Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

WNBA: Connecticut Officially Joins San Antonio in the Slide for Stewie Stakes

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

Connecticut’s wipeout Tuesday night at the hands of host Indiana Fever that earned the home team its 11th straight playoff appearance in the WNBA also officially put the Sun as the third team in the lottery, also known as the Breanna Stewart sweepstakes in honor of the University of Connecticut’s and nation’s top senior this winter who then becomes eligible for the WNBA draft in April.

But sometime to be determine in the fall will be likely known where the native of Syracuse will be heading once the lottery order for best percentages out of the ping pong ball permutations is decided.

So far the San Antonio Silver Stars and Connecticut are officially in the mix with the Atlanta Dream one loss or Washington Mystics win away from becoming the third participant.

The Seattle Storm is the fourth most likely team but technically the Los Angeles Sparks in the West are alive until they make the playoffs and in that direction the magic number for the Californians is three.

Ironically, Thursday night they host Washington, which is still holding the magic number of one for a third straight postseason appearance.

This week with the field reduced the Guru incorporated in a separate set of standings the new WNBA adjustment that calls for a combined two-year record to determine the reverse order of worst-to-best to determine the lineup of the four teams.

And just as at the other end of the playoff-bound race where there are tight races for seedings, there is a battle for the top spot or worst overall among Seattle, San Antonio and Connecticut.

The Sun with three games left will have trouble catching Seattle if the Storm lose more than not in their remaining five games but starting with a head-to-head meeting in San Antonio Friday night, they mathematically might catch the Silver Stars to at least share the number two percentages.

On the other hand Seattle and San Antonio for overall number one in the lottery could go to the final night of the regular season a week from Sunday when the two meet in Seattle.

The two-year combined records of each of the three remaining with number of games left show: Seattle at 42-21 with five left; San Antonio at 41-23 with four left; and Connecticut at 39-26 with three left.

Incidentally if Washington loses all its remaining games that conclude at Atlanta a week from Sunday and Atlanta wins all its games, the Mystics will drop into the lottery because the two teams will be tied on season record and the Dream with two of its remaining games against Washington will win the 2015 series between the two.

The tables below have been readjusted with Indiana out of the mix and while they are also part of the charts, here is what’s left in terms of the schedules for the five just discussed.

Seattle 42-21 vs. Tulsa-Thu; @Chicago-Sun; @Minn-Tues; vs. Minn-Fri; vs. San Antonio Sunday. San Antonio 41-23 vs. Conn-Fri; vs. Phoenix-Sat; @Tulsa-Tues; @Seattle-Sun.
Connecticut 39-26 @San Antonio-Fri; @New York-Wed; vs. Chicago-Sun.

Atlanta 33-31 vs. Washington-Sun; vs. Los Angeles-Wed; @Indiana-Fri; @Washington-Sun.
Wash 31-32 @Los Angeles-Thu; @Atlanta-Sun; vs. Indiana-Tues; @New York-Fri; vs. Atlanta-Sun.

While Connecticut is projecting third best, the Sun, if they don’t land 1-2 could be bumped to fourth if the team with the fourth best odds gets lucky and gets ahead while the worst team doesn’t land 1-2 and then, under the rule, is guaranteed the third slot.

These are the ways Connecticut gets bumped.

Team 4, Team 2, TEAM 1, Team 3
Team 2, Team 4, TEAM 1, Team 3

The other team guaranteed third slots would be

Team 4, Team 3, TEAM 1, Team 2
Team 3, Team 4, TEAM 1, Team 2
Team 2, Team 3, TEAM 1, Team 4
Team 3, Team 2, TEAM 1, Team 4

Now, here are today’s updates and this will update again sometime Friday morning since we will be in New York for the Chicago game Thursday night.

Slide For Stewie Standings
(Thru Wed., Sept. 2)
Team L W *-GBO *-GBL MNL

%-San Ant. 23-7 -- --
Seattle 20-9 2.5 -- MNL- 3
#Los Angeles 18-12 5 2.5
Atlanta 18-12 5.0 -- MNL-1
%-Conn. 18-13 5.5 -- --
#Washington 13-16 9.5 4.5

*- GBO is Overall Games Behind Worst Record. GBL is Games Behind Lottery Slot, MNL is Magic Number to Clinch Lottery
#-Top Team Below Lottery Cut in Each Division
%-Clinched 2016 Lottery Draw

Combined Divisions Adjusted Lottery Positions With Two-Year Records
(Thru Wed., Sept. 2)
Team L W *-GBO *-GBL MNL GMS LEFT

Seattle 42-21 -- -- MNL-3 Remain-5
%-San Ant. 41-23 1.5 – Remain-4
Conn. 39-26 4.5 – MNL-1 Remain-3
#-LA 36-28 6.5 2.5 Remain-4
Atlanta 33-31 10.0 – MNL-1 Remain-4
#-Wash 31-32 11.5 Remain-5

%-Clinched 2016 Lottery Draw #-Team Below Cut
MNL-Magic Number for Slot

Remaining Games Among Lottery Contenders
(Thru Mon., Aug. 31)

Seattle 42-21 (5) Tulsa-Th; @Chi-Sun; @-Minn-Tu; Minn-Fri; !-San Antonio-Sun

San Ant. 41-23 (4) !-Conn-Fri; Phnx-Sat; @Tulsa-Tues; !-@Seattle-Sun

Conn. 39-26 (4) !-@San Ant.-Fri; @-New York-Wed; Chi-Sun

#-LA 36-28 (4) !-Wash-Thur; Tulsa-Sun; !-@Atl-Wed; @-Phnx-Fri

Atl 33-21 (5) !-Wash-Fri; !-LA-Wed; Ind-Fri; @-Wash-Sun

#-Wash 30-32 (6) !-@LA-Thur; !-@Atl-Fri; Ind-Tues; @-NY-Fri; !-Atl-Sun

#-Ind (5) @-Minn-Fri; !-@Wash-Tues; @-Atl-Fri; NY-Sun

!-A head-to-head Stewie game.

