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Women's Hoops

The latest news and analysis on college and pro women's basketball.

June 15, 2009 at 9:25 AM

WNBA Monday Morning Dribble

Laimbeer.jpgNow that a true week has passed we can really talk about this league that’s moving at a ho-hum pace. And in this economy, ho-hum is not the speed you’d like. But while the play has been entertaining with 115-point games by Phoenix and surprise winners like Washington, there’s not enough buzz. Why?
I reserved comment about the league’s national advertising push this season to see the affects of another generic ad and I think it attributes to the buzz-factor. This is an area where the league can’t be so even-stroked. Yeah, the MLB and NBA are, but the WNBA is still trying to break through. The Expect Great is a nice spot, but I’m still waiting for them to get game/team specific to draw the casual fan.
And if they don’t get clips on SportsCenter…seriously. How can you tout selling your broadcasting rights to ESPN and then hardly be covered on the network?
The lack of buzz is a link to seven WNBA teams showing a decline in opening-day attendance. With all of the WNBA’s changes, it’s interesting to note this drop, but the numbers can be blown out of proportion.
Here are the numbers provided by the league with last season’s numbers in parenthesis:
Sacramento – 14,824 (16,225)
Detroit – 13,915 (13,824)
Phoenix – 13,582 (13,749)
New York – 13,397 (10,460)
Los Angeles – 13,154 (13,142)
Washington – 11,759 (10,441)
San Antonio – 10,572 (9,103)
Seattle – 9,686 (12,079)
Indiana – 9,234 (10,533)
Atlanta – 8,709 (11,609)
Minnesota – 8,708 (9,972)
Connecticut – 7,191 (7,420)
Chicago – 5,689 (4,188)
True, Sacramento, Phoenix, Seattle, Indiana, Atlanta, Minnesota, and Connecticut dropped. Yet, I’d only be worried about Sacramento, Indiana, and Minnesota because those are significant declines in cities with shaky situations whether it be arenas in Sacramento or ownership stability in Indiana and Minnesota.
Seattle’s technically a lower-bowl sell out. Last season they had a blowout opener because it was the first season under independent ownership, introducing Force 10 Hoops. There was pyrotechnics, a platform for player introductions, and a wild audience. This season the team opened on the worst day, Sunday.
Atlanta you’d expect to drop because it’s the second season. Reality will settle in and 8,709 is strong for a new team. Not that it wouldn’t be great for them to sustain the 11,609, but New York and Washington back in the day were the only teams to really sustain their high numbers from season to season and a lot of the reason for that was because they gave away comp tickets.
So, yes, things are ho-hum, but not alarming.
Another league issue that’s not alarming is San Antonio G Becky Hammon leaving for Russia to play for the national team in the European women’s championships. Hopefully they let her return, but it’s just two games. One is the Silver Star’s only trip to her former New York team, but what’s the difference between last season when players missed games due to overseas play?
Hammon made a commitment and she could still play in the 2012 Olympics for Russia, if wanted. We might as well start seeing her like Australian F Lauren Jackson or Belgium C Ann Wauters, who hasn’t returned because she’s tired from overseas play. Hammon is American, but she sold her talent and we all have to deal with the consequences. Now, if it interrupts with the postseason or advancing to the postseason, then light the message boards up.
Speaking of lighting things up, perhaps the WNBA would have its early pizzazz if new mommy Candace Parker were playing. The Los Angeles F, who is on maternity leave, has surpassed Lisa Leslie in star power, which we all knew was going to happen. Well, maybe not Ann Meyers-Drysdale, but that’s a different issue (smile).
Parker’s doormat Twitter account became active on June 12 and in one hour she picked up 1,000 followers. She’s at 3,526 as of 8:20 this morning, which is nearing the WNBA’s 5,330 followers. Of course none of this is near Shaq’s 1.2 million, but clearly Parker, the reigning MVP, is the WNBA’s version of the NBA star.
As for the actively playing stars, the WNBA began online All-Star voting today. And below are my picks for Player of the Week.
Some things to look forward to are news out of Detroit regarding its coaching staff today. The Detroit Free Press is reporting that Shock coach Bill Laimbeer quit and could possibly accept an NBA position. Like former Minnesota coach Don Zierden, it’s good riddance, to another great coach. Yes, the NBA provides better opportunity and stability for family and whatever spin you want to provide, but it’s still a shoddy thing to do to a team. It happens, shoot, my father was released midseason, but I just don’t get walking out on your team.
Laimbeer, a former NBA player who has pined over becoming a NBA coach since winning his first championship with the Shock in 2003, is classier in his departure. The Shock don’t play again until Friday, giving the team plenty of time to answer all of the media questions and change gears.
It’s just sad for the WNBA because what little the national media did care about the women was tangled in Los Angeles coach Michael Cooper and Laimbeer (pictured right by the Free Press). That link will be completely gone next summer as Cooper moves on to coach women’s college basketball at USC.
For those continuing on, the upcoming game of the week is Jackson’s first return to Phoenix on Sunday, her first in the city she spurned as a free agent.
The Storm, which has played the most games in the league at five, is off today and will begin practice tomorrow in preparation for Minnesota on Friday at KeyArena. I’ll return Tuesday to discuss the Detroit news and pick-up with Storm tidbits.
Western Conference POW: Jackson and Phoenix G Diana Taurasi should battle for the MVP award. Jackson wakes up and gives you 20-plus points and at least seven boards. She’s shooting with amazing accuracy at 56.3 percent, but she’s not my pick for POW this week. It’ll be hard for the casual fan to understand this, but Jackson has yet to play. Her defense, while scaring players like Minnesota’s Nicky Anosike, isn’t what it can be and she’s not taking over games, hence Seattle losing in Chicago. Taurasi is going off, scoring a game-high 31 points in an overtime win against Sacramento on Saturday. She’s averaging 22.0 points in four games this season and shooting 93.8 percent from the FT line.
EASTERN CONFERENCE POW: Washington PG Lindsey Harding’s shooting is putrid (23.3 percent) and her steals and turnovers wash each other out (2.3 average apiece), but she’s got the Mystics off to a solid 3-0 start, averaging 6.3 assists, which ranks behind Storm PG Sue Bird (6.6). Traded from Minnesota, Harding appears to be the maestro Washington needed. And it’s about time. This franchise, like Indiana, should be in championship talks. Harding has the team playing well and fans joking about being fitted for rings.
UPDATE: The league’s POW picks.

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