in Australia this winter. Hoffman has completed seven WNBA seasons, all in Indiana, since being the Fever’s first-round draft pick in 2004. She has been a staple in the Fever lineup for seven summers; she got married and bought a house in Indianapolis with her husband, Ron. But as an unrestricted free agent, she can choose to play wherever she wants in 2011.

    Undoubtedly, Kelly Krauskopf has already been busy in preparation for this signing period. Whether by trade possibilities; the signings of JDav, Tully or Ebony; or the signings of other prized free agents, Krauskopf and the Fever brass should be active during the months of February and March, leading up to the WNBA Draft on April 11.

    KM


    January 14, 2011

    Fever players in Europe have gotten the bulk of my attention in recent weeks, including Wednesday’s blog with news about Jené Morris and Joy Cheek. Tamika Catchings is often in the news and yesterday, of course, the Fever announced the addition of Stephanie White to its coaching staff.

    But two people who don’t get a lot of mention these days are Jessica Moore and Tully Bevilaqua. Tully, of course, has been with the Fever since 2005 and has been a huge factor in Indiana’s recent playoff run – six playoff appearances in each of the six years that Tully has been with the franchise. But she is a free agent after the 2010 season and she returned to overseas action in Australia this year, so she is not in-market like she was last season.

    You can see her updates regularly with the other Fever players, but Fever fans should also know that she will be conducting a basketball camp locally in Indianapolis on March 5. Details are forthcoming, but besides me posting information on FeverBasketball.com, fans can visit her personal website at TullyBevilaqua.com.

    Speaking of websites, Jess Moore has added the latest, greatest personal website among Fever players. Her new site can be accessed at MooreHoopsOnline.com. Jess has added a personal blog of her own, and has information about her December 20th camp in Palmer, Alaska as well as a photo gallery. Jess is currently residing in Southern California while she rehabs after knee surgery in October. She will return to Indy this spring to get ready for the 2011 season where she will continue to play a big role in the Fever post lineup.

    Jess hasn’t gotten a lot of attention this offseason due to her surgery, but FeverBasketball.com will catch up with her soon for a Q&A to talk about her winter months in SoCal. She tweeted just yesterday about hearing of snow in 49 states while it was 70 degrees and sunny where she lives. Nice, Jess, thanks for the reminder! Haha. We’ll catch up with Jessica on the team site shortly.

    In the meantime, if you’d like to follow activities of either Tully or Jess Moore, fans can follow them on Twitter - @bevilaqua41 or @jessmoore31.
    KM


    January 13, 2011

    Congrats to the Indiana Fever! Congrats to Stephanie White and congrats to Kelly Krauskopf and Lin Dunn! And to Gary Kloppenburg, too, for getting to share assistant coaching duties with another coach this season, especially with one the caliber of Stephanie White!

    Steph will obviously be a fan favorite in Indianapolis and there’s no doubt her announcement, alone, has helped sell a few tickets – which is always a good thing.

    But aside from any ticket sales, Steph’s addition to the Fever is good from a number of standpoints. First, she becomes the first Fever coach who actually played in the WNBA. She comes with credibility as a player. In fact, she was a former teammate of Tamika Catchings and Ebony Hoffman. She will be respected on the court and in the locker room with the players. That’s huge. Not that Lin and Gary haven’t been respected, certainly, but Steph can relate to the players as a player. It will be a very positive influence.

    Second, her image and notoriety in the community will help solidify the Fever’s presence overall. Certainly this can help in selling tickets, but looking at a broader picture, her return to the coaching staff symbolizes a second generation for the Fever. Indiana is beginning its 12th season in the WNBA. For some, that is 11 years longer than some skeptics probably thought they’d make it. Yet, the Fever is thriving. And Steph’s addition only fuels that momentum in a market that adored her as a player. Her presence alone will help widen the Fever brand. Selfishly, her presence will demand media attention that only makes my job easier.

    Third and perhaps most importantly, she really has developed herself into a bright, young coaching mind. She is respected in the coaching field. She climbed the college coaching ladder before she got the dual opportunity to live in Chicago, work for the Big Ten Network and double as an assistant with the Sky. Certainly, she has much still to learn before one day assuming a head coaching role herself, but she’s been on the fast track since she began as an assistant at Ball State in 2003. I know that several times when Indiana played the Sky in previous seasons, I’d look down into the Chicago huddle during timeouts and it was Steph that was drawing up plays. She will be an experienced voice to assist Lin and Gary on the Fever bench.

    Stephanie White’s hire for the Fever is a definite win-win-win that can hopefully keep the fire burning toward the eventual goal as WNBA champions.
    KM


    January 12, 2011

    Welcome to the new year, Fever fans! I’ve been meaning to write a few times since the calendar turned to 2011, but my words never made it to the computer!

    Anyway, Happy New Year to Fever fans and WNBA fans everywhere … I know that 2011 will be an exciting one! Most of our players have returned overseas after the holiday --- I think Katie Douglas’ team, Ros Casares (Spain) is the last to return to action, playing tonight actually.

    Most of you are aware by now that Ebony Hoffman and Briann January began their overseas play just before the holiday – Ebony in China and Bri in Israel. And since the break, Bri has a new teammate in Jené Morris. Jené had played in Poland since October, but recently switched teams. She told me in an email that she just didn’t enjoy her experience in Poland.

    I don’t know the contract status of most of our players overseas, but many of them obviously have options with their foreign teams, thus enabling Jené to leave her club in Poland. And what a debut she made in Israel! Teaming with Bri in the backcourt, the newly formed Fever-Raanana backcourt exploded for 40 points last week with Jené erupting for 22, just days after her arrival in the country. Bri had 18. It will be fun to watch the Fever-Raanana backcourt develop over the next couple of months.

    Still in Poland is Joy Cheek, who still is playing well and remains among league rebounding leaders for Super-Pol Leszno. Joy, a Duke graduate, was quick to send me an email the other day about her beloved Blue Devils whose men’s and women’s teams both have defeated my former Maryland Terrapins this year. Thanks, Joy!

    Elsewhere overseas, Tamika Catchings has shared plans to return to Turkey again. She has a pending contract with Galatasaray and her date of return is not yet firm. I’ll have more news and notes on Ms. Catchings later this week, so check back for more blogging on Thursday and Friday!
    KM

    December 13, 2010

    My visit to Dresden and the home of Fever coach Lin Dunn gave me some additional insight into the hall of fame coach who will begin her fourth season as head coach in 2011.

    She was her usual witty self while taking me on a 2-minute tour of Dresden’s town square – exactly one block long and anchored by the county courthouse built by her grandfather, a former preacher and county judge. Two blocks away, she showed me the town cemetery and took me to the headstones of her grandparents; and upon leaving the cemetery I was shown the tiny gym where she first learned to play basketball.

    During my eight years with the Fever, Lin Dunn has been a scout, assistant coach and head coach through that entire time. I have traveled with her through most of eight seasons and learned many of the details that I witnessed last Friday. But what I learned was the slow and soft-spoken, private manner in which she lives life in her offseason home. I am the son of a coach and, whenever I go home to Colorado it seems that everyone knows my parents, both of whom are local teachers. Lin grew up in the town of 2,000 and even has her name affixed to one of the town’s city limit signs. I expected she would be a local celebrity. I learned otherwise.

    Lin reminded me that, since her high school days, she has never played a sport or coached or even worked in the tiny northwestern Tennessee town. She has many generations of family roots in the town and she crosses paths with the occasional former classmate, but her status as a college and pro basketball coach who has traveled the world is virtually unknown. Or, for any who may know of her celebrity, it is guarded and respected. And she prefers it that way.

    Lin lives in a humble, well-kept single-story brick home with an adjacent apartment and the “ham house” where her father cured ham for decades. Next door is a large three-story Victorian home which is currently uninhabited and which Coach Dunn calls the “To Kill a Mockingbird House.” And it fits the bill … old and in need of restoration, I half-expected to find “Boo” Radley on the front porch with Atticus Finch (played by Gregory Peck) waving at the corner. Down the street and only a block from Dunn’s home is a large southern-style home with state flags adorning the front porch. It is the home of the former Tennessee Governor Ned McWherter, her cousin.

    Politics and civil service are a part of the family genes. Her grandfather, in his duties as the local preacher, would conduct weddings from the family parlor. In his role as county judge, he also oversaw local burial proceedings. In her words, “he married ‘em and buried ‘em.” Her uncle was a county clerk, cousin Ned was the governor and she also claims family lineage with Al Gore – his grandfather and her grandmother were brother and sister.

    On my Friday morning approach over Kentucky Lake, I had no idea what to expect in my first visit to Dresden. The sleepy little Southern town was alive with active, from lunch at the Kountry Corner which shares the same roof as the BP gas station; to the tiny yet lively town square which was obviously the hub of most social interaction. I ventured into the small town located just 10 miles to the east of the University of Tennessee-Martin, where Dunn attended college and last summer was inducted into the school’s athletics hall of fame. I entered town seeing her name on the city limits sign, sponsored appropriately by the local radio station – Oldies 95.1. I could only smile and shake my head at the irony.

    But speaking of irony – despite the small town openly touting one of its most famous lifelong residents, daily life carries on without the slightest bit of notice.

    I’ll have more to share from Friday’s journey to Dresden. Lin shared a video tour of her hometown and even her home. She talked of one of her favorite pastimes – reading; and she offered a holiday greeting from in front of the Christmas tree in her home!

    KM


    December 10, 2010

    This a "foreshadowing" blog. It is being written in anticipation of my journey to Dresden, Tennessee.

    Where is that, you ask? You can find it -- if your map is detailed enough to show it -- in the northeast corner of Tennessee. It is roughly six hours from Indianapolis and it is the home of Fever coach Lin Dunn.

    Friday, I will spend my day in Dresden with the Fever coach. The plan is to produce a small series of video segments and feature stories for FeverBasketball.com.

    This will be my first visit ... what do I look forward to seeing?

  • I plan to share video of Main Street and the town's lone stoplight.
  • I hope to see the courthouse where Coach Dunn's grandfather was both the judge and the mayor ... in her words, he used to "marry 'em and bury 'em." Sounds engaging.
  • I look forward to visting Chateau de Dunn, the place where the coach has called home since her youth.
  • I expect to learn about some of Lin's offseason activities - from baking to reading to scouting from her home office.

    Stay tuned for more on my journey to Dresden!
    KM


    December 8, 2010

    Most college women’s basketball followers are glued to the streak by the Connecticut Huskies, just waiting for Geno Auriemma and Maya Moore & Co. to break the record set by legendary John Wooden and his UCLA teams of the 1970s.

    While I want to talk a little college hoops today, I’m going to talk about a team slightly lower in the national rankings. The Xavier Musketeers have risen to No. 4 in the current AP women’s rankings and they are led by a pair of “twin towers” in seniors Amber Harris and Ta’Shia Phillips. Harris is listed at 6-5, Phillips at 6-6, and both are sure to be WNBA draft picks next spring. Harris averages 21 points and 10 rebounds per game. Phillips averages 15.3 points and 11.5 boards.

    Harris, though, is from Indianapolis. The North Central High School graduate was known to have dunked in high school and the 2010 All-American could be a prime target by WNBA clubs in April. If the Fever is seeking a post player in the draft, Harris could be on the short list of candidates. But, will she be available at the Fever’s No. 9 spot in the draft?

    In the meantime, I saw an interesting article in the Cincinnati Enquirer last week. Amber was asked to select her top five basketball players. Here’s her list:

    1. Miami Heat forward LeBron James: I just think he's the best player in the league.
    2. Indiana Fever forward Tamika Catchings: Just because she works hard. The hardest-working player I've ever seen.
    3. L.A. Clippers forward Blake Griffin: He is the most athletic player ... I think he jumps higher than Dwight Howard. He's just amazing.
    4. Connecticut forward Maya Moore:Overall, I'd say she's doing the best in women's basketball. Her shots, working hard, all of it.
    5. Xavier center Ta'Shia Phillips: She's big, strong, powerful and hard-working. Just a force to be reckoned with.

    It is no wonder that LeBron made the list and certainly Maya Moore and Phillips are top players she sees in the current college game. That Fever star Catchings is on the list is telling though … during her formative years playing the game – in grade school and high school – Catchings was surely the local favorite in her hometown!

    Good luck to Amber Harris the rest of her senior season!

    KM


    December 3, 2010

    Fever news flash! I have traded email with Ebony Hoffman and Briann January within the past 24 hours and both are on their way, or already arrived, to play with teams overseas!

    Ebony has been in China since Nov. 22 and has begun play with the Zhejiang Province Chouzhou Bank Golden Bulls.

    Briann, meanwhile, departs for Israel on Saturday. She will play with Raanana Hertzeliya (currently 3-4 in the Israeli League) where she will team with former NCAA player of the year LaToya Thomas, Christi Thomas (Chicago Sky) and Roneeka Hodges (San Antonio Silver Stars).

    January is on a temporary contract with Raanana until the Christmas break, at which time she and the team will re-evaluate the salary structure and contract terms. She could remain with Raanana through the rest of the season, or become available to play elsewhere. It is Bri’s second year overseas, having played last year in Turkey, in the small mountain town of Tarsus. Hodges was one of her teammates last winter.

    Since the end of the Fever season, Hoffman and January both have traveled and spent time vacationing with their families on the West Coast – Ebony in Los Angeles and Bri in Spokane, Washington.

    While at her home in Spokane for over a month, she maintained her own workout regimen while helping her former high school coach, Jim Redman, prepare the varsity team at Lewis and Clark High School. She also spent time in Arizona, visiting her alma mater and former college teammates.

    More on Bri and Ebony as they continue their seasons overseas.

    KM

    November 30, 2010 (3:45 p.m.)

    It seems that it was only 45 minutes ago that I just finished writing about some of the nuances of covering women’s basketball in countries outside the United States. Well, that’s because I did. But a Twitter conversation with Joy Cheek just led right into another PERFECT blog to follow my last one!

    I closed my last blog with the information about Jené Morris’s team, CCC-Polkowice, scheduled to play Joy’s team, Super-Pol Leszno, in a game on Dec. 1 that was originally scheduled for three weeks ago, but was postponed because members of the Polkowice team had the flu.

    Just as the blog had been posted and just as I faithfully tweeted about the overseas updates on FeverBasketball.com, Joy replied to my tweet to tell me that Jené’s team had just beaten her team by 15 points tonight.

    “Already,” I thought? “Oh yeah, with the difference in time zones, it’s already Dec. 1 in Poland,” I thought again. I tweeted my reply to Joy and thanked her. She was quick to inform me, though, that they’re only 6-7 hours ahead and it is still Nov. 30 there.

    Her reply: “No it's November 30th...they moved it up...we shot terribly as a team missed so many layups and they shot 50%...the boxscore should be up.”

    So there you have it … yet one more perfect example of some of the difficulty in covering teams overseas. The game was moved up a day – changed again, despite what is listed on European basketball websites.

    When I’m not trying to translate Polish or Russian or Spanish or Latvian websites, I’m trying to make sense of these types of changes even when they’re in English! Or boxscores with slightly different columns than we use in America. Did you know that, in Europe, they often keep track of not just fouls committed by a particular player, but the times a player is fouled? Or, in addition to the number of blocked shots by a particular player, the number of times a player’s shots were blocked?

    Congratulations to Morris and Polkowice, pulling down a 76-61 win to remain in third place in the Polish PLKK. Cheek, despite 11 points and a game-high 12 rebounds, could not do enough to overcome her team’s 19-for-64 (.297) shooting.

    Here’s to another 15 minutes of navigating Polish websites to provide stats from today’s/tonight’s/tomorrow’s game originally scheduled for Oct. 30.

    KM

    November 30, 2010

    Wow, the calendar turns to December tomorrow. Where has the time gone?

    As I begin spending more time tracking college games and players for the Fever staff as well as anticipating the end-of-season tournaments here at Conseco Fieldhouse, I have to make sure to keep track of our Fever players, too! I have written a lot about Tamika Catchings in recent weeks and she’ll host her annual holiday camps in late December, but I’ll spend a few moments with random thoughts to keep our fans up-to-date with their favorite players.

    • For those who don’t know, when our players go overseas, most leagues have specific rules about the number of American players, or “foreign” players or “non-European” players that can participate in particular leagues. EuroLeague and EuroCup typically allow just two American players per team. Other leagues throughout the world have their own specifications. I mention this to call to attention why some players might miss games. For instance, though Katie Douglas was banged up a little recently, she missed a EuroLeague game mostly because she is one of three Americans on her team. Since she was nursing a slight injury, she was a natural person to sit out a game.

    • Similarly, citizenship status for purposes of that rule are a little, shall we say, “flexible!” Some players have been known to earn citizenship in various countries, specifically so they can play every game. One example is South Dakota-born Becky Hammon whose Russian team worked with the Russian government to fast-track her citizenship in that country. Not only can she now play every game as a Russian, but she also represented Russia in the 2008 Olympics. Among Fever players, another “flexible” arrangement involves Katie Douglas who is married to a Greek citizen. Katie claims residency in Greece and therefore qualifies as Greek or European in the Spanish LFB. Therefore, she does not count as an American when she plays in the Spanish domestic league.

    • While some of the league rules vary regarding citizenship, how ‘bout some of those uniforms!! Many WNBA followers are familiar with the green and gold Australian singlet that the Aussies have sported in past Olympics and world competition. Recently, the Aussies wore a more traditional shirt and shorts combo for the World Championships last September. However, in Poland, Fever star Jené Morris is competing for CCC-Polkowice whose uniform consists of a long thigh-length shirt that flares at the hips and resembles a short skirt at the bottom. Beneath the orange uniform, the team wears orange compression shorts. The perception is that the Polkowice team wears skirts, instead of shorts, with compression shorts underneath. Functionally, it’s got to feel a little different than the normal uniform. FeverBasketball.com will catch up with Jené to get her opinion!

    • Jessica Moore is recovering from knee surgery last month and is spending time in Los Angeles this winter. Stay tuned for more on Jess Moore.

    • Catching up with another player who has not gone overseas this year, Tammy Sutton-Brown should be acknowledged for a couple of offseason projects. First, she has continued her “Day of Wellness” activities with battered women shelters, in Toronto and in Indianapolis. In fact, she is sponsoring a “Day of Wellness” at The Julian Center in Indy next week, on Dec. 5. Though she will not be present, her foundation will provided all of the services and resources for a day of wellness and pampering to the women who might not otherwise be afforded such attention. Tammy has also written a children’s book called “The Adventures of Cree & Scooter.” The book has yet to be released and Tammy is spending a lot of her time working with designers these days, designing not only the book but a website. It has been a dream of hers for a long time and she is going through the process now for the first time. Look for the book release some time this spring, probably.

    • Returning the focus to basketball, how about the contrasting play of Latvian club TTT-Riga where Shavonte Zellous calls home this time of year? Zellous and TTT-Riga are so dominant in the Latvian league that they are 6-0 with six wins of all more than 40 points. They won one game by 70. Yet, TTT-Riga is having a rough go of it in the EuroLeague so far. Riga won its first Euro game last week, upending Mondeville of France, which includes former Fever point guard K.B. Sharp. TTT-Riga is 1-4 in EuroLeague competition, though 6-0 with six straight 40-point wins within its own country.

    • Lastly, be on the lookout for another overseas update later this week to learn about the head-to-head matchup between Morris and Joy Cheek in Poland. The two 2010 rookies will match up on the same floor, Dec. 1, in a game re-scheduled from last month when Morris and several members of her CCC-Polkowice team had the flu. Can we blame it on the uniforms?

     

    KM

    November 25, 2010

    Reasons to give thanks this weekend:

  • Pacers Sports & Entertainment is one of the nation’s top employers in the sports and entertainment industry; and Conseco Fieldhouse is undoubtedly one of the country’s top venues. The Indiana Fever and WNBA are so very fortunate to be able to thrive in this great and supportive environment.
  • As noted in yesterday’s blog, Katie Douglas is healthy as are all 11 Fever players. Knock on wood! Six Fever players are having success overseas with five others resting or biding their time before going overseas in January
  • Jessica Davenport is the second-leading scorer, rebounder and shot blocker in the Russian SuperLeague through games in November. She has blossomed in a Fever uniform the past two seasons and the former three-time Big Ten Player of the Year could become a frontcourt staple for the Fever in years to come.
  • Joy Cheek is having early success in her first season overseas. She and rookie teammate Jené Morris are the first Fever stars to play for bragging rights this winter when their Polish squads meet on December 1
  • Tamika Catchings is off to another successful holiday period with the Catch The Stars Foundation. Her work OFF the court is as impactful in our community as her play ON the court.
  • Catchings and fellow veteran Tammy Sutton-Brown both are enjoying time away from the game for a few months this winter. Both will be healed and well-rested prior to a 2011 season in Indianapolis.
  • The 2011 season with be the Fever’s 12th in the WNBA! With seven playoff appearances in 11 years, and buoyed by the momentum gained by the 2009 trip to the WNBA Finals, the Fever franchise is healthy, thriving and continuing to gain its hold in the Indianapolis community. From wins; to ticket sales; to corporate partners and sponsorships; to community recognition – all indicators were “up” for the Fever in 2010 and many have continued to rise during offseason months prior to 2011.
  • Personally, I am thankful that my sister Julea and her daughter Kaylea are alive and returning to school after a dangerous bus accident following a volleyball game in Colorado Springs two weeks ago. Concussions and cracked vertebrae and ribs were among their injuries, but we are thankful for their lives and their healing and their smiles.
  • Happy Thanksgiving to all of the Fever fans in this world; to all of the staff and employees of the Fever, Pacers and PS&E; to the Fever players and coaches as they spend time with family and friends – whether overseas or at home; and to the growing millions of women’s basketball fans who support the growth of our game for young girls, teens, high school and college programs and of course the WNBA!

    KM

    November 24, 2010

    It is nearly Thanksgiving and so, appropriately, I will give thanks with today’s blog.

    A week ago, for any Fever fans keeping up with overseas activities, some may have wondered if Katie Douglas was doing ok. She had missed three straight games. Well, I have an update … yes, she is fine. She was a little banged up and, between that and the EuroLeague rule that allows a team to play with only two Americans, she watched from the sidelines for about a week. Thankfully, KT is back and she led her team with 25 points last weekend.

    Speaking of last weekend, KT’s alma mater had quite a fine showing as the college hoops season got underway. Congrats to the Purdue Boilermakers for beating Austin Peay, Toledo, South Dakota State and DePaul on their way to the Preseason WNIT title. It was the second Preseason WNIT championship for coach Sharon Versyp while at Purdue, having won it in 2006, also.

    The college season got underway with a bang last week when No. 1 UConn slipped past No. 2 Baylor, and the Boilermakers are giving reason for local fans to be excited about an Indiana school going deep in the NCAA Tournament again this year.

    The Boilers have a pair of Indiana Miss Basketball recipients in their starting lineup in Brittany Rayburn and Courtney Moses. Rayburn is a 6-0 guard currently averaging 17.8 points, 3.0 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game to lead the club. Drey Mingo is a 6-2 forward with averages of 17.8 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game.

    The Boilers have a pair of Indiana Miss Basketball recipients in their starting lineup in Brittany Rayburn and Courtney Moses. Rayburn is a 6-0 guard currently averaging 17.8 points, 3.0 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game to lead the club. Drey Mingo is a 6-2 forward with averages of 17.8 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game.

    Local fans can watch the Purdue men’s and women’s teams in a Conseco Fieldhouse doubleheader – the Boilermaker BlockBuster – on Dec. 18. The women’s team hosts Auburn, led by former Purdue and Fever coach Nell Fortner, at 1:30 p.m. The men’s team hosts Indiana State at 4:00. Tickets are available at the Conseco Fieldhouse Box Office and all Ticketmaster outlets.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    KM

    November 17, 2010

    Hey there Fever fans! I’m checking in today with a couple of small “housekeeping” items! Nothing major here, just a few reminders!

    First, I have to remind people to vote for Tamika Catchings for the Jefferson Public Service Awards. To cast your vote for Tamika, fans can text 07 to 99158 or vote online by visiting www.allstarshelpingkids.org/teammates/index.html.

    Second, as the holiday season approaches I want to remind Fever fans about a great way to get into the giving spirit! Fever Bucks are a great stocking stuffer and a great way to give the gift of the Indiana Fever! Fever Bucks are sold in $25 increments and may be applied toward any new or existing ticket package.

    Have you got a friend who wants to get Fever tickets for next summer, but needs a little incentive? A couple of Fever Bucks may be just the perfect solution! Or, would you like to help ensure your best friends keep their seats beside you for next season? Give them Fever Bucks for Christmas and help them apply the credit to their account!

    Fever Bucks that are used for any new ticket packages qualify for a special Fever gift bag which includes a Fever t-shirt and an autographed item. Fever Bucks are available in increments of $25 and may be ordered by calling (317) 917-2528. Fever Bucks may be purchased through Dec. 20, 2010.

    KM

    November 17, 2010

    How ‘bout that UConn-Baylor game last night? Will the Huskies lose this year? Will they break the UCLA men’s 88-game win streak? Should Baylor have used its final timeout before that last possession and perhaps saved it for a final play on offense? Will Brittany Griner or Maya Moore be college basketball’s most dominant player this season? Will another team besides Baylor step to the forefront and help to knock UConn off its perch? Was this a possible preview to the NCAA national championship game we will see at Conseco Fieldhouse on April 5?

    All are interesting questions and thankfully we got a great game to tip off the 2010-11 women’s college basketball season. I was attending the Indiana Pacers game last night, but tracking UConn vs. Baylor on the blackberry. When Baylor narrowed its 13-point deficit to three, and then tied the score at 40-something, I left my seat in the media section for a better one in the media workroom – in front of ESPN2 where I could watch the Lady Bears and Huskies live.

    I was joined last night by NCAA women’s basketball media coordinator Rick Nixon, who was visiting Conseco Fieldhouse on a site visit prior to next April’s Final Four. We didn’t hesitate to move to the press room for those final minutes of action and shortly after we arrived in front of the TV, Baylor assumed an 8-point advantage! We thought we were watching history. I heard on more than one occasion, “is this the championship game we’re going to see here in April?”

    UConn obviously pulled out the win and won for the 80th straight time. Maya Moore scored 30 points and appears to be carrying the torch left by former teammate Tina Charles. But on this night, she wasn’t always the most dominant force on the floor – for long stretches, that was Griner. And in this season, Moore and the Huskies might not always be the top club in the nation – or so the nailbiter at least gave hope of more teams having the chance to assume the No. 1 position.

    What it says for those of us watching within Conseco Fieldhouse, or watching around the city as we ready for the week-long slate of activities next April, is that there’s really a shot at finding some competitive balance near the top of the college basketball world. Yes, UConn deserves every accolade it receives and we wish the Huskies luck in their quest to continue their monumental streak. But we also look forward to Baylor and other clubs challenging the Huskies for the 2011 national title – a crown which will be won and worn in Conseco Fieldhouse on April 5.
    KM


    November 12, 2010

    I have gotten to spend some time with Tamika Catchings this week, with her Catch on to Fitness Clinic scheduled for tomorrow (Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m. at Guion Creek Middle School, youth ages 7-14). Her clinic is one of the anchors of her fall and winter activity in Indianapolis, established nine years ago as one of the first events she conducted. The other anchor of those events is her annual Catch The Stars Basketball Camp, which will be conducted Dec. 28-30 at Warren Central High School.

    For information on both events, be sure to visit her website at Catchin24.com.

    [Before I forget, and in case you don’t get to the end of this ridiculously long blog, don’t miss your chance to cast your vote for Tamika for the 2011 Jefferson Public Service Awards - To cast your vote for Tamika, fans can text 07 to 99158 or vote online by visiting www.allstarshelpingkids.org/teammates/index.html.]

    Tamika’s clinic, in particular, is remarkably simple and unique and creative. The premise of the Catch The Stars Foundation is to assist disadvantaged youth, inspired in part by her own hearing disability as a child. It was Tamika’s way to provide opportunity for children. Inventive in the idea, though, just before Thanksgiving, was not to charge an admission, but to invite participants to bring canned goods for donation to Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana. In the early years of her fitness clinic, Tamika and “her kids” would drive to the food bank after a clinic and make a personal donation. But as years have gone by and the pounds of food have multiplied, Gleaners now sends representatives to the site of her clinic. Over 1,000 pounds of food will be donated during tomorrow’s clinic, with roughly 200 kids expected to participate.

    She used to do two clinics, in back-to-back weeks. One year, I remember her playing in Russia and flying back to Indy on consecutive weekends, just to conduct her clinics. Now she has just one clinic and one camp.

    Admission for tomorrow’s event is 10 canned food items. For those willing, a $20 admission fee is now charged in lieu of the canned food donation.

    As the Fever’s PR guy, I have offered many different labels for Ms. Catchings. As a player, she is often called, “the Fever’s Ms. Everything.” In relation to the women’s basketball world, she is a two-time Olympic gold medalist, two-time World Championship gold medalist, six-time WNBA All-Star, an eight-time All-WNBA recipient and the league’s first four-time Defensive Player of the Year. The runner-up in MVP balloting last season, she has finished among the top three in balloting for the WNBA MVP award in five of her nine active pro seasons. She has boasted a top-five finish in 8 of 9 active pro seasons.

    Off the court and most importantly, I have used this phrase while promoting her – “If Tamika Catchings is one of the world’s top five women’s basketball players, she is an even better person.”

    Hence today’s column. Catchings turned 30 last July and now is recognized as one of the top veterans and most recognizable faces in our game. She is one of the world’s most recognizable female athletes. In Indianapolis, one could argue that the 10-year Fever veteran is the most recognizable local sports figure besides another Tennessee alum, Peyton Manning. Regardless of where she falls on your scale of recognizability, she is as good-natured and as active a citizen and community contributor as any athlete I have ever known.

    This year, though, for the first time, Tamika took a vacation. As soon as the WNBA season ended, Tamika immediately left the U.S. to take part in the World Championships in the Czech Republic. Upon her return, usually, she would have been knee-deep in Foundation activities and/or planning her next season somewhere overseas. But having played non-stop for over 12 straight months, this year she took a break. In her words, she told me it was “the first vacation in my adult life.”

    Good for her. Now, though, she is back and helping administer the activities of her Foundation, founded in December 2004 and continuing to grow each year. Besides her annual fitness clinic and basketball camps, she also hosts a full schedule of mentoring programs and oversees a scholarship program for IPS student-athletes. Her next goal is to take her Catch The Stars Foundation beyond its Indianapolis roots – presumably to areas such as Chicago (her roots as a child); Dallas (where she graduated high school) and Tennessee (where she graduated college).

    The Fever has a special one in Tamika Catchings. It is no wonder the franchise has been so successful in community and outreach events. When your best and hardest-working player is one of the country’s top citizen-athletes, it’s hard for the rest of the franchise not to follow her.

    Finally, speaking of being one of the country’s top citizen-athletes, Tamika has again been nominated for a national award for her community service. The 2011 Jefferson Awards for Public Service honors “All-Stars Helping Kids.” She is one of ten finalists and is the only female in a list that includes Drew Brees, Brad Davis, Warrick Dunn, Ernie Els, Francisco Garcia, Ben Gordon, Paul Pierce, Charlie Villanueva and Brian Westbrook.

    As the Fever’s PR guy, I could rattle off a list of awards she has won each year. In 2006, for example, she was a finalist for the Wooden Citizenship Cup with Donovan McNabb and John Smoltz. In 2008, she was the recipient of the Rotary Club of Tulsa’s Henry P. Iba Citizen-Athlete Award. Tamika is as often recognized for her actions off the court, as much as on.

    She is truly a one of a kind person who represents our franchise better than anyone could ever have asked.

    I, we, Fever fans and anyone else reading this blog should do our part to help keep Tamika prominent in Jefferson Award voting which will remains open until December 31st. Individuals may vote multiple times. Fans can vote both online and via text message.

    To cast your vote for Tamika, fans can text 07 to 99158 or vote online by visiting www.allstarshelpingkids.org/teammates/index.html.

    KM


    November 10, 2010

    The college basketball season is underway. Preseason rankings are out and games have begun. The nation’s first showdown game pits No. 1 UConn against No. 2 Baylor next Tueseday (Nov. 16).

    Ordinarily, FeverBasketball.com would focus on top senior prospects each year as the WNBA preps for its annual draft, immediately following the NCAA Women’s Final Four. This year, however, because that Final Four weekend will be in Indianapolis with national semifinals and NCAA championship games conducted right here at Conseco Fieldhouse, FeverBasketball.com will devote more resources to the college game overall.

    From the Fever’s website, you will be able to link to the NCAA website and its schedule of events around town and here at The Fieldhouse. FeverBasketball also will run weekly college rankings; a weekly podcast featuring Fever analyst Debbie Antonelli; updated statistics for the nation’s top seniors; and links to top college news around the country.

    Conseco Fieldhouse hosts the Big Ten Conference women’s basketball tournament to start the month of March. One month later, on April 3 and 5, the world of college women’s basketball will descend upon Indianapolis. Two days later, Fever COO/GM Kelly Krauskopf and head coach Lin Dunn will conduct their annual draft selections – likely selecting some of the very seniors that will play in The Fieldhouse.

    Stay tuned, Fever fans! There is lots of coverage to come – from Fever stars overseas to broader college content each week.
    KM

    November 5, 2010

    Aside from WNBA team news that I’ve written about the past two days, it is time to examine the structure of overseas leagues that currently occupy the attention of so many Fever players.

    With the exception of the Australian WNBL, all of the teams throughout Europe usually compete in two different leagues – the domestic league of their particular country, and an all-European competition, either EuroLeague or EuroCup. Over my eight years with the Fever and WNBA, I have learned a lot about the structure of these leagues and their path to championships. For sake of simplicity, I’ll use this blog to highlight some of the basics.

    In Europe, all of the better clubs typically compete in the EuroLeague competition. EuroLeague comprises the top 24 teams on the continent. Four groups of six teams which play a home-and-away qualifying schedule of 10 games, usually once per week. The top eight teams from Groups A and B, and the top eight teams from Group C and D advance to what is essentially a “Sweet 16” competition, with each matchup playing a best-of-three series in one weekend. The winners of the eight series advance to a round of eight quarterfinal series. The four winners advance to a “Final Four,” with two teams emerging for a championship series which takes place usually about April.

    There also are 36 EuroCup teams and typically when a team is successful in EuroCup it can “move up” to EuroLeague status the next year.

    EuroCup competition moves a little more quickly and ends in late March. Twelve groups of three teams play a home-and-away qualifying schedule of four games, usually once per week. Thirty-two teams advance to a second round, with subsequent rounds whittled to 16, 8, 4 and two teams until a champion is crowned.

    Competing in EuroLeague for the Fever are Katie Douglas (Ros Casares from Spain) and Shavonte Zellous (TTT-Riga from Latvia). Ros Casares is a traditional EuroLeague power who advanced all the way to the finals last year.

    Competing in EuroCup for the Fever is Jessica Davenport (Volgada-Chevakata from Russia).

    With Tully Bevilaqua in Australia, WNBL teams play a standard schedule of roughly 20-30 games before WNBL playoffs. Domestic leagues in Europe do the same within their respective countries, with anywhere from 6 to 12 teams in each country. Joy Cheek and Jene Morris both are in Poland playing for teams which are not a part of EuroLeague or EuroCup competition.

    So, when overseas results are listed on FeverBasketball.com, there will often be a distinction made between leagues in respective countries, or EuroLeague or EuroCup. Playoffs in particular countries usually take place following the conclusion of EuroLeague or EuroCup, hence why players in Turkey or Russia typically have not arrived back in the U.S. until mid-May, since those countries schedule their playoffs later than most.

    In 2011, with the WNBA schedule returning to a preferred start in June, any overseas conflicts will be minimal, if any.

    While just six Fever players are overseas currently, others could report to teams at any time if they choose to sign a contract. Tamika Catchings has typically not gone overseas until January, after managing events with her Catch The Stars Foundation through December. Tammy Sutton-Brown is planning to take the year off from overseas action to rest her body, though she could theoretically return for a partial season if she agreed to contract terms with a team seeking her service. Briann January played in Turkey last year after her rookie season and likely will return overseas, though probably not before December or January.
    KM


    November 3, 2010

    The 10th annual WNBA Draft Lottery took place Tuesday afternoon and, for the sixth straight season, it had very little impact on the Indiana Fever.

    The Minnesota Lynx owned the first ping pong ball drawn to determine the lottery winner and will own the No. 1 pick in the 2011 WNBA Draft. Tulsa will have the No. 2 selection, Chicago will draft No. 3 and the Lynx will draft fourth again, using a pick acquired in a 2010 preseason trade.

    For the Fever, the best news is that UConn superstar forward Maya Moore, presumed to be the top pick in the upcoming draft, will make her way into the WNBA’s Western Conference, along with three of the top four picks in the draft. With the balance of power swung to the East last year and with Minnesota owning the pick formerly held by the Connecticut Sun, teams in the East probably won’t show the dramatic shift in power as they did in 2010.

    Indiana owns the ninth pick in the draft next April. It will mark the sixth consecutive draft that the Fever will draft in the lower tier of the draft. That is the price of success and six straight playoff appearances.

    With three 30-year-old veterans on its roster in Tamika Catchings, Katie Douglas and Tammy Sutton-Brown; and a pair of unrestricted free agents in vets Tully Bevilaqua and Ebony Hoffman, there is sure to be an effort to make the Fever younger. A smart draft can always be helpful, but the challenge for Kelly Krauskopf and Lin Dunn is that they cannot expect help from the draft so long as they keep winning.

    So, from where will that youth come? Stay tuned as it is apt to be an active offseason. Bevilaqua or Hoffman, or both, could wind up again in a Fever uniform, but if so, it would mark a third straight season with an almost identical roster – a good one, certainly but one which has not yet netted a title and one which is certainly not getting younger. Salary cap issues may also play a part in resigning one or both of the Fever stars who have been with the club through all six of those consecutive playoff appearances.

    As the calendar turns to 2011, I will not be surprised to see the Fever active in the free agency and/or trade markets. And just as that happens, Indianapolis (Conseco Fieldhouse, specifically) will be awash in activities surrounding the Big Ten Women’s Tournament, the Big Ten Men’s Tournament, the IHSAA boy’s state championships and the NCAA Women’s Final Four.

    The draft lottery may not have directly impacted the Indiana franchise, but’s going to be a BUSY, BUSY, BUSY couple of basketball months in Indiana once that calendar turns to the new year!
    KM

    November 2, 2010

    Suddenly it has become a busy period for news in the WNBA! I began the week with thoughts of a blog that centered about Fever players overseas, today’s draft lottery and a couple of comments about Marion Jones and Sheryl Swoopes. After news out of Washington on Monday that former Fever assistant Julie Plank was out as head coach of the Mystics, I needed to rethink my blogging plans. I’ll discuss the lottery and other topics later in the week.

    Now one month into the WNBA “offseason,” players are now entrenched in their seasons overseas; standings are taking shape in FIBA Europe and domestic leagues; and WNBA front offices and coaching staffs are beginning to regenerate themselves prior to a new season in 2011. Within the next month or two, we are likely to have the release of the 2011 schedule.

    The WNBA coaching carousel got an early start with Anne Donovan’s announcement last spring that she would leave the Liberty at season’s end to pursue a year-round post with Seton Hall University. Soon after the season, in mid-September, the WNBA world was dealt another blow when Liberty President and GM Carol Blazejowski stepped down from the position which she had held since the inception of the WNBA in 1997. Following that announcement came word that Mystics GM Angela Taylor was out in Washington. San Antonio fired its head coach, Sandy Brondello, the Sky announced coaching changes of its own and yesterday, the Mystics announced that former Charlotte GM/coach Trudi Lacey would take over the reigns in both capacities in Washington.

    Some of the news has been shocking. Here is a look at each team’s changes.

    In New York, former Sacramento GM and coach John Whisenant has been appointed in that dual capacity to replace Donovan and Blazejowski. Whisenant and the Monarchs won a title in 2005. He inherits a high-profile franchise that had a revival of sorts last summer. It is odd to see such a successful franchise lose a pair of big names as New York suddenly has, but Whisenant seems to have the pedigree to build upon last season’s momentum.

    The ouster of Brondello in San Antonio had to be a difficult move for GM Dan Hughes who was the Silver Stars’ former coach with Brondello as his assistant. But the first-year coaching assignment may not have been smooth, with complications presented by a pregnancy and a husband as an associate head coach. A new coach has yet to be named.

    In Chicago, change was perhaps imminent as the Sky has continued to flounder after five seasons. Replacing Steve Key is former LSU coach Pokey Chatman who will be re-united with her former college All-America center Sylvia Fowles. Chatman has coached successfully in Russia since leaving LSU two seasons ago. With a lottery selection in next April’s draft and with Fowles sure to be mentioned in MVP discussions for years to come, it may only be a matter of time before Chicago emerges from the East cellar.

    Besides the loss of Blazejowski, the most surprising offseason changes have come from Washington. First, Taylor’s contract was silently not renewed by Mystics management, then Plank was dismissed in a shocker on Monday. I spoke with Lin Dunn after the move became public. Pure speculation is that Washington wanted a combined GM/coach position which moved Taylor from the ranks and Julie may well have been opposed to being asked to assume both roles.

    It is tough to know the circumstances, certainly, but it is surprising, even disheartening, to see two franchises with such success last summer suddenly find themselves with new basketball management.

    Lottery news comes this afternoon. I’ll blog about overseas leagues taking shape later in the week.
    KM


    October 14, 2010

    It is Thursday morning and I’ve just downed my first cup of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee at the new store just opened at Conseco Fieldhouse! I think having the restaurant in that space is fantastic. It’s a great gathering place for fans and visitors to our great arena. I must be excited (or extra-caffeinated!) … I just used “great” twice in the same sentence!

    OK, but on to other “great” things, be sure to check out the feature written by Tom Rietmann this week about Kelly Krauskopf preparing for the 2011 season. It’s a pretty good look into the state of the Fever franchise and some preliminary preparation for next season’s team. Overall, the Indiana Fever continues receiving great mileage from its trip to the WNBA Finals in 2009. Now, however, is the time that the Fever needs to work hard to build on that momentum and plan for a return trip in the future. This franchise has proven to be one of the best run operations in the WNBA, and six straight playoff appearances certainly is evidence of that.

    Fans can take advantage of a Fever Open House on Tuesday, Oct. 26 when they can select their seats for the 2011 season and visit with Coach Dunn and Freddy Fever! Fans can tour the Fever locker room, shoot a free throw on the main court and take a photo with the 2009 Eastern Conference Championship trophy!

