One quarter of the way through WNBA season – Observations & Thoughts

With more than half of the league played roughly 8 to 10 games, we are officially done 1/4 of the WNBA season. We have seen some incredible play, some lackluster referees, quality and some very bad teams early. It’s time to break it down and offer my observations and thoughts on everything I have seen played out through the first 8 to 10 games.

First of all, the ROY race is now open. After so much hype regarding the #1 Draft pick Kelsey Plum, it turns out in the early part of the season she is not even in consideration for the award. The front runner of this award clearly belongs to Dallas Wings G/F Allisha Gray. She has been steady and reliant as well as a key component to the Wings offense. She is headed towards becoming a future WNBA All-Star one day.  As for Kelsey Plum? She’s in a tough spot in San Antonio. It’s hard to be a rookie point guard in the WNBA and it is the toughest position to master next to the center position. It takes time and clearly Plum is not there yet. It’s even tougher when a very good, young point guard in Moriah Jefferson is there and has played better to this point in the season. I won’t get into too much detail about it but even if Vickie Johnson (Stars head coach) played Plum, Jefferson and McBride together, Plum still has a long way to go to become a future WNBA star and starting point guard. I won’t write her off as a bust. That’s silly. She has a learning curve and in time, she will be a great guard we will talk about it. But the question remains, will it be in San Antonio?

Moving on, the MVP race is heating up. Before this season began, there was talk of Nneka Ogwumike maybe repeating or Elena Delle Donne, Tina Charles, etc. I don’t think Sylvia Fowles was seriously considered just because of the depth the Lynx have. Well, 9 games into the Lynx season and Fowles has emerged as the front runner for the MVP award. Simply put, she has been amazing and has improved her game at the age of 30 years old. Remarkable. Fowles has always been an elite center in the WNBA and one of the top defenders in the league but her play this season is a notch above her All Star play. I don’t think being on the Lynx will hurt her MVP chances just like it didn’t hurt Ogwumike’s shot last year either. While Fowles is the front runner, don’t forget about the Mercury’s Brittney Griner. She’s been simply outstanding and for me personally, fun to watch her growth and development. There’s a reason why she was taken ahead of Elena Delle Donne because when Griner puts it all together, she’s unstoppable. She’s been able to avoid foul trouble for the most part and her level of play should make Mercury fans very happy. Their very hyped center is finally turning the corner and becoming one of the top three players to watch through a quarter of the WNBA season. Another player who has also emerged as one of the three contenders for the award is none other than Washington Mystics forward Elena Delle Donne. If there is one thing Delle Donne is simply elite at, it is her ability to score. Being a versatile elite scorer has helped the Mystics off to a very great start through 10 games (7-3) and makes her a very serious candidate for the WNBA MVP award. Other names are also in the mix such as Sparks reigning MVP (Nneka Ogwumike), Liberty’s Tina Charles, etc. But these three (Fowles, Griner and Delle Donne) are simply a notch better through a quarter of the WNBA season right now.

Another key story is the quality of play of the top teams versus the bad teams. There is quite a remarkable difference between the Minnesota Lynx and the San Antonio Stars. One team is undefeated while the other is winless. Sure, the Lynx have more talent and have experienced veterans on this team, but the Stars do have talent regardless of what you have read about them. The Minnesota Lynx are 9-0 because they can close out teams, they have some very big blowout wins and are in cruise control right now. They get elite level production from Fowles (discussed above), steady production from Rebekkah Brunson, Seimone Augustus and a very good point guard in Lindsay Whalen to direct the team. Meanwhile the San Antonio Stars are winless because they cannot close out teams, they have had multiple chances to win games and their rotation is a mess because the coach has yet to figure out which line up combination works for her team. I did not expect the Stars to have a winning record at this point, but never did I think they would still be winless. It’s not fun to watch for anybody. The Lynx being 9-0 and the Stars being 0-9 are two stories to track through one quarter of the season. Both teams could set records (and in the Stars case, not a great record.)

REFEREES: Still not great, way too many games decided by their fate. Reviews are way too long and it takes the fun out of the WNBA game.

