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May 20, 2013

Elena Delle Donne

Skylar Diggins

Katie Douglas

Crystal Langhorne

Tina Thompson

Lindsay Whalen

RON HOWARD:  We now welcome in our players.  With us from Washington, Crystal Langhorne, from Indiana, Katie Douglas, from Chicago, Elena Delle Donne, from Minnesota, Lindsay Whalen, from Tulsa, Skylar Diggins, from Seattle, Tina Thompson.  We'll begin right away with questions.

Q.¬† Elena, first of all, what has been the biggest adjustment for you in terms of practicing and playing pro basketball?¬† Also I wanted to know how you look forward to‑‑ I know you'll not be matched up with Brittney Griner directly, but you'll be playing her the first time, and how excited you are about that?
ELENA DELLE DONNE:  To answer the first question, probably the biggest adjustment will be the speed of the game.  I noticed that from the first practice, and literally every practice it's a hundred percent going extremely hard.  Not only that, but also learning some new terminology from Coach, so that's been a little different.
Obviously, I'm thrilled about our first game.¬† I think it's going to be a great match‑up and a really exciting game to watch, and it's going to draw a lot of attention to the league which is awesome.

Q.  Katie, I guess conventional wisdom would be that the Fever are going to be at a huge disadvantage starting off the season with eight or nine players.  But the fact that the schedule seems more spaced than it has been, do you think that will help the Fever in terms of managing minutes and that kind of thing?
KATIE DOUGLAS:¬† Yeah, I think no doubt.¬† I don't think we anticipated going into this season so short‑handed.¬† It's something that I think we obviously faced going into the finals last year with injuries, and obviously it's still kind of prevalent to start the season.¬† So we're just going to roll with it.
I feel like we can use the experience from last season in the playoffs and use that again this year.  I think our schedule is advantageous for us.  We're at home a lot.  Like you said, the games are spaced out, so we're going to try the best with what we've got.  I know, like coach says, one person's disadvantage is another person's opportunity.  So we look at it like that.  We're going to have to change the roles and change maybe some of the lineups and some of the things that we do normally.
But we're going to do that and hopefully the people that we have out, they can get healthy as fast as they can and join us back on the floor.

Q.  Elena, everybody thinks of you as a standout offensive player.  I wonder what you feel like the biggest challenges will be defensively as you move into the pro game?  Skylar, if you could just talk about how you already sort of immersed yourself in the Tulsa community.  I think you have or are going to meet a lot of the Tulsa business leaders.  How important is it to you to be such a part of the community as a sports figure?
ELENA DELLE DONNE:  Luckily I have Pokie as my coach who does focus so much on defense, and I feel like I've already improved so much already.  But I just have to continue to be able to defend the guards and use my length to my advantage to go against the quick guards.
SKYLAR DIGGINS:  As far as being out in the community, I think it's super important to be visible, especially because I'm new here, I think it's important for me to be out and involved with the fans.  I've already gotten to meet some fans last week, and I'm super excited about the opportunity tomorrow and throughout this week to meet with Notre Dame clubs of Tulsa, and some other organizations around Tulsa.
I think it's great to get to know the city and the city to know me.  I think it will draw attention to our game.

Q.  Crystal, does it feel good knowing that Coach Thibault chose the core of your team from last year by keeping you, Monique and Matee, and what do you think the communication will be like heading into this year with the three of you now heading into five years?  How does it feel to know that you guys did at least keep the core of your team, and Coach Thibault had faith in you, Monique and Matee, and what is the chemistry like between the two of you going into your fifth year together?
CRYSTAL LANGHORNE:  Yes, it's a great feeling that he kept the core.  It just shows that he has belief in our team, and he knows that we need a few pieces to add to our team.  I think with the addition of people like Kia Vaughn and Ivory Latta and our coach, it's going to make a huge difference for us this year.

Q.  Tina, you probably have the longest view of this league and what's happened in the past.  Do you feel particular excitement to start this season that a lot of people have just because of maybe some of the changes in dynamics and sort of the rookie infusion?  Also will you scout the Western Conference for me a little bit?
TINA THOMPSON:  I'm really excited about this upcoming season.  There is a lot of attention because of the young players that are coming in.  I think that's something that this league definitely needs moving forward.  We've tried to do some rebranding with the changing of our logo and things like that, so bringing more attention to the league is really important for the growth.
As far as the Western Conference, as long as I've been in the WNBA, I've been in the Western Conference, and it's always been very competitive so I don't see it being any different this season.  It's going to be really tough in the Western Conference for each team to grab one of those playoff spots.  Everyone will be fighting really hard.

