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 22, 2010

Washington First In War, Peace And WNBA East

By Mel Greenberg

WASHINGTON - When the WNBA needed to move things up to accomodate this fall's FIBA World Championships little did one realize how compacted the 34-game schedule would be over the next several months.

Friday was the home opener for the Washington Mystics and throughout the night at the Verizon Center attended by an announced lively crowd of 10,158 persons the public address system emcee sent reminders to vote for local favorites in the All-Star game to be played in early July at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn.

What's next?

Well the locals on the court rallied from an early deficit to break from a 61-61 tie, scoring the final 16 points to collect a 77-61 win over the New York Liberty.

That makes the Mystics 3-0, which is 30 percent of the wins in Washington's inaugural season, and tied for first in the East with the Atlanta Dream, which turned the Connecticut Sun's visit to the Peach State into a nightmare Friday night, winning 97-82.

After the Washington win, though the atmosphere was giddy, Washington Post WNBA beat writer Katie Carrera would not say whether her newspaper will begin counting down the magic numbers for clinching a playoff berth because she did not authorizaton to speak on behalf of her management.

The Mystics will be at Connecticut Sunday while Atlanta travels to New York to complete the weekend tussle in the East among the group that got off to quick starts.

Duke fans following their former stars in the league got a measure of revenge with Monique Currie and Lindsey Harding out-dueling the Rutgers alum trio on the Liberty -- Cappie Pondexter, Kia Vaughn and Essence Carson -- with memories of the Scarlet Knights' 2007 upset in the Greensboro Regional semifinals. Harding missed two free throws at the finish in that game for the top-ranked Blue Devils and Rutgers advance all the way to the NCAA title game.

The Blue Devils Friday night actually had a former Rutgers star help the cause -- Matee Ajavon who made some key baskets when the Mystics changed the momentum.

Presidential Appearance

That's right, it wouldn't be an opener in Washington without the president being in the house.

But no, Mr. Obama, nor Ms. Obama and their offspring were not around for the first jump ball in the Verizon Center.

But league president Donna Orrender was, as part of the traditional opening tour of the league, to take pre-game questions from the media, which had plenty of time since they no longer get fed by the Mystics (see tweeter item below).

Apparently Michelle Obama's campaign against obesity has quickly found a friend in the Mystics, though newspapers themselves are doing much to trim the size of their staffs.

Orrender made some interesting comments -- everything looking good, nothing to report on expansion or relocation with some prospective owners having interest but feel they would have a better business situation to wait a bit longer.

On roster sizes, Orrender noted teams can replace an injured player, but of course under the rules that would mean cutting the the injured players. She did say teams are doing a good job replacing minutes that might have been dominated by key players who are hurt.

"Last year was our most competitive season," Orrender said alluding to reductions that went into effect last time around.

Sun Eclipsed

Well Connecticut coach Mike Thibault had recently speculated how sensational rookie Tina Charles, the No. 1 overall pick out of UConn, would be tested going against the likes of Atlanta's frontcourt.

Charles did rather, well, thank you. The New York native had 22 points and 11 rebounds, except the rest of the Sun appeared in life form only.

Meanwhile, former Louisville star Angel McCoughtry, the No. 1 overall pick a year ago, had 32 points for the Dream and Sancho Lyttle had 27.

McCoughtry was on the losing end a year ago in the NCAA title game when UConn completed the first of its two recent unbeaten seasons.

And yes, unlike Charles' alma mater, whose win count won't resume until next fall, her personal win streak off the Huskies' success stopped at 79 straight, including the Sun opener last Saturday against the Chicago Sky.

Holdsclaw On the Move

Washington and Atlanta have something else in common beside first place and that Dream coach Marynell Meadors was once on the Mystics staff.

Former Tennessee star Chamique Holdsclaw is now in the past tense for both teams.

Washington's woeful inaugural season yielding the rights to take her as the No. 1 pick of the 1999 draft dominated by players coming off the collapse of the American Basketball Season.

She was later traded to the Los Angeles Sparks. Holdsclaw left Los Angeles two seasons ago, a move that helped doom the Sparks to the bottom of the league, which put them in position to land the 2008 No. 1 pick -- former Tennessee star Candace Parker.

A year ago, the native New Yorker signed with Atlanta, helping the second-year team to the playoffs before being asked to be traded and not reporting this season to training camp.

The Dream cut her several days ago and Friday the San Antonio Silver Stars signed her.

Some see this as a twisted scheme to tarnish the Stars and get in the race among the WNBA worsts to land UConn star Maya Moore.

Holdsclaw's controversial WNBA history does not include disrupting locker rooms -- usually it's been her and herself against the world. General manager and former San Antonio coach Dan Hughes is reported to have once won in the casino at Mohegan on a road trip so he might qualify as a successful gambler.

Otherwise, the Stars can always bring country performer Dierks Bentley in to serenade Hughes at halftime with Bentley's early hit: What Was I Thinking?

The Guru Tweets

As many of you know, the Guru gave up his anti-tweeting policy at the start of last collegiate season -- had something to do with Elena Delle Donne's first game with Delaware -- and reached 200 followers Friday night.

Strangely, the Guru has been picking up more followers in recent weeks since using the retiring mechanism at The Philadelphia Inquirer.

The address is http://twitter.com/womhoopsguru (which is not automatically linking but you get the idea -- maybe after it posts)

Here from fading memory are three tweets from the game Friday night in Washington.

The Guru covered New York Liberty coach 6-8 Anne Donovan when she was a shot-blocking phenom at Old Dominion. Tonight she has already blocked the Guru's view of the game four times from press row.

Donovan has a bandage on one of her fingers. A Liberty insider said it hurts from getting snagged on a jersey. Last month she got snagged by New Jersey when Seton Hall signed her to be the Pirates' next women's coach.

Comparing pre-game media meals in three places: Connecticut - lavish and free: New York - $8 and inflationary; Washington -- (as previously noted) -- none served as part of Ms. Obama anti-obesity promotion.

The Philly College Scene

Former Drexel star Michelle Maslowski was the keynote speaker at the Dragons' annual salute to academic and athletic excellence which was held in the new recreation facility followed by a brief reception.

Maslowski held the career scoring title before Gabriela Marginean soared past it last season to become the all-time scorer in Philadelphia collegiate women's history.

Marginean is getting a brief dose of WNBA experience -- the first Drexel player in the league -- with the Minnesota Lynx, which drafted her in the second round but will probably cut her this weekend when Rebekkah Brunson returns from overseas.

The native of Romania was honored at the Drexel reception as the top female senior athlete. She led the Dragons to their first NCAA appearance a year ago courtesy of the Colonial Athletic Association championship, and this past season enabled Drexel to land a berth in the WNIT.

That's it for the moment. The Guru expects to be in Connecticut Sunday, though the other option was going to New York for the Atlanta matchup.

-- Mel


Blogger BasketCases said...

actually, 3 wins = 100% of the Mystics wins in their inaugural season. They finished that "record-setting" year 3-27.

We long-time Mystics fans still haven't fully recovered.

--BC Eileen

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