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, June 30, 2006

WNBA: Sun Drives Into a Shock Jam

By Mel Greenberg

_ People in these parts and from elsewhere usually find themselves involved with a series of decisions in trying to get to the shoreline on a Friday night, especially on a holiday weekend.

Make the right choice at the right time and one can usually dodge much of the traffic and get to a destination headache-free.

But if a decision results in getting caught in the crowd, it can be a tiring experience.

The Connecticut Sun, however, didn’t need to be behind the wheel Friday night to experience the down side of bad choices.

The WNBA’s Eastern Conference leaders ran into plenty of problems in the Mohegan Sun Arena against the nemesis Detroit Shock, which emerged with a 70-64 victory on the end of a back-to-back road trip that began Thursday night in Indianapolis with a 66-56 loss to the Fever.

“It seems like a couple of times every year I walk in here and say when you shoot 33 percent, I’m not sure how you can expect to win in pro basketball,” Connecticut coach Mike Thibault said after the loss. “We did, and we had a chance.

“We played even on the boards. We played even on turnovers. We played even on free throws pretty much. They shot a better percentage (37.9 percent) than us and we made mistakes. People were in the wrong spots, and we didn’t execute a couple of other times. And we wound up fighting the shot clock.”

The win made the Shock 2-0 here after rallying to a 77-73 overtime victory on May 27 and Detroit veteran Katie Smith was the common denominator in both wins.

Her three-pointer at the last second in the previous win sent that game into overtime.

On Friday night, Smith set up Deanna Nolan’s 13-foot jumper that snapped a 64-64 tie with 27.3 seconds left in the game.

After veteran Sun point guard Lindsay Whalen committed a turnover on the next position dribbing into heavy Shock traffic, Smith finished off Connecticut with four straight foul shots and was the game’s high scorer with 21 points.

“Our decision making, that’s the part that boggles my mind about tonight,” Thibault said of the Sun’s struggles against the Detroit defense. “The good thing is that we can go make up for this by getting a win (Saturday) night (at Indiana).”

Whalen also spoke of the Connecticut’s difficulty against Detroit.

“You see our percentage of shots,” the third-year veteran said. “That shows some rushed shots and shots we should not have taken. That all plays into making better decisions.

“We just had a night where things didn’t click, exactly. They’re (Detroit) a great defensive team and they’re going to make you adjust. You have to give them credit for staying in front of our people driving.”

The Sun will meet Indiana Saturday night as the four-team jam at the top of the East continues with Indiana at 12-5, a half-game ahead of Detroit and Connecticut (11-5).

Former University of Connecticut star Swin Cash made another return to the state of her collegiate glory and scored 15 points for the Shock. Nolan was also in double figures for Detroit with 11 points.

Cash’s former UConn teammate Asjha Jones led the Sun with 16 points, Katie Douglas added 15 points, and Margo Dydek scored 10.

“We were able to maintain our lead there,” Smith said. “We had some people step up in the second half. Mentally, we were a little more focused than we were last night. It was good to get back on the court right away after last night and have a chance to right away your wrongs.”

Shock veteran Ruth Riley, the star of Notre Dame’s 2001 NCAA championship squad, spoke of her teammate’s play against the Sun.

“Katie stepped up big time,” Riley said. “She was someone who could be counted on late in the game tonight. She hit a big three, all of her free throws and just played great down the stretch when we needed it.”

Smith was 3 of 6 on three-point attempts and was 6 for 6 from the line. On Friday night, she became the first WNBA player to reach 500 career points.

Previously as a member of the Minnesota Lynx (she was traded late last season), the former Ohio State star became the first WNBA player to reach 5,000 career points as a pro, but part of her total was acquired when she played in the former American Basketball League.

Lisa Leslie of the Los Angeles Sparks recently became the first WNBA player to reach 5,000 with all her scoring in the league’s ten-year history.

Friday’s game was close throughout the night and Shock coach Bill Laimbeer expressed delight with the intensity of both teams and also the way Detroit was able to recover from the Indiana game.

“It was a very fine win for us,” Laimbeer said. “I thought we showed great heart tonight. That was a good performance by our ball club.

“Coming out of a loss is always tougher (in a back-to-back),” Laimbeer said. “Because if you lose two in a row … especially against the quality of teams we just played.

“But they keep sending us here (on back-to-back scheduling),” he said. “We don’t complain about it. We just take advantage of it.”

--- Mel

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

WNBA: Fever Chills Mystics' Home Streak

Guru's Note: (We were going to double dip Tuesday night with ourselves handling either Dawn Staley's Connecticut farewell trip, barring a WNBA championship round matchup with the Sun, or a quickie to New York for the Charlotte game, while Jonathan Tannenweld was going to cover the Washington-Indiana matchup.

Jonathan's half of that became true.

We didn't make it due to having to take care of some personal housekeeping details adminstratively in the home office as the Inquirer goes into transition this week from the former Knight-Ridder ownership to the current two-day McClatchy ownership and then on to the locally-owned Philadelphia Media Holdings LLC group.

Despite the recent intense rain in the nation's capital, Jonathan was able to get a chauffeur-driven Metro to the Verizon Center to keep his end of the deal.

While we have your attention, the Dawn Staley page or pages at Philly.com may begin rolling this week. We'll let you know.

And in another note, we regret to inform that "teen-age" is no longer an appropriate discripton of someone else who has contributed to the Guru's blog.

That's because that individual (hint: K.B.) had a birthday this month and reached age 20.

And with that, on to Tuesday's game.

By Jonathan Tannenwald

_ Two days after making a statement to the Eastern Conference by beating the first-place Connecticut Sun, the Washington Mystics made a statement of a very different sort by suffering its first home loss of the season, 74-67, to the third-place Indiana Fever.

The Mystics’ struggles started early, as they fell behind by 16 points twice in the first quarter.  Indiana made eight of 15 field goal attempts and four of seven three-pointers in that span, while Washington shot only 3-for-10 from the field and 0-for-2 from behind the arc. 

Just as importantly, Mystics forward Nakia Sanford committed two fouls in the first 3:07 of the game.

For a team severely lacking frontcourt depth, this was the last thing Washington could afford when having to deal with the Fever’s frontcourt tandem of Tamika Catchings and Tamika Whitmore.

“We don’t have a rotation of four – we have a rotation of three, with [Latasha] Byears, Sanford and [Chasity] Melvin,” Mystics coach Richie Adubato said. “If you take Sanford and Melvin out, we had to play Byears at center for a long time and we had to move Crystal Robinson to the power forward. We even had to play Tamara James at power forward.”

