Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Update: Sun rout Shock in home finale

Renee Montgomery scored 22 points, Asjha Jones added 18 and the Connecticut Sun, already eliminated from playoff contention, went out on a high note at home Tuesday with a 90-62 victory over the Tulsa Shock in this season's Mohegan Sun Arena finale.

Tina Charles (10 points, 10 rebounds) added to her WNBA record total with her 21st double-double, and Sandrine Gruda chipped in 13 points for the Sun (16-16), who matched their season win total from a year ago.

The Sun have two more regular-season games remaining, Friday at Chicago and Sunday at New York.

Update: Sun lead Tulsa at break

Renee Montgomery has 11 points, Asjha Jones has nine and the Sun lead the last-place Tulsa Shock, 41-34, at halftime here at Mohegan Sun Arena.

The Sun led by as many as 16 before the Shock cut it to four points with under a minute to play in the second quarter. But a Jones three-point play stopped the bleeding just before the half. The Sun are shooting 47.2 percent from the floor while Tulsa is shooting 31.6 percent.

A wasted week? Hardly

As a head coach, this is a new experience for Mike Thibault.

The Connecticut Sun, eliminated from playoff contention with Sunday's 79-66 loss to the Indiana Fever, begin the first of three games tonight that many would consider meaningless. In Thibault's eight-year tenure, Connecticut's only been in this position once before -- last year -- but it only had to endure one game that didn't have any relevance toward a playoff spot.

But three games? Never before, including during his years as Omaha's head coach in the CBA, has Thibault found himself in this position.

But he has been through it in the past, as an assistant coach with the Chicago Bulls in the early 1980s.

"Our first two years in Chicago, when we rebuilt the team" we were in this situation, Thibault said Monday night. "We went thorugh this process. The first year was just OK and the second year was better. We had a long way to go and we got better and we just worked through it. We knew both of those years we weren’t goign to be in the playoffs a little while before the playoffs, especially the first year.

"The third year we added (Michael) Jordan and got better and made the playoffs late in the season. In my fourth year, Jordan missed 60 perent of the season or more with an injury (broken bone in his foot) and we still got in. We lost to Boston in the playoffs when Jordan had a big game (a playoff-record 63 points in Game 2 of the series).

"We knew it was going to be a process to get better. I’ve watched other teams go through it on our league and you hope it’s not ever you. But the reality is if you want to build an organization up the right way, patience is the hardest virtue. For everybody."

Thibault said the preparation didn't change for tonight's game with Tulsa (7:30 p.m., CSN). The team still had practice, still did the regular amount of opponent prep.

"That’s their job," Thibault said of the players. "Most of them are going to be here next year. ... We’re going to use this week to keep getting better. There’s going to be carry over from this year to next, hopefully in a positive way."

And there were encouraging signs, too, he said.

"Two players remarked that even though we lost (Sunday), there was kind of a turning point in figuring a few things out," Thibault said. "It was just a sense that they had about the team. It was just an unsolicited opinion. They felt we got beat down the stretch on experience by a great player (Indiana's Tamika Catchings, who scored 26 points). We have a ways to go to reach that level but we’re heading in the right direction."

Monday, August 16, 2010

Hightower will 'probably' miss rest of season

Rookie guard Allison Hightower, who’s missed the last two games with an unspecified illness, is “probably” going to miss the rest of the season, Sun coach Mike Thibault said Monday.

Hightower approached team trainer Jeremy Norman before the weekend about not feeling well. She was on the bench but did not dress for each of the last two games.

“I really cant say right now” what it is, Thibault said. “There are some tests being run. We really don’t know, and I’m not at liberty to talk about it” due to the HIPAA Privacy Rule.

“She just hasn’t felt well,” he added.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Update: Fever end Sun's playoff hopes; Charles set two records

Tina Charles set new WNBA records for rebounds and double-doubles in the season, but the Connecticut Sun couldn't avoid elimination from playoff contention, falling, 79-66, to the Indiana Fever on Sunday at Mohegan Sun Arena.

Charles finished with 18 points and 13 rebounds, her 20th double-double of the season, breaking a tie with Utah's Natalie Williams. She now has 368 rebounds, which eclipsed Cheryl Ford's mark from 2006 of 363.

The Sun's (15-16) loss combined with the Washington Mystics' 80-71 victory over Seattle mathematically eliminated the Sun from reaching the playoffs.

Update: Sun trail at half; Mystics win

Renee Montgomery has eight points and six assists, and the Sun were able to trim a 12-point deficit to five by halftime, 42-37, against the Indiana Fever.

Tamika Catchings has 13 points for Indiana.

Meanwhile, the Washington Mystics beat the Seattle Storm, 80-71, to improve to 19-12. The Sun need to win today to avoid elimination from playoff contention. Indiana, New York and Atlanta have already clinched spots in the East. Connecticut currently trails the Mystics by 3 1/2 games.

Keep an eye on the District

Greetings from Mohegan Sun Arena. The tip for the Sun-Fever is abot 30 minutes away, but follow the Washington Mystics-Seattle Storm game here.

A Mystics win and Sun loss eliminates the Sun from playoff contention. Lauren Jackson, who sat with back spasms Friday at Connecticut, started and played eight minutes of the first quarter in Washington.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Update: Sun thump Storm but gain no ground

Asjha Jones scored 19 points, Tina Charles had 14 with five rebounds and the Connecticut Sun throttled the shorthanded Seattle Storm, 88-68, on Friday at Mohegan Sun Arena.

The Sun (15-15) didn't gain any significant ground toward a playoff spot, however. Fourth-plce Washington, up three games on Connecticut for the East's final postseason berth, rallied past Minnesota, 61-58, to hold their lead in the standings, now with four games to play.

Seattle (25-5) played without MVP candidate Lauren Jackson, who sat with back spasms. With the Western conference's top seed already locked up, Storm coach Brian Agler also chose to play his starters sparingly.

Tan White added 15 points for the Sun, who host Indiana on Sunday.

Dont mind me ...

Funny moment during a timeout in the game.

The Sun staff was in section 14 here at Mohegan Sun Arena to award a prize pack to a fan. But with the spotlight hovering over the section, fans may have noticed a girl pulling a green hood over her head as she ducked behind the seat.

It was none other than Caroline Doty, the UConn junior who dominated headlines around the state yesterday and this morning after the school announced she'd miss the upcoming season with a torn ACL.

Of all places in the arena, right?

Doty was sitting with fellow Huskies Tiffany Hayes and Heather Buck, as well as Sun draft pick Danielle McCray.

Scoreboard watching

Follow the Washington-Minnesota game here.

Minnesota was up, 40-29, at halftime, but Washington cut it tow, 52-50, by the end of the third quarter.

Update: Washington rallied past Minnesota for a 61-58 victory. Given the Sun hold on to their 30-point lead (75-45 with 8:36 left) here against Seattle, they'll finish tonight still trailing the Mystics by three games with four to play.

Update: Sun up big on Storm at half

Asjha Jones has 15 points, Tina Charles has 10 with four rebounds, and the Sun built a 52-33 halftime lead over shorthanded Seattle here at Mohegan Sun Arena.

The Storm are without MVP candidate Lauren Jackson, who's sitting because of back spasms. None of Seattle's starters playing more than nine minutes.

The Sun, meanwhile, have taken advantage. They shot 60 percent in the first half, outrebounded the Storm, 21-12, and went on a 10-2 over the first and second quarters.

Anete Jekabsone-Zogota checked into the game with 7:29 left in the second quarter for her first action since June 27. She has been out after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery on July 8. She hit a 3-pointer with 4:01 remaining until the half.

In other news, rookie Allison Hightower didn’t feel well before the game, a Sun spokesperson said, and didn’t dress. She is expected to be reevaluated following the game.

Sun draft pick Danielle McCray, who is sitting out this season as she rehabs from ACL surgery, is in attendance.

Former UConn teammates feel for Doty

Tina Charles and Renee Montgomery knew since late July that UConn junior Caroline Doty had injured her knee.

But neither they nor Doty knew how severe the injury was until doctors confirmed the guard had torn the ACL in her left knee, the third ACL injury of her young career. UConn said Thursday she will miss the entire 2010-11 season.

On Friday, Charles and Montgomery's hearts went out to Doty, who is expected to attend tonight's Connecticut Sun-Seattle Storm game here at Mohegan Sun Arena. Neither of the Sun players had spoken to Doty in depth since UConn confirmed her injury Thursday, though she sent out a mass text to the "UConn family," Charles said, to let everyone know about the situation.

"I feel sorry for her just because of the process to get back," Montgomery said. "You see how hard someone works to get back in the beginning and everything they go through just to get back to where they were. And now having to do everything all over ... it’s just a sad situation."

Montgomery said Doty suffered the injury "just working out," and that she had suffered a 75 percent tear of the ligament. Charles said that Doty didn't initially think she had torn it because "it didn’t feel like it felt the same way it had the second time."

Doty first suffered an ACL tear while playing varsity soccer as a senior in high school. She then tore the ligament in the opposite knee 17 games into her freshman season on Jan. 17, 2009.

"That’s the thing, too, usually when somebody’s torn it once, they know what the feeling is," Montgomery said. "She did tear it 75 percent so it’s not all the way. But that’s just rough, especially because if you didn’t think it was (torn) and then you go to the doctor and they’re like, ‘Yeah, it is,’ it’s like, ‘Oh my goodness.’"

Both Charles and Montgomery, however, feel Doty has the kind of mindset to make a full recovery -- again.

"If she has the same mindset that she had the year before last, then I think she’ll be fine," Charles said. "(Her focus back then was) just get back on the court. Right at that time, she was just peaking from that, you know, freshman mindset that you don’t want to step on anybody’s toes. I think around that time that she tore it against Syracuse, it was kind of hard for her.

"She’ll be fine. She has that kind of mindset that you need just to be at UConn anyway. She has that kind of mentality, that determination to get back on the court for her teammates."

Charles added that she thinks Doty will be a "great vocal leader" for UConn this season, just as she was after her second injury.

"It’s easy to be selfish when something like that happens," Montgomery said. "You feel sorry for yourself and pout around all the time and bring everyone else down around you. But she was our No. 1 fan, cheering during the games. I think she really took a selfless approach.

Jackson to not start

Lauren Jackson is not among the Seattle Storm's starters for tonight's game against Connecticut, a break for the Sun as they try to stay mathematically eligible for a playoff berth.

Jackson could be seen trying to stretch her back during pre-game exercises. The Storm have already clinched the top seed in the West, so they have nothing left to gain from a victory tonight.

Former Sun forward Le'Coe Willingham will start in Jackson's place.

The rest of the starters remain the same from previous games. Renee Montgomery, Kara Lawson, Kelsey Griffin, Asjha Jones and Tina Charles will start for the Sun. Sue Bird, Tanisha Wright, Swin Cash and Camille Little make up the rest of Seattle's first five.

The Sun trail fourth-place Washington by three games with five to play for the East's final playoff spot. Washington hosts Minnesota tonight, starting at 7 p.m.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Jekabsone-Zogota may play against Storm

Anete Jekabsone-Zogota, who is recovering from July 8 arthroscopic knee surgery, participated in a full practice with the Connecticut Sun for the first time Thursday, and may see her first game action since June 27 on Friday against the Seattle Storm.

