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April 11, 2013

Lin Dunn

Gary Kloppenburg

Bill Laimbeer

Mike Thibault

THE MODERATOR:¬† Thank you to the members of the media for joining our call today.¬† Just a reminder, the 2013 WNBA Draft presented by State Farm will be televised live in primetime television for the first time in our 17‑year history.¬† It will begin Round 1 at 8:00 p.m. on ESPN2 on Monday night with the second and third rounds on ESPNU beginning at 9:00.
Welcome to our coaches.  With us are Gary Kloppenburg, from the Tulsa Shock; Bill Laimbeer from the New York Liberty; Mike Thibault from the Washington Mystics; and Lin Dunn from the Indiana Fever.  And we're going to turn it over to the coaches

Q.¬† I have a two‑part question.¬† With the Mercury most likely drafting Brittney Griner, if each of you coaches can talk about how you think she fits into how the Mercury play; as well as if they add her, how the new rule changes of the defense, and the extended three‑point line, how that might actually help the Mercury?¬† Thank you so much.
COACH KLOPPENBURG:  It's going to be a handful to prepare for.  I think she's no doubt going to be an impact player right away.  Defensively, great shot blocking, just clogging the lane up.  Even with the new rule, if she's mobile or not, she's going to be able to understand that 2.9, getting in, getting out.  I think the biggest adjustment she'll need to make is probably the screen and roll.  I know a lot of teams, probably including ourselves, will probably try to get her out of the paint and put her in the screen and role.  I think that will be a major key for her defensively.
Offensively, I think she's going to have to‑‑ you really have to double team her.¬† She's so skilled down there with all the array of shots, and her passing ability has improved so much that I just think she's going to really help that team with that low‑post presence.
COACH LAIMBEER:  What we anticipate doing is you watch her in that loss they had, her coach, after the game just whined and cried about how physical the other team was with her.  But that's everyday business in the WNBA.  It's a physical league.  These are grown women that are much bigger and stronger than the college ladies out there.  I anticipate a big adjustment period for her at some point handling the physical foul of play.
COACH THIBAULT:  A lot of people have made comments that the Mercury will have to change the way they play to accommodate her, and I strongly disagree.  I think that she will enhance the way they play.  People are thinking that they have to slow down for her.  How many better outlet passers are there going to be in our league than her to start the break with a rebound and an outlet pass?  Now she may not get across half court before they take a shot, but the break will get a good start.  So I don't think that they'll have to make an offensive adjustment particularly for her.
COACH DUNN:¬† I think she's going to have a huge impact on our game, but I agree with Bill, in particular.¬† I think the physicalness of the league, it's going to take her a while to adjust to it.¬† I thought that's how Louisville beat Baylor by being physical with her.¬† Certainly like what Gary said.¬† All of us are going to put her in the two‑man game all over the court and make her come out of the paint.

Q.  I have a couple of questions.  Let me start, if I could with Mike and Bill.  Different venues, same division.  You guys staged probably one of the most intense rivalries in the history of the NBA in Detroit and Connecticut.  Do you think it will be any different in New York and Washington?  And are there any nuclear warheads pointed at each other?
COACH LAIMBEER:  I think that competing against Mike is a lot of fun.  He's an intense guy.  He wants to win very badly.  I enjoy competition and so does he, as do our ballclubs, which will probably be an extension of the coaches.
We have to prove ourselves first.  When we were playing in Detroit and Connecticut, we were the two best teams in the Eastern Conference.  Now Lin's got a stacked up team that's going to be damn near impossible to beat this year.  But we're going to give it our best shot.  As far as the two teams compete against each other, very good proximity between the two cities and I think it will be a lot of fun.  We just have to get to the elite level like Indiana is.
COACH THIBAULT:¬† I agree.¬† It's one thing to have a great rivalry, but you have to have good teams to do it first.¬† 5 and 29 won't cut it as a great rivalry until we can prove that we're a better team.¬† I think the proximity will actually help, because you'll have fans‑‑ if both of us have teams that we want them to become at some point, you'll have fans that travel up‑and‑down that 95‑corridor to see the games.¬† So you're going to get visiting fans coming into the building, and I think that will really help.
When I first went to Connecticut and New York and Connecticut had that rivalry too, kind of lost it a little bit there for a while.  You know, we're trying to get to be respectful first.  I think that that's the first step for us.

