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.

Monday, June 21, 2010

WNBA: Connecticut Sun Shines Out West

By Mel Greenberg

Let’s consider this premise as the Guru’s thematic Thrive and Survive week concluded Sunday with two games in the WNBA.

In terms of nicknames, if the Connecticut Sun and the Seattle Storm switched conferences with their records of the moment preserved, they would still be at the top but their nicknames would be more appropriate geographically speaking.

The Sun would be over the Western Conference while the Storm would be raging in the East.

Finishing off the weekly calendar, the UConn alums continued to headline the drive to the top for each team.

Sun rookie Tina Charles, the overall No. 1 pick of the draft – can we cast our rookie ballot now? – had 24 points and 12 rebounds while Kelsey Griffin, the No. 3 overall pick of the draft out of Nebraska – can we submit two of our all-rookie ballots – grabbed 11 rebounds as Connecticut squandered a 21-point lead in the desert but held off the defending champion Phoenix Mercury 96-94.

Former UConn sensation Diana Taurasi had 24 points while Australia’s Penny Taylor scored 23 for the Mercury.

The two teams meet again Friday night at Connecticut.

The result put Connecticut (8-3) into a virtual first-place tie with the Atlanta Dream (9-4) in the East while Phoenix (5-7) picked the wrong night for another loss. The Mercury fell 5 ½ games off the pace coupled with Seattle (11-2) beating the San Antonio Silver Stars 82-61 to stay unbeaten at home in Key Arena.

Squandering that kind of lead is enough to keep the Sun humble, though Connecticut is looking at moving slightly ahead at the top of the East Tuesday when the last-place Chicago Sky (4-8) visit.

Seattle is the only West team with a winning record and at the present pace should be given a bye straight to the WNBA

In fact, an appropriate adjustment would be to drop the fourth-place contender and move over New York from the East except the Liberty (4-6) are also under .500.

In the Seattle win, the UConn former stars residing in the West were headed by Swin Cash’s 22 points while Australian sensation Lauren Jackson added 19 points to the Storm total.

Of concern was former UConn star Sue Bird suffering a hyper-extended left knee injury – the same knee that has been hurt before by the Seattle All-Star.

San Antonio (4-7) battling for either second or being in danger of finishing up last at the moment got 12 points each from Becky Hammon and Chamique Holdsclaw.

The Silver Stars must have felt like they were back in time back home in San Antonio at the Alamo. Just like the Texans, they were overwhelmed, but on the boards where Seattle had a lop-sided 46-23 advantage.

Guru’s Thrive and Survive Week Winners

Connecticut had been winless on the road before sweeping the West – 4-0 overall on the crossover but Seattle to come – to move into a first-place tie.

Indiana (8-4) with big wins over Seattle and Atlanta put the defending Eastern Conference champs directly into the logjam a half-game behind.

Washington (7-4) came back from a deep deficit Saturday night at the Verizon Center to beat the Chicago Sky in overtime. That put the Mystics, who host the Los Angeles Sparks (3-8) Thursday night, right into the mathematical momentary mix in the Eastern race.

The Guru was there and posted but, alas, a glitch at blogspot caused the post to be erased during the implementation.

A smarter Guru is writing this in the Word program first as a backup. He should have learned his lesson during the first go-round when the platform was used when the blog was launched back in 2005.

For those of you who want to know what the Guru intended to write, in tribute to Katie Smith’s 17 points and clutch shooting down the stretch and at the finish, he started with the premise that when doing business in the nation’s capital it helps to have a seasoned veteran to get things done.

Such an individual is Katie Smith, whom the Mystics picked up as a free agent in the offseason.

The other special item was directed to the Guru’s media colleagues – you all still with me in this post?

Though the pre-game media feed continues to be a thing of the past, the Guru learned from a Washington source not necessarily authorized to speak on behalf of himself or employers that the soda machine had been turned on and will continue be on at future games unless told otherwise.

Nothing like a modification in ownership to quench one's thirst, let alone the thirst by the Guru’s friends in Connecticut.

Seattle gets a thrive medal also despite losing at Indiana. The Storm came right back after the Fever setback to win at New York and then return to handle San Antonio.
Several weeks ago Connecticut veteran Kara Lawson, previously with the former Sacramento Monarchs franchise, noted the first home game after a road swing to the opposite conference can often be treacherous making the time re-adjustment on a short turnaround.

As for the survivor of the week – that honor belongs exclusively to the Minnesota Lynx (4-9), who swept the Tulsa Shock (3-8) on a home-and-home, back-to-back slate to win the season series, 3-2, and, get this, return to the playoff picture in the West.

The big news was the return of Seimone Augustus from surgery as the Lynx finally had its core group together for the first time this season.

Minnesota has a chance to solidify some more with a visit to New York Tuesday night and a visit to San Antonio Sunday. The trip to Manhattan should draw a large contingent from South Jersey where Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve, a former La Salle star, calls home.

Looking Ahead

This will be more focused after Tuesday and then later updated with Wednesday’s single game on the WNBA slate.

Highlights, however, begin with the return visit Friday night of Indiana at Seattle. The host Storm, who can actually vanish for a while and still have a hefty West lead, also visit Tulsa Sunday.

In other periscope sightings ahead for the West, Minnesota was just mentioned. Los Angeles can get better or worse with visits in the East to Washington Thursday and Atlanta Sunday.

Tulsa has a tough week visiting Atlanta Wednesday and hosting New York (Fri.) and Seattle (Sun.).

In the Eastern gridlock, it’s a big week for the Sun with the Chicago and Phoenix visits and a trip to New York on Sunday.

Atlanta has a chance to stay on or near the top hosting Tulsa and Los Angeles.

It’s a very big week for Washington hosting Los Angeles, visiting Chicago, and then hosting Phoenix Sunday.

Indiana has a key swing to Seattle, as mentioned, and then will need to hold serve in the upper mix by winning at Chicago Sunday.

New York can make up some ground, depending what happens in front of the Liberty, by beating Minnesota Tuesday, winning at Tulsa Friday and then beating Connecticut at home Sunday. That last game will be the second battle of the season involving organizations affiliated with the competing Indian tribe-owned casinos of Foxwoods and Mohegan

That’s it for now. Let’s see if you all actually get a chance to read the Guru here this time around.

-- Mel


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