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 07, 2010

WNBA: Friday Five-Spot Highlights Week's Schedule

By Mel Greenberg

Now that the Guru has your attention, in a short while he'll get to the headline chosen for this post from a myriad of options.

To look ahead we must first look back and wrap up Sunday's action, which also caused some contemplation as to where to begin from the three games played.

The best place is at the overall top out of the Northwest.

When the WNBA in its latest promotion declared Green Week, the intention had to do with environmental concerns. However, that could also be the label attributed to the performance by the Seattle Storm, whose uniforms also sport the same color.

Coach Brian Agler's group dispensed with concerns of a short-turnaround Sunday following Saturday night's win under the stars over the host Los Angeles Sparks at the Home Depot Tennis Center in Carson, Calif., not far from tinseltown.

Seattle completed a 3-0 week by routing the defending champion Phoenix Mercury 97-74 as Lauren Jackson, Camille Little and Swin Cash each scored 16 points at the Key Arena. Sue Bird put up 12 points and dealt 11 assists.

The Storm have won four straight and own the best overall record at 8-1. The week began on Tuesday night when Seattle knocked the Atlanta Dream off the unbeaten charts also at home.

If by some chance Seattle is standing on top of the West after the conference finals and the Connecticut Sun emerge out of the East, it will be a media field day covering two teams each containing three former University of Connecticut all-time stars.

Bird and Cash entered the WNBA in 2002 off the unbeaten NCAA champions. Seattle also has Svetlana Abrosimova, who had been in Minnnesota.

The Sun have No. 1 overall draft pick Tina Charles off the recent unbeaten Huskies squad, Renee Montgomery off last year's unbeaten NCAA champions, and Asjha Jones, another off the famed 2002 group.

Seattle now has a chance to get plenty of rest, which sometimes can cool down a hot team. The Storm's lone game will be at home Friday when Los Angeles visits.

Sun Perfect at Home: It's just over a decade from the time former Tennessee star Chamique Holdsclaw entered the WNBA in 1999 with the reputation as the renown collegiate star of her era.

On Sunday, Tina Charles, one of the UConn immediate former sensations of the current era, helped the Connecticut Sun top Holdsclaw's San Antonio Silver Stars 81-68, scoring 19 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.

Former UConn teammate Renee Montgomery had 16 points and was 4-for-8 on three-point attempts as the Sun stayed perfect in the Mohegan Sun Arena at 5-0 and are 5-2 overall to stay ahead of Indiana in second place in the WNBA East.

With Sandrine Gruda having finally returned from overseas action, it was the first time this season the Connecticut roster was intact. Asjha Jones recently returned to the lineup following offseason surgery for an Achilles tear.

Holdsclaw scored 14 points while former Baylor star Sophia Young had 21 for San Antonio (2-5), which lost its fourth straight. The Silver Stars were without All-Star Becky Hammon for the second straight game because of a quad muscle injury.

Charles has had five double doubles in seven games looking obviously much more than a raw newcomer, though having gone to USA Basketball senior national women's team training camps in the past year has helped her jump start.

The Sun have a home-and-home with Eastern defending champion Indiana this weekend, hosting the Fever Friday night and visiting the Midwest Sunday.

Fever Heating Up: Tamika Catchings, a former Tennessee All-Timer, had 27 points as Indiana routed Minnesota 89-51 at the Target Center in Minneapolis to improve to 6-3. The Lynx, in a tailspin, fell to 2-7 in another rout and had to play without All-Star Lindsay Whalen, who was absent with an undisclosed illness.

Incidentally, though idle Sunday, the team having had the second best week was the Chicago Sky, which has won four straight to go 4-4. The Sun and Indiana were right behind in the weekly achievement salute.

Looking Ahead: Now that we're caught up, here's what's on tap through next Sunday, though the Guru will be off WNBA press row this week attending the annual Women's Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies Friday and Saturday in Knoxville, Tenn.

But he'll keep an eye on results from afar.

Phoenix will get a chance to recover from the Seattle drubbing on Tuesday with a visit to Los Angeles. The Mercury (3-4), which has that other UConn all-timer Diana Taurasi, already own two one-point wins over the Sparks, who have the overall worst record at 1-6. However, thanks to slumping San Antonio and Minnesota, the Sparks are not slipping away too quickly from playoff contention.

The New York Liberty visit Chicago in Tuesday's other game. The Manhattans have lost four of their last five games so they could almost label this game a must win to give the fan base some sanity. The Sky, though, which has former Liberty stars Shameka Christon and Catherine Kraayeveld, as well as rookie Epiphanny Prince out of Rutgers and overseas, have won a team record four straight.

New York, which also meets Atlanta and Washington this week, beat the Sky in Madison Square Garden in a season opener.

Wednesday is an idle night while on Thursday Minnesota visits Phoenix, a team the Lynx upset last week to stop a previous losing streak.

As for Friday, the subject of the headline of this post -- and thanks for hanging around -- some of the action has already been addressed.

The East, especially, has a grand collision in store. As mentioned, Connecticut and Indiana will battle in Uncasville in the first of two weekend home-and-home matches.

New York, on the front end of a back-to-back, hosts the East-leading Atlanta Dream with a chance to be on the way to righting the ship, especially if the Liberty start out with a win in Chicago. Atlanta had slipped into a two-game losing streak after a 6-0 start but plugged the setbacks Saturday with an overtime win in Washington.

Speaking of the Mystics, they'll be in Chicago and a win would help erase the bad feelings off of letting the Atlanta game slip away. The Sky will be looking to keep things going if Chicago beats New York earlier in the week or return to winning ways if the Liberty get the better of them.

Los Angeles visits Seattle, either trying for a second win this week by quelling the Storm. But with one loss already to the Green machine, the Sparks will need a win for a multitude of reasons.

The Tulsa Shock (3-4) visit San Antonio with the Shock looking to stay in top part of what looks like a mediocre West at the moment due to the win-loss records. The Silver Stars are looking to get back to winning ways.

On Saturday, as mentioned, Washington hosts New York, which let a big lead slip away on the Liberty's last visit to the Verizon Center. Both teams are on the second part of back-to-backs.

Tulsa on a back-to-back road swing visits Phoenix.

Sunday features part two of the Connecticut-Indiana tussle, moving to the Midwest as mentioned. Friday's winner in Uncasville will be after a sweep.

San Antonio visits Atlanta, where the Dream as of now will be a strong favorite. However, the notoriety of the matchup will be Holdsclaw's return to the city she played last season. After helping Atlanta reach the playoffs in the second year of the franchise's existence, she sought a trade, bypassed training camp, and was ultimately waived before the Silver Stars picked her up 24 hours later.

Finally, Minnesota visits Los Angeles and if both teams fail to win earlier in the week, look for this game to be labelled the Maya Moore Classic, an allusion to the UConn star who most certainly will be the No. 1 pick of the next draft.

That's it for now but more to come shortly.

-- Mel

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