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May 20, 2013

Lin Dunn

Corey Gaines

Gary Kloppenburg

Bill Laimbeer

Carol Ross

RON HOWARD:  From the Indiana Fever, Lin Dunn is with us, from the New York Liberty, Bill Laimbeer, from the Tulsa Shock, Gary Kloppenburg, from the Phoenix Mercury, Corey Gaines, and from the Los Angeles Sparks, Carol Ross.  Thank you all for joining us, and we'll go to questions.

Q.  Lin, have you got any indication of whether you can get any relief from the WNBA so you don't have to start the season and play for weeks with just eight players?
LIN DUNN:¬† Well, our hope is that now that we've lost Pohlen, Davenport and Erin Phillips and they won't be back until probably mid‑season is that we'll get some relief.¬† But I think you can expect us to start next Friday night at San Antonio with nine players.¬† I'm hoping for nine.
So we'll just do the best that we can do with what we've got and not worry about what we don't have.

Q.  Carol, can you just talk a little about the addition of Lindsey Harding, and what you expect and what you hope from her and what she'll contribute?
CAROL ROSS:  Well, obviously we have Lindsey, I think what harding will bring is a little bit more of a defensive presence on the perimeter and speed to the game, on both ends of the court.  So she's got great experience and leadership at the point position through her years in the league, so we just feel like speed and quickness, hopefully a little defense sprinkled in.

Q.  Coach Kloppenberg, wanted to ask you two things.  If you could first just talk about what Skylar is bringing, not just on court, which I think is going to be big, but what she brings in terms of her presence and her community presence?  And if you could talk about Liz and how everything came about that she decided to come back and what she brings to you?
GARY KLOPPENBURG:  Yeah, well, Skylar, obviously is an excellent basketball player.  We know that.  There is definitely a learning curve on the court that she's going through, but we're really pleased with her energy and her IQ and her work ethic.  So she's going to be a good one once we get her going.  Then, off the court, she's dynamic.  I mean, she engages the community.  She engages our fans, and she's just brought a burst of energy down here to Tulsa.  So it's been exciting so far with her.
Regarding Liz, yeah, we always were in communication with her or her agent, even with her mother.  I think it was just a process.  I think she obviously, to put it bluntly, was a little gun shy because of the experience she had here the first time around.  I think I just kept working on her to show her that it's a totally different situation.
We've got good people, we're going in the right direction.  I think she just realized, hey, I want to play and put all that behind her.  So we're really excited to get her over this week.

Q.  I'd like to ask Coach Dunn and Coach Laimbeer to address this if possible.  What is a legitimate expectation for Skylar in her first year in the league as a rookie?  What are some really good guide posts to look at in terms of measuring what it will take to measure whether she's exceeding expectations or not?
LIN DUNN:  Well, first of all, I think every rookie goes through an adjustment period.  I don't care who you are, Brittney Griner, Delle Donne, Diggins, it doesn't matter.  Speed of the game, the challenge of the game, they're all going to go through that adjustment.
The thing with Diggins will be will she play primarily the point or will she play some two?  Because I think the point guard position is such a challenging position to play at this level.  If she's playing off the ball some, I think the adjustment will be quicker.  If she's primarily spending all her time at the point, I think it will be tougher.
BILL LAIMBEER:¬† I think the adjustment period will be the players are so strong and so fast in this league, this isn't college basketball this is the best of the best.¬† So while she can dominate in college, will she dominate in professional ranks is up for debate.¬† Statistical‑wise we'll be looking at shooting percentage and number of turnovers.

Q.¬† Coach Laimbeer, I think there is a lot of sense that this could be another momentum‑type building season for the league in general.¬† I'm wondering from your standpoint is there a message that you would like to get out to fans who maybe haven't experienced the league or something some fans aren't seeing yet?
BILL LAIMBEER:¬† There are two messages I think that need to get out there.¬† The one is the long‑term one of I believe that ESPN television showing women's college basketball has created an environment where the name recognition is now following the players into the pros across the board.¬† There are so many games on TV it's like the early '80s of the NBA when ESPN first came around and started showing more college games.¬† It just naturally fuels the professional ranks.
The second, I think the message getting out is, hey, this is fantastic basketball.  These are the best players in the world.  Make no mistake, do not compare them to the men's league.  It will never be comparable both from an athleticism or from a numbers game as far as the zeros and the fans.  However, appreciate it for what it is.  It is the best women's sport in the world.

