Published June 05. 2014 4:11AM Updated June 05. 2014 5:05AM
Long time, no blog.
Sorry. Things have been daffy lately.
A wise person who’s been around the WNBA opined that one cannot make any definitive judgments on a team until they get close to halfway through the season.
The first 10 games, said wise person added, are a bit of a baffling crapshoot. Players are returning from overseas. Some may be beat up. They have to get used to playing with their old teammates again, or get acclimated to their new ones.
All that leads us to El Sol. They’re 2-5 headed into tonight’s game against the Washington Mystics, and it’s often difficult to see any positives when a team is losing.
Connecticut knew it was going to have its struggles given its personnel. It has seven new players, including two rookies and two second-year players. All that lends to stretches of clunky offense, blown defensive assignments, a lack of consistency, etc.
Shooting figured to be worrisome because El Sol has few stone-cold shooters. Instead, it's been more ghastly than originally feared
The Sun are in a three-way tie for dead last in field goal percentage (39.9). They’re rock bottom in 3-point shooting (21.2), too
Katie Douglas is El Sol’s only natural shooter and she’s yet to get into a groove.
Renee Montgomery can go on scorched earth shooting streaks, but she’s often been a defensive liability who has a bad habit of making bad passes. Those are traits that make coaches chug Alka-Seltzer with one hand and vodka with the other. She’s become a conundrum for Connecticut — she can score baskets in bunches, which it has desperately needed at times, but she can give up just as many baskets on the defensive end.
The Sun front office never wanted to use the r-word (“rebuilding”) when describing their team this preseason. They instead discussed how they felt they could be a playoff contender despite their the overhaul and all the youth.
Let’s be honest here — Connecticut is rebuilding. It has promising parts but, much like a good meal, the finished product needs time and patience. And time and patience are always in short supply among fans when their team is losing.
ALL that written, Donovan was asked at Wednesday’s practice about what on-court positives she’s seen. She is, after all, the basketball lifer who knows more about the Xs and the Os than some beat reporter/metalhead.
“(I like) the fact that we have two point guards (Alex Bentley and Montgomery),” Donovan said. “It gives us good flexibility there. I like that. It’s only good for us. We’ve got the luxury of playing two people with two different styles, both of which help us.
“I like the development of Chiney. The first game versus New York, she was kind of star struck. I think, with every game, she seems to get more and more comfortable with the physicality.
“I like the fact that we’ve been scoring in the eighties, high seventies, without Allison (Hightower) and KT really putting up numbers for us. I’m a defensive-minded coach, definitely, but we all recognize that we can’t score in the fifties and win games. I like the fact that other people have stepped up. We’ve gotten good production from our bench. We’re really moving in the right direction. There’s no doubt in my mind.”
• • • •
One positive that got lost in the narrative of Sunday’s win over Atlanta was the job El Sol’s frontline did against the Dream’s.
Here’s a fact of life — Atlanta has the league’s most ridiculously talented frontcourt.
Small forward Angel McCoughtry is an offensive savant who can find 48 different ways to score on any possession.
Power forward Sancho Lyttle is a force of nature around the basket. She glides to the rim for layups, and rebounds as if the ball were filled with gold doubloons.
Center Erika de Souza is the W's She-Hulk. She’s nigh unpossible to move in the post. To every fan who’s ever mumbled about their team being unable to stop de Souza from putting back an offensive rebound, hey, YOU trying moving her out of the lane. Or keep her from reaching over you and snaring the ball.
(Note that de Souza is shooting a ludicrous 68.3 percent from the floor though seven games, too.)
Sun rookie forward Chiney Ogwumike had a game-high 18 points and 10 rebounds against the Dream’s frontline.
Second-year center Kelsey Bone went right at Atlanta for Connecticut’s first basket and shot 50-percent for 12 points.
That Bone and Ogwumike attacked the Dream’s line and did well is an even bigger positive for El Sol upon further reflection.
Hightower (six rebounds) and Douglas (five) helped pick up the rebounding slack with starting forward Kelsey Griffin (7.2 rpg) out ill.
As for Atlanta, de Souza got hers (15 points, eight rebounds). That’s what she does.
