LA @ Phoenix
Phoenix looks odd without Cappie. Diana is still Diana, and with Penny Taylor they will always be a threat (her hair is auburn this season), but I don't see anyone on the roster who can create their own shot in the half court the way Pondexter could with that wicked crossover. Dupree is a nice addition and I still love Bonner, but at this point in the season Phoenix is not as good a team as they were last season.
LA was really strange to watch. Candace Parker looks in good form, playing overseas has her ready for the start of this season. Will it impact her health this year though? They have the point guard situation locked up. With Ticha Penicheiro, Andrea Riley and Kristi Toliver in place, they have distributors and scorers that they can mix and match at will. Tina Thompson looks like she is 30 not 35 and D-Nasty will always be in the mix. They were not playing as a team yesterday, but if they start to gel over the course of the season, the league better watch out.
Andrea Riley was simply hot yesterday. I loved the way she played with no fear. Gillom decided to just let Ticha rest her sore ankle after Riley went in the game and took it over. She attacked the basket, found open players...she looked like a real pro and not a high volume, rookie shooter.
Minnesota @ Tulsa
Minnesota was without the services of two of its best players. Seimone Augustus and Candice Wiggins are both still out with injury. In their absence, however, rookie Monica Wright proved she is going to be a really solid pro. She did everything she did in college in her first game as a pro. I was very impressed. Whalen was unremarkable...but Minnesota could be a really strong team under new coach Reeve's tutelage. Nicky Anosike is everything that Reeve wanted Kara Braxton to be in Detroit and Charde Houston offers some nice flexibility. It will be interesting to see how they look when they get their superstars back. Wright deserves a heavy role on this team...what will it be?
Tulsa will not be as bad as many have predicted, and their games should be a lot of fun to watch...40 minutes of hell to play, perhaps, but they will be fun to watch. Braxton and Pierson are the team's leaders and they showed it yesterday. With no Ford, Nolan or Smith, they will have to show it every night, something that has never been required of them. Shanna Crossley and Chante Black are going to be much better players in Nolan Richardson's system than most of us predicted. I really liked what they did in their home opener. The real surprise for me, though was the play of rookie Natasha Lacy. After being cut from camps the past two years, Lacy is thriving in Nolan's system. She was everywhere in this game. She could be the breakout player of the year. There will be better rookies, no doubt, but she is the one who is going to surprise us with how well she plays. Marion Jones was a non factor. Of the two games, this is the one I actually enjoyed the most. I have a defensive leaning in my philosophy of the game, and these two teams were both very aggressive defensively. I loved watching the players get after the ball. There is just something exciting about a well executed trap.