HOT SEAT? Two coaches right now are on the hot seat. Vickie Johnson of the San Antonio Stars and Amber Stocks, the coach/GM of the Chicago Sky. Of these two, I think Johnson will be let go after this season because she is only on a one year deal. Amber Stocks is on the hot seat because of some her rosters moves are puzzling. Not only that, but her team could have won more games, but haven’t due to the talent on the floor. It’s only a quarter of the way through the WNBA season, but keep an eye on these two coaches moving forward.

These are some of the top major stories around the league. When the majority of the WNBA has played half of their games (17 games), I shall do another post on what other stories have transpired in this 2017 WNBA season.

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Game #24 Phoenix Mercury vs San Antonio Silver Stars Game Day Recap

Danielle Robinson

Danielle Robinson had 20 points and 8 assists as the Silver Stars won 88-82 against the Phoenix Mercury on Breast Cancer Awareness Night at the AT&T Center. Photo courtesy of Daniel Clarke Evans

Oops. I completely forgot to do the game recap for this game on Sunday and got way too busy on Monday to do it. But, without any further delay, below is my version of the game that was played on Saturday and my usual notes & observations from the game are below that.

GAME RECAP

San Antonio

The San Antonio Silver Stars had lost a previously winnable game against the Seattle Storm slip away last weekend and didn’t want a repeat against the Phoenix Mercury. The Silver Stars put on their best offensive performance of the season with 88 points and 42% from the field and three point land and 90% from the FT line. Danielle Adams who joined the 1000 point club was the leading scorer along with Danielle Robinson who also had 8 assists. Jia Perkins had 18 points and Shenise Johnson added 15. The Silver Stars struggled in the opening minutes of the game but were able to quickly adjust and led at the end of the first quarter. In the second quarter, the Silver Stars were able to be effective offensively and were beginning to run away with the game when the Phoenix Mercury began to strike back and made it a game with San Antonio on top 45-37 at halftime. The third quarter featured runs from both teams and at one point the Mercury were within striking distance at 5 but could never close the game and San Antonio was able to take advantage going into the fourth quarter. In the fourth quarter, the Silver Stars managed to keep the Mercury from stealing the game and won the game by a final score of 88-82. 10,096 people were at the AT&T Center to catch a glimpse of the historical pink court and some came for the Mercury’s Brittney Griner who was playing in her last Texas appearance this season. The Silver Stars are now .500 at home and are 2-1 in the 5 game series against Phoenix. The Silver Stars play the final two games of the series in Phoenix later this season. The Silver Stars next oppenent is Indiana who they face Wednesday on the road.

Notes + Observations

  • Congrats to Cathrine Kraayeveld and Danielle Adams on reaching 1000 points and 1000 rebounds respectively! It’s an amazing accomplishment to show for what they have achieved in this league so far.
  • The Silver Stars managed to neutralize Brittney Griner by double teaming her and keeping her out of her comfort zone. I felt that Jayne Appel did a reasonable job of defending her as Griner was only limited to 6 points.  
  • The best offensive performance of the season by the Silver Stars. They shot really well from the three point land and from the field. It was just nice to see them shooting well after many games of sub par shooting and struggling to score in other games.
  • When the Silver Stars have some time off to prepare for their next opponent, they do well. When they don’t scout and prepare for their next opponent, they struggle. Time really is the essence for the Silver Stars. They play like a competitive playoff team when rested as compared to a struggling, non competitive team on either a day or no days rest.
  • Shenise Johnson is officially the Silver Stars important player. When she plays well, the team wins. When she struggles, the team often struggles to find its balance.  It used to be Jayne Appel, but now that she’s improving every day not only defensively, but offensively as well, she’s found her footing and can be counted or relied upon to play well in every single game, rather than one game here or two games from now, etc.
  • The pink court looks weird from TV and liveaccess point of view. It probably looked nice in person but it didn’t look that aesthetically pleasing on my computer screen.
  • Chelsea Poppens played in this game. I have no thoughts on her yet because it’s just too early and considering this is my first time watching her play, she didn’t play enough to make an impression as to what kind of player she will be.
  • There’s just only 11 games left this season. The Stars are 2 games behind the fourth place Seattle Storm and will play them this week. They will need both victories against the Storm other wise Seattle will make the playoffs.

