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.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Guru's WNBA Report: Internet Radio Pundits Offer Picks For All-Star Reserves

(Guru's Report: A post under this previews Tuesday's Philly Summer League action as the playoffs loom on the horizon. If you are in melgreenberg.com, click mel's blog on the left panel and you will be whisked into blogspot and access to the archive. Quotes and source material from team and wire reports contributed to this post.)

By Mel Greenberg

On Monday night your Guru participated in another WNBA roundtable panel, hosted by David Siegel, which will air on the internet on WSTR radio Tuesday at 1 p.m. (wstrradio.com).

The group included Christy Winter Scott, the former Maryland star who broadcasts Washington Mystics games, former Mystics general manager Angela Taylor, now president and CEO of her own company NetWork Sports Consulting LLC., and LaChina Robinson, who does Atlanta Dream games and also does work for the NBA network and also the Guru sister site Inside Women’s basketball.

David has his own Dishin’ & Swishin’ site.

The twitter handles for everyone beginning with your Guru: @womhoopsguru; Christy: @divamamma51; LaChina: @Lives2Inspire; Angela: @AFTaylor22 and David: @DishNSwish,

Ahead of the next announcement in which the six coaches per each Eastern and Western conference will have almost filled out the six-player benches for Saturday’s WNBA All-Star game in San Antonio, the panel, besides discussing the surprises of the first half of the season and what’s ahead, did their own selections.

Guides of the WNBA were followed so two guards, two forwards and one center and one all-around player without regard to position were picked for each conference with Angela facilitating the selections by asking each panel member to make one pick until the spots were filled.

The group also picked a replacement player, per the presidential choice, for Candice Parker of the Los Angeles Sparks, who was voted by the fans as one of the five West starters but is unable to play while currently rehabbing from surgery for a knee injury suffered late last month on the road stop at New York.

Parker is expected to be sidelined a period of six weeks of which she is about halfway through the recovery period.

Anyhow, first, to recap, here are the starters as voted by the fans:

East:
Cappie Pondexter: G, New York (Rutgers)
Katie Douglas: G, Indiana (Purdue)
Tina Charles, C: Connecticut (UConn)
Tamika Catchings: F, Indiana (Tenn.)
Angel McCoughtry: F, Atlanta (Louisville)

West:
Sue Bird: G, Seattle (UConn)
Diana Taurasi: G, Phoenix (UConn)
Swin Cash: F, Seattle (UConn)
Maya Moore: F, Minnesota (UConn)
Candace Parker: C, Los Angeles (Tenn.)

Here were the panel picks and some of the discussion:

East
Renee Montgomery: G, Connecticut (UConn) – Having best year in third season as a pro.
Epiphanny Prince: G, Chicago (Rutgers) – Having great second year.
Matee Ajavon: G, Washington (Rutgers) – Play has been outstanding since being made a starter while Alana Beard is on the injury list.
Crystal Langhorne: F, Washington (Maryland) – Top scorer and all-everything for Washington
Essence Carson: F, New York (Rutgers) – Made the all-around choice.
Sylvia Fowles: C, Chicago (LSU) – Has been dominate all season.

West
Kristi Toliver: G, Los Angeles (Maryland) – Has had consistent year for Sparks
Becky Hammon: G, San Antonio (Colorado State) – Annual All-Star is reason San Antonio holds together.
Penny Taylor: F: Phoenix (Australia) – Flies below radar in Taurasi’s shadow.
Rebekkah Brunson: F, Minnesota (Georgetown) – Play has spoken for itself
Elizabeth Cambage: C, Tulsa (Australia) – Need a healthy center with Lauren Jackson also sidelined.
Danielle Adams: F, San Antonio (Texas A&M) – Replacement pick for Parker.

Methinks someone messed up the bookkeeping for our sixth pick but the Guru believes Candice Dupree, F, Phoenix (Temple) was made the all-around pick.