    There are a lot of activities going on behind the scenes in Fever-land these days and it won’t be long before we’re talking about free agency and the draft in January. For the next couple of months, we’ll be tracking Fever players overseas … Jené Morris and Joy Cheek have already begun play in Poland, as has Shavonte Zellous in Latvia. Katie Douglas (Spain) and Jessica Davenport (Russia) begin action this weekend!

    KM

    October 12, 2010

    Overseas basketball in the 2010-11 WNBA “offseason” is underway! Fever players have dispersed around the globe and several have already begun action with their new teams! Be sure to keep in touch on Twitter (twitter.com/kmess65) or here on FeverBasketball.com for the latest in overseas news and activities with your favorite Fever players.

    Before compiling any statistics and diving into box scores for games played in Krakow or Minsk, let’s first take a look at who will be playing where in the coming months!

    Tully Bevilaqua – After retiring from her native WNBL in Australia, Tully came to contract terms with the team in Perth, which is in Western Australia near her hometown of Merredin. Tully was a member of the Australian Opals National Team which placed fifth at the recently concluded World Championships.

    Tamika Catchings – Tamika has yet to determine her overseas plans for 2010-11. She has returned from winning a gold medal in the World Championships and will concentrate her efforts the next few months with activities related to the Catch The Stars Foundation. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for an upcoming event near you!

    Joy Cheek – Joy’s first venture into international basketball was met with confusion. She was signed to a team in Israel, but the team folded before she ever arrived. She has since signed with Super-Pol Leszno in Poland and has already appeared in two games, averaging 12.5 points and 9.0 rebounds. Leszno is in west central Poland, near the border with Germany. Its closest metropolitan city is Berlin, which is located 240 kilometers northwest of Leszno.

    Jessica Davenport – JDav has landed in Vologda, Russia, after playing last season in China. She plays for Chevakata in the Russian Superleague and her team participated in a small tournament last weekend in Czech Republic. While she was in Czech Republic last week, she mingled with Tamika Catchings while watching the USA win the World Championships. More from JDav throughout the winter. The Russian League begins play Oct. 15.

    Katie Douglas – Katie plays for Spanish power Ros Casares this year, which opened its season with a 64-45 win over Mann-Filter on Sunday evening. Katie scored eight points while playing beside WNBA All-Star Rebekkah Brunson (Minnesota Lynx) and former Fever star Linda Frohlich. Ros Casares is traditional powerhouse in EuroLeague action.

    Ebony Hoffman – Hoffman is yet unsigned to play overseas. Stay tuned for further details!

    Briann January – Bri was one of five players in Turkey last season, but is undecided on where she will play this winter. She is likely to return overseas in December or January.

    Jessica Moore – Jess is undergoing knee surgery and is not expected to play overseas this winter.

    Jené Morris – Jené is playing in Poland with CCC Polkowice. Her team began play last week and so far is 1-2 with Jené averaging 6.0 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.0 steals and 1.0 assists in early action. Like Leszno, Polkowice is in west central Poland, roughly 50 kilometers from Joy Cheek’s team!

    Tammy Sutton-Brown – As reported earlier on FeverBasketball.com, Tammy has opted not to play overseas this winter. She will rest herself after constant treks between the U.S. and Turkey for the past four years. She inked a new contract with the Fever prior to the end of last season and will base herself in her hometown of Toronto this winter, concentrating efforts on her own charitable foundation.

    Shavonte Zellous – “Z” finds herself in Latvia this winter where she plays with TTT Riga. Zellous will team with young WNBA stars Jacinta Monroe (Washington Mystics) and Quanitra Hollingsworth (Minnesota Lynx). Riga begins its season Oct. 16.

    Stay tuned for results, stats and travel stories from Fever stars on FeverBasketball.com!
    KM

    October 6, 2010

    It is already the second week of October, can you believe how the time flies?? Be on the lookout this weekend and next week for some season wrap-up stories on FeverBasketball.com and WNBA.com. Lin Dunn will do a series of interviews today to discuss the 2010 season.

    As we put the wraps on the previous season, one thing that remains constant is Tamika Catchings being nominated for another award! This time it is the Jefferson Award, honoring community service among professional athletes. And for this award, fans can vote for their favorite star! To cast your vote for Tamika, fans can text 07 to 99158 or vote online by visiting www.allstarshelpingkids.org/teammates/index.html.

    Tamika is certainly deserving of all of her accolades and, in particular, those dealing with her community service. Straight off winning her gold medal in the World Championships, she and her Catch The Stars Foundation will build a home with Habitat for Humanity, next Wednesday, Oct. 13. Stay tuned for her details on her annual CTSF clinic (Nov. 13) and camp events (Dec. 28-30) in November and December! Fans may also visit Tamika’s website at www.catchin24.com.

    So, what is new for the Fever this offseason? Shortly, we’ll be talking about players overseas and competing on their teams in Europe, Isreal, Russia and Australia. But another thing that remains constant, though is relatively new in 2010, is the wonderful world of Twitter!

    OK, I am very much a newbie (@kmess65) in Twitter-speak. I have to credit – or blame – Chris Denari (@chrisdenari) for helping launch me into the Twitterworld. But the one thing I know is that Twitter offers real-time communication between the media and celebrities and their fans and followers. I have discovered that normal, everyday people like you and me even tweet just to keep in touch over the course of a given day. There are all sorts of uses for Twitter. I’m still not the world’s biggest Twitter advocate, but it certainly has its place.

    So, now that I am advancing myself into the Twitterworld, I am also hoping to gather Fever fans into their own world of “following” their favorite players. Here are a number of ways to keep in touch with Fever news and activities in the offseason:

    If you want news and current events – follow Indiana Fever (twitter.com/indianafever) , Coach Dunn (twitter.com/Coach_Dunn) or even me (twitter.com/kmess65).

    If you want wall-to-wall sports and daily activity with both the Pacers and Fever – follow Chris Denari (twitter.com/chrisdenari).

    If you want to follow daily player activities and keep tabs on their travels overseas, even off the court – follow any of the nine Fever players who are active on Twitter (twitter.com/bevilaqua41 – Tully Bevilaqua; twitter.com/joyfulnoyze – Joy Cheek; twitter.com/jessdav50 – Jessica Davenport; twitter.com/ebonyhoffman32 – Ebony Hoffman; twitter.com/briannjanuary – Briann January; twitter.com/jessmoore31 – Jessica Moore; twitter.com/jenemorris – Jené Morris; twitter.com/tksb15 – Tammy Sutton-Brown; twitter.com/zellous1 – Shavonte Zellous).

     

    Twitter is a new world just ready for Fever fans to engage! Follow your favorites and keep in touch as we move into eight more months of the WNBA’s offseason.

    KM

    October 6, 2010

    Congratulations to each of Tamika Catchings and Tully Bevilaqua for recently completed performances in the FIBA World Championships! Tamika and the United States won the gold medal with absolute domination throughout the two-week tournament, including a win over rival Australia. Tully and the Aussies were disappointed with their fifth-place finish but for the Fever point guard it capped an international career that included a World Championships gold medal in 2006 and an Olympic silver medal in 2008.

    Under the direction of Geno Auriemma, the U.S. blitzed the entire field and was magnificently relentless and dominant in every game. Now the oldest and most experienced member of the U.S. National Team, Fever star Catchings was the perfect veteran to help lead the new generation of American stars. Catchings’ constant effort was certainly noticed by media covering the tournament – even if it didn’t always translate into her own statistics. Catchings has won two golds in World Championship play and helped the Americans redeem themselves after a bronze-medal finish in 2006. She has won two Olympic gold medals and an NCAA title. All that remains for one of the most versatile women’s players in American history is the elusive WNBA crown.

    In the 9-game tournament, Catchings started every game and averaged 8.8 points with a high of 14 in a semifinals win. She was second on the team with 12 steals and shot 51.9 percent from the floor overall. She was 6-of-14 from 3-point range.

    Catchings’ attitude and hard-working habits are a part of the reason the Indiana Fever has reached the WNBA Playoffs in six consecutive seasons. With a 2009 Finals appearance under their belt, the Fever is clearly one of the league’s most productive and most successful franchises over the past six seasons.

    Another reason? Tully Bevilaqua. Since her arrival in Indianapolis after a 2004 title with Seattle, the Fever has never failed to reach the playoffs. During those six seasons in Indianapolis, the Fever is 117-70 (.626) in games which she has started – including 17-9 last summer. She has never been the biggest offensive threat on the floor and she is now in the twilight of her career. But no matter her role, she has always been a fantastic teammate and a hard worker to complement Tamika Catchings.

    The twosome has been responsible for so many successes in Fever red, blue and gold. Our franchise is thankful for both of them. Congratulations to each of them.

    KM

    September 29, 2010

    The WNBA Finals have concluded and congratulations to the 2010 WNBA champion Seattle Storm. Congratulations, too, to Eastern Conference champ Atlanta who overcame a late season fade to overcome the Mystics and Liberty in the opening rounds to win the rugged East. It was a good season for the Fever, despite the disappointing first-round exit against New York.

    Despite the end of the WNBA season however, overseas and in Indianapolis, the hoops are just beginning to heat up! As most of you are surely aware, the World Championships are taking place currently in the Czech Republic with the top two teams, Australia and the United States, both 5-0 so far. And today at 2:15 p.m. ET, live on NBATV, the two unbeatens meet head-to-head for supremacy heading into the medal round.

    The Australians with Lauren Jackson, Penny Taylor and Tully Bevilaqua are the defending world champions, earning the crown at the 2006 World Championships in Brazil. The U.S., led by veterans Sue Bird and Tamika Catchings, are the defending Olympic champs, beating the Aussies in 2008 in Beijing, China.

    But even as the world’s top two women’s hoops powers collide in the Czech Republic, the hoops season is heating up right here in Indianapolis. The high school and college seasons are right around the corner and earlier this morning I met with representatives of the NCAA Women’s Final Four public relations subcommittee. Not only will the NCAA Women’s Final Four be conducted in Indianapolis this spring (April 3 and 5), but it will be held right here at Conseco Fieldhouse.

    Yes, the event is still six months away, but with the magnitude of the event and with the number of public (mostly FREE) activities planned for fans, now is the time to begin the planning. Conseco Fieldhouse will be buzzing throughout the month of March with back-to-back weeks of Big Ten Tournaments in March, followed by the NCAA Women’s Final Four! What a great time to be a hoops fan in this great city!

    As I blog more throughout the winter months and the more “traditional” basketball season, I’ll talk more about the men’s and women’s Big Ten Tournaments and the NCAA Women’s Final Four. I’ll have weekly updates leading into all three tournaments, and you will see Katie Douglas and Tamika Catchings as ambassadors for a pair of Women’s Final Four events – the 4Kay Run on Saturday, April 2 and the Circle City Dribble on April 3.

    Mark down those dates, Fever fans … March and April will be upon us before you know it. And if you have time, be sure to follow Tamika and Tully in the World Championships!


    September 14, 2010

    Congratulations to Tamika Catchings and Katie Douglas for earning All-WNBA honors today, as announced by the WNBA! Tamika earned All-WNBA honors for the eighth time in her career, five times on the first team. Katie is a four-time All-WNBA recipient.

    Catchings and Douglas were the Fever’s only two double-digit scorers in 2010 – Catchings averaged 18.2 points per game and Douglas 13.7. The duo clearly carried the Fever in the scoring column with one of them pacing Indiana scorers in 27 of 34 games. Catchings finished fifth in the league in scoring, Douglas 19th.

    Tamika had yet another “typical” season with top ten rankings in points, rebounds, steals and blocks. She was named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year for an unprecedented fourth time and she became the first player in WNBA history to lead the circuit in steals in six different seasons.

    In my humble opinion, Tamika still deserved to be named MVP this year. She finished second in MVP voting and third in all-league balloting. She finished among the top three in WNBA MVP balloting for the fifth time in nine active seasons; it was her eighth top-five finish in those nine active seasons.

    While I am working at the WNBA Finals this week in Seattle, I had conversation with a couple of media folks prior to Game 1 yesterday. It was agreed that if there were separate awards for Most Outstanding Player and Most Valuable Player, Tamika may well have won the MVP award by now. Unfortunately, with Lauren Jackson in the mix, LJ has won the award multiple times. Jackson is probably the most dominant and overwhelming weapon in the women’s game today. While Tamika can beat opponents in more ways and may be more valuable to the success of her team, LJ will always be considered by some as the most valuable.

    And Cappie Pondexter was certainly a very worthwhile candidate, too.

    But I’m partial to Tamika and always will be. Congrats to earning All-WNBA mention again this season.

    KM


    September 1, 2010

    Alright, Fever fans, tonight is the biggest game of the year. It is “win or go home” in front of what is expected to be a huge crowd at Madison Square Garden. The Fever has lost its past two road games to the Liberty. We know the Liberty has been hot and we expect nothing but another physical grudge match to the finish.

    Should the Fever win, Indiana will advance to the conference finals for the fourth time in the past six years. Tickets for the Eastern Conference Finals would go on sale immediately after the game, in the event of a win, right here on FeverBasketball.com. Tickets would go on sale at the Conseco Fieldhouse Box Office and all Ticketmaster outlets Thursday morning at 10 a.m.

    Should the Fever win, there will also be an airport rally Thursday morning at 10 a.m. at Civic Plaza inside Indianapolis International Airport. Fever fans will be invited to show their Fever spirit, wear their best Fever attire and welcome home the Fever players and coaches before they embark on a three-game series with the Atlanta Dream --- who is patiently awaiting the winner of this series.

    Should the Fever lose, however, well, another season shall come to a close.

    What is the key to tonight’s game? I think there are three key factors.

    1) Indiana must rebound and minimize New York’s second-chance points. Rebounding and second-chance points have been the Fever’s Achilles’ heel all season. Nearly all of its losses to Atlanta, New York, Connecticut and Washington in the East have come with significant deficits in rebounding and second-chance points. When the Fever attacks the boards and takes care of rebounding on both ends of the floor, Indiana has come up winners. So long as Indiana doesn’t give up a monster-sized advantage in those areas, the Fever will make a game of it.

    2) Indiana must rotate on defense to minimize the Liberty’s 3-point shooting. Cappie Pondexter is the league’s best creator. She creates her own shots and she can shot from all angles anywhere on the floor. She has to be contained to some extent. But even when she doesn’t shoot it herself, she is drawing a crowd and is very adept at kicking to her teammates from 3-point range. Leilani Mitchell, Janel McCarville and Nicole Powell all have hurt the Fever with long-range shooting while the defense is drawn to Cappie. The way Indiana has fought this is by quick defensive rotations and by not overcommitting to Cappie on drives along the baseline or in the lane.

    3) Indiana must attack the basket on offense and not settle for perimeter shots. That means that Tammy Sutton-Brown and Jessica Davenport have to be active participants in the scoring column. Ebony Hoffman, too, and Katie Douglas must be a contributor both on the drive and with her 3-point shot. If the Fever scores points, it can win.

    Indiana scored 73 points and lost last Thursday. The Fever scored 75 points and won on Sunday. The key was limiting the Liberty scoring. If the game is played in the 80s, that likely means too many second-chance points by the Liberty. I like the Fever’s chances with a game in the 70s.

    Let’s hope we’ll be playing the Dream on Friday at The Fieldhouse!

    KM


    August 18, 2010

    Wow! What at night at The Garden last night … and not the kind of night any of us Fever folks expected! New York was hot. They’ve been hot to the tune of nine straight wins now. They shot the ball, they attacked and they outworked the Fever for rebounds and loose balls. In layman’s terms, the New York Liberty kicked the Fever’s butt last night!

     OK … some perspective.

    First, it was clear that Tamika Catchings came to play last night. Scoring 15 of the team’s first 17 points while the Fever held a first-quarter lead, Catchings was on fire. She wound up with 25 points and matched her franchise record with six 3-pointers. She scored at least 24 for the sixth time in eight games. She certainly solidified her MVP bid again. No matter who ultimately wins the award – Catchings, Lauren Jackson and Cappie Pondexter are widely regarded as the top three candidates – she has had an MVP season.

     Second, what also was clear, besides the fact that the Liberty is a dramatically improved from earlier in the year, is that the Fever, as a whole, weren’t ready to play. From turnovers to missed defensive assignments to Leilani Mitchell getting every loose ball on the floor to unnecessary shot clock violations – Indiana wasn’t Indiana on Tuesday night.

    What does it mean? From a standings and playoff perspective, it means that Indiana allowed New York and Washington to remain in the race for the East title. It means the Fever didn’t clinch anything on Tuesday and can’t clinch anything on Friday without some help. It means that Indiana could still finish anywhere from first to third in the East, and Sunday’s game at Conseco Fieldhouse (5:00 p.m. vs. Minnesota) will have major seeding implications.

    New York hosts Tulsa on Thursday and should move into a deadlock tie with the Fever at 21-11. Washington is 20-12. The Liberty and Mystics play each other on Friday.

    • If New York wins Friday and the Fever beats San Antonio, Indiana clinches at least second place and will enter Sunday’s finale tied with New York. And after Tuesday’s loss, the Liberty owns a tiebreaker over the Fever.

    • If Washington wins Friday, nothing between the top three teams will be decided until Sunday.

    What else does the loss to the Liberty mean? From a playing standpoint, I think it shows that the Fever is a team that really relies on the sum of its parts. It is a team. It is a team with depth which, when its full cast isn’t playing well, it is significantly challenged against good teams. Now, the Fever are in the midst of what boils down to a two-week road trip. Five out of six games on the road, criss-crossing from West Coast to East Coast and now on to San Antonio … and so far the Fever is 4-1 in its first five games.

    So I don’t feel too badly about last night’s loss – except it had very unfortunate timing. The Fever would have been much better off dropping a game on the West Coast than losing to the Liberty. It sealed the tiebreaker for New York on a night that the Fever could have clinched at least homecourt advantage in next week’s conference semifinals. 

    Indiana needs to right the ship in a hurry – but with two days before the game in San Antonio, there is more time to take a deep breath and get ready for the final weekend. Like I have said for the past month, every game is a playoff game!

    KM


    August 15, 2010

    Before I talk about today's game and the Fever's sixth straight playoff appearance, I need to touch on Tamika Catchings' candidacy as the 2010 WNBA Most Valuable Player. She has finished in the top three or top five of the voting in 7 of her 8 active pro seasons -- but has never won the award in the league which she has dominated for nearly a decade. This has been arguably her best season, certainly her most efficient and against the toughest competition of her career. She has saved her best performances for the latter half of the season, and that should mean something. Just a few moments ago, I sent out my third and final MVP letter to fans and media. Voting media members must turn in their ballots one week from Monday. She surely is my candidate, I hope she is yours. I would like to encourage Fever fans to show Tamika your appreciation when Indiana plays its final regular season home game at Conseco Fieldhouse next Sunday.

    Check out my Catchings MVP Letters (1st) | (2nd) | (3rd) to voting media members.

    Against Connecticut today, there is nothing the Fever can clinch in terms of any seeding, though a win can certainly solidify Indiana's current hold on first place. With Tuesday's game looming at New York, a lot may be determined by Wednesday morning. As things stand now, the Fever's "magic number" to clinch homecourt advantage in the first round is 3, with just four games to play. Wins today and Wednesday, though, may be enough depending on the outcome of other games. Any losses, however, keep the tension high for each subsequent matchup. The Liberty, a winner in seven straight games, is the hottest team in the league right now and only one game separates New York and Indiana atop the East.

    In terms of history, this Indiana franchise is making a mark in the WNBA. The Fever is a perennial contender. The Fever and Seattle boast the two longest active playoff streaks, Indiana in six straight years and the Storm with seven. Further, Indiana has reached 20 wins for the fifth time in the past six years. Only two other franchises in WNBA history -- Los Angeles and Houston -- have ever achieved the same degree of success in a six-year span. Pretty impressive.

    The Fever has played well on the road recently, winning five of its past 6, including the West Coast sweep last week. Today's game is big - AGAIN - because it can improve the Fever's 12-8 record against the East, which trails only the 12-7 mark by New York. A win would put Indiana 1 1/2 games in front of the Liberty while a loss would allow the Libs within just a half-game of the lead ... with Tuesday's big game looming.

    Go Fever!
    KM

    August 10, 2010

    The Indiana Fever bids for a piece of history tonight. Before tonight's game at Staples Center (Fever vs. Sparks, ESPN2, 10:00 p.m. ET), fans in L.A. will honor Tina Thompson who became the WNBA's all-time scoring leader Sunday evening. At halftime, the Sparks will retire the jersey of Lisa Leslie. But for the Indiana Fever, a win this evening marks the first time in franchise history that Indiana has swept a multiple-game West Coast road swing.

    Only once before (2007) has the Fever beaten the Sparks in L.A. And never has the Fever swept every game on a West Coast trip. Tonight, after a 104-82 win at Phoenix on Sunday, Indiana can do just that.

    As we race into the final two weeks of the regular season, the playoffs are in sight. Indiana boasts a "magic number" of 3, meaning that any combination of three Fever wins or Connecticut losses will earn Indiana its sixth straight playoff bid -- and its 7th in 11 seasons. Should the Fever win the evening and Connecticut fall at Washington, the Fever could clinch that playoff berth with a home win over Phoenix on Friday night at Conseco Fieldhouse.

    With playoff time also comes awards time. And this year, it's all about Tamika Catchings. Tamika for MVP. Tamika for Defensive Player of the Year. The Fever has even nominated Tamika for the league's sportsmanship award, named in honor of former Sacramento star Kim Perrot.

    In what is Tamika's most efficient and best shooting season, the "do-everything" forward is certainly very responsible for the Fever being in first place with six games to play. She has averaged fewer minutes than in any previous season, and nearly her lowest average for shots per game, though she still is averaging the third-highest point total (17.7 ppg) of her career. Compared with the five top scorers above her (and presumably five other top MVP candidates), Catchings takes fewer shots and has a higher shooting percentage than all but Sylvia Fowles whose game is found exclusively around the basket.

    I'm biased, of course. But she's certainly my candidate. Check out my Catchings MVP Letters (1st) (2nd) to voting media members.
    KM

    August 8, 2010

    Every game is a playoff game. That was the theme of my last blog and, really, not much has changed from a basketball and playoffs standpoint.

    Within the past week, the Fever lost a couple games, then beat Atlanta in a big Friday night victory on Breast Health Awareness Night. I'm not sure who was the bigger winner - the Fever or Community Health Network! In all, Fever fans helped raise about $44,000 for the Community Breast Health Fund right after the Fever dispatched the Dream, 95-93 on a pair of last-second free throws by Tamika Catchings. Friday night was a big night for our franchise and surely the Breast Health Awareness event is one which will be repeated in future seasons. Hats off to everyone involved!

    It is also worth mentioning that Tamika's season-high 30 points that night contributed to her latest milestone, as she became the first player in league history with 4,500 points, 2,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists.

    Today, the Fever has returned to the site of last year's WNBA Finals games in Phoenix. Today's afternoon tip marks the first meeting between the two clubs since last year's historic, dramatic Finals series which many regard as the best series in league history. I remember countless moments from my seat here at US Airways Center -- most of them good, including the 120-116 barnburner to begin the series. Even though Indiana lost that contest, it certainly was a game that set the tone for one of the WNBA's most shining weeks ever. Unfortunately, Indiana couldn't close the series in Game 4 in Indy, nor two nights later here in Phoenix in Game 5.

    But that brings to the here and now -- Indiana enters today's game with a slim hold on first place in the Eastern Conference again. This year's lead is by the slimmest of margins with just seven regular season games remaining, and with five of those last seven on the road, every game really matters. Phoenix, currently second in the West, is playing for its own playoff seeding and on BHA Day in Phoenix, today's atmosphere could rival some of those we saw here last fall.

    Being on the road now for 5 of 7, my opinion is that this will make the Fever more "battle-tested." Not that the Fever isn't pretty battle-tested already, but we haven't had a stretch like this in awhile. A win today gives Indiana a miniscule 1/2-game lead in the East. A loss puts the Fever 1/2-game back of Atlanta. The bottom line is that, barring any huge setback or losing streak, the Fever will find itself in the playoffs which also will be hotly contested every night.

    But being on the road for this long stretch at this crucial time will serve as valuable preparation for those playoffs. Twenty minutes from tipoff! Go Fever!
    KM


    August 1, 2010

    The calendar has turned to August and there are 10 games remaining in the regular season. In this year's hotly contested Eastern Conference, every game is a playoff game. Every game changes placement in the standings. Every game has significant playoff implications. By this point in the year, every game determines tiebreaker relationships. Every game is a playoff game.

    Today, that playoff game is 35 minutes from tipoff as the top two teams in the East clash head-to-head from Philips Arena in Atlanta. The 16-8 Fever is on the road to battle the 17-9 Dream. The Fever and Dream are in a virtual tie for first, with the Fever clinging to a percentage-point advantage. An Indiana win gives the Fever a 1-game advantage. An Atlanta win sends the Fever back into second place, one game behind the Dream.

    Every game is a playoff game. Every game impacts the standings. A total of five games separate six teams in the Eastern Conference; a total of just three games separates the top five. Any losing streak of two or three games can send a first place team to fourth or fifth place.

    Every game is a playoff game.

    Fortunately for the Fever, Indiana is 6-1 this season following a loss. That said, though, it was at Atlanta in Game 2 of the year that the Fever last lost following a loss. That two-game win streak is the club's longest of the season. Here we are again, matched against the Dream with which we are in a virtual deadlock for first place.

    Every game is a playoff game.
    KM


    July 30, 2010

    OK, Fever fans, it's that time of year. It's the time when the PR folks begin pitching their stars for various postseason awards. And this year, my task is very singular ... convince the voters that Tamika Catchings is the MVP of the WNBA. The campaign launched today with a letter to fans and media voters across the league. Here is that letter.

    A Letter to the Fans and Media Voters of the WNBA
    “Why Tamika Catchings Is the MVP of the WNBA – Why Not?”

    It’s time for the Fever PR guy to begin rolling out his campaign for Tamika Catchings as MVP. She is one of the world’s most likeable and respected female athletes; one of the WNBA’s most accomplished and experienced veterans; and one of the league’s most gifted and yet hardest-working competitors. Yet she has never been honored as the MVP of the league which she has dominated for a decade.

    First, allow me to point out a few myths and stereotypes in annual MVP voting …

  • The MVP always comes from among the league’s top scoring leaders.
  • The Defensive Player of the Year is not MVP-worthy.

    My campaign begins with the fact that Tamika Catchings has finished among the top three in balloting for the WNBA MVP Award in four of her eight active seasons. She has finished among the top five in MVP balloting in 7 of 8 active seasons.

    Why hasn’t she won the award? Over eight previous active seasons, voters could point to one of four possible deficiencies:
    1. Catchings does EVERYTHING, but she’s just not a great shooter.
    2. Somebody always scores more points than her.
    3. She’s recognized as the game’s best defensive player, but that’s not enough for the MVP.
    4. Her team has not always been a winner.

    Nobody in the history of the WNBA has posted such gaudy, stat-sheet filling numbers as Tamika Catchings. She is destined to become the league’s all-time steals leader and she is 87 points and 11 assists from becoming the first player in league history with 4,500 points, 2,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists. But it has never been good enough for MVP voters. Among WNBA statistical leaders, she is currently 9th in points (16.6), 11th in rebounds (6.8), 12th in assists (4.0), 11th in FG% (.494), 9th in 3-pt FG% (.433), 1st in steals (2.74) and 9th in blocks (1.04). The ONLY categories in which she does not rank among the top 12 are minutes (23rd, 30.3) and FT% (18th, .821). She is, though, eighth in the league in total free throws made (92).

    So let’s address and refute each of Catchings’ so-called MVP “deficiencies.”

    Catchings does EVERYTHING, but she’s just not a great shooter.
    This season, she is shooting a career-high 49.4 percent from the floor and is 11th in the league in field goal percentage. Nine of the 10 players she trails are post players! Catchings is shooting 43 percent on 60 3-point attempts, good for ninth in the league, just ahead of 3-point champion and Fever teammate Katie Douglas! If her shooting prowess was a knock against her candidacy, she has knocked down that argument in dramatic fashion!

    Somebody always scores more points than her.
    With this argument, why don’t we just give the MVP annually to the WNBA’s Peak Performer for Scoring? Is a 16.5-point career average not enough to warrant an MVP award when this person does everything else that other top scorer’s don’t do? Catchings is averaging 16.6 points through 23 games this season, but on top of that, she ranks in the league’s top 12 in points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, FT% and 3FG%. Oh, and she is fifth in the league in steals per turnover (1.05) and she consistently makes big plays when games are on the line. Oh … and she is barely averaging 30 minutes per game this year. When she does more than everybody else in every facet of the game, why should she be required to be among the top three scorers to be eligible for an MVP award?

    She’s recognized as the game’s best defensive player, but that’s not enough for the MVP.
    True, Catchings has won the Defensive MVP three times, joining Sheryl Swoopes as the only three-time recipient. True to form, she leads the WNBA with 2.74 steals per game in 2010 and is the league’s only player averaging more than two steals per contest. She also is ninth in the WNBA with 1.04 blocks per game. Is there another athlete more versatile than Catchings? Let’s analyze the other MVP candidates – Jackson, McCoughtry, Fowles, Charles, Taurasi, Pondexter, Langhorne, Dupree, Lyttle – if any of them rank highly in a defensive category, are they even among the top 20 in another? No! That’s not just versatility, it is dominance. Shouldn’t dominance count on either end of the court? Catchings is the arguably the league’s most versatile and dominant player on BOTH ends!

    [Let’s check that research, in fact, measuring 10 top MVP candidates and their rank in steals and blocks categories. Catchings ranks 1st and 9th, respectively. The closest MVP candidate to rank in the top 20 for both is Angel McCoughtry who is 4th in steals and 22nd in blocks. The only other candidates in the top 10 in EITHER category are Tina Charles (4th in blocks) and Lauren Jackson (5th in blocks), but neither ranks among the top 40 in steals.]

    Her team has not always been a winner.
    That has certainly not been the case through most of her career. The defending Eastern Conference champions are vying for their seventh playoff appearance in 11 seasons – all led by Catchings. The Fever currently sits atop the East standings with Catchings as its top player making big plays in key situations in its biggest battles.

    Make another argument and Catchings will shoot holes through that one, too. She is the game’s most complete and best all-around player.
    KM


    July 29, 2010

    Today was team picture day for the Fever and not only did the team pose for its annual team photograph, but six players also posed for a Breast Health Awareness photo in their new pink uniforms!

    [While I’m talking about the pink uniforms, don’t forget to be on hand next Friday, August 6. Besides hosting the Atlanta Dream in a game with first-place implications in the East standings, the Fever will don pink uniforms and then put them up for bid in a postgame auction for charity! Up for bid will be numerous items including players’ jerseys and shoes. Raising funds for Community Health Network’s Breast Health Fund, a goal is to raise nearly $20,000 for cancer research and services.]

    The Fever, 16-7, has currently won five straight games and six of its last seven. Indiana sits atop the Eastern Conference with 11 regular season games remaining. The East still is jam-packed with all six teams resting within just 5 games of one another, meaning that clinching scenarios won’t begin taking place for at least another week. However, what is known is this – Indiana’s 11-5 record against the East is the best in the league, with Washington and New York next at 8-7. Wins this weekend against the Mystics and Dream would be critical in clinching eventual tiebreakers.

    If the Fever beats Washington tomorrow, Indiana clinches at least a 2-2 tie in the season series and goes up 2 games over Washington in records vs. the East. If the Fever beats Atlanta on Sunday, Indiana would clinch the series with the Dream, going up 3-1 with one contest remaining.

    While all games are big … Friday and Sunday games this weekend can be huge in earning tiebreak status in the final weeks. Wins also help maintain Indiana’s narrow lead. Losses, however, bring the Fever right back with the rest of the pack and fail to clinch a thing. Washington, in fact, can clinch the season series if it beats the Fever on Friday.

    Hoping to see you Friday evening at The Fieldhouse for Veiolia Water Back to School Night!
    KM


    July 24, 2010

    It's game night and a big one tonight. If the Fever should lose, Washington will take over first place in the Eastern Conference, with the Fever trailing by 1/2 game -- exactly the reverse of where things stand now. Hopefully, that scenario doesn't happen. I stragegically listed that option first, though, because I'll elaborate on why I think it's an even bigger game after an Indiana win.

    The East has been so jumbled of late that nobody has led the conference by more than a game in the standings in a couple of weeks. Indiana would assume a 1 1/2 game advantage with a win this evening. Further, if Indiana wins it avoids the Mystics clinching the season series and it gives the Fever a chance to tie the series next Friday, July 30, at Conseco Fieldhouse.

    In this tight race, tiebreak scenarios will be important down the stretch. Besides head-to-head records, the top tiebreaking factor is conference record. Indiana's 9-5 mark against the East is already the best in the league, with Washington second at 8-5. Maintaining that lead will be significant in any future scenarios.

    Plus, beyond all the tiebreaking scenarios and standings, a road win against a quality team is always big. Always. And at the least, that is what's at stake tonight. The Fever has won five of its past six games overall and its three-game win streak matches its longest of the season. Four straight and 6 of 7 sound very nice.

    One lineup change tonight -- Briann January will start at the point ahead of Tully Bevilaqua. Bri has been assuming more and more minutes of late and has begun taking charge of this club. It's a big test for her.

    The Fever has taken the court and 15 minutes remain before tip. Go Fever!
    KM


    July 23, 2010

    The Fever has entered the “crunch time” portion of its schedule with now less than four weeks before the regular season concludes. Exactly one month before the end of the regular season, Indiana has taken sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference – but looming on the horizon are a slew of games against other top conference contenders.

    First up is Saturday’s matchup against current second-place challenger Washington. The Fever beat the Mystics in last year’s conference semifinals, but they are improved and hungry – and only yesterday were they tied with the Fever atop the East standings. Next are games with Chicago and Washington again. Then at Atlanta, and home against New York before entertaining Atlanta again. Four of the Fever’s next six games are against it’s top two contenders – Washington and Atlanta.

    Hopefully, not all travel days will proceed like today’s. Following a slight flight delay into Reagan National Airport, the Fever proceeded by bus to the Westin Grand hotel. The team bus took a slightly “scenic” tour before reaching its hotel, and then the team reboarded 20 minutes later on its way to Verizon Center for a short practice. The bus ride to the arena was slightly “scenic” again as I wondered on more than one occasion if we were going in circles. I used to live here, too, so I was a little confused as to why the route took so long.

    OK, but we made it and practice proceeded on schedule … until, about 3:30 p.m. and 45 minutes into the team’s walk-thru, the arena lights all went out. And stayed out. Said Lin Dunn, “All day it just seems like this practice was doomed from the start.” The Fever packed its bags and vowed for a productive walk-thru when it returns to Verizon Center for game day shooting practice tomorrow morning.
    KM


    July 22, 2010

    It is game day once again and the Fever is playing tonight to regain sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference. Tonight’s game against the Los Angeles Sparks is being televised on ESPN2 … which brings me to my statement that today is “all about Purdue.”

    OK, that’s stretching things, maybe. But tonight’s game as a definite Purdue flavor. Besides Lin Dunn and Katie Douglas, of course, doing the game for ESPN2 is analyst Carolyn Peck. Peck was the Purdue coach of the 1999 national championship team led by Douglas and former Fever star Stephanie White. And playing for the Sparks this evening is 2009 Boilermakers star Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton. And on top of all that, Douglas was met this morning by another former Purdue athlete, football player Matt Mitrione who now is a star on the UFC circuit. UFC competes at Conseco Fieldhouse on Sept. 25 and Mitrione was on hand for a brief press conference. He met with Douglas following the Fever’s morning shootaround.

    Hence why today is “all about Purdue.” If any Purdue and Fever fans would like to hear from Carolyn Peck, she will address the Fever’s Chalk Talk in the Locker Room Restaurant prior to the game at 6:20 p.m.

    Back to the Fever. With Washington’s win over Atlanta yesterday, Indiana is tied with the Mystics for first place in the East. A win puts Indiana back in sole possession of the lead, just two days before battling the Mystics head-to-head in Washington on Saturday.

    Indiana faces a 6-15 Sparks team tonight that is led by big names and youngsters. They are, however, in their first season without Lisa Leslie and playing without injured superstar Candace Parker. Much of the Sparks luster is semi-tarnished at the moment. All-Stars and Olympians Tina Thompson and Delisha Milton-Jones are the experienced veterans on this club, and veteran point guard Ticha Penicheiro is one of the most adept assist-makers in league history. Beyond that threesome though, the Sparks are young. L.A. will rely on significant minutes from Wisdom-Hylton and young guards Noelle Quinn and Kristy Toliver.

    As a unit, Indiana is a much more cohesive and experienced team than tonight’s opponent. Toliver can be an explosive scorer and any of the Sparks veterans are more than capable of posing problems. If the Fever can keep Thompson and Milton-Jones off the boards; and hold Penicheiro and Toliver from too many points in transition – Indiana should be in position for its fifth win in six games, leading into its Saturday showdown in the nation’s capital.

    Some WNBA transactions news for you … the Chicago Sky picked up Shay Murphy today, signing her to a free agent contract. We wish her luck, of course. She will make a return to Conseco Fieldhouse next Tuesday when the Fever and Sky battle for the fifth time this season. One reason the Sky may have signed Murphy? Several of the best games of her career always came against Chicago … so why not bring her aboard?

    Happy Birthday again to Fever stars Tully Bevilaqua (7/19), Tamika Catchings (7/21) and Jené Morris (7/21) who all celebrated birthdays this week.
    KM


    July 19, 2010

    Congrats to Tamika Catchings today for earning the Eastern Conference Player of the Week award! For Tamika, it is the 13th player of the week award of her career. Though in true-Tamika fashion, however, when I notified her of the award today, she responded with a thanks, but added, "I WANT A CHAMPIONSHIP!" I asked her if she would rather the league give it to someone else? "No, no take backs," she said.

    So, congratulations to Tamika. We know that she and her teammates will continue striving toward that championship.

    A nice step in that direction took place with wins on Friday over Atlanta, and Sunday at New York. Though by only percentage points, and though the lead could be lost again by the time the Fever next takes the court on Thursday, Indiana currently sits in first place in the tumultuous Eastern Conference.

    Besides' Catchings play and her overtime heroics, there were several other keys to Sunday's dramatic win in The Big Apple:

  • The Fever played well from wire-to-wire, with offense and defense both clicking. Most amazing to me was that Cappie Pondexter lit it up for 40 points! She was unbelievable, but it's not like she wasn't being defended. Whatever she threw up, went in. She worked for everything she got. Minus the two buzzer-beating shot attempts that she missed at the end of regulation and overtime, she shot 14-of-19 from the floor. Despite the all-world performance by Pondexter, Indiana's all-around balance and execution was too much for the Liberty to overcome.
  • Ebony Hoffman played her best game of the season. She finished with 15 points, just off her season high of 17. She also added a season-high eight rebounds while shooting 5-of-10 with three 3-pointers. During a 12-minute span between the third and fourth quarters when the Fever took control, Hoffman and Katie Douglas combined to score the Fever's last 16 points of the third quarter, 18 overall. It was good to see Ebony's shots beginning to fall and it certainly was good for her own confidence. She has scored in double figures in three straight games. The Fever needs her production.
  • I wrote before yesterday's game that Briann January would play a significant role in Sunday's game. [It seems I got one right for a change!] OK, I identified Bri's defense in containing Pondexter as being the big role she would play. Forty points later, that might be questioned if you only looked at the stat sheet. But Cappie didn't score 40 because of a lack of D. And in fact, the two biggest shots she missed were absolutely because of the Fever D. Who was the key defender in both instances? January.
  • What's more, January hit one of the Fever's biggest shots of the game. Only once did the Liberty lead in the second half, but New York's five-point lead with 2:45 to play had all the momentum going in the home team's favor. In the face of that momentum though, and with the game on the line, January stuck a 17-foot jumper to keep the Fever within a single possession.
  • Tully Bevilaqua finished the game with four points, one rebound and one steal - not an altogether unusual stat line for the Australian mighty mite. Indiana has come to expect big plays from her. So who do you think pulled down the critical rebound with nine seconds left in regulation after Pondexter's double-teamed miss? None other than Tully. It was her first rebound in two games. Nice timing.

    There were big stars and big plays for Indiana yesterday. Catchings deserved today's POW award, but the Fever's fourth win in five games came as the result of a veteran team making big plays when the game was on the line.

    By the way, it is Birthday Week on the Fever roster! Happy birthday to Tully today!! Thursday, when the Fever hosts Los Angeles in an ESPN2 game from Conseco Fieldhouse, Catchings and Jene Morris each will celebrate birthdays, as well.
    KM

    July 18, 2010

    Well, Kids Day didn't go quite as planned last Wednesday, losing another fourth quarter lead, but at least the Fever got back on track with an impressive win over front-running Atlanta on Friday.

    Today is game day again and the Fever should be ready for another tough, physical contest this afternoon against the Liberty.

    I know I'm ready at least! (Like that really matters!) I enjoyed brunch today with Chris Denari, Scott Agness and former Indianapolis sportscaster Jeane Coakley who now is with New York sports network SNY. Brunch was followed by a Jamba Juice smoothie and now I'm game mode with the team bus slated to depart in approximately 40 minutes.

    The Fever enters today's game a half-game behind new Eastern Conference leader Washington (12-6, .667) who is just percentage points ahead of Atlanta (14-8, .636) who lost yesterday to Connecticut (12-8, .600). Indiana is 12-7 with a .632 win percentage and can actually move into first place today if the Fever wins against the Liberty and Chicago upsets the Mystics in Washington.

    Here's the deal ... the top four in the East are in a virtual tie. One game separates all four teams. Until someone gets hot and beats everyone else consistently, this four-team deadlock is going to continue until season's end. That means that every game from here on out will be hotly contested and have seeding implications. Should the Fever lose this afternoon, Indiana remains in third place, but falls into a tie with Connecticut. The Fever and Sun will be either 1/2 or 1 1/2 games out of first place, depending on the outcome of Chicago at Washington which tips at the same time today.

    The Liberty and Sky, by the way, are only 3 and 3 1/2 games behind the pace ... there is nobody in the East that is an automatic win -- ask the Dream and the Mystics who recently lost to those teams.

