WNBA.com is going uptown
for "WNBA vs. USA Basketball: The Game at Radio City," and throughout the week we'll be keeping you informed of the latest happenings on and off the court, photos, video, fresh content, and Q&As with players and coaches. The WNBA.com Radio City Blog
will be updated several times daily.
Bring Home the Gold
Posted by Matt Wurst (WNBA.com) on Aug 5 2004 9:04 p.m. ET
WNBA All-Star center Taj McWilliams-Franklin started the second half off on a light note, walking out to take the jump ball with fake Austin Power-esque teeth. She frightened Lisa Leslie a bit before getting rid of it.
Maybe it was the teeth, or maybe it was Bill Laimbeer's halftime speech, but the WNBA at least kept pace with the U.S. in the early going. The deficit stayed around 20 points for much of the half, and the pace picked up a bit. The WNBA All-Stars also got scoring from more players.
With the outcome no longer in doubt, the players had a bit more fun and the game opened up a bit more. There were moments of slick passing, sweet moves and fearless shooting.
Even Coach Laimbeer tooking the big loss in stride. At one point late in the game, Shock teammates Deanna Nolan and Swin Cash collided and took each other down to the floor. Laimbeer immediately jumped up and criticized Swin for taking her down.
"What are you doing, Swin? Are you trying to hurt your own teammate? Are you crazy?"
But there was at least one serious message from the night.
13 individual banners with good-luck messages to the Olympians from well-wishers in all WNBA towns hung from the stage rafters behind the baskets while a large "Bring Home the Gold" sign above the Great Stage was a constant reminder of why we were all here. The U.S. departs for Spain first thing tomorrow and will play in a two-day tournament as a final tune-up.
If tonight was any indication, the U.S. will be a tough team to beat in Athens. They can dominate inside, move the ball well, shoot the lights out and can even play defense when they need to. they have been the best team in the world for another decade thanks to players like Lisa Leslie, Sheryl Swoopes, Katie Smith, Dawn Staley and Yolanda Griffith. And with the young stars on the team, their run could continue for years to come.
New York's own Becky Hammon summed it up best after the game, not only thanking the fans for coming out, but wishing the U.S. Olympic Team the best of luck and letting everyone know that the WNBA is pulling for them. "
Rockette and Roll
Posted by Bryan Williams (WNBA.com) on Aug 5 2004 8:10 p.m. ET
The famous Radio City Rockettes take the stage at halftime in part-formal, part-ribald style, donning hats, sequined suit tops -- complete with glittering red ties -- and fishnet stockings. To the jazzy orchestral strains of New York-themed tunes like On Broadway and New York, New York, their routine appeared to culminate with their signature kick line, much to the delight of the audience, only for the dancers to return seconds later wearing Team USA jerseys and carrying WNBA basketballs for a rousing encore.
The U.S. Goes Up Early...
Posted by Matt Wurst (WNBA.com) on Aug 5 2004 8:01 p.m. ET
...but the WNBA didn't go away so fast. Lisa Leslie and Tina Thompson got things started, but Sue Bird and Swin Cash both got off to a fast starts coming off the bench to give the U.S. a double-digit lead at the 12-minute mark. Bird to Cash in transition... where do I remember that combination from?
At the 9-minute mark, the crowd started chanting for Lindsay Whalen, and just seconds later, she checked into the lineup. After 13 minutes of play, only three players had scored for the WNBA All-Stars, part of the reason they faced a growing deficit.
Coach Van Chancellor continued to tinker with his lineup throughout the first half, often going with two point guards and sometimes playing without a center. No player dominated the scoring, but individual players scored in spurts - Cash, Catchings and Johnson. Before long, the score was rather lopsided. The WNBA All-Stars were just not able to get into an offensive rhythm, and at the end of the first half, the U.S. leads 39-20.
"Our players are throwing up some massive bricks," Laimbeer said.
Katie Smith had a good view of the acton. Let's see what she has to say at her halftime chat...
Here We Go...
Posted by Matt Wurst (WNBA.com) on Aug 5 2004 7:12 p.m. ET
And we are under way...
