A friendly asylum for a couple of crazy DC-area women's basketball fans, where we share some news, some opinions, as well as a little of almost anything else that our demented minds dredge up having to do with the WNBA, the Maryland Terrapins, or any other team, player or character associated with the world of women's hoops.
Saturday, August 30, 2008
After reading the game stories in this morning's Washington Post and Washington Times, the BasketCases wonder whether we were at the same game (see our post below) that Katie Carrera and Mike Fratto saw. Both have written fairly negative reports, along the line of "same old Mystics." In fact, Katie's story is headlined "In a Month, Mystics Haven't Changed Much." Mike's article says that "all the improvements the Mystics showed in practice went missing." Frankly, the BasketCases think both reporters are being a little too hard on the team.
We confess: since the team had traded Taj (our most productive pre-Olympic player and the clear team leader), we didn't arrive at last night's game with particularly high expectations. So maybe, since we had set the bar low, we (unlike the team) weren't as disappointed. But even taking that into account, we still believe there were bright spots to last night's game.
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Contrary to information that had previously been given out about tonight's game at Minny, it now appears that the game will not be web cast. It seems the best we can do is listen live on WNBA.com (which means we can look forward to more of Frank Hanrahan's annoying use of the phrase "woman to woman" defense).
Friday, August 29, 2008
Yes, tonight was "Ladies Night" at the Phone Booth, with the first 3,000 fans receiving carnations. However, for the Mystics' "ladies," it was not their night, as they fell to the visiting Chicago Sky, 75-79.
The game was close and exciting throughout (10 lead changes and 10 ties!) and it wasn't decided until the final moments. Though the Mystics weren't able to pull out the win, we must say they played with plenty of energy and maintained their focus for all 40 minutes . . . something refreshing to see. While it's only one game, we're encouraged that Coach J-Law's work with the team over the Olympic break appears to have had a positive impact. Now if she can only get them back in the win column. Hopefully as soon as tomorrow night. Following tonight's game, there's no rest for the Mystics, as they must immediately travel out to Minneapolis, where they play the Lynx tomorrow (Saturday) at 8 PM EDT.
But returning to tonight's game: four Mystics finished in double figures, including newcomer Tasha Humphrey, who had 11 points plus 9 rebounds. A good Washington debut! Alana led the Mystics with 18 points, Mo added 16, and the tireless Coco Miller (who returned to the starting line-up tonight) had 12. Chicago's Olympic Gold Medalist, Sylvia Fowles, put up 20 points and added 13 rebounds and 5 blocked shots, including one monster block that sent the ball flying into the stands. Big Syl's teammate, Jia Perkins, led all scorers with 28.
With the Sky's win yesterday over the Liberty, and their victory tonight, Chicago is now deadlocked with the Mystics for 5th place in the Eastern Conference. Unfortunately, this means the Mystics not only need to catch and pass the Fever in order to secure the final playoff berth, but they also have to hold off Chicago in the process. With tonight's loss, Washington missed the opportunity to lock up the tie-break over the Sky, who they face for the final time this regular season on September 9th.
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The President was in the house!
No, not that President. Although the President of the United States lives only 9 blocks from the Verizon Center, in the 11 years that the Mystics have existed, neither occupant of the White House has ever been to a game. Bipartisan neglect! Tonight, however, Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, the President of Tanzania, was in the stands. As far as we know, he may be the first Head of State ever to attend a Mystics game. Which makes him the clear favorite for the BasketCases' post-season award for "Head of State who has traveled the farthest to see a Mystics game." Congratulations, President Kikwete!
Let the Games
After a month's hiatus for the Olympics, the Mystics kick off the remainder of their season tonight, when they host the Chicago Sky at 7 PM at the Verizon Center. This will be the first chance for fans to see the Taj-less Mystics; and the first chance for fans to see new players Tasha Humphrey and Shay Murphy, who were acquired in the Taj trade from Detroit. Most important, tonight will be the first opportunity for the fans -- and the team -- to see whether all that hard work over the break pays off in competition.
