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."

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Injury report

Check out tomorrow's Bulletin (and for more on Thursday night's Lynx-Sun game, but for now, here's a couple quick-hitters from Sun practice today:

* Sun coach Mike Thibault said the target date for Asjha Jones' return is next Friday’s game vs. New York. He doesn’t think the All-Star forward will play Sunday at Washington, but Jones will travel with the team and she has been practicing with them this week. On Wednesday, she participated in roughly two-thirds of the session, Thibault said.

Jones underwent surgery on her left Achilles' tendon in February and has yet to dress for the Sun this season.

* Sandrine Gruda, who is training with the French national team, is expected to arrive either next Thursday, June 3, or Saturday, June 5. If she arrives Thursday, she’ll dress against New York, regardless if she gets to practice beforehand.

Gruda didn't arrive until the ninth game of last season, and despite having nothing but a shootaround under her belt, scored 23 points with six rebounds in her first game back at Detroit. So Thibault has no qualms about playing her cold.

* Renee Montgomery sat out a portion of practice Wednesday to nurse a tweaked left hamstring she suffered before last Friday's game at Atlanta. She also been playing on an injured ankle, though it's improved.

“I’m 100 percent go for tomorrow,” she said.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Going way back with Whalen

Two days before she returns to Connecticut as a member of the Minnesota Lynx, Lindsay Whalen sat down for a teleconference with the Connecticut media Tuesday. For those who never had the chance to have a few laughs with Whalen while she was busy setting the Sun's assists record and earning MVP runner-up honors during her six seasons here, you missed one of the funniest personalities in Sun history.

That was already on display Tuesday.

"I’m looking forward to it," Whalen said of her return, "seeing everybody, the arena, the casino — everything."

The casino, really?, a reporter asked.

"Yeah, because that’s where they play," Whalen said with wit as dry as a summer day in Scottsdale. "They play at the arena in there."

Whalen is also scheduled to throw out the first pitch at the Twins-Yankees game tonight.

"I’m gonna go with the heat," she said. "Forty miles per hour."

In 197 games (196 starts) with the Sun, Whalen established herself as one of the league's top all-around point guards, becoming the only player in WNBA history to average at least 14 points, five rebounds and five assists in a season (2008) and earning All-Star honors twice. She also led the Sun to back-to-back Eastern Conference championships in 2004 and 2005.

But in their quest to trade for the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft — then owned by Minnesota — the Sun entered talks with the Lynx knowing Whalen, a Minnesota native and Golden Gophers legend, would be what Minnesota coveted. In February, the teams completed the trade, sending Renee Montgomery and the No. 1 pick to the Sun, who used it to draft Tina Charles, for Whalen and the No. 2 pick, of which the Lynx drafted Monica Wright with.

Whalen said leaving Connecticut included some "sad parts" but a part of her always hoped she'd return home to play.

"(But) this offseason was probably the first time that I thought about it," Whalen said. "Of course this is my home and my family’s here. But before I think I was into what we were doing in Connecticut. You can’t be, ‘I wish I was there.’ You have to play and that’s what you were expected (to do) as a professional.

"When Coach T (Mike Thibault) drafted me, you kind of get comfortable in a situation and get to know everybody," she continued. "The year I had my surgery out there, I was part of Coach’s family. I think when you’re in the season and everything, you feel like that’s where you’re going to be for your career. But I thought maybe some day I would be able to come home to play and it worked out this year. I guess things just kind of fell into place this offseason for a reason. I have nothing but good memories. I feel under Coach T, I improved as a player and I learned how to be a pro and learn how to be a point guard in the league. I owe what I know and everything to Coach T."

What tops Whalen's list of things she misses about Connecticut? The people foremost, but there are others.

"I definitely miss the seafood and the clam chowder," she said. "I miss (Interstate) 395. I miss 95. I miss the Long Island Sound. I miss a lot of things about Connecticut. And I miss Abbott’s."

But there are benefits of being home, largely the chance to see her tight-knit family.

"Me and my family kind of had a falling out so that’s been unfortunate," Whalen said.

(She was just joking, of course.)

"No, it’s been great. My sister is like five minutes away. It was my brother's birthday (Monday), Tom, he turned 16. I can’t believe it. So I got to go home and we went out for dinner and had birthday cake. Tonight, my dad and Tom are coming to the Twins-Yankees game.

