Wednesday, July 17, 2019
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As Fever’s veteran leader, Dupree providing steadying presence

Stephanie Mavunga playfully hugs Candice Dupree, whom younger Fever players refer to as "Mama Candice." Kimberly Geswein photo.
Stephanie Mavunga playfully hugs Candice Dupree, whom younger Fever players refer to as "Mama Candice." Kimberly Geswein photo.
Stephanie Mavunga playfully hugs Candice Dupree, whom younger Fever players refer to as “Mama Candice.” Kimberly Geswein photo.

Minutes after stepping off the team bus outside Seattle’s Alaska Airlines Arena before a recent game, Candice Dupree was already out on the court.

With the floor nearly empty almost two hours before tip-off, the 14-year veteran was in the midst of the first of two pre-game warmups. It’s not a sight you would have seen in past seasons, but as the 34-year-old Indiana Fever forward will tell you, her old routine just wasn’t cutting it.

“I just didn’t really feel warm,” she said. “I felt like I would spend at least half of the first quarter trying to get my legs going.”

It’s a small adjustment, but the kind that leaves little question as to why coach Pokey Chatman refers to her as a “cerebral, savvy vet.”

Dupree is the elder stateswoman on a young Indiana team on which no other player on the roster has more than six years of WNBA experience, and only two others have at least four. Yet, she has embraced the role of veteran leader with warmth.

“They all see that I can put points on the board, but [I’m] just trying to be more of a vocal leader,” she said. “I think my basketball IQ is pretty high, so just trying to talk to them, and talk them through situations, help them view it a little differently, [and] see where they can be better.”

For a team that refers to Dupree as “Mama Candice,” it doesn’t take much to get everyone’s attention.

“When she speaks, she can whisper and she’s going to be heard,” Chatman said.

Candice Dupree unleashes a shot. Kimberly Geswein photo.
Candice Dupree unleashes a shot. Kimberly Geswein photo.

That’s the kind of respect befitting a six-time All-Star. But for someone with her staying power, Dupree was rarely the “go to” option in her past stops in Chicago or Phoenix that she’s been in Indianapolis.

“Most of her career — she was behind other Olympians in Phoenix — and not that she didn’t want to, she just didn’t have to,” Chatman said. “I think she welcomes that role with us.”

To an extent, her accomplishments have flown under the radar, despite being one of the league’s most prolific scorers and rebounders.

Earlier this year she passed Sue Bird for seventh on the all-time points list, and is all but certain to eclipse Lisa Leslie for sixth in the coming weeks. Her 2,100-plus rebounds currently rank eighth in league history.

“She’s just steady, reliable, she played 40 minutes in our [June 21 game against Chicago], and I don’t think she broke a sweat,” Chatman said. “It’s not because she wasn’t playing hard, it’s that she’s just so efficient in her movement and in everything that she does.”

That praise could also apply to how she’s balancing the rigors of whirlwind basketball seasons, both domestically and overseas, with life as a parent.

That’s getting easier though, she says, as the twin daughters she has with her wife, Phoenix forward DeWanna Bonner, continue to grow.

“They’re a lot more independent, even though they’re not even two years old yet,” she said. “But they think they can do everything on their own.”

Candice Dupree. Kimberly Geswein photo.
Candice Dupree. Kimberly Geswein photo.

The couple is also helped by what Dupree says is an “amazing support system.” This past WNBA offseason the twins stayed stateside, mostly with Dupree’s sister and mother in Florida, while Dupree played in Hungary and Bonner in China. When the latter’s season ended in February, she took over main parenting duties for the next couple of months.

“Everybody’s lending a helping hand at this point, until one of us is done playing and can take care of them full time,” Dupree said.

For now the twins are with Dupree in Indianapolis, and her teammates are well aware where her priorities lie when the team is at home.

“You can have me 100 percent when we’re on the road, but when we’re at home, I’m all about my kids,” she said.

On the court, Dupree has remained the consistent dual-threat she’s been throughout her career, ranking third on the team in scoring and second in rebounds just past the season’s quarter-way mark. After limping to a 6-28 record in 2018, Indiana started the year 5-5, before dropping four straight to end the month of June.

While that stretch dropped them near the bottom of the standings, Dupree thinks her team is capable of making its first playoff appearance since 2016.