Parade of Olympians
With 26 games already in the books, the Mystics have just 8 games left to play, 4 of them at home. Each of those 4 games will give Mystics fans a chance to see a member of the Gold Medal Winning USA Olympic Team, starting tonight with Sylvia "Big Syl" Fowles. Unfortunately for Chicago, Big Syl missed most of the WNBA season due to an injury she suffered in a game against L.A. on June 3rd, during a play where she blocked a shot by Olympic teammate Lisa Leslie, and was called for the first ever goaltending violation in WNBA history. Goaltending! (That means she was called for blocking the shot after it started its downward arc toward the basket . . . in plain English, she was way above the rim!) The BasketCases are looking forward to seeing Big Syl in action tonight. We're also looking forward to seeing the new-look Mystics in action, and of course, we're hoping for a Mystics win! So . . . we'll see you later at the Phone Booth.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Today, with the WNBA preparing to re-start the season following the Olympic break, the Mystics held another open practice, this time with Interim Head Coach Jessie Kenlaw at the helm. Actually, it was almost a private practice, since the 11 AM weekday start time only enabled a handful of fans to attend. Fortunately, we were among them, and we're happy to report that things today were 180 degrees different than they were earlier in the summer!
Those who have seen Coach J-Law on the sidelines during games no doubt have already realized that she is a very involved coach who demands much from her players. She's animated and can typically be seen encouraging, teaching and, yes, when necessary, criticizing. We saw all of that today during a very high-energy, high-spirited hour on the practice court at the Verizon Center, and it was a breath of fresh air.
Then the team spent another hard hour practicing some more.
We got our first look at Tasha Humphrey as a member of the Mystics. She's got a big body and a nice, sweet jump shot.
Coach J-Law during a teaching moment. She and Assistant Coach Crystal Robinson pulled no punches when they saw something they did not like. And after the mistake, then . . .
At the end of practice, the players, literally drenched in sweat, listened as Coach J-Law addressed the fans. (That's new team member Shay Murphy second from the left.)
Coach J-Law said that she'd like to be able to "bottle up" all the energy she's seen from the team in practice and bring it to the remaining games.
Not all the news today was good. Who is that masked woman? The jersey number should answer the question . . . but otherwise it might be hard to recognize her! Giving new meaning to the term Olympic break, Crystal Langhorne's brother broke Lang's nose during a recent family basketball game. Lang needed surgery, and is currently wearing an off-the-rack face mask that apparently is as uncomfortable as it looks, and (we were told) impairs her vision. She's been fitted for a clear, custom mask, which should arrive later this week. In Crystal's typical Zen fashion, she assured all of us that she's "fine."
More bad news . . . Nikki Blue re-sprained her right ankle about a week ago; she hasn't yet been cleared for practice and it's not known whether she'll be able to play on Friday when the Mystics host the Chicago Sky. Blue spent today's practice session as a spectator, getting treatment from the team's ace trainer, Navin.
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Congratulations to all the players and to all the coaches! And the BasketCases are particularly thrilled for Northern Virginia native Kara Lawson, who we first watched play at nearby West Springfield High School. What a joy to see her win a gold medal AND lead all American scorers in the Gold Medal game!
Friday, August 22, 2008
I forgot to mention that while I was on vacation, I stopped by the USA Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs for a tour. Seeing where the players train has made watching the performance of our USA basketball team even more exciting. I can't wait for tomorrow's Gold Medal match-up with the Aussies! I'll be parked in front of my TV at 10 AM to follow all the action. Go U-S-A!
Of course, Petey, we know all about tomorrow's big game and we'll be watching (and cheering!) too. But for any of our readers who may not have been following Team USA as closely, here's a little more . . .
In the first of yesterday's semi-final matches, Team USA defeated Becky Hammonova's Team Russia, 67-52. In the other semi-final match, the Aussies crushed host China (coached by former Mystics head coach Tom Maher), 90-56. This means that the USA now faces Australia on Saturday to determine which team gets the gold and which the silver. So this is as it should be, the two best teams in the world squaring off in the finals at the Olympics! Go U-S-A!
