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Volume 68, Issue 150, Monday, June 23, 2003 


Mercury falls without star players

Comets tread water without Swoopes 

WNBA Report

Christian Schmidt

The more things change, the more they stay the same, and things just havenit changed much in the WNBA in the past week. The Eastern Conference is still a mess, with six of the seven teams separated by just a single game.

In the Western Conference, the Los Angeles Sparks are still comfortably on top of the standings, despite consecutive losses last week that ended their nine-game winning streak to begin the season.

From the East

The WNBAis Eastern Conference isnit as weak as the NBAis version, but in both leagues, the West is where the power is. In the ladiesi association, none of the Eastern teams can put any distance between themselves and the competition.

Detroit appears to be in this race for the long haul. The Shock lost its first game but hasnit looked vulnerable since, moving out to a 5-1 record and a one-game lead on Charlotte. After the Sting, Cleveland, Connecticut and Indiana are all tied for third place, 1.5 games behind Detroit.

To the West

There are no surprises in the West. Los Angeles, widely regarded as the preseason favorite to win the championship, has cruised through the early portion of the season, amassing a 10-2 record and a four-game lead over Houston (6-6) and Seattle (5-5 coming into Sunday).

Houston is a team that needs two things: a healthy Sheryl Swoopes and contributions from its young players (this means you, Michelle Snow). The Comets are messing around at the .500 mark and need to get things in gear for a playoff run. Head coach Van Chancellor is not pleased with his teamis performance and some of the role players might not be back next season if things donit improve. The good news is Houston is in second in its conference and the seasonis still young.

Seattle may be the second-best team in the West, and with its young talent, the Storm is going to get better before the end of the season. Young stars Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird are quickly assuming their place among the best players in the league, a position they might be in for the next decade.

And the rest

For those fans interested in just what team will gain the ignominious title of worst squad in the league, the early returns favor Washington and Phoenix, who each have just a pair of victories to this point in the season.

Washington is led by Chamique Holdsclaw, who has not only been plagued by injuries but is also probably the most overrated star in the league, particularly given her defensive weaknesses. Phoenix, on the other hand, is a team without a star. Before the season even began, the Mercury traded its best player, Jennifer Gillom, to the Sparks (Saturday, the Sparks handed the Mercury a 54-48 loss behind a strong performance from Lisa Leslie).

Ms. Smith goes to Minnesota

If youive never heard of Katie Smith, donit feel too bad, because you are not alone. The 5-11 guard for the Minnesota Lynx doesnit pop up in Most Valuable Player conversations and her team is a game below .500. She also was a member of the American Basketball League, a WNBA rival that went defunct in 1999.

But Smith has scored more points professionally in the United States than Cynthia Cooper, Sheryl Swoopes or Lisa Leslie. And June 10, she became the first WNBA player to hit 300 three-point field goals for her career. Add to that the 184 she hit in the ABL, and Smith might just be the best female shooter of all time.

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