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Women's Hoops Blog

Jayda Evans covers college and pro women's basketball. While its her first year on the Washington beat, she has covered the Storm since its inception. She'll offer observations, critiques, occasional off-beat tales and answers to select e-mail inquires. Evans also has written a book on the Storm and women's hoops, called "Game On!"

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July 25, 2008 6:32 PM

Mercury game thread

Posted by Jayda Evans

REALLY OVER: Storm lost 94-80 to finish the road trip at 2-2. It's not what they wanted, but still an improvement on the 1-6 showing prior to this big stint away from KeyArena. The team will wrap up play before the break with a matchup against Sacramento on Sunday.

GAME OVER: Don't like to do this, but Taurasi just hit one of those three-pointers where the ball doesn't even touch the net as it floats through with grace, making it apparent this is not the Storm's night. The three-pointers, especially the ones Miller gets on the third offensive rebound, are really hurting Seattle. Anyway, the Storm trails 80-66 with 6:33 left in the game.

SMITH DOWN: Griffith went for a clean steal and was fouled by Smith, her third. But both went tumbling to the court and Smith has yet to get up. Agler mentioned prior to the game that Smith plans to have surgery on her knee during the Olympic break. It wasn't confirmed by Mercury PR, so we'll see. She walked off on her own. Phoenix is up 72-62 with 8:59 remaining in the game. UPDATE: Smith gave a quizzical look when asked if she'd have surgery on her knee during the break, "No! Where did you hear that?" she said after the game. She's had problems during her 11-year career in the league, but will use the break to get some rest like everyone else.

CAGED BIRD: The focus of Phoenix's defense has turned to Bird, who is 1-of-7 from the field and just turned the ball over with a travel call.

GO YO: Griffith was 0-for-4 from the field in the opening half, but she's acting like she took a little swig of the youth juice at the half to help the Storm. She's scored 12 of her 14 in the third, but Phoenix's quick scoring keeps teetering the lead from a one-point deficit to the current 72-61 at the end of the quarter. Seattle is really going to have to play strong defense and hit shots in order to pull this out -- duh!

EASY ELY: Ely was open under the hoop for a bucket from Griffith to tie the score at 54 points apiece with 4:54 remaining in the third. The hot shooting for Phoenix has cooled. Actually it's turned comical as both Taurasi and Pondexter have had shots go in the basket only to rim out in that agonizing way -- if you're a Phoenix fan. The Mercury is shooting 40 percent from the field to Seattle's 44.7.

GETTING CLOSER: A huge block by Cash on Taurasi was muddled by a made Miller three-pointer, but the Storm is still inching back into the game. They're down 52-48 with 6:51 remaining in the third quarter, using an 11-3 run to make this interesting. Forgot to mention, but the Mercury s playing zone on the Storm and did so in the opening half, too.

QUICK TIMEOUT: The Storm made the opening two baskets of the second half, looking like the team that won eight of its past nine games, so Phoenix coach Corey Gaines called time. Play is resuming now and Seattle is down 47-37 to open the third quarter.

SPOTTED: Former Storm original Charmin Smith is watching the game. Somewhere Chelle Thompson is in the building, too. The Storm just closed the half down 47-33, stopping the Mercury from making the score worse, but unable to convert on the offensive end to cut more into the deficit.

HOT MERCURY: It was about 113 degrees today in Phoenix and I'd say the baskets for the Mercury are even hotter. The team is shooting 51.9 percent from the field, helping them take a 42-27 lead with 2:44 remaining in the second quarter. The Storm inched as close as eight points, but the hot shooting is burying them. Agler has rotated in everyone but Kelly Santos and Kristen O'Neill and can't find the right defensive combination.

THE OTHERS: Storm coach Brian Agler was concerned about stars Taurasi and Pondexter, but he really was bothered by the thought of what Miller, Smith, and Kelly Mazzante would do to his tea,. Well, they're playing big roles in the Mercury leading 26-14. Manzzante hit a key basket during a run and Smith is 3-of-4 from the filed while Miller is 2-for-3. For the Storm, Shyra Ely is playing well off the bench, but the Storm is still making small errors that have led to the first-quarter deficit (26-17).

LITTLE IS BIG: The Storm is down 16-8, but Little is starting off hot again. She has six of Seattle's opening eight points. Cash commented that the team needs to start games like she does -- fully of energy. And the Storm doesn't look relaxed, but all the sun could have played a factor in them getting into the game. Bird is sporting a nice tan and Katie Gearlds has pink legs and arms.

The Mercury has been traveling and didn't have much media availability, so star Diana Taurasi hasn't had much time to comment about the scuffle between Los Angeles and Detroit on Tuesday. And she didn't hold back on Friday.

Taurasi loved the fight, of course, saying with a huge smile, "You definitely have to keep your cool, but who doesn't like watching a nice fight? It's acceptable in every other sport -- football, hockey they're like go ahead and punch it out and cool down. Everybody needs a cool down. There's nothing wrong with that. It's sport and sometimes it gets to that point. Not everyone is a saint, it's unfortunate, but it happens. What are you going to do? Shutdown the league? Shutdown the studio like Puffy?"

