My picks on #WNBA awards – who gets what?

It is now the end of the regular season and with the playoffs set to begin soon, it’s time to hand out the awards for players who performed well during the regular season. It is never easy picking out the “right” winners, as over the years, many deserving candidates have been robbed from MVP, First Team, All Defense, etc. This was not an easy decision for me to make, and I know that the voters will hopefully get it right when the awards come out soon.

To start off, let’s start with the easiest award and without a doubt, that would be Rookie of the Year. The ROY award belongs to Breanna Stewart, who rightfully was deserving of superstar status and no other rookie came close to matching her input game in and game out. Congrats Breanna Stewart, I hope this award sets you off to a legendary career in the WNBA.

The All Rookie Team was a bit harder to decide. In a stacked class of 2016, there were more than arguably 7 or 8 rookies who all stood out at particular moments throughout the season, some peaked early (Tiffany Mitchell), some struggled shooting the ball (Aerial Powers), some blossomed later (Bria Holmes), etc. It was difficult to decide the top 5 rookies, but it was really tough to decide between certain rookies so I have them as a tie. Listed below are my top 5 picks for the 2016 ROY team

  1. F – Breanna Stewart
  2. G – Moriah Jefferson
  3. G/F – Aerial Powers
  4. C – Imani Boyette
  5. G – Tiffany Mitchell & F – Bria Holmes (tied)

Next up is the Most Improved Player Award. There were four worthy candidates to pick from which include Sugar Rodgers from the Liberty, Layshia Clarendon from the Dream, Elizabeth Williams also from the Dream and Jewell Loyd from the Storm. From this four, two are fourth year players and two are sophomores. In my opinion, Elizabeth Williams has improved the most among the four, BUT she is a second year player and don’t most rookies improve on their first year? It makes no sense to give the most improved player award to her, considering that she was going to improve after a rough first season. This is why I believe that Sugar Rodgers deserves the nod for the Most Improved Player. Without Rodgers contributions this year, the Liberty would struggle scoring without Tina Charles. She became their second leading scorer and helped the Liberty to maintain the 3rd seed and 1st overall in the Eastern Conference. She’s improved since last year, but this year she became an All Star level type of player and that is why she is my pick for the award.

The third award is the Sixth Woman of the Year award. This season, there were three worthy candidates to pick from which include Renee Montgomery from the Lynx, Allie Quigley from the Sky and Jantel Lavender from the Sparks. Renee Montgomery helped the Lynx stay ahead and become the best team in the WNBA by leading one of the best benches in the league. Allie Quigley who has previously won the award twice, continued to help the Sky regain their footing after not getting off a to a great start and Jantel Lavender was one of the key pieces in helping LA become the second best team in the WNBA this year. All three are deserving of this honor, but my pick for the Sixth Woman of the Year award belongs to Jantel Lavender. Lavender often was on the floor during crucial moments for the Sparks and was one of the reasons why LA had the record they did and they often relied on her contributions since LA struggled with bench play all season.

The fourth award is the Defensive Player of the Year award. This season, four candidates stood out. Sylvia Fowles from the Lynx, Alana Beard from the Sparks, Kiah Stokes from the Liberty and Breanna Stewart from the Storm. Alana Beard had a marvelous first half defensively before the Olympic break in which she made the Sparks the best team defensively. Her ability to make her opponent work harder and make difficult plays made LA a dangerous team both offensively as well as defensively before the Olympic break. The second half, she tailed off as did the Sparks defensively, but that doesn’t mean she still is not worthy of being a candidate. Kiah Stokes was one of the Liberty’s best interior defenders and made it difficult for any player to score inside and the Liberty often relied on key defensive possessions late in the game to win. Unfortunately, Kiah Stokes suffered a hip injury in late August, meaning that her DPOY chances took a hit and so did the Liberty’s defense late in the season. Breanna Stewart was often asked as a rookie to take on the toughest defensive assignment and she often did well although the Storm struggled in the first half of the season. The second half, the Storm picked up their play thanks in large part due to Stewart and her defense is one of the reasons why the Storm are headed back to the playoffs.  Sylvia Fowles who has previously won the DPOY award before made Minnesota the top team defensively and was one of the key pieces in making Minnesota a tough team to beat an even more harder team to beat with her defense. It was not an easy task to beat the Lynx this year when they were at their best and Fowles is one of the reason why. This is why Sylvia Fowles is my pick for the Defensive Player of the Year award.

