Friday, December 12, 2008

Have we lost Detroit?

Gil Scott-Heron once penned a song, "We Almost Lost Detroit," which spotlighted a dangerous accident at a nuclear power plant in Monroe, Michigan. It didn't get as much publicity as the Three Mile Island incident, maybe the Motor City after all is nothing more than an once-powerful major U.S. city, now just a desolate piece of land mostly occupied by Black folk.

If Scott-Heron wanted to do a remake, he easily could sing, "GOP did lose Detroit."

A proposed $14 billion plan to rescue the U.S. auto industry failed to get through the U.S. Senate Thursday. Ever since it was proposed, lawmakers decried it.

The Big Three didn't deserve a bailout. Not unlike the Wall Street robber barons, who got their federal "come and get it" handout without any condition imposed.

But not Detroit --- they had to make deep concessions in order to get not a bailout, but a "bridge" loan.

No such demands placed on greedy Wall Street financiers who make outrageous loans that came back to bite them squarely in the butt. But instead auto workers, who already made big concessions both in 2005 and 2007 to help keep the auto industry alive, including no pay raises in their current contract, to again dig deep in their pockets and lose some more.

While they sit in their corner offices and take three-hour martini lunches, real workers are risking their lives to make cars.

I know. I once worked in a Chrysler plant. Eight to ten hours a day, during tedious work. Dirty. Grimly. Dangerous.

Yet we workers had pride in our work, on our line. There was a sense of accomplishment, albeit weary and tired, at the end of our shift.

But yet the Senate want these workers to again sacrifice their wages in order to save their jobs.

Clearly, Wall Street is more important than Jefferson Avenue. White collars are more important than blue collars.

"We cannot let a cornerstone of the American economy got into bankruptcy," said U.S. Congressman Keith Ellison (D-Minneapolis) on Wednesday. The House approved the same measure that the Senate voted down.

Ellison quoted estimates from the Economic Policy Institute that if even one of the three automakers go bankrupt, at least three million jobs could be lost in 2009. "We can assist the auto industry in their recovery and help to reshape it in a way that makes sense economically, or we can watch the devastating impact bankruptcy would have on hard-working American families," the congressman added.

Furthermore, it will put Detroit in a further depressed state: it leads the nation in foreclosures. Downtown has been a ghost town for years. The existing tax base has been eroding ever since the auto industry first came into peril back in the 1970s.

I agree that the Big Three should have made changes at least two decades ago. Their stubbornness not to retool and produce more fuel efficient cars, which in result, would produce more affordable automobiles.

But it isn't the workers' fault. Nor is it President-elect Barack Obama's.

Instead, the current responsibility to help the automakers fail clearly on the current President: George Bush's lackadaisical approach to this, unlike his coming forward to help the AIGs of the world, is just another sad notch on his sad legacy.

Meanwhile, the White House stands on the sidelines, keeping their white collars clean of this current financial mess: "We believe that the economy is in such a weakened state right now that -- another possible loss of 1 million jobs is just something our economy cannot sustain," spokeswoman Dana Perino said Thursday.

Such tough talk from a lame duck administration.

We almost lost Detroit three decades ago. Unless something is done quick, a search party soon will be needed to find the Motor City because it will be gone.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A dangerous person in tow

It has been only a week since the election, and Alaska Governor Sarah Palin already acting like she's the 2012 GOP presidential nominee.

We found that Palin played Daffy Duck to John McCain's Bugs Bunny in her role in helping him lose the election. Yet she boldly wants to blame others, including the media and George Bush for the defeat. She accomplished nothing but dealt America's looking at a woman for national office a serious setback because Palin was far and away not qualified.

Instead of heading back and be the governor of Alaska, Palin is dealing with election day hangover with veiled declarations that she will be the Republicans' new standard bearer, allowing her intoxication with fame and flirtation with power that she was exposed to for the last three months totally consume her.

The last time I read, we have a new president. The 2012 campaign haven't commence as yet. But Palin foolishly has thrown her hat in the ring.

Palin is a dangerous person. Don't let the "aw, shucks" shtick fool you, like she is some 21st Century Jed Campett, when instead she acts more like Mrs. Drysdale.

As a conservative, Palin preaches separatism as she blindly defines who's "a real American" and using Mr. Magoo directions, point out to us where the "real America" is when she can't tell us what Africa is, what countries make up the North American free trade agreement or the titles of the magazines she reads.

Her idea of diversity, as she proudly claim, is her family, which is all White. This explains why Palin is the first Alaskan governor to not have a single person of color in her administration.

As an evangelical Christian, Palin during the campaign props up Joe Six Pack, which I believe refers to someone who drinks beer, like they were Jesus Christ.

She claims to be a soccer mom, but used a GOP-issued credit card to go on a shopping spree like she hit the lottery, then play it off like she's entitled.

She was supposed to be No. 2 on the Republican ticket, but Palin self-appointed herself queen, and played Marie Antoinette, virtually stabbing McCain in the back at every opportunity. The O'Jays' "Back Stabbers" should be her theme song.

If she can do this to friends, what'd you think Palin will do to her enemies besides name calling and false accusations.

And don't rule out Palin, either appointing herself as U.S. senator if and when current Sen. Stevens is booted out, or running in a special election, using this to get back in the national spotlight.

Memo to the spotlight operators: please pack up your equipment and run away from her as fast as possible. Stop giving her any air play -- Palin is a non-factor. We have turned the corner.

Honestly, moose isn't the only ones who should worry about this Manchurian candidate, who is acting like she's the shoo-in for the next election, which is over four years away. Palin rather should stick to running her state.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

If twice you succeed, why not try again

Where else but Florida, home of the 2000 stolen presidential election, that once again GOP shadiness is afoot.

NPR reported Friday that registered Democrats have received mailings from the Republican National Committee, informing them that records show that they are registered Republicans. Of course, this isn't the case, and of course, RNC officials deny everything but that the other party registered folk received the wrong mailing.

Warning to Floridians, and everyone else -- don't open any mailing from either party. If you applied for an absentee ballot, make sure that it is official. If you are not sure, then go to your local secretary of state office for verification.

Remember, the GOP have done this twice before, and they are not beyond thinking along these cheating lines again in order to suppress voter turnout.

Stay forewarned and former vigilant.

In other related news . . . The McCain-Palin "traveling salvation show" swept through Minnesota Friday, speaking to 10,000 at a Blaine airport hanger. A 16-vehicle motorcade carried the two to the same folk they are used to speaking to.

McCain has yet to swing through the Black community here, as opposed to his opponent Barack Obama, who has. Instead the GOP running mates, who seemed now joined at the hip, speaks to suburban and rural crowds, steering way clear of urban areas.

It's keeping with McCain's "Country First" theme.

