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WOMEN'S NATIONAL BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION MEDIA CONFERENCE
September 13, 2011
RON HOWARD: Thank you to all our media for joining us today as we get set to tip off our playoffs on Thursday. Joining us right away are ESPN analysts Carolyn Peck and Rebecca Lobo. We'll get started right away.
Carolyn and Rebecca, if each would give an opening remark and then we'll open the floor to questions.
CAROLYN PECK: I'm looking forward to these playoffs. The most exciting thing is I don't think there's a clear-cut, defined, you say hands down this is the team that should win the championship. Especially you look at the East, now that Atlanta is fully healthy, they've gotten hot towards the end of the season. Indiana was able to rest Catchings in the final game. Connecticut is extremely talented. New York, with having Cappie Pondexter, they always have a chance. In the West, now that Lauren Jackson is back gives Seattle that extra punch. Minnesota has had a fantastic year. Phoenix is always dangerous with their up-tempo style of play. San Antonio, as hot as they started early in the season, they had to go with a spurt with Danielle Adams being out. Now that she's back, will they be able to get back to the position of playing the way they were at the beginning of the season?
I'm excited about it and looking forward to it.
RON HOWARD: Rebecca.
REBECCA LOBO: Just kind of reiterate what Carolyn said. It's been a fun year to cover these games. It's been a fun year to be a fan of the WNBA. I think this is the first year where I think it didn't matter who was playing during the regular season, if I turned a game on, it was competitive. Sometimes Tulsa not so much, but pretty much every other game, the games were well-played, they came down to the wire, they were exciting, it was really good basketball being played. I expect that to continue into the playoffs, especially the first two rounds when they're playing within conference.
These teams know each other so well, especially in the East where I think it's a split, 2-2, in both series. It's going to be a really fun playoffs. I think it's going to be an exciting playoffs. I hope people tune in because this will be women's basketball played at its best.
RON HOWARD: Thank you. Now we'll open the floor to questions.
Q. If you can talk about who you see as being the ones that are going to elevate themselves as stars in these playoffs and who you see as being an X factor?
CAROLYN PECK: Are you talking about across the league?
Q. Across the league, yes.
CAROLYN PECK: Wow. There are a number of players. I think you start out with Cappie Pondexter with New York. To me, I think she is probably the most dangerous player in the WNBA as far as her offensive punch that she can bring to a game. She can get involved early or she can wait until her team needs her to take over and she can.
She is the best player off the bounce that can create her own shots. She is instant offense and tough to guard. When you think you have her shut down, she still is able to get a shot off. I compare her to the Kobe Bryant of the WNBA.
I think a player that could also, not a big-name player, but she is a big player, is Jessica Davenport with Indiana. She's been coming off the bench. But the numbers she's performed as a starter. I think Lin Dunn appreciates the fact of having a player of her size and caliber that she can go to the bench, put her in the ballgame, and she's a player that commands a double-team.
As far as in the West, I think a key player that's going to make a difference, that has made a difference for her team all year long when she's been able to play, is Danielle Adams coming off the bench for San Antonio.
Q. About Minnesota, everybody has been saying how good they are all year. They haven't been in the playoffs in so many years. Is that going to be an albatross or lesson to have such high expectations coming into this playoff?
REBECCA LOBO: I think with Minnesota, while the team hasn't been in the playoffs since 2004, a lot of their pieces has. Cheryl Reeve has coaching experience with Detroit, granted it was as an assistant coach. Taj McWilliams-Franklin is a champion, Lindsay Whalen has played in a WNBA finals. I think that's one of the reasons they've had so much success is Coach Reeve did a good job of getting players not only in Minnesota but players of bringing a culture of winning there. Taj Franklin is a huge example of that. Seimone Augustus doesn't have a lot of experience in the WNBA finals or playoffs, but she's played on a national team, played at the highest level in college. She has some veterans around her who have that experience.
I don't think it will be a real problem for Minnesota.
