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.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Guru All-Star Musings: Maya Moore Draft Derby

(Note: The Guru won't get to the All-Star scene until late Friday night or Saturday morning but will be there for the game.)
(Another note: This post originally said that Maya Moore was not invited to tour ESPN. The Guru misspoke a little bit there. It is not known whether she was invited or not, but she was not at the tour, which was the original point of the sentence).

By Mel Greenberg

A few weeks ago a WNBA Team-level public relations friend of the Guru was criticizing media types who were already focusing on the prospects of where University of Connecticut senior Maya Moore, undoubtedly heading toward another national player of the year award, was likely to land as the No. 1 overall draft pick in next season's draft.

"At this point of the season, people need to be thinking about winning games not losing them," the friend commented.

It was a point well taken although it was made a short while before everyone in the Western Conference except the Seattle Storm decided losing their way to Moore may be prefereable to trying to look as competive as the Eastern Conference race for playoff positions.

Well, now we're at the All-Star break prior to Saturday's game (3:30 p.m., ESPN-TV) at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., between the USA (Olympic-WNBA) roster and the Others, aka, the rest of the WNBA standouts.

Following Thursday night's pair of games prior to the two-day break, and with the regular season soon to hit the stretch drive, speculation of sorts can begin and the Maya Moore race suddenly has become very intriguing.

Moore, by the way, will be the lone collegian with the USA squad in Saturday's contest.

To the delight of perceived WNBA front-office dreamers, Moore has an excellent chance to land in a major market although in the world of drawing up scenarios for the future, it is potentially possible that the Minnesota Lynx could end up with the No. 1 pick a season after sending the 2010 No. 1 pick to the Connecticut Sun that enabled UConn's Tina charles to be selected.

First, to recap Thursday's games, the defending Eastern Conference champion Indiana Fever (11-6) at home defeated the Western cellar-dwelling Tulsa Shock 100-72 as Tamika Catchings scored 24 points.

Amber Holt scored 18 points for Tulsa (3-14), which got 12 rebounds from former Duke star Chante Black and lost its 11th straight game.

In a huge win for host Minnesota (6-11), the Western fourth-place Lynx got 24 points and 10 rebounds from All-Star bound Rebekkah Brunson, a former Georgetown star, to beat the San Antonio Silver Stars 89-66.

Reneeka Hodges scored 15 for San Antonio (6-10), which fell into a second-place tie with the defending WNBA champion Phoenix Mercury (7-11) a whopping nine games behind the front-running Seattle Storm (16-2).

No previous runnerup team in the standings at this point of the season in the 14-year history of the WNBA has ever trailed by such a large number and that includes races which had performances at the top comparable to Seattle's gaudy record and domination of the West.

Thursday's win enabled Minnesota, holding fourth, to move a half-game behind San Antonio and Phoenix but more importantly two games in front of the struggling Los Angeles Sparks (4-13).

Minnesota, though still a ways to go, is in position to have the best of both worlds.

The Lynx could make the playoffs and get in the Maya Moore derby because they own the Connecticut Sun's first-round pick from the draft-day deal that brought former Nebraska Star Kelsey Griffin to Connecticut.

Right now the the Sun (10-8) sit in fourth place 3.5 games behind the Atlanta Dream (14-5) but two games ahead of the Chicago Sky (8-10) and New York Liberty (7-9).

Considering the logjam that is the Eastern playoff pursuit, the Sun could return to the postseason after a year's layoff or could just be aced out again, putting them in the draft lottery pool. And then all it takes is a lucky ping pong ball to jump the Sun to the No. 1 pick, which then would be owned by Minnesota.

If the draft lottery was tomorrow, Moore could land in either the major markets of New York (unless the Guru missed another give-away trade) or Chicago in the East, or more likely, because of worse records, she could be with Los Angeles, courtesy of the Candace Parker injury, or -- in a lesser market -- Tulsa in the West.

Minnesota, of course, could slide out of playoff contention and then would be in position to actually have two of the four available lotto picks for next season.

Touring ESPN

As a buildup to Saturday's game, the WNBA website made notice of visits from USA squad members Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi, former UConn sensations, and USA/UConn coach Geno Auriemma to ESPN's Bristol studios along with WNBA squad/Seattle Storm coach Brian Agler and the Chicago Sky's Sylvia Fowles.

Wait a minute, folks, stop the presses. the Guru is using information on the visit off the WNBA website and it just hit him how can Fowles be on the WNBA team when she is listed on the USA team?

Lsuren Jackson, who plays for Seattle and was voted by the fans to land on the WNBA team, was scheduled but arrived too late to make the tour. The Australian sensation will be on the sidelines Saturday but hold that until the next item.

Anyhow, eligible to appear with the USA team was UConn's Moore, but maybe to defer to the folks at Tennessee, she wasn't there.

Remember, Moore was the central figure in the flap that caused the end of the UConn/Tennessee famous rivalry because among Hall of Fame coach Pat Summitt's complaints over the Huskies' recruiting of Moore was someone at the Storrs' campus athletic office made a call to ESPN to get Moore a tour.

These days with UConn alums overwhelming the USA roster, Summitt's next move may have to be to tell USA Basketball her team won't play the Americans in any exhibition games until after the 2012 London Games.

Although Auriemma was visiting ESPN hours before the network allowed NBA star LeBron James to conduct a one-hour show announcing his decision where he'll play next year -- he chose the Miami Heat -- the UConn coach had no plans to announce what his future career plans will be after the Olympics.

Mystical Duke Alums Added to WNBA Roster

A set of concussion injuries in the last week has allowed the red-hot and Eastern runnerup Washington Mystics to get more representation on the WNBA squad with former Duke Blue Devils stars Lindsey Harding and Monqiue Currie.

The ability of the San Antonio fans to land four Silver Stars on the WNBA squad had the Guru wondering who might belong in place of former Stanford star Jane Appel, who missed games in the front part of the season because of nagging injuries from the close of her senior year when the Cardinal advanced to the NCAA title game against UConn.

The Guru immediately thought of Harding and/or Currie. One might question the fan choise of Michelle Snow this time around, though she has been in the USA training pool in the past.

Currie will replace Lauren Jackson, who was hurt in Saturday's game against the Los Angeles Sparks, while Harding will replace Atlanta's Sancho Lyttle, who also has a concussion.

A third Washington star, former Maryland standout Crystal Langhorne of Willingboro, N.J., was made a WNBA coaches' pick for the WNBA squad earlier in the week.

-- Mel


Anonymous Anonymous said...

snow and appel being all stars is a joke. they don't deserve it.

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