Ask Nancy: August 9, 2007

Basketball Hall-of-Famer and ESPN analyst Nancy Lieberman answers your questions and e-mails throughout the year. Click here to submit a question of your own.


Connecticut has both a great defense and offense, but I'm not sure it's enough to beat Detroit. Do you think the Sun can win a title if the Shock is waiting for them in the second round of the playoffs?
-John, Storrs, Conn.

The way the Sun are playing right now, it would certainly be a very spirited series. I think both Bill Laimbeer and Mike Thibault are great coaches, so it would come down to the players out on the court and how well they stick to the game plan and how aggressive they are. The problem the last few years with Connecticut is that they haven't been able to rebound with Detroit. Rebounding will still be an issue for the Sun, but a lot of that would depend on the health of Cheryl Ford.

There's no doubt that Connecticut has improved drastically over the course of this season. They struggled early in the year basically because Lindsay Whalen struggled early in the year. Katie Douglas has been pretty consistent, but Nykesha Sales has had a variety of injuries. Asjha Jones is having just a solid, solid season, but the key for the Sun is Margo Dydek. If Dydek produces, the Sun are really good and it takes a lot of pressure off the bench.

If I had to pick between those two teams right now, though, I'd go with Detroit because they're still playing great basketball.

Nancy, in my opinion, the MVP should be someone who leads her team to the top. That's why I think Becky Hammon should be in serious contention for the award this year. People are already crowning Lauren Jackson, but Seattle has been a huge disappointment. Granted Jackson's stats are good, but where is the rest of the team? Guards get the short end because they lack the rebounding stats, but I think Becky deserves more consideration.
-Cathy, San Antonio

First, Becky IS getting a lot of consideration. Lauren, Tamika Catchings and Becky Hammon are the only three names you've heard uttered in the MVP conversation. All three of them have now missed games for one reason or another -- Lauren visiting a sick relative in Australia and Tamika and Becky because of their foot problems. I don't think there's any doubt that Becky has had the biggest impact on her team. And they have such a team-focused structure in San Antonio. Jackson's and Catchings' numbers are just amazing, though. It's so tough, because based on whichever player you're rooting for, you can tweak your own definition of what the league's MVP should be.

I love Becky Hammon, and I can make an awfully compelling case for her for MVP. But I could also make a case for Catchings and for Jackson. All three are worthy of consideration, but Tamika could be out for a bit longer, so my guess is that it comes down to Becky and Lauren. If I had to vote today, my mind has changed from a couple of weeks ago… today I would vote for Becky Hammon.

Nancy, you never seem to give Washington any credit, but we came from 0-8 and are now in position to make the playoffs. You can tell the team is working hard, so now we deserve some credit, right?
-Tearsterboo, Lanham, Md.

Yeah, absolutely... you deserve some credit. I'm a friend and fan of Sheila Johnson and I love what she's done with the franchise. I think Tree Rollins has done a fantastic job.

But frankly, don't say they didn't deserve the business I gave them. I'm not the one who underachieved early in the season. I didn't start the season 0-8. You guys did, not me. And you shouldn't have been 0-8 because you have All-Stars and a lot of talent and a really good coach. So don't pick on me for picking on your team. Maybe that energy should be redirected at the players. All I did was respond to how you guys were playing.

Now that you've turned it around and you're in position for the playoffs, you're only doing what I thought you should have been doing from the beginning. I picked the Mystics to make the playoffs before the season started. All you're doing now is what I thought you'd do all along.

Hey Nancy, I wondered all season long, how can a talented team like the Storm be so poor offensively and defensively at times with a backcourt of Betty Lennox and Sue Bird? Lauren Jackson has been playing like Dirk Nowitzki offensively on the perimeter and her defense reminds me of Kevin Garnett in the low post. Aside from Izi Castro Marques and Janell Burse playing well of late, what do the Storm have to do to avoid a first-round exit in the playoffs?
-Joaquim, Cincinnati

The Storm need consistency. They're just an enigma to me. They have three of the best offensive players in the league in LJ, Bird and Betty and Izi is putting up career numbers. And you think, "Wow, this team should be dominating out there!"