    So, today's game should prove to be another dogfight. When Indiana last played New York on June 5, the Libs had not yet obtained Plenette Pierson and the Fever was without Briann January. My "prediction" -- for whatever that is worth (!) -- is that January will have a greater impact in this game than Pierson, both of whom have been coming off the bench lately. The biggest key to Indiana's success today will be in containing Cappie Pondexter. With Bri's quickness, she is apt to play some quality minutes with that as her focus. If the Fever contains Pondexter, Indiana will have a very good shot at winning this game. New York relies on Pondexter to the tune of 20.0 points per game. Taj McWilliams-Franklin is the only other double-figure scorer for the Libs. She checks in with 10.9 points per game, followed by inside-mate Pierson at 9.1. Indiana should have the depth to battle N.Y. in the paint, and Jessica Davenport should have a little incentive to play well against her former franchise when she steps on the floor today.

    So, to me, the January factor is a key element to today's game. If Indiana gets consistent scoring from its Big Two, Catchings and Douglas; if Pondexter is reasonably contained and if the Fever's depth in the post can play toe-to-toe and rebound with New York's post ... then Indiana should be in position to collect its fourth win in five games, and its fourth straight road win against the Liberty.
    KM

    July 14, 2010

    It is Kids Day!!! This annual afternoon game for the Fever is truly one of my favorite days of the season. Really, it is!

    Why? Because, first, it’s game day. I’ve always loved game day since I was a kid. It’s why I am in the business. I’ve always told myself that when I don’t get up for game day anymore, it’s time to find something new to do. Well, when we have these afternoon games, it’s early to the office and it’s game day all day long! No waiting for an evening tipoff --- let’s just play the game!

    Plus, what’s better than playing a game and leaving the arena with a win already under your belt at 5 p.m. and it’s still sunny outside for several hours? Still with time for a nice drink or dinner at a sidewalk café. Perhaps even mow my lawn afterward. You can’t beat it!

    OK, no, I am not predicting a win over the Sun this afternoon. That wouldn’t be too smart on my part --- “bulletin board material,” you know! But really, the Fever has had success on this day every year so that has been my recent experience.

    What must the Fever do to achieve its 12th victory of the season and its eighth in a row at Conseco Fieldhouse? Two things – contain Tina Charles and contain Renee Montgomery. Easier said than done, but Indiana has been successful so far this year defending Charles and dominant post players. It has taken a team effort, but the Fever’s five-person interior defense (Sutton-Brown, Hoffman, Davenport, Moore, Catchings) has found ways to clamp down on Charles and Chicago superstar Sylvia Fowles this season. OK, Fowles had a monster game two weeks ago but she earned everything she got and it was ALL the Sky got in that game.

    So … if the Fever can keep Charles in check, how does Indiana do the same with Montgomery? That was indeed the challenge in the loss at Connecticut earlier this year when she scored a career-high and hit five 3s. At home a week later, she did minimal damage. To me, Montgomery is the game-changer in Wednesday’s game. If she gets loose at crunch time, she could hurt the Fever. That is the task of Indiana’s perimeter defense (Bevilaqua, Douglas, January, Zellous, Morris) to contain Montgomery.

    Make someone else beat you. If Charles and Montgomery are kept in check, that is when I might predict a Fever victory. Make someone else beat you. See you this afternoon!
    KM

    July 12, 2010

    First things first, and that is to remind everyone of Wednesday’s special game time. Remember that Wednesday is the Fever’s annual Kids Day presented by Knozone. The afternoon tipoff is at 1:00 p.m.!

    Second, congratulations are in order for Katie Douglas! Congrats to the 2010 WNBA 3-point Shooting Contest champion! KT had a near-record performance, scoring 47 points out of a possible 60 and winning the contest with little competition. Ironically, she had hit a half-court shot during practice the day before, so the court and baskets at Mohegan Sun Arena are still very kind to the former Connecticut star. Let’s hope her outstanding shooting continues as the Fever begins the second half of play this week!

    Finally, a thought on the Fever’s player transaction from this weekend. Unfortunately, the nagging wrist injury to Shay Murphy had handicapped her enough that the Fever sought change for the second half of the season. During the club’s first five games, Murphy was one of Indiana’s brightest stars, averaging 11.2 points and a team-leading 7.0 rebounds per game. In 10 games since the injury, however, she averaged just 2.0 points and 2.6 rebounds. Her effectiveness diminished and so did her playing time. A fourth-year player, Shay’s contract was at a minimum level for a veteran and so not only did the Fever re-sign a rookie forward, Joy Cheek, with whom they were very pleased during training camp, they also saved room under the salary cap for any future moves.

    Kelly Krauskopf has always been one of the league’s most active and craftiest GMs while searching for an elusive league championship. There were some critics during the past offseason that suggested Indiana should have done more. Instead, Krauskopf and Lin Dunn opted to rely on continuity through the months of October through April. But don’t ever believe that Kelly and Lin are done tinkering or trying to advance the Fever’s chances for a title. In late May, Krauskopf nearly “stole” Shavonte Zellous from the Tulsa Shock to give Indiana one of the strongest and deepest benches in the league. And now, on the eve of the second half of the season, Joy Cheek has been retained to help strengthen a rebounding need that has perhaps been the club’s biggest deficiency through the first half of the schedule.

    There is a lot of basketball still to be played between now and August 22 when the regular season concludes. Fever fans can be assured that Indiana will indeed be in contention for a return trip to the Finals. And don’t forget to be here Wednesday at 1!

    KM

    July 9, 2010

    Nice win last night, Fever! 100-72 is a great-looking score, but more than just being a 28-point margin, the good in last night's win was the way it transpired. Name a deficiency, I dare you.

    Before I dive in to talking about last night's win, though, I want to share a short, fun video clip. With Fever players departed early this morning for weekend festivities in Connecticut, fans (and me) are left to watch for news on Twitter or league and team websites. Well, coincidentally, I found this video clip tweeted by the WNBA this afternoon! It's Katie Douglas hitting a half-court shot during the WNBA's open practice at Mohegan Sun Arena!
    >> Douglas hits half-court shot

    Fun stuff. Back to discussing last night's game where Douglas finished with 17 points and Tamika Catchings with 24.

    OK, Indiana did have 16 turnovers, but considering the opponent was a team noted for its pressure defense, 16 isn't horrible -- especially considering the increased number of possessions in last night's game. Both teams ran and pressed and pushed the tempo, so the 16 turnovers were almost acceptable.

    Shooting? Check. Defense? Check (what's new?). Tulsa scored 72 points, sure, but at that tempo and being held to 35 percent shooting, I still credit the defense. Bench play? Check, as usual. Rebounding? Check, and nice to see. Go ahead, name a deficiency, I dare you!

    The win was so complete, it prompted this quote from Shock boss Nolan Richardson: “Indiana lit it up tonight. They played an exceptional game. They moved the ball, hit the open shots and made their free throws. They did everything tonight. They could have beaten the Lakers tonight.”

    Nice praise. Nice quote.

    Anyone who reads my humble little blog with any regularity knows that I enjoy numbers and statistics and trying to draw meaning with them. So, to illustrate last night's superflous Fever performance, here are some notes and numbers:

  • Indiana's 35 second-quarter points were the most in a single quarter in franchise history.
  • Indiana's 56 first-half points were the third-most in a half in franchise history, and the most this season.
  • Indiana's 100 points marked just the second time in franchise history that the Fever reached triple digits in a regular season game.
  • Fever reserves accounted for a franchise-record 50 bench points. Starters and reserves each scored 50 for a easy total of 100. Nice mix.
  • Every Fever player accounted for at least two rebounds. Indiana outrebounded its opponent in a second straight game, after being outrebounded in three straight road games last week. It's 42 rebounds were a season high.
  • Indiana led by as many as 36 points during the contest, just two points off the Fever record (38) for its largest lead at any point during any game.
  • Briann January scored a season-high 13 points. She added a career-high six rebounds and matched a career-high with six assists.
  • Indiana also played great defense at the free throw line (joke)! Tulsa shot just 5-of-14 from the charity stripe and its five free throws were the fewest in the WNBA this season.

    Here's one more ... though Indiana shot nearly 60 percent from the floor for 36 minutes, the Fever missed seven of its last eight shots during the game's final minutes. Had just one of those shots fallen through the net, the Fever would have set a new record for field goal percentage at better than 55 percent. Instead, the club's 54.3 percent last night was sixth in Fever history.

    But most importantly, the Fever won for the seventh straight time at Conseco Fieldhouse; it will open the second half with a two-game win streak and, including its recent four-game road swing, Indiana has won six of its last eight games. Coming out of this weekend's break, the Fever hosts seven of its next 11 games in Indianapolis. Five of those 11 contests are against East front-runners Atlanta and Washington. The Fever has found momentum at a very opportune time.

    For those of you that get to watch Saturday's Stars at the Sun game, enjoy! Tipoff is 3:30 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN. Good luck to Ms. Douglas who will participate in the 3-point shooting contest prior to the game. Hopefully her luck with the half-court shot will bleed into tomorrow's events.

    And don't forget to open your schedules for next Wednesday's afternoon bout with Connecticut! The Fever hosts the Sun at 1 p.m. on July 14. Even though Indiana (11-6) has established some momentum, a Connecticut (10-8) victory could pull the Sun back with a half-game of Indiana in the East standings.

    Every game now is big. Thankfully the Fever answered with a big win Thursday night.
    KM

    July 8, 2010 at 2:00 p.m.

    Hey, I forgot a few other items I wanted to identify in today’s blog.

    First, I wanted to inform Indiana fans about Stephanie White, the former Fever great, All-Decade member and legendary Hoosier who is a current assistant with the Chicago Sky. I was stunned to see her wearing a neck brace the other night when the team was in Chicago. I spoke with her briefly before the game and she insists she is doing fine. She was involved in a car accident a week ago and has been asked to wear the brace for two weeks. I’m sure Fever fans will want to keep her in their thoughts.

    Second, I want to congratulate Tammy Sutton-Brown on her recent “combo milestone” of 3,000 points, 1,500 rebounds and 400 blocks. She reached the last of those milestones during the Fever’s June 19 game vs. Atlanta, becoming just the fifth player in WNBA history to achieve all three milestones. She will be recognized prior to tonight’s game by Fever GM Kelly Krauskopf and Coach Lin Dunn.

    Finally, good luck and congratulations to the Fever’s four individuals who will participate in weekend activities in Connecticut. Though it’s not a formal “All-Star Game,” the traditional “All-Star Weekend” will include an open practice for fans (Friday), a skills competition and 3-point shooting contest (Saturday) and the game between the WNBA and USA Basketball (Saturday, ESPN, 3:30 p.m.). The USA and Australian national teams both are conducting training camps over the weekend in preparation for September’s World Championships, with this weekend being the last opportunity for many WNBA players to participate with both national squads. The USA and Australia will conduct a scrimmage on Sunday that is not open to the public.

    Ah … so who are the Fever’s four players? Tamika Catchings will play for the USA in the Stars at the Sun game, with Katie Douglas representing the WNBA in the same game. Participating in her first training camp as part of the USA Basketball National Training Pool will be Ebony Hoffman, hoping to earn selection on a World Championships roster. Participating with the Australian training camp will be Tully Bevilaqua, an Aussie veteran of the 2006 World Championships and 2008 Olympics. Good luck to all!

    We’ll have weekend updates on FeverBasketball.com.

    KM

    July 8, 2010 at 1:30 p.m.

    Tonight’s game is the final game before the annual “all-star break” and it marks the midway point of the season. It also is the Fever’s first home game in almost three weeks. Most importantly, though, it is an opportunity for Indiana to establish some momentum.

    If you are a “glass is half-empty” type of person, you might be asking, “what is wrong with the Fever” because the team has only won twice in its last four games. Well, I’m not, so I’m going to tell you that the Fever took 2 of 4 during a four-game road swing and has won five of its last seven games. A win against the Shock this evening would make six wins in eight games, and seven straight at home.

    Keys for tonight’s game are rebounding and turnovers. During the club’s recent road trip, Indiana was badly outrebounded at Seattle, Chicago and Washington. Rebounding fortunes were addressed prior to Tuesday’s game at Chicago and, despite 16 boards from Sylvia Fowles, the Fever and Sky were deadlocked with 34 rebounds for the game. In contrast, the Fever had limited turnovers pretty well over its road trip, until turnovers ballooned to 22 in Tuesday’s win. Taking care of the ball is particularly important this evening against Tulsa and Nolan Richardson’s pressure defense.

    In this year’s rugged Eastern Conference, Atlanta has assumed a one-game lead over Washington. The Mystics are 1 ½ games in front of the Fever prior to tonight. With a hopeful 11th win under its belt, some momentum, and seven of its next 11 games at Conseco Fieldhouse, a victory this evening would put Indiana in great position to keep pace -- and catch -- the Dream and Mystics, who the Fever will play a combined five times during those next 11.

    We’re only at the midway point, but already the race is tight. Tonight’s game really can give the Fever a lift heading into the break and leading into the second half. We hope to see you at The Fieldhouse tonight at 7! And don’t forget – it’s Freddy Fever’s birthday!!

    KM

    June 29, 2010

    I asked Ebony Hoffman if one of her pregame rituals was reading my blog, to which, to her credit, she replied, “no.” That’s good for her. I’d have been worried if she read my blogs before games. Coincidentally though, after calling for more production from her in my pregame blog roughly an hour before Sunday night’s tipoff, Eb responded with one of her biggest games of the season.

    Way to go, Eb!

    Sunday’s win was a gut-check for the Fever. It was a game in which nothing seemed to go well. It was a game in which Chicago held on and held on, and had chances to win in the final minutes. It was really an ugly game, to be honest. Thankfully, Indiana won. Isn’t that the mark of a good team to win games when you don’t play well?

    Tonight, however, the Fever will need to play well. And before I forget, I’ll remind everyone that tonight’s game can be seen live on ESPN2 at 7 p.m. The top-ten vote getters in Stars at the Sun fan balloting will be announced at halftime.

    Tonight, yes, the Fever will need to play better. Better shooting, certainly, and continued defense. Tonight’s key will be to contain Crystal Langhorne, the Mystics’ power forward who has been lighting it up lately. She had 31 points and 10 rebounds in a win over Phoenix on Sunday, and she has double-doubles in three straight games. Like Indiana did with Sylvia Fowles in Chicago, the Fever will need to double-team when possible and clamp down the “D” on the former University of Maryland star.

    Also, for the third game of this cross-country road trip, the bench is going to need to contribute. Jessica Davenport and Jessica Moore certainly will be used on defense to contain Langhorne. And if Catchings gets moved to the “4” to guard Langhorne in a smaller lineup, you can expect to see significant time from Jene Morris or Shavonte Zellous off the bench.

    Besides containing Langhorne in the post, keeping the perimeter duo of Lindsay Harding and Katie Smith in check will be another key. Tully Bevilaqua and Briann January will press Harding to control her penetration.

    A win this evening keeps the Fever within reach of the Eastern Conference lead. The top five teams in the East all play this evening, with Atlanta, Connecticut and New York all playing teams from the West. Every game matters in this conference this year, so avenging an earlier loss to Washington and keeping pace with front-running Atlanta puts significant importance on tonight’s game again.

    Be sure to watch on ESPN2 tonight!

    June 27, 2010

    Within 60 minutes of tip tonight in Chicago, the Indiana Fever is hoping for wins tonight and Tuesday against Eastern Conference foes. The club's three-game road trip got off to an unfortunate beginning with a tight loss at the hands of West-leading Seattle on Friday. Against East opponents Chicago and Washington, though, and in a bottlenecked Eastern Conference that promises to remain tight down to the wire, wins are at a premium. Friday's setback needs to be put in the rearview mirror as the club works on wins against the East.

    Briefly about Friday for those who didn't watch on LiveAccess or hear Chris Denari's radio call, we had a legitimate playoff atmosphere at KeyArena. If it was a preview of a possible WNBA Finals matchup, the crowd was in top form itself and the game was one of the best in the league this season. Both teams shot it well in a game that was very physical with playoff intensity. Problem is, the home team won. The series with the Storm is knotted at one apiece.

    The bench will continue to provide a key story for the Fever tonight and on Tuesday. Friday, however, aside from Jene Morris' 14 points and 19 impressive minutes, the bench did not perform as it had in recent weeks. Fever starters had just eight turnovers in considerable minutes. In much fewer minutes, the bench had nine. That has been uncharacteristic and needs to change to pull out road wins this week.

    Another key for tonight's game and the rest of the season needs to be improved play from Ebony Hoffman. Eb has had her games in double figures this year, but I will cite two items missing from her game this year -- consistency and rebounding. She averages 4.9 rebounds per game for her career and 5.8 since 2006. This year she averages 3.8 per game. She has four games scoring in double figures this season, but in 7 of 13 games, she has finished with 5 or fewer points and 2 or fewer rebounds.

    The Fever needs better production out of its starting power forward, but how Indiana has survived is because of splendid bench play from Jessica Moore and Jessica Davenport. Also, when the Fever moves Tamika Catchings to the power forward and goes with a smaller lineup, Morris, Briann January, Shavonte Zellous and Shay Murphy have been bright spots.
    KM


    June 25, 2010

    Greetings from Seattle!

    The Fever arrived safely in the Pacific Northwest yesterday afternoon, roughly seven hours after departing from Indianapolis. Odd that there don’t seem to be direct flights from Indy to Seattle, so we connected in Phoenix. Two three-hour flights later … and we were safely in Seattle. Due to the long travel, the team did not practice yesterday. Most players took the extra free time to shop a bit; many players enjoyed a team dinner together; and many undoubtedly watched the NBA Draft.

    [Congratulations to local product Gordon Hayward going ninth in last night’s draft; and good luck and congrats to Pacers top pick Paul George from Fresno State.]

    Another strategy, too, was to stay up late, so they might sleep a little longer this morning. I, too, woke up early. I’ve been up since about 4 a.m. Pacific Time. Players will undoubtedly make use of an afternoon nap before tonight’s game against the Storm.

    Given that the Fever has gotten such great play from its bench so far this season, I am expecting that the bench will play a key role in tonight’s game. With the remaining games of this 6-day trip both against Eastern Conference teams, I am sure that Coach Dunn will hope to keep her starters fresh for Sunday’s game at Chicago and Tuesday’s game at Washington.

    It’s still a couple hours prior to Indiana’s shooting practice at KeyArena. I will do a pregame blog a little later this evening from the arena.

    KM


    June 19, 2010

    If you have been on FeverBasketball.com the past few days, you have read a whole lot about "big games" this week. First, starting with last weekend's two-game series with Connecticut who briefly had a breath of first place in the Eastern Conference; then there was Thursday's game against West-leading Seattle and now tonight's game with East leader Atlanta.

    Coupled with the Fever's rise from its 0-2 start and considering that five straight games will be played against top teams which the Fever is trailing -- yes, it's a really big stretch of games. So far, the Fever is 2-1 in those games. A win tonight pulls the Fever into a virtual tie with Connecticut, just 1/2 game behind Atlanta. It would be the Fever's eighth win in 10 games since beginning 0-2 and it would be Indiana's sixth straight victory at Conseco Fieldhouse.

    If the Fever should lose in this head-to-head battle with the Dream, Indiana falls to 0-2 in the series with Atlanta, which will loom big as tiebreak scenarios become prominent in about a month; plus, the Fever could fall to 2 1/2 games behind Atlanta and perhaps fall into fourth place if Washington beats Chicago today.

    So that's why it's a big game. It has big implications whether Indiana wins or loses this evening. Sure, there are still two months remaining in the season, but even by losing just one game tonight, it puts pressure on a team that is about to embark on a four-game road swing. That is pressure enough. It is a much greater position to be traveling from the top of the standings, than to try and claw your way up the standings while playing a series of games on the road.

    A big matchup to watch tonight is between Tamika Catchings and Angel McCoughtry. McCoughtry is the reining rookie of the year while Catch is the reigning defensive player of the year. McCoughtry's the real deal and the former Louisville star will have plenty of followers in the house tonight. There is no better defender than Catchings and if Indiana's team defense can successfully contain McCoughtry and center Erika de Souza, without letting Iliane Castro Marques run wild on the perimeter, the Fever should win this game. If McCoughtry scores in the 20s, the Fever will struggle.

    By the way, I have recently joined the Twitter ranks, much to my own surprise. It's just like when I resisted the Blackberry craze, in part because I didn't want to become addicted to it. Well, just as I've become addicted to the Blackberry, I feel myself becoming enveloped by Twitter. I insisted intially that I was "a follower, not a Twitterer." thinking I would just "follow" on Twitter, rather than tweet. Well, that ended this morning when I sent my first Fever tweet about tonight's game. So ... I've taken the plunge. If you are on Twitter, you can follow me @kmess65.
    KM


    June 18, 2010

    Last night was certainly a big win for the Indiana Fever and we’re hoping for another on Saturday against the Dream.

    Besides beating West-leading Seattle and continuing a five-game home court win streak, last night’s win was big because the game was so well-played by both teams. Seattle is an awfully good team. They’re big, skilled, deep, balanced – and they make very few mistakes. Before the game, Lin Dunn had commented on the need to play well because the Storm just doesn’t turn the ball over.

    In the end, Indiana turned the ball over just 12 times, the Storm 16. It was the fewest turnovers by the Fever this season; and just the second time a Fever opponent had 16 or fewer turnovers this year. That spells a pretty clean game.

    Given that Seattle raced to a 10-point lead and the Fever answered back in a game that featured 13 lead changes and six ties; and with so few turnovers, that’s the mark of a well-played game. It was a contest of two top teams. Seattle is clearly the class of the West right now and the Fever is clearly one of three frontrunners in the East.

    Thursday’s game was played with playoff intensity. Saturday’s should be no different, especially with the Fever feeling a little payback is due after falling in Atlanta on opening weekend.

    The Fever has won 7 of its past 9 games, and won five straight at Conseco Fieldhouse. Indiana is right where it needs to be.
    KM


    June 13, 2010

    Keys to tonight’s game – contain Renee Montgomery, don’t miss scoring opportunities and raise the intensity.

    On Friday night, the Fever did not play horribly. In fact, despite not playing outstanding, Indiana had chances to win. The game was 72-72 with 3:00 to play and the Fever had controlled the entire third quarter. The Fever, however, did not shoot well, and Montgomery was allowed to shoot at will. Coach Dunn mentioned being surprised at the five 3-pointers that Montgomery hit in that game. I think you can expect the Fever defense to turn up the perimeter intensity and deny Montgomery as many good looks tonight.

    Thankfully, Jessica Moore will return to the lineup tonight, too. Since the Shavonte Zellous acquisition, it will be the very first game that all players are healthy and rested. Briann January should see more minutes this evening, also.

    It will be interesting to see the energy off the bench again tonight. The Indiana bench has had a player in double figures in seven straight games. The bench has scored 25 points or more in four straight games. Assuming that Tully starts again this evening, that bench should see pretty considerable time again and, with both Moore and Jessica Davenport available off the bench, the Fever interior should bang pretty well with Tina Charles inside. Indiana outrebounded Connecticut the other night. If that trend continues and Indiana hits more shots and takes better advantage of easy scoring opportunities – I am willing to predict a Fever win against a very good Sun team.

    KM


    June 12, 2010

    OK, Fever fans ... special treat today. Not only am I writing before the sun comes up right after a game, I'm offer two blogs for the price of one. OK, well, there's not cost so we'll consider two blogs in the same viewing. I am calling them "Things I Have Learned on This Road Trip" and "Haven't We Seen This Movie Before?"

    Let's talk about the "movie" first. That is in reference to last night's game. The script was eerily similar to the Fever's opening-weekend loss at Atlanta. It goes like this ... home team gets large early lead ... home team keeps lead despite persistent Fever rallies ... Indiana takes the lead, and control, early in third period ... home team claws back and makes it a single possession battle until its lead becomes insurmountable in the final minute.

    I'll credit Chris Denari for the analogy; he referenced it last night after the game. I'm writing the story, though, since I'm already at Gate 30 in the Hartford Airport at 5 a.m., and he may still be waking from the short nap we had after last night's game (those details in Part II of today's blog).

    The Fever fell behind 10-2 and true to the script, the Fever drew within 3, 35-32, before halftime, but the Sun carried a six-point advantage to the locker room. Indiana, then, torched the home team to begin the third period, and took its first lead on one of Katie Douglas' five 3-pointers, with about six minutes to play in the quarter. But the script reads that the home team comes back in this movie, so of course Connecticut went on a big run of its own early in the fourth and we had a nip-and-tuck, one-possession game for most of the fourth quarter. The game was tied at 72 with exactly 3:00 on the clock. That's when the Sun scored eight unanswered points -- aided by a missed Fever layup and a couple of turnovers. With each possession costly, the Sun built another lead and Indiana didn't have time to come back from another deficit. Game over. Connecticut wins its sixth straght at home and the Fever's win streak comes to a close.

    The Fever really didn't play poorly -- they just dug themselves a hole that was too big to overcome and then still sustain control. A slow start was the team's undoing. And so Lin Dunn once again had to find some help in her bench, and wow, did she get it!

    Last night's bench star was Jessica Davenport. J-Dav lit up the scoreboard for a career-high 18 points on an array of leaning shots, jump shots and bank shots. In her second year with the Fever, the former three-time Big Ten Player of the Year and No. 2 overall draft pick played like just the player with those distinctions. She shot 8-of-8 from the floor to record the most field goals without a miss in Indiana history, and the fourth-most in league history. And for the seventh straight game, a Fever player has scored in double figures from off the bench. Not bad. Just not enough.

    So that's the movie we all witnessed before. It was the May 16 movie at Atlanta, only re-run on June 11 from Connecticut. And why am I writing this story at 5 am from the airport, already? Well, let me tell you the story of an unusual road trip ... and take a lesson from this weary traveler!

    First of all ... before you leave your home the next time you intend to fly somewhere, make sure you have your ID!!! Yes, I was "that person" on this road trip. I know exactly where I left my driver's license. It's in the same pants pocket left from our last road trip. It never made it back into my wallet after passing through security. So ... when I arrived at the Indianapolis airport on Friday morning, I was greeted by that unfortunate discovery. With no formal photo ID, what better way to get past security then to unveil my trusty media guide with names and photos of our entire travel group. Remarkably, it worked, and I boarded without too much hassle! This morning, though, with an early return flight, I made sure to arrive a good 30 minutes before the rest of our group, in order to make sure there were no further complications in my "media guide boarding" procedure. Thankfully, I got through security checkpoints with an array of ID which included credit cards, a AAA motor club card, my social security card, my trusty media guide and a photo ID from last year's WNBA Finals. And so, at 5 am in a mostly empty terminal, I began writing this wonderful blog since I had some extra time on my hands!

    As the team is beginning to make its way into the terminal, it's time to wrap and wish everyone a good weekend. We'll see you on Sunday night with hopes of ending Connecticut's now three-game win streak. Don't forget the early Sunday game time of 6 p.m.
    KM


    June 11, 2010

    It's game night and the Fever is at Mohegan Sun Arena to battle Connecticut in the first of two consecutive games against the Sun. While I'm thinking about it ... don't miss Sunday's Lucas Oil Family Night presented by The Indianapolis Star! Tipoff Sunday is 6 p.m. when two of the East's top teams battle for the second time in three days.

    Let's set the scene for tonight's game in which Katie Douglas returns to her former WNBA home and the Fever faces one of its former stars, Tan White, who still is the third-leading scorer in Fever history. But more importantly, the game is for early-season conference supremacy and, with consecutive games this weekend, a leg up in the tiebreaker race. Connecticut is 5-2 overall with all five wins coming right here. The Sun has won two straight, the Fever three straight and 5 of 6.

    The good for Indiana is that Briann January will make a return to the floor in tonight's game. She will likely play 10-15 minutes off the bench tonight in a limited capacity. Also good is the motivational factor ... Katie Douglas is driven to play well tonight. She was one of the last people shooting at yesterday afternoon's practice and she was particularly driven to hit 15 straight 3s. She did it and was done. I have seen a little extra drive out of here the past few days and that usually bodes well.

    On the down side for Indiana, the Fever will play without Jessica Moore tonight. She took an errant pass to the eye yesterday afternoon and suffered a bruised retina. She will miss tonight's game, but could very well return to action Sunday. It's a shame both for the Fever and for Jessica -- she played her college ball up the road in Storrs, Conn., and it's always nice for the former Huskies stars to play in front of a friendly crowd on the road.

    So, with the absence of Moore and the limited availability of January, the Fever bench will be looked upon for more valuable minutes and versatility tonight. Shay Murphy should see some time both at the "3" and "4" positions, and Jessica Davenport should get a steady dose of time while the Fever defends top draft pick Tina Charles in the post.

    Tipoff from Connecticut comes in just over 40 minutes. KM


    June 9, 2010

    The last I wrote, I was happy to convey that Tully Bevilaqua was safely in the starting lineup for Sunday’s game at Minnesota. I had no idea, however, that Indiana would win by the largest margin in franchise history, 38 points.

    Tamika Catchings set the tone early in that game and Indiana’s depth was far superior to the Lynx. Plus, Lindsay Whalen was sick and did not play, and Seimone Augustus has still not returned from her injury of last season. The Lynx were obviously shorthanded, but the Fever attacked, played its trademark defense and took advantage of the obvious mismatch.

    Indiana got another valiant effort from its bench. It is the fourth time this season that the Fever bench has matched or eclipsed 30 points. That spurred some research this week and I figured the best thing to do would be to share some bench numbers with our fans:

    • The Indiana Fever has scored 30+ points off the bench in three straight games, and in 4 of 8 games overall. Only twice before and not since 2001 has the Fever scored as many points from its bench in three consecutive games.

    • Shavonte Zellous’ 23 points on Saturday vs. New York represented the fourth-highest point total by a Fever player off the bench.

    • Five different Fever players (Davenport, Hoffman, Morris, Murphy, Zellous) have recorded double-digit points off the bench this season.

    • Since beginning the season 0-2, a Fever bench player has scored in double figures in six straight games. Indiana is 5-1 in those games.

    • Only three pairs of Fever bench players have ever totaled 20-point games in the same season: Shay Murphy and Shavonte Zellous in 2010; Coretta Brown and Kelly Schumacher in 2003; Gordana Grubin and Rita Williams in 2001 (Williams, however, was an All-Star and 29-game starter).

    • Shay Murphy’s 20 points and 10 rebounds at Chicago on May 22 was just the sixth double-double off the bench in Fever history. It was, however, the first double-double by a true bench player since Angie Braziel had 10 points and 10 rebounds in 2001. (Tamika Catchings in 2008; Tamika Whitmore in 2007; and Ebony Hoffman in 2006 all had bench double-doubles during seasons in which they started 17 or more games.)

    • Shay Murphy has come off the bench in seven of eight games, yet is the club’s leading rebounder with 6.4 rebounds per game, and she is the Fever’s third-leading scorer with 8.3 points per game.

    • Shavonte Zellous is the WNBA’s only Stars of the Sun nominee who has not started a single game on the team for which she plays. (She started one game while playing for Tulsa). The Fever is believed to be the first team in WNBA history to have six players on the annual “all-star” ballot.

    Don’t forget to fill out your ballots and vote when the Fever is back at Conseco Fieldhouse this Sunday against the Connecticut Sun. And don’t miss the game online Friday night when the Fever visits the Sun!

    KM


    June 6, 2010 (6:04 p.m. CT)

    OK, Fever fans, it's time for a short blog here, just minutes before tonight's tip in Minneapolis.

    I told a couple of faithful blog readers (Scott Agness and Scott Fishman, I told you I'd find a work your way name into this text one day) I might blog from the airport this morning. No thanks to a less than helpful check-in desk at Delta Airlines many of our travel party were stuck at the check in counter for more than 30 minutes before boarding our plane ... needless to say, my opportunity to blog from the airport this morning was not a possibility.

    But on to the Fever! Indiana has a small two-game win streak and is hoping to sweep its three games in four days this weekend. But as has been the case through the early season, each week seems to present a new challenge for this club:

  • Games 1 & 2 - Indiana loses twice while four starters join the club with 48 hours of playing their Finals in Turkey.
  • Games 3 & 4 - Indiana rights the ship and beats Chicago twice in a back-to-back weekend along I-65.
  • Game 5 - Indiana loses Briann January two days before traveling to Tulsa, and adds Shavonte Zellous as she plays against her former teammates. The changes are critical to a last-second loss to the Shock.
  • Games 6 & 7 - Indiana wins twice without January as Zellous asserts herself with 12 and 23 points in consecutive games off the bench.

    So here we are. Indiana is 4-3 entering tonight's game and January is still on the shelf. Fortunately, the Fever is not without Tully Bevilaqua this evening, as many feared could have been the case after taking a late spill in last night's win over the Liberty. Bevilaqua has was limping considerably last night and was kept in a boot to secure her left ankle. But as I type from courtside with 3:20 showing on the pregame clock, Tully is at midcourt meeting with the officials. She's dressed and ready to go.

    The Fever won't risk anything with her, and my guess is that she'll get rest tonight whenever she can. They'll try to keep her off the bum ankle as best they can this evening, then let her rest a few days. Joining her at the point will be Katie Douglas and Shavonte Zellous.

    How 'bout that Zellous trade last week? I think 18 of 21 free throws the past two games at Conseco Fieldhouse answers that question. KM


    June 3, 2010

    It’s game day and that means just one thing – the Fever needs a win!

    I’m not happy that Indiana sits at 2-3 entering tonight’s game, but neither am I torn or worried that we’re not playing well. It’s not a long season and we don’t have games to waste, but we’re only through five games and there is certainly time to start clicking.

    What disappointed me about the Tulsa loss were two observations. First, we just didn’t make stops when we needed them. Attribute it to not having Briann January defending their penetration, perhaps; or credit the lack of stops to lack of effort, possibly, as Lin Dunn noted in her postgame comments. Coach was quick to give Tulsa credit for wanting the game more than we did. My second observation fit those comments, and that is that we didn’t show a real sense of urgency down the stretch. Watching the game, it always felt like the game was always under our control, and maybe we felt that way all the way until the final minute when, all of a sudden, we realized we were down four points, and then six.

    At 2-3 now and without Briann still for another week or so, and with our veterans now back and rested … now it’s time to develop that sense of urgency.

    I really like the addition of Shavonte Zellous. No matter whether she plays mostly at shooting guard or even gets a few minutes at the point, I like her attitude and we all saw what she can do late last season. She can score and she can get to the free throw line.

    The other thing I have not seen as much this season, yet, is an attacking mentality. Katie Douglas has had three free throw attempts this year when, usually, she’s among team and league leaders. That’s just one example and that can be attributed to late arrival of veterans; players not yet in sync with one another; and now the loss of January and people playing out of position. All of those things are real. But they can’t continue to persist.

    Indiana is going to have to win a few games without Briann the next couple of weeks. Zellous is going to have to contribute. Ebony Hoffman has got to become more of the power presence she became in 2008 and Shay Murphy has got to continue her inspired play off the bench. With January on the shelf temporarily, Douglas will need to team with Tully Bevilaqua to provide a stabilizing presence at the point and, between Douglas, Tamika Catchings and everyone else, Indiana needs to find ways to put points on the board.

    The Fever enters tonight’s game as the lowest-scoring team in the WNBA. The Fever prides itself in defense, but it hasn’t played Fever defense yet. Furthermore, even by playing strong defense, the Fever still needs to become more of a scoring threat. Indiana enters tonight’s game with an average of 72.4 points per game. By comparison, the club averaged 76.6 in 2009 and ranked in the middle of the league. Lin Dunn would like to see an average closer to 80.

    Here is the silver lining about that stat: while Indiana is 12th of 12 teams in scoring average, San Antonio is 11th at 73.6 points per game. The Fever and the Silver Stars own the two lowest-scoring games in the league this year. Here is my wager for tonight … first team to 74 wins!

    KM


    May 27, 2010

    Tonight's game is about addition and subtraction. Easy, right?

    Following the stunning Fever-Shock trade of Thursday night, Lin Dunn has a new weapon in her Indiana arsenal. That's the addition. The subtraction, though, is the loss of point guard Briann January for a couple of weeks.

    With less than an hour before tip tonight from BOK Arena in Tulsa, Okla., Shavonte Zellous is practicing jump shots across the floor from her former teammates -- the Detroit/Tulsa Shock. Roughly a 10-hour drive from here (more on that later), January is resting her right knee in Indianapolis. She was diagnosed with an MCL sprain that should have her sidelined for at least a few games.

    Tully Bevilaqua will get the start tonight, with Katie Douglas as the primary backup at the point. No fret, remember the Phoenix road game two seasons ago in which Indiana played without Bevilaqua while preparing for the 2008 Olympics? That was a Fever victory and it was vintage Douglas -- managing the game and leading Indiana to an inspiring win. I won't be surprised to see Douglas running the point in crunchtime tonight, if it comes to that. And I won't be surprised to see Zellous running beside her at the "2."

    The Zellous acquisition comes at a good time for the Fever. While dealing with the loss of Briann for a few games, Shavonte will give Indiana some extra versatility. She probably won't play anything but shooting guard tonight and, frankly, that's where she should belong. She can fill Douglas' spot when Katie takes over the point, though, and she can help keep Jene Morris from feeling too much pressure as the only other reserve at shooting guard. Morris scored 12 points in the home win over Chicago last week and for the first time we saw some of her skills. But she's a rookie that still looks like a rookie, so at least the Zellous transaction can help ease her into more minutes. Tonight, whenever Katie mans the point, I expect to see one of three players at the shooting guard -- Zellous, Morris or Shay Murphy.

    Where Murphy has become Indiana's super sub recently, tonight she will enter the starting lineup and give Tulsa a look at a smaller, quicker lineup. That puts Catchings at the power forward, with Sutton-Brown in the post. Ebony Hoffman will come off the bench. Murphy's versatility will be deployed at any of three positions -- seeing time at the 2, 3 or 4.

    Versatility is a very good thing and hopefully, that is what will be on display in Oklahoma tonight.

    Speaking of versatility, let's talk about Chris Denari for just a moment. I alluded to the 10-hour drive between Tulsa and Indy. Well, in order for the Versatile Voice of the Fever to continue his added duties as a member of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network, Chris has just one mode of travel which will get him from here to the Speedway in time for tomorrow's running of the Indianapolis 500. You guessed it, Chris will load himself into a Toyota Rav4 courtesy of National Rental Car, and drive the distance. He is doing his own 500 -- 580 miles to call the 500-mile race. He is hoping to arrive mid-morning in order to prep for his call from above Turn 4. His three-man driving team include myself and assistant coach Gary Kloppenburg ... and we'll be carrying some of Shavonte Zellous' extra belongings as we aid in her move to her new city.

    Versatility.
    KM


    May 27, 2010

    Two days ago, I told fans to take a look at the new-look Shock, in anticipation of Saturday's Fever trip to Tulsa. Tonight, however, both the Fever and the Shock have a still newer look following a trade that brings second-year guard Shavonte Zellous to Indiana.

    Zellous, Fever fans will recall, was the star rookie guard who last season was so vital to carrying Detroit into the Eastern Conference Finals against the Fever. Saturday, when Indiana visits Tulsa, she will join her new teammates and don a Fever jersey against her now former Shock teammates.

    What did the Fever give in exchange for Zellous? A second-round selection in the 2011 draft. If Zellous contributes for Indiana to half of the degree to which she contributed to Detroit last year, Kelly Krauskopf and Lin Dunn have pulled off a steal of a deal. Aye, but there's the rub ... she averaged just four points through four games for Tulsa so far. She started just once in four games and was 0-of-14 from the field in the club's first two games. She scored 14 points in a road win at Minnesota last Sunday, but Tuesday against Phoenix, she contributed just two points in 10 minutes.

    The Shock is now a mere shadow of what was once the Detroit club led by Bill Laimbeer and Rick Mahorn. Katie Smith is gone, Cheryl Ford is hurt, Deanna Nolan isn't playing this year and now Zellous joins the Fever. There have been rumblings of Shock players not wanting to relocate with the franchise to Tulsa. I have no idea what was the case with Shavonte and it's not my concern. Perhaps she didn't want to be there. Perhaps she wasn't in shape. Perhaps she didn't gel with Nolan Richardson's new gameplan. There could be a myriad of reasons for which she wasn't producing or receiving playing time.

    The bottom line is that Tulsa made her available and Krauskopf & Dunn grabbed a very offensive-minded shooting guard who was a Fever-killer as a rookie last season. In Detroit's lone regular season win over Indiana and in the Shock's Game 1 win in the Eastern Conference Finals, Zellous played like a veteran. She scored 23 in the Game 1 win at The Palace last fall and she was an ideal complement to Nolan. She gets to the free throw line, she's quick, she shoots, she penetrates and she was second among all rookies with 11.3 points per game last summer. Most impressive were the 155 free throws she made last year -- as a rookie! She was second in the league to Tamika Catchings (158) in free throws made last season.

    Where will she fit with the Fever? I know that Fever coaches will be eager to see how she fits into Lin Dunn's system. I don't see her as a point guard, definitely a "2" guard. If Bevilaqua and January split duties at the point, I see Zellous splitting time with Katie Douglas. That allows for Shay Murphy to split time with Catchings at the "3," or playing alongside Catchings if Tamika plays at the "4."

    The Zellous acquisition instantly makes Indiana more athletic and, theoretically, more versatile.

    Will the Fever get the Zellous that fans saw in last year's conference finals? Or will the Fever receive the 4.0 ppg and 16 percent shooting Zellous that Nolan Richardson and Tulsa fans have seen this month?

    We'll get our first glimpse on Saturday when she meets her new team and trades Tulsa gold for Fever blue.
    KM


    May 25, 2010

    Thankfully, the Fever is back to .500 and we’ve got the rest of the league right where we want them! We did it last year, right? Lose both games on opening weekend, then reel off 11 straight wins, right?

    OK, no, I’m not predicting nine more wins without a loss. Let’s see, if that were to happen, our next loss would be at Chicago on June 27. It might be nice to have that happen again, but it’s a different season and we’ll put those thoughts aside.

    Glad to have two wins under our belt, it’s time for the Fever to focus its attention on the new-look Tulsa Shock. No longer is the Shock going to be Indiana’s Eastern nemesis. No longer are Bill Laimbeer and Rick Mahorn leading the cast of veterans led by Katie Smith, Deanna Nolan and Cheryl Ford. Smith has gone to Washington, Nolan is taking a year off and Ford remains sidelined with bad knees. That leaves Plenette Pierson, Kara Braxton and Shavonte Zellous as top guns from last year’s squad which fell to Indiana in the Eastern Conference Finals. Now they are in the West and they play for Nolan Richardson, the former Arkansas men’s basketball coach who became famous for his “40 minutes of hell” style of play.

