| Lynx Sweep the Dream to Win First WNBA Title
Seimone Augustus and the Minnesota Lynx turned up the defensive pressure on Angel McCoughtry and the Atlanta Dream.
The result was the final entry in a near-perfect postseason as the Lynx beat the Dream 73-67 on Friday night to complete a three-game sweep of the WNBA championship series.
Augustus had 16 points and Maya Moore, returning to her Atlanta home, had 15 -- including a key 3-pointer late in the game -- to lead a balanced scoring attack as the Lynx won their first WNBA title.
McCoughtry had a game-high 22 points, including nine in the fourth quarter. McCoughtry made only 9 of 25 shots as the Dream were held to 34.6 percent shooting from the field.
"We felt we didn't show them what a good team we were defensively in the first two games," said Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve, who was soaked by a bubbly spray before her postgame news conference.
Augustus had the primary defensive assignment on McCoughtry, who set a WNBA Finals record with 38 points in Game 2.
"Tonight we just kind of smothered her and forced her into bad shots," Augustus said.
Minnesota closed the postseason with six straight wins, including sweeps of Phoenix in the Western Conference finals and Atlanta in the championship series.
Most Minnesota players celebrated in a pile of hugs on the court. Taj McWilliams-Franklin, the 41-year-old starting center, headed to the bench to engulf Reeve in a hug.
Erika de Souza, who had 11 points, was Atlanta's only other scorer in double figures.
"I'm just glad we were able to finish playing Lynx basketball by being a good defensive team," Moore said.
Minnesota had four scorers in double figures as Rebekkah Brunson had 13 points and nine rebounds and Candice Wiggins had 10 points.
Atlanta was swept by Seattle in the 2010 WNBA Finals.
The Dream trailed by eight points in the final quarter before making a late charge.
Two free throws by McCoughtry cut Minnesota's lead to 64-40. Following a turnover, Iziane Castro Marques hit a 3-pointer from the corner to cut the lead to one with 1:17 remaining.
Poor shooting from the field forced Atlanta to foul in the final minute.
Two free throws by McWilliams-Franklin and another by Lindsay Whalen pushed the lead to 67-63. Following a miss by Castro Marques, McWilliams-Franklin added two more free throws with 35 seconds remaining.
McCoughtry had two late layups, but the Dream could come no closer than four points in the final 30 seconds.
The Dream held a 19-12 lead in the first quarter and led 37-33 at halftime.
There were two ties in the third quarter, the last at 41. Minnesota closed the period with an 11-4 run to lead 52-45 entering the final quarter.
The Dream opened the fourth quarter with consecutive baskets by Alison Bales and Castro Marques to pull within three points. Augustus quickly came off the bench, and Atlanta's comeback bid ended.
A 7-2 run gave the Lynx a 59-51 lead.
After McCoughtry's basket cut the Minnesota lead to 61-56, Moore answered with a big 3-pointer that went through the net as the shot clock sounded.
"If Maya Moore's shot doesn't go in, who knows what's going to happen," Atlanta coach Marynell Meadors said. "We had the momentum and we had them backpedaling."
McWilliams-Franklin's status as starting center had been uncertain after she sprained her right knee, forcing her to leave Wednesday night's game. She did start, wearing pads on both knees, and had seven points, four rebounds and four assists. She made four free throws in the final 1:07.
"Maybe now they're sore," Reeve said of McWilliams-Franklin's knees, "but when you're in a close-out moment for the WNBA Finals, you don't feel a thing."
With the health of McWilliams-Franklin a concern, Reeve was upset when backup center Jessica Adair was called for her second foul late in the first quarter. After receiving a warning from official Michael Price to return to the bench, Reeve added another complaint and drew a technical foul.
After there were a combined 78 free throws in the Game 2 at Minnesota, there were only 34 -- 17 for each team -- called in Game 3.