"My mom, she made lasagna, chili, sloppy joe’s last night. It’s all in my freezer now so I’m very spoiled. (laughs) And my favorite little sandwiches. These little tuna sandwiches. You put them in the freezer and then you microwave them and heat them up. So I've been eating healthy. But for me, I just have lean cuisine and all that other stuff is for (husband) Ben (Greve)."

Look for more in Wednesday's Bulletin.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Bouncing back

Think Sun coach Mike Thibault was in a better mood Sunday? After calling his team's 97-82 loss to Atlanta the "most embarrassing moment" in his 40-year coaching career on Saturday, he walked into his post-game press conference at Mohegan Sun Arena, found he had no chair to sit at and jokingly did a squat behind the table.

He would have kept the joke going he said, if his knees could hold up.

It was easy for him to smile after Sunday's 80-65 victory over Washington, in which everything the Sun did wrong defensively against Atlanta they did right against the Mystics.

"This was a real good win. A real good win," he said. "We dug in most of the night and played good defense, we rebounded the ball better (44 to Washington's 43), we only gave up two fastbreak points the whole night and we got to the free throw line. Those are all plus signs in trying to build a winning team. I hope this is a sign that we’re resilient."

An important number: The Sun gave up 31 fastbreak points to Atlanta. As Thibault was correct in saying, the Sun allowed just two on Sunday. They buckled down when they needed to, and as Kara Lawson pointed out, simply got back into the halfcourt where they're far better on the defensive end. A case in point: Connecticut forced Washington into four shot clock violations, an unheard of number in most games.

"We’re pretty sound defensively when we get set," Lawson said. "If we don’t get set ... it’s hard. It’s hard to guard players in this league when they’re on the run and have momentum."

Check out the game story at, but for now, here's a notebook touching upon a few other odds and end that didn't make it into the print edition:

Sun Tan

As laid back as anyone in the Connecticut Sun’s locker room, Tan White talks with a soft drawl that mirrors her Southern roots.

That is to say, rushing is a play in football, not a way of life.

Her play on the court couldn’t be more different.

In quickly becoming a reliable sixth man, White brought everything the Sun needed in Sunday’s 80-65 victory over the Washington Mystics: Scoring, defense and most importantly, energy.

Whether it be her active hands on defense or her play in the open court, she’s becoming what Thibault called a “perfect fit” in the Sun’s system. When things are flat, White, a Tupelo, Miss., native, simply shakes up the bottle.

“She’s bringing such a high energy to the court right now,” Thibault said of White, who finished with a team-high 15 points, six rebounds and three steals Sunday. “She’s become a pretty good sixth man, and I think she’s relishing the role right now.

“We don’t need her to be our leading scorer,” he added, “but we need her to be a consistent scorer off the bench.”

White scored in double figures in two of the Sun’s three games and is now averaging 11. She’s also grabbing five rebounds per contest, and her continually active defense has been valuable.

Sunday, she combined with Anete Jekabsone-Zogota to limit Monique Currie, the league’s leading scorer through three games, to six points on 2-of-9 shooting. When she wasn’t guarding Currie, White helped hold Katie Smith — a Sun killer while with the Detroit Shock — to 10 points.

“When you’re just watching from the bench and you can see how the flow of the game is going, it’s our job off the bench to bring that missing piece,” White said. “And I think in the first half, we were kind of flat. And the second half, we came in, got some stops, pushed the ball up-tempo — our type of basketball — and great things happened.”

Thibault said White may have a had too much energy early on. But as the game wore on, instead of forcing the action, she waited for open shots, took them and most times (5-for-11, 4-of-5 from 3) made them.

Pretty simple stuff.

“Offensively, she’s just in attack mode,” Kara Lawson said. “Sometimes she gets in trouble and turns it over, but that’s OK because she does more good things. She’s a special player for us.”

A down day?

There were few times when Tina Charles touched the ball Sunday and didn’t get double-teamed. A player the Sun have leaned on for scoring throughout her short time at Mohegan, the rookie’s 10-point, eight-rebound effort against Washington may come off as almost pedestrian.

Kelsey Griffin doesn’t think so.

“I think to say that Tina didn’t have a good offensive night would kind of not be giving her enough credit,” her fellow rookie said. “Even though she maybe didn’t put the ball up, she was drawing double teams, she was drawing attention.

“That’s why I don’t look at stat sheets because things like that don’t show up. I think Tina did her thing (Sunday). It was just she did it with rebounding and taking people away from the basket to focus on her. It is huge — people stepped up and made open shots. (But) they were feeding off the double teams she was getting.”

For starters

Griffin was good, too, scoring 11 points with six rebounds in her first start of the season.