After a stirring version of the player introductions, in which the starters ran through the crowd, the WNBA All-Stars got out to an early 2-0 lead. The loudest ovations during the player introductions were for Liberty star Becky Hammon, local product Sue Bird and super rookie Diana Taurasi.
While everyone knows who the WNBA starters are, the U.S. National team starters were Tamika Catchings, Tina Thompson, Lisa Leslie, Shannon Johnson, Dawn Staley. With two small guards on the court, the U.S. looked to work the ball inside against a smaller WNBA All-Star lineup.
Without a dry erase board to teach during the first timeout, coach Bill Laimbeer was already complaining vocally.
"They don't want us to even come close to winning this game."
Seconds later, he was at the officials.
"If we put USA jerseys on, will that get us a few calls?"
Could this be more than just a game for the WNBA All-Stars?
Hey, Remember Me?
Posted by Rebecca Lobo on Aug 5 2004 6:45 p.m. ET
So I'm sitting on the stage here, and yes, it's a little tight. But the view is spectacular. Right now they are hyping the crowd by playing some Beastie Boys. Good choice here in New York.
I'll be doing the sidelines on ESPN, so you better be watching, but I wanted to check in with my Blog faithful and let you know I'm still thinking of you and will be back. I'll try and get some stuff in during the game. But definitely from Athens... And in case you are curious who has been blogging up until now, look for me on the sidelines next to the WNBA bench during game action, and then look to my left for that stunningly handsome man.
So everyone ready for the game? I think that, like last year, Nikki Teasley will bring the most funk. Lindasy Whalen might add some, too. I also think the game will be pretty close. You all know that Sheryl Swoopes is not dressed for the game, but she is dressed to go out and party afterwards, wearing a sexy little number.
Okay, I have to get ready for work, get my make up and get all wired up. At the 12 minute mark, I will have a live interview from the bench with WNBA coach Bill Laimbeer. Then, after the 8 minute timeout, I will bring you the wisdom of Van Chancellor first hand. He will be speaking "Mississippi," which is slightly different than English, I learned, after playing for him for a year.
This Just In...
Posted by Matt Wurst (WNBA.com) on Aug 5 2004 5:45 p.m. ET
The players have arrived and are in their dressing roo... errr... locker rooms and getting ready for the Game. However, the U.S. National Team will not only be without Katie Smith, but also without veteran forward Sheryl Swoopes. Swoopes came into Radio City with her team, but was wearing a protectice air cast on her tweaked right ankle.
Without Smith and Swoopes, the U.S. National Team will only have 10 players. The WNBA squad will have all 11 of its players.
In other news, remember when we said that we were going to be wearing multiple hats? Well, your trusty WNBA.com crew has been asked to handle stats as well. At every full time out, we need to print the box scores to be distributed to the media. Midway through each half and at halftime, we need to print out the play-by-play. Seems simple enough, right?
We'll probably forget. So if your newspapers don't have recaps or box scores from the game tonight, you'll know why.
Ok, so there is about an hour or so until tip off and Radio City is holding auditions for the Christmas Spectabular upstairs. That leaves ten minutes for changing into costume, ten minutes for stretching and rehearsing, twenty minutes to perform for the judges, and another twenty minutes to get back here to the court. Wish us luck!
Live from Radio City
Posted by Matt Wurst (WNBA.com) on Aug 5 2004 4:43 p.m. ET
Is this thing on? Can you hear us? Is this working?
So we are finally here at Radio City and set up. Right now, the Liberty Torch Patrol (the dance team) is the last of tonight's performing groups to take the stage. From what we can tell, the WNBA has a great night planned. In addition to the Torches and Junior Torches, the world-famous Radio City Rockettes are primed and ready, as are a number of other groups.
The WNBA has also gathered an impressive list of past Olympians to help send off the U.S. Women's National Team. Among them are 1996 U.S. basketball players Carla McGee and Rebecca Lobo. Lobo also will be here as a sideline reporter for ESPN (have we told you yet this update that the game is on ESPN at 7 p.m. ET? OK, good, now that that's out of the way...). Lobo, who will be headed to Athens next week, has graciously agreed to be a correspondent for WNBA.com from the Olympics. Thanks, Rebecca. It'll probably be easier than covering the sidelines tonight - she has already expressed some concern about her ability to amply perform her duties as, well, there is no sideline.