Game #24 Phoenix Mercury vs San Antonio Silver Stars Game Day Preview

The Silver Stars are FINALLY back in action after 5 days. The Silver Stars are facing the Phoenix Mercury on a historic pink court for Breast Cancer Awareness week throughout the league. The Silver Stars are looking to get back on track after splitting the two game road stand with Seattle. The Silver Stars are 5-6 at home this season and need every game from now on out to get into the playoffs. The Silver Stars are 1-1 against the Mercury this season. They will play 2 more times after today.

Probable Starting Lineups for the Phoenix Mercury

G – Diana Taurasi

G – Brianna Gilbreath

F – Dewanna Bonner

F – Candice Dupree  or Charde Houston

C – Brittney Griner

Probable Starting Lineups for the Silver Stars

PG – Danielle Robinson

SG – Jia Perkins

F – Shenise Johnson

F/C – Danielle Adams

C – Jayne Appel

THREE KEYS TO THE GAME

1. Make Brittney Griner work – Last time when the Stars and the Mercury met up, Brittney Griner was able to be effective and score easily in the post against the Star defenders. The Silver Stars will need to make Brittney Griner play out of her comfort zone and defend her well enough to ensure she doesn’t have another big night against the Stars.

2. Everyone scores – All of the Silver Stars will need to score and they need to be effective. They will need all of the scoring because it will make it difficult for the Mercury to stop the players when alot of players are playing well.

3. PLAY FOUR FULL QUARTERS – The Silver Stars need to play well in every quarter and every minute. The Silver Stars need to make sure that they don’t have a bad quarter because it will give the Mercury momentum to start rolling towards a road victory.

MILESTONES

*Danielle Adams needs 3 points to reach 1000 points. She will be the 159th player in league history to do so.

*Cathrine Kraayeveld needs 3 rebounds to reach 1000 rebounds. She will be the 70th player in league history to do so.

The game will be on LiveAccess. The game will be at 8 pm EST, 7 pm local time and 5 pm PST.

Game #12 San Antonio Silver Stars vs Phoenix Mercury Game Day Preview

Blogger’s Note – Back at it! I’ve been away for the last two weeks due to religious conferences in both Canada and the USA, and so therefore I couldn’t really keep up with the Silver Stars that much. In that span, the Silver Stars lost in two blowout games, one to Atlanta on the road, and one to the Los Angeles Sparks. They also lost Becky Hammon for the entire season due to an ACL tear. I will update all of my blog posts soon, in which I will cover the games against Atlanta and LA, and also will have a blog post shortly on what losing Becky Hammon means for the Silver Stars.

GAME DAY PREVIEW

The San Antonio Silver Stars head into Phoenix with much uncertainty of how to play their remaining games without their two best players. They will find out as they take on the Mercury on camp day. The Silver Stars have lost their last 3 games, and will need everyone to provide a scoring boost if they wish to contain one of the explosive offensive teams in the league. Lead by Diana Taurasi, the team also features the steady veteran Candice Dupree, the improved Dewanna Bonner, the rookie Brittney Griner who had a great game against the Silver Stars and scored a career high 26 points. The Mercury also got back one of their best players in Penny Taylor who did not play last game. 

KEYS TO THE GAME

1. Defend Brittney Griner – With Jayne Appel back in the starting lineup, this won’t be as much of an issue for the Silver Stars. Yet, they will need Jayne to stay out of foul trouble and to make sure Brittney Griner stays as far as she possibly can from the rim.

2. Score. The last two games the Silver Stars have played, they’ve only scored 66 points. It’s hard to win games when you only score by that much. Especially in a league in which it is possible to score around the 90-100 point mark in 40 minutes.

3. Keep the game close – The Silver Stars need to keep the game close. They haven’t been able to do that in their previous two games. If they can do it, they give themselves a great shot of stealing a road game.

WHO WILL WIN?

Since this is a day time matinee game,  I don’t have a clue as to will win this game. Some teams come out fresh in the early games, some come out looking sluggish. It will all depend on which team shows up to play.

