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WOMEN'S NATIONAL BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION MEDIA CONFERENCE
May 7, 2010
RON HOWARD: With us is Kara Lawson of the Connecticut Sun, Lindsay Whalen of the Minnesota Lynx, and Cappie Pondexter of the New York Liberty. I would like to mention that Kara has been gracious enough to join us in advance of a game this evening and she will be able to join us for the first 20 minutes of this call. Those of you with questions for Kara, I would suggest you be ready to be in cue.
We'll start with questions for the three players.
Q. What are your expectations for the season? What things might we expect from each much you this season?
CAPPIE PONDEXTER: I think, honestly, it's a great opportunity for me to be starting my career in New York. I expect nothing but to have a successful season. I know this franchise is eager to get back to its winning ways.
For me, it's first on my list to help the team win.
KARA LAWSON: I'm coming into a new situation with a lot of players that haven't played together before. I think our challenge early on is just to try and develop chemistry as quickly as possible during training camp. For me, I'm on a young team this year, which is different than the teams I've been on in Sacramento where we were a veteran core group and played together for years. That's a little bit of an adjustment.
With Asjha, myself, DeMya, we have some good veterans here, so certainly leadership is going to be key from us this year.
You know, I mean, everyone in this league wants to win. Everyone is optimistic this time of year. Everyone thinks they have an opportunity to get into the playoffs and win a championship. Of course, add us as a team to that list that wants to do those things.
But with the league being tougher this year, you know, this will be the hardest year to get it done.
LINDSAY WHALEN: Kind of goes along with what Kara said. I think we here in Minnesota are taking training camp to get to know the new system, what Coach Reeve, her system and her style has for us, as well as getting to know lots of new faces.
I think we have to try to come out with the best start possible and just know that we'll continue to get better as a team, just see where we can go.
Q. Kara, what do you expect playing next to Renee Montgomery this season? How do you think that combination will work out for you two?
KARA LAWSON: I'm excited. I'm excited about the opportunity to play with Renee. I think she's a rare young player in our league that just understands the value of team basketball, that gets winning, that's really, really invested in trying to help her team win.
I think we complement each other really well. When coach does put us on the same team in practice, it doesn't happen very often, but when we do get to be on the same team in practice, we get really excited because we can play off one another well, we can switch positions. We're just trying to work on that, how we can make the game easier for each other by just divvying up our responsibilities and trying to work together to get each other good shots.
Q. Cappie, in New York there are people talking about you playing as a point guard. What do you think that would be like to run a team for maybe the majority of the game, if necessary?
CAPPIE PONDEXTER: Actually, I don't think it will be a problem at all. I played point guard for Anne Donovan during the Olympics. I'm kind of used to what she expects. I actually played on the point guard in the off-season in Europe for the last two years.
You know, I'm kind of excited about it. I love distributing the basketball. I love help leading the team, just getting the job done.
I'm excited and looking forward to it.
Q. Lindsay, looks like people say you're in an ideal situation in Minnesota, a lot of weapons to distribute to. What do you think forward to towards the season? What is it like as a point guard to have so many options on the court and how does that differ from Connecticut?
LINDSAY WHALEN: I think like you said, we have a lot of weapons on this team, a lot of different people that can make a lot of different plays. My job is to get people the ball in the right spots and make sure everyone's, you know, being in situations where they're most successful.
Like you said, once we get some people back early on here we're just going to work hard. We know everybody has to pick it up until we get Candice and Seimone back. I think once everyone has a chance to play and get better, work on their games, we bring those two players back when they're ready, I think we'll all be better off for it.
Q. Kara, do you have any observations about Lomax at all, who is still in camp right now?
KARA LAWSON: Judie is a workhorse. She comes in every day. She's very physical. She's a great rebounder. She sets great screens. She understands our system. She picks up things really quickly. She's a great teammate. So I've had a lot of fun getting a chance to know her and play with her these last couple weeks.
You know, she's just got a great spirit, a great work ethic. You can see there's a reason why she's in camp and why she's playing so well, is just because she wants it on every possession. That's a really, really valuable characteristic to have.
Q. Cappie, could you talk a little bit about your reasons for going to New York from a championship team? People have said you have a styling salon there, wanted to live in New York. What kind of things went through your mind that made you decide to go to work?
CAPPIE PONDEXTER: For me, I'm all about opportunity and change. I went to school on the East Coast, so a lot of my fan base is over here. Just the opportunity for me to start fresh. Actually, I just got to New York. Just the opportunity to play for Coach Donovan, start fresh.
I know I just won two championships with the Phoenix organization. It was great. For me, it was just all about opportunity and a new start.
Q. Cappie, you recently have been playing against Janel McCarvel in Russia. How are you feeling about playing with her with the New York Liberty? What are you looking forward to?
CAPPIE PONDEXTER: I'm excited to play with her. I think she's an exceptional player. Like you said, I had an opportunity to play with her for two years in Russia. European Championships, she had an unbelievable game for them to win. I talked to her and I told her, That type of play is what we're going to need to be successful this summer.