Again, be forewarned and forever vigilant.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Save Troy Davis

Following is my interview with Troy Davis, who is scheduled for execution on Sept. 23 unless the Georgia Parole Board changes its mind, from May, 2007, and later published in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder (

Troy Anthony Davis was all set to join the U.S. military. Instead, he has been locked up in a Georgia prison for almost two decades.
Davis was convicted and condemned to die in 1991 for killing a Savannah, Ga. police officer. After having exhausted his appeals, Davis was scheduled to die by lethal injection July 17th until the Georgia parole board granted him a 90-day stay of execution for “evaluating and analyzing the evidence provided during the board appointment.”
After he was sentenced, seven of nine witnesses who testified in his trial that he shot Mark Allen MacPhail in 1989 have recanted their testimonies and now say Davis did not shoot the police officer. Davis all along has contended that he is innocent of the crime.
Davis and a group of friends were outside a Greyhound bus station in Savannah, where a man was getting beat up on by Sylvester Coles. After being told by Coles to get away while trying to break it up, Davis and a friend then left the scene.
McPhail, who was off-duty at the time, then came over to offer assistance, and was shot twice. He was White.
A few days later, Davis was out of town preparing to join the Marines, when family members called and told him that he was wanted for the shooting. Davis then turned himself in. Two years later, he was convicted and has been on Georgia death row ever since.
In an exclusive interview in May, MSR asked Davis several questions. The following are his unedited responses:

MSR: Troy, explain how have you kept your composure, patience, sanity, etc. during almost two decades of maintaining your innocence?
TD: I have been able to remain positive and keep my composure due to having a strong family and truly believing that my innocence has to come to light somehow. My mother raised us to believe in God so I asked God to keep me safe and help me prove my innocence. It hasn’t been an easy road trying to be patient, but I am a strong minded person. I see so many traumas, sadness, fear and many other emotions in the other death row inmates, and hatred from some of the people that work here.

MSR: Throughout the entire ordeal, why hasn’t the authorities heard your side of the story?
TD: The authorities wanted to find a cop killer. Once Sylvester Coles (who testified against him) and his lawyer pointed the finger at me, they made a secret deal agreeing not to charge him if Sylvester (Red) gave them what they wanted. They took his word at face value and thought it was an open and shut case. In order for the authorities to even entertain my side of the story, they would have to admit to lies, coercion, unethical conduct and threats they made to me.

Soon after the McPhail shooting, Coles and his lawyer went to the police and made a statement exonerating him and implicating Davis as the gunman. During the trial, Coles admitted that he carried a .38 caliber handgun, the same type of gun used in the shooting. However, investigators never found the murder weapon.

MSR: Did you do anything to Sylvester Coles that you would think spur him to falsely accuse you?
TD: I have never done anything to Sylvester Coles (Red). Red always has been a very mean spirited person, who felt as if guns were his power. I am assuming he thought I might snitch on him because he had the gun, and he was attacking that man, so he ran to the police station a few hours after the shooting with a lawyer and pointed the finger at me. I did not even know anyone was shot, especially a policeman until my family told me I was on the news.

MSR: Anything that I didn’t ask that you wish to talk about?
TD: The incident started for me when I tried to stop Red from pistol whipping and attacking a homeless man over a can of beer. The man was struck by a left-handed attacker, as he testified. I am right handed.
I want people to know, I voluntarily turned myself in, once I knew I was suspected of the murder. I had nothing to hide and I thought by telling the truth I would be released. Once at the police station, the only question was, “Tell us where the gun is and make it easy on yourself.” In their minds, I was already guilty and convicted. They never asked me what happened that night, and from then on my life and the life of my family was forever changed.
My prayers go out sincerely to Mr. McPhail’s family. They hate me because of lies but until a court agrees to view all the new real evidence of what happened, they’ll never know the truth. They deserve justice. Just like I do.
I refuse to hate those who stole my life from me because that is not who I am. I am angry that I have missed so much of my life and my family’s life. I have missed my father’s funeral.
I just want my freedom back. I want justice once and for all.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Vikings coach bailed out

Minnesota Vikings head coach Brad Childress caved in worse than a house of cards by benching starting quarterback Tarvaris Jackson. This bail out is nothing compared to what the federal government recently did with ING and the Mae's, but the head coach's action tells you something about the man.

His word is about as good as a three-dollar bill.

All off season long, Childress told the world that Jackson was his QB. Then two games into the 2008 season, the coach pulled the starting rug right from under the young man's feet. Instead, Childress names journeyman Gus Freotte as starter for the remainder of the season, much to the delight of Vikings fans, and more importantly, the Twin Cities media.

Jackson's vote of confidence from Childress lasted all but two games and barely 48 hours.

Childress cowardly bowed to media pressure, many of whom never was high on Jackson in the first place. Now they can go around with dislocated shoulders from all the back patting they're doing.

These media second-guessers or every morning quarterbacks essentially forced Childress to switch quarterbacks, and the coach responded in kind. He sent a clear message that whenever the Twin Cities scribes say jump, Childress doesn't ask how high, but instead just bends over and start kissing their feet. It's easy for him to do that because based on his latest decision, Childress has no backbone.

It's common knowledge that pro quarterbacks usually take longer to develop, learning to correctly read the myriad of defensive schemes thrown at them, which are not seen during their college days. There has been few QBs who have come into the NFL that prepared.

The brothers Manning struggled before they got the right offensive line, backfield and the right coaching and tutorage to properly mold them into their now great selves.

Should we attribute Jackson's struggles to the same? I would, but most of the local scribes would beg to differ. Did Jackson play all 22 positions in the two Minnesota losses? No.

Is he solely the blame for the defeats? Depending on who is asked, will determine the answer to this question.

If you ask the local scribes, they'd say yes. If you ask Vikings fans, they'd say yes.

If you ask a head coach who months previous said that Jackson was his man through think and thin, that he'd back him all the way, Childress' recent actions also would say yes.

I feel for Jackson, not that he lost his starting job, but how again can he trust the head coach, now knowing that when the heat is on, Childress is outta there looking for cover.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Stay away from anti-Obama book site

The Republican National Committee on Tuesday launched new "friend updates" on its slam Barack web sit (actually called BarackBook).

It links Obama with Alaska state senator Hollis French, who according to the RNC is connected with special council Steve Branchflower, who is investigating Gov. Sarah Palin.

Give it to the RNC to spin it in their own way, making you think that Obama has something to do with Palin being investigated on allegations that she tried to have someone fired because that someone wouldn't fire her former brother-in-law.

Of course, this isn't the truth, but when have the Republicans allowed truth to get in the way.

If Palin is innocent, or not guilty, then let it be shown. If she is guilty, then let that be shown as well -- between now and Election Day.

This is more important than than propaganda tactics that the GOP love using.

Stay away from their book on Obama -- it isn't friendly and more likely, isn't true. You want the truth, check out, a non-partisan web site dedicated to examine what each candidate is saying. Thus far, it has been finding out that John McCain's nose has been growing just as long as the RNC's list of mistruths in this campaign.

That's what it is even more important to vote. If you're not registered, get registered.

If you need an absentee ballot, call your local secretary of state office and get one. Get one now, fill it out and send it in.

Don't take anything that is not official -- if you are not sure, take it to the officials (not the GOPers) and have it checked out.

These sneaky Republicans will try anything to steal this election.

Remember 2000 and 2004!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

50 days and counting down

There are 50 days left in the presidential campaign and if Sen. Barack Obama is to win, he quickly needs to change strategy.

Obama must get 90 percent or more of the Black vote, 70 or more percent of females, and at least 20 percent of those who claim to be independent if he wants to win in less than two months from today.

Sen. John McCain is avoiding urban America like the plague -- he and his running mate is focusing on the suburbs and rural American instead.

If I was advising him, following is my plan to get the three aforementioned groups -- none of which are locks in the Obama camp.

One, there are 14 million Black registered voters, and 9 million of them did not vote for Obama during the primaries. Therefore, he should do weekly teleconference calls with the Black press: mainstream media isn't going to get his message out to urban America -- the Black press is better at doing that.

