Finals Game 5 post-game press conferences

BRIAN AGLER: (Plays “Rocky Top” on mobile phone.)

I had to do that, and it’s nothing other than I’ve never
been around somebody that has been critiqued so
hard, and I’ve not ever been around anybody that I’m
more happy for than Candace tonight, for what she’s
gone through this season. It’s been unbelievable. She
stayed on the high road, fought through everything,
stayed with it, was persistent, and sort of like — she
went through sort of like what our team went through,
the ups and downs. We’re really happy with how we
played tonight, showed a lot of resiliency and
perseverance and made plays down the stretch.

Candace, immediately after the game you were
saying this was for Pat. Can you put into words
what that means tonight for you?

CANDACE PARKER: Well, I think it’s ironic — well, not
ironic. I think Coach has been telling me this all year,
that this series really was about defense and finishing
plays rebounding, and I heard that for four years at
Tennessee.

I wasn’t upholding my end of the bargain in this series
for my teammates. I think in years past maybe I was
doing a lot and maybe I could have used a little help,
but this year it was on me. My teammates were doing
their part, I had to step up and do mine.

You can’t control if shots go in or if shots don’t, but
what you can control is defense and rebounding, and
that was kind of my mindset tonight, that I had to keep
Sylvia off the boards and I had to do that not just for
myself but for my team, as well.

Candace, over the years I’ve seen you after
playoff games, and it seems like every range of
emotion from anger to sort of just despair, defeat,
whatever. Can you just tell us in your own words
when you were lying there on the floor at the end of
this game tonight what was going through your
mind and what was going through your heart?

CANDACE PARKER: I can’t even describe this journey
that this team has been on. I mean, everybody on this
team has a story, and this last year has been really
tough for me personally, and my teammates and my
coaches were always there for me.

I think I’m excited because we won a championship,
but the journey to get here, I wouldn’t have wanted to
do it with anybody else, with any other team, any other
coaches. It’s amazing when you surround yourself with
great people how fun it is and how exciting it is when
you get what you want.

Could both of you comment on the atmosphere
tonight and the quality of play in the series?

BRIAN AGLER: Yeah, Minnesota is three-time
champions, that core group. They’ve built up
something extremely special here, and I give credit to
their ownership, Glen Taylor, Roger Griffith, to their
coaching staff, Cheryl, players, that core group.
They’ve just built something special, and they deserve
the attendance they got tonight. They probably
deserve it consistently, and they do well.

But when you get out there on the floor and you’re
playing for these stakes, and then you focus on the
moment, it sort of — it doesn’t matter where you’re
playing, and I thought our team really did a good job. I
was really impressed with our poise down the stretch
because we got up nine, and that lead evaporated in a
hurry, and then it went back and forth, and we
continually made plays. Much better poise tonight than in Game 4.

Brian, for you personally, you started off your
WNBA coaching career here; how does it feel for
you to win a championship here in this building?

BRIAN AGLER: I mean, I’ve got friends here. The
people in the organization are friends of mine. I really
have a lot of admiration for their staff. I’ve worked with
Shelley. I’ve watched Cheryl, Jim build this program,
and just a lot of respect. We’ve had a lot of battles
against each other, in LA this season, last year in
Seattle, and just the ultimate respect for what they’ve
built.

It’s not going to go away. I know they’re getting older a
little bit, but they’re going to be extremely competitive.
It wouldn’t shock me at all if they were right back in the same spot next year.
Maya Moore is just — she’s an incredible player, and
not to slight anybody else on their team because
they’ve got a bunch of really good players, great
players, Olympians, but she’s special. She’s as good
as there is, and probably will stay at that level and
make everybody raise to her level as time goes on.

You know, they talk about Houston, they talk about
Minnesota, and is it good for the league to have a team
like that. Yes, it’s good, because it makes everybody
else better, and when we were putting our team
together this year, it was about what do we need to do
to beat Minnesota. How can we play with them?
I don’t have any feelings of any other way than just
respect for them. That’s it. I enjoyed my days here.
My kids grew up here, and there’s a lot of good people
in this area.

Candace, this is such a career-capping win for
you; what other types of goals do you have for
your career moving forward?

CANDACE PARKER: I mean, I had a moment with
Magic Johnson after the game where I was like, you
did this five times? Like you felt this feeling five times?
This is how it is? And I mean, the journey is difficult,
but once you get here and you feel this feeling, it’s like
you want to do it again.

I do want to say one thing. I remember last year being
here in that locker room and things being a lot different,
and Coach telling us that if we just stayed with the
process and believed in each other and got time on the
court and practiced and did it the right way, that we
would be where we wanted to be, and I think it’s very
ironic that we’re here in Game 5, in the same locker
room spraying champagne. I can’t even believe it.

There were times during the game when you
seemed physically frustrated with the play, and there was one time you got an elbow to your mouth, I think. How physical was the play today
compared to other games, and how worried were
you guys about foul trouble, especially going down
the stretch?