Q. If you had to do like a bracket-style pick for the playoffs, what would you do?
REBECCA LOBO: I agree with what Carolyn said to open this, is that this is wide open. I think Minnesota has the best record in the league, but Seattle is finally healthy. They were the team everybody picked at the beginning of the season because of their experience, having everybody back, because you didn't know Lauren Jackson was going to get hurt.
It really is wide open. I wouldn't be surprised if any of the eight teams made it to the finals. One thing I've learned over the years is we're better off if we don't make predictions because we're going to be meeting up with these players in a couple days face to face and calling all their games and they're a little more open if we haven't picked against them.
CAROLYN PECK: I would agree with Rebecca as far as it being wide open. I think that the most dangerous team in the East right now is Atlanta, especially the way that they finished this season, having gone throughout the season with the nagging injuries. Angel McCoughtry starts with a knee. They lose Shalee Lehning with an ACL. Sancho Lyttle is out. When she comes back, she has back problems. Erika de Souza twists an ankle. I think Lindsey Harding had hip problems. But it seems like now everything has come together.
With those players being out, they've gotten a little rest. I think they are probably the most dangerous team in the East.
In the West, I would say Phoenix to be the most dangerous. Diana Taurisi as we all know can put up great numbers at the right time. Penny Taylor has had a phenomenal year. DeWanna Bonner moving to a new role, they had to adjust to play without Tangela Smith, the trade of Kara Braxton, she's excelled in having more scoring opportunity.
Q. Can you talk about how much Whisenant has changed the Liberty with his defensive style.
CAROLYN PECK: I think the defensive style has just made defense a priority. Had all the players on the team buy into that team defense concept. One of the things I think has definitely helped is the opportunity that Kia Vaughn has been able to experience with McCarville not playing this season. She is my candidate for most improved player. But she's got the athleticism to play in the post and be in rotation. Essence Carson has been able to use her athletic ability, as well.
I think the biggest thing that was done is being able to put the right players in the right spots to be successful. Moving Cappie Pondexter to the 2, starting Leilani Mitchell, it puts her more in a scoring position. A lot of times your defense gets fueled if your offense is clicking.
Q. What are the keys with Connecticut to Atlanta and Atlanta to Connecticut in terms of winning? Connecticut has been able to have some success.
CAROLYN PECK: I think both teams have been able to win at home. Home court I think plays to the advantage of starting in Connecticut. I think that a big key, as far as Connecticut defending Atlanta, is they cannot allow Atlanta to get into a transition game. Atlanta is very good when they can get points in the paint. That will come from layups in transition, that will come off penetration, and then the rebounding that they have with Lyttle, de Souza and Ally Bales. That definitely helps.
I think for Atlanta defending Connecticut, they got to try to take care of Tina Charles inside and Asjha Jones, their big post presence inside.
What Connecticut also has is that scoring ability from the perimeter with RenĂ©e Montgomery shooting the basketball or Kara Lawson coming in the ballgame and scoring quick points off the bench, and Tan White.
Atlanta, if it's a halfcourt game, has more to defend. If Connecticut can make it a halfcourt game, the main thing they have to focus on is shutting down the paint.
Q. With regards to the Indiana/New York series, both these teams split their season series with each winning a victory on the visitor's court. What do you think are the key factors for these teams to win?
CAROLYN PECK: I think a key factor is the center position, and that's Tammy Sutton-Brown. The last couple games of the season, she's played extremely well. She's only scored in double figures I think three or four times this season. She's going to have that presence and command the attention of New York's defense to allow Douglas and Catchings to be able to get their shots.
A concern for Indiana has to be some injuries that they've suffered with Erin Phillips with an ankle and in the last game Shavonte Zellous went down with an ankle, where New York is healthy. With those two players, if they're not at a hundred percent, that's going to put a huge responsibility on Katie Douglas to defend Cappie Pondexter. When she has to expend so much energy defensively, what will that do to her offensively?
Then Indiana also, their post players have to be concerned with defending Kia Vaughn. Now that New York has Kara Braxton, she's brought a big presence off the bench.