Game #9 Phoenix Mercury vs San Antonio Silver Stars Game Recap(Quick Hits)

Danielle Robinson’s 15 points, 10 assists and 6 rebounds were not enough to secure the win

Photo courtesy of the SilverStars.com

Well, the winning didn’t continue as the Silver Stars fell to the Mercury by a final score of 83-77.

This game was the game of runs and as many basketball watchers, fans, analysts, reporters know, whoever scores the most baskets wins the game. The Silver Stars were hot early and got off to a 26  to 18 start. Then the Mercury got hot and outscored the Stars 25-7. The Silver Stars came back and outscored the Mercury 23 – 10 in the 3rd. And in the final quarter, the Mercury got the last run and were able to get a win on the road. 

The Silver Stars are now below .500 at home (2-3) while the Mercury improved a game over .500 on the road (3-2)

Brittney Griner was the player of the game. She was everywhere. Her first pro game in which she had an impact on the game and in the final score. She had a career high 26 points, 6 rebounds and 5 blocks. This was also a homecoming for Brittney as she was back in Texas for the first time since March.

Diana Taurasi was held in check and really, despite her near triple double wasn’t as effective

Danielle Robinson continues to be the Silver Stars best and most consistent player, even with veterans Jia and Shameka Christon. She was simply outstanding and the Silver Stars would be lost without her if she didn’t play this season

Nice to see a big crowd at the AT&T Center. Especially on ESPN2. And I’m glad it was a good game for basketball fans

This was the first of 5 match ups. The Silver Stars next game is on June 30th against the red hot Atlanta Dream (8-1). 

– BLOGGER’S NOTE – This is also my last post before I go on vacation. I shall be back July 2nd. Have a great week!

Game #9 Phoenix Mercury vs San Antonio Silver Stars Game Day Preview

It’s game day for the Silver Stars as they take on the new and improved Phoenix Mercury.  The Silver Stars and Phoenix Mercury are coming off wins and the Silver Stars are one win behind the Mercury so this match up is important to the Silver Stars. This is also the 1st of 5 game series between both teams. This game will also be on national television(ESPN2) and it is the Silver Stars only appearance this season. This will be Phoenix 3rd national TV appearance.  The Silver Stars are .500 (2-2) at home this season, while the Mercury are also .500 (2-2) on the road so far this season.

The official game preview for tonight’s game.

The Phoenix Mercury’s beat writer Ben York discusses the keys to the game against the Silver Stars

KEYS TO THE GAME

1. Defending Diana Taurasi. Diana is averaging around 24.6 ppg this season, and last week she averaged nearly 30 points. While it might be difficult to stop Diana from scoring, the Silver Stars will need to make her work on getting her shots and making it difficult for her to get going. If the Silver Stars can stop her from doing just that, it increases their chances of winning the game.

2. The Silver Stars X Factor. The Silver Stars need someone other than Danielle Adams, Jia Perkins, Danielle Robinson, Shenise Johnson to step up. Last game, it was Delisha Milton Jones who had 15 points. The Stars will need more scoring from another player in order to keep pace with the Mercury

3. Get Brittney Griner in foul trouble. This might be a little easier said than done. Jayne Appel is listed day to day, and if she does play, her job has to be keeping Griner in check, as Brittney has rounded into form the last couple of games for the Mercury and will be eager to play well in front of her home town fans (I’m sure plenty of Baylor fans will be there as will as her parents)

PROBABLE STARTING LINEUPS FOR THE SILVER STARS

PG – Danielle Robinson

SG – Jia Perkins

SF – Shameka Christon

PF – Delisha Milton Jones

C – Danielle Adams (Jayne Appel if she can play)

STARTING LINE UPS FOR THE PHOENIX MERCURY

G – Brianna Gilbreath

G – Diana Taurasi

G / F – Dewanna Bonner

F – Candice Dupree

C – Brittney Griner

The game will be at the AT&T Center at 7 pm local time, 8 pm EST and 5 pm PST. It will be on ESPN2 and it will be blacked out on Live Access.