Two, send Sen. Hilary Clinton out to address the women. If she is committed to helping Obama win as she claimed during the convention, then action and words are better than a glorified speech. She can rally the females, which would truly negate McCain's Sarah Palin, who really is speaking to the White male gun-toters.

Then have her husband, former President Bill Clinton, follow up right after his wife, to charm the masses. No one can give an impromtu speech better than Clinton, who also could follow after Obama to help seal the deal.

Third, Obama must go on radio talk shows (this is what Warren Ballentine has been saying for the longest). But in addition to Black radio program, which Ballentine suggest, I would add that Obama also hit those middle of the road outlet, and take only listeners' questions.

There will be some crazies who will call in, but that can be easily negated with the good ones. This way, the senator is speaking directly to the people, listening to them and answering them. It would be his own town hall meeting, and every city has a talk station or something close to it.
Don't go to those right-wing stations because Obama isn't going to win over those folk.

Fourth, Obama must stay on message every time he speaks. Get your points on every pertinent issue every time the camera and microphone is on. This gives him a free 30-second TV and radio spot because the media are covering him. This would go further than those political ads, and would hit those independents.

Finally, if the Democrats are to win the White House for the first time in this century, then every one of them must get out on the campaign trail. Send Joe Biden to the small towns. As mentioned earlier, send out the Clintons. And where is the Congressional Black Causus -- they should be speaking out more for Obama, talking to the Black press as well, doing the attacking on McCain and Palin, exposing the lies and deceitfulness of the GOP campaign.

The 50-day hourglass sand is running.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Can we get back on track

Is this presidential campaign about makeup or issues?

Sen. Barack Obama's so-called "lipstick" remark wasn't about Gov. Sarah Palin. We all have something like this, including Sen. John McCain, to talk about saying something crazy or bad and trying to dress it up as something fresh and new.

But the McCain campaign's outrage over this smells like Karl Rove. It's stinks!

Using CBS' Katie Coric's earlier remark about sexism during Sen. Hillary Clinton's primary campaign in their latest ad attacking Obama, is another Rove tactic that McCain is using.

But didn't Palin started all this mess with her asinine comments about the difference between herself, a so-called hockey mom, and a pitbull.

"Lipstick," she gladly told the GOP convention folk last week.

However, I am not looking for the next president's Max Factor knowledge; rather I am looking for an extreme makeover.

Am I hearing this so far? Not from McCain. Not from Palin, who's getting more celebrity treatment from the media than anything Obama supposedly received.

What happened to the high road campaign McCain earilier promised that he would conduct? It went out the window as soon as he chose Palin as running mate. She has been on the attack ever since her selection.

Like a pit bull . . . oops!

And just like Obama shouldn't, I won't apologize for this.

Isn't it time to get back to the pertinent issues: economy, health care, education and post-working security? Isn't it time to stop playing up to the crowds, the folk that is going to vote for you anyhow, and tell me something about how as president, you are going to make things radically different than the last eight years of lies and deceit, or

Friday, September 5, 2008

The last night was a bang

While Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain spoke inside on peace and prosperity Thursday night, outside the few blocks away from the 2008 GOP convention, it was a return to the past.

Police from near and far, came loaded for bear, as over 200 protesters were arrested during demonstrations.

As I left the Xcel Energy Center for the final time this week, walking down the narrow passageway created to keep those not wearing convention badges from entering, I watched scores of police dressed in war-like garb from head to toe. Helicopters constantly surrounded us from above.

After finally being allowed to leave the 'compound,' I got to see first-hand what was happening.

A group, estimated at over 700, had a permit to rally and march, but according to police, it had expired at 5 p.m. Thursday. The demonstrators wasn't taking no for an answer, and neither was the police, who lined up across the John Ireland Boulevard bridge over Interstate 94.

One officer dressed for war, complete with gas mask, told me that they stopped the demonstrators in their tracks.

"You can check CNN's web site," said one officer when asked for some details. He and two fellow officers -- all from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, were diverting traffic elsewhere: "We don't know," chimed the other two as they walked away from me.

Since I parked in the Sears store's parking lot, I had to choice but to get in the midst of the mess.

It was nothing short of a scene from those 60s protest marches:

"The whole world is watching," one of the repeated sayings bellowed among the crow

A 30-year-old man, originally from Kenya, who now lives in St. Paul, stood and watched what was going on. He and others wanted to join the protesters but were blocked by police.

"We are just shocked to see what's going on here," he notes. "This is the same as Zimbabwe."

What happened to free speech, asked another 30-year-old, who migrated here from Cameroon.

"We think this is just a method of . . . not allowing the GOP to see people protesting," he adds. "That is so wrong."

Apparently the police earlier decided that they were not going to allow another incident that took place on Monday, where windows were broken and tires slashed in downtown St. Paul.

"They didn't marched when they supposed to, so this is what is happening now," says Marvin, who was among the citizen "Peace Team" that St. Paul police often employ to help with marches and large gatherings. "They (the police) got (the crowd) in an holding area. This is a big night for McCain."

When asked, were all these folk the troublemakers the media has spoke about all week, Marvin responded, "You ain't ducking are you? We are (standing) talking. I would think it is pretty safe. You always have a few folk who does the alternative, but I think most people want to stand up for their rights."

Later, as the protesters retreated off the bridge, being told by police to move, they headed east to another bridge, cutting through the ground around the Veterans Affairs building. It was like following golfers around, I and others followed closely behind, while the police did a John Wayne and headed them off at the pass, stopping at them at the next checkpoint.

"Let us march," said the protesters before they plopped down and sat en masse in the intersection -- police instead stood in a Black Adder array: the first line with officers on horses, who used the street as their convenient restroom, with two more lines with clubs and pepper spray. As most of the crowd members sat unarmed, the police were strapped down like they were about to be dispatched to Iraq or Afghanistan, not downtown St. Paul.

And the crowd chanted: "Whose street? Our street. Whose war? Their war?"

"I think that when the sun goes down, it is going to get crazy," predicted a photographer.

He was right. It did. On this night, it was war in these streets.

Almost 90 people later were arrested, including two reporters. About a dozen more media members were also issued citations but later released.

"I'm seeing police acting like we are in another country," observed a 28-year-old male onlooker. "They are arresting people for nothing. They are using horses to knock people over. This is really weird."

I constantly took pictures (which my newspaper plan to run in our next edition) and recorded sound. At one point, I watched police intensely searched a man for dangerous weapons or something. He didn't have any, and they pushed him along. The police, however, allowed me to keep taking pictures uninhibited.

I spoke to two local reporters were roughed up by the peace officers.

"We were in the circle, and they asked us to leave," explained Jeff Shaw, a City Pages web editor. "I showed them my press pass, and they told me that I had to leave the circle. I told them that this is a public street. I got shoved, and I fell down. The next thing I had three to four cops were shoving (me), and one cop was shoving me with his billy club. Then I got throw out of the circle."

"I kept saying that I was a member of the media and not a protester, but they kept shoving me around," continued Shaw.

Andy Mannix, an intern at City Pages, got maced. "One guy told me to get down (on the ground), and I put my hands behind my head. They started macing me from behind and at the side of my head and face, and told me to get the f*** up. He helped me get up by grabbing my body and hoisted me."