Q. What will it take for New York to beat Indiana?
CAROLYN PECK: Well, in order for New York to beat Indiana, I feel that more the offense has to be geared to Cappie first as opposed to a second or third option. Once she is established and the defense has to pay so much attention to her, that will open up penetrating opportunities or scoring for Essence, perimeter shooter, Leilani Mitchell, or Nicole Powell, and open up for high-low opportunities that are run so well with Plenette Pierson and Kia Vaughn.
RON HOWARD: I want to take a moment to thank Carolyn and Rebecca for joining us. We look forward to seeing you in the next few weeks.
CAROLYN PECK: Thank you.
REBECCA LOBO: Thank you.
RON HOWARD: We'll move forward with our coaches at this time. We have with us from the Indiana Fever Lin Dunn, from the San Antonio Silver Stars Dan Hughes, and from the Connecticut Sun Mike Thibault.
We'll move forward with Coach Thibault and Coach Dunn and we will have Coach Hughes join us in progress.
Lin and Mike, I'll ask if you would, please, begin with a brief opening statement and then we'll open the floor to questions.
Lin, if you would, please.
COACH DUNN: Obviously we're excited about hosting the first-round game against the New York Liberty. We also believe that this is going to be one of the most competitive WNBA playoffs not only in the East but in the West, too. On any given night, anybody can beat anybody. I think it bodes well for the WNBA, for the games that will be on TV. We're just looking forward to getting started on Thursday. We wish everyone well and hope everybody stays healthy.
RON HOWARD: Mike, if you would, please.
COACH THIBAULT: I have to echo what Lin said about it being as wide open as I've ever seen it. There are a lot of teams with some very good records. It's just a situation right now where I don't think you can say that there's anybody that can't win a series or that can't win a championship right now.
I think, if I remember correctly, this is the first time in several years where every team in the playoffs is above .500. You have teams that have beaten each other a number of times. You have so many series that are even, 2-2, between the teams, or 3-1, one of the games has been decided by a basket at the end. I think it's going to be exciting for the fans, the players. I'm just glad we have home court, like Lin said, to start on Friday night.
RON HOWARD: And, Coach Hughes, if you would, please.
COACH HUGHES: I think the coaches have said it really well. I'm not sure I've seen as many good teams in the playoffs. I think this is my eighth one. I think there's a lot of good teams. Arguably we're matched up with the best.
The one thing I feel fairly positive about our team, we've been a good road team. Unlike Lin and Mike, we have to open on the road and be successful there. But I just don't know if I've seen more good WNBA teams in my tenure than I'm looking at right now.
RON HOWARD: We'll open it up for questions from the media.
Q. Dan, if you could give us what you think are the keys in your series for both your team as well as Minnesota.
COACH HUGHES: Well, when you look at Minnesota statistically it's dominating statistics. I've studied stats a lot, they're a very solid team across the board. Where I think the separation has been is their rebounding advantage with us and a lot of teams. If I had to pinpoint an area that I think they separate and cause us the greatest concern is their ability to rebound successfully at both ends.
But they're a solid team in any statistical way. Cheryl has them executing well across the board. I think they separate from a rebounding standpoint.
Q. What about your team?
COACH HUGHES: Well, we're a team, we brought in six new players, three rookies, have been streaky. Luckily we're streaking in the right way here at the end, winning five out of six.
We're a team that I think, and it goes back to rebounding, when we have rebounded well, over this last stretch of six games we've rebounded four or five out-rebounded our opponents, we played at a different level and are a lot more successful in that regard.
We're a balanced team. We're decent offensively, we're decent defensively. When we can add transition play out of our rebounding, we probably go to another level.
Q. Lin, since you got to see New York actually spread out over the season, you played them early, you had them once in the middle, then at the very end, can you talk about their development over the course of the summer, if they changed any. What is so difficult about their defense?
COACH DUNN: Well, first of all, I think by now, the end of the season, they have a much better understanding of his defensive philosophy, how he wants them to play. I think we played them early, maybe the first week in, like a back to back at home. It was obvious to me they hadn't quite grasped his concepts of full-fronting, denying, some of the principles that he uses.
