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, September 04, 2007

Guru Tuesday Musings on WNBA Finals

(Guru's Note: After crossing the 40,000 threshhold of hits at this site a few days ago, the counting will begin continuing in a few days or sooner at the induction site we created at http://go.philly.com/womhoops as part of philly.com's upgrade.

This site will not go away so all that has existed will continue, it's just that the philly.com references will be to the other site.

At times members of the team may still write here, when convenient, and we will have appropriate links back and forth when it happens as we did during our involvement with the women's basketball hall of fame inductions. A moving day headline will be the top post out of here, so you will known when the switch is in effect in terms of my contributions.


Also, I will have a print advance in Wednesday's paper, thus also in that area of Philly.com, in addition to the blogs for the WNBA finals. -- Mel)


By Mel Greenberg


PHILADELPHIA - The Indiana Fever weren't the only casualty in Detroit on Monday when All-Star center Tamika Catchings left the game won by the Shock with a a right Achilles strain just before halftime.


The former Tennessee star had missed the last 13 games of the regular season with an injured foot.


Now the question is whether she can recover fast enough and still be effective to play on the USA Women's Basketball Senior National Team when it goes after an Olympic berth later this month at the FIBA Americas tournament.


Normally, Catchings would be reporting for the opening of training in New York City on Thursday. The team will then come to town to train at Temple Sept. 13-15 before playing an exhibition game against the Australian National Team in Trenton, N.J., on Sept. 16 at the Sovereign Bank Arena. The team will then finish up at another practice at Temple on Sept. 17 and then meet the Australians again on Sept. 19 at the Mohegan Sun Arena, the home of the WNBA Connecticut Sun, in Uncasville, near New London.


"I think the U.S. might need to look a little more at the college crowd for some help," said Phoenix Mercury general manager Ann Meyers over the weekend after her team claimed the Western Conference playoff crown Saturday night. "These WNBA players might be a little tired and worn out by now."


Also, a note to Rutgers fans hoping to travel to nearby Trenton to see Mercury star Cappie Pondexter, a former all-American with the Scarlet Knights who was the overall No. 2 pick by Phoenix a year ago.


If the WNBA finals between Phoenix and Detroit go five games, Pondexter, listed on the USA roster, won't be in Trenton as will neither Mercury star Diana Taurasi nor Detroit stars Swin Cash, Cheryl Ford, and Katie Smith.


Game five is slated for the Eastern site on Sept. 16 at 4:30 p.m. The USA game in Trenton will be at 1 p.m.


NBA DNA


When Detroit and Phoenix open the finals on Wednesday night, it will be the third time that two coaches with NBA backgrounds will meet in the championship series.


Detroit's Bill Laimbeer played for the former NBA-champion Detroit Pistons in the "Bad Boys" era, while Phoenix second-year coach Paul Westhead ran the 1980 NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers and several other NBA teams.


In 2002, former New York Liberty coach Richie Adubato, a former NBA head coach, went against Los Angeles Sparks coach Michael Cooper, who played for the Lakers.


A year later, Laimbeer and Cooper, former court rivals, went at it in the series won by Detroit.


Westhead Honored?


Most of the WNBA individual postseason awards voted by the WNBA have already been distributed except coach of the year and most valuable player. The MVP, no matter who wins it, is given at the finals.


Coach of the year, however, unless a playoff non-participant is involved, is given during the early rounds.


So unless Laimbeer, who has a claim, is the one, and since San Antonio's Dan Hughes, another worthy candidate, did not receive the award in the early rounds -- a year ago Connecticut's Mike Thibault got the award in the opening Eastern series -- the deduction is that Phoenix's Paul Westhead will emerge with the award.

Speed vs. Speed?

At first glance, the title matchup between Phoenix and Detroit makes it a contrast of the Mercury's running attack under Westhead against the inside strength and muscle of the Shock.

However, Detroit can score, also. In fact, the Shock swept the two-game cross-conference regular series, beating the Mercury 87-84, in Phoenix and several weeks later in Detroit, 111-82.

Both games were before the All-Star break and before Mercury began humming on all cyclinders. In fact, Cappie Pondexter did not play because of injuries in the first contest.

In the first game, the Shock prevailed in the fourth quarter, 23-9, a closing kick strength normally attributed to the Mercury. Detroit's Shannon "Pee Wee" Johnson had 23 points, Kara Braxton scored 17, Katie Smith had 16, and Plenette Pierson had 15 points. Braxton had 12 rebounds, and Pierson collected 11, and Cheryl Ford, like Pondexter, did not play.

Phoenix got 23 points and 10 rebounds from Penny Taylor, 15 each from Diana Taurasi and Tangela Smith, and 10 from Kelly Schumacher, anothr former UConn star along with Taurasi.

Detroit had a 43-31 rebounding edge, including 14-8 on the offensive glass.

In the rematch in the Motor City suburbs, Deanna Nolan had 18 points for the Shock, Smith scored 20, Johnson had 14, while Pierson and rookie Ivory Latta out of North Carolina had 13 each.

Pierson had 14 rebounds, while Cash and Ford had 10 each. Overall, Detroit owned the boards, 55-25, including a whopping 13-4 on the offensive glass.

-- Mel

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