Former NBA star Julius Erving, who lives in Atlanta, had a front-row seat. Rapper Lil Wayne was also in the crowd. ... The attendance was 11,543, including 1,500 tickets purchased by the Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta Braves and Atlanta Hawks and distributed by the Dream on Thursday. ... Minnesota was called for 10 fouls in the first half while Atlanta drew only two.
| Lynx Beat Mercury to Reach First WNBA Finals
Taj McWilliams-Franklin had 21 points, six rebounds and seven assists to lead the Minnesota Lynx past the Phoenix Mercury 103-86 Sunday to advance to the WNBA finals for the first time.
Maya Moore had 21 points, seven rebounds and five assists for Minnesota, which needed three games to eliminate San Antonio in the first round before sweeping the Mercury in the Western Conference finals.
The Lynx await the winner of the Indiana-Atlanta series that will be decided on Tuesday night. The final series begins Oct. 2 in Minnesota, which had the league's best record in the regular season.
Diana Taurasi had 22 points for the Mercury, who were swept in the West finals by eventual champion Seattle a year ago.
The Lynx led by just three in the first minute of the fourth quarter but Candice Wiggins hit a pair a free throws and Moore made a 3-pointer, sparking a 15-5 run and Phoenix did not get closer the rest of the way.
DeWanna Bonner had 22 points and 10 rebounds and Candice Dupree had 18 points and 11 rebounds for the Mercury.
Lindsay Whalen added 18 points, seven rebounds and four assists while Seimone Augustus added 16 points for Minnesota, which had been in the postseason twice before — losing in the first round in 2003 and 2004.
Phoenix was in the conference finals for the third straight year and fourth in five years. The Mercury won the WNBA title in 2007 and 2009.
Minnesota had won three of five meetings with Phoenix during the regular season.
The Lynx used a 15-4 run in the first quarter to take a 24-20 lead but Phoenix started the second period on a 9-1 run to regain the lead.
Taurasi had 12 points while Bonner had 10 points and six rebounds to lead the Mercury to a 45-43 lead at the break.
McWilliams-Franklin and Whalen each had 11 points for the Lynx, who made 19 of 37 shots from the field in the first half but just 4 of 9 free throws.
The Lynx opened up a seven-point lead in the third before Taurasi converted a three-point play in the final seconds of the quarter and then hit a leaner 18 seconds into the final period to cut the Lynx lead to 70-67.
| Tamika Catchings FINALLY Wins the MVP Award
Indiana Fever forward Tamika Catchings has been named the 2011 WNBA Most Valuable Player, the WNBA announced today. Catchings received 292 points (21 first place votes) from a national panel of 40 sportswriters and broadcasters.
Connecticut Sun center Tina Charles finished second with 209 points (six first-place votes) and Chicago Sky center Sylvia Fowles finished third with 148 points (six). Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird finished fourth with 106 points (two) and Minnesota Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen finished fifth with 104 points (four).
In her 10th season, all with the Fever, Catchings captured her first MVP Award after finishing among the top three in balloting five times and among the top five in eight different seasons. She was the runner-up in 2003, 2009 and 2010.
This season Catchings led the Fever to the top seed in the Eastern Conference, averaging 15.5 points, 7.1 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.0 steals. The only member of the Fever to lead the team in points, rebounds and assists in the same game, Catchings did so three times. She recorded four double-doubles, and grabbed at least 10 rebounds six times during the 2011 campaign. She shot a career-high .883 from the free throw line and converted .438 of her field goal attempts, the second best percentage of her career. Currently the league’s all-time career steals leader (775), Catchings, who has been voted WNBA Defensive Player of the Year a league-leading four times, was the top vote-getter in this year’s All-Star balloting for the third time in her career.
Throughout her career, the 6-1 forward out of the University of Tennessee has garnered numerous accolades including seven All-Star team selections, two Olympic gold medals and the 2002 WNBA Rookie of the Year Award. Additionally, she was honored as the first recipient of the WNBA’s Dawn Staley Leadership Award in 2008, which is presented to the player who best exemplifies the characteristics of a leader in the community and reflects Staley’s leadership, spirit, charitable efforts and love for the game.
