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Which Will You Watch? The Emmys or Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals?
Posted: By Matt Wurst, August 27, 2006 7:42 - 10:10p.m. ET

With tonight being one of the biggest and busiest nights of the year on television, we know that not everyone has the luxury or ability to watch more than one thing at once... Game Three between the Sun and Shock, the 58th Primetime Emmy Awards and, of course, the season finale of Entourage. Naturally, we hope you will choose the WNBA Playoffs on ESPN2, but understand if you'll be flipping back and forth bwtween the Emmys and the Shock-Sun.

So here's what we're going to do for you. We've got both coasts covered, from the Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut to the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles... the best of entertainment and sportsWe're going to watch both and recap all of the highlights in a running diary for the next two hours. Of course the other challenge tonight is that we have no idea where the Finals will begin... Connecticut or Detroit... and the WNBA.com staff and crew is leaving first thing Monday morning. The bags are packed and we're ready to go...

8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time: Here we go... live from somewhere in between Uncasville and Hollywood as the intro music rolls on both networks. Your hosts for the evening will be ESPN's Dave Pasch and Doris Burke as well as late night television impresario Conan O'Brien. For the Sun and Shock, a trip to the Finals is on the line for two teams that know each other well and have both been to the championship series before. For dozens of actors and actresses, this is yet another night to wear expensive clothes, jewelry and hang out with each other on the red carpet. The stakes are clearly higher tonight (and I'm not just saying that because the World Series of Poker led into tonight's game on ESPN2)...
8:01: O'Brien takes a humourous tour through many of the top shows, from "Lost" and "The Office" to "House" and "24" and somehow arrives at the Auditorium for his monologue.
8:02: Doris and Dave are talking about how the Sun need to limit Deanna Nolan on offense. Meanwhile, Katie Douglas is going to play again tonight, Heather Cox says. Douglas has received her third injection in two days and is going to give it a go.
8:03: Tip off, Connecticut gets the ball.
8:05: Douglas badly misfires of her first 3-point attempt of the game, then Swin Cash quickly answers on the other end to give Detroit a 2-0 lead.
8:06: Douglas connects from long range this time and gives the Sun a 3-2 lead.
8:08: Back-and-forth, these two teams are exchanging leads, Taj McWilliams-Franklin gives the Sun a 7-6 lead...
8:08: O'Brien takes a shot at Mel Gibson in his monologue. Too easy, like Margo Dydek turning and hitting a short jumper in the lane.
8:11: A shot of Kyra Sedgwick and her husband, Kevin Bacon, in the crowd. Sedgwick is nominated for an Emmy tonight... but speaking of Kevin Bacon, here we go... Kevin Bacon was in Mystic River with Sean Penn, who was in 21 Grams with Naomi Watts, who was in King Kong with Adrien Brody, who was in the same Punk'd episode as Lisa Leslie, who played in the 2006 WNBA All-Star Game with all five Connecticut Sun starters!
8:14: Who needs baskets? Katie Smith, Lindsay Whalen and Ruth Riley just traded offensive fouls!
8:16: 8 points for Swin Cash as the Shock are out to a 12-7 lead. Welcome to the series, Swin. Cash could actually be up for best supporting actress in a miniseries depending on how she finishes out tonight.
8:17: Our first award of the night as presented by Ellen Pompeo, also known as Dr. Meredith Gray on"Gray's Anatomy" squeezed into a delicious, plum dress presenting. What is it about blue-eyed lady doctors that is just awesome? We'll get back to that another time. The award goes to Will and Grace's Megan Mullaly, who is not to be confused with Molly Mullady.
8:20: Alan Alda wins for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama for "The West Wing." Speaking of West... the Western Conference champion Sacramento Monarchs are awaiting the winner of this game, which is currently being led by the Storm, 23-18, at the end of the first quarter.
8:23: Commercials on both networks. This is no fun.
8:25: How to prevent the Emmy's from going over? Lock Bob Newhart in a glass chamber. Not to be mean, but has he been in that chamber since Elf? Where has he been?
8:28: Gwenyth Paltrow's mother just won Best Supporting Actress in a drama, as presented by the Sheen-Estevez father-son combo. Sadly, Emilio was nowhere to be found. The Sun have gone cold from the field while many of the starters are on the bench... and Margo Dydek shuts me up by hitting another jumper. Shock lead is at 5 points now.
8:30: Entourage's Jeremy Piven wins for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy goes to as Asjha Jones heats up and cuts the Sun lead to three points. Piven is wearing some sort of scarf or t-shirt under his tux and has not shaved in days... just like... um, well not me, that's for sure.
8:32: Cash gives the Shock an 8-point lead, but Douglas answers with a 3. ESPN2 just showed a graphic that the Shock have taken 10 free throws to the Sun's 0. Could it be that the Sun are just not getting fouled?
8:36: Gotta love the Precious siting just behind Bill Laimbeer on the bench. I bet those two would have a lot to talk about.
8:37: Kara Braxton has given the Shock an 11-point lead midway through the second quarter. She and Cash have 20 points between them.
8:39: The Shock are dominating the boards and just got four chances to score (which Plennette Pierson finally did)... with Cheryl Ford on the bench. That does not bode well for the Sun, who still trail by 11 points.
8:43: John Lithgow is brilliant, as is Jeffrey Tambor. Heidi Klum is very pregnant. And the Emmy for Best Comedy Series goes to... The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Erin Phillips' hair was not nominated, but she just cut the Shock lead to six points with just over a minute to go in the half.
8:47: The direction awards... no one that I've ever heard of, but the Sun and Shock are still at a television time out.
8:50: Kara Braxton is dominant tonight, which is huge considering Deanna Nolan is hurting with a hip pointer. The Shock have built their lead back up to 10 points.
8:51: Detroit has built up its lead by taking high percentage shots while the Sun have forced tough, long shots. And Nolan showed no ill signs of her injury in going coast to coast in less than three seconds before the halftime buzzer to give the Shock a nine-point lead at halftime. Really a strong half for the Shock, who are not intimidated at all in an elimination game on the road.
8:53: We're not calling the travel agent to book our flight to Detroit just yet, but I am looking for the number as we speak.
8:57: Hey, it's Simon Cowell. Boooooooo! At least that's what the crowd has to say about that. But a nice retrospective of Dick Clark's career.
8:59: Sacramento's Kara Lawson live on the phone with the ESPN studio, a place she knows quite well. Lawson attributes her good play to both feeling better physically and feeling as a team.
9:08: Halftime of the game and a Barry Manilow musical piece on the Emmy's... that was a long ten minutes.
9:11: And the lead is back to 13 points for the Shock early on after Nykesha Sales missed a jump shot on the other end. This has the potential to get out of hand... just like Barry Manilow's acceptance speech for Best Performance in a Musical or Variety show.
9:13: Tremendous segment announcing the "starting lineup" for the Emmy accounting team from Ernst and Young complete with entrance music and... Kareem Abdul Jabbar!
9:18: We've hit a bit of a scoring drought, but the shock maintain their 15-point lead midway into the third quarter. The Sun cannot get anything going on offense.
9:22: Another offensive rebound and put back for Swin Cash.
9:24: Man, I wish I could grow a mustache like Tom Selleck. Jeremy Irons' goatee isn't bad, either.
9:28: Katie Smith's free throws push the Shock lead to 20-points. Smith, the all-time leading scorer in the history of professional women's hoops, is just 11 minutes away from her first WNBA Finals.
9:29: Cheryl Ford is wearing Reebok tonight and looks stunning in Shock blue. An 18-point lead for the Shock after three quarters.
9:32: "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" wins its second statue of the night.
9:38: Another offensive board for the Shock and Cheryl Ford, whose two free throws increased the lead back to 19 points with under 8 minutes to go in the game.
9:44: Tony Shaloub, who was great as Antonio on "Wings," is on a show that I've never gotten to see, "Monk." He keeps winning every year for his performance on the show, yet is doing so without my viewership. I bet he's great, but that should not be allowed.
9:47: Biggest lead of the game for the Shock, 21 points, with five minutes to go... Just about ready to start dialing the travel agent now... Nothing is falling falling for the Sun tonight, who look like they will have to wait yet another year to win the first title in franchise history despite having the best record in the WNBA this season.
9:55: With two minutes to go and the Sun trailing by 25 points, we're ready to go ahead and declare a winner in the Eastern Conference Finals.Congratulations to the Detroit Shock. See you tomorrow! Sacramento and Detroit... get your ice packs ready.

In Other News... Happy Birthday to Ruth Riley, who turned 27 today. Nice birthday present for her...

Saturday Night Fever
Posted: By Matt Wurst, August 26, 2006 7:01p.m. ET

Feel the city breakin and everybody shakin,
And were stayin alive, stayin alive.
Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin alive, stayin alive.
Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin alive...

Ok, now imagine the entire rest of this blog being spoken in a thick Tony Manero (John Travolta) Brooklyn accent...

The Connecticut Sun stayed alive tonight after a much better performance in their Game 2 win over the Shock. They shot the ball well, were able to score in the paint and controlled the boards. Of course, the emotional lift provided by Katie Douglas' unexpected start did not hurt. I guess Ruth Riley was right when she IMed me that they were expecting Douglas to play in the series and preparing for that scenario.

Connecticut looked a lot more comfortable playing at home tonight and got out to an early lead. Nykesha Sales finally shot well and got off the snide. She finished with 15 points, one of three Sun frontcourt players in double figures. Margo Dydek had a great game, creating her own shots and looking aggressive on both sides of the ball. She led the team with 18 points. Taj McWilliams-Franklin was key down the stretch, coming up with big baskets every time the Shock closed the gap.

Deanna Nolan was brilliant for Detroit tonight, starting off 10-for-11 from the floor and finishing with a game-high 27 points. But Swin Cash and Katie Smith combined to score only six points. You have to think that they will perform better in Game 3, which I am already crazy excited for... Tomorrow night at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN2.

In Other News... Shock coach Bill Laimbeer was upset at a technical foul called against his team in the first half for having only four players on the court. His contention was that four players on the floor is not an infraction. Yet, Rule 12, Section III-d states... "It is the responsibility of each team to have the proper number of players on the court at all times. Failure to do so will result in a technical foul being assessed and charged to the team. EXCEPTION: If the violation occurs on (1) a free throw attempt which is to be followed by another free throw attempt, or (2) a free throw attempt that is not going to remain in play, or (3) a throw-in before the ball is released." -- page 44 of the rule book.

Also, after forgetting to bring my glasses, special thanks to my lady, who lent me her old, broken glasses, so I could actually see the game. I may have looked like Harry Potter, but it did the trick. I may have to keep them through the Finals...

She Will
Posted: By Matt Wurst, August 26, 2006 4:01p.m. ET

Katie Douglas... in the starting lineup for the Sun. It seems as though the nature of the injury is unclear and she will play through it.

Will She or Won't She?
Posted: By Matt Wurst, August 26, 2006 1:47 a.m. ET

According to the Hartford Courant, Sun guard Katie Douglas may be in the lineup Saturday in Game Two against the Shock. It will be a game-time decision.

Douglas, who suffered a hairline fracture in her heel during Game Two of the first round, sat out Game One;s loss to the Shock on Thursday. She visited a doctor in Indianapolis and was given an anti-inflammatory injection. As to whether it will have any effect...

