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The Goal
Posted: By Melissa, May 30, 2006 7:22 p.m. ET

The President of the WNBA Donna Orender announced on Sunday, May 21st that over the next ten years, the league was going to expand to 24 tens. Ten new teams. That works out to one a year. So this fan is going to put her nose into the front offices business.

I hope that the league expands at the rate of 2 teams every other year. One in the East and one in the West. That keeps the league balanced. And adds 4 to 6 additional games to each teams schedule. For me, a season ticket holder, that means a higher cost for me to work into my budget. (4 tickets x $20 a seat x 4 games = $320, six games equals an extra $480 a year.) On the other hand that mean four to six more games a year to watch, to drink in, to reveal in. And THAT is a good thing. By 2016 it means a minimum of 54 games a season! Woo Hoooooooooooooo!!!!! (Happy feet dance.)

To expand the league at the rate of one team a year or to expand with more than two teams in one year will effect parity and team chemistry. When coaches; owners, and players never knowing who is going to be snatched in an expansion draft, the level of play will be impacted. If, every year, fans are continually wondering if their favorite player is going to be sent to another team, it becomes harder and harder to manifest ones loyalty to your local team through the purchase of season tickets. If I am going to lose one of my favorite players from the Sun every year to an expansion team, I am going to have to get some therapy for my separation anxiety. Ok, that maybe a wee bit overstated but still losing Brooke was very hard for me. To that every year would be rather difficult.


One of the biggest markets for the W is working families. The W is an event that is affordable and family friendly. For working families and folks on a set budget it will be harder and harder to afford season tickets. And the W is a family sport. A safe place to take kids filled with role models and a positive environment that is learning to embrace diversity; the W is a great reflection of America and as such the W team owners are going to have to seriously think about how to keep the seats affordable to season ticket holders as the league grows.

Ten new teams is going to require ten new owners. I strongly call on the league to look for owners who are lovers of the WOMEN�s game. While the relationship to the NBA for team ownership has helped start this league and has kept it alive at times; it also is a two edge sword. I believe that Connecticut, Washington and Chicago are the new business model for the ownership of W teams. I think the W is now large enough to begin to stand as a separate organization. All parents have to let their children stand on their own two feet. If we listen to Mr. Stern as he speaks of using the history of tennis as a model for the W, we know that the women�s game exploded when it finally separated itself from the men and stood on its own two feet thanks to Billie Jean King.

I also think it is time for more women to own women�s teams. Washington and Phoenix are examples we can look to for this model. Hey Oprah... invest in women! Rosie! You love the game, invest! I bet there a women out there who would be brilliant at putting together a syndicate of women investors. This is our game and it is time we asked our successful business women to support the game in a different way. A big lesson I have learned in politics is that people will help when you ask them but you have to ask them! So Shania Twain, you talked about the W when you sang at Mohegan and wore a Sun jersey, so invest in a Tennessee team. Hey Reba! Step up. Wynona? Where are you sister?

Ten new teams means ten new cities. For the expansion to be successful, cities need to be places where the WOMEN�s game is supported. Places like TENNESSEE!! (Please for give me UConn for mentioning the team that shall be nameless). However it is a state that is crazy for the women�s game. And as such they have the potential to support a women�s team.

So here are my unsolicited recommended cities for expansion:

1. Somewhere in Tennessee (West) because of, well, duh, its Tennessee. The only state that is more women�s basketball mad is Connecticut.

2. Cleveland (East) because they still have a fan base to build on. The end of this team was not for basketball reasons. I hope there are some shrewd business people in Cleveland who put something together to get this team back.

3. New Orleans (West) because of LSU and it is a city rebuilding. There is HUGE opportunity there as the city emerges again. Anyone who is smart enough to commit to the city will receive the support of its citizens. While the Hornets are playing OK, that will change soon enough.

4. Philadelphia (East) because it is home of Temple and Dawn Staley and Penn State; a force in the women�s game even with all of its issues.

5. Atlanta (East) because it is one of the fastest growing cities in the country and the closest team is hundreds of miles away. After all, Kevin deserves a home team to support.

6. K.C. (West) because it is close to SW Mizzou home of Jackie Stiles and it is close to Kanas State. These are two LARGE women�s game populations to support a team. And doesn�t Mechelle Voeple deserve to have her own home team?

7. Boston. (East) We are so basketball mad in New England that Boston can support a team in a smaller arena that seats around 8-10,000. B.C. and B.U. are getting there in terms of popularity of the women�s game. And Maine-iacs still think Cindy Blogget walks on water. It is to far for them to get to Connecticut for games but Boston is doable.

8. Las Vegas (West) because there is just so much gambling and so many versions of Cirque one can see on a vacation. And if you live and work in Vegas it will be nice to have something to do beside gambling and shows.

I have no idea for cities 9 and 10. Maybe Oklahoma? Somewhere in Florida? Back to Utah? Naaaa on Utah. Portland? Gasp... dare I say it... maybe former ABL cities? I think that after watching which teams emerge over the next 10 years from March Madness, will reveal where teams 9 and 10 should be placed.

Sometimes my friends and I play the �What would you do if you won the lottery� game. I always say the same thing... Buy a W team.

Acts of Kindness:

Chicago Sky for Operation Gratitude. Good job. Thank you for your efforts.

Washington Mystics who, according to folks on the message board, have a special section in the Club Level at every home game for service members at Walter Reed. There's a big banner up about honoring our heroes behind them, and they are recognized at every half time. Thank you for your efforts. Would love to see something on your web site.

Mindless comments:

�Sports are only for boys?� Followed by hysterical laughter.
Emma Taylor, 13 when told about Title IX.

In Defense of... Well, Defense
Posted: By Rebecca, May 30, 2006 12:49 p.m. ET

I have a little confession to make. When it comes to loving basketball, I'm just a little bit of a freak.

Oh, sure, I enjoy watching a good run-and-gun like that Seattle-Phoenix game the other day, and sure, my heart skips a happy beat when someone puts up 90 or even a 100 (unless, of course, it's on my team, but even then I try to look at it as the evolution of the game). I love to see a three-pointer arcing its way into the net. Hook shots make me leap for joy- the memory of Elena Baranova tossing in a hook shot is the only thing that mitigates seeing Becky Hammon writhing in pain the day she tore her ACL.

But one does not name Debbie Black among one's favorite players, nor the late lamented Miami Sol among one's favorite teams, without having just a slight fondness for no-holds-barred defensive play. Nothing gets me out of my seat faster than a monster block, especially in a game-saving moment. There is a strange, frantic beauty in watching a team desperately throw the ball around, trying to find the open man, in the 24 seconds allotted to them, and exciting triumph in the sound of the shot clock buzzer as they fail. The quick hands leading to a steal- gorgeous!

Seeing an offensive explosion like Alana Beard's night against the Liberty or Lauren Jackson's night against Phoenix tells me that there is talent and power in the game, and there's a lot to be said for that. But I enjoy seeing the reverse of that as well. I love to see a lock-down defender on her man, shadowing her every step, a hand up in her every shot, frustrating her into a 2-of-14, five-turnover night. Nothing ever came easy against the Sol, as nothing came easily against last year's Monarchs- one of the many reasons why I'm so glad they won the title.

Offense is easier in some ways. The instinct of most basketball players is to have the ball. You're in control when you're on offense, whether you have the ball, are getting into position to get the ball, or are helping a teammate with the ball. Defense rests on anticipating what the other person is going to do. I find it to be more cerebral. That's one of the things that makes me prefer the WNBA to the NBA, though I enjoy watching both.

Defense does not make for a traditionally beautiful game, unless you count fast breaks as beautiful, which they are in their way. Missed shots and turnovers are considered flaws- but because we look at things from the offense's standpoint, not from the defense's. But it takes as much talent and skill to force someone to miss her automatic jumper as it does to bank in a twisting finger roll. Take a moment to appreciate the effort required to keep an automatic and versatile scorer like Tina Thompson to five points, as San Antonio did earlier this season.

So the next time you turn on a basketball game and you see 35% shooting from the field or a single-digit quarter score, don't wince. Look at it from a different angle. There is some magnificent defense being played. Enjoy it!

Paul Ball - Busted
Posted: By Lisa, May 30, 2006 11:45 a.m. ET

One of the biggest questions heading into the 2006 season was - "Can Paul Ball successfully transition to the women's professional game?"

So far, Paul Ball is 0-2 vs. the women's professional game, with blow-out losses to the defending Champion Monarchs and the Seattle Storm in the Mercury's home opener. The two losses were by a combined 40 points. Paul Ball is supposed to lead to high scoring, but currently the Mercury are 5th in the league in this category. Diana Taurasi has excelled in this system, as we all suspected, and rookie Cappie Pondexter has shown great potential, but the rest of the team just hasn't shown that Paul Ball is for them.

In the two games of Paul Ball that I have seen, the Mercury have gotten off to competitive starts, but seem to wear down as the game progressed. Their defense went from smothering to sieve-like in the course of 40 minutes. Most particularly noticeable is the total domination by their opponents in the paint. Teams are smartly slowing down the game when they have the ball and working it into the paint, where the Mercury are thin.

Another dagger in the heart of Paul Ball is the Mercury's shooting percentage of 37%, putting them 11th in the league. Paul Ball is all about taking open shots quickly and knocking them down. The Mercury haven't shown the ability to play that type of ball game.

I suspect that the Mercury will get better at playing Paul Ball as the season progresses. On a night where the team is red hot shooting the ball, we could very well see the WNBA points record broken. But I feel that the long-term success of Paul Ball in sunny Arizona lies in the Mercury acquiring players tailored to playing that type of fast-paced, no holds barred type of game. And that isn't going to happen in 2006.

This coming Friday, I will get my first in-person look at Paul Ball and I will let y'all know if I change my mind on its future with the Mercury.

Do We Have A Classic Rivalry Now?

On Saturday, I watched the incredibly thrilling Detroit Shock win over the Connecticut Sun and it got me to thinking. One of the things that made the NBA as successful as it is today is the great, classic rivalries. Who can forget the Lakers vs. Celtics. Bird vs. Magic. Or the Bulls vs. Pistons. Isiah Thomas vs. Michael Jordan. Do we have a classic rivalry developing between the Sun and the Shock?

The teams are very evenly matched and they play at a high level against each other. The games are almost always close. There's even last year's coach altercation to throw a little spice into the rivalry. And both teams are stocked with some of the best players in the WNBA. Whalen vs. Smith. Nolan vs. Douglas. Ford vs. McWilliams-Franklin. Sales vs. Cash. Riley vs. Dydek.

As a fan, it is a blast to watch these games. It is like a mini All-Star game. And we get at least 3 of them per year. If the experts are right, these are the two teams that will be battling it out for the Eastern Conference title this year. I can't wait!