As the season has gone along, it's obvious they've gotten better and better at that philosophy. In particular Vaughn. I'm impressed with her development as a top-notch defender in the post and out on the perimeter. Pierson has always been tough in that. I think the starting five as well as the people off the bench understand how they play, what their philosophy is. I think that's helped them down the stretch, helped them win some games here and get them into the playoffs.
Offensively they're not extremely sophisticated, but defensively they are damn tough.
Q. Mike, a question about Atlanta because you played them at different times. Obviously they were injured early. You just played them. What are the keys to be successful?
COACH THIBAULT: Well, I think the first thing is that actually we didn't play them early in the season, so we've played them with their full contingent most of the times. Sancho Lyttle didn't start one game, but did play. I think it's probably benefited us to see them pretty much at full strength.
Obviously you start, when you talk about defending them, with their transition game and Angel McCoughtry. She averages 30 points against us. We have really done a good job against her I thought in one game. We have to keep her off the free-throw line. She leads the league in free throw attempts. I think she now is at the point because of her couple years in the league and stardom, probably gets the benefit of the doubt, which she's probably earned in some regards. But she does get to the line. We can't have a huge free throw differential in each game.
Transition baskets are key in any playoff series, but particularly against them. If you make them play halfcourt, it's a little bit different game. I know that the commentators alluded to that fact in their part of this broadcast. I think that will be a key.
Then we need to get balanced scoring. When we get balanced scoring and we move the ball side to side, make them play good halfcourt defense, I think we'll have a chance to score. It's obviously been high scoring. I think the two teams are separated in the four games like 2/10ths of a point. It's been high-scoring. Whatever team can get three or four defensive stops in a row several times throughout the game will probably gain an advantage.
Q. Coach Hughes, your club was 0-4 against the Lynx this season. What message do you give your club going into this series?
COACH HUGHES: I think you learn from your experiences. I think you also have to be in the moment. Those are the things they hear all the time. Number one, our health is better right now. We've been able to put our team together and play through several games with them healthy. All of us benefit from that.
I think Minnesota has had a very healthy year, for example. Part of the reason their record is as good as it is is they've kept their players in flow.
The second point is we had to learn some things. Playoffs are situations that I think you've evolved with your team, you've also evolved what it means to play this team. So we've got to learn some things. Knock on wood, hopefully we'll stay healthy at that point. Then you play the games to see how they come out.
Q. Talk about Lindsay Whalen's growth as a professional player. This might be as good a season all around as she's had as a pro.
COACH THIBAULT: Dan has the problem of facing her now (laughter).
I just think you're talking about an exceptional point guard in the sense of understanding from not only season to season but night to night and maybe quarter to quarter what her team needs from her.
Each season I think she's gotten better at grasping when her team needs her to score versus pass. She has grasped who needs the ball and when and where. She's playing on a team with exceptional number of scorers. That's a hard thing for a point guard, but I think she's done a great job of balancing who is supposed to get the ball and when and what their team needs.
From a physical standpoint, I think she's improved her defense tremendously over the course of her career. She's not the quickest player on the court defensively, but she's learned angles, she's learned how to use her body and her strength. She's such a good weak-side defender, she sees passing lanes to get steals and those kind of things.
I just think every year she's gotten smarter. She kind of knows that they're in a moment right now where she's playing with exceptional talent, and this is a great opportunity for her.
COACH HUGHES: I'll just jump on what Mike said, he said it really well.
(Loss of Coach Hughes' line.)
Q. What can you tell us about the health of your players, Erin Catchings and Shavonte Zellous?
COACH DUNN: I have some good news and not so good news. Erin practiced today for the first time in over a week, limited practice, but it was good news to have her back on the court. Shavonte Zellous is still out. Her status is unknown. She sustained a high-ankle sprain in the Atlanta game on Sunday. We'll know more about her status probably Thursday at shoot-around. I'm hopeful, but I'm also realistic.
We've been resting Catchings' knee, she's had soreness and swelling in her knee from the New York game, but it's much better. She's had a couple of days off. The swelling has gone down, the tenderness. I think it's just overused. Hopefully Catch will be back at full speed.
We've got Erin back. We ended the game against Atlanta with seven people, and that was tough. I think we'll have at least nine ready to go on Thursday.