But Jekabsone-Zogota admits she is still far from 100 percent, and said it "depends on how the game goes" if she plays, adding if the score is tight, she may not come off the bench.

"Right now I need to be mentally stronger," the guard/forward said. "It’s really hard for me to understand that maybe nothing will happen and push myself more. But when I come to the court to practice, I’m really slow and thinking about my knee. When I’m at home, I’m like, ‘OK, I’m ready, let’s go,’ and I work hard.

"It is hard. When you don’t have injury, some things you don’t understand. But when it happens to you, you understand how hard it is to come back."

Asked if the Sun had to use her, in case of fouls for example, Jekabsone-Zogota said, "Then of course, I would play." But she said she needs more time practicing before she feels fully confident in her ability to contribute.

"Even you can go do the same speed," Jekabsone-Zogota said to a reporter. "In defense, I was really, really bad. I just need more practice with the team, just to use the leg."

The Sun (14-15) are three games behind fourth-place Washington for the final playoff spot in the East with five games to play. They were 9-4 before Jekabsone-Zogota, their best perimeter scorer, injured her knee at the New York Liberty and are 5-11 since.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Update: Sun keep playoff hopes alive, Charles breaks record

Tina Charles finished with 17 points and 14 rebounds, breaking the WNBA's rookie single-season record for double-doubles, and the Connecticut Sun kept their playoff hopes alive Sunday with a 76-67 victory over the Washington Mystics, the team their chasing in the Eastern Conference standings.

Charles broke a tie with Candace Parker (2008) and Yolanda Griffith (1999) with her 18th double-double, and now is one shy of the overall league record of 19, held by Natalie Williams (Utah, 2000). Charles also had eight blocks, the second most in a single game in franchise history, to help the Sun snap a four-game losing streak.

Asjha Jones added 17 points for Connecticut (14-14), which plays the Mystics (16-12) on Tuesday in Washington in another crucial game. The Sun trail the Mystics by two games with six to play for the final playoff spot in the East.

Hey Ray

Celtics guard and former UConn star Ray Allen is in attendance for today's Sun-Mystics game. He sat down in section 12 with two others roughly midway through the third quarter.

Allen participated in the Jim Calhoun Charity All-Star Game last night, also held her at Mohegan Sun Arena. Allen walked behind the Sun's bench and playfully tapped coach Mike Thibault's son, Eric -- an assistant to the Sun staff -- on the head as he walked by before taking his seat.

Update: Sun trail at half, 37-34

Tina Charles has seven points and four rebounds in a balanced scoring effort by the Sun, but they hit just 7-of-13 free throws and trail Washington, 37-34, at the half here at Mohegan Sun Arena.

Crystal Langhorne has 10 points for the Mystics, who led by as many as nine before the Sun tied it, 32-32, with 1:04 to play in the second quarter.

'Hey, Anete, they wanna know if you're playing'

Greetings everyone. Just arrived at Mohegan Sun Arena and tip-off between the Sun and Mystics is about an hour away.

The Sun and coach Mike Thibault have had a busy pre-game thus far. The team posed for its annual picture and then posed for a photo with its Legends ticket-holders, those who've had season tickets each season the Sun have been in Connecticut. Thibault then held a half-hour 'chalk talk' with fans inside Mohegan Sun Arena, fielding questions largely about about why the team has struggled to a 13-14 record that has it on the outside of the playoff picture looking in.

At one point, a fan asked if Anete Jekabsone-Zogota -- who was shooting on the court throughout nearly the entire Q & A session -- would play. Jekabsone-Zogota has been out since June 27 and underwent arthroscopic knee surgery more than four weeks ago.

A smiling Thibault, who was talking into a microphone piped in through the arena speakers, turned to Jekabsone-Zogota and said, "Hey, Anete, they wanna know if you're playing." Jekabsone-Zogota smiled and shook her head, indicating neither yes or no.

"Even she doesn't know," Thibault quipped.

Jekabsone-Zogota is exepcted to dress for the second straight game, but it remains to be seen if Thibault uses her. She's not in the projected starting lineup, where she played in each of her 14 games she's appeared in.

As for today, a loss could all but end the Sun's playoff hopes. They're three games back of Washington and New York for a playoff spot, and a loss to the Mystics (with another game looming with them Tuesday) would drop the Sun four games back with six to play and no longer holding the season-series tiebreaker; they currently lead it 2-1.

Though in that situation, it's mathematically possible to rally to a postseason berth, it'd likely take a six-game winning streak to close the season -- or close to it -- and a late slide by either of the current playoff teams to make it happen.

That's not to say the Sun haven't responded in a similar situation before. Sun media relations manager Bill Tavares reminisced about the 2003 season, when the Sun needed to close out the regular-season with two straight wins before playing Indiana in a do-or-die, one-game playoff for a postseason berth. They beat Charlotte and Washington on back-to-back nights and then topped Indiana at Conseco Fieldhouse to qualify for the playoffs. Once there, they swept Charlotte in the first round before Detroit swept them out of the Eastern Conference finals.

As for what else to watch out for today: Tina Charles needs one more double-double to set the all-time WNBA rookie season record; she's currently tied with Candace Parker (2008) and Yolanda Griffith (1999) with 17. With seven games to play, she has a great chance to surpass Natalie Williams (2000) for the overall WNBA season record of 19.

Please note, however, that Washington is the only team in the WNBA this season besides Seattle to hold Charles without a double-double. Of the league's other nine teams, Charles has recorded at least one against them; Seattle 'held' her to 23 points and seven rebounds on Thursday.

In the Sun's three games with Washington this season, Charles has done the following:
* May 23: 10 points, eight rebounds
* May 30: 13 points, nine rebounds
* July 27: 15 points, nine rebounds

So she's been close. Stay tuned.

Also, the Sun are wearing pink uniforms today for its Pack the Place Pink promotion to promote breast cancer awareness.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Charles WNBA's Rookie of the Month, again

Sun center Tina Charles was named the Rookie of the Month for games played in July on Tuesday, marking the third consecutive month she's earned the honor.

Charles averaged a double-double for the month, leading all rookies in points (14.2 per game) and rebounds (10.6), and ranking second overall in boards. Charles also averaged a rookie- and team-best 1.6 blocks per game. A career-high 27-point, 20-rebound and four-block performance against Atlanta was the highlight.

The Sun play at Minnesota tonight (8 p.m., CSN-NE).

Friday, July 30, 2010

Jones hits 3,000

With 16 points Friday against the Atlanta Dream, Asjha Jones reached 3,000 points in her WNBA career. As a member of the Sun, she scored 2,502, putting her fifth all-time in franchise history. She is 76 points shy of Katie Douglas for fourth place. Nykesha Sales is the franchise's all-time leading scorer at 3,955.

Update; Dream cream Sun, 94-62

The Atlanta Dream orchestrated a 25-0 run over the second and third quarters, and led by as many as 39 points at Mohegan Sun Arena to decimate the Sun, 94-62, their worst loss of the season.

Update (10:20 p.m.): The loss was also the worst in franchise hsitory. The 32-point setback eclipsed the Sun's 29-point loss to Indiana in May 2008. The 86 points the Sun gave up through three quarters also set a franchise mark. The Dream had tied the previous record of 81 points in a victory over the Sun on May 21 at Philips Arena.

McCoughtry scored 20 points, and Iziane Castro Marques, held scoreless less than two weeks ago here, added 17 for Atlanta (17-9).

They weren’t even the worst of Connecticut’s (13-11) problems. The Sun committed a season-high 23 turnovers, were outshot, 88-68, and never even made it a game in the second half. Atlanta scored the final 13 points of the second quarter and the first 12 of the third.

Asjha Jones led the Sun with 16 points, 12 coming in the first half.

Update: Dream up big on Sun at half

Angel McCoughtry has 13 points and Atlanta finished the second half with 13 unanswered points to take a 53-36 halftime lead over the Sun here at Mohegan Sun Arena.

The Sun trailed, 26-17, after the first quarter, but got to within four points, 40-36, behind Asjha Jones (12 points). But the Dream thrived in the open floor, and McCoughtry made the most of 16 shot attempts. At one point in the second quarter, she lost her dribble and fell to the seat of her pants, where she banked in a 12-footer from the right side over Jones and Kelsey Griffin.

Kelly Miller hit a 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer.

Another key stat: Atlanta has 11 second-chance points. The Sun have zero.

Jekabsone-Zogota still working way back

Anete Jekabsone-Zogota was walking down the hallway outside the Connecticut locker room Friday night, decked out in a blue Sun T-shirt and her official game shorts when DeMya Walker stopped her.

"Oooh, are those game shorts?" Walker said, excited about the prospect that Jekabsone-Zogota was suiting up to play.

Jekabsone-Zogota laughed and shook her head. No, she wasn't preparing to play tonight. In fact, it may be a little longer than she expected until she does return.

Just over three weeks removed from arthoscopic surgery on her right knee, Jekabsone-Zogota still doesn't feel healthy enough to endure full basketball activities. Coach Mike Thibault said last week that she could possibly return to practice soon, but Jekabsone-Zogota said she may "need more time," perhaps past the two-to-four-week timetable doctors initially gave her following her July 8 surgery.

"I feel good -- when I don’t have to do something on the court," Jekabsone-Zogota deadpanned. "When I start to do some defense stuff or running or more basketball stuff, it still bothers my knee. Maybe I need more time. I’m still not ready to go and play. ... I wish I could really start (playing) faster and be with the team faster on the court."

Jekabsone-Zogota has looked good during her workouts with team trainer Jeremy Norman and strength coach Jodi Hopkins during practices and before games. But while her knee feels less sore, she's still not confident in it.

This is the first time Jekabsone-Zogota has gone through rehab for a major injury. In the days following her surgery, she felt she could return within the original timetable, perhaps even faster. But Friday, she said, "I will not make any more (goals). I’ll see how my leg is feeling."

"Maybe it takes longer to (come back) because I don’t know how it is and I’m more mentally scared now," she said. "Maybe it still needs to heal more, a week, maybe longer. But I talked to Coach (Thibault) this morning and he said, ‘Take your time. When you feel ready, then you’ll be back.’

"It’s not because I’m scared, I’m not going to go practice. My knee just isn’t ready."

Jekabsone-Zogota injured her knee at New York on June 27 and later underwent surgery at Backus Hospital in Norwich. Including that loss to the Liberty in which she played just five minutes, the Sun are 4-6 without her, and have missed her ball-handling, passing and ability to spread defenses with her shooting. The Latvian guard was shooting 35.4 percent from 3 and averaging 9.3 points per game when she was injured.

Jekabsone-Zogota still has a sense of humor about her injury, though. Asked about her biggest limitation during her rehab, she laughed and said, "I can’t be so fast.

"I’m too slow now," she added.

This and that on Sun-Dream

Tonight's game between the Connecticut Sun and Atlanta Dream is the fourth and final meeting between the two teams and second in less than two weeks. The Dream hold a 2-1 edge in the season series, making this a key game for the Sun who are chasing Atlanta in the standings and can't afford to not have as many as tiebreakers as possible for playoff positioning.

To Sun coach Mike Thibalt, this already is a playoff game.

