Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A little more on Turner, etc.

The Sun play their fifth game in eight days tonight when they host the rolling Houston Comets. Here' some notes, news and analysis entering the game (7 p.m., www.connecticutsun.com):

(1) Barbara Turner was the focus of today's preview, which centered around her finding a comfort zone back in Connecticut, thanks to an improved jump shot and the opportunity for more time within the Sun's revamped rotation.

"I'm definitely happy, and I say a lot of that has to do with my coaching staff," Turner said. "They've communicated with me a lot, especially Coach (Bernadette) Mattox and Coach (Scott) Hawk. They're constantly giving me pointers on my outside shot, constantly giving me pointers on what I need to do to become a better defender.

"I'm not saying I didn't have that in the past," she added. "It's just a lot more hands-on. It's in a way where I understand it a lot better."

There's more to Turner's story, however. One is how she got here. Like the Sun, the Comets also went through their own overhaul this season, nearly replacing their entire backcourt in the search of more experience at the point guard position and better shooters on the wing. Turner, essentially, was a casualty of that, as head coach/general manager Karleen Thomspon was in search of a pure shooter. The one she traded Turner for (Megan Mahoney) never made it out of training camp, however, with the emergence of rookies Matee Ajavon and Erica White and addition of veterans Shannon Johnson and Mwadi Mabika.

The Sun, meanwhile, viewed it as a low-risk move. Megan Mahoney, who had spent two seasons in Connecticut but never saw substantial playing time.

"We traded her for somebody who probably was going to get any more minutes than she had before with this team, especially with knowing who were going to get in the draft," Sun coach Mike Thibault said. "That's not a knock on Megan. It was just that Megan had been here a couple years and her status probably wasn't going to change. You should take a chance on another player that has a lot of upside and that's how we viewed it.

"And if it didn't work out," he continued, "we weren't probably any worse off than we were before. So it's been a huge plus for us. I can't say we were any geniuses about it, just that we did our homework on what she had done in the offseason."

I've written before about Turner's offseason work (look toward the bottom of the list of stories to the right). She took nearly 2,500 shots a day with former NBA coach John Lucas over the winter, and essentially made herself into the shooter Houston wanted.

"No, she doesn't (surprise me)," Thompson said of Turner. "She really doesn't because one thing about Barbara is she works hard all the time. She gives you 150 percent every single time, and the thing that I'm seeing she's improved on is her shooting from the 3-point arc. She was what you would call a 'tweener. So for her to be able to post up the smaller guards and then shoot from out here, it makes it hard to defend."

Thompson seemed genuine in her praise of Turner. When informed by the Comets' public relations manager that she may be asked some questions about Turner, she said that's fine. "I love Barb."

But everyone does. It'd be hard to find any player or coach who doesn't rave about Turner's work ethic or personality. She continues to stay in close contact with close friend, Tina Thompson.

"Barbara's really silly," Thompson said. "And I think that's where our personalities differ. She plays a lot, she jokes."

For one, the two have had a running joke, where if one gets a post-game interview after a TV game, she gives us a shout-out to the other. Turner has already done this at least once following her career-high 18-point performance in a win at Minnesota.

"So I said, 'Just wait, I will have my interview day and when it happens, you will be in trouble,'" Thompson said, laughing.

"She doesn't pay me mind anyway," Turner said. "We have that type of rapport. We can so tease each other all the time. I talk to her a lot of the time."

Thompson admittedly is the more serious one of the friendship. And Turner can be serious when the times come. (Did you see her against Diana Taurasi Sunday?) Of course, there are times when she's not.

"She just laughs at anything," Thompson said. "You can pronounce a word wrong or whatever and Barb will think it's the funniest thing and she'll laugh for like three minutes. It's kind of like, 'OK … go ahead and laugh, let me know when you're finished and we'll continue the conversation.'

"And it doesn't matter who it is," she added. "It can be the coach. It can be a serious pre-game meeting, and you might fumble or a word or something, and she'll just crack up laughing at the most inopportune moments."

(2) Karleen Thompson's take on the Sun:

"(Connecticut) is definitely high-energy. I think Mike Thibault is one of the best coaches in this league. He can take anything and get them to play for him. I think that's what's going on. They're just hungry, they play hard. It's good to see Barbara doing her thing. Tamika Whitmore, I've coached her. So he has those types of players that step up, against all odds."

(3) Something rare happened Sunday against Phoenix: The Sun, more specifically Asjha Jones, won the opening tip. The bench went into a mini-celebration afterward, with Tamika Raymond saying, "We got one! We got one!"

"It's weird. I haven't done it (take jump balls) since high school," Jones said. "When I don't get one everybody notices. So when I get one, I'm look, 'Did you see me get the jump ball? Did you see me? I got it.'"

(4) I'll have more on the Comets in this week's upcoming WNBA notes column, but there are several keys to their recent rise after a 1-7 start. They've continued to rebound (second in the league in differential), they're playing better defense (four of their last seven opponents haven't broken 70 points) and players beyond Tina Thompson have stepped up. Sancho Lyttle has scored 23 and 15 points in her last two games with Thompson out, Matee Ajavon is averaging 9.6 points off the bench and Michelle Snow has recored three double-doubles this season, including games of 17 points-11 rebounds and 17-16 in two of her last three games.

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