Thursday, October 23, 2008
Behind The Scoreboard
What happened in the WNBA? That was the question put to me last week. I am glad that it was asked. Actually, I had planned a follow-up to the article which I wrote just before the playoffs, but somehow it never made it to paper.
It is that time of year when the attention of the world naturally turns to football (at all levels) and the World Series of baseball. It is not hard to see how the WNBA could be seemingly forgotten while the aforementioned kicks in fully. This writer can remember very clearly when the league was formed a little over a decade ago, the NBA and NBC were supposedly solidly behind the new entity to the professional sports world. And it lasted for a few seasons. Attendance was great and life was good. But when NBC stopped carrying the games (for whatever reason) interest slipped.
This season the conference finals had the Los Angeles Sparks vying with the San Antonio Stars in the West and the New York Liberty going against the Detroit Shock in the East. Both of these were “best of three” series. Yours truly had liked the chances of the Sparks to gain another title. Remember the Sparks had “Ms. Everything” in Lisa Leslie and this year she was joined by super rookie Candace Parker.
However, the Sparks had the bad luck of the draw when they met the Silver Stars in the West finals. L.A. had taken the first game by a hefty score of 85-70 and were threatening in the second. The heroine emerging for the Sparks was Katie Smith. Each time the Stars’ fans got into the game, Smith would make a tough shot to silence them. Her teammate, Taj McWilliams-Franklin. dubbed her the “crowd killer.” The Stars’ Becky Hammond echoed that sentiment by allowing, “She is killing us.” But the Stars won that second game 67-66 and it was Hammond who led the attack to oust the Sparks in game three by 76-72 and give the Silver Stars their first WNBA finals berth.
In the East, the Detroit Shock had traveled practically the same road, dropping the opener to the New York Liberty and winning out in the next two.
The Silver Stars just couldn’t stand up to the pressure and experience of the Shock. Detroit went on to win its third title in six seasons by sweeping the Stars in three straight. Bill Laimbeer is fast approaching the record of Van Chancellor, who coached the Houston Comets in the early years of the league.
It probably came as no surprise that the Sparks’ Candace Parker won both the Rookie of the Year title and Most Valuable Player, the first time in the history of the league that both have been claimed by the same person. Maybe she really is the heir apparent to Lisa Leslie.
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