    The Shock is 1-2 heading into tonight’s game with Phoenix, in what surely will be a high-flying affair with both teams wanting to press the tempo. Another big name making news in Tulsa has been Marion Jones, the former sprinter and former college hoops star at North Carolina. She has come off the bench for Tulsa and there is no doubt she still can run the floor.

    For fans that want to catch a preview of the Shock, Tulsa hosts the Mercury tonight in a Tuesday night affair on ESPN2 (7:00 p.m.).


    May 23, 2010 (2:00 p.m.)

    Last night's game was a very big win for the Fever. And I'm not making that statement merely because the returning starters looked crisp together or because Indiana got it's first win of 2010. It was a big win because of the way it happened.

    Ebony Hoffman hit a 3-pointer to open the game and the Fever led 9-4 early. From that point on, Indiana found itself in a dogfight and for more than 30 minutes of regulation, the Fever was staring at a deficit it couldn't overcome. Chicago used a 16-2 run in the first half to open a 12-point advantage and even though Indiana pulled even by the end of the half, it was a game in which the Fever never had control. Never. Ever. Not until the late stages of overtime.

    Lin Dunn called it a "character win" in her postgame comments. She heralded her team's play in "gut-check time." I am echoing those sentiments.

    In a remarkably high-scoring first half (the third-highest scoring half in WNBA regular season history is 104 points; last night, Chicago led 52-50 at intermission), Indiana couldn't stop the Sky. Both teams shot above 57 percent from the field. The Fever trailed big and every comeback bid was answered by the homestanding Sky. Even when the Fever crept into the lead late in the first half, Chicago answered to lead at the intermission. When a Katie Douglas 3-pointer pushed Indiana to a 53-52 advantage to open the third quarter, once again Chicago answered and pushed its lead back to 4.

    Not until midway through the fourth period did Indiana capture more than a one-possession lead - and those 4-point leads at 76-72 and 78-74 were tenuous. Twice, the Sky had good shots to tie in the final minute. Tammy Sutton-Brown erased the first with a blocked shot with 24 seconds remaining. But again, Sylvia Fowles was too strong inside and the second attempt tied the score. The Fever NEVER had control.

    In the overtime, I want to say it was "all" Tamika. OK, that wouldn't be fair and probably not accurate, but she scored eight of the Fever's 14 points and had a critical blocked shot that helped ice the game in the final minute of overtime.

    Following Catchings' block of another Fowles shot in the lane that would have knotted the score at 86, Catchings hit a pair of free throws. Again, the Fever had a tenuous four-point advantage that was whittled to two on another bucket by Fowles. This time, though, with the game clock under 15 seconds, Briann January hit four free throws to ice the game for good.

    Did I say we never had control? I emphasize that over and over because Chicago led almost the whole game and had opportunity after opportunity to seize control again. The Fever made big plays at big times and could not have had a better performance off the bench than that provided by four-year veteran Shay Murphy. With career highs in points and assists, and her first double-double in a Fever uniform, Murphy showed why she was the club's best player in the preseason. And she showed, too, that she belongs on this squad.

    Murphy's presence will go a long way toward filling the role left vacant by Tamecka Dixon's retirement. In fact, Murphy is bigger, more athletic, very active, very aggressive and a valuable rebounder. Just three games into the regular season, Shay Murphy has placed herself on the leaderboard as the league's Most Improved Player.

    Throughout the preseason, talk often wandered to how the Fever would improve. The prevailing thought was that Briann January's development as an elite point guard would lead any such improvements. Well, the Fever may have found another weapon in Super-Sub, Super Shay Murphy.

    Last night's win was big -- not because it was the first win, but because of how it was won and from where such large contributions were made.
    KM


    May 22, 2010

    The last time I wrote, Indiana was nearing tipoff in Atlanta. Tonight, the scene has shifted to Chicago for the second time in three weeks. Tonight's game pits a pair of teams vying for their first victories of the 2010 season. Chicago has fallen on the road at Connecticut and at New York. Indiana has lost at home to Washington and on the road against the Dream. Tonight is the Sky's home opener.

    Tonight, however, should be a vastly different contest than I witnessed two weeks ago when both teams ended the preseason. Indiana was led that night by Shay Murphy in the scoring column, and by Jessica Davenport and Joy Cheek in the rebounding column. Cheek is gone and Davenport and Murphy will make contributions off the bench this evening -- and the Fever's focus will be on regaining the chemistry missing with the absence of its four starters back from Turkey.

    At Atlanta, the Fever had control of the game with the now 3-0 Dream. Atlanta is a very good team. The Dream had the No. 2 seed in last year's Eastern Conference playoffs and they boast perhaps the biggest front line in the WNBA. They are athletic and physical. Yet despite its lack of chemistry, Indiana played toe-to-toe with Atlanta just 72 hours after the arrival of those four starters back to the United States. The Fever controlled the game through three quarters. Were it not for an characteristic fourth-quarter implosion that included 11 turnovers -- the Fever would be 1-1 at this point.

    No matter the cause of those turnovers and no matter any other reasons for that implosion last Sunday, my expectation is that the week since starting 0-2 has been helpful and productive for the Fever. We'll see how that pans out this evening. Tonight's Fever squad will be dramatically different than that which lost its preseason finale here two weeks ago. And barring another implosion last last week's in Atlanta, the Fever should be worthy of a good effort tonight. Time will tell ... there is a bit more than an hour from tipoff ... be sure to watch tonight's live webcast and don't forget to join us Sunday night (6:00 p.m.) at Conseco Fieldhouse for Part II of this I-65 series which continues in Indianapolis 24 hours from now.
    KM


    May 16, 2010

    Opening Night is behind us, the conference championship banner has been raised and all the Fever players have returned from Turkey. It's time to concentrate on the business of basketball again!

    I'm courtside approximately one hour from tipoff in the Fever's first road game of the year - at Atlanta roughly 24 hours after last night's loss to the Mystics. The Fever will make one change to the lineup tonight and fans will remember the same move from a year ago after an 0-2 start. Tully Bevilaqua will return to the starting lineup where it is hoped she will provide a more steadying influence.

    As we saw in the playoffs and finals last year, Briann January may well play more minutes than Tully. But Tully's veteran presence will provide a more steady, consistent start. The veteran "big four" starters are infinitely comfortable with Tully at the helm. This allows Bri to come off the bench with energy and more comfortably adjust to the flow of the game, rather than set the tempo. As Coach Dunn suggested in last night's postgame press conference, "Bri knows only one speed and that's 90 miles per hour. We'd like her to play more like 75 miles per hour."

    No, I don't anticipate another 11-game win streak like the Fever had last year when this change was made two games into the season. But for a team that had no training camp together and which is trying to find rhythm in the early season, I think the switch is a welcome one. Bri may well end up the starter later in the season, but let's ask this question -- if they're both playing regular, consistent, valuable minutes, what difference does it make who trots out to the center circle for the opening tip?

    Game two of the 2010 season is 30 minutes away.
    KM


    May 3, 2010

    Istanbul is in a frenzy this week and as a result, the Indiana Fever is in jeopardy of missing four starters for its opening game on May 15! With Fenerbahce and Galatasaray both advancing to the Turkish League finals, it’s an All-Istanbul Final. It is also a finals series that pits four starters from the Indiana Fever. In all, five different WNBA teams are represented in this week’s Turkish series – but only the Fever has more than one player gone from its training camp!

    For Fenerbahce, Penny Taylor (Phoenix) and Nicole Powell (New York) join the Fever’s Ebony Hoffman and Tammy Sutton-Brown. For cross-town rival Galatasaray, Sophia Young (San Antonio) and Yelena Leuchanka (Atlanta) join Indiana’s Tamika Catchings and Katie Douglas.

    Thankfully, since both teams swept their semifinal series, the finals will begin on Thursday, May 6, instead of a previously announced date of Sunday, May 9. The “word” is that Fenerbahce is a clear favorite in the series, but don’t tell that to Tamika Catchings! I spoke with Ebony’s husband, Ron Cass, at a Fever practice last week, and he is going to be a guest blogger for FeverBasketball.com when he returns to Turkey to visit Istanbul for the final series!

    Ron has been in Turkey on multiple occasions and knows the league much better than me. In his words, Fenerbahce is the clear favorite. They are the deepest team in the league – not only with four very quality WNBA stars (only three of which can play in each game), but with the top Turkish players, also.

    As for basketball in America, the Fever is actually in New York today for a controlled scrimmage situation against the Liberty. In lieu of a third preseason game, the two teams are meeting for an informal scrimmage opportunity where they are not confined to the parameters of a regulation game. It’s a chance to workout against different players and faces. The Fever traveled on Sunday evening and return today after the afternoon workout.

    Reporting to camp over the weekend were Briann January, Christina Wirth and Jennifer Risper. Tully Bevilaqua also is back from some time in Australia and she will join the club or workouts in Indianapolis on Tuesday. Also expected to join the club this week is Jessica Moore.

    Stay tuned to FeverBasketball.com this week for the series of blogs from Turkey by Ron Cass, and for this week’s training camp feature by new FeverBasketball.com beatwriter Tom Rietmann.

    KM


    April 28, 2010

    Welcome to Day #3 of Fever training camp!

    I have two updates regarding Fever players. Attending Tuesday for the first time was former DePaul guard Allie Quigley and attending today's practice is former Rutgers forward Michelle Campbell. Campbell, if you recall from last week's news release, was the scoring leader with 21.4 points per game in this year's Turkish League. Her team, Ceyhan, was eliminated in the playoffs last weekend. Also eliminated in the quarterfinal round of the Turkish playoffs was Tarsus, with Fever point guard Briann January. Briann is expected to arrive later this week.

    Campbell has been a late bloomer, of sorts. She has yet to play in the WNBA despite attending the Mystics' camp in 2006 and the Shock camp in 2008. She has continued to flourish overseas, however, and this year's efforts in front of five different Fever players made enough impact that she has been invited to training camp.

    Now let's discuss the Turkish playoffs. I'm going to issue an apology to Fever fans for the changing information I have provided on the Turkish playoff schedule. In my defense, however, nobody here has a clear understanding of the Turkish playoff format and the dates of their playoff games literally have changed on several occasions.

    Besides acknowledging the fact that I don't understand the language well enough to decipher the Turkish League website, I can tell you what I have learned. First, the concept of a "three-game" or "five-game" series is not the same as we know it in the U.S. If one team has won the season series, that team begins the playoff series with a 1-0 advantage. So, keeping that in mind, imagine my confusion this week when I saw the schedule for this week's Turkish semifinals:

  • Fenerbahce (with Sutton-Brown and Hoffman) begins a 5-game series with Botasspor Adana, and begins with a 1-0 advantage. Thus, they are scheduled for four games.
  • On the other side of the bracket, Galatasaray (with Catchings and Douglas) begins a 5-game series with Mersin, with the series beginning 1-1 and only has three games scheduled.

    I spoke with Kelly Krauskopf and neither of us understood why. I tried dissecting the Turkish website for answers ... you can guess where that led me ... nowhere except to confirm the same schedule -- three games in one series, four in the other!

    So I emailed with Katie Douglas and she filled me in on the rationale. Because Mersin and Galatasaray split their season series, they begin the playoff series tied 1-1. So it becomes a three-game series, instead. OK, now I'm caught up.

    But here is one other piece of not-so-great news for Fever fans ... [and this is where I issue the apology] ... remember that I've spoken of the Turkish Finals ending the weekend of May 8-9? That's wrong, also. They are tentatively scheduled to BEGIN that weekend -- though they could begin earlier or later depending on the length of the two semifinal series!

    So, for us in Fever land, we'll continue to sit and wait while our four returning starters continue their trek toward the Turkish championship. If the Finals series in Turkey doesn't go the distance, the Fever quartet could be back in the U.S. for Indiana's May 15 opener. If the Turkish series lasts long, however ... well, now you understand the not-so-great news.
    KM


    April 26, 2010

    Observations from the first day of Fever practice ...

    Indiana had exactly nine players in uniform today. In attendance were Ashley Battle, Joy Cheek, Jessica Davenport, Lyndra Littles, Armelie Lumanu, Meredith Marsh, Jene Morris, Shay Murphy and Josephine Owino. If we played a game tomorrow, my starting five might be Marsh at the point, Murphy at the other guard, Battle at one forward, Cheek at the other forward and Davenport in the post. That will change by tomorrow, I assure you ... Morris and Littles would likely be the first players off the bench, with Owino spelling Davenport at center!

    OK, so here are a couple of random notes from today's first session:

  • Battle, Davenport and Murphy are the three players with any previous WNBA experience. These three players all should be considered as top contenders for the final roster.
  • All three Fever draft picks were in attendance, with Morris and Lumanu both being very quick and athletic -- each of them probably as athletic as any returning player.
  • Murphy, who was acquired by the Fever three games in to the 2009 season, was the leading scorer in the Spanish league this past winter -- for the second season in a row.
  • Lumanu is not the only foreign player in this year's camp. Josephine Owino, who played at NAIA Union College in Tennessee, originally is from Kenya. Lumanu is from The Congo. Both speak French.
  • I placed Marsh in my mythical starting lineup largely because she's the only point guard in camp thus far. The former Vanderbit star did, however, win a $20 bill from Lin Dunn's petty cash pocket when she sunk 20 consecutive 3-pointers from the top of the key after practice.
  • When players met the Fever staff with a short administrative meeting to open camp this afternoon, there were more staff in the room than players. This will obviously change as camp continues.
  • With the first round of the Turkish playoffs completed, Michelle Campbell and Briann January should probably report within the next week. Campbell's team, Ceyhan, lost to the Fever duo of Hoffman and Sutton-Brown. January's team, Tarsus, lost to the Fever duo of Catchings and Douglas.
  • The next players to arrive will likely be Campbell and Allie Quigley. Jennifer Risper and Christina Wirth will likely arrive sometime next weekend, and Tully Bevilaqua and Jessica Moore likely to participate early in the first week of May.

    More reports to come ...
    KM


    April 21, 2010

    Welcome to Fever season!

    WNBA training camps officially open on Sunday, April 25 and veteran players are beginning to make their way from destinations overseas back to the United States. College seniors turned WNBA rookies are migrating from college campuses to begin new chapters of their lives in new cities.

    The Fever will open camp on Monday. Before I embark on too much news about training camp, I’ve got two other items before we hit camp topics this weekend.

    First, congratulations are in order again for Fever coach Lin Dunn. Saturday, she will be inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame for the accomplishments she has had both at Purdue and now with the Fever. Acknowledgement for her efforts is perhaps long overdue. She led the Boilermakers to three Big Ten titles, numerous NCAA Tournament appearances and a trip to the Final Four in 1994. The Fever is thankful for her recognition and will be proud to help honor her at Saturday’s banquet.

    The second thing to note is that the Turkish League playoffs begin today. Beginning tomorrow, I’ll update FeverBasketball.com readers with a daily overseas update with details of the five Fever stars still competing. Hoffman and Sutton-Brown help lead the defending champs who carry the No. 1 seed into a quarterfinal matchup with No. 8 Ceyhan. As I write at 1 pm ET from Indianapolis, that game probably is about to tip off … results to follow tomorrow. And then there’s the Fever vs. Fever matchup between No. 3 seed Galatasaray against No. 6 Tarsus. It’s Catchings-Douglas vs. January. That series tips off on Thursday.

    For WNBA fans, following the Turkish playoffs is easy. The top eight teams qualify for the tournament. This week’s quarterfinal series, like in the WNBA, are three games and end this weekend. Semifinal series take place next week. The seven-game finals series take place the first week of May, with a potential Game 7 to be played on Saturday, May 8.

    Yes, I said May 8. The series may not last that long, but surely any Fever players active in the Turkish finals likely will not be present for Indiana’s preseason home game with Chicago (May 7, Noon).

    Practice starts Monday … I’ll be ready! In the meantime, check FeverBasketball.com daily for updated results from Turkey.

    KM


    April 14, 2010

    As I opened my Internet browser this morning and went to FeverBasketball.com, I discovered the countdown clock noting the days and hours until our home opener on May 15. Folks, we have exactly one month until the season officially tips off! As I write this, there are 31 days and eight hours until the regular season tipoff. By the way, I’m doing a disservice to my franchise if I don’t mention here that single-game tickets are available for the opener agains the Mystics – as well as all games throughout the season!

    Before I talk too much about the upcoming training camp and preseason schedule, I have to acknowledge the recent efforts of Ebony Hoffman. She is currently in Istanbul, Turkey and that is precisely the reason for her dilemma. Last fall, Hoffman was selected as one of several United States athletes invited to training camp for the U.S. National Team. As a rule, for players to be eligible to be selected to the National Team for a World Championships or Olympics event, U.S. players must attend “x” number of training sessions in order to qualify for selection. Then, of course, they have to be selected.

    Ebony was honored to receive her invitation last year. Most players would always be honored to receive this invitation, but for Ebony, it was extra special as she has been a player to “fly under the radar” of recognition through most of her college and pro career. She has earned her place in the Fever’s starting lineup and she has earned her place among the top power forwards in the best women’s league in the world. She’s a quality player who often does her work in the shadows of other great players and All-Stars.

    So why am I acknowledging her recent efforts? Well, in short, USA Basketball announced on Sunday the list of players that would be attending its training camps in Connecticut this week. Ebony, of course, is still in Istanbul, but she tried and tried and wanted to attend. She was in constant contact with USA Basketball officials and with Fever GM Kelly Krauskopf. She had flight arrangements planned that would get her to Connecticut for an adequate portion of the camp. She was doing everything in her power to take full advantage of that opportunity. Her team in Turkey, played a game on Sunday night, however, and as things turned out, she was unable to leave soon enough to make the camp. So, as yet, she has not attended a training camp and is at this time not yet eligible for consideration for this year’s World Championships. But she deserves credit for trying.

    I had been informed that she might be named to the camp roster last weekend. I was prepared to issue the USA Basketball news release locally, on Sunday, but was notified late Saturday that she would not be able to make logistics work. Good luck, Eb … we’re hoping you get the chance.

    More later on the Fever’s upcoming camp and preseason schedule …
    KM


    April 9, 2010

    It is the day after the annual draft where everyone sits back and wonders, “did we make the right pick?”

    Well, I can tell you this … I’ve never seen Jené Morris play. I’ve never scouted her and that’s not my role. But what I can tell you is that our coaches have seen her dozens of times and probably more than any player. I often arrange scouting credentials for our coaches at various college games throughout the year. Let me just say that I’ve been burning up the email trail between here and San Diego State.

    Gary Kloppenburg saw Morris play repeatedly last season, at home and on the road. And Jim Lewis attended the Mountain West Conference tournament which San Diego State won for the first time. So, I can certainly report to our fans that this player is someone that’s been on the Fever radar for a long period of time.

    As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, it’s eerily similar to the Briann January pick last season. On the West Coast, those teams are often a little “under the radar.” They’re not on TV as frequently and they tend to get overlooked by some of us “East-coasters.” Also, with January at Arizona State and Morris at San Diego State, neither came from traditional basketball powers. They took their teams to unprecedented heights. I can’t predict that Morris will earn the same notoriety that January did here last season, but the odds are telling me she’s a safe bet.

    I know that our coaches considered other players prior to drafting Morris at No. 11. It’s not like Jené was the only person they wanted to draft. But of course, Monica Wright was gone by the time we got to the 11th pick. Andrea Riley was another name I heard mentioned and she, too, was gone by the time our pick came around. What I am saying, though, is that they were sold on this kid. They liked her all season long and they were confident in selecting her. Given what she did in the NCAA Tournament, our staff wasn’t sure she’d still be there at No. 11. So, given that she was, like Bri last year at No. 6, they really felt like we got a steal.

    In the draft room yesterday, I heard Gary Kloppenburg compare her to former Dallas Mavericks star Jason Terry, who was often regarded as the best sixth man in the NBA. Kloppenburg says that’s who she plays like. The ESPN2 analysts compared her to a younger Deanna Nolan, or a player like Shavonte Zellous. Kelly Krauskopf made the same comparison in my conversation with her this morning.

    If those are the comparisons we have to hang on Ms. Morris’ arrival later this month, I’m sure Fever fans will be excited to see her on the court!

    Stay tuned to FeverBasketball.com later today and this weekend for my conversation with Kelly, and a closer look at the Fever’s top draft pick.

    KM


    April 8, 2010

    Nice picks by the Fever today! I particularly like both of our first two picks – Jené Morris of San Diego State and Armelie Lumanu of Mississippi State. The Fever’s third selection was Joy Cheek of Duke.

    If the Fever had any specific needs, it was to replace Tamecka Dixon who retired last month. Playing the two-guard behind Katie Douglas, Tamecka was dependable and productive, but she was certainly at the tail end of her career. Indiana’s front office contingent headed by Kelly Krauskopf and Lin Dunn considered a variety of players for its first pick – among mostly were point guards and combo players and wings. Morris and Lumanu both fit the need to replace Dixon. Both are an upgrade in size and athleticism.

    Both also will enter Fever training camp with the labels as defensive stars. But Krauskopf and Dunn both were quick to point out, about Morris in particular, that she was selected as much for her offensive skills, as for her defense. I heard exactly the same comments about Briann January a year ago.

    January, like Morris and Lumanu, was her league’s defensive player of the year. January and Morris each two times. But what the Fever staff liked most about January was that she could move the ball aggressively and she was a great 3-point shooter. Her heady play was particularly evident as she guided Arizona State to uncharted waters deep into the NCAA Tournament. Fast forward to 2010. San Diego State won the Mountain West Conference for the first time this season and had two upsets in the NCAA Tournament before falling in the Sweet Sixteen. Largely unheralded, SDSU and Morris earned some credibility prior to the WNBA Draft and the Fever staff was uncertain whether their hopeful “diamond in the rough” would still be available at No. 11.

    Morris is more of a 2-guard than January, though they both can shoot it, both can defend, and both provide the Fever with huge upgrades in the quickness department. Their transitions from college to pro could be very similar, and if that’s the case, score another big draft success for the Fever.

    Three weeks from now, we’ll already have begun training camp. For Morris, Lumanu and Cheek, that time will fly by as they prepare for new chapters in their young lives.

    KM


    April 6, 2010

    Good day to Fever fans, one day following that fantastic men’s national championship game! Wow, what a great, classic game that was. Most of us were pulling for the Butler Bulldogs, of course, and what a great story they became both locally and nationally. No matter who you rooted for in that game, though, it was truly a classic. Neither team led by more than 6 the entire way; there were 15 lead changes and it came down to a pair of last-second shots that could have given the national title to one of the smallest and most unheralded champions of all time. Butler played like champions earned its place among champions. Duke won the title, but in that classic contest, there were no losers.

    OK, enough of last night’s commentary …

    I walked into Conseco Fieldhouse today and I can tell you that the Fever season is HERE! There are numerous tell-tale signs …

  • Kelly Krauskopf and the entire coaching staff are all in the building today, preparing for Thursday’s draft. But for one small break before the start of training camp, the staff is here to stay … we’re ready to get the new season rolling!

  • Tully Bevilaqua and Jessica Davenport were working out on the practice court this morning. As overseas seasons are coming to a close, players will begin trickling in and working out in advance of training camp which begins April 25.

  • I have just penned a news release announcing that single-game tickets for the upcoming season will go on sale Thursday, to coincide with the draft. Special ticket offers will be offered for Fever fans on that day, and if you buy from the Conseco Fieldhouse Box Office you can also receive discounts on Fever items from the Home Court Gift Shop!

    Be sure to check with FeverBasketball.com throughout the week for continuing draft coverage, including – if you’re really desperate for entertainment – a live chat with me prior to Thursday’s draft. We’ll open the chat room at 2:30 p.m., prior to the 3:00 draft. I’ll answer questions from fans until the Fever’s first selection, and at from that point, the chat will periodically feature some of the Fever coaches and staff live from the draft room.

    Have a great rest of your day … and don’t forget to dust off your Fever gear, flags, banners and other merchandise … the new season is HERE!

    KM


    March 31, 2010

    It is tough to believe the month of March has ended and tomorrow begins the month of April. It’s amazing how time flies when you’re having fun!

    March Madness continues for another week … followed by WNBA Madness with the draft and opening of training camps in the days following. Commenting first on the men’s Final Four, I will predict that Butler will play for the national championship on Monday night. That just sounds awkward rolling off my tongue (or fingertips). But I believe it and, with the rest of Indianapolis, I’m rooting for them. A championship matchup is a tougher one, however, and I won’t make any other predictions! It’s great to host this event in this city. Good luck to all of the teams and players – and to the fans, too! Indianapolis with unquestionably the best city to host the Final Four and I’m sure that visiting coaches and fans all will have a great visit to our city.

    Looking to the women’s Final Four … I won’t be the first to predict any losses for the UConn Huskies! They’re in a class by themselves, and Lin Dunn commented in her blog about their talent and defense. They should cut down the nets on Tuesday night in San Antonio. But what really is interesting to me is the showcase of top talent that will be on display just prior to next Thursday’s draft!

  • Connecticut has Tina Charles and Kalana Greene – both of which should be first-round draft picks. The prevailing sentiment is that Charles will be the top pick, by the Connecticut Sun, meaning that the Fever will face her four times this summer. Greene is a wing player and possibly the type of player that Indiana could select. The question is, would she still be around for the 11th pick and will she be the best fit for the Fever at that selection?

  • The intriguing part of the Baylor roster is 6-8 freshman center Brittany Griner. No, she’s not a draft pick for 2010, but you know she will be in a couple of seasons. What success will she have against UConn on Sunday will be fun to watch.

  • One of the top centers in the draft is Stanford’s Jayne Appel, and in that semifinal matchup with Oklahoma, Appel and the Cardinal will face no less than three senior draft prospects. The Sooners boast one of the most powerful front lines in the sport, with Abi Olajuwon and Amanda Thompson leading the way. A nice swing player, Nyeshia Stevenson, plays a guard/forward.

    Turning attention to the Fever’s draft next Thursday, I wrote in an earlier blog that I expect the Fever might select the “best available athlete” when their No. 11 selection arrives. While writing, I am listening to a WNBA pre-draft conference call featuring Carolyn Peck and Rebecca Lobo, and WNBA coaches Jennifer Gillom, Cheryl Reeve and Nolan Richardson. It is tough to figure just who would be available for Indiana at No. 11, but my guess would be that a shooting guard, small forward or another post player could be chosen. A point guard might be nice insurance for the future, but I’m not sure where a point guard would fit for 2010. It’s no surprise that Indiana could use a shooter, so a defensive-minded player who can shoot on the perimeter could be an option. Size never hurts, either, so an athletic post player could also be the answer. As always, Lin Dunn’s teams will continue to be play tough defense --- so no matter who Indiana chooses, they have to play tough “D.” So … who will we draft? Stay tuned.

    For those wanting to follow next week’s draft, FeverBasketball.com will conduct a live chat throughout the draft process, live from inside the Fever draft room. The draft begins at 3 p.m. The first round will be televised live on ESPN2, with the second and third rounds carried live on NBATV.

    KM


    March 26, 2010

    I turned a year older this week and so, while I’m in a giving mood in the season of March Madness, I thought I’d offer a small birthday gift to the Fever faithful -– two blogs in one week! I know … not that big a deal, right? Well, without further adieu, here are some random thoughts from the basketball world …

  • Congratulations to the Butler Bulldogs!!! How about that game last night? The Dawgs’ men’s team will play for the right to advance to the Final Four in its hometown! How special is that? I work a handful of games on the Butler campus every year and I’m so happy for the program and its staff. It’s a great little campus and program which actually remind me a little of my own alma mater in Northern California. I’m excited for the school and the community. A piece of me is proud to work those handful of games at Hinkle Fieldhouse each winter. Go Dawgs’ and best of luck on Saturday!

  • Speaking of the Final Four … the NCAA has acknowledged on its website and in an article in The Indianapolis Star that next year’s Women’s Final Four will be conducted at Conseco Fieldhouse!! How awesome is that? I have attended several men’s Final Fours with varying responsibilities and I worked the 2005 Women’s Final Four for Westwood One Radio. We host the annual Big Ten Conference basketball tournaments at Conseco Fieldhouse, also, but I’ve never welcomed a Final Four event to the venue at which I worked. What a great location to host this great event … I can’t wait!

  • Looking at the women’s side of the NCAA Tournament this year, UConn won for the 74th consecutive time on Tuesday night. Remarkable. The widely regarded speculation is that Huskies center Tina Charles will become the first pick in the WNBA Draft, April 8. That means she will be joining former teammate Renee Montgomery with the Connecticut Sun. Guess who the Fever will face four times this summer?

  • UConn’s 74-game streak is all the more remarkable in that the Huskies beat their own 68-game record of just a few years ago. The center on that team was current Fever star Jessica Moore. Stay tuned for 10 Questions with Jessica Moore on the FeverBasketball.com sometime next week.

  • Former Fever point guard Niele Ivey is an assistant coach at her alma mater, Notre Dame. The No. 2-seed Irish have advanced to the Sweet Sixteen where they draw No. 3-seed Oklahoma in a tournament showdown this Sunday. Another former Fever star, Charlotte Smith, remains an assistant at North Carolina, which was eliminated in the first round of the tournament, by Gonzaga. Other Fever ties include a trio of broadcasters. Indiana’s starting center from its first season, Kara Wolters, remains a radio analyst at UConn. Stephanie White and Fever TV analyst Debbie Antonelli have been calling NCAA games for ESPN.

  • One of the more interesting local stories in women’s hoops surrounds former Indianapolis prepster and North Central High School graduate Amber Harris who has led Xavier to a Sweet Sixteen matchup with Gonzaga. Harris, an athletic 6-5 forward who made headlines in Indy for her dunking in high school, is in a situation similar to that of Candace Parker a few years ago – that being that she is draft-eligible for the WNBA because she has completed four years of college. She is, however, just a redshirt-junior and has one year of college eligibility remaining, if she so chooses. Therefore, the decision to enter the WNBA Draft in a couple of weeks is hers to make. If Harris opts for the WNBA Draft, she could possibly be a first-round selection.

  • Another interesting draft pick on April 8 will be Epiphanny Prince, the former Rutgers guard now starring in Turkey. Playing for Botasspor Adana, she is in the same Turkish League as Fever stars Catchings, Douglas, Hoffman, January and Sutton-Brown. She averages 19.8 points and, at last check, was tied with Catchings for the league in steals per game (3.0). She is the first player to forego her senior year of college to play professionally. She was not eligible for last year’s “W” draft, but now that her fourth year of college eligibility has expired, she is eligible for the “W” this summer. Prince should also be a first-rounder.

  • Speaking of the draft, what will be the Fever’s priority at No. 11? That’s a great question --- if for no other reason than 10 of 11 players are already re-signed from last year’s WNBA finalists. I have three thoughts on this … which will result in your comment that I’ve given you absolutely no insight at all! In the end, my guess is that Kelly Krauskopf and Lin Dunn will select the best available athlete with the 11th selection.

    One thought is that by going big, you can never have too much size. But the Fever is probably deepest in the post, already. A second thought is that, with Tully Bevilaqua’s expected retirement after this season, another point guard would be a good selection for the future. But how much time would that player receive this summer and is that applying pressure to January who’s only a second-year player? Lastly, a nice shooting guard or small forward could be a priority. Indiana has traditionally struggled with its shooting percentage and both Catchings & Douglas are creeping into their 30s. A young, solid shooter and athletic perimeter player could be of value. But how much time would that player receive while playing behind Catchings or Douglas? Like I said … best available athlete might be the Fever pick.

    So there are today’s random thoughts. I hope your brackets are doing well in both the men’s and women’s NCAA Tournament. Go ‘Dawgs and Go Fever!

    KM


    March 23, 2010

     Here I sit in the middle of March Madness and I’m knee-deep in preparation for the upcoming Fever season. The realization that the new season is upon us NOW is that I’m beginning to face deadlines for the 2010 media guide and the draft is now just two weeks (16 days) away.

     So, without further adieu, here is my unofficial position-by-position breakdown of the 2010 Fever. Keep in mind, it’s March and I don’t now who Kelly Krauskopf and Lin Dunn will draft. But given that virtually our entire team is intact from 2009, we have a pretty good idea of who will be on our team in two months.

     Oh yeah, and did I mention that that the May 15 season opener is less than two months away? We will open training camp (April 25) in 33 days. Folks – the season is upon us!

     POINT GUARD
    At the point, Indiana is in the midst of transition. We saw that transition begin to take shape during 2009 and especially during the playoffs. Tully Bevilaqua is in the 11th season of her career and future star Briann January is beginning her second. The writing is on the wall – especially after January averaged 10.6 points and 3.0 assists during 10 games of last year’s playoffs. Briann scored at least 16 points three times in last year’s playoff run and clearly is a more explosive scorer than Tully. With Tully, however, you still have savvy veteran leadership and the ability to come onto the floor and direct her team. What I envision this year might be similar to the 2004 Seattle club that won the WNBA title. On that team, Sue Bird ran the point, but Bevilaqua was always at the ready in a competent reserve role. If Bird ever was out, the club was in good hands. No matter who starts the majority of games, January is sure to play a much larger role.

     It has also been said in my blog and in comments by Kelly Krauskopf that, whereas other teams got better this offseason purely by adding talent, the only way that Indiana will get better in 2010 is by playing better. Plain and simple, the Fever have not had the luxury of adding players from the dispersal draft. Therefore, with January its youngest player and probably the most significant player needed to show improvement from last season, look for January’s progress to dictate a lot of any Fever improvement overall. A possible third point guard could come in the upcoming draft, to help Indiana transition to its future without Bevilaqua in 2011.

     SHOOTING GUARD
    Katie Douglas is the fixture here, and provided that the rest of the lineup remains intact, Katie should never have pressure to take games under her control. She is certainly the team’s most explosive scorer and there will be games that she does take control – but a key for Indiana’s success is receiving balanced production so that Douglas can’t always be double-teamed or forced to contribute huge games. A backup at the 2-guard is not well defined as of this writing. Most likely, it will come from multiple locations. Gone to retirement is Tamecka Dixon who was the primary reserve in 2009, but capable of stepping in to spell Douglas are both January and Shay Murphy, and even Christina Wirth. All are young, but all are shooters. Murphy has had a great season of scoring overseas in Spain and the fourth-year veteran recently signed a training camp contract to return in 2010. Her minutes were minimal in 2009 and she will have to fight to make this team again. Wirth’s size lends her talents more as a small forward, but her 3-point prowess and knowledge of the game allow her to slide between positions. January’s combo skills allow her to play the “2” in a smaller lineup with Bevilaqua running the point.

    SMALL FORWARD
    For the 10th straight season, Indiana will employ perhaps the world’s most versatile and well-rounded player in Tamika Catchings. She can fill the “2,” “3,” and “4” positions to give Lin Dunn maximum versatility, if needed. Douglas can swing to the “3” if needed and with a year of pro experience under her belt, Wirth stands in position to gain minutes at this position. Depending on who is selected in the upcoming draft, it is possible that Indiana could feature a top rookie to backup Douglas or Catchings, at one position or the other.

    POWER FORWARD
    Indiana already employs one prototypical power forward in Ebony Hoffman and has a versatile post in Jessica Moore that fills the role as well. Counting Catchings or Wirth in a smaller lineup, Indiana can throw four different looks at a power forward spot which could make it Indiana’s deepest position. Three of the four provide a nice 3-point threat to help stretch defenses. Moore is more of a natural center, but is strong and athletic enough to defend on the perimeter.

    CENTER
    One of Krauskopf’s offseason priorities was to solidify Indiana’s post position by re-signing Jessica Davenport. In doing so, she ensured that once again, the Fever will employ two-time All-Star Tammy Sutton-Brown with the knowledge that she has reserve help in the form of two quality players – Moore and Davenport (a.k.a., “The Jessicas”). Moore is a proven starter and contributor in the WNBA. Sutton-Brown has risen to a class among the league’s elite players. And Davenport, the league’s former No. 2 overall draft pick and a three-time Big Ten Conference Player of the Year, showed signs in the WNBA Finals why she can perform at the highest levels, too. At 6-7, Davenport saw the least amount of playing time among this trio last year, but Dunn has found ways to put her shot-blocking ability to use; and her offensive prowess was unprecedented on the league’s highest stage last October. Add Hoffman to this mix in a smaller lineup and the center position is as deep as the power forward slot.

    For Indiana in 2010, keys to contending will be consistency, balance, individual improvement and health. As discussed earlier, Indiana won’t get better with the luxury of adding personnel. Indiana will only get better by performing better. The Fever will need to remain consistent in back-to-back games and on the road – especially with the knowledge that this year they carry the mantra as “defending Eastern Conference champions.” Thus, teams will be marking their calendars with dates against the Fever, hoping to make their own mark and knock Indiana from its pedestal.

    Furthermore, balance and bench play will be essential. As Bevilaqua enters the twilight of her career and Catchings and Douglas both move into their 30s, Indiana will need to get production from multiple sources. Neither Catchings or Douglas will be physically capable of carrying the club night in and night out.

    Improvements by January and Wirth will be vital to aiding that production. Both were capable players a year ago with January asserting herself as a possible future star. But can she be consistent every night? And will Wirth make the necessary strides to spell Catchings or Douglas when needed? Those questions must be answered to ensure success in 2010.

    Lastly, many teams will enter the season as contenders, but as Minnesota discovered last season, the Lynx fell victim to one Seimone Augustus injury that virtually ended that contention. A constant ingredient in every team’s success, no matter the sport and no matter the level of competition, is a little bit of luck. Indiana found some of that magic in 2009. If it can avoid the injury bug and maintain its momentum, there is no reason, on paper, for the Fever not to contend again this summer.

     We’re just two months away, folks! Get your tickets now!


    KM

    March 8, 2010

    There’s lots happening in Turkey these days, so let’s get right to it!

    First, there was an earthquake that struck a mountainous region of southeastern Turkey on Monday. Thankfully, it wasn’t close to any of the five Fever players in the country. The earthquake was on the other side of the country from Indiana’s four players in Istanbul and between 300 and 400 miles northeast of Briann January’s location in Tarsus, in south central Turkey.

    I have sent an email to Briann, hoping to hear how close she may have been to actually feeling the earthquake. Needless to say, however, we’re thankful they all are just fine.

    On the hardwood, all five Fever players are active – including a head-to-head matchup on Sunday between Tamika Catchings and Katie Douglas of third-place Galatasaray and Ebony Hoffman and Tammy Sutton-Brown of defending champion and first-place Fenerbahce. Hoffman had 15 points and six rebounds to help Fenerbahce solidify its lead through 17 rounds of the Turkish schedule, and down her Indiana teammates by a final score of 76-62.

    The Phoenix Mercury’s Penny Taylor had 17 points and six boards to pace Fenerbahce. Nicole Powell of the New York Liberty had 12 points and the Fever’s Sutton-Brown posted three points off the bench. Sophia Young of the San Antonio Silver Stars led all scorers with 22 points to pace Galatasaray. Tamika Catchings had 13 points and three steals, and Katie Douglas added eight points.

    In a recent blog posting, Tammy Sutton-Brown wrote about the big matchup against her Fever teammates.

    With the loss, Galatasaray fell to 13-4 while unbeaten Fenerbahce ran its unbeaten string to 16-0 in the Turkish domestic league. Galatasaray suffered its first loss since Tamika Catchings’ arrival in Turkey in mid-January. In the Turkish standings, Galatasaray trails Mersin who is 15-1.

    Elsewhere in Turkey, January continues to play well for Tarsus, helping her club climb to within striking distance of the leaders in the Turkish standings. Taking part in her first season overseas, Bri is fifth in the league with 3.9 assists per game, and she is tied for second in the league with 3.0 steals per game – tied with former Rutgers star Epiphanny Prince and trailing Fever teammate Catchings (3.2). January’s 12.6-point average is second on the club to Los Angeles Sparks star Betty Lennox. She has scored in double figures in seven straight games and helped Tarsus to a 5-2 record since her arrival in early January. Tarsus (9-8), once mired near the bottom of the Turkish standings, currently is in fifth place with one month to play in the regular season.
    KM


    February 9, 2010
    The season of free agency in the WNBA is in full swing this month as Kara Lawson, Ticha Penicheiro and Le'coe Willingham all have found new homes within the past week. The Connecticut Sun and Minnesota Lynx dealt star point guards in the season's biggest blockbuster trade, too, sending Lindsay Whalen back to her home state and returning Renee Montgomery within miles of her college stomping grounds at UConn.

    During this second week in February, I have a few random thoughts for Fever fans out there ... and I'll use this space to tease a feature that will run on FB.com later this week. I spent some time talking with Kelly Krauskopf about various Fever and WNBA issues. A Q&A of that conversation will appear in a day or two.

    My random thoughts ... first of all, happy belated birthday to Tammy Sutton-Brown in Istanbul. Her birthday was actually Jan. 27. I received a small photo from Ebony Hoffman that had our four Fever players together in Istanbul celebrating her birthday. The photo was going to run with the story. But the photo was too small. So I waited to write anything. But I haven't gotten a larger image ... so alas, my delay. Happy Birthday, Tammy, just the same.

    Speaking of our players in Turkey - do you realize that next year's likely starting lineup is ALL in Turkey??? Sutton-Brown and Hoffman are teammates with Fenerbahce in Istanbul. On the opposite side of the same city is arch-rival Galatasaray, featuring Tamika Catchings and Katie Douglas. Outside the city and in the southeastern part of the country, Briann January plays for Tarsus. Fenerbahce is currently in first place in the Turkish League and is the three-time defending champs. Sutton-Brown has been there for all of them. This year, though, with Galatasaray currently in third place, it is likely that we'll see a Fenerbahce-Galatasaray series in the Turkish Finals, now that Catchings arrived there in January.

    What does that mean for the Fever, though? One thing it means is that, with the WNBA scheduled shifted earlier for 2010, we likely won't be seeing many of those Turkish players during training camp. The Turkish League playoffs typically have been played later than any other overseas leagues. Remember in 2007 when Tammy Sutton-Brown and Sheri Sam battled head-to-head in the Turkish Finals and both arrived on the very day of the Fever's regular season opener? Expect the same again this May.

    Speaking of Turkey again, and looking to the WNBA Draft, one player for fans to follow is former Rutgers star Epiphanny Prince. A junior in 2009, Prince opted to forego her senior year in college to play professionally overseas. Remember that the WNBA draft rule prohibits a player from entering the WNBA Draft before completing college eligibility. That doesn't mean that a player can't go overseas to earn a paycheck, though, and that's just what Prince did this winter. She is spending what would have been her final year of college eligibility playing with Botasspor Adana in Turkey. She will be eligible for the WNBA Draft this April.