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As Petey mentioned, game time is 10 AM EDT. As best we can tell, the game should be shown live on NBC and NBC HD. Unclear whether NBC will interrupt coverage for other critical events like synchronized swimming. It is also possible that the game will be shown (uninterrupted) on NBC's special Olympics Basketball Channel, as well as webcast. [If you don't know whether you get the new Olympics Basketball Channel, go to this link, click on "change my location," and follow the instructions from there.]
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Houston, We Have a
Meanwhile, another WNBA franchise is also in trouble. Big Trouble. But trouble of a different kind. Sheila Johnson, owner of the most unstable (not to mention one of the least successful) franchises in WNBA history, held a conference call with reporters this afternoon in which, according to the AP, she said, "I think my fans are getting fed up . . . I'm getting fed up." Katie Carrera of the Washington Post reports that Sheila also said "The Mystics have been operating for too long without a long-term plan." In addition, Dr. J told the reporters that "the [Mystics] team hasn't 'moved one ounce' in its history and that she 'might as well shut down' the team if doesn't start winning."
Dr. J is right; the fans are certainly fed up. And we welcome a long-term plan, but we are a little confused as to why we haven't had one before now. And it's still unclear what that plan is.
So, we have two troubled franchises. What happens if new ownership for the Comets isn't found in Houston? The WNBA is left with only two obvious alternatives: 1) relocate the team, or 2) disband it. Option 1 would be very unfortunate for the local Houston fans, but Option 2 would be heartbreaking for WNBA fans everywhere. The most storied franchise in WNBA history, the team that set the standard in the early years of the new league, the team that was home to WNBA legends Cynthia Cooper, Sheryl Swoopes and Tina Thompson . . . simply gone? It's almost unthinkable! And incredibly sad to contemplate.
What happens if the Mystics' new (but undefined) long-term plan for success doesn't work out? Well, as Dr. J says, shutting down is a distinct possibility. Not that there would be many fans left to notice. Also incredibly sad to contemplate.
So, hypothetically, if the November deadline the WNBA has set for finding new local ownership for the Comets passes, and the league strikes out on relocation of the Comets, is there anything else that can possibly be done to save the Houston franchise?
Actually, that might be the time to take a peek behind Door Number 3: Swap the Mystics for the Comets! Switch the players, the uniforms, the mascots (the works!) from one city to another. And then, if contraction is necessary, the WNBA can disband the Houston Mystics while the Capital Comets live to play another day.
Okay, we confess that this sounds pretty radical. But if the league has to lose yet another franchise, ask yourself this: which franchise would be missed the most? The Comets and all of their winning history, or the Mystics and all those years of disappointment? Think about it.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
I just wanted to let you know that I am now home safe and sound. I had a really great trip and I am very sorry it had to end. However, as awesome as the trip was, there was still one thing I simply did not get to do while I was in South Dakota -- visit the Putz n Glo in Rapid City. I mean, how often do you get to play miniature golf under black lights? I think I will regret this missed opportunity forever. I'll bet Becky Hammon has a blast there.
But my disappointment at missing out on Putz-ing and Glo-ing was mitigated by another "wow" moment I experienced as I was driving out of South Dakota . . . I came across another herd of buffalo! They filled the open range on both sides of the road. Dozens and dozens of them!! Unlike last Monday when it was raining, this was a beautiful sunny day, and I could sit and watch the buffalo all I wanted. Lots of Moms with calves (did you know that a buffalo herd is a matriarchal society?) and a number of bulls as well. (I was close enough to be able to tell the males from the females, if you get my drift . . . utterly fantastic!)
The Black Hills are just gorgeous, so let me leave you with a couple more photos that I took from the road as I was leaving South Dakota:
See you soon at the Phone Booth!
Photo Credits: Traveling Panda Photos, Inc.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
What trip to the Black Hills would be complete without a visit to Mount Rushmore? I spent a wonderful morning there yesterday. The sculpture is more beautiful and more impressive than I'd expected and the story of its creation more fascinating. (Did you know that Jefferson used to be on Washington's right?) Later that night, I returned to the monument to experience the very moving lighting ceremony and film presentation. The four presidential faces on the mountain are slowly lit as America the Beautiful plays in the background. It's enough to bring tears to your eyes. Speaking of facial features, take a closer look at the photo of me with George, Tom, Teddy and Abe [above] and see if you can figure out what those four guys are missing.
