Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Leslie: 'It was just crazy'

The Sparks finished up their practice Wednesday at Mohegan Sun Arena, unsure which of them will be suiting up for tomorrow's game and which ones will be watching with street clothes on -- and for how long.

Los Angeles coach Michael Cooper didn't seem too concerned.

"Our team is built of 11 players," he said. "We have 13, only 11 can play, and I don’t think they can suspend them all, so we’ll have five players we can put on the floor and we’ll be ready to play."

Cooper, though, agreed with his stars, Lisa Leslie and Candace Parker that the brawl is the last thing the WNBA needs, the extra publicity be damned.

"No, I don’t (subscribe to the theory that all publicity is good publicity)," he said. "I think if you look at that game from the start to that point, the fight, it was an excellent, well-played game and that’s what the WNBA’s about. It’s about playing hard, being competitive and after the game is over with, you leave it there. It’s unfortunate that that happened and the league will do the appropriate thing."

Said Leslie, who was especially adament about the brawl's affect on the percetion of the WNBA: "We get so much more publicity when it’s something negative than we do when it’s something positive. You would have thought when Candace dunked twice already this year that it would have been all over the news this way and maybe she would have had interviews and some national attention from that. But it’s not even probably one-third of this type of attention happened for her.

"Any attention you look at in the league, this is the biggest thing that happened," she continued. "And I don’t know what that says for us, as a society, I really don’t. But I knew last night … it’s just unfortunate this happened on national television because we’re going to get so much media attention and this is not the way that we want attention."

As for who'll be suspended, no one could say for sure what they expected.

"I have no idea," Parker said. "I have never been in this situation before. I’m sure they’re reviewing it. ... I think within basketball you have altercations. (I have never been apart of) one of that magnitude. I’ve never been suspended before. I like to play the game between the lines and after the game is over, (I’m) friends with everybody."

Leslie said league officials go over the ramifications of a fight and the actions players should take during oritentation. But she said she's "never focused on it because I’m like, ‘OK, that’s not going to affect us.’"

"I don’t really know what the rules are about it or anything," she said. "Who’s supposed to break up a fight? The 10 players involved, are we responsible to break up the fight? Are the official responsible? Are the coaches supposed to come help and restrain? I don’t even know the rules of what’s supposed to happen. I was thinking about Candace, I was thinking about her shoulder and I saw her flat on her back with a Detroit Shock (player) on top of her."

Leslie also described the situation surrounding her and assistant coach Rick Mahorn, who appeared to push Leslie during the fracas. Cooper, Detroit coach Bill Laimbeer and Mahorn said he was acting as a peacemaker, but Leslie said "when I got in contact with him, I just felt him push me back."

"Originally I thought, ‘Go pull your player (off). You had two of your players at one time on top of my teammate,’" said Leslie. "So that’s where the issue was. So to be a peacemaker, to me, after watching it, why wouldn’t you go over there and pick your player up, take her away? Or if you were going to be a peacemaker, he could have had his hands out maybe to kind of say, ‘Hold on,’ or whatever. But he didn’t."

Leslie also appeared to take a swing at Mahorn, something she didn't readily deny.

"I was really upset because he kind of knocked me off my feet," said Leslie, who said she didn't try to swing at Mahorn prior to being pushed. She instead was trying to "sweep through" with a swin move similar to that defensive lineman use in the NFL. "And I’m not sure but I don’t think that was his intention but that’s what happened. It wasn’t good. I tried to sock him, I guess, on my way down just because I was in the air and I was swinging at air and falling at the same time. That’s all I remember."

As for all the possible fall-out, it's difficult to tell how far the WNBA will go. This is an unprecedent situation, and there are varying opinions all over the league on who's to blame, who did what and who didn't do what. As far as tomorrow goes, I think the Sparks will be without several starters, most likely Parker, DeLisha Milton-Jones (who punched Mahorn after his run-in with Leslie) and Shannon Bobbitt, who received a technical foul for coming off the bench. Under WNBA rules, anyone who leaves the bench during a fight is automatically suspended for one game. There may be more players besides her who are guilty of that, but for now, she seems to be the one person most people point to.

1 comment:

Q said...

Matt,

Thank you very much for your detailed follow-up on this story. You answered a lot of the questions I had about it.

I wondered especially about the league's rule regarding leaving the bench...beyond concerns about the league's image, it's sad to think that this will have an adverse effect on the playoff race.