WNBA: The 10 Biggest Story Lines of the Offseason

Lance MorrisonCorrespondent IDecember 5, 2010

WNBA: The 10 Biggest Story Lines of the Offseason

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    2 Jul 2000:  A view of the court WNBA Logo taken before a game between the Los Angeles Sparks and the Detroit Shock at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, California.  The Sparks defeated the Shock 85-63. NOTE TO USER: It is expressly understood that th
    Danny Moloshok/Getty Images

    The NFL and NBA networks broadcast 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to keep their fans up to date year-round. Unfortunately, WNBA fans have no comprehensive source of WNBA news during the off-season, until now.

    If you have information about the WNBA that does not appear in this article, please leave a comment and let us know.

WNBA Draft: Minnesota Lynx Win the Maya Moore Sweepstakes

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    Maya Moore: A virtual lock for first pick overall
    Maya Moore: A virtual lock for first pick overallRonald Martinez/Getty Images

    The Minnesota Lynx won the first pick in the WNBA draft lottery. The Lynx also acquired the fourth pick in a trade with the Connecticut Sun.

    The 2011 WNBA lottery Draft order appears in the table below:

     Team Record Chance (out of 1000)
    Minnesota 13-21 276
    Tulsa 6-28 442
    Chicago 14-20 178
    Minnesota 17-17 104

    * From trade with Connecticut Sun

    The 2010 Playoff teams will select college players in the following order:

     Team Record
    Los Angeles 13-21
    San Antonio 14-20
    Tulsa from Phoenix 15-19
    Atlanta 19-15
    Indiana 21-13
    New York 22-12
    Washington 22-12
    Seattle 28-6

Coaching And Management Changes For The Mystics and Liberty

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    Head coach "let go" after best season in Mystics history
    Head coach "let go" after best season in Mystics history

    Julie Plank was "let go" after leading the Washington Mystics to the best record in their history, and just the third winning season since their inception. When Plank and Mystics management could not come to an agreement on a contract that would have cut Planks pay, management decided to go in another direction.

    According to Sheila Johnson, Mystics president and managing partner, the Mystics "had to make some cost changes." 

    The Mystics did not renew general manager Angela Taylor's contract in October and hired Trudy Lacey to be both general manager and head coach. In a press conference called to announce Lacey's hiring, Johnson said, "this is about business."

    In other WNBA coaching news, Ann Donovan resigned as coach of the New York Liberty after leading the franchise to a tie for the second best record in the league and a playoffs berth. Donovan, who lead the Seattle Storm to a WNBA championship in 2004, stepped down to become the head coach at Seton Hall University. General manager Carol Blazejowski also resigned after the 2010 season. Blazejowski was the only general manager in 14 seasons of Liberty basketball.

    The Liberty named John Whisenant as the successor to both Donovan and Blazejowski. Whisenant was the head coach and general manager of the Sacramento Monarchs for five years, until the franchise folded in 2009. In 2005, the Monarchs won the championship, and Whisenant was named head of the year.

Tina Charles Named Rookie of the Year

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    WNBA Rookie of the Year and Wolrd Champion Tina Charles
    WNBA Rookie of the Year and Wolrd Champion Tina Charles

    The Connecticut Sun wisely chose Tina Charles with the first pick overall in the 2010 WNBA draft. Charles burst onto the WNBA scene by leading all rookies in scoring with 15.5 ppg and leading the entire WNBA in rebounding with 11.7 rpg. Charles pulled down 398 rebounds in 2010, setting the record for the most rebounds in a single season in the history of the league.

    A panel of 39 broadcasters voted unanimously to name Tina Charles WNBA Rookie of the Year. After her historic WNBA season, Charles went to Turkey to play with Team USA in the FIBA World Championship tournament.

She Plays in the WNBA for Love of the Game, She Plays in Europe for the Money

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    2009 WNBA MVP Diana Taurasi was seriously considering taking the 2011 WNBA season off, to be a couch potato. Relax Mercury fans, she's gonna play.

    Why does this driven, dedicated, top flight, superstar athlete want to take time off from the sport she so clearly loves?

