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Volume 68, Issue 161, Wednesday, July 30, 2003


Leslie injury hurts LA, helps rest of WNBA

Comets in position to overtake Sparks

WNBA Report

Christian Schmidt

The biggest story in the WNBA right now is who's not playing. Los Angeles Sparks star Lisa Leslie is sidelined with an injured right knee, which she hurt in the All-Star Game two weeks ago. The injury was originally thought to be minor and would cause Leslie to miss only a few games, but her knee has still not improved to the point where she can play.

That's good news if you are a team in the Western Conference. Without Leslie, the Sparks are vulnerable to defeat, but still perhaps the best team in the WNBA. If Leslie can't return from the injury this season, or if she is not her usual self when she does return (a more likely scenario), teams like Houston, Minnesota and Seattle have reason to think they could win the West and the WNBA championship.


No team will benefit from Leslie's absence as much as the Houston Comets, who are in second place in the West. Houston sits four games behind the Sparks going into last night's 73-58 win over the Minnesota Lynx.

The Comets have had injury trouble of their own. Cynthia Cooper is out for the season and Sheryl Swoopes and Tina Thompson have both missed time because of injuries. Houston seems to be hitting its stride as the season begins to wind down, and with Swoopes and Thompson finally healthy (as healthy as ever, anyway), the Comets are poised to take a run at the defending champion Sparks.

Houston has won four of its last five games going into last night, though the Comets need to improve their record on the road, where they are 4-6.

In the East

There just aren't any surprises in the WNBA's Eastern Conference. As it has been all year, Detroit is on top of the conference and is starting to put some distance between it and the competition.

Behind the Shock is a mess. There are five teams separated by a total of 2.5 games, all of which have a great shot to make the playoffs.

All bets off

Sue Bird's talent, charisma and good looks are going to make her a star in the WNBA for a very long time. The second-year point guard for the Seattle Storm is already one of the league's best players and only continues to improve.

Of course, making ill-advised bets with chauvinist radio talk-show hosts isn't the best way to promote yourself or your league. 

Bird recently called off a bet she made with Seattle radio DJ Mitch Levy, in which she agreed to let him spank her while she said "harder, daddy, harder" if her turnover-to-assist ratio was less than 2-to-1. Levy was to buy season tickets to the Storm if Bird won the bet.

After receiving considerable criticism from a number of sources, Bird called off the bet, apologizing for her actions. With 137 assists and 63 turnovers through her first 20 games, Bird was on track to win the bet when she called it off.

MVP watch

Seattle's Lauren Jackson might have just pulled into the lead in the MVP race. Her team is in contention for the playoffs, and Jackson has been superb. She is the reigning WNBA Player of the Week and is averaging 21.0 points per game (No. 2 in the WNBA) and 7.5 rebounds per game (No. 9 in WNBA).

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