Sunday, December 17, 2017
Page 730

Shock match Sparks’ offer and keep Kara Braxton

Ah, the Sparks’ quest to fill Candace Parker’s shoes isn’t going to be easy. Their first coup has failed:

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — The Detroit Shock announced Friday they have matched the offer sheet Kara Braxton signed with the Los Angeles Sparks.

Coach Bill Laimbeer said in a release that Detroit’s philosophy “is not to allow other teams to steal our players away with money.”

Details of Braxton’s contract were not released. She is a native of Jackson, Mich.

The 24-year-old former Georgia star was selected by Detroit with the seventh overall pick in the first round of the 2005 WNBA draft. She has averaged of 6.7 points and 4.2 rebounds in 131 games.

Braxton averaged 8.9 points and 5.1 rebounds in 33 games last season, helping the Shock win their third WNBA championship, and second in three years.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

Link:
http://sports.espn.go.com/wnba/news/story?id=3822534

Cait McMahan gives up basketball career due to injury

University of Tennessee redshirt sophomore Cait McMahan decided earlier today to cut short her collegiate basketball career due to persistent problems in her right knee. The 21-year-old guard will become a student assistant coach for the Lady Vols.

“I have to face reality and accept the fact that my knee can’t take the day-to-day pounding to play for this team,” McMahan said in a statement from the Univeristy. “I’ll try to continue to be a leader for my team from the sidelines.”

Since first tearing her ACL in November, 2005, while still in high school, McMahan has undergone numerous surgeries to repair the knee, the last of which was in September. She arrived at her decision to stop playing after consulting with her doctors, Coach Pat Summitt, University of Tennessee officials, and team Athletic Trainer Jenny Moshak.

Full release here:

http://www.utladyvols.com/sports/w-baskbl/spec-rel/011009aad.html

Maria Cornelius, a scout.com reporter who covers the Lady Vols, penned a longer piece that ran on the University of Tennessee website today. Among other things, Cornelius chronicled McMahan’s difficult last few years, which included losing her mother to cancer in May of 2007.

Those of us who follow the team had a feeling this day was coming, albeit not so soon. McMahan is to be applauded for her courage in stepping away from the game she loves for the good of her health. She will make a great addition to the Lady Vol coaching staff.

Courtney Paris is December WCBA player of the month

A couple days late (thanks, bballfan2005), but still news: Oklahoma’s Courtney Paris is December’s Women’s College Basketball Association Division I national player of the month for December.

Paris averaged 17.2 points, 12.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.8 blocks in five games in December, while playing just 25.2 minutes a game. She shot 77.3 percent from the field, connecting on 33-of-44 field goal attempts. Her rebounds and field goal percentage led the Big 12 in December.

Full link: http://www.wbca.org/Releases/DecemberPOM2008.html

I like the list of honorable mentions; looks like the judging is fair.

The Pac-10 still has a way to go, and other things

Stanford killed Washington tonight, 112-35. California beat Washington State 68-45. Previously-thought-of-as-good Oregon State continued its free fall to 0-3 in conference play in losing to Arizona State tonight (previously thought of as washed up). Oregon continued its momentum from Sunday, beating Arizona.

So I guess Washington isn’t that good. People had been making excuses for them before, but maybe they really are just bad.

I’m concerned about Arizona, though, because they only played seven tonight. Four of the starters played all 40 minutes – that’s rough on an athlete. What’s going on? Is everyone injured or sick? I need to call their media relations department and find out.

And as for parity in the Pac-10 – it’s going to be a lot slower in coming that some would like. For now it’s still the Cal and Stanford show.

On the upside, Ashley Walker moved up to second on Cal’s all-time scoring list tonight.

In other parts……..

Tennessee held on to beat the worst team in the SEC tonight. A W is a W, but I was nervous for a bit, because The Kim was texting me that they were tied with Kentucky at the same time the game I was watching at the Fairfax Tournament became tied. (More on that tourney in a little while, when it’s all over, but it’s been great!)

And in what sounds like the most exciting game of the evening, Georgia Tech’s Jacqua Williams scored a bucket with 3.4 seconds left in overtime to put the Yellow Jackets up by one. But Boston College’s Mickel Picco scored on a driving layup with less than a second left to win the game for her team, 65-64. I’m bummed about that because I’ve enjoyed seeing GT finally take its place in the top 25 this season, and with Williams, of Seattle, leading the way. Hopefully the Yellow Jackets can get back on their feet quickly.

Tomorrow, the only top 25 team playing is #10 Duke.

Myself, I’m going to check out the JC game of my kids tomorrow (for the second time this week – I’ve been busy).

I love this time of year.

More Parker fall out

Sparks General Manager Penny Toler said the team has made an offer to Detroit Shock restricted free agent Kara Braxton and is considering going after a pair of unrestricted free agents — Tina Thompson and Lauren Jackson.