The Perfect WNBA Player
Posted: By Christal and Christia, May 21, 2006 2:21 p.m. ET

You would think that with most TV programs showing season finales (America Idol, The O.C., America's Next Top Model, Everybody Hates Chris, etc.) Toronto would broadcast some WNBA games. Unfortunately for us, there will be no televised WNBA games this week. That's why we came up with our perfect WNBA player experiment. Most of the things on this list are wishful thinking, but it never hurts to dream.

The rules are simple. There are three categories: appearance (which has nothing to do with physical beauty), game and intangibles. We can only choose active WNBA players*, and we can only take one attribute from each. No player can be repeated. If you got any comments, whether you agree or disagree, feel free to e-mail us at finest76er@yahoo.com

Appearance Game Intangibles
Sue Bird�s bouncy ponytail.
We think that Sue�s bouncy ponytail is indicative of her pure excitement to play basketball.
Chamique Holdsclaw�s fade away jumper.
Mique�s fade away is Jordanesque. Like Nancy Lieberman always says, �Mique owns the baseline!�
Tina Thompson�s lipstick for luck.
Think about it, TT is known for being a winner. Having said that, we also want�
Margo Dydek�s height.
Self-explanatory. Not only can our player play for the W, she can also play for the NBA!
Sheryl Swoopes� ability to go left.
In the words of Doris Burke, �You can�t check that!�
Lisa Leslie�s winning attitude. When LL wants something, she gets it.
The Miller Twins� arms.
No one is more toned than Coco and Kelly. And the perfect player will be just as in shape.
Michele Snow�s dunking ability.
Since this player is 7�2�, she might as well know how to dunk.
Tamika Catchings� hustle.
Like we�ve said before, no one goes all out on the court a la Catch.
Yolanda Griffith�s hands.
Yo has some inspector gadget hands. Enough said.
Ticha Penicheiro�s crazy passing skills Diana Taurasi�s swagger.
We all know Diana has confidence.
Shannon Johnson�s quick feet Becky Hammon�s range AND Katie Smith�s stroke Deanna Nolan�s clutch instincts
Monique Currie�s and Nykesha Sales� scowls.
For extra toughness
Cheryl Ford�s knack for rebounding Dawn Staley�s basketball IQ
The Lynx�s youth.
We want this player to have her best years in front of her.
Lauren Jackson�s big girl versatility.
We want this player to post up and shoot from the outside.
Van Chancellor�s heart.
We know we said we can only choose WNBA players, but read the fine print of this entry.
Alana Beard�s defense Swin Cash�s leadership
Nikki Teasley�s ball handling.
This includes her crossover dribble.
Stacey Dales� Canadian background. We just want to be proud of our girl.
Lindsay Whalen�s body control

Having said all that, this is probably what she would look like.

Ok, maybe she won't be given a lot of endorsement deals. But we figured with her basketball skills, marketability won't be a big problem.

*with the exception of Van Chancellor.

Support the Troops
Posted: By Melissa, May 26, 2006 12:01 p.m. ET

I have struggled with this post for several days. I have struggled to the point of having it previewed by several of my friends. I was informed that with this being Memorial Day Weekend, I should let people know how to support the troops since I was one.

May 20th Season opener for the Connecticut Sun was Military Appreciation Day. If you showed your military ID you got a $16 dollar seat for $10. Nice discount. Nice to know how much you appreciate us... $6 whole dollars a piece. Six dollars plus Blaze wearing sequins on a BDU top that I had worn in combat. Yes, I left the arena feeling all warm and fuzzy over that one. In an effort to find something positive in all of this I wrote the following:

So here is my question. Why is Connecticut the only team to have a Military Appreciation Night? And why is it only for one game?

Do you have any idea the financial burden that is placed on military families when someone is deployed? On when an entire National Guard unit is sent overseas? The Poverty Line in the US is $18,400 a year for a family of four. What that means to those who serve is If you are an enlisted person of the rank of Corporal or lower and have 2 years or less of service and are a family of 4 you are below the poverty line. In other words, married with two kids and just enlisted; you are in poverty while serving in the United States Military.

A friend of mine is a pharmacist. She has served in the Air Force for over 20 years as a Master Sergeant. When she graduated from Pharm. school she accepted a commission as a First Lieutenant. Her pay as a pharmacist, about 150,000 a year. Her pay when activated as a 1LT $75,800. Yes, you too can lose half your pay for the privilege of serving your country and getting shot at. Oh imminent danger pay? Better known as combat pay, $225 a month. When I was in Desert Storm it was $150. Nice to know how much your life is worth.

Do you really want to know the sacrifices that are made by the families while a loved one serves? Ask Taj McWilliams-Franklin. Her husband is doing a tour of Iraq as you read this.

So here is what I say to the WNBA...

Support the troops in a way that actually makes a difference to us.

If each team picked one section of seating and sold those tickets to vets and their families for 5 bucks a piece, I guarantee you the loudest cheering section. Look at the tapes of the Army team making it to the NCAA tourney to get an idea of how supportive we can get. Active duty, reservist and VA ID cards could be shown at the box office to �prove� veterans status.

The next time you want you do a community event try visiting the local VA hospital. There you can witness the price people have paid for freedom. And the deplorable conditions of the hospitals we send veterans to for healing.

Hey Mystics, you have Walter Reed in your back yard. You have literally thousand of troops passing through your area. Think of all the new fans if you reached out to them. There is a restaurant in DC that gives a steak dinner to the troops on Friday nights. The DAV provides the transportation from the hospital to the restaurant. Contact them, I bet they would help you out.

Hey Silver Stars... you have Fort Sam Houston in your backyard. These are the medical people who take care of us in a combat zone. Have a �Take a Medic to Game� Day or label a section of your arena �The Hospital� as you have a supply of medics on hand to fix up opposing teams after you beat them. Imagine what it would do to other teams if you had a couple of medics on the side lines with a stretcher. Think MASH. No wait... CT has to play you.... forget everything I just said.

Hey Mercury... you have Fort Huachuca... Seattle; Fort Stewart... Houston you can have not one but two Tank Divisions with Fort Hood...

L.A., you have the Marines in San Diego... Think of all the buff boys in the stands cheering you on...

Charlotte... you have Fort Bragg and loads of other bases. The list goes on and on. To find your local installations go to http://www.ima.army.mil/sites/hq/default.asp

Or adopt a local National Guard unit that has been deployed. Get the names of the members and send them copies of the game tapes. Or sponsor care packages. Have fans bring supplies to the game to be sent to the troops. What I would have given for Charmin toilet paper when I was in Desert Storm. The list of possibilities are endless.

To the fans I say...

You want to support the troops? Stop putting a magnet on the back of your car. The 10 bucks you spent on that magnet goes to a multinational corporation and not a single penny goes to a troop.

You want to support us? Give 10 bucks to the Disabled American Veterans. Every penny goes to paying for services for vets. They provide advocates to help vets get compensation and pensions from the VA and free transportation for vets to and from their homes to doctors appointments among other badly needed services.

Operation Uplink gets phone cards to the troops for them to be able to call home. I wish that was around when I was in Kuwait. 1,200 bucks in phone bills for calling home. The phone company made a bundle off of us by charging us as high as 8 dollars a minute.

How about volunteering at your local VA hospital.

My parents could not deal with my being injured so they abandon me when I came home. Along with my girlfriend who left me for my best friend. To have someone sit with me when I was undergoing rehab and learning to walk again would have been better than any parade. My friends pitched in back in February of this year when I was hospitalized again. They brought me food, kept me company, harassed nurses to get me my pain meds and took care of my cats. Thye girls team I help coach sent me a get well card. I still have that card and I still cry.

Imagine going through surgeries with no one there. Or learning to walk or learning to use a prosthetic device or a wheelchair or being blind or dying...

Now imagine your family to poor to get to you. Or your family not caring to get to you. Or not having a family cause you are kid from foster care who joined to get education benefits...

Imagine recovery ... alone...

You have no idea the deplorable state of VA hospitals. But I am not going to get political here to explain why they are, but please believe me when I say your pets are treated better at the animal hospital then I am at a VA hospital.

To big for you? To abstract? How about your neighborhood. Know someone who is deployed? Know someone at work who has a family member deployed? Help them out. Go to the local utility company and pay 25 bucks on their electric bill or gas bill. Anonymously donate gift cards to the local grocery. The elderly person next door maybe a W.W. II vet... man or woman cause we serve also... mow their lawn, shovel their snow in the winter.

Pick a family and be there for them. Letters and care packages to those serving and support to those at home. My buddy Dave and his wife Naomi have a pen pal who is in Iraq. They ask me all the time about things to do; say and send to support �their� soldier and his unit. They bought a bunch of Girl Scout cookies and sent those. Now I know those were a hit and I know how a small little thing like a roll of cookies can make a difference.

These are the little things that can make a vet�s life better.

I have good days and bad days. My buddy Brian goes shopping with me. He gets to buy food for his dorm room and I get someone to carry the cat little to the second floor. He thinks I am doing him a favor.

My own Sun had the Coast Guard Band play at our games last year and the Sub Base school provide the color guard even though they are squid and can�t get in step, it still does my heart proud to see some people remembering us and our service. So they are starting the process of reaching out to the military. But someday I hope to be able to say

�In Connecticut... support the troops means something.�


Acts of Kindness:

Matt Wurst and the W for posting this commentary.
If you know of any kind acts and want to share, send them to me at Rothum@aol.com

Mindless Comments:

�The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realists adjusts the sail.� William Arthur Ward

Comets vs. Storm � One of Those Days
Posted: By Lisa, May 24, 2006 10:00 p.m. ET

When thinking back on the Storm vs. Comets game from last night, the words of the Daniel Powter hits song come to mind:

You had a bad day
The camera don't lie
You're coming back down and you really don't mind
You had a bad day

Some days it just seems that no matter what your favorite team tries to do, it all seems to go wrong. Shots rim out. Balls bounce just out of reach. The refs call fouls on your team but let the other team run free. Everything is out of synch and nothing seems to be able to change it. You know, you're having a bad day. Well, that is what last night's game felt like from the perspective of a Storm fan.

Spotlight On The Storm

Almost everything that went oh so right on Sunday went oh so wrong on Tuesday. The team seemed out of synch with each other and even a bit lethargic. The pressure defense that held the Sparks to 33.9% shooting, was replaced by the Storm defense that lost in the first round of the playoffs last year, giving up buckets at an alarming 57.6%.

Sue Bird was a bright spot again, being aggressive in the first half and almost single-handedly keeping the Storm in the game until the final minutes of the second quarter. However, the strong start didn't show up in the second half and Sue was barely a factor after the halftime break.

Barb Turner, the Storm's #1 pick this year, had her first extensive action of the year and took advantage of it, notching 11 points in 12 minutes of play and bringing a lot of hustle to the court.

