Just the Facts, Ma'am: Despite 21 points from Essence Carson, the Liberty trailed by as much as 23 in their loss to Atlanta, 79-58. The Dream were led by Angel McCoughtry's 18 points.
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Fail. Epic fail. That is about the best description I can come up with right now, since "Can you pass me that rum? No, the whole bottle, please" might be a tad bit inappropriate.
You get no pregame fun times report because it takes me an hour and a half to get from my job to the Prudential Center, so when I leave at 5:30, I get to my seat right when the ref throws the ball in the air. So no anthem report, no pregame shootaround notes, no opinions on players' personalities, just frothing and seething at having to take a bus, a subway, and two PATH trains to a hike across a shopping area with a homeless guy smoking a cigarette and end up watching a lousy first half and a pathetic excuse of a second half from the Liberty. I can't do this hike next year. I don't even know if I want to do it next month.
Kelly Mazzante can still shoot, but that might be all she can do; of course, one might argue that that's all she could ever do. I... wouldn't have thought Plenette Pierson was her type, but I can't argue with that rather blatant grab around Plenette's... chest. Sandora Irvin seemed to be the only Atlanta player that the referees wanted to call fouls on. She slithered her way into the paint for a couple of nice offensive rebounds. Shalee Lehning scraps and hustles, but I didn't think she ran the team with the kind of authority she did last year. Of course, that might just be because she doesn't have the authority she did last year. Armintie Price still only has one speed and has reverted to her earlier lack of coordination. She's there for defense, and she's good at that, but she needs to lay off the shooting. Alison Bales was mostly used to set picks and scare the daylights out of Kia Vaughn; she wasn't really looking for her shot, but she didn't have to be. Coco Miller seemed to have taken her inspiration from the NBA Finals, what with the extra steps and the acrobatic shots, and dear gods, Colleen Mary Miller, you were not meant for acrobatic twisting layups.
Iziane Castro Marques has such a pretty shot- it's too pretty for her own good, given how much time she spends standing there and admiring it. If I were an Atlanta fan, I'd be infuriated that she didn't follow her shot. I have no idea why we kept leaving her open. She can shoot, y'know, Libs. Lindsey Harding didn't really make her presence felt. It's hard to believe a team can have such good offense without a point guard imposing her will on them, but who needs point guards when you have bruising posts and opponents who can't get out of their own way? Angel McCoughtry really just needs to keep her mouth shut and play. When she plays, she's beautiful to watch, a storm in control. When she starts running her mouth, she comes off as a petulant little brat. And I'd much rather watch her be a marvel of ability on both ends of the floor than want to hit her with a thunderstick. Sancho Lyttle seems to be fancying herself an outside shooter ever since that bizarre incident with the three-point shot pass, and I'm grateful for that, because if she had decided to go inside, we probably would have lost by thirty-five. If this is part of the Dream's strategy, I can see why they've struggled in the early going. Good thing for them that they have Érika deSouza. She was a beast inside. Of course, if the officials decide to call three seconds, she's a non-factor, but having faith in the referees to count is a silly, silly thing.
Guys! You guys! We had a Sydney Colson sighting! Hi... what are we going to call you? Your name is a homophone of Sidney Spencer's, so the variants on that aren't going to work. And you might be the Whiz Kid, but our coach is Whiz. What are we going to do? Other than watch you make stylish lay-ups and carry lots of hair onto the court? So hi, Sydney Colson! The other S*dney played too, and I think Whiz is bound and determined to make us like Spencer by not playing her at moments when it would seem appropriate. After he started off using the hand he was dealt well, his average has gone down to about .250. She's hopeless, but at least she can shoot. Alex Montgomery had some nice defensive plays, but dear God can she not shoot on the professional level. Sort of like a lower-to-middle-class man's Armintie Price. Quanitra Hollingsworth... not her night. Just. Not her night. On so many levels. Between the boxing out of teammates, the flubbed passes, the botched defensive assignments, and all of the other assorted errors, I think she might want to forget this day ever happened. (Suits me.) Jessica Breland was awful on offense, but had a monster block that got the sparse handfuls on their feet. Leilani Mitchell played a little bit, but her shots were off, though she got down for a couple of loose balls. I suspect her back was acting up, though.