    Finally, before I conclude, I'll share a few summer dates with you. Our front office staff has established a number of our Theme Nights for the 2010 season. I'll just give you a taste of some of the key dates:

  • Saturday, June 5 vs. New York is Heart Healthy Night presented by Community Health Network
  • Thursday, June 17 vs. Seattle is Adopt-A-Pet Night
  • Saturday, June 19 vs. Atlanta is Dad's Night Out
  • Thursday, July 8 vs. Tulsa is Freddy's Birthday and our annual Mascot Night
  • Wednesday, July 14 vs. Connecticut is our annual Kids Day with a special 1:00 afternoon tipoff
  • Friday, August 6 vs. Atlanta is Breast Health Awareness Night presented by Community Health Network

    Before the start of the season, we'll announce all our theme nights and Family Night dates. The season is near, folks! March Madness is right around the corner and just as soon as that hits - BAM! - we'll be into WNBA season!
    KM


    January 21, 2010

    For Fever fans interested in browsing their TV dials on Sunday, Fever GM Kelly Krauskopf and Head Coach Lin Dunn will be on-air for your viewing!

    CBS Sports will air an hour-long feature on the current college basketball season called "Pride, Passion and Power." In it will be a feature on former NCAA star and current New York Liberty President & General Manager Carol Blazejowski. Kelly Krauskopf was one of three WNBA executives interviewed for the piece.

    That evening (no worry, no conflict with the Colts in the AFC Championship Game!), Lin Dunn can be seen as the color analyst during the Rice at Memphis game. The game actually will be played Saturday at noon and aired live on CSS, a southeast region cable network. It will re-air on CBS College Sports Network at 9:30 p.m. Sunday evening. Check your local cable listings for CBS College Sports Network. It can be viewed on DirecTV channel 613 or DISH Network channel 152.
    KM


    January 21, 2010

    OK, it has now become official - Turkey has overtaken Russia as the women's basketball powerhouse overseas. And players from the Indiana Fever are leading the charge with top players on top teams.

    It used to be that Russia's "Superleague" was loaded with most of the world's top women's players - due in part to former Spartak Moscow owner Shabtai Kalmanovitch who was tragically assasinated in Moscow last November. Some of his star players, which included Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi and Lauren Jackson, have stayed. Some have left. And the balance of power in Russia has shifted. One Fever player, Katie Douglas, had a contract with a team in Russia that folded, leading her to sign with Galatasaray in Istanbul, Turkey.

    Fever center Tammy Sutton-Brown has led Istanbul's Fenerbahce Sports Klub to three straight Turkish League titles. She loves the city and the team and is currently in her fourth season in Turkey.

    Beginning with Sutton-Brown and joined by Douglas, Fever players have continued their recent trek to Turkey. In all, five current Fever players - and perhaps next summer's entire starting lineup - are all active in Turkey.

  • Just after the holidays and after finishing the fall semester at Arizona State, Briann January embarked on her first season overseas, accepting a contract with Tarsus which is located on the Mediterranean coast, in the southeastern part of the country. Her first game with Tarsus, Jan. 9, came against Galatasaray and Katie Douglas.
  • I wrote in a previous blog about Tamika Catchings' departure to Poland. Less than a week after my blog, Catchings opted instead to leave Lotos Gdynia in Poland because of the team's financial concerns. Where did she land? Turkey, of course. And quite conveniently, as Douglas' Galatasaray teammate. Catchings should debut with Galatasaray this week, perhaps.
  • Finally, Ebony Hoffman has determined her overseas location this season and, yes, you guessed it, she's in Turkey, too! Hoffman teamed with Sutton-Brown and Fenerbahce last winter and she is returning there this month.

    That makes five Fever players playing for three Turkish teams. But the power of those teams lies not just in those Fever players. Check out the Fenerbahce lineup. Joining Sutton-Brown and Hoffman are fellow WNBA stars Penny Taylor, Nicole Powell and Matee Ajavon. Besides Catchings and Douglas, Sophia Young is another WNBA superstar on the Galatasaray roster. Virtually every team in Turkey includes at least one or a couple current or former WNBA stars. Even Tarsus, which is currently 10th of 12 teams in the Turkish standings, has Roneeka Hodges and Chante Black to join Briann January.

    If you'd like to read more about life in Turkey, you can keep up with Tammy Sutton-Brown who has begun blogging more regularly. Congrats to Tammy who has been selected to a fourth straight All-Star appearance in Turkey this winter. You can click here to follow her blog.
    KM


    January 8, 2010

    Now that we're one week into the New Year with a white winter wonderland spread out before all of us in Central Indiana -- Happy New Year to all the Fever and WNBA fans out there (and anyone else who may be reading)!

    I have enjoyed following most of the college football bowl games over the past couple of weeks, culminating with last night's national championship game. And I also followed Major League Baseball's hall of fame voting over the past week. The NFL Playoffs begin this weekend and college hoops teams are turning to their annual conference schedules. What's this mean? Beside the fact that baseball players begin reporting to spring training in another month, we are approaching tournament time in college hoops and, of course, the WNBA Draft in April! Opening day for the Fever is May 15 which is four months and seven days from now.

    Sure, the new WNBA season is still a little ways off, but it is approaching and a new sense of urgency has arrived.

    Most Fever players are renewing their overseas schedules this week, after breaking for the holidays themselves. One new player that will begin her first action overseas is Briann January. I emailed and texted with her today, learning that she has just arrived in Turkey and will play with Tarsus, in the same league as Tammy Sutton-Brown (Fenerbahce) and Katie Douglas (Galatasaray). Tamika Catchings will venture overseas on Jan. 15 when she resumes play with Lotos Gdynia in Poland, for whom she played in 2009. I am still awaiting word on Ebony Hoffman's plans overseas, and of course Tully Bevilaqua has remained in Indianapolis.

    I actually spent a couple of hours with Tully and a few friends a few evenings ago, mostly watching Tully put forth a worthy Karaoke performance. Before you ask, no, I did not sing. I think I suggested to Tully that "she not quit her day job," but I have to give her props -- not only was she entertaining, she was quite the performer. OK, enough on Karaoke night!

    Worthy of mention, though, is that Tully will conduct a Defensive Boot Camp on March 27 and March 28, each at separate locations. It is a two-hour concentration of defensive skills and training from one of the top defensive point guards in the WNBA. Click here for a registration flyer that offers details on times, location and nominal fees.

    What else is NEW in the New Year?

    Fever fans with season tickets or anyone considering NEW season tickets can visit a Fever Open House on Wednesday, January 20 from 6 to 8 p.m. Participants can pick out their own seat location for 2010, tour the locker room and see the Eastern Conference Trophy. Oh, and how 'bout this for a deal? Anyone that buys any full season ticket package in 2010, gets full season parking for just $18! That's a buck per game. Not bad!

    In coming weeks, we'll hear again from Briann in Turkey; we'll hear from Fever analyst Debbie Antonelli on the college circuit and Fever coaches will breakdown some of the top college prospects; I'll discuss the upcoming schedule and some promotional nights and I'm hoping for some NFL playoff thoughts from our resident Fever pro football expert - Ebony Hoffman. Happy New Year again to all our Fever fans out there ... and keep your Fever gear at the ready --- the countdown to a new season is not too far away!
    KM


    December 30, 2009

    Last week, I paid a visit to Tully Bevilaqua's basketball camp and this morning, I made a visit with Tamika Catchings and her Catch The Stars Holiday Basketball Camp. The two camps are in great contrast -- understandably given that Tully's camp was her first, while Tamika has operated her camp since 2001. Tamika's camp had humble beginnings also, but since has grown and grown. Today, there were roughly 150 kids for the final day of camp at what is a very spacious 8-court facility at Warren Central High School.

    I attended for only an hour. But in that hour, I saw all that I needed to come away thinking that this was an ideal setting for what a holiday basketball camp could and should be.

    It was about fun and interaction -- everybody in movement throughout the open facility that is roughly the size of a football field. The Catch The Stars Foundation operates the camp with a small army of volunteer staff and coaches. Tamika is active while moving from kid-to-kid and drill-to-drill, offering support, encouragement, advice and a smile. And on this third day of the camp, parents were not only present but a part of the camp agenda.

    Tamika's camp operates over three days each year. From 10 to 4 on Monday and Tuesday this year, with the third day scheduled from 10 to 1. Lunch is provided each day. The final day of camp, though, is unique from any that I have witnessed over the years, and it is for that reason I came away with the impression I did.

    I arrived near 11:30 a.m. After visiting with some of the volunteers that I knew, I stepped into the huge gymnasium. I was expecting to watch the kids going through instruction and playing games. Instead, however, I saw relay races. Relay races not just with kids and volunteers - but with kids paired with their parents. It provided a neat opportunity for kids and moms and dads to have fun together, even to learn together. It encouraged a sense of family.

    The highlight of my visit, though, was the game of Knockout. We've all seen Knockout played and it is a common occurence at any basketball camp. But have you ever seen it played exclusively with parents?? If there were roughly 150 kids active in today's activities, I would estimate between 40 and 50 moms and dads taking part on this final day. The long stream of them spanned one court from roughly one free throw line to the other. One after one -- men, women, old, young, fit and even those aspiring to return to fitness -- all participated in a 15-minute game with kids and volunteers cheering for their favorite players. All the campers sat cheering from the sidelines.

    I don't recall who won and the actual winner wasn't important. It was fun. It was engaging. Kids had fun watching. Everybody laughed. Parents had fun representing their sons and daughters. The more competitive players lasted longer, of course, but even the lesser competitive parents made shots to oust some seemingly stronger opponents. It was entertaining and fast-moving. Tamika mingled among the campers, offering valuable one-on-one face time with her biggest fans.

    Following the parents' game of Knockout, the camp concludes with a banquet and awards luncheon in the adjacent cafeteria.

    I only attended each of Tamika's and Tully's camps for about an hour the past two weeks. Each in their own way, the Fever players provided a really nice opportunity for kids to spend their holiday break. It's great to see our Fever players engaged in the community this way. Neither event was an official "Fever" event. But so long as our players continue to be engaged and so community-minded - the Fever benefits.

    Congratulations to Tamika and Tully. Until I write again next week in 2010, I'd like to wish everyone a safe and happy New Year!

    KM


    December 21, 2009

    'Twas the Night Before Christmas and all through the Fieldhouse ...

    OK, no, I'm not going to turn this holiday blog into a Christmas carol - or anything nearly that creative! But it is four days before Christmas as I write this afternoon and surely the entire Fever staff and roster are busily readying their plans for this week's holiday.

    I spent this morning visiting Tully Bevilaqua's first annual basketball camp, and next week I'll spend a day visiting the ninth such camp of Tamika Catchings! I was happy for Tully and her cast of volunteers. Anytime that someone begins a new venture, it's difficult to know just how things will go. In the case of starting a basketball camp, you can never be sure just how many participants you'll have and you never know exactly how the various drills and sessions will go; nor how well prepared you will be with volunteers and other planning details.

    I was happy to witness that Tully's first-ever camp drew about 30 participants at The Fieldhouse in Fishers. Kids and coaches were in rapid movement from one court to the next, and from one drill to the next. Kids were having a good time -- which was most important -- and it seemed that Tully and her staff were well integrated. It was a very good start to what hopefully becomes a very regular camp, just as Tamika's has become.

    I look forward to attending Tamika's camp next week in part because it will be my first! I have attended a number of her various clinics and other events, but I typically have taken a long vacation over the Christmas holiday which, therefore, means that I've been out of town for her Catch the Holiday Fever basketball camps! This year, I took the long break to my native Denver over the Thanksgiving holiday. I'm looking very forward to watching her three-day camp of 200 participants at Warren Central High School.

    In my Thanksgiving blog, I spoke about a number of things for which Fever fans could be thankful, most of which highlighted various events and people from the past year. The first thing I should acknowledge right here and now is that I left someone off of the Thanksgiving blog. Actually two people - Herb Simon and his late brother, Melvin. Without them, certainly, neither would the Fever have ever existed, nor would we still be thriving so successfully. In this season of giving, it is important -- even imperative -- to recognize the gentlemen that have given and given and kept on giving. The Simons have given in countless ways to our community. We should all be thankful.

    I was reminded of the Simon's giving in a different way this week, also. A less visible part of our Fever family includes all of the gameday personnel who work all the Fever home games, including the statistics crew that falls under my direction. One of my favorite co-workers, and a woman who has staffed nearly every Fever home game since 2000, is Martha (Marty) Kalb. Marty has been stricken over recent years with cancer. For a time, she was a "survivor," and then the nasty disease made a return within the past year. Through it all, she's been diligent in attending and working every Fever game - always with a smile and exhuberence, and a dedication to her task of assisting the Fever team bench (specifically Coach Dunn) with updates on timeouts and fouls. Her family even reminds us that they set their summer vacation schedule according to the Fever schedule. She has worked when she has been ill, rarely missing a game.

    So, what does the Simon's giving have to do with our friend and co-worker Marty?

    Marty, unfortunately, has been hospitalized within the past week. For sake of keeping her hope alive, I'm not going to discuss the outlook or prognosis as it has been delivered to me. I am going to ask for people's prayers for her, and be thankful for the life she has led; and for the many friends who have continued to visit her. And where have those visits taken place this week? The Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center at the IU Memorial Hospital in downtown Indianapolis. Our friend Marty is being cared for under another roof built and established by the Simon Family.

    So, with four days remaining before Christmas [yes, I personally use the Christ word instead of Xmas; but no matter a person's religious views, it still is a holiday and a season for giving and caring], it is fitting that I remember the Simons in this blog; and our friend Marty; and the community work done by Tamika and Tully and Lin Dunn and other Fever players.

    Happy holidays to everyone. Here is to hoping we remember the spirit of the season. [P.S., don't forget to check out the newly released 2010 Fever schedule. I'll follow this Christmas blog with upcoming thoughts on the Fever team, the upcoming draft and Fever plans to return to the WNBA Finals!]

    KM


    November 23, 2009

    Thanksgiving is this week and I am thankful. OK, one reason to be thankful is that Fever fans may still read this blog - given that it's been on hiatus since just prior to Games 4 and 5 of the WNBA Finals! Wow, what a finish to the 2009 season!

    Indiana deserved to be in the Finals last season and the team knew it was good enough to advance to the championship series. And finally, Indianapolis and Central Indiana noticed and "caught the Fever" in a big-time way during those final two weeks of the season! Three straight sellout crowds at Conseco Fieldhouse! The crowds spoke volumes. The only thing lacking in the final week of the season was to test the ultimate volume of that Game 4 crowd had we won the title back on Oct. 7!

    OK, so as we approach this week's Thanksgiving holiday, I offer a Top 20 list of things for which a Fever fan can be thankful. Why 20? Because, as the Fever just celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2009, the franchise looks enthusiastically toward celebrating its 20th (with hopefully a few titles mixed in)!

    The Indiana Fever and Fever fans can be thankful for (in no particular order):

  • Crowds, fans and corporate partners who made the 2009 season the most memorable year in Fever history.

  • Lin Dunn, for her sense of humor, her dedication and her drive to making the Fever the best it can be on the court.

  • Kelly Krauskopf, for her diligence in building this team and this franchise. No other person has been with the franchise longer, and no other has devoted his or her total self to the success of this franchise quite like Kelly.

  • Tamika Catchings, for another glowing performance on the court. The Defensive Player of the Year for a third season, Catchings' legacy continues to build as one of the most prominent and foremost figures in the world of women's basketball.

  • Tully Bevilaqua, for re-dedicating her training during the 2008-09 offseason and contributing one of the best seasons of her great, late-blooming pro career. Oh, and the Fever PR guy is thankful that she has relocated to Indianapolis this winter -- there are always more offseason media opportunities when we have players in-market!

  • Tammy Sutton-Brown, for being one of the most athletic centers in the WNBA, and for three great seasons so far. Oh, and for her blogs and her sense of humor, also ... TSB always has a way of keeping things in perspective, no matter the atmosphere.

  • Katie Douglas, for coming back to Indy and providing local fans with a bonafide role model - the former southsider and Perry Meridian grad who perservered through hard times and built her career through Purdue and the WNBA. Not only does she revel in being one of the team's primary pranksters, she gives our local youth a vivid reminder of what they can do with their lives when they keep working hard and working through pain.

  • Ebony Hoffman, for five great Fever seasons and the smile and personality that are destined to find their way onto her own television program one day. In over 20 years in sports PR, I'm not sure I've encountered another personality quite like Ebony.

  • Shay Murphy, for her energy and relentless work to improve and be ready when the coach may call her number.

  • Jessica Davenport, for a pair of double-figure games during the WNBA Finals. The seldom-used Davenport stepped into the limelight during the Finals, scoring 10 points during a Game 2 victory, then adding a career-high 18 points in the decisive Game 5.

  • Jessica Moore, for being an available free agent coming out of training camp! Are you kidding me? Still young and mobile, Moore was the Sparks' full-time starting center during a playoffs run just three seasons ago. But reduced roster numbers resulted in her availability. Thanks again to Kelly Krauskopf for calling her number. Thanks to Jessica for answering the call!

  • Conseco Fieldhouse. Is there a better basketball venue in America? No. And the Fever is thankful to welcome its fans to such a great showplace.

  • Christina Wirth, for her quiet diligence and persistence during her first Fever season. Rarely called upon while playing behind Catchings and Douglas, she spelled Hoffman for valuable minutes in Game 5 and proved she belongs on the WNBA stage. Her presence will be welcomed in years to come.

  • Speaking of years to come, Briann January walked right into the WNBA, right into the Fever lineup and proved that she is, indeed, the Fever's point guard of the future. Her quickness, shot-making, deft passing, defensive presence and competitive tenacity made her one of the best picks in the 2009 WNBA Draft.

  • Tamecka Dixon, for being the consummate professional. Through 13 WNBA seasons, she now is one of just two original WNBA Stars who remain in the league today. She proved valuable on the court and in the locker room for Indiana's 2009 playoff run, and surely can fill the same role again in 2010.

  • Craig Stull, Jenny Brennan and Brandon Johnson - for keeping the Fever players strong and healthy during a relatively injury-free season in 2009.

  • Ashley Floyd and Allison Hawkins - for everything behind the scenes that is rarely seen; and for their smiles and devotion to improving the Indiana Fever every day that they step into Conseco Fieldhouse. What most people don't realize is that these young ladies have also been affiliated with the franchise for 10 years, themselves. Both were Fever ballkids when the franchise originated in 2000.

  • The Fever's All-Decade Team. Announced on Aug. 15, 2009, 10 great Fever players of the past (and present) were honored. It is those 10 players that have helped put the Fever on the local sports map.

  • The Catch The Stars Foundation. This is Tamika Catchings' charitable foundation which serves so much good in our community. We are thankful for its value and for its role in the community. Selfishly, the Fever is thankful because we realize that every time Tamika steps out into the community, the Fever continues to be well-represented.

  • Friendships, competition and the growing excellence of the WNBA. Never was there a better WNBA playoffs series then the recently completed Fever-Mercury matchup last fall, and national and local TV ratings proved it. Local and national media made note. Local fans followed, and sponsors and corporate partners will surely notice the enhanced value of affiliation with the Fever and the "W." Those of us involved with the WNBA are thankful for yet one more season gone by, and so many future seasons with continuing promise.

    Happy Thanksgiving to the friends and families everywhere that follow the Indiana Fever.

    KM


    October 3, 2009

    This is one of the most fitting, appropriate and timely blogs I will ever write for FeverBasketball.com. It's about a guy whose dedication to the Indiana Fever has been matched by very few individuals. He, along with chief operating officer Kelly Krauskopf, administrative assistant and former ballkid Ashley Floyd, are the lone remaining "originals" from the Fever franchise that launched its first season in 2000.

    I am speaking of Fever and Pacers broadcaster Chris Denari. I first met Chris when I joined the Fever in spring 2003, seven years ago. He is a true gentleman and friend, an outstanding and professional play-by-play man, and a true fan both of the Fever and the Pacers. His roots with the Fever extend much deeper than with the Pacers, though. And it was through his hard work and dedication to the Fever that Pacers Sports and Entertainment hired him as the TV voice of the Pacers three seasons ago.

    So, why, on the eve of the first WNBA Finals game ever to be played in Indianapolis; with the city enjoying a Fever Frenzy; and with the club two wins shy of a possible WNBA title, am I writing about Chris Denari?

    What most people don't realize is that right now, my friend Chris is preparing for his final Fever broadcast of the season. He will call Game 3 of the WNBA Finals with little fanfare, and with the liklihood that most people don't realize it will be his final game of the year. He will quietly and professionally -- with a huge lump in his throat -- bow to Kevin Lee, Quinn Buckner and Debbie Antonelli to call the Fever's final one or two games that might remain in this most magical of Fever seasons.

    Why? Because Chris will board a flight to China on Monday morning. His talents and his climb up the local broadcasting ladder have put Chris in the position to carry the Pacers' broadcasts during a historical visit to China next week. When the trip was planned, the Fever season had barely begun. Never had a Fever season lasted into October. And even if the Fever reached the WNBA Finals, Denari's schedule conflict would only arise if the series reached Game 4.

    Well, alas, the series will reach at least that far. And no matter that his heart will surely be left inside The Fieldhouse when he leaves the building 24 hours from now, Chris will unfortunately not be a part of Game 4, or a possible Game 5.

    Timing is indeed an unfortunate thing, in this case. For the chance to see this fledgling franchise reach the pinnacle of the sport in its 10th season, with Denari calling virtually every game since the club was established 360 games ago, it will be a shame that Chris cannot take part in any possible title that Indiana could win this next week.

    Chris and his PS&E counterparts will attempt to find an ESPN2 feed of the game somehow in China, on what will be Thursday, Oct. 5 for them when the game is played here Wednesday evening. Or, with his new Macbook or iPhone or other techno gadget, Denari will surely try by any means possible to keep tabs on the Fever's progress a half-a-world away.

    For the first several years that I knew Chris, he was often regarded in the Indianapolis media market as the guy with more jobs than anyone. He was the marketing director for Butler University sports while he carried Bulldogs games on the radio. He called the 'Dawgs in the winter and the Fever in the summer. He has worked IHSAA and college sports broadcasts and he has always carried racing action from Turn 4 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway -- juggling his racing schedule with the Fever's, and often traveling the day of a game in order to make every Fever date he could. He could have opted to miss a game here and there, but not Chris.

    Later, he joined the Colts' radio network, carrying pre- and postgame shows. Later, he became the sports director at FOX-59 where he also added postgame TV duties on the Pacers' FSN telecasts. He did it all. Everybody in the local media market knew Denari and all of us worked with him in one capacity or another. I think I can speak for most members of this media market and say he has been liked by all, with a kind, gentle, professional, helpful and engaging demeanor no matter whether he was dealing with a big-time coach, athlete, marketing exec or a college intern. In 2004, he was named the Indiana Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association Broadcaster of the Year.

    He had more jobs than anybody in Indianapolis, but he never complained. And in his mind, he had the greatest gig in sports.

    Finally, the son of a high school coach, a husband and the father of three boys, he did get the best gig in sports. He calls the play-by-play for pro basketball games 12 months out of the year. When the Pacers hired Denari as its TV voice, he landed what was for him the opportunity of a lifetime.

    Chris would not have you feel sorry that he might miss a possible Fever championship this week. Let's face it, he's going to China to continue his wonderful opportunity with the best job he could imagine!

    But his absence must be noted. His contributions must be acknowledged. Whether this Finals series will end in Indy or Phoenix, and whether it will be Tamika Catchings or Diana Taurasi hoisting the eventual championship trophy, Chris Denari will be with the Indiana Fever in spirit ... and somehow I'm sure by Twitter or email or some newfangled text mechanism.

    The greatest shame is that, should a Fever championship occur, it will not be the characteristic and enthusiastic Denari delivery that will be re-lived and replayed through archives and highlights that will follow.

    Enjoy your Sunday, Chris. Enjoy what will be the largest Fever crowd you have ever witnessed. For any Fever fans that may read this blog before their arrival Sunday, be sure to bring your best wishes or even a sign for Chris Denari. He deserves it. He deserves to be present for a potential first championship. His 10-year run as a WNBA broadcaster is unprecedented. He has carried the WNBA and Fever flags proudly.

    In the midst of the Fever's biggest week in history, the dedicated blog to Chris Denari is fitting, appropriate and timely.

    KM


    October 1, 2009

    Wow! Another great night for the Fever. And for Fever fans watching on ESPN2, it was a great evening for you, also.

    The Indiana Fever has put itself in position to win the WNBA title in Indianapolis this week. By downing the Mighty Mercury 93-84 in Game 2 of this best-of-five game WNBA Finals series, Indiana has evened the series 1-1 with a pair of home games upcoming on Sunday and Wednesday.

    The Fever's 14-3 regular season home record was the best in the WNBA. Counting the playoffs, the Fever is 17-3 at Conseco Fieldhouse this season. And since Lin Dunn's "mulligan" game in the home opener way back on June 7, Indiana is 17-2 at its home arena.

    That home arena is about to be packed to the gills on Sunday afternoon. If you haven't heard by now, Fever fans ----- you'd better get your tickets in a hurry! As of early Thursday evening, over 16,100 tickets were sold for Sunday's Game 3. Those are tickets sold to 16,100 loyal and dedicated fans who are hungry for the Fever to take the lead in this Finals series. There will be no assistance from Larry Bird this week. The Fever has seemingly captured the hearts of Indianapolis sports fans, and the friendly confines of Conseco Fieldhouse are about to turn into a loud and raucous home-court advantage for the homestanding Fever.

    How did we get to this point? The Fever raced through the regular season with the East's best record. Though stumbling briefly down the stretch, the Fever regrouped to sweep Washington in the conference semis. It was against the dreaded Detroit Shock that the Fever raised its profile locally - winning back-to-back games at The Fieldhouse last week to open the eyes of the surrounding community. When an announced crowd of 18,165 showed up to help the Fever earn its first conference championship, the Fever responded with a knock-down, dragout thriller over Detroit.

    In the Finals, the Fever has responded again. The Mercury won a 120-116 classic in the opening game, but not before Indiana got huge performances from Katie Douglas, Ebony Hoffman and Tammy Sutton-Brown. Douglas and Hoffman turned in career playoff scoring highs and, Hoffman in particular, played perhaps her best game of the season. On the league's biggest stage and in front of the national TV audience, "Showtime" Hoffman shot 12-of-14 from the floor, added eight rebounds and finished with 27 points. The loss meant an 0-1 beginning to the series, but the pace and the great play of so many players meant one very important thing, besides the loss ... and that was that the Fever was very, very comfortable playing at Phoenix' breakneck pace.

    Indiana not only is comfortable playing at any pace the Mercury wants to play, but the Fever is a very confident team. They believe very simply that, unless they make mistakes, they will not be denied the 2009 championship.

    So, who stepped up in Game 2? None other than Tamika Catchings with a near triple-double (19 points, 11 assists, 9 rebounds) that would have been the first in Finals history. But besides another stat-stuffer from Catchings, no less than five other players finished in double figures. And how about the splendid performances from bench stars Briann January and Jessica Davenport? Like Hoffman and Douglas two nights before, January and Davenport both posted playoff career highs.

    Davenport played 12 minutes, shot 4-of-6, added a pair of rebounds and three blocks while posting her best game of the year. January was just marvelous. Fearless. Effortless. Spectacular. She shot 5-of-7 with three 3-point baskets. She had a pair of rebounds and an assist, and she finished with 16 points. But more than anything else, she stepped onto the big stage without missing a beat. Playing just minutes from her college home at Arizona State University, she played like she was born on this stage. She stepped into a fourth quarter 3 to thwart one Mercury rally. She took a key charge in the waning minutes to stifle another Phoenix opportunity. Her fastbreak layup was one of the game's biggest highlights.

    No longer a rookie, January emerged as a September star who's biggest plays helped the Fever to its first October victory in franchise history.

    Who will shine brightest on Sunday? Hopefully you'll be one of lucky 18,000 inside Conseco Fieldhouse to find out.

    Don't forget to come out to the Indianapolis International Airport on Friday afternoon (3:30 p.m.) to greet the Fever team on its return from Phoenix. I'll offer one last reminder to get your tickets for Sunday. Folks, we're near capacity and it's only Thursday evening. Get your tickets now ... or you'll be watching on TV. And, with tonight's win, of course, that means that Game 4 in Indianapolis is guaranteed for next Wednesday, Oct. 4. Those tickets go on sale Friday morning at 10 a.m.

    Our Time is Now! Have you got the Fever?

    KM


    September 30, 2009

    It has been a couple of weeks since I have blogged. This time, at least, I’ve had a reason – and a good one at that. The Fever is hot and I’ve been busy. That’s a great problem and I’ve got no complaints!

    I’m not going to write about basketball today, even though I’m seated courtside from US Airways Center in Phoenix while the Fever practices on Wednesday afternoon. Instead, I am writing about perceptions, and hopefully some perceptions being conquered.

    I am a 44-year old male who falls into the demographic that is often most critical of women’s sports. I’d like to think I’m a little more open-minded. Some guys I know (even friends) just aren’t interested in the sport. And, you know what? That’s really just fine. Everybody is entitled to their own opinions – that’s what makes the world go ‘round!

    There are some, though, mostly in my demographic and some in others, who will say that WNBA players really aren’t great athletes or competitors, or don’t have skills, or aren’t as big, strong or fast as their male counterparts.

    To those who want to watch the NBA game with dunking and above-the-rim play, so be it. That’s great, too. But beyond that aspect of the game, these are skilled competitors who bring great intensity to the game of basketball, very comparable to any level of the men’s game.

    WNBA games are great displays of competition. And let me just tell you – Tuesday night’s WNBA Finals Game 1 from Phoenix was worthy of ESPN’s Instant Classic label!

    120-116 in overtime, are you kidding me? It was a gem of a game for the network, for the league, for the sport. For those sports fans who are WNBA pessimists, you want scoring? We got scoring. You want intensity? You got it. You want last-second drama? That game delivered in regulation and again in overtime.

    A lot of new fans were exposed to the Fever for the first time last weekend during the series with the Shock in the Eastern Conference Finals. Yes, it was exciting and of course the Fever won and fans were entertained. But from a basketball standpoint, what they saw was a physical grudge match that doesn’t exactly scream to the pessimists that these are really great athletes.

    Change the opponent and tempo though, and a week later, Indiana is matched with a Phoenix team that runs and spreads the floor. All of a sudden, you see the athletic type of basketball that better resembles the NBA. Katie Douglas was free to roam and create shots. Ebony Hoffman was freed from the constant banging in the paint with Detroit’s bigs. Both had playoff career scoring highs in a very classic contest.

    On our league’s biggest stage and in front of a national TV audience in prime time – the Fever and Mercury staged not just the highest-scoring game in WNBA history, but perhaps the most significant game in its history. The game drew eyeballs to the WNBA.

    Here is further evidence – Sunday’s Game 3 in Indy is looking like it could be a truly legitimate sellout – tickets are still available, but you better get them fast!

    For last week’s deciding game against the Shock, Larry Bird graciously bought the balcony seats at Conseco Fieldhouse. That contributed about 9,000 of the over 18,000 seats that were sold for Game 3 of the conference finals. Compare that to this week where, already, the latest ticket count I have heard for Sunday’s Game 3 in Indy is right about 14,000. That’s tickets already sold by fans getting excited about the Indiana Fever! It’s only Wednesday with still four days to go.

    There will always be the pessimists who refuse to ever see a game because it’s women’s sports. Hey, like I said before, that’s fine, they’re entitled. But what they will miss is not only a great spectacle on Sunday, but what is fast becoming a legitimate sellout crowd of greater than 18,000 sold tickets. There will be more than 18,000 devoted, dedicated and paid Fever fans that will be rooting for the hometown team.

    If you’re at all open-minded within that 25-to-50 year old male demographic; or if you’re just a sports fan that is reading this blog for the first time because someone handed it to you … if you fit either of those categories, I suggest you get your tickets while you can.

    It’s nice to be able to write about the genuine possibility of an 18,000-seat sellout without the benefit of a donated block of tickets.

    Indiana, the Fever thanks you. Indiana, the Fever welcomes you. Indiana, Game 4 is Sunday and we hope to return from Phoenix knotted 1-1 in this best-of-five game series!

    Tipoff is 4 p.m. Sunday afternoon. If you’re headed to the Colts game at 1, what better way to celebrate after a Colts victory than to come on over to the Fieldhouse for a sellout crowd and the WNBA Finals?

    KM


    September 18, 2009

    The Shock has advanced tonight, earning a 2-0 series sweep over the Dream with a 94-79 win in Atlanta. What that means is that once again, the Eastern road to the WNBA Finals will go through Detroit.

    The Shock -- the defending champions and the club responsible for dashing Fever playoff dreams in each of the past three seasons -- will be a part of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals beginning Wednesday, Sept. 23.

    Will the Fever be the Shock's opponent at The Palace next Wednesday? Or can Washington win twice at Conseco Fieldhouse before hosting the Shock in Washington next week?

    The answers to those questions will certainly be settled in Indy beginning Saturday, and possibly Monday, too.

    Should it be the Fever to advance, man oh man, here we go again! A possible Fever-Shock matchup may have seemed inevitable in many WNBA circles. While Indiana has had its best season ever, a run at the title still needs to go through Detroit. The Shock remains the champs until somebody knocks them off. Indiana would immediately assume the role of challenger again. The Shock will assume its bad boy role as the biggest, baddest bullies on the block until somebody beats them -- no matter who they play next week.

    That is what Indiana plays for on Saturday night -- the chance to advance and set that date with destiny, and the shot at going toe-to-toe with the champs. Detroit is playing its best ball of the season. The Shock remains the champs. If the Fever is to achieve its first title, it is only fitting that if it advances to the conference finals, Detroit would be the team standing between Indiana and The Finals!

    KM


    September 17, 2009

    The Fever is one of the most experienced teams in the WNBA and certainly the Fever's experience and confidence played a role in hanging tough and pulling ahead late in Thursday night's Game 1 against the Washington Mystics.

    But the late key for the Fever in this game was its rookies - namely point guard Briann January. When the Fever made its 12-0 run to begin the fourth period, who was on the floor? January and fellow rookie, second-round pick Christina Wirth. In the fourth quarter alone, January took command on offense and defense, collecting 10 points, three rebounds, three assists and a steal. Wirth chipped in with four points and two assists while playing eight pivotal minutes during the game's turning moments.

    Veteran MVP candidates Katie Douglas and Tamika Catchings got their requisite numbers. As always, and deservedly so. But the Indiana youth energized the Fever's late efforts to give the club not only a Game 1 victory but key momentum with an almost lethal 1-0 series advantage as the series shifts back to Conseco Fieldhouse. Game 2 is Saturday evening at 7 p.m. If you don't have tickets already, get them. If the Fever can capitalize on tonight's win, there won't be a Game 3 with the Mystics and the Fever won't return to The Fieldhouse until Game 2 of the conference finals.

    A nice by-product of tonight's rookie contributions? Improving-with-age 38-year old point guard Tully Bevilaqua was able to rest almost the entire fourth quarter, as did reserve center Jessica Moore who has nursed a sore knee recently.

    Even with the big fourth quarter explosion, Washington worked its way back within one possession, but Catchings' critical 3-point play with 1:44 remaining pushed the Fever advantage back to six points, 82-76, and Indiana coasted with a string of free throws down the stretch.

    Indiana earned an 88-79 win. Catchings finished with game highs of 26 points and 12 rebounds. Douglas contributed 19 points. Next on the scoring ladder? January added 16 in her pro playoffs debut. Her rookie label has officially been extinguished.

    The Fever, with its balance of veterans and youth, hopes to extinguish the Mystics on Saturday. Did I say to get your tickets? Do that, and bring a friend. Better yet, bring four - it's a Lucas Oil Family Night presented by The Indianapolis Star! Buy four seats and get a free t-shirt, hot dog, chips and a drink with each ticket.

    KM


    September 12, 2009 (10:15 p.m.)

    The dates and times for next week's Eastern Conference Semifinals still are yet to be announced, but at 10:15 p.m. Saturday evening, we do know this -- the Indiana Fever (22-11) will meet the Washington Mystics (16-17) in next week's playoff round. Atlanta (18-16), the No. 2 seed, will battle No. 3 Detroit (18-16).

    The Mystics beat Atlanta to keep their playoff hopes alive tonight, and Chicaco surrendered a 33-11 third quarter to Detroit as the Shock came back from a 19-point halftime deficit to beat the Sky. And, in doing so, Detroit eliminated Chicago from playoff contention. The Sky still can finish in a fourth-place tie with Washington, should the Mystics lose at New York on Sunday, but the Mystics would win a tiebreaker thus sealing their place as the No. 4 seed.

    The Fever will play at Washington next Wednesday or Thursday, with the series moving to Indianapolis for Game 2 on Friday or Saturday. A potential Game 3 would be played at Conseco Fieldhouse either Sunday or Monday.

    The Fever swept the Mystics 4-0 during the regular season. Heading the Mystics is former Indiana assistant coach Julie Plank, who is in her first year as the Mystics boss. Plank and Fever head coach Lin Dunn both were Indiana assistants when the Fever reached the Eastern Conference Finals in 2005 and 2007.

    Indiana plays at Connecticut, Sunday, in a game that no longer has any playoff implications. Fever players and coaches will return from Connecticut on Monday, prior to appearing at three different rallies at Kroger, The Children's Museum and IMAX Theater.

    KM


    September 12, 2009 (9:30 p.m.)

    Lindsey Harding scored 25 points to lead the Washington Mystics to an 82-64 win over the Atlanta Dream and stave off elimination from the 2009 WNBA Playoff chase. With the Mystics' win tonight, Chicago faces elimination if it loses to Detroit. At halftime, however, the Sky led the Shock by 19.

    If the Sky holds on to beat the Shock this evening, the possibility of a three-way tie still exists between Chicago, Washington and Detroit - all at 17-17 - if the Mystics beat New York on Sunday.

    If the Sky holds on to win tonight, clinchings and final seeds must wait until the conclusion of Sunday's game in New York. If the Mystics beat the Liberty, Washington wins the three-way tie scenario to finish in third place, Chicago would be eliminated and Detroit would be the No. 4 seed, facing Indiana next week. If the Mystics should lose to the Liberty, Washington would be eliminated and Detroit would retain the No. 3 seed. Chicago, then, would be the No. 4 seed and face Indiana next week.

    Should Detroit come back to win tonight's game in Chicago, however, the Sky would be eliminated by virtue of tiebreaker with Washington. Detroit would earn the No. 3 seed and the Fever would face No. 4 Washington next week.

    So, still at 9:30 Saturday evening, all three scenarios still are intact.

    KM


    September 12, 2009

    Final seedings in the East could all be wrapped up tonight when Atlanta visits Washington (7 p.m.) and Detroit visits Chicago (8 p.m. ET). With last night's Atlanta victory over Connecticut, the Sun has been eliminated, thus ending a six-year playoff run, and the Dream has secured the No. 2 seed behind the Fever. Now all that is left is to determine the No. 3 and 4 seeds between three remaining contenders - Detroit, Chicago and Washington.

    If Detroit wins beats Chicago, the Shock earn the No. 3 seed, no matter any other results. It would setup an Atlanta-Detroit semifinal series featuring point guards Nikki Teasley and Ivory Latta who have traded places over the past two seasons. Atlanta beat the Shock 3-1 in the season series.

    If Detroit and Atlanta win, Washington is eliminated and Chicago takes the No. 4 seed, setting up an I-65 semifinal series with the Fever and Sky. Indiana beat the Sky 3-1 in the regular season series, but Chicago got the most recent victory, just two nights ago. [Mathematically, the Mystics could still tie Chicago for the No. 4 seed, but the Sky would win a tiebreaker.]

    If Detroit and Washington win, Chicago is eliminated and Washington earns the No. 4 seed. The Fever would face the Mystics after sweeping the season series. The matchup would pit former Fever assistant coaches Lin Dunn and Julie Plank battling head-to-head.

    If Chicago and Atlanta win, Washington is eliminated and the Shock still earns the No. 3 seed by virtue of a head-to-head tiebreaker with the Sky.

    If Chicago and Washington win, a potential three-way tie still exists for third place and final seeding will be based on the WAS-NY game on Sunday. In that event, Washington either wins or goes home. If the Mystics win in this scenario, they create a 17-17 tie with Detroit and Chicago. Washington wins this tiebreaker and would be the No. 3 seed. Detroit would be the No. 4 seed and Chicago would be eliminated.

    There you have it ... the playoff picture has finally come into focus. All that is still pending is a determination of dates. We know that Indiana will open the playoffs next Wednesday or Thursday. And we know the Fever will host Games 2 and 3 of the series, next Friday/Saturday and Sunday/Monday.

    Don't forget the playoff rallies on Monday. There will also be a lunchtime (11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.) rally on Wednesday at The City Market.

    Stay tuned for final dates and times to be revealed later this weekend.

    KM


    September 9, 2009

    So I throw this question to the masses --- "How do YOU define what is an MVP?"

    The definition of Most Valuable Player could take as many shapes as there are voters in any given contest. Is it the best player on the best team? Is it the best scorer? Is it the player who can beat you in the most ways? Is it the player whose team's success is most heavily dependent on her success? Is it the player who excels most against the best competition? Is it the player who excels most when the chips are on the line -- whether during a final stretch of the season or in the final minutes of a game?

    In one paragraph I've cited seven different definitions. I'd like to personally wish "good luck" to the dozens of WNBA media voters who will cast their votes this week for the league's MVP award, among the host of many other postseason awards.

    Obviously, I will discuss the Indiana possibilities of winning this season's MVP award. But before I venture to that conversation, let me first give a run down and my very unofficial and obviously biased synopsis of other Fever awards candidates.

    Coach of the Year - I expect that Lin Dunn will be one of three top vote-getters. The others being Atlanta coach Marynell Meadors and Phoenix coach Corey Gaines. Meadors has taken a second-year team with an entirely changed roster and turned the Dream into playoff contenders. Gaines, a first-year coach, has put the talented Mercury into the playoffs as the West's top seed. Two weeks ago, I was on the Dunn bandwagon because, with the Fever owning a 20-5 record, the Indiana dominance was rivaling any in WNBA history and, despite its huge lead in the standings, the Fever and Dunn were battling the complacency bug such that the club had never lost consecutive games since it started 0-2. Now, I think Dunn is still every bit as worthy a candidate as the other two, except that the recent slide of five losses in six games shoots holes in my argument against complacency. Indiana's improvement from a 17-17 team last year might not be as great as Atlanta's improvement, but her challenges may have been greater. It's a close race. Dunn's in the top three.

