Its not exactly inspiring, but the 2010 WNBA West is at least interesting. Seattles in and Tulsas out, but after that, pretty much anything can happen.
Phoenix does appear to be the class of the remaining four, but the Mercurys system creates mayhem for both teams in almost every game, so its never certain which one will wind up on the wrong end of the 97-93 final.
Theres also a sense that tanking into the Maya Moore sweepstakes might not be a bad plan for San Antonio, Los Angeles and Minnesota, none of whom can expect much in postseason, or in 2011. After all, it worked for the Sparks when they landed Candace Parker (who may be available to play a full season one of these years), and though Moore isnt CP3, she looks to be the only sure thing in the spring draft.
That contingency just adds more spice to what may not be a pretty stretch run, but what should be an entertaining one.
The Atlanta Dream has been one of the big WNBA turnaround stories on the court over the last two years, turning a 4-30 finish in their 2008 inaugural year to an 18-16 record and a playoff berth in 2009. The Dream shot out of the gate in 2010, rising quickly to the top of the Eastern Conference in the early going. Lately, however, they have slid back to the pack, thanks to a recent four-game road losing streak.
With greater parity in the Eastern Conference than in any year in memory, if you are not moving forward, you are moving backward -- as in out of the playoffs for this season. Let's take a look at how the current Dream roster was put together -- what makes them successful (or unsuccessful) on the court?
The East is the beast this year, no doubt, as only league-leading Seattle seems capable of giving even the bottom-dwelling Liberty much of a battle.
That strength means that two pretty good teams are going to miss the playoffs. It also means that playoff dreams can be made or dashed in a matter of a game or two. That makes for an exciting final month to the regular season.
Here's a look at how all six stack up as of July 23.
As the second half of the WNBA season gets underway, it's worth a quick look back at the opening half. Seattle has established itself as the best team in the league, and perhaps one of the best WNBA teams of all time. Atlanta has been a pleasant surprise, with Angel McCoughtry becoming one of the best players in the league during her second season. Washington has withstood the loss of Alana Beard as two other Blue Devils, Lindsay Harding and Monique Currie, have taken up the slack. On the flip side the three largest markets (Los Angeles, New York and Chicago) are all mired outside the playoffs and firmly in the Maya Moore sweepstakes. Here is a look at where each team stands as of the All-Star break.
Late in the third quarter of last Tuesdays Sun-Silver Stars game, Jayne Appel experienced a symbolic moment. The linear wrap around her knee came undone, and during a dead ball situation she grabbed the wrap, tugging it free, and tossed it toward the San Antonio bench. A few minutes later, Appel was still on the floor to begin the fourth quarter, sans the wrap. One hoped it might be for good.
The All-American from Stanford whose college career ended so painfully, seemed to release the disappointment and finally embrace her promise as a professional as she discarded the wrap. Jayne Appel, welcome to the WNBA.
It wasn't exactly an "All Star Game," in the sense that term has come to be understood over the 14-year history of the WNBA. Instead, The Stars at the Sun was the WNBAs catchy theme for this event, and that was accurate enough. There were certainly plenty of stars on the court, as the current version of the US Senior Women's National Team played a group of WNBA players, selected in part by the fans and in part by coaches, and though the game could scarcely be called "close," much less "exciting," it nonetheless offered great entertainment for the national TV audience and a sold-out crowd of 9.518 at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, as well as some educational insights into the future of the US Senior Women's National Team.
In most years, the WNBA All-Star Game, like those of many other sports leagues, has featured the best, or at least some mixture of the best and the most popular, players from the Eastern and Western conferences. And though the West has dominated the series by a 7-2 margin, few of the games have been total routs.
This game amounted to exactly that. Team USA struck the first blood, never trailed, and led by as many as 31 points before Head Coach Geno Auriemma retired his starters and settled for a 99-72 pasting of the WNBA "Also Rans."
You can't blame Brian Agler, who earned the honor of coaching the WNBA squad by dint of guiding his Seattle Storm to the best record in the league at this point in the season. Nor can you fault the WNBA All Stars, who gamely gave it their best from opening tip to closing buzzer despite being decisively overmatched at pretty much every position.
Instead, you have to look at this game for what it was -- one part tryout, one part workout for Team USA in the run up to the 2010 Women's World Championships scheduled to be held in the Czech Republic this autumn from September 23 through October 3.
Like several other teams in the WNBA, San Antonio greatly revised its roster, adding five new Silver Stars including two starters at the start of the 2010 season. The first half of the season has witnessed an inability to put a significant winning streak together with the team's only back-to-back wins on May 20 (at Tulsa) and May 22 (home versus Los Angeles).
Still a poor (five wins and nine losses) record has the Stars technically in second place in the sadly performing Western Conference through play of July3. The roster remains in flux. Reserves Crystal Kelly and Allie Quigley were waived on July 1 (the second cut this season for Kelly, albeit a brief one), then re-signed both on Independence Day.
The Minnesota Lynx -- to many, they seem like the Clippers of the NBA, an accursed franchise that fate will simply not allow to get things right. But this season, after a series of injury/surgical recoveries (to stars Candice Wiggins and Seimone Augustus), late player arrival (off-season acquisition Rebekkah Brunson) and getting used to a new coach (Cheryl Reeve) combined to get the Lynx off to a 2-9 start, something strange happened: With their starting line-up back and intact, the Lynx won three in a row. Not only did they win the games in question -- a home and away against Tulsa and a road game at New York -- but the team appeared finally to be finding an identity.
And then as if the winds of fortune wished to just say No to any Lynx run, Candice Wiggins was lost for the season to a left Achilles tendon rupture at the end of Minnesota's 75-68 victory in New York. It was no small loss. Wiggins, the team's second-leading scorer behind Augustus, had given the Lynx 13.8 points and 2.1 assists per game in the eight games in which she played this season on a highly efficient 40.5 percent from the field and 45.7 percent from long range.
Thanks largely to the woes of Los Angeles (4-11) and Tulsa (3-11), the Lynx, now 5-11, remain in playoff contention, in fourth place in the Western Conference for the time being. But fans have got to wonder whether 2010 will be deja veaux all over again -- just more of the usual Minnesota mediocrity -- for this team that has managed to make the playoffs only twice (2003 and 2004) in their prior eleven seasons.
In what appears to be the most downtrodden year in Western conference history, no team need lose hope as mid-season approaches. With Seattle the only team in the West possessing a winning record, every other franchise in the conference, including Minnesota, has got to feel it has at least a chance to salvage its season and make the playoffs. Assume, for purposes of argument, that Seattle has its playoff berth already clinched. (That may be a good bet, with Seattle currently the league's best team at 14-2, but it's not a sure one, given the Storm's history of strong early-to-mid-season performances, followed by late-season health problems that seem to perennially weigh them down despite their strong stable of talent.) That still leaves three of the West's sub-.500 franchises who must mathematically make the playoffs despite their current struggles, so why not Minnesota?
Lets take a look at the Lynx by position and see how they compare to last year and how they could attempt to adjust to the loss of their former Stanford star.