Lyttle shot 2 of 7 and, more importantly, played just 26 minutes because she got in foul trouble. The latter was huge for Connecticut.
(Nearly as impressive was Ogwumike blocking Lyttle on a lay-up attempt. When was the last time a Sun player blocked Lyttle in that spot?)
Lastly, McCoughtry had her worst game at an arena she’s set ablaze numerous times.
McCoughtry played 23 minutes on Sunday and missed 12 of 14 shots for seven points.
Check it — prior to Sunday, McCoughtry shot 40.7-percent in her last 10 games at Neon Uncasville (TM @BCgenius). She averaged 24.6 points. She scored 33 or more three times.
Hey, Atlanta may shred the Sun in their other three games this season. The Dream are scary, and they just added star French point guard Celine Dumerc.
One needs any boost of confidence when things aren’t going well, so the Sun can feel better about themselves after that win.
Another reason for El Sol to feel good — Atlanta followed up that loss with a 93-85 win Tuesday over the ridiculously stocked Los Angeles Sparks.
de Souza scored 20 of her career-tying 27 points in the final 20 minutes of the game.
Lyttle scored 10 of her 18 in the second half.
Atlanta scored a season-high 68 points inside against L.A.’s formidable frontcourt of Candice Parker, Nneka Ogwumike, and Jantel Lavender.
Again, another reason for Connecticut to feel positive
• • • •
Speaking of Sunday, Ogwumike was asked about playing against Atlanta’s frontline, in particular de Souza.
“She has a reputation of being one of the most strong (players in the league),” Ogwumike said. “She’s strong. I got a foul today when she was running at me (in transition), running down on me, and I stood my ground.
“I did not want her to think I’m road kill or something that she can just go ker-splat on. So I was like, ‘okay, we’re strong, too.’ We might be a little bit different, lanky strong, Kevin Durant lanky strong, but we try to get the job done.”
• • • •
Keep forgetting to share the following anecdote from Bone.
Bone played in Turkey this offseason for Galatasaray, who she helped win the Turkish Cup and Turkish Championship.
Galatasaray also became the first Turkish team to win the prestigious FIBA EuroLeague championship as the beat national rival Fenerbahce, 69-58, on April 13.
Galatasaray got to said final by stunning Russian superpower and defending champion UMMC Ekaterinburg in the semifinals, 77-70, on the latter’s home court on April 11.
(Feel free to skip ahead if you know all the details.)
You think we’re falling into hyperbole labeling Ekat a “superpower”? Fine. Then check out its roster — Candace Parker, Diana Taurasi, Deanna Nolan, Sandrine Gruda (the 2009 FIBA Europe Player of the Year), Anete Jekabsone-Zogota. …. you had enough yet?
Galatasaray had its share of talent with Indiana Fever guard Shavonte Zellous, Alba Torrens (who Connecticut hopes joins it next season), and Lyttle.
No offense to Galatasaray, but Ekat was a heavy favorite to repeat.
Galatasaray wasn’t having any of it. It led Ekat by as much as 25 points. It also did so even after Lyttle missed the final three quarters to injury.
That brings us to Bone, who was asked how Galatasaray took a 25-point lead against Ekat, never mind beating it.
“We went in and the odds were stacked against us,” Bone said. “Our coach (Ekrem Memnun) comes up with this defense that we’ve gone over in practice once in like September. Here it is. It’s April. We have not talked about this defense ever since. The day before practice, he says, ‘we’re going to play ‘Rover’.”
Rover, Bone said, involved repeatedly and rapidly switching defensive sets.
“We didn’t understand it,” Bone said. “We figured if we don’t know how to do it that they’re not going to be able to stop it because they don’t know what we’re doing. They can’t scout it. They don’t know what to do.
“We get up 25 on practically the best women’s basketball team in the world, and we were able to hold that lead for the rest of the game. Of course Diana Taurasi, Candace Parker and Deanna Nolan, they’re going to come back, but we were able to win that game because they couldn’t stop something that we hadn’t figured out yet.”
In summation, Galatasaray confused itself to confuse Ekat.
“Exactly,” Bone said.
• • • •
Think that’s more than enough for now. Thanks for reading. More soon. Just a matter of when.
Vaya con dios.