    Rookie of the Year - Ironically, I see another Atlanta-Phoenix-Indiana battle brewing for the league's ROY. Angel McCoughtry of the Dream, DeWanna Bonner of the Mercury and the Fever's Briann January should finish as the top three, in my humblest of opinions. Bonner is perfect for the Phoenix style of play, but because of that, I think her numbers might be slightly inflated. That's no knock on her, just a statement of fact. So I put McCoughtry and January as the frontrunners for the award, and I think because McCoughtry has better numbers for a team that was so dramatically improved, she will defeat the Fever point guard. January's contributions, mostly off the bench and as part of a superior lineup, won't appear as sexy on paper as those of McCoughtry. January plays a different role and a different position -- and may well have the longer and more substantial career -- but I think she'll finish No. 2. I'd vote for January and not just because of my bias. I think she's played that big a role for the 22-10 Fever. But her role has often been intangible, and it's not been as dramatic on paper as that of McCoughtry.

    Defensive Player of the Year - Catchings. This one's a no-brainer. Tamika should win her third DPOY award after earning an unprecedented and record-breaking fifth steals title.

    Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award - This award is not nearly as publicized as the other awards. That is largely in part because the winners aren't noted for their statistics. It is an award that usually recognizes a player that is highly appreciated, though not always for being the best player. Last year's winner was well deserved (of course, I'm biased again), as the Fever's Tully Bevilaqua won top honors. This year's Fever nominee is another longtime WNBA veteran who has earned the respect of her peers and national media -- Tamecka Dixon. She is one of four remaining original WNBA stars from the 1997 season. She has won three WNBA titles and she has posted All-Star seasons with all-league numbers. Now, she is largely a role player, though her role for the Fever cannot be diminished. And her leadership on and off the court has been invaluable. She deserves the recognition. And for a 33-year old veteran to continue playing this role in her 13th pro season, my vote would be unquestioned.

    Most Improved Player - The Fever has had a history in winning this award, with Kelly Miller and Ebony Hoffman each laying claim to the award since 2004. The Fever's "reclamation project" of 2009 has been Jessica Moore. OK, maybe that title is not so flattering, but let's realize the fact that Kelly Krauskopf picked up Jessica Moore off the waiver wire in early June. She didn't have a team. All she has done is start eight games while averaging 4.6 points and 3.2 rebounds in 20 minutes per game. The numbers don't leap off the page, but her role has. And for someone that was cut from her team in training camp -- I'd call that a pretty significant improvement!

    All-Defense Team - The All-Defense Team is another that Indiana owns a big piece of history. The coaches vote for this award. If I had a vote, I'd put four Fever players on the team. Biased? Of course. But Indiana has four players with over 50 steals, which has never been done before by any team in the history of the league. The Fever also limits teams to a WNBA-low 72.5 points per game and three of its steals leaders have been perennial members of the All-Defense Team already. Catchings leads the WNBA in steals per game with 3.03. Bevilaqua is seventh, Douglas ninth and Hoffman tenth. The All-Defense Team is comprised of a first and second team, five members each. Therefore, with all four Fever steals artists in the top ten, I vote for all four to get selected.

    MVP - Now it's time to address the afore-mentioned MVP debate. League-wide, the top candidates are, in no particular order, Catchings and Douglas, Diana Taurasi, Cappie Pondexter, Becky Hammon, Lauren Jackson, Candace Parker and perhaps Lisa Leslie. I'm biased, as I mentioned before, and I'm going to lean on the rationale that the MVP should come from the league's best team. So, for purposes of this debate, I'm going to limit my top candidates to the quartet of players from Indiana and Phoenix. Did I mention that I'm biased? Of course I did, so, for purposes of this blog, I'm going to give my vote to either Catchings or Douglas. I'll say, honestly, that both Taurasi and Pondexter are deserving. But Taurasi might be too one-dimensional for my tastes and Pondexter may not have had as great a year as either Catchings or Douglas. So, again, I'm going to call this a two-horse race between Fever stars.

    I'll tell you right now, I'm not going to select one before the other. Don't even begin thinking that the Fever PR guy is going to pick between the two. It ain't gonna happen! No way, no how. But not just because I don't want to make a tough decision. And not just because I want to appear politically correct. Heck, I'll go against the grain and tell you my honest feelings if I have to. Some would call me too brutally honest, sometimes, in fact.

    You want honesty?? The truth is, I really don't know that one deserves it more than the other! Remember those seven definitions I came up with earlier? I could pit Catchings vs. Douglas against one another every day of the week. And after seven days gone by, using each of those seven definitions, I'd waffle back and forth a dozen times. I'm not refusing to make this decision. I'm telling you, honestly, that I don't know which I'd choose!

    I have used the term "all-everything" to describe Catchings during each of the seven years I have worked with her and the Fever. She never disappoints in stuffing the stat sheet. She does it like nobody in the history of the game. Heck, she should have been MVP before -- and let's face it, she's finished in the top three four times before already! She is the answer to the question, "which player can beat you the most ways?" She is the only player in the WNBA to rank among league leaders in points, rebounds, assists and steals. She's a lock to win the Defensive Player of the Year. She is not equal to Douglas on the offensive end, but you could also argue that Catchings' offensive presence is responsible in part for making Douglas better. They are complementary pieces on offense, and Catchings averages 15.1 points per game.

    If Catchings can beat an opponent in more ways than any other player in the game, Douglas may well be the most explosive scorer who can take over a game more single-handedly and dramatically than any other player in the game. She's twice matched or eclipsed the franchise scoring record this year, and her 26 points in the second half almost single-handedly brought the Fever back from certain defeat at Madison Square Garden on June 26. What's more, she scored 11 points during a 17-2 run in Phoenix to post the Fever to an early lead, in what was the first of two billings as the league's "preview to the Finals." She has scored in huge bunches. She has scored the biggest points in the biggest games. She has scored in crunch time. The Fever was winless without her in the lineup, and she has proven to be the fuel that drives the Indiana offense. Indiana has led the WNBA in defense on several occasions in recent years, but never has the Fever had the offensive threat that Douglas has posed this summer. Oh, and did I mention that she is the WNBA scoring leader after the All-Star Break?

    Bob Kravitz of the The Indianapolis Star wrote in August that, "Douglas and Catchings won't share the MVP, but they should."

    If I could vote for that, I would. If I could nominate them as co-MVPs, I would. If I could encourage voters to vote that way, I would. But I can't. So, what is liable to happen is that voters will select their favorite from among the half-dozen candidates. My bet is that Catchings and Douglas will combine to receive more votes than any other player. But, those votes will be split and, therefore, it's very possible for neither of them to win the award.

    My first reaction to that possibility? I'd say it would be a shame. Both of them deserve it.

    But I may also say this -- perhaps it might just be poetic justice. During a season in which both have helped produce the league's best team, a championship would surely mean more to either of them than the MVP award. If you ask either of them, they'll tell you the same, without even a second's thought. They're both 30 now, both in their ninth WNBA seasons and both seeking their first championship ring.

    They could care less about the award. So why should I? Let's just play the games, put the MVP debate aside and move on to the pursuit of a championship. That's all that really matters.

    KM


    September 4, 2009 (11:45 p.m.)

    I did some research this afternoon. I didn't think, though, that I'd be using the contents of that research so soon!

    Entering tonight's loss at Detroit, the Fever ranked 12th in the WNBA in field goal percentage, out of 13 teams. A week or so ago, they were 13th and Indianapolis Star writer David Woods posed the question, "has a team ever won a WNBA title while owning the worst shooting percentage in the league?"

    A decent question, I thought. Though I didn't think to actually research it until today. But I did. And I found that, no, nobody has ever won the title with the worst percentage. Nobody has ever advanced to the Finals with the worst percentage. Nobody has ever advanced to the Finals while ranking lower than 10th in the WNBA in shooting percentage. In fact, the furthest anyone has ever advanced with such woeful shooting was the 2005 Fever! In 2005, Indiana led the WNBA in defense (like now) and owned the league's lowest shooting percentage while falling in the Eastern Conference Finals.

    OK, folks, I wrote late this afternoon that even the possibility of a loss tonight could fall into my "understandable" category. Fine, yes, I said that. But much of that is crediting Fever opponents playing for their playoff lives. It is NOT excusable, however, to shoot just 27 percent while committing 19 turnovers.

    I'll admit that I didn't watch or listen to tonight's game. So it would be unjust for me to level much criticism without any knowledge. I am drawing solely from the Fever's shooting statistics tonight. I have said often that Tamika Catchings is a more a "scorer" than purely a great "shooter." She led the club with 14 points on 5-of-15 shooting. On the whole, that's about an average night for Tamika and with everything else she does, I can't be critical of those numbers.

    [By the way, she did have three more steals tonight to stay on pace to challenge the WNBA record of 100 in a single-season. She averages a league-leading 2.9 per game and has 88 with four games to play.]

    But here it is: Ebony Hoffman shot 4-of-17. She missed three 3-point attempts, that's o.k. It's the 4-for-14 inside the arc that is more troubling. Tammy Sutton-Brown was 3-of-14 and we know those were all interior shots. Briann January was 3-of-13 in her third start of the season, and Tully Bevilaqua was 0-for-8. That means that minus Catchings, Indiana's starting lineup shot 10-of-52!

    I know that the Fever played without Katie Douglas tonight, but Detroit was without Katie Smith. I'm actually glad that Katie didn't play, for the simple fact that caution is the best approach with her injury. It's not a serious, long-term injury. We do know that. But if there's any risk to it at all, caution is certainly an appropriate tact with five games to play.

    Now there are four games to play. We need to win at home. And we need to win 2 of 3 on the road next week. That, with the healthy return of Douglas, should put Indiana right back where it needs to be for a substantial playoff run.

    See you Sunday at Conseco Fieldhouse! The first 3,000 fans will receive commemorative team posters, and the Fever players will sign autographs after the game. See you then!

    KM


    September 4, 2009

    I'm not sure whether this has any meaning or not, but the Fever has lost two of three games since I last blogged, so I figured it was time to get the Fever back on track! Yeah ... like the fact that I'm writing this afternoon from Indy will have any bearing on tonight's game in Detroit!

    At any rate ... yes, the Fever has lost 2 of 3 games, and 4 of 5, recently. "What's happening to the Fever???" is the question I am most commonly asked these days.

    For any of you who have read my columns before, you will know that I am not apt to jump to any quick conclusions or react too adversely to any new trends. So don't think I'm going to start now!

    OK, I haven't been happy with losses in four of our last five games, either. And I can't say that we should have lost those games; and I won't say they're excusable; and I'm not going to tell you they were expected, or even O.K.

    But! What I will tell you is that three of those four losses were understandable, -- at least from the standpoint that, going into the game, Indiana was not even considered a huge favorite. Taking each game by itself, neither road loss (at Sacramento or Seattle) was terribly alarming. Sure, Sacramento had the league's worst record, but alot of that was based on its early season start, prior to a coaching change. The Monarchs are 6-4 in their last 10 games and they are NOT the worst team in the league right now. Losing at Seattle the next game? Given that the Storm was in the midst of clinching a playoff spot and playing No. 2 in the West to Phoenix and given that we were on the road -- again, I regard that loss as "understandable."

    The loss I didn't like and which was very poor in my eyes was the 78-77 defeat at home to the Monarchs -- especially after surrendering a 14-point second half lead. That one was bad. Losing at home to Phoenix last Saturday, with or without Katie Douglas, was another one I might chalk up as "understandable."

    Together, those four losses in five games don't look so good. Separated individually, I'm not worried about them. So, as we embark on the final games of the regular season, I'm still not worried. My concerns are getting Katie healthy for the stretch drive and getting back to an aggressive, attacking defensive game which turns into consistent transition points.

    At Detroit tonight, the Shock is a team that will be waiting for us and ready to pounce and earn its own playoff bid. Let's face it, we have a target on our backs and every game the rest of the way will be against a team desperate for a win. In the end, that's good for the Fever. It will raise our sense of urgency and get us ready for the East Semifinals which begin Sept. 16.

    I'll even say in advance, that a loss this evening might fall into that "understandable" category. And if that happens, I'll hear about 5 out of 6. I'm not saying it's good, or even excusable. I'm just saying that the roof isn't falling yet. We have five games remaining. I say we need to win at least three out of five to assure that we're ready for the playoffs.

    KM


    August 27, 2009

    The season-long hot streak continued for the Indiana Fever Thursday night at Conseco Fieldhouse as the home team won for the 13th straight time and, with the help of an Atlanta loss in Detroit, clinched homecourt advantage in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

    OK, Fever fans, here is the biggest significance of tonight's clinching -- you can get your playoff tickets knowing that Indiana is guaranteed to host its first home playoff game on Friday, Sept. 18 or Saturday, Sept. 19. That would be Game 2 of a best-of-three game opening series. The Fever would also host the potential Game 3 of the series, to be played, if necessary, on Sunday, Sept. 20 or Monday, Sept. 21. Definitive dates will be announced on the final weekend of the regular season.

    The Fever's win tonight came with a real oddity in which Indiana returned the same favor dealt by the Silver Stars on July 23 in the Lone Star state. Last month, on the final game of a three-game road swing, Tamika Catchings was held scoreless for the first time in her career. San Antonio won by 19. Tonight, it was the Silver Stars' Olympian, Becky Hammon (albeit a Russian one), who was held scoreless. Indiana wins by 11.

    And here is another irony. Hammon was last held scoreless on this same date four years ago -- at Conseco Fieldhouse! Hammon's last goose egg was August 27, 2005 when the Fever beat the New York Liberty 75-50.

    The Fever led early and never was challenged. The Silver Stars got within eight points in the 4th quarter, but never closer. In contrast to the game at San Antonio last month, Catchings was the Fever star tonight -- scoring a game-high 20 points to go with eight rebounds and five steals. Indiana got balanced play and balanced scoring from over half its roster. Ebony Hoffman had 15 points and five boards. Tammy Sutton-Brown pitched in 12 points and six rebounds. Katie Douglas and Tully Bevilaqua paced the club with highs of three assists with Douglas scoring eight and Bevilaqua adding six points. Off the bench, Briann January and Jessica Moore each scored seven.

    From one night to the next, there seems to be a different Fever hero with each game. Even seldom-used Shay Murphy got into the act . In just 10 minutes and despite only two points, her presence was felt with three scrappy rebounds, two assists and two steals.

    Despite a pair of West Coast road losses last week, Indiana won its 20th game of the season -- with still seven regular season games remaining. A win on Saturday matches the most wins in franchise history (21). A win on Saturday also wraps up the East's regular season title and homecourt advantage through the Eastern Conference Finals.

    How far can Indiana go? So far as the regular season is concerned, the WNBA record for wins is 28 -- by Los Angeles in 2000 and 2001. Houston won 27 in 1998 and 2000. The Eastern Conference record is 26, twice by Connecticut (2005 and 2006) with a young star named Douglas. The Fever could not reach the overall record, but even to be considered among the WNBA's most elite teams could be quite an accomplishment. Could the Fever win as many as 26 by going 6-1 the rest of the way? Perhaps. Mathematically, yes. But in the end -- who cares about the numbers (except for giving the PR guy something to write about)?

    In the end, the important result tonight was clinching homecourt for the opening round of playoffs. The important result with a win Saturday will be clinching homecourt through the East Finals. In the end, the only thing that matters is the eventual shot at the WNBA title.

    This much we know for certain -- the Fever is absolutely in the race for that title. And THAT is something to be excited about!

    KM


    August 26, 2009 (12:30 a.m.)

    It's official. The Fever is in! Indiana's fifth straight playoff appearance is the franchise's sixth in its 10 seasons.

    Indiana needed Detroit to lose at Connecticut, or for Chicago or Washington to lose on the West Coast. Detroit dashed Indiana's playoff hopes early in the evening, but as the clock struck midnight in the East, both the Sky and Mystics had fallen.

    With eight regular season games and almost three weeks left in the regular season, the Fever will now play for homecourt advantage in the first round, then the East title and homecourt advantage through the first two rounds. And, if the Fever keeps pace, Indiana will contend for the best record in the WNBA and a homecourt advantage throughout the entire playoff schedule.

    For now, the Fever knows it will open its playoff season either Sept. 16 or 17. Given the likely scenario that Indiana will clinch either first or second place within the next week, the Fever would play Game 1 on the road, and play its first home game, Game 2, on either Sept. 18 or Sept. 19. A potential Game 3 would also be played at Conseco Fieldhouse, either Sept. 20 or Sept. 21.

    Indiana can clinch that scenario and at least second place in the East -- and homecourt advantage in the opening round -- if the Fever beats San Antonio Thursday and if Connecticut loses at Seattle.

    Stay tuned for ticket information later this week -- and don't miss the Fever's return to The Fieldhouse and its quest for a record-tying 13th straight home win when Indiana hosts San Antonio on Thursday night!

    KM


    August 25, 2009 (10:30 p.m.)
    Some serious scoreboard watching begins tonight as the Fever hopes to clinch its fifth straight playoff berth, and its sixth in the 10-year history of the franchise. Entering Tuesday night's action, Indiana could clinch that playoff spot with losses by any of three teams -- Detroit, Chicago or Washington.

    As of this writing, Detroit was a 20-point winner over Connecticut. In the second quarter of games on the West Coast, Chicago was even with Los Angeles and Washington was getting thumped in Seattle. Stay tuned for a playoff update later this evening - and stay tuned for playoff tickets likely to go on sale later this week.

    KM


    August 23, 2009

    Tough road trip. For the first time this season, the Fever has lost consecutive games on the road, and it's the first time this season Indiana has lost consecutive games, period, since the opening games of the season.

    What happened the last time Indiana lost two straight? The Fever embarked on its record 11-game win streak. Let's see ... with eight games left in the regular season, another 11-game win streak would put the Fever up 1-0 in the Eastern Conference Finals. Let's hope!

    Speaking of playoffs, the shame in the past two losses is that Indiana was denied the ability to clinch a playoff spot in both games last week. Despite leading most of the way at Sacramento, the Monarchs stymied the chance for Indiana to clinch on Thursday. And Seattle did the same, a bit more convincingly, on Saturday.

    But alas! The Fever has been so far out in front of the pack heading into this week's games, that Indiana can still clinch a playoff berth with its next win or with any further loss by the Detroit Shock. With Chicago, Washington and Detroit all hovering with 14 losses -- and Chicago or Washington guaranteed to lose at least once by virtue of playing against each other -- that means that if Detroit also reaches 15 losses, Indiana can clinch no matter what the Fever does itself.

    Therefore, for any scoreboard watchers out there today (Sunday), if the Shock should fall at home to San Antonio this evening, Indiana is in.

    What does this mean for homecourt in the first round, or winning the Eastern Conference? With Atlanta and Connecticut virtually deadlocked behind the Fever at 14-11 and 14-12, respectively, the Fever can still clinch first-round advantage and the East this week. Keeping this simple, let's say that Atlanta loses this afternoon to Los Angeles, that puts the Dream and Sun into a second-place tie in the East. They play each other once more, thus guaranteeing one of them at least 13 losses. That puts the Fever magic number to clinch at least the first-round homecourt at 2 -- any combination of Fever wins or subsequent losses by that third-place team. With five teams active in the East on Tuesday and four active on Thursday (including Indiana), odds are that homecourt advantage could be clinched by Thursday. And if not by Thursday, certainly by next Saturday when the Fever next plays again.

    Even if (God, strike me down for saying this!) the Fever would lose both home games this week, Indiana could still clinch the homecourt advantage and the overall conference title. Suffice to say, based on simple arithmetic, I'll predict that by the close of games on Sept. 1, with two weeks remaining in the regular season, Indiana will have clinched everything in the East.

    What does this mean for the fans? Be on the lookout for playoff tickets likely being on sale when the Fever hosts Sacramento at Conseco Fieldhouse on Thursday evening. If not Thursday, then Saturday.

    I've also received questions about playoff dates. Rather than printing the full playoff schedule (I'll do that in a future blog), I'll just note that the Eastern Conference Semifinals will begin Sept. 16-17. Games on those nights will be played in lower-seeded (3rd or 4th seeds) venues. Games 2 and 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals will be played Sept. 18-19, and, if necessary, Sept. 20-21, at higher-seeded venues. If Fever fans are making plans for specific nights, it's nearly a lock that the Fever will host its first playoff game on Friday, Sept. 18 or Saturday, Sept. 19. Put it down with a very firm, confident pencil, for now. It should be locked in cement by week's end -- if not by Sept. 1!

    KM


    August 20, 2009

    Alright Fever fans, now is time to begin dissecting those standings each day and pondering the Fever's fate and place in this season's playoff race! Let me begin by telling you that beginning tonight, when the Fever is at Sacramento, just one more Fever win assures Indiana of its fifth straight playoff appearance.

    If the Fever beats the Monarchs tonight, Indiana is in the playoffs. Indiana would be guaranteed a 20-14 record at the very worst. Detroit already has 14 losses and since Chicago and Washington, both with 13 losses, play each other once more, one of them is guaranteed to have at least 14 losses. Since Indiana owns tiebreakers against the entire Eastern Conference, Indiana will be guaranteed at least the No. 4 seed with just one more win.

    Now, let's look deeper. The next concern is clinching the No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the East in order to assure homecourt advantage in the first round - thus playing Game 1 of a conference semifinal series on the road, and hosting Games 2 and 3 at Conseco Fieldhouse.

    Atlanta and Connecticut are currently tied for second at 13-11. They play each other once more, thus assuring one of them at least 12 losses. Therefore, in order for Indiana to clinch homecourt in its first-round series, Indiana's magic number is 3 -- any combination of Fever wins, or losses by that third-place team. Whenever Fever wins plus third-place team losses equal 34, Indiana will clinch homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs. It could happen as early as this weekend or early next week.

    Next, we can look at the possibility of winning the top seed in the East. Again, we look to Atlanta and Connecticut. The very best that one of them can do is win 23 games. Indiana already has 19. All three teams all have exactly 10 games to play. Therefore, Indiana's magic number to clinch the East regular season title is 4 - any combination of Fever wins, or losses by that second-place team.

    Lastly, Indiana can think about earning homecourt advantage through all three rounds of the playoffs, including an eventual spot in the WNBA Finals. But since Phoenix, the leader in the West, is 18-8 compared to the Fever's 19-5, there's a lot of basketball to be played before that scenario levels out. Technically speaking, Indiana's magic number to clinch homecourt throughout the playoffs is 8 - any combination of Fever wins or Mercury losses. But with 10 games remaining for the Fever and eight for Phoenix, there's too much to take place before this can be seriously considered.

    For now, the Fever needs to continue taking care of business, "one game at a time." It may be a boring cliche, maybe, but it's truthful and effective and so long as Indiana continues its relentless style of play, all of those magic numbers will take care of themselves every time Indiana wins its next game. For now, that is Thursday evening in Sacramento.

    Should the Fever win and clinch this evening, or whenever that clinching takes place, be on the lookout for news about playoff tickets. Playoff tickets would go on-sale sometime between Aug. 24-27. The Fever's next home game, of course, is Thursday, Aug. 27 for Adopt A Pet Night when Indiana hosts the same Monarchs they play tonight.

    KM


    August 16, 2009

    Emotion. Intensity. Passion. Energy. Teamwork. Selflessness.

    No, I'm not speaking of the Indiana Fever's 2009 promotional campaign with inspirational key words. I'm speaking of the Fever's on-court attributes being displayed recently. Coupled with a quick-strike capability that can render opponents helpless, the Fever is turning 2009 into a special season.

    Of course there are tremendous numbers and streaks and firsts and milestone accomplishments that are taking shape. I'll save those for another entry. Today, I want to address the WAY that the Fever is playing.

    The first thing I want to note is a trend of quick-strike offensive runs that just seem to overwhelm opponents. Indiana has either blitzed an opponent very early in a game so that they have to play catch-up the entire game. Or, if they haven't led by big margins early, they have had a nagging penchant for falling behind by big margins early and, with equal force, shown the ability to rally quickly and overcome the deficit.

    Before I get too involved praising the "offense," let's take quick note that it begins with a smothering, relentless defense and a skilled, quick-passing transition game. The quick-striking transition from defense to offense has resulted in a sprinting, fluid, balanced attack that includes 3-point daggers from any of six different players. The defense and offense are meshed together as one. The result is an alarming number of points off turnovers that was best evidenced by FORTY-FIVE points off turnovers in Saturday's win over Detroit. Not to mention the fact that Detroit made just ONE field goal in the third quarter. When Indiana turns its game to attack mode ... watch out.

    Examples:

  • At Phoenix, Aug. 8, Indiana smothers the Mercury with a 17-2 run to start the game. Indiana scored a near-franchise record 31 points in the first quarter, turning four Phoenix turnovers into nine points, shooting 65 percent from the floor and hitting five 3-pointers.

  • Last night, Aug. 15 against Detroit, the Shock led 27-13 with 9:07 left in the second quarter. Sparked by Tammy Sutton-Brown's first bucket in two weeks and a 3-pointer by Briann January, the Fever manhandled the Shock the rest of the half. Indiana outscored Detroit 26-11 over those remaining nine minutes. Eight Shock miscues were turned into 14 points during that run alone. The Fever shot 8-of-19 from the floor and hit four 3-pointers to overtake the lead with 1.4 seconds before halftime.

  • At Minnesota, Aug. 13, the Fever surrendered a lead after three quarters - then the strike began. Trailing 71-69 with 7:56 left in the game, Indiana embarked on a 13-0 run over a 5-minute stretch that sealed the game. Four of the Lynx' 17 turnovers came during that quick stretch. Minnesota, which had just shot 76 percent in the third period, missed its first 13 shots of the fourth quarter and Katie Douglas and Ebony Hoffman each hit key 3-pointers that spurred the Fever comeback.

  • At Washington, Aug. 2, Indiana led by three at halftime and by as many as seven in the third quarter before the homestanding Mystics commanded a 53-50 lead with 57 seconds left in the third. It was time for another Fever flurry. Tully Bevilaqua's 3 and Tamika Catchings' free throw gave Indiana a 54-53 margin entering into the fourth period -- leading into Indiana's dominance in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter. A 15-2 Fever run resulted in a 14-point lead with 5:57 still to play. During the 19-2 swing in points that encompassed less than five minutes, the Mystics, which had shot 64 percent in the third quarter, missed 5-of-6 shots. Indiana shot 7-of-9 during the run and forced four turnovers.

  • On July 30, a Conseco Fieldhouse crowd saw Catchings uncharacteristically miss a free throw to ice the game against Connecticut with 11 seconds in regulation. In overtime, though, it was all Indiana. The Fever turned up the defensive heat, got four points off a pair of turnovers, and reduced the Sun offense to 0-of-9 shooting in the extra session. The 10-1 overtime session was the most lopsided in Fever history.

  • There are other examples, including a 33-9 first quarter and 54-23 halftime lead at Chicago on July 10; and the frequently chronicled 17-point comebacks in consecutive games in late June against Detroit and at New York.

    So there is a look at the anatomy of Indiana's dominating, strike-quick cababilities. But how and why do they occur?

    I'm not sure anyone is capable of defining those instances, but I'll point to a common denominator. Most have followed timeouts, quarter breaks, or trips straight out of the locker room.

    Enter Lin Dunn.

    I've said before that I'm not a capable critic or advocate of coaching moves. I'm not an Xs and Os guy. So I can't tell you what changes Lin has ever made to the offense or defense. But I can judge the trends of the numbers, and I can evaluate changes in intensity, emotion and momentum. And the common denominator in virtually every example I've cited is that they all come almost immediately out of a timeout or meeting or conference with the coaching staff.

    I joked in an earlier blog that Lin has been relentless this month in battling a disease among the team and staff. That disease is complacency. She has never relented in driving the team harder and harder, even as the wins have climbed higher and higher. One comment she made at halftime last night was that she wanted the Fever to come out as if it was the team desperate to stay in the playoff hunt.

    The result? Coming out of the locker room, the Shock's only third quarter basket came on a driving layup by reserve guard Kristin Haynie. The Fever shot 8-of-14 (57%), got 3-pointers from Douglas and Shay Murphy, and turned six Detroit turnovers into 11 points. Indiana outscored the Shock 23-8 in the third quarter and turned a very physical, first-half muscle-fest into a rout. In the process, the Fever may have driven a dagger into the Shock's playoff hopes. [Could that be considered literary justice, considering it has been the Shock to eliminate Indiana in three straight playoff seasons?]

    I've written a novel this morning. But after last night's game, it was warranted. Big win. Lots to write about. That's a good problem for a PR guy.

    Stay tuned ... lots more fun numbers and streaks and records to discuss. Oh yeah ... and pay close attention to FeverBasketball.com as playoff scenarios and playoff tickets are -- hopefully? presumably? -- soon to follow!

    KM


    August 13, 2009 (10:45 p.m.)

    Winners of two out of three games in its West Conference road trip, the Indiana Fever has guaranteed itself a winning record after defeating Minnesota 91-81 on Thursday night. With the win, the Fever moved to 18-5 overall to maintain a 5 1/2 game lead in the Eastern Conference. The 18 wins is already one more than 17 from 2008, and the Fever's seventh road win eclipses the six it recorded last season.

    Thursday, still another star stepped the forefront as Ebony Hoffman registered a season-high 24 points while recording her first double-double of the season with 10 rebounds. She hit three 3-pointers and was a perfect 9-of-9 from the foul stripe.

    The win over the Lynx was impressive, too, because, on the road, the Fever put together a 13-0 run during the fourth quarter after surrendering the lead in the third. After a quick start that included a 12-point first half lead, the Lynx scrapped back with free throws and 10-of-13 shooting in the third quarter. When many teams on the end of a three-game road trip might have collapsed or succumbed to the shift in momentum, the Fever turned up the heat. Minnesota hit just one of its first 13 shots in the fourth quarter as the Fever ran back into the lead and won going away.

    Said Hoffman in a postgame radio interview with Chris Denari, "we knew we needed to make them take tough shots."

    And so the Fever got tough, accelerated the defensive effort and won for the 18th time. That makes 18 of their last 21. And as Eb noted during her postgame interview, the team will be that much better once Tammy Sutton-Brown returns to the lineup -- and that could be any day now.

    Speaking of any day now ... or at least, let's just say "soon" ...

  • Tamika Catchings will become the third player in WNBA history to reach 600 steals. She'll also become the fastest unless it takes her over 30 games to accumulate the four steals remaining to reach the milestone. She'll also become the youngest ever to reach the milestone, unless that takes another three years. Pretty impressive. Nobody has ever been close to Catchings' rate of steals. Our PR staff had prepared the note today, expecting to utilize it in our game notes for Saturday ... never did I expect she'd get six steals tonight and possibly hit the milestone on Saturday!
  • Also very soon, the Fever should clinch its FIFTH straight playoff berth. Indiana's unofficial "magic number" for a playoff berth is any combination of four Fever wins or Chicago losses -- since the Sky is currently in fifth place. Similarly, Indiana's unofficial magic number to wrap up first place in the East is just seven.

    Very soon after that, of course, playoff tickets will go on sale, and Fever fans will want to get those tickets quickly. It is nice to see crowds growing at The Fieldhouse, and another packed crowd is anticipated for Saturday night's game with the Shock. It's a Lucas Oil Family Night presented by The Indianapolis Star, with the Fever's All-Decade Team being honored at halftime.

    We'll see you at The Fieldhouse on Saturday night!

    KM


    August 12, 2009

    Two topics for today ... the Fever bench and Saturday's announcement of the Indiana Fever All-Decade Team.

    While Monday's loss at L.A. was unfortunate because it ended a nice streak and because the Fever was denied a chance for consecutive wins on a West Coast trip, the game did emphasize once more the valuable play it has been receiving from its bench. And by "bench," I'm actually still including Jessica Moore. Perhaps "depth" is a more appropriate term.

    During the five-game absence of Tammy Sutton-Brown while she nurses a sensitive toe injury, Moore has been outstanding. The Fever has not missed a beat. Indiana is 4-1 with Moore starting in the post and she has scored in double-figures four times. She has been nothing short of terrific. Given the forwards and post players on the Sparks' roster, it makes sense that a very valuable player was waived coming out of L.A.'s training camp. But certainly the Sparks' loss has been Indiana's gain, and credit goes to Kelly Krauskopf for signing her at the start of the season.

    Jessica Davenport and Shay Murphy have also played capably over the recent stretch of games, but besides Moore, the two reserves who I think deserve huge praise have been Tamecka Dixon and Briann January.

    Everyone is familiar with January, noting of course her status as the Fever's top draft pick last season and the apparent heir to the Fever's point guard spot whenever the 37-year old Tully Bevilaqua stops putting up career numbers. What Bri has given the Fever is a definite presence to drive the ball to the hole. She can knock down shots and she plays defense. She is still very much learning the pro game and she is vulnerable to turnovers, but aren't all rookies? She has filled a great niche and provided a welcome contrast to Tully's game.

    And then there's Dixon. Tamecka doesn't show a lot of flash and she won't ever show up with double-digit points. Like Bevilaqua, Dixon, too, is in the twilight of her career. She is in the 13th year of a 350-game career which includes a pair of WNBA titles and multiple All-Star appearances and awards. She is one of this league's greatest historical figures. But here in 2009, she is drawing upon those 350 games of experience - plus 36 games of playoff experience - and providing a great transition between starters and reserves. Lin Dunn may have put it best in a press conference last week when she said, "it just seems that whenever the ball is in Tamecka's hands, we all know that good things are going to happen."

    Whether it is a timely shot on a fast break; a clutch bucket at the end of the shot clock; a key pass; anticipation and a steal; or just her calming presence with the ball in her hands -- Dixon has provided a real blend of stability and spark. She was signed just before training camp with no guarantee of a job. The cost of keeping Dixon was the loss of former Fever star Tan White. And while I have written many times that we all liked Tan and valued her role, it is Dixon's role that is providing a perfect fit with this roster. I'll credit Krauskopf again.

    So, on to mention of Saturday's announcement of the Fever's All-Decade Team. Preliminary voting results were announced in mid-July, and the top level of vote-getters came as no surprise. It makes sense that Indiana's current starting lineup (Catchings, Douglas, Bevilaqua, Hoffman, Sutton-Brown) should get top votes, given the success of the team over the past 3-4 seasons, plus the tenure of each of those five players. And Stephanie White was the face of the franchise and a local icon for so many years that her eventual spot on the team should come as no surprise.

    It will be a proud moment for this franchise when the 10 members of the All-Decade Team are announced at halftime Saturday. The 13-year WNBA and the 10-year Indiana Fever still are very much infants on the grand scene of professional sports nationwide -- compared to the NFL, MLB and NBA. But there is no questioning the value that this league has added to our menu of pro sports, and the significance that these athletes have played in forging a niche in our sports landscape. While these athletes and personalities won't be covered in nationwide press converage, I'll hope you'll help the Fever in honoring the best players of our first decade.

    Don't forget Thursday night's webcast (8:00 p.m. ET on LiveAccess) and don't miss Saturday's bout at The Fieldhouse when the dreaded Shock return to Indy (7:30 p.m.).

    KM


    August 11, 2009 (12:50 a.m.)

    Memo to the rest of the WNBA: "If you're going to build a big lead against the Indiana Fever, you better push it past 17 points." And then it's a 50-50 proposition.

    For the third time this season, the Fever surrendered a 17-point deficit. After twice overcoming similar 17-point deficits this season -- June 21 at home against Detroit and again on June 26, in overtime, at New York -- Indiana once again erased the deficit ... almost. Nearly completely. This time, the Fever erased 16 of those 17 points and had the shots to take the lead with over five minutes left in regulation. But this time, late Monday night in Los Angeles, the Fever couldn't close the deal as the Sparks upended the WNBA-leading Fever 75-63.

    After the Fever closed the margin to one, the Sparks surged late to open the lead to double digits again and, as valiant as Indiana tried to narrow the gap again, it couldn't close the deal.

    And thus ends Indiana's five-game win streak, once again thwarted in its efforts to win consecutive games on a West Coast road trip -- a feat that has eluded the franchise for 10 seasons.

    Indiana travels to face Minnesota on Thursday and hopefully avenge a home-opening loss back on June 7. The Fever, 17-5, has won 17 of 20 games since that early loss to the Lynx. Indiana will hope to begin another streak Thursday. The Fever returns to Conseco Fieldhouse on Saturday when the dreaded Detroit Shock visit Indianapolis.

    KM


    August 10, 2009 (5:30 p.m.)

    Congratulations to Katie Douglas for winning the Eastern Conference Player of the Week Award for the second straight week. For Katie, it is the fifth time in her career to win the award. It is her third award in two seasons with the Fever.

    Katie's playing at a different level right now, and the entire Fever team is in unison with her. Indiana blitzed the Mercury in Phoenix on Saturday night with a 31-point first quarter, but what was most impressive was that every time the Mercury staged any sort of a rally, the Fever had an answer.

    Tonight, Indiana faces an opponent that, on paper, should be significantly better than its 7-11 record. In fact, if the playoffs began today, L.A. would be on the outside looking in. However, with the return of Candace Parker within the past month, the Sparks are obviously improved. Parker is almost an automatic double-double and fans may remember the Parker highlight against the Fever at STAPLES Center last year when she registered the first dunk of her pro career! Let's just hope that those breakaway opportunities don't exist tonight!

    My take on the Fever following Saturday's first game of a three-game road swing is that, yes it was a very big win. But most importantly, and I believe this because of the veterans and professionals on this team, I think Saturday's win might have been more than just a big win in a hyped game of conference leaders. I think it may serve as an added shot of confidence to a club that knows it can contend for a title. I also think that winning at L.A. is important and I think that Saturday's win will help put this team in the appropriate mindset to stick to the business of winning basketball games.

    The Fever is a team of veterans who know how to win, and will see to it that the business of basketball is a lone priority. Saturday's convincing win put to rest any questions about the Fever's ability to win at all levels. Indiana is the favorite in L.A. tonight, and that may never have been said before during the team's 10-year history.

    The game against the Sparks is important because it's Lisa Leslie and Candace Parker, icons in the game for a team that has achieved so much success. It is important because the Fever rarely has had success in L.A. -- just one win in eight trips. It is important because it is a homecoming for Jessica Moore and Tamecka Dixon, two former Sparks players. It is important because it is a homecoming for Ebony Hoffman and Shay Murphy, a pair of USC grads who grew up within miles of STAPLES Center.

    Should the Fever win tonight, it would also be the first time in franchise history that Indiana has won consecutive games of a West Coast road trip. West Coast trips have often been the Fever's nemesis. In 2007, for instance, when Indiana started 16-4, three straight West Coast losses in late July threatened a playoff spot for the Fever who struggled to adjust after losing Tamika Catchings to plantar fasciatis.

    If the Fever wins tonight, Indiana will have won six straight. The Fever can match their franchise mark with a three game road win streak, for the second time this season. If Indiana wins, it also will mark the fifth win in the last six games against the once seemingly invincible Sparks. A win would reduce the Fever's playoff magic number to just 4, and it would reduce a magic number to win the Eastern Conference to just 7.

    A fun season continues to build, Fever fans ... tipoff tonight is 10:30 p.m. ET ... don't forget to tune in to the webcast on FeverBasketball.com!

    KM


    August 9, 2009 (12:45 a.m.)

    Wow, nice win!

    In between watching my beloved Colorado Rockies (darn, they lost to the Cubs, I'm not happy when that happens) and doing a couple loads of laundry, I took my own advice and tuned in to the WNBA LiveAccess webcast tonight. I didn't expect to focus on all 40 minutes, but at the very least I wanted to watch that track meet I alluded to in my blog on Friday.

    Sure enough, the slower version of the Mercury-induced track meet meant a score in the 80s (Fever 90, Phoenix 83) and the Fever's 17th victory. For those interested in history, Indiana's 17-4 record is now officially the best start in Fever history. It also is the first time in franchise history the team has been 13 games above the .500 mark.

    The Fever owns the best record in the East and has a virtual lock on tiebreakers against the entire conference. The club also owns a 6-3 road record which is the best road percentage in the WNBA this year, and Saturday's win over the Mercury gives Indiana a leg-up on the Merc for a the possible, potential, eventual (it's too early to talk about this) discussion for homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs. There ... I just said it. Let the debates begin. But it's far, far, far too early for that to be a concern.

    For now, it's about continuing to win games. And continuing to fight that disease that Coach Dunn has been preaching against lately - complacency.

    If your bandwidth can handle it and you can afford to stay up past midnight again, tune in to Monday night's webcast when the Fever battles the Sparks!

    KM


    August 7, 2009

    I really have not intended for this to become a bi-weekly blog ... but I guess it's better than a monthly blog, right?

    OK, so here we are, the day before the East-leading Indiana Fever battles West-leading Phoenix. My goal today is to educate our fans a bit, and have little fun at the same time. So, without further adieu, here are my Top 10 reasons for Fever fans to watch games on WNBA LiveAccess this week!

    10. Live streaming video of WNBA games might be the best way to make great use of all that money you're spending for high-speed Internet service.

    9. What color nails will Tammy Sutton-Brown be sporting this week? And will she play against the Mercury, Sparks or Lynx?

    8. What better way to watch the "track meet" otherwise known as Fever vs. Mercury on Saturday night at 10 p.m. ET? If it's a slow track meet (score in the 80s), the Fever wins. If the track meet turns blazing fast (score in the 100s), I call a win for the Mercury. I say that, though, and have to realize the Fever beat Phoenix 103-89 at Conseco Fieldhouse, the last time they met! All the more reason to watch ...

    7. How about watching the final regular season meeting of all-time between Tamika Catchings and Lisa Leslie? Tune in Monday night at 10:30 p.m. ET when the Fever visit STAPLES Center and the Sparks.

    6. What better way to watch the Fever avenge its early-season loss to Minnesota? OK, it would be the only way to watch ... but you CAN watch next Thursday evening at 8 p.m. ET.

    5. If you are really talented, and can manage two browsers at the same time, you can listen to the Indiana radio call by Chris Denari on one browser (click audio only) and watch the video provided by the home telecast (with volume turned down on that browser) on a second browser. The same effect can be accomplished by watching LiveAccess video, turning down the computer volume and listening to Denari on the radio. The only problem with that is a really annoying delay whereby you hear the plays about 4-5 seconds before you see them.

    4. If you are really, REALLY talented -- and don't ask me how, because I'm not that talented -- you can plug your computer into the back of your TV and actually watch the webcast on your TV! Yes, I know it's possible. I've just never tried it. I'm not smart enough.

