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.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Guru's WNBA Report: Delle Donne's Day Brings Big Win, First Place and All-Star History

(Guru's note: The Philly Summer League report from Thursday games is under this post.)

By Mel Greenberg

These days it is becoming a question of where former Delaware superstar Elena Delle Donne is making her biggest impact as one of the elite rookies in the WNBA --- on the court with the Chicago Sky, who made her their second overall choice in last April's draft, or of it where she is effortlessly bulldozing all those pillars of doubt that folks had when the TV suits never had much interest venturing into Blue Hens territory in the other Newark to showcase her talent.

On Thursday Delle Donne and her Chicago teammates had an early wakeup call here to be the visitor part of the New York Liberty camp day extravaganza that got under way at 11 a.m. at the Prudential Center and was over for intents and purposes a few minutes later after the Sky zipped to a 13-0 lead at the outset and finished the quarter 34-11.

Hard to believe that at the same event here in the Prudential Center several years ago Chicago coughed up a lead and was embarassed by scoring just one point in the fourth quarter.

This time with Delle Donne leading the way, again, with 23 points in the latest action, coach Pokey Chatman's bunch, after playing without Olympian Sylvia Fowles, who aggravated an ankle injury in the previous romp Friday at the Connecticut Sun, left the neighborhood with a half-game lead over the Eastern Conference -- an 11-4 best-ever start since the franchise was born in the 2006 season.

While New York fans might have been delighted that Fowles would not be around to be a thorn in the Liberty's side as she was playing her first game back off the original injury earlier this month, former Boston College star Carolyn Swords took up the slack and so delighted Chatman with her play that the coach gave Swords the game ball afterwards.

Meanwhile, Delle Donne continues to slip into the WNBA routine as if having glass slippers ease onto her feet at the first tryout attempt.

"You know we all knew she could do this -- we all saw the capability at Delaware even if a lot of people weren't paying attention from elsewhere," said former Blue Hens player Christine Koren Motta, who became the color analyst to Matt Janus on Delaware women's basketball radio broadcasts this past season.

Koren Motta and a few former Delle Donne teammates as well as members of the Blue Hens coaching staff were here at the Prudential Center Thursday and many will be making the trip to the Verizon Center in Washington next Wednesday morning when the Mystics host their camp day at 11:30 a.m.

With the AAU junior nationals also occuring in D.C., expect to see a lot of college types from coaching staffs and many from the AAU world to venture over to see Delle Donne, who seems to become a worthy attraction for other teams in the league hosting the traditional camp days,

Actually, attention was being paid somewhat to Delle Donne with ESPN, the NCAA, and now the WNBA all working together to make the "Three to See" promotion all year involving herself, Baylor's stud Brittney Griner, who went first overall to the Phoenix Mercury, but has been on the bench in recent games because of a leg injury, and Notre Dame's Skylar Diggins, who landed in Tulsa as the third overall pick taken by the Shock.

But the focus at that point was more on the other two -- a consequence of playing in such BCS giants as the Big 12 and former Big East Conference.

First place is a location of familiarity for Delle Donne, who won several state titles with Wilmington's Ursuline Academy where she was the national high school player of the year in 2008.

At Delaware, though she had to fight off somde nagging injuries and a major bout with Lyme disease, Delle Donne took the Blue Hens from a nice mid-major program and made then a nationally-ranked force, blitzing the Colonial Athletic Association with back-to-back perfect runs in the conference and an eventual spot in the NCAA Sweet 16 where she concluded her collegiate career as the fifth all-time leading career scoring with over 3,000 points.

The biggest thing Delle Donne says in terms of adjustment is the ongoing routine of travel, practice, and game days and night in a short amount of time.

"Pokey just tries to make sure I get enough rest and rest my body all the time," Delle Donne said.

But though Delle Donne's normal work day was over earlier than normal because of the morning start, Thursday, it was just the beginning of a day of history when late at night while Phoenix battled Los Angeles in a Western Conference game in Tinseltown, the WNBA revealed the fan vote for the starters in next weekend's All-Star Game in Connecticut at the Mohegan Sun.

Though a hint that the moment was coming when the league did its only publicly announced vote several weeks ago, besides named a starter on the East squad with Sky teammate and former Rutgers star Epiphanny Prince, Delle Donne became the first rookie to win the overall vote.

She received 35,646 votes to finish ahead of the Los Angeles Sparks' Candace Parker, who collected 33,810 votes and will start for the Western Conference.