"We didn't nothing to provoke them," says Shaw. "We repeatedly said that we are not resisting and just doing our job."

While McCain spoke of change, and balloons and streamers dropped from the ceiling, was he and the GOP convention goers aware of what was happening outside? Did they really cared during the coronation of their king?

"It is not fair to me," said a 27-year-old mother of two, who only wanted to get to her night job at the "CNN Grill," a restaurant that the cable news company temporary took over for the convention. The police would not allow her to cross their human barrier to continue to work, despite holding a special pass, given out to employees who work at businesses near the convention site.

"The rude-ass police told me that he didn't give a damn what pass I got," she said. "I am not going to be able to cross over until the protesting is down. They (are) missing with my money. I got food and bills to fu**ing pay. They can protest all they want - I just want to get to work."

She soon turned around and walked to the bus line to go back home.

"I've been trying to get to my car for over three hours," adds a 44-year-old man, who works in the area, but unfortunately parked in a garage across the bridge, which was blocked by police. "I was supposed to pick up my son from day care but I had to call my sister to go pick him up.

"There are a lot of people down here who don't have nothing to do with this," he says of the protesting. "It is a mess." As he pointed across the street, "There are people on that side that needs to get over to this side. I have been looking for an escape route but there isn't any. They got all the bridges closed off."

There was good news from all of this -- the GOP convention is now history, and perhaps things around downtown St. Paul and the capitol area will soon return to some sort of normalcy.

"Thank God," the man and the woman both said in unison.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Outside the GOP convention, Part 1

As a prelude to today's scheduled Poor People's March from Mears Park to the arena site of the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, the 2008 National Truth Commission took testimony on economic human rights violations in the U.S.

Hosted by the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign, the Sept. 1 event held at Christ Lutheran Church, just a few blocks from the RNC, was a multi-ethnic gathering of people not wearing outlandish convention-style costumes, or holding state placards.

There were cheers Monday night but not for a presidential nominee, but for the many speakers who came forward and testify not about the virtue of a political party using Madison Avenue slogans, but about the injustices they have faced in the greatest country on Earth.

"I can not afford health care," Annette Toney of Cleveland, Ohio told the audience. "I do not want to depend on others."

Ann Patterson, who has worked as a nurse for 17 years in Minneapolis, says she has seen her monthly health insurance premiums leaped from zero to now $500. "My husband recently lost his job," explains Patterson. "We've used our credit cards, savings and our children's savings. We are not able to make it. It is stressful."

Also a mother of five children, two of which are dealing with regular health concerns, Patterson adds that despite almost two-decades experience on her job, she has seen her job lay off others with even more seniority than hers. "I have no comfort that I will have a job tomorrow," she notes.

Rev. Gregory Lockett of Tampa, Florida is dealing with high blood pressure but publicly admitted Monday night that he had on many occasions become "dishonest" in getting his medications "because if I told the truth, they (officials) would told me to go someplace else," he points out.

"The (federal) government can spend millions on a war but can't take care of its people," says Carol Sawall-Smith of Chicago. "We need to do something about the health care in our country."

Not only health care, but housing concerns also was testified about.

Donte Davis of Louisville, Kentucky and his two children live in a crowded one-bedroom apartment. "They don't understand any of this," says the single father of his children's constant bewilderment of their current living conditions.

William "J.R." Flemming of Chicago says, "(It) is a fact" that the U.S. is in violation of human rights. "I am human. I deserve human rights. If you won't do it for me, do it for my (ten) children."

These violations have been ongoing and "is being largely ignored," says Peter Brown, a Minneapolis attorney who specializes on human rights complaints. "The right to housing, health care and education is the right of everybody, everywhere," he surmises, adding that not only the U.S. is responsible but "we also bear some responsibility, especially in holding (elected) officials accountable."

After its first day, in which activities either were curtailed or postponed because of Hurricane Gustav, the GOP convention is back on track today.

But Monday's night "truth" hearing went on as scheduled. Too bad the GOP faithful, the ones with the funny hats, couldn't had boarded their bus and rolled down a few blocks and heard these folk talk.

Then again, hearing the truth is not what most conventioneers want to hear.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

One down, seven to go

After Minnesota's 92-78 victory Saturday over Washington, Lynx Coach Don Zierden was quick to give credit:

"I want to give our practice team a lot of credit," Zierden starts off. "We go against some athletic guys."

These eight guys: Greg Chassen, Kacey Keys, Eli Jermanous, George Dennis, Marcus Williams, along with Romone, Hans, and Joe, often are called in to provide live competition for the Lynx during practices. Using males as live scrimmage bodies is a common practice for women's college teams.

"Of our 15 practices (during the month-long Olympic break), we went against them nine times," continues the coach. "I want to credit them for how hard they pushed us, and credit our players for going against them. I think that made them better in helping them prepare for tonight."

"They really pushed us," Lynx guard Candice Wiggins says of the practice guys. "We were playing defense against them all the time."

Center Nicky Anosike adds, "The guys are bigger, stronger and faster. It really helps us as far as being able to play up to that level. Playing against them, then come into the game, it enables us to match (Washington's) physicality."

Definitely it showed throughout Saturday's contest that the guys toughened the Lynx up.

"Washington is a physical team, and I want to give my players a lot of credit," says Zierden.

Minnesota (14-13) got out in front 15-4 in the game's first five minutes, then hung on to a three-point lead at the end of the first quarter.

Then later, after a 28-28 tie, the Lynx again inched out front, mainly on the play of Vanessa Hayden-Johnson (three points), Wiggins (two points) and Charde Houston (four points) off the bench to give Minnesota a 46-38 halftime lead.

The Lynx never lost its advantage the rest of the game, but it finally took a 14-2 run midway through the final quarter to finally put to rest any notion that Washington (10-18) might had in getting back in the contest.

It was pretty, especially in the fourth quarter, when it seemed like a whistle was being blown every 10 seconds, but Minnesota notched a much-needed win to keep them in the playoff hunt.

"I knew there would be lapses tonight because we haven't played a game in over a month," continues Coach Z. "But I thought our energy and effort was pretty consistent."

"We kept our composure in the fourth quarter," says Lynx forward Seimone Augustus, whose two of her 12 points helped kick-start Minnesota's final scoring spurt.

Zierden was especially pleased with the performance of Hayden-Johnson, who finished with 11 points and nine rebounds. "She was really big tonight," says Zierden. "When she plays like that, she gives us a huge lift."

Says Hayden-Johnson, "I just wanted to help in any way that I could."

She and Wiggins (22 points) led the Lynx bench, which outscored Washington's 43-15. The team also held the Mystics to 41 percent shooting and under 80 points, along with finishing even on the boards (38 rebounds apiece). Every Minnesota player scored as well.

"There were some positives tonight," the coach surmises.

Now it's off on a road trip that either will make or break the Lynx's season, beginning Monday at Los Angeles, followed by stops at Phoenix (Sept. 3), Seattle (Sept. 6), and Sacramento (Sept. 7)

"This is where people are writing us off," believes Zierden. "These young players have fought (all season) and I am so proud of them. We are down to our last seven games -- last year at this time, we were looking at the draft -- and now we are in the playoff mix. We know it is going to be difficult going on the road, but I know one thing -- these young kids are going to compete."

Says Hayden-Johnson, one of only two Lynx players who have seen post-season play in a Minnesota uniform, "We can't depend on L.A. or (another) team to lose. We got to win and help ourselves out.