One interesting thought did cross my mind. There was a very emotional presentation at center court before the game where the organization, players and fans said their farewells to the last original Storm player, Simone Edwards. The last time the Storm had an emotional pregame ceremony was the 2004 Championship banner raising and ring ceremony last year. Afterwards, the Storm played perhaps the worst game in Storm history, getting drubbed by the Sparks. And now, after Simone's retirement ceremony, they had their second unspirited performance. Coincidence? Perhaps the Storm should refrain from emotional pregame ceremonies in the future.

I don't think that this game is representative of what the Storm will do this year any more than the Comets and Silver Stars game from Sunday will foretell what the Comets season has in store for them. Great teams will move beyond this game quickly and get back on track.

Spotlight On The Comets

This was the Comets team that I saw dismantle my Storm in the playoffs last year. There was a lot of questions coming into the game, with the loss on Sunday and a rash of injuries causing some people to already start dismissing the Comets. Well, it looks like the doomsayers were wrong.

Tina Thompson looks better than I have seen her in years. I don't think she missed a shot hardly in the first half and did a thorough job of demoralizing the Storm with her long range shooting. She looked fast and her defensive presence gave LJ fits. Coach Chancellor did a good job of keeping Tina fresh, resting her when LJ was on the bench and getting her back in the game when Anne put her star back in.

Another huge factor for the Comets was the play of Dominique Canty, who tied Thompson for the high scorer with 19 points, she pulled down 6 boards, and dished out 6 assists. Whenever the Storm seemed to get a bit of momentum built up, Dominique would squash it with a great play.

Sheryl Swoopes started off a bit slow, but when she saw the game within reach, put the nail in the coffin of the Storm with a great second half.

Saying Goodbye to the Heart of the Storm

Tuesday night was a special night for Storm fans and especially season ticket holders. Last Friday, the last of the Storm's original players announced her retirement. Our Jamaican Hurricane, Simone Edwards, finally shimmied into the sunset. Season ticket holders were treated to a special pregame party to say goodbye to the woman whose heart and smile made fans everywhere she went. If you measured Simone's value to the Storm based on her on court stats, you would be missing the point. Simone was never about the stats. If she could make you smile, make you laugh, then she felt she had done her part. The Storm will miss Simone most in the locker room, where her infectious personality made even the gloomiest game bearable. Good bye Simi! We'll all miss you!

Team USA
Posted: By Kevin, May 24, 2006 6:07 p.m. ET

The eight core members of the US World Championships team were announced on May 23rd. They are�

Sue Bird
Tamika Catchings
Lisa Leslie
Delisha Milton-Jones
Katie Smith
Sheryl Swoopes
Tina Thompson
Diana Taurasi

That's a pretty formidable core group. There are four more players to be added, who should they be?

There are only three guards in the core group and only Bird is really a point guard, although Taurasi can play there if needed. If Lindsay Whalen's ankle is sound, I'd make her the top choice as the other point. If not, Shannon Johnson and Becky Hammon are both decent choices. Johnson plays better defense while Hammon is stronger on the offensive end. I lean towards Pee Wee, but either would work.

As for the other back court spot, both Smith and Taurasi are primarily perimeter players. A slashing type guard would make for a good change of pace. That suggests Alana Beard, who is not only a slasher but also a lock down defender. I like Deanna Nolan and Nykesha Sales also, both of them can work inside and out to give coach Donovan more options. Neither would be a liability on defense, Nolan is great on ball while Sales is better off of it. I'd take Nolan, given the choice.

In the front court, I think we need a center and big dog rebounder. Clearly the biggest and doggiest boarder we have is Cheryl Ford, so I'd take her. As for the alternatives, if we went by talent alone you would have to consider Chamique Holdsclaw. However, the Claw is persona non grata in Team USA circles and, more fundamentally, she's a diva headcase and we don't need that. Taj McWilliams-Franklin is a possibility, but she'll be 36 this year, she's likely to be coming off of a long playoff run, and she's been talking retirement.

At center, you have to start with Yolanda Griffith. If she wants to go, I'm not going to say no. However, like McWilliams-Franklin, she's on the downslope of her career, is expecting a long playoff run, and has talked retirement. If she doesn't want to play, the top alternatives at the five are Nicole Ohlde, Ruth Riley, and Michelle Snow. Riley was on the World Championships and Olympic team the last time around, so she has the most national team experience. Snow played the best of the three in the spring exhibitions, averaging 12.7 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. I think Snow has the most complete game of the three, but I'm a Comet homer so what do I know?


Congrats to Tangela Smith for being the 10th player to score 3000 career points.

Smith is 29 years, 1 month, 22 days old. That makes her the 4th youngest to reach 3000. Nykesha Sales was only four days younger when she hit the mark.

She took 256 games to reach 3000 points, tying Vickie Johnson for the slowest ever to that mark.

Definition of a Fan
Posted: By Melissa, May 23, 2006 1:09 p.m. ET

Main Entry: fan
Function: noun
Etymology: probably short for fanatic
1 : an enthusiastic devotee (as of a sport or a performing art) usually as a spectator
2 : an ardent admirer or enthusiast (as of a celebrity or a pursuit)

Yup. That would be me. A Fan. An enthusiastic devotee of a sport as a spectator. My friends will tell you how I perk up during the season. But I know it starts with March Madness. Who will be drafted? Who will be traded? Who is going to be signed? But most of all... predict the final roster.

There is a message board I read and post on. Right now the posts are flying about who is waived, who is traded and who we fans think teams need to have on which team. And lord does everyone have their favorite player. And do we get nuts about �OUR� {insert name of your favorite player}.

My question is how do we fans pick our favorites? For some people it is the sheer talent of the player. Taurasi, Bird, Cash, Hammond, Jackson, Yo, Swoopes, Tweety, TT, Beard, Lawson and so on. For others; the player comes from their local college or university. I cite any player from Tennessee or UConn.

But for me it is a wee bit different. I root for the ones who have been injured. I love the players who have fought back from some career ending injury.

Why you ask? Because I had my butt spanked in Desert Storm. My left leg was rebuilt. Four reconstructive surgeries and two years learning how to walk again. I still use canes sometimes. Good days bad days.

I would have given anything to have someone to look at and say �If Nykesha Sales can do it, so can I.� But it was 1992. No war in Kuwait, women aren�t in combat and there was no WNBA.

Today there is a W. There is a war and there are women in combat.
Ask Ruth Riley about her old ND teammate.

But today we women who have experienced some character building moment can look at Swim Cash and say �hey she did it! I can recover also.�

Sue Bird�s broken nose. Not once but twice.

Pick a knee. Any knee. And think about Brooke Wyckoff, Sales, Cash, Smith and know that you can recover from knee surgery or hip surgery. You may not play basketball in the W like these women do, but you can learn to walk again.

Pregnant? Had a baby recently and wonder if you will ever get your body back? Trying to figure out how to balance work and kids? There is a role model for you somewhere in the W. Helen Darling had triplets. Triplets!!!! I am in awe. Every team has mothers playing on it. If they can do it then you can do it.

Deaf? One of the greatest to play this game... Tamika Catchings.

School? Rookies juggle finishing college and making the team. Alana Beard graduated with honors from Duke. Allison Feaster graduated from Harvard. Lisa Leslie went back for a Masters. Jamie Carey just finished hers and Monique Currie worked on one while finishing her fifth year at Duke. Every team is filled with college graduates. In 2001, Sixty-five percent of Division I women�s basketball players graduated.

Lost a job? Wendy Palmer is playing in her tenth season and started in the season opener for her 6th team, the Seattle Storm.

Divorce? Yup a few of those in the W also. But they are still playing or coaching.

So who am I a �fan� of? For me it is Brooke Wyckoff and Jamie Carey.

At this point everyone knows about my leg so when I watched Brooke rehab after her knee boy could I empathize. But my jaw dropped when I watched her do sit ups at an open practice with the Sun. And I thought I was a stud when I was on active duty. Brooke can smoke your average basic training unit. She was cranking those crunches out and smiling with every drop of sweat. No wonder she is a terror on defense. Rips your face off and smiles as she does it. Last year in the play offs Indiana was at Connecticut. Brooke was all over Catch with her defense. Aggressive, in your face. And then Catch was called for the offensive foul. Brook just smiled. Catch was so pissed she did a very rare thing for her, she tossed a very polite temper tantrum. Polite but still got the T as it was a temper tantrum.

And Brooke just smiled.

I think about that smile when I have to deal with politicians and getting a law passed. Smile as I harass them.

I responded to the World Trade Center with the Red Cross. But the end of week two I was so exhausted I did not pay attention and I fell down a flight of 14 cement steps. Ouch. Ask me sometime and I will tell you about it but it was weeks before I could walk from my bed to the bathroom and not want to toss my cookies.

And Jamie played basketball???? Dang girl!

The other reason is her brother. My ranger buddy from Desert Storm could not readjust to civilian life when we got home. September of 1997 Thomas took his own life. I know what it means to me to have lost him, I cannot imagine what it would mean to lose a brother.

But there is Jamie. Playing hard. And I think ; �If Jamie can do it. so can I�

So there is more to the W than hot chicks putting a ball in a basket. Something going on in your life? There is someone in the W who has been there; done that and has sold the T-shirt at a tag sale to prove it. Pick a role model cause if they can do it, so can you.

Acts of Kindness:
Brooke Wyckoff talking politics with me after a STH thing. I can talk with Senators and legislators but put me next to Brooke or Jamie and I giggle my way back to 5 years old and waiting for Santa on Christmas Eve.

Mindless Comment:
�My University is so concerned with social issues I have to hang out with a lesbian so I can eat chicken wings, watch basketball and be butch.� My buddy Brian May 16, 2006

Opening Day - Sparks Fly
Posted: By Lisa, May 22, 2006 12:50 p.m. ET

I love the feel of opening day! Almost 10,000 screaming fans gathered in an arena to watch our beloved Storm square off against our hated rivals from LA. Last year, the Sparks rained on our Championship parade, so it was pay back time!

The game started off rather evenly matched, but the Storm managed almost 40 minutes of adding a few points every few minutes to our lead with only a few runs by the Sparks, leading to the blowout 90 to 67 win.

Spotlight On The Storm

Anne Donovan harped all preseason on improved defensive play, and it looks like her tutelage paid off. The Storm held the Sparks to less than 70 points, 33.9% shooting, outrebounded them 31 to 22, and picked up 12 steals, including a team record 7 from Sue Bird. The Sparks only got 7 fast break points, and only 22 points in the paint, an area of weakness for the Storm last year.

Another of Anne's keys for the Storm this year was veteran leadership coming off the bench. It didn't take long for that to emerge because of the injury to Janell Burse. Wendy Palmer stepped up in a big way for the Storm, notching a double-double with 18 points and 13 rebounds. On a night where the loss of Burse could have spelled big trouble against Lisa Leslie, Wendy helped Lauren Jackson keep Lisa under 30 points and got her to foul out of the game.