To be fair, when Parker was a rookie in 2008 there was no All-Star game because of the Olympics and she became the first to be named rookie and MVP in the same season.

Former Rutgers star Cappie Pondexter of the New York Liberty was also named an Eastern starter in the backcourt with Prince while the other East starters are Tamika Catchings of the WNBA defending champion Indiana Fever, and Atlanta's Angel McCoughtry.

Fever coach Lin Dunn as winner of the Eastern playoffs last season, gets to coach the East squad with her staff while former La Salle star and South Jersey native Cheryl Reeve of the Minnesota Lynx will coach the West.

Joining Parker as West starters are two former UConn greats in Maya Moore of Minnesota and Diana Taurasi on Phoenix.

Griner will be on the West squsd making it the first time that the top two picks in the draft start in the All-Star game and the other starter is Seimone Augustus of Minnesota, whom Chicago's Chatman coached at LSU in the last decade.

The coaches in each conference will pick the rest of the squads, though they are not sllowed to vote for their own players.

As one of the top four picks in the draft, Delle Donne's rookie scale, which gets googled every day, by the way, is $48,470 this season, $49,440 next season,, $54,384 in 2015 and $61,800 the following year.

However, the CBA expires after the season so those numbers might be increased somewhat depending how expenses fall behind the major talking point -- getting the rosters back up to 12 or 13 per team from the current 11 to overcome the large rash of injuries when they break out as they have this year.

In fact one could pick and all outpatient team with the likes of such people as Seattle's Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird not playing this summer.

Joining the lost-for-the-year list last month was Essence Carson, another former Rutgers star, and perhaps the glue to a New York attack that has sputtered with blowout losses a nightly occurrence on tthe recent homestand that now switches to a quick visit Saturday to Chicago to play the Sky again.

With Indiana and the Connecticut Sun getting healthy again, New York could be in a world of trouble and we've all observed that the Liberty's better deal last season would have been better served to finish a game behind Chicago out of the playoffs instead of one game in front.

Delle Donne would still have been in the Prudential Center Thursday but consideringhow the lottery went, she would have been the Liberty pick instead of Chicago.

While it was a quick knockout of the New York team then coached by John Whisenant in the first round last fall, though Chicago remained without a first-ever playoff appearance, look at the Sky now.

In addition to Delle Donne's rookie scale, according to the CBA, she will get $2,500 as an All-Star participant. Rookie of the year would bring her $5,000 more while MVP is worth $15,000. The post seaon All-WNBA second team is worth $5,000 and the first brings in $10,000.

If Chicago makes the playoffs, Delle Donne gets $1,050 along with the rest of the Sky for being in the first round, $2,625 for being in the conference finals, $5,250 for being in the finals and $10,500 for winning the championship.

The Guru will check whether you get the scales for each advancement or whether each step supersedes the value of the previous step.

Dedensive player of the year, sportsmanship, are also worth $5,000 each, as is most improved player.

So without regard to the step advance process, Delle Donne besides helping to bring Chicago a title, can also earn as much as practically double her salary for winning the title, being named mvp, rookie, defensive players of the year, play in the all-star game, and be picked first team all wnba postseason.

Additonally, based on her quick adjustment to the pro game, Dellle Donne is likely on a track to be on at least the medium list when USA Basketball starts considering candidates for the World Championship squad next year in the event they eventually get around to naming a coach.

But through it all, Delle Donne hasn't changed with all the attention now upon her.

"She's so humble and she has all the skill set," former UConn star Swin Cash off the Sky said in Connecticut last week after the Chicago routed the Sun.

"A lot of times when players have a lot of hype -- but Elena's not like that at all," Cash said. "She wants to learn all the facets of the game and for her it's easier.

"Think about college. Teams are running double teams and triple teams at her. With us, you got Syl, you got Piph, you got me, you got a lot of people, so (the opposition) is just running one-on-one and for her it's like, `Man, this is the life.'

"And for her, I think it is. But don't take it, she's saying the league is easy, she's just saying I'm just playing basketball -- one on one. Bur her situation is different than a lot of other players coming into the league."

For Chatman, getting Delle Donne has been like getting five players in one package because of all the versatility Delle Donne has.

"You know, we have her do this and that, think about it, she might have to absorb 120 different things because the way we can use her. But it's no problem. Her basketball IQ is off the charts."

And at this rate, at last Chicago and Delle Donne's teammates might actually be right there with her.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


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