Q. Coach Thibault, you were one of the best teams in the league playing at home, 15-2. How do you see that matching up with the way you're playing and with Atlanta?
COACH THIBAULT: Well, everybody talks about their winning streak. It's been very impressive. Luckily everybody said they've only lost five times in whatever the last number of games were. Luckily we were two of the wins (laughter).
Dan probably said it best when he said you learn how to play teams as the season goes along. A year ago at this time we were too young and immature to handle a team like Atlanta and their athleticism, their size and everything else. I thought we made great strides this year, beating them both times at home. I think our crowd helps us. I felt like we should have won one of the games we played in Atlanta. We kind of gave it away in the last couple of minutes. Sancho Lyttle hit a big three to get it to overtime. I think our players have a different confidence level playing Atlanta than they did a year ago.
They obviously know how good they are and the things they have to do to beat them are still going to have to be done on the court, but we don't have the same approach to them that they did a year ago. We're much more mature about how we play them.
Q. Coach Dunn, aside from New York's defense and Cappie being able to score at any point in the game, what other threats do you see New York posing against your team?
COACH DUNN: I thought we did a great job the other night on Cappie Pondexter. You don't stop her, you just try to kind of hold her under 30 or 20 or something like that. We did a really good job with her.
I thought the key of the game was Essence Carson off the bench. She came in, she scored, she defended, she got on the boards. She is really giving them a huge boost with her play off the bench. The key for them is they've got more than one weapon. It's not just Cappie. Leilani is knocking down big threes. Pierson is scoring. Vaughn is scoring. They're getting a lot of balanced play. In particular, I'm impressed with the play of Carson off the bench.
RON HOWARD: Thank you, Lin, Dan, Mike for joining us. Good luck as you prepare for the playoffs.
We have now with us on the phone Angel McCoughtry, Cappie Pondexter and Lindsay Whalen and Swin Cash.
We would like to begin right away with questions.
Q. Angel, you and Tina have such a history going back. Can you talk a little bit about how she has improved as a pro and what makes her such an important player for Connecticut.
ANGEL McCOUGHTRY: Well, she's definitely their leader. Her being so young at that, has a lot on her plate. She's come into this league and done great things so fast.
They really depend on her in Connecticut. She's really shown that that's her team. It's going to be tough. She's a beast down there.
Q. Does the fact that Connecticut has players like Tina and RenĂ©e from Connecticut, they haven't been in the playoffs in a couple years, but does that give them an edge they come from a winning program?
ANGEL McCOUGHTRY: Of course, that's why they're in the playoffs now. They know what it takes. They've been coached by the best. They're hungry. I would say yeah.
Q. Cappie, you along with three other players on your team and your coach have won WNBA titles. Does that give you an advantage because of experience and you've won before?
CAPPIE PONDEXTER: A little bit, but not really. At this point it's a matter of who wants it the most. Nothing that happened in the regular season matters. We can add all our championships up and it still doesn't matter. It's a matter of us going out there and trying to win and be the champions this year.
Right now Seattle Storm is the team that has the championship. Hopefully, if we're good enough, we can make a good run and win it.
Q. Angel, having watched you play since you were in college, it's fairly clear you rely a lot on instincts and spontaneity. I'm wondering how your coaches have adapted to your willingness to just do what you feel like you need to do on the floor to get things done.
ANGEL McCOUGHTRY: Can you rephrase the question?
Q. You've always been a player that relied on your instincts on the floor. Sometimes if you feel you can make a steal, you'll go ahead and do it. On offense you're determined to get to the basket. Sometimes you might step outside of defensive systems or schemes to get things done. I'm wondering how your coaches have adapted to your spontaneity on the floor.
ANGEL McCOUGHTRY: Well, that's any coach. Any coach will adapt to any player's strengths. Coach Auriemma, he lets us play to our strengths, do what we do best. Compliments to him, all the coaches. They let us play to our ability.
Q. Lindsay, you had so many great seasons in Connecticut obviously. Would you say this has been, for any reason, your most satisfying year as a pro because of all of the elements coming together?