"We just got to get the job done," concludes Augustus matter-of-fact.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


This presidential campaign has gone on so long that we now must rely on airhead thoughts from movie stars and celebrities.

While watching the Olympic coverage on MSNBC, one of NBC's multiple channels covering the event, I saw a report on Angeline Jolie's voting preferences. That she hasn't decided which candidate she'll support -- Barack Obama or John McCann, because she is an independent.

In such a historical election, news media instead of speaking to common folk, gathering their opinion, or better yet, doing better coverage on issues rather than nonsense, we get to hear what political leanings an overexposed movie star (?) has.

Is America waiting breathlessly for which way Jolie is going to go? Has she suddenly becomes the swing vote this November?

Is this W.W.J.D. -- who will Jolie decides upon?

All summer long, we were needlessly treated to hourly updates on Jolie's pregnancy, who is just another single mother. But this same media that fawns over her, has no qualms jumping on a young woman who have multiple children out of wedlock.

While Russia continues to invade Georgia -- while the current U.S. president has the nerve to tell Putin to pull out, especially this coming from a man who invaded not one, but two countries, Keith Obermann spends last night talking about Jolie's potential presidential choice.

Fortunately, I had my mute button on, so I just got the visuals -- the usual red carpet scenes of Jolie and Brad Pitt, and didn't hear what Obermann had to say about it. It didn't matter because it was such a waste of time, I quickly switched to the mother channel (NBC) and continued watching something much more important -- men's gymnastics.

Is this D.A.C. -- does most Americans care what Jolie thinks who she wants for president?

I certainly don't.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

A weekend of sadness

It has been a shocking weekend to say the least: Bernie Mac died Saturday morning at age 50, then Issac Hayes died Sunday at age 65.

Bernie Mac was not an overnight success, at least in the eyes of mainstream America. They knew him either from his television show or appearing in the two "Oceans" movies.

Issac Hayes reached mainstream America's consciousness after he won the 1971 Academy Award for best soundtrack. But he was more than the singer of "Shaft" or the voice of Chef in the obnoxious "South Park."

Black America knew both men, and knew them well.

Mac (1957-2008) accurately brought a slice of Black life to stage, screen and television. He closed "The Original Kings of Comedy" (2000), where he hilariously explained the difference between a noun and a verb. Another bit he did was the prelude to "The Bernie Mac Show," which aired from 2001 to 2006 on Fox, that featured him as an uncle raising his sister's three children. It won a Peabody Award in 2002. He was the rougher side of the Black father figure that Bill Cosby earlier protrayed on television, again showing that Blacks can be more than warm and fuzzy, yet caring.

Hayes (1942-2008) co-wrote "Soul Man" then embarked on a successful solo career, beginning with his 12-minute cover of "Walk On By," part of his four-song debut album, "Hot Buttered Soul" in which only one cut was shorter than five minutes. I discovered him back in the early 1970s on a now-defunct Detroit jazz station -- Hayes' songs were too long for the local AM Black stations at the time.

Hayes followed this classic with "The Issac Hayes Movement," another four-cut masterpiece, which featured a cover of the Beatles' "Something," and ". . . To Be Continued" before he released the "Shaft" soundtrack, when the rest of America finally discovered this man.

As great as these two men were, will they get the type of tributes they deserved.

Will Mac get the lengthy tributes that usually afforded White comedians when they leave for their eternal reward? Will Hayes be honored for his musical contributions as White musicians and singers do when they go?

The Clarence Thomas hearings sadly overshadowed Redd Foxx's passing.

More was said about Richard Pryor's use of profanity than his comedic genius -- it was just the opposite for George Carlin when he died earlier this summer.

Little was said about the late Robin Harris, who like Mac, also died suddenly and way too young. His "BeBe's Kids" told how unruly children can be without proper guidance and supervision.

Topper Carew's excellent documentary, "We Don't Die: We Multiply -- The Robin Harris Story" features Mac and other Black comics. It is a must-have DVD, and can be ordered on

Hayes, who was inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002, was more than Shaft -- one of his best songs was "Part-Time Love" on his "Black Moses" double album. He also appeared in several movies, starring in "Truck Turner" and was a popular recurring character on "The Rockford Files," calling James Garner "Rockfish."

"Isaac Hayes is Memphis," Memphis TV reporter Kontji Anthony told CNN Sunday. He leaves to mourn and cherish his memories a wife and 12 children.

"My heart really goes out to his wife and (their child)," comic and friend Steve Harvey said on CNN. Mac married his high school sweetheart -- she, their daughter and their granddaughter are his survivors.

Mac and Hayes will be truly missed by White America, but Black America will miss them more because we knew them longer and best.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Angry is good

Sometimes in sports, a team has to get good and angry. The Minnesota Lynx played Saturday night like they were very good and angry.

According to Lynx center Vanessa Hayden-Johnson, they have been like this way for the last few days since the team's 73-67 loss to Atlanta July 9th.

"We've been beating the hell out of each other in practice," she admits. "We were hungry for a win."

Their hungriness paid off as Minnesota defeated Houston 85-71 Saturday at home. The victory snapped both an overall two-game losing streak, and a two-game slide at home as well, and brought the Lynx back to .500 (10-10).

"We needed to get back to .500," says Hayden-Johnson. "I think we all were under that pressure and were feeling it."

Seimone Augustus played hungry against Houston.

"I know that I haven't been aggressive since the Los Angeles game (a 88-70 road win on July 3)," she admitted. "I think my teammates feed off me being aggressive. I am going to try to do this more often on a consistent basis."

Augustus scored only six first-quarter points but they came off aggressive moves to the basket, which set the tone for her teammates to follow the rest of the night.

"Seimone was aggressive from the start," notes Coach Don Zierden, "and that what your best player and leader needs to do."

"She was focused," marveled Hayden-Johnson on the Lynx's top scorer. "She said, 'Let's play for us,' and that what we did."

Also, Augustus played mad all night as well. She led all scorers with 27 points. Perhaps she needs to get angry more often.

"My teammates says that when I get angry at practice, it's over with," she says proudly. "There were some calls that were made (Saturday), and some things happened in the game that really teed me off. It was a good thing that it happened."

Minnesota also got solid play from guard Anna DeForge, who finally looked like the player everyone previously hoped that she is -- a flat out outside scorer, scoring 17 points in the win.

"You tell shooters to keep shooting the basketball," Zierden says. This is what he has been telling DeForge to do all season -- when she shoots it, the team succeeds.

"We were executing both outside and inside tonight," says DeForge.

More importantly, the Lynx played with urgency. They took control midway through the opening quarter, after trailing early, and kept it up the rest of the way.

"We're (the coaching staff) serious about this, and they should be serious about this as well," says Minnesota Assistant Coach Jennifer Gillom. "We blew one of our chances against Atlanta -- home court advantage is very important at this point if we are going to make the playoffs. I think they understood that tonight."

The players were beginning to play like robots, says Augustus.

"We just wanted to play basketball (tonight)," claims Coach Z. "There wasn't any game plan."

Hayden-Johnson concurs, "We didn't have a set game plan, but he (Zierden) just told us to go out there and do our best.

"We played streetball," she continues, noting that the team successfully carried their practice intensity to the main court Saturday night.

"We were physically and mentally prepared," notes Lynx forward LaToya Thomas.