On Aug. 13, in an 82-71 home win versus New York, Catchings tied her career-high of 32 points, making her the sixth player in WNBA history to reach the 5,000-point mark and the first with 5,000 points, 2,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists. She is the only player to rank in the league's all-time career top 10 in points (sixth), rebounds (sixth), assists (ninth), and steals (first).
Players were awarded 10 points for each first-place vote, seven points for each second-place vote, five for third, three for fourth and one for each fifth-place vote received.
In honor of being named the WNBA Most Valuable Player, Catchings will receive $15,000 and a specially-designed trophy.
| Sue Bird considering hip surgery
By Aaron Lommers Herald Writer
The shock and disappointment of a unexpected ending to the season for the Seattle Storm is beginning to wear off, but the team didn't stop making news on Wednesday.
Kevin Pelton of stormbasketball.com is reporting that all-star point guard Sue Bird is considering hip surgery to repair a slightly torn hip labrum. Bird told reporters at Wednesday's season exit interviews that she was first diagnosed with the injury in November of last year. Surgery was not recommended for Bird at the time, though she was told that would be the only remedy to improve her condition.
Bird now has a break in her schedule before she has to report to her overseas team, UMMC Ekaterinburg in January and is considering surgery in the during the time off.
"As most players mature, they figure out ways they can manage and stay on top of their game," Storm head coach Brian Agler said in a release by the team. "A lot of times you don't notice it in their play, but the ones that are around her day-to-day know she was dealing with some of this."
Bird said the biggest problem is her lateral movement.
"The hardest part was on defense -- moving laterally," Bird said. "I can't really stretch my legs out. As an athlete, you definitely compensate and find ways to avoid what hurts. I was able to do that. Did I have some discomfort, some pain? Yeah, but it didn't hinder me in any real way."
Bird's injury is the same labrum that Storm center Lauren Jackson had surgery on earlier in the 2011 season, but the two injuries are different. Bird's injury is due to wear and tear over a long professional career, while Jackson's was an acute instance suffered in an early season game against the Tulsa Shock.
Jackson had surgery and missed 21 games this season for the Storm.
| The Female Entrepreneurs Who Are The Seattle Storm's Driving Force
By: Alana Glass
In 2008, when the United States faced an economic crisis, sports fans in Seattle were facing a crisis of their own. Their beloved NBA and WNBA basketball teams, Seattle Supersonics and Seattle Storm, were on the verge of leaving the northwest region for good. Many fans saw the writing on the wall in 2006 when after unsuccessful attempts to build a new state-of-the-art arena Starbucks Chairman, Howard Schultz, and the Basketball Club of Seattle sold the teams to Oklahoma businessman, Clay Bennett, and the Professional Basketball Club LLC.
What were sports fans to do in this predicament?
For Seattle Storm season ticket holders Dawn Trudeau, Ginny Gilder, and Lisa Brummel the answer was simple – buy the team and keep it in Seattle. Together these powerful women comprise Force 10 Hoops LLC, the independent WNBA ownership group.
Recently, I had the unique opportunity to travel to Seattle and have my own up close and personal view of the Seattle Storm organization.
When I first met Trudeau, former Microsoft executive and current nonprofit executive, Gilder, former Olympian and current investment CEO, and Brummel, former collegiate athlete and current Microsoft executive, my first impression was that these owners are true sports fans in every sense. They didn’t soak up the limelight, and they were extremely humble and approachable. And if you didn’t know that they are owners, you would think that they are just one of the loyal fans.
In fact, Gilder and Brummel both acknowledge that they have owner’s seats on the floor, but when they bought the team neither one of them changed their season tickets. Gilder said, “I’m in row 14 section 128 because I want to be with my community and I don’t want to give that up.”
After I sat down with these accomplished entrepreneurs, who are also the defending 2010 WNBA Champions, I learned that my impressions were true. I also discovered that they are smart and savvy businesswomen who like taking on hard problems, creating startups, and spend the bulk of their time focusing on what they are going to do to make tomorrow better for everyone.