LINDSAY WHALEN: I think this year we all, those of us who were on the team last year here, with missing the playoffs, having that disappointment, I think just the way we've been able to come back this year, play together, put together a good regular season, I think that's all been really satisfying for us.
Now it's on to the playoffs. That's behind us. We're looking forward to getting it started.
Q. Lindsay, was your victory over Phoenix in the regular season a sign that this club really means business with the playoffs? After all, your veterans could have rested in that ballgame.
LINDSAY WHALEN: I think we wanted to keep a good flow, keep the momentum. We had a game, we wanted to try to get another win. We went in there and did our best. We had different people step up. I thought it was a good win for us.
Q. Lindsay, have any of the younger players come up to you or Taj or Rebecca this week in training having you paint a picture for them about what the playoffs is all about?
LINDSAY WHALEN: A little, yeah. But I think, as with anything, the best way to figure it out is just to experience it. Until you get out there and you feel the intensity on the floor, you feel how the game is going, you can hear what people are saying, but until you actually feel it firsthand, I think that's just what every player has to go through. We'll definitely have a lot of players with that first experience on Friday.
Q. Lindsay, how much has the support of your hometown meant to you?
LINDSAY WHALEN: It's been great, the fans and the support from not only my hometown but Minneapolis. The fans have been great to us this season. I think having that support from everyone has meant a lot.
People have watched for a lot of years. I think that's something that's really been a lot of fun this year. I've seen lots of familiar faces at the games this year as well as from days back at U of M here. That's been a lot of fun.
Minnesota is a great sports state, sports community. They're excited.
Q. Swin, you've been in position both in college, with Detroit, with Seattle, of trying to repeat. Other than the obvious fact that LJ has been hurt a lot this year, what is the most difficult aspect of repeating as a champion?
SWIN CASH: I think the first thing in the regular season, we experienced that a little bit of it this year, having to deal with injuries, having to deal with every team getting up for you every single night.
I think if you look at our record, what we've done this year, being able to play and stay right in the mix, obviously Minnesota got out early and they had a wonderful season, but if you look at everyone else's record, we were right there.
I think we kind of got through our trials and stuff and over some obstacles through the regular season. Now going into the playoffs I think the difference between this team and any other team I've been on is I think we're mentally tough and we understand what it takes obviously to win a championship. We have core players on our team that have experienced that. And we're hungry.
It's not going to be easy, but at the same time when you have the leadership I think that we have on the floor, it's something that you can rely on down the stretch, knowing that people can make plays, whether it's defensively or offensively. It's not always going to be the star players. I think we've got a team that really relies heavily on one another, people just to do their roles and be able to make plays. That will help us get some success.
Q. Angel, the last part of the season was really great for you after the slow start. How much is your confidence boosted going into the playoffs this year from the experience you had last year?
ANGEL McCOUGHTRY: I mean, your confidence always got to have a boost to it each year. Each year you got to come in with a big confidence boost. Of course, it was hard at the beginning of the season. The main thing about that is you got to learn from it and move on from it. We did. I'm glad we ended the way we did.
Q. Lindsay, you also had a great season obviously. Is there any pressure to follow up in the playoffs after a season like that?
LINDSAY WHALEN: Well, I mean, I think we'll take it one game at a time. We're just focused on San Antonio this weekend. We had a great regular season and that's over now. So on to the playoffs. We'll have the same pressure as everyone to win and stay alive.
Q. Cappie, what are the problems you see Indiana presenting you?
CAPPIE PONDEXTER: I mean, anytime you have two players like Tamika Catchings and Katie Douglas, it's always a problem. They complement each other really well. They're hungry to win a championship. Going through them is going to be tough in itself.
They're a great defensive team. Coach Dunn is an exceptional coach. I expect nothing less than a hard-fought battle, especially on the defensive end.
Q. Lindsay, before the roster was put together, you knew what the potential was. Can you remember a specific moment where you guys knew you could really put things together and dominate the way Seattle did last year in the regular season?