It surprised almost no one, though, when the Mystics rallied in the second quarter and closed out the half down only 28-25. 

The third quarter was the most even of the game, with Washington outscoring Indiana 18-15 to tie the score at 43-43. 

The Mystics’ comeback was due in part to its making more shots and in larger part to the box-and-one defense they used to contain Catchings, who was held scoreless in the second quarter and scored only one point in the third.

The third quarter was punctuated, though, by a technical foul assessed to Adubato after he stormed onto the court and almost made it to the center circle to argue loudly with referee Bryan Enterline, who assessed him the penalty.

Adubato said after the game that he had good reason for his antics.

“I had to get the fans into the game, so that’s why I went after the official,” he said. “After that, the fans got into the game, which usually results in a lot of energy and adrenaline flowing with your players. That’s when we went ahead... but I also wanted to wake them up to the fact that we had everyone sitting on the bench, and they had everyone playing.”

That burst of energy did not last, though.

Washington took its first lead of the game just over 30 seconds into the fourth quarter, but after tying the game with 6:28 remaining, the Fever went on a 7-0 run and never looked back.

This was due in large part to Whitmore, who scored 11 of her team-high 22 points in the final period.

“It’s one of those feelings where you just don’t want to lose,” Whitmore said.
To Crystal Robinson, however, her team’s defense was more of a reason for the result than Whitmore’s scoring.

“We just broke down,” Robinson said.

Mystics guard Alana Beard wasn’t happy either, even though she recorded her first double-double as a professional with a game-high 24 points and 10 rebounds.

The loss came at a particularly bad time for Washington, which now hits the road for games at Houston, Los Angeles and Phoenix in a three-day span starting Thursday.

“A loss is never the best way to go into anything,” Robinson said. “It’s definitely a wake-up call – we have to turn it up a couple of notches.”

Monday, June 26, 2006

WNBA: Mystics' Simple Plays Beat Sun

Guru's Note:

Due to our Sunday night stint on the sports desk here in Philadelphia, our Washington colleague Jonathan Tannenwald filed Sunday's game story between the Mystics and Connecticut Sun.

By Jonathan Tannenwald

_ Just over halfway through the second quarter Sunday night in the Verizon Center and with his team trailing the Washington Mystics by 12 points, Connecticut Sun coach Mike Thibault barked out the following order to his players: “MAKE SIMPLE PLAYS!”

Given that the Sun is in first place in the Eastern Conference, and came to Washington with five road wins under its belt already this season, it might seem surprising that the team was having trouble with such things as completing layups after driving to the basket.

But the Sun was indeed struggling, not least because the Mystics came out of the gate at full blast and with every intent of pounding the ball inside whenever possible.

And while Connecticut was able to claw its way to a 59-59 tie late in the third quarter, Washington seized control of the game back from there.

Thanks to a career high 25 points, ten rebounds and five assists from center Chastity Melvin, along with 16 points from point guard Nikki Teasley, the Mystics never gave up the lead and closed out a 87-80 win over the Sun.

“We knew with Delisha [Milton-Jones] out that we had to step it up as a team together, and I’m really proud that they all stepped it up,” Mystics coach Richie Adubato said.

Indeed, this was Washington’s first win since losing Milton-Jones to a sprained MCL on June 17.

But Melvin’s effort went a long way in making up for Milton-Jones’ absence, as did 10 points and a career high nine rebounds from forward Nakia Sanford.

“Chaz Melvin was terrific today on the offensive glass, the defensive glass and the low post, and she made a lot of big plays for us,” Adubato said. “I thought ‘Kia’ had her best game since I’ve been here.”

Mystics guard Alana Beard, who scored 15 points on the night, was happy to not be the center of attention.

“That was truly tremendous – Nakia Sanford and Chastity Melvin did an unbelievable job,” Beard said. “They did exactly what coach wanted them to do as far as pulling (Margo) Dydek out and attacking the goal aggressively,” Beard said of dealing with the Connecticut 7-fot-2 center.

Overall, Washington outscored Connecticut 48-34 in the paint.

On the defensive side, the trio of Melvin, Sanford and Crystal Robinson held Dydek to 3-of-8 shooting and forward Katie Douglas to 3-of-9 shooting. Furthermore, the Mystics outrebounded the Sun by a 36-28 margin.

“I was very proud of the energy and the intensity we played with our defense tonight.” Adubado said. “And to outrebound them was a terrific effort.”

This game was also the second of three over four days against Eastern Conference powers Detroit, Connecticut and Indiana, giving all four teams a chance to measure themselves as June comes to a close.

“Everybody’s fighting for home-court advantage, everybody’s fighting to make the playoffs,” Adubato said. “I think Connecticut is the premier team and Indiana, Detroit and us are going to be fighting it out for that home-court advantage” in the first round.

Thibault’s estimation was also simple.

“The conference is really good,” he said. “Indiana, Washington and Detroit have all been playing well and now New York’s starting to play good. So it’s going to be a dogfight.”

Nonetheless, Beard issued the following warning to the rest of the East while reflecting on Melvin’s night: “If she can bring that every single night, we’re going to be a dominant team,” Beard said.

Notes: As she has so often this season, Mystics guard Laurie Koehn left her mark on the game with a lone three-pointer with 7:31 remaining in the second quarter.

This prompted Thibault to shout, “Who’s guarding her?!,” which prompted a round of laughter from those members of the media seated within earshot of Thibault on press row.

Though Koehn, a former Kansas State star, was only averaging 2.7 points per game coming into Sunday night’s contest, Thibault is not the only coach in the league who has struggled with that question ... The announced crowd of 7,216 included University of Maryland women’s basketball coach Brenda Frese and a few of her players from the NCAA women's champion Terrapins, who were honored in a halftime ceremony.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

WNBA: Sun Dominates Boards and Lynx

By Mel Greenberg

— In the WNBA, games go on and teams run out of gas.

The Connecticut Sun, they just continue to run.

The defending Eastern Conference champions maintained a hold on first place in the current standings by racing from a 40-40 tie with five minutes remaining in the third quarter to an overwhelming 79-62 victory over the Minnesota Lynx Thursday night in the Mohegan Sun Arena.

“One thing about our team is when we get on a roll, we seem to have pretty long run some nights,” Connecticut coach Mike Thibault said of the 39-22 differential after the tie.

