Tuesday, March 20, 2018
Page 696

WNBA is poppin’

Fans can email messages to Shannon Johnson, who announced this morning she is retiring at the end of the season, here. Very nice of the Storm to do that.

Looks like Angel McCoughtry might be Rookie of the Year since it was annouced today that DeWanna Bonner has won the Sixth Woman Award.

The Sparks snatched defeat from the jaws of victory tonight in Western Conference semifinal game 2. An unbelievable sequence of events:

Cash’s layup with 53.5 seconds left in the contest deadlocked the game at 70-70. Parker missed a jumper during the Sparks’ next possession, but Leslie was there to tip the ball in with 27.9 ticks left on the clock.

A scuffle for the ball during Seattle’s next possession resulted in a jump ball with 17.5 seconds left. Wright was whistled for a violation during the jump ball, giving LA the ball.

Thompson made a pair of foul shots to put the Sparks ahead 74-70 with 14.3 ticks to go. Bird answered for Seattle with a three-pointer from the top of the key with 10.7 seconds left.

After a timeout, Noelle Quinn threw a bad inbounds pass that was tipped by Little. Ashley Robinson collected the ball and hit a streaking Little with a perfect pass, and Little completed the play with a layup, giving Seattle a one-point lead with five seconds to go.

Leslie’s fade away shot at the other end was off the mark as time expired.

I expected the Storm to win, though. They are too much of a fighter team to go down in two.

What I am surprised about (notice I didn’t say shocked) is that the Shock took their Eastern Conference semifinal series 2-0 tonight against Atlanta. I thought the Dream had at least three games in them. As opposed to the Sparks’ situation, this was one of those instances where veteran experience took over and prevailed.

Sparks 70, Storm 63

I don’t enjoy when these two teams play one another – especially in the playoffs. When I have my old home team and my new home team vying in “win or die” time, it’s not fun.

The Sparks played very cohesively in the first half, like the team fans thought they were going to get at the beginning of the year. The Storm seemed out of sorts and off-balance, which is to be expected since they’re missing Lauren Jackson for the second post-season in a row, and Katie Geralds.

The Storm battled back in the third quarter, which is always the Sparks’ worst. Big ups to Swin Cash, who put the team on her back, and Suzy Batkovic-Brown, who couldn’t seem to miss. The fact that LA only beat them by seven when Seattle is missing so much horsepower is not a good sign for the Sparks.

Daryl Humphrey, June Courteau and Tony Dawkins take the term “crappy refs” to a whole other level, making phantom calls and calling a foul on the wrong player, on both ends of the court. I haven’t seen officiating that bad in a long, long while.

Next game is 7 p.m. tomorrow in Seattle.

The Sparks actually box out when Swin Cash throws up a shot, in the first quarter. Referee Daryl Humphrey, #8, is one of the worst in the league.

Sue Bird, ever the PG, tells Cash what to do next.

Mwadi Mabika (black jacket and black hat) sneaked in, but fans spotted her anyway.

Candace Parker walks away from the “beginning of halftime” interview. They got her after the game, too.

Bird guards the hell out of Betty Lennox in the third quarter.

Lennox takes a turn at PG……

…….as does Parker a little later.

Tina Thompson threw up this ridiculous side, off-balance shot in the fourth, with 4:52 to go. As she fell out of bounds it swished in to put the Sparks ahead 64-54, and the crowd went wild. The above shot is just as she released the ball.

Victory = confetti.

After the game, Parker and baby Lailaa chat with some tall dudes.

More photos here.

Hard work pays off

Jianni Jackson got that D1 scholarship after all. See? This is why you should never, ever give up.

My daily humor

I get emails from both the Seattle Storm and LA Sparks. Today this came from the Storm:

I love this because it’s a break from the norm. Usually publicists on both ends play up the rivalry between Lauren Jackson and Lisa Leslie. But probably since Jackson is injured and Leslie is about to retire, they chose Sue Bird and Candace Parker for this picture. But it isn’t quite the same.

Both Bird and Parker are two of the nicest players in the WNBA. To have them pointing and screaming at each other is extremely laughable, to say the least. My guess is the pictures came from 1. right after Bird hit a tough shot at a crucial moment in a game and 2. as Parker is helping direct traffic on the court.

