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August 14, 2006 at 9:49 AM

Final ballot

I’m a little different from my colleagues (save the jokes). I can’t officially vote on awards until it’s all over, taking a moment to digest the regular season. I heard Ann Meyers phoned her WNBA postseason awards last week, the ESPN guys have had some of theirs published on the Web for a bit and Storm color analyst Elise Woodward said her all-WNBA first team is a “no-brainer,” settling on those five early.
Every season there seems to be a Diana Taurasi type that shakes things up late, when games really start to count, and that’s why I have to wait until the deadline to vote, which is today.
Taurasi and Sue Bird are best friends, but Bird’s Seattle kept Taurasi’s Phoenix out of the postseason for the second consecutive summer, losing to Houston on Saturday. And it also kept Taurasi from getting my vote for MVP, despite leading her team to an impressive seven-game win streak to end the season. It did move her up in the list of five, however.
I also had another chance to watch San Antonio rookie Sophia Young, who, although not as talented as Minnesota guard Siemone Augustus, helped her Silver Stars collect six more wins than last summer and was 2-1 against rookie Cappie Pondexter’s Phoenix. Young also ranked among the best in her class in scoring (fourth), rebounding (first), and steals (first), and double-doubles (first). San Antonio was 1-3 against Minnesota, but Young, an All-Star, still posted solid numbers either in scoring or rebounding in the losses. It was a hard decision, especially since Vickie Johnson also helped San Antonio improve this summer, but I gave a slight edge to Young because Johnson said the rookie was the difference maker for the Silver Stars, which had a better record (13-21) than Minnesota (10-24).
So, here’s how my final ballot looked:
MVP: Storm forward Lauren Jackson (posted efficient numbers on one leg)
WNBA first team: Los Angeles center Lisa Leslie, Seattle forward Lauren Jackson, Detroit forward Cheryl Ford, Connecticut guard Katie Douglas, Phoenix guard Diana Taurasi.
WNBA second team: Connecticut forward/center Taj McWilliams-Franklin, Indiana forward Tamika Catchings, Indiana forward Tamika Whitmore, Washington guard Alana Beard, Minnesota guard Seimone Augustus.
Rookie of the Year: San Antonio forward Sophia Young. (Can’t make the all-WNBA team because that’s done by position and Young doesn’t top any of the veteran forwards)
Most Improved Player: Sacramento forward Erin Buescher. (Yes, she slipped late, but the Monarchs don’t secure second in the West without her)
Coach of the Year: Connecticut coach Mike Thibault (Only lost one of 14 games played without one of his starters in the lineup)
Defensive Player of the Year: Indiana forward Tamika Catchings.
Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award: Houston guard Dawn Staley.
And just for fun, lets pick a few offbeat awards, too.
Best changed hairstyle: Former Phoenix guard Tamicha Jackson, the messy Mohawk. Runner-up is Washington guard Alana Beard for the short curly freeze. (If she gets rid of the gel, she wins)
Most stylish on the bench: Houston forward Tina Thompson gave fans 13 fabulous looks in heels while healing a strained right calf. (But shouldn’t she have worn flats to protect the injury?)
Best game: Phoenix’s 111-110 triple-overtime victory at Houston. (It’s a no-brainer)
Best fan giveaway: Washington’s 9,000 pandas. (Can I get one?)
Best surprise: San Antonio’s start and near playoff berth until a late-season slide.
Best timeout stunt: San Antonio had a few ringers try the trampoline dunk, which is done just about everywhere, but the last guy ran at Thursday’s game jumped backward and rear-first into the hoop, slipped through the net and stood to the applause of a shocked crowd. He then tumbled off the court. (Book him, Storm)
Best arena: The Palace of Auburn Hills. (It’s my hometown and I’m proud they led the league in attendance)
Best fans: KeyArena. (They’re consistently wild, even when the Storm is down 20 points)
Best sports city: Chicago (At least that’s what The Sporting News says. I agree and hope the Sky live up to the limelight their counterparts created.)
Best kid dance troupe: New York’s Li’l Torches. (The glitter! The energy! The synchronization! I’m out of breath watching them)



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