September 27, 2012
By Kenneth Miller
LA Watts Times Staff Writer
Candace Parker, arguably the WNBA’s most popular star, is on a unique journey, which will undoubtedly take her to the basketball Hall of Fame. But as the organization’s post season tips on Thursday Sept. 27 she is still in search of her first WNBA crown with the Los Angeles Sparks. Parker is the darling of women’s basketball filling the sneakers left behind by Lisa Leslie and Cheryl Miller, but as the Sparks ready for the San Antonio Silver Stars at the Galen Center at 7p.m. she will be reaching down deep to propel the Sparks to their first championship in 10 years.
Championships and becoming the first woman to dunk in an NCAA women’s tournament and the WNBA are the ingredients that have spiced Parker to the level of being the league’s savior.
While at Tennessee for three years she led the Lady Vols to consecutive NCAA championships in 2007 and 2008, earning back-to-back Most Outstanding Player awards in the process.
While in college she was not only the first woman to dunk in the tourney, but the first to do it twice in a college. Parker is only the second woman behind Leslie to dunk in a WNBA game.
A five-tool star, she played guard, forward and center. For basketball novices those are all of the positions on a basketball court.
Parker didn’t just excel on the hardwood, she maintained a 3.35 grade point average in the classroom and was a University Division Academic All American.
She shares the distinction of being one of only three National Gatorade Players of the Year with Brandon Knight and LeBron James while prepping in Illinois where she was both WBCA All American and McDonalds All American.
Twice she was named USA Today Player of the Year in 2003 and 2004 and the Naismith Player of the Year. You get the idea that Candace Parker was pretty special.
Imagine what she would have accomplished had she not tore her ACL while a junior.
She still managed to become a three-time Illinois Player of the Year where she established school records in points and rebounds with 2,768 and 1,592, respectively.
Born and raised near Chicago she grew up adoring the Michael Jordan led Bulls, but her favorite player was Ron Harper.
It was her father who taught her how to play, but it didn’t hurt that her brother Anthony Parker was a standout player in his own right and is currently playing in the NBA with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
However, it is Parker who right now is the shinning jewel of the family and for the most part, the Los Angeles sports scene with both the Angels and Dodgers on the outside of the playoffs looking in.
There could not be a better model and purposeful example for the city and particularly African Americans in a sport that has had its popularity shortchanged by the monopolized NFL, the off season acquisition of Dwight Howard, Magic Johnson’s purchasing of the Dodgers and their multiple acquisitions and a presidential election of the highest stakes.
Meanwhile, the Sparks have been quietly going about their business of being community oriented and putting a winning product on the court, and of course with Parker as the centerpiece they have finally arrived at their pinnacle.
Finishing second in the Western Conference to the Minnesota Lynx, the Sparks won 24 games against just 14 defeats and are 6-4 over their last 10 games aiming for that elusive crown that has been gone for a decade when many thought they would own the league.
The drafting of Parker with the first pick in ’08 came with the lofty expectations that prominence would be immediate.
Since then head coach Michael Cooper left to take the same position with USC, Kobe’s dad came in a year ago and the team flickered on brilliance, boredom and mediocre.
But during that span, Parker missed nine games when she was giving birth to her daughter Lailaa Williams and in 2010 missed the entire season with a shoulder injury.
The shadow of Leslie stood even taller than ever and many wondered if the prospects of grandeur were mere illusions.
A healthy Parker could change all of that and the emergence of her Olympic teammates, which captured gold in London, has put the Sparks in a position they are familiar with.
She will need the help of Tina Thompson among the greatest players in the world; Delisha Milton Jones and former Narbonne star Ebony Hoffman coming off the bench if it is to work.
A champion with her team in Russia, an Olympic gold medal, two NCAA titles, and all of the accolades are enough to satisfy anyone, but for Parker it’s a WNBA title on her resume that will make the candy taste sweetest at this time of the year.
September 27, 2012
By DOUG FEINBERG AP Basketball Writer
Phoenix Mercury coach Corey Gaines looked at his phone and a one-word text from star Diana Taurasi said it all — “Wow.”
Gaines was still in shock after his team won the WNBA draft lottery Wednesday night and earned the No. 1 pick next year and the rights to take Brittney Griner.
Even though the Mercury (7-27) had the second worst record in the league and a 28 percent chance of getting the No. 1 choice, Gaines didn’t expect it.
“I could see where I was sitting each time she (Laurel J. Richie) opened the envelope, and the first one I saw was Washington,” Gaines said. “My first instinct was that I felt sorry because they really needed that pick, Then that went away and I saw the next one, and I saw the order they were going in, and then all of a sudden I realized it — we just got the No. 1 pick. It’s just got to be lucky.”