But the suspensions? Well, she's right in line with many who posted on this blog. Taurasi was extra hyped about the disparity because she received two games in 2007 for verbally accosting an official. As a reminder, Los Angeles players Lisa Leslie, DeLisha Milton-Jones, and Candace Parker were suspended one game for throwing punches.

"The suspensions were crap," Taurasi said. "I get two games for doing nothing and you've got people punching people and they get one game? To me, that's not justice."

Taurasi and her team have bigger issues, however. The defending champions are 3-7 in their past 10 games, last in the Western Conference. Taurasi said the team losing focus for stretches during games and didn't want to deny the impact the loss of Australian Penny Taylor has this season. Taylor is missing at least the opening half of the season to prepare for the Olympics with her national team.

With the loss of the Aussies -- Seattle is without Lauren Jackson for two more games -- Seattle guard Sue Bird expects the Mercury to start with zone coverage then switch to a lot of man-to-man. Seattle is starting guard Tanisha Wright again because forward Sheryl Swoopes is out with a pulled right hamstring.

Swoopes said the injury feels better than it did on Thursday, but not well enough to play.

Here are your starting lineups:

F Camille Little
F Swin Cash
C Yolanda Griffith
G Tanisha Wright
G Sue Bird

F Diana Taurasi
F Le'Coe Willingham
C Tangela Smith
G Cappie Pondexter
G Kelly Miller

Tonight's lovely officials are Sue Blauch, Michael Price, and Jeffery Smith.

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July 25, 2008 8:43 AM

Mailbag: Thoughts on the melee

Posted by Jayda Evans

The WNBA has turned into a circus. How else do you explain the aftermath from the melee in Detroit?

A one-game suspension for Los Angeles rookie Candace Parker? Watch the entire game and she sneakily started the whole thing by irritating Shock forward Cheryl Ford way before Plenette Pierson mowed Parker over and escalated the tension into a pseudo-brawl.

But wait, glance at the Sparks schedule and it seemingly becomes clear why she was really only suspended one game. Los Angeles plays at New York tonight, and Parker is the reason most teams have at least one guaranteed sellout this season. Think the WNBA is going to let L.A'.s only trip to the Big Apple pass without Parker on the court? Nope. So, some weak reasoning is given in a teleconference call by league officials and - presto! - Parker will suit up at the historic Madison Square Garden while Pierson continues to serve her four-game suspension.

What a joke.

Only it all doesn't stop there.

Playing a televised game on ESPN2 with an understaffed squad, Detroit coach Bill Laimbeer decides he needs more help on the bench. Of course, that means signing the best option out there to a seven-day contract. And that player is 50-year-old Nancy Lieberman, who hasn't played in the league in a decade? Somewhere Kimberly Beck, Doneeka Lewis, and Sharnee' Zoll just punched a wall.

Again, instead of showing professionalism, the WNBA acts desperate for attention. Are you really telling me that you need to vacuum the dust, mothballs, and cobwebs off Lieberman to get people to watch? Her playing was an insult to Houston's Tina Thompson, and the Shock's own Deanna Nolan and Katie Smith, who could have finally received some attention. But no, they're overshadowed by a sideshow.

But back to the suspensions. Storm forward Sheryl Swoopes agreed they weren't right, wanting more equality between the teams, since the actions were the same. Or worse when it came to DeLisha Milton-Jones hitting a coach - which should never happen.

Robin Roberts, co-anchor of Good Morning America who'll be honored with the WNBA's 2008 Inspiration Award on July 30, reflected on her own pop to a player's nose while playing in college because the officials didn't make a call when the opponent was swatting at her face.

"The player was all in my grill, so I put the ball under my arm, reared back and popped her," she said in a phone interview. "But in the heat of the moment, you're never supposed to let a team get to you, let them see you sweat. That was the last time that it happened and I think it helped me be a little calmer when I'm on air and the things that I do."

Roberts, a former WNBA commentator, also doesn't believe it's a good publicity move. I agree, even though others see the melee as some kind of turning point for the WNBA. Clearly these are the people that don't attend or watch games on television. You don't need a fight to see passion from the players. Just watch them go for a rebound or how excited a Diana Taurasi gets after a third consecutive three-pointer.

As a regular viewer, lack of passion is the furthest thought when thinking of the WNBA for me. Those who want it seem to not understand sport in the first place. They want fringe stories, like extramarital affairs, doping, and player brushes with the law. Not that you can ignore these stories when they happen with the athletes, but opposing sides hating each other is only going to make me tune in more when it comes to boxing. Otherwise, yes, I want a heated rivalry, but I want one side to defeat the other with acrobatic play, trash talk, aggressiveness, and have it all be monitored by officials who aren't afraid to make the call.

I don't even mind Detroit's style of play before the melee. In fact, I like the tough, bullying aspect. Especially against a princess rookie whose red carpet walk to the Rookie of the Year award now needs to be in question because of her lack of conduct.

Players need to keep their cool. And if they can't, the league should punish them equally.

"When I woke up that morning and saw the replays, I was like, 'Come on, no, we don't need this'" Roberts said. "The players, game, and league is better than this. And I understand about being passionate and in the heat of the moment, but eyes are on them. You can't give people ammunition [because] they want to see the league fail. Is that fair? No, but that's just how it is. And there's no way to explain or forgive those actions of the players. Like all of us, I do not want to see that happen again."

True, because it's making a league I love into a joke. And that's not funny.

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