Toler also said her reaction on hearing the Parker news was simple.

“Wow, just wow,” Toler said. “That’s kind of my reaction to so many of Candace’s plays. Wow.”

Now it’s up to Toler to figure out how to make Sparks fans say “Wow” until the wow woman herself comes back to play.

Full link:

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/sports_blog/2009/01/repercussions-o.html

From the “Beyond the Arc” Sparks newsletter sent to season ticket holders today, an interview with General Manager Penny Toler:

LASparks.com: What’s in the works for the Sparks?

PT: We’re doing what everybody else is doing. Going after the free agents and hoping that we can land the best of them. You have Tina Thompson, Lauren Jackson and Michelle Snow out there – that’s just to name a few. There are a lot of players out there. There are also a lot of restricted free agents out there and we will be putting offer sheets down on some of them. So we’re doing what everyone else is doing.

LASparks.com: What does it mean for the Sparks that Candace is pregnant?

PT: First things first, we’ll wait for her. She’ll be back, she wants to get back and she’s anxious to get back. At the end of the day as the GM, this is why you prepare the team from top to bottom. Candace is pregnant; it isn’t the end of the world. What about teams that have players out for torn ACLs or back and foot injuries? A pregnancy is nothing compared to some of that stuff and we’re extremely happy for her. I always try to prepare the team from top to bottom because every year someone could be out and at the beginning of this year, it will be Candace.

LASparks.com: How exciting is it knowing that there are tons of great players in the free agency game right now?

PT: It’s really exciting because the league has gotten tougher and you need a lot of good players to win a championship and we want to be in the running every year. Whether it’s Tina, Lauren, Michelle or whoever else is available – we’re going to continue to go after them. My job is to make this team stronger and it’s not just a matter of preparing the team for 2009 but for 2010, 2011 and beyond.

LASparks.com: What expectations do you have for 2009?

PT: Our expectation is to win a championship. What is our nickname out here in L.A.? The City of Champions. Our goal is always to win a championship and there is not a team in L.A. that would tell you that they don’t set out every season to win a championship.

LASparks.com: What are you most looking forward to in 2009?

PT: I’m definitely looking to get out of the Western Conference Finals. I thought we had a great run last year but at the end of the day we don’t have a title. So once again I’m looking forward to putting the best players out there and I think it helps that our players have already been together for a season. There won’t be many changes here, there will be some but going forward, we’re looking to win a championship.

LASparks.com: Going into your 10th season as GM, what have you learned that has made you so successful?

PT: I would say just being in the LA environment. You do your best; in LA you always have to work to be the best and I strive to be the best I can be. Every year I prepare the team win and LA is never in a rebuilding year. We don’t rebuild, we compete for titles. Going into my 10th year, my goal is the same as it was in my first: we’ve got to win a title and that’s every year.

Since the news was made official yesterday, the Sparks are really blitzing us with communications.

Great piece on UCLA’s Chinyere Ibekwe

Great piece in today’s Daily Bruin about the senior forward, who is working hard in her senior year instead of getting by on her athleticism alone:

http://www.dailybruin.ucla.edu/news/2009/jan/08/sdf/

A lot of players are in the same boat.

The story explains that none of this growth would be taking place without first-year coach Nikki Caldwell, who has helped “push her to her athletic limits as never before.”

Even before Ibekwe stepped on the court for Caldwell, she had a feeling about her new coach.

“When it was announced that Nikki was our coach, even before I met her, there was something that drew me to her,” Ibekwe said. “When you meet people, you’re either all in or all out, and I was all in with her.”

That is when things started turning around. By deciding she was “in,” Ibekwe committed herself to facing the adversity of her junior year and learning from it.

“(Ibekwe’s success) started with her mental attitude about wanting to have a great senior year. … She’s somebody who has taken that to heart,” Caldwell said. “I think she has taken pride in wanting to be that go-to player inside. But I think it started with a change in her mindset.”

Under Caldwell, Ibekwe quickly realized it would no longer be enough to coast on her athleticism alone. Caldwell pushed her to bring fire, aggressiveness and discipline every day. She is being pushed to her athletic limits as never before.

“You have to make up your mind every day on what type of leader you want to be when you step on the floor,” Caldwell said. “There are days when she’s done that and days when she needed the help of her teammates to get it done. But she is doing it more than she has probably ever done in the past.”

The numbers verify what Caldwell says. Ibekwe has eclipsed her sophomore statistics and leads the team both in rebounding and blocked shots by quite a bit in Caldwell’s system that preaches board play and defense.

And Ibekwe appreciates everything Caldwell has done for her as a senior.

“I feel (Caldwell) had the choice to not deal with me and focus on her younger classmen, but she has really embraced me, asked me to be a leader, and I’m doing as much as I can to help her,” Ibekwe said.

