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It's time for the WNBA preseason. And I know what you're thinking. "Oh, it's just a bunch of exhibition games with young or rookie players who will be nowhere near a roster when the regular season comes."
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Yes, the 2007 WNBA preseason will be a chance for teams to gel after their training camps and a time for some rookies and current fringe players to try to earn a spot on a pro roster, but there's considerably more intrigue to it than that.
First, the preseason is our initial chance to see big-time players with their new teams after their offseason moves. How will Becky Hammon and Ruth Riley mesh with their new teammates in San Antonio? What will Taj McWilliams-Franklin look like in the purple and gold of the Sparks? And can Shannon "Pee Wee" Johnson help lead the Shock to a repeat title in the Motor City? We'll get our first indications in the coming days.
There are plenty of other team-related storylines worth following as well. Can the Shock keep it rolling? And what role will rookie guard Ivory Latta play on their loaded roster? Will the return of defensive stopper Chelsea Newton to the Monarchs spell a third straight Western Conference title? And can potential title contenders like Phoenix, Indiana and Connecticut tip things off in a positive fashion?
Furthermore, can the combination of former Sting guard Monique Currie, free agent Dominique Canty and first-round draft pick Armintie Price get things started again for the Sky after a difficult 5-29 2006 campaign? And can new Silver Stars Hammon and Riley — along with Helen Darling and rookie Camille Little — make magic with rising star Sophia Young? And can No. 1 draft pick Lindsey Harding help Seimone Augustus lead a resurgence in Minnesota? We should find out shortly.
And although the loss of Lisa Leslie for the season due to pregnancy leaves a visible hole in the league's landscape, there are several players coming back who should be ready to fill that void. The newly hyphenated Marie Ferdinand-Harris is back after having a baby of her own and will add a veteran presence to the Silver Stars lineup. Tina Thompson, Delisha Milton-Jones, Katie Douglas and Nykesha Sales, among others, will also be back full-time after missing significant portions of last season.
The coolest part about this time of year, though, is the live preseason action in unique, non-WNBA venues. On May 4, Armintie Price returns to her birthplace of Milwaukee as her Sky host the Mystics at the Al McGuire Center. Also on May 4, the defending champion Shock host the Comets at the United Spirit Center in Lubbock, Texas.
Another pair of games at non-traditional sites follows on May 5, as the Liberty play the Sun at the Arena at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport, Conn., while former Kansas State players Nicole Ohlde and Kendra Wecker square off as the Lynx face the Silver Stars at Charles Koch Arena in Wichita, Kan.
More, you say? Former Ohio State star Katie Smith will lead Detroit against Washington on May 6 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, while San Antonio will play Detroit — with Ruth Riley, Shannon Johnson and Katie Feenstra all having flipped sides this offseason — on May 13 at Qwest Center in Omaha, Neb.
UConn legend Sue Bird will return to the state as her Storm face the Sun on May 8 at the Mohegan Sun. There will also be some international flavor on the docket as Washington hosts Israeli side Anda Ramat Hasharon at the Verizon Center on May 13.
Arguably the crowning jewel of the preseason schedule, however, takes place on May 13 at the Pete Maravich Center in Baton Rouge, La., where three former LSU standouts will compete against one another. Reigning Rookie of the Year Augustus and her Lynx will face 2005 Rookie of the Year Temeka Johnson, Chamique Holdsclaw, Doneeka Hodges and the Sparks.
All told, there is more than your fair share of enticing preseason storylines. Get out and see the on-court action — especially in the non-WNBA markets — while you can.
The beauty of it is that while as hot as the next several weeks of preseason play will be, it's only the appetizer before the main course. The 2007 regular season tips off on May 19 with a repeat of the 2006 Finals matchup, as the defending champion Shock host the Monarchs at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC.
Have you seen her? Make sure you do in 2007.