Speaking of, here is my picks for the All Defense Team *- note – All Defense is only one team, not two unlike the All – WNBA teams.

  1.  C – Sylvia Fowles
  2.  G – Alana Beard
  3.  G/F – Tanisha Wright
  4.  F/C – Breanna Stewart
  5.  F/C – Kiah Stokes

The next award is the Coach of the Year Award. This season, there were three worthy candidates. Cheryl Reeve from the Lynx, Brian Agler from the Sparks and Jenny Boucek from the Storm. Cheryl Reeve was able to guide the Lynx to an outstanding regular season with not just her All Star starting players, but was able to get major contributions from her bench which included Renee Montgomery, Natasha Howard, Jia Perkins, etc which allowed her stars to rest a little bit longer. She was able to maintain the Lynx’s focus even after her stars went to the Olympics. She helped the Lynx sustain excellence, something that is not easy to do. Jenny Boucek, earlier this year had a struggling Storm team that dealt with inconsistent play despite her stars logging heavy minutes. She was able to after the break, really focus on the Storm and finally was able to get great production from her young stars at the same time which led to the Storm making the playoffs, something that was not expected from them this season and for that she deserves credit.  Brian Agler made LA one of the top teams this year because he was able to make Nneka Oguwmike an MVP candidate which allowed Candace Parker to take the pressure off her shoulders and got solid seasons out of both Alana Beard and Essence Carson as well as moving Jantel Lavender to the bench. He was able to help LA become a great team and for that he deserves kudos. This is why Brian Agler is my pick for Coach of the Year.

The last and most important award is the MVP award. This year, there were two strong heavyweights and then there were the rest. Much has been debated on whether Tina Charles or Nneka Oguwmike should be MVP. Since there’s so much discussion regarding the MVP and who “deserves” the award, I’m going to keep it short and sweet. My pick for the 2016 Most Valuable Player Award goes to Nneka Oguwmike.

My picks for the 2016 All WNBA Team (1st and 2nd team)

  • F – Nneka Oguwmike
  • F/C – Tina Charles
  • F – Elena Delle Donne
  • F/G – Angel McCoughtry
  • F – Maya Moore

2nd Team

  • F – Breanna Stewart
  • G – Sue Bird
  • F – Candace Parker
  • G – Lindsay Whalen
  • G – Kristi Toliver

So, there you have it! All my picks for all of the upcoming awards coming out soon. It’s never easy picking these choices, but regardless of who gets it, I am excited for the winners.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quick Thoughts on Canada vs Australia exhibition game #1

The Canadian National Women’s Team was back in action today as they faced a tough test in Australia in Delaware. They lost by a final score of 80-67 Listed below are some quick thoughts on the game (*note – No live stream was available and this is by observation through the box score)

The link to the game is right here.

  • Canada got off to a rough start early and trailed after the first quarter by a score of 29-13.
  • Canada started to get into the groove into the game in the second, third and fourth quarters and made this game very interesting.
  • Natalie Achonwa struggled a bit with foul trouble and with her foul shots, but that should get better as she integrates into the team and gets comfortable.
  • Nirra Fields sure does brings a lot of energy onto the team.
  • Penny Taylor is still an all world player. At the age of 35. Without her and Liz Cambage, Australia is sunk.
  • Canada missed a lot of free throws. Work to do for sure. Can’t miss them in the Olympics.
  • Canada had a prime opportunity to strike in this game and make a statement but alas, they’ve got major work to do if they are going to be in the group for a possible medal.
  • Attendance was listed at 4,910. Not bad, could do better though
  • Canada faces a new team (I believe France?) in Bridgeport, Conn on Friday.

Notes + Full Quotes From the Canadian National Women’s Team Announcement & Open Practice.

In case you missed it, Team Canada announced their 12 player roster which is now on their website and will head to the US pretty soon to play some exhibition games before heading to the Olympics games. Last Friday, the Canadian National Women’s Team had media availability and I got the chance to speak to some players as well as the head coach. I also have a feature on Excelle Sports which should be out tomorrow, so stay tuned!

Below, I’ve transcribed the full quotes from the players I interviewed (Lizanne Murphy, Natalie Achonwa, Kia Nurse, Miranda Ayim & the head coach Lisa Thomaidis) on their thoughts on Rio, on Natalie Achonwa and more.

