WNBA Today, 07/10/2011: I wish I were a gambling man

Everything below was written before Jennifer Gillom was replced by Joe Bryant as head coach of the Los Angeles Sparks late this evening. More on that tomorrow.

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Some nights, it annoys me that I’m not a more adventurous gambler. You see, I don’t like losing money, so I tend to bet small, even when I’m convinced the odds are in my favour. I also don’t have an account anywhere that offers in-play betting, which was the second factor that stopped me making a bundle last night. But let’s just say that if a) I had more guts, and b) somewhere easily accessible actually took the bets, I could’ve made some nice coin out of yesterday’s WNBA schedule.

Some games start off going one way on the scoreboard, but if you’re watching closely enough and know a little about the squads, it’s pretty easy to gauge whether the pattern’s going to last. When one team gets all the breaks, shots are going in that they rarely manage to make, and the other team are contriving to miss countless point-blank layups, chances are things are going to swing round before the night is out. It happened a lot last night. Oh and by the way, gambling is legal where I live. If it happens not to be where you reside, please don’t take this as a suggestion that you break the law. That would be wrong.

The first game last night featured Washington in Indiana, and the first instance of me scouting around for a website that would let me open an account in seconds and bet on a complete collapse by the team in front. Continue reading

WNBA Today, 07/09/2011: Shocked it took them so long

Firstly, apologies for the lateness of this update. It’s still Saturday if you’re in LA or Seattle, so I’m claiming it counts as just about on time. If anyone hasn’t heard by now, Nolan Richardson stepped down as head coach and general manager of the Tulsa Shock late last night after the loss to Phoenix. It sounds like one of those ‘allowed to resign’ situations where the owners asked him to go and granted him the semi-dignity of not being fired. The timing’s a little odd, considering they’d just had eight days off and then he went right in the middle of a home-and-home against the Mercury (they play again back in Phoenix tomorrow), but let’s face it – it was well past time. The team’s bad. He hasn’t done well as a GM; he’s junked his coaching system because it didn’t work but replaced it with practically nothing; and fans and players alike are increasingly losing any interest in this franchise. Something had to be done.

Teresa Edwards, hired as Director of Player Personnel and assistant coach during the offseason, will take over on an interim basis. She was a player-coach for a while back in the ABL without a great deal of success, but she was the obvious short-term option from the moment she joined the organisation. It would be practically impossible for her to do any worse, but unless the team conjures up a dramatic turnaround under her stewardship, a real coaching search would be nice to see. There are a whole bunch of decent candidates available, even just among the assistants and recently unemployed staff from other WNBA teams, so they should be able to find someone who can take them forward. There are only 12 head-coaching jobs available if you want to work in women’s pro basketball in the US, so even with the state this franchise is in, I doubt they’ll be short of applicants.

Nothing much Richardson did worked in this league. Continue reading

WNBA Today, 07/08/2011: Bringing Liberty to Texas

Ludicrously little has happened in the WNBA this week. Including very little basketball being played. I got tired of coming up with random things to talk about, so decided to simply wait until some actual games had been played before writing today’s update. Hence here we have analysis of the game that finished a couple of hours ago between New York and San Antonio. I’ll get to the No-Defense Bowl between Phoenix and Tulsa in tomorrow’s column.

The Liberty’s last game before heading out to Texas was a win over this same Silver Stars team last Friday. If you remember, I mentioned then that San Antonio were a good matchup for this squad, and that they’d be looking to take advantage of that in their second and final meeting with them this week. San Antonio move the ball well and have good spacing but their lack of size inside means they have trouble offering a threat in the paint, where several teams have gone to town on the Liberty this year. Their best interior scorers are Sophia Young and rookie Danielle Adams, both of whom are barely 6-1 on a good day, and neither of whom exactly posts up much. That makes things easier for the Libs with their fronting, over-playing, desperately-bringing-help-over-once-you-get-beat defense to work. They might’ve had the best record in the WNBA through the first month, but Liberty head coach John Whisenant would probably be happy to play San Antonio every week.

Of course, the Silver Stars are still a very good team, with a lot of talented scorers, so this game was hardly a foregone conclusion. Continue reading

WNBA Today, 07/07/2011: Who deserves to start the All-Star Game?