    Taurasi finds herself somewhat over committed. After leading the Mercury to the WNBA Championship in 2009 and being voted league MVP, Taurasi played winter ball in a European league in 2009-2010 where her team made the playoffs. She went straight from the Euro-league playoffs to play with the Mercury in 2010. The Mercury made it all the way to the Western Conference Finals. Taurasi scored 22.6 ppg, yanked down 4.3 rpg and dished 4.7 apg for the season. Are you tired yet? She wasn't.

    Immediately following the WNBA season, Taurasi went to play in the FIBA World Championship tournament with Team USA. She lead the team in scoring, but she wasn't done. At present, she's playing ball in Europe, and her European season ends, just as the 2011 WNBA season begins.

    Why doesn't she take time off from her European team instead of scaring the stuffing out of Mercury fans? Because her European team pays her hundreds of thousands of dollars more to play there.

    Diana Taurasi is one of many WNBA players that play in European leagues in the WNBA offseason to supplement their incomes. Why does this superstar, MVP-level athlete have to have a second job? Because a second-year player making the NBA league minimum in 2010-2011 gets $854,389. That's $2,389 more than a WNBA club is able to pay an entire team in 2011 under the six-year collective bargaining agreement signed in 2008. A second-year WNBA player making the league minimum in 2011 gets $36,570. 

    Diana Taurasi signed a one-year extension to play through the 2011 WNBA season. In 2012, she may still be napping.

WNBA All-Time Great Named Sportswoman of the Year

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    Lisa Leslie: WNBA All-time Leader in Rebounds
    Lisa Leslie: WNBA All-time Leader in Rebounds

    On December 1, 2010, Lisa Leslie was named Sportswoman of the Year at the 27th Annual March of Dimes Sports Luncheon. Leslie's numerous contributions to the world of sports include being a charter member of the WNBA, where the back-to-back champion and three-time league MVP left an indelible legacy. Leslie is the WNBA's all-time leader in points and rebounds and was considered by many to be the face of the WNBA during her storied career.

    In addition, to her WNBA exploits, Leslie had a stellar international career with Team USA. Leslie won four consecutive Olympic gold medals and is Team USA's all-time leader in points and rebounds.

    These credentials distinguish Leslie as one of the greatest legends, of either gender, in any sport. Her next great honor will be her first ballot induction to the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Team U.S.A., The FIBA World Champions

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    FIBA Womens World Champion
    FIBA Womens World Champion

    University of Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma lead a powerhouse team of American women to the FIBA Women's World Championships. The Americans, heavily laden with UCON Huskies alumni and  underclassmen, shocked the world by sweeping the tournament by a 35.1 point average margin of victory.

    Lead by WNBA stars Diana Taurasi 12 ppg, Candice Dupree 6 rpg and the WNBA's second all-time leader in assists Sue Bird who dished 2.9 apg, the Americans proved beyond doubt that the WNBA can boast of the greatest women basketball players in the world.

    The only team that came within single digits of the U.S.A. in the second half of any game was Australia. The Aussie's best players also play in the WNBA. The Australian team includes the WNBA's Tully Bevilaqua, Penny Taylor and three-time WNBA MVP Lauren Jackson.

    Congratulation Geno Auriemma and the team U.S.A. 2010 FIBA World Champions.

WNBA President Steps Down

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    WNBA President steps down
    WNBA President steps down

    On December 3, the WNBA announced that Donna Orender's six-year tenure as President of the league will come to an end effective December 31, 2010. While Orender will stay on as a consultant for the league, she is vacating the Presidency to launch Orender Unlimited, an independent marketing, media and strategy company. 

    Orender both inherited and bequeaths the ongoing challenge of financial solvency for the league, though she leaves the WNBA better than she found it. Though there have been reports sighting a dip in attendance last season, the league has experienced a steady increase in media coverage and viewership during Orender's term as President.

    Media and player relations are the two most critical elements of the WNBA Presidency. Without either of these pieces in place, there can be no league. During Orender's term as league President, the league signed an eight-year contract extension with ABC and ESPN2 to broadcast 30 games per year and a six-year extension of the collective bargaining agreement with the WNBA players association.

    Chris Granger, the NBA's Senior Vice President of Team Marketing and Business Operations will be in charge of league operations until Orender's successor is identified.