“There’s no reason we can’t be in the top eight come the end of the season,” she said.

If they are, Dupree will deserve much of the credit.

And you can bet she’ll be one of the first players out on the floor.

Storm lose late lead, drop second straight

Mercedes Russell elevates for two of her career-high 19 points on the day. Neil Enns/Storm photos.
Mercedes Russell elevates for two of her career-high 19 points on the day. Neil Enns/Storm photos.
Mercedes Russell elevates for two of her career-high 19 points on the day. Neil Enns/Storm photos.

En route to their 2018 championship, the Seattle Storm did something that few teams accomplish, even at their peak.

Across 34 regular season games, Seattle avoided losing back-to-back contests.

But if the Storm’s shorthanded roster and dual home venues weren’t proof enough, this isn’t 2018.

And while the team was able to stretch that streak to almost 50 games without the services of Breanna Stewart, Sue Bird, and now, Jewell Loyd, Seattle is now facing the prospect of something it hasn’t since August of 2017: A losing streak.

Despite taking a 10-point lead into the fourth quarter on Wednesday against New York, a dominant performance in the final minutes by Tina Charles propelled the Liberty past Seattle 84-83, handing the Storm its second straight loss.

Charles finished with a game-high 26 to lead New York (6-7), including the Liberty’s final 11 points. That stretch began after the team had already used a 10-0 run in the first three minutes of the fourth to tie the game at 70.

It remained a one possession game on either side for the rest of the quarter, with the teams trading the lead until a Charles hook shot with just over a minute to play gave New York the lead for good.

Seattle (8-7) had a chance to win it in their final possession, but a Jordin Canada three bounced out with five seconds left, and Alysha Clark’s put back rimmed out as time expired.

“We got a good shot and missed it,” said Storm head coach Dan Hughes. “We got a second good shot inside. We just needed one more play.”

Meanwhile, Charles’ late game heroics would have been for naught if not for a steadying effort by Kia Nurse, who had 22 of her 24 points in the first three quarters to keep the game within reach.

“We need those guards to be in an attack mentality,” said Liberty head coach Katie Smith. “We need them to look to score. I think Nurse has worked on her game during the offseason, her pick and rolls, shooting her pullups, obviously she’s a three baller, and finishing around the rim. She continues to work and expand her game and get better.”

For Seattle, the loss overshadowed a strong performance from center Mercedes Russell, who finished with a career-high 19 points.

“I thought she really did a great job of creating step ins and things where we can throw it to her,” Hughes said. “The team continues to look for her more which has got to be a theme. It’s evolving and its kind of true of this team we have on the floor right now.”

All five Storm starters finished in double figures.

Seattle continues its six-game home stand on Friday against Atlanta, while the Liberty head to Phoenix for a Friday night tilt with the Mercury.

Aces, Lynx prevail

Today’s results:

The Aces used a balanced scoring attack to beat the Sky, 90-82.

The Lynx took care of the Dream, 85-68.

Tomorrow’s game schedule:

Liberty at Storm

WNBA team news:

Examining why scoring is down this year.

The Mystics are head and shoulders above the rest of the league.

Washington has been playing stellar defense during their winning streak.

The Sun were eclipsed on their road trip.

Minnesota got two salary cap hardship waivers and added Kenisha Bell and Asia Taylor.

The league’s power rankings for week six.

AP WNBA power poll.

Her Hoop Stats power rankings.

WNBA player news:

Courtney Vandersloot is steadying a new era in Chicago.

Jantel Lavender has made a seamless transition to the Sky after playing eight seasons with the Sparks.

Diana Taurasi could return to the court Friday.

Another wonderful Sue Bird essay in the Player’s Tribune.

Early returns for all-star voting.

WNBA coach news:

Lessons Dan Hughes wishes he’d known from the start.

College player news:

NCAA athletes are rallying behind Tiana Magankahia.

She vows to come back stronger.

The No. 1 Gamecock recruiting class embraces the pressure.

She can dunk, but that’s not what put her in place to lead South Carolina’s freshmen.

Notre Dame transfer Jordan Dixon has landed at Texas A&M.

College coach news:

Miami Ohio’s new assistant coach is Sahar Nusseibeh.

Wichita State has two new assistant coaches.

UTEP has finalized its coaching staff.

