WNBA Today, 07/30/2011: Ohhh, we’re half way there…

You know we’ve hit the meat of the WNBA season when a day with only two games feels like a nice, relaxing, easy evening for me. I’m also reliably informed that while last weekend may have been the official mid-point of the season in terms of date, last night’s games took us to exactly halfway through the schedule. 102 games down, 102 to go. Then the playoffs, of course. And WNBAlien just keeps on ticking.

The basketball gods even made it ridiculously easy to choose which game to focus on last night, offering up one tight contest and one overwhelming, comprehensive blowout. Considering the first game was top vs. bottom in the East, while the second featured last season’s champs against the current Western leaders, you might’ve thought the latter would’ve been the close one. You’d have been about as accurate as a Nicky Anosike fadeaway.

Aw, that’s a little unfair. Continue reading


WNBA Today, 07/29/2011: Ever decreasing circles, WNBA-style

Five games yesterday in the WNBA, and there were fewer points scored in each contest as we went along. It’s a good thing there weren’t any more games or we might’ve ended up with a soccer score. With so many games I’ll be keeping it reasonably brief today – or at least brief by my standards – so let’s get underway. (Editor’s note (yes that’s me as well, humour me): I intended to keep it brief. Level of success is questionable.)

Camp day for San Antonio meant Phoenix were tipping off at 9.30am as far as their fans back home were concerned. Players don’t tend to enjoy these extremely early starts either. The Mercury at least had the benefit of facing the Silver Stars without Danielle Adams, who was in a walking boot and using a crutch after her right toe injury suffered in the Tuesday’s game. Considering she put up 16 and 22 points in the two previous games between these sides this season, that should’ve been a significant bonus for Phoenix.

The Mercury played the first quarter like they still wanted to be in bed. Too many sloppy turnovers and defense that was leaving perimeter scorers like Becky Hammon far too open. San Antonio happily took advantage, Hammon had 13 by the end of the first and Diana Taurasi capped off a grumpy opening period with her fifth technical foul of the season (remember, numbers seven, nine, eleven etc. carry one-game suspensions). Continue reading

WNBA Today, 07/28/2011: Eastern Promise

So here we go with the games involving Eastern Conference contenders from Tuesday night. I covered the West’s top-five yesterday, so this wraps up the first set of games since the All-Star break.

Connecticut took their 2-5 road record to Chicago to open the second-half of their season. Connecticut have had some ugly performances away from the Mohegan Sun this year, but the win in New York two weeks earlier suggested they might be turning that around. Chicago came in at 7-2 at home, which is a good thing because they’re even worse on the road than the Sun.

Sun head coach Mike Thibault stuck with the same starting five that had earned a three-game win streak heading into the break, while Pokey Chatman brought Tamera Young in at small forward for the Sky. Against Connecticut’s quick perimeter lineup, starting Young ahead of Cathrine Kraayeveld made a lot of sense. Both teams had new players in uniform on the bench, with wing Shay Murphy available for the Sky and backup post Jessica Breland now part of the Sun’s roster.

The early stages were positive for Chicago, because they were keeping the turnovers down and actually attacking the rim – two aspects of the game they’ve struggled with all year. Unfortunately for them, Renee Montgomery was illustrating at the other end of the floor that Courtney Vandersloot can’t even come close to guarding her at this stage in their careers. Continue reading

WNBA Today, 07/27/2011: They’re back!

So the WNBA was finally back last night, with the first proper games since last Thursday. Weird how five days can feel like so long in the middle of the season when the offseason lasts nearly eight months. Anyway, even I feel like five games in one piece is a bit much to cover, so we’re going to split this up. The entire Western Conference played last night, but the five teams that still matter were encompassed by three games. So this column will cover those three contests, and tomorrow I’ll get to the East. It means Washington and Tulsa are in the wrong half, but at this point I barely consider them to count. It’s a five-team race on either side, and everyone outside of delusional Mystics front-office personnel knows it. On to the games.

The opening matchup last night was San Antonio‘s trip to Washington. So we had one team that had gone through all the hoopla of hosting the All-Star Game in previous days, and one that spent the weekend messing with their roster. The starting fives were the same as usual for both teams, but Washington had recent pickup DeMya Walker in uniform coming off the bench. Karima Christmas and Ta’Shia Phillips are both gone, as you probably know by now, but Alana Beard and Monique Currie are still in street clothes, leaving the Mystics currently down to nine.

