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Category: Kathy Goodman

Kathy Goodman: Seattle again

I e-mailed my mother before the start of Friday night’s game against the Seattle Storm. “Are you ready for our third game against the Storm?” I wrote. “First game we only played for the first 32 minutes and in the second game we only played the last 8 minutes. Maybe this time we’ll make it a full forty.”  It was a longer version of my tweet to start the game. I hadn’t anticipated that the reverse would be true and we would just play for no minutes this time. The bad part is that if we just erased the first quarter, we still would have lost, but not taken the 82-60 drubbing we took.  But the first quarter set the tone for the game and we never recovered.

Right now, the Storm have the best record in the League at 9-1, and I can’t take anything away from them -- they are a pretty team to watch.  Sue Bird had 13 points and five assists and shot just over 50% from the field.  Four of their starters were in double figures and all of the players who had more playing time than just the final couple of minutes scored.  They outshot us, out-rebounded us (on both ends of the court) and took better care of the ball (committing 12 turnovers to our 19.)  They stole the ball from us 13 times (and Camille Little, with five steals, equaled our entire team.)  They shot better overall, in the paint, from the free throw line and from three-point range. It was an old-fashioned blow-out. 

There were a few bright spots for our team. Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton was perfect from the field, going 4-4, leading our bench scoring effort. We played a solid second quarter, with more assists than turnovers and outrebounding the Storm for those 10 minutes.  But overall, it was an ugly game.  

I will admit that coming off our win against Phoenix on Tuesday, I was expecting more than I got last night.  It is always a battle against Seattle, especially in Key Arena, where the Storm have loud and passionate fans, and maybe it was too much to expect a win, but I always think our team can win against anyone. Friday night they definitely proved me wrong.  We came out tentative, committing four turnovers before the clock had run off three minutes. The Storm took advantage and went on an 8-2 run to open the game.  We settled down a bit after a timeout, but then the Storm attacked again, spending the last four minutes of the quarter on a 14-2 run, finally ending the first quarter up by 13.  For the rest of the game, we never cut the Storm lead below 11.  For all intents and purposes, the game was over in the first 10 minutes.

In our first nine games of the season, we have played the Storm three times and the Phoenix Mercury three times.  All I can say now is that it will be good to finally see what the rest of the League looks like.  At noon on Sunday, we will be back at home at Staples Center playing the Minnesota Lynx, a team we have also already faced this season (and beaten).  I’ve decided it is best just to look forward to that game rather than reflect further on the past.

-- Kathy Goodman, co-owner of the L.A. Sparks

Kathy Goodman: The game is 40 minutes

The Atlanta Dream came into Staples Center on Sunday night an undefeated team.  I had exchanged goodhearted trash-talk e-mails with Bill Bohlen, who runs the front office of the Dream, telling him I thought it was important that there be parity in the WNBA, so I hoped he didn’t mind if we helped cool off his team’s red-hot start.

We had played well in our home opener on Friday night, and I was hoping for more of the same Sunday evening against the Dream. It took us a minute to get started, but then Tina Thompson made back-to-back buckets, and within three minutes, we were up 10-2, and Atlanta was calling a timeout.  By the end of the first quarter, we were up by five, and we had played some solid basketball against a tough team.  We weren’t perfect, but Candace Parker and Tina already had scored in double digits, and we had assists on six of our eight baskets, so we were definitely playing together.  I didn’t realize that that was as good as it was going to get.

When I looked at the box score at halftime, Tina was a perfect 6 of 6, and Candace already had 18 points and six boards.  We had more assists than turnovers, and we were leading the Dream 45-42.  I was thinking it was nice to be home.  We were playing hard and together, and though our lead from the first quarter had narrowed a bit, I still felt good.  I didn’t pay much attention to the deficit we had accumulated in offensive rebounds or how dominant Atlanta was in the paint.

I spent halftime in one of the suites at Staples Center talking to some fellow public-school teachers and felt pretty confident as I was heading back to my seat shortly after the second half began.  As I sat down, I looked up at the scoreboard to see how much I had missed, and with just about a minute and a half gone in the period, we were down two.  When did that happen?  Sancho Lyttle and Iziane Castro-Marques went to work for Atlanta on the offensive end, and for the last 4 1/2 minutes of the period, they led Atlanta on a 16-5 run.  Just like that, we went from up by three to down by 12 in a single quarter.  It was like we had switched minds with Atlanta. Suddenly, they had all the assists, and we were playing individually.  Atlanta shot almost 61% from the field, with more than half of their third-quarter points in the paint.  In 10 minutes, I had become very very worried.