Q.  Bill, you kind of mentioned that Louisville game where they kind of roughed up Griner a little bit.  Can you kind of touch a little bit more on just kind of WNBA defense and how much more physical it will be for her?  Do you feel like maybe that's something that she has to prove that she can kind of stand up to that kind of physical defense?
COACH LAIMBEER:¬† I'll answer the two‑part question there.¬† The league is a very physical league.¬† These are the top of the line athletes in the women's field of basketball.¬† They're very competitive.¬† They're big; they're strong; they'll hit you.¬† They're competitive.¬† They'll take your heart if they can, and that's what Brittney's going to find out.¬† I mean, they've got some big, tough players in the league.¬† They'll test here.¬† There is no question about that one.¬† How she handles it is open for debate.¬† She's going to have to get stronger, because they'll push her off the block.
Quite frankly, it's good basketball.  It's not women's basketball; it's professional basketball, and she's going to have to make some adjustments and stand up for herself at some point but she'll be tested.  That is the nature of the best beast.

Q.  Coach Dunn, around where you're drafting, there are a couple of players from the state of Indiana that might fall into that range with Kelly Faris and Alex Bentley.  Can you see anything about their games or if their games translate to the WNBA level?
COACH DUNN:  Well, I think we're thrilled that the state of Indiana had all three of those players.  They've had tremendous college careers, and obviously, we don't think Diggins around at 9.  But there is a chance that Faris and Bentley could drop down there.  We're certainly looking at them very close.  I think all three of these players, Bentley, Diggins and Faris are going to be WNBA players, and I think we're excited with what they can bring to the league, and we're certainly looking at them very closely.

Q.¬† I know there is so much athleticism involved in the WNBA and Faris has been such an all‑around‑skills type of player, does what she bring, does something like that translate to the WNBA?
COACH DUNN:  Absolutely.  I think when I look at Faris, I think about how Sue Bird and Lindsay Whalen have both flourished in this league.  They're both tough; they're both physical.  There was some question about their foot speed when they came into the league.  But I think Faris is much more athletic than you think.

Q.  I wanted to address Coach Kloppenburg, we know what the situation is with the first three picks in the draft.  But would you like to talk about maybe on the lower end or when you all pick in the third round, and also address the three Oklahoma players available, Kevi Looper, Tayleya Mayberry and Toni Young, can you talk about those?
COACH KLOPPENBURG:  Yeah, I saw them play a number of times, all three of those players.  I really liked all of them.  I thought Looper and Mayberry playing in the smaller conferences maybe flew under the radar a little bit.  They were excellent players.  I see them somewhere in those later rounds.  They're definitely on our radar.
Toni Young had an outstanding season.  She's a raw talent, very athletic.  Reminds me of Plenette Pierson coming out of college, just really raw with a lot of upside.  They're all very good players those kids coming out of Oklahoma.

Q.  Talk about the Shocks, and what you're looking for with the third round pick?
COACH KLOPPENBURG:¬† Well, last year we got a third round pick that made the league and is actually still in the league.¬† So I think it's a long shot for those third‑rounders, even those that have slipped to second rounders and made the team.
But I think with our situation really trying to build our talent base, that we're hoping maybe there is a diamond in the rough.  Somebody falls down there that we really like that would have a chance to make our team in training camp.  That's an important pick for us.  As we try to keep working forward to get out of this, our ultimate goal is to get out of this lottery nonsense.