Seeing as we’re going through yet another couple of days with no WNBA games (seriously league, four games in six days? Are you kidding me?), and there are only four days left to get your votes in, I thought it was about time I finally picked my All-Star starters. I hate that we have to do this so early in this league – not that there’s any good reason to start quite as early as the WNBA begins the voting every year – but the clock’s running out. The game’s in just over two weeks. At least everyone’s played nine or ten games by now, so I don’t feel completely ridiculous making choices based on 2011 performance. Candidates will be examined for their candidacy in their position as they appear on the ballot. So while you and I know, for example, that something contrived is going to happen at center in the West, for now we’re sticking to the rules. I’m allowed a write-in vote for someone who isn’t named in a specific position on the form, though, if I so choose. Got to have a little leeway.


West Guards

First, let’s cut off everyone who’s ridiculous. Okay, I’m down to five. Jia Perkins has had a nice few games, but let’s face it, she’s not really in this argument. Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, Becky Hammon, Lindsay Whalen, and Seimone Augustus are my shortlist. While obviously everyone likes to vote for their favourites in these things, and I have no problem with that whatsoever, what I’m trying to do here is decide who actually deserves to be starting in San Antonio on the 23rd. Not who’s the cutest or was once really nice when she gave you an autograph. I can’t truly see any other West guard (or ‘guard’, seeing as DeWanna Bonner’s an option on the ballot) entering the discussion with those five. Continue reading

WNBA Today, 07/06/2011: Temperatures rise in the desert, and the Fever stay hot

One event sparked most of the discussion in regards to last night’s three WNBA games, but you know what? It was essentially a minor incident and had very little to do with actual basketball, plus it happened in the middle of a pretty terrible game. So on principle, I’ll cover that game second. It would’ve gone last except that even I can’t come up with a good reason to move Chicago-Washington up the playlist.

So first up, the second and final regular season meeting between the two teams I predicted to reach the WNBA Finals this year, Indiana and Seattle. The Storm won their first matchup fairly comfortably a couple of weeks ago, but that was before Lauren Jackson went down with an injury that could cost her the season. The Fever, of course, are also dealing with injury issues of their own, after starting point guard Briann January tore her ACL in their last game and was ruled out for the rest of 2011. This was the first test of how they were going to cope. Continue reading

WNBA Today, 07/05/2011: When is 14th better than 13th?

Due to the intervention of real life – and the basic fact that there’s been one WNBA game in the last three days – today’s update will be brief. It will also contain mini-previews of tonight’s games, framed as questions, just in case anyone fancies looking out for the same things I think might be interesting about the upcoming games. Normal column service will be resumed tomorrow.

And because I’m feeling in a backwards mood today, we’re going to begin with:

 

In other news…

New York today waived rookie Jessica Breland, the #13 overall pick, and picked up Felicia Chester, the #14 pick selected right behind her. No, I don’t get it either. Breland has actually looked reasonably promising in her brief appearances for the Liberty, including an early game against Atlanta where she made two key shots to help them win in overtime. Head coach and GM John Whisenant actively pursued Breland on draft day, giving up next year’s second round pick to move up from 22 to 13 so he could take her. He will have known all about her health issues from college, so any problems with stamina shouldn’t have come as a surprise (and it’s not like they need her to play big minutes right now anyway). I don’t know why he quit on her so quickly.

I watched Chester practice and play with the Dream in training camp in Manchester, and came away thoroughly unimpressed. Continue reading

WNBA Today, 07/04/2011: 15 of the Best

On a day when most of you are off celebrating American history, I thought it only appropriate to finally make some decisions of my own about WNBA history. Yes, it’s about time I stopped collecting splinters in my backside, jumped down off the fence, and made my picks for the Top 15 Players in WNBA history. Remember, the official instructions state that ‘Players should be selected on the basis of overall contribution to the WNBA since its inception in 1997, including such factors as on-court performance, leadership, sportsmanship and community service as well as contributions to team success.’ So we’re not just looking for the top 15 performers on the court – there’s a bit more to it than that.

The easiest way to get started with lists like this are to fill in the players who just seem so obvious that you can’t see how anyone could leave them out. I’m already at ten with players who fit that criteria for me, which makes things easier. First, the exceptionally easy ones – players who’ve won the Most Valuable Player Award multiple times. It’s not the awards themselves per se, but winning more than one is a useful cut-off point for an initial group. That gives us Cynthia Cooper, Lisa Leslie, Sheryl Swoopes and Lauren Jackson. Continue reading