Posted Jun 5 2009 1:41PM
By Brian Martin, WNBA.com
As the WNBA is set to embark on its 13th season on Saturday, here are 13 reasons to Expect Great in 2009.
1. A final hurrah for some WNBA legends
Lisa Leslie and Yolanda Griffith have already announced that 2009 will be the final year of their brilliant careers. Here is your final chance to see two of the best centers to ever play the game before they hang up their high tops for good. The two – who have had many battles over the last decade, especially when Griffith was a member of the Sacramento Monarchs – will face each other two times during the regular season so mark your calendars for June 12 and August 10.
2. Sylvia Fowles ready for a breakout season?
A knee injury early in the season forced the No. 2 overall pick in the 2008 draft to miss half of her rookie campaign. During her time on the court for the Sky and for the U.S. Olympic Team, she showed flashes of brilliance. After a successful offseason in Russia, Fowles is back in Chicago and ready to push the Sky to new limits.
3. The rookie class
This year’s group of newbies has large shoes to fill as a follow up to the Parker-Fowles-Wiggins class. Led by No.1 overall pick Angel McCoughtry, a pair of Terps in Marissa Coleman and Kristi Toliver, and the floor general of the reigning NCAA champs in Renee Montgomery, this class is ready to make some noise of its own.
4. Comets land in cites across the country
No, it’s not a plot to a bad movie with Bruce Willis and an Aerosmith song. With the Houston Comets suspending operations after the 2008 season, a number of players have scattered around the WNBA through the Dispersal Draft and free agency. Michelle Snow and Sancho Lyttle have landed in Atlanta, while Matee Ajavon joins the Washington Mystics, Hamchetou Maiga-Ba returns to Sacramento, Shannon Johnson settles in Seattle, Tamecka Dixon joins Indiana, and ...
5. Tina Thompson returns home to Los Angeles
The No. 1 overall pick in the WNBA’s inaugural draft returns to her hometown of Los Angeles after spending her entire career as a member of the Comets. She joins former high school and college teammate Lisa Leslie – after Leslie did a nice recruiting job at the NBA All-Star Game in Phoenix this year – and will be called upon to help fill the void left by the reigning Rookie of the Year and MVP …
6. Candace Parker
The newest WNBA mom is less than four weeks removed from giving birth to a healthy baby girl and there is already talk of when she will return to the Sparks. Lisa Leslie has already said she expects Parker to return by late June and Parker has already been seen attending Sparks practices. We’ll all be watching closely as Parker prepares for her return to the court and see how long it takes her to return to MVP form.
7. Can the Shock repeat?
Bill Laimbeer’s squad has won three of the past six WNBA titles, but has not been able to successfully defend its title during the time. After winning their first championship in 2003, the Shock were bounced in the first round in 2004. The Shock raised their second trophy in 2006 and came within seconds of successfully defending that championship as they held a lead in the final minute Game 4 of the 2007 WNBA Finals while holding a 2-1 series lead. Detroit was unable to stop Cappie Pondexter in the final seconds of Game 4 and the Mercury would go on to win Game 5 to win their first title and end Detroit’s title defense. The Shock have a third chance to defend their title this year as they return the core of the roster that led to the 2008 championship with the Finals sweep of San Antonio.
8. Deep and talented rosters throughout the league
With roster sizes being trimmed from 13 players to 11 players this season, the competition just to make a roster has been fierce over the past three weeks of training camp. The result is that only the best of the best players in the world will make a WNBA roster this season. With the talent level at an all-time high, the result should be a higher level of parity and competition throughout the league. Every team has bolstered its roster this offseason through the dispersal draft, the collegiate draft, trades and free agency. There is no such thing as an easy win in this league this season.
9. The return of Chamique Holdsclaw
One of the most dynamic players of the last decade, Holdsclaw returns to the WNBA as part of a revamped Atlanta Dream squad that should be competitive night in and night out this year, after only claiming four wins in their inaugural season. A six time All-Star and 1999 Rookie of the Year, Holdsclaw should bring plenty of excitement to Atlanta as they enter their sophomore year.