Thibault opted to plug Griffin in as the first power forward ahead of DeMya Walker largely because of matchups. Griffin’s speed was a better fit against the 6-foot-2 Crystal Langhorne (16 points) while Walker brought size off the bench to counter the pivot-minded, 6-foot-3 reserve, Chasity Melvin (two points).

“We get smaller when we come off the bench,” Thibault said, “and DeMya’s role when Asjha (Jones) and Sandrine (Gruda) get her it to come off the bench.”

Around the rim

Rookie Allison Hightower responded in a season-high 13 minutes, scoring seven points, including several pretty floaters. “(In my first two games), it was like, ‘Should I shoot it? No don’t shoot it,’” Hightower said. “Now, it’s like, if you’re open, shoot it. I’m not having to think about, ‘Should I shoot this shot?’ Just shoot it.” ... Thibault said he doubts Jones (Achilles’) will be ready to play Thursday against the Minnesota Lynx, though she’ll likely practice sometime this week. ... Balloting opened Sunday for the WNBA All-Star event featuring the U.S. national team and a group of WNBA All-Stars at Mohegan Sun Arena on July 10. Online voting begins Wednesday at

Update: Sun rebound, trounce Mystics

Tan White finished with 15 points and six rebounds to lead five Sun players in double figures and Connecticut used an oppressive defense and 18-1 second-half run to put away Washington, 80-65, at Mohegan Sun Arena.

Anete Jekabsone-Zogota added 14 points for Connecticut (2-1), which two days after giving up 97 points to a Atlanta clamped down on the previously unbeaten Mystics (3-1). Washington committed 20 turnovers and shot 39 percent from the field. During a seven-minute stretch spanning the third and fourth quarters, the Sun held the Mystics to zero field goals to turn a 42-39 lead into a 60-40 advantage.

The Sun made nine 3-pointers for the second time in three games, matching their season-high from all of last year.

Update: Sun lead Mystics at half

Anete Jekabsone-Zogota and Kara Lawson each have six points and the Sun lead the Washington Mystics, 31-28, at the half here at Mohegan Sun Arena despite shooting 31.3 percent form the field.

The Sun are talking and switching well on defense, and the combination of Jekabsone-Zogota, Tan White and even for a short time, Allison Hightower, has frustrated the league's leading scorer, Monique Currie (one point on 0-for-5 shooting). As a team, Washington isn't shooting much better than the Sun (35.7 percent) and has as many turnovers as Connecticut (eight).

Kelsey Griffin, starting in place of DeMya Walker (for matchup reasons most likely), has three points but also three fouls and only played seven minutes.

Also, a quick update from the All-Star voting. Of the 60 players on the ballot (fans can also write-in players), five Sun players are included: Tina Charles, Jekabsone-Zogota, Asjha Jones, Lawson and Renee Montgomery.

For starters, a change ...

An interesting change in the Sun's lineup. Rookie Kelsey Griffin will start at power forward instead of DeMya Walker.

After foul trouble hampered her in 19 minutes in Connecticut's opener, Walker had 10 points and four rebounds in the Sun's 97-82 loss at Atlanta. But she struggled in guarding Sancho Lyttle, who had 27 points, 17 rebounds. A big part of the change, however, may be matchup-based. Washington has a quicker frontcourt than Atlanta with Monique Currie, Crystal Langhorne and Nakia Sanford.

The rest of the Sun's starters remain the same: Renee Montomery, Kara Lawson, Anete Jekabsone-Zogota and Tina Charles. Lindsey Harding, Katie Smith, Monique Currie, Crystal Langhorne and Nakia Sanford are starting for Washington.

Also, voting for the WNBA's All-Star event between the U.S. national team and a group of league All-Stars has started. Fans can vote in person at WNBA arenas. Fans can also vote online beginning Wednesday at

The balloting program gives fans the opportunity to vote for the top 10 players in the WNBA, regardless of conference or position. The 60 players included on the 2010 ballot represent all 12 WNBA teams. A write-in option is also available, allowing fans to choose players not listed on the ballot. The 10 players who receive the most votes will be guaranteed a position on the team rosters. Unlike previous years, the players selected by fans will not necessarily be starters. Any player voted in who is already in the USA national team Pool will play on the U.S. team under coach Geno Auriemma, while the remaining players who have been voted in by the fans will play on the WNBA team.