“Part of that is our conditioning,” Thibault added. “Part of that is because we’re playing at that fast pace. Teams that walk it up, can’t get long runs a lot of times. I think it’s because of the tempo we’re playing, we can get some of those runs.”

Minnesota coach Suzie McConnell Serio focused on a statistic beyond track meet basketball that led to her team’s demise.

“That was the difference in the game – the rebounding,” the former Olympic gold medalist and Penn State star said. “Getting outrebounded 50-31 makes all the difference in the world.

“We have that as an emphasis going into every game, taking control of the boards. We started out strong and made runs at them but they’re very talented.”

The inside force of 7-foot-2 Margo Dydek produced 16 points for the Sun (9-3), a scoring total matched on Connecticut’s perimeter attack by Lindsay Whalen. Ashja Jones, one of several former University of Connecticut stars on both sides Thursday night, added 13 points and 11 rebounds off the bench. Katie Douglas, who helped keep Minnesota rookie sensation Seimone Augustus below her average, added 12 points, and veteran forward Taj McWilliams-Franklin had eight points and 10 rebounds.

Augustus, the overall No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft out of Louisiana State in April, had 15 points, well below her 23.0 average. Former Kansas State star Nicole Ohlde added 16 points to the Lynx total as Minnesota dropped to 5-7 overall.

Former Florida star Vanessa Hayden also addressed the rebounding issue from Minnesota’s viewpoint.

“What made the rebounding difference was their tenacity,” Hayden said. “They wanted it. They kept going after it. They outhustled us. There’s no other way to describe it, being outhustled.”

Minnesota jumped to a 7-0 lead in the first four minutes before Connecticut struck back with a 16-4 scoring burst through the end of the quarter to take the lead.

After an early 16-16 tie in the second quarter, the Sun were on the run again to a 34-24 lead before settling for a 34-28 advantage at halftime.

An Augustus lay-up off a fast break brought Minnesota to a tie at 34-34 early in the third quarter and a few minutes later after a brief Connecticut lead, the Lynx got back to the final deadlock at 40-40 when Ohlde hit a 12-foot jumper.

Dydek, a native of Poland who was the No. 1 overall pick in the draft by the former Utah Starzz eight seasons ago, seems to be on the way to finally be recognized as one of the league’s top post players.

“It helps when you have true centers to play against for parts of the game,” Thibault said of Dydek and the matchups with her defenders. “Their (Minnesota’s) post players and Charlotte’s don’t take you out to 18-feet all night.

“She is more aggressive, offensively. I think she is happy and life is good so she is being aggressive,” Thibault said.

Dydek concurred. “It’s my game. Last year, I didn’t know what to expect. So I was just setting a screen and trying to run the team offense. Each game is different depending on how they are guarding me.”

McConnell Serio talked about Douglas’ defense of Augustus.

“That’s what Katie is known for,” the Minnesota coach said. “As soon as the shot goes up, she’s trying to find Seimone, denying her the basketball, trying to make it difficult. And she doesn’t allow easy looks (at the basket).

“At times we played into their hands and allowed her to take Seimone away.”

Douglas spoke of guarding one of the league’s top rookies.

“She is extremely long, extremely quick, athletic and has a variety of moves,” the former Purdue star said. “She is a rookie but definitely doesn’t play like it. She is obviously their go-to player. I just tried to let her catch it a little outside her range and just try to play off that. She is going to be a really good player in this league.”

McConnell Serio said Connecticut seems even better now than when the Sun beat the Lynx in Minneapolis earlier this season.

“They’re very good,” she observed. “Nykesha Sales, I just have a lot of respect for her game and she only has five (points), and Taj, another very good player, only had eight.

“Two players who are very key for them, you contain those two, but Lindsay got into the paint and into the free throw line. They shot 17 fouls, we only shot five.

“And there’s definitely a comfort level playing at home,” McConnell Serio said. “I’ve seen it all over the league.”

-- Mel

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

WNBA: Liberty Turn Mystics Aside

By Mel Greenberg

_ For the New York Liberty, Wednesday night’s encounter with the Washington Mystics in Madison Square Garden was not the usual business it has been to date for the revamped charter franchise during the current WNBA season.

New York quickly jumped to a nine-point lead in the early action in the opening quarter, which was not the first time the Liberty had moved to a commanding lead.

The differential expanded by as many as 16 points at 29-13 with 7 minutes, 1 second left in the second period before the Mystics rallied with a ferocious 19-5 run that got Washington to within a basket at 34-32as the half ended.

Blowing sizable leads is not new either these days with the Liberty.

However, what was different Wednesday was New York found a way to prevail in the closing minutes and emerged with a 72-66 victory to improve the Liberty’s woeful record at 3-9.

The Mystics fell to 7-4 and were denied a chance to move into a first-place tie in the Eastern Conference with idle Connecticut, which will host Minnesota Thursday night.

Becky Hammon led New York with 23 points, and Shameka Christon, who made some clutch shots with the outcome undetermined, scored 21 points and Barbara Farris scored 11.

The explosiveness on offense of Washington’s “Score Sisters” in the backcourt was reduced to a half by the Liberty defense. Alana Beard scored 20 points, but Nikki Teasley got a mere two points and was 0-for-7 from the field.

However Chasity Melvin managed to match Beard’s total on the inside with 20 points.

Washington played its first game without DeLisha Milton-Jones in the starting lineup since suffering a left knee injury that will keep the international star idle for a period of 6-to-8 weeks, according to team doctors.

“We were running in mud for whatever reason,” Washington coach Richie Adubato, a former head coach of the Liberty, said of the Mystics’ performance in the first quarter.

“Now you fight back, but you have to get out early, which we didn’t do,” Adubato said. “They made some tough shots. Shameka Christon made about four. She makes those when you leave your feet (defensively). We were supposed to stay down. Becky made a couple of tough runners.

“And then we had some chances down the other end, but we didn’t convert,” the Washington coach said. “We had a lot of stuff close to the basket, which we didn’t knock in.”

Of Milton’s absence, he observed,” A lot of things might happen differently with her in the game, but she wasn’t in the game, and we had our chances, but we got off to a bad start.”

Both teams shot 39 percent from the field and each committed just 10 turnovers.

The game also marked the first return to the Garden for Washington’s Crystal Robinson who signed as a free agent in the offseason after being a core player for the Liberty since the 2000 season.