Results Five Points Or Less
Most Recent at Top Thru Mon., Aug. 31
!-Games Against Other Lottery Contenders


New York 80, Atlanta 75, ovt.
Connecticut 72, Chicago 68
Chicago 98, Atlanta 96
Phoenix 81, Connecticut 80
!-Los Angeles 81 Indiana 79
Indiana 80, New York 79
Chicago 66, Washington 64
Chicago 87, Washington 85
Tulsa 84, Conn. 76, ovt.
Minnesota 84, Atlanta 82
!-Washington 66, San Antonio 63
Chicago 71, Washington 68
!-Los Angeles 80, San Antonio 78
Phoenix 71, Atlanta 68
!-Connecticut 67, Seattle 66
Phoenix 89, Chicago 87, ovt.
Connecticut 78, Minnesota 77
Indiana 75, Connecticut 73
New York 81, Seattle 77
Chicago 97, Atlanta 92
Los Angeles 75, Phoenix 70
!-Atlanta 76, Los Angeles 72
Indiana 83, Tulsa 80
New York 79, Washington 76
New York 75, Phoenix 73
Phoenix 94, New York 91
Los Angeles 98, Tulsa 93
Chicago 77, Connecticut 74
Tulsa 93, Seattle 89
!-San Antonio 73, Seattle 71
!-Atlanta 82, Washington 79
!-Connecticut 80, Los Angeles 76
San Antonio 76, Phoenix 71
Chicago 100, Atlanta 96
!-Washington 84, Los Angeles 80
Atlanta 74, Chicago 73
!-Atlanta 64, Washington 61
Indiana 77, Phoenix 74
Connecticut 67, Chicago 65
!-Atlanta 72, San Antonio 69
!-Connecticut 75, Atlanta 70
Washington 67, New York 62
!-Washington 73, Connecticut 68
Phoenix 76, San Antonio 71

Reverse Overall Performance in Close Games

Team L W

Seattle 4-0
San Antonio 4-2
Los Angeles 4-4
Washington 6-4
Atlanta 8-5
Connecticut 5-4
Indiana 1-4

Reverse Close Game Performance Against Other Lottery Contenders

Team L W

San Antonio 3-1
Los Angeles 3-2
Washington 2-3
Seattle 1-0
Connecticut 0-3
Atlanta 1-4

Reverse Overall Performance Against Other Lottery Contenders

Team L W GMRL
San Antonio 10-4 2
Los Angeles 9-4 2
Connecticut 4-8 1
Seattle 6-8 1
Atlanta 4-7 3
Washington 4-7 3

GMRL-Games Remaining Against Lottery Contenders

That’s it for now.

-- Mel




- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

WNBA: Two-Year Slide-for-Stewie Records Show San Antonio and Seattle Battling for Overall Worst

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

Welcome to week five in our Slide for Stewie Standings, the tongue-in-cheek reverse look at the other race down the stretch of the WNBA regular season toward this fall’s lottery to determine who will have the best shot at landing UConn senior Breanna Stewart, the grand prize in next April’s draft.

The Syracuse native exists in the spirit of such previous gems and themes as the 2013 Three-to-See: Brittney Griner, Elena Delle Donne, and Skylar Diggins out of the 2012 summer; the 2011 haul of Maya Moore out of 2010 and the year before Tina Charles out of the 2009 summer.

Before going further, if this your first time visiting this ongoing post, you might need to go to back to the first in a series to understand terminology.

But this week we have major shifts in our report with but two weeks left in the regular season. As teams that were in the lottery hunt, as was the entire Eastern Conference, began making their way into the postseason such as New York and Chicago, the duo have been dropped from the lottery group, though some of their numbers are being retained to examine key moments that determined seed positions in the playoffs.

Washington and Indiana are on the verge of making the postseason but since they are also technically alive in the lottery race, they remain in the mix which has been adjusted. The Los Angeles Sparks are close to also making the playoffs as the last qualifier in the West.

Meanwhile, the San Antonio Silver Stars are the first to clinch a seat on lottery night with the Seattle Storm right behind and the magic number is one, two at worst for the Connecticut Sun and Atlanta to wrap up the other two lottery slots out of the East.

But this week per the lottery change several weeks ago, coincidentally two days after the Guru started this exercise, this week besides the standings we have kept, we are now adding last season’s won-loss records to everyone still alive since that will be the procedure once the four lottery teams are determined.

We also added a list of who has to play who in the final two weeks among the lottery contenders with denotations when games involve both teams in the hunt.

By doing this several things are coming into focus. There is a horse race between San Antonio and Seattle are in a horse race for worst record and Connecticut still in the hunt, though the next loss by San Antonio and Seattle or Connecticut win will push the Sun into third.

In the past week, we had four close games of five points or less – games lost by more after holding a lead as Washington did at Seattle will be addressed later if necessary – and the narrow outcomes were the buzzer-beating 81-79 win by Los Angeles at Indiana, likewise with the 81-80 Phoenix Mercury triumph at Connecticut, the 98-96 Chicago Sky win at Atlanta that put the defending Eastern playoff champs back in the postseason, and Connecticut’s 72-68 rally Sunday over Chicago on the road.

San Antonio helped itself with a 2-0 week in terms of no victories – remember we do this backwards – while Connecticut was 2 losses and a win. Indiana lost three straight but still would have to really slide to not make another playoff trip.

Right now unlike other years there will be some separation barring unforeseen results between the last playoff fourth-place qualifier in each conference.

So there will be no pointing to such an outcome in the final weeks as to who gets in and not as was the case in 2010 when Tina Thompson’s buzzer beater basically became the key play that sent Los Angeles to the playoffs and the Minnesota Lynx to the lottery where as number two in line, the ping pong balls combined with lady luck to produce Maya Moore.

However, we are already seeing some key elements to look at: Connecticut will have to rely mostly on luck but the Sun might have been in the statistical driver’s seat had not they got off to that 7-1 winning start or managed to eke out some close wins over Seattle and San Antonio.


All that said, all the numbers are listed below and some of it will be updated the rest of the way daily such as the combo records. Once teams make the playoffs, they will be removed from the draft contender list and the records against each other will be re-adjusted.

There still is a chart for overall loss-won games of five points or less.

On Tuesday night, in a game at the Garden we’ll attend, a New York Liberty win against Atlanta would put Bill Laimbeer and company on the doorstep of finishing first while an Atlanta loss pretty much puts the dream into the lottery mix.

Connecticut will be at Indy where a host Fever win gets them into the postseason and officially knocks the Sun in the postseason for the third straight year.

Ironically, San Antonio and Seattle finish the regular season off Sunday night and that game could very well determine who gets the best odds and who will have to rely even more on luck of the bounce.

Incidentally, as much as the focus is on Stewie, more and more in the underbelly is being said about George Washington’s Jonquel Jones, who may up becoming better than a consolation prize for one of the three teams who fail to get Stewie.