Greetings from Mohegan

Hello all,

Just arrived at Mohegan Sun Arena for today's Sun-Mystics game (3 p.m.). WNBA president Donna Orender is meeting with the media in roughly 30 minutes, as is Sun CEO Mitchell Etess and U.S.A. Basketball's Carol Callan. In the interim, here's a link to today's advance.

Friday, May 21, 2010

An 'L' in ATL

Some notes and quotes from the Sun's 97-82 loss at Atlanta on Friday night:

* This is the Sun's third straight loss to the Dream and fourth in their last five meetings.

* The Sun led, 6-1, in the first quarter before the Dream outscored them, 50-25, over the remainder of the half. In the decisive second quarter in which Atlanta outscored Connecticut, 25-9, the Sun shot 16.7 percent from the field (3-of-18) while Atlanta shot 68.8 percent.

* The 39 field goals the Dream made are the most for a Sun opponent through regulation. The 81 points they scored through three quarters tied the most for a Connecticut opponent (Phoenix, June 18, 2008) and the 33 field goals they made in the same span broke the mark Atlanta set last year on Sept. 11, 2009 when it hit 32 shots entering the fourth to knock the Sun from playoff contention.

* The Dream largely was a three-person show: Angel McCoughtry (32 points, 10 rebounds), Sancho Lyttle (27, 17 rebounds) and Iziane Castro Marques (18) made 31 of their team's 39 field goals, scored 77 of its 97 points and nearly became the first trio to all score at least 20 points in the same against Connecticut.

* Tina Charles had 22 points and 11 rebounds, both team highs. Anete Jekabsone-Zogota added 13 points and Tan White had 10.

For more stats, here's the box score.

Sun coach Mike Thibault, on the game: “In 40 years of coaching, I think that’s the worst half of basketball I’ve had a team play in the first half. Hopefully when we get our other two players (Asjha Jones and Sandrine Gruda) back, we’ll do a better job on the boards. But you have to play with what you have.

"We had a week to get ready for this. Our whole focus at practice was defensive transition against their fastbreak and defensive rebounding. We were awful at both.”

Tina Charles, on the absence of Jones (rehabbing after Achilles' tendon surgery) and Gruda (training with French national team until early June): “You can’t use that as an excuse. We’re pros, this is what we chose to do.”

Kara Lawson, on approach to the game: “We felt like our best chance was to get them in a halfcourt game, and we didn’t do a good job of that tonight.”

Thursday, May 20, 2010

False Idol

Sun guard Kara Lawson had a funny story at practice on Wednesday. As an ESPN analyst and professional basketball player, it's common for her to be recognized, but the following encounter at Target earlier this week was a first.

I'll let Lawson tell it:

"I was going down the aisle. I don’t know (what I was buying), toothpaste or deodorant, you know stocking up on stuff because we’re going on the road.

And this old lady was like, ‘Kara?’ And I said, ‘Yes.’ And she said, ‘Oh my gosh, I love watching you.’

I said, ‘Thank you,’ and I was kind of walking away. And the one lady said to the other lady, ‘She’s my favorite on American Idol.’ I was like, ‘American Idol?’ I kept walking at that point."

Lawson said she got a text for her sister on Tuesday night that read: "I’m watching the show tonight, to see if you’re on there."

"The one you get the most (often), people know your face but they can’t place who you are," Lawson said. "So they’re like, ‘Oh, please tell me your name, please tell me your name. Who are you again?’ (But) I’ve never gotten American Idol. Never. And you’ve ever heard me sing or seen me dance, you would never say American Idol."

Sun in HD

The Sun have a new TV contract with Comast SportsNet New England.

CSN will air seven Sun games this season, beginning with Friday's game at Atlanta. All games will be available in high definition. Mike Gorman and UConn alumna Rebecca Lobo will provide commentary.

“We are really excited by this new television partnership,” Connecticut Sun vice president and general manager Chris Sienko said in a press release. “Comcast SportsNet gives us a great opportunity to reach a broader audience all over New England, where we have many fans. The Connecticut Sun is always looking for different ways to grow its brand and we think this will afford us the chance to do so.”

The other games include:
* June 11, vs. Indiana
* June 25, vs. Phoenix
* June 27, at New York
* July 24, vs. Los Angeles
* Aug. 3, at Minnesota
* Aug. 17, vs. Tulsa

The Sun already have three games set for ESPN2: July 6 at San Antonio, July 20 vs. New York and Aug. 5 at Seattle.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Dream release Holdsclaw; Leuchanka on board

This per The Associated Press:

Chamique Holdsclaw’s brief WNBA tenure with Atlanta is over.