Other comments: Former Penn State star Tanisha Wright is another unheralded player. She’s been a quiet key for Seattle in terms of attention. The resurgence of Nicole Powell, the former Stanford great, needs watching out of New York.

Players considered likely to make team if coaches differ from panel picks: Sophia Young, F, San Antonio (Baylor); Seimone Augustus, G, Minnesota (LSU); Lindsay Whalen, G, Minnesota (U Minnesota); Asjha Jones, Connecticut (UConn), Courtney Vandersloot: G, Chicago (Gonzaga).

Other comments: Rookie class has been outstanding, particularly Kayla Pedersen at Tulsa our of Stanford, Adams, and Vandersloot.

Something needs to be done on WNBA schedule to knock down the back-to-back games to help reduce injuries. Perhaps the league should increase cross over games and cut back some intra-conference games so fans get to see more stars from each other’s conferences.

Finishing With A Flurry

Though having looked ahead to the All-Star game, the regular season continues with one game played Monday night and more ahead through Thursday before the action takes a three-game hiatus.

After having a couple of sub-par games for her, veteran All-Star Becky Hammon poured in 26 points to lead San Antonio to a 79-69 victory Monday night over Los Angeles (6-8) at the Spark’s Staple Center in California.

The win continues the Western gridlock with the Silver Stars moving back into an identical 9-4 tie with the Minnesota Lynx just one half game behind the idle Phoenix Mercury (10-4).

The loss dropped the fifth-place Sparks (6-8) four games out of first and 1.5 behind fourth-place Seattle.

Los Angeles lost for the second time in 48 hours and immediately after Sunday night’s dreadful home loss in overtime in which the Sparks coughed up the biggest lead second-half lead in WNBA history squandering a 24-point advantage to the Washington Mystics (3-10), who had lost four straight.

Ironically, Los Angeles is also on the books for the worst-ever overall choke in a game and that occurred on June 26, 2005 when the Sparks held a 25-point 35-10 lead in the first half to the former Detroit Shock (now in Tulsa) and lost the contest.

Two months later Joe Jellybean Bryant, who is also Kobe’s father, was made an interim head coach to complete the season and then in 2006 was given the job outright.

On Sunday a week ago, he was again promoted from assistant coach, this time placed in charge after Sparks general manager Penny Taylor fired Jennifer Gillom, who was given the job last season.

Los Angeles then beat San Antonio on the road and won at Tulsa after trailing last Friday night before the reverting to the current debacle.

Sophia Young had 18 points and 10 rebounds for San Antonio and Jia Perkins scored 14 as the Silver Stars maintained the best WNBA road record at 5-1 and now hold a 2-1 lead over Los Angeles in the season’s series.

San Antonio narrowly did its own coughing, yielding a 15-point lead that existed in the first quarter down to one point in the fourth before stopping the Sparks rally.

Jantel Lavender, the rookie from Ohio State, and Natasha Lacy each scored 14 points each for the Sparks, while Jenna O'Hea finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds.

"You never want to lose at home, you always want to protect your home court," Lacy said. "We have to get more victories wherever we play."

Los Angeles starters scored just 15 points overall as Bryant awarded much playing time to the substitutes and continued his search for combinations while superstar Candace Parker maintains recovery from her knee injury.

Tina Thompson, the WNBA's career scoring leader with 6,546 points, was held without a point for the first time in 413 regular-season games.

"Not that I know of," Thompson said. "And I don't think I ever played less than five minutes either."

Two weeks ago she was benched along with veteran guard Tina Penicheiro by Gillom at the outset of a lopsided loss at Seattle that people inside the WNBA feel contributed to Gillom’s ouster.

Meanwhile compeling storylines are all over the WNBA in the final days before the break beginning with three games Tuesday.

Atlanta (4-9), which had its best game on Saturday at home, following a struggle with injuries and inconsistency, has two back-to-back games to show if the Dream are about to look more like the bunch that grabbed the Eastern playoff title in 2010.