"It'll probably be a game-time decision," Thibault said after the team returned from Detroit. "We'll have her go in during the day to try to run on it, see how it feels."

We'll try and track down someone from the Sun in the morning and see what they have to say.

Nite nite.

Click and Roll: The No. 2 Seeds Win Edition
Posted: By Mike Slane, August 25, 2006 10:47 a.m. ET

Bringing out the Sun block... Despite being the lower-seed, the Shock struck first against their rivals in the Eastern Conference Finals as they defeated the Sun, 70-59, at The Palace of Auburn Hills to take a 1-0 lead in the series.

Ford led the Motor City to victory... Cheryl Ford, A.K.A. "Beast," as Coach Laimbeer refers to her, set a postseason record by grabbing 23 rebounds to go along with 11 points as her Shock wore down the Sun. Ford broke Lisa Leslie's postseason record of 18 rebounds late in the third quarter.

Clank!... That was a familiar sound for the Sun, who played without injured guard Katie Douglas despite the team's leading-scorer being in uniform before the game. The Sun missed 51 shots as they finished shooting only 22-for-73 from the field.

The Shock are now one game away from advancing to the WNBA Finals for the first time since winning the championship in 2003.

The Monarchs steal one... The Shock weren't the only two-seed to win Game One of the Conference Finals on Thurday night. The defending champion Sacramento Monarchs rallied back from a nine-point third quarter deficit to beat the Sparks, 64-61, and take a one-game lead in the three-game series. .

A missed opportunity... The Sparks had a six-point lead with seven minutes to play in the fourth, but Nicole Powell's 17 second half points and Yolanda Griffith's go-ahead basket with 10.3 seconds remaining allowed the Monarchs to squeak by the Sparks.

Some news from Seattle... Betty Lennox has confidence in her team and free agent Iziane Castro Marques wants to stay in Seattle, but she is also eyeing some other teams.

Hiiii, Cappie
Posted: By Matt Wurst, August 24, 2006 5:12 p.m. ET

We have a visitor! Sitting right here with me in the office here in Secaucus, N.J., just across the desk, is none other than Phoenix Mercury guard Cappie Pondexter. After one of the best rookie seasons in WNBA history, Cappie was named to the 2006 All-Rookie Team and could be among the candidates for the 12th and final roster spot on the U.S. World Championship Team.

But that is not why Cappie is here with us today. With the Conference Finals beginning this evening and being broadcast by NBA TV, we have taken the added measure of bringing a bona fide expert into the studio to break down each game. So beginning at 7 p.m. ET, you can watch Pondexter as she makes her broadcast debut.

"Don't write that I'm nervous," she is saying to me right now. "I'm just trying to figure everything out and what I'm going to say. Maybe I'll talk in a British accent."

Regarding the two Conference Finals series:

"For the Sun and Shock... wow, this is hard. I'm pretty neutral as for who I'll be rooting for. But I'm going to pick Detroit," she says. The Sun losing such a crucial player at this key time makes a difference. They need her, even though this gives room for others to step up. Katie is an All-Star M.V.P. and a great player. I just think Detroit wins inside with physical play. They are starting to play together despite an up and down season. They have been playing incredible basketball since the Playoffs started and just look hungry."

"For L.A.-Sacramento, I'm going with the Sparks. Why, because of Lisa Leslie, of course. She had a fantastic year and is an incredible leader. Temeka Johnson has been distributing the ball so well and Holdclaw has been amazing off the bench. With her back in the lineup, you'll see a great team."

"In the Finals, I'm going with L.A. to take it all."

After this, Cappie is awaiting a phone call from USA Basketball to let her know whether she will be one of the remaining players invited to the North Carolina to audition for the World Championship Team. The U.S. will likely bring in four or five players to try out for that final spot.

As for her offseason plans, she will be going to Turkey in October, playing for Fenebache, who will be in the EuroLeague this season. She will be playing alongside fellow Rutgers alum Tammy Sutton Brown as well as Linda Frohlich.

"Before that, though, I'll be going everywhere, visiting friends, taking time off away from basketball before six months of grind work in Turkey."

On being back in New Jersey, where she starred at Rutgers, all Cappie needed to say was, "Hi, I'm back." Check her out tonight on NBA TV.

You might also want to watch the Sun and Shock at 7:30 p.m. ET, followed by the Sparks and Monarchs at 10 p.m. ET.

Thanks for hanging out, Cappie.

"You're welcome."

Click and Roll: The Conference Finals Game One Edition
Posted: By Mike Slane, August 24, 2006 11:07 a.m. ET

Can the Sun figure out a way to beat the Shock, something they haven't done since Sept. 2, 2005? Well, we'll see starting tonight at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBA TV when the Sun make a trip to Detroit for Game One of the Eastern Conference Finals.

It feels like deja vu for the Sun, but the show must go on.... . For the second year in a row the Sun will have to continue their championship run without one of their star players. Last year, it was Lindsay Whalen, who suffered a knee injury in the Conference Finals and then an ankle injury in the Finals, this year its Katie Douglas, who suffered a hairline fracture in her right foot on Sunday.

Laimbeer's preparing for Douglas...? Yup, the Shock coach expects the injured Katie Douglas, who has already declared herself out, to play some time during the series. He's played with injuries, so why can't she? Either way, Laimbeer has his Shock ready for the Sun. Even guard Deanna Nolan feels the Shock are focused and in a good place right now.

No laughing matter... Laimbeer's theory that Douglas will play gave Sun coach Mike Thibault a good laugh.

Bring in the rookie... If indeed Katie Douglas is out for tonight's Game One, the Connecticut Sun will have to rely on the teams depth and insert rookie guard Erin Phillips into the starting lineup.

Let the rivalry continue... In a familiar matchup out West, the Monarchs are ready to defend their 2005 Western Conference title against the Los Angeles Sparks in tonight's Game One matchup.

Not much of a rest for L.A.... Two nights after wrapping up the Storm's season, Los Angeles turns their attention to the Monarchs. And don't think they're tired. In fact, they're riding the momentum from their Game Three win into the upcoming series against Sacramento, who had four days rest after sweeping the Comets.

No questioning her game-day status... Los Angeles' Chamique Holdsclaw didn't play in Game Three against the Storm due to plantar fasciitis in her foot, but she could have according to coach Joe Bryant. Could this mean that Holdsclaw will likely play tonight?

In Other News... Indiana Fever forward Tamika Catchings was presented the Community Assist Award for July... Lynx forward Adrian Williams underwent successful surgery to repair a patella tendon avulsion in her left knee on Wednesday.

Click and Roll: The Final Four Edition
Posted: By Mike Slane, August 23, 2006 11:07 a.m. ET

After easily rolling through the Houston Comets in the first round, the Monarchs finally know who they will face in the Western Conference Finals.

Seattle's season came to a halt and Los Angeles advances to the Conference Finals for the first time in three-years... The top-seeded Sparks went on to beat the Storm, 68-63, last night in a decisive Game Three.

Yet they barely hung on. Too much confidence could have killed them... Coming into to the fourth quarter, the Sparks held a 14-point lead, but their lead went all the way down to just one point with 28.4 seconds left in the fourth.

If you're gonna go out, go out firing... And that's exactly what the Storm did. Sue Bird reminded her teammates that it could be done as they scored 10 points in a two minute stretch in Game Two... and we all saw how they responded.

Another long offseason for Bird... Sue Bird had a chance to tie it for the Storm with 9.5 seconds remaining in the fourth, but her mid-range jumper was off the mark. The All-Star guard missed a number of shots down the stretch that could have tied the game.

The smallest player comes up big... Standing only 5-3, Sparks guard Tameka Johnson led the Sparks with 14 points and six assists.

The tallest player showed more than one strength last night... Sparks center Lisa Leslie, who scored 14 points last night, has not only been a leader for the Sparks for the past ten years, she has also been an inspiration to all fans with her kindness and is a great pioneer of women's professional sports.

In Other News... The Sun need to continue to shine despite losing leading-scorer Katie Douglas for the remainder of the postseason. There is no time to sulk. The Sun need to stay focused for their upcoming series against the Detroit Shock.

Click and Roll: The Game Three Edition
Posted: By Mike Slane, August 22, 2006 12:44 p.m. ET

The city of Los Angeles will be the center of the women's basketball world tonight as the Sparks and Storm will play a decisive Game Three.

After Seattle put the heat on Los Angeles by winning Game One, 84-72, Coach Joe Bryant and the Sparks were not worried heading into Game Two. Even when things looked bleak during the early minutes of the game, they did not panic. With Chamique Holdsclaw injured, ten-year veteran Mwabi Mabika stepped up and helped dig the Sparks out of a 15-point deficit en route to a 78-70 Game Two victory.

All-Star Sue Bird injured her nose in the final minute of Game Two, but luckily for Seattle, she only suffered a nose contusion not a broken nose. Bird is cleared to play in tonight's Game Three, but will have to wear a protective mask. Holdsclaw, who only played three minutes in Game Two due to a ligament problem in the bottom of her left foot, is still in pain and her availability will be a game-time decision, according to Coach Bryant.

The winner of tonight's game will face the defending champion Sacramento Monarchs in the Western Conference Finals. The Monarchs advanced to the Conference Finals and have their eye on another title. The Monarchs have been waiting patiently after sweeping Houston and ending the Comets season with a 28-point victory on Saturday. Houston's veteran guard Dawn Staley, who announced her retirement earlier this year, went scoreless in her final game.

Another run to the Finals would be just the thing to make Monarchs Coach John Whisenent's long, sad summer end on a high note.

For the Sun, it happens again... Last year it was Lindsay Whalen, this year it's Katie Douglas. On the same day that her hopes of playing for Lithuania in the upcoming World Championships were shattered, Douglas was diagnosed with a non-displaced hairline fracture in her right foot, which will likely force the Sun All-Star guard to sit out during their upcoming series against the Detroit Shock.

But don't stop believing in the Sun just yet. The Sun can rely on their four other All-Stars, their depth and the balanced attack that led them to the league's best record to get past the Shock and into their third consecutive WNBA Finals. The Sun swept the Shock in the first round of the 2005 Playoffs but then the Shock swept the Sun in the 2006 regular season.

Led by Swin Cash, Detroit enters the series on a hot-streak and believed that not even the Sun can stand in the way of their winning their first WNBA title since 2003, when they defeated the Sparks, 2-1, in a three-game series.

How did they get here? WNBA Coach of the Year Mike Thibault and the Sun survived an ugly Game Two against the Mystics on Sunday to win their first round series, 2-0. The Shock survived a 41 point performance from Indiana's Tamika Whitmore to defeat the Fever, 98-83, on their way to a first round sweep.

In Other News... Sacramento's Erin Buescher won the WNBA Most Improved Player... Minnesota Lynx guard Seimone Augustus won the top rookie honors... Houston Comets coach Van Chancellor hinted that changes are coming in Houston.