Anne also wanted Sue Bird to be more aggressive this year. With the new 24 second clock, Anne needs Sue to be more of a creator and to take open shots when they present themselves. Sue set the tempo early with the first points for the team, a 3-ball, and proceeded to shoot, slash and dish herself to a near triple double, with 13 points, 9 assists and 7 steals.

Lauren Jackson didn't seem to have any ill effect from her shins, and notched 23 points, including 2-2 from behind the arc and 7-9 from the field, despite being in foul trouble for most of the first half. Betty Lennox seemed to still be suffering from the car accident she had a few days ago, but finally got into the groove in the late 3rd quarter to finish with some vintage Betty Ball. Izzy had a perfect game, going 6-6 from the field. Her slashing moves to the basket made the Sparks look like they were standing still at times. Tanisha Wright had some key plays off the bench in backing Sue up.

In short, the Storm are just where Anne wants them to be. They are playing like a team with all the great chemistry you would expect from having 5 starters return. Tuesday night's game against Houston will say a lot about the Storm's chances for this year.

Spotlight On The Sparks

In my preseason preview, I mentioned that I thought the Sparks were going through a minor rebuilding year and last night's game didn't change my mind. The team was looking for an identity, and coach Bryant looked frustrated. The absence of Chamique Holdsclaw was obvious because of her playmaking ability. Without Mique on the court, all of the playmaking had to be done by Temeka Johnson. The fiery point guard showed some amazing footwork, and was able to create her own shot, but suffered from poor shooting, making only 2 of 11 shots.

Lisa Leslie showed that she still has a ton of game. She scored a game high 24 points and pulled down 5 boards. Unfortunately for the Sparks, Lisa is about all they have in the paint. Christi Thomas came off the bench for 6 points in 21 minutes of play, but starter Jessica Moore, filling in for Mique, put up a big goose egg.

Mwadi Mabika looks to be totally healed from last season's injury and was looking good, hitting 50% of her 3-point shots. She dropped a cool 19 points and 4 boards on the night. The other bright spot was the play of Doneeka Hodges Lewis, who tallied 10 points for the Sparks.

Without Mique on the field, the Sparks lack that valid 3rd scoring option. Their bench also seems to lack the depth it will need to keep up with the increased pace of the game with the new 24 second clock. The chemistry also seemed to be missing, with Temeka getting angry more than a few times when teammates weren't where they were supposed to be for a given play.

A Question Of Safety

Something happened during the game that got me wondering whether the WNBA needs to change its rules. In the 3rd quarter, Izzy Castro Marques crumpled to the ground when she got hit by the elbow of teammate Lauren Jackson. The play continued with Seattle moving the ball down court and shooting the ball before everyone realized that Izzy was still lying in a heap and not moving on the other end of the court. Anne quickly motioned to the refs and asked for an injury timeout, but referee Kurt Walker refused her, even though a player was obviously hurt and not moving. Wendy Palmer quickly fouled the ball coming down court, but I was floored that the refs wouldn't stop the game once they knew that a player was down and hurting.

Now I am not sure if the refs were following the rules or not, but I think that it is ludicrous that play was not stopped immediately upon them noticing Izzy laying there. A blow to the head could be a very serious thing, perhaps even life-threatening. The fact that medical staff couldn't attend to Izzy until the play was stopped could have cost her precious moments. She also could have been hurt further if play would have made it down to that end of the court, as she was crumpled right beneath the Sparks basket. Other players could have hurt themselves tripping over her as they continued play. In short, it was one of the most dangerous and stupid things I have seen and steps need to be made to change the rules or inform the refs so that game play can be stopped and the injured player can be tended to.

Donna Orender was at the game, and I implore you, Donna, to check into this matter and help us keep our players safe. A clearly injured player on the floor should stop play as soon as the refs see the injury. Period. Nothing is more important than the safety of our players.

Tales from a TV Screen
Posted: By Christal and Christia, May 21, 2006 12:09 p.m. ET

We're pretty sure you watched the game. But just in case you've missed some interesting sights and scenes�

What you'll find in this entry:
Random observations from the opening game between the New York Liberty and Connecticut Sun, a little bit of sarcasm and "ha-ha" jokes and meaningless and not-so meaningless numbers and pictures.

What you won't find in this entry
Outlandish predictions based on a season opener game.

Let's get ready to rumble, WNBA style!

Christia's 1st half observations:
-Before the tip off, Taj McWilliams-Franklin and Katie Douglas seem confused about who to present the giveaway basketballs to. First game jitters? Apparently Connecticut didn't have any.
-6: 50 mark, 1st quarter, ex-Mystics spotting courtesy of Marianne Stanley and Kiesha Brown on the Liberty bench.
-6: 26 mark, 1st quarter, Hammon makes a miracle shot, "right out of South Dakota".
-End of 1st quarter, Liberty puts up 10 points. This can't be good.

Patty Coyle is upset. I would be too.
-9:26 mark, 2nd quarter, Sherill Baker showing some skills off a steal from a Sun inbounds play. And a minute later, she gets a rookie call and get substituted out of the game.
-8:32 Whalen believes she got fouled in the act of shooting. The MSG analyst says, "She believes wrong!"
-Oh�oh we see Michele Timms on the floor. Oh wait that's just Erin Philips.

-3: 20 Nykesha Sales smiles�cherish it. She barely smiled in this game and they were in the lead. There she is with her infamous scowl.

-It's halftime. NY-33, CONN-47

Christal's 2nd half notes:
-Barb Farris starts the half with an air ball!
- Around the 9 minute mark in the 3rd quarter, MSG makes is first and only shoutout to NBATV.
- Farris (aka "the proud player" according to MSG analyst, Mary Murphy) redeems herself with a three-point play at the 7: 15 mark.
- Cool Keesh for three!!!
-Down 21, Kraayeveld answers with a three pointer around the 2:34 mark. Why does her name looks more complicated than it actually is?

-End of 3rd quarter. New York still down by 21.
-Despite by being down by more than 15 points most of the game, these MSG analysts remain weirdly optimistic with New York's chances of winning.
- Liberty makes an 8-0 run at the 6 minute mark but they still can't get a break to cut the lead in single digits.
-"Shoot it, Timms!" Christia yells at Erin Phillips with 4:15 left.
-Game over. Connecticut 91, New York 74.

Final Say:
The New York Liberty needs to get help now or get really better� fast.

By the numbers:
36 per cent shooting by the Liberty
22 inches- Margo Dydek's height at birth
6 times the Liberty loses their first game of the season
3 different times Mary Murphy mentions Lindsay Whalen's "reconstructive ankle surgery".
2 Sun mascots roaming the arena. A mom and a baby mascot.
1 shot clock violation. Not bad.

Sky Roster: Not What You Might Expect
Posted: By Kevin, May 20, 2006 12:09 p.m. ET

The Sky have only two rookies! And they have all these old folks like Nikki McCray and Stacey Lovelace! What kind of expansion team is this?

In fact, they're a pretty typical expansion team. Counting player ages as of 1 July this year, the average age of the Sky roster, including inactives, is 25.8 years. There have been nine previous expansion teams, the average age of the players who played for them�

1998 - Shock - 26.5 (Lynette Woodard at 38 drove this one up)
1999 - Miracle - 26.3
2000 - Storm - 26.2
2000 - Fever - 26.1
1999 - Lynx - 26.1
2000 - Sol - 25.5
1998 - Mystics - 25.5
2000 - Fire - 24.7

The Fire had only one player over 27, Sophia Witherspoon was 30. The Mystics had only one player over 29, 35 year old Tammy Jackson, and she only played half the season in DC. The Shock are the only team to post a winning record as an expansion team, of course, and the first expansion franchise to win a title. In fact, there's a rough correlation down the line between franchise success and the age of the initial roster. The Shock and Storm have won championships and the Miracle made two runs to the finals after being transplanted to Connecticut. The Fever, Lynx, Sol, and Mystics have all had some playoff time but none have been around for title time. The Fire folded without ever seeing the postseason. That's not so encouraging for the Sky, who are between the Lynx and Sol in terms of team age.

One other expansion note, this is the second time that Stacey Lovelace, Nikki McCray, and Elaine Powell have been on expansion teams. Lovelace played for the 2000 Storm, McCray for the 1998 Mystics, and Powell for the 1999 Miracle. Five other players have played for multiple expansion teams�

Kisha Ford - 1999 - Miracle; 2000 - Sol
Sheri Sam - 1999 - Miracle; 2000 - Sol
Alessandra Santos de Oliveira - 1998 - Mystics; 2000 - Fever
Charmin Smith - 1999 - Lynx; 2000 - Storm
Rita Williams - 1998 - Mystics; 2000 - Fever

OK, now it's game time!

Preseason Prognostication � The West
Posted: By Lisa, May 19, 2006 1:38 p.m. ET

I find that trying to predict the West is kinda like one of those crowd games that many arenas or stadiums show on arenavision during timeouts. You know the one where there are racehorses or racecars or something like that racing around a track and you are supposed to pick the one you think will win. During the course of the race, the cars change positions all the time, with no rhyme or reason, until one shoots ahead for the win. Well, that's what the Western division race feels like to me. I have been waffling and changing my mind all season. I even tried to get some insight from David Locke, the voice of the Storm, and he kiddingly asked if he could use MY picks. Thus, my picks have the caveat that there is really very little separating these teams. Those teams which avoid the injuries and develop team chemistry early will do the best. Beyond that, I found that dartboards and blindfolds make a useful prognostication tool.

1. Seattle Storm - I know, what a shocker. I didn't have the Storm in the top spot in my offseason picks, but having watched the team in the preseason and having analyzed the offseason moves that Coach Donovan made, I really think this team is poised to have its best year ever. I got a chance to talk with Lauren Jackson at the Storm Tipoff Breakfast yesterday, and I think she will be as effective as she has ever been. With the chemistry of a returning starting five for the first time in Storm history, and the deepest bench ever, I like our chances.

2. Houston Comets - Coach Chancellor has finally brought together a core of some of the best players of all time to make a run at the Championship again. Tina Thompson, Sheryl Swoopes, and Dawn Staley will all make the All Decade Team more than likely. With Michelle Snow improving in leaps and bounds each year and becoming quite a force in the paint, the Comets have one of the strongest starting fives in the West. I am worried about the wear and tear of a season stuffed into a shorter timespan on the older players, but this team is too good to not be in the playoffs and make a push for the Championship this year.

3. Sacramento Monarchs - It was hard for me NOT to put the reigning Champions at the top spot. However, they lost Newton to the Sky in the expansion draft, and with DeMya on maternity leave, I am not sure if the Monarchs have the depth to play Coach Whisenant's white line defense AND cope with the speed needed for the new 24 second shot clock. I do believe that this team is still one of the best in the league, so it will be fun to watch the season unfold this year. Be sure to watch Paul Ball run head first into the White Line this Saturday. Should be a hoot!