That's right . . . no ears! In the model in the sculptor's studio, Abraham Lincoln definitely had a left ear. But apparently money ran short, and when Congress was approached for additional funds, they woudn't hear of it and refused to earmark any more money for the project. I guess you could say the four Presidents are destined to remain stone deaf.
However, the most amazing creature I saw today was not in the national park. I actually encountered this new animal after I caught a quick lunch at the famous Wall Drug Store in the town nearest to the park, Wall, SD. This time it was not an animal in the wild, but a domesticated creature known as a Jackalope. Quite amazing, actually. If you're not familiar with them, you should know that Jackalopes are a cross between a jackrabbit and an antelope. They're native to Wyoming and South Dakota. They're fast, they can jump high and you can ride them! Well, just another fabulous experience that I hope you all have a chance to enjoy some time.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
So I'm not the only one traveling this break! Taj to Detroit and Tasha and Eshaya heading for DC! Quite a surprise, huh? I read your post [below] and I agree with everything you wrote. Like you, I didn't see this one coming. But what I have seen since I last wrote you is a lot of great stuff -- the Black Hills of South Dakota, Deadwood (the town, not the HBO series [though I did love that show]), antelope, wild burros, and coolest of all, buffalo . . . lots of buffalo!
I sure have seen some amazing wildlife on this vacation! Like the elk, buffalo (or, to be more accurate, bison) are very impressive animals. Large, independent, but also dangerous if you don't respect their space. The guides in Custer State Park warned us to stay in our vehicles and never, ever get close to the buffalo. They say if you come between a mother and her calf, Custer could be your last stand.
Of course, some tourists ignore the advice of the guides and get up close and personal with the wildlife despite the risk. I'm sure the BCs agree with me that park visitors should always behave responsibly while enjoying our country's wonderful parks.
Well, I have another busy day tomorrow, but before I sign off, I'd like to share with you something unexpected I spotted on my brief drive through Rapid City, SD this morning -- a piece of the Berlin Wall! Right here in South Dakota! At the time, I thought that would be the biggest surprise of the day, but that was before I learned about the Taj trade! You know, after seeing that piece of the Wall, it occurred to me that Rapid City's enshrinement of Communist Bloc memorabilia might explain why a famous daughter of that South Dakota community is now a Russian Olympian! (BTW, I shouldn't say this, but after seeing Rapid City, I'd seriously consider applying for Russian citizenship too, if it helped get me out of town!)
Photo Credits: Traveling Panda Photos, Inc.
The BasketCases were shocked (no pun intended), as we expect most Mystics fans were, to hear this news today. As we consider the deal, we confess that we have very mixed feelings about it. First and foremost, we will miss Taj tremendously. She has been the only consistent bright spot on the team this season. She has also provided mature, vocal, veteran leadership that the Mystics haven't found this year from anyone else. Points and rebounds are important, but who will fill the leadership void created by Taj's departure? It's now pretty difficult to imagine watching this team without Taj in the line-up. "Step up" is a term that lends itself to overuse. But if ever there were a time for Alana and Nakia to "step up," now is that time. The Mystics need on-court leadership, and our pre-break leader will now be playing for Detroit.
And indeed, GM Linda Hargrove said, "We were looking at what we can do in this franchise to move forward. An opportunity arose that maybe can help us now and in the future. It was a difficult decision. Taj has been terrific for us."
The problem is, as 11-year season ticketholders, the BasketCases have heard about this move or that move or this draft pick or that draft pick making a difference in the "future" so many times we've lost count. It's not that we disagree with planning for the future, but we have to wonder, when does "the future" become "the NOW?"
Saturday, August 09, 2008
Hello again BCs,
Hope you're continuing to enjoy your Olympic break as much as I am. To bring you up to date, I've spent the last two days in the spectacular Rocky Mountain National Park. What a place! Snow-capped mountains, waterfalls, alpine tundra, amazing wildlife, a cornucopia of hiking trails and gorgeous vistas around every bend of the Trail Ridge Road. Here I am straddling the Continental Divide at one stop along the road.
