Lynx Tracks: 2011 WNBA Preview

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*************************June 2011: Vol. 3, Issue 3************************


2011 WNBA Season Preview

By David Zingler

While there was plenty of action this offseason, the WNBA stayed relatively stable. For the first time since 2005, there were no teams coming or going. There are however, four new head coaches: John Whisenant in New York, Trudi Lacey in Washington, Dan Hughes is back in San Antonio and Pokey Chatman takes over in Chicago. The league also has a new president as Laurel J. Richie replaces Donna Orender who resigned in December after a six-year run.

The league's 15th season should be it's best yet. Here's an educated guess on how things could play out.

Western Conference
1. Seattle
With Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson already in town, the Storm added five-time All-Star Katie Smith this offseason, making their roster read like a WNBA All-Time team. After lapping the field in 2010, the rest of the league hopes that age has slowed down the defending champs enough for everyone else to catch up a little.

2. Los Angeles
Remember Candace Parker? After winning the MVP and Rookie of the Year in 2008, she was held up as the standard bearer of the women's game, but a pregnancy slowed her in 2009 and she missed 24 games with a shoulder injury last year. Expect Parker to make a strong push to regain her throne this season.

3. Minnesota
If Seattle is the "All-Time" team, then the Lynx are the "All-Americans," possessing some the biggest names in NCAA hoops over the past decade in Maya Moore, Seimone Augustus, Candice Wiggins and Lindsay Whalen. This season should mark the first in a long string of playoff appearances for the home team.

4. Phoenix
As long as Diana Taurasi is around, Phoenix is worth watching. After a controversial offseason in which she beat a doping suspension in Turkey, the two-time defending scoring champion is back to help the Mercury make a run at a third WNBA title.

5. San Antonio
With Dan Hughes back on the bench, the Silver Stars hope to recover from their two-year slide. Since being swept by Detroit in the 2008 Finals, San Antonio has gone 29-39 in the regular season and 0-2 in the playoffs. Veterans Becky Hammon and Sophia Young should keep the squad competitive, but they figure to be on the outside looking in when the playoffs start.

6. Tulsa
With an eclectic mix of players like 20-year-old Australian Elizabeth Cambage, 40-year-old Sheryl Swoopes (who is returning from a two-year absence), scorer-for-hire Betty Lennox and disgraced Olympic track star Marion Jones, Nolan Richardson's team should be interesting, but probably not a winner.

Eastern Conference
1. Atlanta
The defending conference champs should be even better in 2011 after adding All-Star point guard Lindsey Harding in a draft day deal. Forward Angel McCoughtry, the top pick in the 2009 draft, should emerge as an MVP candidate. Just four years after finishing 4-30 as a first year expansion team, the Dream could be crowned WNBA Champions this fall.

2. New York
The Liberty hope to build on last year's turnaround success. After a dismal 13-21 showing in 2009, the team went 22-12 and reached the conference finals last season. New coach John Whisenant brings championship pedigree from Sacramento. Like the Giants and Jets, the Liberty will play their next three seasons in New Jersey, relocating to the Prudential Center in Newark while the venerable Madison Square Garden undergoes a renovation.

3. Connecticut
Former UConn stars Renee Montgomery and Tina Charles give the Sun the best point guard/post combo east of Seattle. Both are very young, improving rapidly and should make Connecticut annual playoff participants in the East. They may be a year away from being serious championship contenders however.

4. Indiana
Known for their tough defense and scrappy play, the Fever hopes to reach the postseason for the 7th consecutive season. The addition of veteran center Tangela Smith, along with stalwarts Tamika Catchings and Katie Douglas, should help them achieve that goal.

5. Chicago
Entering its 6th season, the Sky is still searching for its first playoff appearance. Former LSU coach Pokey Chapman takes over the helm and is reunited with star center Sylvia Fowles, who is evolving into the WNBA's version of Shaquille O'Neal. Chicago should contend for a playoff spot, but will likely fall just short.

6. Washington
After capturing the No. 1 seed in the East last season, the Mystics are completely retooled. Their coach Julie Plank, general manager Angela Taylor and stars Lindsey Harding and Katie Smith (all former Lynx) are gone. Alana Beard however, is back after missing all of 2010 with an Achilles injury and center Nicky Anosike, acquired from the Lynx in April, hopes to bolster the front court.

MVP: Candace Parker, Los Angeles
Rookie of the Year: Maya Moore, Minnesota
Coach of the Year: Jennifer Gillom, Los Angeles
WNBA Finals: Atlanta over Seattle

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