"These are like playoff games," he said of the Sun's final 11 games. "The two teams know each other. It’s a little bit a test of wills, a little bit of who executes better, a little bit of who plays smarter. It’s all those things. You gotta win some of those areas. I told our players before the Washington game, it’s who can play at the high level the longest in the game. A test of wills.

"These are all playoff games, in our conference," he re-emphasized. "Can you stay out of foul trouble? Can you not turn it over in crucial situations. That’s going to determine most games."

Here's some tidbits on the teams' previous meetings thus far:

Friday, May 21: Atlanta, 97, Sun 82
Highlights: These are lowlights from the Sun's perspective. Playing without Asjha Jones and Sandrine Gruda in their second game of the season -- and first on the road -- the Sun allowed Atlanta to run wild in transition, namely Angel McCoughtry (32 points) and Iziane Castro Marques (18 points).

Thibault earned a technical in this one, and the Sun scored just nine points in the second quarter, the beginning of the end in the rout.

Wednesday, July 7: Atlanta, 108-103 (OT)
Highlights: In the Sun's final game before the All-Star break, Atlanta handed them their third straight loss again behind McCoughtry and Castro Marques (32 points apiece).

Despite the loss, the Sun took a step forward out of their midseason slump, shutting down Atlanta's transition game late but not having enough for a red-hot McCoughtry in overtime in Atlanta.

Saturday, July 17: Sun 96, Atlanta 80
Highlights: The Sun held Castro Marques scoreless and though McCoughtry got her points (27), she needed 26 shots to do it at Mohegan Sun Arena. Tina Charles did her usual thing (22 points, 14 rebounds) and Kara Lawson netted 18 points.

Sancho Lyttle was playing her second game since coming back from a concussion and poured in 12 points and 11 rebounds for Atlanta.

Sun to recognize Sales

Former Sun star Nykesha Sales will be honored by the team on Aug. 15 during Connecticut's game against the Indiana Fever at Mohegan Sun Arena.

Sales, who last played with the Sun during the 2007 season, is the team's all-time leader in points scored (3,955) and games played (278), having played in 248 straight from June 10, 1999 and July 6, 2006. The seven-time All-Star was part of the Sun teams that twice reached the WNBA Finals in 2004 and 2005 and the Eastern Conference finals from 2003-2006.

Sales took a hiatus from the WNBA shortly before the 2008 season, but has not officially retired and is still competing overseas.

"We are glad to have the chance to honor Nykesha for her contribution to the Connecticut Sun," Sun GM Chris Sienko said in a press release. "It has been a long time comingm, but we are grateful that Nykesha will allow us to say thnak you for everything she did for our fracnhise. We hope fans will come out and do just that."

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Update: Sun right ship, top Mystics

Asjha Jones scored a season-high 23 points and Renee Montgomery added 17 to help the Connecticut Sun hold off the Washington Mystics, 88-78, on Tuesday and snap a two-game skid at Mohegan Sun Arena.

Tina Charles added 15 points and nine rebounds, and Kara Lawson scored 11 for the Sun, who after starting 8-1 at home had dropped their previous two here last week.

Crystal Langhorne netted a team-high 23 points for the Mystics (13-9). The fourth-place Sun (13-10) moved within a half-game of Washington in the Eastern Conference standings.

Update: Sun up on Mystics at half

Asjha Jones has 11 points and the Sun used an 11-0 run early in the second quarter to create a 43-31 hafltime cushion over Washington here at Mohegan Sun Arena.

Renee Montgomery has nine points, sinking three of her team's seven 3-pointers, and the Sun shot 45.7 percent, hitting many of the open shots they missed Saturday against Los Angeles. They also led 19-16 after the first quarter, the first time in eight games they've led after the opening frame.

Crystal Langhorne has 14 points for Washington, which leads the Sun by 1 1/2 games in the Eastern Conference standings.

Griffin playing with brace

Kelsey Griffin isn't sure how it happened or what exactly she did to her shoulder. But the rookie forward, who's second among first-year players in rebounding (4.8 per game), doesn't plan on missing time because of it.

Griffin will play tonight with a brace on her left shoulder after injuring it Saturday against Los Angeles. She was forced to leave the game with roughly a minute left in the first half when her shoulder apparently popped out and back into the socket -- or at least that's what probably happened.

"I was dribbling baseline. I really don’t know exactly what happened," she said. "I just know it didn’t feel right. If it did pop out, it did pop back in. I remember turning the ball over, and then I remember it not feeling great and then feeling more sore."

This isn't the first time Griffin's injured the shoulder. She also hurt it working out while in college. She played with a brace then, too.

"I was just doing incline dumbbell bench press and I just had too much weight on it," she said. "So this is nothing new."

Since Anete Jekabsone-Zogota's knee injury, Griffin's been counted on for more, topping 20 minutes in five games after playing that much just twice in the month before Jekabsone-Zogota went down. Griffin's averaging 5.4 points, and brings toughness and an unmatched motor to the Sun's starting lineup. Case in point: She took a charge Saturday AFTER she hurt her shoulder.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Update: Sparks bury Sun with 3-point barrage

The Los Angeles Sparks hit a franchise-record 15 3-pointers to hand the Connecticut Sun their second loss at home in as many games, 89-80, at Mohegan Sun Arena on Saturday.

The 3-point total also marked the most Connecticut (12-10) has ever given up and accounted for half of the Sparks' (7-16) field goals. The league record is 16 3-pointers, last accomplished by Phoenix this season.

Tan White scored 13 points, and Renee Montomgery netted 14 to lead five players in double figures for the Sun.

Lawson in starting lineup

Greetings from Mohegan Sun Arena. The Sun and Sparks square off in under an hour here, but as for pre-game news, Kara Lawson, who was questionable with a knee injury, is in the Sun's starting lineup.

But be aware: Lawson felt good enough to go before Tuesday's game against New York, but left in the first half and never returned. She'll play point guard, with Renee Montgomery and Allison Hightower backing her up off the bench.

Tan White, Kelsey Griffin, Asjha Jones and Tina Charles, as usual, will also be starting for the Sun. For the Sparks, Ticha Penicheiro, Noelle Quinn, Marie Ferdinand-Harris, DeLisha Milton-Jones and Tina Thompson are starting, playing their 13th game since Candace Parker was sidelined for the season with a shoulder injury.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Lawson may sit out Saturday against Sparks

An ongoing knee injury may sideline Lawson for Saturday's game against the Los Angeles Sparks (7 p.m., CSN), four days after she was forced to sit out the second half of an 82-74 overtime loss to New York.

Described by Lawson as a “wear and tear” issue, the injury kept the veteran guard from practice Friday. She said she’ll see how she feels in today’s pre-game shootaround before determining if she can play. If she’s healthy enough, she’ll start, Sun coach Mike Thibault said.

Lawson’s already played through a dislocated shoulder this season.

“You know if you can go or you can’t go,” Lawson said, adding her knee has improved every day since Tuesday’s game. “... I wish I had a concrete answer for you, but that’s the way my knee is. You can’t predict anything.”

If Lawson doesn’t play, she’ll join Anete Jekabsone-Zogota (arthroscopic knee surgery) on the inactive list for the Sun, who’ll be left with nine available players. Rookie Allison Hightower, never a point guard in her career, has played the position often in practice this week with good results, Thibault said.

“That’s the beauty of the game: You’re always thrown something that you weren’t expecting,” Lawson said. “You just have to look at the optimistic side of it ... and not, ‘Oh (shoot), we don’t have Nettie, we don’t have this.’ Look at it as an opportunity to get someone some experience."

Lawson said she'd rather be cautious with three games awaiting the Sun in less than a week.

"We have a lot of games in a short period of time so you want to be able to play, but you want to be able to play 12 more games ... not be all your eggs into (today’s) game and then you’re out for a couple games after that," she said. "It’s gotten better every day, so that’s a good sign."

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Update: Charles, Sun top Dream

Tina Charles recorded her 15th double-double with 22 points and 14 rebounds, and the Sun pulled away from the Eastern Conference-leading Atlanta Dream to score a 96-80 victory at Mohegan Sun Arena on Saturday.

Kara Lawson added 18 points and Asjha Jones had 15 for Connecticut (12-8), which used a 16-2 run spanning the third and fourth quarters to beat Atlanta (14-8) for the first time in three meetings this season.

Angel McCoughtry scored 27 points before fouling out for the Dream, who have lost three straight. Atlanta sorely missed the presence of Iziane Castro Marques, who didn't score amid foul trouble. Marques and McCoughtry each scored 32 points the last time against the Sun, a 108-103 Dream victory in overtime.

The Sun now trail Atlanta by just a game in the East standings.

Update: Sun trail at half

Tina Charles had 11 points and eight rebounds, but missed lay-ups and ill-time turnovers have the Sun trailing Atlanta, 41-39, at the half here at Mohegan Sun Arena.

Angel McCoughtry and Erika de Souza each have 10 points for the East-leading Dream, who have lost two straight and three of their last four. Atlanta is outrebounding Connecticut, 29-23, and led the Sun by as many as 10 points thanks to 30.3 percent shooting by Connecticut.

Iziane Castro Marques, who scored 32 points the last time against the Sun, has zero points and three fouls, including a flagrant foul on Tan White early in the first quarter.

Lyttle to start for Dream

Hello all. The Sun-Atlanta Dream game here at Mohegan Sun Arena is a little over 30 minutes away, and the Dream have already lost something. In traveling from Indiana, where they lost to the Fever 89-70 on Friday, the team's luggage was misplaced, apparently leaving them with nothing but their uniforms.

They will, however, have All-Star forward Sancho Lyttle in the starting lineup tonight. Lyttle, who missed two games and the 'Stars at the Sun' All-Star event after sustaining a concussion, will return to the starting lineup alongside Erika de Souza, Angel McCoughtry, Iziane Castro Marques, and Shalee Lehning. She returned to game action last night, but didn't start, scoring 10 points in 20 minutes off the bench.

The Sun, meanwhile, are starting Kara Lawson, Tan White, Kelsey Griffin, Asjha Jones and Tina Charles. They featured a similar first five (Allison Hightower instead of Griffin) for their 108-103 overtime loss at Atlanta in their final game before last weekend's All-Star break.

Check back for updates at halftime.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Fowles named MVP

Sylvia Fowles was named the MVP of the "Stars at the Sun" All-Star game after collecting game-highs of 23 points and eight rebounds for the U.S. national team in its 99-72 victory.

Update: Team USA rolls by WNBA All-Stars

Sylvia Fowles scored 23 points, Maya Moore had 12 and the U.S. national team systemically pulled away from the WNBA All-Stars, 99-72, in the "Stars at the Sun" event at Mohegan Sun Arena.

As serious an All-Star game as the league has had, Team USA rarely came out of character, pushing the ball, crowding ballhandlers around the paint and attacking the game not like an exhibiton but preparation for bigger things ahead.

Candice Dupree and Swin Cash each scored 13 points for the U.S. Katie Douglas had 15 for the WNBA All-Stars, sharing the backcourt for most of the second half with her former Sun teammate, Lindsay Whalen.

Update: U.S. national team up at half

Sylvia Fowles had 10 points, Diana Taurasi scored 9 and the U.S. national team gradually built its lead to 49-28 over the WNBA All-Stars by halftime of the "Stars at the Sun" event here at Mohegan Sun Arena.

