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, January 03, 2012

Guru's WNBA Musing: Seattle-Chicago Swap Will Have Long Ripple Effects

(Guru's note: There are two posts below this: A local roundup and some poll notes. And the pool of this week's USBWA national player of the week candidates. Announcement coming early Tuesday afternoon. Look for tweet from here. If you got here first to melgreenberg.com, click mel's blog on left panel to get to the full blogspot posts.)

By Mel Greenberg

After one of the longer periods without drama or headlines since the WNBA signed off competition for another summer, the New Year of2012, but two days old, offered a thunderclap on Monday afternoon with a blockbuster trade between the Seattle Storm and Chicago Sky.

Seattle sent Swin Cash and Le’coe Willingham and a second round rights pick to the Chicago Sky for the No. 2 overall choice in April.

In the past, within a month or so following the conclusion of another WNBA championship gained, there have been teams added and teams subtracted.

That time span has also included two presidential departures when Val Ackerman and Donna Orender bid farewells to the end of their stewardships.

Incidentally, the Guru never told you that the WNBA silence was broken for him on Christmas night when he decided to go to a late movie – really late movie – across the bridge in South Jersey and as he arrived, who was leaving, but none other than Ron Howard, the league’s media liaison, with his children.

Howard has maintained his home down here since taking the WNBA job, though the Guru always thought on a night like that we'd run into each other dining in Chinatown.

Anyhow, next season’s schedule is due to come out “soon.”

And that is all on league matters that we spoke because there were other news events going on down here in the media that were making national headlines and worth discussing.

Besides, another reason for the recent quietness could be the NBA lockout and labor negotiations may have held things up since there are effects on the WNBA in terms of financing from the NBA side.

But back to the Sky-Storm trade, sending veterans Cash and Willingham to to the Windy City.

Seattle coach-general manager Brian Agler said it offers his roster a chance to get younger and to also free up money in the free agent market.

So one can say in dealing the All-Star, past Olympian, and former Connecticut All-American, this is the first time in league history Cash is let loose to acquire more cash.

In-depth analysis can be found at hoopfeed, the Guru’s sure Ben York will be weighing in somewhere, and there’s Jayda Evans’ reporting in the Seattle Times.

The Guru has other fish to fry in this deal involving the invisible talent whose name wasn’t thrown around in terms of collegiate talent when news of the deal broke.

But on his own thought upon hearing the news, to the Guru the move from Chicago’s side replicates the roll of the dice that Anne Meyers Drysdale took with the Phoenix Mercury when she became general manager in the winter of 2006 going into 2007.

By the way, again, the Guru spoke a while back with Annie after duties changed and she is quite good with getting out of the GM role – that’s going additionally to the duties of coach Corey Gaines.

“I’m freed up to do other things like radio and some other projects here,” she said.

On draft day, 2007, Phoenix took former Duke star Lindsay Harding as the No. 1 overall pick and then quickly dealt her to the Minnesota Lynx for forward Tangela Smith.

The thinking was veteran experience and another body on the boards might just be enough to get Phoenix, which then had Cappie Pondexter added from 2006 and Diana Tarausi and Penny Taylor, back to the playoffs if not more.

The Mercury got the more, winning the first title over Detroit and then two years later besting Indiana in the most thrilling finals to date in 2009.

With the Chicago move, the Sky may not get more, but they may get to the promised land, which has yet to occur in six previous seasons, and that’s to the playoffs.

Which brings us to the Guru’s proverbial skillet and the fish named Elena.

In terms of Delaware sensation Elena Delle Donne’s future in the pros, the dynamics just took a major change on two fronts – this year and next.

Remember, ala Candace Parker in 2008, Delle Donne’s natural senior class graduates this year, so like the former Tennessee all-American sensation, she can head for the pros even though she has another year of college eligibility because of the one-year participation in volleyball after her enrollment.

For now, understand, she’s having the time of her life taking the Blue Hens to a new world and next year could even be better.

But whatever she says now – unless she makes a declaration with finality between now and the NCAA tournament – it’s what she says before the draft gets underway that will be binding.

And that doesn’t happen until April so she can continue to enjoy herself and quietly look at the landscape and see what it offers.