High school news:

Iowa State commit Aubrey Joens is next in line for her storied hoops family.

USA Basketball news:

The U19 team is ready to begin training.

Wings rally to beat Lynx, snap long losing streak

Arike Ogunbowale #24 of Dallas Wings reacts to a play during the game against the Minnesota Lynx on June 30, 2019 at the College Park Center in Arlington, Texas. Photo by Cooper Neill/NBAE via Getty Images.
Arike Ogunbowale #24 of Dallas Wings reacts to a play during the game against the Minnesota Lynx on June 30, 2019 at the College Park Center in Arlington, Texas. Photo by Cooper Neill/NBAE via Getty Images.

Arlington, Texas – The Dallas Wings came from behind to edge the Minnesota Lynx, 89-86, Sunday to end a 12-game losing streak to the franchise.

Six Dallas players scored in double-digits, led by rookie Arike Ogunbowale’s 19 points. Kayla Thornton scored 17 points and Theresa Plaisance put up 13 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for their first win over Minnesota since June, 2015.

Both teams came with a balanced offensive attack, with all five starters on both squads notching double-digits. The Lynx began the game on a tear, and had scored 53 points by halftime. Wings coach Brian Agler told his team at halftime that they would have to step up their defense.

“It’s easy to make excuses, but we are not going to go down that path because that doesn’t solve anything,” Agler said. “Because the next time you do it then you are going to make another excuse so we are not going to open up that can.”

It was the most points any team has put up on Dallas in the first half this season. But by locking down on defense in each of the last two quarters, they outscored the visitors, 48-33. It was a season-high for points in the second half for them. The Wings currently sit in tenth place, they are 4-2 at home, but have not been able to win on the road.

Odyssey Sims led Minnesota with 23 points, while Danielle Robinson had 16 and Sylvia Fowles added 14.

Fowles said their opponents were able to finish plays at game’s end, while they were not.

“When it was time for us to execute, we didn’t quite get it done” Fowles said. “I think we had two good passes: one from Napheesa (Collier) to me inside and I lost it, then one from D-Rob (Danielle Robinson) to Step(hanie Talbot) and she lost it. So, I think we got some good looks, but we just weren’t able to execute down the stretch.”

Dallas was coming off of a 69-68 road loss in New York, where Ogunbowale had one of the worst shooting nights in WNBA history for any player, going 2-23. As a team, the Wings have the second worst shooting percentage in the league, at 37.8 percent. Against the Lynx, they shot 49 percent from the field, with Ogunbowale going 7-12 from the field and 3-4 from behind the arc.

She said tough shooting nights are going to happen, but said she was determined to bounce back.

“As a team, you know, I think we played great. We found each other, all our shots were in rhythm, especially in the second half. We came together and that was a big win,” Ogunbowale said.

The Wings have been inconsistent offensively, but Agler said the team plays the best when their offense originates in the front court. Doing so Sunday aided the team in hitting key threes down the stretch of the game.

“Most of those threes were off penetration getting the defense to rotate and we shoot the ball so much better when we can do that,” Agler said.

Dallas is allowing the third-fewest points, with their opponents averaging 74 points per game. However, they also allow the third-best field goal percentage to their opponents at 41 percent. Plaisance has been with the team five years, and is currently the oldest active member on the roster at 27. The 6-5 forward said the team has a defensive identity, but they are still working to improve offensively.

“We are feeling each other out a lot better, we have a lot of people who are either playing out of position or learning a new position and a lot of people have not played together yet,” Plaisance said. “Developing that chemistry is going to help us down the road, but ball movement and sticking to the scouting report is something that helps us intermediately.”

The Wings have played the first third of the season, and are a game and a half out of the playoff picture. Most of the roster is new, as is Agler. But he said he was proud of how his team was able to execute during the guts of what was a bit of a high-stakes game for the team – especially out-of-bounds plays.

“We were so bad early that we had to practice, and practice drawing up plays and having them execute, because it takes a certain maturity as a player and as a group to execute some of these things,” Agler said. “I was really proud of them.”

Dallas does not currently have a player in the top 10 in points, rebounds or assists. Last seasonthey had a representative in each category, with Liz Cambage leading the league in scoring and averaging second in rebounds, and Skylar Diggins-Smith ranking third in assists. This season the team is attacking as a unit, but they are missing veteran leadership, as they have been without Glory Johnson for two weeks due to her Eurobasket commitment with team Montenegro. But that team was eliminated from the tournament over the weekend, and the Wings could have her back for their Friday match up with the Indiana Fever.