The six-time All-Star was released on Wednesday by the Dream after coach Marynell Meadors said the forward asked for a trade three days prior to training camp and did not report to the team.

Meadors, who said she was surprised by Holdsclaw’s trade request, says she tried to workout a deal for the team’s second-leading scorer.

The 32-year-old Holdsclaw came out of retirement and averaged 13.9 points a game last season, helping the Dream go from four wins in their inaugural season to 18 and a playoff berth last year. For her career, the 10-year veteran has averaged 17.3 and 7.9 rebounds.

The Dream signed 6-foot-5 center Yelena Leuchanka, who played on the Belarusian team.

The Sun play at Atlanta on Friday, and will be without starting forwards Asjha Jones and Sandrine Gruda. The addition of Leuchanka places further importance on the Sun's ability to rebound against a frontcourt that also includes 6-foot-5 Erika de Souza and 6-foot-4 Sancho Lyttle and and 6-foot-7 Allison Bales off the bench.

Jones not expected to play this weekend

Asjha Jones is not expected to play in either of the Connecticut Sun's two games this weekend, coach Mike Thibault said after practice on Wednesday.

Jones, who is recovering from surgery on her left Achilles' tendon in February, participated in parts of Sun practice Wednesday, including fullcourt drills with no defense and "all the shooting drills," Thibault said. But the All-Star forward is far from being ready to play in Friday's game against Atlanta or Sunday's game at home vs. Washington. And Thibault said he doesn't even know if next Thursday's game vs. Minnesota "is in the discussion yet until I see her do more."

"Part of it is getting even leg strength between the two. Part of it is getting her cardio back, which is going to be the hardest part," Thibault said. "We’re probably still sometime next week (away) from doing live 5-on-5 stuff. So I don’t know, we’ll see how that goes. That’s why I’m not putting a timetable (on it). It could be Minnesota, it could be the following week. I just don’t know."

Thibault has taken a cautious approach with Jones after she missed the final 11 games of last season. Even when she returns, the coach plans to put a limit on her playing time, likely keeping her between 15 to 18 minutes early on.

"It’s too long a season to risk everything before she’s ready," Thibault said. "It’s one thing to do what she’s doing (right now). It’s another thing to jump into a crowd and land and turn and pivot and run up the court and then get in a (defensive) stance. I don’t know how many days of that she’ll have to do before she feels comfortable."

Thibault said the possibility of applying to the league for a hardship is still available. With just nine healthy players — Sandrine Gruda won't arrive until early June — the Sun can ask to bring a player in and pay her on a per-day basis. They're currently too close to the salary cap to sign another player outright.

But Thibault said he wouldn't consider that option to after the weekend and it isn't something he's crazy about doing anyway.

"If they tell me Monday she (Jones) is still two weeks away, we might do it," he said. "But right now, to bring somebody in and teach them all the stuff, they’re going to be gone in two weeks anyway. I’m not big on that right now."

Asked if that meant he may lean toward someone like forward Judie Lomax — who was cut before the season opener but already knows a good amount of the playbook — Thibault was noncommittal.

"I'm not leaning toward anything," he said.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Update: Sun dominate Sky, 74-61

Tina Charles finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds in her first pro regular-season game and Anete Jekabsone-Zogota had 18 points, leading the Sun to a 74-61 rout of Chicago that wasn't nearly as close as the final score indicates.

The Sun held Sky center Sylvia Fowles to just two second-half points and 16 overall, and Connecticut used a 16-2 run in the third quarter and 12-0 spurt to start the fourth to put the game away.

Jekabsone-Zogota hit 4-of-6 3-pointers and Kelsey Griffin (eight points, 10 rebounds) played even better than her numbers show, drawing two charges on Fowles while filling in for a foul-plagued DeMya Walker.

Update: Sun lead Sky, 42-33, at half

The Sun looked absolutely great at times in building a 42-33 lead over Chicago at halftime here at Mohegan Sun Arena. But the Sky, who traded one of their best players (Candice Dupree) during the offseason, looked good themselves -- but really only when Sylvia Fowles touched the ball in the halfcourt.

Otherwise, the Sun have been otherwise dominant, starting with Tina Charles, who has 15 points and nine boards (already) and Anete Jekabsone-Zogota, who has 10 points. Fowles, meanwhile, has 14 points and six rebounds, and when she's gotten the ball in the blocks, Charles and anyone else has been otherwise helpless in stopping here. Still, she alone can't keep the Sun off the boards (24-15 advantage).

