Sunday, November 18, 2018
Page 756

Mercury 104, Sparks 89

I know what happened – I just don’t know why. Other fans from my awesome section are similarly perplexed.

The Sparks seemed to abandon their “reboot the season” plan to play killer defense, and in the last half of tonight’s game they weren’t boxing out at all. The box score says Phoenix out-rebounded LA 40-31 (15-6 team rebounds), but frankly I’m surprised it wasn’t a wider margin.

Then there was the lack of offense. The numbers don’t look bad; 43.8 percent shooting is respectable, and they kept the turnovers low at 11. But the Sparks just seemed to lack offensive rhythm and cohesiveness. One of the season ticket holders who sits behind me aptly commented during the fourth quarter, “They just look confused – like it’s the first game of the season.”

It’s one of the most frustrating situations for fans and one of the most agonizing for players: when a team has all the talent in the world but isn’t, for whatever reason, putting it together. I really hope the Sparks can turn it around soon, but as Daniel said before leaving tonight, they’ve dug themselves an awfully big hole.

Positives:

– Saw DeWanna Bonner’s dad outside Staples Center before the game, and he remembered me from the Final Four. He said his daughter has found the perfect team for her in the Mercury, and she and the whole family are pleased. Good deal.

– The music for the Sparks kids has improved. Just last game I was complaining to one of my seat partners that the kids were dancing to “Yeah” from 2003, and tonight they rolled out some new routines complete with new tunes. Very nice! Now if they could change the music they play while the team is on the court, and during timeouts.

– The guy who replaced the annoying rollergirl had a replacement tonight, and she was the best one yet. We think they should keep her, because she has just the right amount of enthusiasm in her voice without being over the top. She is also louder than the man, but not too loud.

– What a nice sized crowd! Almost 10,000 in attendence at Staples.

Nice piece from the Daily Breeze on Candace Parker’s return, but women will never get credit for having kids that’s equal to the attention men get, even when they’ve been suspended for drug use.

– And speaking of CP, it was just damned nice to see her out there, even if she was a little slow and not quite in her rhythm. Six points, four rebounds, two assists and one turnover is not bad for being gone for 10 months.

– Diana Taurasi was very focused and serious tonight, and put up 20 points. No antics, no jawing, no spitting, no standing halfway on the court when she’s not playing, no faces at opponents or officials. Just all business.

Unsurprisingly, Candace Parker did the pre-game welcome duties on the mic.

Kinda weird seeing the non-starter huddle include Parker (and Lisa Leslie).

CP took the court at the 5:35 mark in the first quarter, to standing applause.

CP at the free throw line.

Action in the third quarter.

The pummeling continued in the fourth quarter.

The Sparks are now on the road for a month, and fans will not see them again until August 6.

Edit to add: Kathy Goodman blogs about the game.

Early decisions growing in college ball

The Lansing State Journal notes the increasing trend in early signings in women’s basketball.

“There’s definitely pressure to do it and get it done with,” said Madison Williams, a Detroit Country Day senior-to-be, who committed to the Spartans in May. “From my family and high school coaches and AAU coaches, they understood I couldn’t make my decision until I was ready. Most of the people around me wanted me to wait until I was ready, but a lot of coaches were like, ‘Now, now, now.'”

Is there a correlation between this and the (previously noted in this space) increasingly high college transfer rates? Absolutely. Are kids getting offers increasingly early? Hell yes.

One amazing young lady I know, who just finished her sophomore year, already has offers from five colleges. Five. At this rate, universities will be offering middle school players by the time I turn 50.

Basketball is now a year-round sport, and kids are pushed to join AAU teams at earlier and earlier ages. With the explosion of interest in girl’s basketball, there are more and more young women competing for available scholarships, so the need for a girl to stand out is greater. Over the years, competition has driven sports from a casual pursuit to a scientifically-calculated endeavor.

I’m far from the only one I know that laments what amounts to a loss of some childhood for baller kids. Their time is scheduled so tightly, and I worry that some don’t get the down time that they need. And I always feel bad when I inadvertently make an athlete squirm when I ask what she plans to study in college.

“I don’t know,” the kid will say shrugging, her face a mask of confusion and embarrassment.

I’ll tell her she has plenty of time to figure that out, but obviously she already feels the weight of expectation that she must have her life figured out by the time she gets her high school diploma.

Since the moods and lives of teens change weekly, if not daily, who’s to say that the college a girl picks when she’s 16 is a place she will like and feel is right for her at age 19?

If colleges are going to exert pressure like they do, coaches have no business complaining about high transfer rates.