Teasley said of the Mystics, “You could see what DeLisha brings to the table in another outside shooter and other rebounder. But we’re going to go back and watch the film.

“I know, I didn’t play well myself, personally. If we had one or two more players step up in DeLisha’s absence. We would have been all right.”

Beard added of the flat start, “You can’t do that on the road. It doesn’t matter which team it is. Every team in the WNBA is a prominent team and you can win in any given night. But the intensity effort and then, look at our free throws. We were 13 for 21 (New York was 18 for 21). If we could have made a few of those, we would have won the game.

“That’s where focus comes in,” Beard said. “And we didn’t have that.”

New York coach Pat Coyle was a little more upbeat than in recent Liberty postgame sessions.

“For about 33 minutes,” it was a pretty good game,” Coyle said. “We had some pretty good schemes and we executed a lot better tonight. We had a couple of mental breakdowns, but, fortunately, it wasn’t at the end of the game.”

Noting Washington’s burst toward the end of the first half, Coyle said, “They’re going to make runs. We never really relinquished the lead. Down the stretch (in the fourth quarter) we executed better. We got a couple of stops tonight, and that was the difference. We made two big stops at the end of the game.”

Christon beat the shot clock several times in the game from the outside.

“I see her do it in practice,” Hammon said. “I am not surprised. She had some buzzer beaters tonight. We really need that offense from here.”

Hammon, who called her team out after Friday night’s loss here to Houston in the fourth quarter, was able to speak in a more positive manner about beating the Mystics.

“We did a better job taking care of the ball,” Hammon said.”We stuck together. There were some times where we could have folded it in, but we did what we had to do to get that win.”

-- Mel

Saturday, June 17, 2006

WNBA:Mystics Duo Subdues Liberty

By Mel Greenberg

_ In the Atlantic Coast Conference, Duke’s Alana Beard and North Carolina’s Nikki Teasley were fierce opponents.

Now as teammates on the Washington Mystics they have become the “Score Sisters” as a backcourt duo that is firing up coach Richie Adubato’s offense.

The two put on an explosive show Saturday night in the Verizon Center with each collecting 26 points towards Washington’s 88-70 victory over the New York Liberty.

Teasley, who came to the Mystics in an offseason trade with the Los Angeles Sparks, was exceptionally deadly from the outside by connecting on 6 of 10 three pointers and her overall score was a career high.

But the giddiness of a 7-3 record, including 6-0 in the Verizon Center, was tempered by a left knee injury to forward DeLisha Milton-Jones, a member of the United States entry to the FIBA World Championships in September, who went to the sidelines with 1 minute, 11 seconds left in the half.

The injury was initially reported as a sprain but an MRI examination will determine the actual extent of the damage.

The former Florida star suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury to her right knee during the 2004 season and was unable to play in the Olympics in Athens.

“We don’t know about DeLisha right now,” Adubato said afterwards of one of his star players. “The doctor will know by Monday. It was a hard price to pay for a win. DeLisha is versatile and does everything on the floor.”

New York (2-9) recovered enough from Friday’s 72-56 loss to the Houston Comets in Madison Square Garden to be competitive most of the game. The Liberty had also lost here 95-60 last month at Washington’s season-opener.

On Saturday night, a narrow 65-59 deficit for New York at the end of the third quarter quickly deepened into another Washington route when the Mystics outran the Liberty to a 23-11 advantage over the final 10 minutes.

Beard, who had five steals in the game, scored 10 points in the final period when Teasley also connected on a pair of three pointers.

Shameka Christon scored 16 points to lead the Liberty, Becky Hammon scored 14. and Loree Moore scored 11 points.

“We just turned the ball over too much,” New York coach Pat Coyle said of New York’s four miscues in the final period. “One of the things going into tonight’s game was we wanted to take care of the ball.

“The first half, we did,” Coyle said. “I thought we played three good quarters. The last quarter killed us. We made a couple of mistakes on our part. And we made a couple of mistakes in transition, so it went from being 6 to 15 in a second.”

Coyle was equally complimentary of both Beard and Teasley.

“They’re both terrific players,” the former Rutgers star,who grew up in Philadelphia, said. “They each give you something different.”

Beard said of her involvement in the 1-2 scoring punch Saturday night, “We have so many people on this team who can score. Tonight was Nikki’s turn. Tonight was my turn. We made it happen. But we didn’t make it happen by ourselves.

“We had great teammates who got the ball inside and they kicked it back outside to us. And I think we played great team defense, offense, the whole way,” Beard said.

“All of my steals came from my teammates playing great defense,” Beard said of her interceptions, some of which were executed in the manner of swipes made by secondary players in football. “They were pressuring the ball. A lot of times I came from behind and got the steals because they were pressuring the ball. It wasn’t just me.”

Teasley spoke of playing in the backcourt with her former basketball enemy.

“Alana’s a ball of fire – I’m enjoying playing with her,” Teasley said. “Playing against her all those years was not fun. But this year, it’s a lot of fun. I actually look forward to getting up every morning and coming to my job because I love my teammates. We’re having fun together as friends and as a team.”

Teasley said there’s a reason for her career numbers with the Mystics this season as opposed to her previous life with the Sparks, when she helped give L.A. a WNBA title when she made a shot at the buzzer over New York in the second game of the 2002 championship series.

“In L.A., we were very, very talented with the lineup we had so I didn’t have to do very much,” Teasley said. “Here, coming in and being a veteran player I have to show some leadership on the flip side of being a rookie and having to follow.”

Washington’s next game will be at New York, Wednesday night.

-- Mel

WNBA: Comets Sear Liberty

By Mel Greenberg

_ Dawn Staley made her final team stop in the Big Apple Friday night and concluded business along with the Houston Comets on a winning note via 72-58 victory that was even more decisive than the final score over the New York Liberty indicates.

A closely fought first-half turned in the Comets direction in the closing minutes as Houston broke from a 31-31 deadlock on a 6-0 run to a 37-31 advantage.

The final two points in that sequence were obtained with a lay-up by Sheryl Swoopes a mini-second before time expired enabled the veteran superstar to cross the 4,000-point career plateau.

Swoopes, earlier this week, was named to the all-decade team in the WNBA along with Staley and the Comets’ Tina Thompson and former Houston great Cynthia Cooper.

Thompson finished with 22 points, and Dominique Canty, a strong candidate for most-improved-player in the WNBA, scored 16 points. Michelle Snow added 15 to the Houston total and Staley, who also coaches Temple in Philadelphia, dealt nine assists.