Maya Moore drew some of the heaviest applause during pre-game introductions and her entrance into the game late in the first quarter generated a noticeable buzz in the arena. But she missed both shots she took and has zero points.

Michelle Snow had eight points for the WNBA All-Stars.

Piror to the game, Sun guard Renee Montgomery won the skills competition, finishing a timed obstacle course that includes passing stations, a 3-point shot and a dribbling component in 25 seconds. Former Sun star and Indiana Fever guard Katie Douglas won the 3-point contest, registering 24 points (of a possible 30) in the first round and 23 in the finals.

All-Star starting lineups

Greetings from Mohegan Sun Arena where the WNBA's "Stars at the Sun" All-Star event kicks off in roughly two and a half hours. Fans are starting to mill outside the arena and the court is awash with WNBA All-Star logos, lights and equipment for the pre-game skills competition. Check back throughout the day for updates.

For now, here are your starters for the U.S. national team and WNBA All-Star squad. (And though it was possible, no, coach Geno Auriemma didn't go with an all-UConn starting five):

Team USA: G Sue Bird, G Cappie Pondexter, F Diana Taurasi, F Tamika Catchings, C Sylvia Fowles.

WNBA: G Lindsey Harding, G Katie Douglas, F Monique Currie, F Crystal Langhorne, C Michelle Snow.

The WNBA team is being coached by Seattle coach Brian Agler. His superstar forward Lauren Jackson is with the team but she won't play after suffering a concussion last Saturday against Los Angeles.

Jackson was hit in the face by Sparks forward DeLisha Milton-Jones while attempting to grab a rebound. No foul was called, but Jackson was bleeding from her nose and had to be substituted out.

Jackson shot around Friday during open practice, the first time she's done that since last Saturday.

"It's an exhibition, she won't play," Agler said Friday. "Once you start, you're about five days out. If she can on the court today, she has no symptoms, we move forward, you're about five days (from competing in a game)."

Friday, July 9, 2010

Whalen an All-Star; other "Stars" notes

Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen, who the Connecticut Sun traded to Minnesota during the offseason, will return to Mohegan Sun Arena on Saturday as a replacement player in the "Stars at the Sun" All-Star event featuring the U.S. national team.

Whalen, who spent the first six seasons of her WNBA career with the Sun, will fill the spot on the WNBA squad vacated by San Antonio's Becky Hammon, who suffered a quad injury in Thursday night’s game at Minnesota.

Whalen is averaging 10.8 points and 5.0 assists this season.

The league also announced the participants for the 3-point competition and skills challenge, scheduled to run before the All-Star Game (3:30 p.m., ESPN) on Saturday.

Competitors in the 3-point contest include: Sue Bird (Seattle Storm), Swin Cash (Seattle Storm), Katie Douglas (Indiana Fever), Monique Currie (Washington Mystics), Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream), and Whalen.

Competitors in the skills challenge include: Lindsey Harding (Washington Mystics), Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream), Cappie Pondexter (New York Liberty), Iziane Castro Marques (Atlanta Dream) Renee Montgomery (Connecticut Sun), and Whalen.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Charles named Rookie of the Month again

Sun center Tina Charles was was named the WNBA's Rookie of the Month for June, it was announced Wednesday, marking the second time she's earned the honor this season.

Charles averaged a double-double for the month, leading the league in rebounds (14.0 per game) and pacing rookies and the Sun in points (15.5 points). Charles also averaged a rookie- and team-best 1.5 blocks. A career-high 23-rebound, 19-point performance in a win over the Phoenix Mercury highlighted her month, and in 10 games played, Charles led the Sun to a 7-3 record for the month.

The first overall pick in the 2010 WNBA Draft presented by adidas, Charles is averaging 15 points and 12 rebounds per game and has already broken the franchise mark for double-doubles in a season with 13.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Jekabsone-Zogota to undergo knee surgery

Connecticut Sun guard/forward Anete Jekabsone-Zogota is scheduled to undergo arthroscopic surgery on her right knee Thursday, and could miss up to four weeks, coach Mike Thibault said Monday.

Jekabsone-Zogota injured her knee on June 27 at New York and has missed the last two games. She was originally diagnosed with a bone bruise following an MRI, but her knee hasn’t improved like the team hoped despite therapy.

“The (idea) is that there’s some loose floating particles, something in there that’s inhibiting her,” Thibault said, adding lateral movements are still causing Jekabsone-Zogota pain at times. “They can’t find it on the MRI, but the symptoms are too much that there’s something catching in the joint.”

Dr. Ammar Anbari will perform the procedure. Thibault said the recovery time ranges from two to four weeks “depending on what they find.”

Jekabsone-Zogota has started in all 14 games she’s played in this season, averaging 9.3 points and 2.1 assists. She is fourth on the team in 3-pointers made (23).

“It’s a big impact,” Thibault said of losing Jekabsone-Zogota. “She’s one of our best shooters, one of our best passers. She was playing great when she got hurt.”

The Sun (10-6) play at the San Antonio Silver Stars on Tuesday (8 p.m., ESPN2).

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Raymond on Jones, Takera, etc.

Here's a little more from an interview with Tamika Raymond about Asjha Jones and her new shoe line, "Takera." Raymond was Jones' roommate at UConn, a former teammate of hers with the Connecticut Sun and a former assistant coach at the college level:

On Jones starting her own shoe line: She’ll be 30 (years old) Aug. 1. We’ll all be 30 … so of course a lot’s changed. But it’s funny. When people would, ‘Ask Asjha, what do you wanna do?’ She’d say, ‘Start my own shoe line.’ For most people, it’s because they’re in high fashion or this and that. But for Asjha, she can never find shoes that were big enough for her, that were wide enough for her, that were comfortable and that were stylish. Asjha, she’s very bright. I’m probably the only one who’ll say it, she’s the smartest of the bunch. Coach (Geno Auriemma) will tell you that. But she likes shoes and she has a lot of them.

But it’s more about the practicality and a way to invest her money into something she really enjoys and something she wants to give to other people. For her whole life, she’s had to get shoes at lower-end places or if she went overseas, if she went to a Nordstrom’s and they had her size, she’d get a whole bunch of them. And now she wants to make it more accessible to taller girls, women, so they feel more comfortable and have stylish shoes. I totally understand it, and I think it’s great. The shoes are hot, so I’m excited for her.

On there being a need in the shoe market, from her own experience: This is a huge need. … Sometimes the more stylish shoe only goes up to a size 10, which none of us can fit in. Asjha’s the one who’s going to plan and do things right. I think the people she tapped to develop the shoe and the different things she likes and she doesn’t like about the prototypes she has coming out, I think she’s done her homework really well.

But is it a need? It’s a huge need. In our league, and of course, me being a coach (a former assistant at Ohio State and Kansas), having kids going to drafts and kids going to events for All-American stuff, we have 6-3, 6-4, 6-5, 6-6, 6-7, 6-8 and 6-9 girls that have to wear men’s shoes or have to wear shoes that are too small. I think it’s great (what Jones is doing).

How much has Asjha been thinking past basketball and is this a sign of it?: I don’t know exactly how much she’s thinking past basketball. But Asjha’s an extremely bright person. She can run a company and have me talk but she’s be behind the scenes doing all the As, Bs, Cs and Ds of it all.

It’s so funny. I think everybody’s going to be like, ‘Asjha Jones with a shoe line?’ But I think it’s practical for her, I think it’s something that touches home with her. Being almost the tallest person in her family, by far the tallest woman in her family, she’s had problems finding shoes that match her clothes, that match her purses and that are fashionable. So I think people will love it, I think people will buy into it because everybody knows that Asjha doesn’t play around with much.

I think it’s a great move for Asjha. I don’t know if she’s looking past basketball but it’s something she’s been thinking about for a long time. I think it’s more so, she had time. She’s had a little time off this year, it’s the first time she didn’t go overseas and she had to cater to her (Achilles’ tendon) injury, her rehab (following surgery in February). I think it was a little downtime for Asjha not to be thinking about basketball and give her time to think about something that interests. I think this is the perfect time to do it considering how much time she spent in the United States this year.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Bird leads All-Star vote-getters

The Seattle Storm’s Sue Bird led all players (127,490) in final returns of the 2010 “WNBA vs. USA Basketball: The Stars at the Sun” balloting, released on Tuesday. San Antonio Silver Star Becky Hammon (116,391) finished second.

The All-Star showcase features the U.S. national team vs. a team of WNBA stars at Mohegan Sun Arena on July 10.

Rounding out the top five are the Indiana Fever’s Tamika Catchings (100,248), the Phoenix Mercury’s Diana Taurasi (93,649) and Bird’s Seattle teammate Swin Cash (85,236).

Lauren Jackson (80,392), the Los Angeles Sparks’ Candace Parker (78,624), Silver Star teammates Jayne Appel (69,316), Michelle Snow (67,906) and Sophia Young (65,974) made up the rest of the top 10, who are guaranteed a position on the team rosters. Unlike previous years, the players selected by fans will not necessarily be starters.

Bird, Catchings, Taurasi and Cash, already in the U.S. national team pool, will play for the U.S. and coach Geno Auriemma, while the remaining players who have been voted in by the fans will play on the WNBA team. Parker is in the U.S. pool as well but is out for the season with a shoulder injury.

Hammon is Russian citizen, Jackson is from Australia and Young is from the West Indies. The 11-member U.S. squad will be announced on Thursday, and could include Sun rookie Tina Charles, Sun guard Kara Lawson, Sun guard Renee Montgomery and UConn senior Maya Moore.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Injury update

The Sun avoided what could have been two major injuries.

An MRI revealed Anete Jekabsone-Zogota has a bone bruise in her right knee, and she is considered day-to-day. She injured her knee in Sunday's loss to New York, in which she played less than six minutes. She did not travel with the team to Tulsa and will miss Tuesday's game.

Sun guard Tan White, meanwhile, is in Tulsa with the Sun, but wore a splint on her shooting hand Monday. She has a sprained right thumb, but did participate in practice.

Even White is unsure exactly when and how she injured it, also during Sunday's loss, Sun coach Mike Thibault said, but he said before Monday's practice session that he’s “not counting on her playing” against Tulsa (3-11).

Jebasone-Zogota out, White doubtful for Tulsa game

The Sun are going to be short-handed Tuesday night.

Anete Jekabsone-Zogota did not travel with the team for Tuesday's game at Tulsa after returning to Connecticut to have an MRI on her injured knee, and coach Mike Thibault said he doesn't expect reserve Tan White to play either after she injured her shooting hand in Sunday's 77-68 loss at New York.

Jekabsone-Zogota played roughly five minutes against the Liberty before leaving the game. It appears the 5-foot-9 guard aggravated an old injury in her right knee, and she underwent an MRI on Sunday night, though Thibault said the team didn't expect to get the results until later tonight.

White is wearing a splint and had X-rays done. The extent of her injury is unclear at the moment, but Thibault doubted she'd be available against the Shock (3-11), who are in last place in the West but are known for their pressure defense. They lead the conference in steals (10.7 per game) and forced turnovers (18.5).

Game time is 8 p.m.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Agler to serve as WNBA All-Star coach

Seattle Storm coach Brian Agler has been named the head coach for the team of WNBA stars that will face the U.S. national team in the WNBA vs. U.S.A. Basketball All-Star event at Mohegan Sun Arena on July 10. Agler earned the nod by virtue of the Storm's league-best winning percentage through July 1 (13-2).

