Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

WNBA Season #9 -- Thoughts and Observations.

By Mel Greenberg

What to do on the eve of the ninth WNBA season?

(A.) Figure out how to manage the last 30 megs on my 30-gig iPod (third generation)?
(B.) Watch the late-night HBO movie?
(C.) Say something about the months to come?
(D.) All of the above.

We’ll go with (D), but begin with ©.

Forecasted several seasons ago for extinction in the not-too-distant-future, the WNBA has now matched the proverbial cat with its ninth life and more to come in future seasons as competition for the 2005 championship begins Saturday.

The obvious is out there in preview stories all over the internet:

New president: Former PGA Tour executive Donna Orender, a former all-American player at Queens College.

New coaches (sort-of): Henry Bibby, former Southern Cal men’s coach takes over the Los Angeles Sparks; Former veteran New York Liberty coach Richie Adubato is now running the show in Washington with the Mystics; Dan Hughes, former coach of the defunct Cleveland Rockers, is saddled up with the San Antonio Silver Stars; Patty Coyle begins the season in her own right with the New York Liberty after handling the team on an interim basis after Adubato was dismissed on July 4th weekend last summer.

New players: Wheeling and dealing through trades and free-agency, along with acquisitions through the draft, has most teams with altered profiles, notably Los Angeles where Chamique Holdsclaw is now alongside Lisa Leslie after being traded by the Washington Mystics for DeLisha Milton-Jones.

An excellent story on the Holdsclaw sage can be found in today’s editions of the Orange County Register by our former Inquirer colleague Marcia C. Smith.

I’d give you all the link, but I haven’t figured out yet how to create one in the template on this site in which this copy is implanted.

Speaking of new, the WNBA.COM has undergone a makeover that has new features and a feel that allows various persons following the league to pursue their interests. It will be a little confusing at first, but it will become familiar as you learn where items are from which you derive interest.

Changing the Mix

Judging by opening day rosters, the original charter members of the 1997 season are down to single digits, such as Leslie, and several of those missed full seasons due to injuries and pregnancies.

It’s a healthy mix in which the group is more about who will be with the league in the years to come as compared to who’s been around in years past.

Training Camp Blues

May is the cruelest month in the WNBA season because the late arrivals of American and foreigner players from overseas competition usually means the “real competitive basketball” may not surface for several weeks as teams seek to find their cohesiveness or “chemistry” as coaches will say.

Dan Hughes noted that he has less time now to put a team together than the early days when play began in early June.

That’s not the only difference:

“I see more competitiveness than I saw when I first went to Cleveland, in 2000,” said Hughes, who also coached the Charlotte Sting prior to his days near the shoreline of Lake Erie.
“The teams, the difference between team A, team B, team C and team D, it’s way more comparative.
“When I look at the depth on the team, I see more veteran players in that depth position, in those rotation positions. I see a mixture of youth and veteran play and the middle minutes of a WNBA game are far more substantial to maybe five years ago.”

Leslie Analysis

Lisa Leslie spoke of the evolvement of the league since her rookie season at the WNBA's outset in 1997.

“We see how the collegians coming into the league through the draft are impacting each team,” Leslie noted. “We’re getting faster. Players are jumping higher, shooting the ball better. We’re continuing to do better in understanding what it means to be professionals.

“Everyody doesn’t necessarily make a great impact their first year because it’s a whole shell shock. It’s different. It’s faster. You have a lot of veterans who have been here and are a little more savy.

“You never know how a rookie is going to help you, but they are going to impact a lot sooner than rookies did in the past,” Leslie said.

“Seniors in college are working hard because they know what the next level is. For us, we have to watch the college game to see who the future competition is, and who’s coming in.

“Before, I wasn’t really into it. Now, I know who’s in the draft in this league and what they can do,” Leslie said.

She also got a hands-on experience near the collegiate game broadcasting for ESPN during the winter.

Sunset and Dawn

Meanwhile, down at Charlotte, there's an urgency to win this year as veteran Dawn Staley nears the end of her playing career.

“I try to take it day by day, but I can honestly say if I win a WNBA championship, I am done, Staley told the Associated Press.

“I think I can prepare my body to do another year after this one,” Staley, who coaches the Temple women’s team in Philadelphia in the winter, added. “I just can’t see it after that. I really can’t. It’s physical, it’s mental, it’s enough is enough.”

Day After Day

The trick for many teams in the early phase of the season is to stay in the hunt.

“It’s going to be a war every night and we have to be ready every single night because you’re not getting a night off,” New York’s Coyle said.

Well, there will be one, sort of. That will be on July 9 when the WNBA All-Star game appears at the home of the Connecticut Sun.

The competition for positions in that event will be just as fierce as the battle for WNBA supremacy, while ultimately be decided in an expanded best-of-five game playoff format in the championship round,.

The team with the best record will begin that series at home instead of on the road under the old best-of-three format.

We’ll be back Sunday night after this weekend’s activity concludes.

-- Mel

P.S. – Does anyone know a way to safely shave my 8,000-plus song collection on the iPod? :)

6 Comments:

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Mel, I can't help you on the iPod thing, but you embed links here using standard HTML code, i.e., to embed a link to this blog:

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EXCEPT use < and > instead of [ and ].

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