When it comes to WNBA I always expect great but as with any season there are many things in WNBA 2012 I did not expect. It's been quite a six week long ride. We've witnessed our share of dramatic last second heroics, milestones eclipsed, much improved teams/players, and season altering injuries. Whoever said the Minnesota Lynx would run away with it (and there were many) may be eating crow come this October -- including yours truly.
One of the big surprises was the Connecticut Sun. Though they've always been a contender for much of their ten seasons I never expected them to be this good. Who did? And they've been better than good -- they're now near neck and neck with the once invincible Minnesota Lynx. Their victory over Minny in the Twin Cities this past Saturday was as great a showing as any the franchise has made since the departure of Katie Douglas, Lindsay Whalen, and Nykesha Sales. The reason? Asjha Jones? Somewhat. Tina Charles? Close but not quite. The reason is undeniably Kara Lawson.
LAW OF THE LAND
The Sun's Lawson Directing CT to Win Over MN
Coach Mike Thibault's decision to make Lawson a starter at the one over the talented but streaky Renee Montgomery was probably the best move by any WNBA coach thus far. Lawson's hoop IQ is as good as anyone's in the league in my opinion. As a disciplined floor general with amazing shooting range and championship experience she now has the opportunity to steer CT back into the Finals -- a place the Sun hasn't been in seven years. (By the way, the last time the Connecticut was in the Finals they were defeated by the Sacramento Monarchs -- Kara Lawson's team). However let us not forget the scrappy play of Tan White and newly acquired role player Mistie Mims. Both women have frequently made excellent use of the minutes they have been given and it shows. It will be interesting to see how the Sun perform after the Olympic break.
Mercury's Injury Bug Results In Dismal Season
In a videotaped practical joke played by Diana Taurasi on her teammates during preseason, the star shooting guard claimed that she was given an ultimatum: play in the Olympics or play for the Mercury this year -- she couldn't have it both ways. DeWanna Bonner, who fell for it, remarked that should Diana go, the team "would suck". Of course, Taurasi was just joking and eventually let DeWanna, Nakia Sanford, and Alexis Hornbuckle off the hook, but the joke that Taurasi wouldn't be on the roster seems to have been sort of an unfortunate omen. Plagued by a injured hip flexor, the 30 year old UConn alum has only played in two games. I honestly did not expect her absence on the floor and presence in street clothes to be this long. There were nasty rumors that she was given a rest (and star preference) for the London games. Hogwash, says WNBA Jones. But her not playing has taken the umph out of Phoenix which has already been suffering the loss of Penny Taylor's services to a torn ACL. Then Candice Dupree got injured. Then Nakia Sanford. The result has been a dismal 4 and 12 record. Tweets are already suggesting the team is tanking to grab Brittany Griner or Elena Della Donne in next year's draft. Once again, hogwash. But let's just say 2013 should be a very good year for the Mighty Merc should they stay healthy.
99 SOLUTIONS AND THIS CHICK IS ONE
Mighty Merc Prahalis Looking to Dish
On the bright and somewhat unexpected side, rookie Samantha "Styles P" Prahalis has blossomed into an exceptional point guard. I like the kid but had doubts as to whether she'd be a huge improvement over Temeka Johnson who was traded to the Tulsa Shock. Fortunately for Phoenix she's played well, even leading the league in assists per game for a few weeks. One could only imagine how many more assists she'd have if Taurasi, Taylor, and Dupree were all at full strength. While Sam's FG% could use work, much of her game is fundamentally sound. She's quick, fiery, and has been less and less hesitant with her decision making as the weeks go by. In many ways she's made the team's top scorer, perennial Sixth Woman Of the Year DeWanna Bonner, even better. The result is that Styles P has become a top contender for Rookie Of the Year, along with Nneka Ogwumike of the Sparks and Tulsa's Glory Johnson.
The Lynx Suffer Rare Three Game Skid
What? Minnesota losing three games in a row? Say that again. C'mon now. At the rate the were going, I thought the Lynx would break the Houston Comets' record with a 32 and 2 record, en route to second consecutive 'ship. Now I'm hearing they could possibly lose in the playoffs to San Antonio or LA. What a difference a week makes. What Minny has endured of late is indicative of how hard it is to live up to your own high standard against eleven teams who desperately want a piece of you. No team has more pressure to win than the Lynx. No championship team has been expected to repeat as much as the Lynx. Though they're known for their stingy, iron curtain type defense, Minnesota's few weaknesses have been exploited by quicker, younger, just-as-hungry players. I think that once San Antonio beat them, it gave LA and CT all sorts of confidence to do the same. The Sun rattled the Lynx in ways they haven't been in a long time, forcing Coach Carol Reeves to make numerous (and a few head scratching) changes throughout the game. Though they put together an exciting run in the 4th quarter, ultimately, none of the changes led to a victory. In the last few minutes, Whalen was left cheer-leading on the sideline. I found that questionable in more ways than one. But hey, if there's any team that could benefit from the Olympic break it would be the Lynx. They have three (Moore, Whalen, and Augustus) going to London. Minny no doubt hopes that they return healthy, strong, and re-energized to defend their title.
NOT TO BE DENIED
Sparks' Toliver Having A Career Season
You know what. The 2012 Sparks can reasonably be the first team to boast MVP, Rookie Of the Year, and Most Improved Player all in the same season. The first two are really no surprise. Playing with a knee that's not quite 100%, Candace Parker has performed like a woman possessed for most of the way, seizing Player Of The Week and Month Awards multiple times. For Nneka Ogwumike's part, she's been beasting in the paint, controlling the boards, dominating inside. Neither award is a lock quite yet but it looks very good for both players. The surprise though is Kristi Toliver. Or should I say Kristi Toliver 2.0, Kristi Toliver with a supped up V-8 engine. You get the idea. The league's Rapunzel (the woman's hair is loooong) has been killer in '12, averaging 17.3 points and just under 5 entrees a game. Her FG% is an impressive .470. She's 91% from the line and 40% from downtown. The word is amazing. I see Tollie having a just as good if not better second half, which should make her cash money for MIP of 2012.
1. I truly thought Marissa Coleman would be a more significant presence for the Sparks. Her numbers say otherwise.
2. The Mercury's Avery Warley has come out of nowhere to become a tough, no nonsense baller whom I wish Coach Corey Gaines would design more plays for.
3. Shannon Bobbit cut? Didn't see that coming. As a Washington Mystic she did get some sweet revenge against her former team the Indiana Fever in one recent game.
4. Both Miller twins, Kelly and Coco, getting cut the same day. Always loved those two.
5. Epiphanny Prince leading the league in points per game. Her fantastic three game run of 30 points or more was something to watch. Tough when she got injured.
And those are my surprises for the first half of WNBA 2012. Enjoy the Olympics and get in gear for an incredible August, September, and October.
- WNBA Jones