Celebrating The Snubs

WASHINGTON, July 11 - The 2007 WNBA All-Star Game will look very different than the first All-Star Game played back in 1999.

Of those 23 stars who took part in the inaugural event, only three will be participating in this year's festivities: Taj McWilliams-Franklin, Yolanda Griffith and Tina Thompson. This will be the first WNBA All-Star Game without either Sheryl Swoopes or Lisa Leslie. Leslie has been in all seven games while Swoopes missed one when she was out with an injury. They have played more All-Star minutes than anyone else (140 for Leslie, 134 for Swoopes) and Leslie's 102 total All-Star points are the most in the history of the game.

Of the 23 players already named to play this weekend (the replacement for the injured Sue Bird was announced yesterday), Anna DeForge, Kara Braxton, Penny Taylor, Asjha Jones, Kara Lawson and Rebekkah Brunson will be making their All-Star debuts. Katie Douglas is now a two-time All-Star while second-year stars Candice Dupree, Seimone Augustus and Cappie Pondexter are headed back. So if my math is correct, 10 of the 23 will be playing in just their first or second All-Star Game (lots of new friends to make!).

The times, they are a-changin. (Ron Burgundy had never heard that song.)

But one thing that will likely never change is the controversy and debate surrounding the selection of the players. A few weeks ago, I defended the notion of the fans voting in the starters (the current system) and stick by that defense (even though I did not accurately pick all 10 of the fan selections). The coaches usually fill in the blanks by adding the right reserves to the rosters (it really is as fair as it can be).

But because of the limited number of All-Star roster spots (11), there will always be a few names, maybe one or two per side, who are left out of the mix. Whether the fans, coaches, players or league officials pick the players, there are going to be a few snubs.

Wait. I hate the word "snub." It sounds like a noise that you might hear coming out of a slide trombone. But since that is what we have come to use as the parlance of our time, I'm going to go with it. Far be it for me to make up a new term to be accepted by society en masse (but if I were to make something up, I'd start calling snubs something else, like "unfortomits," since they are unfortunate ommissions). No matter the sport, there will always be a player or two who deserves to be an All-Star but missed out do to the limited number of roster spots. If you expanded the team to 14, then there might be a few more players down the list who felt like they should be there.

So let's look at some potential unfortomits (yeah, the paradigm shift begins now!) and acknowledge their accomplishments here, celebrating them now since we won't have the opportunity to do so this weekend.

A quick glance at the list of scoring leaders reveals that the top 13 players on the board will be in the Game. No. 14 is Sun forward Nykesha Sales, with 14.8 points per game. This will actually be the first season in which Sales was not picked to be an All-Star (though she did miss the 2006 All-Star Game due to injury). Her numbers are up from last season and right around her career average, but she is only the third-leading scorer on her team. It will be a bit strange to have this game without Cool 'Kesh.

Right behind Sales among the scoring leaders is San Antonio's second year phenom, forward Sophia Young. Young was named an All-Star in her rookie season, one of the record four rookies to play in the game. But she is the only one of those four players not to be selected again this year (the first place Silver Stars have only one representative, guard Becky Hammon) despite averaging nearly 15 ppg and 6 rpg. Reigning Western Conference Player of the Week Erin Buescher is also a popular fan favorite and enjoying a career year, but she'd probably fall in behind Young in terms of All-Star credentials.

Say what you want about the Shock having three starters in the game (not to mention the coaching staff), but guard Katie Smith could very easily have been chosen an All-Star and no one would have batted an eyelash. Like Sales, it is going to be a unique All-Star experience without Katie's dry, sarcastic humor cracking jokes during practices and from the bench.

Comets center Michelle Snow and Mercury forward Tangela Smith also could have been chosen for the team as they both were last season, but Phoenix already had three representatives going and Houston has struggled. As far as deserving guards go, Kara Lawson was given the nod to replace Bird as she is the league's top Sixth Man, though some consideration was likely also given to Lawson's teammate, Nicole Powell. Additional consideration must have been given to a pair of Bird's Storm teammates, guard Betty Lennox and center Janell Burse. Lennox is actually scoring more points per game than All-Stars Tammy Sutton-Brown, Brunson and McWilliams-Franklin (not to mention Bird).

And of the 13 WNBA teams, only one team will not be represented at All-Star (barring any more injuries). Despite sitting comfortably in third place in the Eastern Conference standings and exceeding just about everyone's expectations, no New York Liberty players were selected as All-Stars. But if I had to choose one, I'm not sure that I could (which may be why coaches didn't pick one, either). Third-year point guard Loree Moore is having a breakout year, but she is only the fourth-leading scorer on the Liberty behind Shameka Christon, Cathrine Kraayeveld and Erin Thorn. That might be a testament to just how good the Liberty are in that you could make a case for all of them.

That said, the WNBA is doing a great thing by opening up the All-Star Dribble, Dish and Swish Challenge and All-Star Three-Point Shootout to non-All-Stars this year. In the past, these events have been filled up only with those already at the event. However, now fans will hae a chance to see and interact with even more of their (and my) favorite players. I would be surprised if one or two local favorites did not end up competing in the events (the more Mystics, the merrier).

Of course, there might be more that I'm leaving unfortomitting, but at the end of the day, it will still be a fun weekend and I cannot wait for everyone else to get here now. In the meantime, I hear there are some pretty cool things to see here in this city (now does anyone know where I can find this Washington Monument?).