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.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

WNBA: Minnesota Hits The Maya Moore Draft Lottery Jackpot

(Guru's note: There is another new post below this one covering Maryland's exhibition opening win Tuesday night at College Park focusing on freshman Natasha Cloud out of Cardinal O'Hara High in the Philadelphia suburbs).

By Mel Greenberg

Perhaps WNBA veteran and sole surviving player Tina Thompson from the rosters of the league's inaugural summer of 1997 should be thanked for the Minnesota Lynx's lottery grand prize Tuesday afternoon when the squad topped the Chicago Sky and Tulsa Shock to land the No. 1 pick in next spring's draft selections.

The explanation will come in a bit down below so hold the thought for a monent.

Coach Cheryl Reese, a former La Salle star out of South Jersey in suburban Philadelphia across the Delaware River, earned the right to grab highly coveted Connecticut senior Maya Moore, who played alongside Lynx stars Lindsay Whalen and Seimone August this past summer during preparations for the FIBA World Championship won by the United States under Moore's coach Geno Auriemma.

Minnesota's Charde Houston is also a former UConn star.

The Lynx had two chances from four slots to slip past the Shock, who had the best odds off a WNBA-worst record in Tulsa's first year in the league following the move of the franchise from Detroit.

Minnesota won the right with its own pick but the Lynx also held a first-round draft pick from the Connecticut Sun, which became more valuable when Connecticut just missed making the playoffs enabling the pick to become part of the lottery for teams missing the postseason.

The Connecticut folks yielded the slot on draft day in April when they acquired former Nebraska star Kelsey Griffin who was taken third by Minnesota and made the all-rookie team.

"Name someone other than Maya Moore who is better than Griffin," Sun coach Mike Thibault said early in the summer off of the Cornhusker's play in the opening weeks of the 2010 season.

The problem developed later when Connecticut missed the playoffs meaning the Sun could have had a shot at Moore from the nearby powerful Huskies had the trade not been made. But now the Sun can breathe a sigh of relief since the Minnesota gets the fourth overall pick with the Connecticut slot.

It is also a nice payback off of last winter's blockbuster trade that saw Minnesota deal the 2010 first pick, stemming from a three-way deal early in the 2009 season involving the New York Liberty, and former UConn star Rene Montgomery to the Sun for the All-Star Whalen.

The Liberty would have owned that pick which became unanimous-choice rookie of the year Tina Charles, the national player of the year out of New York with UConn last season. The front office in Manhattan under former general manager Carol Blazejowski took considerable heat for the deal though the fan base's anguish became tempered during the summer following the acquisition of former Rutgers star Cappie Pondexter, who had been with the 2009 champion Phoenix Mercury.

The Liberty in the three-way deal in 2009 involving the future selection of Charles, gained former Tennessee player Sidney Spencer from the Los Angeles Sparks, who dealt the New York pick to Minnesota.

So how does Tina Thompson factor into this?

Let's go to the video late in the season when Minnesota, Los Angeles and the San Antonio Silver Stars were in a three-way fight for two playoff slots in the Western Conference.

The Lynx and Los Angeles finished the regular season deadlocked for fourth place but the Sparks won the tiebreaker via season wins over Minnesota.

However, a little while earlier, the injury-riddle Lynx, who gave up a slew of leads in the final weeks of the season, appeared to have beaten Los Angeles with six seconds left in a tightly contested battle. But Thompson nailed a backbreaker to Minnesota just before time expired. Otherwise, Minnesota, which has a history of winning No. 1 picks, would have finished a game ahead of the Sparks, the way it would have played out, but would not have been involved in the lottery.

"I guess we got a pretty nice consolation prize out of the loss, didn't we," Reeve quipped Tuesday night after she had attended the league meetings in New York as a member of the competition committee. "You feel like crap going through the summer we had but that kind of gets erased now when you get a shot with the No. 1 pick. I guess the pressure will be on us to do well next time.

"I thought Lindsay and Maya played well together on the U.S. team this past summer."

Reeve also noted that growing up in Southern New Jersey she has spent a lot of time going to Atlantic City, the resort that houses casinos alongside the Atlantic Ocean about a little over an hour way.

"I guess I finally hit the jackpot this time," Reeve said.

The Lynx lost ground in the Western race early in the season with an injury to Augustus. Former Stanford star Candice Wiggins missed the opening weeks following surgery and then quickly was back on the sidelines the rest of the way following another injury in the closing minute of a win over New York in Madison Square Garden.

Tulsa, which has the No. 2 pick out of the process executed by ping pong balls in the same manner of the NBA, is in an intriguing position. Many see 19-year-old Liz Cambage out of Australia who came out of nowhere this past summer, as the likely choice for whoever was going to get the next selection after the chance at Moore.

But the Shock, off a roster that quickly decimated through defections, trades and injuries in the wake of the move from Detroit, need so much that Tulsa might want to deal the No. 2 shot to a team willing to offer several players that could help the Shock improve more quickly.

Chicago has been trying to make the playoffs since joining the league in 2006, fading several times down the stretch.

Reeve feels like whatever the other teams do after Minnesota makes Moore the official top choice, she will still get a pick additionally in the fourth slot.

"You look at Ta'Shia Phillips and Amber Harris on Xavier and Jantel Lavender at Ohio State, those are all pretty good post players and one of them will be around. And you never know who else might develop."

One thing is for sure. When Reeve attends UConn games this winter, she will be the only one in the house who will be visiting on a Getting To Know You basis in advance with Moore.

-- Mel

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