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THE WEATHER REPORT
Posted by Rob Peterson on Oct. 7 2004 7:15 p.m. ET
"WE THINK A HIGH-PRESSURE SYSTEM WILL MOVE IN OVER CONNECTICUT ..."
While last year's WNBA Finals between the Detroit Shock and Los Angeles Sparks was one of the more physical basketball series I had seen, ever, on any level, men or women, we expect this year's WNBA Finals with the Sun and the Storm, which tips off on Friday (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2) to get geophysical.
Calling Al Roker.
I figured we'd get the weather report clichés out of Click and Roll right away. With the Sun shining and the Storm clouds gathering, we're warning you, here are some of the headlines you may see in the media in the next couple days:
-- Sun Break Through the Storm
-- The Perfect Storm
-- The Sun Don't Shine in Game X
-- It's Stormy Weather, As Seattle Drops Game X
Yada, yada, yada. These headlines write themselves.
(Of course, the best headline originated from the boys at the WNBA.com news desk -- WNBA Finals: Rain or Shine. Nice work!)
Fortunately for us, the women will make history as well as headlines. We only need to see which team writes that history, because after all, it's written by the winners.
Early consensus is there is no true consensus. The teams split their two games with each team winning at home. That would give the slight edge to Seattle, who has home-court advantage in the Finals.
But when you talk about the comforts of home, check out how the Sun live. Ah, the perks of the job, because, you know, every little bit of swag helps you get to the WNBA Finals.
-- Hartford Courant
It also helps if you have a teammate like Taj McWilliams-Franklin who can cook up a storm. (Whoops!)
-- Waterbury Republican-American
On the court, McWilliams-Franklin must also hold her own in the post against Lauren Jackson if the Sun want to shine in this series. (I promise, last pun.)
Jackson's, a basketball hero in Australia, has caught the eye of the press Down Under.
Meanwhile, Sue Bird returns "home" or more specifically, to the place where she first made her name. Also, something tells me the lead sentence in the article above won't replace "Houston, we have a problem," in the American lexicon soon.
-- Seattle Times
Also, Bird can complete her personal basketball superfecta if the Storm win the WNBA title.
-- Seattle P-I
(Speaking of bad headlines, check out this one from a Connecticut paper: Bird nose success: Ex-UConn star leads Storm into title clash with Sun. Yes, they're playing on the fact that Bird broke her nose. No, I won't link to it.)
As far as Bird's surgically repaired nose is concerned, "it feels good," she said before practice Thursday. Bird, who wears a protective mask, addressed the media with a bandage covering the stitches and two faint black marks underlining each eye.
One reporter brought up a scenario where it was Game 3 and Bird was driving the lane for the game-winning bucket, would former UConn teammate and current Sun forward Asjha Jones pop her in the schnozz?
"No, I don't think so," Bird said, laughing. "Hopefully, it doesn't come down to that, right?"
Bird says she has no problem wearing the mask during games. Another reporter pointed out that another UConn alum -- Richard "Rip" Hamilton -- won a title with the Pistons while wearing a mask.
"I'm calling myself the next Rip Hamilton," Bird said.
UCONN DO IT!
One particularly interested observer of this Finals will be University of Connecticut women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma, who will see three Huskies alumni -- Bird for Seattle, and Nykesha Sales and Asjha Jones for the Sun -- playing. Last year, UConn alum Swin Cash won a WNBA title with the Shock.
"It's really a tremendous thrill for me," Auriemma said, "to see that they're having the kind of success that they're having. And that they've brought that sense of passion and commitment to winning, to where they're playing right now.
"Someone like Nykesha has waited a long time to be in this situation. You know, Swin, two years in and she wins. I think some of them think it's easy, but I think all of them appreciate the time and effort you need to put into it."
As far as rooting interests, Auriemma, here as a studio analyst with ESPN, says he has a dream scenario instead of a preference.
"I wouldn't mind a three-game series," Auriemma said, "with the third game going to five or six overtimes and one of them makes a three with a hand in her face to win it.
"That'd be nice."
THEY'VE GOT SOL (AND THEY'RE SUPER BAD!)
For three years, Debbie Black started every game at point guard for the Miami Sol (Sun in Spanish, to maintain up the atmospheric theme). Sheri Sam started all but five games on that same team. Now, the former teammates, who led Miami to the 2001 playoffs, square off as opponents in the Finals.
Sam still earns starter's minutes for the Storm, while the 38-year-old Black serves as a capable backup in the Sun backcourt.
"She actually text messaged me yesterday," Black said. "'Congratulations, we finally made the Finals. Too bad it was with different teams.
"When we were in Miami, that was our goal. I'm really happy for her. I wish her the best. She's the kind of person where if I couldn't win it, it would be nice for her to win it."
That's not to say Black will tone down her trademark intensity when she enters the game.
"When you get out on the court, you don't care who you're playing, you just want to win it," Black said.
For Sam, the feeling is mutual.
"It will be bittersweet," Sam said, "because in Miami, it felt like we could have got here to the Finals. It's unfortunate what happened to that team.
Just to be back here now, on opposite teams in the Finals going for the championship it's sweet that we made it, but it's just a little bitter that one of us will get a ring and one of us won't."
As far as making the WNBA Finals for the first time, no one on either team has played for the WNBA's ultimate prize. Sam says it feels great to be here, but she wants to know something else.
"I just want to know what it's feels like to win it," Sam said. "Getting here is something every player strives for and to make it here is an accomplishment, but it isn't finished.
"Getting here is not enough."
Since getting his start as a scout with the Lakers in 1978, Sun coach Mike Thibault has been the pro game for more than a quarter century. For the past two years, he's been coach of the Sun and led them to the playoffs both seasons.
"It feels great," Thibault said of making the Finals. "These players are the best in the business. It feels no different to me than when I was in the NBA trying to win a championship.
"I always tell people the game is the game."
And while Thibault noted that there was a difference between the two leagues in terms of size and athleticism, he also noted that there is a more discernable cohesiveness in the WNBA.
"I think the players in the women's game have a far better sense of community, family, that kind of bond that men's teams do," Thibault said. "I'm not saying that's better, it's just different.
"But, the sense that they like being a part of the group, that they like that camaraderie is a good thing."