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July 5, 2010 at 2:08 PM

Monday dribble: WNBA power rankings, fights, & Oregon St.

Things got heated last week in the WNBA. There’s just 4.5-games separating the best and the worst in the Eastern Conference and about four inches are going to be needed on defense between players before someone gets popped.
Or maybe just between Storm PF Lauren Jackson and Los Angeles F DeLisha Milton-Jones and former teammates Diana Taurasi (Phoenix) and Cappie Pondexter (New York). Those along with Pondexter’s smack against Mercury F Penny Taylor, were altercations that had the WNBA’s front office buzzing on a holiday.
As of noon PST on Monday, no additional penalties were handed out. The initial Jackson-Milton-Jones dust up was a no-call, but when Dee Kantner, supervisor of officials, held a Q&A with season-ticket holders at KeyArena last week, she did say all questionable play is reviewed and some penalties are distributed well after the fact in private.
But if Pondexter or Taurasi are suspended for appearing to go after each other after Pondexter’s failed block on Taylor, we’ll hear about it.
“We’re preparing for her to play,” Storm coach Brian Agler said of Pondexter starting in the New York-Seattle matinee at KeyArena on Tuesday. “In terms of my response (to the Milton-Jones incident), I don’t think we have one until we see how the league responds – if they do. I haven’t heard anything.”
Agler prepared not to have Jackson against the Liberty, who suffered a concussion from being elbowed by Milton-Jones in the first quarter. Jackson, the Storm’s leading scorer (21.4 points) was evaluated by two doctors after the game on Saturday, on Sunday by team physicians, and will be looked at a third time Monday at 6 p.m.
Jackson did not practice on Monday, but afterward said she was fine. She has played with a concussion once as a teenager.
Seattle was able to win its game despite Jackson being unable to produce past the opening quarter. The Liberty crumbled and they’re last in the East. But that bears little on their overall power rankings.
The West continues to struggle, with Phoenix being the only other team in the conference to win. Here’s how it all shakes out in the sixth edition of the power rankings:
Team (Record/Last week’s ranking) Comment
1. Seattle (15-2/1): Just think how bad Saturday’s outcome against Los Angeles would have been if Lauren Jackson was conscious.
2. Atlanta (9-4/5): Earth to WNBA coaches, please make Sancho Lyttle one of your WNBA stars selection for the midsummer classic.
3. Washington (12-5/6): The Mystics lose players and continue to find players to fill holes. Kudos to Crystal Langhorne for leading in four-game win streak. Especially hitting boards with Chasity Melvin against Indy.
4. Indiana (9-6/3): Suffered a close loss to Washington, but 7-3 in past 10 games. Fever need more consistency from their bench.
5. Chicago (8-9/8): Big wins against Atlanta (road) and Connecticut (home) with Indy on the docket – could the Sky finally be rising?
6. Connecticut (10-6/2): Word out of Connecticut is that nagging injuries are starting to sprout. The Sun need to heal fast because one loss does make a difference out East.
7. New York (7-8/4): Liberty need to find more scoring options outside of star Cappie Pondexter. As Phoenix showed, eliminate her and eliminate chances of winning.
8. Phoenix (6-11/7): Penny Taylor after smack down: “It got us going a little bit.” Hopefully that extends for the remainder of the season for the defending WNBA champions.
9. San Antonio (5-9/9): Tick, tick, tick. When is San Antonio’s alarm going to go off?
10. Minnesota (2-9/12): Readjusting after Candice Wiggins injury, game with San Antonio on Thursday could be really telling for the season.
11. Los Angeles (4-12/11): Was talking to a colleague in LA and we had to marvel at the fact that Erika de Souza started her WNBA career with the Sparks. Think the Atlanta center takes annual trips to Rodeo Drive to shout the line “Big mistake, huge!”
12. Tulsa (3-13/12): Shock are on a 10-game losing streak. It’s expected for an “expansion” team, but thankfully the All-Star break is only days away.
LOWLIGHTS?: Or maybe they’re highlights. You decide, but here is the clip from the WNBA game between Phoenix and New York:

UPDATE: Spoke with Liberty coach Anne Donovan and Pondexter after practice at Seattle Pacific University on Monday and neither expects the SG to be suspended for seemingly swinging at Taurasi or the Flagrant 2 foul against Taylor.
“We hung out the same night,” Pondexter said of her and the Phoenix players.
UPDATE II: The WNBA announced that Phoenix reserve G Ketia Swanier is suspended for one game for leaving her team’s bench during the altercation between the Mercury and Liberty. She’ll miss Phoenix’s road game against Los Angeles on Tuesday. Everyone else was cleared.
OREGON STATE MAKES MOVE: The LaVonda Wagner era closed when athletic director Bob De Carolis hired Scott Rueck last week. He last worked at George Fox University, a D-III institution.
The Beavers still owe Wagner $1.2 million. Rueck has the worst task in the Pac-10, filling a roster from a shambled organization.
BIRD CARES: The WNBA honored Storm PG Sue Bird’s commitment to the community with its WNBA Cares Community Assist Award for June. Throughout the month, Bird played a leadership role in the team’s community outreach initiatives, including the Jr. Storm Club.



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