WNBA Draft: Who Is Most Likely To Go in the First Round?

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    SAN ANTONIO - APRIL 06:  Forward Maya Moore #23 of the Connecticut Huskies reacts after a play against the Stanford Cardinal during the NCAA Women's Final Four Championship game at the Alamodome on April 6, 2010 in San Antonio, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Ma
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Maya Moore is by far the the best player in the 2011 draft and a virtual lock to be the Lynx' first pick overall. 2005 WNBA Rookie of the Year and two-time scoring champion Seimone Augustus suffered a season-ending injury just six games into the Lynx' 2010 season. Augustus should be fully recovered to complete what could be one of the most dynamic pairings in WNBA history.

    Maya Moore is a household name for basketball fans because her UCON Huskies are in the midst of  what may turn out to be the greatest streak in the history of college basketball. The Huskies have 85 consecutive wins and counting as of December 2, 2010. The record of 88 consecutive games is held by John Wooden's UCLA Bruins.

    Most sports fans would find it difficult to escape Moore's notoriety. Moore is the 2009 Naismith College Player of the Year and a member of FIBA World Champion, Team USA. However, there are many other notable WNBA draft hopefuls whose names are not so recognizable.

    The following woman are projected to be first or second round draft picks and Naismith Award candidates:

    Amber Harris Xavier 6'5" Forward Senior

    Jessica Breland North Carolina 6' 3" Forward Senior

    Angie Bjorklund Tennessee 6' 0" Guard/Forward Senior

    Danielle Robinson Oklahoma 5' 9" Guard Senior

    Jeanette Pohlen Stanford 6' 0" Guard Senior

    Courtney Ward Florida State 5' 7" Guard Senior

    Kachine Alexander Iowa 5' 9" Guard Senior

    Cetera DeGraffenreid North Carolina 5' 6" Guard Senior

    Jantel Lavender Ohio State 6' 4" Center Senior

    Ta’Shia Phillips Xavier 6' 6" Center Senior

    Kayla Pedersen Stanford 6' 4" Forward Senior

    Courtney Vandersloot Gonzaga 5' 8" Guard Senior

    Jasmine Thomas Duke 5' 9" Guard Senior

    Victoria Dunlap Kentucky 6' 1" Forward Senior

    Dawn Evans James Madison 5' 7" Guard Senior

    Brittany Spears Colorado 6' 1" Forward Senior

    Ify Ibekwe Arizona 6' 1" Forward Senior

    Carolyn Swords Boston College 6' 6" Center Senior

    Courtney Ward Florida State 5' 7" Guard Senior

    Chastity Reed Arkansas – Little Rock 6' 1" Forward Senior

    Cetera DeGraffenreid North Carolina 5' 6" Guard Senior

    Amy Jaeschke Northwestern 6' 5" Center Senior

WNBA Phenom Close To Being Back to Phenomenal

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    Candice Parker's Dunk
    Candice Parker's Dunk

    Most players dream of the night when they're in the "zone." That's the night when the basket gets bigger, everything slows down, the game is crystal clear, and they can excel at every aspect. On a night in the zone, a player might get 18 or 19 points, shoot over 50 percent, shoot over 40 percent from three-point range, grab nine or 10 boards, dish three or four assists block two or three shots, get a steal or two and generally dominate in all phases of the game. Most players hope to have a night like that just once in their careers.

    Candice Parker put up those kind of numbers for a season—her rookie season. A rookie season for the ages when Candice Parker was named Rookie of the Year and MVP of the WNBA.

    The word "great" should be reserved for those players who have made and indelible imprint on the sport and changed the game as we know it. In women's basketball great, is used to describe players like Cheryl Miller, Lisa Leslie and Sheryl Swoops. In 2008, Candice Parker was great.

    Parker and her husband Shelden Williams of the Denver Nuggets had their daughter Lailaa in 2009, and it took the new mom a little time to round into playing shape. The 2008 MVP only played 25 games in 2009 and was bothered with nagging injuries throughout the season. By the end of the season, there were flashes of the player that was named MVP a season before. Her points per game average dipped 5.4 ppg, but she still manged to shoot over 50 percent and deal out 2.2 apg.