We concur. In fact, although we are coming to you live from the scorer's table, immediately adjacent to the WNBA bench, there isn't much room to maneuver. In fact, there is so little room that we may also work the public address system, the official scorer's duties, video replay, color commentary, stats, lighting and catering. OK, not really, but it is tight. So we apopopligise in avdance for the spelilng mistkaess.
However, the limited spacing should give us tremendous access to players, coaches and other VIPs. Let's just hope no errant passes or deflections come our way. Speaking of coming our way, here come more people squeezing into the space here at center court.
Yeah, and now we are being asked to squeeze in even tighter.... Don't go anywhere. We'll be back.
Cruising Around With Diana and Lisa
Posted by Matt Wurst (WNBA.com) on Aug 5 2004 9:43 a.m. ET
Lisa Leslie gives Tom Cruise some pointers
Last night represented all that is good about the WNBA.
After a day of practices and shootarounds and media obligations and photoshoots and autograph signings and even some shopping all over town, a handful of WNBA players were on hand as panelists to talk about a serious issue. The WNBA and NBA Store hosted a symposium entitled "Teen Girls and Body Image: A Healthy Discussion." Tamika Catchings and Lisa Leslie joined fashion magazine editors and mental health experts to discuss the serious issues facing girls and young women today. Sue Bird, Swin Cash, Becky Hammon, Dawn Staley and Diana Taurasi were also on hand.
Among the more powerful messages came from Hammon:
"Nowadays, everyone looks to take the easy way like escalators and elevators. What happened to just taking the stairs?"
Sue Bird and Katie Smith at the NBA Store
The symposium was followed by a private reception with all of the WNBA players participating in tonight's game, as well as honored guests and NBA and WNBA employees.
The players turned in early with one more full day in New York ahead. And it's a good thing, too, because several had to be up before dawn for appearances on morning talk shows and great interactive community events.
This morning, Leslie and Taurasi headed out to Times Square to participate in a Dribble-A-Thon with members of the Jr. WNBA and appear on ABC's Good Morning, America. But they were in for a treat when actor Tom Cruise also stopped by in the show's 8:30 half hour. They should have called it Tom's Square. After greeting a throng of fans, Cruise came onto the ABC set and shot hoops with Taurasi and Leslie. However, Cruise learned just how hard the game of b asketball is and just how talented these women are.
After attempting and missing several short jumpers (and nearly sending some of the studio lights crashing down and setting the entire show off schedule), Cruise finally got one to go down thanks to some helpful tips from the U.S. National Team stars (Note: Diane Sawyer made a shot in her second attempt).
Meanwhile, the Jr. WNBA players kept dribbling away. Minutes later, Taurasi and Leslie had their chance with Diane Sawyer and Robin Roberts as Tom Cruise got into the dribbling act. That camera sure loves Tom Cruise. Cruise then went on to make an appearance on Regis and Kelly while Diana and Lisa met up with the rest of their team for a team meeting and practice. But before they parted ways, they were sure to invite Tom to the game tonight. Will he show? Tune in at 7 p.m. to find out...
Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
Posted by Matt Wurst (WNBA.com) on Aug 4 2004 1:50 p.m. ET
Nikki Teasley signing one of many balls
The day is already off to a fast start, though it started a little earlier for some and not others. Swin Cash was the first one awake, up at 6 a.m. to do a live talk show, and while I was certainly not awake at that time, much of the WNBA staff was already churning and getting things ready for the day.
After a brief welcome breakfast and some introductory remarks by WNBA President Val Ackerman, the players signed a whole load of memorabilia for the Breast Health Auction (which ends Friday, so start bidding) and began taking team photos. The U.S. Team took all sorts of pictures, some draped in American flags, some with their college teammates, and some with their WNBA teammates. With all the star power in the room and the flash bulbs going off, it felt like being on a red carpet for a big awards show, except for the fact that there was no show after the photos were all snapped.
During the USA Team photo, WNBA All-Star coach Bill Laimbeer (who is celebrating his 25th wedding anniversary with his wife today) snuck in to see the action because "he wanted to take a peak at a losing team."
