The usual analysis of Sunday’s games and previews of Tuesday’s will be up sometime Tuesday afternoon, but until then something a little different. The usual WNBAlien detail, depth and disdain, but over at Hoop365 this time, as I take a look at who should be going to Phoenix for the WNBA All-Star Game this weekend.
Just follow this link to take a look: http://www.hoop365.com/nba/western-conference/2014-wnba-all-star-game-who-should-play/
As you can probably tell from the length of time it took for this coverage to appear, detailing the WNBA All-Star Game wasn’t high on my list of priorities. The ins and outs of who makes it to the game or who goes overlooked is generally far more interesting than the game itself, which is a meaningless exhibition, usually filled with terrible basketball. This year at least, it did turn out to be reasonably entertaining. And if you’re going to cover 204 regular season games, a few minutes taking a look at the showpiece midseason event seems only right. So let’s take a look at a few of the highlights.
- Indiana Fever and Eastern Conference All-Stars head coach Lin Dunn said during her pregame speech that she’d been all over social media hyping the game, including Myspace – leaving many viewers and several of her own players cracking up with laughter. Listening to Lin Dunn is always worthwhile, one way or another.
- Shavonte Zellous created the first vaguely entertaining interview WNBA president Laurel Richie has provided in as long as I can remember. Richie’s usually as mind-numbing in interviews as her predecessor Donna Orender, but Zellous jumping into the back of the shot and shimmying to music only she could hear offered a welcome distraction. It was nice to see some new faces at All-Star, and the likes of Zellous and Latta clearly enjoyed the hell out of the experience.
- Also amusing was how much several players lived up to their performances – or lack thereof – from the first half of the season. Tina Charles and Cappie Pondexter tossed up a whole lot of bricks; Pondexter had a couple of nice assists, but also sent several passes into the crowd, maintaining the turnover binge she’s been a central part of in New York; and Rebekkah Brunson charged after every loose ball and rebound like her life depended on it – apparently she only has one gear.
- It was 49-43 to the East at halftime, with Chicago’s Epiphanny Prince probably the sweetest shooter on show to that point. The four Minnesota Lynx on the West squad provided 32 of their team’s 43 points in the first half.
My appearance on the Dishin’ & Swishin’ podcast is now live HERE. Yes, that really is my accent. We talked All-Star ahead of Saturday’s game, discussing who deserved to be there, whether the fans and coaches had chosen correctly, and other aspects of the first half of the season. If the audio merely whets your appetite, you can read more about my All-Star choices in the feature that went up earlier this week here.
Normal, text-based WNBA coverage will continue later tonight.
The WNBA community did a pretty solid job of selecting the All-Star starters this year. Not perfect (we’ll get into that in a minute), but we’ve seen some bizarre names voted in by the fans in previous years (Jayne Appel and Anna DeForge spring to mind). There was no one in that category this time around. But you know what? One of the benefits of deciding your own hypothetical All-Star rosters is that you can blithely ignore the voting public anyway. So before the results of the coaches’ votes for the reserves are released tonight, let’s decide who deserves to be heading to Connecticut for the big game on Saturday afternoon.
The fans had to vote for two guards and three frontcourt players, then the coaches had to provide two guards, three frontcourt, and one wildcard extra. So we’re looking to fill all of those, and because I like to ease into these things, we’re starting with the Eastern Conference. It’s easier in the East, because there simply aren’t that many players worth considering. Perusing the backcourt players available, our options are severely limited. Herrington, Bentley, Thomas and Hayes all seem like reaches from Atlanta, so there are zero candidates from the team that led the East for most of the first half of the season. Injuries or poor performance has knocked out Douglas, January and Phillips from last year’s conference champs. And even the hosts for the All-Star game have played so poorly this year that you can argue over whether they have deserving candidates.
So by my count we have seven vaguely viable possibilities. Epiphanny Prince and maybe Courtney Vandersloot in Chicago; Shavonte Zellous in Indiana; Ivory Latta in Washington; Cappie Pondexter in New York; and Kara Lawson or Allison Hightower in Connecticut. Lawson’s typically the Sun’s best perimeter player, but she’s missed 40% of their games through injury so far this season. It’s hard to overlook that without supreme performance when available, and she’s been good but not great. Latta and Prince both started the season strongly but have tailed off a little as it’s progressed (Prince also missed a few games through a combination of an ankle sprain and representing Russia at EuroBasket Women). Hightower’s improvement has been impressive, but she’s still the best of a bunch in Connecticut that have been awful as a whole. Pondexter continues to rank highly in raw scoring averages, but her percentages and efficiency have been terrible, she started the year playing no defense whatsoever, and she’s the central part of a team setting a record-breaking turnover pace.
So it’s not a great list. Pondexter’s an interesting case. She’s clearly been voted in more because of her superstar status and reputation than her performance this season. But she is still a star and carrying a heavy load on a team that expects her to generate a large percentage of their offense. To me it comes down to five – Prince, Zellous, Latta, Pondexter and Hightower – and it’s a matter of how you want to order them. And now that I’m trying to do this, maybe the East isn’t so easy after all.
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
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
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
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.
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
ESPN2 had the WNBA schedule all to themselves last night, with just one game on the slate. Let’s be generous and call it a defensive struggle, shall we? The less complimentary description of Seattle’s trip to San Antonio would involve pointing out that neither side could’ve hit water shooting off the side of a boat for most of the evening. Yesterday’s column centered on the highest-scoring game in WNBA history – this one’s going to be a little different.
San Antonio made a predictable change to their starting lineup for this game. Swin Cash’s versatile offensive game would’ve made her a very difficult matchup for Jia Perkins, recently shifted from San Antonio’s high-scoring bench into the starting lineup as a theoretical ‘small forward’ (despite being a listed 5-8). So Perkins went back to the bench, and Scholanda Robinson resumed her position among the starters. Seattle went with the usual five (or ‘usual’ since Lauren Jackson went down, anyway).
These teams know each other very, very well. Continue reading