Technology’s effect on recruiting

This article basically says nothing, though it obstensibly pretends to address the effect of twitter.com on recruiting. For the last few years, the NCAA has made noises about slapping regulations on facebook and myspace, but nothing’s happened yet. So why would they try to regulate twitter? Obviously the NCAA and its sanctions are scary enough already, or someone would have violated a policy by now.

Lynx updates

Minnesota Lynx Coach Jennifer Gillom answers questions in this interview.

Too bad more coaches don’t understand this:

Motivation is the key. These girls respond to the enthusiasm, the encouragement. They need that because they are so young. I also think that instruction is definitely the key because they are young, they are still learning. So you want to teach them tricks, you want to add on to their game, develop them as players.

Is it any wonder the Lynx are still doing well despite the loss of Seimone Agustus?

Meanwhile, I’m mad that no one told me Candice Wiggins was in the ‘hood recently. I would have stopped by.

CP back in the building

While I was away from the Internet today, the Sparks announced that Candace Parker will return to the court Sunday, for the game against the Mercury.

Best news I’ve heard all season. Whether she plays 30 seconds or 30 minutes, it will be great to see her in her team uniform rather than street clothes.

___________________

Diana Taurasi DUI update: in a public statement released today, she says she’s embarrassed about the incident.

WNBA still upside down

Indiana’s on a seven-game winning streak. Chicago is second to them in the East, and Washington is close behind. Phoenix and Minnesota now sit atop the West, with Seattle in third place.

This fine piece sums up the situation, and the first two paragraphs are perhaps the best:

When the Liberty and the Detroit Shock saw each other for the last time last season in Michigan, the buzzer had sounded to end Game 3 of the W.N.B.A.’s Eastern Conference finals and the Shock was walking off the court with a ticket to the title round, heading in the direction of a championship.

But when the teams saw each other Thursday night at Madison Square Garden for the first time since then, their worlds had turned upside down. They were both hanging out at the bottom of the conference standings.

“Are you the girl?”

Kelsey Bone is already making a splash on the campus of the University of South Carolina. Yet, she was a little shy at first:

But when she met her new teammates and housemates, Bone was a bit tongue tied, the normally talkative teen who tweets up to 10 times a day, instead hung back among the older players.

Then one day, Bone chimed in with the other Gamecocks. Teammate Jewel May “was like, ‘Oh Kelsey, you talk,'” Bone said.

I wonder if any of the people who asked her why she was going to USC know anything about the history of women’s basketball.

Baltimore Sun addresses Division I transfer issue

I’ve been puzzling over this since early spring, when the exodus began. Now the Baltimore Sun has written about the transfer issue, albeit briefly:

COLLEGE PARK — – Maryland women’s basketball coach Brenda Frese says an alarming number of women are transferring this year from Division I programs in the sport, leaving coaches and experts to figure out why.

“It’s amazing,” Frese said as she examined the names of about 100 recent transfers on a list compiled by Dan Olson, owner of the Collegiate Girls Basketball Report, a subscription service.

“I’ve never seen a list like that before,” Frese said this week. “It’s almost a new trend, and not a positive trend.”

and:

Frese said young college athletes and their supporters often bring high – and sometimes unrealistic – expectations about playing time and their abilities.

“I also think these kids are committing at early ages without doing their homework and doing the visits,” Frese said. “They’re deciding sooner, and maybe they didn’t have a full picture of what everything is going to be like.”

men having the same problem:

In men’s basketball, the National Association of Basketball Coaches says it has talked with the NCAA about whether transfer rules need to be reformed.

Story link.

Personally, I don’t think it’s the impulsivity of young people causing the trend. I think it’s a combination of two factors that prevail in today’s society.

One is the continual breakdown of things that used to scare people. Youth don’t believe adults know as much as they once did and they aren’t afraid of consequences the way they used to be. Athletes used to never want to lose a year of eligibility, but now it doesn’t seem to be a big deal to them.

The second factor is the increasing impatience of young people and society as a whole. Instead of giving a program or a person a chance, they bail instead.

I have no idea what this means for society as a whole, but I’m not liking it. I would advocate revising NCAA rules.

Atlanta waives Nikki Teasley

About two hours ago, Dream forward Chamique Holdsclaw twittered about how much she was going to miss teammate Nikki Teasley. Less than five minutes ago she posted again, this time: “Nikki T was waived today!”

Atlanta has sure developed a reputation for waiving higher-profile players. But this one makes me think they’ve got someone specifically in mind to replace Teasley.

Edit at 9:21 to add: Surprise! Ivory Latta is back with the Dream, as per Holdsclaw’s twitter. Wow.

9:30 a.m. – it’s official.

Tennessee’s Amber Gray has shoulder surgery, will be out six months

You have to raise an eyebrow when “Pat Summitt is not optimistic.” Gray may sit out next season.

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