Kelsey Griffin also played well, compiling four points and three rebounds and mixing in a nice up-and-under move for a lay-up and foul on Cathrine Kraayeveld. Yet, in a rookie mistake, she went back to the same exact move on the next possession -- and came up with nothing.

The highlight of the half came at the end the first quarter when Kara Lawson knocked down a shot from halfcourt at the buzzer, hitting all net.

Charles vs. Fowles

The Sun's season-opener with the Chicago Sky is less than 30 minutes away, and one of the more interesting story lines to watch for is the matchup of Sun rookie Tina Charles and Sky center and former LSU star Sylvia Fowles.

Charles famously (at least in the world of UConn basketball) kept a press clipping and photo of Fowles in her locker following the Huskies' loss to LSU in the 2007 NCAA tournament in which Fowles (23 points, 15 rebounds) dominated Charles (one point, three rebounds) en route to a 73-50 victory.

Here's a look at all three times the two met during their college careers, including that NCAA tournament showdown:

Feb. 11, 2007 (72-71 UConn victory):
Charles: 17 points, nine rebounds, 29 minutes, 8-of-12 shooting
Fowles: 22 points, 17 rebounds, 40 minutes, 9-of-15 shooting

March 26, 2007 (73-50 LSU victory):
Charles: one point, three rebounds, 21 minutes, 0-for-5 shooting
Fowles: 23 points, 15 rebounds, 39 minutes, 10-of-18 shooting

Feb. 25, 2008 (74-69 UConn victory):
Charles: 18 points, six rebounds, 40 minutes, 9-of-15 shooting
Fowles: 26 points, 11 rebounds, 40 minutes, 8-of-14 shooting

An interesting thing to note in the final matchup is the play of Kaili McLaren, who finished with 11 points and 12 rebounds in 30 minutes and helped keep Fowles (somewhat) at bay.

11 for 12

Here are the complete 11-person, opening-day rosters for the WNBA's 12 teams. To check on who's been waived, go to the transactions page on

Alison Bales
Iziane Castro Marques
Erika de Souza
Chamique Holdsclaw
Shalee Lehning
Sancho Lyttle
Angel McCoughtry
Coco Miller
Kelly Miller
Armintie Price
Brittainey Raven

Mistie Bass
Dominique Canty
Shameka Christon
Sylvia Fowles
Sandora Irvin
Cathrine Kraayeveld
Abi Olajuwon
Jia Perkins
Epiphanny Prince
Erin Thorn
Tamera Young

Tina Charles
Kerri Gardin
Kelsey Griffin
Sandrine Gruda
Allison Hightower
Anete Jekabsone-Zogota
Asjha Jones
Kara Lawson
Renee Montgomery
DeMya Walker
Tan White

Tully Bevilaqua
Tamika Catchings
Jessica Davenport
Katie Douglas
Ebony Hoffman
Briann January
Jessica Moore
Jené Morris
Eshaya Murphy
Allie Quigley
Tammy Sutton-Brown


Marie Ferdinand-Harris
Betty Lennox
DeLisha Milton-Jones
Candace Parker
Ticha Penicheiro
Noelle Quinn
Andrea Riley
Tiffany Stansbury
Tina Thompson
Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton
Kristi Toliver

Nicky Anosike
Seimone Augustus
Quanitra Hollingsworth
Charde Houston
Hamchetou Maiga-Ba
Gabriela Marginean
Nuria Martinez
Rashanda McCants
Lindsay Whalen
Candice Wiggins
Monica Wright

Nikki Blue
Essence Carson
Kalana Greene
Tiffany Jackson
Janel McCarville
Taj McWilliams-Franklin
Leilani Mitchell
Cappie Pondexter
Nicole Powell
Sidney Spencer
Kia Vaughn

DeWanna Bonner
Candice Dupree
Sequoia Holmes
Temeka Johnson
Taylor Lilley
Nicole Ohlde
Brooke Smith
Tangela Smith
Ketia Swanier
Diana Taurasi
Penny Taylor

Jayne Appel
Helen Darling
Megan Frazee
Becky Hammon
Roneeka Hodges
Crystal Kelly
Edwige Lawson-Wade
Ruth Riley
Belinda Snell
Michelle Snow
Sophia Young

Svetlana Abrosimova
Sue Bird
Abby Bishop
Swin Cash
Lauren Jackson
Alison Lacey
Camille Little
Ashley Robinson
Jana Vesela
Le’coe Willingham
Tanisha Wright