The Lynx showed this Saturday as they battled Houston, one of the WNBA's tallest teams, all night. They didn't win the rebounding battle (the Comets out rebounded the hosts 36-33) but Minnesota forced the visitors into 17 turnovers, and ultimately won where it counts -- the final score.

Rookie Nicky Anosike showed her might Saturday as she posted her fourth double-double of the season (12 points, 10 rebounds). Next to Augustus, Anosike perhaps was the Lynx's second aggressive player against the Comets.

"She is a fierce competitor," says Zierden of the 6-3 Anosike. "She's not 6-4, 6-5 but she works hard. It doesn't matter about how many points (she scores) but how (well) she defends and rebounds."

It was more Uptown Saturday Night against Houston than it was a few nights before, when it was "Down and Out in (Lynxland)" in the Atlanta loss.

"When teams make shots, they have energy on the other end of the floor as well," concludes the Lynx coach. "Tonight we made some shots that we haven't been able to make in other games."

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Dream hand Lynx nighmarish loss

What bring a team crashing to a defeat faster than anything is missed free throws and missed layups.

These two things were exactly what happened to the Minnesota Lynx Wednesday in their 73-67 loss to Atlanta.

Allowing the first-year expansion team leave town with only its second win of their inugaral season wasn't embassing, but Minnesota's inablity to knock down free throws, especially in the game's deciding minutes was a shame.

The hosts missed eight free throws in the final quarter, including three of four in the final 1:37 of the contest, and the score tied at 66 apiece.

When a StarTribune summer intern asked Minnesota Coach Don Zierden was confidence the culpuit, "If I knew the answer to that, I wouldn't be coaching. I bottled it up and sell it to everybody," the coach deadpanned.

Then seriously speaking, Zierden responded, "You got to knock down (free throws) at crunch time, and tonight we didn't."

You also have to hit more than three shots, which the Lynx couldn't do in the final 10 minutes, going

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

All quiet . . . for now

It has been over a week and the Minnesota Twins clubhouse has been eerily quiet.

After the June 20th Minnesota-Arizona game, a rap song with endlessly rhyming "n***er" with bigger, blasted through the team's sound system. The room was full of reporters, mostly White, and two Black reporters. Only I got upset about it and argued against it with the team's only two Black players: Delmon Young and Craig Monroe.

You can read my entire column on this later today on

Ever since the incident, Twins officials has been worried about what I would write. I don't know if I was more disturbed about hearing the N-word (I was), the causal attitude by the two players, especially Young, who played me off, or the team's vain attempt to squash my column by someone who barely speak to me.

The day after the incident, I get an E-mail from Molly Gallatin, Twins publications and media services. She was not in the clubhouse that night, but Monroe obviously went to her, complaining:

"Charles, I just spoke to Craig Monroe about his concerns over an interview you tried (for the record, I did more than try -- we talked for almost 20 minutes) with him the other night in the clubhouse regarding the music selection of the team. I would like to speak with you . . . and was wondering if you can stop by the office next time you're here or call me at work. Thanks. Molly."

I chose the latter, but I took my sweet loving time getting back to the same person whom I left a voice mail message last summer to request a one-on-one player interview, and have yet to get a phone call back from her. I later had to sent a formal complaint to Gallatin, and copied it to others in the organization, including Twins president Dave St. Peter, upon which I got a weak explanation for the obvious snub.

When I finally called Gallatin, whom I addressed as "Ms. Gallatin" -- I don't think someone who don't speak to me, suddenly think we are on first name basis -- she expressed Monroe's concerns about being "embarrassed" and when I was going to run the story.

I gave her no commitment, upon which Gallatin asked if I could give her a preview copy of my column. I quickly referred her to my editor and ended the conversation.

If Monroe had any concerns, he easily could have talked to me, instead of running to some White woman. If the veteran player was worried about being embarrassed, especially since he was trying to convince me that there is a difference on how the N-word is used:

"If you are saying "nigger," that's the word that is very offensive toward African-Americans. But if you're saying, 'What's up, my nigga' (it's OK)," Monroe argued. "I don't let it bother me with music because it is the expression of my people. I feel that we own that (word) and if we use it, I really don't see it as offensive."

It's funny that people like Gallatin can get to me right away on something like this, but can't speak to me when I am in the Twins press box. That entire media relations staff treat me like I am invisible. They'll speak to total strangers and talk around, over, and if they could, through me.

The only Twins employees, besides the players, who regularly speak to me are Peggy, the woman who fixes the press box hot dogs and Polish sausages; Art, the press box attendant, and Ray Cook, who guards the team clubhouse.

The Twins' press box is old-school, country club: I can only recall one time when there were maybe five Black media there. Most of the time, it is just me -- maybe another person of color.

I don't fit in the club. Oh, a couple of local Blacks are in the club because they laugh at the corny jokes, and easily engage in idle chat-chat. But they are only honorary members (these two don't realize it, perhaps) because the baseball media only hand out White privileges to full-time members, not wannabees.

I don't, and don't want to, qualify for membership because if I did, then Gallatin's failed mission to get me to not write something that might be negative toward her employers would have succeeded.

I don't want to be in a club that looks up and down at a fully credential press individual like they are intruding on some party. Or be a member of a club who thinks they know everything about sports.

Or, further yet, be in a club who didn't express the same outrage that I did about hearing the N-word that night. Remember that I said there was one other Black in the room besides me, and the two players -- he was standing in the group with me, when I was asking Monroe about it -- the honorary club member never uttered a word.

But WCCO Radio's Eric Nelson was upset.

"I knew I couldn't put this stuff on the air," he told me. Later on his show, he criticized the double standard some Blacks apply when the N-word is involved.

"I might be one of three or four White guys playing (pickup basketball)," Nelson says. "The African-American players -- not all of them but some of them would use the N-bomb toward each other and it was part of the dialogue of the game. But we (Whites) knew that we better not drop it.

"If you are going to be consistent, it shouldn't matter what color you are, should it?"

Ever since it's been quiet in the Twins clubhouse, musically speaking. Nelson praised me for my stand against offensive music played during open media access periods. It shouldn't be played at any time, I might add. He believes that the music was cut out after my concerns were expressed.

If this is the reason, then I am pleased.

For the record, it was Justin Morneau, a White Canadian who finally turned the music off. He switched it to a country song.

We don't know who put the N-word song on that night, but it's sad that the Twins' only two Black players couldn't see that it was wrong and acted like Spike Lee.

And did the right thing --- turned it off.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Twins tops interleague play

Minnesota's 6-0 win Sunday over the Milwaukee Brewers completes interleague play for the 2008 season.

The Twins finished with a 14-4 mark over National League opponents this season and improved to 120-90 overall. They joined the Oakland A's and the New York Yankees as the only three AL clubs with at least 120 interleague victories.

Manager Ron Gardenhire says his Twins don't have the big boppers that the Yankees or Boston have so his team aren't that overly affected when Minnesota plays in National League parks, where the designated hitter rule isn't used.

After Sunday's win, the manager offered the following explanation: "I don't have any theories on it. We don't have a team with a huge DH, so when we go into a National League park, we are not losing a player like (Boston's) David Ortiz.

"When we come home, (NL opponents) aren't really National League teams when they come in here because they have to use the DH," notes Gardenhire.

Later, "I don't know if you can put your finger on it," he says of the Twins' annual interleague success. "We actually have grind it out for runs -- we don't have big 3-4-5 (hitters), so it bodes well (against NL teams)."