Ask The Editor: 2006 Playoffs Edition
Posted: By Matt Wurst, August 21, 2006 8:12 p.m. ET

Matt, Is Sue's nose broken? Katie's foot? Chamique's injury? What's the deal? How about a playoff injury update?
-Noelle, Kensington, MI

A. No, Sue's nose is not broken... but she sure did come close, which means... The Return of the Mask. Last I heard, she will be playing tonight against Los Angeles in the all-important Game Three. Katie had an MRI yesterday, which revealed that she has a hairline fracture in her heel. Quite a blow for the Sun, who could be without Douglas for the rest of the postseason. This comes on the heels (no pun intended) of a strained calf muscle that sidelined her at the end of the regular season. Now I'm no doctor (though I do have my own personal physician on call and I often think that I am a doctor by osmosis, but apparently you have to go to a special school for that), but my theory is that she was moving differently after tweaking her calf. Maybe she was running, jumping or moving slightly differently, which led to another injury. That's what happened with Lindsay Whalen in the Finals last year when her bad ankle led to a bad knee. Now Chamique has Plantar fasciitis, which I've recently learned is not an agricultural term, but actually a medical issue that causes unbearable pain in the heel. Holdsclaw played all of two minutes in Game Two, but the Sparks were able to win without her. Her status for Game Three will be a gametime decision. In other medical news, my sore knee is on the mend.

Dear WNBA.com Editors, Love the Playoffs site. Looks great, wonderful coverage. How come it doesn't look this good all year round?
-Sir Walter, Manchester, England

A. Hello, chap. Thanks for coming to the site all year long! And thanks for your high praise of our Playoffs section. It is our goal to deliver all of the information, from game information to photos and videos and features - in the best way possible. The Playoffs are the best time of year to be involved in the WNBA. The intensity level skyrockets and the players' passion drives our passion. And just like the superstar players, the WNBA.com staff steps up its game in the postseason.

I would like to know why there is not a WNBA team in Atlanta, GA. We have one of the largest fan base for sports but nothing for our young girls to look forward to.
- Angela, Riverdale, GA

A. This is a question we get a lot. How come there is no team in this city or that? Donna gets the question just about every time she meets the media. Expansion is very much in the league's future, but it takes the right situation - the right owners, the right arena, the right business plan, the right media plan, etc.. The initial model saw NBA owners joining the WNBA with "sister" teams, but in the past few years, we have seen how successful independent owners can be without the NBA model. Atlanta is a great city... they have given us such American institutions as Coca Cola, CNN, the CDC, the Yin Yang twins, peaches, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Star Trek legend DeForest Kelly, the 1996 Olympics and the loveable Nipsey Russell. Plus, the city has a knowledgeable sports fans base. So if a potential ownership group was interested, the WNBA would absolutely entertain the notion. Let me ask you, how much money do you have in the bank?

I coach high school girls basketball up here. is there any one i could e-mail for some shooting/transition drills? thank you.
- Charlie, Amherst, Nova Scotia

A. How about Hall-of-Famer Nancy Lieberman?

Hello, Please tell me, will we ever see the women's games when they play overseas? It would be a joy to see them playing on other teams and the different styles they have to get use to.Tks a lot.
- Carolee, Apache Jct., AZ

A. Last season we showed highlights of WNBA players in their international competitions. As far as full games, I bet we will see even more highlights available online this season, and we will do our best to bring those to you. The challenge is that there are many players in many cities and countries around the world. Asia, Australia and Europe all have professional leagues. Another solution would be to plan a trip to another country to watch them in person. I bet they would love to have you supporting them, even if only for a few games. Who knows, they might be so excited to see someone who speaks their language that they might take you out to dinner. I hear Moscow is lovely in the winter.

The folks at my Sports Bar have been wondering what the players salaries are for a season. The Franchise player, the rookies, the bench players? We've been debating the need for the players to play overseas during the offseason to make enough money to live on and support their families. We're not looking for names of who makes what, just what are the basic salaries. Can you answer that for us????
Thank you.
- Geri, Sacramento, CA

A. Wow, that sounds awesome. A sports bar where you regularly go to hang out. Sounds like Cheers! My friends and I get into crazy arguments all the time, like whether Diana Taurasi could score 20 points with Steve Nash guarding her in an NBA game, how long it would take to eat a full-scale sized Big Mac that they have painted on the side of the McDonald's trucks, which athlete's life would you most want (a great debate that ranges from Mets 3B David Wright to tennis star Javier Nadal and golfer Adam Scott). Players' salaries obviously vary based on talent. Rookies have a structured scale and WNBA teams have a cap. There is also a veteran max, which is right around $100K. Players go overseas because they get money to play there, too, plus it keeps their games sharp for the WNBA. Who doesn't like having more money?

I am a great Monarchs fan and supporter of the WNBA. As you probably have heard, Sacramento is seaking a new area for the Sacramento Kings/Monarchs. My comment is this: The local sport news talk radio station hosts never discuss the WNBA except for scores. The radio hosts speak disparingly of women's sports and really think the WNBA is not worth watching. However, when it comes time for a vote on the ballot for the area, they bring up the Monarchs. I really dislike the attitue the media has towards professional women's sports. I feel the media is one way they could draw more people's interest to attend, to draw in people who don't know about the WNBA, and to help draw more women to be interested. Other than waiting for these dinasours to die, I don't know what can be done. I like to hear news of all sports, and that includes women's sports. The Monarchs won last years championship, but one would never know it. I love the WNBA because the women have not become so greedy and do play as a team. As for a new area in Sacramento, if it does not pass on the ballet I would cry. I wish we had a situation such as the Sun have with the Indian Casino or some other private sponser. Why don't the WNBA owners put more pressure on the media to have more published? Finally, I cannot afford to take my family to a Kings game. This is not to say I think the WNBA is the second choice. But I do like that it is affordable. I see the NBA as becomming just for the rich, in order to pay for those high paid players. Thank you for listening to me. My wish is the WNBA grows and prospers and they keep what is good about the women's sport: team work.
- Lynn, CA

A. Thanks for the email (and for keeping it brief!). Just keep spreading the word. You are obviously passionate enough about this, so keep calling the radio talk shows until they let you on the air and keep writing letters to the editors of your local newspapers. Make your voice heard. The sad fact is that the people who listen to and participate in sports talk radio are not our fans. But that does not excuse the hosts' ignorance, or worse, malicious attitudes. Your interest in the WNBA keeps it going, so never give up. So what can you do individually? Keep coming to games. Watch them on television. Keep coming to the web site. And even more, get everyone you know to do it, too! People who are willing to give the WNBA chance always fall in love with the game and its players. So the more ambassadors we have out there, the faster it will grow.

What are your plans for the offseason?
-Ursela, Ontario, Canada

A. This question was actually for Nakia Sanford in the playoff mailbox, but since she was eliminated, I figured I could answer... When the WNBA season ends, I am looking forward to the World Championships. After a vacation in Mexico with my doctor, we'll get ready for NBA training camps, the NBA season, the D-League season, WNBA players overseas, the NBA All-Star Game in Las Vegas, NCAA Tournaments, WNBA Draft planning and WNBA training camp. I would also like to finally develop my television talk show with Swin Cash and start going back to the gym. Is that more information than you wanted? This is fun. Now let's answer some more of Nakia and Tully Bevliaqua's mailbag...

yo wenchy, just wanted to know if you get the championship do you get a massive bling bling lol.... looking good mate hope to see ya soon.. watching ya still..love ya , love your Aussie west twins.. missing ya chick
- westy, Canberra, Australia

A. Hey Westy, It's Wursty! When Tully won her last championship with the Storm in 2004, she did get a pretty nice ring. I miss you guys, too!

Ok,well that's enough for now. We have a big game tonight and need to get ready. But definitely send in your questions as we will answer some more again, probably during an off-day during the Finals.

Return of the Mask
Posted: By Matt Wurst, August 21, 2006 1:28 p.m. ET

We just heard from Seattle point guard Sue Bird, herself, on the status of her nose, which she injured last night. After seeing a specialist in Manhattan Beach, CA, the report is that her nose is not broken. She only suffered a contusion, though it is still very painful. Yet, she will still be donning the famous mask tomorrow night in Los Angeles.

That's right. The Storm team trainer always travels with the mask that Bird wore the last two times she injured the nose. Bird will see the team's Ear, Nose and Throat specialist once they return to Seattle as a follow-up.

Game 3... tomorrow night... 10 p.m. on ESPN2!

Four Games in Four Days: Part Four (Los Angeles)
Posted: By Matt Wurst, August 20, 2006 7:28 p.m. ET

After watching the Sun get by the Mystics earlier in the day for the third sweep in three series, it was only fair to assume that the Seattle Storm were going to wrap it up this afternoon as well in Los Angeles and complete the sweep of sweeps. And when Seattle, who came out so aggressively at home in Game One, busted out of the gates yet again tonight, it appeared that the Sparks fate was all but sealed. But the Sparks had history on their side. Since going to the three-game format, there have never been four series sweeps in the first round in WNBA history.

The Sparks looked sluggish in the opening minutes, whether it was injuries or fatigue, but the Storm jumped out to an early lead. The marquee players that everyone was watching, Lauren Jackson and Lisa Leslie, were not factors early on as their teammates got things going. Iziane Castro Marques and Sue Bird hit shots for the Storm and Sparks guard Tamara Moore had two early 3-pointers. Lisa Leslie struggled from the floor and missed easy baskets while Jackson had only one field goal in the entire first half

Seattle really hit the boards and lit it up from outside to establish a sizeable lead. 2004 Finals M.V.P. Betty Lennox took over and before we even had time to get settled, the Storm had a double digit lead. It was even more impressive as the Storm built up their lead when Jackson took a seat on the bench. It is interesting to see how Coach Anne Donovan rested Jackson at strategic intervals throughout the game and who steps up with the aggressive offensive mentality for the Storm when the superstar is on the bench.

Speaking of the bench, I'm not sure Chamique Holdsclaw got into the game at all in the first quarter as she was fighting a nagging injury in her left foot. She played limited minutes in Game One, and it was tough watching her cheer from the sidelines tonight. She finally came into the game midway through the second quarter, but watching her run up and down the floor in limited minutes reminded me of this great old golden lab that used to live in my neighborhood. Just painful to watch.

Seattle's opening run really took the crowd out of the game, which did little to to inspire the Sparks on the defensive end. The Storm maintained their lead throughout the second quarter even though Leslie became more of the focal point on the offensive end, but the Storm just kept shooting the rock and making shots. The way Betty heated up in the first half was reminiscent of her 2004 Finals performance.

But then Storm cooled a bit before halftime with Jackson out resting and the Storm began to ratchet up the defensive intensity. Mwadi Mabika, who was thought to have been an X-factor this series, had a negligible impact until a big steal led to a fast break layup. That play sparked a 9-1 run with a minute to go in the first half. A 15-point Storm lead was cut to just seven.

The Sparks finally saw the end of their season looming and the decided to do something about it. Mabika, who was non-existent in Game One, came to play when the Sparks needed her the most. Mabika came up with key rebounds and steals, then converted on the other end. Los Angeles came out in the third quarter and picked up right where they left off, setting the tempo with their rejuvenated defense.

The Storm were ice cold in the third quarter as Betty Lennox, Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson could not hit a thing. L.A. started the second half 6-for-6 from the field while the Storm missed 11 straight baskets. Just three minutes into the second half, the Sparks regained a lead that they would never surrender again. The Storm got sloppy and committed too many turnovers (after only eight on Friday night). Lisa Leslie finally caught fire when Jackson and Janell Burse got into foul trouble.