Lady Vols and coaches visit Children’s Hospital

These pictures made me smile – a great team doing a great thing. They need to buy Charles-Furlow some sweats, though. And the picture-clicking sound effect is cool:

http://www.utladyvols.com/view.gal?id=40570

Another “it’s official” entry

Season ticket holders got personally-addressed emails today, though I didn’t get mine until about an hour ago when I got home. My friend Monique called to tell me at about 2:30. Here’s the official release from Sparks co-owners Kathy Goodman and Carla Christofferson:

Dear Sue,

On behalf of the entire Sparks organization, we would like you to join us in congratulating Candace Parker and Shelden Williams on the upcoming birth of their first child this Spring. We are delighted to be adding a new Sparks fan, and we look forward to the one-on-one games between him/her and Lauren Lockwood.

We are excited that Candace plans to return to the court this season, and we are already getting ready for our home opener (which for the first time ever is our season opener) on June 6. We came closer to our goal of another WNBA Championship, and all of our Sparks players share our view that close is never good enough for Los Angeles!

Thank you, as always, for being the best fans in the WNBA. We look forward to seeing you soon!

Regards,

Kathy and Carla

CANDACE PARKER EXPECTING HER FIRST CHILD THIS SPRING

(January 7, 2008) – Last year was a year of firsts for Candace Parker. In 2008 she was selected as the No. 1 overall pick in the WNBA Draft by the Los Angeles Sparks, she was the first woman in the WNBA to win both Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player and she captured her first Olympic Gold Medal at the Summer Games in Beijing. Entering a new year, Parker has another special first to look forward to. This spring, she and husband Shelden Williams of the Sacramento Kings are expecting their first child.

“Shelden and I are very excited to be expanding our family,” said Parker. “We feel blessed and look forward to becoming parents.”

“We are happy to welcome a new addition into the Sparks family and on behalf of the entire organization we congratulate both Candace and Shelden,” said Penny Toler, Los Angeles Sparks General Manager.

Parker will continue to work out in preparation to participate in the 2009 WNBA season.

Parker nearly averaged a double-double her rookie season (18.5 ppg, 9.5 rpg) and she led the WNBA in rebounds. She earned the 2008 WNBA Rookie of the Year award and the Most Valuable Player award marking the first time in the WNBA’s 12 seasons that a rookie has won MVP. Parker won back-to-back NCAA championships with the Lady Vols in 2007 and 2008. She led the team in scoring (20.6 ppg) and rebounding (8.8 rpg) her final season at Tennessee. Parker was named the 2007 and 2008 Collegiate Female John R. Wooden Player of the Year, State Farm Player of the Year, Basketball Writers Association National Player of the Year and Kodak All-American. She earned the NCAA Final Four MVP award in 2007 and 2008.

On the Sparks board fans are freaking out a bit, as would be expected. One person said the 2009 season is shot. In a later post this person said, “it’s disappointing all the fans who bought season tickets to see Candace play. She’s the new face of the WNBA, and now she’s out indefinitely, how does the WNBA market itself?”

I guess we shall see. You never know in this wild and woolly game of life, what will happen.

Pat Summitt told the News Sentinel that she had talked with Candace about it and both of them are excited. Summitt also said that if it was a girl, she’d hope she would come to Tennessee. Most interesting to me was that Candace released a statement through the University of Tennessee as well as the Sparks. Once a Lady Vol, always a Lady Vol, they say.

Congratulations to Candace.

Link to News Sentinel story:

http://www.govolsxtra.com/news/2009/jan/07/parker-expecting-first-child-summitt-hoping-future/

European update

Sophia Young (Baylor, San Antonio Silver Stars) and Keisha Brown (Georgia, Los Angeles Sparks) have signed contracts with the Galatasaray Istanbul team of the Turkish League. The squad is currently ranked fifth in the league with a 5-4 record. Young played for Galatasaray last year.

http://www.eurobasket.com/Turkey/basketball.asp?NewsID=149603&Women=1

The Israeli League has been off since Dec. 15, and games aren’t scheduled to get underway again until Jan. 22. But will they? Will the current unrest in Israel delay or cancel the league? I wonder.

Rutgers loses again

On the heels of Saturday’s loss to Tennessee, the Scarlet Knights fell to Syracuse tonight, 68-54. I have to say, I’m a little shocked. But almost equally surprising was C. Vivian Stringer’s quote from this story:

http://sports.espn.go.com/ncw/recap?gameId=290060183

“We didn’t have anybody that came to play today, simple as that,” Stringer said. “We’ve played a very easy schedule, by and large. If the upperclassmen were doing what they should have been doing, those freshmen would have got a lot of experience. But we’re barely getting by, so I decided we’re going to win or lose the game, I’m going to play the freshmen. They don’t know what they’re doing, but I thought I’d give them a chance anyway.”

Curious – what do people think of this quote and game strategy?

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