Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Low-down on the Down Under showdown

Some information that didn’t make it into today’s stories about the U.S. national team’s and Australia’s exhibition tonight at Mohegan Sun Arena:

(1) Though tonight’s game won’t feature any Sun players, fans can get a glimpse of the future of women’s basketball in Candace Parker, Candice Higgins and Courtney Paris. Parker, a red-shirt junior at Tennessee, is universally considered the best player in college basketball, and according to U.S. coach Anne Donovan, she can start any on WNBA team right now. Higgins, a senior at Stamford, gives the team a true point guard and Paris is the team’s youngest player and perhaps the country’s’ top upcoming inside presence

Louisiana State center Sylvia Fowles was also training with the team, but she had to return to school last week. Parker and Paris are doing work on the road, and Higgins’ classes don’t begin until Sept. 27 (Stamford works on the quarterly schedule). If selected to the final roster, all three can make the trip to Chile for the FIBA Americans Olympic qualifying tournament.

(2) Australian Penny Taylor, like her Phoenix teammates Diana Taurasi and Cappie Pondexter, may make it in time for tonight’s game, but that remains to be seen until tip-off. Donovan said she would not hesitate to play Taurasi and Pondexter if they made it in time. There was no word on Tuesday what the Australian team intended to do about Taylor. The squad’s (and the world’s) best player, WNBA MVP Lauren Jackson, also will not be playing. She wasn’t with the team during its first exhibition against the U.S. last week, either.

(3) When the new WNBA Collective Bargaining Agreement is signed and the league’s free agents are free to talk to teams, Swin Cash can be one of the year’s best signings. After the falling out she had in Detroit, she sounded more motivated than ever to prove she still is the same player she was before her 2004 knee injury. In her session with the media Tuesday, she went from sounding hurt to angry about what she went through with Shock coach Bill Laimbeer.

Here’s a transcript of that session, conducted on the gym floor inside Mohegan Sun Arena:

Question: Early morning for you, huh?
Cash: Yeah, I got out about 4 a.m. Flight about 6 o’clock. And it was a connection.

It was my legs. At some points shots that I make with my eyes closed, I just felt like, Tina kept saying, ‘Don't worry about it. You gotta keep playing.’ But I was like, ‘Come on, just give me a little lift.’

But overall I thought I did pretty well knowing how much running I did yesterday and then to come here, pack everything, be prepared. I felt good.

Question: How tough was it to come straight here after the finals loss?
Cash: I'm not gonna lie, it was tough. It was tough. I mean, it was an emotional finals, a lot going on, and then to bounce back its kind of refreshing. Physically it's a little tough but it's refreshing to be around U.S.A. basketball because it's a whole other beast than the WNBA, and it makes me feel really good.

It's not even so much putting the season behind me. Obviously there are things that I have to tackle this offseaosn but it puts thing in perspective for me. I can really just focus in on U.S.A. basketball right now and deal with whatever I have to deal with it when I get back.

So for me, it's a good thing because it kind of breaks that cycle of sitting at home, even if I had to do a lot of stuff, it still would be on my mind.

Question: How’s your back feeling?
Cash: It's fine. It's just going to take some rest. Once we get done with everything else that's happening, I'm going to take some time off. The doctors say if I take a month off, I would see night-and-day results. And for me, I didn't take any time off like I should have, being hard-headed last offseason, it was all about trying to work out and doing other things. But I'm going to be smart. I feel like I have to get in the gym and take some time off and physically get stronger.

Question (abridged version): Can you talk about the breakdown in the relationship with Bill Laimbeer, and everything you went through during the season?
Cash: It's difficult. Now I'm getting choked up now. Hold on. (Cash stepped away to wipe tears away from her eyes and to gather herself)

Because, uh, (fighting back tears) it's not the relationship with me and Bill that hurts the most, it's how invested in the city that I was. And when an organization is on their way out the door, they come to you and they ask you to do things, I felt like I stepped up. I felt like not only committed, passed up opportunities overseas, money, I committed to making that franchise basically to be what Connecticut was, having tradition year in and year out, win championships. That's what I've always been about. I always put the team before myself, my own accolades.