Instead, the National Team members and All-Stars went on a round of media interviews, each one spending five or so minutes with the good folks from NBA TV, ESPN and WNBA.com. Now imagine being a player having to answer many of the same questions over and over again, keeping calm and always having a smile. I don't know how they do it. In fact, in asking many of the same questions to them over and over again, I gained even more respect for their patience and coolness. I know I got tired of hearing myself talk after about three questions or so.
It is impossible to convey just how eager and excited the players are to be talking and hanging out. Maybe they realize that it is better than practice, but all of them have fun with it. And while all of the players are great, the two most fun players to interview are Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird. Diana makes it impossible to keep a straight face while Sue will throw praises around to all players within earshot during an interview:
Me: So Sue, who are the best dressed players on the National Team?
(...as Tina Thompson walks by...)
Sue: Tina Thompson is definitely the best dressed player on the team.
Me: Who would you say is the toughest player on the National Team?
(...as Tamika Catchings walks by...)
Sue: Tamika Catchings is definitely the toughest player on the team.
Once all of their media obligations were finished and the WNBA All-Stars were able to get some late morning shopping in, the teams got down to business and got out on the Radio City court for the first time. The USA met for its second practice, working seriously and hard for a solid two hours.
For the WNBA All-Stars, it was their first time on the floor as a team, and Laimbeer kept things light. As the team gathered around midcourt, he claimed that no one would be able to make a halfcourt hot and offered $50 out of his pocket to any player who could connect. One-by-one each stepped up, fired and missed, often badly - (cough,cough Cheryl Ford). Afterwards, he put the money back in his pocket, grabbed a ball from Nikki Teasley, walked casually up the midcourt line, bounded the ball once, and lofted it underhand through the hoop for a perfect swish. Who knew he had an outside game?
But talk about putting your money where your mouth is.
Reunited, and It's Understood
Posted by Matt Wurst (WNBA.com) on Aug 3 2004 9:56 p.m. ET
Sheryl Swoopes gets ready for practice
... Reunited, and it feels so good...
The old gang is back together again and it looks like they didn't miss a beat. Within minutes of arriving at the team hotel in midtown Manhattan, not far from Times Square, the 12 members of the U.S. National Team were joking around with each other and laughing as if the last three months of intense WNBA action and rivalries never happened.
Almost immediately after arriving, the members of the National Team began getting taped up for practice at the hotel, chatting with fans online at ESPN.com and getting ready for three fun-filled days in New York City.
The only players to come down and get taped up were Ruth Riley, Swin Cash, Diana Taurasi, Sheryl Swoopes and Yolanda Griffith. Katie Smith also came down to hang out, but seeing as how she is not ready to get back out on the floor, she merely kept everyone else in good spirits.
"It's better than it was last week," Smith said, "but I'm not there yet. I am rehabbing it and hope to be back out there with my teammates soon."
The U.S. women couldn't help but discuss their collective shock and disappointment over their male counterparts, the U.S. Men's National Team's loss to Italy in Germany.
"It's not that they can't play defense," Swoopes said, though she was flying in while the game was still taking place. "It's that they don't always want to. Maybe it will help them."
Shannon "Pee Wee" Johnson
Swin Cash handles her media duties
was the last player to arrive at the hotel, and didn't even have time to change before the team got on the bus at 7pm Square to head downtown to practice at a local college.
There were already fans in the lobby waiting to sneak a peak at the players and get an autograph or two. Just how these people know where the National Team is staying is beyond me. Do they call up all the hotels in Manhattan asking for Lisa Leslie's room until one operator actually connects them?
While I was not allowed to ride the team bus, I was able to snag a quick bite to eat on the way down at the Famous Original Ray's Pizza. Or was it the Orignal Famous Ray's Pizza? Or just plain Ray's pizza? Who can remember, anyway?
At practice, the team divided up into the red and white team, working on half court sets in a mini scrimmage. The red team consisted of Swoopes, Leslie, Johnson, Dawn Staley, Tamika Catchings and Tina Thompson. While Coach Van Chancellor never said so, this was probably his first unit. The white squad was made up of Taurasi, Sue Bird, Riley, Cash and Griffith.