As of Monday, here’s what’s to consider in the next draft.

Fears of Tulsa are no longer valid since the Shock’s performance in the lottery was as bad as their record, falling to No. 4. If they had won the overall No. 1 selection, you wouldn’t be reading this now because it wouldn’t have been necessary to write.

Los Angeles, which, by the way, was the winner in the Parker decision in 2008, has the overall No. 1 pick.

But first, it would be nice to know what the coaching situation is in Tinseltown.

Does anyone ever know what any situation is when it comes to discussing the Sparks?

Is Joe Bryant coming back after taking over in mid-season again, like last time around, or is there a hunt going on for a successor to Jen Gillom, who was let go.

As for the pick, one would think that maybe Delle Donne in or Delle Donne out, Los Angeles may still go geographical taking Stanford’s Nnemkadi Oguwmike, who is the overall No. 1 pick without Delle Donne in the equation.

From her side, even if it’s the summer, it’s a long way from L. A. to home and in a Western Conference that means just three trips East.

In fact, all four lottery picks are now in the West because the champion Minnesota Lynx own Washington’s pick through a trade. Talk about the rich getting richer.

But in terms of comfort levels, either Minnesota, which would have most likely chosen Delle Donne if the Lynx had won the lotto and if she was coming out, or Seattle does have some nice things to think about.

Minnesota, though, probably goes by the wayside, because if Delle Donne is in the pool, Seattle will run down to Lake Union and grab the biggest fishnet available.

One Storm insider told the Guru, “It would be like having a second Lauren Jackson,” which would be handy since the first one is going to be gone the front part of the season with the Australian national team because of the Olympics.

She fits the system, it’s a great organization and you get to play with Sue Bird – one way or another there was always going to be a UConn alumni teammate in Delle Donne’s future in the WNBA.

Oddly, it could even turn out to be the Huskies’ Caroline Doty, Delle Donne’s AAU teammate from here.

With Minnesota, there’s also no heavy lifting involved, the organization has also now evolved to a good mix, and there’s Maya Moore and the chance to win a bunch of titles in the near future.

But it is hard to believe the Lynx would have a chance if Seattle were in front of them in the drafting line.

But that’s for the 2012 draft.

Now let’s see what may have just happened as a result of the trade, which could be even better for Delle Donne in 2013 and possibly still be good for Seattle.

If Chicago is in the playoffs that means somebody will get bumped from last year’s mix – Connecticut, which could be funny, but not likely.

Indiana, doubtful, they always find a way.

Atlanta, they found a way back last summer from a wretched start so they could be in the hunt again.

That means on the East side, New York could be bumped into the lottery, because when one thinks about some of those Sky losses to the Liberty, one can’t envision one-point scoring quarters with Cash on the squad.

Granted that the Liberty post game will be one more year experienced.

And there’s Washington, what can be said? The Mystics truly live up to their name because after one mystical summer of 2010 it was back to the usual.

So that’s two chance to be close to home.

Now, if Tulsa is the worst team again and wins the lotto for a change, the Shock or anyone else is going to go for Baylor’s Brittney Griner.

But if Seattle doesn’t get to the postseason because of all the shuffling ahead – though Brian Agler usually knows what he’s doing – or Phoenix with Taurasi misses out, or San Antonio, the choices are not so terrible.

And someone may get bumped in the West to join Tulsa on the sidelines because it is hard to believe Los Angeles won’t be playoff bound with Parker healthy for a full summer.

But then, the Sparks had enough time to get to the playoffs when she returned and did not, so putting guaranteed money on Los Angeles may not be a bet to make.

Meanwhile, speaking of the Shock, there’s a coaching vacancy in Tulsa that needs to be filled since it is not likely Teresa Edwards will be asked to continue after filling in as the interim in July.

Some names in terms of the Southwest franchise are in the Tulsa rumor mill – most current assistants – Indiana’s Gary Kloppenburg, may be the frontrunner; Seattle’s Jenny Boucek, not believed to be interested; Connecticut’s Scott Hawk, has Midwest ties; Atlanta’s Carol Ross, and former Washington head coach Julie Plank.

As big as this trade was Monday there’s more to come from a bunch of places, so stay tuned.

-- Mel


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