Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Remaining WNBA teams storm out of gate for season's second half

Today's results:

It was a highly-anticipated match up, with Sylvia Fowles and Candace Parker each making a season debut for their respective teams. But in the end, it was other players who were the high-scorers, as he Lynx held off the Sparks, 82-76. Maya Moore put up 27 and Lindsay Whalen, 24 for Minnesota. Four Los Angeles players were in double-digits.

The Mystics took down the Storm, 87-74, for their fourth straight win.

The Fever topped the Liberty, 84-72, for their second win in two days.

The Stars rolled past the Dream, 102-85, behind Kayla McBride's 25 points.

Now here's a question:

Are Brittney Griner and Elena Delle Donne the Magic and Bird of the WNBA?

Stars:

Danielle Adams was suspended earlier today for three games without pay for violating the WNBA's anti-drug policy.

Dream:

Angel McCoughtry is the second-fastest player in WNBA history to reach 4,000 points.

The Yum! Center in Atlanta has offered to host WNBA games in the event of Phillips Arena renovations.

Sky:

Q&A with rookie Clarissa dos Santos.

All-Star review:

WNBA "the season" episode four.

Brittany Boyd having a good time on her perfect-fit team

I spoke to Liberty rookie Brittany Boyd last week. Q&A.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Midseason assessments

ESPN gives each WNBA team a grade on their midseason report card, which I more or less agree with:

West

Minnesota: A

Tulsa: B

Phoenix: B-

San Antonio: C-

Seattle: C-

Los Angeles: D+

East

New York: A

Chicago: B

Washington: B-

Connecticut: B-

Indiana: C

Atlanta: C-

Since I give out plenty of report cards at my other job, I'm going to bestow some award show-type midseason awards.

Most Title Hungry: Minnesota

I haven't seen a team this active in transactions in one season in a long time. Every time something has happened to a player, the Lynx have responded with a trade or an acquisition within 24 hours. They want that trophy.

Highest potential to make a comeback: Tulsa

Since Odyssey Sims came back from injury, the Shock seem to be clicking again. Granted they are still missing Skylar Diggins, which is huge. But the momentum and positive attitude is there, and they are holding the line in the West. Playoffs look good for them.

Biggest question mark (West): Los Angeles

How much of an impact will Candace Parker make after she returns to play in two days? Will the team get healthy again? Will Crystal Bradford be able to help significantly now that she's healthy? The Sparks have a big hold to crawl out of; is it too big?

Biggest question mark (East): (tie) Washington and Indiana

Why are these two teams struggling? Both are healthy, and everyone is back. The Mystics, especially, started out strong and faltered. The Fever have a lightening rod in Tamika Catchings. What is the hold up? Will they get going the second half of the season?

Most exciting team to watch: New York

They play great defense, are quick and have awesome chemistry. Just flat-out fun to watch. If they stay healthy and work hard, they could take the East.

Transactions today:

Los Angeles Candace Parker Contract Signed
Chicago Sasha Goodlett Waived
Chicago Sylvia Fowles Signed by Chicago and traded to Minnesota along w/ a 2016 2nd round pick
Atlanta Erika De Souza Traded to Chicago
Minnesota Reshanda Gray Traded to Atlanta along w/ a 2016 1st round pick and Damiris Dantas
Minnesota Damiris Dantas Traded to Atlanta along w/ a 2016 1st round pick and Reshanda Gray
San Antonio Valeriane Ayayi Contract Signed

Lynx:

The Sylvia Fowles trade fit into Minnesota's championship goals.

Lindsay Whalen will be back for Wednesday's game.

Sparks:

Candace Parker will play in Wednesday's road game at Minnesota.

Parker has signed her contract, at last.

Liberty:

The Liberty are mirroring coach Bill Laimbeer on court.

Mercury:

Three strengths and three weaknesses of the team in the season's first half.

Dream:

"Mama D" Delisha Milton-Jones is closing in on games-played record.

College news:

South Carolina has turned up its offseason training.

Louisiana Tech is starting from scratch again with a new roster.

Trelanne Moore is Mercer's new assistant coach.

Weber State's new assistant coach is JD Gustin.

Karen Blair is a new assistant coach at Texas State.

International news:

Liz Cambage will petition the Basketball Australia Board to have her playing ban removed, after she skipped the first day of national team training camp for a concert.

Seimone Augustus talks about her marriage

It is so ordered:

I think part of falling in love is finding someone who can just deal with you — who loves you because of your isms, not despite them. We’re all pretty complex people working to understand ourselves and the world around us. I understood LaTaya pretty quickly because I had a 30-year head start with my dad. They’re a lot alike — both Geminis. They think similarly, express similarly. In the end, we balance each other. She forces me out of my comfort zone — to go out and experience the world and not always default to my homebody personality. She’s opened my mind to new things and new ways of thinking — poetry, travel, adventure. I think I anchor her — bring steadfastness and calm to our lives.......

I was nervous the morning of our wedding day. Committing my life to someone wasn’t what had me wrecked — all of the details about the day were. My parents came into my room around 7 a.m., jumping on my bed like, “You’re getting married today!” The wedding wasn’t until 5 p.m., so I had a whole day of anticipation and excited anxiousness. I got dressed as we got closer to time and went outside just to take it all in — the decorations, the setup, the day. Everything looked amazing. The sun was full and shining down. The officiant pointed out all of the symbols around us as signs for a good and happy marriage: a rainbow, birds overhead — symbols of our angelic ancestors looking over us. The entire ceremony was rooted in Hawaiian tradition. I remember all those tiny details


Heartwarming.

I love the picture of Augustus being silly behind Varner.