Chante Black
Kara Braxton
Shanna Crossley
Amber Holt
Alexis Hornbuckle
Marion Jones
Natasha Lacy
Plenette Pierson
Scholanda Robinson
Amanda Thompson
Shavonte Zellous

Matee Ajavon
Alana Beard
Marissa Coleman
Monique Currie
Lindsey Harding
Ashley Houts
Crystal Langhorne
Chasity Melvin
Jacinta Monroe
Nakia Sanford
Katie Smith

Friday, May 14, 2010

Sun ready to go; Jones not

The Sun open their eighth season tomorrow against the Chicago Sky (3:30 p.m., Mohegan Sun Arena), but they'll do so with just nine players, no Asjha Jones and, as expected, no Sandrine Gruda.

Jones, who is still recovering from surgery on her left Achilles' tendon, has stepped up her rehab in recent days and said her ankle feels stronger. But she is far from actually returning to full game mode and joked that she was still out of shape following practice on Friday.

"It’s about building strength, so every day you push it to the max and it recovers and that’s how it gets stronger," Jones said. "I’m totally out of shape. (laughs) That’s probably the hardest part, getting back into shape. But it’s getting stronger. It’s hard to predict, to give you an exact day (of when I’ll return). It’s more of a day-to-day thing."

Fortunately for Jones, the Sun don't play again for six days after Saturday's opener. They visit Atlanta on Friday, May 21. Asked if she could return by then, Jones said, "If it keeps recovering the way it is now, I think so.

"I’m going for that," she continued. "You don’t want to do too much and put it out there. ... But you have to have your long-term goals and your short-term goals. That’s a long-term goal for me. The short-term goal is every day going a little more and a little more."

Originally, both Jones and Thibault called the season-opener a possible return date. Jones said it's frustrating not to be playing, but that target date "wasn't a definite thing" in the first place.

"That’s what I’ve been learning in dealing with this thing for a while — nothing’s definite," she said. "Just try to keep it in perspective. The point is to be there down the road and not to rush back. Right now, that’s what we’re trying to do: Keep everything in perspective, just really focus in and realize that I want to be there at the end. I wasn’t there at the end of last year and it wasn’t good for our team. That point is to be there to finish it out."

With Jones out and Friday's cuts of May Kostopoulos and Judith Lomax, the Sun will open the season with just nine players. Why did the Sun put themselves in a position, knowing Jones and Gruda wouldn't be playing? The salary cap forced their hand. As Thibault explained it, with the salary being reduced by $52,000 this year and the Sun buying out a portion of Tamika Whitmore's contract, it left the team $10,000 short of their salary cap. Either Kostopoulos and Lomax, however, would have cost roughly $32,000.

"But what we can do," Thibault said, "is apply to the league, because we have nine players, for a hardship and you can pay them on a per-day basis that they’re here on a minimum salary. I don’t know if we’re going to do that right away. I don’t need them for this game. I’ll wait until after the weekend, see where we are health wise and see if I wanna do that next week. I don’t know. But we had to cut them first and let them clear waivers before we bring them back."

Don't expect another team to pick up Kostopoulos or Lomax. They should clear waivers before game time Saturday.

Thibault, however, isn't too concerned with having only nine players as he is missing two starters.

"I guess I have a different perspective," he said. "I coached in the CBA, where we had a 10-man roster, guys went and down to the NBA sometimes on a weekly basis. And I would go and pick up a new player and I would figure out how to do drills for 4-on-4. ... I think I’ve learned because I’ve been through it, how to adapt. In general, you only play nine or 10 players in a game. You’re not going to play all 11 most nights. It won’t be that I’m running out of players to play in a game. It’s probably more of an issue of (not) having your best players here and practice situations."

Still, Thibault is confident with the players he has.

"That doesn’t mean you can’t win games" without these players, the coach said. "That just means you might not be as good as you can be. We’re only a couple weeks from the first week of June; Sandrine will be here. Hopefully Asjha will play by game three or four.

"We’ve got good players. DeMya Walker has been a starter. We’re bringing Tan White off the bench, who’s a good player. Kelsey Griffin’s going to be really good right away. She’s really good."

Some extra notes entering tomorrow:

* Renee Montgomery, Kara Lawson, Anete Jekabsone-Zogota, Walker and Tina Charles will start, Thibault said.

* Charles' first pro test comes against one of her biggest nemesis in college, Sylvia Fowles. Charles famously kept a picture of Fowles in her locker room throughout college as motivation. The No. 1 overall pick averaged 19.3 points and 10.3 rebounds during the preseason, albeit against lesser competition than Fowles. More on this tomorrow.

