WNBA: West's Second Place An All-Time Worst
The gap between first and second place in the WNBA's Western Conference could get even wider or slightly better Thursday night when the San Antonio Silver Stars visit the Los Angeles Sparks.
The Sparks (3-11), winless in four games since former league MVP Candace Parker was lost for the season with a shoulder injury, are motivated knowing the outbreak of mediocrity in the conference is keeping Los Angeles very much in playoff contention.
The Sliver Stars (5-8), hoping to avoid a slide to stoke Los Angeles' hopes, sit in second place a whopping 7.5 games behind the Seattle Storm (14-2).
There used to be an Avis rental car company commercial theme, "We Try Harder," noting the dominance in the industry by Hertz between the two.
In the East, that theme is true of the second-place Washington Mystics (10-5) and Connecticut Sun (10-5), who are just 1.5 games behind the Atlanta Dream. It's even applicable to the defending conference champion Indiana Fever (9-6), which is 2.5 games off the pace. Even the fifth-place New York Liberty (7-7), which has made it back to .500 with a three-game win streak, is doing better than San Antonio, while the last-place Chicago Sky (6-9) would be right there with the Silver Stars in a common division.
So how bad is bad in the West? Well it's really bad.
Youngsters not around in the early years of the WNBA might think that Seattle's success is causing the disparity. That would only be slightly right.
There have been similar hot starts in the past but never a runaway like the act the Storm is performing.
Earlier this week the league led its weekly newsletter with a comparison of Seattle with other quality starts at the same point of the season.
Given as few as there were, the Guru asked his friends in the home office if they could supply the records of those teams that were in second place at the time of the previous hot starts.
The results are in and for now with almost a half season left, the Silver Stars by virtual of their position, are the all-time worst-ever second place in the history of the league. For that matter, the defending champion Phoenix Mercury (5-10), 8.5 games back, may be the worst third place team, but the Guru didn't want to take it that far.
Speaking of Phoenix, congratulations to long-time Guru friend Anne Meyers Drysdale, the former UCLA star and national broadcaster, on her promotion to president to go aslong with her title of general manager of the Mercury.
Meanwhile, for those colleague who are looking for notes and the rest of you Guru followerrs who come here to be informed, here is the tale of the tape in the history of the WNBA of teams with a dominating start and the performance of the teams trailing them in second place.
We'll go in chronological order by year. The second place squads are what they were as of approximately now since, where possible, the ultimate success of the dominate group will be listed for those wanting to make Seattle comparisions with history.
Also note that the regular season contained less games in the past, growing from 30 to 34.
-- 1998 Houston Comets (14-1) went on to 25-2 and ultimately 27-3 -- still the all-time WNBA season-ending record.
2nd place Phoenix Mercury (10-3) 3.0 games behind.
-- 1999 Houston Comets (13-2)
2nd place Sacramento Monarchs (10-5), 3.0 games behind.
-- 2000 Houston Comets (13-2) went to 19-2
2nd place Los Angeles Sparks (11-2), 1.0 games behind.
Went on to have Houston at 15-2 and L.A. at 13-2 and on to 16-2 that year if the Guru read his email right.
-- 2001 Los Angeles Sparks finished at 28-4 for second best finish.
2nd place -- did not request but whoever had spot was probably better than San Antonio in 2010.
-- 2002 Los Angeles Sparks (13-2) went to 14-2.
2nd place Houston Comets (13-3), 0.5 games behind.
-- 2010 Seattle Storm (14-2)
2nd place San Antonio Silver Stars (5-8), 7.5 games behind.
Some other reasons behind Seattle's success have been offered for the disparity. One is the demise of the Sacramento Monarchs in the offseason. Another has been Tulsa Shock coach Nolan Richardson making deals that sent quality players elsewhere around the East, enabling those teams to be West teams in cross-conference matchups.
The Fireworks Continue
Here's the skinny for Thursday night.
Minnesota Lynx at Atlanta Dream. -- Quite simple. The Dream trying to stay ahead in the East while the Lynx, holding as slim edge, trying to stay ahead for fourth playoff spot.
Connecticut Sun at Chicago Sky -- The Sun looking for revenge for last week's sole home loss and to keep pace with Atlanta. The Sky looking to move up and out of last place, which won't happen Thursday with a win.
Washington Mystics at Phoenix Mercury -- The Mystics, looking to produce a best-ever start, also trying to keep pace with Atlanta and Connecticut. The Mercury trying to avoid even further slippage.
San Antonio Silver Stars at Los Angeles Sparks -- The implcations addressed above but as a courtesy, the Silver Stars seek to hold ground while the Sparks are looking to get a win streak going.
Seattle Storm at Los Angeles Sparks -- The Storm seek to keep humming while the Sparks look to either a two-game win streak or in any event avoiding another loss.
Chicago Sky at Atlanta Dream -- The Dream a heavy favorite while the Sky, who won in previous visit, trying to avoid things becoming worse.
Washington Mystics at Tulsa Shock -- The Mystics, no matter what happens in Phoenix Thursday, need this one while Tulsa trying to get closer to playoff hunt.
New York Liberty at Phoenix Mercury -- New York looks to complete a fantastic week plus one day and get closer to playoff spots while Phoenix just needs to win.
The featurette of the game is the return of former Rutgers star Cappie Pondexter, who is turning New York fortunes around after helping the Mercury to two WNBA titles in last three years.