The team opted to begin practicing with the larger ball used in international play, as that will be the ball used in the Radio City game on thursday as well..
"It takes about a week to get used to it," Smith said.
The game will also be played under WNBA rules and timing and will be officiated by three veteran WNBA officials.
During the two hour practice, the teams went hard at each other and worked on its timing. Thompson found the bottom of the net on long range 3-pointers. In attendance watching the closed practice were a few members of the media, Mrs. Van Chancellor, WNBA Vice President of Player Personnel and USA Basketball Selection Chairperson Renee Brown, and rising UConn seniors Jessica Moore and Ashley Battle.
In just a few hours together, the diverse group of women from different WNBA teams and different backgrounds came together for the last time in pursuit of their ultimate goal, Olympic gold.
Welcome to New York City, Enjoy the Show
Posted by Matt Wurst (WNBA.com) on Aug 3 2004 12:08 p.m. ET
After weeks and months of anticipation, the stage is finally set (literally) for the sold-out "WNBA vs. USA Basketball: The Game at Radio City." Players, coaches and fans are currently flying in from all over the country, and once they arrive, things will begin happening at a frantic pace. The U.S. National Team even has a practice tonight that we will try and sneak into. Of course, security in New York City right now is pretty tight, so we'll see how far an NBA ID badge and a smile can get us.
Radio City Music Hall
Because this is such a rare and unusual event, lots of questions have been floating out there:
A game at Radio City Music Hall? But where will they play?
- The court will be set up on the Great Stage with select fans sitting in bleachers
behind both baskets.
If I am going to Radio City, do I need to wear my best formal attire?
- No, tuxedos and gowns are not required.
Can the audience shout things to the performers on stage?
- Shout away. In fact, it will be encouraged.
Will the Rockettes be there?
- Of course.
But even though this game has an All-Star feel to it, don't expect a typical All-Star game. Sure, the best of the best will all be assembled and the WNBA is planning a number of community events and fan interaction, but things will be different this time around. First, the U.S. National Team is prepping for another run at the gold medal, and the WNBA All-Star team could very well be the best team they play. There will be no goofing around or showboating as Van Chancellor needs to figure out his lineup, rotations and defensive schemes. And not only will the U.S. Team be taking the game very seriously, but the WNBA All-Stars really want to beat them. Second, not everyone will get equal minutes. The WNBA All-Stars are short on post players and heavy on guards. Third, most players haven't been at a game at Radio City Music Hall yet. The Liberty, Shock and Sun have each played here so far, but that's it. Everyone is eager to see just how things are set up. Fourth, a big send-off for the U.S. Olympians, playing their final game in the United States, is in the works. And fifth, the game is in New York City, the greatest city on earth.
Alright, so maybe that last one is not so different considering two of the previous five WNBA All-Star games have taken place in the Big Apple. However, when it comes to New York, WNBA players, coaches, fans and covering media still have a lot to learn. And just like Los Angeles did during the NBA All-Star weekend, New York is ready to show you a good time. So whether you are player, coach or fan, New York is a great city with a million things to do. And since we here at WNBA.com are native New Yorkers, here are some cultural, entertainment, nightlife, restaurant, shopping and theatre tips to help you WNBA afficionados enjoy your stay.
Best place to catch a game: Radio City Music Hall
Sixth Avenue and 50th St.
With Madison Square Garden closed in preparation for the Republican National Convention, Radio City Music Hall has fast become the coolest place to watch a game. And this is why you’re coming, after all, right?
Best place to go shopping: The NBA Store
5th Ave. and 52nd St.
With multiple levels offering everything a WNBA or NBA fan could imagine, including jerseys, apparel, footwear, accessories, gifts, collectibles and sporting goods, you could easily spend all day just wandering around and buying everything in sight.
Best place to watch live jazz: Birdland
Check out the NBA Store, just
around the corner from Radio City
44th St. and Seventh Ave.