Paging Cappie Pondexter. Cappie Pondexter to the courtesy phone. Has anyone seen Cappie Pondexter? She wasn't even relevant enough to the game to be bad. She was simply irrelevant. Nicole Powell was such a non-factor that I kept shouting "NICOLE DID SOMETHING!" when she got a rebound or hit a shot. I think I did it three times- a rebound, a shot, and a steal. Plenette Pierson started off well enough, but descended quickly into a lot of standing around and blowing assignments. I was honestly surprised that she had five fouls because I didn't think she'd been in position enough times to get in foul trouble. Kia Vaughn had a nice offensive game, but I think she gave up as many points as she scored, and let's not go into the rebounding. At least Essence Carson showed up for the first half, looking like she wanted to have a highlight reel all her own. Unfortunately, the Dream found an answer for her in the second half.
I wish I could say I've never seen this team so discombobulated, so unaware of who they should be passing to, so eager to box each other out for rebounds, so clueless about their height or lack thereof. But, well, I survived the Season of Fail in 2006. You can't scare me anymore. I don't know why a bunch of professional basketball players didn't look like they knew how to play basketball, but I'm used to it. I don't even know where to start, whether the players couldn't play or the coach couldn't coach. I just... throw my hands in the air.
There was the usual array of buffoonery from the officials, which disappoints me, because I expect better from Denise Brooks- but I think she was saddled with Scott Twadarski, which is never going to end well. DeSouza set up shop in the lane, everyone got away with traveling, Leilani caught a stray elbow, no one seemed to know how to handle out of bounds...
But really, one of the most egregious problems with this game was the attendance. I refuse to call it a crowd. Standing room only on the E train that took me home was crowded. Ten thousand at the Garden is crowded. If there were four thousand people at the Prudential Center, that's a lot. There were a lot of late arrivals, too. 7PM on weeknights is untenable. Three seasons of this will kill the team.
I have to give a shoutout to the obsession of Atlanta fans who made the trip to New York. (For those of you who have not met me: I use 'obsession' as the collective noun for a group of fans, especially in the context of travel. Referees come in confusions, coaches in schemes.) They brought lots of gear and thundersticks. It was almost depressing when I first arrived, because I came in with them, and I was the only person in sight wearing Liberty gear who didn't work for the team. But I love traveling fans.
After the game was the Q & A with Laurel Richie, and that was written up in a separate file, so it might not flow smoothly. Sorry. You just have to imagine me hunched over my laptop, steam still coming out of my ears at the defensive lapses, orange threads from the lei I wore on Saturday drifting down my black jersey.
The question and answer session started with opening remarks from Kristen Bernart, who made some noises about the arena and lauded Laurel Richie. I was very good and didn't heckle her about the "not such a great night" thing, since the section of Atlanta fans was still lurking.
Then Richie took the microphone, opening with her background. So far she sounds a little more genuine and less "pull my string and hear me talk" than Orender did. She grew up a Cavs fan (the poor woman) and had some familiar experiences about being a girl trying to get to the game- she and her sisters wondered why dad kept taking their brother to games and not them. She went into her advertising background- "I know about every natural function below the waist." (Yay? Then I guess she knows what this game was.) I think at this point we're allowed to make cookie jokes, given that she talked up her experience with the Girl Scout cookie program. So far, if she's as good as she seems, we have a lot to thank Force 10 for- they got her into this league. "You're really cool. Let's stay in touch."