4. Minnesota Lynx -
Going into the preseason, I didn't think that the Lynx would make the playoffs, but something changed for me. I should say, someone�Seimone Augustus. The Lynx's #1 draft pick looks like she could provide 3 to 4 wins just by being on the Lynx. Since the Lynx barely missed out on the playoffs last year, that is probably just what Coach McConnell Serio needed. With a great frontcourt of Nicole Ohlde and Vanessa Hayden, the Lynx are my dark horse in the West.

5. Phoenix Mercury - The Mercury have a killer perimeter with Diana Taurasi, Cappie Pondexter, and Kelly Miller, but with Penny Taylor most likely to miss some if not all of the season, and Svetlana Abrosimova skipping the season to practice with the Russian team for Worlds this fall, Phoenix is missing some of the key players that might put them over the top. Also, the shortened season is going to influence how much of the season will have gone by before the players pick up Paul Ball.

6. L.A. Sparks - This is probably my most controversial pick. With All-Stars Lisa Leslie and Chamique Holdsclaw holding down the fort, it is hard to imagine the Sparks not making the playoffs. But with the loss of Teasley and Hodges in the offseason, and another new head coach in Joe Bryant, I think this team is doing a bit of a rebuild and in a much tougher West, this could mean their first missed playoffs in a long, long time.

7. San Antonio Silver Stars - I really feel bad putting the Silver Stars in the basement again, as I think the team has really improved over last season. I expect to see some of their early draft picks from the past few years such as Katie Feenstra and Kendra Wecker starting to shine. The Stars will win more games than they did last year, but in this tough division, they still have some distance to close.

Trading Cards
Posted: By Melissa, May 19, 2006 1:13 a.m. ET

Rittenhouse trading cards are coming out soon. Orders have to be in by the 15th of June. My guy Steve at my local hobby shop is taking care of me again this year. I know stupid hobby for a 43 year old woman. But hey my day job is getting laws past to help veterans so humor me.

Why do I collect cards? Cause I am never going to see Jamilla Wideman nail another shot on a court. But when I pick up her card I remember watching her play in March Madness for Stanford. Lord that woman could move. Or T-Spoon. I pick up her card and I see THE SHOT all over again. Half court at the buzzer and there is T-Spoon with her smile that lights up Madison Square Garden to the rafters. Or Coop. Man what I would give to see her play one more time.

Or Kim Perrot.

Breast Cancer took her. And her sweetness on and off the court. But I have her card.

Laid out in trading cards are the history of the game. Katie Smith�s rookie card, though the Minnesota years; to the trade and how weird is it to see her in a Detroit uniform? Or Dawn Staley? This is her last year and I will have her card. The UConn greats... from Lobo to Rizzotti, Sales, Cash, Bird and Taurasi. And the rest of the women in blue who played in the W... Williams, Jones and others. This year I may be able to add Battle, and Strothers.

Someday I sill sit with those cards and go through them with my kids. I will teach them the story of the W with those cards. We will talk about how the game grew, what happen to teams, and players. And in those conversations there will be talk about business, contracts, fair play, dreams, and how sometimes life doesn�t work out the way we want. And with those cards I will teach them about Title IX and the day I got to watch 5� 6� Becky Hammond box out 7� 2� Margo Dydek because Becky believed she could.

Aren�t memories great?

Recently I found out that the companies who produced these cards do not give copies of the cards to the players themselves. Well, that pisses me off. It just doesn�t seem right that the women whose pictures grace these cards, who fill my memories; who spend hours signing cards either before they go into a box or after we take them out; do not get their own cards. So instead of mumbling about the lack of justice in this world or shrugging my shoulders and rolling my eyes at business making a buck on the back of the hard work of others, I have started to give the players my extras.

I have lots from over the years. So now when my sets are complete I put my extras into envelopes with the players name on it. When I go to the games now I take the envelopes with me so I can give the cards to the players who have given me the memories. After all it is only fair.

So if you have extras, give them to your favorite players. Share them with some kid at a game. They do us no good sitting on a shelf. And the players can sign something other than a piece of paper some little kid thrust at them.

And players, if some silver haired over weight former jock with a limp stops you on the way to the elevators at the casino and hands you and envelope with your name on it ... take it. It just might have your rookie card in it.

Acts of Kindness:

Tina James and the CT Sun Hero Awards.

Great Mindless Comment:

�I am a woman and you are going down.�
Brandi Chastain to a Joe (Pro�s vs Joe�s) stupid enough to say �I am not losing to a girl.� She kicked his butt. (pun intended)
Title IX RULES!

Preseason Prognostication � The East
Posted: By Lisa, May 18, 2006 3:20 a.m. ET

You know that at this time of year, all the pundits will put down their picks for how the various teams will finish in the upcoming WNBA season. Of course, none of them can predict what will really happen in the upcoming season. What injuries will befall which team? What previously unknown player will elevate their game to become a star? What older star will fade away to a faint shadow of their former self? I would also be remiss to not mention the P word. Parity. It is what every league president dreams of. Parity translates to hope for all the teams that finished out of the playoffs last year. Parity means that a few wins pulled from the flames of defeat could mean the difference between home-court advantage for the playoffs and watching for that lottery ball. Parity means that there is much less of a difference between the haves and the have nots. And thus picking how teams will finish is kind of pointless.

Of course, since I now have this soapbox upon which to pontificate, I couldn't resist the idea of making my own picks. We'll start with the Eastern division. There is a lot less parity in this division than there was only a few years ago. Some teams have fallen on hard times, while others have built storehouses of All-Star talent.

1. Connecticut Sun - I don't think that there is a stronger team. The starting line-up of Whalen, Sales, Douglas, Dydek and McWilliams-Franklin may be the best in the league. The addition of Erin Phillips at the point guard position gives insurance should Whalen's injury limit her time on the court. Add in Asjha Jones as one of the best players off the bench, in the league and this team will once again be very, very hard to beat.

2. Detroit Shock - Perennial underachievers after winning a championship three years ago, the Shock could very well have the best starting five, boasting All-Stars in Ford, Riley, Cash, Smith and Nolan. However, the lack of a true point guard (it looks like Nolan will be filling that spot for coach Laimbeer), could spell trouble for this ultra talented team. However, I can't believe that having a full preseason together to work on chemistry won't help this Shock team come much closer to their potential than in the last 2 seasons.

3. Washington Mystics - This is my dark horse team for the year. The offseason acquisitions of Crystal Robinson and Nikki Teasley add depth and experience to a team that just missed the playoffs last year. Alana Beard just gets better every year and I believe that Richie Adubato will have the Mystics playing at a much higher level in 2006.

4. Indiana Fever - I really like this team a lot. Tamika Catchings is one of the most talented and hardest working players in the league. You all know how much I love Tully Bevilaqua (see my previous blog). The offseason acquisition of Anna DeForge gives the Fever a great outside shooting specialist (and removes a thorn from the side of my Storm team in the process). However, I am worried about the Fever's strength in the post and think that teams like Detroit, Connecticut and Washington will take advantage of the Fever in the paint.

5. Charlotte Sting - The Sting have a good core of players in Tangela Smith, Sheri Sam, and Tammy Sutton-Brown, but lack the depth of some of the top teams in the league. Monique Currie has the potential to become a star and will be fun to watch this year.

6. Chicago Sky - I can't believe that I am picking an expansion team to NOT finish in the cellar this year. However, head coach Dave Cowens has put together a team of players that are hungry to prove themselves and during the preseason proved that they weren't going to be taken lightly in 2006. A strong expansion draft and the drafting of Candice Dupree give the Sky and their fans something to build upon for the future.

7. New York Liberty - It is almost impossible to lose 4 starters from last year's team and not be considered to be in a serious rebuilding year. The only starter to remain is All-Star Becky Hammon. The Liberty has gotten much younger and will get a chance to see what their draft picks from the last few years can do, but I don't expect them to be too competitive in an already strong division.

We�re Counting Our Blessings, Count Yours�
Posted: By Christal and Christia, May 17, 2006 3:57 p.m. ET

Nineteen years old. We hope you realize how young that is. We sure as hell are reminded of it every time we watch and talk about the WNBA with fellow women's basketball fans.

As babies born in 1987, Title IX was already in place for 15 years. Unlike our fellow fan blogger Melissa, we were privileged enough to play organized basketball similarly as it is today. No 3 on 3 half court sets. Unlimited dribbling and running fast breaks were allowed.

When the WNBA came about in 1997, we were a couple of ten-year-olds gathering enough guts to try out for the varsity team for the first time. Though we were aware of the WNBA, our knowledge began and ended with Lisa Leslie and Sheryl Swoopes.

Growing up in Manila, WNBA games were never televised. We didn't have local leagues like the ones they have in Europe. And our country never assembled a women's basketball national team.

With the WNBA less than a week away from its season opener, we are amazed how long the league has lasted and how far it has come along. The game is represented in 14 U.S. cities, with some games televised nationally and broadcasted in 198 countries (five stations from Philippines). Here in Toronto, all WNBA games are televised on ABC and Raptors NBA TV.

Sometimes the slim choices of WNBA coverage can mean staying up until 2 a.m. to watch delayed games, despite having 8 a.m. classes that same day. It means listening to SportsTalk 1260 radio on the Internet. It means working twice as much to gather the same information as the people who are privileged enough to live in WNBA cities. (Not that the "WNBA should have a Team in Toronto" blog entry has not been in our minds. Donna, we are planning to convince you and your constituents soon.)

Don't get it twisted, we are not complaining. We know we are blessed to have witnessed the Detroit Shock rally from last to first, Diana Taurasi get drafted and Lisa Leslie dunking the ball for the first time in WNBA history.

In a way we know a lot but not nearly enough as others who have supported the W since day one. We realize that we weren't there to witness Cynthia Cooper lead the Comets to four consecutive championships, or T-Spoon's half-court game winning shot to save the Liberty from elimination in 1999, or understand the hype behind Chamique Holdsclaw's draft class. We never came out and said, "Experts in the house!"

But because the women's game has evolved so much, planet earth has now been given a chance to watch the WNBA (or at least in 198 countries). A la Lebron James, the whole world can now be witnesses.

Feature article of the week:
(Drum roll) Melissa Isaacson of Chicago Tribune wrote a fabulous article reminding us fans, once again, how lucky we are to have players who are willing sacrifice six-figure salaries for the development of the WNBA.

Congratulations to all our fellow fan bloggers! We are truly amazed with your knowledge and writing style. If you want to collaborate for an entry at some point, holla!

Kindness Should Never Be Random
Posted: By Melissa, May 16, 2006 10:52 a.m. ET

�... be the change you wish to see in the world... -Gandhi

On May 11th, Crystal at the Charlotte Sting let me purchase 2 10 dollar tickets for their season opener and then donate them to the Bobcats Charitable Foundation for local kids to attend the game.

