Monthly Archives: May 2011

Hoops Insider interview with SLAMOnline’s Stephen Litel

May 31, 2011 4:20pm
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As we get ready for Friday’s season opener, between the Minnesota Lynx and the Los Angeles Sparks, we brought in WNBA and SLAMOnline writer Stephen Litel who kindly agreed to share his thoughts on the Minnesota Lynx. With over six years of experience covering the league, there was no shortage of information as Stephen gave us his insightful takes about this year’s team.

 

HI: It is rare that rookies make a dramatic impact in their first season. What contributions can we expect from Minnesota’s two top draft picks Maya Moore and Amber Harris this season?

SL: No matter what the sport, it does take rookies time to adjust to the professional level. However, if there are any two rookies who are most suited towards adjusting quickly to the WNBA, it’s Maya Moore and Amber Harris.

Everyone knows Moore’s history as simply one of the best collegiate players in history and it was a foregone conclusion she would be the number one pick this year a few years ago. She was ready for the WNBA long ago and her history of dominating in college, as well as playing with the WNBA’s best with USA Basketball gives her an upper-hand in adjusting very quickly.

Harris looked very impressive in her preseason debut last week. She gave Lynx fans a glimpse of why Minnesota (and yours truly) have been so big on her for the past couple seasons and with the post situation in Minnesota, she will receive big minutes right off the bat. At the team’s media day a few weeks back, she spoke glowingly of learning the WNBA game from players with as much success as Taj McWilliams-Franklin and Rebekkah Brunson and she is correct. The two veterans will be able to give the athletic and already-basketball-savvy rookie pointers as the season goes along.

It would be unfair to them to expect them to play to their full potential immediately, but knowing the intelligence, athletic ability and work ethic of both Maya Moore and Amber Harris, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see solid play very quickly.

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Chicago’s Christon to miss time with knee injury

May 31, 2011 3:27pm
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The Chicago Sky announced that forward Shameka Christon will miss time with a knee injury. She is expected to miss at least eight weeks according the Chicago Tribune report.

“It is unfortunate that we won’t have Shameka to start the season,” Sky coach Pokey Chatman said in a statement. “We will assist her in her recovery in any way we can. In the meantime, I am confident that our team will continue to prepare and work hard so we are ready on June 4.”

Tulsa’s Richardson has won everywhere he has coached

May 31, 2011 2:59pm
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For a coach used to winning, the Shock’s Nolan Richardson is looking to right the ship in his second season coaching in the WNBA.

Given the time, Richardson has won at every coaching spot he has made. Richardson built a national champion team at Western Junior College. Next he won the NIT with Tulsa in his 1st season as coach. Richardson is probably best known for his “40 minutes of hell” while at Arkansas where he went to 3 final fours and won the NCAA championship in 1994.

John Klein of the Tulsa World writes, “Tulsa still doesn’t have the type of talent it will take to challenge for the league title. However, the Shock is likely to be far more competitive and surprise a few folks this year.  If the young players, like Elizabeth Cambage, can become the stars hoped for, then Tulsa has a chance to be what Richardson dreams. Richardson knows basketball. He has a winning system and he’s adjusted to the women’s game.”

Weekend Preseason Recap

May 30, 2011 2:15pm
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Saturday, May 28th:

The Los Angeles Sparks defeated the Phoenix Mercury 83-72, in a preseason game played at The Pit in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The Sparks started the game well, leading 26-13 after the first quarter. “I’m very pleased with my team tonight” said Sparks head coach Jennifer Gillom, “I thought the energy was there, the aggressiveness was there, and tonight told me a lot.”

This game concludes the Sparks preseason, as they open up at home Friday, against the Minnesota Lynx at Staples Center. Phoenix travels to Seattle to face the defending champions on June 4th.

Sunday, May 29th:

The Atlanta Dream defeated  Great Britain 82-51, in the Dream’s only preseason game played in Manchester, England and the WNBA’s first game in Europe.

From James Bowman at Swish Appeal, “Coco Miller got off to a hot start in the first quarter, scoring seven of the first nine points for Atlanta and scoring 11 total first-quarter points.  (She would finish with 10-for-12 shooting and score 21 points.)  The Dream went to a double-digit lead early in the first quarter and never looked back.”

In the 3rd preseason game of the weekend the Seattle Storm defeated the Tulsa Shock 76-71.

After missing the game against Los Angeles, both Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird returned to the starting lineup as Seattle raced out to a 24-6 1st quarter lead and 45-25 halftime lead.

2nd overall pick Liz Cambage let her emotions get the best of her.  ”I was so nervous,” she said. “The first quarter I was so sick and had to run back and get it out of my system. But even getting off the plane yesterday, I was just so nervous going into training.”

Some additional thoughts from Jayda Evans’s in-game thread can be found here.

