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Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Leave WNBA out of NBA's mess

By Michelle Smith

So, the NBA lockout is the WNBA's fault?

Is the league that is supposed to be "propped up" by the NBA going to be brought down by the NBA's financial issues?

No and no.

As the millionaire players and the millionaire owners bicker over how to divide the cash that pours into the league, the WNBA season rolls on.

It has not been an easy couple of weeks in the world's most successful women's professional sports league, but it has nothing to do with labor unrest.

Two of the league's top stars -- Los Angeles' Candace Parker and Seattle's Lauren Jackson -- are out for at least most if not all of the season with serious injuries. Another starter, Indiana point guard Briann January, was lost for the year with a torn ACL.

But the games go forward.

WNBA president Laurel Richie said last week that the league will "absolutely" continue running despite the NBA lockout. And that's because the WNBA has absolutely nothing to do with that situation.

True, six of the WNBA's 12 teams are owned and operated by NBA franchises. Six operate under independent ownership. But the cost of providing support to the WNBA is a drop in the bucket compared with operating costs in the NBA.

The league has been running lean and mean for a couple of years now, with shortened rosters, a reduced salary cap -- a reported $852,000 per team -- and fewer coaches. The average NBA salary is approximately $6 million.

People who think the WNBA represents a significant drag on the NBA are not educated about the league's structure and/or looking for another excuse to denigrate the women's game, which can be something of a pastime for meat-and-potatoes sports fans.

The WNBA's collective bargaining agreement expires in 2013. The women's league will have its own work to do at that point.

But until then, leave the WNBA out of it.

Rookie of the Year chase

If you think it begins and ends with Minnesota's Maya Moore, well, you're not wrong. But if you think Moore is the only rookie making an impact this season, you are wrong.

Other rookies worth watching in the summer of 2011:

Danielle Adams, San Antonio. The Silver Stars have the best record in the league and are riding the success of the former Texas A&M center. Adams fell in the WNBA draft in April despite leading her team to the NCAA title -- selected No. 20 overall -- but she has proved herself already in San Antonio, averaging 16.2 points a game. She is the leading scorer among WNBA rookies, and that includes Moore.

Liz Cambage, Tulsa. The Australian teenager is leading her team at 14.4 points per game and is the WNBA's second-highest rookie scorer.

Courtney Vandersloot, Chicago. The dynamic point guard is averaging 5.2 assists per game, tied for sixth in the league with New York veteran Cappie Pondexter.

Kayla Pedersen, Tulsa. The Stanford product is in the starting lineup for the struggling Shock, and she's doing all she can. Pedersen is averaging 11.7 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game.

Trendy

The Sparks are struggling after Parker's knee injury. They have lost three straight games and have yet to win on the road this season. ... Connecticut is another team that appears too comfortable at home, unbeaten at the Mohegan Sun and 1-3 away from it. ... Despite the injury to January, Indiana owns the league's longest win streak at the moment -- four games.