    3. You can make efficient use of your time by answering email and paying bills online during timeouts and halftime.

    2. Who will be this week's Player of the Week? You may be watching her first-hand, as eight Eastern or Western players of the week this season have come from Indiana, Phoenix or Minnesota.

    ... drum roll, please ...

    1. The number ONE reason to watch Fever games this week on WNBA LiveAccess? Because it's the best way (ok, the only way) to watch live video of every game!

    OK, so there's a little fun with why you should watch WNBA LiveAccess beginning Saturday evening when the Fever are at Phoenix (10:00 p.m. ET), and continuing through Monday and Thursday, in L.A. and Minneapolis. One other side note for you ... given late games from the West Coast and earlier and earlier deadlines for our friends from The Indianapolis Star, it is entirely possible that early editions of the Sunday or Tuesday Star might not include results from the Fever game the night before. So go online to FeverBasketball.com or IndyStar.com to get those late night results!

    KM


    July 20, 2009
    It's just about All-Star time and of course I need to comment on the Fever's All-Star participation. In a nutshell, I say congratulations to Lin Dunn and her staff for being selected to coach the East, and congratulations to Tamika Catchings and Katie Douglas for being voted into the game. Second, I'd like to say "shame on you" to the remainder of the Eastern Conference coaches for not selecting Tammy Sutton-Brown for a much-deserved spot as a reserve on the East team.

    Just because the Fever is currently leading the WNBA with an 11-3 record, no, I don't think Indiana is entitled to a third spot on the East roster. But I do think that Tammy deserves it.

    In fairness, though, too, I have to acknowledge justification for Atlanta's Erika DeSouza making the team, as well as Dream teammate Sancho Lyttle. I can't divulge the full voting of Fever coach Lin Dunn, but I will acknowledge that DeSouza and Lyttle both were among players receiving votes on the Fever ballot. Keep in mind that coaches are prohibited from voting for their own players, and surely, Sutton-Brown would otherwise have been in one of those spots. The case for DeSouza is that she has better numbers than TSB and she has twice had great games against the Fever - mostly head-to-head with TSB. DeSouza averages 11.5 points and 8..6 rebounds through games of July 19. TSB posts averages of 11.1 and 6.8.

    So I have no problem with Erika DeSouza making the squad. She deserves it. For the final six spots, there was just one position for a center, plus one utility player. I think TSB was certainly worthy of one of those two positions, with DeSouza a very worthy selection as the backup center. I also can't argue with the fans' selection of Sylvia Fowles as the starting center, except that she has been hurt much of the season. Her absence actually speaks to her value -- but has she played enough to be worthy of the nomination? I say barely, but yes. And if for some reason Fowles is unable to play in the game due to her recent injuries, than Sutton-Brown surely deserves to get the nod as the most worthy replacement.

    I haven't written much during our recent streak -- in part because I purposely didn't want to get too caught up in it. It was good for the franchise, and a very nice opportunity to gain some notoriety and attention locally and nationwide. The Fever is probably the key story in the WNBA so far this season. But I'm not going to sit here and talk about how great it's been. Rather, and this is not being cynical but I think practical, I think the key to our season will be how we attack the END of the streak.

    We lost a tough road game Sunday at Connecticut. It is the first of three very tough road games. We have yet to face a new-look Washington team that is very athletic and has had some early success. Like our games with Atlanta and Minnesota, it has been the really athletic teams that have tested the Fever most. With three very athletic former Duke stars in Alana Beard, Monique Currie and Lindsay Harding, the Mystics pose a very formidable opponent on Tuesday. And then it's off to face defending West champ San Antonio, again on the road.

    So, how do we attack the END of the streak? Do we battle on the road and come away 2-1 in these three games? 1-2? Or, worse yet, 0-3? If the Fever enters the All-Star Break with a 2-1 mark following its 11-game win streak, I will say here and now that we are the best in the East and we should win the division -- entering the All-Star Break at 13-3 overall. A 1-2 finish in these three games can be justifiable, but we'd be in no position to claim any sort of superiority just yet. And if we go winless in these three games, folks, we better get ready for a dogfight.

    Yes, the streak was great. But from a realistic standpoint, let's face it, eight of the 11 wins came from the friendly confines of Conseco Fieldhouse. The Fever certainly earned its road wins at Detroit, New York and Chicago, but if Indiana is to clearly assert itself as the East's team to beat, road wins are paramount. Indiana can win the league on the strength of its homecourt, but there will be a fight to the finish without being dominant on the road, also.

    That's just my humble take on things as I put the win streak into the record books as the Fever's best of all-time, the second-best in Eastern Conference history and the seventh-best in WNBA history. Now it's in the record books, behind us in the rear-view mirror as we focus on road games with the Mystics and Silver Stars. Good luck to the Fever contingent in this weekend's All-Star Game.

    More on the All-Star Game later this week ... and don't forget to vote for the Indiana Fever All-Decade Team only 10 days remain to cast your vote!

    KM


    July 10, 2009
    21 Days to Vote!

    Balloting for the Indiana Fever’s All-Decade Team has reached nearly 5,000 voters and over 42,000 page views on the Fever’s micro-website AllDecadeTeam.com (also accessible on FeverBasketball.com). Most of the top ten vote-getters are as expected, including each of the current starters from the 2009 team that owns the best record in the WNBA, but there are another half-dozen players who deserve consideration – let’s not forget those players of the past just because they’re no longer in the headlines!

    Balloting for the Indiana Fever All-Decade Team continues through July 31 online and at every Fever home game.

    Through online balloting returns as of July 3, the top six vote-getters were comprised of the current starting five (Tully Bevilaqua, Tamika Catchings, Katie Douglas, Ebony Hoffman and Tammy Sutton-Brown) plus Indiana schoolgirl legend Stephanie White. Catchings, in her ninth year with the franchise, leads the voting, followed by another local star and White’s teammate on the 1999 Purdue national championship team, Katie Douglas.

    Seventh is Natalie Williams, Tamika Whitmore is eighth, Anna DeForge is ninth and Tan White rounds out the top 10 at the midway point of balloting online and at Conseco Fieldhouse.

    But there is a case to be made for many other former stars worthy of your vote! Here is what their campaign managers would say:

    Niele Ivey

  • The starting point guard on Fever teams in 2001, 2002 and 2003, she ranks sixth in franchise history with 71 games started.
  • Ivey’s 37.3 percent 3-point shooting is fourth in Fever history.

    Monica Maxwell

  • Maxwell was the third-leading scorer and top 3-point shooter on the Fever’s first team.
  • She was the only Fever player to start every game of the inaugural season.
  • Maxwell’s 36.3 percent 3-point shooting is 7th in franchise history and, despite playing just 65 career games, she remains 10th in Fever history with 74 3-point baskets.

    Kelly Miller

  • There are only five players in Fever history to play more than 1,000 minutes in a single season. Miller and Catchings are the only players to do it in two or more seasons.
  • Miller is one of just six players in Fever history to average double-figure scoring during her Indiana career. She averaged 10.2 points in each of her two seasons, making her one of just four players to average double-digits in every year she played with the Fever.
  • She was a model of consistency who started every game over two seasons and was the co-recipient of the 2004 WNBA Most Improved Player Award.

    Kelly Schumacher

  • Schumacher has played in more Fever games than any players besides Tamika Catchings or Ebony Hoffman. She played every game of the 2003 and 2005 seasons, and she ranks 7th all-time in minutes played.
  • She is second in Fever history in blocked shots and sixth in rebounds and field goals made.

    Olympia Scott

  • Scott was the starting center on the Fever’s first playoff team, and she still holds the franchise mark with 17 rebounds in a single game.
  • She is one of only three Fever players ever to score 30 points in a single game.
  • She ranks fifth in Fever history with 405 total rebounds.

    Rita Williams

  • Williams was the first All-Star in Fever history, appearing in the 2001 All-Star Game in Orlando, Fla.
  • She was the Fever assists leader on its inaugural team and second in scoring.
  • She is third among Fever career assists and steals leaders and seventh among career scoring leaders.

    KM


    July 8, 2009

    Alright, I know, I know ... it's been a while since I last blogged. My excuse, though, is that we're in this middle of this great win streak so I didn't want to break the mojo. You know, superstitions and all ... I didn't want to jinx anything.

    But alas, I'm not at all superstitious. And I also blogged through the first three games of our now 8-game streak, so it's not like the streak was entirely without my blogging. Heck, we won five straight games after my last blog, maybe we'll win five more after this one?

    Silliness aside, let's talk Fever.

    Obviously, the current eight-game streak is nice and it's put Indiana in the driver's seat in the Eastern Conference standings. After Chicago's road loss at Sacramento last night, Indiana leads the second-place Sky by 2.5 games. Tonight, Chicago is at Phoenix who leads the West, meaning that the Sky will enter Friday's game with the Fever at either 7-5 or 6-6. If the Sky comes back to the Windy City at 7-5 and trailing the 8-2 Fever by two games in the standings, the Sky could cut the gap to just one game if it beats the Fever and remains unbeaten at UIC Pavilion.

    My point is that while nice, the 8-game win streak and the small lead in the standings are just that -- nice. BUT IT'S EARLY! And could be gone in a heartbeat. As illustrated above, a loss on Friday could have Indiana clinging to a one-game margin. So there is a lot of ball to be played.

    Now, here is what is really good about the streak -- it's almost all been against Eastern teams, thus putting the Fever in really nice shape come playoff time and tiebreak scenarios. Against the East, Indiana is 6-1. By comparison, Detroit is 0-6. Head-to-head, the Fever has already won tiebreak advantage over the Shock, going 2-0 with just one game remaining. Same scenario with New York.

    Nice, right? Yes, if those teams are in contention. But right now they're not, which brings me back to my first point -- IT'S EARLY! Indiana is 1-1 against Atlanta, with two games to play. We have yet to face the Sky or the Mystics, and we've only played Connecticut once out of four dates.

    Lin Dunn was asked in an interview yesterday how it felt to be playing the best basketball in the WNBA. Her reply, to paraphrase, was that we're not necessarily playing that well, as much as we are finding ways to win games. She pointed to some weak shooting percentages, occasional bouts of turnovers, and still having to overcome large deficits.

    Yes, we're winning much more consistently than anyone else in the league right now. But we're not dominating.

    Let's enjoy the streak and hope it continues growing. If we get into next week with the streak reaching double figures (meaning a pair of wins over second-place Chicago), then the Fever can allow itself a little comfort in its accomplishments. But for now, even a single loss can cut the lead to only a game.

    There are lots of hoops to be played before we have any visions of first-place finishes and playoff appearances.
    KM


    June 21, 2009

    Here is a silly, trivial fact to begin our Father's Day game day against the Shock. I knew I was going to write a blog this morning, and I knew I would touch on the addition of Jessica Davenport after Friday's win. So, I mentioned Davenport to Fever PR assistant Tim Edwards, who is frantically finishing tonight's media game notes. His reply was something about having two Jessicas on the team suddenly, when we haven't had a Jessica in our history!

    I said, "You know this? What did you do, research the all-time roster?" No, he hadn't, but after doing Fever game notes for 10 years, I guess it stands to reason he should know. So, just for fun, we looked it up. Sure enough, Jessica Moore and Jessica Davenport are the only two Jessicas in Fever history. In fact, only three other players had first names beginning with the letter J. In case you're wondering, those were Jenni Benningfield, Jackie Moore and Jurgita Streimikyte!

    Yes, we are full of useless knowledge today ... I figured it was a good beginning to a blog. I'll also use this as an opportunity to advertise a new online feature this year. If you would like to investigate any of your own Fever trivia or history, you can access the 2009 Fever Media Guide online!

    But on to more important discussions ...

    Tonight against the Shock, Indiana will hope to do exactly what it did so successfully in the second half on Friday, and that is to attack the basket. Detroit, with its front line anchored by Taj McWilliams, Cheryl Ford and Olayinka Sanni, is a bit depleted depth-wise without the services of Kara Braxton and Plenette Pierson. And with Indiana's addition of Moore and Davenport, the Fever can pound the middle and force the Shock to defend our posts. Detroit experienced some foul trouble on its home court two nights ago, and I am sure Lin Dunn hopes for more of the same tonight.

    Davenport, by the way, played almost 12 minutes with two points, three boards and a pair of blocks. Moore played five minutes, but picked up three quick fouls. She later picked up two more fouls, hence the need for Davenport to see greater minutes in her first game. If the Fever can get ten productive minutes per game from Davenport, that's one heckuva steal for an available free agent four games into the season.

    On the perimeter, Katie Douglas has continued her strong start to the season. She is the only Fever player to score in double figures in all five games. She leads the club with a 16.6-point average per game. She and Tully Bevilaqua are tied for fifth in the WNBA with nine 3-pointers so far. As a team, the Fever leads the WNBA with an average of seven 3-point field goals per game.

    I'll close with another odd stat. After beginning the season with a pair of losses, the Fever suddenly has won three straight. Can you believe that streak is the team's longest since 2007? Amazingly, Indiana never won more than two consecutive games during its 2008 playoff season. So, the Fever hopes to win its third straight at home and its fourth straight overall during tonight's Father's Day matchup with the Shock. Gone is Bill Laimbeer, but Rick Mahorn is back with most of the same formidable lineup that won a third WNBA title last fall.

    Let's play the game!
    KM


    June 19, 2009

    It is game day. The Fever plays in Detroit this evening, and for the first time in my seven-years with the Fever, I will not be courtside for a regular season game. I have missed shooting practice this morning. I'm blogging from my office, instead of my hotel room. So, how will I spend my evening? Ever since the WNBA altered its requirement that PR directors travel with teams on the road, I have asked myself that question.

    Yesterday, when the team left for the airport, I finished the items on my desk and left about 3:00 to mow my lawn. Today, since I'll be working tonight from home and my team isn't here, I'll probably leave late afternoon to go get a haircut. [Fascinating stuff that you read in these blogs, isn't it?]

    So how will I spend my evening? I'll probably find some dinner about 6:00, then I'll prepare for tonight's game from the comforts of my living room in Brownsburg. Prepare? Well, you know ... hook up the computer to my wireless service, pull out my copy of tonight's game notes, and pull out my Fever and WNBA media guides -- you know, the typical stuff I would normally do from my seat at the arena.

    Beginning at 7:00 tonight, I'll invite any fans who are also spending their Friday evenings at home, and in front the of the computer, to join me and keep me company. I'll be chatting live on FeverBasketball.com from 7 p.m., until the end of tonight's game. I'll be watching on WNBA LiveAccess right along with you. I'll either listen to Chris Denari in the background, on 1070 The Fan, or I may turn up the computer volume to listen to Shock announcer Matt Shepard. And if I come up with any really insightful notes during the game, I will email to both of them!

    Did anyone ever see the movie, "Broadcast News" -- ? A scene from that movie will be my goal. Like the anchorman who was bumped from the newscast, he sat in his living room during a live broadcast and phoned information into his former producers. He passed information from his living room, and the same information was revealed moments later out of the mouth of the anchor that replaced him. That is my goal this evening ... to come up with some sort of insightful, intriguing piece of information that I can email to Matt and Chris, and have it used on the air.

    Do I lead an exciting life, or what???

    So, if you are really bored this evening and want to keep me company, you'll know where to find me. I'm not sure what I'll do at halftime. But the snacks in my refrigerator will probably beat those in the Palace media room, and the trip to the restroom will be a much shorter distance. I won't be securing interviews for anyone this evening and I won't be assisting Coach Dunn with the status of our fouls or timeouts. Hopefully, I'll get to enjoy a great Fever victory before falling asleep in my own bed while the team is taking an hour-long bus trip to the Airport Westin and preparing for its 5 a.m. wakeup call!

    [Maybe this stay-at-home stuff won't be so bad, after all!]
    KM


    June 17, 2009

    There have been three very noteworthy news items this week. Here is my take on each of them.

    On Monday, the Detroit Shock announced the resignation of longtime coach Bill Laimbeer. Bill certainly was a lightning rod around the league. Everyone had a strong opinion about him -- whether good or bad. Personally, while I sometimes got tired of the act and the "Bad Boy" demeanor, I thought he was good for the league. Let's face it, it was those strong opinions that drew attention to our league. On a very small scale, I got to know him a little bit, whether it was during regular season or frequent playoff games with the Fever, or during the 2006 All-Star Game in which he coached the East which had three Fever players on the team, or during Shock playoff runs to the Finals which I have worked the past three years. I don't really know the man, but I thought he was good for the league. He came in to the league because of the relationship he had coaching his own daughter, and he made it translate into coaching at the pro level. Sure, the "Bad Boy" image could get tiresome, but he did do a helluva job turning around the Shock franchise and the attention that he demanded was, like I said, good for the league. I wish him well with whatever coaching pursuits he follows. The "W" will go on just fine without him, but the man deserves the credit for the good that he brought to our league and our sport.

    This morning, I awoke to the news that Rutgers star Epiphany Prince will forego her senior year in college to play pro with Spartak Moscow in Europe. While a small dot on the horizon for many sports fans, for women's basketball fans, I think this is huge! Do I condone it? Not necessarily. I certainly think that one of the strong points of our league is that all the players are college educated. Yeah, I do think it's a great thing that our players are great role models, etc. I don't diminish that one bit. However ... purely from the standpoint of gaining recognition for our sport and being able to put our sport in front of the mainstream sports fan --- I think that this is huge news. I think it is good for our sport to be able to at least provide that opportunity. I think it is a way of broadening the base and the visibility of our sport. Do I think everyone should bolt college and go play in Europe? Heck no! But does it help give the sport credibility among the afternoon sportstalk radio junkets whose agendas are littered with the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball? Yes, it does. Perhaps it's a small splash. But it's a splash this sport didn't have before.

    Whether you liked Laimbeer or not, and whether you like the decision by Epiphany Prince or not -- I think that both have been, and will be, good for the WNBA, at least from a visibility and publicity standpoint.

    Last news item of the day was the Fever signing Jessica Davenport. Just the simple fact that she was available in free agency speaks to two things. First, as I have mentioned in previous blogs, the league is damn competitive this year and there were a lot of players released in camps that were met with surprise. Second, given that she was traded for Becky Hammon after being made the second overall selection of the 2007 draft, only 26 months ago, suggests that New York had to be disappointed with her performance during her first two seasons. She's obviously got great size and offensive skills. And she commands a huge presence in the post. For Indiana, she fills the void left by Yolanda Griffith, which is the same spot held a year ago by Bernadette Ngoyisa. Will she be comparable to Yolanda? Doubtful, and certainly not from an experience standpoint. But can she fare comparable to Ngoyisa? I say definitely, yes. She's got the same size as Ngoyisa, she certainly won't be hampered with a communication gap, and she definitely has a better skill set.

    Discarding Yo from our thoughts for just a moment and asking the question, "are we better in the post than last season?" Emphatically, I say yes -- Sutton-Brown, Hoffman, Moore and Davenport more than trumps the quartet of TSB, Eb, Bernie and then-rookie Khadijah Whittington. Kelly Krauskopf and Lin Dunn have exchanged Ngoyisa and Whittington for Moore and Davenport. Though both were released at the end of camps in LA and NY, respectively, Moore and Davenport are a pretty decent backup pair of posts. Moore is big, athletic and only 27 years old. Davenport becomes the Fever's biggest player in terms of stature, her skills are well established and she is only 25.

    You can't compare Davenport to Griffith, that's just not fair. But given Yo's injury and given where the roster was prior to Yo's arrival, the Fever is still better than last season. We have improved and we've gotten bigger.

    I'm also not sure that Davenport can't (please pardon the double negative!) turn things around and play a significant role for the Fever. Perhaps she didn't take well to being in New York. Who knows? She grew up in Columbus (Ohio), went to high school in Columbus and stayed there for college at Ohio State. She's a midwestern girl. Here's to hoping that she is more comfortable being closer to home. If she can average more than her 5.1 points and 2.7 rebounds per game during two seasons with the Liberty, the Fever just may have made a huge steal.
    KM


    June 15, 2009

    Big win for the Fever on Friday night against the Sparks. I said in my last blog that, whether we finished the evening at 1-3 or 2-2, this week between games would be a welcomed break. And while a loss to L.A. certainly would have hurt, I was not at all ready to say it was devastating. I will say, though, that the win was probably bigger than a loss would have been bad.

    The win was a relief as much as anything. And it proved that even while things were rough to begin the opening week, the Fever had a little fight and resilience. I can tell you that this team does belief in itself. It is a team of veterans and a team that is hungry to win. The first couple of games were certainly tough. But, as Lin Dunn said in her press conference after Friday's game -- and I am paraphrasing here -- "what you people need to realize is that we're just one shot and a couple of seconds from being 3-1."

    Coach Dunn was obviously referencing the final moments of the double-overtime loss in Atlanta. If Indiana wins that game, even with the loss to Minnesota, the Fever would be sitting right now at 3-1. So ... let's not get to frazzled by the 0-2 beginning!

    You know, I did think it was funny when I received them ... "them" referring to a couple of emails from fans prior to last week's game with Seattle. I was asked on more than one occasion whether I thought, given the 0-2 start, we had waived the right people coming out of training camp; or, whether I thought we needed to reshuffle the starting lineup; or, whether I thought we needed to use different player rotations.

    My thoughts then, and now, are simply this ------ people, we've got to give this team a little room to operate! We had played three games in four days. The season was literally three days old and I was receiving questions from fans already in panic mode! So, yeah, I laughed a little. Needless to say, I'm glad we won the past two games, if only because it helped even our fans to put their hearts at ease.

    So, what do we do during this week between games? First, I'll let you know that fans will have two opportunities to chat direct with Fever players. Wednesday afternoon, Katie Douglas will chat with fans on FeverBasketball.com, beginning at 2 p.m., prior to an afternoon practice. Thursday evening, Tammy Sutton-Brown will chat via Twitter, beginning at 8:30 p.m., from her hotel in Detroit. Check out FeverBasketball.com for links to both chat opportunities.

    Second, I know that this week is a time for Lin Dunn and Kelly Krauskopf to evaluate their team. The additions of Jessica Moore and Shay Murphy were not widely anticipated, but they made some sense. However, the greatest hole, still, is that for the short term, at least, Indiana will continue with a roster of 10. We'll be somewhat short-handed in the post for the foreseeable future. While Moore may be viewed as an upgrade in the post over Khadijah Whittington, the loss of Yolanda Griffith still stings. And her spot on the roster could remain open for a short while. Moore, at least, has better size than Khadijah, and is much more experienced.

    Similar to when Danielle Campbell was waived at the end of camp, the cuts of Whittington and Tan White both were very difficult decisions. But from the business standpoint, and realizing that rosters have a maximum 11 players, and now losing an All-Star to injury ... the roster reduction poses some difficulty. Lin and Kelly no longer have the flexibility in grooming some younger players. Nor do they have the flexibility in room below the salary cap. I suspect that evaluations will continue. I don't anticipate more players being waived, but there is bound to be a final bit of shuffling at some point to account for the 11th player.

    With consecutive games this week with Detroit, back-to-back games next week with New York and matchup with Connecticut looming in the Fever's next five games, size, strength and depth in the post could win or or lose a few ballgames.
    KM


    June 12, 2009

    What a week this has been!

    The Fever tips for the fourth time in seven days when it hosts the Los Angeles Sparks this evening. But wow, what a week of surrounding activities! Following the double OT thriller in Atlanta and the blowout loss to Minnesota, one of my friends and Fever colleagues, Tim Edwards, endured a very mild heart attack on Monday. He is well and resting, and will return to work next week, but it certainly was a shock to us all. Tuesday, we were visited by ESPN and WNBA President Donna Orender, and of course the Fever beat Seattle in what was Indiana's third game in four days. But the win, too, came with a cost as Yolanda Griffith left the game in the first quarter and Katie Douglas nearly was lost to injury, too. Wednesday, the Fever learned that Griffith would be out for the season. Thursday, two players were waived and two more were added. Yes, it has been an eventful week.

    On Tim, we are thankful he will be ok. On Yo, we are most sorry for her, personally, as it could mean the end of her career. That is certainly the last way that anybody wants to end a career as glorious as she has had. She deserves much better. Regarding Katie, she was certainly the hero in Tuesday's win. She was the likely hero even if she hadn't returned. But when she returned with the huge bloodied knot on the side of her left eye and cheek, and then hit a decisive 3-pointer, the win and her heroics were surely cemented.

    Let's talk about the team.

    Three games are in the books now. A lot has happened to this team in less than one week's time. We have found out that this league is hugely talented and athletic this year. Is the Fever equally athletic? That's my first question, after observing the two losses. Time will tell and the two newest additions, Jessica Moore and Shay Murphy, hopefully might aid in answering that question.

    Beyond simple athleticism, the next question arises, how does Indiana deal with the loss of Griffith. Well, to put the loss in perspective, I think it hurts Indiana in three ways. First, her talent on the floor will be missed. She paced the club with 17 points and seven boards in the loss to Minnesota. And while that production wasn't going to be expected every night, we knew it was there. Second, her leadership and toughness will be missed -- on the court and off. Now, hopefully some of that can be harnessed and still put to use. She has already made an impact with some of the team's younger players. Hopefully her presence alone can still play a role. Third, trying to replace her is made more difficult by salary cap considerations. While it is feasible to replace her roster spot eventually, the salary remains on the cap.

    We are witnessing a great example of how the reduction of rosters (from 13 players to 11) is impacting the Fever almost immediately. That said, I would venture to guess that many teams will undergo similar trauma through this season.

    And so how does that impact the season and the race for a championship? Whether it be the Fever, or any other team that endures these challenges, I think that the way teams react from these traumas, and how they attack the tough times that follow, will go a very long way in determining this year's champion.

    Are the Fever already out of any playoff picture? HECK NO! Not at all! But they've been dealt an early challenge and they face one of the league's top teams this evening. How they battle those obstacles will determine their playoff future. There is a very long summer ahead of us. Whether we come out of tonight's game at 2-2 or 1-3, the week between games will be a welcome break. And looming ahead next week are a pair of games with Detroit who is also 1-2 and facing some injury dilemmas of its own.

    The season rolls on ... see you at the Fieldhouse tonight at 7!
    KM


    June 9, 2009

    Alright fans, this was certainly not the grand start that we had hoped for the beginning of our season. Like in my last blog, I will make two quick observations.
  • (1) Everyone has said all along that this league was going to be significantly improved overall. OK, but it might be more significantly improved than I'd anticipated, and the Fever may not be as improved as many others. The Fever is better, don't get me wrong, but maybe not by as great a degree as some other teams - Atlanta in particular. Minnesota, who drubbed the Fever on Sunday, is obviously very good, but I do think that Indiana's poor play contributed to the point differential. The Fever played much better on Saturday night, than it did on Sunday.
  • (2) To re-emphasize my last comment, I thought the Fever played well, but not good enough, on Saturday. On Sunday, Indiana did not play well. One of Coach Dunn's postgame comments was fitting when she asked fans for a mulligan on that first home game. She thanked the fans for coming out. She thanked them for their support. She apologized for the team's play. And she asked for a mulligan because one thing plainly evident was that the Fever did not at all play to its capabilities.

    My concern, from where I sit, is, "why didn't we play to our capabilities?" Were we just plain outmatched and outgunned in both games? We were tired on Sunday? And if that's the case, is that a bad omen because of the growing age of our team overall? Or did we just get blown out because, for whatever reason, we didn't come out to play that night?

    Who knows, and we can't answer that after just two games. I will point out, though, that while age could be someone's legitimate concern somewhere ... it's worth noting that our oldest player, Yolanda Griffith, was about the lone bright spot in Sunday's game, contributing 17 points and seven rebounds. So I'm not sure that theory holds water yet.

    The Fever plays its third game in four days Tuesday night against the Jackson & Bird-led Storm, with former Purdue grad Katie Gearlds due to light up the perimeter with a few 3-point attempts. It should be another good crowd for Indiana, and hopefully we'll see that team that opened the season in Atlanta -- not the one that appeared at Conseco Fieldhouse last night.
    KM


    June 7, 2009 (7:15 a.m.)

    Writing from the hotel lobby this morning before the team bus departs for the airport, I'll have to make this entry brief.

    OK, last night's loss was disappointing. It was disappointing as any loss is disappointing. It was disappointing because Indiana had chances to win the game -- particularly with its largest lead of the game, 76-71, coming in the first overtime. It was disappointing because it was the season opener, with back-to-back games, and the club wanted to play its home opener and the chance to go 2-0.

    OK, now let's step back. Take a deep breathe. And realize it's just one game. I'm not saying it's "ok" that we lost last night, but I am willing to say that it may be relatively meaningless in the grand scheme of things.

    I'll identify two things that I took from last night's game:

  • (1) Atlanta is darn good. I said in one of Saturday's blogs that they were the most improved team in the league, and the most dramatically changed team in the league. I said they would at least triple last year's four wins. I said they would be a playoff contender. Today, I echo each of those statements. The Dream is a bunch of thoroughbreds who, at any one time, can play an athletic center with four very athletic combo guards and forwards. They're a very good team.
  • (2) Briann January was a very good pick with the No. 6 selection in last year's draft. I know, last night was but one game, but here are some of the characteristics I saw. She's not afraid to play the game with the veterans. In crunch time, the ball was repeatedly in her hands. She beat her defender off the dribble on the way to the rim and a 3-point play, or got fouled on the way through the lane. Her quickness was evident and something that the Fever has lacked in recent years. She put up a couple of 3-pointers that missed the mark, and could have iced the game, but they were good shots and she didn't hesitate to pull the trigger. I like her.

    OK, time to load the bus. See you tonight in Indy.
    KM


    June 6, 2009 (1:30 p.m.)

    I am on the 51st floor of our hotel, and I have a great view of the city while I pound away at my keyboard this afternoon. Looking down on downtown Atlanta, the view layed out before me includes Olympic Centennial Park, the CNN Tower, the Georgia Dome, Philips Arena and the Atlanta Convention Center. Georgia Tech University, and its football and baseball stadiums, are in view a few miles to my right, just on the edge of downtown. Not bad if you're a sports enthusiast! [I have been fortunate to visit each of those venues during my sports travels, including the Georgia Dome where the Maryland men's basketball team won its national championship in 2002. Yes, I'm enjoying my time at the computer this afternoon.]

    OK, but keeping on task, let's talk a little more Fever as tonight's regular season tipoff is just less than six hours away.

    This will be a very busy week for the Fever. And a challenging one. Certainly every team in the WNBA is appreciably better than in 2008. Because of contraction, a reduction of rosters and the ever-improving level of talent, this league should be tough every night. Indiana plays three games in four days to begin the season, and after this weekend's two games, the Fever faces Western Conference powers Seattle and Los Angeles next week at Conseco Fieldhouse. Counting next Friday's bout with Lisa Leslie and the Sparks, Indiana plays four games in the first seven nights of the season.

    Let's look a little more closely at tonight's opponent, the second-year Dream. Lin Dunn told me during our travel to Atlanta that she thinks Atlanta is not only the most dramatically-changed team in the WNBA, but also its most improved. And it's no wonder -- the Dream's roster bears ZERO resemblance to 2008. Only three players return from the 2008 Atlanta club and, in addition to making numerous trades and free agent acquisitions, the Dream has made the most of top draft picks in the college and dispersal drafts.

    The Dream is liable to start a lineup tonight that consists of Nikki Teasley (G), Chamique Holdsclaw (F), Erika de Souza (F), Michelle Snow (C) and Iziane Castro Marques (G). Of that quintet, Castro Marques is the only player who played for the Dream in 2008. Snow was a free agent who was arguably Houston's top player last year. Holdsclaw returns to the league after a brief retirement, and Teasley returns after a year off due to the birth of her daughter. The Dream will be big and athletic. Coming off the bench will be this year's No. 1 college draft pick, Angel McCoughtry from Louisville; one of last season's top rookies, Tamera Young; and the Dream's No. 1 dispersal pick from Houston, forward Sancho Lyttle.

    This is a very different Atlanta team - and one which should at least triple last year's total of four wins. In fact, the Dream could be a tough playoff challenger this season. So it is deceiving that the Fever opens against a team just one year removed from being an expansion team. In reality, the Fever opens against a team that could be unusually, and perhaps unexpectedly, dangerous.

    But that's why we play the games! Tipoff is at 7 tonight. Don't forget to check it out live on your computers via WNBA LiveAccess! And if you just can't wait for tipoff, be sure to stop by my courtside chat beginning at 6!
    KM


    June 6, 2009 (10:55 a.m.)

    The scene now is Philips Arena and the Fever have been conducting morning shooting practice for about 50 minutes. They are currently working on matchups and different sets for tonight's game. Only six minutes are left in our hour-long time slot, so this entry will be short.

    Coach Dunn has indicated already that our lineup isn't going to be any secret. So I'll just tell you that the current blue jerseys are Catchings, Hoffman, Griffith, January and Douglas. Those wearing white are Whittington, White, Wirth, Bevilaqua and Dixon. You can make your own judgements on what the color of those jerseys mean.

    I'll blog more from the hotel when we return from shooting practice. Once again, I'll encourage fan participation in tonight's live chat on FeverBasketball.com. Feel free to submit any questions in advance. And I'll also remind Fever fans that you can view tonight's game via WNBA LiveAccess. The LiveAccess link allows for live viewing of the game, and can be accessed both on the Indiana website, as well as on WNBA.com. All games, except our road game at San Antonio, will be available for live viewing.

    I am blogging again, which is good. And I do offer an apology for letting it slip the past two months. But besides my blog, I'll also direct people to Twitter where you can receive periodic updates from Lin Dunn, Tammy Sutton-Brown, Chris Denari and a Fever account with generic team updates. If you Twitter, or if follow other Twitterers, be sure to become one of their followers!

    OK, it's time for some free throw shooting and then the infamous halfcourt shot as shooting practice comes to a close. That means it's time for me to close and post this to the website. Have a great day ... I'll blog again soon.
    KM


    June 6, 2009 (8:40 a.m.)

    It has been a whole 12 hours since my last update last night! It's just past 8:30 a.m. and it's game day!

    [Side note: If there is any correlation to the season and my frequency in blogging, I think it bears noting that I really, really love being in the season. No matter whether I'm covering a football team, a basketball team, a baseball team or any other -- I grew up a coach's kid, I obviously played sports myself and I still get up for game day. That's why I'm in this business ... I love the "team" and the "competition." So, you know that at least for the next 4-5 months, my regular blogs are back.]

    Today's game day is a little more special than some, perhaps. Well, I don't want to be over-dramatic. But it does start our milestone 10th season and, beyond that, it IS an important season. I am particularly uncomfortable with some media talk of 2009 being the Fever's last season. Frankly, I am not of the belief that our franchise is in jeopardy. However! I do know that the business side of the franchise is absolutely essential for the franchise to thrive and succeed and, of course, to exist.

    Why do I choose my blog to write about this? Very simply to say that this really is an important season for the Indiana Fever. Yes, the team is good. Yes, I anticipate a fifth consecutive playoff appearance. And yes, I also expect our loyal fans to turn out to games. But this franchise definitely needs to grow. No matter whether we grow in the media or at the box office ... what will always be analyzed is our attendance.

    I know that I am speaking largely to dedicated Fever fans when I write these blogs. But I am hoping that this blog and this enthusiasm will reach beyong our loyal fan base. We need NEW fans, too! We need girls basketball players and families that have never been to a game. We need dads to bring their daughters and families to games, even if they have perceptions that "the women's game is boring, or not as good as the NBA."

    I hear those things all the time. And this isn't the time or place for me to debate the merits of our game. I can "blog" on that later. My point, very simply, is that our attendance matters. And I am trying to emphasize that, yes, this is an important year for this franchise. We need to win on the court. And we need to bring greater numbers of fans to our games. In doing one or both of those items, I can guarantee you that the media will follow ... and with that, you have a snowball effect that can really energize a community.

    That is what I am seeking. I am asking the readers of this blog to make a conscious effort to help this franchise this season --- bring a friend to Sunday's game to watch Seimone Augustus and the Lynx. Bring a different friend to Tuesday's game to watch Sue Bird, Lauren Jackson and the Storm. Bring yet a different friend to Friday's game to watch Lisa Leslie's final game at Conseco Fieldhouse.

    Fans, I say this to you very simply and very directly -- please know that the Indiana Fever exists for you. But should the economic realities ever turn so serious that the Fever really is in jeopardy, then please realize that this franchise literally won't be here for you, or for Indianapolis. That would be a shame for all of us.

    I am not of the belief that we face that dilemma right at this very moment, but I am VERY aware of it. So ... as we begin our 10th season, let's celebrate our past and our successes and make plans to celebrate our future. As Donna Orender and the WNBA likes to proclaim frequently, "YES WE CAN!"
    KM


    June 5, 2009 (8:30 p.m.)

    In my last entry, I briefly addressed the Fever's player transactions this week with Tan White being waived on Thursday. All over the WNBA, though, there have been big names being waived - including today's transaction in which Minnesota bought out the guaranteed contract of former Fever star Anna DeForge. Those are just two of over a dozen names of former Fever players released recently.

    I just finished eating a sandwich with Chris Denari, and he showed me a list he had compiled of former Fever players who have been waived from WNBA teams within training camp alone. You could field a team with just these players! There are a few other names who were on 2008 teams and no longer playing, but this list is impressive because all 10 of these players were in camps within the past few weeks.

  • C-Alison Bales
  • G-Sherill Baker
  • G-Anna DeForge
  • G-Doneeka Lewis
  • F-Kristen Mann
  • C-Bernadette Ngoyisa
  • F-Kristen Rasmussen
  • C-Kelly Schumacher
  • F-Kasha Terry
  • G-Tan White

    About 24 hours from now, we'll be at halftime at Philips Arena, and I'll still be taking questions during our LIVE CHAT. Feel free to submit any questions in advance.

    If I don't check in again before bed tonight, I'll blog again in the morning before shooting practice.


    KM


    June 5, 2009 (5:30 p.m.)

    Has it really been two months since I last wrote a blog? Wow. I will admit to being busy these past several weeks, but that's a record. And Fever fans deserve better. So, as the regular season opens roughly 26 hours from now, I'll blog a few times between now and then ... and during tomorrow night's game in Atlanta, I will take live questions from fans during a LIVE CHAT from my courtside seat at Philips Arena. Submit questions now!

    Where to start? So much has transpired since the Fever drafted Briann January when I last "blogged." First, a comment on our rookie point guard, then a comment on our final roster. Then you'll just have to check back later this evening and again on Saturday for more thoughts on tomorrow's opponent, late news around the WNBA and what to expect from the Fever in 2009.

    Oh, and don't forget the home opener - Sunday at 7:00 at Conseco Fieldhouse! Big night, big crowd, lots of fun and games. And free schedule magnets to the first 2,500 fans, so get there early!

    On January, whose first name is pronounced bree-ON, Fever fans can expect the rookie to start her first pro game tomorrow night. She's good size for a point guard and Fever coaches like the way she plays on offense and defense. Her defense may speak for itself, having twice been named the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year while at Arizona State, but coaches like her offense, too. She penetrates and shoots it well. I have heard nothing but praise for the No. 6 pick in the April draft. And what coaches have said about her is that she has a quiet maturity. She is a leader who isn't afraid to interact and communicate among the veterans. She started the last two preseason games, scoring double figures in each, and the Fever has planted her firmly atop the depth chart.

    What's great about having January assert herself at the point position is that it leaves Indiana with two different point guard options off the bench. You've got the bulldog hustler and defender in veteran Tully Bevilaqua, and you've got lightning-quick Erica White. I would expect Indiana to react better to varying situations than it has in the past because of this versatility. No longer can teams automatically sag off the Fever point guard. Indiana always wanted to run when it had the chance -- and it will again -- but even in a half-court offense, the penetration capabilities of January and White will make it easier for Douglas and Catchings to pop free from a defender.

    I should also touch briefly upon yesterday's roster news. A four-year Fever veteran, Tan White, was let go and I can assure our fans that it wasn't an easy decision. In speaking with Kelly Krauskopf and Lin Dunn, both during training camp and after yesterday's announcement, it was plainly obvious that the final roster cut was going to be difficult. In the end, I can only surmise that the decision fell between three guards -- Tan White, Erica White and Tamecka Dixon. What was the final straw? I don't know and even if I did, I might not be writing it here! But factors in the decision certainly had to involve how many point guards they wanted to keep; experience overall and even postseason experience; who makes their teammates better around them; who gives the coaching staff greatest versatility; ballhandling ability, the potential improvement and even who might be a better fit for the Fever's future.

    Personally, I had guessed in public conversations that it might come down to one White or the other. So I wasn't completely caught off-guard by the news. But still a bit stunned from the standpoint that everyone within the franchise liked Tan White and appreciated her efforts for four years. And let's face it, too, she was the second-leading scorer in Fever history! She only started 34 games over four years. Was that because there were so many other talented players around her? Or was that because she never fully asserted her talents at this next level? Those questions can be debated. But because she had been the Fever's "6th man" for most of four years, it even caught me by surprise to realize that she has scored more points in a Fever uniform than any human not named Tamika Catchings.

    To Tan White ... I think I can speak for our franchise in saying that we all wish her well. She bought a house in Indianapolis a couple of years ago, and we appreciate her dedication to our team, our franchise and our community. Landing on another team this season could be difficult, just because of the really tight, competitive rosters, but she's enough of an athlete that she can certainly play somewhere in this league. Tan ... good luck! I do expect to see you down the road ...

    As for the makeup of the current Fever roster, how are these for some numbers?

  • Five WNBA All-Stars who have combined for 19 All-Star Games (Griffith 7, Catchings 5, Dixon 3, Douglas 2, Sutton-Brown 2)
  • Four Olympians who have combined for five medals (Catchings and Griffith, USA), Bevilaqua (Australia) and Sutton-Brown (Canada)
  • One former MVP, Griffith, and two former Defensive Players of the Year (Catchings and Griffith)
  • Three WNBA champions (Bevilaqua, Dixon, Griffith) and five WNBA finalists (add Douglas and Sutton-Brown)

    The Fever will have its share of youth and energy with January and Erica White seeing considerable minutes, and of course Ebony Hoffman, last year's WNBA Most Improved Player. But there is no doubt that Indiana has experience it has never had, and there is no doubt that, on paper at least, this is the most star-studded roster in Fever history. Let the 10th Anniversary Season begin!


    KM


    April 8, 2009

    For all the sports fans in Indianapolis, if you're not a Fever fan before April 9 (tomorrow), then April 9 is the day you should become a Fever fan!

    Tomorrow is draft day. It's the first day that single-game tickets are on sale. And if you want shopping bargains for your favorite team -- tomorrow is the day to take part!