The Storm managed to stay close by getting to the line into the fourth quarter and Lauren Jackson took the ball to the hole more, but Sparks guard Doneeka Hodges Lewis hit a 3-pointer with four minutes to go. That gave the Sparks a seven-point edge, their biggest lead of the game. That also marked the beginning of the end for the Storm tonight.

Maybe that came earlier. Like just before halftime. Seattle did not move the ball well at all and lost its composure. They missed 10 straight 3-pointers in the second half, which absolutely killed the Storm. The Sparks were finally able to get into the lane and scored a majority of their points attacking the basket.

Adding injury to, well, injury, Bird got hit in the nose with a minute to go and the game no longer in doubt. I'm still waiting to find out if it is broken, but it did not look good. Perhaps that is a sign of good things to come for the Storm, who won a title after Sue broke her nose in the first round of the 2004 Playoffs.

The Storm and Comets were the only series to go three games last season, and the Storm failing to close out the Sparks tonight give us one Game Three this season. Tuesday night. 10 p.m. ET on ESPN2.

In Other News... Word is that Sun guard Katie Douglas was injured in the last few minutes of the game earlier today. Seems like the Sun are facing some adversity at the wrong time this season while the Shock are firing away. Let's see how a few days off treats each of these teams.

Four Games in Four Days: Part Three (Detroit)
Posted: By Matt Wurst, August 19, 2006 8:02 p.m. ET

Detroit! Home of... well, other stuff, I'm sure. But for today, the Motor City was the site for Game Two of the Eastern Conference semifinals between the Detroit Shock and Indiana Fever.

The Shock returned home with a 1-0 advantage (as guaranteed) after a 68-56 victory on Thursday and looked to close out the pesky Indiana Fever tonight. Deanna Nolan scored 18 points, Katie Smith scored 17 points and Cheryl Ford added 11 and 10 rebounds for the Shock while Tamika Catchings had a quiet second half while Tamika Whitmore shot 4-15 in Game One. Detroit played absolutely stifling defense.

For Indiana to be competitive tonight, the Fever needed more production from their All-Stars, plus anything from its backcourt, which scored a combined 11 points on Thursday. For the Shock, despite being up 1-0, they came into this game with a must-win mentality.

So what happened? The Fever came out of the gates running and got the ball inside early while the Shock were not firing on all cylinders. Tamikas Whitmore was really strong in the first half and finally showed up this series. In fact, the entire Fever team was just a step quicker in the early going, up 8-2 in the opening minutes. The Shock seemed a bit out of whack, turning the ball over, forcing bad shots and missing shots in the paint. La'Tangela Atkinson and Olympia Scott even got into the scoring act inside for the Fever. Scott was huge off the bench in the first quarter, providing additional scoring punch in addition to her leadership. The Fever were just playing with a lot more determination and patience at the same time.

Whitmore was really the key for the Fever in the first half, scoring 16 points on 8-for-9 shooting from the floor. Catchings continued to struggle. But Cheryl Ford really kept the Shock in the game as Deanna Nolan and Katie Smith were non-factors (only three combined points in the first quarter). The WNBA's leading rebounder this season scored eight consecutive points at one point late in the first quarter for the Shock. Ford had 12 points of her own in the first half for the Shock, who fought back to tie the game early in the second quarter and took its first lead just a few minutes later. There we went, nip and tuck for the time being, a one-point game in either direction for the rest of the first half.

While Indiana set the tone at the outset, getting into their offense a bit quicker, it was the Shock who closed the half on a run. Katie Smith finally got on the board and hit a 3, then Cheryl Ford continued to pound the ball inside to put the Shock up by four with a little over a minute to go in the first half, which is the lead that the home team carried into halftime.

By the way, there is no way to really get a sense of just how masterful Bill Laimbeer is at working the officials. I know he is mic-ed up on television and you hear him in the background a lot, but it works. You really feel it in his home arena.

The teams traded baskets to start the second half with neither able to establish a good run. Nolan and Smith really pushed the ball a lot more for Detroit in the third quarter, but the lead went back and forth all through the third quarter with Tamika Catchings out with a bump on the head. You really heard the thud as her skull crashed onto the hardwood. The Fever played well without Catchings for a time as Tamika Whitmore continued to score at will (she had 31 points after three quarters), but the absence of the Defensive Player of the Year began to take its toll on Indiana as the Shock began to pour on the points.

The Shock passed the ball so well tonight and built their largest lead of the game. By the time Catchings returned from the lockerroom, the Fever were already down ten points, but Whitmore had established a new playoff single-game scoring record. Without Catchings playing (or playing at the top of her game really all series), it was only a matter of time before Detroit put the Fever away. Whitmore and Ford were really fun to watch, and it is unfortunate that Whitmore (who finished with 41 points) did not get more help from the Fever backcourt tonight, which was more disappointing than the season premiere of Laguna Beach earlier this week. This game was like a boxing match (sometimes literally) as the teams traded punches until only one was left standing. Up next for the Shock, well, we'll wait and see until tomorrow...

In Other News... Congratulations to the defending champion Monarchs, who we got a chance to see the other night, for sweeping out the Comets. Much has already been written and said about Dawn Staley's retirement and this is not really the forum to discuss her brilliant career or her contributions to the game. Good friend, great player, greater person. Everyone associated with the league will miss her, but we wish her the best at Temple, where she will be paired with the best head coach in the men's college game, one Fran Dunphy.

The Sparks and Storm tomorrow in Los Angeles... 5 p.m ET on ESPN2 to conclude the four games in four days whirlwind coverage. Both the Storm and Sun can wrap up their respective series with wins tomorrow. Also, thanks to my mom for the new luggage she bought me.

Also, thanks to Patty of Western Massachusetts, who wrote me earlier today to share her plight... Apparently the local ABC affiliate in Springfield, the birthplace of this great game, mind you, chose not to show all of today's Monarchs-Comets game. We are happy to report that Patty called the station and may have had some pull, because the game came on, albeit in the second half. Great work, Patty! Anyone interested in blanketing the general manager with emails, hit them up at assignmentdesk@wggb.com.

Four Games in Four Days: Part Two (Washington)
Posted: By Matt Wurst, August 18, 2006 9:31 p.m. ET

What do the Washington Monument, Booeymongers, the Capitol Building, Madam's Organ, Jimmy Lynn and Alana Beard all have in common? They all stand out as my Washington D.C. favorites. Night two of the 2006 WNBA Playoffs takes us to The District.

We saw the defending champion Sacramento Monarchs back in top postseason form last night, so how would the challengers in last year's Finals fare in their home opener? To the nation's capitol, where the Washington Mystics hosted the Eastern Conference All-Stars, errr, the Connecticut Sun in the third of four playoff series openers.

The Sun entered the postseason as the prohibitive favorites not just to win this series or the Eastern Conference, but the whole shebang. Lofty expectations are only natural when you go to two straight Finals, send five players to the All-Star Game and finish with the best record in the WNBA again. But the Mystics, who came in riding a five-game home winning streak, also have an extensive amount of playoff experience as Teasley and Milton-Jones each won titles with Los Angeles. Plus, WNBA President Donna Orender was on hand to present Mystics guard Nikki Teasley with the Peak Performer Award for finishing with the most assists in the regular season, which really gave the crowd a jump start.

The Mystics needed a quick start, and with a very loud crowd of fans behind them, Washington did just that. I thought we might be seeing the makings of a close game as each team came out and shot the ball well. The home team came out with a lot of fight, as Richie Adubato's teams always do, and built up a seven-point lead early on. DeLisha Milton-Jones provided the offensive spark, scoring 13 first half points and attacking the glass with pre-knee-injury ferocity. Between Milton-Jones and Nakia Sanford, the Mystics were 4-of-5 from the floor as they pulled out to a 9-2 lead. Milton-Jones had a lot of success driving the lane and looked strong and explosive. She will be a vital player for the U.S. World Championship Team next month.

But the Sun were clearly not rattled, remaining calm and playing within their game. All-Star guard Lindsay Whalen put the Sun on her back and scored eight quick points, including two 3-pointers, to bring Connecticut right back into the mix. The veteran-laden team did not panic, played patiently and waited for its chances. Making matters worse for Washington was their going cold at the wrong time. But Whalen really pushed the pace, took good shots and put the Mystics on their heals as the Sun captured the lead for the first time with a minute to go in the first quarter. She really thrived on their dribble penetration and Washington could not stop them. Sun sixth man Asjha Jones also fed the Sun run off the bench despite slow starts offensively for Nykesa Sales, Katie Douglas and Taj McWilliams-Franklin. Then Douglas began to heat up at the end of the first half as the Sun built up an eight-point lead at halftime. Too many offensive weapons...

Meanwhile, Beard really struggled in the first half. She started 0-9 from the floor and did not get her first point until a minute remained in the first quarter. Her teammates combined to miss the next 14-of-16 shots. Beard's first half disappearance was much less worrisome than the recent absence of peanut M&M's, a fan favorite, from the company vending machines. At least you know Beard would be back, which is more than I can say for those small pieces of chocolate heaven. The Mystics struggled in the half-court offense, but worked the boards, played with energy and got to the line to stay in the game. Despite struggling, Beard still attacked the basket and drew fouls.

Whalen and Douglas continued to push the pace in the second half as the lead grew to double digits just a minute into the second half. Remarkably, Adubato kept Beard out for much of the second half, but it was Crystal Robinson who keyed one last Mystics run to start the fourth quarter. She scored eight points during the spurt that saw the Sun lead shrink to three points. Robinson had been out since late July, but the savvy veteran was big off the bench... until Erin Phillips hit a big 3 in the corner to kill the momentum. The Mystics continued to hang around, but never got much closer.

On the bright side for the Mystics, I was really impressed with the play of Nakia Sanford. She is one of those underrated, unnoticed cogs so vital to the success of a team. She has a solid offensive game, but fights for loose balls and goes all out on every possession. Coco Miller also knocked down some key shots, including a big 3 at the end of the third quarter, which trimmed the lead to 8 points.

In the end, though, Lindsay Whalen was simply awesome tonight. She was severely hampered by injuries in the Finals last season, but she came out firing on all cylinders and looks determined to get her team back there. I am officially ready to declare that Lindsay Whalen is back, ladies and gentlemen.

In Other News... Ummm, where do they show NBA TV around here?

Four Games in Four Days: Part One (Houston)
Posted: By Matt Wurst, August 17, 2006 11:01 p.m. ET

Howdy, partners, and welcome to the 2006 WNBA Playoffs. With the first round so tightly condensed into a brief period of time, we've got a lot to cover in a brief amount of time. The only problem with all of the traveling that everyone will be doing over the next few weeks? Snakes on a Plane!

The first night took us to Game One of the Western Conference first round series between the Houston Comets and Sacramento Monarchs, which saw the defending champions come out looking like championship contenders yet again. Just in case anyone forgot, the Monarchs are very much for real. Tonight's game reminded me of the first game of the season on ABC, when the Monarchs ran over the Mercury and everyone on the roster got their share of the scoring pie.