10. Coaching Carousel
The season will open with two new head coaches in the WNBA with Julie Plank – a longtime WNBA assistant coach in Indiana and Minnesota – taking the reigns of the Washington Mystics. And just this week, former WNBA player Jennifer Gillom was promoted to head coach of the Minnesota Lynx as former head coach Don Zierden left the team to take an assistant coaching job with the Washington Wizards. We already know that this will be the final season for Los Angeles coach Michael Cooper as he has accepted the head coaching position of the women’s basketball team at the University of Southern California. How will the new coaches perform in their rookie campaigns, and what does Cooper have in store for us before he exits the WNBA stage?
11. Familiar Faces in New Places
A number of players will be seen in new unis this season. Among them are:
Tina Thompson – from Houston to LA as a free agent
Betty Lennox – from Atlanta to LA as a free agent
Temeka Johnson – from LA to Phoenix by trade
Michelle Snow – from Houston to Atlanta as a free agent
Chamique Holdsclaw – from retirement to Atlanta as a free agent, rights to negotiate acquired by trade with LA
Yolanda Griffith – from Seattle to Indiana as a free agent
Tamecka Dixon – from Houston to Indiana as a free agent
Lindsey Harding – from Minnesota to Washington by trade
Kelly Miller – from Phoenix to Minnesota by trade
Noelle Quinn – from Minnesota to LA by trade
12. Lauren Jackson returns to Seattle
While the 2008 MVP will start the season on the sidelines, the 2007 MVP is back and ready to play after being on the sidelines for the final eight games of the regular season and the postseason last year. An unrestricted free agent following last season, Jackson decided to return to the Storm rather than bolt to sign with the Phoenix Mercury, the only other team in contention for her services. Jackson arrived in Seattle only a few days ago, but reports are that she looked sharp in practice.
13. Some new blood in the playoffs?
Looking at the playoff brackets from the past two years, the teams that have qualified for postseason play have become repetitive. In both 2007 and 2008, the Eastern Conference playoffs included Detroit, New York, Connecticut and Indiana. In the West, San Antonio, Sacramento and Seattle have all made the playoffs the last two years, with the only spot changing from 2007 to 2008 come from Los Angeles climbing past Phoenix. Is this the year that the playoff bracket gets mixed up a bit. The non-playoff teams -- Minnesota and Phoenix in the West and Chicago, Washington and Atlanta in the East -- from a year ago have all improved their rosters dramatically in the offseason and enter 2009 ready to compete for a spot in the postseason.
The marquee partnership includes the first branded jersey in team history.
LOS ANGELES, June 5, 2009 – The Los Angeles Sparks and Farmers Insurance Group of Companies® today announced a landmark, multi-year marketing partnership that includes a branded jersey sponsorship with one of the most successful teams in WNBA history.
The Farmers Insurance branded jersey will be worn by the players for the first time at the Sparks opener, June 6, when they meet the defending WNBA Champion Detroit Shock in a nationally televised game on ABC beginning at 11:30 PDT.
As part of this innovative alliance, the Farmers Insurance name and logo will appear on the front of the Sparks jerseys and will have considerable visibility in the STAPLES Center during home games. Los Angeles will be only the second WNBA team to finalize such an agreement following the WNBA’s decision this off-season to make this unique opportunity available for its teams and sponsors.
"We are very excited to be on the cutting edge of this type of sponsorship with a major sports franchise in a major market. What made it even more attractive is that the Sparks reach a primary demographic in our marketing strategy – the women's market – not only in L.A., but throughout our operating territory,” stated Farmers Insurance Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Kevin Kelso.
"In recognition of a growing women's market and internal initiatives to target this market, this is a perfect arrangement for us to be associated with a quality franchise," added Farmers Insurance Vice President of Strategic Marketing Faye McClure.
In addition to player jersey rights, the partnership includes on court apparel, in-arena signage, media, and related community activities. In addition, Farmers Insurance will be involved with Sparks in Motion, a new initiative with the goal of fighting childhood obesity, and Inspiring Women, a platform developed league-wide to celebrate the achievements of women in all walks of life.
"We are honored to be partnering with a company the caliber of Farmers Insurance, which for the last 81 years has been working to improve the lives of families and communities in Southern California and across the country," said Sparks President Kristin Bernert.
"We are pleased that the appeal and value of the WNBA will be utilized to its fullest behind this new partnership between the Sparks and Farmers Insurance," said WNBA President Donna Orender. "Strong brands continue to be attracted to the league, not only for its elite athletes, outstanding entertainment, and high level of play, but also for its authentic connection to communities, families, and women."
