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Saturday, July 20, 2019

For Those Curmudgeons Who Don’t Like All-Star Games, Here’s a Recap of the WNBA Season to Date

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Photo Caption: Our own Clay Kallam may not think much of ceremonial All Star Games, but the 12,540 fans who packed San Antonio’s AT&T center clearway to the nosebleeds would beg to disagree. East beat West, 118-113.

Photo Credit: Full Court Press/Lee Michaelson©

By Clay Kallam

Since the WNBA All-Star Game, as always, is all but unwatchable to those who, like me, demand at least a modicum of defense, it’s a good time to take a look at what’s gone on in the first half of the season …

Injuries: Injuries are huge in every sport, but when two of the best players in the world go down – Lauren Jackson and Candace Parker (what if Kobe and LeBron were subtracted from the NBA?) – it’s huge. Both teams will still likely make the postseason, and it’s possible both players will be close to 100 percent by the time the Storm and the Sparks conceivably meet in the playoffs, but it hasn’t helped anyone to have them missing in action.

The absence of lesser lights such as Shameka Christon and Shanna Crossley, to name just two, is bad news too. The talent pool isn’t that deep in women’s basketball, the rosters are already short, and losing any top players is damaging.

2011 Draftees: The received wisdom (and I agreed) was that this was a bad draft – but from Danielle Adams (picked in the second round at No. 20 overall) on up, the rookies have been a pleasant surprise. It’s true, of course, that the league seems to be adjusting to Adams and Courtney Vandersloot, again to name just two, but still, players like Kayla Pedersen promise to be significant contributors for some time to come.

Shuffling the Deck: Tulsa and Los Angeles have changed coaches, two good and overdue moves. Teresa Edwards most likely isn’t the long-term answer in Oklahoma, but Joe Bryant was very successful in his first stint in L.A., and there’s no reason to think he won’t be again. (And he’ll get a lot smarter when CP3 returns …)

It also seems like the Shock ownership has realized that putting a good team on the floor is job one, at least if dumping Richardson and Marion Jones is any indication. Tulsa is still a couple years from the playoffs, but with some good personnel decisions, the future could brighten quickly, thanks to the following hard truth:

Age Always Wins: Sheryl Swoopes is giving it a shot, but she’s just a shadow of the brilliant player she once was. Tina Thompson is hanging on by a thread, and a host of other aging stars are about to move on out of the league. Tamika Catchings, for example, is 32, and it’s difficult to imagine her playing at this level of intensity for many more years.

L.A. and Indiana both look vulnerable to a sudden dropoff, and Seattle’s not far behind, so a good young team could seize the moment and vault past the oldsters much more quickly than most imagine.

Awards: It’s really too early to talk seriously about the MVP, as that award’s default mode is the best player on the best team – and who knows which is the best team. If Indiana continues to roll, Catchings is a very viable candidate; if Seattle somehow wins the West, it would pretty much have to be Sue Bird; if Connecticut has the best overall record, it would be hard not to vote for Tina Charles; if Atlanta catches fire, ignoring Angel McCoughtry would be extremely difficult.

As for Rookie of the Year, the push for Danielle Adams has lost a little oomph as adjustments are being made around the league for her unusual game. And this is the best league in the world, so it’s not like anyone’s just going to skate through without being thoroughly tested – Adams started slow, got hot, and has fallen back a little lately, so now it’s on her to make the next adjustment. As the great Pete Newell said, basketball is a game of move and counter, and the process never really stops.

Team success will also play into it, as if Minnesota wins the West, Maya Moore’s candidacy suddenly looks a whole lot stronger.

Postseason: If the crystal ball told us who would get hurt, this would be a lot easier, but even assuming everyone stays healthy, it’s a tough call on who gets in.

In the West, I think San Antonio sinks to fifth. Sure, the Silver Stars are three games up in the loss column over Los Angeles, but the Sparks have four games against Tulsa and one against Washington, plus a remaining home game with the Silver Stars. And of course, if Parker comes back, all of a sudden, L.A. has one of the best rosters in the West.

In the East, Pokey Chatman hasn’t been quite the miracle worker many expected, though she’s certainly done a creditable job. “Creditable,” though, might not be enough when Atlanta gets Sancho Lyttle back. And you never know, Angel McCoughtry’s maturity and leadership index may improve to match her skill level, which would probably be enough to get the Dream solidly into the playoffs.

New York’s also vulnerable, but I think those four games against Washington and the two home games against Chicago should be enough to keep the Liberty in fourth.

In conclusion: More important than whichever team wins it all (if Jackson comes back, I’m thinking Seattle; otherwise, I like Phoenix’s chances) is attendance and TV ratings – and the league seems to be doing OK even as the economy continues to crater. The more fans in the seats, the better, and with the NBA looking to be gone for a long time (maybe all of 2011-12), the WNBA might pick up some fans and sponsorships.

And now that the ASG is mercifully in the rearview mirror, it’s time to get back to basketball …

Originally published Sat, July 23, 2011

Reader Discussion
Posted by ClayKallam July 26, 2011

Just a note—in retrospect, the game was a lot better than I thought.

Posted by ClayKallam July 26, 2011

Just a note—in retrospect, the game was a lot better than I thought.

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Week: February 7, 2012
1 Baylor (31) 24-0 1 1 1 775
2 Notre Dame 23-1 2 2 2 743
3 Connecticut 21-2 3 4 3 710
4 Stanford 20-1 4 5 4 685
5 Duke 19-3 6 8 5 650
6 Miami (FL) 20-3 7 7 6 604
7 Kentucky 21-3 5 15 7 584
8 Maryland 20-3 10 10 8 534
9 Wisconsin-Green Bay 20-0 9 24 9 530
10 Ohio State 21-2 11 NR-RV
10 483
11 Tennessee 17-6 8 3 11 476
12 Delaware 20-1 13 NR 12 434
13 Georgetown 18-5 15 11 14 379
14 Texas A&M 16-5 16 6 15 378
15 Nebraska 19-3 18 NR 13 309
16 Rutgers 17-4 14 12 17 372
17 Louisville 17-6 12 9 20 276
18 Gonzaga 21-3 19 NR-RV
19 234
19 Purdue 19-5 17 21 16 222
20 Georgia 18-6 20 12 21 202
21 Penn State 18-5 21 14 18 176
22 DePaul 17-7 23 18 NR-RV
23 Georgia Tech 16-6 22 NR-RV
22 104
24 South Carolina 18-5 NR-RV
NR 24 46
25 Vanderbilt 18-5 NR-RV
NR 45
Dropped Out: No. 24 North Carolina, No. 25 Kansas.
First-place votes: Total first-place votes received (if any) are indicated in parentheses following school name.
Others receiving votes: St. Bonaventure (22-2) 34; North Carolina (17-6) 19; California (17-6) 18; Florida Gulf Coast (21-2) 16; Middle Tennessee (19-5) 15; Texas-El Paso (20-2) 8; Texas Tech (16-6) 5; Brigham Young (21-4) 4; Fresno State (19-4) 4; St. John's (15-8) 4; Princeton (15-4) 3; Oklahoma (15-7) 2; West Virginia (17-6) 2; Kansas State (15-7) 1.
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Credit: Courtesy Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA). The weekly Division I Top 25 Coaches' Poll, sponsored by USA Today and ESPN, is based on voting by a Board of Coaches made up of 31 head coaches at Division I institutions all of whom are WBCA members.