And I get a tax deduction. Who says kindness doesn�t pay off. I get a tax break and a couple of kids get to go to a game.

Hey it cost me less than an evening at the movies and a couple of kids get to see a game. I might do that every month of the season. I can give up a movie for that.

But here is my question... Is Charlotte the only team that does this? And if they are; why? If not; why is the information not posted everywhere on team web sites and ticket sales for this donation option? How many Boys and Girls clubs would give their right something to have access to tickets to a positive event to take their kids to? Or DCF�s being able to take foster kids from group homes?

Think about when you were 10... or 12... what would it have meant to you to watch a WNBA game? For me it would have meant everything. I was a pre-Title IX baby. There wasn�t sports for girls when I was a kid. I was not allowed to play baseball with the boys. No Pee Wee football for me.

I was 13 when I finally got to play softball. Except there was no pitch count. Yes, you read that right. No pitch count. The first time I played softball a player got to bat until they got a hit cause �girls could not handle the disappointment of not hitting the ball.� Swear to God. I was a pitcher at first. And then the other teams complained that I pitched to hard and to fast. Yes, they complained I pitched to hard and fast for their girls.

And basketball was the 6 man game. 6 to a side, 3x3 on each half of the court. No crossing the half court line. 3 dribbles, and then you had to pass. No running because girl�s hearts could not handle it. Swear to God this is what I was told. Yeah I laugh now also. Especially when I watch Erin Phillips drive the lane. Or Taurasi. Becky�s over and under move. Or {insert your favorite player�s name here} when she {insert your favorite move}.

So imagine what it means to a kid today to watch women be PAID to play ball.

Imagine what it means to women like me to see women get PAID to play.

So call Crystal in Community Relations today at 704-688-8813 or e-mail her at cclodfelter@bobcatsse.com and send a couple of kids to a game cause kindness should never be random.

Acts of kindness:

Le�Coe Willingham signing en extra card for after signing my ball. Thank you.

Oakland Athletics' Mark Kotsay hits a two-run home run off New York Yankees pitcher Randy Johnson using a pick bat and wearing a pink wrist sweat band in honor of mothers day and breast cancer. If more men fought breast cancer we would have a cure.
The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation http://www.komen.org/

Mindless Comment:

Lobo on Pros vs Joes. Loved the soccer shorts!

Why Tari Belongs in the Top 30
Posted: By Kevin, May 14, 2006 2:38 p.m. ET

Over at Orange & Oatmeal, John Maxwell and Kevin Pelton are examining the 30 nominees for the All Decade team using a modified version of Bill James' Keltner list. Let's look at Tari Phillips, who was unjustly left off of the nominee list.

1. Was she ever regarded as the best player in the WNBA? Did anybody, while she was active, ever suggest that she was the best player in the WNBA?

I don't think Phillips has been thought of that way, although during the 2000 playoffs you might have been able to convince some people.

2. Was she the best player on her team?

Phillips was the best player on the Lib from 2000-2002.

3. Was she the best player in the WNBA at her position? Was she the best player in the conference at her position?

Phillips was never the best center in the league, Lisa Leslie's best years came at the same time as hers, but you could say she was the best in the eastern conference from 2000-2002.

4. Did she have an impact on a number of postseasons?

Phillips carried the Lib to the 2000 finals almost single handedly. Phillips averages more points and rebounds per game in the playoffs than in the regular season. She averaged 22 points and 11 rebounds per game in the 2000 finals and Comet fans started celebrating their title when she fouled out of Game 2 even though there were about four minutes left in the game.

5. Was she a good enough player that she could continue to play regularly after passing her prime?

Phillips played regularly after she passed her prime. She still averaged double digit minutes last year at age 36.

6. Was she selected to any All-WNBA Teams?

She has one second team All WNBA selection.

7. Do the player's numbers meet All-Decade Team standards?

Phillips in the same 10 point / 6 rebound area as Vicky Bullett and Margo Dydek, who didn't make it, or Delisha Milton, who did.

8. Is there any evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than is suggested by her statistics?

The reaction of Lib fans to Phillips' continued absence and eventual departure from the Lib in 2004 suggests that she was more valuable than the numbers she was putting up at that point. She averaged 14 points and 8 rebounds per game in her ABL career, better than her WNBA numbers, and her WNBA career averages are dragged down by her lack of PT during her 1999 season in Orlando.

9. How many MVP-type seasons did she have? Did she ever win an MVP award? If not, how many times was she close?

Phillips has three top 10 finishes in MVP voting: 9th in 2000, 5th in 2001, and 8th in 2002. She had a case, albeit not a very strong one, for MVP in 2001 and 2002. Of the 11 players who have finished in the top 10 in MVP voting three times, Phillips is the only one not on the All Decade final 30. Of the 20 players who have ever finished in the top 5 in MVP voting, only Phillips and Michele Timms are not listed

10. How many All-Star-type seasons did she have? How many All-Star games did she play in? Are most of the other players who played in this many likely to make the All-Decade Team?

Phillips played in four All Star games. Of the 15 players with four or more All Star appearances, she is the only one not included on the All Decade final 30.

11. If this woman were the best player on her team, would it be likely that the team could make the playoffs?

The Lib made the playoffs with Phillips as their best player.

12. What impact did the player have on WNBA history? Did she help establish the league? Was she responsible for any rule changes? Did she change the game in any way?

Phillips was on the good side of the most lopsided trade in league history when she was dealt by Portland to New York for Carolyn Jones-Young. She's also the only player to foul out of an All Star game. Those aren't Earth shattering things, but colorful footnotes are part of the game too.

13. Did the player uphold the standards of sportsmanship and community service that the All-Decade Team, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider?

As far as I know, she has.

I think if you compare Phillips' qualifications to some of the questionable All Decade nominees you'll see that she should have been included.

Home Sweet Garden
Posted: By Rebecca, May 14, 2006 12:18 a.m. ET

Hey, you! Yes, you, on your computer, reading this blog. There's an open seat here on my left. How about you come hang out for a while here in Section 227 with me? It'll be cool, I promise. Just make sure you grab a bite to eat, get that basic chore taken care of, before you get settled in.

Let me see if I can set the scene properly for you, if I can put the right words together in the right order to make you see, hear, feel this place I call my home when the summer comes. We're in the green seats, closer to the spokes of the ceiling than the hardwood floor; Section 227 is about three levels above the court. The view's still good, though; sharp eyes can make out facial expressions and body language. It's also a good vantage point to see plays develop, if you like the more analytical aspects of being a fan. The railing in front of the seats vibrates if you hit it hard enough, and it's satisfyingly loud. The view's slightly slanted, not quite center court, but close enough to have a view of both sides, behind the visitors' bench. Any flaws that a Liberty fan might find in the view of the court, though, are unimportant when you look up past the scoreboard, because straight ahead of us are the Liberty's three Eastern Conference Championship banners. (Yes, only three. When they went to the Finals in 1997, they weren't giving out conference titles in the playoffs; that didn't come about until 1999. Even if it had, the Houston Comets were in the East in 1997.) Those are memories of happier times, times that I hope the Liberty can bring back this year. Hey, it's the tenth anniversary; maybe everything old will be new again.

The music is playing and the crowd is filing in- a good crowd for a preseason game that's going up against a Yankee game at the Stadium. Still, things are a little quiet� too quiet? There's only the usual hubbub that you get with a few thousand people in the same building. And then the DJ cuts into the music with the amplification and horn opening of Black Box's "Strike It Up". The crowd lets it rip as the 2006 New York Liberty take to the Garden hardwood for the first time. For as long as I can remember, this has heralded the Liberty's arrival onto the court. It's like the return of an old friend, hearing that over the Garden speakers, because trying to crank it through a pair of cheap Radio Shack speakers� noooo, not quite the same.

Now imagine the clock down to zero and set again for the ten minutes of the quarter. The Sacramento Monarchs have been introduced to a smattering of applause and a couple of boos. The anticipation is building. The arena goes dark as a hook from Christina Milian's "From AM to PM" plays: "Somebody, somebody hit the lights!" "And now the starters for your! New! York! LIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIBERTY!" With so many new players, the announcers are still working out how to properly say everyone's names, because there's always a quirk to the stress and intonation that is unique to the player (or in some cases, to the name; every Johnson I've ever heard announced as a home player has had his or her full name slurred together in a virtual growl). Sometimes it speaks to the player's on-court personality; Barbara Farris's name comes out staccato and forceful, while there is exultation in Becky Hammon's surname. The double A in Kraayeveld and later the U in Schumacher beg to be dragged out for the crowd.

And then the ball goes up. Game on. For now, it doesn't matter that the Liberty will eventually walk away with a 76-64 loss, that the game was winnable but slipped away, that Rebekkah Brunson and the Sacramento frontcourt had their way on the interior. For now, there is only joy. The Liberty have returned after a long, cold winter. Finally, they are home.

And finally, so am I.

The Class of '99
Posted: By Kevin, May 13, 2006 5:48 p.m. ET

I'm sure most of the rest of the gang will be rambling on about preseason games and such. I barely pay attention to preseason games. It's nice for the new fans in Chicago to get some wins now, especially since they'll be hard to come by when they start to count, but the correlation between preseason success and regular season success is pretty much zero. The correlation between preseason and postseason is even less than that.

I'll tell you what I have been thinking about, though. I've been thinking about rookie classes, specifically the class of 1999.

If the question is "what was the best WNBA draft ever" the answer is inevitably 1999. The 1999 draft was bolstered by virtually all the players from the recently folded ABL, and as such it produced an inordinate number of players who were able to step in and play right away. 20 players from that draft went on to score 1000 or more points in their career. That's almost twice as many as the next best draft (2001) and about � of all the thousand point scorers in league history.

What I've been pondering is the kids who were actually rookies that year. Would it be considered a strong class without the ABL players? I took out all the ABL players and tried to see how they stacked up.

The first glaring issue I had to deal with in trying to compare classes is what to do with Nykesha Sales. She graduated UConn in 1998 but didn't make her WNBA debut until 1999. If she'd been drafted and held out, ala Tamika Catchings in 2001, the answer would clearly be to keep her with her draft class. Sales was held out of the 1998 draft by the WNBA so that she could be assigned to one of the new expansion teams (the Orlando Miracle, as it turned out). I decided to go ahead and put Sales in with the class of 1999. By the same token, DeMya Walker was included with the class of 2000 even though she graduated in 1999 because she also went undrafted and didn't appear until the next season.

The next boggle was figuring out how to compare 1999 to the class of 1997. 1997 has the same type of issues, competing with a number of veteran players starting in the league at the same time as the real rookies. I decided to include any player who graduated in 1996 or 1997 and any foreign player who was less than 24 years old that year.