-- Week Tips off with a Revitalized Reading and Learning Center Presented by Pitney Bowes in Seattle; Spalding Unveils a New Basketball Court in Atlanta --
NEW YORK, May 28, 2009 – In celebration of the WNBA’s 13th season, the league and teams will give back to their communities with special events throughout the country. During the week of May 29 to June 5, teams will engage with fans in their local markets, visiting schools, hosting WNBA Fit clinics and Read to Achieve reading rallies, and many more events.
Highlights of the week include the unveiling of a brand-new basketball court presented by Spalding, which Atlanta won last season in a nationwide competition. The special event will take place on Tuesday, June 2 at the Butler Street YMCA, where, following the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Atlanta Dream players will conduct a basketball clinic for the kids to teach them strength, endurance, and flexibility techniques, along with tips for improving their body, mind, and athletic performance.
In addition, the Seattle Storm will host a special event where a revitalized Reading & Learning Center for the First A.M.E. Child and Family Center will be presented as a part of the WNBA Pitney Bowes Fast Break to Reading literacy program on Thursday, June 4. The Center will receive hundreds of new books, along with new computers and furniture.
“WNBA Cares Week demonstrates what we are all about and highlights all the causes that are important to the WNBA, our teams, and players,” said WNBA President Donna Orender. “This league consists of the most talented female athletes who play at the highest level, but who are also just as committed to giving back to their fans and their communities. We are grateful to take this time and recognize the communities that support us all year long.”
Through WNBA Cares, the WNBA is committed to creating programs that improve the quality of life for all people, with a special emphasis on promoting a healthy lifestyle for young girls and women, raising awareness and funds for programs that support women's health issues and providing critical resources for education and literacy programs.
The WNBA is a unique global sports property combining competition, sportsmanship and entertainment value with its status as an icon for social change, achievement and diversity. Comprised of 13 teams, the WNBA is the most successful women’s professional team sports league in the world. The league concluded its historic 12th regular season with increases in attendance, ratings, Web traffic and merchandise sales. The 2009 WNBA season will tip off June 6 on ABC. For more information on the WNBA, log on to WNBA.com.
ESPN2 and ABC to Present Entire WNBA Schedule in HD
Posted May 20 2009 5:01PM
For the first time ever, every regular and postseason WNBA game will be televised in high definition on ESPN2 HD and ABC HD. The networks will combine to televise 13 regular-season WNBA games, the WNBA All-Star game, and up to 15 postseason telecasts, starting with the defending champion Detroit Shock at the Los Angeles Sparks on Saturday, June 6, at 2:30 p.m. ET on ABC.
This will also mark the first year of the new eight-year rights extension between ESPN and the WNBA through the 2016 season. As a result of the new agreement, every ESPN2 game will be offered on ESPN360.com, ESPN’s broadband sports network, and ESPN International networks in Atlantic (sub-Saharan Africa), Pac Rim (Australia/NZ), Latin North, Latin South, Latin Caribbean, Latin Brazil, Middle East, as well as on ESPN Australia HD and ESPN Brazil HD. Live coverage of up to 15 games will also be available on ESPN Mobile TV.
The ESPN2 schedule will tip off with a WNBA Tuesday opener on June 9 at 7 p.m., when Tamika Catchings and the Indiana Fever host the Seattle Storm, led by Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson. Overall, ESPN2 will televise 12 regular-season games and ABC will air one, plus the All-Star Game.
ESPN2 will extend its coverage into the postseason with coverage of the Eastern and Western Conference Semifinals, Conference Finals and Finals, beginning Wednesday, Sept. 16. The complete schedule will be announced at a later date.
Carolyn Peck and Nancy Lieberman will alternate as game analysts and will be joined by rotating play-by-play commentators Terry Gannon, Dave Pasch and Pam Ward with reporters Heather Cox and Rebecca Lobo. Fans can also follow Lobo, Lieberman and Peck on Twitter throughout the season: @RebeccaLobo, @NancyLieberman and @CAROLYNPECK.
WNBA All-Star Game on Saturday, July 25, at 3:30 p.m. on ABC, from Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn.