Natalie Achonwa – Center, Canada Olympic Team

On how different these Olympics are compared to the first time they qualified (2012)

“The first time we were one of the last teams to qualify and it was last minute on Canada Day, so it was right before we were trying to get to London and so this time, qualifying this far in advance, we had time to prepare and not just even last year, and it gives you a lot more time to get mentally ready as well as physically on the court and it allows you to eliminate some distractions as well knowing what to expect in the Village and not being so awestruck by it all. It allows you to prepare for the whirlwind of the Olympics.”

On the Olympic break the WNBA scheduled this year.

“Last summer was more hectic than this summer, because I was taking unplanned breaks, leaving for the Pan Am games and for the FIBA Americas. This time, this summer, it’s a lot easier as the Olympic break is built into the WNBA schedule because the US is in it and the nice Olympic chunk is taken out of our season which is really nice because it virtually creates a divide between when I’m with the Indiana Fever and when I’m with Canada Basketball. Although I’m always training for the Olympics and I’m always training to represent my country, it allows me to mentally take off my Indiana Fever hat and really focus on the events of Canada Basketball.”

On what advice she would give to young star Kia Nurse on her first Olympic experience.

“Considering this is our second time around for most of us, I think I would tell Kia to enjoy the games, to soak in the atmosphere, but the vets will also be in her ear, reminding her to stay focused as it is easy to get distracted from all the events that occur in the Olympic village.”

Her thoughts on the media blackout from the Fever and the black lives matter movement(*note – this was before the league rescinded the fines)

“I was really proud of our league and our players union to be able to take a stand and to
be passionate about it, it’s unfortunate that the league felt that they needed to fine us
because of support of other events and the players invested in and believed in and they
weren’t backing us, so it was kind of upsetting but at the same time, I’m really proud of
the players that they took a stand and believed in and didn’t let anyone alter that.”

Lizanne Murphy – Forward, Canadian Olympic Team

Her thoughts on the Olympics

“We have a chance to do something really great here, something special, going out and doing it, but I think we can do it. I’m just excited for the games, that’s really, we’ve been preparing for this for four years, so it’s like finally here, and I can’t wait.”

Her thoughts on the chance Canada can earn a medal

So many things are out of your control. It all depends on who you face through the
quarter finals. You first have to get out of our pool which is a tough pool because we are in the same group as the US then you have to play some more playoff type games, so honestly it’s difficult for me to make a prediction but I will say that if we play well, we have a good shot.”

On team mate Natalie Achonwa’s ability to go back and forth between the WNBA and the Olympic Team.

“Props to her. She’s such a proud Canadian and special. Nat is one of my closest friends on the team, she really loves playing for Team Canada, it’s a testament to her schedule. This is not easy to do what she does and it’s not going to be difficult to integrate her as she’s been on the team for so long (six to seven years) and she’s a very experienced player even though she’s very young.”

Her injury status update (*she was out with an ACL injury before)

“I feel good. Really good. I was ready to go before, like in May, even though it hadn’t been a full year since I went down with the injury. I’m healthy and I’m been waiting for the Olympics, so I’m excited.”

Kia Nurse – guard, Canadian Olympic Team

Thoughts on the Olympics

“It’s a whirlwind when I think about it. The fact that I’m going to be at one which is really weird to me, it’s a dream come true obviously, it’s something you aspire to do, to be there and to have this experience is amazing.”

What Geno Auriemma has said to her

“Haha, we’ve talked about it a little bit. He just told me to soak it in, take in the whole experience, enjoy it and use this summer to continue to get better basketball wise, learn new things and that’s it.”

Update on her injury status (*she had surgery a couple of weeks prior)

“I’m good to move forward now, I’m practicing, I’m moving around alot, the time line is exactly where it was supposed to be, so fortunate it all went well.”

Her thoughts on Natalie Achonwa going back and forth.

“I think it’s amazing. Obviously, the WNBA is a great high level for us to have athletes at and we’ve had a surge of Canadians going to the WNBA recently and it’s just a testament to hard she’s worked, everything she’s doing there and were so proud of her.”

Her thoughts on Canada getting a medal

“Well, were going in with the mindset of getting a medal, the colour at this point is up in the air. You obviously want the gold, but a medal at this point the medal is something were going for and I think we have the potential to go do it.”

