The IX: Basketball Wednesday with Howard Megdal, September 9, 2020

Everyone is tired — Breanna Stewart talks defense, 2K21 and more — Must-click women's basketball links

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Everyone is tired

The current mood in the WNBA, among all the people I talk to around the league, can best be summed up, as most things can, by Madeline Kahn.

You can hear it in the answers to the media, from Liberty coach Walt Hopkins:

You can hear it in Atlanta Dream head coach Nicki Collen’s explanation, following a recent 62-56 win over New York, that the game “was like that was one of those painful games that you’re just grateful that you ended up on the right side of the scoreboard and you walk away and nobody got hurt.”

You can see it, even among the best and most motivated teams in the #wubble to date. Seattle, a juggernaut in July, has been merely good in August. Minnesota, the best-defending team in the league for most of the season, just lost two straight and led Cheryl Reeve to say of her team’s effort, “this shit was embarrassing today.”

If a Cheryl Reeve team isn’t defending, you know everybody in the #wubble is tired.

This being 2020, no one quite knows what rest will do for teams in the playoffs ahead, which will begin next Tuesday, September 15. The top two seeds get a double bye, which means no games for nearly a week, the semifinals scheduled to start on Saturday, September 20.

Will players with a week off be able to start it back up again, when the every-other-day games has been their life for two months? Will it be a greater advantage than even the home court, somehow still a thing that’s favorite teams all playing in the same place?

The winner of this league is going to have to do this, performing at a high level, for another month. I will brook no talk of an asterisk applied to any of the feats performed in the #wubble. (Shoutout to friend of The IX Louisa Thomas on that front.) And when thinking about who is likely to excel in the playoffs, endurance might be the thing to emphasize most, even more than talent.

I thought Hopkins captured it best of anyone other than Kahn, in this must-read piece by Jackie Powell.

“We’ve done a pretty remarkable job staying together,” he said. “And we’re starting to see some little cracks, and so, it’s understandable, it’s human.”

It’s human to be tired. And these players are human.

This Week in Women’s Basketball

Surprise! Make merch for women’s sports and fans buy it. Who could have imagined????

Terrific Matt Ellentuck rundown of surprising WNBA players in 2020.

Just Women’s Sports caught up with Sophie Cunningham.

Shannon Malero thinks the Liberty are cursed.

Great Lindsay Gibbs piece on Ginny Gilder.

Lyndsey D’Arcangelo sat down with Jordin Canada.

Excellent Ben Dull survey of the league.

A fun run through all 12 teams from Ben as well.

Loved this scout’s eye view of the Storm.

Jacob Mox tells you everything you need to know about how trades work in the WNBA.

Don’t miss Alexa Philippou on what Theresa Plaisance is playing for.

Natalie Weiner profiled Tina Charles.

Code Switch spoke to Amira Rose Davis about the WNBA’s activism.

Strong macro look at the remaining WNBA regular season from Matt Ellentuck.

PJ Brown reports on Phoenix’s attempt to get a Women’s Final Four.

Jim Souhan thinks the Lynx can make a deep playoff run.

Nekias Duncan details all the ways Arike Ogunbowale scores.

Pepper Persley talked to Joyner Holmes.

Jenn Hatfield makes the case for Myisha Hines-Allen as MIP.

And my goodness, this story on the Rookie of the Year race is fun.

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Tweet of the week

Five at The IX: Breanna Stewart, Seattle Storm

I spoke to Breanna about her defense, the state of the Storm heading into the playoffs, and more, following a recent shootaround. A few reporters joined me.

PALMETTO, FL- SEPTEMBER 4: Candace Parker #3 of the Los Angeles Sparks and Breanna Stewart #30 of the Seattle Storm smiles during the game on September 4, 2020 at Feld Entertainment Center in Palmetto, Florida. (NBA Content Network)

Question: Hey Stewie. 2K is I guess, officially out today. I wanted to get your opinion on how they are able to implement you guys into the game. Then, obviously next generation, they’re going to have a woman player as the MyPLAYER. I wanted to get your thoughts on that too.