The national team, of course, will be coached by UConn's Geno Auriemma. His assistants are Jennifer Gillom (head coach, Los Angeles Sparks) and Marynell Meadors (head coach, Atlanta Dream).

The game will be televised by ESPN at 3:30 p.m.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Charles in charge

So Tina Charles was spectacular. She was "sensational," according to coach Mike Thibault and a monster, according to well ... anyone who probably watched the Sun's 82-79 victory over Phoenix.

She scored 19 points and grabbed a franchise-record 23 rebounds a week after setting the mark with 19 against Los Angeles. She tied Michelle Snow (2006) for the second most in a game and was one short of Chamique Holdscalw's 2003 WNBA record of 24 in a single game.

Charles had her 10th double-double of the season before halftime, and with 160 rebounds in 13 games, she is on pace to break the single-season WNBA record of 363 boards held by Cheryl Ford (2006). She's also two double-doubles shy of Taj McWilliam-Franklin's franchise mark of 12 double-doubles and should break her team record for rebounds in a season with 306 (also 2006).

Apparently that was a good year for rebounding. So far, this has been a great one for the No. 1 overall pick.

“With rebounding, it takes a lot of heart and having the (right) mindset,” said Charles. “A lot of people sometimes are lazy. … But I think that’s a key thing to winning, getting rebounds. When I was at UConn, every single game that I played since my freshman year, coach (Geno) Auriemma used to always challenge me to try to get a double-double before halftime, so that’s the mindset I have.”

Update: Charles sensational, Sun rally past Mercury

Tina Charles scored 19 points with a franchise-record 23 rebounds, and the Connecticut Sun rode its international stars late to rally past the Phoenix Mercury, 82-79, on Friday at Mohegan Sun Arena.

Sandrine Gruda and Anete Jekabsone-Zogota combined to score 14 of the Sun's final 16 points, and Connecticut (9-4) improved to 7-1 at home this season and 5-0 against the Western Conference.

Charles, who has 10 double-doubles in 13 games, had set the franchise record for rebounds in a game with 19 a week prior at Los Angeles.

Update: Sun lead Mercury at half

Tina Charles already has her 10th double-double of the season and the Sun went on long runs to end the first quarter and begin the second to take a 43-37 halftime lead over Phoenix here at Mohegan Sun Arena.

Charles has 11 points and 11 rebounds to help fuel Connecticut inside. Diana Taurasi has 12 points for Phoenix and Candice Dupree scored 11, all in the first quarter.

Down 17-5 to begin the game, the Sun closed the opening period on a 14-5 run and ran off a 14-0 stretch early in the second to lead by as many as nine points. The Sun have 18 points inside the paint where they tower over Phoenix, and unlike past games, they have lived at the line, making 11-of-16 free throws.

D-fense, D-fense

Greetings from Mohegan Sun Arena. The Sun and Mercury tip off in a little under two hours here, but there are some notes and quotes to go over before tonight's game, which is being broadcast on CSN:

* Defense has been the focus in practice since the Sun fell apart late against the Chicago Sky on Tuesday. As expected, the team spent a good portion of practice in recent days studying tape, and as Sun coach Mike Thibault put it, "getting back to good habits." Connecticut spent the previous week harping on rebounding, which improved, but apparently, Thibault said, the defense took a step back in the process.

He made it clear, however, that he doesn't think mental fatigue was a factor against Chicago despite coming off a weekend road trip.

"Nobody’s playing huge minutes," Thibault said following practice Thursday. No one on the Sun is playing more than 30 minutes a game (Tina Charles leads the team at 29.9), compared to a team like Phoenix that has two players (Diana Taurasi and Tangela Smith) topping 30 a night, with a third not far behind (Penny Taylor at 29.8).

"I think it’s a lack of focus on fundamental stuff," Thibault continued. "Staying in the stance, moving your feet. A lot of defense is just focus and energy. There’s technique involve, but you can’t get technique down if you don’t have basic stuff."

Phoenix continues to lead the league in scoring (93.4 points per game) and should provide an immediate test of where the Sun stand. Taurasi (23.1 ppg) leads all individuals in points per game.

"If we can play really well (today) and slow them down some, that means we have really good defense, given they’re the best offensive team," Asjha Jones said.

* The Sun also need to get their footing back late in games. For a team that's relied on late-game runs to put teams away this season, Connecticut was outscored, 27-12, in the fourth quarter Sunday at Phoenix and 25-17 against Chicago on Tuesday.

That obviously speaks to the team's defensive woes, but Tuesday also featured problems simply getting the ball off before the shot clock. Thibault described it after the game as too much standing around.

"Usually we won’t play good throughout a game but by a certain point or by the fourth, we’ll pick it up," Jones said. "And we weren’t able to do that. Our offense tanked, we couldn’t make the shots we were making in the first half, and then they were getting lay-ups."

* A quirky thing to watch for tonight: In the past five games, Anete Jekabsone-Zogota has been announced at a different height each time. It's ranged from 5-foot-7 to 5-foot-11 to 5-foot-9 and 5-foot-10. For the record, WNBA.com has her listed at 5-foot-9 and that's seems about right. Also, her official height isn't listed in the game notes, which may be the cause for the confusion.

Or she's simply shrinking. Or growing.

* Danielle McCray, the No. 7 overall pick in this year's draft, will be in the house tonight. McCray, who's rehabbing a torn ACL in Lawrence, Kansas where she attended school, is expected to pop in now and then with the Sun. She also was at practice Thursday.

Sun raffling off a Harley

The Connecticut Sun will begin selling raffle tickets to win a Harley-Davidson motorcycle during tonight’s game against the Phoenix Mercury at Mohegan Sun Arena.

Raffle tickets – already on sale at Mohegan Sun Summer Essentials – will be available for $20 each at the Mohegan Sun Arena merchandise stand on Friday night. Proceeds from the raffle will benefit Channel 3 Kid’s Camp and the Connecticut Sun Foundation.

First prize is a 2002 Harley-Davidson FLSTFI Fat Boy that has never been driven. This is a 1450 CC, 2-cylinder bike that has been dressed and modified with custom paint and chrome. It is valued at $14,000.

Second prize is four courtside seats to a 2010 or 2011 Connecticut Sun regular season game, redeemable at Mohegan Sun Arena. It includes a post-game meeting with a Sun player and is valued at $750.

Third prize is four tickets to a 2010 or 2011 Sun regular season game, redeemable at Mohegan Sun Arena, and a basketball autographed by the entire team. This package is valued at $250.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

'D' unpluggled

Coach Taurasi. Imagine that.

According to Diana Taurasi herself, that's all not too far-fetched for the reigning WNBA MVP and Phoenix Mercury guard after her career is over.

"Yeah I definitely would," Taurasi said Wednesday. "I think coaching is something I would love to do. I’ve been around some great minds of basketball that have taught me a lot. Being a coach is a tough thing, though. You have a lot of responsibility. It’s something I would be interested in. ... But you never know down the line. I might hit the lotto and move to Italy.

"How hard can it be? Look at him (UConn coach Geno Auriemma)," she added jokingly. "You just gotta be able to recruit. So I just have to hire CD (UConn associate head coach Chris Dailey) and I’d be OK."

Taurasi was her usual sarcastic, witty self on a wide-ranging conference call with members of the Connecticut media. She touched upon everything from the Mercury's current season ("up-and-down," she called it) to Sun rookie Tina Charles ("She really is playing unbelievable basketball") to to the state of women's basketball and her own career.

"These players have been going overseas for the last five years, not having a break, and you’re seeing a lot of injuries and a lot of tired play out there sometimes," she said. "It’s going to be a serious decision (about taking time off) people are going to start making. I know I’m getting really close to it, too, and I’m going to have to sit down, look at the calendar and really take time off to heal."

Taurasi was asked if taking time off from the WNBA, like many European players have, is an option.

"It’s always easier for the Europeans," she said with a laugh. "We’re hometown so if we did that, people would crucify us. ‘How dare you do that?’ But you have to look at your body and it takes a toll on you. Sometimes you need rest. I know I’m going to need it soon.

"There’s just no way your body can function for that long at that high level. You start to break down. You’re actually doing more of a disservice to your career by playing through being hurt and injured and tired. And a lot of players do a good job of going overseas halfway through (the winter season) but I’m going to have to sit down and really figure (it) out."

A reporter asked if a 15-year career is a reasonable estimate for Taurasi, which she called "realisitc." She's currently in her seventh WNBA season.

"If you think about it, the NBA guys that go 15, that’s a stretch and that’s with three months off every year," she said.

Taurasi, however, said taking time off from basketball overseas -- where she's made her WNBA salary multiple times over -- is less of an option for her.

"At this point, in my career right now, I don’t think I can do that, to take three or four months off," she said. "I don’t see that happening. Yeah, I think once I get to that point, I’m going to have to make a pretty firm decision of where my gap in time of rest is going to have to come from."

Taurasi also mused about life after basketball, which could include coaching (she almost said it half-jokingly most times) or a job in television, such as Sun guard Kara Lawson has.

"Hopefully Kara and I can host PTI together," she joked. "I’ve always been interested in that (TV). I love the game. I don’t see myself doing anything that didn’t concern itself with basketball. That’s the type of passion I have for it, whether it’s breaking down the game on TV or going out for coaching. Coach Auriemma will eventually have to retire."

Here's some other highlights from the call:

On UConn star Maya Moore, the expected No. 1 pick in next year's WNBA Draft: "She’s going to unbelievable. There are certain players that you just know once they get to the WNBA are going to be successful and turn another page, I think, in greatness. She has that ability. I know Coach Auriemma has talked to her a lot about me. She just seems so focused. That’s kind of inspiring to watch, even for me. ... I don’t see why she shouldn’t make the world championship team."

On Charles, who she'll play Friday when the Mercury visit the Sun: "The thing I like about Tina is she really is a hard-working, blue-collar, stick-to-what-I-know type player. ... She is just so relentless."

On her workout overseas, which last year started to include a personal trainer: "People always said, ‘I didn’t know you worked that hard.’ Well, yeah, you have to if you want to be competitive with the great basketball players. I just took a different angle with it to try to make myself better."

Taurasi added that watching Suns guard Steve Nash helped motivated her. "He was the one that I looked at and said, ‘You can get better. No matter where you’re at in your career, you can get better.’"

On still having fun on the court, a staple along with her colorful personality: ", that still has to be No. 1 on my list because if I’m not happy I’m not playing well."

'T' for one

Renee Montgomery couldn't believe she received a technical foul with 1:58 left in the first quarter of Tuesday's 86-77 loss to the Chicago Sky.

But she said official Cameron Inouye -- who didn't give her the 'T' -- said the situation Montgomery found herself in wasn't rare.

After driving to the hoop and scooping in a lay-up among some contact, Montgomery made an 'and-one' gesture toward official Lamont Simpson, who quickly assessed a technical foul amid argument from both coach Mike Thibault and the 6,981 fans at Mohegan Sun Arena.