Slide For Stewie Standings
(Thru Mon., Aug. 31)
Team L W *-GBO *-GBL MNL

%-San Ant. 23-7 -- --
Seattle 20-9 2.5 -- MNL- 3
#Los Angeles 18-12 5 2.5
Atlanta 17-12 5.5 -- MNL-1
Conn. 17-13 6.0 -- MNL-1
#Washington 12-16 10 4
Indiana 12-17 10.5 4.5

*- GBO is Overall Games Behind Worst Record. GBL is Games Behind Lottery Slot, MNL is Magic Number to Clinch Lottery
#-Top Team Below Lottery Cut in Each Division
%-Clinched 2016 Lottery Draw

Overall Adjusted Lottery Positions With Two-Year Records
(Thru Mon., Aug. 31)
Team L W *-GBO *-GBL MNL GMS LEFT

Seattle 42-21 -- -- MNL-3 Remain-5
%-San Ant. 41-23 1.5 – Remain-4
Conn. 38-26 4.5 – MNL-1 Remain-4
#-LA 36-28 6.5 2.5 Remain-4
Atlanta 32-31 10.0 – MNL-1 Remain-5
#-Wash 30-32 11.5 Remain-6
#-Indiana 30-33 12.0 Remain-5

%-Clinched 2016 Lottery Draw #-Team Below Cut
MNL-Magic Number for Slot

Remaining Games Among Lottery Contenders
(Thru Mon., Aug. 31)

Seattle 42-21 (5) Tulsa-Th; @Chi-Sun; @-Minn-Tu; Minn-Fri; !-San Antonio-Sun

San Ant. 41-23 (4) !-Conn-Fri; Phnx-Sat; @Tulsa-Tues; !-@Seattle-Sun

Conn. 38-26 (4) !-@Ind-Tue; !-@San Ant.-Fri; @-New York-Wed; Chi-Sun

#-LA 36-28 (4) !-Wash-Thur; Tulsa-Sun; !-@Atl-Wed; @-Phnx-Fri

Atl 32-21 (5) @-NY-Tues; !-Wash-Fri; !-LA-Wed; !-Ind-Fri; @-Wash-Sun

#-Wash 30-32 (6) @Phnx-Wed; !-@LA-Thur; !-@Atl-Fri; !-Ind-Tues; @-NY-Fri; !-Atl-Sun

#-Ind (5) !-Conn-Tues; @-Minn-Fri; !-@Wash-Tues; @-Atl-Fri; NY-Sun

!-A head-to-head Stewie game.

Results Five Points Or Less
Most Recent at Top Thru Mon., Aug. 31
!-Games Against Other Lottery Contenders


Connecticut 72, Chicago 68
Chicago 98, Atlanta 96
Phoenix 81, Connecticut 80
!-Los Angeles 81 Indiana 79
Indiana 80, New York 79
Chicago 66, Washington 64
Chicago 87, Washington 85
Tulsa 84, Conn. 76, ovt.
Minnesota 84, Atlanta 82
!-Washington 66, San Antonio 63
Chicago 71, Washington 68
!-Los Angeles 80, San Antonio 78
Phoenix 71, Atlanta 68
!-Connecticut 67, Seattle 66
Phoenix 89, Chicago 87, ovt.
Connecticut 78, Minnesota 77
!-Indiana 75, Connecticut 73
New York 81, Seattle 77
Chicago 97, Atlanta 92
Los Angeles 75, Phoenix 70
!-Atlanta 76, Los Angeles 72
Indiana 83, Tulsa 80
New York 79, Washington 76
New York 75, Phoenix 73
Phoenix 94, New York 91
Los Angeles 98, Tulsa 93
Chicago 77, Connecticut 74
Tulsa 93, Seattle 89
!-San Antonio 73, Seattle 71
!-Atlanta 82, Washington 79
!-Connecticut 80, Los Angeles 76
San Antonio 76, Phoenix 71
Chicago 100, Atlanta 96
!-Washington 84, Los Angeles 80
Atlanta 74, Chicago 73
!-Atlanta 64, Washington 61
Indiana 77, Phoenix 74
Connecticut 67, Chicago 65
!-Atlanta 72, San Antonio 69
!-Connecticut 75, Atlanta 70
Washington 67, New York 62
!-Washington 73, Connecticut 68
Phoenix 76, San Antonio 71

Reverse Overall Performance in Close Games

Team L W

Seattle 4-0
San Antonio 4-2
Los Angeles 4-4
Washington 6-4
Atlanta 7-5
Connecticut 5-4
Indiana 1-4

Reverse Close Game Performance Against Other Lottery Contenders

Team L W

San Antonio 3-1
Los Angeles 3-2
Washington 2-3
Seattle 1-0
Indiana 0-0
Connecticut 0-3
Atlanta 1-4

Reverse Overall Performance Against Other Lottery Contenders

Team L W GMRL
San Antonio 11-5 2
#-Los Angeles 10-5 2
Connecticut 8-8 2
Seattle 8-8 1
Atlanta 6-8 4
#-Washington 6-9 4
#-Indiana 5-10 3

GMRL-Games Remaining Against Lottery Contenders

That’s it for now.

-- Mel







- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

Friday, August 28, 2015

WNBA: Chicago Rookie Betnijah Laney Out of Rutgers Enjoys Being a Student of the Game

By ROB KNOX (@knoxrob1)

WASHINGTON –
Chicago Sky 6-foot-1 rookie guard Betnijah Laney is another of the younger generation of mother-daughter tandems who have excelled in women's basketball.

The Seattle Storm's Lauren Jackson's mother Maree was a star at LSU and on the Australian national team.

Betnijah's mom Yolanda out of University City High in Philadelphia was an All-American collegian who helped Cheyney University in the Philly western suburbs advance to the first NCAA title game under legendary head coach C. Vivian Stringer in 1982 when the Lady Wolves fell shortto Louisiana Tech.

The younger Laney also played for Stringer at Rutgers the last four years after achieving high school blue chip recruiting status in Delaware which was also enjoyed by Sky teammate sensation Elena Delle Donne.

Now, Laney’s in a perfect situation with the veteran Sky with its cadre of star power.

There’s not much pressure on her to produce points. She’s able to learn and make meaningful contributions to a team with championship aspirations.

“I feel like I am surrounded by great teammates,” Laney said following the Sky’s 66-64 victory over the Washington Mystics Sunday afternoon at the Verizon Center.

“Coming onto a team that made it all the way to the Finals and fell short has made them hungry. Just to be able to come into this situation and being able to learn from them is a great thing.”

Laney scored two points in 12 minutes against the Mystics.

Besides a pat on the back from her teammates and head coach Pokey Chatman, Laney also got a slightly busted lip.

The Smyrna High School graduate shrugged it off as she spoke in the lockeroom.

She’ll gladly accept the battle wounds that come from playing the game she enjoys.