Q.  I would direct this to any of the coaches that might want to answer it.  The people on the outside always talked about does somebody raise their stock during the NCAA Tournament.  Do people do that or are you guys evaluating people through the entire season and not really depend that much on how somebody plays in the NCAA Tournament?  If, in fact, you do give that a little more weight, does anybody have some ideas on who might have raised her stock the most during the NCAA Tournament?
COACH THIBAULT:  I don't know that I would reveal any names, necessarily, because I'm not sure.  I think announcers give more voice, sometimes, to players than we do.  I do think that you have to go for the overall body of work of a player.  I don't think you can necessarily cross a player off or add a player because of the tournament.  I think what you try to do is see if their tournament validates what you've seen.  I think that you make a mistake if you do anything other than that.
I think what happens in the tournament maybe, particularly after the first and second round, is you get a chance to see a player play in a stress environment in a big‑time game and you want to know how they react to it.¬† Do they show up for that big game or do they disappear?¬† I don't know if I'd change my judgment about a player unless they're completely a no‑show.¬† I think certainly they can help their stock a little bit.¬† But I don't know if it changes what you think when you've watched a player for four years.

Q.  If I can follow up with Gary.  I think there is a quote that you guys are disappoint with Liz's decision, but understand it and are moving forward.  At this point, I guess what is your relationship with her?  Are we to think that we're going to see Liz play?  If she makes a lot of money in China, she doesn't have that much of an interest in coming back to the WNBA in Tulsa or with anybody else.  Can you give me and idea of what do you think, will we see her in the future in this league?
COACH KLOPPENBURG:  I question how much does it mean for her to play against the best.  That's why we had the disappointment because we felt like we were in a situation that was totally unlike the one she was in before.  It's totally a different situation.  So I mean, that's why we're disappointed.  She wouldn't give us a shot just to get back in the league.  So that's, I guess, the big question not just that I have, but probably that other coaches may have as well.
COACH DUNN:  I wanted to follow up on that about who helped their stock.  I think Lindsey Moore and I think Clarendon from Cal, and I think Faris, all three helped their stock in the NCAA Tournament.
COACH THIBAULT:  Yeah, I was going to say the same thing about Lindsey Moore.  I thought that people got a chance to really examine her under a stressful situation, like Mike said.  I thought she performed admirably and her leadership skills showed fourth.  You can probably go more backwards in tournament play than you can go forwards.  But there are occasions where somebody moves up one, two, or three spots, especially in the way the draft is this year where so many of the middle range players from anywhere from 4 to 16 are pretty muddled together.  It's a matter of what skill level or position player some of the teams need.

Q.  Coach, welcome back to the WNBA.  In your time off, how much has the league changed, and what type of player will you be looking for in the draft to complete the liberty roster to make the team better?
COACH THIBAULT:  Well, the league changing, it's gotten bigger faster, stronger, there is no question about that.  Every year it does.  But I think in this case exponentially so.  I think the league right now is poised to take a big jump, especially with television being such a big part of women's college basketball.  The players are on TV all the time now, and they thrive in that environment and they want to showcase themselves.  That's why you're seeing so much parity around the country in women's college basketball because you can be on TV anywhere.
As far as what we're looking for, I can be a vanilla guy and say best player available.  However, right now at 5 or 7, we're going to have to get a post player to some degree.  And then we'll address what our needs are after the first pick.  But I'm looking for athletes.  I'm an athlete, not necessarily a skill position, but more athletic.

Q.  About the talk with Griner and the possibility of her being drafted by the NBA, and I have to ask this question.  Can you speak about, not necessarily her, but in general, is it possible?  I mean, is it possible that a woman could play in the NBA?  If so, on a positive side about maybe with the rule changes to the NBA, could it be seen?
COACH THIBAULT:¬† That's kind of an easy question to answer, and I'll be blunt and honest with the situation.¬† As far as Brittney Griner is concerned, I don't think there is any way that she could play in the NBA.¬† At her size level at 6'8", she'd have to guard some of the most athletically gifted small forwards in the league who are all 6'8" and 7‑foot and have about 50 to 80 pounds on her, and speed‑wise.¬† So she'd have to play in the post against the fours and the fives, and they've got a hundred pounds of pure muscle on her.
No, it would not work.¬† The only way you could have a woman player in the NBA these days‑‑ the coaches‑‑ it would have to be a guard who could match‑up against point guards who would be the smallest players out there, and the less physical players out there.¬† But that would be the only situation.¬† It would have to be a guard.
You're not going to get any giant, athletic post players coming out of the women's league.