I looked at several different comparisons. First I looked at "players of note" I took all the players who had played for a championship team, won MVP, finals MVP, or Defensive POY, was named to an All Star team or All WNBA team (first or second) or All Defensive Team. 122 players have at least one of those honors. 51 of them either played in the ABL or were playing when the league started and didn't qualify for the class of 1997 as defined above. The rest broke down by rookie class thusly�

1997 - 8
1998 - 14
1999 - 5
2000 - 11
2001 - 13
2002 - 9
2003 - 3
2004 - 5
2005 - 3

That doesn't seem right. The 1998 and 2000 drafts are not considered strong, in fact 2000 is usually touted as the weakest ever. If you look at the list of players for 2000�

Elena Chakirova
Simone Edwards
Kelley Gibson
Vedrana Grgin-Fonseca
Vicki Hall
Betty Lennox
Stacey Thomas
Kamila Vodichkova
DeMya Walker
Ann Wauters
Adrian Williams

�you'll see that most of them are only there because they were deep on the bench for title winners. As a Comet fan, I know that including Gibson and Chakirova isn't evidence of quality.

I mentioned 1000 point scorers, let's see if that works better�

1997 - 6
1998 - 9
1999 - 6
2000 - 6
2001 - 11
2002 - 6
2003 - 0
2004 - 1
2005 - 0

The last three classes are still a little early in their career to judge on this basis. 1999 seems to be middle-low here. Three of the six 1k scorers from 1999 were undrafted (Gordana Grubin, Becky Hammon, and Sales), that's 60% of all the undrafted, non-ABL 1000 pointers in league history. 2000 only hangs in there because of two gift players (Walker and Anna DeForge) that should belong to earlier seasons. 1999 has three 2000 point scorers (Hammon, Sales, and Chamique Holdsclaw), only 1997 has more so far. 1999 has two 3000 point scorers (Holdsclaw and Sales), only 1997 equals that right now.

If we look at numbers of awards�

No 1999 has been first team All WNBA, they have five second team notices. 1997, 1998, 2001, 2002, and 2004 all have at least one first team All WNBA award. 2001 has the most, with six.

1999 has 14 All Star appearances, second only to 2001's 16. The bulk of them, 12, belong to Holdsclaw and Sales. Only three different 1999s have been All Stars, every other class from 1997 to 2002 has at least four and all but 2000 have at least five. 2001 has the most, with eight.

The 1999 class has only two championships (one each for Ukari Figgs and Mila Nikolich). 2005 also has two, every other class has at least three. 1997 and 1998 are tied for the most with 13 each.

It seems to me that the class of 1999 suffers from a lack of depth. The top of the class holds its own against just about any of the others but once you get past the top 5 or 6 players there's not much left. I would guess that the ABL influx is the major difference. Holdsclaw and Sales would be stars no matter what, but most of the second tier talent from that class got crowded out by all those pros from the other league.

Preseason Basketball: A Case of Irrational Exuberance
Posted: By Lisa, May 13, 2006 11:21 a.m. PT

Training camp and the preseason are a wonderful time of year. Hopes run high as fans get excited about the coming season. Everyone is 0-0 and anything can happen. Those free agent signings could be just what we have been looking for. Our draft picks have a real chance to help the team. So and so has been practicing their shot all winter and has been nailing them in camp. This player has been in Europe all winter and tore up the league. Our new coach has changed the offense and I wouldn't be surprised to see 100 points per game!

You get the idea. Last year is but a fading memory (except for the Monarchs, who get to relive it all year, every time they hear "�your World Champion Sacramento Monarchs" blaring from the PA system). Alan Greenspan, former Federal Reserve Chairman, coined a phrase for this unbridled optimism�irrational exuberance. He was talking about the stock market boom of the mid 90's, but it applies just as well to the hardcore WNBA fan looking forward to the upcoming season.

But just like the stock market of the mid-90's, which went from boom to bust in a very short time, preseason basketball needs to be taken with a grain of salt. First off, each coach approaches preseason games with a different attitude, depending on what they need to get done during the preseason. If their starting roster is mostly set and the team is coming off a successful 2005 season, then the coach is probably looking to fill 2 to 3 backup roster spots, and thus will play their starters much less than normal and keep their reserves in the game longer in order to get a feel for how they will play if called into action. Wins and losses don't mean as much to this coach as making the right choice about which reserves to keep on the roster. Other coaches see preseason wins as a way to build momentum into the coming regular season. They also see wins as a way to build confidence, both among the players, and among the fan base. This might particularly be important if 2005 was less than thrilling.

Another reason to temper your irrational exuberance is the fact that many of the best WNBA players arrive late to camp because of commitments overseas. Beating a Connecticut team without Katie Douglas, Nykesha Sales, Margo Dydek, and Taj McWilliams-Franklin playing isn't quite that exciting as beating a fully stocked Sun team. Other teams may look much different than their previous incarnation because of players staying in their overseas home to prepare for the World Championships this coming September. The Liberty lost Ann Wauters and Elena Baranova. The Mercury will be without Maria Stepanova, perhaps the best player in the European league, and there is doubts about whether Penny Taylor will join the team for half a season or not. Janeth Arcain will be staying in Brazil instead of joining Houston.

Finally, these games just don't count. Plain and simple. Veterans know this and thus they aren't quite playing at the same level as they will be once the regular season starts. They're willing to risk less for a meaningless win. They won't dive for balls they will go after with gusto in the regular season. They won't risk body and limb banging it up in the post for a game that will disappear from the win-loss column come May 20th. Players on the bubble, on the other hand, are playing for their professional lives, and usually show all they have in these games.

So enjoy the luster of a new season. Get excited about your team's chances. Talk up all the speculation from training camp with your fellow fans. But remember, everything changes on May 20th.

Lisa's Obligatory Storm Content

I have to admit that irrational exuberance has grabbed ahold of me in regards to my Seattle Storm. I have even been spotted on message boards saying that I can feel a championship brewing this year. Anne has done an amazing job of building the best roster we have ever had in Seattle. Barring injury (knock on wood) we should have the deepest and most talented bench ever. Our fans are in mid-season form, with over 7,000 rocking the rafters at the Key for our preseason win over the Liberty. Sue is in great shape from her season in Russia. Even though Lauren is still dealing with her shin injury, she has looked amazing in the minutes that we got to see her during the Liberty game. Janell Burse looks stronger and has more post moves than ever if she can overcome the shoulder injury she sustained overseas. Tanisha Wright looks much more at home than the tentative rookie of a year ago. And Wendy Palmer looks like she still has quite a bit of game and will help solidify our post position throughout this season. It will be a long and grueling season, but I can't help but think my Storm will do very well. Que up Alan Greenspan.

One and the Same
Posted: By Christal & Christia, May 12, 2006 11:31 a.m. ET

The WNBA and the NBA are two different leagues. That's not a big surprise to anybody. One league has enjoyed over 50 years of existence while the other is on it's way to a 10th season. In terms of style of play, salaries and revenues, the WNBA ranks nowhere close to the success of the NBA. However in terms of temper tantrums and sexual assault allegations, the W takes a back seat to the L. Prior to the opening of the '05-'06 season the NBA went through an image overhaul by implementing an age limit and the dress code. The WNBA's biggest controversy leading up to the 10th season will probably be the revelation of Sheryl Swoopes' homosexuality.

Yet we are convinced that both leagues are parallel than most people think. After all, they play the same game and are cut from the same cloth. David Stern's blue blazer cloth that is (no offense, Donna Orender). With the NBA playoffs in full swing and the WNBA season on its way to the season opener, the question remains: Who are the equivalent of the WNBA teams in the NBA? After several minutes of arguing and whining, we came up with our list. Some picks are fitting while others remain arguable. Here are the final picks:

1. Charlotte Sting = New Orleans Hornets
Half of this comparison is based on our prediction that the Sting will (almost) make this year's WNBA playoffs, thanks to the rookie play of Mo Currie. Both teams were in the playoffs in 2003 but suffered the previous season, earning places in the bottom of the standings. This year, the Sting much like the Hornets will be playoff contenders. Currie will be to the Sting what Chris Paul is to the Hornets, minus the ROY.

2. Chicago Sky = Charlotte Bobcats
There's not much basis for this one since the Sky are yet to play a single game. But the logic was simple, expansion team to (recent) expansion team.

3. Connecticut Sun = Dallas Mavericks
The Mavericks like the Sun have explosive offenses. Connecticut and Dallas share playoffs predicaments year after year: always the bridesmaid never the bride. The Sun have been to two consecutive WNBA finals while the Mavs are yet to reach the NBA finals in the Nowitzki era. Both teams have a killer starting five. Both have great coaches.

4. Detroit Shock = Detroit Pistons
Best starting five in their respective leagues. Both won the 2004 championships. And then there's the Swin Cash-Rip Hamilton comparison. Both were raised in Pennsylvania, wear #32, went to UConn, and both have NCAA and pro championships. Coincidence?

5. Houston Comets = Miami Heat
For the past couple of years the Miami Heat have acquired what the Houston Comets always had: an unstoppable duo. Tina Thompson and Swoopes for the Comets. D-Wade and Shaq for the Heat. Both are also powerhouses in their respective conferences and have legendary coaches.

6. Indiana Fever = Minnesota Timberwolves
We were was going to pair up the T'wolves with the WNBA's Minnesota team, but then we came up with the analogy that Tamika Catchings is the WNBA's Kevin Garnett. Not in style of play mind you, but in career paths. First of all both players are two of the most passionate player in their leagues. No one goes all out like Catch and KG. Also, their teams have been quite successful (except this year's T'wolves) in reaching the playoffs. And though both superstars have had years when they had good teammates (Catch had Natalie Williams, KG had Spree and Cassell), neither have really gotten the help they deserved to go further in the playoffs.

7. Los Angeles Sparks = Houston Rockets
The comparison does not go deeper than two seasons. Last season, the Sparks acquired Holdsclaw and the Rockets acquired McGrady. On paper the teams looked like the teams to beat. Yet even with all-star centers (Leslie, Yao) the teams underachieved. We're Holdsclaw fans, so here's hoping the Sparks wont share the demise of Rockets this upcoming season.

8. Minnesota Lynx = Chicago Bulls
The Lynx just traded their star Katie Smith to Detroit while the Bulls have lost most of their better players (Brand, Curry and Crawford). Both teams have young rosters, but don't count the Lynx out of the playoffs because of their youth. After all smart draft picks have propelled the Bulls to their 2nd consecutive playoff appearance. In Seimone Augustus, we believe.

9. New York Liberty = Philadelphia 76ers
Not too long ago, these two teams were basking in playoff glory. In 2001, both were in the finals facing against a highly favored LA team. Since then, the teams have had several playoff appearances but the franchises have been in a funk despite having one of the shortest but all-star caliber guards (Hammon and Iverson). Now, Becky Hammon is all alone in New York as A.I. is in Philly, even with the company of CWebb.

