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Friday, July 19, 2019

2010 WNBA West—Not Exactly Inspiring, But at Least Interesting

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Credit: Original Artwork Courtesy istock Photo.com©

By Clay Kallam

It’s not exactly inspiring, but the 2010 WNBA West is at least interesting. Seattle’s in and Tulsa’s out, but after that, pretty much anything can happen.

Phoenix does appear to be the class of the remaining four, but the Mercury’s system creates mayhem for both teams in almost every game, so it’s never certain which one will wind up on the wrong end of the 97-93 final.

There’s also a sense that tanking into the Maya Moore sweepstakes might not be a bad plan for San Antonio, Los Angeles and Minnesota, none of whom can expect much in postseason, or in 2011. After all, it worked for the Sparks when they landed Candace Parker (who may be available to play a full season one of these years), and though Moore isn’t CP3, she looks to be the only sure thing in the spring draft.

That contingency just adds more spice to what may not be a pretty stretch run, but what should be an entertaining one.

1. Seattle (21-2; 16-0 in conference): The starting five for the Storm are phenomenal – and healthy. Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson have missed one game each, and otherwise, Brian Agler has been able to run out the same group for the opening tip each night. Which is a good thing, because the bench is adequate at best. Svetlana Abrosimova and Le’coe Willingham are both competent, but after that, there’s basically nothing. (Oh, and if you’re keeping track, Ashley Robinson is continuing her amazing string of seasons with more fouls than points – and this year, she’s on track to double up. Yes, she has 20 fouls and 10 points in 2010 and, though 6-5 and never straying far from the basket, is shooting a gaudy 21.1 percent. The mind reels …)

Any team with Bird and Jackson, though, has little to worry about, especially with Swin Cash playing well and Tanisha Wright emerging as one of the best ballhandlers in the league. As long as the Storm’s starters stay healthy, they will be very tough to beat.

2. Phoenix (10-13; 9-7 in conference): Renting Kara Braxton in exchange for a Nicole Ohlde first-round pick will be hailed as a great deal if the Mercury get past Seattle in postseason. If they don’t, however, then losing the sixth or seventh overall pick for a free agent won’t go down as Ann Meyers Drysdale’s finest move. There’s no doubt, though, that Braxton can help, as she’s tall, strong and fast, and 33-year-old Tangela Smith seems to have lost her shooting touch.

More important is that the quartet of Diana Taurasi (leading the league with 23.9 points per game), Penny Taylor (112 assists, 57 turnovers), Candice Dupree (66.1 percent field-goal shooting) and DeWanna Bonner are all outstanding WNBA players. But the Mercury bench is invisible, and Temeka Johnson is shooting just 39.0 percent—if those two trends continue, even the addition of Braxton won’t be enough to get Phoenix past Seattle in the Western Conference finals.

3. San Antonio (8-15; 7-7 in conference): It’s sort of embarrassing to think that an 8-15 team could be in third place, but that’s life in the weak West. And speaking of weak, the Silver Stars fit that definition. Chamique Holdsclaw is a fine player who gets points and rebounds with clockwork regularity, but since she and Sophia Young essentially do the same thing and play the same position, it’s hard when playing together for both to be as good as each of them could be. Becky Hammon, on the other hand, is visibly slowing down (she’s 33), and her 40.9 percent shooting is the worst of her long career. The rest of the backcourt is disposable, and though Michelle Snow has been solid, like Holdsclaw, she’s never quite lived up to expectations. Silver Stars’ fans speak wistfully of the absence of Ruth Riley, but she’s not a difference-maker, and actually Jayne Appel has been coming on of late.

San Antonio will most likely make the playoffs, but the only way the Silver Stars could pull off an upset is if Hammon plays like it’s 1999.

4. Los Angeles (8-16; 6-9 in conference): The three topics in L.A.: 1) Candace Parker is hurt (still news to some, apparently); 2) the veterans (Tina Thompson and DeLisha Milton-Jones) are slipping; and 3) Kristi Toliver can score but what else can she do?

What’s missing, though, is the discussion about the sterling play of Noelle Quinn, who’s averaging 9.8 points per game on 46.2 percent shooting (47.9 percent from three-point distance), has a 2.6 assist-to-turnover ratio, and averages 4.2 rebounds per game. Marie Ferdinand-Harris puts some points on the board from time to time, but since she can’t shoot (36.5 percent from the field and a mere 24.1 percent from long distance) and isn’t much of a ball handler, Quinn has had to do a lot of heavy lifting on the perimeter – and has risen to the challenge.

Of course, Ticha Penicheiro is settling in for the Sparks, with a 3.0 assist-to-turnover ratio and a respectable 41.0 percent from the field, which should be just enough to get the Sparks into postseason. Once there, though, they don’t seem to have the firepower to hang with Phoenix or Seattle—as co-owner Kathy Goodman put it after one game, “I think the WNBA should have a new rule—everyone else has to sit out the best player on their team” when playing L.A. to compensate for the absence of Parker. “Take away 30 points [the number put up by Diana Taurasi in that night’s L.A. loss to Phoenix] and we’d have hammered them.”

But you never know – if Thompson and Milton-Jones have a great playoff series or two left in their legs, the first round could be a lot more interesting than people think.

5. Minnesota (7-15; 5-10 in conference): There is a huge difference between being an assistant coach and being a head coach. An assistant can be the good cop, can be everybody’s friend, can avoid taking the heat over playing time decisions, and can stay cooler and calmer because it’s not really her ego on the line when the team plays poorly. A head coach, though, has an entirely different relationship with her players, and the adjustment Cheryl Reeve has had to make appears to be a major issue in Minnesota.

Simply put, the Lynx are less than the sum of their parts, and that has to be laid at the feet of Reeve, even though she’s missing Candice Wiggins and Seimone Augustus arrived late. Sure, Charde Houston couldn’t guard a parked car, and Monica Wright (and Lindsay Whalen) can’t seem to find their shot, but it’s not like the WNBA West is chock full of powerhouse teams. Minnesota’s distressing home loss to L.A. on Tuesday was depressing not so much for the outcome, but because of the way the Lynx just collapsed. It’s conceivable they could turn it around, but unless Reeve figures things out very quickly, it’s not likely.

6. Tulsa (4-20; 3-13 in conference): A bad team, poorly run, is killing the WNBA’s chances to survive in Tulsa. Nolan Richardson has lived down to every expectation, as his lack of background in women’s basketball, and his lack of success in the past 15 or so years, have proven to be just the major issues everyone thought they would be.

Or, to put it another way, the leading scorer on what’s left of this roster is Scholanda Robinson, a guard who has 61 turnovers to just 36 assists. She’s a very good athlete, a good defender and well, that’s about it. Ivory Latta, cut in preseason, is now the starting point guard, which is typical for Richardson, who has started everyone on his roster but the almost useless Marion Jones, and varies his rotation as if consulting a Ouija board at halftime. Things are bad and there’s no reason to think they’ll get any better between now and the end of the regular season.

All statistics are as of July 27.

Originally published Wed, July 28, 2010

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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.