Chicago will pick second and Tulsa third. Washington, which had the worst record in the league will pick fourth. The Mystics (5-29) had a 44 percent chance to win the top pick. Only four times in the 11 previous lotteries has the team with the worst record secured the top pick.
Neither Gaines nor Mercury President Amber Cox would commit after the lottery results were announced to taking Griner with the No. 1 pick.
“Griner has a unique skill set,” Cox said. “We’ll look at the class and it’s our job over the next few months to figure out what’s the best fit for us.”
Griner though is a once in a lifetime talent. The 6-foot-8 Baylor star is an unbelievable shot blocker and also can play above the rim. She helped guide Baylor to a national championship last year and the first 40-0 season in college basketball history. The reigning Associated Press player of the year will try to lead the Lady Bears to a second straight championship when the season starts next month.
“We like to fast break and you need to rebound and play defense to get out and run,” said Gaines, smiling. “Obviously she can block shots and rebound the ball well.”
Griner headlines a talented class. Delaware’s Elena Delle Donne led the nation in scoring last season and is a versatile 6-foot-5 guard who can score from almost anywhere on the court. Notre Dame’s Skylar Diggins has guided the Irish to the past two national championship games and is one of the most followed female athletes on Twitter.
“They all are very different players and can do different things for us,” Cox said.
Phoenix was plagued by injuries most of the season. Taurasi only played in eight games and Penny Taylor missed the entire year while recovering from an ACL injury. Candice Dupree also missed 21 games because of a left knee injury.
“This was a difficult season with all the injuries we had,” Gaines said. “The players this year tried so hard and now the texts are coming in from them. They are ready to come back and excited.”
The Mercury have had the first pick in the draft two other times, including 2004 when they drafted Taurasi.
This was the first time that the lottery was shown on television. In the past the lottery had been held later in the calendar year behind closed doors at a league meeting.
But with the WNBA playoffs starting on Thursday and the incredibly talented senior class, the league moved up the lottery.
“This is what you love about sports. To have our lottery televised live on ESPN with all the drama of the envelopes coming out. I think it went great,” WNBA President Laurel Richie said. “We’re trending on Twitter.”
In a similar fashion to the NBA draft lottery, the actual lottery was held two hours before it was revealed on TV in a separate room. Each team had representatives in that room and they were sequestered until the results were shown.
September 20, 2012
Washington Redskins receiver Joshua Morgan felt the full downside of the social media age this week, receiving death threats and other venomous messages on Twitter because of his fourth-quarter blunder in the loss to the St. Louis Rams.
Morgan talked recently about the nastiness he's heard from fans since his unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for throwing the ball at Cortland Finnegan. The penalty cost the Redskins valuable field position during the team’s final drive in Sunday's 31-28 defeat.
“I heard everything, especially when they get you on Twitter and are sending you death threats and wishing you bad things and your firstborn,” Morgan said. “You see it all, you hear it all. You never let it get to you, especially with me being from D.C. They treated me kind of like they did (San Francisco 49ers return man) Kyle Williams last year when he dropped a punt against the Giants.”
Morgan said the threats are keeping him focused. He said he wasn’t tempted to discontinue his Twitter account.
“The only thing I take seriously is football and my family, and nothing really scares me,” he said.
Morgan said he’s been fined over the penalty but doesn’t yet know the amount. He also said he wouldn’t be throwing such a tantrum again. After all, raising the ire of fans is one thing, but getting a cold stare from the coaching staff is something else.
“Especially with coach Mike Shanahan,” he said, “none of us are dumb enough to make the same mistake twice.”
The Redskins play Cincinnati on Sunday.
September 20, 2012
The Brooklyn Nets will be featured in a behind-the-scenes series on both NBA TV and NBA.com.
The league's network announced recently that it will spotlight the team on “The Association” in its inaugural season in the New York borough.
This is the fourth straight season that the “The Association” has followed a team. Previously, it spotlighted the Los Angeles Lakers (2009-10), Boston Celtics (2010-11), and Denver Nuggets (2011-12).
The Nets series will tip off on Oct. 16.
September 20, 2012
President Barack Obama has welcomed the reigning WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx to the White House.
It’s been nearly a year since the Lynx won the championship, but the team’s visit was delayed by the Summer Olympics and Obama’s busy schedule.
Obama told team members they are great ambassadors for the game and strong role models for his own daughters. The president says the Lynx have returned glory to the Twin Cities.
Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve thanked Obama for his support of the WNBA and told him the selflessness of her players along with leadership are behind their success.
The Lynx won the championship after sweeping the Atlanta Dream in three games last October. The team is in first place in the league’s western conference this season.