WNBA Weekend: Tina(s) in Tinseltown
By Mel Greenberg
The former next big thing in the WNBA sat on the Los Angeles Sparks bench for the first time this season as well as the rest of the way.
The new next big thing wore the uniform of the Connecticut Sun and continued to prove her worth as the overall No. 1 pick in April's draft.
That's the way it went Friday night not far from Hollywood where Connecticut finally won one for the road by overrcoming a 16-point deficit to top Los Angeles 78-75 and move close to first place in the Eastern Conference.
In terms of the Guru's Thrive and Survive weekend, those who thrived Friday night in the league were the Sun and Seattle, while those who earned survival points were San Antonio and Minnesota.
In Los Angeles not long after the NBA Lakers claimed another league title in the same Staples Center earlier in the week, Connecticut's Tina Charles, the outstanding rookie from UConn -- the alums were dominate all over the WNBA Friday -- set career highs with 26 points and a franchise record 19 rebounds.
The Sparks were without former Tennessee sensation Candace Parker, the No. 1 pick of the 2008 draft, who will miss the rest of the season and most likely the FIBA World Championships with a dislocated shoulder injury.
Connecticut (7-3) won its first road game in four tries while all six previous wins were gained back East in the Mohegan Sun Arena.
The Sun go for a road sweep Sunday in the desert when they meet the defending WNBA champion Phoenix Mercury.
Meanwhile the "other" Tina, as in Tina Thompson, the last of the original WNBA players as a first choice of the Houston Comets in 1997, scored 24 points for the Sparks and became the second player in league history to reach 6,000 career points behind former star Lisa Leslie. The alum of Southern Cal finished her career after last season with 6,263 points, also playing exclusively for the Sparks.
Los Angeles fell to 3-8, barely above last in the Western Conference and consider this:
Three summers ago, Leslie's first pregnancy and the defection of Chamique Holdsclaw (No. 2 of three in her WNBA career) helped Los Angeles to a tie with Minnesota for the overall bottom and the Sparks ultimately won the lottery pick to select Parker, who bypassed her final season at Tennessee.
With the Sparks already in an early struggle -- though the closeness of the bottom of the West is keeping them in playoff contention -- could it be that if Parker's absence contributes to an ongoing slide, the effect might ultimately be another top lottery pick.
And that would be Charles' former UConn teammate Maya Moore, who by the way, is certainly the next next big thing in the WNBA.
Seattle Back in the Saddle
The Western-leading Seattle Storm quickly shook off Thursday's night's loss at Indiana to the Fever and completed its back-to-back trip across the nation by downing the New York Liberty 92-84 in Madison Square Garden.
More UConn alums were the story here as Sue Bird got 13 of her 22 points in the fourth quarter and the Storm (10-2) prevailed. She also dealt 10 assists while Bird's former Huskies star Swin Cash had 16 points. Australian veteran force Lauren Jackson had 20 points and 10 rebounds.
Seattle finishes up the week Sunday hosting San Antonio.
Former Rutgers star Cappie Pondexter had 24 points for the fifth-place Liberty (4-6), whose loss wasn't embarassing.
Point-starved San Antonio quenched its scoring thirst in the desert Friday night at Phoenix with a 108-105 shootout over the defending champion Mercury (5-6) that kept the Silver Stars (4-6) very much in the rest of the Western pack that trails Seattle.
San Antonio's Sophia Young, the former Baylor star, had 25 points and 10 rebounds, while Becky Hammon had 21 points and dealt 10 assists.
Second-place Phoenix fell to 5-6 and 4 1/2 games behind the leaders as Diana Taurasi (yes, another former UConn sensation) scored 39 points.
Meanwhile, with the original Minnesota Lynx core roster on the floor for the first time this season, former LSU star Seimone Augustus celebrated her return to action with 27 points as the Lynx beat Tulsa 78-67 at home in the Target Center and evened the series with the Shock at 2-2.
The Lynx are at 3-9 at the bottom, but Augustus' return could propel Minnesota toward stability in chasing a playoff berth. Tulsa, the former three-time champion Detroit franchise reduced to expansion team makeup, fell to 3-7.
The two move back to the Midwest Saturday night to complete their five-game series on the season.
The Rest of the Weekend
The Guru failed to make it to New York as planned Friday but still intends to be at the Verizon Center Saturday night when the Washington Mystics (6-4), which gets more time off than Congress, host the Chicago Sky (4-7), which is last in the East.
As mentioned previously, Washington needs to take care of business on a favorable home schedule in June, while Chicago needs a win quickly to stay close to the playoff contenders.
The major Eastern title on the night Saturday is the first-place Atlanta Dream's (9-3) visit to Indiana (7-4), which is on a 5-of-6 win tear after struggling out of the gate.
Indiana needs to keep pace with Connecticut, while Atlanta will be looking to keep distance from the duo right behind the dream.
The Minnesota-Tulsa game on Saturday has been previously addresses earlier in this post.
On Sunday, Connecticut is at Phoenix as mentioned for another big night for the Boneyard message board fans of UConn -- the two-time NCAA unbeaten and defending champions. (Seven titles overall and two more unbeatens by the way).
Depending on the Indiana-Atlanta outcome, Connecticut can move into a virtual tie for first with Atlanta, perhaps ahead by percentage points. Of course, the Sun can also fall back a bit to the Fever.
Phoenix will be looking to avoid falling further from Seattle, especially if San Antonio wins in the Northwest.
Yes, thast's the other game -- Seattle hosting San Antonio with Storm beat writer (and Guru pal) Jayda Evans of the Seattle Times blogging and tweeting all the way.
Evans may also be the last print publication team beat writer covering the WNBA who also makes most road trips.
So, hopefully, this time, a little more energy onto the road and the Guru will post after Saturday night's Washington game in the nation's capital.