Q.  Crystal, you have a new coach in Coach Thibault, I'm assuming there's been a change in the culture for the Mystics.  What emphasis has there been in the training camp has it been like coming down on turnovers and things of that nature, and increasing the tempo?  And the second question is for Skylar.  You're in the midst of a transition to another level; how are your first couple conversations with the new coach?  Has he really emphasized really more studying and being a student of the game in order to make the transition effective at the point guard position?
CRYSTAL LANGHORNE:  Just as Coach Thibault sets a totally different pace.  He's an NBA guy, and our practices are very NBA like.  He's emphasized cutting down on turnovers and pushing a ball and pushing the tempo also rebounding, and our defense, of course.  You know, he makes our practices very high and intense with high intensity.  I think he's been really good for us so far.
SKYLAR DIGGINS:  Coach has done a good job with staying patient with me, helping me adjust and really talking me through the new system.  I think right now I'm trying to get into a flow with my teammates and trying to get to learning more on the court and learn the system, and kind of find out where my teammates are most comfortable, what they like to do.
In such short amount of time that we have to prepare.  The biggest adjustment, like Elena said, is I'm getting used to the lingo and some of the rules.  I got called in the third game for like camping in the lane, and got a tech for the defensive 3 second, so just adjusting to the rules and things like that.  And I think coach has done a great job and my teammates have done a great job with being patient with me and helping me through this process.

Q.  Lindsay Whalen, what's it like playing with Janel McCarville again?  Is this the first time you've played together since college?
LINDSAY WHALEN:¬† Yes, this is the first time we've played together since college.¬† So it's been fun kind of getting back on the court and getting used to playing with her again and kind of trying to get some of the chemistry we had in college back on the court here in the WNBA.¬† It's just been cool to get back on a day‑to‑day basis and help our team.¬† It's been a lot of fun.

Q.  Tina, you are the lone player remaining from the first season of this league.  Do you sort of ever take a moment to think of the changes or evolutions that the league has gone through over the past 16 years?
TINA THOMPSON:  No, I actually don't think about it unless someone asks me the question.  I've been here since the beginning, and it's been competitive since year one and our growth season in 1997.  I think the style of play has changed quite a bit.  I think that as we grow and get younger and the game changes for individuals, our game is becoming a little more athletic, especially when you see players like Brittney who she dunks the basketball so easily.  And before it was a little bit of a struggle.
When you see players coming in like her or see the versatility of someone like Elena at her size, it definitely puts everything together.  And there's definitely been evolution, in a good way.  Growth is always good when you're building a business.  In my opinion, the WNBA is 17 years young.
I know the expectation for us in the beginning wasn't very high, but that was kind of from the outside looking in.  We knew as a league what we had as a product, and where we are now is kind of where I've always expected.

Q.  As a competitor, how does it fuel your fire that so many years into your pro career you get to be on the court with this year's rookie class like Elena, like Skylar, like Brittney?  What's that mean to you as a competitor?
TINA THOMPSON:  Well, I learned a very long time ago, like very early in my career, probably in college, I don't get my motivation by who I'm playing against.  It's kind of an inner thing where I go out and kind of leave everything out there and play with no regrets.  So it really doesn't matter who I'm playing against, personally, because my effort is going to be the same.
But from a perspective of the league, I think that it's very important to have classes of rookies like these three ladies just because it shows the evolution.  People have expectations or they have doubts about the WNBA.  So when you get a class like these three young ladies, it definitely kind opens up the eyes of people who have doubted the league and brings more attention in.  I think they're a little bit more curious.
So from a league perspective overall, I think it's very important, but I think individually, as players, when you play for such a long time or you're a competitor in general, it's kind of an innate thing.
I think if you ask Brittney, Skylar or Elena that same question, I'm sure they're going to answer the same way.  It really doesn't matter who they're playing against.  They're going to come out and compete no matter what.