CANDACE PARKER: Well, I told Nneka after the first
half, you’ve had a lot of rest, you should be able to run
up and down the court and not get tired. No, it’s
always physical whenever we play Minnesota. You
know, even before Sylvia got here, now it’s 10 times
more now that she’s here.

In my buck-seventy soaking wet, I’ve got to bend my
knees and do the best I can and depend on my
teammates. That’s kind of what happened tonight, and I’ll use Game 4 as what will happen if we don’t do that, if we don’t rebound.

Candace, could you take us through your view
of that sequence that led to the winning basket?

CANDACE PARKER: I don’t even know. Like I
remember Maya hit a jump shot, then we came down,
Nneka got — we called time-out, Nneka got doubled.
She threw it to me, I hit a lay-up. We were up one.
Then I remember, came down, Maya hit a jump shot,
and we didn’t have any timeouts left, so I’m screaming
at my teammates, do not call time-out, because I just
didn’t want anything to happen at the end of the game.
We got the ball, came down, and Nneka, I saw when
she let it go, it was good, and so then I was like, okay,
they have three seconds left, no timeouts, and then it’s
like — I can’t breathe until the ball hit the backboard. I
still was like, there’s a possibility Lindsay could make
this half-court shot with our luck. So I was just like until
the last moment when there was zero on the clock and
I had the ball, that’s when Kristi just tackled me, and it
was amazing.

CHERYL REEVE: A couple things I want to do first.
First is to congratulate the LA Sparks for a great series,
hard-fought. They deserved winning. They did some
things today that were necessary to put them over the
top.

The second thing is I want to — as I expressed to these
guys, this is a really special group led by Seimone,
Maya. We had a great season that didn’t end the way
we wanted it to, but I’m no less proud today than on the
days that we actually won a championship.

And then I want to do like other teams do, which is
bemoan the officiating in that they botched a call at
1:14. Nneka Ogwumike’s shot was not good. It was
reviewable at the time when she shot it. The referees
at that point didn’t think anything was wrong. They
didn’t understand it was the end of the clock. They
didn’t hear the shot clock.

When they put the ball in play, the play is no longer
reviewable, yet in the first quarter, three or four minutes
or five minutes can go by until the next step stoppage
of play before a review. So it’s really unfortunate that
players continually put themselves out there playing
and competing at a really high level, whether it was the
eight-second call in the game in LA — doesn’t matter,
okay. The game today, it’s not fair to the players. It’s
not enough just to apologize and send out a memo that
they got something wrong, okay. These players are so
invested, and something must be done about the
officiating in this league because it is not fair to these
great players that we have.

Without taking sides with either team on that, I
can’t agree with you more. Practically speaking,
what do you think can be done to improve the
officiating?

CHERYL REEVE: I don’t get paid enough to have to do
somebody else’s job, too. Just get the simple things
right, simple. Eight-second call, shot-clock violation.
Get the simple things right and we’ll live with the other
stuff that happens in a game. I’m not taking anything
away from LA. Please know that. It takes hustle plays
to win championships on the road, and they made
hustle plays.

But it’s unfortunate that we’re even having this
discussion. The number of people that have contacted
us and said that shot was no good. It’s unfortunate. I
mean, I don’t know what happens from there. Maybe
they still win; I don’t know. That’s why I don’t want to
take anything away from LA. That doesn’t stop the
other teams from bitching and complaining when it’s
happened in our favor, so we might as well get our
bitching and complaining in, as well.

In terms of basketball, what did they do to hurt
you?

CHERYL REEVE: There’s no question the second half
they scored at will in the paint. We had them at 34
percent in the first half. I thought defending our tails
off, and then in the second half we didn’t get that done.
They scored in the paint at will. You guys watched it.
How many shots did they hit? We go look at a shot
chart right now, it’s not going to be pretty. We
understand that’s where LA wants to be, and we didn’t
get that done, and then they had 14 offensive
rebounds. So they turned the tables on us.

There were times in the second half when you
were struggling on offense; you had a few missed
layups and issues there. Was that
miscommunications? What was the breakdown on
the offense in the second half?

CHERYL REEVE: Well, missed lay-ups aren’t
communication, that’s just focus. It happened
throughout the game. I thought we had decent
opportunities at the rim that we didn’t convert on. That
was unfortunate. In this league you have to have a
cushion because you don’t want to put it in the officials’
hands. If you don’t have a cushion, then you sit here
talking about things like I was talking about.
But in the end there was a stretch there, we struggled
offensively. They got separation. We stormed back
and put ourselves in position to win, and we just
couldn’t get over the hump.

I know it’s tough right after a loss, but can you
appreciate the quality of play and the quality of the
atmosphere tonight and in the series in general?