All throughout the second half of the season, depth was a critical concern for the Comets as injuries limited the team's effectiveness. So Houston should have been lifted by the return of its entire starting lineup for the first time in several weeks. Forward Tina Thompson only played 21 games, then went out with a calf injury, but returned strong for the final two games. Shooting guard Dominique Canty returned after going down on June 25 with a broken finger on her right hand. Canty and Thompson each scored a bucket early, but that was all that went right for the Comets early on. Yet that was not the case. Not at all...

The Monarchs were so balanced during the regular season that only center and 2005 Finals M.V.P. Yolanda Griffith averaged in double figures. All 11 Monarchs got into the game tonight. In the first half! Yet the Monarchs did not carry over that consistent effort from last year's playoffs into the first half of the regular season. But the return of DeMya Walker galvanized this roster and the Monarchs went on a second half run. That intensity continued tonight as Walker went right to work. Sacramento began the game going to what got them the title last year, their inside dominance. The Monarchs pounded the ball inside to Walker in the early going, who is also back and in shape after missing the first half after giving birth earlier in the year. Just five minutes into the game, the Comets had a double-digit lead and were killing the Comets on the glass.

But that was not all the Monarchs were doing right. They attacked the basket and disrupted the Comets' flow. Sacramento just came out prepared, played with confidence and moved the ball well. This was a patient team tonight. Houston did not get the ball inside to Snow and Thompson early and really looked out of sync both offensive and defensively. But Sacramento really deserves a lot of credit for kicking into their playoff mode from last season. The defense was absolutely suffocating. Sheryl Swoopes had an off night and the Comets started out shooting 3-for-15 from the field. Of course, that defense lead to easier shots for the Monarchs, fast breaks, transition baskets and deadly 3-pointers. Even Ticha Penicheiro was knocking down 3's tonight!

The Monarchs' 58 first-half points was a WNBA playoff record for a half. And down 28 at halftime, the Comets knew they were in trouble. Houston was 0-12 in the regular season when training at the break. Lawson, Walker and Griffith continued to pace the Monarchs in the second half, and while there is no way that this team is capable of playing like this every night, it does make you wonder why Yolanda Griffith would ever dream about retiring.

Speaking of retirement, Houston fans may have just seen Dawn Staley's final game at home...

Last season, much was made of how the Monarchs won its championship on the merits of its defense. We saw that again tonight. But it was their offense that was most impressive tonight. We saw an offense executed to perfection, with guards driving into the lane at will, scoring inside and outside and great passing. It was really a lot of fun to watch (unless you are a Comets fan). The Comets fans were silenced from the opening buzzer and the Comets were sluggish all night. Yet, the Seattle Storm will tell you how the Comets can respond and come back even after losing the opening game... as those wounds are still fresh from last season's first round loss to the Comets.

Nancy Lieberman reminded everyone not to sleep on the Monarchs in her most recent Ask Nancy column a few weeks ago, and she was dead on. The Monarchs are still very much the defending champions.

In Other News... The Detroit Shock won their opener on the road in Indiana by beating the Fever at its own game, playing a stifling brand of defense and limiting Catchings and the Fever to just 56 points. Detroit put the game away in the fourth quarter behind Katie Smith and Deanna Nolan. Now the Shock can go back home to Detroit, where they can close out the series on Saturday. Two games, two road wins. Welcome the the Playoffs, folks, where things really do move that quickly.

Why I Love This Game
Posted: By Matt Wurst, August 17, 2006 3:01 p.m. ET

Here we are, on the eve of the playoffs (and I call it the eve because I haven't slept in about two weeks and no longer have any concept of day or night) and it's time to just enjoy the great gift that is the WNBA Playoffs. People have asked what I am most looking forward to this WNBA postseason and while I think all of the first round matchups will be fantastic, the Lisa-Lauren thing will be cool and the Finals will be a lot of fun, I am just grateful for the chance to get to watch my favorite player in the WNBA lace 'em up at least a few more times this year.

I am not really supposed to have a favorite player. But I do. A lot of people who know a lot about basketball really enjoy Fever forward Tamika Catchings and love watching her play basketball. Many call her the best all-around player in the WNBA because of her rare blend of athleticism, skill and determination. I am one of those people (I do not have a favorite team, however, thus ensuring my objectivity).

I have been around the game for a few years now and I have never met anyone who works as hard at what they do as Tamika. If I put as much effort into every single thing I did, I would probably be a Pultizer Prize winning writer. If you put as much effort into your job, you probably would not have the time to read this right now. Catchings works hard on every possession, both offensively and defensively, making her the ultimate weapon. Think of any skill in basketball - shooting, dribbling, jumping, rebounding, passing, boxing out, etc - and she does all of them as well as anyone. The most powerful proof to back up this opinion is that she led her team in all five of the major statistical categories - points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. She was also the only player to be in the top ten in the WNBA in all of those stats as well. Yet, I still do not think people appreciate just how amazing that is. Her work off the court, with her foundation, just shows that her relentless contributions are not just limited to her athletic ability.

WNBA fans, and not just those in Indiana, know how amazing Catchings is. Yet she still does not have the name recognition in the larger sports community, which is a joke. The average NBA fans knows Lisa Leslie, Sheryl Swoopes, Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird and maybe a few others here and there (and I love them, too, so this is no knock on these superstars), yet Catchings is the ultimate jack-of-all-trades in the WNBA. Her statistical breadth year after year is remarkable and her skills are transcendent across the game of basketball. So how would it compare to the NBA? Back in 1967-68, NBA legend Wilt Chamberlain led his team in points, rebounds and assists (steals and blocks were not yet recorded). Well I'm too young for Wilt, who would have turned 70 years old on Monday, but I remember watching Michael Jordan in his prime and kvelling (love you, mom) over his two-way dominance. It is a really special player who can be the best offensive and defensive player at all times, on every possession. Jordan and Wilt were that. So is Tamika Catchings.

Catchings, who was just named the 2006 WNBA Defensive Player of the Year for the second straight season, will be on display tonight when the Fever host the Shock at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2 to open the playoffs. The Fever are the underdogs in the series and the number of chances to see Catchings play this season are dwindling. After the Playoffs and World Championships, Catchings will go back overseas for the winter to keep her skills sharp and we will not be treated to her physical gifts on a regular basis for a number of months.

The people in Indiana are doing what they can to encourage as many people as possible to see her play. In today's lead editorial in the Indianapolis Star, the paper called on fans to "Catch the Fever during playoffs." They believe that the "Indiana Fever deserve community's support during their WNBA playoff quest."

In fact, I'm just going to re-print the entire text from the paper and save you the trouble of having to link it.


It's show time: Tamika Catchings and her Fever teammates have a legitimate shot this year to win their first WNBA title. - CHARLIE NYE / The Star

With lackluster seasons by the state's two major college basketball programs and the Pacers barely making the playoffs, Indiana basketball fans haven't had much to cheer about lately.

But fans can raise the roof tonight at Conseco Fieldhouse as the Indiana Fever, with a legitimate shot at a WNBA title, open their playoff run against the Detroit Shock.
Get on the Fever bandwagon quickly, though, because women's professional basketball doesn't waste time with an extended playoff series. Both the opening round and the Eastern Conference finals are best-of-three-game affairs. The Fever play only once at home before going to Detroit for a shot at returning to the conference finals for a second consecutive season.

This year's Indiana Fever tied their best record in franchise history with 21 wins, splitting two games each with Detroit. In a balanced league, the Fever arguably boast the best defense in women's basketball.

If nothing else, it is worth the price of admission to see the Fever's Tamika Catchings, perhaps the league's best all-around player.

Catchings, though, is far from a one-woman team. The other Tamika, forward Tamika Whitmore, joined Catchings on this year's WNBA All-Star team. Whitmore is regarded by many as the most improved player in the league.

Basketball purists often argue that women's professional basketball is a better all-around game than the men's. Good seats can be had at Conseco Fieldhouse for as little as $10.

Support the Fever's playoff run and find something to cheer about.

In Other News... Did you know the Playoffs start tonight? Spread the word!

Ten Reasons to Watch the 10th WNBA Playoffs
Posted: By Matt Wurst, August 13, 2006 3:22 p.m. ET

With every game on national television this postseason, either ABC, ESPN2 or NBA TV, you can catch all of the postseason excitement even if you can't make it to the arena for a game. Of course, if you can make it to a game or three, you really should... history in the making, Part Ten!

1. Ten-year veterans get the chance to play for (another) ring
Comets veterans Sheryl Swoopes, Tina Thompson and Tamecka Dixon have all won titles before. In fact, they have ten rings between the three of them (Dixon won her two with the Sparks in 2001 and 2002). Sparks stalwarts Lisa Leslie and Mwadi Mabika have each won two titles and are hungry for more. Wendy Palmer is a member of the Seattle Storm, though she will not be able to help her teammates on the court as she tore her Achilles tendon and is out for the season. Only San Antonio's Vickie Johnson will not have the chance to win a title in her tenth season.

2. Third time's a charm
The Connecticut Sun finished atop the Eastern Conference for the third straight year and have made the WNBA Finals in each of the past two seasons. We all know how that turned out. Undeterred, the Sun finished with the best record in the WNBA and even went on a 12-game winning streak near the end of the regular season. All five of the Connecticut Sun starters are All-Stars... Nykesha Sales, Katie Douglas, Taj McWilliams-Franklin, Margo Dydek and Lindsay Whalen and they may also have the best bench in the game. So what will Coach Mike Thibault have up his sleeve to keep his team healthy and happy in the postseason? I cannot wait to find out.

3. Winning without Lisa
Nikki Teasley, LaTasha Byears and DeLisha Milton-Jones were members of the two-time WNBA champion Los Angeles Sparks just a few years ago (Teasley for only one of those titles). Yet, they are all teammates again with the surging Washington Mystics and a big reason that the team clinched a playoff berth with nearly two weeks to go in the season. With Lisa Leslie to follow, the Mystics have fallen in line behind a new leader, guard Alana Beard. The second pick in the 2004 WNBA Draft, Beard has lived up to the hype and finished with a career-high 19 points per game.

4. Winning with Lisa
For most of the 2006 regular season, the Sparks were the best team in the WNBA and finished with the best record in the Western Conference. The primary reason has been the resurgent play of All-Star center Lisa Leslie. The 2004 league M.V.P. struggled through the 2005 season with nagging injuries, but bounced back to have a crazy, ridiculous year. She is the favorite to win the 2006 Most Valuable Player award and is playing the best basketball of her career. She is healthy, her personal life couldn't be better and says she is ready to dominate the postseason.

5. Defenders of the crown
Despite playing inconsistently at times this season, the defending champion Sacramento Monarchs are built for the Playoffs and the road to the title still goes through California's capital. All it takes is seven wins, which we know Yolanda Griffith, Ticha Penicheiro and company are capable of achieving. It can be done... the Monarchs won seven straight games in July. But the Monarchs are not the only champions in this year's postseason. All five teams that have won WNBA championships have qualified for the postseason... the Comets (4), Sparks (2), Shock (1), Storm (1) and Monarchs. All four teams in the Western Conference playoffs have won championships.

6. Rested and healthy
All-Stars Nykesha Sales, Tina Thompson, Lauren Jackson, Katie Douglas all sat out for stretches of time in the final weeks of the season, but all are ready to go for the playoffs. Thompson missed time with a calf injury, then returned just in time for the classic triple overtime loss to the Mercury. In that game, Thompson finished with career-highs with 37 points and 16 rebounds.