"I was very surprised," Montgomery said. "But it was a miscommunication. The other ref (Inouye) told me he (Simpson) thought I was just pointing in his face. I was making the 'and-one' gesture. She said she’s going to talk to the front offices. Maybe it can get cleared up, I don’t know. She said she’s had a problem before where it was a miscommunication and they fixed it. Maybe they can fix it."

Montgomery said she has never received a technical foul before in her life at any level of basketball. It's not surprising from a player who doesn't swear off the court (she thanks her parents for that) and rarely chirps at officials on it.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Update: Sun fall apart in second half, lose to Sky

The Chicago Sky hit a flurry of fourth-quarter 3-pointers to complete a second-half rally and stun the Connecticut Sun, 86-77, at Mohegan Sun Arena on Tuesday.

Tina Charles had 14 points and 16 rebounds, and four other Sun players scored in double figures. But the Sky, which had lost four straight, hit 6-of-8 3-pointers and shot nearly 47 percent from the field to emerge from an eight-point third-quarter deficit.

Erin Thorn scored a season-high 18 points and Epiphanny Prince scored 19.

Connecticut (8-4) suffered its first loss in seven games this season at home, where it had won eight straight dating back to last season.

Update: Sun lead Sky at half

Anete Jekabsone-Zogota and Tan White each scored 10 points, and the Sun lead the Sky, 48-43, at the half at Mohegan Sun Arena despite one of their poorest defensive performances at home this season.

The Sun shot 55 percent from the field, but either allowed the Sky to snake right down the middle the lane or bailed them out with foul calls. Chicago shot nearly 49 percent from the field and got 12 points for Dominique Canty.

Renee Montgomery received a very questionable technical foul call early in the half. After driving and hitting a lay-up, she made the motion for an "and-one" call to referee Lamont Simpson, who quickly T'd her up. Montgomery responded by picking the pocket of Epiphanny Prince a play later and sneaking in for an uncontested lay-up. She has four points and four assists.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Charles named Eastern Conference Player of the Week

Sun rookie center Tina Charles was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week on Monday after averaging 25 points and 15 rebounds over two Connecticut victories, including a 26-point, 19-rebound effort against Los Angeles.

Through 11 games, Charles has helped the Sun to the top spot in the Eastern Conference with an 8-3 mark. She is the WNBA’s top rebounder (11.0 per game) and ranks 13th in scoring (16.3 points per game, tops among rookies). She has eight double-doubles, already four shy of the franchise record of 12 set by Taj mcWilliams-Franklin in 2006.

The top overall pick in this past April's draft, Charles has led the Sun in rebounding in 10 of 11 games.

Minnesota's Seimone Augustus was the West's top player of the week.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Parker out for season

A shoulder injury will force Los Angeles Sparks star Candace Parker to miss the rest of the season, starting with tonight's game vs. the Connecticut Sun (10:30 p.m., Staples Center). Per The Associated Press:

The Sparks say leading scorer and rebounder Candace Parker will miss the rest of the season because of a dislocated left shoulder that will require surgery.

Los Angeles general manager Penny Toler made the announcement Thursday night. Parker, a forward, was injured Sunday in the first half of the Sparks' 88-84 home win over the Minnesota Lynx. The surgery will be scheduled in the coming weeks.

Parker averaged 20.6 points, 10.1 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game this season. Los Angeles (3-7) is fifth in the WNBA's five-team Western Conference.

"Losing Candace is definitely a huge loss for us and the league in general," Toler said. "We still have a great team that is led by two Olympians and loaded with talent. Our goal, as always, is still to win."

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Sore Sun

The Sun practiced Tuesday for the last time in Connecticut this week before leaving for Los Angeles, where they'll practice Thursday and play the Sparks at 10:30 p.m. (East Coast time) on Friday.

That said, the Sun are nursing some injuries. Kara Lawson sat out at least the 45-minute portion of the practice that was open to the media to rest her dislocated shoulder. She played 28 minutes Sunday two nights after suffering the injury, and coach Mike Thibault said the plan was to save her from contract leading up to Friday's game.

Coincidentally, Sparks star Candace Parker also dislocated her shoulder and is scheduled to undergo tests this week.

Sandrine Gruda said Tuesday she's also playing through a groin injury she suffered last Friday against Indiana, though she scored 12 points that night, and had eight points and five rebounds in 22 minutes Sunday. She is fully expected to play Friday.

Tina Charles, meanwhile, had to sit out roughly the last 20 minutes of Tuesday's practice after she caught a pass from DeMya Walker in the face, more specifically between her eye and nose.

"I think it's more her eye than her nose," Thibault said. "You gotta catch things in self-defense. We tell them to throw it (the pass) at their noise.

"You learn to put your hands up," he added with a laugh. "If you don't want to catch the ball there, you're asking for trouble."

And the winner is ... Michelle Snow?

Early returns on balloting for the U.S.A. Basketball-WNBA All-Star Event at Mohegan Sun Arena — dubbed "Stars at the Sun" — are in, and they're, let's say ... a little screwy.

San Antonio center Michelle Snow is the top vote-getter with 49,029 votes, and the next four after her are all her Silver Star teammates: Jayne Appel (48,746), Becky Hammon (42,720), Sophia Young (36,549) and Ruth Riley (35,612).

Obviously people in San Antonio know how to work a computer. And Hammon and Young are not surprises. But with all due to respect to Snow (9.3 points, 7.3 rebounds), Appel (1.8, 1.6) and Riley (5.4, 3.0), they simply don't belong.

Online voting runs through June 21, with the announcement of the top 10 vote-getters set for June 29. Expect some type of correction between now and then, or else, the WNBA's marquee midseason event is going to be somewhat of a joke without its best players represented.

The full list of vote-getters is below but just to see get a sense of how distorted the voting has been so far, consider this: Tina Charles, the league's top rookie thus far who leads the Sun in scoring (14.3 points) and is fourth in the league in rebounding (10 per game) is ... 29th.

Indiana's top vote-getter, meanwhile, behind Tamika Catchings is reserve Briann January (20,935) and Tulsa's Alexis Hornbuckle, who was suspended two games for a DUI and is averaging 5.6 points per game, ranks 12th, right behind former teammate Shavonte Zellous.

Michelle Snow (SA) 49,029; Jayne Appel (SA) 48,746; Becky Hammon (SA) 42,720; Sophia Young (SA) 36,549; Ruth Riley (SA) 35,612; Sue Bird (Sea) 30,384; Tamika Catchings (Ind) (24,486); Candace Parker (LA) 22,103; Diana Taurasi (Phx) 21,298; Briann January (Ind) 20,935; Shavonte Zellous (Ind) 19,800; Alexis Hornbuckle (Tul) 19,743; Penny Taylor (Phx) 19,638; Plenette Pierson (NY) 19,279; Scholanda Robinson (Tul) 19,135; Kara Braxton (Tul) 18,785; Lauren Jackson (Sea) 16,924; Candice Wiggins (Min) 16,224; Swin Cash (Sea) 15,195; Kara Lawson (Con) 13,970; Camille Little (Sea) 11,659; Tanisha Wright (Sea) 11,434; Katie Douglas (Ind) 9,890; Ebony Hoffman (Ind) 7,636; Tammy Sutton-Brown (Ind) 7,620; Tina Thompson (LA) 5,796; Sylvia Fowles (Chi) 5,740; Cappie Pondexter (NY) 5,557; Tina Charles (Con) 5,262; Nicky Anosike (Min) 4,856; Katie Smith (Was) 4,181; Candice Dupree (Phx) 3,291; Angel McCoughtry (Atl) 3,804; Monique Currie (Was) 3,237; Iziane Castro Marques (Atl) 3,195; Epiphanny Prince (Chi) 3,172; Lindsay Whalen (Min) 3,145; Betty Lennox (LA) 3,037; Shameka Christon (Chi) 2,981; Ticha Penicheiro (LA) 2,959; Crystal Langhorne (Was) 2,839; Catherine Kraayeveld (Chi) 2,825; Janel McCarville (NY) 2,734; Seimone Augustus (Min) 2,672; Erika de Souza (Atl) 2,599; Jia Perkins (Chi) 2,501; Lindsey Harding (Was) 2,475; Renee Montgomery (Con) 2,333; Marissa Coleman (Was) 2,252; Taj McWilliams-Franklin (NY) 2,240; Asjha Jones (Con) 2,114; Nicole Powell (NY) 1,861; Charde Houston (Min) 1,815; Sancho Lyttle (Atl) 1,656; Anete Jekabsone-Zogota (Con) 1,631; Temeka Johnson (Phx) 1,615; DeLisha Milton-Jones (LA) 1,566; Tangela Smith (Phx) 1,418; Essence Carson (NY) 1,282; Shalee Lehning (Atl) 1,209.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Gardin, Jones to sign autographs

Connecticut Sun players will sign autographs from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. at two different ShopRite locations on Tuesday.

Kerri Gardin will be at the ShopRite in New London while Asjha Jones will be at the store in Norwich. Aside from autographs, fans will also be able to win tickets to upcoming Sun games.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Update: Montgomery, Sun rally past Fever

Renee Montgomery scored a career-high 29 points and Kara Lawson came back from a separated shoulder she suffered in the first half to help lead the Connecticut Sun to an 86-77 victory over the Indiana Fever on Friday at Mohegan Sun Arena.

Tina Charles recorded her sixth double-double in eight games with the Sun (6-2), scoring 12 points with 12 rebounds, and Sandrine Gruda added 12 points. Jessica Davenport had a career-high 18 points for Indiana.

Update: Fever take lead entering fourth

Jessica Davenport has a career-high 18 points and the Fever lead the Sun, 62-57, after three quarters here at Mohegan Sun Arena.

Davenport, a former No. 2 overall pick who has never lived up to the expectations of her lofty selection, took over a stretch of the third quarter, scoring eight of Indiana's nine points. Her previous career high was 15, set on June 3, 2007 against Phoenix.

The Sun, meanwhile, went cold in the period, scoring 12 points after netting 45 through the previous two quarters.

Update: Lawson back in

Wearing a brace on her left shoulder, Kara Lawson has returned to start the second half for the Connecticut Sun. Lawson suffered a dislocated left shoulder on a collision with Indiana's Tammy Sutton-Brown with roughly four and a half minutes to play in the second quarterand had to have it popped back in by the Sun medical staff after she left the court, Lawson's husband, Damien Barling said.

Lawson has suffered a dislocated shoulder in the past and will likely have to wear the brace for at least a few days, Barling said.

Update: Sun lead Fever at half

Renee Montgomery scored 18 first-half points and the Sun shot better than 48 percent from the floor against the league's top defense to take a 45-39 lead over the Indiana Fever at the intermission here at Mohegan Sun Arena.

In a half marred by the apparent shoulder injury of Kara Lawson (see previous post), Montgomery carried the Sun's offense, hitting 4-of-7 3-pointers and 7-of-12 from the floor.

Jessica Davenport has 10 points off the bench for Indiana. Tamika Catchings -- who was trying to call timeout when Lawson, a fellow Tennessee alum, was on the ground in pain with 4:24 left in the second quarter -- had eight points, six rebounds and five steals.

Lawson injured

Kara Lawson has left the Connecticut Sun's game with Indiana Fever with an apparent shoulder injury. While driving to the hoop with roughly four and a half minutes to play in the second quarter, Lawson collided with an Indiana player near the baseline and passed the ball to the corner before grabbing her left shoulder.

