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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 28, 2008 8:28 PM

Positive to WNBA melee

Posted by Jayda Evans

Not many liked the length of suspensions and maybe others didn't like the fact that the Detroit-Los Angeles fight last Tuesday happened at all. But after about 300,000 views on, you've gotta admit there were some humorous moments in the peusdo brawl.

And those moments drew Team USA closer more quickly than expected.

"We talked about it even before we got on the bus," said Storm guard Sue Bird. Three Sparks players - Lisa Leslie, DeLisha Milton-Jones, and Candace Parker - were suspended one game for throwing punches in the melee and are part of Team USA. Detroit guard Katie Smith stayed out of the fray, but was on the court at the time.

"We joked about the fight, moreso making fun of them," Bird continued. "How Katie was the peacemaker, and somebody said when Lisa fell, it looked like she was a calf coming out of its womb. And how basically [assistant coach] Rick [Mahorn] was like, 'Did somebody hit me?' after DeLisha [threw her punch in his back]. It was lighthearted and funny. I mean, it's a serious matter, but those type of moments generate the most conversation."

Smith, the only representative from her team, took it all in stride.

"L.A. was telling their side of the story and I tried to keep shut," Smith said. "I've got my opinions about it, but I'll keep those to myself. I was proud of my teammates, though, because we didn't come in swinging. We came in taking our people away. I was proud of our group for making sure nothing else happened and no one else got involved.

"No one wants to lose their money and no one wants to get suspended, so there was no need for me to go in there and start doing anything. I was just trying to keep people back for the most part."

There's no bad blood about the fight. Bird described the ride to practice as everything falling into place as if no one ever left each other. All of the players have pretty much played together at one point or another, aside from Leslie and Phoenix guard Cappie Pondexter, a first-time Olympian.

"We all like each other," Taurasi said. "It's one thing to go on a team where everybody hates each other and you go, 'I gotta go with these people.' But we all like each other. We've played with and against each other for the last 8 or 10 years, so we're very familiar with each other, which is a nice feeling."

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July 28, 2008 6:25 PM

Live from Olympic training camp

Posted by Jayda Evans

THANKS FELLAS: Smith made two free throws and that's a wrap for day one of practice. The team did the LA Sparks clap thing to close and now it's interviews. Donovan said it was a "very good practice."

CP4: Pondexter, wearing the No. 4 jersey, is running the point now. Parker, by the way, is CP15 in international play.

SLEEP MUCH?: I don't cover Lawson during practice often, so maybe she often has her mouth agape, but I swear the woman has yawned three times since we've been let in the doors. Understandable since most of the players played on Sunday and traveled to San Francisco this morning. Lawson had a regrettable game in a loss to the Storm, going 3-for-12 from the field for eight points, missing all six of her three-point attempts.

SIX PLAYER ROTATION: Parker is now on the floor with Bird, Leslie, Smith, and Taurasi. Thompson is subbing out with the posts. The others are running the same offensive set against the men at the other end of the court.

BACK TO DRILLS: Donovan is walking the team through sets now with Bird running a lineup of Smith, Thompson, Leslie, and Taurasi. Starting lineup in Bejing? Could be.

BLOCK THAT: That portion of practice is over with the "white" team running for scoring the least points. But the scrimmage ended with a bang as Fowles blocked Leslie's shot attempt at the top of the key. Team USA will definitely need that in China.

NICE DISH: Catchings is known for her defense and shooting touch, but she's had a couple of nice feeds to Taurasi for layins, even moving Donovan to give her props. Health is still a concern with her and Fowles, who was just popped in the eye and is wearing a black brace on her left knee. Play has stopped to tend to her. And now a male practice player replaced her. UPDATE: It was Smith that popped Fowles in the eye, prompting Taurasi to say that she should be suspended. Here's a link to the tidbit.

THE OTHER VANDERVEER: Former Storm assistant Heidi VanDerveer, Tara's sister, found her way to the Olympic roster. She's going to be the video coordinator for Team USA. Heidi VanDerveer, who was doing some scouting for WNBA teams this season, is head coach at Occidental College.

SCRIMAGE TIME: The team has split into groups for four-on-four scrimmaging, not permitting dribbling once the ball crosses half-court. It's sort of like how the game used to be played back in the day. Bird is lined up with Seimone Augustus, DeLisha Milton-Jones, Sylvia Fowles. The "white" team is Candace Parker, Katie Smith, Cappie Pondexter, and Tina Thompson while "red" is Kara Lawson, Diana Taurasi, Tamika Catchings, and Lisa Leslie.

Media has been allowed into Maples Pavilion to watch the final portion of Team USA's first practice as a group. Storm PG Sue Bird is in her red No. 6 jersey and running drills against a male practice squad. Yep, the national team uses the men, too, to train.

Since Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer is permitting the team to use the facility, her campers got to see the entire session. Her players are also watching along with legends Teresa Edwards and Jennifer Azzi. USA Basketball president Val Ackerman, the WNBA's inaugural president, is also in attendance.

Team USA started with a meeting then traveled to practice. It's a busy week, but they aren't the only ones hustling around town. Sacramento coach Jenny Boucek is leading a basketball clinic at the EASports headquarters in Redwood on Tuesday while Minnesota guard Candice Wiggins, Connecticut guard Lindsay Whalen, Washington center Taj McWilliams-Franklin, New York guard Ashley Battle, and Sacramento forward Nicole Powell will host a reading event at a Boys & Girls club in San Francisco and be at wine tasting event that evening. Some, like Powell and supposedly Houston center Michelle Snow, will also help Boucek with the clinic.

The team just concluded three-on-three drills and is shooting free throws. Olympic coach Anne Donovan, the Storm's former coach, just huddled the group and said, "I love how you're learning to play with each other. That's what these next 10 days are about -- not the sets, learning to play with each other."

Bird and Diana Taurasi are shooting together, wrapping up first with the free throws.

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