Q.  This question is for Coach Kloppenburg.  With Liz not coming back, has that at all changed what everybody thinks is the order of the first three coming out?  Would it be possible that Tulsa decides to pass on one of those and go for another post player instead?
COACH KLOPPENBURG:¬† I don't think so just because I think those three players in their level of play have kind of separated themselves.¬† Although there are a lot of good players behind them.¬† I would say probably those three based on their body of work have separated themselves.¬† We're really in a position where we're trying to just get ‑‑ we want to keep getting better through the draft or whatever way we can, in trades or development.¬† That's where we're at.¬† We're going to try to get the best player.¬† I don't see that scenario really playing out this season.
COACH THIBAULT:  Lee, I was glad you asked that question.  I needed to get that clarified for me at number four.

Q.  Coach Laimbeer, I know you were in Columbus, and you watched Tayler Hill from Ohio State play in one game this season.  I'm just wondering what you saw from her in this game and how she might survive as a WNBA player?
COACH LAIMBEER:¬† Yeah, I would was sitting next to Mike in that game, too.¬† She's a very talented player.¬† Speed‑wise she's got one of the fastest speed categories in this draft.¬† The deep ball with the line moving back, she's a very good deep shooter, which, you know, a three‑ball challenge team like ourselves is really interested in.
She's not afraid.¬† I think that's the thing.¬† She attacks the basket at will.¬† Can get to the free‑throw line, she creates contact, which is good, and those are good characteristics to get to the next level.¬† We've definitely eyeballed her a fair amount and are considering her with our top picks?

Q.  Any of the other coaches have any opinion on Tayler?
COACH THIBAULT:  As Bill said, I've seen her play several times.  That's an accurate statement about her.  She's on our list of four or five players, depending on whether we take a wing or a post.
COACH DUNN:  We didn't spend a lot of time with Tayler Hill, because we felt like she'd be long gone by the time we pick at nine.

Q.  Mike, just because she's there in town, your impressions of Sugar Rodgers at Georgetown?  The Hoyas struggled a little bit, but she was the number four scorer in the country, I believe.
COACH THIBAULT:  I would say Sugar was put in a tough position, and hampered by her team a little bit when she was playing with a more experienced group, I think there was less pressure on her and she had a tough year.  This was a tough year for her.  I think she had to carry the load.  When you do that, sometimes you get in bad habits.
So I'm not sure what the real Sugar Rodgers is right now.  I know she's got a lot of talent.  But her game suffered this year.  She became a volume shooter, and she tried to do some things to carry her team, but I think you get into bad habits sometimes.  But I think she'd be among the three or four wing players in this round that everybody would consider.
But I don't have as good a feel for her as I did when maybe she was younger just because this year was so tough for her.

Q.  Bad habits, particularly shot selection, it sounds like?
COACH THIBAULT:  Shot selection, and when you're asked to do that much stuff for your team, that happens.  I think all the coaches can speak to when you're seeing the best kids on the team, and the ball gets swung, and the teammate who doesn't want to shoot it, throws it to her with 5 seconds on the shot clock and says go make a play.  That can get ugly sometimes.

Q.  Can you talk a little about Skylar Diggins.  Is there any aspect of her game she'll need to modify to be successful in the WNBA?  Also, when you look at what Skylar brings, do you even with a small percentage, do you look at her popularity and commitment to community and the intangibles?
COACH KLOPPENBURG:  She's a magnificent young woman who is a great role model, so no question she's got the whole package.  She's a great player and has those intangibles.  I think that the biggest thing I think is like with any rookie coming in, just that adjustment to the athleticism and the strength of the players in our leagues.  So I think that's going to be probably her biggest adjustment.
I just think she's one of those that can impact our league right away.  We know she's an extremely hard worker and will put the time in to get better in a lot of those areas.  So I think she's probably one of those kids that comes along once in five to ten years that can really make an impact right away.
COACH THIBAULT:  I think every rookie has to make adjustments to the league.  It's bigger, faster, and stronger than they're used to.  But the biggest asset that Diggins brings is probably leadership.  She can not have to dominate the show and make everybody else involved, but when it comes time to make the big shot, she'll step up and make that big shot.
COACH DUNN:¬† I think Skylar is going to have to adjust to the physicalness too, especially bringing the ball down the floor, running through screens.¬† And I think we're moving the three‑point line back to the international level, so she's going to have to adjust to that three‑point line.

