The Weekly Roundup: U.S. Success at the Paralympics, Spain’s 3x3 Win, and the Best-Kept Secret in the W
Recapping Team USA’s bronze-medal win and pondering the lack of publicity leading up to the W25 reveal
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I hope everyone had a fantastic Labor Day weekend filled with Covid-friendly gatherings, tasty food fresh off the grill, and uber-competitive family trivia competitions (ok, that last one might be unique to my family). Summer may be over, but with just 12 days left until the end of the regular season, the WNBA playoff races are heating up! It feels like no one wants the No. 8 seed as Los Angeles, Washington, and New York have collectively lost their last 13 games. Just a half-game currently separates these three struggling teams. In the top half of the standings, Connecticut has all but locked up a double-bye, due in large part to its nine-game winning streak. The Lynx’s five-game winning streak has given them an outside shot at the second double-bye, as they sit a game and a half back of the Liz Cambage-less (Covid protocols) Las Vegas Aces.
Let’s now take a look at the U.S. wheelchair team, who, despite carrying nine Paralympic rookies on their roster, took home the bronze at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo.
U.S. wheelchair basketball captures Paralympic bronze
After dropping a 41-36 decision to China in the semifinals, the United States wheelchair basketball team bounced back to earn its seventh medal in the last nine Paralympics, knocking off Germany 64-51 in the bronze-medal game on Saturday.
A 9-0 run in the second quarter, which culminated in a Lindsey Zurbrugg triple, propelled the U.S. to a lead it would never relinquish. As she has done all tournament long, Zurbrugg shouldered the scoring load for the Americans, dropping 22, including 15 in the game’s opening 15:16. Veteran Rose Hollermann posted a triple-double with 12 points, 10 assists, and 12 boards. Natalie Schneider added a double-double (12 points, 11 rebounds). Courtney Ryan chipped in 14 points.
It’s an encouraging finish for the Americans. They were by no means the prohibitive favorites to win gold. Despite earning three of the last four Paralympic gold medals, the United States returned just three players from its gold-medal triumph in Rio five years prior. However, the nine Paralympic rookies on the U.S. roster infused the squad with an energy and enthusiasm that didn’t go unappreciated by the veterans.
“The rookies were so much fun,” Schneider said. “This is my fourth Games so I l loved getting to see the Paralympics again through their eyes with everything being new and so exciting and overwhelming. It was so much fun to see it through their eyes, and they made it an even more enjoyable experience than it already was.”
Lindsey Zurbrugg encapsulated the benefits of the United States’ strong team chemistry: “I'm really happy to have ended with such a great game today,” Zurbrugg said. “I attribute my success to the unwavering confidence that my teammates have in me. Even when there is [an] off day in any aspect of the game, they would always be able to pick me up and anybody up at any given time. This team is a family.”
The future is bright for this family. Paralympic rookie Courtney Ryan’s 8.0 assists per game was tops for the entire competition. Lindsey Zurbrugg’s 13.3 points per game led the U.S. in her Paralympic debut. Granted, as the reigning International Wheelchair Basketball Federation world champions and Paralympic champions, the Netherlands has firmly established itself as the cream of the wheelchair basketball crop. However, recent performances on the international stage by this young American squad suggest it will be a force to be reckoned with at the 2022 world championships in Dubai and the 2024 Paralympics in Paris.
FIBA 3x3 Women’s Series: Spain wins Montreal Stop; U.S. qualifies for Bucharest Final
Spain’s Aitana Cuevas exploded for a 12-point, 8-rebound double-five propelling her country’s 3x3 squad to an 18-15 win over Austria in the finals of the FIBA 3x3 Women’s Series Montreal Stop. The FIBA 3x3 Women’s Series is a collection of seven international tournaments, culminating in the final tournament in Bucharest, Romania September 18-19. Spain has won two of these tournaments and heads into Bucharest as the No. 1 seed.
The United States kicked things off in Montreal with three straight nail-biting victories in preliminary play, defeating Germany (18-16 OT), Austria (15-14), and the Netherlands (16-14). Louisville’s Hailey Van Lith tied for the tournament lead in points with 18 across those three games. Force 10 3x3’sBreanna Richardson was a force on the boards, grabbing 17 rebounds to go along with 13 points across the trio of contests. Two other Force 10 3x3 players, Jordan Reynolds and Camille Zimmerman, provided solid contributions to the American squad during pool play. Reynolds added a double-five and Zimmerman chipped in six points and nine rebounds.