Rookie Sherrill Baker led the Liberty with 12 points, and Shameka Christon and Becky Hammon each scored 11 points.

Considering Houston’s 8-3 record against New York’s 2-8 mark, the game completed a 2-0 sweep for the Comets, who probably won’t see the Liberty if they gain the playoffs and advance to the championship round.

Staley will be back here, however, to be honored along with her two current Comets teammates of equal stature in early July as part of the official tribute to the all-decade squad during the all-star festivities.

Conceivably all three will be part of the Western Conference lineup in the actual game itself on July 12 in Madison Square Garden.

Staley talked about her New York experience prior to Friday night’s tip-off.

“The Garden is probably one of the gyms that I’ll probably miss the most playing, just the atmosphere, just the historical moments that have happened here for me as a player, as well as NBA players – (Michael) Jordan scoring 55 points in his comeback.

“I’m sad this is probably my last moment to come here and play.”

Staley did not need more than a split second to name her favorite moment in the years she visited New York.

“2001!” she said of the Eastern Conference championship when Staley, then with the Charlotte Sting, was part of a comeback from an 0-1 start in the best-of-three series that produced two road wins over the Liberty and a spot in the WNBA championship eventually won by the Los Angeles Sparks.

“That is by far the most --- it was unheard of at that time because they (New York) played so well in front of their home crowds. But we were destined to win it,” Staley said of a season that began with a 1-10 start.

“The strange thing about the Garden is it can be good or bad for you as a visiting team,” Staley said. “Sometimes you could get on a roll, and get wins as we did that year.”

She also recalled her rivalry with former New York point guard Teresa Weatherspoon, who spent most of her career with the Liberty before moving to the Los Angeles Sparks for the 2004 season.

“She’s a pioneer in this league and we don’t want to forget about what her contributions are to this league and this organization,” Staley said of the former Olympian and Louisiana Tech star.

“I always anticipated our matchups when I was in Charlotte and she was here. That was just great basketball – two point guards trying to control their teams and get wins.”

Houston is getting wins in bunches this season as the Comets attempt to send Staley out on a championship note.

“We just continue to shoot the ball really well,” Comets coach Van Chancellor said of Friday night’s 52.6 percent effort from the field. New York shot 37.1 percent.

“We had just come off a great big game against Sacramento,” Chancellor, the only WNBA original coach still in the league, said. “I was worried about a letdown. New York was so hot to start the game. I didn’t think they were going to miss a shot.”

Staley echoed Chancellor afterwards.

“We’re playing well,” she said. “We have a lot of firepower, New York’s a young team, they’re taking their hits now, but when they get it together, they’ll put together a couple of wins.”

She also praised Canty’s performance.

“Dominique’s been a key for us during this stretch. She’s another point guard on the floor. She does things that no one else on our team can do like create her own shot.

“To me she’s our unsung hero,” Staley said. “I’m always talking about her everytime we play because she brings a different dimension.”

Staley said New York’s biggest problem is a lack of chemistry caused by the loss of four starters through free agency from last season’s roster.

“You took away the core of a team that was used to playing with one another and knowing their tendencies. You’re going to miss that,” Staley said. “They chose to go in this direction. You pretty much have to let it work its way through.”

Hammon, however, isn’t looking for excuses and was visibly quite distressed at the Liberty’s performance.

“Not a lot of good things happened out there,” Hammon said of the collapse in the third and fourth quarters. “We started breaking down offensively and defensively. We’ve been talking about this snowball effect – It’s just started snowing.

“You just can’t have that kind of effort at home,” she added. “You can’t make excuses. You gotta go out there and win. You gotta go out there and compete. And we’re not competing. We’re not competing.

“It’s that simple. We have to find a way within this locker room to figure this out,” Hammon said. “We have a great crowd on a Friday night. You’re playing the frigging Houston Comets. You get a chance to play against three of the best players in the world. It’s got to get your engine going.

“We just got to pick each other up. We just got to pick each other up and pick each other up until we stand on our two feet.”

However, looking to keep New York under wraps Saturday night are the hot Washington Mystics, who will be a little rested after a season-first road win Thursday night in Charlotte.

The Mystics will be looking for a 1-2 punch for future tie-breaking advantages, if necessary, after a win earlier this season over the Liberty. The two teams will meet again here Wednesday night.

-- Mel

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

WNBA: Mystics Buzz Charlotte Sting Remain Perfect 5-0 at Home

By Mel Greenberg

On a night when the suspense ended over who would be named to the WNBA’s All-Decade Team, the No. 1 question early in the Washington Mystics-Charlotte Sting encounter here was whether the Mystics might finally be prevented from reaching 90 points in the Verizon Center.

The answer is it didn’t happen, but an explosive second half, especially in the fourth quarter, brought Washington close enough.

Down 37-34 at the half, the Mystics reverted to their dominate home-court performance this season and raced to an 87-70 victory to stay perfect at 5-0 in the nation’s capital.

The 33 points in the fourth quarter matched a season high for a period that was set by Minnesota on June 2 in the third quarter of the Lynx’s league-record 114-71 triumph.

Of course, there’s still that nasty little difficulty winning on the road, which Washington will have to solve at some juncture to become a solid challenger to the Connecticut Sun in the Eastern Conference.

Perhaps that might happen on Thursday when the Mystics visit Charlotte for the second time this season. The Sting left here with some critical wounds when Penn State alum Helen Darling pulled a hamstring and Rutgers alum Tammy Sutton-Brown suffered a bruised right knee in the first half.

“In the first half, it was not a very good example of Mystics basketball,” Washington coach Richie Adubato said afterwards. “We tried to go one-on-one too much. We didn’t execute our offense, so therefore we wound up taking a lot of shots that were off-balance and weren’t the type of shots we want to take.”

The Mystics had four players score in double figures with Nikki Teasley pouring 19 points and dealing six assists, DeLisha Milton-Jones and Alana Beard adding 18 points, each, and Chasity Melvin getting 14 points off a perfect 3 for 3 from the field and 8 for 8 from the foul line, while also grabbing six rebounds.

Melvin, Milton-Jones, and Teasley each scored eight points in the decisive 33-18 fourth quarter.

“Chas had a very effective game for us, inside and out,” Adubato said of the former Cleveland Rocker who came to the Mystics in 2004 after that franchise folded. “Once we started executing, then DeLisha, Alana Beard and Nikki Teasley were able to shoot a high percentage.”