To the point, Part 6 (Atlanta Dream)

May 30, 2011 8:23am
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How does a WNBA Finalist significantly improve its roster? By adding one of the best point guads in the WNBA to an already explosive offensive attack. Lindsey Harding, who is in her fifth season in the WNBA, will quarterback the Dream’s offense this season. Though Harding will be the Dream’s fourth Opening Day starting PG, she is undoubtedly considered to be the best out of that group. Harding’s ability to put the defense back on its heels in transition (athleticism), her ability to penetrate in the half-court setting, her playmaking ability on defense, and her ability to distribute makes her a tough player to contain and gives the Dream a major boost on both sides of the court this season. In an offseason where most Eastern Conference teams seemed to take a step backwards (new head coaches for three of the six teams and major shake-ups at PG for at least three teams and as many as five teams), Atlanta emerges as the clear favorite to win the East during the regular season and playoffs.

That said, Atlanta does have other options at the point in the extremely unlikely case that Harding can’t get the job done. Last year’s regular season starter, Shalee Lehning, and last year’s playoff starter, Coco Miller, return to the Dream this season. James Bowman of Swish Appeal does a fine job of first determining whether Harding is an upgrade over Lehning (she is) and to what extent. To the surprise of no one, it is believed that Harding will start at the point with Lehning backing her up (and Miller serving as the emergency third-string PG).

J-Mac to sit out the 2011 season

May 29, 2011 2:28pm
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Veteran post player Janel McCarville will not play in the WNBA this season, according to Liberty head coach John Whisenant. McCarville started all 34 regular season games in 2010, averaging 8.8ppg and 5.9rpg. She was said to be experiencing back pain while playing overseas and will use the summer to recover.

Source: McCarville to sit out 2011 WNBA season

Mystics working it out during the Preseason

May 28, 2011 2:44pm
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Preseason gives teams a chance to try new things against real competition. With a new coach in Trudi Lacey, a lot of new players and Alana Beard returning from injury, the Mystics are hoping all the kinks can be worked out in time for the start of the season next weekend.

From the Washington Post, Steve Yanda writes, “Lacey, who is beginning her first season at the Mystics’ helm, has made defensive effort a high priority, and Washington may well have to rely on that while its offense works out a few kinks.”

With the addition of Nicky Anosike from Minnesota, and the return of Beard, Lacey’s quotes might be more coach speak than anything. You can expect her Mystics are going to give a great effort every night. Washington understands exactly the purpose of preseason; to work out all the kinks because ultimately only the regular season counts in the standings.

Eastern Conference preseason update

May 28, 2011 7:18am
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Last night, two Eastern Conference teams were involved in preseason action (Connecticut v. San Antonio from Wilkes-Barre, PA and New York Liberty v. Chinese National Team from Albany, NY), with both coming away with wins. The Sun defeated the Silver Stars this time while the Liberty downed China, 79-65. Both teams have completed preseason play, and Connecticut has only one cut to make to get its roster down to the 11-player limit (New York has 16 with the recent acquisition of Quanitra Hollingsworth).

Can Harding be the missing piece for the Dream?

May 27, 2011 1:46pm
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After helping lead the Washington Mystics to the Eastern Conference’s best record, Lindsey Harding and the Mystics were beat in the playoffs, by Atlanta, who went on to the WNBA finals. After an offseason trade sent Harding to the Dream, Mechelle Voepel of ESPN.com writes about Harding recalling that playoff series against her now current team.

“Going back on defense over and over, it was two on one or three on one,” Harding said. “Like, ‘Holy cow!’ It wasn’t just one of them; it was all of them. Which is why it was such a draw to go there. As a point guard, if you have that many options, it makes your job a little bit easier.”

The Dream are hoping Harding can be that missing piece that propels the Dream to a WNBA title.

To the point, Part 5 (Chicago Sky)

May 27, 2011 7:20am
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A perennial lottery team, the Chicago Sky brought in a new coach/GM in former LSU head coach Pokey Chatman. Chatman, who had spent the previous two years coaching Euroleague giant Spartak, brings with her valuable professional basketball knowledge (she is a WNBA novice). That said, Pokey continued the draft trend set by her predecessor (Steven Key) by selecting a point guard prospect with the team’s lottery pick. Courtney Vandersloot, the darling of the 2011 NCAA Tournament, is the only player in college basketball history to record 2000 points and 1000 assists. The highly-decorated PG is the latest highly-decorated PG prospect to be drafted by the Sky, as the team selected Maryland’s Kristi Toliver (2006 NCAA champion and 2009 ACC POY) in 2009 with its lottery pick and Epiphanny Prince (3rd team AA in 2009; played in Turkey in lieu of senior season) in 2010. Toliver was traded after one season to the LA Sparks while Prince, who did not look comfortable playing PG for the first time in her career, slides over to SG this season. It should be noted that neither Toliver nor Prince started a game at PG for the Sky.

Will that trend continue in Chicago? Seems unlikely, as the new coaching staff has a vested interest in having the three-time WCC POY start at lead guard sooner rather than later (and you would, too, if your only alternative–Dominique Canty–has not been able to lead this team to the playoffs and isn’t a true PG herself). But patience has to be exercised by the fans and the coaching staff with respect to Vandersloot’s development, as evidenced by her up and down performances this week in her first taste of WNBA action. While she’s not the next Sue Bird, it doesn’t mean that Vandersloot isn’t a valuable asset to the Sky. Like most valuable assets, however, she needs time to mature. In saying that, it would make sense for the Sky to continue to start Canty at the PG position and ease Vandersloot in as her play warrants more minutes.

Injury Report