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July 28, 2010 at 2:10 PM

Wednesday dribble: power rankings, Obama, & summer reads

It’s absolutely crazy to sit here on a Wednesday in July with the Storm as the No. 1 team in the West. Seattle could lose its remaining games and still win the conference. Outrageous.
But have you looked at the standings? The WNBA is idle on Wednesday, so if it all stopped today, Seattle’s nemesis Los Angeles would be the opening round opponent. The Storm has never defeated the Sparks in a playoff series, losing to them the past two seasons. The Storm is 1-6 all-time in opening rounds, the one win being when the team won the 2004 title.
Of course players don’t care who they face when asked. They have one more big goal to achieve, which is winning overall homecourt advantage throughout the postseason. Seattle saw how important that was for Phoenix when it went the full five games against Indiana in 2009.
Coincidently, the Storm is trying to keep ahead of the Fever for that honor. Seattle is 21-2 overall while Indiana leads the Eastern Conference at 16-7. The teams split the regular-season series, but Seattle could clinch the overall best record by obviously continuing to win or keeping its conference records better than the Fever.
That phase starts with a rematch against Chicago (12-13) on Friday at KeyArena. The Sky handed the Storm its first loss of the season. They’re last in the East and desperate for wins to break back into postseason position in a tough conference.
So, there’s still plenty of jostling going on even though Seattle cemented itself atop the heap. With that, here’s how the power rankings shake out for this week:
Team (Record/Last week’s ranking) Comment
1. Seattle (21-2/1): Hopefully Mark Wahlberg was staying in character for “The Other Guys” when he made his sexist comment at the ESPYs. You know he loves it when KeyArena plays “Right Stuff” after a sick Tanisha Wright basket.
2. Indiana (16-7/4): Finally Indiana is gelling. On a five-game win streak and challenging Seattle for the overall best record headed into postseason.
3. Atlanta (16-9/2): Former Storm F Iziane Castro Marques and F Sancho Lyttle emerging for this youthful, talented squad.
4. Washington (13-9/3): Well, the All-Star break seems to have messed with the Mystics’ rhythm. They’ve flat lined, losing their past two. Two of upcoming three games against sub-.500 opponents.
5. Phoenix (10-13/7): Don’t let the Mercury fool you, games are like practice and they’ll be on fire for the postseason. C Kara Braxton could be a masterful addition.
6. Connecticut (13-10/5): Not playing their best basketball, yet are only three-games back of the conference lead. But four of upcoming six games on the road where Sun hasn’t been successful.
7. New York (12-11/9): True, the postseason race in the East is close, but the Liberty are running out of time. Sometimes appear as if MIA. Not talented enough to take quarters off.
8. Chicago (12-13/5): Three-game road trip out West, starting with Seattle on Friday, will be huge for Chicago. Need to win non-conference games to get back into Eastern Conference playoff talk.
9. Los Angeles (4-13/11): This is where a veteran roster can really help the Sparks. Two consecutive wins doesn’t make a season, but Thompson averaging 18.4 points in past five games and determined not to have a wasted season.
10. San Antonio (8-15/9): Yes, San Antonio is third in West. Still has trouble closing games and team should have won against New York on Tuesday. Silver Stars disappointing 3-7 in past 10 games.
11. Minnesota (7-15/10): Raise the white flag. Losing to Los Angeles? Nah, not even the second half is going to turnaround the Lynx. Maybe next year.
12. Tulsa (4-20/12): Heard there are plans to trade away the Shock name, too. None of the players remain after G Alexis Hornbuckle was shipped to Minnesota on Monday.
PRESIDENTIAL VISIT: It took some quick planning, but the Storm finagled a way for F Le’coe Willingham to make it to the White House to be honored by President Barack Obama on July 19 for winning the 2009 WNBA title. Willingham said she had to buy an outfit on the road and was in-and-out to make her team’s game in San Antonio on Tuesday.
“I ended up finding a really pretty dress and it was on sale,” Willingham said. “It was definitely surreal and very special. Being a kid and being with my grandmothers so much, they’re both deceased, but I tend to think about times with them and the things that I’ve learned from them and the differences in both of my grandmothers. Not just with the White House visit, but everything that I’ve accomplished in my life, sometimes I have a quiet moment and think about how blessed I am. That’s something they would have loved to be a part of, but it’s something I’m doing for them.”
Former teammate Temeka Johnson wrote a blog about the experience. Below is video from the ceremony. The players didn’t get individual pictures, quickly shaking the President’s hand due to time constraints.
“But (coach) Corey (Gaines) was able to get a picture, jealous,” Willingham said.

SUMMER READS: In case you didn’t know, I was out on vacation/furlough last week so I missed some interesting stories to pass along to you. One cool bit of news is that the WNBA’s numbers on ESPN2 are increasing.
Competition is better and with the game’s most popular player, Sue Bird, playing on the most successful team, it’s understandable more are tuning in — even though the Storm hasn’t been on the station as much as Los Angeles.
Off the court, the Storm is doing good in the community, honoring a murdered fan with newly constructed basketball courts. On the court, news outlets like ESPN and the Tacoma News Tribune have started to look Seattle’s way for stories.
Outside of Seattle, Chicago C Sylvia Fowles was profiled in her hometown Miami newspaper. And The Guru takes a look at Spokane native Briann January boosting Indiana.
On the Pac-10 front, the conference has changed its image and January’s former teammate Dymond Simon is back on the court after a knee injury.
INSPIRATIONAL NIGHT: The Storm will hold their annual Women of Inspiration night on Friday.



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