Or eight, depending on your perspective. It’s hard to tell if Nicky Anosike’s head is actually in Washington yet. Her shooting touch certainly isn’t. Continue reading

WNBA Today, 07/26/2011: In very, very brief

Apologies to anyone waiting on a proper update tonight. All the writing over the last couple of days and all the games tonight mean you’re just getting the CliffsNotes in this one. Check out the Eastern and Western Conference trade possibility columns from the last two days if you didn’t catch them already.

In signing news, it would appear that Kerri Gardin is Washington’s 11th player. Not because they did anything useful like announce it, but because she played for them tonight. Which tends to suggest that a player is on the roster. New York re-signed Felicia Chester to fill their 11th spot, presumably to a seven-day deal in case something better comes along. I’m surprised it hasn’t already, to be honest.

On the injury front, Sancho Lyttle still didn’t dress for Atlanta tonight due to her back injury, despite the claims that she’d be returning after the All-Star break. Fellow Dream post Courtney Paris was at least back after missing one game before the break. In unfortunate fresh injury news, San Antonio’s rookie all-star Danielle Adams hurt her right ankle or foot in the fourth-quarter of tonight’s game. She was in a lot of pain and needed the physical support of two teammates to make it back to the locker room. Hopefully it’s just a sprain, but don’t be surprised if she misses at least a couple of games.

Back to the proper column tomorrow, with the usual in-depth analysis. I promise.


Today’s Games (already completed):

San Antonio @ Washington, 7pm ET

Atlanta @ Tulsa, 8pm ET

Los Angeles @ Minnesota, 8pm ET

Connecticut @ Chicago, 8pm ET

Seattle @ Phoenix, 10pm ET

WNBA Today, 07/25/2011: Where Trade Winds Might Blow, Western Edition

Before we get to the Western Conference half of the trade possibilities feature, first let’s round up the signing news from around the league. Chicago filled their empty spot by signing Eshaya Murphy to a seven-day contract (which makes my reminder that they still held her rights a couple of days ago look surprisingly prescient). After four seasons in the WNBA spread across six different cities, Murphy’s yet to shoot over 38% in any of them. So don’t expect her to set the World on fire. She will at least give them another option on the wing though, which is better than nothing. And nothing is about what they were getting from Angie Bjorklund.

No news yet out of New York on their 11th roster spot, but there was more movement in Washington today. DeMya Walker was officially acquired, but slipped into the release was the news that Karima Christmas wasn’t the only player who’d been waived – Ta’Shia Phillips is gone too. Taken by Atlanta with the 8th pick in this year’s draft, presumably on instructions from Washington who acquired her as part of the Lindsey Harding trade later the same day, it’s shocking to see the Mystics quit on Phillips so quickly. She hasn’t looked great in the brief glimpses we’ve seen of her on WNBA floors by any means, but this is a 6-6 center. And the team is terrible. These are the kids you should be building with, not discarding at the first opportunity in favour of journeymen like Walker whose careers are nearly over. It’s a bizarre move from Washington.

How do you decide that Phillips is worth the #8 pick, work with her for barely a couple of months, and then throw her away when your season’s already heading down the toilet? Continue reading

WNBA Today, 07/24/2011: Where Trade Winds Might Blow, Eastern Edition

I’m intending to write another installment of ‘Your WNBA Questions Answered’ soon, so send in your queries about anything relating to the league via email, twitter, comments at the end of this piece or anywhere else you can get ahold of me. The first edition was here, if you want some idea of what sort of issues I tackled last time around. Anything about the league or the women’s game is welcome.


Okay, so the first half of the WNBA season is over, the All-Star game is done and dusted, and there aren’t any games until Tuesday. Also, while contracts may have just become guaranteed, we still have three weeks to go until the trading deadline. Those who’ve followed the WNBA in previous seasons will know that this doesn’t exactly tend to herald a hive of activity around the league. The biggest move last year was the trade that sent Kara Braxton to Phoenix, helping them reach the Western Conference Finals only to get swept by Seattle. Which is probably exactly what they’d have achieved if they hadn’t traded for Kara Braxton. The year before, a Tamera Young/Armintie Price swap was the highlight. We have to go back to 2008 and Detroit’s move for Taj McWilliams-Franklin to find a deadline-week move that had a legitimate effect on the destination of the championship, but that trade at least illustrates that they can happen.

So I thought I’d utilise this brief pause in the season to take a look at what teams need, what they have to offer, and who might be most active in calling around for an extra piece over the next few weeks. There isn’t a single team in the league without any holes, so you never know what might happen. Eastern Conference teams today, Western Conference tomorrow, tackling the teams in order of the current standings (just as a break from my typical alphabetical order). Feel free to comment in the space below the article if you’ve got any better ideas – some of the WNBA’s GMs could use all the help they can get.