Late charge falls short as Mercury hold off Storm

Sami Whitcomb drives past Sophia Cunningham. Neil Enns/Storm photos.
Sami Whitcomb drives past Sophia Cunningham. Neil Enns/Storm photos.
Sami Whitcomb drives past Sophia Cunningham. Neil Enns/Storm photos.

With just over a second to play, all eyes were on Jordin Canada.

The second-year guard stepped to the line for three shots, fouled behind the arc on Seattle’s final offensive possession on Sunday against Phoenix.

But the 70 percent free-throw shooter would have to hit all three to force overtime.

“We had a chance to tie it up, but basketball is a funny game,” said Storm center Mercedes Russell. “[You] can’t make every shot, can’t make every free throw, can’t make every lay up.”

And so it went.

Canada missed the first, make the second, and the Mercury grabbed the rebound on the third to seal a 69-67 victory, snapping Seattle’s six-game home winning streak to start the season.

DeWanna Bonner and Britney Griner both finished with 20 points to lead all scorers in Phoenix’s (5-5) third straight win, while Sami Whitcomb had a team-high 13 as one of four Storm (8-6) players in double figures. Russell and Alysha Clark both had 12 points, while Natasha Howard was one point and two rebounds shy of a double-double.

While Seattle held the Mercury to just under 40 percent from the field, and came out ahead on the glass 37-29, Phoenix held a lead for most of the night — up by as many as 13 in the second quarter — and never trailed by more than one possession.

“We didn’t start well,” said Storm head coach Dan Hughes. “And in a game that that’s competitive … you want to get out of the gate and not have to necessarily play catch up.”

Early deficit aside, a late 7-0 run by Seattle in the closing minutes of the second cut the gap to one at halftime, with the Storm taking its first lead of the game early in the third.

As the teams traded the lead into the fourth, Seattle still held a one-point edge with just over five minutes to play. But Phoenix cashed in on its next four possessions, a Bonner 3-pointer with 3:08 left capping a 10-0 Mercury run.

However, Natasha Howard answered with a three of her own, followed by a three-point play by Russell. The second-year center then split a pair of free throws with 1:41 to go to cut the gap to two at 65-63.

Phoenix stretched the lead back to six on free throws, before a Whitcomb three again sliced the deficit in half for Seattle with just over 30 seconds in regulation. Phoenix head coach Sandy Brondello had warned her team to not to get complacent with a late lead.

“I told them not to relax because this is the Seattle Storm and they just play hard and they did,” she said. “Sami made an awesome shot.”

Opting to defend instead of foul with a seven-second difference between the game and shot clocks, the Storm had a chance to tie the game after a missed Sancho Lyttle three with 12 seconds left.

That possession ended with Canada at the line, thanks to a Briann January foul with 1.2 seconds to play. But with the first miss, the game was essentially over.

“It came down to the little things,” Russell said. We fought from beginning to end but there was just a few plays and we didn’t finish on the defensive end and that really hurt us.”

Seattle continues its six-game home stand on Wednesday afternoon against New York, while Phoenix returns home for a Friday tilt with the Liberty.

“We’re resilient,” Brondello said. “We’re persistent. Sometimes against Seattle you have to play ugly and you have to win ugly, but we competed when we needed to.”

Dribbles

  • Attendance: 8,002.
  • The season series between Seattle and Phoenix is now tied at a game apiece. Seattle won the first matchup on May 25 in Everett, 77-68. The two teams meet again in Phoenix on Sept. 3.
  • Sunday was Camille Little’s final regular season appearance in Seattle. The 13-year forward, who spent parts of seven seasons with the Storm, announced earlier this month she will retire at year’s end.
  • Grethe Cammermeyer was recognized as Seattle’s “Honorary Coach” on Sunday. Cammermeyer was discharged from the U.S. Army in 1992, after disclosing she was a lesbian, but was reinstated after winning a District Court ruling that found both her discharge and the ban on gays and lesbians in the military was unconstitutional.
  • Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan was in attendance, and recognized on the video board during a third quarter break.
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