Monday, June 16, 2014


Yowza, yowza, yowza.  

Well another week has gone by with its own share of surprises and disappointments.   Let's get it on.

First off...

Bentley Blossoming in Connecticut

Simply put, Alex Bentley is on 100 -- high.  The Penn State alum and ex Atlanta Dream guard has put on of a show in recent games and it has spearheaded the Connecticut Sun out of last place to .500 ball and back in playoff contention -- for the time being. Bentley, for her part, has averaged 19.7 points since June 7th.  Her best game thus far was against the mighty Mercury of Phoenix on June 12th.  Bentley dropped 20 points and added 4 rebounds and 5 dimes leading the Sun to a tight 96-95 upset victory.  Her intensified hustle has rubbed off on her teammates in a way that couldn't be more pleasing to Coach Anne Donovan. I've been saying I wouldn't be surprised if Donovan loses her gig by the All-Star break.   Alex is making me eat those words.  You know what?  More power to her.   

This Past Week Brings Moore Back To Earth ... Hard

When Maya Moore set a record for most 30 point games in a row most folks agreed that if anyone else wins the MVP this year she's giving Moore a hell of a head start.  That was then. Since May 24th, Moore has not scored 30 points again.  In fact, she's had but one 20 point game in the last seven contests.  I know, it's a combination of stuff.  Defenses are tightening up as they get acquainted with a quicker, sharper, more physically fit Maya.  The Lynx have played many games in a short period and the condensed campaign has already taken its toll.  And they've been playing at a high level without their star power forward Rebbekah Brunson, who's not due back until after the All-Star break.  I could see Moore, Augustus, and Whalen getting winded running up and down the court -- sometimes in the first half.  Even Coach Cheryl Reeve looks exhausted.  All that has culminated into Minny losing two in a row and three out of their last four.  This Sunday Phoenix defeated them for the first team in three years and at Target Center at that.  Moore mustered a sub par 14 points and turned the ball over five times.  One word for MM and the gang: REST.

Paris & Diggins Make For Winning Combo

Tulsa Shock are among my favorite teams to watch, win or lose.  They are a fast hungry group of young women finding their way in the midst of intimidating, seasoned veterans who, at times, underestimate them.  Courtney Paris has been the A in Amazing.  When she was playing in Atlanta for the Dream, I never thought she would be anything beyond the occasional contributor.  The home fans roared when she came off the bench but never exactly expected a scoring outburst the likes of Bad Boy Vinnie "Microwave" Johnson. Determined as she was, Paris never seemed quick enough to keep up with the Dream's trademark robust pace.  Now, in her second year with TUL, 2014 is already promising to be her best season as a pro.  She's currently leading the league in rebounds (11.2) and field goal percentage (.667) and doing the type of damage not always reflected on a stat sheet.  In Sunday's win versus Seattle, Paris turned in a 16pt/12reb performance, her fifth dub-dub of the season. Paris has clearly flexed out in the off season, much more aggressive and focused, quicker at anticipating post moves, owning the boards, and carving her name in the paint.  Proud of her.

Skylar Diggins continues to shut up the left over naysayers from 2013 who mocked her ad nauseum. There is a fervor, a fire in SkyDiggy's belly as evidenced by her increased scoring.  She's done something MVP candidate Maya Moore hasn't done --  drop 20 points or more in seven games.  That's helped her average to an impressive 19.2 points a contest -- good for fourth in the league.  She's also tied with San Antonio Stars' Danielle Robinson for third in assists (5.7).  Defenders are scratching heads on how to handle the leftie who's become very adept at executing from both sides of the hoop.  She's slashing often now, threading the needle in the paint, setting up Glory Johnson and Courtney Paris.  Her best game this past week came on June 10th when she swooped on the NY Liberty for 21 points and 7 dimes in a comfortable 72-57 Tulsa win.  Yes, Skylar Diggins is still getting the magazine spreads and the marriage proposal tweets from famous and infamous alike.  But now she's backing up the truckload of Notre Dame hype -- and the Shock just, just may squeak into the playoffs because of it.  Reality says, "They got a whopping 25 games left, brotha".

By the way, spotlighting these two young women takes nothing away from Glory Johnson, Riquna Williams, and rooks Odyssey Sims and Jordan Hooper who have all performed well over the four game winning streak.  I see Fred Williams smiling now.  Not showing any teeth yet but smiling.

The Befuddled Sparks Can't Buy One

Here's my thing: if one (that's 1) key player's absence (Kristi Toliver's) has caused a playoff caliber team to slip into last place then that team should barely be recognized as a playoff contender let alone a championship contender.  I live in LA and though I'm not a standalone Sparks fan (but a fan of the league in general) it would be awesome to see them bring a title here.  Hasn't happened since 2002.   In 2002 they had the great Lisa Leslie.  They haven't had a player quite as dominant.  And no, much as I love Candace Parker, the two time MVP, the 6'4" amazon with all the point guard moves, she's no Lisa Leslie.  More fun to watch, yes.  But nowhere near the leader that Leslie was.  Not the go-to player with the eye of the tiger who goes for the jugular late in the 4th quarter and gets the job done.  Fine, it happens some times but not nearly as often as a Sparks fan would like.  CP3, for all her style and finesse, plays too pretty at times in my opinion.  She might be the best example of sheer talent not being enough to take a franchise to the next level. LA hasn't even reached the Finals since they drafted Candace in 2008 and haven't been to the Western Conference Finals since that rookie year either.  And if this makes her mad and empowers her -- goooood.   

Not laying all the blame on Sparks' woes on Candace because ...  

Gruda Doesn't Quite Impress -- Yet

Sandrine Gruda has yet to impress me.  The woman I thought would be Sparks' answer in the post to compliment Nneka Ogwumike has been a solution in name only.  Not making the impact she made with the Connecticut Sun five years ago when she was good for 13.5 points and over 6 rebounds a game.  After a lengthy stay abroad Gruda hasn't amassed double figures in rebounds or points in any one game since coming to LA. Perhaps I'm expecting too much.  Some might say give it time.  But it shouldn't take too long to sum up a player's potential.   The fact is I expected more and have yet to see it.


Friday, June 6, 2014


X FACTOR: (n) a variable in a given situation that could have the most significant impact on the outcome.

As it relates to basketball, specifically the W, an X-Factor Player is one who shines almost unexpectedly, out of nowhere, to attain victory her team.   You know in the back of your mind that they have the talent and the attitude to win, but you don't expect them to drop 20 points or grab 10 rebounds a game.  These are players who may get slept on every now and again while the opposing team focuses on the stars.

I got nine on it.  Got it good!   In no particular order.  ;-)    Stats are through June 5th.  


Love this young lady.  Hungry to make a mark.



Don't know why the New York Liberty gave her up.



Been solid for years.  Name doesn't get mentioned enough.



Deceptively quick.  Hard worker. 



She can launch that tre and kill teams with it.



Very dangerous from downtown.   Nice for Sky to have in back pocket.



She seems to be a better defender this season.



She almost doesn't make the list because I've come to expect her to perform exceptionally well now.  But I did not forsee this kind of play at the start of the season so she makes the list.



Renee has more moves than a dancefloor but more importantly she seems to have worked on self control and discipline in recent years.