Lawson appeared to say something to the closest official before going to the floor in extreme pain. Play wasn't stopped, and the Fever hit a lay-up on the other end, sparking an eruption of boos from the Mohegan Sun Arena crowd. Lawson lay on the floor for several minutes as her husband, Damien Barling, and Sun medical personnel came to tend to her. She was helped off the court to the Sun locker room and didn't return.

It was a busy day already for Sun trainer Jeremy Norman. Sandrine Gruda (apparent leg or groin injury) and DeMya Walker (apparent shoulder injury) each left the bench at different points of the first half for further medical attention. Both returned to play.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Update: Sun breeze by Stars

Tina Charles had 19 points and 11 rebounds, Renee Montgomery added 16 and the Connecticut Sun strode past the undermanned San Antonio Silver Stars, 81-68, on Sunday at Mohegan Sun Arena.

DeMya Walker scoreda season-high 12 points for the Sun (5-2), who have won all five of their games at home. Sandrine Gruda had two points on 1-of-6 shooting in her season debut.

San Antonio played without All-Star guard Becky Hammon (strained quad) and head coach Sandy Brondello (maternity leave).

The double-double is Charles' fifth of the season.

Update: Sun rally for halftime lead

Renee Montgomery scored 11 points, Tina Charles had nine points and seven rebounds, and the Sun used a 9-0 run early in the second quarter to take a 34-30 hafltime lead over San Antonio here at Mohegan Sun Arena.

The Sun hit five 3-pointers, including two straight by Montgomery that gave them their first lead, 23-22, with 7:42 left in the second. But despite playing a zone defense, Connecticut is struggling to keep San Antonio out of the paint, where they're outscoring the Sun, 12-8.

Chamique Holdsclaw has 10 points for the Silver Stars.

Shorthanded Stars

Hello from Mohegan Sun Arena. The Sun and Silver Stars tip off here at 1 p.m., though San Antonio will do so without several major components. Becky Hammon is out with a strained quad, and head coach Sandy Brondello is on maternity leave. Her husband and associate head coach Olaf Lange is handling her duties.

As a result, San Antonio features a starting backcourt of Roneeka Hodges and Edwige Lawson-Wade. Expect them to lean heavily on their frontcourt. Chamique Holdsclaw is averaging 13.8 points in the four games since being picked up on waivers, and Sophia Young is scoring a team-high 14.8. Michelle Snow, meanwhile, is averaging 9.0 points and 7.5 rebounds.

On the completely different side of that coin, the Sun have their entire roster for the first time this season. Sandrine Gruda isn't starting, but the 6-foot-4 center will dress and come off the bench. Sun coach Mike Thibault is going with the same starting five as last game in Renee Montgomery, Kara Lawson, Anete Jekabsone-Zogota, Asjha Jones and Tina Charles.

With their complete frontcourt, the Sun should have an advantage on the boards. San Antonio is grabbing only 31.2 rebounds per game (compared to 36.3 by their opponents) and surprisingly, Young is averaging just 3.8 total rebounds and 0.5 on the offensive end. She's averaged 6.3 rebounds over her career.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Gruda guaranteed delivery

Sandrine Gruda is in Connecticut and will practice Saturday in preparation for her season debut Sunday against San Antonio.

The 6-foot-4 French center arrived in New York earlier this evening and spoke to reporters shortly after Connecticut's 75-68 victory over the Liberty.

So the big question was: How did Gruda, who was scheduled to arrive Thursday night, miss her original flight to the U.S.? Apparently, when flying out of French-Martinique, travelers usually can arrive at the small airport 30 minutes prior to an international flight and make their plane. But unbeknownst to her, circumstances Thursday required Gruda to get there an hour before her flight, thus she missed it.

"The next day, I didn’t pay for anything (for a new ticket) because they knew it was unusual," she said.

Either way, the Sun are happy she's here. Gruda was second on the team in scoring (13.5) and tops in rebounding (6.3) last year in her second WNBA season, in which she also arrived late. But that doesn't get any easier, she said.

"No, it’s never easy. Never easy," she said. "That’s the hardest part actually, to come in the middle of the season because you need to learn all the plays and everything by yourself. You’re new. When the whole team’s new and everything, you can actually work and learn with everybody. When you come late, you have to work by yourself."

Gruda said she hasn't been training with her French national team but instead has been resting following her season in Russia.

She also said she has no pre-determined expectations of herself.

"Nothing. Nothing. I don’t think that much, that’s not me," she said, drawing laughter from reporters. "I’m telling the truth. When I come and I have to play, I always give what 100 percent of what I have that day."

Check out Sunday's Norwich Bulletin for more.

Update: Sun ride defense late, hold off Liberty

Tan White scored 18 points, Tina Charles registered another double-double after a slow start and the Connecticut Sun held on in a back-and-forth game with the New York Liberty, 75-68, on Friday at Mohegan Sun Arena.

Charles finished with 13 points and a season-high 15 rebounds for Connecticut (4-2), which led by as many as 16 points before the Foxwoods-sponsored Liberty (2-3) rallied to close it to two on several occasions. But the Sun outscored New York, 7-2, over the final 2:44 to improve to 4-0 at home.

Kara Lawson added 13 points for the Sun, and Janel McCarville and Taj McWilliams-Franklin each had 14 for New York. Former UConn star Kalana Greene scored 13 off the bench for the Liberty.

Update: Sun lead Liberty at half

Kara Lawson has 11 points, thanks to some well-time 3-pointers and Tan White was the best player on the floor for the Sun, who slopped their way to a 33-27 halftime lead over the New York Liberty.

White scored nine points, providing a lift offensively early when the Sun looked lost on their own end. She also added five rebounds, mostly on hustle plays, and helped hold Cappie Pondexter to two first-half points on 1-of-6 shooting.

Former UConn star Kalana Greene has six points as the Liberty's first person off the bench.

It was a pretty half by no means. The Liberty shot 32.4 percent from the floor and committed nine turnover. The Sun, thanks to a second-quarter push, managed 42.4 percent, but there were several head-scratching moments early.

Asjha Jones, making her first start of the season, missed the only shot she attempted and has zero points and one rebound in seven minutes.

Jones starting

Greetings from Mohegan Sun. The Battle of the Casinos kicks off in roughly 20 minutes, but one interesting thing of note before the game: Asjha Jones is re-taking her place as the Sun's starting power forward alongside fellow UConn alum Tina Charles. The backcourt remains the same (Renee Montgomery, Kara Lawson and Anete Jekabsone-Zogota).

As for the Liberty, Leilani Mitchell, Cappie Pondexter, Nicole Powell, Janel McCarville and Taj McWilliams-Franklin make up their first five.

Check back throughout the night for updates.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Gruda misses flight, to miss Liberty game

Sandrine Gruda will apparently not debut for the Connecticut Sun on Friday.

Gruda, originally slated to arrive tonight from France, missed her flight, Sun coach Mike Thibault said Thursday, and now isn't expected to arrive in New York until after 5 p.m. on Friday. The Sun and Liberty tip off at 7:30 p.m., tomorrow at Mohegan Sun Arena.

Thibault said Thursday afternoon he wasn't sure why the 6-foot-4 center missed her flight — her agent had called the Sun — but "the original deal was she wasn’t coming until Saturday anyway, but I had kind of convinced her to come today. But it backfired anyway."

"I hadn’t planned anything around her being here," Thibault said of Friday's game. "That had no bearing what we were doing for tomorrow. I was more interested in having her watch us play and getting used to her teammates and seeing all that."

Given Gruda arrives on Friday, she'll practice Saturday and suit up on Sunday against the San Antonio Silver Stars.

Meanwhile, Kerri Gardin (concussion) has been cleared to play Friday against New York. The forward was not limited in practice on Thursday and "should be good to go," Thibault said.

A lot to cover ...

Hello everyone. I didn't get the chance to blog following practice Wednesday, so let's get right to it:

* Asjha Jones's surgerically repaired Achilles' tendon felt sore following Sunday's loss at Washington, but it was to be expected.

"No red alerts," the All-Star forward said. "I've had worse days last year."

That said, Jones' minutes will likely be limited Friday vs. the New York Liberty (think between 15 and 17, according to Sun coach Mike Thibault) and her availability for Sunday's game will be determined about how her ankle responds following Friday's game.

Jones said she was encouraged by parts of her three-point, three-rebound performance against the Mystics. On one of first jump shots from the top of the key, she shot long and missed, but it felt better than she expected.

"Sometimes you don’t have enough legs or whatever" and it falls shot, she said. "But it went long, so I’m like, ‘OK, I’m good'. (laughs) It was just a little long. It wasn’t to the left or the right, just long. ‘OK, that happens usually, when I’m healthy. I’m OK.’"

Conditioning has been a big part of Jones' return and she said she wasn't nearly as tired as she expected she would be.

"I could have played more if I wasn’t so sore," she said.

That being the case, not playing to the potential she's used to is more furstrating in ways than simply not playing.

"I had a hard time after last game just getting mentally back in a good place," she said. "For me, now I’m used to being an All-Star, I’m used to playing a certain way. So for more to be on the court and not play the way I’m used to, it’s really difficult."

* Sandrine Gruda is expected to arrive in Connecticut tonight. The 6-foot-4 center, who was second on the Sun in scoring and led the team in rebounding last season, will participate in the team's shootaround early Friday and then suit up for Friday's game. Like Jones, she'll likely have limited minutes as she gets re-accustomed with the Sun's playbook, which has changed in some ways since last year.

"Some of it hasn’t, but it’s been a long time since she’s played with us and in the process ... you have to remember she’s played in a whole other system with different play calls, then her French team has different play calls," Thibault said. "Now you’re trying to remember which (play call) is which team. Some of it will come back right away. Some if it will take time. You have to reprogram your brain."

Last year, Gruda joined the Sun during a road trip and jumped right into a game against Detroit only to score 23 points. This time, she'll likely be eased into it more only because A) the Sun are deeper with Tina Charles, DeMya Walker and Kelsey Griffin than they were a year ago, and B) following Sunday's game against San Antonio, they have four days off before Friday's game against Indiana.

But once she gets settled, which should be quickly given its her third season in Connecticut, expect Gruda, 22, to continue her upward trend from last year (13.5 points, 6.3 rebounds per game).

Jones, for one, is excited to see Gruda and Charles, the WNBA's newly minuted Rookie of the Month, match up in practice.

"I think it will be good for Tina to have somebody to play against in practice," Jones said. "... She needs to have somebody who’s really long and more of who’s she’s going to see from day to day in games. I said I was excited just to see those two play against each other because it’s just going to be arms everywhere. They’re both all elbows everywhere and they’re both really competitive, so it’s going to be really good for Sandrine, too, to have another young player. And they’re both going to be vying for the same position. It’s going to be a good intensity in practice and it’s going to make our team better.

"It’s going to be a war everyday in practice."

A fun side bet could be, who takes the first elbow from Gruda? The French center doesn't try to take people out, but lean at 6-foot-4, she has a knack for keeping defenders and would-be rebounders at bay. Ask Amber Holt, who took so wicked a shot from Gruda during practice last season she needed medical attention.

"Not me," Jones said, laughing. "I’ve had my share already for three years. I’ve had enough. She gets everybody. If you come around there, be prepared. She doesn’t even know she’s doing it, that’s the first worst part. She’s just long. It happens."

