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, July 11, 2012

Guru's WNBA Report: Connecticut Flies High In DC While Olympians Medal Before The Games

(Guru's note: This concludes the Guru-palooza Wednesday morning festival, though more is coming, hopefully, Wednesday night. But to guide you, besides this post, three below contain the Philadelphia summer league report, some local college news, focusing on Elena Delle Donne, and some AP trivia on how the coaching shuffle has changed the ranking list of coaches who have had teams appear. So on with the weekly, though delayed, WNBA report).

By Mel Greenberg

WASHINGTON -- Everywhere one looked around the WNBA Tuesday afternoon during the league's quartet of matinee games from here in the Verizon Center across the Midwest to Indianapolis, through the Southwest down to Oklahoma, and out West in the Arizona desert in Phoenix, Olympians were tuning up for the London Games by leading their teams to victories before all 12 franchises hit the hiatus this weekend.

Though not a one-woman show, Tina Charles, a member of the Olympic-UConn Dirty Half-Dozen under former Huskies coach Geno Auriemma who will guide the Americans, poured in 16 points to keep the Connecticut Sun humming along at the top of the Eastern Conference with a roller coaster 77-70 win over the forlorn Washington Mystics that locked up yet another season series with a conference rival.

"I don't know if it will be in play at the end, but, yes, it's another conference win, which is huge," Sun coach Mike Thibault said after Connecticut topped last season's overall six-win road total.

The Sun, who get to host Washington in a back-to-back set Wednesday night, now own the New York and Washington series, can do no worse than split with the Indiana Fever and Atlanta Dream and have yet to play the revitalized, but injured, Chicago Sky.

That first encounter will come Friday when the Sun (13-4) travel to the Windy City for the first meeting of the year on the final day before teams take a month off while the USA pursues a fifth straight gold medal in women's basketball.

Connecticut has an astounding 10-1 record in conference play, four better than Indiana, the Sun's nearest pursuer at 2.5 games behind overall.

Do the math on this one. If the Sun grab the next two and then return in mid-August refreshed, which begins with a home-and-home to close out the New York series, they basically just have to hold serve because the conference advantage, which could become a factor in a tie-break, will be such that it will be hard for the other Easterners to catch them when their geographical rivals are beating up on each other.

Kara Lawson, a former Olympian playing in her hometown, added 16 points to the team that also includes Sun veteran Asjha Jones as part of the UConn 'Sixers heading across the pond to London.

Meanwhile, before returning to the dialogue here, elsewhere, Olympian Tamika Catchings had 23 points and the winning foul shots with 8.4 seconds left to thwart a New York comeback as Indiana prevailed 84-82 to keep the Liberty on the treadmill to nowhere.

The fourth playoff spot remains just out of reach by two games, though still attainable, but for Liberty fans in which bad could be good in terms of hitting the jackpot by foregoing the postseason for a chance at the talent motherlode that will be the first three opportunities in the next draft, bad isn't bad enough.

The Liberty are 6-11 but when it comes to playing the bottom of the barrel -- as in Washington (3-13) will be visiting Friday morning -- they just might be better to only become the fourth worst team, meaning it would take a hell of a ping pong hit to land one of the grand prizes named Griner, Delle Donne or Diggins.

Maybe they should talk to their big brother Knicks as to advice on how the NBA crew managed in the first lotto to land one Patrick Ewing, the reason the draw was created by commissioner David Stern to make sure that particular year when the Georgetown star who was graduating that no one team would go out of its way to be the worst of the NBA bunch.

Of course many injured players have been told to just sit down and get healthy for the run after play resumes next month.

Still, based on what is left on New York's schedule the Liberty could start to win in spite of themselves, not enough to get a playoff advantage should they get to the postseason but certanly enough that it might be hard to drop behind the other three teams playing in lotto land.

Right now, it is a horse race because Tulsa sits at 3-14 wth the worst overall record, while Washington is right behind at 3-13 after Tuesday's more of the same -- fall behind, rally, and then, as former Maryland star Crystal Langhorne bemoaned in the Washington locker room, "We need to learn to close these things out."

Phoenix, which has been super injury riddled and been playing without Diana Tarausi, another UConn alumn who may make a miraculous recovery this weekend when the Olympians gather here for a final American tuneup in the home country, is at 4-14 but might be a little better after the break.

At the moment, the Mercury were also victimized by one of the Olympians, a non-UConn alum who wears the Tennessee alma mater brand.

That would be Candace Parker, who had 22 points and 14 rebounds, as Western runnerup Los Angeles (14-6) kept the pressure on the defending champion Minnesota Lynx (14-4) with a 90-71 in Phoenix for their fourth straight wins.

It was a day for shooters because although Connecticut put on a first-quarter display here with 11 straight shots, Minnesota awoke from its slumber with a league record 69.5 percent from the field in Tulsa to power to a 107-85 win.

One of the mainstays in the attack was one of the three Lynx Olympians -- second-year pro Maya Moore, yep, another UConn great -- who had 24 points, one less than teammate Candice Wiggins, the former Stanford all-American.