Tangela Smith led the Sting with 24 points and LaToya Bond scored 12 points as Charlotte fell to 2-5.

“The second half, I thought we turned it up a notch, defensively,” Adubato said. “We forced 26 turnovers (overall). That’s aggressiveness. That’s getting after the ball, that’s getting over screens, that’s putting a lot of pressure on the ball.

“Smith had a very good game and hurt us in transition.”

Adubato praised Crystal Robinson, the one starter who wasn’t in double figures.

“Crystal Robinson only scored two points, but she was incredibly good, defensively,: he said of the veteran who played for him with the New York Liberty. “If you watched her, first we had her on (Sherri) Sam, then we put her on (rookie Monique) Currie, then we put her on (Kelly) Mazzante.

“She just plays her heart out. You can’t pick her, she’s over every screen, you can’t get a shot off of her, and then she’s also stealing the ball or is responsible for some deflections that result in turning over the ball that turns into steals.”

Now the Mystics will try to steal another from Charlotte before returning here for Saturday’s game against the New York Liberty.

- Mel

(Note: The Guru’s All-Decade story is over on Philly.com after also appearing in the print edition of the Inquirer’s sports section.)

Friday, June 09, 2006

WNBA: Sun Weathers Storm

By Mel Greenberg

A wrapped up game kept threatening to get unwrapped again at home for the Connecticut Sun Friday night, but this time coach Mike Thibault’s bunch managed to hold firm at the finish and the result was an impressive 85-81 triumph against the Seattle Storm in a WNBA game between cross-conference rivals.

With memories of a recent 77-73 overtime debacle in the Mohegan Sun Arena against the Detroit Shock, Sun fans had reasons to squirm when Seattle kept threatening in the closing minute to force an extension.

That setback has been the Sun’s only loss in seven games this season.

This time, however, Connecticut made good on fouls shots, courtesy of point guard Lindsay Whalen, who made 7 of 8 in the final minute to hold Seattle off, while Katie Douglas connected on both her attempts.

“I had two coaching friends die in the last 48 hours,” Thibault said afterwards. “It must have been from watching games like this.”

For the most part, however, Thibault was pleased with the performance of his defending Eastern Conference champions, especially with the absence of starting forward Taj McWilliams-Franklin who is in Italy for the high school graduation of her daughter Michele. She’ll also miss Sunday’s key match here against the vastly improved Washington Mystics.

“Considering we shot 41 percent, pretty good win,” Thibault said. “No Taj. Our bench struggled scoring, although I thought they played well defensively.

“Up until the end of the game, I thought we did a pretty good job on their scorers (Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson). It’s a great win.”

The Storm, who fell to 4-4, were without former Sun player Wendy Palmer, who is sidelined with a partial tear of a left Achilles.

Jackson, a former league MVP, had been averaging 22 points per game, but scored 17 and was 6 for 17 from the field. Sue Bird, one of several former University of Connecticut stars in the contest, had been averaging 10.9 points, but scored just four and was 1 for 9 from the field. She did deal 10 assists, however.

Janell Burse, left open at times while the Sun concentrated on the other scorers, had 23 points and 14 rebounds. Betty Lennox added 12 points and rookie Barbara Turner, another former UConn star, scored 13 points starting in place of Palmer.

The former Tulane star had to battle Connecticut’s 7-foot-2 center Margo Dydek.

Connecticut had a balanced attack with all five starters scoring in double figures.

Dydek, who struggled in the first half with three personal fouls, had 14 points and 12 rebounds. Katie Douglas had a team-high 18 points, while Nykesha Sales and Whalen each scored 17 points, and Whalen also dished nine assists. Asjha Jones contributed 14 points.

Thibault, specifically praised the work of Douglas, who also was a key factor in defending the Storm most of the night.

“She’s an all-star,” Thibault said of the former Purdue all-American. “I want someone to tell me who in the East is playing better than her.”

Douglas credited the entire squad for the win.

“We’re a very solid team and tonight we had a lot of different people in double figures,” Douglas said. “We kept them at bay for a very long time, especially at the end. If Seattle had more time, you never know what could have happen.”

Throughout the night the Connecticut faithful in the seats among the crowd of 8,138 fretted at times over what dismal thing might occur.

The Sun surged to a 14-4 lead in the first quarter and increased it to 14 points just before Seattle scored on Turner’s 12-footer to make it 25-13 at the end of the quarter.

Seattle coach Anne Donovan, who will also coach the U.S. Olympic team in 2008 in Beijing, China, cited that deficit as the cause of her team’s demise.

“We stayed behind for so long that when we really tried to get after it and get a win, it was too late,” Donovan said.

“Connecticut’s too good to just fold. It took us too long to find a rhythm, a groove and the fight.”

Burse said there was nothing mysterious about the Sun’s defense. “We just didn’t do a good job of handling it tonight.”

Her lay-up with 6 minutes, 51 seconds left in the second quarter, closed the gap to six points at 29-23. But the Sun recovered to go ahead by as many as 11 points before holding a 38-29 lead at the half.

In the third quarter, Sales hit a trey and Connecticut was in solid control at 50-35 with 6:18 left in the period.

However, in the closing minute, Lennox hit a three-foot shot to finish a 5-0 run and the Storm trailed by a mere six points at 61-55 at the end of the period.

In the fourth quarter, Dydek helped Connecticut gain another solid advantage with a layup that made it 70-57 with 5:06 left.

But then, just as Detroit had done here on Memorial Day weekend, Seattle began to slice into Connecticut’s differential and with 3:11 left in the game Jackson nailed a trey to make it 72-67.

The Sun then twice stretched its lead to seven points, but a Burse three-pointer with 19 seconds left in the game had the Storm very much alive, trailing 81-78.

“When that bank three went in, I was beginning to wonder,” Thibault said of which way the game would play out. “I know Burse had been working on her jump shot, but I know she doesn’t practice a lot of those.”

The game was then put in the hands of Douglas on the foul line.

Unlike the Detroit loss in which she missed a foul shot in the last minute, Douglas made both that gave Sun enough points to prevail in regulation.

“We came together at the end,” Whalen said. “Everyone who went out there played hard.

“It’s a big win for us. We knew that at each end we had to set a pace,” Whalen added. “When you’re down by eight or nine with two minutes to go, teams know that’s their last push. So they come out and start shooting threes and crashing the boards.