* Kerri Gardin participated in some drills Wednesday as she recovers from a concussion sustained in last Thursday's game against Minnesota. Thibault said the forward's headaches are gone and she was expected to participate more fully in today's workouts.

"The original plan was that she was going to practice (Thursday) so we’ll see," Thibault said.

Check back later today for an update on her status for Friday's game.

* The addition of Jones and Gruda creates some interesting decisions for Thibault. Both are expected to be starters once fully healthy and fully comfortable, respectively, meaning some roles will change. Thibault has always planned to use Walker and Griffin off the bench, but Charles and her team-leading 16.6 points and 9.6 rebounds per game are definitely not moving out of the starting lineup.

"I’m not envisioning taking Tina out of the lineup," Thibault said, adding he'd like to see Gruda, Jones and Charles in the Sun's froncourt. That'd move Kara Lawson, Renee Montgomery or Anete Jekabsone-Zogota to a reserve role, though Jekabsone-Zogota (for her scoring ability) and Lawson (as a veteran) could have a leg-up on Montgomery.

Either way, the Sun plan to use their bench liberally whether it be Tan White coming on in the backcourt for legitimate minutes or Walker and Griffin in the frontcourt. Of course, Allison Hightower and Gardin will also be in the mix on several nights. As the season progresses, a nine-person rotation, given everyone remains healthy, will likely develop with the possibility of any of the Sun's reserves giving a helping hand on a given night.

Thibault mused that he could make a starting lineup based on matchups or even platoon, though he's admittedly not leaning toward the latter option.

"You can make a case that you can put together two even teams on this team," Thibault said.

For kicks, let's say you divided the teams like this: Lawson, Jekabsone-Zogota, Gardin/Hightower, Gruda and Charles vs. Montgomery, White, Griffin, Jones and Walker. It'd be tough to pick a winner on paper.

"I got a lot of thinking to do over the next couple of weeks," Thibault said. "But I can’t really do it until I see it in practice and see who’s healthy on the court. Asjha’s health will determine a lot of how much we can do of different things. How soon can she increase her minutes? If she’s gonna stay at 16 to 20 minutes for three or four weeks, it changes your thought process of what you’re going to do. So I don’t know."

* Asked to evaluate the Sun's good and bad habits, Lawson and Thibault both pointed to the team's work ethic and willingess to share the ball as two major positives to the team's 3-2 start.

Lawson added, however, that the Sun need to take advantage of their post players more.

"Maybe just by virtue of having more bigs here, we’ll see more value in trying to get them the basketball more in advantageous positions," Lawson said. "We have to get Tina, as much as she’s getting touches, more good touches because she’s efficient. When we get her the basketball on the block, she scores. DeMya’s good one-on-one on the block. Asjha’s obivously really good on pick-and-rolls and stepping up. We have to utilize that more. We have to do a better job of using our post play as the centerpiece of our offense and then just set up what we’ll get as guards out of it."

When Lawson says touches, however, that doesn't mean Charles is shooting it every time she gets it.

"New York, Washington — a lot of teams have shown the propensity to double (Charles), so we get her the ball, all of the sudden, everywhere else on the court, we’re 4-on-3 because she’s being double-teamed," she said. "And then knowing that she is double-teamed, if we can find her in one-on-one (situations), we know she can score.

"When the ball hits the post, we have a better offensive possession. Anytime the ball just goes like this (around the perimeter), more often than not, it’s not a good offensive possession. If the ball hits the paint on a given offensive possession, it’s proven if you look up all the percentages, that there is a higher rate of success. It could be from a drive but it can be from getting the ball into the posts. ... One of Coach’s emphasis was, look in the post. Every time you come down, look in the post."

* Also, in case you didn't see it, Foxwoods is now a major sponsor of the New York Liberty. (The team, by the way, is staying there while in Connecticut instead of at Mohegan Sun, like other opponents do.) That means new jerseys, too, which with such a big 'Foxwoods' logo reminds me more of a European soccer jersey than it does anything we're used to seeing in the U.S.

Of course, the Liberty aren't the first to go this rout. Phoenix did it last year.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Jones returns, but Sun fall

Asjha Jones suited up for the Sun for the first time this season since undergoing surgery on her Achilles' tendon in February, but Connecticut (3-2) fell at Washington, 69-65. Here's the box score.

Jones, playing for the first time since Aug. 14, 2009, finished with three points and three rebounds in a shade under 12 minutes. Tina Charles had 13 points and nine rebounds and Kelsey Griffin and Renee Montgomery each added 10 points, but Connecticut committed 21 turnovers and shot under 39 percent from the field.

Sun coach Mike Thibault said he planned to bring Jones along slowly when she did return. Her presence was certainly welcome with Kerri Gardin (concussion) missing Sunday's game and Sandrine Gruda not slated to arrive in the U.S. until Thursday night. Jones has said throughout the early part of the season one of her biggest hurdles was simply returning to playing shape.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Of Jones, Gruda and Gardin

Asjha Jones and Sandrine Gruda's return to the Connecticut is likely coming sooner rather than later.

Jones, still recovering from surgery on her left Achilles’ tendon, traveled with the Sun to Washington in preparation for Sunday's game against the Mystics (4 p.m., no TV), and planned to practice Saturday. Sun coach Mike Thibault didn’t sound confident she could play Sunday, but said, “We’ll see how it goes and see how she feels tomorrow.”

Friday's game vs. New York seems to be a better bet.

Gruda, meanwhile, is slated to arrive in the U.S. late Thursday night and will be activated for Friday’s game against the Liberty. She has been training with the French national team in preparation for this fall's world championship. There was a possibility she wouldn't arrive until Saturday.

“Whether she plays much or not (Friday), I don’t know,” Thibault said, “but we’ll suit her up.”

Kerri Gardin did not travel with the Sun after sustaining what Thibault called a “moderate to severe concussion” in a collision with Minnesota’s Rashanda McCants on Thursday.

A CAT Scan came back negative for fractures, but Thibault said the forward is “probably out a week,” leaving the Sun with eight healthy players for Sunday if Jones remains sidelined. But don’t expect the Sun to push Jones into playing simply because of a thinned bench.

“We’ll just deal with it,” Thibault said.

Its 80-65 loss at Connecticut last Sunday started a three-game losing streak for Washington (3-3) in which it gave up 80 or more points each time. The Mystics were allowing a league-low 67.3 beforehand.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Update: Sun pound Whalen, Lynx

Renee Montgomery scored a season-high 23 points, Tina Charles registered another double-double and the Sun dominated the Minnesota Lynx in Lindsay Whalen's return to Connecticut, 105-79, at Mohegan Sun Arena on Thursday.

Charles finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds for her third double-double in four games, and reserve Tan White added 22 for the Sun (3-1), who shot 50.7 percent from the field.

Whalen, traded to Minnesota during the offseason with the No. 2 pick for Montgomery and the right to draft Charles first overall, had six points

Update: Sun up on Lynx at half

The numbers will say the Sun are getting the better deal of all their trades with the Minnesota Lynx.

Tina Charles has 19 points and nine rebounds, Renee Montgomery has 12 points and Connecticut leads Minnesota, 55-41, at the half here at Mohegan Sun Arena.

No one has been able to stop Charles, who's been rarely doubel-teamed and has made everyone from Nicky Anisoke to Charde Houston to Rebekkah Brunson pay as a result. Meanwhile, Montgomery enjoyed her best offensive half as a member of the Sun, hitting 4-of-6 shots.

The Sun, however, are playing with an even shorter bench after Kerri Gardin was forced to leave the game with an apparent head injury. While grabbing a rebound with roughly 8:30 to play in the second quarter, Gardin was knocked to the ground in a vicious blind-side collision with Rashanda McCants and remained on the floor for several minutes. She was helped up by teammates and walked to the Sun bench, but left soon after. Sun coach Mike Thibault was livid because no foul was called on the play, but it was obvious that it was no malicious act on McCants' part.

Defensively, the Sun have stuck primarily with a zone defense, as Washington did when it beat Minnesota earlier this season. It's forced the Lynx to hoist up 14 3-pointers, 11 of which they've missed. Monica Wright is 1-for-5 alone.

Minnesota has survived by outrebounding the Sun, 21-17, including an amazing 12 offensive boards. (It can be difficult to find a body to box out when playing zone, which may have led to some Lynx players getting free for rebounds).

This, that and Lynx

Greetings from Mohegan. Tip-off for Connecticut and Minnesota is about 40 minutes away, but here's some extra notes, quotes and observations from the past few days:

First, though, starters: Rookie Kelsey Griffin will once again start at power forward for the Sun, joining Renee Montgomery, Kara Lawson, Anete Jekabsone-Zogota and Tina Charles.

Meanwhile, with Rebekkah Brunson's arrival, Charde Houston and her team leading 18.5 points per game will move to a reserve role. Lindsay Whalen and Monica Wright start in the backcourt and Nicky Anisoke and another former Monarch, Hamchetou Maiga-Ba, will start in the frontcourt.

As discussed in today's advance, the Sun and Lynx have several connections after making two separate trades this offseason. For one, three Connecticut starters (Montgomery, Griffin and Charles) came via dealings with Minnesota as do two for Minnesota (Whalen, Wright).

But while the two teams obviously have a healthy working relationship, they're not any closer than most front offices, Sun coach Mike Thibault said.

"Just circumstance and coincidence," he said Wednesday of the trades. "Both teams in the same time period had things that the other team wanted. It just kind of works that way sometimes."

But in trading Whalen, Thibault said being that it was Minnesota made it easier to do on a personal level, given Whalen would be returning to her home state.

"What helped is she understands it’s a business," Thibault said. "Things maybe don’t last forever unfortunately and also as part of all that, it would have been harder to do a decision like that if we were sending her anywhere else but Minnesota. That would have been harder. But knowing she was going to get back to her roots and her family, it helped ease it a little bit."

Remembering Whalen: It's been old home day around Connecticut this week with Whalen's return. One fan made a scrapbook of photos of Whalen from her six years with the Sun and was asking those close to the organization to write a note in it for her.

Thibault, who has likened Whalen to a daughter and an extended family member, obviously has a lot of memories of his former point guard.

"I think about when we she first came here how much she changed how we play, that we can be an attack-the-basket team with her," he said. "She’s probably in the history of our league as good a guard at attacking the basket, it’s her and maybe a handful of others. I think of her a lot of times when she was rookie, people said how long it was going to take her to adjust to the league. And I kept thinking, ‘I don’t think it will be this long.’ And it wasn’t. We went to the finals her rookie year. I think she made a name for herself in that playoff run that year.

"Off the court, I think of her humor all the time. She wasn’t elitist, she was one of the crowd. She could laugh easily, she was able to poke at herself. Just one of those good personalities."

No sweat: Speaking of Lynx-Sun swaps, Renee Montgomery said she's felt no added pressure having to perform for a team that traded its franchise point guard to get her.

"The coaching staff does a good job of making sure that I don’t have to come in and do everything," she said. "They had a lot of deals done in the offseason where now I’m starting with Kara Lawson and it’s not just me heading the point. The did a good job of making sure I don’t need to carry a huge load. ... I’ve been fortunate that all the systems I’ve been in wanted me to push the ball."