Blockbuster trade sends Fowles to Lynx, de Souza to Sky

Big three-team trade:

The Minnesota Lynx, Chicago Sky and Atlanta Dream have agreed on a trade that sends center Sylvia Fowles and Chicago’s 2016 second-round pick to the Lynx. The Dream send Erika de Souza to the Sky, and the Lynx send forwards Damiris Dantas, Reshanda Gray and their 2016 first-round pick to the Dream.

So Fowles, who reportedly only wanted to be traded to Minnesota, gets her way.

De Souza, who has been under-producing in Atlanta, has a chance to shine in Chicago.

Dantas and Gray, who haven't had a chance to play with the Lynx, may get that chance now.

Over the weekend, WNBA teams quietly took names off of rosters as they tried to trade, sign and otherwise upgrade in time for the July 29 trade deadline.

The Dream reportedly will waive Erica Wheeler and re-sign Delisha Milton-Jones.

It's looking like the second half of the season will be entirely different from the first, in "a tale of two seasons" style.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Various stripes of news

None of these items are related, except that they are all about basketball.....

Tamika Catchings:

Tamika Catchings has her sights set on two new jobs after retirement: being a general manager, and being a mother.

Shock relocation:

The league has never been stronger as the WNBA moves into Dallas.

Storm:

Episode two of "between two birds."

USA U19 team strikes gold:

Team USA out-battled Russia for the world championship gold medal today, 78-70.

International news:

Liz Cambage opted to attend a music festival instead of the first day of National Team camp, so she's been dropped from the roster for next year's Olympics.

College news:

Edniesha Curry's hire as an assistant coach at UMaine is causing excitement.

Texas star Imani McGee-Stafford has married and will now go by the last name Boyette.

New York City's West Fourth League features familiar faces

Earlier this month I checked out the infamous West Fourth League in Manhattan. I was happy to discover that it is the place where many athletes play who didn't quite make the WNBA, as well as some current college stars.

The games were highly-competitive, as I'd always heard. The second game I watched featured a team that included former Buckeye Samantha Prahalis, past Red Stormer Shenneika Smith, and current Seton Hall star forward Tabatha Richardson-Smith. Watching these three and their teammates do their work was a real treat.

I wasn't able to make it to Harlem to watch the Dyckman League, which is the other big street game in town. But the same day I was at West Fourth, basketball great Teresa Weatherspoon made an appearance at Dyckman. The following weekend, she stopped in at West Fourth.

New York City is too cool to have two women's summer leagues. Los Angeles, where I am located, has NONE. Even the Bay Area in California is home to a thriving women's Pro Am League. But I have discovered that the City of Angels is not much of a sports town.

If you're lucky enough to be in the New York area, stop in to West Fourth or Dyckman some Saturday or Sunday. You never know who you might see on the court.


Game one that I attended featured purple vs. black-uniformed teams. Here' the point guard for team purple takes the ball up court on the fast break.


Games are played in a "cage," i.e. a fenced-off area in mixed residential/business Manhattan.


The purple team confers at halftime. Many teams are self-coached.


Former Ohio State star Samantha Prahalis slaps her head after missing a shot.



Former St. John's stand out Shenneika Smith muscles the ball into the paint.


Seton Hall forward Tabatha Richardson-Smith, left, defends the pass.


Prahalis keeps an eye on the ball.


Smith looks to pass.


Richardson-Smith gets rid of the ball fast.


The high-energy West Fourth League has been drawing fans for years.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Legends

Tamika Catchings and Sue Bird were righteously paired up at today's All-Star game for pre-game intros. Both saw their first season in the WNBA in 2002, and both have been with the same franchise their entire professional careers - Catchings with the Indiana Fever, and Bird with the Seattle Storm. Both athletes have lead those teams for 14 years, have won Olympic gold medals together, and have earned the respect of players, coaches and fans around the world.

Catchings has announced she will retire after the 2016 season. In a post-game interview today, Bird said she is "thinking about" retiring, but wasn't sure when yet.

I know everyone has to step away at some point and do the rest of their lives, but when these two players leave basketball, it will be a sad day for all.

I love that they are both going out on top. Their influence on the game has been immeasurable.


Tamika Catchings and Sue Bird complete their pre-game introduction routine at today's WNBA All-Star game. Photo by Brian Babineau (http://www.brianbabineau.com/nba/)

All-Star game: two thumbs up

The madness that was today's WNBA All-Star game was a fun affair, punctuated by some great performances, and a lot of silliness......Oh, those player intros!! Where are the videos????

Seriousness and defense took a back seat to fun.

Nevertheless, the West won, 117-112.

Maya Moore exploded for 30 points, eclipsing the record set last year, and was named the game's MVP.

Game highlights.

In a record tenth All-Star game, the soon-to-be retiring Tamika Catchings went out her way. She's now the all-time leading scorer in All-Star game history.

Brittney Griner dunked (duh).

Alex Bentley had a big game. She heard and deserved the cheers of the home crowd.

Shoni Schimmel brought some fun to the game.

The game showcases the league's growth and future.

What was behind Elena Delle Donne's touching gesture at the All-Star Game.

And did you catch Chiney Ogwumike's fantastic halftime analysis of the first half of WNBA season? The young woman has a future in broadcasting, if she wants it. She's just got to stop her sister, Nneka, and Jantel Lavender from video bombing her during broadcasts.

More WNBA:

EDD has emerged as the face of the WNBA.

Tamika Catchings and others discuss the state of the WNBA.

AND:

The WNBA is ready to look at expansion.

U19 Championships:

The US battled Spain, 80-65, to advance to the finals.