Last week, the much improved San Antonio Silver Stars opened their regular season home campaign with a wire-to-wire 74-71 victory over the Connecticut Sun. The 8,574 boisterous fans in attendance witnessed a defensive clinic in the first half, with the Stars holding the Sun to only 7 points in the first quarter and 11 in the second on their way to a 25-point lead.
In typical San Antonio hoops fashion, however, the Stars allowed the Sun to creep back into the game, but held them off for their first win of the season. New Silver Star Becky Hammon contributed 7 points in the critical fourth quarter and paced the team with 17 points overall, displaying the skills that spurred the organization to bring her to the Alamo City. Hammon was traded from the New York Liberty to the Silver Stars on draft day last April for the Stars’ second draft pick, a move that Stars head coach Dan Hughes had been hoping to make since 2003.
“It was very shocking,” Hammon says on wnba.com/silverstars. “I didn’t have really any idea that it was coming. I found out when everybody else did and you know what, you move on. I know I’m in a great opportunity here and a great situation here so I’m just looking forward to an exciting season.”
The 5-foot-6 Hammon honed her skills playing two-on-two with her family in Rapid City, South Dakota. After high school, Hammon set off to Colorado State University, where she scored an astonishing 2,740 points in four years, led her team into the NCAA tournament, and routinely played before 5,000 fans by her senior year. In 1999, Hammon entered the WNBA as an undrafted free agent with the Liberty, but after a breakout performance in that year’s Finals and a strong sophomore season, she soon became a fixture in New York.
Over the past three seasons, Hammond has been named to the Eastern Conference All-Star Team while averaging 14 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 3.2 assists. Last year, her jersey was ranked second in league sales behind the Los Angeles Sparks’ Lisa Leslie, and this season she is intent on leading the Stars into the post-season for the first time since the team arrived in San Antonio in 2003. Luckily, she has some solid help. Among the other key additions to the Stars squad this season are former Finals MVP and Olympic Gold Medalist Ruth Riley, last year’s Most Improved Player Erin Buescher, veteran guard Helen Darling, and standout rookie Camille Little. Returning from last year’s team, which finished the season at 13-21, are All-Star forward Sophia Young, forward Kendra Wecker, guard Shanna Crossley, and 11-year veteran Vickie Johnson, who shared the backcourt in New York with Hammon.
One of the x-factors for the Stars this season will be three-time All-Star Marie Ferdinand-Harris, who is returning to the team after taking a season off for maternity leave. Up until the arrival of Sophia Young, Ferdinand-Harris and her explosive scoring ability were often the only bright spots for Stars fans. Ferdinand-Harris has shown flashes of her offensive brilliance in the early part of the season and look for greater impact, both on the court and in the locker room, as she continues to regain her old form.
The Silver Stars have been described by many WNBA pundits as easily the most improved team in the league. The team’s recent acquisitions have many fans talking playoffs and there are even whispers of a possible river parade.
After the San Antonio Spurs took a seemingly commanding 2-0 lead in their Western Conference Finals match-up with the Jazz, a couple of overzealous national television personalities began to compare their play to that of Jordan’s Bulls and Magic’s Lakers. Things came down to earth Saturday night after the upstart Jazz routed the veteran Spurs by 26 points in Game 3.
Utah’s second-year phenom, Deron Williams, outplayed Spurs captain Tony Parker to the tune of 31 points, 8 assists, and 5 steals and is proving to be the difference-maker in the series.
Look for the Spurs to bounce back and take the series in five or six games. In the Eastern Conference Finals, the Cleveland Cavaliers made similar strides, winning Game 3 in their best-of-seven with the Detroit Pistons. Detroit is now 2-1, but don’t be surprised if LeBron James leads the Cavs back to a Game 7 and possibly a Finals showdown with the Spurs.