“That’s something we’ll focus on tomorrow (Sunday) and for the rest of the season. We have to know we’ll be able to close games like that. So that’s going to be a key for us,” Whalen said.

“To come in here and do that against players that they have and the team they have, it’s a huge win for us.”

-- Mel

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

WNBA: Mystics Blitz Comets

Guru's Note:

Jonathan Tannenwald, a recent graduate of Penn who helped us down here, where he lives, last summer, was on hand Tuesday night to help report this story.

By Mel Greenberg

_ Houston Comets all-star point guard Dawn Staley made her final regular appearance as a player in the nation’s capital Tuesday night and wound up with her teammates buried in a rush hour attack by the Washington Mystics.

This was no slowdown, however. Quite the opposite. The speedy Mystics raced from a 5-5 tie early in the first quarter to never trail again on the way to a 93-79 triumph.

By halftime Washington held a 55-44 lead off some sizzling shooting, missing only 11 shots.

The victory also stopped Houston’s five-game win streak.

The Mystics, especially with the addition of point guard Nikki Teasley on the perimeter and substitute forward Latasha Byears adding some inside muscle, have become a scoring machine with points reaching the 90s in all four wins _ a first for the franchise that joined the league in 1998.

Alana Beard topped Washington with 22 points, Chasity Melvin scored 14 points, DeLisha Milton Jones had 12 points, and Teasley had 11 points and connected on 3 of 5 attempted treys.

Houston, which was without all-star veteran Sheryl Swoopes because of a back injury suffered in Sunday’s game against Minnesota, also had a balanced attack with four players in double figures.

Roneeka Hodges made up for Swoopes’ absence with 21 points, and she was 5 of 7 on three-point attempts. Tina Thompson added 19 points, Dominque Canty scored 17 points, and Michelle Snow scored 12. Staley had a pair of assists in 20 minutes.

Several months after the University of Maryland, located across the border in College Park, captured its first NCAA women’s title, talk is starting to focus on the Mystics capturing the pro women’s basketball championship.

“Are you asking me can they win it all?” Houston coach Van Chancellor said. “Yes they can.

“They are just really hard for us to defend,” Chancellor said. “They just shoot the ball well. Coach (Richie) Adubato really runs some good stuff. They run it. They run it through.

“I want to give them all the credit,” Chancellor said.

He noted that the Mystics blasted Houston’s ability to defend after the Comets had held opponents to a 64.3 average before Tuesday night.

“I can’t remember the last time the Comets gave up 93,” Chancellor. “They didn’t miss many shots tonight, so they didn’t have many offensive rebounds for second chance points. They’ve executed as well as any team I’ve seen offensively in a long, long, time.”

Chancellor refused to used Swoopes’ absence as a reason for Houston’s problems.

“I don’t want to take anything away,” Chancellor said. “But at the same time you can’t win one of the premier defensive players in this league and not have that affect you. But I don’t think that would have meant the difference in the game. I don’t think she could have guard Milton, Melvin, Beard, (Crystal) Robinson, and Teasley at the same time.”

Adubato, however, said Washington was able to advantage of Swoopes' absence.

"We got a break with Swoopes not being here," Adabuto said. "Obviously Sheryl Swoopes on this team (Houston), this is a very good team.

"That’s why they lost their first and won five in a row. We got a break tonight, we got a break against Detroit, and I’ll take it any time we can get it," Adubato added.

"’m not one of these coaches that has to worry about who’s here and who isn’t here. We’ve got to play against who’s here and we’ve got to do the best we can."

Chancellor said the Mystics speedy offenses are not necessarily a result of the new rule that reduced the shot clock from 30 seconds to 24.

“They don’t need a 24-second clock the way they play,” Chancellor said. “The way they get up and down, they just play. We’ve coached against him (Adubato when he was with the New York Liberty) in playoffs and everything.

“I don’t think nobody is better that Richie is with his offensive sets,” Chancellor said. “He’s an excellent coach there.”

Teasley, who came back to her home area from the Los Angeles Sparks in an offseason trade, said the Mystics this season remind her of the two Sparks title teams in 2001 and 2002.

“When we won with L.A., we were pretty athletic and pretty fast up and down the floor, but definitely you see some comparisons with this team,” Teasley said. “We’re just all excited and playing for each other. It tends to be fun to watch.”

Beard gushed over the Mystics versatility.

“One through 11, everyone can score,” the former Duke star said. “We had 25 assists on 22 baskets, that just shows a sign of a good team.”

She also talked about Teasley’s showtime behind-the-back passes and other skills.

“Hey, it’s contagious,” Beard said. “Nikki Teasley brings all that stuff in so everybody wants to look like Nikki Teasley.”

Adubato said the high-octane attack by both teams was not caused by mediocre defenses.

“You had two good defenses, but had them playing against two individual teams that were on fire,” the veteran coach said. “That’s why you have these numbers, it wasn’t for lack of hustle, or lack of pride in your defense, both teams were just shooting well.”

The Mystics's 4-1 start is quite different than last season's early struggle to a 2-5 record.

"We made some additions," Adubato said. "Obviously Byears was a good addition, Crystal Robinson was a good addition, Teasley was a good addition. And now we rebound better because Nakia Sanford’s playing better so we have Sanford and Byears coming off the bench along with Melvin up front. And we’re better defensively... and DeLisha Milton is a much better 4 than she was a 3, as you can see."

"And then I think individually, we’re better defensively," Adubato added also addressed the reduction of the shot clock to 24 seconds in terms of his team.

It helps us better defensively," Adubato said, "but it hasn’t helped us offensively. The one negative that we have is that we don’t get into our offense fast enough, so we can’t get into our second, third and fourth options. That’s an area we have to work on."

Staley talked about her last regular Washington visit before the game, but noted that the two could meet again here before the dust settles.

“Someone told me it was going to be a Houston-Washington final,” Staley said.

“But as far as some great memories here, the fans were always appreciative of good basketball. Always. No matter who was coming in here, they love their Washington Mystics, but also the opponents who come in here and play good basketball. They clap and they cheer although they love the Mystics.”

-- Mel

Friday, June 02, 2006

WNBA: Staley vs. Dupree - The Guru's Cut

By Mel Greenberg

_ A four-season bond between Temple coach Dawn Staley and all-America center Candice Dupree in Philadelphia helped bring the Owls into national prominence.

On Friday night in the Toyota Center, however, the two were opposing warriors in a WNBA game between Staley’s Houston Comets and Dupree’s Chicago Sky, which is in its first season in the league.