“That’s the game, so you have to keep going with it and roll with the punches,” Laney said. “It’s very physical, but you get used to it. (Being on the floor during the fourth quarter) was an adrenaline rush for me. It just makes you want to go out, give it your all and play as hard as you can.”

Laney is blessed as she had the chance to learn the sport from her mother and Stringer.

That’s like an artist being taught to paint by Michelangelo.

Chatman’s confidence has grown in Laney and when she was available in the second round with the 17th overall selection, she immediately snatched her up.

“She comes from great stock,” Chatman said of Laney. “You know coach Stringer does a great job of teaching the fundamentals of the game and you can tell in training camp that she had so much to offer.

"She’s finally getting comfortable with the multiple positions that she could play.

"Immediately, she’s somebody we felt confident with on the defensive side of the basketball and she’s getting more comfortable offensively.

"She is such a hard worker and eager to learn I have to remind her I also have 10 other players to deal with," Chatman said with a grin.

A role player this season, Laney has enjoyed the experience of watching and competing against Delle Donne, Rutgers standout Cappie Pondexter, Courtney Vandersloot, Allie Quigley and the rest of the Sky’s veterans.

She is continuing to gain confidence in her game and adjusting to a new responsibility of playing on the wing instead of near the basket.

Laney has scored in double figures three times, including a career best 12 points in an 106-82 victory over the Indiana Fever on August 4. She’s played 26 games and is averaging 3.2 points and 2.1 rebounds in 12.6 minutes per contest.

“Coming from Rutgers, I played the four, but here I’ve had to learn how to play the wing,” Laney said. “I have been working on my ballhandling and being tighter with the ball.

"I am learning to make decisions on the perimeter. I think I have come a long way, but I still have a long way to go and continue to work on things that I can improve upon so I can become a better ballplayer for my team.”

The Sky have six games remaining and Laney is enjoying her time in the WNBA. She’s looking forward to contributing during Chicago’s stretch run as the Sky battle for homecourt advantage in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Laney will play in Australia during the offseason.

“This is not a job for me,” Laney said. “I love it here and it’s great to get paid for what you love to do.

"Moving to Chicago was great.

"My mom still comes out to visit, support me and to see how I am doing. I am enjoying being independent. I am really excited (to play overseas during the offseason). It will give me an opportunity to work on a few things in the offseason, keep learning and getting better.”




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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

WNBA: Elena Delle Donne's Sensational Season Impressing Everyone But Herself

By ROB KNOX (@knoxrob1)

WASHINGTON –
In just her third season in the WNBA former Delaware All-American Elena Delle Donne is demolishing league statistics at a time when most of the league's younger players are just beginning to hit their comfort level.

She leads the WNBA in scoring with a 23.8 point per game average, free-throw percentage and in double-doubles.

Delle Donne has scored 30 or more points four times this season, including a magnificent 45-point performance against Atlanta in early June and has been named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week five times.

She’s being compared to some the greatest players (men or women) to ever play the sport, including Michael Jordan.

Yet, Delle Donne remains unimpressed.

While the rest of us mere mortals remain in awe of her jaw-dropping numbers, Delle Donne doesn’t have time to study the amazing season she’s enjoying for the Chicago Sky.

Her numbers are at a historical pace topping past performances from some of the all-time greats who have since earned Hall of Fame stature.

The Blue Hens graduate who went second overall in the 2012 draft behind Baylor's Brittney Griner has never been into personal statistics.

However, what she has done has been hard to ignore this season.

She’s even slightly embarrassed that many national pundits have mentioned her as the front-runner for this year’s MVP award.

Delle Donne is too focused on rewriting last year’s ending for the Sky, who were swept in the WNBA Finals by a historically great Phoenix Mercury squad.

“I’ll use the offseason to reflect,” Delle Donne said succinctly following the Sky’s 66-64 victory over the Mystics Sunday at the Verizon Center. “Right now my focus is on how we can get better as a team and win our next game.

"I am focused on our team numbers more than anything else right now. Anything individual, I’ll use the offseason to reflect. I am always trying to improving.”

One area she developed that leaves Delle Donne in a great mood is her rebounding.

Ten double-doubles later, Delle Donne is third in the league averaging 8.8 rebounds per game.

“At the end of last season (Chicago Sky head coach Pokey Chatman) challenged me to be a better rebounder,” Delle Donne said. “I feel like that’s something I’ve made a conscious effort to improve and to crash the glass on every single time. It’s something I am proud of because I was challenged to get better at it.”

Delle Donne is happy and healthy for the Sky this season.

Last summer, Delle Donne missed17 games after a serious flare-up of her Lyme disease. In the WNBA Finals last year, Delle Donne battled through an achy back.

She delivered a playoff performance for the ages despite not being 100 percent when she scored 17 of her 34 points in the fourth quarter to help the Sky rally from a 16-point fourth quarter deficit to beat the Dream, 82-81, in an elimination game on the road last season.

It was like watching Mozart play in his prime.

This year she missed one game in New York because of a tender ankle.

“It’s been really good this year,” Delle Donne said when asked about her health. “It’s been great being out on the court and a huge improvement and difference from last year.”

With a healthy Delle Donne unleashing her fury on the rest of the league this season, the WNBA has benefited in positive ways. She has become one of the faces of the league. It was needed after some of the negative offseason headlines.

Delle Donne was profiled in Sports Illustrated last week and on SportsCenter earlier this year following that 45-point, 11-rebound, six-blocked shot performance against Atlanta.

“It means a lot,” Delle Donne said after being asked about being the face of the WNBA. “I worked really hard on and off the court to grow the brand of the league, myself and the Chicago Sky.

"I put in a lot of work with media and making appearances at different events. It’s nice to hear that it’s paying off and our visibility is continuing to grow. It’s also exciting that we’re gaining new fans of our sport.”

Likely to make her first Olympic squad next year the experience is bound to grow her brand further.

With six games remaining beginning Saturday at home against the Atlanta Dream in a game that will be televised nationally on NBA-TV at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time, the Sky trail the Indiana Fever by two games in the race for second place and the coveted home-court advantage in the opening round that goes with it in the playoffs. The Sky have swept the season series from the Fever this season.

While home court would be a welcomed luxury for the Sky, it can draw on the experience of last season when it advanced to the WNBA Finals as the No. 4 seed without home court in the Eastern Conference.

The battle-tested Sky have won three of their last four games as Allie Quigley and Cappie Pondexter hit game winning shots in less than 48 hours to help Chicago sweep a weekend set from Washington.

“We want homecourt and we know it’s really huge to try and get it,” Delle Donne said. “But at the end of the day, however the cards play out; we’re going to be ready.

