WNBA’s Second Season Begins TonightSeptember 27, 2012
LOS ANGELES, Calif. – It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that, by any measure, yesterday’s WNBA draft lottery was controversial.
It’s one thing to know something might happen, or that it will indeed happen, or even accept that it must happen.
But the truth many learned yesterday, is that it’s an entirely different experience actually watching some things happen, seeing the faces, the body language and odd juxtapositions of postures, emotions, and responsibilities.
Yesterday was not a great day in the WNBA’s history. The Phoenix Mercury, after a summer where the charge that they tanked the season to get at the top pick was widely heard in women’s basketball circles, did indeed secure that coveted number one pick.
The Washington Mystics, the team with the best chance of getting the number one pick, instead rode a 6.15% chance of finishing dead last among the four teams participating in the lottery all the way down to, you guessed it, dead last.
Of the three premier players available in the 2013 college draft, Baylor’s Brittney Griner, Delaware’s Elena Delle Donne, or Notre Dame’s Skylar Diggins, none will end up playing basketball in our nation’s capital in a Mystics uniform any time in the foreseeable future.
Draw your own conclusions and then get into a very long and contentious line with them. But be prepared for a heated battle.
The league would be wise to rethink the placement of future draft lotteries on the calendar if they can’t do a better job of managing the many exigencies that their own process can create when the stakes are as high as they were this season.
But today, thankfully, and not a moment too soon, the WNBA will move on and turn a page away from the controversy and accusations and bitterness created by the draft lottery debacle.
And they will do that on the gliding grace and talent of the women who actually play the game. The woman who played it all season long, the ones the fans shelled out money in a tough economy to watch play, the hard working athletes who showed up and put it on the floor throughout the regular season competing for a chance at the postseason that starts tonight and with the sincere hopes of achieving the pinnacle of their sport, a professional basketball championship in the WNBA.
That all starts tonight in Connecticut and in Los Angeles as the Sun take on the New York Liberty and the Sparks host the San Antonio Silver Stars.
SPM had the opportunity to speak with some of the principle actors in the WNBA’s coming post-season drama.
We asked ESPN’s Rebecca Lobo if the Liberty could somehow muster up some of their old playoff mischief and surprise the Sun in that series.
“I wouldn’t say they could surprise the Sun,” said the former Liberty post. “Because the Sun are expecting a tough series. Even though Connecticut won four of the games this year, except for one they were relatively close games.”
“A lot has been talked about in terms of postseason experience between these two teams. Connecticut has Kara Lawson and Asjha Jones, who have experience winning in the postseason, but for the most part their other players do not have experience winning in the postseason.”
“That’s a very different story when you look at the Liberty roster,” Lobo went on. “Playoff time is a time when experience matters.”
LA starts its postseason at home in LA, but just partly, as they have once again been bumped to USC’s indoor venue at the Galen Center.
The Sparks have certainly had their share of problems with the Silver Stars in recent years, having been both eliminated from the playoffs by San Antonio and eliminated from playoff contention on their own floor as recently as last year.
“Our team gets really ready to play LA,” Silver Stars’ head coach Dan Hughes said when asked to comment on his team’s successes over the Sparks.
One area of interest to focus on in this series is the guard matchups between San Antonio’s premier scorer Becky Hammon and the emerging Danielle Robinson and the Sparks defensive stalwart Alana Beard and LA’s own version of Hammon in Kristi Toliver.
“That match up is really interesting,” Coach Hughes said. “Kristi Toliver is to me such an essential part of what I’m seeing with LA. She has evolved into a real strength for LA at the point.”
“And Alana Beard,” he continued. “I’ve really studied Alana, I’ve told the staff today, she’s doing everything well that I would ask of a player. She’s shooting it, she’s shooting the three, she’s distributing, she’s defending, she’s remained healthy. That’s a tremendous challenge. Those two are playing at a very high level.”
“Kristi Toliver’s having a great all-round year,” added Hammon. “Defensively, we have to really be on our toes with LA, simply because they have so many great one-on-one players.”
“It’s going to take a team effort for us, it always has been that way. It’s not like we have all these great one-on-one players. We truly try to beat people as a team. We’re really looking forward to the matchup and we know it’s going to be a war.”
Hammon singled out Sparks new head coach Carol Ross for credit in what she sees as LA becoming a team that plays together but also can’t help but notice the other notable addition to the Sparks in 2012.
“Having [Nneka] Ogwumike in the mix … they’re obviously one of the best rebounding teams in the league.”
“D-Rob and Becky score in different ways,” said the Sparks’ Kristi Toliver. “Danielle is extremely athletic, wants to get to the rim, she’s I think the fastest point guard in the league.”
“And Becky just has a style and a swag that is unlike any other point guard,” she said. “It will be a challenge for whomever is guarding them. The main thing is keeping Danielle in front [of her]. It’s a difficult task, but you’ve just got to try to slow her down.”
“For Becky it’s the same thing. Her change of speed is so good that she’s not predictable. She’s just another hard guard. For us, we try to use our size and athleticism. But no matter what happens it’s not going to be an easy guard out on the perimeter by any means.”