And if that’s not enough, they are committed to making the WNBA and the Seattle Storm a huge success, which means that the league is financially profitable and women athletes are respected and paid exactly what they are worth.
Here is the first installment of the on-going interview series featuring Women Entrepreneurs of the WNBA. Meet Trudeau, Gilder, and Brummel – the driving force behind the WNBA’s Seattle Storm.
Q. How did you come together to buy the Seattle Storm?
“Trudeau: I have been a Storm season ticket holder since day one, and when the opportunity came to purchase the team it felt like it was exactly the center of all of the things that I am passionate about – opportunities for women and girls, role models, a professional opportunity that had not existed before.
I ran into Anne Levinson (co-founding member of Force 10 Hoops) at a game. And I said, “Wow, it looks like we might lose the Storm, do you think there is anything we can do?” And she said, “Funny you should say that I’ve been talking to Clay Bennett and I think there is potential that we can convince him to sell the team to a new group of owners. Are you interested?” I said, “Yes.” She said, “Who else would you want to get involved.” I told her the first person I would talk to is Ginny Gilder. So I talked to Ginny and she was interested. I also told her she should talk to Lisa Brummel. Lisa and I had work together at Microsoft. Lisa also said yes.
Almost up until the very last day it wasn’t clear that it was going to happen. After we got the agreement from Clay Bennett to sell us the team we had one month to do our due diligence. That is when we had an idea of what the financial prospect looked like, and what we felt like we had to have in terms of capital in order to manage the team and get it to profitability.
Gilder: I am in the investment business, and there are very few women in the investment business. I just started to think to myself that I need to do something in the city that involves community and gets me in more contact with women. I went to college in 1975 right after Title IX was passed, and I had my own Title IX experience at Yale. This just seemed like the next opportunity to push women’s sports to the next level. For me, it was a coming together of all of the things that I love.
Brummel: I just had a good sense that we would work well together. We sat down and talked about why we wanted to do this, what we wanted to get out of it, and how we wanted to make this an important asset for the community but yet become a viable business for many years to come.
Q. What is your role as managing partner? How hands-on are you?
“Trudeau: When we first took over the team we were much more hands-on. We bought the team in March 2008 and the Seattle Supersonics was still here and we had a joint operating agreement with them. Midway through that season in August 2008, they moved to Oklahoma City. We were left with essentially a skeletal organization at best. It was very hands-on trying to figure out what the right organizational structure was, what the right financial investments were, and really helping to put the right people in place. As time has gone on and we’ve gotten more experienced and overall it’s less hands-on. We are really looking down toward how we can expand the business and make it more of a 12 month business versus a six month business.
Q. How long do you think it will take for player salaries to increase?
“Trudeau: For the league to have the kind of revenues that it needs so we can pay the players what we hope to ultimately pay them, we need to continue to build support for the league and that really does mean increased broadcast revenues. There are three pillars for a team – ticket sales and attendance, there are sponsorships and then broadcasts. Today most teams do not get paid for broadcasts. The league gets the broadcast rights fee but the individual teams don’t locally. All of us will have to get to the point where there is enough demand for the product for broadcasts so we can get paid, which will allow us to increase salaries.
If you look at 15 years into the cycle of the NBA, they were not financially widely successfully and they were not getting paid a lot for broadcasting. We are tracking ahead of the men’s league. Maybe it will take another 10 years before we are at the point where we can have the correct marriage and relationship between the league, teams, and players.
Q. How would you describe the Seattle Storm brand?
“Brummel: I think this is competitive professional sports, family-friendly, and women role models. Those are the three attributes that I would associate with the storm and you don’t really get that combination in many places. I’ve seen many families here who have access to the players and there aren’t that many sports where you get that kind of access to professional athletes who are at the very best at what they do.