The most obvious place that the Fever might be looking for help is at point guard. With Briann January out for the season after her ACL tear, they’ve been using backups Erin Phillips and Shannon Bobbitt for the last few weeks. Phillips has gotten most of the minutes, and has been doing a pretty decent job. Her shooting’s been markedly better than January’s, and her turnovers are significantly lower, but her assists are far lower than January’s as well. Even taking just her games as the starting point guard, Phillips is only at 3.4 assists per game. She isn’t a natural point, and she isn’t as comfortable in the offense as January was. Katie Douglas, who was shooting the lights out early in the year, has dropped off noticeably since Phillips replaced January, and that’s not a coincidence. Douglas has to create more herself now, and there are fewer easy shots available for her. Still, Phillips makes up for a lot of that with her own shooting.

The fact is that Indy are unlikely to find an upgrade on Phillips on the open market. Continue reading

WNBA Today, 07/23/2011: The Stars come out to Shine

All-Star Game day today, and considering it was on in the middle of the afternoon it seemed sensible to cover it in today’s column rather than wait for tomorrow. Bear in mind, however, that it’s essentially impossible to cover an exhibition game like this as if it’s a real game of basketball. I can’t analyse the defense, because no one played any all afternoon. I can’t break down the offensive sets because much as Brian Agler seemed to be trying to draw up plays in his huddles, the teams basically don’t run anything. Still, as all-star games go, this one was a pretty entertaining affair, so let’s take a look at how the event played out.

It was the first time I can remember ever being honestly entertained by WNBA All-Star Game introductions, so well done to the league and San Antonio’s organisers. The starters, all donning cowboy hats, were introduced one at a time framed in silhouette behind a white screen. Most of them took the opportunity to show off their dance moves, although Diana Taurasi refrained, and declared in a subsequent pre-game interview “I don’t dance for free”. Which does make you wonder what she’d pull out if someone offered to compensate her for her efforts. Sue Bird eschewed the dancing in favour of lassoing a guy in true Texan style. All very amusing.

Once the game tipped off, everything developed just as we’d expected. No defense, lots of threes, and the occasional highlight-reel move. Continue reading

WNBA Today, 07/22/2011: Cuts and Blowouts

Before we tackle last night’s game, first let’s take a look at all the roster movement that’s been going on today. As I mentioned here a couple of times this week, any non-guaranteed contract that is still on a team’s roster at the mid-point of the WNBA season automatically becomes guaranteed for the rest of the season. We hit that mid-point today, so several teams waived players late last night and the names have been trickling out all day long. In alphabetical team order:



Angie Bjorklund was waived by the Sky, which wouldn’t have been a huge surprise even if it wasn’t the day before deals became guaranteed. Rookie wing Bjorklund really hasn’t done much all year, and has barely played. On the rare occasions she’s appeared, she’s looked like the old version of Erin Thorn – the one who couldn’t do anything except stand around and shoot – only with less talent. That’s a fringe WNBA player at best.

There’s been no sign yet as to who the Sky will fill the roster spot with. It’s quite possible it’ll simply be Bjorklund returning, because the mid-point of the season is also when seven-day contracts become an option. Continue reading

WNBA Today, 07/21/2011: Dream, Lynx keep running, but Marion’s run is over

Before we get to yesterday’s games, first the big news from this afternoon. If the announcement that the worst team in the league is releasing their 11th player can ever truly be considered ‘big’. After 47 appearances, the Tulsa Shock finally decided that Marion Jones had served her purpose on their roster and cut her today, in order to sign backup center Abi Olajuwon. In the eyes of most WNBA fans it was about time, but some will still be sorry to see her go.

On a purely playing level, she never would’ve made a WNBA roster if her name wasn’t Marion Jones. She was a 34-year old rookie last year, who hadn’t played organised basketball in over ten years. People in that situation don’t make WNBA rosters. It’s hard enough to stick on a team when you’re coming out of college at 22 and have been working on your game for the previous decade. However, in fairness to Jones, she did improve as last season went on, and by the end of it she had at least become a vaguely serviceable end-of-the-bench guard. She wasn’t a complete joke as a WNBA player any more, and if you subscribe to +/- statistics, she even had a significantly positive impact when she was on the floor (no, you don’t want to take that too seriously).

The question I always had with Tulsa’s retention of Jones was where did they think they were going with her? Continue reading