Tulsa, whose record belies the Shock improvement, could actually not be the worst of all when the games conclude because then second-year pro Liz Cambage of Australia will be returning.

As for the other UConn Olympians, they had the day off but Swin Cash will be helping Chicago try to get untracked while Sue Bird is helping to keep the Seattle Storm afloat until Australian superstar Lauren Jackson returns from her role for her nation in the international matchups.

Washington rode a rebounding advantage to come back in this one, but the Sun bench with former Duke star Misty Bass and especially Tan White helped subdue the Mystics in crunch time.

So with that said, let's look at the rest of the week as has been the order of business here and go conference by conference and team by team.


Connecticut Sun (13-4) -- The Sun stuff has been addressed. All that's left is a hosting job of Washington and a trip to Chicago, which won't see Epiphanny Prince back in action from a foot fracture until after the month-long interlude.

The Sun would like to ride the momentum out with a 2-0 sweep but 1-1 won't be terrible if the one comes at the end of the week. A sudden 0-2 would be a downer.

"Like Mike said, if we turn around and lose to Washington, we cancel out what we just did here," Lawnson noted.

Indiana Fever (10-6) -- Owning Eastern and Midwest rival Chicago this season has been enough to keep the Fever among the leaders trying to defend last season's pre-playoff finish when Indiana tied Connecticut for best record and owned the tiebreak for top seed by winning its series with the Sun.

Los Angeles visits Thursday in a cross-conference game big for both teams trying to chase their respective leaders. It's one both would like to get, especially considering a loss for either could mean losing some ground for the moment in the conference chases.

Chicago Sky (8-7) -- The Sky, who had a great start but have been on a downward slope, hold a three-game lead over fifth-place New York and would like to keep it that way, if not more.

But coach Pokey Chatman's bunch have a tall order with red-hot San Antonio visiting from the West on Wednesday afternoon and then Connecticut on Friday.

Asking 2-0 is to want a lot but 1-1 might be tough, also, though that finish is enough to hope things can rebuild after the month off ends and everyone hopefully is healthy again.

The best thing going for the Sky through the frustration is the teams behind them have yet to make any kind of run that could bury Chicago.

On the other hand, Griner and Fowls, together? In Chicago? That would be as they say about those tall edifices on the lakeside

Atlanta Dream (8-9) -- It's a killer Western crossover to the break -- At Seattle, Wednesday night, at San Antonio Friday. Going 0-2 is a threat and that might provide some false hopes for the New York crowd.

But the Dream has been in this malaise before and have recovered to win the last two conference crowns in the playoffs.

No matter what happens here, any win is a plus, if Erika de Souza returns from the Olympics and all are well-rested the Dream sh0uld have enough, including Olympian Angel McCoughtry, to be a factor, as always.

New York Liberty (6-11) -- Banged up with a shortage of post players, one game remains and Washington, the team that cures what ails everyone else in the East, visits Friday mornng.

A win seems like a must, considering who the visitor is. But we'll see.

Washington Mystics (3-13) -- Two stops left -- at Connecticut, at New York. The book says 0-2 and keep the ping pong balls bouncing and ready for the draft.

They keep saying things will get better. But can they get better and sustain during 40 minutes of action?


Minnesota Lynx (14-4) -- The hot record 10-0 start magnifies everything because the defending champs haven't been exactly choking on chopped liver.

In fact, they dined real fine Tuesday off of one of their favorite meals -- Shock meat. Another serving is on hand Thursday at home and that's it until the Olympic trio return with Seimone Augustus, the former LSU All-American, and homegrown Lindsay Whelan who starred at Minnesota, the Big Ten school, along with Maya Moore.

But it still looks like a horse race the rest of the way. No one said defending the title was going to be easy.

Los Angeles Sparks (14-6) -- The visit to Indianapolis is all that's left on Thursday and everything said on the Fever side of this discussion goes likewise for the Sparks.

San Antonio Silver Stars (11-5) -- Well it no longer looks like the Texans will be lottery bound so might as well concentrate on playing well and go for broke.

There's Wednesday's visit to Chicago -- an afternoon encounter that makes the Stars a heavy favorite and then a return home Friday for a visit from Atlanta.

The momentum is likely to keep going at 2-0 but 1-1 is not terrible, though 0-2 would be a downer going into the rest period.

Seattle Storm (8-9) -- Once looking like the lottery might be their misfortunate/fortunate fate, the poor play of Phoenix has Seattle insulated from dropping down further.

The week concludes with an Atlanta visit Wednesday and then a Friday trip to Phoenix. So 2-0 is quite possible but if the 1-1 means winning in the desert on Friday, the Storm will take it. 0-2? Don't see how it can happen. But no one saw them losing to New York or beating Connecticut.

Phoenix Mercury (4-14) -- The Storm visit from Seattle to close out the nightmare. A win could cause some good feelings, on the other hand, losing has its advantages, as has been addressed.

Tulsa Shock (3-14) -- Coming from the shell-sh0cking the visitors just delivered, now Tulsa must go to Minnesota's home on Thursday and hope for the best and perpare for the worst, which might actually become the best.

See you all hopefully from Mohegan later Wednesday.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


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