The IX: Basketball Wednesday with Howard Megdal, July 24, 2019
One media member's ballot — Liz Cambage interview — Must-click women's basketball links
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One media member’s ballot
So I recognize in the grand scheme of things that a WNBA all star ballot doesn’t mean all that much. The players will generally tell you they are more concerned with team performance than individual accolades, and some of the veterans who have experienced it already actually prefer the time off.
That said? It’s an honor, a star next to your season name for all of eternity, a talking point in the endless WNBA player greatness debates to come, and most of all, an honor for a group of women who, frankly, aren’t appreciated enough generally within the current sports landscape. So I really dig in and try to get it right.
Ultimately, I didn’t deviate much from those who were picked. My frontcourt was Elena Delle Donne, Liz Cambage, Jonquel Jones, DeWanna Bonner, Natasha Howard and Sylvia Fowles. My backcourt was Kristi Toliver, Kayla McBride, Chelsea Gray and Erica Wheeler.
The actual starters included Brittney Griner, Jewell Loyd and Kia Nurse instead of Fowles, Wheeler and Toliver. I don’t think any of them are outrages, and all three earned spots as reserves. Griner, Loyd and Nurse were just off my ballot, and would have been in my list of, say, 15. I try to put as much emphasis on 2019-only performance as possible, though, my theory being that career years ought to get rewarded.
Even so, the more important part of the All Star Game is the way in which it serves to highlight the game’s biggest stars (since, as we know, the actual game isn’t much of a replica of atypical, high-level WNBA game, no different than any other league’s all star game). And so ESPN’s half-hour draft, which aired Tuesday night with captains Elena Delle Donne and A’ja Wilson, was pitch-perfect.
Just getting non-game airtime on ESPN2 is a big deal for the league. Getting it with two charismatic stars interviewed by Maria Taylor, who knows the league, was just the perfect lead-in to Aces-Storm and more generally, the WNBA weekend ahead.
It’s been a difficult year for the WNBA, all of which I don’t need to rehash if you read this newsletter. So seeing the league get a win, well, it was a welcome change, and perhaps, hopefully, a harbinger for the tenure ahead of Cathy Engelbert.
This Week in Women’s Basketball
Theresa Grentz shared memories of coaching at Rutgers.
Michelle Smith gets Bill Laimbeer at his grumbly best.
Front Office Sports noticed the increase in WNBA media coverage, so good job, you guys!
Really good Ben Rosof read on what Nneka Ogwumike thinks should happen in the next CBA on domestic violence.
Kellen Becoats has a deep dive into the Dallas Wings’ progress.
The great Lindsay Gibbs got time with Cathy Engelbert, and offers a critique.
Gibbs is also amazing on Tianna Hawkins here.
Huw Hopkins thinks Elena Delle Donne is the first-half MVP. (So do I.)
Spoke at length to Katie Smith on The UConn Blog.
Excellent Michelle Kaufman on Erica Wheeler’s roots.
Scott Mammoser is covering the U19 World Cup in Thailand!
Russ Steinberg takes the deep dive you never knew you needed into Karlie Samuelson’s appearance on Nick Jr.
Tweet of the Week
Five at The IX: Liz Cambage
(I caught up with Liz a few weeks ago, when Vegas came through New York for a second time.)
HOWARD MEGDAL: How are you feeling about all star weekend?
LIZ CAMBAGE: Yeah, I’m very excited. All Star is going to be very fun, even if I don’t make it. I’ll be hanging around Vegas for the weekend. There’s a lot happening. But, you know, we’ve got a few more games to worry about before I start focusing on All Star weekend.
HOWARD MEGDAL: The partnership with you and A’ja, it seemed like the connections are crisper, it seems like you’re finding each other more quickly. What are you seeing?
LIZ CAMBAGE: It’s just so fun passing the ball out to her like that. I could do it all day. I’m trying to chase a triple double right now. It’s just to A’ja. But, it’s getting there, you know? Some days I’ll go off, some days McBride will go off, some days A’ja will have 40 points, some days Plum’ going to have 20 and it’s just about learning that we’re a team of scorers and we can all shoot it. But, it’s a team game as well. Every night someone’s going to go off.
HOWARD MEGDAL: You said you guys were focused on defense today. What was the defense like today in your eyes?
LIZ CAMBAGE: Just go out there and get our jobs done. We’ve just been sloppy and a little bit slow on rotations lately. So, we just came together after that last game and really wanted to get the job done.
HOWARD MEGDAL: In a year where some stars have been out across the league with injuries, how much has it been to have you four together for most of the year?
LIZ CAMBAGE: It’s been nice … We’re healthy and we’re looking after ourselves and putting in extra work. We’re very lucky that back in Vegas we actually trained at the USA Performance Center and it’s state of the art. It’s one of the nicest workout performance centers I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen a lot. So, we’re getting the cryotherapy and the cold tubs there and lifting every other day and just putting in a lot of work off court and then Bill’s looking after us on court as well.
HOWARD MEGDAL: Do you feel like you’re at or near 100% at this point?
LIZ CAMBAGE: No. Right now I’m probably playing like … I still feel like I’m 70 to 80%. I’m still missing shots that I would usually make and getting my wind back. But, I’m doing alright.
HOWARD MEGDAL: You’re doing alright.