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

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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:

 

Chicago

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

WNBA Today, 07/20/2011: Keeping the Dream alive, and other WNBA stories

Three games yesterday in the WNBA, and we’re back to more camp days so they were scattered throughout the afternoon and evening. Doesn’t this league realise that it disrupts my whole pattern when they play games so early? Frankly I think that packing arenas with thousands of screaming kids should come a distant second to pleasing me, but apparently the WNBA disagrees.

Forced to drag themselves out of bed for an early tip yesterday were Atlanta, coming off the back of their fourth win of the season on Saturday against Chicago, and their visitors Indiana. The Fever had lost two in a row after their seven-game win streak came to an end, so whether they were playing at 2 in the afternoon or 3 in the morning, they would’ve been keen to get back to winning ways.

Indiana head coach Lin Dunn made a couple of switches to her starting lineup in the hope of bringing some fresh energy to her group, inserting guard Shavonte Zellous for ‘power’ forward Tangela Smith, which in effect moves Tamika Catchings to the four in place of Smith. She also re-benched center Jessica Davenport for Tammy Sutton-Brown. Both were interesting changes to make against Atlanta especially. Continue reading

WNBA Today, 07/19/2011: They call it La-La Land for a reason

Mondays are usually a nice relaxing day off for the WNBA (which then gives me a nice relaxing Tuesday). Not this week. Instead the games just kept right on coming yesterday, with the Los Angeles Sparks playing for the second night running at the Staples Center, this time against the San Antonio Silver Stars. After a pathetic collapse against Washington on Sunday night turned a 24-point third-quarter lead into an overtime loss, the Sparks had a chance to turn things around quickly against a Western Conference rival. Having broken a three-game losing streak on Thursday against Seattle, the Silver Stars had an opportunity to build some momentum and inflict more pain and suffering on LA. Most teams tend to enjoy doing that regardless of their own situation.

Los Angeles went with the same starting five that Joe Bryant had used in each of his three games since taking over as head coach, including the victory in San Antonio a week earlier. The Silver Stars stuck with Scholanda Robinson ahead of Jia Perkins as their third perimeter starter, after that switch worked against Seattle in their last game. If I’m honest, I can’t reprint here most of the notes I took in the first quarter, because it was largely just expletives about how awful LA were. Continue reading

WNBAlien Special: All-Star Reserve Selections

So after the fans did a reasonable job picking their starters for the WNBA All-Star Game on Saturday, the coaches are left to select the remaining six players in either conference. Because I can never resist the temptation to tell a WNBA coach what he or she should’ve done, it’s time for me to select my reserves just before the official announcement later tonight. The rules say that the coaches have to name six players including at least two guards, two forwards, and a center, so that’s what I’ll be sticking to as well.

Bear in mind along the way that these are my picks for who I feel deserves to be named – not necessarily who I expect the coaches to send to the game, or who I’d pick if I was simply trying to make the game entertaining. If you fancy reminding yourself who I selected as my choices to start the game, you can find that here.

 

West Guards

Starters: Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi

Okay, first off, I made a list of everyone who isn’t already starting that could even remotely be considered an All-Star candidate. In the West, across every position, I ended up with 16 names (and yes, several of those were a reach). Only five are guards, so I’m already down to a pretty short list, and in fact it’s damn easy to select the first two. Continue reading

WNBA Today, 07/18/2011: It ain’t over till it’s over

In theory, there were three WNBA games played yesterday. In practice, there were maybe 75 minutes or so of basketball actually worth talking about. One barely watchable blowout that will only be remembered for the halftime ceremony and for clashing with the women’s World Cup soccer final; one painfully dull blowout that somehow became a game; and one game that was actually a competitive contest from start to finish. So let’s start with the game where both teams actually showed up for all 40 minutes.

After having their seven-game winning streak broken by Minnesota on Friday night, Indiana travelled to Connecticut looking to start up a new winning run. The Sun were undoubtedly happy to be back on their own floor, considering Friday’s win in New York was just their second road victory of the season. In contrast, they’ve won every home game they’ve played so far this year. Tangela Smith retained her starting spot at power forward for Indiana despite missing the entire second half of their last game, while Danielle McCray started ahead of Kara Lawson for the second straight game for Connecticut.

It’s early days for the McCray/Kalana Greene starting partnership on the wing for the Sun (and head coach Mike Thibault does like to mess around with his starters from game to game), but for the first couple of games it’s added some pep to their lineup. Lawson is usually out there just trying to keep everything under control in the early stages of a game, putting up the occasional three if she’s left wide open. McCray is a more athletic, speedier player who’s less concerned with control, and more interested in attacking. Continue reading