7. Last chance to see a legend
Prior to the start of the 2006 season, Comets guard Dawn Staley announced that this season would be her last. The Temple University head coach and U.S. Women's National Team assistant coach played her entire career in Charlotte before being traded to Houston at the end of last season. Yet, the 2006 All-Star starter had one of the best seasons of her career. Not only did she win the first-ever 3-point Challenge during All-Star Weekend, but ranked sixth in assists (3.8 per game) and second in the WNBA in 3-point field goal percentage (.433). So this postseason will be the last chance to see Staley on the court. She has never won a title.

8. Put up or shut up
All season long, the Detroit Shock have called themselves the best team in the WNBA, promising to dominate once the playoffs start. Well, the playoffs are here and this All-Star-laden club has to prove itself again after bowing out in the first round each of the past two season. Yet, the 2003 WNBA champs still have all of the pieces in place... Deanna Nolan, Cheryl Ford, Swin Cash, Ruth Riley and Katie Smith are as formidible a starting lineup as there is... and Coach Bill Laimbeer has the best bench since that 2003 title team.

9. These are not your older sister's Fever
The Indiana Fever had never won a playoff series before last season's run to the Eastern Conference Finals. Yet despite that new success last season, the Fever brought eight new players into the mix. Results? Only the best regular season in franchise history. Tamika Catchings had another Tamika Catchings-type year, leading the team in all major statistical categories and finishing in the top ten in scoring, rebounding, blocks, steals and assists. But she is not doing it alone. Forward Tamika Whitmore had a breakout year, made the All-Star Game and is could win Most Improved Player. Anna DeForge can get hot and shoot the lights out at any time and Tully Bevilaqua has the ability to take the other team's best player out of the game (see: Becky Hammon in 2005).

10. It's the Playoffs!!!
This is the time when careers are made, heroes are forged, dreams are fulfilled, hopes are dashed, injuries are ignored, courage is tested, tears are shed and champions are coronated.

In Other News... The news has been dominated by some very weighty issues this summer. With gas prices skyrocketing, the world in the throes of armed conflict, The Hills and Cheyenne leaving MTV viewers disappointed all summer, the omnipresent threat of terror lurking and steroids and drug use marring other sports, isn't it nice to get away from all of that other news and watch the best at their sport laying it all out on the line? With the WNBA Playoffs and Women's World Championships this month, get ready for some fun! Come join us for the ride...

Last Day! Boom Chaaaaa!!!
Posted: By Matt Wurst, August 13, 2006 4:59 a.m. ET

We made it! It's the last day of the regular season and we're all still here, so that's a good thing. The playoff matchups are all settled as the sun rises over the East River and out my window here. The only question remaining is who will have home court advantage in the Fever-Shock series, the 2-3 series in the East. Considering how those two teams split their season series, with each team winning at home twice, it really is quite important.

If Detroit loses and Indiana wins later today, it looks like scenario number 3 on our tiebreaker breakdown...

Indiana will get the two seed based on an 11-9 record to a 10-10 record vs. teams .500 or better.

Click and Roll: The Final Weekend Edition
Posted: By Mike Slane, August 11, 2006 10:12 a.m. ET

We're approaching the last weekend of the regular season and the playoff picture still isn't very clear, but that just makes everything more exciting, right? The Mercury are not going down without a fight and the Comets still looking to clinch a playoff position. But no matter what happens, the first round of the playoffs is sure to be very exciting.

Diana Taurasi is doing what she has done best this season: score points. The 2004 WNBA Rookie of the Year has never made th epalyoffs, but seems to be on a mission to get her team there. She set a WNBA single-season scoring record en route to scoring 21 points in the Mercury's 99-68 victory Tuesday night over the Lynx. Entering the game she only needed two points to pass Katie Smith's single season record of 739 points in 32 games set in 2001. Then two nights later, the scoring and record-breaking continued for Taurasi as she scored a 47 points to lead the Mercury past the Comets in a triple-overtime instant classic.

How did Phoenix's victory over the Comets affect the playoff picture? Well, let's simplify things. If Houston wins their final game of the regular season against the Jackson-less Storm on Saturday, the Comets are in no matter what Phoenix does in their final two games. But if the Mercury want to stay alive, they must win against the Silver Stars on Saturday, who recently snapped a six-game skid. Phoenix must also on beat the Monarchs on Sunday and hope that Houston loses their regular season finale to Seattle. If the Comets defeat the Storm, who struggled against the Silver Stars on Thursday night, Houston will not only clinch, but will also clinch the third seed because they hold the tie-breaker over Seattle.

Unfortunately for Phoenix, they'll have to continue their late push without center Kamila Vodichkova, who will miss the remainder of the 2006 season with torn ACL and MCL in her right knee.

The Connecticut Sun clinched a playoff spot and continued their season-long winning streak on Tuesday as they blasted through the Sky, 85-59, to win their 11th straight. After missing 13 games, Nykesha Sales made her much-anticipated return from an injured left Achilles. The All-Star went on to score six points in 23 minutes of play. The following day the Sun extended their franchise-record winning streak to 12 games by beating the Indiana Fever, 71-63. Yet things weren't all that great as All-Star M.V.P. and the Sun's leading scorer, Katie Douglas, went down with a calf sprain. Coach Mike Thibault plans to rest her in the final games this weekend, but hopefully Douglas will make a return for the first round of the playoffs so she can help the Sun continue their dominance over the Eastern Conference. Connecticut will have home-court advantage throughout the playoffs, .

As for the top seed in the West, the Sparks, who had lost an uncharacteristic three-games in a row after an eight-game winning streak, beat Kara Lawson and the Sacramento Monarchs, 69-58, to snap their skid. It finally looked as though Los Angeles had a reason to play because the win restored the team's confidence going into the playoffs. Some people believe that the reason why this team has been so successful is because of a man named "Jellybean." Joe "Jellybean" Bryant has given his players freedom on the court and emphasizes team respect.

In Other News... WNBA announced that former Monarch guard Edna Campbell's return to basketball in 2002 was chosen as the league's Greatest Inspirational Moment... It will now match up against Teresa Weatherspoon's shot, Sue Bird's ridiculous pass and Lisa Leslie's dunk in the finale of the AOL Greatest Moments campain... Detroit's Cheryl Ford sprained her left hand in a blowout over the Sky, but she likely won't miss any action.

Thank You
Posted: By Matt Wurst, August 11, 2006 4:01 a.m. ET

On a day that began with nightmarish news that British authorities foiled a major terror plot against the United States and its allies, things got pretty frightening. It blanketed news coverage all day, which makes me extremely grateful to the Houston Comets and Phoenix Mercury for allowing us all to end our day on such a high note.

The Mercury's 111-110 triple overtime game had it all: stars being stars, heroic comebacks, significant playoff implications and myriad records broken. It even passed the "immediately instant message everyone I know" test. Diana Taurasi is a stud... WNBA Point in one game... 47 , WNBA FG's Made in one game... 17, WNBA 3pt FG's Made in one game... 8, WNBA FG's Attempted in one game... 33, WNBA 3pt FG's Attempted in one game... 16. But do not ignore Tina Thompson coming back from her calf injury to post a career best 37 points and 16 rebounds. And Sheryl Swoopes tied a WNBA record by playing all 55 minutes. I seriously think she could have played for days.

Also, Swoopes and Tina Thompson became just the second pair of teammates in WNBA history to score 30+ points in the same game, joining Taurasi and Cappie Pondexter earlier this year (June 6 vs. Sacramento)... Diana Taurasi also tied Cynthia Cooper's single-season record (1997) with her eighth 30-point game and tied Katie Smith (2001) by tallying 40+ points for the second time in one season.

In Other News... Who needs sleep?

So What's the Scenario?
Posted: By Matt Wurst, August 10, 2006 3:03 p.m. ET

I'm know. I'm a bad person. While the playoff race has been crazy fun to watch and follow, my Blogs have been quiet on the subject. For the most part. Of course, I cannot really root for anyone, which takes some fun out of it for me (okay not really), but we've been busy gearing up for the actual playoffs.

Anyhow, almost everything is set, which is awesome. The two big things remaining are the fourth team from the West and who will get home court advantage in the East. Take a look...

EASTERN CONFERENCE (all 4 berths set; #2 & #3 seeds TBD)

#1 Seed - CT

#2 Seed - DET (21-10) or IND (20-12) … DET has 3 games remaining, IND 2, all against East teams

DET is guaranteed #2 seed if DET wins 2 of their remaining 3

IND is guaranteed #2 seed if IND goes 2-0 and DET 0-3
- IND can tie DET at 22 wins if IND goes 2-0 and DET goes 1-2
- IND can tie DET at 21 wins if IND goes 1-1 and DET goes 0-3

*If IND and DET tie at overall record…
- DET gets #2 seed if PHX finishes below .500
- IND gets #2 seed if PHX finishes at-or-above .500
(see below: #2 seed if IND-DET tie")

#3 Seed - DET or IND

#4 Seed - WSH

WESTERN CONFERENCE (3 of 4 berths set; #3 & #4 seeds TBD)

#1 Seed - LA

#2 Seed - SAC

#3 Seed - SEA (18-14) or HOU (17-15) … SEA has clinched a berth

SEA clinches #3 seed outright if…
- SEA goes 2-0
- SEA wins 1 and HOU loses 1 (a SEA win at SA and a HOU loss to PHX tonight would clinch #3 seed for SEA

HOU clinches #3 seed outright if…
- HOU goes 2-0 and SEA goes 0-2

HOU clinches #3 seed via tiebreaker if…
- HOU goes 2-0 and SEA 1-1 (HOU has tiebreaker edge over SEA with at least a 2-1 head-to-head record)

#4 Seed - HOU (17-15) or PHX (15-16) or SEA (18-14) …
o 1 HOU win or 1 PHX loss clinch berth for HOU and eliminate PHX (Phx is at HOU tonight)
o For PHX to reach playoffs, PHX needs to go 3-0 and HOU 0-2 (including tonight's game)
o HOU or SEA can be #4 (if PHX is eliminated, see above info for #3 seed)

Home Court Advantage:

Connecticut (#1 seed in East) owns home court advantage throughout Playoffs/Finals
- CT 11-3 (.785) vs. Western Conference teams
- LA 10-4 (.714) vs. Eastern Conference teams

LA (#1 seed in West) owns home court advantage in Western Conference Playoffs

If LA (#1 seed in West) were to finish tied in overall record with DET or IND, LA would own home court advantage for Finals over both by virtue of a better record against opposite-conference opponents…
- LA 10-4 (.714) vs. East
- DET 9-5 (.642) vs. West
- IND 9-5 (.642) vs. West
- WSH 6-8 (.428) vs. West

If SAC (#2 seed in West) were to finish tied in overall record with DET or IND, SAC would own home court advantage for Finals over both by virtue of a better record against opposite-conference opponents…
- SAC 11-3 (.785) vs. East
- DET 9-5 (.642) vs. West
- IND 9-5 (.642) vs. West
- WSH 6-8 (.428) vs. West

If DET or IND were to finish tied in overall record with SEA, both would own home court advantage for Finals over SEA by virtue of a better record against opposite-conference opponents…
- DET 9-5 (.642) vs. West
- IND 9-5 (.642) vs. West
- SEA 8-6 (.571) vs. East

Now for the fun one... A closer look at the Detroit-Indiana tiebreaker...