* Jones said the hardest thing to do right now on her ankle is back-pedaling and stopping, as such putting all the weight on her recovering Achilles'. But on Friday, she did start taking lay-ups to test jumping off only her left foot.

* Thibault, who has agreed to a new two-year contract, said he wouldn't have been worried if he and the team hadn't come to an agreement for this season, which would have been played under the option on his old contract.

"I haven’t worried about a contract (since I've been here). I haven’t worried about any of that stuff," he said. "I figured if somebody doesn’t want me some day, I’ll find something else. But they’ve been great to me. Everything about it has been great."

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Thibault signs contract extension

The Sun announced this afternoon coach Mike Thibault has signed a two-year contract extension with an option for a third.

Thibault was entering the option year of the contract he signed back in 2008 that Chris Sienko said at the time put the coach in the upper pay scale of coaches league-wide. Terms of the latest extension were not disclosed.

Thibault is the only coach in Sun history, taking over the team when it relocated in 2003. He also handles player personnel decisions and numerous players in the past have said he's the main reason they have signed to play in Connecticut.

Thibault is a two-time WNBA Coach of the Year, and in the league's GM survey, also realeased on Thursday, he was voted best coach, earning 36 percent of votes.

"I have enjoyed every part of being here, every part of this job,” Thibault said in a press release. “I look forward to going to work every day. I like my team and I like the direction we are headed. There's a lot that goes in to building a winning organization, and I think we've done a lot of great things to give us a bright future. I’m looking forward to being the coach of this group."

The Sun underwent a major overhaul from last season, bringing back just five players from the 2009 team and adding No. 1 overall pick Tina Charles, No. 3 overall pick Kelsey Griffin and free agent Kara Lawson. The Sun also picked up forward DeMya Walker in the Sacramento dispersal draft and traded for starting point guard Renee Montgomery.

The GM survey also cited the Sun as the team that made the best offseason personnel moves and Charles as most likely to win Rookie of the Year awards. League GMs also think Charles will be the best rookie five years from now.

Currently the longest-serving coach in the league, Thibault was the third fastest in WNBA history to reach 100 wins. His .601 winning percentage is first among active coaches.

“When we hired Mike eight years ago, we had one goal in mind, to win a championship,” Sienko said Thursday. “We still believe Mike is the best person to make that happen.”

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Update: No. 1 in the books

Make it 79 straight for Tina Charles.

Charles finished with 21 points, nine rebounds and six blocks in her pro (preseason) debut and Renee Montgomery added 12 points and four assists to lead the Sun to an 86-79 victory over Atlanta.

The Sun's rookie class as a whole played well. Kelsey Griffin had 11 points and four rebounds, and Allison Hightower scored 10 points.

Update: Preseason's here

Greetings from Mohegan Sun Arena, where the Sun trail Atlanta, 48-46, at the half. Some observations from the first 20 minutes of the 2010 season:

* That Tina Charles is pretty good. The Sun trailed, 11-0, roughly two minutes into the game before Charles starting touching the ball and asserting herself. Through a series of post moves and tough blocks on the defensive end, she helped spark Connecticut in this early morning start time, closing the half with 11 points, six rebounds and four blocks.

Yes, Atlanta is missing the majority of its frontcourt, including All-Stars Sancho Lyttle and Erika de Souza. But Charles is making it look like there's not much difference between the WNBA preseason and college basketball. And truthfully, there probably isn't with the number of college players who make up early season rosters but won't be there come the regular season. Either way, she's been as impressive as you hope the No. 1 overall pick would be.

* DeMya Walker has five points and two rebounds, but the toughness she gave (and will give) the Sun made the difference. At one point in the second quarter, she became tangled with Atlanta's Angel McCoughtry (17 points) and literally threw the former Louisville star into the base of the basket. There was no foul (and there shouldn't have been), but the muscle and attitude the Sun hoped they'd get the last few years from Tamika Whitmore, Barbara Turner and others may finally be here in Walker.

* The Sun have had trouble getting back on defense so far. On the other hand, Renee Montgomery (nine points, two assists) has looked speedy as ever on the break for the Sun.

Not sure if Atlanta is that fast -- the Dream have been making a point to push the tempo behind Armintie Price and Shalee Lehning -- or if the Sun have just slept-walk through the 11 a.m start. Chalk it up to the preseason.

* Of the camp invitees to play so far, Pauline Love has five points, including a 3-pointer, and Judith Lomax has an rebound and an assist.