A season ticket holder caught me the other day and she said “My section is like my neighborhood I only see them when I come in the summer. I don’t want to move, I had the opportunity to move a few rows down but it is my neighborhood and I want my kids to grow up and my neighborhood.” That to me was a testament to what our brand is, and it’s not just what they see it’s what they experience.
Trudeau: It’s a real, it’s approachable. We’re not elitist. We tend to reach out to people and we represent that same kind of brand in the community. It’s about loving and being proud of what were doing. Our goals as an organization are to be a dominant franchise, to be a fixture in the community, and to use our assets to take advantage of the platform that we have, and do good work in the community.
Q. What do you believe will be your legacy as professional sports owners?
“Gilder: The world is really good at saying no to people, have you ever noticed that? You want to do something hard or something that has quite never been done before the first thing people always say is “No.” People have been saying for years and years that the WNBA is not going to make it. I want the Storm and the WNBA to be in a position where people can look and draw strength especially girls and women. And really be a model for people everywhere. You decide you want to do something, you’re willing to put in the work and you can make it happen. Things are possible if you say they are.
Brummel: I’d like the storm to continue spreading in this community, and for us to have more parts of this business that is more part of the community. I would like the storm to be a year-round experience for fans. And I think eventually I would like people to almost forget that we did this that it becomes so ingrained in the community it’s just always been here.
Trudeau: My hope is that we were smart businesspeople who understood the right way to build an organization. We made the right investments, modeled the values that we want our players to represent and our organization to represent. And did that in such a way that it was always about the greater picture, and about what we are doing for women having the same kind of respect and opportunities that men have. Leaving a model that can be followed by other women’s professional sports. If we can figure out a way of making the right model for the WNBA hopefully that is something that can be translated into other sports for other women.
Q. What do you think about the next 15 years of the WNBA? Where do you see the league going?
“Brummel: I hope that we remain a league that stays in close partnership between the players, owners, and fans. I think this league has a very unique essence in the way we connect with each other, and I hope the league can grow with that at its center. I think as we weather the beginnings of these new independent ownerships and figure out that we do have viable business plans, we are going to see more stability. In that case, I think the NBA owners are going to recognize that this is a valuable asset for them and hopefully they will continue to invest in it as well.
Gilder: I would love to see a franchise get sold at some point at two and a half to three times revenue the way NBA teams are sold. I’d love us to have to get to the point where we have to be on that slippery slope of determining what the right salary is for our top players, and really confront and have a healthy dialogue so we don’t go the route of men’s professional sports. I want our players to stay connected to their community and that means making good money so they don’t have to play abroad maybe, but not money that ends up disconnecting them from their fans. I don’t necessarily know where that is, but I want us to have the financial stability as a league to be in that conversation. Then the WNBA will really be making an impact on all professional sports. I think in five years everyone is going to be at break even or better and I am looking forward to seeing that.
Q. Do you have any advice for women entrepreneurs?
“Trudeau: Don’t be afraid to take risks because you won’t make or have great success if you aren’t willing to take risks. Don’t dwell on your failures; look at them as something where you get to learn from them. I think women tend to want to be perfect, that is kind of our culture. Men are used to taking the swing and not hitting. And if you make the sports analogy, a fantastic batterer in baseball hits the ball one third of the time and they are the best. That means two thirds of the time they are missing the ball and they are not getting on base. So you have to realize if you aren’t willing to fall on your face every now and then you probably won’t have great success.
And realize also that sometimes you have to go with your gut. We didn’t know what we were really getting into when we bought this team because we had never done it before. So sometimes you just have to take the leap of faith and say you know what I can figure it out. If I figured out other things in my life, I’ll figure this one out too.
If you are doubtful about the future of women’s professional basketball, hop on a plane headed straight to Seattle. Take the monorail to the Space Needle and then walk about 100 yards directly to KeyArena. There you will find Gilder, Trudeau, and Brummel ready to greet you and let you experience for yourself exactly what the WNBA is made of. You will quickly find out that these women have been successful in every aspect of their lives and careers, and they are not about to start failing now.