    There is excitement around the Fever camp these days. With the offseason additions of point guard Erica White and veteran forward Yolanda Griffith, the Indiana roster is rounding out very nicely. 2008 rookie draft pick Khadijah Whittington seems to be evolving nicely by averaging 12 points and six rebounds while playing in France this offseason, and with Tamika Catchings and Katie Douglas both healthy at the same time this summer, the Fever could very well make another return to the Eastern Conference Finals.

    [Quick note - it's an odd-numbered year, so the Fever has that on its side. It was in 2005 and 2007 that Indiana advance to the conference finals. Why not return in 2009 and, this time, finally get to the WNBA Finals? Just a thought.]

    Seriously, the Fever's 2008 campaign just never got on track. Between injuries, trades and the Olympic Break, Indiana just was never in sync. Realistically, there was not one day in which Catchings and Douglas ever played together while truly healthy. It was an odd season. But hopefully, in an odd-numbered year and with the help of a solid draft pick, the Fever may have the necessary ingredients for a title run.

    So that is one reason to get excited. But how about single-game tickets priced as low as $5 in the lower level of Conseco Fieldhouse? Or Fever gear and souvenirs as much as 50 percent off in the Home Court Gift Shop? Or rookie jerseys for 30 percent off regular cost when purchased online after tomorrow's draft?

    Tell me, are there any better bargains any place in the state of Indiana? Also, Fever fans will be able to interact with members of the coaching staff, and Fever GM Kelly Krauskopf, during select points of Thursday's draft. Special guests will join me in conducting a two-way chat with fans during tomorrow's draft proceedings, beginning at 3 p.m.

    Certainly, Thursday will be a day to start celebrating the berth of a the Fever's 10th season. Certainly, for Fever fans, there will be lots of ways to interact and start prepping for the beginning of training camp (May 17), a home preseason game (May 28) and the first home game on June 7.


    KM


    March 20, 2009

    The WNBA Draft is now just three weeks away and it's time to take a look at the Fever roster and some of its draft needs. Since the close of last season, three players have been waived and one former WNBA MVP has been signed. A current roster of 12 players will expand with the draft, and be whittled to 11 active players for the regular season.

    I have written about Fever draft needs previously, and thoughts are pretty universal whether you speak with Lin Dunn or Kelly Krauskopf -- or probably half of our season ticket holders! In fact, Indiana's greatest need in the 2009 Draft is pretty much the same with which it entered the 2008 Draft. Indiana did not own a first-round pick last year, though, so while selecting Khadijah Whittington in the second round as the best available player, KD didn't necessarily address that need.

    That need is to find a point guard for the future. Of course there are other needs, too ... a shooter, a big body rebounder and some speed. Yes, all are needs, but none as great as the point guard. Again, while addressing this issue, I will state that the need is not a reflection of a poor current point guard - Tully Bevilaqua. It is, however, a reflection of a 36-year old point guard who has never been regarded as an offensive threat. When other teams defend the Fever, it's often obvious that they sag off of Tully and dare her to beat them with her shot. At times, she has. Eventually, though, Indiana will be better served by having five offensive threats for teams to respect and defend.

    If Indiana indeed chooses a point guard in the draft, the next question is how many PGs will the club carry on its roster. Bevilaqua is a lock, whether as the starter or a key reserve. If a college player is a first-round pick, she is a lock, also. That leaves Sherill Baker and Doneeka Lewis both battling for reserve duties. Baker was an outstanding reserve early in 2008, before she was injured. Lewis finished the season with those minutes. Most likely, one of them would not make the final roster.

    So, where will the Fever look with its opening selection? Who will be available with the No. 6 pick in the first round? If a future All-Star forward or center is looming at No. 6, does the Fever take a point guard or the best available athlete? Lots of questions. For now, I'll throw out some names just to get the juices flowing.

    If the Fever looks for a backcourt scorer, Pittsburgh's Shavonte Zellous could be a pick. She averaged 23.4 points during the regular season with 3.2 assists, and has been regarded among the country's top ten college prospects. Another backcourt scorer is Maryland's Kristi Toliver who posted a 17.8 scoring average with 5.3 assists while leading the ACC champion Terrapins. A third guard prospect is Connecticut's Renee Montgomery. She is regarded more as a playmaker than a scorer, though still averaged 16.4 points and 5.5 assists for the top-ranked and unbeaten Huskies.

    It's reasonable to expect that a top Fever selection could come from among those three prospects. But what if DeWanna Bonner (Auburn), Marissa Coleman (Maryland), Angel McCoughtry (Louisville), Kia Vaughn (Rutgers) or one of the Paris sisters (Courtney and Ashley, Oklahoma) are also available and the Fever chooses to go big with its first-round pick? Here are a few other point guard sleepers that Indiana could take with a second- or third-round pick.

    Kansas State's Shalee Lehning could be a sleeper pick, largely unheralded nationally though boasting near triple-double averages of 11.9 points, 8.2 assists and 7.5 rebounds. Not bad for a 5-9 guard. Another sleeper could be Minnesota's Emily Fox who paced the Gophers with 12.5 points and 4.2 assists. Alexis Gray-Lawson helped pace Cal with 12.9 points and 3.7 assists per game, and Duke's Abby Waner averaged 9.7 points, with 3.8 assists and 2.9 steals per game.

    Kelly Krauskopf and Lin Dunn will continue scouting the country's top players during the NCAA Tournament which begins this weekend. Enjoy the tournament and good luck to all your favorite teams!
    KM


    March 9, 2009

    It is March Madness time and that means that for the 10th straight year, Fever Basketball is just around the corner!

    I spent much of last week preparing for, and working, the Big Ten Conference women's tournament here at Conseco Fieldhouse. And through sheer coincidence, I was fortunate to spend time with three different current and former Fever players - all who may be recognized later this summer as part of the Indiana Fever All-Decade Team.

    I mention the Fever All-Decade Team, and more will be spoken about that later. But essentially, as we embark on our 10th season, the franchise will honor some of its greatest players and key figures through our 10-year history. Like I said, I was fortunate to cross paths with three of them last week. Whether they make the All-Decade Team will be up for debate and voting by Fever fans, but all three will certainly receive serious consideration.

    Tamika Catchings
    Last Tuesday, March 3, I spent the morning with Tamika Catchings who was visiting from Poland for about a week. She was back in Indianapolis for a break and some work with her Catch The Stars Foundation, but while she was here we taped a lengthy interview with her for a 10th Anniversary DVD the Fever is preparing. During the taping of that interview, I was struck once again by the special person that she is. Nevermind her performances and accolades on the court, Tamika is a sharp, engaging woman who is both confident and personable in her approach with people. She has such a life's worth of fantastic experiences to share --- from stories of her hearing disability to stories of being the daughter of a pro basketball player; from stories of her and her sister Tauja as kids, with Tauja usually acting as her spokesperson, to their current-day relationship as adult sisters, both of whom were drafted in the WNBA and how they now manage their foundation; and, of course, her stories of success and overcoming hardship and injury. I was obviously working while helping to put this project together, but I was equally as interested in just listening to her answers, and listening to her stories, for my own personal benefit. I am thankful to work with her, and to be able to share and convey her stories to our fans.

    Stephanie White
    With the Big Ten Tournament in town, the very first "face of the franchise," Stephanie White, was at Conseco Fieldhouse for four straight days while working with the Big Ten Network. Steph is one of the network's studio analysts, and she was courtside with Mike Hall as part of their on-site studio set daily from the women's tournament. She gave pregame, halftime and postgame analysis throughout the 10-game tournament. Steph was one of the original Fever players and, while she was never the club's top scorer, she was certainly one of its top players in the early years ... and definitely its most recognizable player. From her days at Seeger High School and later Purdue, Steph is one of the most recognizable and welcomed women's basketball athletes in our state's history. She is always welcomed warmly, and she of course returns the welcome with a smile and humility. She was a class act with the Fever for five years while the franchise got itself off the ground. Unfortunately for her, she never appeared in a playoff game for the Fever. Her contributions transcended the stat sheet, though, and she is certainly not forgotten in our community. She, too, will draw some serious consideration among the Fever's top 10 all-decade players.

    Tully Bevilaqua
    Another current player that I saw over the weekend has been one of the Fever's team leaders for the past four years, Tully Bevilaqua. She chose not to play professionally in her native country this year, and has been in Indiana training for the 2009 WNBA season for the past few weeks. Remarkably, Tully is beginning her fifth season in Indiana and is one of the franchise leaders in games and playoff games. This from a woman who, when she was signed as a free agent prior to the 2005 season, was thought to be near the end of her career. All she has done in those four Fever seasons is lead Indiana to four straight playoff appearances and become another of the team's most popular players. She always has a smile on her face, and is not only popular with the fans, she is one of the most likeable players among her teammates. Like Stephanie, Tully's greatest contributions aren't always reflected in the box score, but with a WNBA title and an Olympic silver medal around her neck, in addition to four playoff years in Indiana, she can no doubt be branded as a winner.

    No matter who is chosen to the eventual Fever All-Decade Team, no franchise could ask for three better representatives. All have been stars on the court, certainly. Perhaps all three of these women, though, have shone far brighter for their contributions in the community, with our fans, and as representatives of a young, proud and growing Indiana Fever franchise.

    I had the lucky fortune of spending time with all three during one week in March.
    KM


    February 21, 2009

    It's free agent season in the WNBA, and the Fever jumped in head-first again yesterday with the announcement that former league MVP Yolanda Griffith would join the franchise for the 2009 campaign. It was another in a string of annual blockbuster offseason moves by Fever COO and GM Kelly Krauskopf, in a constant attempt to move the Fever into the WNBA Finals and vie for its first crown.

    The Griffith signing reminds me a little bit of the first move I saw Krauskopf make when I first arrived with the Fever, in 2003. As part of the 2003 draft, Krauskopf pulled the trigger on a four-player trade with San Antonio, bringing veteran center Natalie Williams to Indiana. Griffith is now slightly more accomplished than Williams had become, though she is 38 while Williams retired when she was 35. Williams was a bonafide star, a two-sport college star, an all-time rebounding leader, a WNBA and ABL All-Star, an Olympian and one of the most prominent women to lay the pavement for the WNBA stars of today. Natalie retired after three seasons in Indiana, and is likely to be one of many former Fever stars to be celebrated during our 10th anniversary season this summer. Griffith (6-3) is taller and longer than Williams (6-2), and has certainly sustained a longer career. Like Williams, she has perennially been one of the circuit's top rebounders and post defenders. She won the WNBA MVP award in 2005 while leading the Monarchs to a championship.

    [Coincidentally, Griffith and Williams actually were teammates with the ABL Long Beach Stingrays, with Williams winning league MVP honors in 1998 and frontcourt partner Griffith finishing second. They both starred together on the 2000 USA gold-medal-winning Olympic Team which was coached by former Fever mentor Nell Fortner.]

    Griffith and Williams were acquired by the Fever in entirely different circumstances. Williams arrived with the franchise in just its fourth season, still seeking an identity. She and Tamika Catchings were clearly the team's two biggest stars, even while she was on the verge of retirement. Griffith, however, despite being older, joins a Fever franchise that is clearly established as a contender. Indiana has qualified for the playoffs in four straight seasons, including a pair of trips to the Eastern Conference Finals. Williams helped the Fever to the first of those four straight appearances, Griffith hopes to help the Fever into its first Finals appearance.

    It is arguable as to who was necessarily a better player during their prime. But I'll leave that debate for trivia. The point in signing Griffith was to bolster the Fever's interior. When evaluating Fever needs at the close of last season, you could point to four distinct areas - interior depth, toughness, point guard, shooting. The Griffith signing addresses two of those.

    Griffith joins Tammy Sutton-Brown, Ebony Hoffman and Khadijah Whittington in the Fever interior. Likely absent from last season's roster will be Bernadette Ngoyisa, if for no other reason than keeping the extra player will be difficult with a reduction in WNBA rosters to 11 players this year. Griffith, though, easily surpasses Ngoyisa's value for Indiana, just by consistency, stability and toughness. Given her age, certainly there can be risk of injury, but given that she can come off the bench and not be asked to carry the heavy load, she can be a perfect complement. It's my opinion that with well-managed minutes -- and surrounded by the Fever's talent with Tamika Catchings, Katie Douglas, Hoffman and Sutton-Brown -- Griffith's addition will have benefit on both ends of the floor, in addition to training and nurturing the continued growth of Hoffman and Whittington.

    Welcome to Indiana, Yo!
    KM


    February 11, 2009

    Fever Fans - Happy New Year! I know, it's already February, but things are about to start gettin' busy in Fever land so it's time again to renew the blog for another season. A new season - the Fever's 10th - is soon to be upon us! The Fever's 10th anniversary season will be a special one, complete with a 10th anniversary team and year-long celebration to honor a full decade since the franchise was established on June 7, 1999.

    How about that for irony?!? The Fever's home opener in a few months - June 7 vs. Minnesota - will take place exactly 10 years to the day that the WNBA awarded the franchise to this city!

    Stay tuned to FeverBasketball.com for additonal celebrations and chances to become involved in the many activities this anniversary season will provide. Our staff has been hard at work developing our theme nights for the coming year, and our coaching staff is hard at work traveling the country while evaluating college talent, in anticipation of the WNBA Draft on April 9.

    No doubt, a focal point for Kelly Krauskopf and Lin Dunn will be the point guard position. Tully Bevilaqua returns for what should be at least one more season in a Fever uniform, but who will be her backup? Who might take over a starting role? How many point guards will the Fever carry in 2009? Last season, besides Tully and again during her absence prior to the Olympics, there was a lot of change at the point guard position. Sherill Baker was a bright spot early in the season, but then she was lost to injury. She seems to be playing well in Israel, but will she be the answer? Will the Fever have the chance to draft a quality, impact-making point guard with the sixth pick in the upcoming draft? Or will Krauskopf have success in luring a free agent point guard?

    All are valid questions and, as the free agency period progresses and we approach the college draft, I'm sure we will learn more very soon.
    KM




    October 2, 2008

    Ten days have passed since the Debacle in Detroit. Enough time has passed for Fever players and coaches to review the 2008 season and put it behind them. By this time, players have begun moving onward toward their winter destinations. And the Fever front office has begun moving foward toward the season-long celebration of its 10th Anniversary in 2009.

    Indiana fell short of its goals this summer. OK, if you are reading this blog - you know that already. In the interest of moving forward, the pertinent question isn't necessarily how or why did the Fever fall short in 2008, but how do we move forward and tackle that goal of a championship for 2009?

    I can throw out a myriad of reasons or excuses for why we fell short of our competitive goals in '08. It was a weird season wrapped with injuries, the Olympics, lots of player movement and the constant gradual blending of a franchise player. I have been a part of the Indiana franchise for six of its nine seasons. Never during my tenure have I encountered as many ups and downs on the active roster or injury list as the Fever had this summer. Many teams have similar situations, of course. So it's not an excuse. I'll just call it weird.

    Let's just look at where Indiana can improve and return to 20-plus wins per season.

  • Point Guard
    The Fever needs to shore up its point guard rotation. Tully Bevilaqua is a gem of a defender; a gem of a team captain; a gem of a person and a gem of a competitor. What Tully Bevilaqua is not, however, is a slick moving, driving perimeter player who can break down a defense, get to the rim, or provide much of a scoring threat offensively. Tully is 36 years old and admittedly a year or two from retirement, if not sooner. She would make a sensational backup just as she was with Seattle's championship team of 2004. Can the Fever win games with Tully at the point? Certainly. But Indiana needs a long-term answer at the position which can give the Fever a fifth offensive threat and who can more ably drive and kick the ball to Catchings and Douglas on the wins.

    A quality point guard not only adds a fifth component to a Fever offense, it also makes Catchings and Douglas - both - better. Immediately.

    I've been asked often this year, "Why isn't Katie scoring like she used to?" Or, "how can Tamika be so good in the Olympics, but struggle so much when she returns to the Fever?" Very simply, Katie and Tamika are in an absolutely different lineup from which those comparisons come. Katie had a very dynamic point guard when she played at Connecticut (Lindsay Whalen). And in the Olympics, Tamika was not ever the top offensive option, plus many of her points were scored off steals, or in transition, against inferior opponents.

    An improvement at point guard improves three positions for Indiana. Beyond that, it even relieves some of the pressure off interior players like Ebony Hoffman or Tammy Sutton-Brown.

    How does that improvement take place? One possibility is on our own roster in Sherill Baker, although her bruised wrist this season became such a nagging concern I'm not sure Fever coaches know what to anticipate from her. She was a great addition early in the summer. But then she more or less disappeared with the freak injury. Beyond Baker, I think that the Fever's best options will be to obtain a quality point guard in a trade, the upcoming draft or possibly free agency.

    I know that point guard was a primary goal in last year's draft, but by the time we reached the No. 26 pick, the best guards had been nabbed and Indiana chose the best available athlete in Khadijah Whittington. Whittington can be a solid WNBA forward, but we endured a full season without the point guard questions being answered and it was evident.

  • Years 2-3 After the Douglas Trade
    There will be those who read this and think, "I thought you said you weren't going to make excuses!," but this is something I said before the year began. In my humble opinion, the Katie Douglas trade made the Fever a more healthy franchise, but probably moreso for the long-term, rather than the short-term. The reasons were two-fold and I stand by them today:

    First, blending strong personalities doesn't happen overnight, and with Catchings nursing her injury and being in and out of the lineup half the season, the chemistry between Katie and Tamika never had a chance to really develop properly. From May through September, between injuries and absences to both, I would venture to guess, honestly, that the pair did not really practice hard together more than a couple dozen times - if that. One of them was constantly absent or on the mend. It would not have been uncommon for that chemistry to develop over a full season under ordinary circumstances.

    Second, remember that 2008's WNBA Draft was by far the deepest and most talented ever. Essentially, every team in the WNBA got appreciably better. Every team effectively drafted a new starter, for free, in the form of a rookie contract, and with no loss of other talent. But not Indiana. The cost of the trade, along with Tamika Whitmore, was the No. 9 overall draft pick. While every other team got to "add a starter," Indiana lost that luxury. We made ourselves more healthy for the future, but not necessarily for 2008.

    The fruits of the Katie Douglas Trade will be realized to a greater extent in her second and third years with the Fever.

  • Normalcy and Stability
    While attempting to find a good fit at point guard last season, and while trying to make other pieces fit properly, Indiana took on a great number of new players. The cost was continuity. Besides a brand new coaching staff, added were five players who did not play in 2007, or who were waived from other camps - Baker, Bond, Feaster, Lewis, Ngoyisa. Each was a capable player, but not only adapting to a new city but to a new staff and new teammates.

    That continuity needs to be regained on the court. This franchise has been a solid, consistent contributor in the WNBA in terms of being innovative, drawing fans and local interest, and in growing the WNBA product. In my six years with the franchise, that continuity has been a steady factor in our franchise's success. In 2008 however, it was continuity on the court, not off, that took a bit of a hit.

    Continuity and stability have served this franchise well, helping drive the mission statement of the Indiana Fever: to win championships and serve our community. The Fever has continued to be a valued source of entertainment in our great city, and always has taken pride in providing opportunities and role models for our youth and women and families. The mission of a championship continues, despite a stumble this past summer.

    There are many who were disappointed with the summer of '08, which was preceded by three consecutive 21-13 seasons. If 2008 was a temporary setback, the important reality is that the mission remains unchanged. With a 10th Anniversary season ahead for 2009, Fever fans can once again expect every effort toward achieving that championship goal.

    For now, I'll return to my role in staffing the WNBA Finals from San Antonio ... once again hoping to be writing about the Fever from these Finals in years to come.
    KM


    September 23, 2008 (10:05 p.m.)

    So much for pregame optimism.

    Wow. What an epic blowout of a final game that was. Tonight's loss was so bad that the 80-61 final score was semi-respectable compared to the beating that took place in the first half.

    Indiana trailed by as many as 31 before taking a 49-19 deficit into intermission. The Shock shot 54 percent to the Fever's 28 percent. The disparity was 67 to 20 percent in the first quarter with Detroit leading 30-7.

    A whopping 15 turnovers by halftime didn't help matters.

    I'll write more later, but in short, I'll say this -- the 3-game playoff series pretty much summed up the entire Fever season -- you just never knew which team was going to show up.

    Fittingly, the Fever entered the playoffs on a two-game win streak, it's longest of the summer. Then it lost one; then won a thriller; then lost in a rout.

    More to come after tomorrow morning's 6 a.m. return to Indy.
    KM


    September 23, 2008 (6:30 p.m.)

    We are 30 minutes from tipoff at The Palace, and from what I can tell of the Fever during tonight's bus ride to the arena and limited activity since that arrival -- I think the players are ready. I'll describe the atmosphere as a quiet, relaxed confidence.

    But what do I know? And so often it's difficult to tell, so maybe that's just my wishful thinking.

    The Fever's chances of winning this thing tonight and advancing to the conference finals are infinitely higher than from the time we boarded our play from Indianapolis on Saturday morning. But only the first half of the job is finished. Sunday's win cleared a giant obstacle and did more than just even the series -- it changed the Fever mentality.

    In order to win again this evening, Indiana must play exactly as it did two days ago, and that means putting out one of its best performances again.

    But while knocking off the Shock on Sunday, confidence is certainly raised, as if to say, "Hey, we can beat these guys!" Of course the Fever knew they could, but in sports, so much is mental. Every game is played with a certain mindset. And for the Fever to possibly question that reality going into Games 2 and 3, it would have been understandable, having lost six straight to the Shock dating to last season -- and often without games being close.

    So, with that proverbial monkey off their backs and a win under their belts, the Fever feels a bit more energized. They can play with no less passion and intensity as they did on Sunday. And the keys to the game are the same -- Sutton-Brown and Hoffman must compete in the post; the Fever bench must contribute; and Indiana must find ways to contain Deanna Nolan and Katie Smith.

    There also is the consideration that Plenette Pierson won't play this evening. That could alter the Shock's post rotation, but they're so deep that no matter who steps into her minutes, Indiana probably won't play any differently. With or without Pierson in Detroit's lineup, I expect the same knock-down, dragout intensity -- all the way to the finish.

    If the Fever performs and meets those keys to the game, Indiana may well advance and host the New York Liberty on Thursday night at Conseco Fieldhouse. If Nolan or Smith catch fire, or if Sutton-Brown and Hoffman don't achieve success again, the Fever's season could end on this floor for the second straight season.

    Tune in to 1070 The Fan for Chris Denari and Jane Schott, or catch the action on ESPN2. And after a potential victory, be sure to log on to FeverBasketball.com and get those tickets for Thursday night's game at The Fieldhouse!
    KM


    September 22, 2008 (8:30 p.m.)

    Neither publically, nor privately, do my opinions count on these types of things. So when it comes to the altercation between Ebony Hoffman and Plenette Pierson in Sunday's game at The Palace, I'll try to shed a little more light on the topic without overstepping my bounds. [Does that sound like a politically correct PR guy, or what?]

    The result of a league review today is that Ebony Hoffman's technical foul was upgraded to a type 2 flagrant foul. There are two types, 1 and 2, with 2 being the most severe. The league's flagrant foul system operates as a point system. When you reach a certain point level, suspensions follow. Hoffman has never previously received a flagrant foul through her five years in the WNBA, nor has she ever been a part of any such physical altercations. Fever fans can rest easy in knowing there is no suspension from today's decisions. She will play in Tuesday night's deciding Game 3.

    With 4:26 remaining in the fourth quarter on Sunday, I was looking down at my playoff media guide, trying to decipher a possible free throws record in the making. The Fever and Shock were in the midst of 43 consecutive free throws. Neither team had missed. My brilliant statistician's mind told me that there were records falling somewhere, so what I missed was the falling of Plenette Pierson.

    I looked up and saw Pierson writhing on the floor, in the middle of the lane, on the far end of the court from me, in front of the Shock bench. Immediately, I switched my stats monitor to the ESPN2 telecast, and shared replays of the prior play with Fever broadcaster Chris Denari. We saw perhaps four different looks at the play -- the same ones that you saw in the comfort of your living rooms. So, let me tell you, you saw the same as I did! Shortly after I returned to watching the floor, double technical fouls were assessed to each player.

    OK, the issues are that Pierson was injured and that the altercation moved beyond that of playing basketball. It wasn't a fight, but was certainly a rougher-than-tolerated action and/or a retaliation of some sort. Who initiated the "hooking of elbows" behind the players' backs? I'm uncertain. Who is at fault for what took place? That can be debated forever.

    Nevermind reputations and prior history, I do know Ebony Hoffman. I've often called our Fever players "too nice," in fact. There is not a sliver of doubt in my mind that Ebony Hoffman did not initiate any sort of malicious play. But I can also tell you that the Fever's frame of mind in this series is to battle and scrap and not get beaten physically as has often has been the case against the Shock. So, that a skirmish such as this ensued is not that great a surprise.

    From that standpoint, then, the league office was called upon as a neutral mediator. The play has been reviewed over and over, and from all available angles. I don't know any of the rationale in the eventual decision, though it makes sense to me that the injury to Pierson could have impacted a final determination. It's unfortunate that these things happen ... but this is the elite level of competion and the athletes are playing for every advantage and every edge they can get, and when the intensity and emotions rise to the level we witnessed on Sunday afternoon, injuries occur. [Suddenly my mind flashes back to this same court, at roughly the same section of hardwood, where Tamika Catchings crumpled in last year's series with the Shock.]

    Ebony will play on Tuesday. Pierson's status is doubtful at best - probably out, from what we have heard from the Shock camp today. Detroit will certainly be impacted by her loss if that is the case, but the Shock has the deepest roster of bigs in the WNBA, so they won't be lacking comparable replacements. It just means that Braxton, McWilliams-Franklin, Sanni and Schumacher will have to pick up a little of Pierson's slack. And you can be assured that Bill Laimbeer and his staff will have the Shock steaming with motivation.

    Be sure to tune in to ESPN2 at 7 p.m., Tuesday. And if the Fever can pull off another win, be sure to log on to FeverBasketball.com right afterward to get your tickets for the conference finals! [Game 1 of that series would be Thursday already ... but let's not get ahead of ourselves!]
    KM


    September 22, 2008 (12:35 p.m.)

    Be sure to plant yourselves in front of your television on Tuesday night! Set your TVs for ESPN2 at 7 p.m., for a decisive Game 3 of the mini-drama known as Fever vs. Shock. Detroit won three straight regular season matchups and put the Fever's backs to a wall for Game 2, but Indiana has answered the challenged and forced a winner-takes-all final game on Tuesday.

    Sunday's game at The Palace was another in a recent series of playoff classics for the Indiana Fever. It was Indiana's fifth overtime session out of eight playoff games the past two seasons, and it was a physical, bruising, hotly-contested battle from start to finish.

    The Fever actually trailed just twice in the entire 45 minutes -- 69-68 with 1:09 remaining in the fourth quarter, and 77-75 after the first bucket of overtime. The Fever never led by more than nine points, and fought off six ties, all during the fourth quarter and overtime. The game had brilliant plays and gutsy performances. It had a classic buzzer-beater to send the game to overtime, and it had emotion, intensity and even some controversy. It was just what ESPN had ordered for its Sunday afternoon national TV audience.

    Tuesday, there should be more of the same. No doubt, the Shock will be motivated to protect its home floor. And once again, the cards will be stacked against the Fever with Detroit trying to make the most of its homecourt advantage. But perhaps of equal value may be the warrior mentality displayed yesterday by Tamika Catchings. The Fever's "do-everything" All-Star forward and Olympian did her mortal best to assure the Fever would not let go of its lead on Sunday. She finished with 27 points and 10 rebounds, and made 14 of 15 rebounds.

    During one 6 1/2 minute stretch in which the Fever failed to score a field goal, it was six straight Catchings free throws that staved off a Shock rally, allowing Detroit within 1, 59-58, before Tully Bevilaqua hit the first of her two 3-point daggers with 5:27 to play in regulation. Her second iced the contest, staking Indiana to a two-possession lead, 85-79, with 53 seconds to go in OT.

    It was a team effort for the Fever:

  • Catchings had a double-double, but so did Ebony Hoffman (15 points, 12 boards) for just the third double-double duo in Fever playoff history.
  • In the locker room after the game, Catchings made the point to single out Tammy Sutton-Brown (19 points, five boards, 13 of 14 FTs) for her performance in the post as a key factor in the team's win. Tamika and Tammy combined to hit 27 of a franchise playoff-record 34 free throws.
  • In a season which the Fever ranked ninth in the WNBA with an average of over 17 turnovers per game, Indiana took better care of the ball Sunday, turning it over just 16 times in the fiercest of circumstances.
  • The Fever defense clamped down on the Shock's shooters, limiting Detroit to 38 percent shooting (down from 52 percent in Game 1).
  • Seldom-used Doneeka Lewis and Kristen Mann both came off the bench to hit 3-pointers and score five points apiece.
  • Six different players contributed to a franchise playoff-record 11 3-pointers.

    It was a classic contest. But it was but a win -- a big win certainly, but it only counts as one. The Shock and Fever will fight again Tuesday, for the deciding win.
    KM


    September 20, 2008

    Needless to say, if the Fever is going to win this conference semifinal series against Detroit, it's going to have to play tough-minded, hard-nose basketball and perform at its best of the season over two straight games at The Palace.

    It's Saturday morning and I'm sitting at baggage claim at Wayne County (Detroit) International Airport. [More on that later ...] With a little time on my hands, we need to take a look back at the week that was, before looking at last night's game and the hopeful two that follow.

    How 'bout the week of awards for Fever players? Four of the Fever's five starters were showered with league honors this week - beginning with Tammy Sutton-Brown's player of the week honor and including Friday's trio of awards -- Most Improved Player of the Year for Ebony Hoffman, and first team All-Defense for Tully Bevilaqua and Tamika Catchings. Not a bad week for hardware.

    Congrats to each of those four, and particularly to Ebony for her year-long assault that culminated in her recognition last night by WNBA President Donna Orender. It was very touching press conference for a young lady that earned every word of praise she has received. You can watch the press conference video here.

    More importantly, though, was the game that followed the accolades last night. And what I think Fever fans witnessed was perhaps the best team in the WNBA. I know, it pains me to say it like that, but let's face it, this Shock team is not only talented, but it's deep, experienced, tough, physical --- and seemingly focused and motivated. The Fever did not play its greatest game, no doubt. And of course there were the intermittent struggles on offense, which we've seen time and again, especially against Detroit. But the Fever did not seem to fold or wilt to Detroit's lead or pressure. Indiana did mount numerous runs to cut into the 8-12 point leads, but every run by the Fever was matched by the Shock. To me, regardless of Detroit's talent or experience or swagger, that resiliency and consistency and refusal to allow Indiana back into the game -- that was what impressed me most.

    So, while I can look at what Indiana may have failed to do in last night's game; and imagine scenarios in which the Fever can knot the series and advance -- I have to give credit and recognize once again that: (a) we just don't matchup well with the Shock, and (b) the Shock is pretty darn good. (I know, that hurt again.)

    I mentioned that I'm sitting here at baggage claim. I've written many blogs from airports before because it seems that's where I often have the most available time to sit and write these really philosophical, mind-wrenching pieces of prose. (Did you just laugh at that, also?) OK, but I've never done this from baggage claim before. Let's face it ... if I'm at baggage claim, I'm picking up luggage, moving on to a bus or a cab, and the laptop usually stays in the bag!

    Not today. Not for me, not for trainers Ruth Helland and Holly Heitzman. And not for operations manager Ashley Floyd. Together we sit. And wait. And read or blog or talk on the phone or text. We were dispatched early this morning to fly in advance of the team. When travel arrangements were made on short notice for the playoffs, the team's flight only had so many seats ... so you can tell who drew the short straw!

    Our 8 a.m. flight arrived shortly after nine, and we're sitting here patiently at baggage claim awaiting the team's arrival at 11:24 arrival. Then we'll ride a bus for an hour, check in to our hotel, then venture to a local college for a short walk-through and practice. And so while we wait and pass the time, I'm adding a little website content for those loyal Fever fans that just can't get enough!

    Obviously, the Fever's task at hand is very ominous. Not insurmountable, certainly, but a tall task, indeed. We'll return to Indy either on Sunday evening, or on Wednesday morning. My preference is going to be Wednesday morning, with a one-day turnaround for a home game in the conference finals the very next day at Conseco Fieldhouse.

    Stay tuned, Fever fans ... tipoff tomorrow afternoon is 3 p.m., on ESPN2.
    KM


    September 17, 2008

    It's Playoff Time!!!

    Needless to say, while I haven't blogged in a few days, it is not for a lack of being busy! Quite the contrary --- and that's a good thing, right?

    With the close of every regular season, PR departments always are preparing for playoffs just a few short days away. And in those few short days there are playoff media guides to produce while at the same time trying to stir up a little playoff publicity. So ... with a handle on both those items, let's focus on the Fever and the playoffs at hand!

    First, congratulations to Tammy Sutton-Brown, named on Monday as the Eastern Conference Player of the Week. For TSB, it is her first such honor as she now competes in her eighth WNBA season. It was fitting that a Fever player won the award, as Katie Douglas began the season with the league's honor in Week 1. Ironically, it is the first year that Tamika Catchings hasn't won a player of the week honor. It's also the first time in franchise history that any player besides Tamika has won the award!

    As we look to the Shock on Friday, the Fever is feeling pretty good. There is a definite "air" around the team this week that is sparking a little excitement. For the first time ever, Lin Dunn has had her entire team intact and healthy for more than two weeks. And while our mini-win streak (two games) is not leaping off the sports pages, Indiana has quietly put together a nice little run following the Olympic Break. Indiana has won five of its last seven games since falling miserably to Connecticut on Aug. 28, and the Fever closed the regular season with wins in three of its last five.

    As the No. 4 seed, expectations are admittedly low. Especially when you consider the Fever was swept by its first-round opponent, Detroit, during the regular season. So ... [drum roll, please] ... here are two reasons why the Fever will win this series:

    1. The Fever faced a first-round opponent in last year's playoffs that had also swept Indiana during the regular season. Indiana faced Connecticut after losing four times, but won an epic series with four overtime sessions and the biggest comeback in WNBA Playoffs history.

    2. Only once has a No. 4 seed ever advanced to the WNBA Finals, that being the 2001 Charlotte Sting which defeated Cleveland and New York on the way to meeting the L.A. Sparks for the title. So, what's that got to do with Indiana? The Fever's Allison Feaster and the aforementioned Sutton-Brown both were players on that team. It's in the cards, folks, I can feel it.

    Game 1 of the best-of-three series is Friday night. Wear your red and let's light up the Fieldhouse. No, I don't expect 103 points again, like the Fever scored against Phoenix last Sunday. In fact, it will probably be a relatively low-scoring game, given that we're playing the rough-and-tumble Shock. Just like last year in the conference finals ... if Indiana can get the first one, the Fever needs only to steal 1 of 2 at the Palace to advance.

    Get your game face on, Fever fans ... the Fever is ready ... are you?
    KM


    September 11, 2008 (10:20 p.m.)

    "Now" began tonight and thankfully for the Fever, Indiana coasted to a 74-59 win over the Liberty. I know we started with a 12-0 lead out of the gate. Indiana led 20-10 at the quarter and 38-27 at the intermission. The scores were about all that I saw.

    There was alot of activity surrounding Thursday night's game and perhaps the biggest plus for the Fever, besides of course its 16th victory, was the welcome extended to Indianapolis Metro Police Officer Jason Fishburn. Wounded in a July 10 shooting, Fishburn had spent the bulk of the last two months in an Indianapolis rehabilitation hospital. This morning, he was released for the first time. He wanted to go home.

    On September 11th, seven years after terrorism struck the heart of our great nation, it was a fitting tribute for the Fever to be able to honor one of our local law enforcement heroes. Fishburn was relesed this morning and tonight was his first public appearance. My lasting memory of tonight's game was at halftime, when Fishburn's parents accepted an award in his name, on the court, with Jason standing in a lower level suite and steadied by his wife Tanya -- with the crowd rising to its feet in unison. From the moment the crowd discovered where in the arena he was located, a steady and prolonged applause echoed from the over 7,000 hearts of fans in attendance, to the 29-year old officer -- standing and soaking in the atmosphere.

    Fishburn still is slowed in his ability to process information and react to outside stimulus. He has difficulty moving his right arm, and he is guided through virtually all activity with the care of fellow officers, his wife, and his parents, Dennis and Mary. But he lives and breathes and has retained his will and his mind. And with the prayers surrounding him and his recovery, he has advanced enough through two months to venture back out into the outside world.

    Tonight, there was a Fever victory, and a very welcomed one. The night at Conseco Fieldhouse, though, will be remembered for the Fever's 9/11 tribute and for bringing a smile and an evening of enjoyment and happiness to a local hero.

    Congratulations to Jason Fishburn, your time is now.
    KM


    September 10, 2008 (12:15 a.m. CT)

    The Fever played back-to-back on Tuesday night. They played without Katie Douglas. They've already clinched a playoff spot. Following a game Monday night, a 5:30 a.m. wake-up call and a 6:30 bus, the Fever did not arrive to its Minneapolis hotel until about noon CT.

    There are your excuses. Here is Lin Dunn's appropriate postgame response, following an 86-76 defeat in which Minnesota led 21-9 after the first quarter, and by as many as 19 points:

    "I'm very disapointed in our effort. We looked like we played the night before - and we did - but we took the night off. We didn't play tough. It's inexcusable. The lack of a player [Katie Douglas] does not affect effort."

    The time is still "now" for the Fever, as I noted in my pregame blog. But time continues dwindling - especially with Detroit having overtaken Connecticut for the East's top seed tonight and making a Fever-Shock opening series a very real possibility.

    Turning attention away from basketball a moment, I think that Thursday's events surrounding the game with the Liberty are very worthwhile.

    First, the Fever will conduct its annual promotional night in which fans can come to the arena and actually adopt a dog or cat. Pet Rescue and Adoption Night presented by Pet Supplies Plus gives fans the opportunity to check out the dogs and cats and even leave Conseco Fieldhouse with a new pet for their home. It's a neat idea that was fostered originally by former Fever coach Nell Fortner. The cause was championed for the first time in 2003, and it has become a very successful annual event. Dogs and cats from Indianapolis Animal Care and Control will be on the Main Concourse from the time doors open Thursday night at 6 p.m.

    Second, in what is really a very timely event for a game taking place on 9/11 against the New York Liberty, the Fever will honor a local hero - Indianapolis Metro Police Officer Jason Fishburn. Fishburn, 29, was wounded in a July shooting in the line of duty, and has been in rehabilitation ever since. He has rarely appeared in public, if at all, since the time of the shooting. Thursday night, he will be honored at halftime, and a portion of ticket proceeds will benefit the Jason Fishburn Fund.

    Sunday, of course if the team's annual Fan Appreciation Game when the Fever hosts defending champ Phoenix at 12:30 p.m.

    There are a lot of exciting things happening around the Fever franchise right now. And if our team can regain a little bit of consistency, we still have a chance for an exciting playoff run like in 2005 and 2007 when Indiana reached the Eastern Conference Finals.

    Here is a final thought, looking ahead to next week's playoffs and a possible matchup with the Shock --- Remember last year's run to the conference finals? It began with the most exciting series in Fever and maybe even WNBA Playoff history. Two Fever wins over Connecticut came with four overtime periods and the biggest comeback win in league playoff history. Indiana won the series after having been swept by the Sun during the regular season.

    Do you see the theme here? Yes, just because the Shock has swept the Fever in the 2008 regular season, let's not forget that the slate is clear when the playoffs begin!
    KM


    September 9, 2008 (6:35 p.m. CT)

    I am writing the blog that NOBODY wants to read. Tamika Catchings and Katie Douglas both are injured.

    OK, that's why I'm writing this ... to clarify that last comment. The truth is, yes, both have injuries to report and Douglas will not play against the Lynx tonight, but let me assure you -- neither are serious and Douglas' absence tonight is purely precautionary.

    Catchings will play tonight with a torn tendon in her left ring finger. She jammed the finger late during last night's game in Atlanta. If you heard the radio broadcast, you would have heard Chris Denari talking about Tamika leaving the free throw lane at one point during the fourth quarter, frantically looking for Fever trainers to tape her fingers together. After the game, doctors determined that a tiny tendon had been torn. She will wear a splint on that finger for the rest of the season. Fortunately, it is not her shooting hand and there is no reason that it will keep her from playing.

    Katie's injury dates to the Fever's July 27 win at Phoenix. Late in that game, she hurt her right knee, but due to the Olympic Break and time away from team and trainers, the injury was not realized until the first week of August. Throughout the Olympic Break, she practiced with the club, all the while being treated and kept from consecutive days of strenuous work. The Fever has maintained a similar caution as play as resumed following the Olympics, but the first time we have played on consecutive days is Monday and Tuesday of this week. Officially, the injury is diagnosed as patella femoral syndrome. Essentially, she experiences pain beneath her kneecap and is being rested tonight.

    So there's your injury recap from Target Center tonight. We're in playoff mode now ... the regular season is counting down and all that the Fever is awaiting is to learn its first-round opponent, and on which day its first playoff series will begin. The final three games - tonight, Thursday and Sunday - are hardly throwaways, though. They are, in fact, the perfect opportunity for the Fever to engage, improve, gel and become playoff-ready.
    KM


    September 9, 2008 (3:00 p.m. CT)

    Last night was a narrow victory for the Fever, yet a needed one. They all are needed as we march to the close of the regular season.

    But last night's win, while a good one and while needed, never gave the feeling of security. In fact, from start to finish, Indiana could never shake the pesky Dream which was hoping for a win in its final home game. In fact, there were numerous times when it appeared that the Indiana lead might be lost, never again to be regained. It was just a hunch and I'll take the win instead -- but the point is that the Fever never really had any secure control over the league's worst team.

    In fact, Chris Denari and I spoke of mismatch difficulties with the Dream a little bit like those with Detroit. The Dream's last win -- July 16 prior to Atlanta's 10 straight losses -- was at Conseco Fieldhouse. And twice since that July afternoon, the Dream has threatened the Fever down to the final possession. So, perhaps there is something to be said for the possible matchup with Atlanta -- but perhaps, also, there is something else to be said.

    1 | 1 | 2 | 1 | 1 | 1 | 1 | 1 | 1 | 2 | 1 | 2 | 2 | 1 | 1 | 2 | 1 | 3 | 1 | 1 | 2 | 1 | 1

    That sequence is the Fever's sequence of winning streaks and losing streaks. Through 31 games, Indiana has never won or lost more than three straight games. And in most cases, Fever wins and losses have alternated almost game-to-game since May.

    The Fever has certainly had its share of ups and downs during the 2008 campai