"Games like (Washington) are fun especially when you can come out on top. We are focused on winning every single game from here on out.”

If Delle Donne continues producing spectacular numbers during the Sky’s upcoming journey, enjoy it.

Just don’t expect Delle Donne to make a big fuss about them.


- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

WNBA: Suddenly Connecticut Living the Dream Thanks to Atlanta in the Slide for Stewie Race

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

We extended the week in review for our Slide for Stewie Standings by one day since Tuesday morning’s Connecticut-Atlanta game was the only one on the entire WNBA slate and both teams are factors as the Eastern lottery leaders in terms of having a shot at landing UConn senior Breanna Stewart, the grand prize in next April’s draft.

Again, the ongoing reminder that if you haven’t read any of the previous installments just go back to the first one – this is week four – to get the idea of what everything means.

Since the bottom two teams in the East are sorting themselves out in the next week or so we will revise the metrics listings below.

When the Connecticut Sun got off to that runaway start back in early June to belie the preseason doom and gloom predictions built on a slew of injuries, the Sun’s any kind of shot at the Huskies star seemed out the window.

But the injuries kept coming and in the past week after losing one game in overtime to the Tulsa Shock and getting swept Sunday and Tuesday by the other lotto-bound team most likely in the East in the Atlanta Dream the Sun/UConn faithful wishes have gained traction, especially with the new system adding the last two seasons, including this one, to get to the pecking order for better odds off bad won-loss records.

Indeed, once the four lottery teams are sealed we may have to go back and see what games last year with narrow outcomes effected the order.

The San Antonio Silver stars also had a big week losing all three games, none close, to go up a half-game on the Seattle Storm for worst overall record.

Connecticut with a pair of otherwise wins could have reversed direction and moved close to the fourth spot occupied by the Washington Mystics, who after completing a sweep of Western frontrunner Minnesota that had this week’s game played in the Midwest, they managed to lose a pair of games to the Chicago Sky in the final seconds.

While Atlanta and Connecticut have begun to separate themselves backwards – the Dream have begun to win recently but are living off the ragged play they took into the All-Star break – it is a 3-for-2 affair in the West for the lottery or the playoffs depending on your choosing since the Los Angeles Sparks have been unable to totally right the ship after the return of Candace Parker and Alana Beard.

Los Angeles is three games in front of fifth-place Seattle. However, expect the Sparks to win in spite of themselves with a better pace than the Texans and Storm over the final three weeks.

Once we revamp the listings below, since we had the entire East in the lotto hunt, some of the groupings will be retained below to see what key moments translated into seed positions.

The Indiana Fever are red hot right now and it could go to the final game of the season between them and the front running New York Liberty to determine the top two seeds in the East and if any falter, if Chicago or Washington put together run the top of the heap in the East will be as exciting to watch as our Sliding for Stewie race.

And out West after dominating the top spot the Minnesota Lynx has been in a slide with the defending champion Phoenix Mercury drawing closer in second place.

And are shaking off a 10-game slide the Dallas-bound Tulsa Shock are just a few magic numbers away from making their first playoff appearance since the franchise moved from Detroit, where it won three WNBA titles in its previous incarnation.

Now, here are the numbers for this week.

Slide For Stewie Standings
(Thru Tue., Aug. 25)

Team L W *-GBO *-GBL, MNL

San Ant. 21 7 -- -- 3
Seattle 20 7 0.5 -- 4
#Los Angeles 17 10 3.5 3.0
Atlanta 16 11 4.5 -- 4
Conn. 15 12 5.5- -- 3
#Washington 11 15 9.0 3.5
Chicago 11 17 10.0 4.5
Indiana 9 17 11 5.5
New York 8 18 12 6.5

*- GBO is Overall Games Behind Worst Record. GBL is Games Behind Lottery Slot, MNL is Magic Number to Clinch Lottery
#-Top Team Below Lottery Cut in Each Division

Results Five Points Or Less
Most Recent at Top
!-Games Against Other Lottery Contenders


!Indiana 80, New York 79
!Chicago 66, Washington 64
!Chicago 87, Washington 85
Tulsa 84, Conn. 76, ovt.
Minnesota 84, Atlanta 82
!-Washington 66, San Antonio 63
!-Chicago 71, Washington 68
!-Los Angeles 80, San Antonio 78
Phoenix 71, Atlanta 68
!-Connecticut 67, Seattle 66
Phoenix 89, Chicago 87, ovt.
Connecticut 78, Minnesota 77
!-Indiana 75, Connecticut 73
New York 81, Seattle 77
!-Chicago 97, Atlanta 92
Los Angeles 75, Phoenix 70
!-Atlanta 76, Los Angeles 72
Indiana 83, Tulsa 80
!-New York 79, Washington 76
New York 75, Phoenix 73
Phoenix 94, New York 91
Los Angeles 98, Tulsa 93
!-Chicago 77, Connecticut 74
Tulsa 93, Seattle 89
!-San Antonio 73, Seattle 71
!-Atlanta 72, Washington 79
!-Connecticut 80, Los Angeles 76
San Antonio 76, Phoenix 71
!-Chicago 100, Atlanta 96
!-Washington 84, Los Angeles 80
!-Atlanta 74, Chicago 73
!-Atlanta 64, Washington 61
Indiana 77, Phoenix 74
!-Connecticut 67, Chicago 65
!-Atlanta 72, San Antonio 69
!-Connecticut 75, Atlanta 70
!-Washington 67, New York 62
!-Washington 73, Connecticut 68
Phoenix 76, San Antonio 71

Reverse Overall Performance in Close Games

Team L W

Seattle 4-0
San Antonio 4-2
Los Angeles 4-3
Washington 6-4
Atlanta 6-5
Connecticut 4-3
New York 2-3
Chicago 3-6
Indiana 0-4

Reverse Close Game Performance Against Other Lottery Contenders

Team L W

Washington 4-3
Seattle 3-0
San Antonio 3-1
Los Angeles 3-1
Connecticut 3-3
Atlanta 3-5
Chicago 2-4
New York 1-1
Indiana 0-1

Reverse Overall Performance Against Other Lottery Contenders

Team L W
San Antonio 13-5
Connecticut 13-9
Los Angeles 12-6
Seattle 11-7
Atlanta 11-10
Washington 9-11
Indiana 9-12
Chicago 9-15
New York 5-14

That’s it for now.

-- Mel





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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

WNBA: Ageless Wonder DeLisha Milton-Jones About to Set a WNBA Record for the Ages

By Rob Knox @knoxrob1

WASHINGTON –
DeLisha Milton-Jones is a walking encyclopedic history of the WNBA.