10. Phoenix Mercury = Los Angeles Clippers
These teams have been sharing the same mantra for a couple of years: "This was supposed to be our year" but both have been coming up short until now. We believe Diana Taurasi will propel the Mercury squad to the playoffs in the same way Elton Brand did this year. Also both teams have point guards that made/will make immediate impact. Stand up Sam Cassell and Cappie Pondexter.

11. Sacramento Monarchs = San Antonio Spurs
Both are reigning champs with MVP big players. Duncan for the Spurs, Griffith for the Monarchs. Both have all-star point guards. Parker for the Spurs, Penicheiro for the Monarchs. Both have coaches of the year winners in Poppavich and Whisesnant.

12. San Antonio Silver Stars= Portland Trail Blazers
We don't know what's happening with these two teams. A couple of years ago, they were regulars in the playoffs back when the Silver Stars were still known as Starzz in Utah. But now, both teams seem to be heading to a downward spiral direction. The Silver Stars were second in the bottom of the standings last season and the Blazers are also second-to-last this season.

13. Seattle Storm = Phoenix Suns
Playoff teams that are led by league MVP winners. This comparison is more reasonable if Stoudemire was playing, because both teams have one of the best 1-2 punches: Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson & Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire.

14. Washington Mystics = New York Knicks
Both teams have great coaches that transferred from playoff teams but the most defining similarity of these teams are the headaches. We pity anybody who is a fan of one of these teams, more so if you're a fan of both. The Mystics and the Knicks have brought more headaches to their fans than any other team in their associations. And we should know...we're Mystics fans.

There goes the WNBA-NBA comparison. If you look at it more closely, the leagues are more similar than anyone would think. So if you only watch one of the other, we suggest watching both. If you're aggravated by the comparisons, worry no more. We're still arguing about them ourselves.

Behind Emerald Colored Glasses
Posted: By Lisa, May 11, 2006 12:03 a.m. PT

Hi, I'm Lisa Stevens, and I'm a WNBA Junkie. It started off innocently enough. I played some b-ball in high school and a bit in college. Women's basketball was in my veins. But I kicked the habit once I left college and was clean until a team called the Seattle Reign moved into my town. I was able to resist the siren call of the ABL and even managed to ignore the called of the NBA's sister league when it started.

Then Lin Dunn came to Seattle, dribbling a basketball around our downtown until enough people had signed on as season ticket holders to get us a team. The Seattle Storm. I managed to partake of a game here and there for two seasons. It was like visiting an old lover. The magic wasn't quite there, but there was enough pull to keep me checking on the new girl in town. Then it happened. The Storm's third season. It wasn't Jackson and it wasn't Bird that lured me back to my old lover. It was a little pit bull named Tully. Tully played with passion. Tully played with drive. Tully gave 200% on every play. And I fell in love. Again.

In 2004, I moved in with the new girl in town and bought season tickets. It was a magical year. 20 wins. A WNBA championship. Life was good. Little did I know that my addiction was growing. The next year, the new girl and I celebrated our five year anniversary. She gave me a championship ring to call my own. As I stood there on the court, watching the banner rise to the rafters in Key Arena, I fell in love with this league. I am Lisa Stevens, and I'm a WNBA Junkie.

I hope to let you in on my little love affair with the WNBA. Show you my thoughts. My yearnings. My desires. With the Seattle Storm being my first love, I will always see the WNBA through emerald-colored glasses, but I hope that my love affair with this league will help you find a true love of your own to root for.

Keys To A Successful 2006

Like the Olympic year of 2004, this year in the WNBA will bring a number of new challenges to our teams that could make the difference between the playoffs and being a lottery pick contestant. A number of new factors inside and outside the WNBA will test the mettle of the best coaches and players. Those that overcome these factors best will have the greatest shot at this years WNBA Championship.

In 2006, teams will cram the same number of games as 2005 into a period of time that is almost one month less due to the World Championships in September. This will have a huge effect on the chances of each team to win the Championship this year.

  • Teams will have less time to develop chemistry. In previous years, there was more time to practice with each team before we hit the midpoint of the season. Teams with lots of new players may find the season more than halfway gone before their team has developed that elusive chemistry that defines a championship team. Those teams which return most of their starting line-up from 2005 will have a distinct advantage.
  • Coaches will have less time to groom teams into their systems. It takes time to teach new offenses and defenses to the players. Teams with new coaches will not only take time for the players and coach to gel, but for the players to master the new strategies of the new coach. In a shortened season, this becomes much more critical than in seasons past.
  • Because of the shortened season, teams with bench depth will have an advantage. There is less time to rest between games, and thus teams with a short bench will find their starters becoming less and less fresh as the season progresses. If a team has the luxury of resting its starters because of a deep bench, then it will have more firepower down the stretch run as playoff positions are won or lost.
  • Youth has a distinct advantage this summer. Older veterans will find that having less time to rejuvenate between games will mean less spring in their game. It will take much more for an older player to elevate their game as the season wears on.
  • Many teams have lost some of their strength to foreign players staying home to work with their national teams in preparation for the World Championships. Having to replace starters or critical bench contributions will make it harder for teams to move to the next level.
  • Teams that avoid the injury bug will have a step up on the other teams. There is less time for injuries to heal and more games that will be missed due to key injuries than in previous years. Those teams which develop numerous injuries might find themselves out of the playoff hunt before they get better again.

    The World Championships have created new conditions for success that teams will have to overcome to be successful. Throw in the new 24-second clock and you can see how this whole season could be up in the air! Next week I will endeavor to make my early season picks about who will overcome these challenges to make the playoffs.

    Lisa's Obligatory Storm Content

    I have never been more bullish on my Seattle Storm than I am right now. With one preseason game behind us, I feel that my team is more developed than they were halfway through last season. If you look at the factors listed above, you can quickly see why:

  • The Storm are returning their entire starting line-up from the previous year for the first time in team history. Chemistry built up in the 2005 campaign is already paying dividends in 2006.
  • Ann Donovan is returning for her 4th season, and besides tinkering with a defense which ranked near the bottom of the WNBA last year, she is only making minor changes to the WNBA's top ranked scoring offense of last year. The continuity of the coaching staff will be a strong success factor for the Storm in 2006.
  • The Storm has the strongest bench we have ever had. Key additions of Wendy Palmer and Tiffany Johnson give Coach Donovan more flexibility in resting our starters, and rookie Barb Turner looks to be a future star in the making, with aggressive play and almost veteran-like moves.
  • The Storm has one of the youngest starting line-ups in the WNBA, with Lauren celebrating her 25th birthday this weekend and Sue not far behind her. Yet we still have the veteran leadership of "Mama" Palmer, one of the few players left who played in the WNBA's inaugural season.
  • The Storm managed to only lose Suzy Batkovic from last year due to World Championship obligations.
  • Injuries might be our one Achilles heel this year with Lauren nursing her shin fractures all year and Janell Burse restraining her shoulder injury that she first suffered while playing overseas this winter. Hopefully the Storm's bench depth will allow Ann to rest Lauren and keep her fresh, and allow us to overcome the injury to Janell and others that will inevitably happen during this season.

    I am really expecting a great year from my Storm, but with a fully-loaded Western Conference, anything can, and will, happen. Is it May 21st yet?

    Do They Know?
    Posted: By Melissa, May 10, 2006 5:01 p.m. ET

    I am in the process of adopting from the foster care system. Part of the process is to attend a 10 week class called PRIDE where we discuss parenting. One of my classmates is a single mother with a nine year old son named Ashante. In the course of our classes (I could not resist the pun) my love of the WNBA came out of the sports closet. One of the class instructors also is a BIG fan of the women's game. We started with March Madness; through the draft and have moved right into the preseason W. It was in these conversations between a straight hispanic man, and a white lesbian, that a black single mother that revealed our commonality and her son Ashante�s desire to play in the NBA. But she had her concerns as she wanted her son to be a doctor or a lawyer and attend Harvard.

    Sound familiar? Ring any bells for people?

    So I invited Ashante and his mom to the preseason game between The Sun and The Shock. (My instructor was bummed as he could not get tickets. Hmmmm I want to pass so maybe I should have invited him.) Ashante is a bright kid with endless questions about everything. The kid exhausted me with questions before we got to the game.

    Before the game it was all about the guy�s game. And then he watched. And listened. And Mom found out that Allison Feaster attended Harvard and played in the W. Even better when Mom found out Allison is black. Ashante was amazed to hear that women can dunk and that Tweety almost dunked in the All-star game. And the look I got when he found out I had actually had what he thought was the privilege of attending an All-star game. But that was nothing compared to him finding out that the next one was going to be in NYC and if he did real well in school I might take him.

    At half time Ashante got his courage up and stood by the rail as the players walked back on to the court. At first he was nervous. And then a player actually slapped his hand as she went onto the court.

    For the rest of my life I will always wonder is she knows how she changed one kids life.

    A real live professional basketball player gave Ashante a high five. The player was no longer a �girl�. She was a professional basketball player.
    I friend of mine also is a season ticket holder for the CT Sun and he knows John Maxwell who works for Detroit Shock Public Relations. My friend was kind enough to introduce us. Mr. Maxwell was kind enough to give Ashante and I wrist bands so we could meet players from Detroit after the game. All I could think was �kkkkkkeeeeewllllllllllll�. Cause when it comes to basketball; Ashante is not the only kid in the room.

    So the game finishes. Detroit�s starting 5 spank the Sun�s bench in the worst score in the Sun�s history. We can get into a long discourse about that but this is about Ashante. He and I hang with my buddy and a couple of other people and then out comes Katie Smith.

    Ms Smith was kind enough to sign his shirt, and take a picture with Ashante. I explained to him that Ms Smith has scored more points than any other woman in professional basketball. �Wow. More than Kobe?�, was his response. �No not as many as Kobe. But he plays in more games. Katie plays in 34 or so games a year and Kobe plays in at least twice that many� �Ooh� was his response as she finished signing and wandered off to chat with her friends and family. I whispered to Ashante that Ms Smith was going to be a dentist when she finished playing basketball. NOW THAT got a response.

    Zip. He was up standing next to her and asking Ms Smith all about being a doctor. They chatted for several minutes and then she turned back to her family.

    Ashante was awe struck. I could watch the wheels in his head turn as he realized for the first time he could play in the NBA, be a doctor and go to Harvard.

    And it was the women's game that showed him he could make his dreams come true.

    Ashante�s shirt was also signed by Kara Braxton, Ruth Riley, and Plenette Pierson. And he has the pictures to prove it.

    So here is my question. Do they know? Do these women know what an impact they have on people�s lives? When they stop and give and autograph to a kid or have their picture taken; do they know what it means to that child? Or sometimes to that adult? Heck, the only picture I will have in my office is me with Brooke Wyckoff (when I get it from the Sun).

    Ms. Smith, do you have any idea how you changed a little boy�s dreams when he found out he could play basketball and be a doctor?