Now with interleague play over, it's back to the AL Central -- Detroit will be in town for a three-game series.

"They are playing well again," Gardenhire says of the Tigers. "It will be a big series and a lot of fun," he concludes.


As some players, such as the Twins' Craig Monroe, have trouble adjusting from being an everyday player to the DH role, Jason Kubel seemingly has settled in it quite well:

"I think for Kubel, it is not that so much he prefers DH (but that) it just doesn't bother him," explains Gardenhire. "His mindset can handle it."

However, Kubel, who's hitting over .600 during this home stand, is not unlike any other player -- he wants to play everyday. But more importantly, "He loves to hit and loves to swing (the bat)," adds the manager. And the DH gets at least four times at bat -- every day.

Friday, June 27, 2008

First barometer

Don Zierden told his young Minnesota Lynx team prior to Thursday's game against Sacramento that the contest was a barometer game.

"Charles, what we challenge our players before the game (is that) if you want eventually to be a team that people are going to take seriously, you have to go toe-to-toe with the best," the coach admits.

Throw out Sacramento's sub-.500 record: the Monarchs, who won the 2005 WNBA title, will be in the Western Conference playoff hunt all season. They are tough-minded, tough on the board and tough shooters. In a word, just plain tough.

In their last meeting on June 12, Sacramento threw around both their experience and muscle and dropped the Lynx 82-78 at the downtown Minneapolis basketball arena. It's been over a year since Minnesota saw a win against them.

That drought ended Thursday.

In the shadow of the NBA Draft, where boo-hoo of reporters were all over the place -- and where Star-Tribune stone age columnist Sid Hartman, who once said he wouldn't be caught dead at a women's basketball game, was sitting corpse-like in the stands during the final minutes of the Lynx's 80-76 win.

It's too early to be the playoffs but the air surrounding Thursday's game, sure did smell like one.

Hard fouls given indiscriminately to anyone brave enough to drive to the hoop. Shots emphatically batted out of bounds -- both teams combined for six blocked shots.

Every basket was a premium: Minnesota shot just under 45 percent; Sacramento finished exactly at 40 percent. Every defensive stop was crucial.

The difference was that no Lynx player didn't waste a moment in doing something positive.

"We dug ourselves a hole last game," Minnesota guard Noelle Quinn says, pointing to her team's 19-point deficit, only to get back to within a point, before running out of gas.

This time, both teams were physically spent, but the host Lynx (8-6) had just enough to withstand the Monarchs (now 6-8) at every turn.

Without resulting to tired-old boxing references, I would say it was Minnesota's best game played so far because of its significance. But this didn't stop Zierden from doing so.

"I though we fought tonight all the way through," he notes. "Two or three times, they (Sacramento) made runs and tonight we found a way to keep fighting back."

"It was like a playoff game," remarked first-year center Nicky Anosike.

"Sacramento is in our conference," adds Quinn. "These games always are important."

Seimone Augustus, who battled an upset stomach all night, had 23 points to lead all scorers, including icing four big free throws in the final eight seconds to keep her team's distance to the never-quit visitors.

But according to her coach, it was Augustus' defense that was the game's star, as she held Sacramento's Nicole Powell, who finished with 20 points, to 5-of-13 shooting.

"We are not putting Seimone on a weak offensive player," explains Coach Z. He praised Augustus' "great (defensive) job on Powell. "We are challenging her."

But it was more than Seimone this night.

Candice Wiggins added 17 points, including shooting 50 percent (3-for-6) from the three-point line. The Stanford rookie chipped in a couple of hard fouls to boot.

Charde Houston hit only one shot out of six, but it came off a great Wiggins assists to give Minnesota a four-point cushion early in the fourth quarter, after Sacramento ran off five points to cut Minnesota's lead to just a basket. "Charde played with energy," says Zierden on the Connecticut first-year player, who got credited for only one steal but created several more deflections.

Anosike"played 35 minutes of hard defense," notes Zierden. "We've been on Nicky to step it up," he points out. Says the Tennessee rookie, "I definitely go through struggles every day, but it's getting more and more easier every time I step on the floor."

Kristen Rasmussen, the only Minnesota player who didn't score, "was big" with two rebounds and a steal, praised Zierden.

LaToya Thomas, newly acquired from Detroit last weekend, made her only shot attempt on an offensive tip-in.

Even Lindsay Harding, who still trying to get her legs under her, didn't register an assist, but the second-year point guard scored eight points and had two rebounds.

Despite picking up four questionable fouls, Vanessa Hayden-Johnson went 2-for-3 for four points in five limited minutes.

"Everybody who came off the bench did something positive," says Zierden.

It was Minnesota's first "barometer" game this season. Zierden's Lynx Thursday withstood the inside heat, stood their ground, and left victorious.

"There are many barometers to come," he predicts, starting with Saturday's game at San Antonio.


Quinn has only 10 assists in her last six games, including two in Thursday's win against Sacramento. The second-year starting point guard admits that she must improve as a floor leader. "It's important for me to stay aggressive," she adds.

Guard Sharnee Zoll was waived after the game Thursday. The guard, who Minnesota picked up on waivers after being cut by Los Angeles just before the season started, only saw action in six games, averaging barely two points. The 5-7 Zoll, who was placed on the inactive list four of the last five games, last played against the Monarchs June 12 and hit one of two free throws.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Welcome back, D

In the late 1970s, it was "Welcome Back, Kotter." On Tuesday night at the downtown Minneapolis basketball arena, for the Minnesota Lynx, it was welcome back, defense.

The hosts held New York to 37 percent shooting, out-rebounded them by three, 33 to 30, and allowed only 14 and 13 points in the first and final quarters, respectively, to defeat the Liberty 91-69. Tuesday's victory snapped a five-game losing streak and Minnesota improved to 7-6.

"The first five wins, we were outscoring people, but when we lost, we had trouble scoring," notes Lynx guard Navonda Moore. Minnesota is scoring almost 82 points a game, but allowing opponents almost 80 points. "I don't know how we got away from it but tonight we got back to that base of what we have been stressing since training camp -- defense, defense, defense."

As a result, the Lynx tied a season-low in points allowed -- Chicago only scored 69 against them in a May 29 game earlier this season.

Guard Seimone Augustus offered another reason: "We trusted each other on the defensive end. In our past games, (there) wasn't (any) help side (defense). We get penetrated on up the middle and nobody was there to help.

"Tonight, you would see three or four people in the lane, swarming the ball whenever a player get inside. We contested the shots tonight."

In addition to crediting the players for the win Tuesday, Lynx Coach Don Zierden also gave kudos to Assistant Coach Jennifer Gillom. "Jen did a great job challenging our post players to play better defense, and they responded to that," he points out.

This, along with perhaps locker room quotes attributed to New York's Janel McCarville. In a published story in Tuesday's StarTribune on McCarville's thoughts about the Lynx not selecting her when she was in the 2007 dispersal draft. "I don't know if I have anything else to prove as to how they should have taken me. They (Minnesota) just didn't have faith in me after two years," McCarville was quoted.

"The motivation for the post players was (from) the comment (McCarville) made in the papers," believes Augustus.

McCarville didn't do much Tuesday to helped prove that Minnesota was wrong: she shot 2-for-7, and finished with four points in 27 minutes. While on the other hand, Nicole Ohlde went 7-for-8 for 14 points; Kristen Rasmussen added 8, and Vanessa Hayden-Johnson chipped in six points.