The 40-year-old veteran forward has spanned generations and is still going strong for the Atlanta Dream.

She’s a link to the WNBA’s past, present and future.

Milton-Jones is on the precipice of a major milestone, one that may stand for a long time when she takes the floor Tuesday morning against Connecticut and Friday night in Indiana.

Milton-Jones will tie and eventually pass Tina Thompson for the most games participaed by a player in WNBA history.

She played in her 495th career contest during Sunday’s 102-92 victory over the Connecticut. Thompson played in 496 games during her marvelous career.

“I get a lot of joy of saying to people that I played with Lisa Leslie, Candace Parker and Dawn Staley,” Milton-Jones said during an interview in June when the Dream visited the Verizon Center. “Usually people would shy away from that because it would show your age, but for me, it shows my entire maturation process and tells the story of my longevity in this league, which I am proud of.”

The affable Milton-Jones is a timeless treasure of athleticism, tenacity, grace and beauty.

That she’s been able to survive in the WNBA says plenty about Milton-Jones, a 1999 first-round draft pick who appeared in the movie “Love and Basketball.”

It’s a mark that should be celebrated. Milton-Jones has seen the league expand from eight teams to 16 to its current state of 12 squads.

During her career, she competed against defunct WNBA franchises: the Houston Comets, Orlando Miracle, Miami Sol, Charlotte Sting and Utah Starzz.

Milton-Jones has witnessed the growth of the WNBA from the birth of the Internet to the social and digital media age.

She has thrived despite suffering some major injuries like a ruptured Achilles’ tendon during her career.

She has been a valuable performer her entire career despite that there are fewer jobs and more talented players and bright stars in the WNBA such as Elena Delle Donne, Maya Moore, Tina Charles, Skylar Diggins, Brittany Griner and Emma Meesseman.

“It’s gotten younger,” Milton-Jones said of the WNBA. “You see the future is further down the road.

"When I came in the average age was 30 and we were wondering how long the league would survive because at the time there were a lot of these folks who were in their prime or ready to retire.

"Now, that the talent has risen, the ability to score has gotten better and there have been more oohs and ahhs from the crowd.”

Milton-Jones has prospered because she was diligent as a youngster in taking advice from Lisa Leslie, who will be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame next month.

“She was the one who took me under her wing,” Milton-Jones said. “Lisa always gave me little gems of wisdom that helped me become the player I am today.

"I learned a lot about being a professional from Lisa and even more so how to be a lady on and off the court. She was all about wearing the lip gloss, lip stick and makeup during games, but that didn’t stop her from being a fierce competitor.”

She also learned another stern lesson while rooming with Leslie.

“Being a rookie, I thought I was going to go to the mall like everybody else after shootaround and Lisa was like no, you’re going to order room service, close those blinds and you’re going to sleep,” Milton-Jones said.

“I would lie in my bed in the dark with my eyes open listening to her breathe. She put the fear factor in me, but I appreciate it because she solidified my way of thinking and functioning as a professional.”

Milton-Jones has accomplished everything one can possibly achieve as a professional athlete.

She helped the Los Angeles Sparks win back-to-back WNBA championships in 2001 and 2002.

A two-time WNBA All-Star and Olympic gold medalist, Milton-Jones is one of five WNBA players all-time with over 5,000 points and 2,400 rebounds.

Quite naturally, Milton-Jones is among the top ten in league history in field goals made (sixth), rebounding (sixth), steals (fifth) and points (tied for ninth).

Another one of Milton-Jones secrets has been also taking care of her body.

“It can be pricy,” Milton-Jones said. “Some people spend their money on designer bags and shoes, but I spend my money on eating very good food, getting daily messages and visiting the chiropractor three times a week.

"I also listen to Kobe Bryant and watch him do some of the things he does. I also talk to his trainer. When I was at the Staples Center, I would make sure I was in his locker to see if he left any paperwork around. I was like if ‘Kobe ordered his food from here then I’m getting my food from there too.'”

Chicago Sky coach Pokey Chatman remembers Milton-Jones from her days at the University of Florida as a dominant post performer.

“As she got into the WNBA, she started adding different parts to her game,” Chatman said. “DeLisha figured out the mental and nutritional side of the game as well. She was into clean eating way before it was popular. She’s a competitor and at the end of the day, I want her in my foxhole because she’s a fighter.”

Milton-Jones has also been a winner off the floor as well by donating her time to spend with children at the Ronald McDonald House and working with the humane society. She’s also an advocate for battered women and children.

She is also a motivational speaker, mentor, wife and mother.

She has no plans of hanging up her high tops anytime soon.

“It’s funny people always say well ‘when is she going to leave,” Milton-Jones said. “If I am still able-bodied and an asset to a team, then why not play if somebody offers me a contract? I get a lot of enjoyment out of taking care of myself. I am going to leave when I am ready.”

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Monday, August 24, 2015

WNBA: Narrow Outcomes Marked Key Games Over the Weekend

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON --
On one hand there is a lot to be done in the stretch drive before the WNBA’s regular season comes to an end and the fates of its 12 teams are determined though it is only a short distance of anywhere from six to eight games to the final buzzer.

On the other hand, when those fates are determined, a look back to this past week particularly Friday night in such places as here in New York at Madison Square Garden and Sunday here in Washington at the Verizon Center may be the signature moments that made the difference between seed positions in the playoffs and also whether or not teams could continue on or pony up to the draft lottery bar and await the drop of the ping pong balls in the lottery to determine the grand prize of next April –University of Connecticut senior Breanna Stewart.

Ah, but on Mondays starting earlier this month we have a specific focus on that race with our Slide fort Stewie standings.

That will come 24 hours form now this week since no games will be played on Monday, which is usually the case.

Instead, let’s get on the upper side and look at exactly what happened in terms of the race for the playoffs, though some aside here will still be mentioned toward the lottery picks.

In our Slide for Stewie discussion we particularly look at games that came down to the final moments to set a team’s course.

How much damage or enhancement won’t be until next month’s final standings but there were four such games during the past week.

The first doesn’t read split second in the final outcome but the fact that it took overtime is just as well as Tulsa, which had been struggling, sent the Connecticut Sun perhaps on the way to its third street lottery while the Shock moved close to clinching its first postseason slot and not a moment too soon for Tulsa fans considering this is their last chance to watch an extended season since the team is headed to Dallas, Texas, next time around.

In the final outcome of the Shock’s 84-76 win Friday night, Connecticut lost former Penn State star Alex Bentley with an injury.

It’s not another season-ender on the forlorn Sun but it factored in losing to another likely-lottery bound team Sunday when the Atlanta Dream, about to see its playoff appearance snapped, temporarily avoided its plunge with a 102-92 victory and will get another shot in a few days at Connecticut in Georgia.