Q.  With the draft being now in primetime this year, I'm just curious to know any of your thoughts about that, just perhaps any excitement around the league and getting this prime spot?
COACH THIBAULT:  I'll take a whack at that first.  I was talking about that at the press conference for ESPN.  I think television is a tremendous driver right now for the WNBA.  I equate it back to the late '70s when I was in college and only had one game on television.  All of a sudden, ESPN came along, and the fan recognition of college players transitioned into the NBA.  That's the same thing that's happening right now with women's college basketball on TV.  They're able to follow their players in the WNBA and the more television exposure that's available, the greater the growth will be.
So I think the league is positioned to move forward dramatically from a fan perspective and having the draft on live television is just one step.

Q.¬† Can you talk about anything that Tayler Hill does that impresses you, and does the WNBA do pre‑draft workouts similar to what the NBA does bringing in prospects?
SPEAKER:¬† The rules are we cannot bring a player in for a workout.¬† We are not allowed to do that.¬† We can watch them during the season.¬† We can go to them to have a face‑to‑face interview, but we cannot bring them to us for the same thing.¬† If they were involved in a practice with other players or playing pick‑up, we could watch them, but we cannot arrange a workout with teams privately.
It makes it a little bit more difficult.  The other thing is the NBA has three months, basically, from the conclusion of the college season to the draft to spend more time evaluating.  We don't have that.  We're one week removed from the Final Four and we're on our draft, and we're playing in training camp a couple weeks after that.  So it makes it a little more difficult.  You don't have access to these players in a private situation compared to the NBA, so it is different.
SPEAKER:  The WNBA used to have a combine back in '03, right around there, '04 where they were bringing in all the players and the coaches could all congregate in one spot and watch them.  That's how we were able to get a good handle on Kara Braxton the year that we drafted her.  And I wish they'd come back to it, but the economics of the situation dictated that they discontinued that and I'd like to see it be reenergized here.  But it's good for the coaches to go to one spot and watch the players than go all over the country and spend money on it that way.

Q.  Mike, you guys pick first and second round and Baylor's Destiny Williams is I guess in that range.
COACH THIBAULT:  Actually, we traded away that pick.  We don't.  Atlanta now has that pick in the second round.

Q.  Do you guys pick in the second round?
COACH THIBAULT:  We're in the middle of the second round.  I think all of us have picks somewhere in the middle of the second round.
COACH LAIMBEER:  I have the third pick in the second round.

Q.  I guess Bill you could answer this a little bit better.  Destiny Williams is in that range.  Is that a player you've looked at and what have you seen from her?
COACH LAIMBEER:  To be quite honest, no.  She's not on our radar at the moment.  We have other specific needs that we are addressing at that pick.  One person always falls down to that level.  No, matter who it is.  But, no, none of the Baylor kids, except for Griner, if I could ever find a way to move up there, are on our radar right now at 15.

Q.¬† As a follow‑up to anybody else, is anybody looking at Williams?¬† Is that a player that's on anybody's radar?
COACH DUNN:  We've got both Pope and Williams in our pool at 21, and we're carefully evaluating them, and a lot of it will have to do with what we're able to get at 9.

Q.  Do you have a sense of whether Deanna Nolan may play?
COACH LAIMBEER:  I'm pessimistic.  I've not spoken to her in a little bit of time her.  She plays overseas in Russia.  She enjoys time off in the summer.  You always hold out hope, but I would suspect the following year would be more of an option, so she'll be able to plan her life accordingly.  I know right now she has no plans to come back and play in the WNBA until we're able to obtain her rights.  While she probably is intrigued by it, I'm pessimistic it would happen this year?

Q.  If she were to call you tomorrow and give you a yes?
COACH LAIMBEER:  How much money do I have to pay her?  Absolutely.

