(S.O.L) Speaking Out Loud with Clay Kallam, as he recaps the week in Women’s Hoops!
As a Warrior fan since they moved to the Bay Area in 1962 (yes, I’m old), I’ve moved quickly through denial (the last 4:39 without scoring?), anger (it’s time for Harrison Barnes to move on) and bargaining (well, we were still 73-9), and have settled into depression … but maybe dipping into the world of women’s basketball will help me break through to acceptance. Maybe …
1. This week’s Game of the Century: It’s not quite the NBA Finals, but Tuesday’s Minnesota-L.A. game looks like a preview of the WNBA Finals – and is the classic irresistible force vs. the immovable object. Someone, after all, has to lose, and since neither team has done that so far, it’s almost an upset either way.
The numbers give L.A. a slight edge, and so would the home court advantage – if the game weren’t at 3:30 p.m. West Coast time. But it’s one of the many camp days in the W, where teams pad attendance with low-cost tickets to summer youth camps, and though the kids will make lots of noise at random moments, the most devoted Sparks’ fans, ironically, will be at work so they can afford tickets to games like this one.
Friday’s rematch will be at night in the Target Center, and the back-to-back games will further add to the playoff feel because both teams will adjust to whatever happens tomorrow. Then again, these games don’t really matter that much, as the ones that really count will be in postseason.
As the Warriors just learned…
2. If you’re not getting better …: Duke fans have become more and more disenchanted with the reign of Joanne P. McCallie, as expectations have not been met, and players and coaches are deserting the sinking ship in increasing numbers each year.
One reason is that the youngsters who arrive at Duke don’t seem to get much better while they’re there. That of course is true of many if not most college programs, but Duke’s elite recruits are looking for professional careers, and history shows that the Blue Devil grads don’t exactly hit the ground running in the WNBA.
Elizabeth Williams is the latest example, as it took her a year to add enough to her game to be a starter, despite being the fourth overall pick in 2015, but veterans like Karima Christmas and Jasmine Thomas – who plateaued during their time at Duke – have steadily gotten better since they left. Haley Peters made her debut in the WNBA this year, after two years in the overseas wilderness, and what insiders have been saying for a while is now pretty much impossible to ignore: McCallie can recruit, but she can’t coach, and those kids who arrive with great potential leave with great potential, which isn’t supposed to be how it works.
So elite recruits, be warned: If you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse, and there’s no evidence Duke players improve much, if at all, in their time in Durham.
3. Speaking of disappointing …: Americans are used to dominating FIBA competitions, especially FIBA Americas, but last year’s U16 girls lost to Brazil and had to settle for bronze. That was good enough to qualify for this year’s U17 World Championships in Spain, but the Selection Committee shook things up by keeping only two of the 12 players off of last year’s FIBA America roster. (There is no requirement that rosters must remain the same year to year.)
So the pressure now shifts to Dori Oldaker, the head coach last year and this year, as she must show that she wasn’t the problem last summer. Unfortunately, this might be one of the least talented American teams in a World Championship in a generation, and the new roster will be facing a load of talented teams June 22 through July 2.
Traditionally, USA Basketball teams struggle with two things — three-point shooting and turnovers – and even though they beat France in an exhibition game, the Americans were one for seven from beyond the arc and turned the ball over 26 times.
For the record, the United States is 23-0 in the three U17 World Championships and obviously won gold every time. Another undefeated mark and another gold medal in 2016, though, is as unlikely, well, as a team coming from 3-1 down in the NBA Finals. And if the Americans don’t win gold, the finger of blame will, right or wrong, be pointed squarely at Oldaker.