Unfortunately, the Americans couldn’t escape a fourth tight contest, dropping a 17-15 decision in the semifinals to Austria. Richardson led the U.S. with eight points; Van Lith added a 5-point, 6-rebound double-five. Simone Sill led Austria in scoring with seven points on 6-for-9 shooting from the field; Sarah Sagerer (5 points, 4 rebounds, 5 highlights) and Rebekka Kalaydjiev (3 points, 5 rebounds, 5 highlights) nearly recorded triple-fives.
By virtue of its top-seven finish in the Women’s Series, the U.S. has qualified for the Bucharest Final. Joining Spain and the United States in the Women’s Series finale will be Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, Russia, France, and host nation Romania.
The W25: The best-kept secret in the W
In honor of its silver anniversary, the WNBA posted a list of the 25 greatest players in league history, something the W has done every five years since its 10th anniversary. It’s a neat way to recognize the contributions of legends who helped convert the once-wild notion of a women’s professional basketball league into the great product we appreciate today. Also, sports fans love a good debate, and there’s nothing like the challenge of naming a league’s greatest players to help generate lively discussion, buzz, and publicity. That’s why it’s mind-boggling that the WNBA did so little to publicize the list’s reveal that several fans on social media were unsure whether the event would occur as scheduled on Sunday.
The league’s fans deserve better. More importantly, the 25 greatest players in WNBA history, a group so critical to the creation and growth of the league, deserve better. Being named as one of the greatest players in the history of a women’s professional basketball league is a monumental achievement. Five years from now when W30 rolls around, let’s hope the W’s publicity efforts match the gravity of the moment.
Author’s Note: Kudos to Across the Timeline’s Kurtis Zimmerman for bringing attention to this issue and for giving the W25 the attention it deserves. Kurtis compiled much of the great discussion surrounding this topic here.
Not in my house
Remember that GEICO commercial where legendary NBA shot-blocker Dikembe Mutombo rejected everything from a load of laundry to a cereal box? I think we need a reboot starring Monique Billings. Here’s her audition tape:
Congratulations to Her Hoop Stats’ own Gabe Ibrahim, who got married over the weekend! We hope your marriage is filled with love, happiness, and basketball scouting trips.
WNBA schedule this week (All times Eastern)
Here is a listing of this week’s games, start times, and where you can catch the action.
Adam’s Power Rankings
Check out the Her Hoop Stats team’s latest power rankings! Based on the criterion of who would win if teams played tomorrow on a neutral court, here is my contribution to those rankings:
Her Hoop Stats content in case you missed it
The Her Hoop Stats Podcast with John Liddle is back! John spoke with AP basketball writer Doug Feinberg about his experience covering the Tokyo Olympics, Sue Bird’s future, and WNBA expansion.
Christy Winters-Scott and Gabe Ibrahim discussed the hottest team in the W, the Connecticut Sun, and the battle for the No. 8 seed in the latest episode of Courtside.
In WNBA Dissected, Richard Cohen provided historical context for the impressive player efficiency rating posted by Teaira McCowan during her first three seasons. He also analyzed the pros and cons of Atlanta and Indiana mailing it in for the remainder of the season.
Kavya Kashyap chronicled the United States U16 team’s dominant gold-medal run at the FIBA U16 Americas Women’s Championship.
Don’t forget to check out Her Hoop Stats on Twitter @herhoopstats for the Wetz Betz, where Calvin Wetzel provides his latest bets on WNBA action. To see how Calvin’s picks have fared this season, take a look at his regularly updated ledger of wagers.
Other recommended content
For ESPN, Katie Barnes explored the impact of the recent spate of legislation aimed at restricting transgender athletes.
Also for ESPN, Mechelle Voepel offered her list of the top WNBA franchises of all time.
When Liz Cambage and A’ja Wilson shared the court during the 2019 season, the Las Vegas Aces posted a lower net rating than when just one of them took the hardwood. For FiveThirtyEight, Howard Megdal analyzed whether this phenomenon has continued this season.
Charli Collier is the first No. 1 draft pick since 2005 to average less than 20 minutes per game in her rookie season. Dorothy Gentry of The Athletic described how this season has been a humbling experience for the Dallas Wings’ forward/center and how Collier still maintains that she will be the best in the WNBA one day.
In a piece for TeamUSA.org, Steve Goldberg discussed the similarities between U.S. Olympic coach Dawn Staley and U.S. Paralympic wheelchair basketball coach Trooper Johnson.
Women’s professional basketball trivia question of the week
Name the three players on the W25 who have never won a WNBA title.