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.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

WNBA: Mystics Quickly Dissolve Liberty

By Mel Greenberg

WASHINGTON _Thoughts to ponder after Tuesday night’s 95-60 wipeout of the New York Liberty by the Washington Mystics.

Should I get the blog out of the way now in the catacombs of the MCI, er, Verizon Center or dash up to Sabatino’s in Baltimore for a late night meal in Little Italy on the way back home?

Or for those who might have been wondering upon hearing the Inquirer was finally sold to a new owner earlier in the day, should I tell everyone how that impacts the guru’s operations?

The answer to that is the new operation will be locally based. Thus, at least for now, our course will be maintained, maybe even improved somewhat.

The guru will know more on Wednesday when the top editors meet with each department. The current publisher will remain in place. Perhaps, these new guys even read the sports pages.

But it was quite an adventure zipping down here today while the blackberry was going off every 120 seconds with another newsroom announcement.

As for the WNBA home and season opener for the Mystics, it took more time for me to compose the opening thoughts preceding this paragraph then it did for coach Richie Adubato’s new-look bunch in the nation’s capital to subdue the no-look Liberty.

Washington, paced by Alana Beard and a suffocating defense, jumped to a 14-0 lead with 6 minutes, 25 seconds left in the first quarter, and went on to build a 25-3 advantage before the Liberty scored some points near the end of the period to make it 27-8.

“I wish I could describe the feeling,” Washington’s DeLisha Milton-Jones said of the opening burst. “When you have have everyone just feeding off of each other like that, the energy level is so high, and it’s so thick, that it’s almost like you’re in a dream.

“You’re looking around like nothing can go wrong, and I love that feeling,” said the Florida graduate who earlier in the day was named as one of the eight member core players on the USA Basketball Senior National Women’s team that will compete in the FIBA World Championships in Brazil in September.

Beard scored 25 points, two below the Duke graduate’s career high as Washington took its first home opener since 2002. Milton-Jones had 12 points, and Coco Miller scored 10 points.

New York, which has a virtual makeover with only All-Star guard Becky Hammon back in the starting lineup, got 18 points from Shameka Christon, 12 from Catherine Kraayeveld, and 10 points from rookie Sherill Baker. Free-agent forward Kelly Schumacher, who had been with Indiana, grabbed 12 rebounds.

Washington forced New York into 28 turnovers, the most ever for an opponent in this building, and grabbed 18 steals as the Liberty are off to an 0-2 start after Saturday’s season-opening loss to the Connecticut Sun in Uncasville.

Needless to say, Adubato was delighted with the effort, even though rebounding remains a concern after New York dominated the boards, 34-22.

“It’s only the first game, but the defensive pressure early in the game from Alana Beard and Crystal Robinson, I thought was terrific,” he said.

Robinson has been reunited this season with Adubato after being with New York where he had coached previously to the Mystics.

“We had 18 steals, and that means you’re really working – your hands are working, you’re working for deflections, you’re getting over screens, you’re active and you’re getting pieces of the ball,” Adubato said. “And when did pick up those steals, we were able to turn them into fast breaks.”

Another statistics also pleased the veteran coach.

“Twenty-four assists and only 10 turnovers is a great ratio in this league.”

Newcomer Nikki Teasley, off a trade with the Los Angeles Sparks, dealt seven assists.

Beard noted the difference from a year ago at the start of the season when she was hampered by nagging injuries and the Mystics were trying to learn a new system under Adubato.

“It is a difference,” Beard said of the contrast. “It was a lot of adversity. Richie coming the first day right before training camp, having to adjust to his new system made it hard for everyone, and just having a year under your belt and knowing his system and knowing what he wants, it helps a lot.

“Bringing in Crystal Robinson could have been the best thing that’s happened to this team,” Beard said. “She knows his system and she helps everyone else out.”

Continuing comparing the two seasons, Beard said, “This year we’re more versatile. Last year we were more one-dimensional.”

She also added that the key is not to rest on Tuesday night’s victory.

“If you want to be a championship team, you have to build on that, and I know this team is going to do that because we’re hungry, we’re eager.”

Washington visits Charlotte Thursday night and then returns here to host the Minnesota Lynx and overall No. 1 draft pick Seimone Augustus on Saturday afternoon.

USA Basketball Core Group Selected

In addition to Milton-Jones, the other seven members of the core group for the world championships announced Tuesday were veterans Lisa Leslie of the Los Angeles Sparks, Katie Smith of the Detroit Shock, Sheryl Swoopes and Tina Thompson of the Houston Comets, along with the younger bunch of Diana Taurasi of the Phoenix Mercury, Sue Bird of the Seattle Storm, and Tamika Catchings of the Indiana Fever.

Seattle’s Anne Donovan will coach the team, assisted by Temple coach Dawn Staley, who is playing her last WNBA season with Houston, and previously was an ongoing member of the USA squad with three gold medals to her credit through her international retirement after the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece.

Guru’s Note.

Because this report is now at the top of the blog list, make sure you go directly below to the next file to read Kate’s wonderful personal viewpoint on the WNBA at Season No. 10.

-- Mel

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