In any case, game time is 7 p.m. Wednesday at Staples Center, and then both squads head to Seatown for Friday’s game 2.

Who’s in charge at your child’s school?

An LA high school basketball player has been a prominent part of her team for the last three years. Now she’s going to another high school for her senior season.

Friday she went to her old school to get a copy of a waiver from a test she took last year, to help qualify her for something else. Of course, the counseling office had no copy of the waiver. Told her they’d thrown last year’s stuff out. What was more, the counselor she’d talked to last year was out sick indefinitely. So the young baller went to find the Athletic Director to see if she could help her.

The AD told her, “since you’re checked out (of the school), I can’t help you anymore.”

Unbelievable isn’t a strong enough word to describe this situation or this AD, but I’m not going to start cussing in this space. So let’s try reprehensible, appalling, assinine, selfish, hateful, immature, spiteful, bitchy, trifling, mean-spirited and hateful towards children.

I wish this incident was an exception, but bad coaches and school staff are everywhere. And they get away with their crap, for the most part, in low-income areas. Try to pull that mess in Palos Verdes or Orange County and someone would get fired. In poor areas, parents don’t bother to take a stand because they don’t think it’ll make a difference or that they could change anything – the self-confidence is that low.

A coach at another school in a low-income area was recently let go, and it should have happened a long time ago. But parents of the past didn’t protest or try to talk to school officials.

To all the parents out there: your voice does make a difference. Remember the old saying, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease”? It’s true to the tenth power at schools. Check up and make sure coaches and athletic directors are doing right by your child, and if not, take it to the school administration. If that doesn’t work, keep taking it up the ladder. Bad treatment of your children should not be tolerated.

The year of the non-MVP

The editor for the website for which I write asked all the writers for their votes on the “best of”s in the WNBA this year. I didn’t know who to choose for MVP, and I still don’t.

In past years it’s been pretty obvious who the final 2-3 candidates were due to their strong performances all season long. Even last year, when some didn’t agree that Candace Parker should have won, most agreed that she was at least on the short list of candidates.

Who do we have this year? Diana Taurasi, who has performed well and currently leads the league in points per game at 20.4, but whose season was marred by a drunk driving arrest in June. There is retiring Lisa Leslie – a sentimenal favorite for some – who has played extremely well. But it’s only been for half the season after she came back from a knee injury.

Becky Hammon is second in points per game and fourth in assists, but she hasn’t done much to “wow” fans this year as she has in the past. Lauren Jackson is always a killer, but her rebounding production has been down this year. She’s also been out for over a week after being diagnosed with a low back stress fracture.

Cappie Pondexter is another consideration, as is Sophia Young. But no strong or obvious candidate emerges from this list of top WNBA players.

A similar situation exists with Rookie of the Year. DeWanna Bonner started out the season on fire, and looked to be the obvious choice for the award. But her production has slowed as the season has gone on, while Angel McCoughtry’s has picked up. As a result, ROY could go to either player.

Perhaps it’s the Year of Inconsistency, but this year’s MVP will lack the punch of previous winners. Hopefully 2009 is just an off-year and this won’t become a trend.

Sparks 90, Lynx 61, on “Lisa Leslie night”

At the end of a season full of glitches, last night came off without a hitch.

The Sparks soared into the WNBA playoffs with a solid third-seed after thrashing the Minnesota Lynx. And they did so amidst an evening of honoring Lisa Leslie, which included a pre-game tribute that brought out family, friends and celebrities.

After the National Anthem, longtime Sparks play-by-play guy Larry Burnett guided the ceremony. Leslie’s former coach at Morningside High School gave her a hug, as did the USC basketball team and all of her current Sparks teammates. Leslie’s family spoke, and then surprise guest Earvin “Magic” Johnson strode out. Among the many nice things he said, the best was when he recounted being asked in the airport earlier why he wasn’t at the Basketball Hall of Fame ceremony honoring his friends.

“I told them, ‘I’m in LA honoring someone who will be in the Hall of Fame,'” he said.

There were also several video tributes throughout the rest of the evening, including one from Lynx Coach Jennifer Gillom.

The Sparks got off to a quick start in the first quarter, and built a nice lead going into the second. But Minnesota went on a 15-2 run, and the Sparks were stuck on 30 points forever until the evening’s honoree hit a bucket. From there, the Sparks seemed to take control again, growing the lead into the second half and bringing the victory home.

