Not only a fantastic Sylvester Stallone movie, but it's exactly where the Sun are now: In first in the East by a half-game over the stumbling Shock and the surging Liberty — a "somewhat amazing" development, Sun coach Mike Thibault said Monday, considering the Sun lost five in a row before its current three-game winning streak heading into the break.
"I think with as many young players as we have, the break will do us good in some ways, to kind of get rejuvenated a little bit," Thibault said. "Tha's true for a lot of teams, but I think they have expended a great effort to get themselves in a position that they're in right now. Obviously part of it is because some other teams have struggled, but at the same time, we've exceeded probably most people's expectations and I'm happy we played hard enough to do that."
Thibault is currently in California resuming his duties as an assistant coach for the U.S. Olympic team, which is holding a mini-training camp at Stanford University. Lindsay Whalen, who is an alternate for the team, is to arrive in California for the team banquet, but she will not practice, barring any injuries or setbacks to the 12 players on the roster. Whalen will also shoot a WNBA playoff commercial while out on the Left Coast.
Speaking of Whalen: Her line Sunday (nine points, eight rebounds, seven assists) has become more and more common this year to the point that a tripe-double seems inevitable. Of course, it will also depend on how her teammates are shooting on a particular night, but after coming close to being the second player in league history to average 13 points, five rebounds and five assists last year — she missed in rebounds — Whalen, on proper rest following the break, could record the league's fifth triple-double and first in team history. The previous four in the WNBA below:
Sheryl Swoopes (Houston): vs. Detroit on 7/27/99, 14 points, 15 rebounds, 10 assists
Margo Dydek (Utah) vs. Orlando on 6/7/01, 12 points, 11 rebounds, 10 blocks
Lisa Leslie (Los Angeles) vs. Detroit on 9/10/04, 29 points, 15 rebounds, 10 blocks
Deanna Nolan (Detroit) vs. Connecticut on 5/21/05, 11 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists
As for the Sun's turn-around this past week, I'll leave it Thibault:
"It wasn't so much just the one game, it was a relief to see us play pretty good basketball for the most part. The things we were struggling with in that losing streak, we corrected some of them. Not everything is corrected, but I had challenged them a week ago to get better this (past) week. And then I challenged them (Sunday) to use the break properly to get better individually. If we each get a little better individually, then our team collectively will get better.
"We were completely focused on little details (Sunday) that we asked them to be better at than the last time we played (Washington). It was a huge improvement, particularly on the defensive end. I just thought we were really, really good defensively, we followed the scouting report, just doing a better job of making them work to catch the ball. We were good.
"Then on the offensive end, we got back to being aggressive to get Asjha (Jones) and Whit (Tamika Whitmore) more good shots. And Lindsay was her usual really-good self. "