Breanna Stewart: Yeah. I mean, I think, last year was the first year that we were in 2K. I think it’s been long overdue. I think that the 2K family having us be a part of the game is what needs to be done because as much as there is an NBA, there’s also a WNBA.

Then, to create a female MyPLAYER I think is really exciting. I’m looking forward to having that function. I’m sure there’s going to be even more people involved and hopefully even more guys playing as a female MyPLAYER.

Question: Hey Stewie. Nice to chat with you. I actually have two questions if that’s okay. The first one is just specific to your defense, your numbers per synergy have been among the leaders all year this year. Particularly, post opps, you’ve reached another level it seems like in terms of your defending. What do you think is responsible for what seems to be numerically a defensive step forward even over 2018?

Breanna Stewart: Yeah, I think just continuing to kind of have that time, obviously having that year to really work on my body and work on my balance, work on my footwork a little bit and just be more centered. Then, just being aware of what teams are trying to do and being ready for anything.

Question: Then, my question is about Diana Taurasi. Just the streak she’s on and the run she’s on lately, Do you think there’s any part of this that’s just her understanding she’s closer to the end than the beginning. Seeing that championship and say, “Here’s somebody who has that killer instinct,” you share with her. I’m wondering how much you think that plays a part in what she’s doing right now?

Breanna Stewart:Yeah. I mean, I think, I don’t know how much she’s thinking about the end of her career. I think what she’s thinking right now is really staying in the moment. I think, if you look at Phoenix, their roster is obviously down in numbers. She knows that she has to do whatever she can on the court to really up her team. She’s doing that. She’s shooting it from just inside half court. It’s amazing to watch.

Question: Hey. Thanks, Breanna. I appreciate your time. I’m going to try to squeeze in two also, if I can. The first is for I know a pretty big sports fan. When you look at say other leagues, what do you look at if you were trying to decide who is an MVP of another league? What would be the main things? Do you really crunch numbers? Or, what are the things that you think of most? Because I know MVP for you guys, you can’t decide it. It’s voted on by other people, but if you were voting in such a thing, hypothetically, what would you most look at?

Breanna Stewart: I mean, I think when you’re looking at MVP, you’re obviously looking at performance, but you’re also looking at wins. I guess your performance carrying over to some great wins. Yeah. You look at MVP as someone who’s on one of the top teams in the league. The best team usually has the best player.

Question: Okay. My other question is you were obviously involved in social justice and a lot of different causes before you came into the bubble. How has being in the bubble been for you from that standpoint? Has this been, in some ways, a really rewarding experience or what’s it been like? When you look back, will you think about that most from 2020?

Breanna Stewart: Yeah. I mean, I think, when we look back at 2020 it’s going to be a historic season because of everything obviously that’s gone on this past year and what we’ve been able to accomplish as a league. What we’ve been able to really make happen.

I think looking at the social justice side of things, being a part of the Social Justice Council, I’m most proud of the fact that we were able to really be organizers. I think being here gave us the opportunity to really make our platforms even bigger.

I saw an NBA guy who said that, “Our platforms are biggest when we’re together.” That really is the same with us here in the WNBA. I think that we’ve had a lot of opportunities to really continue to educate ourselves. Then, push that same message out on our platforms about the voting, about the census, about Say Her Name, about Black Lives Matter.

So, I’m just really proud of what we’ve done as a league. I think that going forward, I hope that the Social Justice Council continues because obviously and unfortunately, as we continue on these seasons, there’s always going to be something that needs to be brighter. There’s always going to be something that needs our attention off the court. Hopefully we can continue to give it our attention.

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon  Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal The Next
Thursdays: Golf
By Carly Grenfell, @Carlygren
Fridays: Hockey
By: Erica Ayala, @ELindsay08 NWHL Broadcaster

Written by Howard Megdal

Howard is the founder of The Next and editor-in-chief.