The IX: Basketball Wednesday with Howard Megdal, September 25, 2019
Everybody's talking — Alyssa Thomas interview — Your women's basketball must-reads
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Sun fans are mad at Chiney Ogwumike. Candace Parker is, at least, unhappy with Derek Fisher’s substitution patterns, and Fisher is willing to publicly blame Parker for the Sparks losing. Liz Cambage is perfectly comfortable talking trash to the Mystics, and the Mystics, well, they enjoyed talking back. The Sun are hunting down anyone who ever doubted them online.
Put another way: it’s the WNBA playoffs!
Look, as everyone knows, WNBA players have always disliked each other. Not all of them, and there is a broad solidarity among players past and present as well. But there are beefs! Competitive fire breeding spirited back-and-forths! Rivalries! And yes, straight-up grudge matches.
It’s a large part of what makes sports great. And it’s always made the WNBA, well, a little uncomfortable.
I’ve spoken to Diana Taurasi about this, and she agrees what a shame it is that the WNBA received the astonishingly wonderful gift of how much Taurasi loves to come into road arenas and torture opponents, speak bluntly about it all, and instead of marketing her as the Kobe Bryant-like figure she is (to say nothing of how much the league inexplicably embraces ACTUAL Kobe Bryant), the edges were smoothed at every turn.
Well, there was nothing hidden this week. Team social media got into the mix. Players, coaches, you name it. ESPN went from having no analyst at all on their WNBA halftime show (I know, I don’t get it either) to bringing excellent pot-stirrer Brian Agler in to talk about the Sparks, a team he coached as recently as last year.
I do wonder how much of the traction Derek Fisher’s decision to bench Candace Parker got came from the fame both have beyond the WNBA, Fisher with the NBA as player and coach, Parker on NBA and NCAA broadcasts. But it happened, and so we moved beyond merely hoping for folks to talk credibly about the games themselves into subtext.
The WNBA, this past week, has felt like a men’s sport in this country, in all the ways we want it to, and it has been glorious to experience. We’ve now got days of hype leading up to what I flagged for you a few weeks ago as the best possible WNBA Finals matchup.
It’s a good time here in WNBA land, is what I’m saying.
This Week in Women’s Basketball
The great PJ Brown has this piece on UA assistant Jackie Nared (yes, relation) and this on how the Arizona players write their own stories.
I wrote about Courtney Williams’ soul here, and her midrange jump shot here.
Really good stuff from Erica Ayala on the WNBPA Board of Advocates.
Lindsay Gottlieb brings it in this Players’ Tribune piece.
Caissa Casarez breaks down the reasons Cheryl Reeve earned Executive of the Year honors.
Keith Sargeant sat down with C. Vivian Stringer. I hear she answered seven questions in 67 minutes. VINTAGE, I love it.
Megan Gustafson, who was mentioned first on last night’s ESPN halftime show when the Dallas Wings came up, wrote this diary of her first year.
Chris Shearn sat down with Jonathan Kolb, Liberty GM, for Shearn’s latest podcast.
Wrote this on Alyssa Thomas, with more AT goodness below.
Great stuff from Wali, who spoke with Chamique Holdsclaw.
Here’s Brady Klopfer’s gamer on Parkergate.
Don’t expect my mock draft to change much at picks 1-2 this year. 3-12 is all up for grabs, though.
A baby dolphin has been named after the Las Vegas Aces. I’ll pay any journalist reading this $10 to ask Bill Laimbeer if he likes baby dolphins.
This Lindsay Gibbs Game 4 gamer from Aces-Mystics, it is the good stuff.
Always enjoy Sue Favor’s roundup of must-read links, too.
Anything Kathy Delaney-Smith is going to be worth your time.
Stat of the week
Notice who you won’t find on the champions list: either of this season’s finalists.
Five at The IX: Alyssa Thomas, Connecticut Sun
HOWARD MEGDAL: So your coaches compared you to — Curt compared you to Candace Parker. Brenda [Frese] compared you to LeBron James. But it feels like it’s not defined by any game that’s come before it. It just seems like the shape is different. I wonder how you define it.
ALYSSA THOMAS: I mean, I’m different. I see comparisons just with facilitating, being able to play multiple positions. I’m me, I play my game and I don’t think anybody’s game is like my game.
HOWARD MEGDAL: Brenda talked about, the 80-foot bounce passes, you came to her already doing. When did you find that?
ALYSSA THOMAS: It’s just been something my parents have instilled in me at a young age. My mom has been my coach growing up and one of the things she always said was, you don’t know how tall are you going to be, you can’t just put one position. So she’s played me at multiple positions my whole life and just has made me a versatile player.
HOWARD MEGDAL: What have you changed in your game? Because we were talking a little bit about just the physical shift that you’ve seen. Are there just shots you would normally take and you had to train yourself to say, “Look, my range is different as I’m navigating these shoulder injuries”, or what?
ALYSSA THOMAS: Yeah, I mean, I’ve had to change my game. At Maryland I was all about midrange jumpers, doing all of that. And I know how people are going to play me. They’re going to go in there, but I do have a full game and I do attack really hard. So despite how people are playing me, I still can find my way to the rim.
HOWARD MEGDAL: You said that your mom told you to play multiple positions, someone your size playing so many different ways and playing the way you have, wasn’t necessarily something that was happening in this league when you were growing up. Like is this a Candace Parker influence? I’m curious like how did, how did that come about?
ALYSSA THOMAS: Like I said, I mean you just don’t know where you’re going to play each level you go to. And I wasn’t always this tall growing up, I was a late bloomer. It took me awhile to hit a growth spurt, so we knew I would be tall eventually. But while I was small I worked on my guard skills and as I started to grow I worked on posting up.