Q.¬† Lindsay, if you could talk about your hunger this season, obviously coming off not only the finals loss but it seems a lot of the attention this off‑season has been on the big three in the Mercury, does that maybe add to your motivation a little bit?¬† Also when it comes to players like the big three, I think everyone agrees that their popularity is good for the league, but any extra motivation on the court to kind of take it to them?
LINDSAY WHALEN:  I think coming off last season with making it all the way to the finals and then not winning is always tough, but that always gives you motivation for the next season.  And I think that it gives you something to even work harder for to try to get back to that same level.
I think you want to have the motivation, but you don't want to dwell on it or think about it a whole lot because you have the season coming up and new games and new faces on the team to get used to playing with.  Once the season starts, we definitely try to focus on the games we have this season.
As far as the younger players coming in, I think it's great to see new talent coming in every season and new people having impacts on the game.  I think, like Tina said, you motivate yourself and try to get better to keep improving your own game and what you can do to help your team.  That's what makes it so competitive.
So as a player coming into this season so you can do what you can to help your team, and make sure you get your best effort every day, and everyone in the league is doing the same.
TINA THOMPSON:  I'm actually a little late to practice, so I have to go.  But I wanted to thank everyone for the questions, and enjoy the rest of the interview.

Q.  Skylar, being a public figure in your community, what causes do you anticipate being the voice for, specifically, if any?
SKYLAR DIGGINS:¬† Well, growing up, my dad is the director of the recreational center and he deals with at‑risk youth.¬† So I've always been really‑‑ it's been a passion of mine to work with kids and inner‑city kids.¬† I shared my dad with a thousand kids growing up, so I kind of took that from him, just his love for kids. ¬†And whether it's teaching basketball skills or life skills, I think it's going to be something that I really want to get involved in.
So just looking forward to getting involved in Tulsa and just all over with camps and what have you.

Q.  Lindsay and Katie, if you were to say something to Crystal Langhorne and the Washington Mystics about Coach Thibault, just something about him, about how he coaches and what his style is, what to expect?  What would each of you have to say to that team as they get to know their new coach?
LINDSAY WHALEN:¬† I would say up‑tempo.¬† He's always played a really up‑tempo style, and just get being out of the net as fast as you can and running it down the other way to get an offensive touch or just to go and play.¬† He's just such a great X's and O's coach.¬† He'll put you guys in great position and really utilize your strengths.¬† He's a lot of fun to play for.
KATIE DOUGLAS:  Yeah, I'd have to obviously echo what Lindsay said.  Lindsay and I played for him for so many years, and like Crystal said, he is an NBA coach, and he has an NBA style and NBA mentality.
I don't want to give away too much because they're in conference.¬† So I think she'll obviously figure out his style, but obviously his high intensity at practices, he's up‑tempo, phenomenal X's and O's.¬† If you need a last second gain taking a shot or play, there is no better than Mike Thibault to put your team in a position to win.
Obviously, they're in our conference, so we look forward to battling him now with the Washington Mystics.

Q.  Elena, can you talk about what is the coolest thing about being in Chicago so far?  I know you throughout a first pitch at the Cubs game, but what's been the coolest thing about just being in the city?  Second thing is what's it going to be like for you to play with one of the best players in the world and certainly one of the best centers in Sylvia Fowles?  How do you feel like that's going to be for you and how can you play off of her strengths?
ELENA DELLE DONNE:  The best thing about Chicago, after coming from Delaware, basically, if I wanted to do something fun I had to leave the state and drive to New York, Philly or somewhere else, so it's nice to be here and just have so much to do.
The Cubs game was incredible.  The character of Wrigley Field was absolutely amazing, so I can't wait to continue to explore this city, because there really is so much to do.
Your second question, playing with Sylvia has been absolutely amazing to have such a big post presence inside.¬† I've just noticed that even when I'm driving through the lane, there isn't much help side because there is so much attention on Sylvia.¬† A lot of times I can just throw it up to her and it's a lay‑up.¬† So it's been special playing with her, and I continue to look forward to playing with her throughout this season.
RON HOWARD:  Thank you very much.  Crystal, Katie, Elena, Lindsay, Skylar, thank you so much for your time, and we wish you luck as you get underway this weekend.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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