Five appearances by the Sparks, featuring All-Star center Lisa Leslie, who will retire after this season.
2008 WNBA Finals rematch between the Shock and San Antonio Silver Stars on Saturday, August 29, at 3 p.m. on ESPN2.
No. 1 Draft pick Angel McCoughtry from Louisville will make her national television debut with the Atlanta Dream against the Minnesota Lynx and No. 4 Draft pick Renee Montgomery of Connecticut on Tuesday, June 30, at 7 p.m. on ESPN2.
Top Draft picks and former Maryland Terrapins teammates Marissa Coleman (No. 2) of the Washington Mystics and Kristi Toliver (No. 3) of the Chicago Sky will square off
Thursday, July 23, at 7 p.m. on ESPN2.
Full-access coverage with live microphones on players/coaches/referees, exclusive locker room interviews, and above and below the rim cameras for select telecasts.
Fans will also be able to follow the action on ESPN’s MVP application, which will include video highlights, recaps, statistics and features.
ESPN.com coverage will include weekly original content, such as blogs and columns from Mechelle Voepel and Power Rankings by Melanie Jackson. Additional content includes game previews, recaps, stats and standings.
Diana Taurasi poses with LifeLock CEO Todd Davis.(Getty Images/NBAE)
PHOTO: Diana Taurasi in LifeLock Jersey (high-res)
NEW YORK – The Phoenix Mercury and LifeLock have entered a multi-year marketing partnership to launch the first-ever branded jersey in WNBA or NBA history, it was announced today by Phoenix Mercury President and COO Jay Parry and LifeLock CEO Todd Davis at a press conference at the NBA Store in New York City. LifeLock is an industry leader in identity theft protection.
Highlighting the innovative alliance, which runs through 2011, is the appearance of the LifeLock name on the front of Phoenix Mercury’s player jerseys and on warm-up suits. The Mercury and LifeLock are the first to finalize such an agreement following the WNBA’s decision this off-season to make this unique opportunity available for its teams and sponsors.
As part of the marquee partnership and a big benefit for the league’s most devoted fans, LifeLock will be offering a one-year complimentary membership valued at $110 each to season ticket holders of all WNBA teams. In addition, all fans can take advantage of a special offer to receive a free membership for one child 16 and under in their immediate family with the discounted purchase of an adult membership.
“I’m extremely proud to have LifeLock associated with the Phoenix Mercury and the WNBA,” said Davis. “While this partnership allows us to be the first organization to support a team and league in a unique, pioneering way, it’s also a natural fit for LifeLock to align with WNBA to reach its loyal and passionate fan base.”
“This groundbreaking partnership with LifeLock represents an important next step in the growth of the WNBA,” said NBA Commissioner David Stern. “We are confident that its alliance with the Mercury and the WNBA will accelerate LifeLock’s growth, and this deal serves as a blueprint for other associations of its kind with all our WNBA teams.”
“LifeLock and the Mercury are leading organizations in our respective fields, which is why we are thrilled to be able to align our missions for the advancement of our community, our fans and the WNBA as a whole,” said Parry. “This partnership will go beyond the court and will broaden the opportunities for LifeLock, the Mercury and the WNBA to continue to flourish.” In addition to player jersey rights, the partnership includes on-court apparel, in-arena signage, branding on the court, exposure on PhoenixMercury.com, including all social media outlets and e-marketing efforts. The collaboration also includes the launch of the LifeLock SafeZone basketball and life mentoring programs for underserved girls.
"Since its inception, the WNBA continues to redefine the sports landscape and this LifeLock partnership is consistent with the league's innovative mindset," said WNBA President Donna Orender. "The WNBA's iconic status continues to inspire young people around the world and we are pleased to team up with LifeLock."
Diana Taurasi, Mercury guard and three-time WNBA All-Star emphasized the loyalty that WNBA players and fans have for those who support the league. “I join all WNBA players in thanking LifeLock for believing in our dream,” said Taurasi. “I’ll be proud to wear the jersey, and this great new partnership recognizes the value of our game and the power of our incredible fans.”
The WNBA tips off its 13th season on Saturday, June 6. The Phoenix Mercury host the San Antonio Silver Stars and tickets start at just $10. For tickets and information, call (602) 252-WNBA or visit phoenixmercury.com.