The problem, though, is the inconsistency. They don't rebound well, they don't defend well and it can't be easy for Anne Donovan. Sue missed time with a knee injury, and that interrupted their flow… even though Tanisha Wright came in and had a wonderful stretch. Now Burse is set to go in for surgery, Lauren is back in Australia and their flow is disrupted once again. The saving grace has been Lauren putting up just extraordinary numbers.

With Burse out, Wendy Palmer and Ashley Robinson are both going to have to play bigger roles. They also just signed Astou Ndiaye-Diatta and she'll get some minutes too. Annie and her staff are trying to address that area, but I'm not sure those players are what they need.

Nancy, I am a huge fan of the Seattle Storm, and as you know we are in the midst of possibly losing our team should new owner Clay Bennett not get his way regarding our home arena. What I would love to know is this: Does Donna Orender or the league have any say as to whether or not the Storm can be moved to a new city? If she does, what can we as fans do to get her motivated to step up and stop this from happening?
-Tina, Maple Valley, Wash.

Mr. Bennett owns the team, so it's really his decision to move the team wherever he wants. And I don't know how much power Donna would have to stop him. Relocation like this happens all the time in sports and it's unfortunate for the fans the team leaves behind. The fans in Seattle are awesome and loyal. But if they do move the team to Oklahoma, you would obviously hope that the fans there embrace them. The support of basketball in Oklahoma is pretty strong based on what the Sooners have done, so I think a team would be well received in that area.

Ms. Lieberman, two players (Lisa Leslie and Michelle Snow) have dunked in WNBA games. Just how many can dunk and who are they?
-Charles, Queens, N.Y.

I don't know the exact number of how many players can dunk and I don't want to ruin the surprise or increase the expectation that someone will pull one out in a game. And we know Leslie can dunk, we know Snow can dunk, we know Sancho Lyttle can dunk. Charlotte Smith, when she played, could dunk. Sylvia Crawley could dunk. But I can tell you that there are a good number of players in this league now who can. And I'm not talking two or three. The number is probably closer to 10 or 12.

Hi Nancy, what do you think Houston needs to do to get back in the competition? I am still a fan hoping they can do better next year.
-Sondra, Cedar Hill, Texas

The Comets have done a whole lot to try to right their ship. They brought back Tamecka Dixon and brought in Crystal Smith to shore up their guard spot. Tina Thompson's been super, Sancho has played well and Michelle Snow hasn't gotten as much exposure as she deserves. And they've done this all without Sheryl Swoopes. I think they're gonna be fine. This is a brand-new team that started off the year with almost no backcourt and a new coaching staff. And now I think Karleen is doing a terrific job with them.

As to the rumor of Tina not coming back next year, well, I think you're going to hear reports like that about more than one player. I don't think that is new news to people in the know, though maybe it's the first time it has come out publicly. Those are personal decisions that the players are going to have to make.

I, for one, am 73.5 percent sure that Tina will make a decision after the season (laughs). She said she was 70 percent sure? How exactly do you quantify how sure you are about something like that? Is it 70 percent? Or maybe closer to 68? I don't get it…

Nancy, could you give us your perspective on the state of sportsmanship in the league? I'm a Mystics fan and I have, quite frankly, been appalled at what I've seen this year. We've had two teams with near double-digit leads over us attempt 3-pointers as the game clock expires. I realize that there is going to be some trash talking and bone-jarring hits, but running up the score is pathetic and serves as a bad example for young players watching these games. Do you believe that this is a problem that President Orender needs to address?
-Michael, Woodbridge, Va.

I don't think Donna can address this from the league's perspective. It's not up to Donna. It's up to the coaches and players. They're competitive and they want to play hard and they want to win.

And consider this perspective. You're a first- or second-year player in the league who doesn't get to play a lot. You're what they call a "30 player." You only come in when your team is either up 30 or down 30. So, you come in late in a game and you're playing hard, because that's the only time you get out there.

There's a fine line. If the game is out of hand and the coaches are keeping the starters in and diagramming plays, yeah, I have a problem with that. But if they have their bench players in and they're playing hard, how can you blame anyone for that? They're not doing anything wrong. The kids are supposed to play hard. That's what the coaches train them to do. And playing hard when they get the chance is the only way they'll earn more time out on the court.

As a coach, I'm not responsible for both sides of it. I can't worry about you losing. I have to worry about me winning.

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