Saturday, July 9, 2005
West star power too much for East
By Mechelle Voepel Special to ESPN.com
UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- Houston's Michelle Snow was collecting her West teammates' autographs on a Comets jersey, saying, "This will be hung up."
A two-time league MVP, Sheryl Swoopes scored her first All-Star MVP honor Saturday.
Sacramento's DeMya Walker said she was "living a dream."
Minnesota's Katie Smith reflected, "You will look back someday on this team and be blown away by the amount of talent on this squad."
The WNBA All-Star Game was pretty much perfect. The athletes played hard but had fun. Nobody got hurt. Some fake Abba group performed at halftime, which was like a classic Saturday Night Live skit.
And there were a ton of points. Wow, there were a lot. The West's 122-99 victory was the most points ever by one team and by both teams in an All-Star Game -- or a real WNBA game, for that matter.
There was Smith with her smooth stroke for 3s; she made 4-of-6 and the West as a team went 12-for-24. She had 16 points in leading seven West players who scored in double figures. Houston's Sheryl Swoopes had 15 points and was MVP. Seattle's Sue Bird, who for obvious reasons was showered with adoration by the Mohegan Sun crowd as much as any Connecticut Sun player, scored 14 points.
Sacramento's Yolanda Griffith had 12 points and 14 boards. Another huge crowd favorite, Phoenix's Diana Taurasi, and San Antonio's Marie Ferdinand had 10 points each.
And Los Angeles' Chamique Holdsclaw scored 14 points and finally got to see what it felt like to win an All-Star Game. Because she relocated to the West.
Ouch. Sorry, East. Does it help to know that 99 points would have won all five of the previous All-Star Games? Hey, how come they didn't just let the East have 12 players and invite Connecticut's Lindsay Whalen to play?
Bird was asked why the West, now 6-0 in All-Star Games, keeps on winning these things.
Practicing her possible future as a diplomat, Bird said, "It's not like you can take the West roster and the East roster and say, 'Oh my gosh, the West is so much better.'"
Uh, actually you can.
Bird then offered, "Oh, I don't know. Do we have more Olympians?"
Yes, the West did have eight Olympians -- seven Americans and Australian Lauren Jackson -- on it 11-player roster. The East had four Olympians, one of whom -- Detroit's Swin Cash -- was activated only this past week after being out since the end of last season with a knee injury.
Cash is an outstanding player ... who didn't belong in this particular All-Star Game. The fans voted her in, and she scored just two points. Clearly, this is not yet anywhere near the "real" Swin Cash, and you couldn't expect her to be.
Indiana's Tamika Catchings has not had a season up to her standards, but for a lot of the All-Star Game she looked like her old self, scoring 18 points. I can't think of any player who finds a way to keep the ball alive more than Catchings does. And even when she's struggling, she's playing all-out. It would be good to see this All-Star Game jump-start the rest of her season.
Detroit's Deanna Nolan led the East with 20 points -- but she was 7-of-21 from the field in a game that actually had some decent defensive efforts in spurts by both sides. New York's Becky Hammon was impressive with 18 points; both she and Nolan hit four 3-pointers. Connecticut's Nykesha Sales made some strong moves to the basket and had 11 points. But ...
This a show where the East was definitely second banana. You know how good a group the West is when you have so many terrific players you had to remind yourself, "Oh, and then there's also Lisa Leslie."
Are you kidding? That's how much star power there was for the West.
Bird played on an Olympic team and won a WNBA championship last year but she acknowledged there's still a "wow" factor for her to be on the floor with these other All-Stars.
"The best thing is, the more I get to play with them the more comfortable I feel," Bird said, thinking of her Olympic future. "Like today, I was able to find Sheryl pretty easily. I know their tendencies and everything. But then again, they make everybody's job easier."
As Bird does for them. Of course, this was a one-day thing ... now for the rest of the season, the All-Stars will be trying to make each other's job very difficult. Once again, the West is loaded with playoff-potential teams, and somebody pretty good is going to get left out. The East is going to be competitive, too ... but the West really made you step back and shake your head with appreciation Saturday.
"Everybody was in our locker room saying, 'This is the most fun we've had at an All-Star Game ever,'" said Snow, who was playing in this event for the first time. "I'm honored to have even have been a part of it."
Mechelle Voepel of The Kansas City Star is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. She can be reached at email@example.com.