Q.  Coach Gaines, DeWanna Bonner had a breakout year for you guys as a starter.  Second in the league in scoring with 20 points and rebounds.  You have all your players back and available, what are your thoughts for her role this year and will she hold on to her starting role?  And the second question is for Coach Kloppenberg.  There's been much talk about Liz Cambage and Skylar Diggins, but Gloria Johnson has looked good this year.  It seems that she's taken huge strides in her game.  How big of a role will she have on the team this year?
COREY GAINES:¬† DeWanna has every year she's been in the league she's improved in some part of her game.¬† Last year started taking three‑pointers about two steps behind the line, she became more of a leader because she's the player that we had to go to and she was the player who had to lead on the court because she was the veteran.¬† Her role in not stepping back in any way, the first thing I told her was I needed her to not change anything she did the year before, but to keep on attacking the basket.¬† Don't take a step back, because the rest of our team is back to playing, Diana is back, Penny is back, Dupree is back.¬† You keep on doing the same thing you've always done.¬† So hopefully it will take a little time to adjust, but she'll do the same thing.
GARY KLOPPENBURG:  Yeah, regarding Glory, it's unbelievable the improvements she's made in this offseason.  She went to Russian and played and she's come back and we've had two exhibition games, and I've just been amazed how well she's shooting the ball and more confident in everything that she's doing.  She's handling the ball better and passing it better.
She got here in a couple practices and we went on the road, and she got 18 rebounds her first game, so she's a special athlete.  She's one of the premier athletes in this league, and we're working hard to develop her skill set.  No question she's going to have a tremendous year.  I just think the sky's the limit with her coming into her second year.

Q.  Lin, with all the focus on the big three rookies and the coaching changes of the other teams in Washington, New York, and Connecticut the East, do you feel that your team as defending champions might be getting overlooked a little bit?
LIN DUNN:¬† I think we'd certainly prefer to be the hunter versus the hunted.¬† And the fact that we sustained some injuries early with some of our players and they're recovering from off‑season surgery, I do think we'll be overlooked and that's fine.¬† I don't take that the wrong way.¬† When you come back and a couple key players aren't available, I think the other people are going to get a little more attention.
Certainly, with the big three coming into the league, they've gotten an enormous amount of attention.  I just think it helps promote the league, so I'm not worried about it.

Q.  Can you talk about the competition in the East with Bill and Mike coming back into the league now?
LIN DUNN:  I think it's great for the league to have, in particular, Anne Donovan back in; she's won an WNBA championship.  And to have Bill back in.  I can't say enough about what a positive influence he's had on our league from the beginning.  He's had an NBA background.  I think she's made all of us that better coaches because of the type style he brought to the league.  So I think to have him back in gives even more credibility to the league.
Mike did a great job in Connecticut, and I'm really pleased for him that he was able to stay in our league and get on in Washington.

Q.¬† Corey Gaines, lot to talk about Griner, but another person in the spotlight is Samantha Prahalis.¬† Can you talk about how as a second‑year point guard she's taken more command this year, especially with a lot of stars now filling up your lineup?¬† And second question for Coach Laimbeer, I know it's only been a little while, but what are your initial impressions on Kelsey and Toni, your first round picks, in camp?
COREY GAINES:  As Coach Dunn said before, the point guard position in our league is the toughest one to master.  This is our second year.  Of course last year we had a lot of injuries, and she got a lot of playing time.  It wasn't the same type of game because she was probably taking shots and doing things you probably would not do with our star players playing on the court, but it also gave her playing time.
So she did learn playing time, but it's still an adjustment for her.  She's still learning defensively, probably is the toughest part of it for insure because she's is small.  But with this year, she's coming to camp in shape with the right frame of mind.  It's just tough when you have so many weapons on the court where a lot of people are open.  When do you shoot, when do you pass, and it's always tough on a point guard.
BILL LAIMBEER:  As far as my rookies, any rookie will tell you this when they get in the league and get in practice they look around and they're in awe of how big the players are and how fast they are and how strong they are.
Once they get past that one, I think Kelsey Bone has done a fine job of adjusting quickly.  You don't have to tell her twice on things.  She wants to learn; she has a good work ethic; she picks up things very fast.
Young has been a little bit behind.  She's not as strong as some of the other players in camp.  She's a little slow to pick things up at times, but she's made really good progress in the last few days.  She's gotten over the overwhelmed part from being from Oklahoma coming to a big city in New York.  So she's starting to fit in a little bit better, and we're still very confident she's going to work out.

