Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Funny How Things Turn Out . . .

Back in April, when Taj McWilliams-Franklin was traded from the LA Sparks to the Washington Mystics . . . what a blow that must have been! Traded away from a team that just about everyone had picked to win it all this season and sent to one of the league's perennial also-rans. Traded away from a team where she would be playing with champions like Lisa Leslie and Candace Parker to a team that had won only a single playoff series in a decade.

At the time, probably the last thing Taj was thinking was that come October she'd be playing in the Finals of the WNBA Championships. She probably thought she'd be home watching the series on TV.

But if Taj was disappointed at this turn of events, she never let it show. As a member of the Mystics, Taj gave all that she had to give. The Mystics fans recognized that immediately. She became an instant fan favorite. How could you not love Taj?

Always the consummate professional, Taj quickly emerged as the Mystics' team leader. She labored tirelessly to make her teammates better; you could literally see her out on the court, teaching and directing. After games, she stayed up late writing out notes for each player, providing advice and encouragement. We've said it before -- Taj was the only consistent bright spot in an otherwise dismal season. A season that was going nowhere fast for the Mystics and their fans.

And then, during the Olympic break, a sudden reversal of fortune for Taj. Detroit Shock Coach Bill Laimbeer (aka Trader Bill) -- whose team was definitely headed for the playoffs -- needed a replacement for the injured Cheryl Ford. In Taj, he saw someone he believed could help take the Shock all the way. And the Mystics (finally deciding it was time to commit to building for the future) saw a promising rookie post player, Tasha Humphrey, who just might -- in the future -- add more to the Mystics' fortunes than a soon-to-be-38-year-old veteran. And just like that, Taj went from the hopeless Mystics to the title-contending Shock. Karma?

Last night, the Shock edged the Liberty, 75-73, in the decisive third game of the Eastern Conference finals. Taj, who scored 19 points, was instrumental in the victory (to no Mystics fan's surprise). This Wednesday night (7:30 PM on ESPN2), Taj and her Detroit teammates will start the best-of-five WNBA Championship series against the San Antonio Silver Stars to decide who takes home the 2008 WNBA Championship trophy.

As for Lisa Leslie and Candace Parker? They'll be home watching on TV, along with the rest of the Sparks, who were beaten by the Silver Stars in the Western Conference Finals.

Funny how things turn out.

The BasketCases congratulate Taj and her teammates on winning the East. As we look ahead to the Finals, we must confess that Detroit has never been among our favorite WNBA teams. But for Taj we're making an exception . . . we'll be cheering for the Shock tomorrow night. We'll be cheering for Taj. It would make us very happy to see Taj finally get a ring . . . the one prize that has eluded her to date. Nobody deserves one more. When you spread as much good karma around as Taj has, maybe, in time, some eventually finds its way back to you. Let's hope so.

Photo Credit: DC BasketCases


At 1:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, Taj deserves a WNBA ring. We will be cheering for Taj on Wednesday.

At 3:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hear! Hear!

(BTW, if Taj were still on the Sparks, I am confident they would be playing tomorrow night. Candace may be the future, but she's got some growin' and learnin' to do yet.)

At 5:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent article! You said it all perfectly. Taj quickly became my favorite Mystics player and she was indeed the one bright spot on the team. I'm sorry we lost her, but I'm glad she landed with a team that might get her a championship ring. No one deserves it more. I'll be cheering for Taj on Wednesday also. I never thought I'd say it, but GO Shock!

At 10:11 PM, Blogger Tonya said...

I'm definitely rooting for Taj. She is a class act all the way.

At 6:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I won't be happy about it, but I will root for Detroit only because of Taj. And only because of Taj. We miss her in CT. You go, girl!


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