As for the amazing wildlife, yesterday, among other things, I spotted dozens of enormous elk grazing above the treeline. When you see elk in their natural habitat, you realize these are very large, very impressive . . . not to mention very dangerous animals. The Rangers warn park visitors to stay on the trails and never, ever get close to the elk or the other wild animals. Great advice!
Of course, some tourists ignore the advice of the Rangers and get up close and personal with the wildlife despite the risk. I'm sure the BCs agree with me that park visitors should always behave responsibly while enjoying our incredible National Parks. I'm looking forward to seeing a couple more of our wonderful parks before I return home. So with a long travel day tomorrow, I better sign off for now.Photo Credits: Traveling Panda Photos, Inc.
Wednesday, August 06, 2008
I'm reporting in again, this time from a bit farther south, in Colorado Springs. Behind me is the famous Garden of the Gods. And believe me, the rock formations, the hiking trails . . . they truly are heavenly! This morning dawned clear and beautiful, so I decided a walk in the Garden was just the perfect way to spend a few hours. And it was.
In the far background of the picture you may spot another rather famous landmark . . . Pikes Peak. And yes, I did make it to the summit at 14,110 feet, yesterday. And as on Mt. Evans, the views were amazing! But I must confess that this time I arrived at the top via the world's longest Cog Railway . . . no hiking involved. The Cog Railway is a great way to make it up the mountain, except for one minor inconvenience . . . no bathrooms!
Everyone tells you when you spend time in this part of the country that the only way to enjoy the higher altitudes of the Rockies is to "stay hydrated." They say that dehydration can lead to headaches, dizziness -- or even death. Even the conductor on the Cog Railway reminds you to consume liquids enroute. The railway trip to the summit is 1 and 1/2 hours long. A lovely scenic trip, one I highly recommend. However, if you take the advice to "stay hydrated," let's just say it gives new meaning to the old slogan, "Pikes Peak or Bust." Here's a photo of me at the summit of my second fourteener.
There's plenty more I've seen and done since I last wrote you, but I'm heading out again tomorrow morning, so I'll just have to sign off here.
P.S. For the record, it says "on" (not "under") the handrail! And, btw, I ran into a couple of Oklahoma State fans at the Garden of the Gods this morning. Together we relived the Cowgirls' thumping of OU last season. That 45 point performance by Andrea Riley --- wow! Made me realize how much I can't wait for start of the college season again. Go Terps!
Photo Credits: Traveling Panda Photos, Inc.
Sunday, August 03, 2008
Petey on Mt. Evans
Dear BCs,Wow! Who knew that about high-altitude snackfood? That is amazing! We thank Petey for checking in with us and hope he'll keep us informed about any of his other amazing break-time adventures.
Like you, I am also using the WNBA Olympic break to take some time off from basketball and enjoy a little R&R. I'm out in Colorado and I just finished hiking to the summit of Mt. Evans . . .14,264 feet! Higher even than Pikes Peak. The views were amazing! But perhaps more amazing than the views was learning that at 14,000+ feet, an unopened bag of Doritos self-inflates until it looks like a helium balloon! Hope you're also enjoying your "intermission."
Saturday, August 02, 2008
Friday, August 01, 2008
The Terps have acquired a new guard . . . Illinois transfer Lori Bjork. Bjork recently finished her junior year at Illinois, where in three years she set the school record for career three-pointers. Per NCAA rules, Bjork will sit out the coming season, and finish her college career in Maryland red during the 2009-10 campaign. Bjork is no stranger to the Frese family; Coach B's sister, Marsha, was Associate Head Coach at Illinois during Bjork's first two seasons. Bjork's mom, Louila, is already impressed with the Terps' operation:
"It's a breath of fresh air. Even before she went out there, Brenda wrote postcards to (Lori's father) Alan and me, saying how excited she was about recruiting Lori. The day Lori moved in out there -- even though Brenda was on the road recruiting -- her husband showed up and helped Lori and Alan move into the apartment. We're extremely impressed. Their basketball operations guy, Rhet (Wierzba), has just been a real hard worker trying to smooth over all the transition things."
(And thanks to RebKell poster BullSky for the article.)