Q.  Mr.Laimbeer and Mr.Gaines, first, Corey, with all the pressure and hype that Brittney has entered the league with, how do you see her handling that?  How have you helped her get through that?  Bill, somebody who played in the NBA and has been coaching and seeing the women's four for a while, I'd like you to comment on Griner being a generational type player who will change the game?
COREY GAINES:¬† I'd say she's done pretty well.¬† She's on ESPN every day, and I think she's on again going across that ticker tape.¬† But I think she's handling it well because she really loves the game.¬† She doesn't think she's bigger than the game.¬† She respects the game, comes into camp, wants to learn.¬† She knows it's a big learning curve for her because it's a lot of things she hasn't done before with my system where I have her running up‑and‑down the court full speed and she's taking a ball out.¬† So it's different for her.
She came here never setting pick‑and‑rolls before; she's setting pick‑and‑rolls now.¬† And the off‑court stuff, they're pulling her in every direction, but she's taking it a good way and handling it well.
BILL LAIMBEER:  As far as one question of me, no one player is bigger than the league.  Never has been, never will be.  While players come and go that can change the face of how the game has played, most of them are guards.  The guards are the ones that dictate and have the ball.  They're the ones that bring it up and pass the ball.
Centers, even Wilt in his time slot, though he may have scored a hundred zillion points, only won one championship when he was older and playing with good guards like Jerry West.  So while she'll be a great impact on the game, as far as changing the face of the league and how the league is played, I don't see that.

Q.  Coach, this question is for Carol and Gary, could you guys talk about your thoughts right now with the Mercury and all their weapons and what they can do?  Just talk about that for a little bit?  Thank you.
CAROL ROSS:  Clearly, we don't want to think about it or talk about it.
GARY KLOPPENBURG:  We're still working on that, yeah.
CAROL ROSS:¬† You know, clearly impressive roster that Phoenix‑‑ they're impressive.¬† They already had great players.¬† They just added a rookie that is unique and can at times change the way we go about business.¬† It's certainly intriguing.¬† We'll have to give it more thought later, and it will certainly make us work a little harder.
GARY KLOPPENBURG:  Yeah, I'm excited about what Phoenix is doing and Corey is doing down there with all the players back.  You know, you've got some of the premier players in the league assembled along with Griner.  So I think everywhere they go, there's going to be a huge buzz.
I mean, I know we've sold a lot more tickets when Phoenix shows up in town.  It's going to be exciting.  I think everybody is going to get everybody's best shot this year and there will be some great games with them.

Q.¬† You have a unique perspective on this and I'm curious.¬† After Brittney came out last week and said what her experience was at Baylor in terms of her sexuality and what they did to try to ‑‑ allegedly did to try to keep it quiet, in your experience as a coach, have you ever had many problems in Detroit or New York, or had to put a team together based on problems regarding sexuality of the players?¬† And what is it about women that enables them to deal with it better than maybe an NBA locker room?
BILL LAIMBEER:¬† The answer to the first part of the question is no.¬† I put together teams of the greatest basketball players I can get my hands on.¬† This is basketball.¬† This is what this is.¬† I want ballers that show up on the floor and come with hard‑nosed players and take no mercy and expect no mercy.¬† As far as what was the other part of your question?

Q.  The women seem to be able to deal with it and sort things out on their own.  And the Jason Collins thing seemed to cause such a commotion in the NBA?
BILL LAIMBEER:  Well, times change.  They always evolve and move on.  In the women's sport, it's never been any big deal.  It is what it is and everybody plays basketball.  The men are a bit different.  This is the first time coming around.  It was going to happen sooner or later.  People say this is who I am.
So in five years from now it will be nothing.  It's just the way it all evolves.  I think it's going to happen in the NBA to some degree.  The marketing there is very large and huge, so I think some players still may feel a little inhibited, but it will come around.
RON HOWARD:  To all our coaches, thank you so much for your time, and we wish you the best of luck as you get underway this season.

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