Atlanta came into the game having squandered a second-half nine-point lead here in New York to enable the Eastern-leading Liberty on Friday take a 78-67 win to follow up on Wednesday’s 73-45 road win over the San Antonio Silver Stars, which across the week dropped three straight to drop to the worst overall record in the league by a half-game with its 7-21 mark in the bottom of the Western Conference.

“This was a playoff test and we passed,” Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer proclaimed. “They’re a desperate team and they needed to win this game tonight.”

Atlanta’s Sunday win puts the Dream at 10-16, but at five games behind fourth-place Washington, the magic number for elimination from the postseason is four.

Connecticut at 12-14 is three games behind the last playoff slot and its magic elimination number is five considering Washington already has the season series.

Atlanta’s shot will be long in determines if Stewart because a rule change enacted a few weeks ago, though actually approved way earlier, calls for a lottery team’s two-year record to determine the best odds in the ping pong ball drop.

Atlanta, having been a playoff team last year, will be fourth in terms of best chances because of that.

Connecticut trails Western basement clubs San Antonio and the Seattle Storm by five and four losses respectively so the the Sun are on the verge of elimination from worst record for this year and if it comes up short in the lottery hunt, blame the hot start at the beginning of the season from preventing it from overtaking the Stars and Storm.

The Friday night New York/Connecticut fates put the Liberty within four of gaining its first postseason slot in three seasons but the advance was halted in another photo finish on Sunday in Indiana Fever where the red hot Fever edged the New Yorkers 80-79 to move to within a game of the Eastern lead.

The Liberty’s magic number still dropped one more to three off the Connecticut loss while Indiana, which completed its first three-game road West sweep of Seattle, Phoenix and Los Angeles made it four straight and at the moment, first-year coach Stephanie White, a previous assistant in Indiana to retired coach Lin Dunn, is the frontrunner for coach of the year, though Laimbeer remains in that horse race.

Earlier this week, Indiana won at Los Angeles 79-68 and then dropped Seattle 75-63.

Washington could be sitting right with Indiana but after completing a sweep of Minnesota, still owning the league’s top record, on Wednesday with a road win over the Lynx, the Mystics lost on a buzzer beater by former DePaul star Allie Quigley Friday night, a final possession caused by a questionable call in favor of the Sky.

Then Cappie Pondexter here on Sunday netted a shot just before the finish in a game in which Elena Delle Donne on the Sky came up with another double double to give the Sky a 17-11 mark two games behind New York while Washington is now 15-11 three games behind New York and one and two behind Indiana and Chicago, respectively.

Phoenix got the best of Minnesota on Sunday but the defending champion Mercury could have gained more capital to repeat at the top of the regular season West had not the they lost to Los Angeles 78-68 on Friday night.

For the Sparks, involved in a three-game taffy pull at the bottom of the West with San Antonio and Seattle, they are 10-17, three games in front of the other two and holding a magic number of five to land in the postseason.

Minnesota, if it came right its struggling ship of late, holds a magic number of five to finish first in the West.

And that concludes the deal for everyone in the race for postseason glory. As for postseason draft success, come back late Monday night for this week’s Stewie standings installment.

-- Mel






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WNBA: Washington Suffers Another Loss at the Wire to Chicago

By ROB KNOX (@knoxrob1)

WASHINGTON –
In the legendary words of Yogi Berra, “it was déjà vu all over again” for the Chicago Sky and Washington Mystics at the Verizon Center in a key Eastern Conference clash Sunday afternoon.

For the second time in less than 48 hours, the Sky and Mystics battled each other in a game that was decided in the final 10 seconds.

Once again, it was the Sky that was able to apply the finishing touch as Cappie Pondexter scored with 6.7 seconds remaining to lift Chicago to a thrilling 66-64 victory over Washington.

The Sky won the season series, 4-1, and that figure could’ve easily been reversed as the last three games between each squad were decided late.

In Friday’s contest, Allie Quigley sank a 3-pointer with 2.1 seconds left that proved to be the difference.

Following the two weekend victories, the Sky (17-11 overall) leapfrogged the Mystics (15-11) in the Eastern Conference standings and into third place.

“As beautiful of a game that Friday was for fans to watch playoff type basketball, today was reasonably ugly,” Washington head coach Mike Thibault said. “You shoot 33 percent, you turn it over 18 times; probably can’t expect to win and yet we had a chance.

"Cappie made a great shot, we screwed up the defensive part of that but she made a great play. Give them credit.”

While Sunday’s game didn’t feature the high scoring of Friday’s 87-85 Sky victory, it was just as intense and exciting despite the multitude of missed shots.

The Mystics rallied from an 11-point second quarter deficit, held their own in the rebounding battle and tied the game when Kara Lawson sank a 3-pointer from the wing with 28 seconds remaining that brought the crowd out of its seats.

Of course Lawson’s triple, which was reviewed by replay, set the stage for the veteran Pondexter to make the decisive drive of the contest.

Pondexter was asked if the final shot was something that was drawn up by Chicago head coach Pokey Chatman or was it something she saw while on the court.

“It was a combination of both,” Pondexter said. “She wanted the ball in my hands. [Tierra] Ruffin-Pratt opened the lane up and there was no help because we have so many great shooters.

"Allie [Quigley] and Elena Delle Donne were lifted so it is kind of hard to scout that or pick and choose who you want to help on so it was a great call by coach and I am just thankful to God to be healthy enough to make the play.”

Pondexter, one of two Rutgers standouts on the squad, finished with nine points, six below her average.

Delle Donne was her usual solid self despite a tough 7-for-22 shooting performance.

She finished with her WNBA-leading 10th double-double (18 points, 10 rebounds) and four blocked shots. Quigley delivered 15 points off the bench for the Sky, which also got 10 points from center Clarissa Dos Santos.

“This is a tough matchup because the Mystics are very talented team,” Delle Donne said. “I feel like we picked it up defensively when we needed to and that helped us tonight.”

Though the Mystics continued tempting fate by not making a field goal for at least the first three minutes of each quarter, they battled and refused to fold when things weren’t going well.

In the second quarter, the Mystics didn’t make their first field goal until 6:53 into the quarter. Yet, they trailed 35-33 at intermission thanks to an 11-2 run to close the half.

After the Sky scored the first six points of the fourth quarter to grab a 57-50 edge, the Mystics responded with nine straight points to take a 59-57 advantage with 3:13 remaining.

The Sky remained together during the Mystics run despite missing six shots, committing two turnovers and going scoreless for over three minutes of the final period.