Miranda Ayim – Forward, Canadian Olympic Team

Thoughts on the Olympics.

“We are very excited to go to the Olympics, it’s amazing how fast the time flies, these next couple of weeks are going to go by really fast leading up to the Olympics. Looking forward to it and I think were going to make a good mark. Where very focused, what were focused now is the first game against China and we just played three games against China, so were looking forward to stepping on the court and getting back to business, personally.”

Thoughts on the US exhibition tour next week(*this week)

“It’s going to be a great competition, because were playing against great teams. The top three teams in the world, and that’s how we want to sharpen our skills against so the US, France, Australia in the tournament earlier, and we played the US earlier this year as well so this will be a great tune up.”

Thoughts on Natalie Achonwa going back and forth between the WNBA and the Olympic Team

“Well, Natalie has been with us for years, you know, even if she’s in and out, but obviously she still has the history with us, the bond among all the team mates, it’s like a family, so when she comes back on the court, steps on the floor, it’s like she never left.”

Thoughts on Kia Nurse

“Obviously, I have no worries about it. She’s back practicing with us, so I know she’s ready to go.”

Head Coach Lisa Thomaidis

Her thoughts on Natalie Achonwa going back and forth between the WNBA and the Olympic Team

“Natalie’s been a part of our program for several years now, so this is nothing for her. You know, were happy to have her back, she’s had such a long season in the WNBA, it’s a grind,
playing every few days, so were just happy she’s with us now and utilizing her time as
best as we can so she can get up to speed on what we are doing.”

Natalie Achonwa’s role on Team Canada

“Nat has tremendous basketball IQ, she’s an experienced player, she can bring a lot of energy, she can really quarter back our back line for the center position and she plays a key role in our offense so we really look to her to bring a spark and energy, she could really play a number of different roles, and she’s a leader.”

Thoughts on Kia Nurse

“Kia’s a great player, were glad to have her back and we anticipate on having her be back to the player she was for us last year.”

Her success at UCONN and how that translates to the National Team

“She’s been a tremendous player for the last few years with us, so we expect the same thing from her. She’s a tremendous defensive player, who can also get it done on the offensive end and she’s one of our go to players.”

Thoughts on her team at Rio

“Just seeing how well our team will perform. Last year, we improved in key areas and I anticipate that the same thing will happen in these Olympics. We haven’t played our best yet, so it will be a fun test to see what level this team will play at in Rio”

Thoughts on a medal

“Too many uncontrollable factors. I can’t say, there’s such a great pool with so many great teams, so there’s going to be alot of competition for a medal for sure.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two Year Update on My Life + San Antonio Stars + more

Hey there!!

In case you haven’t noticed, I stopped blogging on this site for over two years. In fact, I had completely forgotten about it. I had gotten busy with another Stars centered website (www.starshoops.net) and other various WNBA and women’s basketball websites. I had tons of fun writing for other sites for two solid years and still will occasionally. I actually thought this site was gone or erased and I was going to make a new blog centered on my thoughts on women’s basketball, the Canadian women’s Olympic team, etc.

It’s weird seeing my posts in 2014 and how I really thought at that time it would lead to me becoming a sports writer. I’ve now let go of that dream, but I still have the passion to write about basketball and get into analysis, etc. I’ve reached the point in my life where that dream is no longer feasible for me and I have to search for other career choices that will ultimately help not only mine but my family’s lives as well. That doesn’t mean that I still won’t be here tweeting about the latest games and stats, it will just be less often.

With that said, this blog is now going to be changed to a new name and a new header which you will see when many of you probably see when it is updated. This new blog will have my thoughts every so often on the WNBA, women’s college basketball, Canada Olympics, etc. It will be updated every two weeks, and I look forward to writing all about it! I still will occasionally write for other women’s basketball sites, so if you want to keep up with it, check my Twitter feed or I’ll post the link in this blog.

Thanks and have a wonderful day!!

Peace,

Aneela

San Antonio Stars Preview of the 2014 WNBA Season

The San Antonio Silver Stars are heading into their 2014 season with better hopes of making the playoffs now that both stars Becky Hammon and Sophia Young-Malcolm are both healthy. They also received a future WNBA star Kayla McBride in the WNBA Draft. Things are looking up for the season unlike last season in which Sophia Young-Malcolm went down with an ACL injury. Then Becky Hammon went down with an ACL injury. It was not a pretty season at all for the Silver Stars who saw season lows in scoring at multiple points (48 points several times), some blowouts and saw another player Riquana Willams of the Tulsa Shock score 50 points on them. In the end, no matter how gritty the played some games, it was not enough to secure a playoff spot. They finished the season with a 15-19 record. One of the bright spots of the Stars 2013 season was Jayne Appel. She was able to increase both her points per game as well as rebounds per game. She played well enough that she signed a new multi year contract with the Stars.

The San Antonio Stars will have expectations of making the playoffs but all of this hinges on three key areas in which they struggled with last season. Their ability to score, their ability to defend and their ability to rebound. They will have no problem with scoring this season with their top players back. They will need to defend and they will need all of their players to do just that if they want to win games against good Western Conference teams. Rebounding has been a sore area for this team for a while and they will need more from other players excluding Jayne Appel who was one of the league’s top rebounders last season.

While Becky Hammon is healthy, she is at a point in her career where she is looking towards retirement and so the impact of Kayla McBride will be sorely needed. Kayla McBride will most surely struggle as all rookies do but she is an important piece to the Stars future and more will be expected from her next season onwards. Last season, Sophia Young-Malcolm made comments that were hurtful to 50% of the league’s fan base and it will be interesting to see how she is treated from other opposing fans as well as Star fans. On the court, Sophia Young-Malcolm will need to have an MVP type season in order to keep the Stars moving towards the playoffs otherwise they will be headed into the lottery. Danielle Robinson and Danielle Adams will need to continue their development as they enter their 4th seasons in the league. Both players are important and both players are capable of being WNBA All Stars. If both do not play well, it will not bode well this season for the San Antonio Stars. The veterans, Jia Perkins and Shameka Christon must contribute off the bench as there will be times where they will be sorely needed. Shameka Christon has been struggling for a while now, so if she is not able to contribute, I think it’s safe to say she will not back in 2015. Shenise Johnson will be entering her 3rd year and she like Danielle Robinson and Danielle Adams, will have more expected of her. Her play will also determine whether or not the Stars make the playoffs.

The San Antonio Stars have a good lineup of stars, veterans and young players. If they can all stay healthy, play well together and win close games, they will make the playoffs. Star fans should be excited as this season closely resembles 2012, when the Stars played well in the regular season, even though they lost in the first round of the playoffs. If the cards play out right, this can be a fun season for the San Antonio Stars. The Stars start their season on May 16th when they take on the Atlanta Dream.

Thoughts on the 2014 WNBA season & what to expect from the blog

Hey there!

It’s been a long while since I’ve last updated the blog. I was supposed to do an update last Monday, but got really busy with life. If you didn’t know, I got married in December, so I’ve been pretty busy adjusting to my new life and enjoying being a newlywed. While I was away, I noticed that the San Antonio Silver Stars changed their name to the San Antonio Stars (Personally, I don’t know why, I preferred the Silver Stars) and that the WNBA finally agreed to a new CBA. I also know that this is a big year for the Silver Stars as they are getting ready for a brand new season and a new lottery pick who could be a new star for the franchise considering the fact that Becky Hammon may be gearing up for her final seasons. It will be a fun summer and I am excited that I might have the opportunity to travel to New York this year to watch the San Antonio Stars LIVE this year! I can’t wait and hopefully it can come true so I’m looking forward to that! I’m also glad that the Sparks were able to stay in LA because for a while it looked pretty grim. Things are looking great for the 2014 WNBA season! Tune in!

As for me and my blog, there will be less posts from me. As you can already tell, I’ve stopped doing overseas updates as I can see that the San Antonio Stars are keeping up to date over there. You can check it out on their official website. I will also stop doing pre and post game blog posts and it will only be a weekly update from me. I will still be active on Twitter for live games and I will still keep track of player’s special milestones and news around the league, but there won’t be extensive blog posts from me from now on. I’ve come to the realization that even though I love the WNBA, the awesome players and the San Antonio Stars organization, I can’t keep writing for free anymore. It’s exhausting and I just won’t have the time anymore. It’s been fun last year and now that I’m married, I have other priorities to take care of. If you have read this blog before, I appreciate it and I always respond to great feedback and comments. Thanks for reading and here’s to a great 2014 WNBA season!

Happy trails! Xx

Aneela