The first thing she wants to do is "celebrate the women who play this game". I wonder who the third lawyer is (Washington and Henning come to mind). "If nothing else, I want all their arms." She thinks that getting to know the players is a critical piece to getting people to come to the games. "Do I market the WNBA as something that is socially good?" She appears to have forgotten the existence of WPS, which I can't necessarily blame her for, but the WNBA is not the only professional women's league in this country. "Gosh- God forbid, if they miss one of these passes, there goes my face-" on sitting courtside in Seattle, and seeing how hard and physical the game is. She wants to balance the social good with the basketball of the league. She also wants to play up the partnership with the NBA, "but sometimes I feel we're the little sister". I see what she's getting at- I think she's obliquely touching upon the Neanderthal argument that the WNBA is being shoved down their throats.
"I am not above shaming potential sponsors into supporting us." Ahahaha.
I like that she's willing to admit when she doesn't know things. Whether that comes from not having a sports background or simply being new to this job, I don't know, but I like that she hasn't formed her plan yet. She's only in her second month, after all.
The press asks her what's the most surprisng, and she said that she was interviewed so thoroughly that nothing surprises her, but she's impressed with the fans' passion and relationship with the league. And another "I don't know" about bringing more people in, but she wants to put it on the fans. Oh boy. Red flag. She draws a parallel between the Storm's kid train and the relationship of fans to the league.
First question: "instead of shaming sponsors, how can we shame the media into covering the league?" The league's "had some really good discussions" about telling stories about the players. They're working all the angles- women's stuff, business stuff, black stuff, what have you. It will be person by person, outlet by outlet, vehicle by vehicle. I'm not sure I like her emphasis on stories, especially "missing intestine" stories.
Second question: someone else who's pissed off about the blackout on cable! Really pissed off. Lady, let the president get a word in edgewise. She can only nod and mmm. She'll "lobby very hard", and is giving the usual talk about ratings.
Third question, from a Liberty original: scheduling, used to have lots of weekend games, not so much now. She's also complaining about the food. Lady, the president doesn't control that. So how do you get the attendance up? (This is going to be an I don't know... and it is. Go me.) "It's on my radar." What do you think are the benefits we get from the NBA? The league hasn't had the financial success they would like- she thinks it'll get there, or she wouldn't have taken this job. Because the larger league continues to support the league, realizing it's going to take the W time to get its feet under it, that's a benefit. She thinks the larger organization appreciates the importance of the league, and I think she's dead wrong on that- it's more appreciated on the micro level, by NBA players who come to games and support the team. Oh, she does know about WPS. But. Um. Paradox.
Fourth question: another angry Liberty fan being Liberty-centric, but also wants to know about the business aspect. Different fan experiences. Would the league have the leverage to force the Dolans to sell? WTF, woman in front of me. NO. Or Orender would have. Keep up. Richie's playing the inexperience card again. "Focused less on ownership and more on viability", though the two are interconnected.
Yours truly asked about regionalization. The most important thing is to have twelve strong, viable teams. She doesn't believe the composition of teams is based on where players came from. (Jessica Moore might want a word with you.) Owners, staff, etc. are focused on the viability and health of their team. And that was a remarkable non-answer.
Another original: "it's always been a family league". (Yeah, dude. "Family." And family.) Yes! Someone else who wants more of a focus on the history of the league!And more inclusivity! Okay, dude, you can live. Bernert took on the history question. Sue has a relationship with the team now. And the Sparks game will have a Spoon celebration. And they're going to celebrate Hammon. (Uh. She's not retired yet.) There's going to be a WATN? section now. Niiiiice. And they want to teach new fans the traditions. YES.
Another question, from a comedian ("how's your brother Lionel?"). How about an oldtimers' game? Bernert says we're trying. Our comedian also brought up commercial travel. For Richie, it's not just the travel, it's the whole piece of it (hey, I'm quoting here, blame her). She looks to women's tennis for inspiration- oh, boy, red flag. "The game is different, but it is no less valuable."
Last question: the officiating. One of the pieces of her orientation was to meet with the folks in charge of officiating. There's a human factor to all of that. And the guy who trains the officials sounds kind of scary. And more waffling.
I think I like her as a person, but I'm not sure about her as a league president. Her inexperience is raising too many red flags for me. She might be a marketing person, but she sounds like she's not sure what she's marketing.