LINDSAY WHALEN: I think we had a really good training camp. Everyone was in camp from overseas. Everyone got back earlier this year. I think we just really needed that time, three or four weeks of preparation before. I think having that time to kind of get together, practice, gel as a team, I thought that was really big for us. That's been really big for every team this year.
But I think with us, with some young players, new players coming in, I think that was a big key for us.
Q. Lindsay, your team has been written about a lot this year positively. What little things do you feel this team has that haven't been talked about that will help you a lot in the playoffs?
LINDSAY WHALEN: I guess I would say chemistry on and off the floor. Really played well together. Just that. I mean, I don't know if people have written about it, but we all have a lot of trust in each other and we all want to make plays for each other on the floor. I guess just the chemistry and leadership.
Q. Anybody in particular on your team that you feel you really got to have something from that may not be expected from normally?
LINDSAY WHALEN: I think everybody. In the playoffs, I think the bench coming in and playing a big role is going to be big. I think making a play here or there when they come in, I think that will be big. We're going to rely on the bench coming in and providing good minutes and a spark for us.
Q. Cappie, obviously your teammates Kia Vaughn and Essence have flourished this season. Can you talk about their improvement overall and how important their presence will be in the playoffs against Indiana.
CAPPIE PONDEXTER: I've been asked this question a lot. These kids were talented from the beginning. If they wasn't, they wouldn't have been in the league. I think he just presented them with a big opportunity and they took advantage of it from the beginning.
Like Lindsay said, training camp really helped. It's made a big importance in terms of their play. Going forward, for me, I think even though Essence Carson is coming off the bench, easily she's a star on any other team. We rely on her for her offense as well as her defense. Her presence alone, if she's playing aggressive, she's looking to score, not just rebound, I think we have a chance to actually win any game.
They work really hard and I'm very proud of them.
Q. Swin, when you came out of college, you were in one of the most heralded rookie classes the WNBA ever had. This one that's come down the track this year has been really good, too, especially the rookies in the Western Conference. What do you think the teams can expect from the teams in the playoffs? Is there any reason to believe they're not as mentally or physically prepared to contribute?
SWIN CASH: No. I would think all the rookies that have had a lot of success this year come from quality college programs. You know, if you're talking about whether it's Danielle in San Antonio or Maya in Connecticut, I mean, those are teams that were in the Final Four and won a national championship. They have that kind of experience where it's lights, camera, action, all of that.
I think the thing for them is they have veteran players they can rely on so they're not carrying the whole bulk of the load. To have that youthfulness on the floor, any team would love to have it.
Q. Swin, you never want to be without a player like Lauren for an extended period of time. How much did her absence make you stronger?
SWIN CASH: I think as far as Lauren being out really gave other players an opportunity to step up, like Ashley Robinson. I think Ashley did a wonderful job for us this whole season, being the presence for us inside on the defensive end. In Seattle we pride ourselves on being a team that can lock down defensively. When Lauren's presence isn't there, Ashley has done a wonderful job and stepped up.
.on the offensive end, it gave Katie, Nicole, myself, other players other opportunities to do other things that when Lauren is there we may not have to do. So if Lauren is gone, you have Katie now, she's playing amazing, hitting shots. You have Nicole that's making shots. I think that long stretch of time where we had to really rely on one another, not having Lauren as that scapegoat, the one we go to, has helped everybody a little bit.
I can say one thing is that I'm happy we don't have to worry about going without her.
Q. Cappie, you played Indiana last year. This year all the games have been close. How important is it going to be for you to win that first game on the road to get things going?
CAPPIE PONDEXTER: I think the first game is key for both teams. I guess whoever wins the first game kind of puts their foot on the series. I'm sure they're thinking the same thing. They're a veteran team. They know the importance of that first game.
Hopefully myself and Plenette and Kara and Essence, we can kind of get things going, get a win. It's hard winning in Conseco. That's a tough place to win a basketball game. Hopefully we're playing our defense right, we're aggressive, knocking our shots down, playing together, and hopefully we can get that win out of there.
RON HOWARD: Thank you very much. I'd like to thank Swin, Angel, Cappie and Lindsay for joining us. Good luck to you in the playoffs.
To all our media, thank you very much for joining us.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports