Guru's WNBA Musings: No Missing Lynx From Minnesota
By Mel Greenberg
Will Maya Moore get the first basket of the 15th WNBA season in her rookie debut for the Minnesota Lynx late Friday night (on the East Coast)? Or will the initial points come from Candace Parker on her return to the host Los Angeles Sparks after missing most of last season with an injury.
If Tennessee can't play UConn in college, two of the most prominent graduates of the two powers (Parker-Tenn, Moore-UConn) will be on opposite sides in the single game that will mark the season opener before eight other of the 12 teams in the WNBA raise curtains Saturday while on Sunday, the New York Liberty at Atlanta Dream will complete the list and Minnesota and Los Angeles repeat Friday's matchup heading back to the Midwest to play in Minneapolis.
For Minnesota, coach Cheryl Reeve, a graduate of La Salle University in Philadelphia, there's a certain joy to be handling a team with much depth and one that, for a change, is injury-free.
All hands will be ready for the squad, which was the first to get down to the 11-player roster limit while everything was completed elsewhere by Thursday.
"Training camp was great," Reeve said from Los Angeles Thursday night. "It was very productive and now it's time to see what we can do when everything counts."
Besides Reeve, a native of South Jersey across the Delaware, others in the WNBA with local Philadelphia-type connections besides league media contact Ron Howard, who once held a similar job with the NFL Eagles, are:
Former Temple star Candice Dupree with the Phoenix Mercury; former Rutgers stars Cappie Pondexter, Kia Vaughn and Essence Carson (NY Liberty) and Epiphanny Prince (Chicago Sky) and Matee Ajavon (Washington Mystics) and Tammy Sutton-Brown (Indiana Fever); DeMaya Walker (Connecticut Sun and a Mount Holly, N.J., native); Sparks assistant and former Los Angeles head coach Joe Bryant (La Salle); Minnesota's Taj McWilliams-Franklin (played for ABL Philadelphia Rage as did Tulsa Shock assistant Teresa Edwards); Tanisha Wright (Seattle Storm and Penn State); Crystal Langhorne (Mystics and Maryland and Willingboro, N.J.) and Washington assistant coach Marianne Stanley (Immaculata).
Just less than one week after former Penn State star Kelly Mazzante produced four-of-a-kind with a quartet of three-pointers for San Antonio in a narrow loss to the Connecticut Sun at the Pennsylvania version of the Mohegan Sun in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., near where she grew up, she became one of the Silver Stars' final cuts on Thursday.
Mazzante, a former Phoenix Mercury player, had been trying to make a comeback after missing last season because of an ACL injury.
Another prominent cut was Shameka Christon of the Chicago Sky, who was waived and missed most of last season with an injury and then was set to be out at least eight weeks this time around after suffering a knee injury. She had previously been with the New York Liberty and was part of the famous three-team deal a year ago that sent Pondexter from Phoenix to New York, Dupree from Chicago to Phoenix, and Christon from New York to Chicago.
So ultimately, the Sky got nothing much out of the deal.
Betty Lennox, a former Louisiana Tech star who was part of the oldie brigade on Tulsa along with Sheryl Swoopes returning to the league after two seasons, and former track star Marion Jones (North Carolina), was also let go by the Shock.
11 Equals 10 in Washington but not in New York or Connecticut
Former Duke star Monique Currie had a knee injury in the offseason and will miss 2011 with the Mystics, who must still carry her on the roster, meaning the reality is a 10-player contingent. However, Janel McCarville, who announced she won't play with New York this season, and Sandrine Gruda, who announced likewise for Connecticut, were placed on suspension.
By the duo not reporting to training camps, New York and Connecticut can go with 11 players but if either return then a cut must be made to get them back into the lineups.
There are four coaches who are new to teams this season but three of them have already been on the WNBA sidelines.
Former North Carolina State star Trudi Lacey, promoted from assistant to coach-general manager in Washington, had held a similar dual role with the former Charlotte Sting, as did New York's John Whisenant with the former Sacramento Monarchs, and Dan Hughes rehired himself after a year's absence to make it a dual job in San Antonio.
Former LSU coach Pokey Chatman, who had coached WNBA players in Russia in the offseason, is the newbie in Chicago where she also has a dual role with the Sky.
New and Old In Atlanta
The WNBA has more rookies in the league's headquarters than the Eastern Conference-defending champion Dream have on their roster.
Having traded away former Xavier star Ta'Shia Phillips to Washington after picking her in April, the Dream, who surprised in their third season, have no one with an "R" listed alongside their name.
But there is a new face in Lindsey Harding, the former Duke star acquired in a trade with Washington.
As for the WNBA front office rookie, that would be new president Laurel Richie, who became the third commissioner after Donna Orender's resignation last fall.
Meanwhile two veteran front office types since the launch of the league in 1997 who are not affiliated with either headquarters or a team are former Washington general manager Angela Taylor, who was let go in the offseason, as was Hall of Famer Carol Blazejowski from the New York Liberty.
As for the official rookie designees: Chicago has three in Angie Bjorklund (Tennessee), Courtney Vandersloot (Gonzaga) and Carolyn Swords (Boston College); Connecticut has one in Danielle McCray (who was picked last year out of Kansas but had suffered a knee injury as a senior); Indiana has one in Jeanette Pohlan (Stanford); Los Angeles has one in Jantel Lavender (Ohio State); Minnesota has two in Maya Moore and Amber Harris (Xavier); Phoenix has one in Alexis Gray-Lawson (California); New York has three in Sydney Colson (Texas A&M), Jessica Breland (North Carolina), and Alex Montgomery (Georgia Tech); San Antonio has three in Danielle Adams (Texas A&M), Porsha Phillips (Georgia) and Danielle Robinson (Oklahoma), Seattle has two in Ify Ibekwe (Arizona) and Krystal Thomas (Duke); Tulsa has three in Elizabeth Cambage (Australia), Kayla Pedersen (Stanford) and Chastity Reed (Arkansas-Little Rock) and Washington has four as the WNBA leader with Karima Christmas, Jasmine Thomas (both Duke), Victoria Dunlap (Kentucky) and Ta'Shia Phillips (Xavier).
The Guru will update if necessary since all rosters at WNBA.com were not reflective overnight but the rookie total looks like 24 or an average of two per team.
Picking The Weekend Winners
Why not? Upset Minnsota over (a) Los Angeles, Friday night; Host Seattle over Phoenix; host Connecticut over Washington; Host Indiana over Chicago; and host San Antonio over Tulsa on Saturday; Visiting Los Angeles over Minnesota and host Atlanta over New York on Sunday.
Too bad former Colorado star Brittany Spears got cut at Phoenix. Otherwise, when the Mercury visits the Connecticut Sun, the casino executives could have booked the other Brittany Spears and have two Spears play the Sun on the same day.
But then Diana Taurasi usually takes care of dual entertainment when the former UConn star returns with Phoenix on her annual visit near her alma mater.