The Sparks will take on second-seed Seattle at Staples Center Wednesday, Sept. 16.

After the game, season ticket holders headed across the street to the party at ESPN Zone. It was a huge turnout; I’m not the best at crowd estimation, but there had to be 400-500 people there.

Co-owner Kathy Goodman, Coach Michael Cooper and GM Penny Toler each thanked the crowd for coming, and then Burnett took over and interviewed players as they walked in.

Vanessa Hayden’s two-year-old daughter was with her, as was Tina Thompson’s five-year-old son. Good lord but the children of basketball players are tall for their ages. Each child looked older then they are. Ditto for Leslie’s fast-growing toddler.

Cool giveaway of the night: the first grip of fans that came in got a T-shirt that read “pass the ball to the girl” on the front, with Leslie’s number 9 on the back. Ya gotta love that slogan.

My two favorite players, Betty Lennox and Candace Parker, pause for the National Anthem.

USC basketball team members walk on-court for the Lisa Leslie ceremony.

Lisa Leslie holds up one of the gold-dipped shoes she was presented.

Leslie’s longtime friend, the legendary Dawn Staley, was on hand for the ceremony.

Leslie hugs all of her teammates, including Noelle Quinn.

Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Leslie hug after his words about her.

Leslie and the crowd pause to watch a video tribute to her.

The second quarter saw Minnesota go on a 15-2 run until under four minutes to play, when Leslie finally put up 2.

I really like CP’s hair this way.

The Lynx on offense in the fourth quarter. I dislike when teams mix it up and put themselves in front of the opponent’s basket on offense for the second half.

Shannon Bobbitt vs. Rene Montgomery, but check out Leslie streaking up the right side. Not bad for 37, I have to admit.

The house, completely packed, stood and applauded when Leslie came out of the game for the last time.

Sparks co-owner Kathy Goodman takes the mic for opening remarks at the after-party as co-owner Carla Christofferson and new baby, Coach Michael Cooper and GM Penny Toler look on.

Vanessa Hayden speaks while Bobbitt, Marie Ferdinand-Harris, Quinn and Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton wait their turn.

Larry Burnett interviews Bobbitt, who received a very warm welcome from the crowd when introduced.

Leslie dipped into the party for about a minute (literally), then left with apologies: “I’m sorry, you guys – I’m exhausted.”

C. Vivian Stringer inducted into Basketball Hall of Fame

The longtime coach received the honor today, along with that Jordan guy. Good picks.

Catching up with Pat Summitt

The legendary coach mentions just about everyone in this piece.

Sparks 76, Silver Stars 68

All the Sparks’ spirited comebacks made last night’s game fun to watch. Each time LA fell behind by 6 or 8, they stopped things before they got out of hand. It was a good team effort overall, although I wish Marie Ferdinand-Harris had played.

Candace Parker’s one-handed put-back was the play of the day on wnba.com, to the surprise of no one who was at the game. It was quite something to behold, but it is CP after all.

One non-game note: as I walked up to the Staples Center entrance before the game, I came up behind a tall guy surrounded by a small group of fans, just as one woman said, “are you ready for the Lakers?” I didn’t know who it was. But during the game they put the camera on Ron Artest, who was sitting courtside. I guess that was him outside.

There are a few Sparks players who I won’t name who don’t seem to be in a very good mood when they leave the floor, no matter what the game result. One athlete in particular used to look up at the fans, waving and smiling as she passed through the tunnel, but looks down now and never up. I hope she’s allright.

Friday’s game will be a tribute to retiring Lisa Leslie. But the Sparks better remember that it’s also Delisha Milton-Jones’ birthday.

Sophia Young misses a shot in the first quarter. It’s always great to see that happen.

You can’t see Betty Lennox’ legs anymore.

Vanessa Hayden doesn’t play anymore, but she’s sure fun to watch on the bench.

Here’s a sight you won’t see too much longer.

Noelle Quinn started at point last night and ran it pretty much the entire game.

The reaction after Lennox drove, scored and was fouled. Delisha Milton-Jones pumped her fist.

The ending five walk back out after the last timeout of the game.

In the closing seconds, the crowd was on its feet chanting.

Playoffs, people. Who woulda thunk it just a few weeks ago.

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