Even he brought in Katie (Smith) and wanted to change up to a different offense and I had to take more of a backseat, I was OK with that because we were winning. But I still had respect. But when a coach loses that respect for you and treats you the way he did me, it's tough to deal with.

Question: (Cash was asked about being left on the floor during the final minutes of the Shock’s Game 5 finals loss to Phoenix when all the other starters were taken out)
Cash: It is what it is. He's never done that before my whole career and there's no way you can miss me being out on the floor. I've had so many people e-mail my Web site, put in phone calls to my business. People in Detroit just talking about it and (being) upset. I would never have spoke on it if I didn't have those people. But it's tough because I love Detroit. I love the organization, it's one of the best in the league. It has nothing to do with Detroit why I can't be there. It's all about a relationship and once you do that to somebody, I don't know how you get past it.

Question: Did you seek out (UConn coach) Geno (Auriemma) while you were there? (Auriemma was in the broadcast booth for the finals)
Cash: I actually had dinner with Coach and D in Phoenix, and Shuey (UConn grad and Phoenix center Kelly Schumacher) and that's when you need your family around and that's what I needed. I have dealt with hard coaches. Coach Auriemma was hard as ever. There were times he was screaming at us and going crazy but at the end of the day, he cared about making us better basketball players. I can deal with a coach attacking me to make me better. But I can't deal with someone attacking my character. I can't deal with someone attacking my integrity, what I stand for and what I believe in. And that was the hardest part for me.

(Cash was asked other questions regarding UConn before she again asked about her experience this year in Detroit)

People questioned me all season long because I didn't say anything. They questioned, 'Oh Cash is inconsistent.' But if you watch basketball, you understand that a player can't go in and out of games and still have the production or the confidence to do the things they're supposed to do. Once somebody is playing mind games with you, that's hard.

He (Laimbeer) asked me to come back and be more consistent with my outside shot. And I think if you look at the earlier games, before all the mind games starting coming on, I was playing fine. I was rebounding, I was doing the things he was asking of me. Physically I had lost a few pounds and that's something that comes with stress. But other than that I felt like I was my old self. My speed was back, and then after the All-Star break, a lot of that just comes with a lot of other things that weren't related.

Question: Are there areas you feel like you’ve improved in?
Cash: With my game, yeah, I felt like there were some things I've gotten better at. Old Swin, this is the thing I always tell people. You ask me what I did and what I established in this league at the 3-position (small forward position), I posted up 3s, and I was dominant in there because I was able to post up a 3 that was smaller.

Now if you try to put me at the four (power forward) position and ask me to post up against a 6-5 player, you be the judge. Is my advantage to face them up or is my advantage to post them up? And I was asked because of our system in Detroit this year to post up against 4 and 5 players. It's like me posting against Cheryl Ford. So people were like, ‘Why isn't she in the post doing stuff?’ Well give me the ball and let me pull somebody out and there’s nobody in the league that can stop me.

Question: Has this only made you a stronger person?
Cash: I grew up in Harrison Village and I just didn't grow up under Cynthia Cash. My mother's a strong woman, the people in my family are strong women. But that community brought my adversity than I'm going to get from Bill Laimbeer or any other coach. I'm not going to break, I'm not going to crumble. I may hurt but you best believe like Coach Thibault said, I'm going to be an All-Star again, I'm going to be at the top of this league like I know I can be because I have that God-given ability and for me not to use it, for me that would be a sin. I'm not going to let anybody hold me back from doing that.

I'll tell you one thing: It's made a stronger person than I already was. You ask Coach Auriemma, you ask anyone. I've always been a strong person. Sue will tell you that. But at the end of the day, there is non one — no one — that could have been through what he put me through and what I had to deal with this season and come back and have the year that I'm going to have next season. And I can guarantee you that.

(Cash then detailed the injuries she's had to come back from in recent years, including her knee and back injuries) I played the whole season with the same thing that Sheryl Swoopes has, and you tell me I can't get a little respect and come off the floor at the end of the day? No, because I played out there and I played through pain like anybody else. At the end of the day, and everything is a learning experience.

(End of recording)

Cash went on to say she plans to put her house in Detroit on the market, further demonstrating her intentions of not returning to the Shock.

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