SEIMONE AUGUSTUS: Yeah, of course. You think
about the different playoff format that they implemented
this year, and you couldn’t have a better series with the
two top teams in the regular season competing against
each other going through a five-game series,
competing at the highest level. We always talk about
great players making great plays. Throughout the five
games, you saw people rise to the occasion. Any
given night there was any given player that could be
the most important piece at that time. This was what
we needed, and I hope that we gained a lot of fans
from around the world, around this country, and they
really recognize how well women’s basketball is being
played here in the USA.

Cheryl, what does a game like this and a series
like this and a team like yours do to elevate the
visibility of your league? How much fun — not the
result, but a lot of people had a lot of fun watching
that basketball game tonight.

CHERYL REEVE: Absolutely. What a great
atmosphere. I’ve got to commend our fan base for
providing us an atmosphere all season long to create
this home-court advantage that we had that we couldn’t
capitalize on. But certainly it’s not because they didn’t
bring it. Our business staff also — I don’t know, 18,000
tee shirts, green tee shirts on every seat, the
commitment, like I said, the fans, fully invested. The
number of times that I hear from people that attend a
game for the first time that they say, I had no idea how
much fun it was to go watch women’s basketball.

I tell these guys all the time how proud I am of them for
more than just their skills and just kind of what we’re
doing to change minds, if you will, move forward in
society, and these two are a big reason why we’re able
to do that here locally in this community, so exposing
boys and girls, men and women, to strong, powerful
women playing at the top of their craft, they brought it
tonight, our fans did, and like you said, I hope they
walked away knowing they saw a good game, and I
know they’re just as proud of our team as I am.

As veteran as this team is, how much more do
you think you can do?

CHERYL REEVE: I don’t know, they just said stick a
fork in it last year, and all we did was get back to the
Finals and have the best record in the league. I don’t
know, maybe you guys should start writing how we’re
old and washed up and maybe it motivates them. I
don’t know.

Thank you, all. Thank you for everything this season.
Appreciate it.

Rebekkah Brunson, Minnesota Lynx

Can you put tonight’s game into words?

Brunson: It’s unfortunate. We knew defense and rebounding would be the keys to the game. In the last five minutes, we weren’t getting the stops needed. In the end, it came down to a rebound. We knew those were going to be the keys. We just didn’t get it done.

Can this be used as motivation for the future?

Brunson: Right now, we can’t do anything about it. The future is a lot of months away. Unfortunately, we’re going to have to sit on this for a while. We’re going to continue to play the way we play. I’m proud of my team. We never gave up. We didn’t give them anything easy. We made it a tough series. I’m still proud of my teammates.

What was the key in tonight’s game?

Brunson: It was tough. It was up and down. We went on a little run there. That was exciting, but we didn’t get the stops. We had to rebound and we did not get it done. Hats off to them. They played a great game.

How good was Candace Parker tonight?

Brunson: I don’t think she had too many easy shots. In the beginning, we missed some rotations and she got some easy shots. She’s not a player you’re going to shut down. You just have to make things difficult for her. I think we did that. She played an amazing game.

Sylvia Fowles, Minnesota Lynx

Can you put tonight’s game into words?

Fowles: I won’t say I’m disappointed. I think my team handled themselves very well. I’m proud of all of them. I think we answered L.A.’s calls. They answered our calls back. Unfortunately, the game was a one possession game. In a situation like that, you should never be up by one possession with a team like Los Angeles. You have to give them credit for coming out and playing today.

Can this be used as motivation for the future?

Fowles: It’s painful to watch. You worked so hard to get this point all year. We didn’t come off with the win. We’ll get it next year.

What was the key in tonight’s game?

Fowles: Rebounding plays a factor. If you rebound and play good defense, you’ll win. That’s my philosophy. At the end of the day, L.A. came to play and ended up winning.

How good was Candace Parker tonight?

Fowles: She definitely carried their team. She came out with that sense of urgency.

Essence Carson, Los Angeles Sparks

How does it feel to be a champion?

Carson: It feels great! It feels like it was supposed to happen. Only because of all the hard work that we put in. Not just because we thought about it and we said it out loud or we wrote it down, it’s because we did all those things and we put in all the work that you need to do to become a champion. We made all the sacrifices and it feels great.

Chelsea Gray, Los Angeles Sparks

How does it feel to be a champion?

Gray: Exciting, happy, everything! I don’t even know the emotion. We did it! People on this team deserve this. People that’s been here for years. AB [Alana Beard] has been in the league for 13 years, Candace[Parker], Kristi [Toliver] and Jantel [Lavender], they’ve been in the league for five years plus and they deserve every bit of this. I’m really happy for this.

How did you weather the foul trouble your team was in to pull out this victory?

Gray: Nneka [Ogwumike] was in foul trouble all game, Kristi had four fouls, Essence [Carson] had four fouls. Nneka made one of the biggest plays of the game. She stuck with it and didn’t get frustrated. I’m proud of her right now.

Transcripts provided by the WNBA.

LEAVE A REPLY