I'm just looking forward to it.
Q. What are your thoughts on Kalana Greene, coming from UConn?
CAPPIE PONDEXTER: Of course, any UConn player, they're used to winning. One of the greatest coaches of all times in women's basketball and basketball in general. She understands what it takes to win at a high level, to compete, be the best she can be, help her teammates.
For me, when I watched the draft, I thought we actually got a steal. That type of player, you know, is gonna be great for us. I'm excited to get to training camp and talk to her and get used to playing with her.
Q. Kara, the dispersal of the Monarchs have put a lot of players who are still very strong veteran players on different teams. As sad as it was to see the Monarchs go, do you see this as being something that will in some ways make the league even stronger because of all the veteran success you had for so long in Sacramento?
KARA LAWSON: I hope so. I have great respect for the players I played with in Sacramento. I think the league, the coaches and the players that played against us for the last six or seven years had great respect for our organization, what we were able to do in the post-season.
Yeah, I mean, all those players I think should blend in really nicely with their teams. You know, we had a team system in Sacramento. We were used to playing with a lot of talented players and understanding how to work together. When you go to a new team, you know, you have to kind of feel your way out, work your way in, get to know your teammates. All those players from Ticha, who is a consummate team player, Brunson, DeMya who filled so many roles for us on that Sacramento team for us, basically did whatever she was asked to do, I'm thrilled to still be with DeMya. She's just a great competitor and somebody that raises the level of intensity on a daily basis.
I think our team had just so many positive qualities. Hopefully each one of us will bring those to our new teams.
Q. Lindsay and Cappie, you both went home in a sense. Cappie, having gone to school at Rutgers, coming back to the New York area, and Lindsay going back to Minnesota, what does it mean to you at this point in your personal lives and careers to reconnect in that way to maybe people that are close to you and also fans that watched you grow up as college players?
LINDSAY WHALEN: It's been a great week and a half since I've been back home, about a week now practicing with the team. Just like you said, to get back and see some familiar faces, see fans who supported you in college and everything has been just a really great and unique experience. It's really worked out well. I'm really looking forward to the season.
CAPPIE PONDEXTER: For me, it's been exciting. I've been in Russia since the trade happened. Connecting with the fans from New York, they're so excited, the organization is excited, I'm excited, my family is excited. I'm happy that I get to see them a lot more because I'll be playing for the east now.
I think it's a great opportunity for me this summer.
Q. Cappie, somebody who grew up in Chicago, I'm sure you dreamed of playing in different arenas. But the idea of playing in Madison Square Garden, was that a dream of yours at all? How important do you feel it is to the WNBA for New York to be a powerful franchise? It is still the media capital of the world?
CAPPIE PONDEXTER: That's been my goal, you know, since I got traded. One thing I always wanted to happen. To play at the Garden, I mean, that's a basketball player's dream. It's like the world's best arena. To play there every night and be a part of something special. I am here in the media capital of the world.
I think this is great for myself personally, for the New York Liberty franchise and for the WNBA as a whole. I think we can definitely grow from this.
Q. Kara, when you would go play at Connecticut, you would sometimes get booed. I remember reading a quote from Coach Thibault saying he wished they would stop doing that because it made you mad and went off. Are you looking forward to being not boo'd there?
KARA LAWSON: I didn't get boo'd for my start. I'm 1-1. Fans have been great here, really welcoming. Most of them have admitted that they were some of the fans that had boo'd me in the past. They said that they were ready to turn over a new leaf and they're excited about me being able to play here and cheer for me and the team, of course.
It's a great environment. I know Lindsay can speak to this. The passion of the fan base here is really incredible and the support we get on a nightly basis. I'm really looking forward to playing games here and having a great home-court advantage, getting out and learning my way around the state and getting to know a lot of the fans.
Q. Cappie, you said you're looking forward to a fresh start. Why? What exactly are you starting over from?
CAPPIE PONDEXTER: What am I starting over from? I'm playing with a new organization, the New York Liberty. I got traded. That's the bottom line. For me, it's a new beginning. I'm looking forward to it. I just want to be the best player, teammate that I possibly can be for the Liberty.
Q. Does that mean anything different for you?
CAPPIE PONDEXTER: Does it mean anything different? I mean, I'm just gonna come out and compete. I love to play this game. I love to make my teammates better. I'm just looking forward to it.
Q. You said you just got to New York.
CAPPIE PONDEXTER: Literally 40 minutes ago I just got here.
Q. So you haven't had a chance to meet with people, find out what's going on?
CAPPIE PONDEXTER: No, not at all. Just had the conference call to talk to you.
Q. Are you going to get together with them tomorrow, tonight? What are you looking forward to most about getting to New York and getting this going?
CAPPIE PONDEXTER: Practice tomorrow is at 1 p.m. I'm excited about just learning the teammates, getting reunited with the coaching staff, meeting with the organization, everything that comes with it. I'm excited. So tomorrow will be my first day as an official Liberty.