Q.  I was going to say how does that change your perspective on who and what positions you'd be looking to fill when you pick in the draft?
COACH LAIMBEER:  That won't happen.  And I won't know anything about Deanna Nolan.  I'm fairly pessimistic.  The phone's not going to ring tomorrow and say, oh, Bill, by the way, I'm going to come back so you can draft accordingly.  Nope, wrong number.  If she were to come back, it would be one of those decisions where come May, she said, okay, but I don't anticipate that happening.

Q.  What are you looking for with your first round picks?
COACH LAIMBEER:  I don't know if you were on the call earlier.  We're a little short in the post.  Trying to find a player in the draft or outside of the draft to fill that need.  Whether that's at 5 or 7, that's for me to guess, and it depends on what Mike does at 4.  Then in the middle of 5 or 7, I have no idea what he's going to do.  Then you get into the second pick that I have will probably be the best player to fill the slot that we need that's available at that time.

Q.  Gary, you talked about Skylar Diggins and her intangibles.  What do you see in Elena Delle Donne, and second question is regardless who you pick out of those two with that third pick, how much pressure do you think will be on them, and what are your expectations for them?  Are you looking for them to carry the team or are you looking for them to come in, learn their role and rise into that star position for the team?
COACH KLOPPENBURG:¬† First off, Elena Delle Donne is one of those once‑in‑a‑lifetime players, I think.¬† Highly skilled at 6'5" where she can play every position, and we haven't seen a player like her come into our league.¬† I mean, she's, I guess the comparison is to Lauren Jackson.¬† In a way she's got an even greater skillset than even Lauren with her ability to put the ball on the floor.
So both of those players, for us, they're going to come right in and play full‑time.¬† I would anticipate either one of those players coming in and getting a great opportunity to play full‑time, just as that happened with our rookies last year that we drafted.¬† So we're still in that mode of developing our talent that we have, and then adding talent.

Q.  Bill, you mentioned there a little bit about what your needs are.  But I wanted to know how much and if what Seattle may need would probably affect what you draft there?
COACH LAIMBEER:  Are you asking me what I think Seattle wants.

Q.  Well, how much of the players that they want, if you would go ahead and swipe that from them?
COACH LAIMBEER:  I think Seattle, and I talked to Brian, Seattle is at the mercy of Mike and I right now.  There are probably four players out there at the moment that they're considering, and it's a matter of what Mike does and what I do.  Mike's driving the bus right now.
COACH THIBAULT:  I'm the first pick of the other draft.
COACH LAIMBEER:  Then that will dictate what Brian picks.  I think Brian has both a post player and a wing player on his list.  It's just a matter of who is there.  And we won't know that until Mike picks and sets off a chain of events.  So I suspect he would prefer a post.  But, at the same time, if they're all gone, he may go with a wing that he feels would be contributing for them in the future.
COACH THIBAULT:  The joke around here is that I have the first pick in the other draft.  There are two drafts.
COACH LAIMBEER:  I'll buy that one.
COACH DUNN:  It's not a joke.  It's the truth.
COACH LAIMBEER:  That's going to dictate the whole thing.  Whoever Mike picks.

Q.  Going on anatomy, how easy is it for preparation for Mike and Bill for you guys knowing that as much as you want those three players, you're not going to get them?  And you're pretty much going to get who you want at this point pending who Mike does, obviously?
COACH LAIMBEER:  Yeah, Mike gets what he wants.  Must be nice.
COACH THIBAULT:  Yeah, well, I've tried to come up with ways to get one of the first three, but that didn't happen.  So our biggest debate at this point is twofold.  I mean, there are two ways you can look at this.  Our team needs a skillset, and we need a lot of things.  So we won't go wrong in getting a player that will fit our need one way or the other.  The debate is between a post or a wing.
The second debate is you sit there and say, okay, we're in this position.  There are going to be two good drafts in a row.  There are players that have the potential to be a star within a couple of years, be a really, really big impact player, and that's our debate this weekend.  We've narrowed it down to three or four players.  We're going back and forth as a staff, and that's the decision we have to make.
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you very much.  Gary, Bill, Mike, Lin, thank you very much for your time.  You've been terrific, and we wish you luck in the draft and look forward to talking with you down the road.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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