We never really gave ourselves a chance in the fourth quarter. We spent most of the period trading baskets with Atlanta but never cut their lead below nine.  In the last three minutes of the game, the Dream went on one final 10-4 run and ran us out of the gym.  They remained undefeated, beating us 101-82.

When I look at the final box score, I see that Candace Parker was four blocks shy of a triple double (33 points, 12 rebounds, six blocks), and  Tina Thompson was 9 of 11 from the field, scoring 26 points.  But then I also see we were out-rebounded, especially on the offensive end; we had twice as many turnovers as Atlanta (18 to their nine), and they outscored us both in the paint and on the break.  We played a great first half, but the game is 40 minutes.

-- Kathy Goodman, co-owner of the L.A. Sparks

Sparks co-owners to be honored by Anti-Defamation League

The co-owners of the Sparks, Carla Christofferson and Kathy Goodman, are being honored by the Anti-Defamation League on Wednesday night here in L.A.

The two women are among four community leaders being celebrated by the ADL at its 16th annual Deborah Awards. The event spotlights outstanding women whose leadership in their professions and civic contributions exemplify the qualities and the ideals of the ADL, whose mission includes fighting all forms of bigotry.

In addition to Christofferson, managing partner at O'Melveny & Myers in L.A., and Goodman, a lawyer and teacher at High Tech Los Angeles high school, the ADL will salute Emily Wang, senior vice president and director of marketing for East West Bank, and Suzi Weiss-Fischmann, executive vice president of OPI Products.

Goodman, who will again be blogging for the Fabulous Forum once the 2010 season gets underway on May 15, joined with Christofferson to buy the Sparks from Jerry Buss in December 2006 and made a commitment to keep growing the team's fan base. Last year, the Sparks lost to eventual WNBA champion Phoenix Mercury in the second round of the playoffs.

-- Debbie Goffa

Sparks' GM Penny Toler forsees a long off-season assembling next year's roster

While the Sparks sat at a conference table during the team's exit interviews three weeks ago in El Segundo, players dutifully noted the strong possibility that it may have been the last time they would see some of their teammates. After reflecting on what unanimously had been considered a disappointing 2009 season, Sparks guard Betty Lennox was asked to look ahead to 2010. But she couldn't.

Fabforum Said Lennox: "I see nothing but fog."

That's because this off-season carries a lot of uncertainty.

The Sparks are currently involved with a coaching search after Michael Cooper left to coach the USC women's basketball program. They also are coping with Lisa Leslie's retirement following a 13-year career in the WNBA that included three league and All-Star MVPS, two league championships and finishing as the league's all-time leader in scoring (6,263 points) and rebounding (3,307).

The Sparks also may have to address other departures.

Despite signing a three-year deal in March, Sparks forward Tina Thompson says she will spend this off-season contemplating whether she has the energy and stamina to play in what would be her 14th season. Sparks guard Kristi Harrower, a free agent, says she also will be weighing her options from October through February while playing and serving as player and general manager for Bendigo Bank Spirit, a professional team in her native country in Australia.

Although Sparks General Manager Penny Toler said Harrower was the team's lone free agent, she said that doesn't mean she wouldn't look to trade other players.

"When you don't win [the championship], all bets are off," Toler said. "You see what becomes available. What you think is a need may not be a need depending on what other players are available."

With the league announcing today that the Detroit Shock will relocate to Tulsa, Okla., Toler forsees possible player movement within the organization. That gives her one more reason to move ahead in what she imagines to be a busy off-season.

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Sparks' GM Penny Toler keeping her options open regarding coaching search

With the WNBA season ending only 10 days ago, Sparks General Manager Penny Toler could have taken a vacation during what she called a "quiet period." After all, she had often remarked during the season she couldn't recall the last time she has taken one.

Toler doesn't plan any R & R any time soon, telling The Times this morning she anticipates "an interesting offseason for us."

That's because there are already a bunch of moving parts.

Coach Michael Cooper left the Sparks to coach the USC women's basketball team. Three-time league MVP Lisa Leslie retired after an accomplished 13 years in the league and is already staying busy during post-retirement.

Though she signed a three-year deal in March, Sparks forward Tina Thompson says she wants to assess how she feels physically before committing to what would be her 14th season in the league. Sparks guard Kristi Harrower said the same thing during the team's exit interviews and has recently become the general manager of the Bendigo Bank Spirit, a professional team in Australia where she is also one of the team's guards.

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Kathy Goodman: The hard way

Tina

You’ve got to hand it to Phoenix. They make even the loser’s stat sheet look good. I mean, we out-rebounded them 40-26. Candace Parker and Tina Thompson set career highs in playoff points and field goals made. We had four of our five starters in double-digit scoring. We scored a huge 94 points. If only the Phoenix Mercury hadn’t scored 103, we would have left the arena feeling pretty good.

The Sparks haven’t done anything the easy way all summer long. Candace had to fight her way back after maternity leave but then led the league in rebounds and double doubles. Lisa had to fight her way back from a knee injury and is leading the team in scoring in her 13th season in the league. We fought our way back from the bottom of the league, with a record of 8-13, to go on a 10-3 run at the end of the season to clinch our playoff spot. We lost a heartbreaker in the last 10 seconds of Game 2 in the first round in Seattle to come back to secure a spot in the Conference Finals.

So we face off against Phoenix in a three-game series. Of the 11 games Phoenix lost in the regular season, five of them were at home. Although we only beat the Mercury once during the 2009 regular season, we beat them in Phoenix. All-time against the Mercury, we are 14-10 when we play in Phoenix. So, we can win in Phoenix. And apparently tonight our players decided that was the way they wanted it to happen./p>

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Kathy Goodman: And the Sparks are moving on

Saturday was a dreary day in Seattle. It was cold and wet, raining on and off all day. It sort of matched my mood. Friday night, with 10 seconds left in the game, I had already imagined being back in the nice dry heat of an L.A. September. When I woke up this morning, though, the sky was blue with nice fluffy clouds, and that matched my mood as well. The Sparks haven’t done anything easy all summer long and why should the first round of the playoffs be any different? The Seattle Storm at full strength might be a contender, but they were just too beat up at this point.  Friday night had given them a lift, but I just didn’t see us losing today. I felt good.

I saw Penny Toler when I went down for breakfast. “What do you think?” I asked her. “We got this,” she responded. I felt the same way. I saw Marianne Stanley a little later. “Play hard, “ I said. “You know they will,” she responded. Never was I so happy the game was at 2pm instead of at night. I couldn’t have waited that long. I just wanted this game to start. If we played basketball the way we CAN play basketball, no one was going to stop us. If we let the Storm get in our head, if we let them set the tempo of the game, if we spent too much time thinking about 10 seconds that happened two days ago, well ...

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Kathy Goodman: Sparks pull through in a must-win game in Seattle

Lisa Let’s face it -- we have lost a lot of games this season. More games than I thought we would.  More games than we should have.  But Wednesday night's game against the Seattle Storm was the first game this season that I would have called a “must win.”  There were a lot of games I wanted to win (well, I wanted to win every game); there were a lot games we should have won; there were a lot of games that we could have won.  But it's the playoffs, and we don’t have home court advantage.  So when we’re home, we must win.

There’s a lot of talk around playoff time about everything starting at 0-0. It may be true that regular season records don’t matter, but there is still a lot of history to contend with.  Between Seattle and L.A., there’s a lot of history.  Seattle has lost in the first round of the playoffs for the last four seasons, twice at the hands of the Sparks.  We split our regular-season games with them this summer, both of us winning the home games in the series.  There’s the Lauren Jackson-Lisa Leslie rivalry carried over from the Olympics.  Both teams know how to win and neither team wants to lose.  Especially to each other.

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Kathy Goodman: Phoenix then and now

Lisa As I was making my plans for this weekend’s final regular season game in Phoenix, and Lisa Leslie’s final regular season game in a Sparks uniform, I couldn’t help but reflect back on Season 1—back in 1997.  At the start of the inaugural season, L.A. had been widely picked as a favorite to win the first championship in the league, in large part because of the star power of its first assigned player, Lisa Leslie. However, the season had not gone exactly as planned.  There had been losing streaks and coaching changes.  By the time the last game of the regular season arrived, L.A. was fighting for its life to make the playoffs and it all came down to the final game of the season against the Phoenix Mercury.  The game was on a Sunday afternoon, and if we won, we were going to the post-season.  If Phoenix won, they were on their way.  It was a big game for Sparks fans in that inaugural season and I convinced my brother, with whom I was sharing a house (and Sparks season tickets) at the time, that true fans would road trip to Phoenix to cheer on the team.  He thought I was crazy, but he helped pack the car.

So, in tribute to Leslie, and because the parallels were so strong (except the part about having to qualify for the playoffs, fortunately),  I decided it was time once again to load up my car with water and chips and head out......

into the desert.

In 1997, Phoenix had one of the largest and most vocal fan bases in the league.  Their arena seemed to literally shake when they all got going.  They had a group of dedicated nuns who cheered them on from the stands and Cheryl Miller as their fiery coach. In the pre-Penny Taylor days, their Australian on the roster was the tenacious point guard Michelle Timms. Nancy Lieberman was still playing guard for Phoenix, her coaching and broadcasting careers still far in her future. Everyone in the arena seemed to know all the words to the “Mighty Mercury” song.  Los Angeles had its own stars: Leslie, of course, and Penny Toler in her pre-GM days. Chinese National Team standout Haixia Zheng also played a big role.

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Kathy Goodman: Sparks clinch the playoffs!

Noelle I had a lot of possible titles for this post.  I thought about “A Tale of Two Teams” and “What a difference a day makes.”  But really, at the end of the game, there was only one thought going through my head, and that’s what I used as the title: “Sparks clinch the playoffs!”

I really did not think it was going to be this hard, or take this long, or be this close.  I thought we’d lose a few games, but end the season with fewer than 20 wins?  I would have owed a lot of people a lot of money if we had bet on that at the beginning of the season.  And now, here we were, three games from the end of the regular season, wondering if we were even going to qualify for the postseason at all.

 All we had to do Tuesday night was beat the team that two nights ago had delivered to us our largest loss since our loss to Detroit in the second game of the season.  How hard could that be?  The thing about the Sparks this season is it seems like they only win whenever they feel like they have to. Put their backs against the wall and they will play hard.  When we finished the first half of the season with a dismal 6-11 record, suddenly it seemed like we would miss the playoffs entirely.  So the team went on a winning streak, suddenly winning eight of our next 10 games.  Then, when it was down to needing only two more victories to punch our playoff ticket, the team starting losing it again — winning only one of our last four.

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Kathy Goodman: The playoff race

Thirty assists on 33 field goals. Six turnovers and 10 steals. Shooting 54% from the field and an even better 61.9% from behind the three-point arc. The high scorer, an inaugural player in the WNBA retiring this year after 13 seasons, sets her career record in points in the game. How do you beat that? Sadly, tonight those stats all belonged to the San Antonio Silver Stars, not the Los Angeles Sparks. And the inaugural player who had the best scoring night of her career was Vicki Johnson, who has announced that this season will be her last, although, like Lisa Leslie, seems like she has a lot more left to give the game. Tonight, she shot an astonishing 5 of 6 from 3-point range and 11 of 14 overall, to score 27 points in San Antonio’s victory over the Sparks.

If I was reading from our box score, it wouldn’t seem too bad: field goal percentage over 55%, a 4:3 assist to turnover ratio, outrebounded the opponent on both the offensive and defensive ends and only missed one free throw all night. But San Antonio was fighting for their playoff existence and the Sparks came up on the short end tonight.

We need one more win to clinch our playoff spot. We could also get there sooner with some help. But Minnesota and San Antonio don’t seem that interested in helping. This is the time of year when you start paying even closer attention to the scores in the other games in the conference. The Eastern Conference has all their own mess going in, with four teams locked in contention for the last two playoff spots, but I don’t have time for that. I can only focus on the West and what we need to do and what it is possible for us to do.

At halftime, when the Sparks were down by one point and I still had hope, I sent my mother the following e-mail: “If we win, we clinch a playoff spot. If Seattle wins too, we are locked into third and can’t pass Seattle or drop below SA or Minn. If Seattle loses and we win, we could theoretically pass them and finish second (if they lose out and we win out.) If we lose, we are still alive, but we have to either win Tuesday or Friday, unless Minnesota loses tonight too, which will also allow us to clinch a playoff spot. Got all that?” When she told me Minnesota was beating Seattle at the half, I responded that I couldn’t quite figure out who to root for in that game -- maybe they both could lose. Her response? “I don’t know a whole lot about this game, but I don’t think that can happen.”

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