Determining #2 Seed in East if IND and DET tie for overall record:

DET and IND can tie for overall record in five different scenarios. In each, teams would have identical head-to-head record (2-2) and identical record vs. East Conference foes. The determining factor becomes whether or not PHX finishes at-or-above .500. If PHX finishes below .500, DET wins. If PHX finishes at-or-above .500, IND wins. We color coded it for ease of use later on.

Scenario 1) Detroit beats Conn., but loses to Wash. and Chi. while Indiana wins their final two games

DETINDWINNER
Overall Record22-1222-12
Vs. East Conf 13-7 13-7
Vs. at/above .500 (w/out Phx) 11-79-9 DET
Vs. at/above .500 (inclu Phx) 11-9 11-9Move to next tiebreaker; IND wins

Move to next tiebreaker: Head-to-Head cumulative point differential,IND wins via +5 differential in games vs. Det (Ind 262 -- Det 257)

Scenario 2) Detroit beats Wash., but loses to Conn. and Chi. while Indiana wins their final two games

DETINDWINNER
Overall Record22-1222-12tie
Vs. East Conf 13-7 13-7 tie
Vs. at/above .500 (w/out Phx) 11-79-9 DET
Vs. at/above .500 (inclu Phx) 11-9 11-9Move to next tiebreaker; IND wins

With move to next tiebreaker: Head-to-Head cumulative point differential, IND wins via +5 differential in games vs. Det (Ind 262 -- Det 257)

Scenario 3) Detroit beats Chi., but loses to Conn. and Wash. while Indiana wins their last two games.

DETINDWINNER
Overall Record22-1222-12tie
Vs. East Conf 13-7 13-7 tie
Vs. at/above .500 (w/out Phx) 10-89-9 DET
Vs. at/above .500 (inclu Phx) 10-1011-9 IND

Scenario 4) Detroit loses all three games while Indiana beats Connecticut and loses to Chicago.

DETINDWINNER
Overall Record21-1321-13tie
Vs. East Conf 12-812-8tie
Vs. at/above .500 (w/out Phx) 10-89-9 DET
Vs. at/above .500 (inclu Phx) 10-1011-9 IND

Scenario 5) Detroit loses all three games while Indiana beats Chicago and loses to Connecticut.

DETINDWINNER
Overall Record21-1321-13tie
Vs. East Conf 12-812-8tie
Vs. at/above .500 (w/out Phx) 10-88-10DET
Vs. at/above .500 (inclu Phx) 10-1010-10 Move to next tiebreaker; IND wins

With move to next tiebreaker: Head-to-Head cumulative point differential, IND wins via +5 differential in games vs. Det (Ind 262 -- Det 257).

That was awesome. Enjoy the games and have the abacus handy. Of course, after all of that, it's likely to be a lot simpler, but hey, ya' never know.

Click and Roll: The Play On Edition
Posted: By Mike Slane, August 8, 2006 9:54 a.m. ET

I don't know about you, but I'm getting excited for the playoffs. We are about a week away now and things are finally starting to shape up in the standings. But who knows? With the way this season has gone so far, anything can certainly happen. Some teams might slip in the final week as we have seen before. Yet, we got a pretty good look at some playoff intensity over the weekend and could be a preview of how things could be next week when the playoffs begin.

The Minnesota Lynx have officially been eliminated from the playoffs, but that doesn't mean they can't be spoilers in the final week of the regular season. They sure looked comfortable in that role in going into overtime against the Houston Comets on Friday night. Led by Nicole Ohlde's career-high 25 points, the Lynx looked as though they had what it took to beat the Comets in overtime, but Michelle Snow turned out being too much for the last place team in the West as she scored 21 points and grabbed 23 rebounds to lead the Comets to a 77-73 victory. Houston avoided a problem because a loss would have dropped them behind the Seattle Storm into fourth place in the standings. Seattle played just well enough to beat the Charlotte Sting, 87-81, on Saturday to keep pace with the Comets. Houston then ended up losing to the Connecticut Sun, who have now won 10 straight, 86-67, the following day.

San Antonio is ending its season on the road the opposite way that they started. The Silver Stars started the season by winning five straight road games and have lost six road games in a row as their season winds down. About halfway through the season, it looked like the worst franchise in the WNBA last season was turning things around but it will be another early ending for the Silver Stars. The Lynx ended a six-game losing streak of their own when they defeated San Antonio, 82-68, on Sunday in their home finale.

While the Storm and Comets are battling for a position within the top four, the Phoenix Mercury are still sticking around trying to knock one of those two teams out of the postseason picture. And they're doing everything they can to get that fourth and final spot. That includes beating their 'nemesis', the Los Angeles Sparks, on Saturday, handing the Best of the West their third consecutive loss. Leading scorer Diana Taurasi and the Mercury are staying hot after winning three-straight following a four-game skid.

After doubling their win total over the past two weeks, the New York Liberty's future is looking bright. On the same day they honored seven year Liberty veteran Teresa Weatherspoon, New York was impressive as they rolled over the Chicago Sky, 80-69. The Liberty could not keep their momentum rolling the next day as Cheryl Ford hit the Liberty in the Motor City, tying a career high with 24 points to lead the Shock to a 65-53 victory. The Shock got their revenge after the Liberty defeated them a few days earlier in New York.

In other news... Nykesa Sales' has not done any full-speed running in practice and her status is still unclear... Sue Bird laughed when she found out her broken nose in their 2004 championship run could be the WNBA's Greatest Moment... Seattle's magic number to clinch in now one... Seattle's Lauren Jackson wants more minutes...

Ask The Editor
Posted: By Matt Wurst, August 8, 2006 1:22 a.m. ET

Matty, Give us five things you expect to see this postseason.
- Stef, Kennesaw Mt., KY

A. Well, I'm not really in the prediction business anymore, but here we go...
1. Lisa Leslie touching Tiffany silver. Whether it is Defensive Player of the Year, Most Valuable Player or the WNBA Championship, the odds are good that Lisa Leslie will get her hands on some piece of polished metal.
2. Seattle wins a home game. The 2004 WNBA champs were the most dominant home team prior to this season. Yet this season, the Storm have only been mediocre at home. They lost both games at home in the 2005 playoffs against the Comets, and I do not think that will happen again. So at some point, I think that Seattle will see a win in their building.
3. Buzzer beaters. Every year around this time, one player or one team makes a memorable, life-changing shot that goes down in WNBA history. Whether it is a game-winner or series clincher or even a championship shot, these are the plays that make the highlight reels for years to come... Weatherspoon, Teasley, Nolan, Donaphin, Powell, Wyckoff... you remember the shots. Well, I think we will add a few names to that list. Who are my favorites to do so? Kara Lawson, Chamique Holdsclaw and Lindsay Whalen.
4. Upsets. Every season, we see a higher-seeded team lose to a lower-seeded team. This happens for a number of reasons, but in short series, anything can happen. You have to throw out how teams played in the regular season and instead look at how they have played in the past few weeks. For example, Los Angeles has lost three straight while Seattle is playing well. Could the Storm give the Sparks a big headache in first round series if they met? Of course. Head On. Apply directly to the forehead. Head On. Apply directly to the forehead. Head On. Apply directly to the forehead.
5. A new champion. We've seen three straight first-time champions in the past three years. For some reason, I think that trend continues. With Houston, Los Angeles, Detroit, Seattle and Sacramento all likely to qualify, that leaves just one of three or four teams. And they are all in the East.

What makes a great point guard?
- Lexipooh, Thonotosassa, FL

A. Well, I never played point guard at the professional level, but I was a star point guard in my days back at Camp Winaukee in New Hampshire back in the mid 1980's. There was no bigger event than the Color War basketball game, so while it has been awhile, I can tell you that some of the elements that made me a great point guard back then: Preparation, anticipation, facilitation, communication, determination.
Preparation: Always study your opponent. Do as much research as you can before playing.
Anticipation: I recognized and actually saw plays developing in my mind before they actually did. That way I could make lead passes or get back on defense in time to make an impact.
Facilitation: The ability to create for yourself is important. But what set me apart was my ability to get my teammates the ball in the right spots that resulted in easier baskets. Sure, I probably could have scored at will, but understanding the percentages was my greatest strength. I knew that I was a good shooter from long range, but also knew that we were more likely to score if I passed to the player who was wide open underneath.
Communication: The point guard is the leader on the floor. Therefore, you have to set up plays, make sure that your teammates know where to be and how to get there, call out picks, identify mismatches and make sure everyone is on the same page.
Determination: There is no limit to what you can accomplish with hard work. I may have been shorter, slower and less athletic than my opponents, but I fought for the rebounds, always kept my hands and feet moving on defense and wanted to win more than anyone else.

Was reading in this morning's LA Times about the Connecticut Sun's advantage over the LA Sparks as far as home court advantage. The Sparks have a better won/loss record, as the Sun has played fewer games, yet the paper said that, should the Sun win tonight, it will have home court advantage for the whole playoff. I don't think this is fair; it seems like the Sparks are being penalized for having played more games. It reminds me of the BCS and all the confusion it caused during the NCAA season. Percentages don't always tell the truth. I think the advantage should go to the team with the best win/loss record, period. Thanks and have a great day.
- Pasadena, CA
A.
If I recall correctly, the Sun's victory meant that they had a better record at the time. That did not guarantee home court advantage, but put them in the current position if the season ended now. It will all even out once the season ends and teams have all played the same amount of games. Yet, as of right now, Connecticut would have the home court advantage if the season ended now. If the teams finish with the same record, the tiebreaker will come down to head-to-head, then the teams' records against the other conference.

Why are so many European players missing in action this season? Are they not being paid enough to play for the WNBA? Ann Wauters, Maria Stepanova, and Laura Macchi are gone. But Kamila Vodichkova and Svetlana Abrosimova stayed, why? I hate to think that the WNBA is not taken seriously as a league and international players frown at playing in America.
- Whitman, Los Angeles, CA

A. There are a few reasons why internationa players come and do not come. First and foremost is committments to national or club teams overseas. With the World Championships coming up, many players chose to stay and train in their native countries, playing in tournament and exhibitions. Second, with these players playing in European, Australian or Asian leagues in the winter, they may need a break in the summer to let their bodies heal. Coming to the United States means time away from familes and friends in their home countries. I would expect to see many more return next season.

Do you think Diana Taurasi will stay in Phoenix when her contract ends? I really hope she does. Thanks for your time.
- Alexa, Las Vegas, NV

A. I sure hope so. I also cannot see Phoenix letting her get away. Stars in the prime of their careers do not change teams as much as they do in other sports. Plus, she is really a West Coast girl and likes that she is so cose to her family. The fans love her, the organization loves her and she signed a three-year deal with a one-year option through the 2007 season.

Is Rebecca Lobo expecting a child? I recently saw her interviewing a player and notice her round belly.
- Twyla, Dallas, TX

A. She is! Rebecca and her husband, Steve, are expecting their scond child in the next several weeks. And the NBA Store has baby clothing! Including those little, tiny baby WNBA bathrobes that are so cute that even television star Tom Cavanaugh ("Ed") has one.