The teacher’s team was the best Friday night with a 71-60 triumph that was Houston’s fourth straight after a season-opening loss to the San Antonio Silver Stars.

Conversely, the setback was the Sky’s fourth straight after a season-opening triumph in Charlotte against the Sting, although Chicago made things interesting in the closing minutes after shaving 21-deficit to just seven before the rally died.

It’s the first time in the WNBA a collegiate head coach went up against one of her former players.

Because Staley and Dupree play different positions _ Staley being an internationally-acclaimed point guard and Dupree an all-America center _ the two were involved in different traffic patterns during their time together on the court.

However, the two were very much aware of each other’s presence in the game and afterwards Staley mixed criticism with praise of the WNBA rookie’s effort.

“I think Candice is too lax, too lax,” Staley said. “And when she gets used to playing in this league, she’s going to have to be a little more aggressive and little more selfish, but not in a bad way.

“She just kind of goes with the flow and let’s the game come to her,” Staley observed. “She’s got to get a different mentality. Tina’s (Houston’s Tina Thompson) got that mentality, (the Los Angeles Sparks’) Lisa Leslie’s got that mentality, where they’re just going to go at you, and that’s what they did.

“But she can hold her own,” Staley continued. “She just needs that extra umph.”

However, Staley was reminded she was caught smiling on the bench when Dupree, who had seven points and six rebounds, nailed an outside shot during the third quarter.

“That’s my baby, that’s my baby,” Staley said with a laugh. “Tina said she had to get her back, though.”

Dupree also had a bit of chuckle when asked afterwards about the difference between Temple, where she had dominated the Atlantic Ten Conference on the way to three NCAA appearances. And Chicago, where she is the overall No. 6 pick in the first round of the WNBA draft.

“Well, it’s different for me because we’re not winning,” Dupree said. “But this is all part of being an expansion team. Chemistry is a big factor. We’re still working on that, figuring out who can start off games, who can finish games, what type of plays to run, so it’s different. But we’re trying to get used to it.”

As to Staley’s comments after the game, Dupree shrugged and said, “I’m sure I’ll hear about it once I get out of here. She was talking to me on the floor, too.”

The two arrived at the arena at about the same time Friday night and when a reporter from Philadelphia who was between them in the tunnel approached Dupree, her former coach yelled over, “Don’t go telling any lies about me.”

Dupree, who has come a long way from her media-shy early seasons at Temple, quickly shot back, “She’s been talking a bunch of crap since she found out what team I was going to.”

On Thursday night after Chicago arrived in town, the two dined together at nationally-known Asian restaurant.

“I paid,” Staley beamed about who picked up the tab. “It’s legal now for me to pay, now, right? She didn’t get her first check yet. She’s making more money than me.”

Staley is in the final season of a prolific career that began at Dobbins High in Philadelphia and has included three Olympic gold medals, all-star accolades in the WNBA and former American Basketball League, an two national player-of-the-year awards in the early 1990s when she led Virginia to three straight NCAA Women’s Final Four appearances.

“I’m happy, though, that I get a chance to play against her,” Staley said of matching up with Dupree. “I’m happy that I’ve played long enough to see someone come through our program at Temple and become a professional.”

Dupree said the biggest change from college in the pro leagues was “it’s much more physical here.”

Nevertheless, Stacey Dales-Schumann, a former star guard at Oklahoma who came out of retirement to sign with the Sky, praised Dupree’s performance in the early season.

“She’s a terrific teammate,” Dales-Schumann said. “She’s as smooth as anyone I’ve seen in the WNBA. When she competes, she takes her time. I think she has some of the best hands I’ve played with.

“Chamique Holdsclaw had incredible hands (when the two were in Washington). Candice has some pretty good hands.”

The two meet again in Chicago on July 14.

Staley’s farewell tour will take her to Washington, Tuesday night, where the Comets’ game against the Mystics will be the first of three final visits to the East Coast, unless Houston and one of those teams – potentially Connecticut – would meet in the WNBA finals.

- Mel

Guru's Quick News and Notes

By Mel Greenberg

HOUSTON _ Hello all.

Yes, the Guru is on the scene for Friday night's WNBA encounter between the Houston Comets and expansion Chicago Sky which will create the unique opposition of point guard Dawn Staley on the Comets against rookie Candice Dupree of the sky.

It's unique in that it's the first time a college head coach in the league such as Staley is with Temple will go against a former player such as Dupree is with Chicago.

But it has been pointed out to us among a burst of emails emating from the blackberry once our plane touched down this morning that we've already had a college coach, per se, matchup against a former player.

That event happpened also with the Comets involved in 2001 when Coquese Washington, who was also a Notre Dame assistant, represented Houston, and former Irish star Niele Ivy played for the Indiana Fever.

Also, a fan of Dupree's is Rhode Island, who I believe one time was an assistant coach at Temple and is now with the Rams, noted that Dupree's injury her freshman season was to her foot, not shoulder, as we mentioned in print.

Furthermore, it might be in Saturday's print story, since I saved this fact, Staley has already played against a former player in 2004 in Athens when the USA squad meet Greece, who had Athena Christoforakis, one of Staley's first players who helped a quick turnaround of the Owls.

Among the crowd with mixed emotions will be members of Staley's staff -- Mary Wooley and Lisa Boyer, along with former Dupree teammate Stacey Smalls, now an assistant with La Salle, and Natalia Isaac, who recently left the Temple operations position to pursue business opportunities.

Sorry for the senior moments, but maybe a certain person will check in here soon with another younger moments of commentary to answer the number of requests for such commentary, if you all can read between the lines.

In other news involving Staley, the Guru has finally heard from our neighbors at the umbrella Philly.com, so work will begin next week on a Staley page to track her last season.

The guru has already collected a dozen tributes or so from players and coaches to be housed on such a page that will eventually be a grand central terminal link to other places such as the Comets, Virginia, Temple, USA Basketball, etc., who all want to weigh in with something as Dawn's final season as a player winds down.

We'll be in Washington Tuesday night for Staley's final appearance in the nation's capital where Jonathan Tannenwald, now a Penn grad, may make his first contribution to our efforts since last summer.

Discussions are nearing a close to formally announce the USBWA's Maggie Dixion Award.

OK, time to leave this lovely view high atop the Hilton Hotel just around the corner from the Toyota Center and head to the arena to set up for the printed pages in Saturday's Inquirer.

-- Mel