The Dream host the first-place Indiana Fever (10-5), whom they trail by five games, Tuesday afternoon before heading to Washington Wednesday for a late morning game against the Mystics.

On the other side of that, the Fever, who had zipped along with a seven-game win streak, have lost two straight and a loss could cost them sole possession of the East lead.

New York (9-6) visits Connecticut (8-5) Tuesday night four days after the Sun topped the Liberty in their temporary home in Newark and then followed up Sunday with a home win over Indiana.

Both teams are virtually tied for second a game behind Indiana and the winner could land in first place with the Fever if Indiana loses to Atlanta.

Washington, meanwhile, will be looking to build new momentum on Wednesday coming out of the big rally over Los Angeles.

The Mystics, though in last place, are just a game behind the Dream and only three behind the Chicago Sky (7-8), which is holding the fourth spot, which is a playoff berth at the end of the regular season.

Chicago in Tuesday’s other game, hosts Seattle and both games need the win.

A Sky win moves Chicago within one game of the loser of the New York-Connecticut matchup and also keeps at least a two-game advantage over Atlanta or maybe one more if the Dream lose to Indiana.

Seattle, which has now lost as many games as all of last season in winning the WNBA title, will be looking to stay close to the
Western frontrunners and avoid shrinking the distance between the Storm and fifth-place Los Angeles.

Wednesday’s other game, completing everything on the card the next two days, has Minnesota visiting Phoenix looking to jump over the Mercury back into first and also to avenge the high-scoring loss at home last week in which both teams reached triple digits.

On Thursday Chicago visits Indiana with the Sky hoping to either move closer to the Fever or recovering any ground squandered if they lose Tuesday to Seattle.

Likewise Indiana will be trying to maintain positioning near or at the top of the East.

The only other game scheduled that day has San Antonio visiting Seattle and we’ll revisit the implications once the Storm has played their game in Chicago.

Jersey Girl Moves Up In Jersey Rankings

Former Rutgers star Essence Carson, the New York Liberty’s true Jersey girl playing in the Garden State at the temporary home in Newark the next three summers, now has a new jersey ranking based on apparel sales from the NBAstore.com.

Carson, who grew up in the northern part of the state, has jumped from No. 6 to No. 3 in terms of WNBA jersey sales.

Maya Moore, the overall No. 1 pick out of UConn, has debuted at No. 1, dislodging former Tennessee star Candace Parker of Los Angeles, who has maintained the top spot since her arrival in 2008.

Furthermore, Moore’s team the Minnesots Lynx has come out of nowhere to the top spot in terms of WNBA team jersey sales.

Now to continue, this is not a criticism but based on what one would guess in terms of trends in the WNBA, a lot of this does not compute.

It would be interesting to see where the demand is coming from.

Moore, who will be the first rookie to start in the All-Star game since veterans Tamika Catching and former UConn star Sue Bird did similar honors in 2002, is not surprising in the jersey stuff considering the fan vote.

But how does Carson rise to No. 3, especially given the cavernous appearance regarding attendance at some Liberty games to date, and how is not her teammate Cappie Pondexter, voted an All-Star starter by the fan base, not in the top 10.

And how does Minnesota make that kind of jump, though it is probably in tandem with the Moore numbers, and the Connecticut Sun jersey out of the only known revenue-producing WNBA team to date not make the Top 10.

The other surprise is the debut of former track star Marion Jones, on the forlorn Tulsa roster, at No. 6, though one could sense her jersey being viewed ass a collector’s item.

Everything else is kind of in synch with trends, especially considering the mega-numbers Parker and the Sparks’ handle draws on twitter.

But that is that for now. The Guru must now figure out his own back-to-back in terms of cost-effectiveness to be in Connecticut Tuesday night and then back in Washington Wednesday morning.

But he will be back at the next sunrise rounding up Tuesday action in both the WNBA and Philly summer league.

-- Mel

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