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Okay, smarty, a little WNBA quiz
The WNBA opens its 11th season today. Okay, all right, settle down now. We admit we don't know a ton about the WNBA.
By TOM JONES
Published May 19, 2007
The WNBA opens its 11th season today. Okay, all right, settle down now. We admit we don't know a ton about the WNBA. Then again, who does? It's not that we don't like it, we just don't know a lot about it. We barely have time to keep up with the NBA let alone the WNBA. But somewhere, a long time ago - maybe it was grade school - someone told us that if you quiz yourself about a topic, you'll learn it faster. So we've prepared a little WNBA quiz for you (and us) in hopes this will be the season when we can all become WNBA fans. (Hey, you'll thank us when the Devil Rays move to Orlando and there's nothing else to follow in the summer.)
Match the WNBA team with its nickname.
(Hint: In a few cases, think of the NBA team that plays in those cities; there is a connection.)
Which of the following players is an actual WNBA player?
A. Katherine Abdul-Jabbar
B. Jamie Sommers
C. Lisa Leslie
D. Leslie Lisa
Answer is C. That one was pretty easy. Lisa Leslie is not only a WNBA player, but she's probably the best WNBA player over the league's first 10 seasons. She's the WNBA's all-time leading scorer, was the first to dunk in a game and the first to be named the MVP of the regular season, All-Star game and playoffs in the same season. Last season, the Los Angeles Sparks center won the league MVP for the third time. But she won't be back to defend her individual title. Leslie, 34, is expecting her first child in June and will sit out the season.
Who owns the best team in the WNBA?
A. Donald Trump
B. Rosie O'Donnell
D. Bill Davidson
D. That's right, Lightning (and Pistons) owner Davidson, below, owns defending league champion Detroit. And the Shock is coached by another familiar name: former Pistons Bad Boy Bill Laimbeer. (His assistant is yet another Bad Boy: Rick Mahorn.) After finishing second in the Eastern Conference last season, the Shock worked its way to the finals before falling behind 2-1 in the best-of-five series. Led by finals MVP Deanna Nolan, the Shock won the final two games and dethroned defending champion Sacramento.
Who will win this year's title?
C. Los Angeles
D. We haven't the slightest clue
D. Sorry, but because Lisa Leslie is the only WNBA player we could name off the top of our head and she's not even playing, we couldn't begin to make a prediction. But we'll take a stab at it. After reading what basketball legend Nancy Liebermann wrote for ESPN, we're picking Detroit, Indiana and, let's see - who else does Liebermann like? Oh, Sacramento, too. But it seems as if everyone has the Fever - Indiana Fever, that is. The Fever is what you might call the "chic pick."
True or false: The maximum salary for a WNBA player is $93, 000.
True. The minimum salary for men in the NBA is $385, 277. Compare that with the WNBA, whose collective bargaining agreement caps salaries at $728, 000 per team. That's why stars such as Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird spent their offseason playing in Russia, where they earned more than $500, 000.
With Lisa Leslie sitting out, who will win this year's MVP?
Any of the above is a good pick. Catchings, who played at the University of Tennessee, is a prolific scorer who just happened to be named the league's top defensive player last season. Taurasi's career at UConn might have been the best in women's college history. Holdsclaw is another Tennessee legend. As far as Lindsey Harding, the former Duke star might not be the MVP, but she is the overwhelming pick to win rookie of the year.
True or false: The WNBA is thinking about expanding to Tampa Bay.
False. Are you kidding? We can't even get a sniff from the NBA. No, the one city likely in line for a WNBA team is Denver. Other possibilities include: Atlanta, Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Memphis. Kansas City and Pittsburgh are interesting thoughts because, in case you didn't notice, among the 13 WNBA teams, only one plays in a non-NBA city. That's Connecticut, where women's basketball is huge thanks to UConn's successful program.
What do the following former NBA players have in common: Paul Westhead, Michael Cooper and Brian Winters?
They're WNBA coaches. Westhead coaches Phoenix, where he starred for many seasons with the Suns. Cooper, the ex-Lakers star, is back in L.A. after stints in the NBA and its developmental league. And Winters, the ex-Bucks star, coaches Indiana. Others you might recognize include Washington's Richie Adubato, who spent 19 years as a coach in the NBA, including a stint with the Magic (1996-97), and Seattle's Anne Donovan, the Old Dominion graduate who is one of women's basketball's best players ever.
Fact or fiction: The WNBA is wildly popular in the cities it plays, consistently drawing as many fans as NBA teams.
Fiction: The WNBA has struggled, though it says it will make a profit in 2007. As far as attendance, Detroit led the league last season, averaging 9, 643 fans. Most teams averaged between 7, 000 and 8, 500. Chicago averaged 3, 378. But who could blame its fans? The Sky was a league-worst 5-29 last season.
Can you watch the WNBA?
Sure, if you want to. Ch. 28 will show five games on Saturdays, including today's season opener between Detroit and Sacramento in a rematch of last season's final. The other Saturday broadcasts will be: May 26, June 2, Aug. 11 and Aug. 19. ESPN2 will feature a game of the week most Tuesdays (16 games in all), including six doubleheaders. ESPN2's schedule kicks off next week with Sacramento at Washington.