“That is something we have kind of struggled with throughout the season when a team makes their run at home, we did not fight back hard enough and I think that with so many games behind us, we are learning now,” Pondexter said. “They made their punches, which is what basketball is all about and I think all 12 of us were tough. We fought back and this is an important win for us.”

Lawson scored a game-high 19 points for Washington. Ivory Latta added 15 points off the bench and Emma Meesseman scored 12 points and grabbed a team-best seven rebounds.

Lawson gave the Mystics their first lead of the game, 43-42 with 5:09 remaining in the third quarter.

“I think you just have to credit them,” Lawson said. “They made one more play than us in both games. One when they were down one and now with the score tied.

"That’s an area for growth for us right now, executing defensively in a possession game down the stretch, communicating. They’re a difficult team to defend because they spread you out and they put you in difficult positions as the defense because they surround the whole court with shooters. We learned some things that we have to be better with going down the stretch.”

Both teams will enjoy a few days off before returning to the court.

The Mystics play their next four games against Western Conference opponents beginning Friday when they host the reigning WNBA champion Phoenix Mercury at 7:00 p.m. The Sky host the Atlanta Dream Saturday night, also at 7:00 p.m.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

WNBA: Former Maryland Star Marissa Coleman Gains Confidence From Indiana Coach

By Rob Knox @knoxrob1

WASHINGTON --
Marissa Coleman is home in the heartland.

It’s taken some time, tears and toughness, but Coleman has found a comfort zone that has the veteran Indiana Fever guard among the elite players in the league, a place she always believed she belonged. Her recent selection to the WNBA All-Star presented by Boost Mobile confirmed that status.

“From day one when I signed here, the conversations coach (Stephanie White) and I shared instilled immediate confidence in me,” Coleman said last week before the Fever defeated the Mystics, 73-62 at the Verizon Center.

“She told me that you can be an All-Star in this league. I have confidence and we have confidence in you. That goes a long way. Being selected to the All-Star team meant a lot to me. Now, finally being removed from everything and being able to put it in perspective, it meant more to me than any individual award and honor I’ve ever received.”

Coleman’s swagger is soaring as the Fever are making a strong playoff push, having won 11 of their last 14 games heading into Tuesday’s contest in Los Angeles. They are tied in the congested Eastern Conference standings with Washington for second place, two games behind New York. Both the Fever and Mystics have identical 14-9 records.

A native of Germantown (Md.), who helped Maryland win a national championship in 2006, Coleman was drafted second overall in 2009 by her hometown team, the Washington Mystics. On paper it was a match made in heaven. She was going to lead the Mystics to WNBA glory.

Unfortunately, Coleman never found her groove in D.C. despite scoring 16 points in her WNBA debut. She was traded to Los Angeles in 2011 where she was a role player and enjoyed a few memorable moments.

“I am a firm believer in everything happens for a reason and those years in D.C. and Los Angeles where I struggled were leading to this point,” Coleman said. “They taught me a lot about myself, persevering, hard work and sticking with things.

As she spoke about her journey from first-round draft pick to All-Star, Coleman was relaxed as she sat on the courtside black leather chairs.

“It’s been such a roller-coaster ride in this league for me,” Coleman said. “If you would’ve asked me on draft day 2009, I would’ve been an all-star multiple times by now. There was some extreme frustration with myself and tears after games. To finally make an all-star in my seventh year is probably most special to me.”

Despite those tough moments, Coleman never stopped believing.

She continued improving waiting for her opportunity to torture opposing defenses. She was used more as a spot-up shooter in Los Angeles, but in Indiana, Coleman is showcasing all facets of her beautiful game: The deadly jumper, explosive drives to the basket and tenacious rebounding.

“It was more disappointment and frustration than anything for me,” Coleman said. “That was the most upsetting thing for me knowing that I was capable of playing at a high level and I wasn’t reaching those personal expectations.

"Forget the expectations that everybody else had for myself. I always have higher expectations for myself than anybody can put on me. That was most disappointing knowing I was capable of so much more and I wasn’t showing that.”

All it took was the right fit and perfect coach. Now, Coleman is shining this season for the Fever. The durable Coleman is a versatile combo guard who can score, defend, push tempo and shoot the 3-pointer. She has bolstered the Indiana backcourt with size, strength, versatility and timely shooting.

After setting a new career-high with 9.1 points per game during the 2014 season, Coleman has been better this year, scoring in double figures in 15 of Indiana’s 23 games, including a career-high 25 points in the win over San Antonio. She ranks 20th in the WNBA in scoring (12.8 ppg) and 11th in three-point percentage, shooting 37.8 percent from deep.

“I knew I was going to have the chance to get to where I finally wanted to be in my career with the confidence that everybody in the organization had in me,” Coleman said. “I had a solid year last year. Coming into the season, I knew that coach White had high expectations for me and was going to let me go out play my game and have fun.

“I don’t think people realize that being surrounded in a situation where people have confidence in you how much that does for your game. You can just go out there and have fun and not worry about making mistakes, missing shots because you know matter what from top to bottom the people around you have your back and that does a lot for a player in any sport.”

Indiana’s season has mirrored Coleman’s career. A slow start losing its first three games and dropping four of its first five games before turning things around. Coleman is now a key part of the Fever’s relentless attack. Indiana has a steely toughness that has served it well this season.

The Fever has endured all types of travel inconveniences this season such as being stuck on a tarmac in a hot plane for almost two hours where players took off shirts in an effort to stay cool.

They were stranded in the Reagan National Airport for five hours. The latter forced a rare postponement of a game when the Fever couldn’t catch an alternative flight that would have gotten them to Connecticut in time for that night’s game.

“The travel has been horrendous,” Coleman said with a laugh. “It’s been tough and we talk about it amongst ourselves, but this group has handled it so well. Some teams would complain and we just made the best of delayed flights. Being stuck at the airport just gave us a chance to enjoy each other’s company.”

That closeness shows on the court as well. While Tamika Catchings is the undisputed leader of the Fever, everybody has made contributions during their recent hot stretch.

Briann January is one of the best defenders in the WNBA.

During their win over Phoenix on Sunday, Lynetta Kizer, another Terrapin standout, scored a career-high 19 points. Demonstrating their toughness, the Fever defeated the reigning champions on the road despite missing both centers and having starting guard Shenise Johnson receive four stitches.

Coleman and the Fever are pumped for the stretch run.

“It’s going to be tough,” Coleman said. “It makes for a fun rest of second half. We’re going to grind it out and see how the standings shake out at the end of the regular season. We’re just trying to be consistent and play together as a team. Then we’ll see what happens during the playoffs.”

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