Q. Cappie and Lindsay, did you feel any trepidation, while your intentions are good as far as what you wanted to do as far as the trade, did you feel any trepidation in actually asking for it, when it goes through, how it's looked from outsiders?
CAPPIE PONDEXTER: You know what, I mean, I'm sure everybody has their opinion whether or not I should have stayed. We just won a championship in Phoenix, why did I leave? Some fans are happy for me. Regardless, at the end of the day, I think people have to realize it's a business. It's not about not wanting to be somewhere or wanting to be somewhere more. It's not about that. It's about just being happy.
For me, there's so many things that I want to do after basketball. For me, New York was the best market. Basketball, it's not around for a long time, you know. I've already been in the league for five years. For me, I'm looking forward to something else and preparing for that now.
LINDSAY WHALEN: I think this year with each team, ways they wanted to improve their team, I think it just worked out for both teams. I think each team is excited for their opportunities this season. You know, I just am glad to be here. I have some great experiences and memories from Connecticut. Just hope for the best for the season.
Q. Cappie, when you think about the big dream, that basketball doesn't last forever, when you think about the future, what do you envision for yourself? What would be ideal that you could get out of being in New York?
CAPPIE PONDEXTER: Ideal? Just using basketball as a way. Everybody knows that I'm into fashion, entertainment industry. I love it. It's a passion of mine. Just using basketball to kind much weave through that avenue would be great for me. I think using basketball, winning, getting my face out there will definitely help.
Q. You've mentioned a couple of companies that you worked with or that you want people to support. Can you go through a few now that are designers that you're into or following, anything like that?
CAPPIE PONDEXTER: Me and a partner started a company that's actually played out of New York, called Four Season Style Management. It's pretty much an image consulting business where we help develop images for athletes, entertainers. We do a lot of things. That's what I kind of want to go through after basketball.
Right now for me, I'm not focused on that as much. I'm focused on winning and helping New York become a better franchise.
Q. I heard you say something about (indiscernible). Afterwards, do you think something like that could work out? Is that kind of just talk right now?
CAPPIE PONDEXTER: I think it would be awesome. If you look at it, you don't see many WNBA players venture into that side of things. For us to work together, kind of do some things, I think it will cool, I think it would be awesome. I'm looking forward to the opportunity to do it. Kind of some downtime.
Q. Cappie, how much are you looking forward to being reunited with (indiscernible) and Kia?
CAPPIE PONDEXTER: It's great. I think it should be fun for us. I haven't played with them probably in two or three years. I mean, they're excited. I'm excited. I think we can definitely start something special.
Q. Lindsay, one of your draft picks is a great scorer. In the pro game she's pretty young. How has it been playing with Gabriela?
LINDSAY WHALEN: She's got a lot of talent. It's been a lot of fun getting to know her. She's a great person. You know, she's just been fun getting to know her style and kind of the way she plays on the court. She's been great to play with.
Q. Can you talk about the differences having played for Coach Thibault and now playing for Coach Reeve in terms of anything similar or different that they bring to the game?
LINDSAY WHALEN: I think they both bring intensity to practices as well as games. We had our first exhibition game last night in Chicago. So I think just intensity, high expectations for our team. They both just bring a lot of knowledge. Both have been around this game for a long time. Just a lot of those are some big similarities.
Differences, I've only been here a week, so just gonna continue to work with the team and the staff and kind of get to know everybody.
Q. Cappie and Lindsay, you both are on new teams. You're coming from teams you were on for many years. I'm wondering what your foremost concern is coming to a new team after being very comfortable on your previous team.
CAPPIE PONDEXTER: I think you kind of hit it on the spot. I think the fact that you're comfortable with your situation, for me I've been in Phoenix since the day I got drafted. I'm sure Lindsay can say the same thing. It's just feeling comfortable again.
For me, I'm a competitor and I'm eager to learn. I'm excited. I know Coach Donovan is a great coach. She'll help me along the way.
Q. Lindsay, you obviously play the west teams when you're in the east, about you now you're in the west again, which has been highly competitive. The Lynx have struggled in terms of trying to make the post-season. Obviously it's a goal for everybody. How important do you think it is, especially this season, for the Lynx to make the post-season?
LINDSAY WHALEN: Well, I think that's what we're definitely expecting, is to be in the post-season, to contend for a championship. So I think it's just big for us to get off to a good start, get to know each other on the court, just kind of get to know the system that Coach Reeve wants us to play.
But it should be a fun season. We're all really looking forward to getting things started.
Q. Is it fun for you with a different schedule, the fact you'll face the west teams a lot more, a different challenge for you at this point in your career?
LINDSAY WHALEN: Yeah, yeah, that's definitely true. Some great teams in the west. We know we have our work cut out for us. We just have to come on every night. This league is so tough, you know each night presents a different challenge. So we're just going to have to be ready to go every night.
I think playing some of the west teams a little bit more often will be definitely challenging. Like I said, hopefully we get off to a good start and go from there.
RON HOWARD: I want to thank all of you for joining in. Lindsay, Cappie, Kara, thank you for all your time, and the media, thank you for your time.
End of FastScripts