    Sometimes it takes a young player with Parker's offensive abilities some time to understand the importance of defense. In just her second season, after having a baby, Parker was a defensive force with 7.4 defensive rpg 9.8 rpg overall, 2.2 and blocked shots a game.

    In 2010, Parker returned to MVP form. She scored more and yanked down more rebounds than she ever had, and then she got hurt. Parker was sidelined with a shoulder injury after just 10 games and decided to have knee surgery. She had been bothered by a nagging knee injury but would have waited to have surgery until the offseason if she was not already sitting out with the shoulder injury.

    Parker's been slowly but steadily rehabilitating her injuries with the goal of playing winter ball in Russia with some teammates you may have heard of,  Svetlana Abrosimova, Sandrine Gruda, Crystal Langhorne and Cappie Pondexter. Hopefully, she will round herself back into basketball shape by the start of the 2011 WNBA season.

    For years, sport writers, analysts and broadcasters have dubbed one player or another the next Magic Johnson. There'll never be another Magic just like there will never be another Sheryl Swoops. Instead, Micheal Jordan came along, electrified the world and ushered the NBA into an era of prosperity the likes of which it had not previously known.

    The WNBA needs this player, and she must stay healthy. Parker can create her own shot, make plays for her teammates, she's a dominant defender, an amazing rebounder, shoots a high percentage and her teammates are made better by her presence on the floor. Remind you of anyone?

Can the Storm Repeat as WNBA Champions

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    Can the Storm Repeat?
    Can the Storm Repeat?

    The 2010 Seattle Storm is one of the best teams in the history of the WNBA. They finished the regular season with a league best 28-6 record, they were undefeated at home and they swept the playoffs to win their second WNBA championship.

    Whenever a team is that good, broadcasters and sports writers begin hyperbolic discussions about a "repeat," and then the pressure is on.

    Repeating as champions is one of the most difficult things to do in all of sports because of the many pitfalls teams face while attempting this feat. The biggest obstacles teams face when they try to repeat are:

    1. Letting down emotionally: Players tend to relax after reaching the pinnacle of their careers, and it is difficult to regain that championship intensity.

    2. Folding under the pressure: The champions have a big bulls-eye on their backs, and all the other teams will bring their A-game every night.

    3. Keeping the team together in spite of free agency: Sports are big business and sometimes business gets in the way of winning.

    A let down seems unlikely under the veteran leadership of Seattle's big three, Swin Cash, Sue Bird and three-time MVP Lauren Jackson. As for being a target, Swin Cash is a three-time WNBA champion, Bird and Jackson have each won two. They know teams will be bringing their best every night, and they'll be ready.

    Unfortunately for the Storm, free agency is the most difficult of the three obstacles. Fan favorite Ashley Robinson, veteran forward Svetlana Abrosimova and Swin Cash are unrestricted free agents. Starting center Camille Little is a restricted free agent.

    Restricted free agent means teams can talk to the player and make an offer. If the player's original team, in this case the Storm, matches the offer they retain that player services for the price and the length of the offer.

    The Storm can afford to lose Ashley Robinson. She played only eight minutes per game in the regular season, she was hardly used at all in the playoffs, and Robinson has difficulty making shots at point blank range. Robinson is adored by Storm fans who would be sad to see her go, but she is not essential to the success of the franchise.

    Abrosimova and Little are quality role players who must either be re-signed, or their productive minutes must be replaced with quality players. Cash is another matter because she increased her production in nearly every meaningful category during the playoffs.

    Cash's playoff totals include 16.1 ppg 4.9 rpg, 3.0 apg and a shooting percentage of .506 including 50 percent from three-point range. If they can sign another great player, they might be able to replace Cash's playoff production. Replacing the veteran leadership of a perennial champion that has three years experience with the team is much more difficult.

    There is no way to replace that Bird-Cash chemistry that was built by winning the NCAA Division 1 title, an Olympic Gold Medal, a WNBA Championship and a FIBA World Championship together.

    The free agent negotiation period begins in January, but teams can't actually sign free agents until February. If the Storm can re-sign Cash, they can repeat. If not, it's unlikely.