Storm guard Sue Bird may be a native New Yorker, but as far as we know, this legendary jazz club was not named after her. It does, however, offer some of the best nightly jazz anywhere. Ever since sax great Charlie “Bird” Parker began playing there in the 1940’s, Birdland has seen nearly every great jazz musician pass through its doors and continues to draw the world’s best.
Best “touristy” place to visit: Statue of Liberty
Ferries for Liberty Island leave from Battery Park
While Lady Liberty (and we are not talking about All-Star guard Becky Hammon) had been closed for nearly three years, she re-open again today and will be receiving visitors interested in seeing an up-close view of this 19th century gift from France.
Best place for a quick meal: Carl’s Cheesesteaks
Third Ave and 34th St.
Philadelphia native and U.S. team point guard Dawn Staley knows a thing or two about good Philly cheesesteaks, but she might be surprised to find such a great one here in New York. But Carl’s does everything right, so just like they do it in South Philly, make sure you order your steak with “whiz and onions.”
Come see Katie live: Rockefeller Center
Fifth Ave. and 48th St.
While USA women’s team stalwart Katie Smith won’t get to play in The Game at Radio City due to an injured knee, you can still see another famous Katie, “Today Show” host Katie Couric, doing their live show from the Rockefeller Plaza studio. But if you want to bring signs and get on camera, make sure you get there early.
Where to meet an entire crowd of Congo natives: The United Nations Headquarters
46th St & First Ave.
New York City may be the great melting pot of different global cultures, but the quickest and easiest place for WNBA All-Star and Congo native Mwadi Mabika to find fellow residents of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is to visit the United Nations Headquarters. The honorable S.E.M. Ileka Atoki is Congo’s Ambassador and leader of the delegation.
Best place to see a Comet up close: The Hayden Planetarium at the Museum of Natural History
79th St. and Central Park West
If you can’t get close enough to Comets stars Sheryl Swoopes and Tina Thompson during their stay in the Big Apple, then see the real stars close up, and learn more about the mysteries of comets, asteroids, shooting stars, planets, moons and galaxies at New York’s biggest planetarium.
See a lot of Cash: The Federal Reserve Bank Tour
Liberty St. and William St.
Sure, U.S. forward Swin Cash will be in town all week, but to see where the United States keeps its cash. At the Federal Reserve, visitors will learn about the nation’s central banking functions and will see the Bank's vault of international monetary gold on the bedrock of Manhattan Island, five stories below street level.
Best roller coaster ride: The Cyclone, Coney Island
Surf Ave. and West 10th St
While All-Stars Cheryl Ford and Deanna Nolan have had a roller coaster season with the defending WNBA champion Detroit Shock, it fails in comparison to Coney Island’s Cyclone and the other real roller coasters on the famous boardwalk at the Astroland Amusement Park.
Best place to rub elbows with the rich and powerful: Wall Street
Wall St. and New St.
Harvard alum and WNBA All-Star Allison Feaster turned down a job on Wall Street to play in the WNBA. Before seeing her excel in her current profession, check out the New York Stock Exchange, the very heart of American capitalism, and see where the Sting forward could have been working.
Of course, for you Olympians representing the United States, perhaps you might want to brush up on your American history and celebrate America’s landmarks before heading overseas.
Federal Hall National Museum
Wall St. and Broad St.
This unassuming museum is one of the City’s best kept secrets and the birthplace of our nation in the late 18th century. Some of great events to take place at this historical site include President George Washington’s inauguration as President on April 30, 1789, the meeting of the first Congress of the United States and the creation of the Departments of State, War and Treasury and the Supreme Court.
Ferries to Ellis Island leave from Battery Park
From 1892 to 1954, over twelve million immigrants entered the United States through the portal of Ellis Island, a small island in New York Harbor.
Intrepid Sea Air Space Museum
W. 46th St. & 12th Ave.
One of the most successful, battle-tested ships in U.S. history is now a museum consisting of diverse sea, air and space exhibits.
Riverside Dr. and W 122nd St.
This memorial to President Ulysses S. Grant, victorious Union commander of the Civil War, includes the tomb of General Grant and his wife.
So that should keep you busy for the next few days. As for us, the players will
be arriving shortly and we have some work to do. Check back tomorrow once everyone
has gotten settled and the photoshoots and practices have gotten started.