What do you like on your pizza?
- Andrea, Mitchum, WI
A.
Great question. Usually, I like just cheese. Yet I also enjoy a good topping or three. Sausage, meatball and sun-dried tomatoes are my favorites. Back in college, there was a great place that put barbecue chicken on top. It was delicious. I'm also a fan of chicken-ricotta and the baked ziti slices if they come fully loaded.

With two young girls playing basketball, we are a big WNBA family. We would like to make plans to be a part of the 2007 WNBA Allstar celebration. Can you tell us if the festivities are in New York or elsewhere? Are the dates known? Thanks for any help. -The Johnson Family.
- Victor, Pittsburgh, PA

A. Thanks for your WNBA support and for those great band aids! The WNBA has not announced plans for the 2007 WNBA All-Star Game just yet. It will likely be in the first two weeks of July again, though the date, time and location have yet to be confirmed. My advice would be to purchase round trip tickets to all 14 WNBA cities just to be sure. And just a reminder, Southwest Airlines is the official airline of the WNBA.

When do the playoffs start? AND will they be televised? AND, if so which TV stations?
- Judy, Manhattan, KS

A. Hello, Judy. How's the Little Apple these days? I can tell you that we here in the Big Apple are doing just great. A bit warm and muggy. The playoffs begin a week from Thursday, August 17. Yes, OF COURSE they will be televised. The schedule is still somewhat contingent upon matchups, but there will be two first round games each night from August 17 to August 22. Games will be on ABC, ESPN2 and NBA TV. The Conference Finals will take place on Thursday, August 24, Saturday, August 26 and Sunday, August 27. The Finals then begin on Wednesday August 30. All Finals games will be on ESPN2. Are you looking forward to a potential Laurie Koehn - Megan Mahoney first round matchup as much as I am?

In Other News... ESPN.com is holding a chat with Ward Serrill, the director/writer/producer of The Heart of the Game on Wednesday, August 9 at 4 p.m. ET.

Click and Roll: Where in the World is Jenny Boucek Edition
Posted: By Mike Slane, August 4, 2006 10:22 a.m. ET

What a week! Just two days after all fourteen WNBA teams played on the same day on Tuesday, former WNBA assistant coach Jenny Boucek re-emerged from hiding (or just a lot of travel here and there) made an appearance at MSG during the Liberty Shock game on Thursday night! That game was one of six games played on Thursday as well.

The two key matchups on Tuesday showcased the second and third place teams from each conference battling it out for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. And Thursday featured six games, 12 teams and a possible finals preview for the main event.

In the East... Led by Kara Braxton's season-high 16 points, the second place Detroit Shock defeated the third place Indiana Fever, 70-66, on Tuesday, giving the Shock some much-needed breathing room as they extended their lead to two and a half games ahead of the Fever. The last time the Shock reached 19 wins at this point in a season was in 2003, the same year they won the WNBA cChampionship. Now if that's not a good sign for Detroit fans, I don't know what is. But what isn't a good sign is the Shock losing to the Liberty, 75-67, two nights later. Bill Laimbeer was not at all pleased after the game.

In a crucial game in the Western Conference just after the Indiana-Detroit game on ESPN2 on Tuesday, the second place Sacramento Monarchs defeated the injured Houston Comets, 74-62, despite shooting poorly in the contest (37.3% FG, 23.1% 3PT). The Monarchs, who are on a seven-game home winning streak, now hold a two-game lead over the Comets for second place and home-court advantage in the postseason. Two days later, the Monarchs clinched their fourth consecutive playoff berth as they went onto win an easy one, 87-69, over tthe Silver Stars.

The Seattle Storm helped their postseason position by rallying to beat the Minnesota Lynx 77-75 on Tuesday night. Seattle's Betty Lennox was clutch for the second straight game as she hit a 3-pointer with 18 seconds to play to seal the victory and send her former team further away from playoff contention. Two nights later, the Storm further solidified their stake for a playoff spot, by defeating the Mystics, 86-78.

The Storm need to be careful because the Mercury have not given up on their run to the postseason just yet. After losing four in a row, Phoenix got lucky and had the East's last place team on the schedule. Diana Taurasi's 29 points were way to much for the expansion Sky as the Mercury won, 90-70, in front of Chicago's largest crowd since opening day. Paul Westhead's Mercury are within two and a half games of the Storm, and remained that way by blowing out the Sting, 112-84, on Thursday.

The Connecticut Sun tied a franchise record, extending their winning streak to nine games after beating up on the lowly Liberty, 66-52, on Tuesday night. Asjha Jones tied a career-high , scoring 22 points as she rescued the Sun's struggling offense. The Liberty, who are missing the playoffs for only the third time in franchise history, had their season-high three-game winning streak come to an end.

Also on Tuesday, Los Angeles' four-game winning streak came to an end and the Washington Mystics extended their winning streak to four as the Mystics defeated the Sparks 84-74 on Tuesday (which came to an end in Seattle on Thursday). Yet, the Mystics are proving that they can beat the league's best and are establishing themselves as true championship contenders this season.

On Thursday, the two best teams in the league tipped-off in what may have been a finals preview as the Sparks played their seventh straight road game, taking their show to Connecticut. Sun forward Taj McWilliams-Franklin scored 22 points and grabbed nine boards as she led her team to a franchise-record nine consecutive games won in beating Lisa Leslie and the Sparks 72-63. Coach Thibault’s veteran team is proving to everyone that this may be their year to bring home the trophy as they now hold the best record in the WNBA.

As the men started their World Championship exhibition games earlier this week, the Women's 2006 U.S. World Championship Team nearly filled out its roster by adding Seimone Augustus, Alana Beard, and Yolanda Griffith to the mix. Augustus actually knew about the selection over a week ago but kept the good news to herself until Tuesday's formal announcement. There are currently 11 players on the roster, with one player to be determined at a later date. The 12 women won't have much time to rest for the 15th FIBA World Championships, which begin Sept. 12 in Sao Paulo, Brazil, three days after the scheduled Game 5 of the WNBA Finals.

Five Seats
Posted: By Matt Wurst, August 3, 2006 10:35 p.m. ET

Just back from the Liberty-Shock game at the Garden, and while the Liberty ran away with the game and blew the Shock out (it was a double-digit game for all of the second half), I was most interested in the fact that Shock coach Bill Laimbeer and assistant coach Rick Mahorn take up a combined five seats on the bench when sitting adjacent to each other. Man, that's fun.

Sneak Peak
Posted: By Matt Wurst, August 3, 2006 2:25 p.m. ET

USA Basketball announced today that it will conduct its training camp to prepare for the World Championships Aug. 29-Sept. 7 in North Carolina (at the same time as the WNBA Finals). The squad will train at Duke's Cameroon Indoor Arena and hold a trio of practices that are free and open to the public on Aug. 30 at North Carolina State University, Aug. 31 at the University of North Carolina and Sept. 3 at Duke, followed by an exhibition contest against 2004 Olympic silver medalist Australia at Duke University (N.C.) on Sept. 7.

With the exception of players and coaches who may be participating in the Finals, the entire team will be in attendance, as will several additional players who are vying for the 12th and final roster spot. The players have yet to be named, but it could depend on which players are not participating in the Finals.

In Other News...It's too hot for other news...

Winning At Home
Posted: By Matt Wurst, August 2, 2006 10:43 a.m. ET

This season, the league-wide winning percentage at home is on pace to be the lowest in league history at .589. But do not be fooled by these numbers come playoff time as the best teams in the league are still getting it done in the friendly confines of their home arena.

The top seven teams in the WNBA as of today (winning percentage-wise), Connecticut, Detroit, Indiana, Washington, Los Angeles, Sacramento and Houston, are 81-19 at home (.810). The projected eight playoff teams as of today are a combined 88-27 at home (.765). The top 11 teams in the league (not counting Chicago, Charlotte and New York) are 106-51 combined at home (.675)

These bottom three teams in the WNBA are a combined 11-31 at home (.261). The fact that these teams are barely winning one in four games at home is the key contributor to the lower winning percentage, which is only .01 percent less than the two lowest season home winning percentages in WNBA history.

So what does that mean? Home court advantage is still important, and teams need to do whatever they can to host a playoff series or two or three at home.

Hammon Back
Posted: By Matt Wurst, August 1, 2006 7:28 p.m. ET

Becky Hammon just came in off the bench early in the second quarter in tonight's game against the Connecticut Sun. The Sun are already up 13 points and Hammon has returned to the bench. 2+ minutes of action... a bit rusty, but good to see her back out there.

In Other News... Connecticut sure looks impressive. It's not wonder they are not rushing Nykesha Sales back... Asjha Jones has filled in quite nicely. Only question is when do you bring Sales back if you are Coach Mike Thibault? You want her in full stride for the playoffs, but you don't need to rush her back in the regular season.

Click and Roll: The Regular Season Fortnight Edition
Posted: By Mike Slane, August 1, 2006 10:54 a.m. ET

What a busy weekend it was in the W... Thirteen games in three days brought plenty of action for even the most casual of fans, but if you missed out or just want more, don't forget that Tuesday features seven games as well, which means that all 14 teams are on the schedule. But as for last weekend, the playoff pictures in both conferences started to look a bit clearer.

The Sun showed that they aren't slowing down at all as they are on their way to another postseason and are looking for their third straight Eastern Conference championship come late August. On Friday, led by Katie Douglas' 19 points and Lindsay Whalen's 17, the red-hot Connecticut Sun defeated the Sacramento Monarchs 75-68 in the second rematch of the 2005 WNBA Finals this season. The win was Connecticut's sixth in a row. Whalen, who had shot a lowly 4-for-44 from beyond the arc prior to Friday's game, broke out of her season-long slump as she went three-for-five from the 3-point line.

And the Sun weren't done there. Just two days later, they extended their winning streak to eight games as the Sun's bench lit up the Silver Stars, who had recently moved ahead of the Mercury in the intense playoff race out West. The Sun reserves finished with a season-high 42 points in the 72-65 victory. Asjha Jones matched a career-high with 22 points in 23 minutes.

In more good news for the Sun, Nykesha Sales may begin practicing with the team next week, but will likely won't play until Connecticut's home finale on August 11 (or maybe not until the playoffs).

As for the Mercury, who lost to Vickie Johnson and the Silver Stars, 98-96, on Friday, they are slowly watching their playoff chances fade after losing to the streaking Comets in another close one, 82-80, on Sunday. They are currently two and a half games behind the fourth place Seattle Storm, but will have a good chance to make one last run when they bring their hopes east to Chicago on Tuesday night.

The Storm, however, better be careful not to let their fourth and final playoff spot slip away. Seattle is is hanging onto the fourth spot, but anything can happen in the final two weeks. The Storm, who had won three straight last week, lost to the Shock, 77-67, on Friday and then again when they were edged by the Los Angeles Sparks, 71-70, on Sunday night.

The Minnesota Lynx, who are still mathematically in the playoff hunt, dug themselves into a deeper hole after losing to three teams with worse records then theirs. After losing to the Sting on Thursday, 81-68, the Lynx went on to lose to the Sky, who had lost their previous eight, 79-65, and then to the rebuilding Liberty, 78-69, on Sunday.

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