"Our post players had a lot of energy," says Augustus, who led all scorers with 21 points and nine assists. "Thank you, Janel."

When asked what he said to his team before Tuesday's contest, Zierden disclosed, "My pregame talk was if it means that much to get this (losing) streak over with, then you will get it done."

Minnesota outscored New York 2-to-1 in the first quarter, but allowed the Liberty to twice try climb back into the contest with a couple of runs, which ironically took place when Augustus went to the bench.

Says Zierden,"I was upset at when we took (Augustus) out early, and (New York) went on a four-point run, then I took her out the last two minutes (before halftime) and they went on a 10-4 run."

"We cut it to eight twice," says Liberty Coach Pat Coyle. "We didn't execute the way we needed to execute. They (the Lynx) took us out of our stuff."

"My message at halftime," continues Coach Z, "when we take Seimone out of the game, we can't go down 6-8 points every time. You guys got to step it up."

Zierden was especially pleased with Rasmussen's play Tuesday -- she and Nicky Anosike tied with a team-high six rebounds in her 21 minutes of action.

"She (Rasmussen) is a coach's dream," notes Zierden. "She is that one player that you can count on for (either) four minutes or 20 minutes. She gives you energy, defense and rebounding."

Now that the five-game skid, can Minnesota resume its upward climb into WNBA respectability?

"Nobody thought we've be 7 and 6 right now," says Zierden, adding that his young Lynx aren't quite world beaters yet.

"They got it done today -- now we'll see what they will do on Thursday (against Sacramento, their next opponent," the coach concludes.

Lynx Lines --

Early rookie wall hitting? A sportswriter asked me during Tuesday's game what is wrong with rookie forward Charde Houston. She was scoreless in Saturday's 72-65 loss to Houston, and made only one of three shots against New York.

Zierden said afterwards that the first-year player is going through the normal ups-and-downs most rookies go through.

"I think when she knows our game plan, and follows it -- sometimes she gets out of it, and she reaches, makes a careless turnover or a careless foul," explains the coach. "When she does that, we want to bring her back in, sit her on the bench, and teach her what is going on."

Houston is not alone -- Nicky Anosike, and even Candice Wiggins, sometimes exhibit their down times as well, says Zierden. "Nicky is a little bit ahead of where Charde is, but as a rookie, you are going to go through 3, 4, 5-minute stretches when you are not playing well. You have to do something positive.

"She played well in Detroit," he says on Houston's 16-point effort last Friday, "and she had a couple of rough ones. Hopefully she will come out (better) Thursday night."

Minnesota also broke a six-game losing streak against New York with Tuesday's win -- the Lynx last defeated the Liberty 64-60 on July 15, 2005 at Madison Square Gardens. It was the home team's first win over New York since a two-point victory on July 17, 1999.

The bandwagon has left the building

It didn't take long but the Minnesota Lynx bandwagon might have left the building.

After the best start in franchise history, the Lynx (6-6) is now reeling coming into tonight's game against the New York Liberty.

The reason is simple: Minnesota's defense has been horrific, which is defying Head Coach Don Zierden's basic belief. "We're a roll-up-our-sleeves kind of club," he says.

However, his players in many areas aren't playing like this.

"We haven't been shooting the ball as well as we like," guard Anna DeForge points out. Defensive breakdowns have been too numerous, something that DeForge's coach totally agree.

Also, the Lynx's point guard play has been lacking: Noelle Quinn, particularly, has been up and down all season. She has to play better -- two assists and three turnovers in 19 minutes simply won't do.

But Minnesota also needs more from Lindsay Harding, who has struggled in the two games she has played in since returning from an injury.

"We definitely need our point guards to step up," Zierden notes.

Other than Candice Wiggins, who is getting to the line on a double-figure clip, the Lynx has struggled at the free throw line. "The past couple of games we haven't been hitting our free throws," says DeForge, who missed both her chances in Saturday's loss to Houston. Minnesota shot only 66 percent from the line in the seven-point defeat that put the team at .500 for the first time this season.

Finally, the whispers are starting to grow -- the Lynx's fast start was only a mirage.

"We can't listen to outside voices," concludes DeForge. "We have to stay focused on each other and this team, playing better every game and finding ways to win."


Can we move on? -- Another one of those "We should have taken Janel McCarville" stories was written today. A summer intern penned the latest one for the Star Tribune, again revisiting history.

The Lynx passed over McCarville, the former Gopher, in the league's dispersal draft two years ago in favor of Tangela Smith.

I said it then, and I say it now -- Minnesota made the right call. McCarville, who I covered in college, had not lived up at the time to her 2005 top overall selection, and Smith was a better pro. Furthermore, if the Lynx had taken her, they would not have gotten Lindsay Harding from Phoenix, which they did by dealing Smith in a one-on-one deal.

All Tuesday's non-story only does is again stir up the locals, who steadfastly believe that if Minnesota had both McCarville, Lindsay Whalen or any other former Gopher they like, that the team would be better off, especially in drawing folks. If the team did have these two, you would only see a slight bump in attendance, nothing more.

Winning, not former college stars, bring people to the seats. Everyone around the country knows this, but sadly this knowledge eludes too many Minnesotans.

My final say on this -- I would not have given up two proven starters (at the time were Katie Smith and Tamika Williams) and two No. 1's for an unproven rookie in Whalen, nor was Charlotte was going to give up their top spot and the opportunity to select McCarville to Minnesota, who had nothing to offer in that regard.

Minnesota is the only place that is so provincial in its thinking that local athletes make the difference. If that was the case, why did Los Angeles chose Candice Parker out of Tennessee, rather than a California product.

It's sad that this summer intern couldn't found another subject to write on.

Welcome aboard -- Tuesday's game will be LaToya Thomas' first in a Lynx uniform. The former top draft choice -- Thomas was the first overall pick by Cleveland in 2003, was acquired Sunday from Detroit in exchange for guard Eshaya Murphy.

Hopefully, the trade will be a plus for both teams: Thomas wasn't playing much in Detroit, and the same for Murphy, who was often placed on the inactive list and only played in two games this season.

Minnesota becomes the first WNBA team with three No. 1 overall draft selections on one roster, as Thomas joins previous top picks Seimone Augustus and Harding.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

An unclassy way of firing a classy guy

It took years for Willie Randolph to finally get his first big league managerial job. However, after winning his last game as New York Mets skipper Monday night, Randolph was fired in the middle of the night.

Mets GM Omar Minaya must have read Kevin McHale's book on bad firings. The Minnesota Timberwolves vice-president, instead of getting his behind on a plane and flying out to do his hatchet job, called then coach Dwane Casey in his hotel room on the road and fired him long distance a couple of years ago.

I don't know which is worst -- both chicken-hearted ways to dismiss someone is a wash, any way you look at. Both men were classy in their jobs, and both Casey and Randolph were let go while their teams were away from home.

I don't know if Casey got a first class plane ticket back home, but I certainly hope Randolph did.

Either way, it's the last hired, first fired routine.

Although it was not entirely a total shock -- Randolph have been hanging on a single thread for about a month now. Still his firing, or the classless way the Mets handled it, sent shockwaves around the baseball world Tuesday.

"He is a very classy and good baseball man," says Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire after his team's 2-1 win over visiting Washington in interleague play.

"As far as his job, I thought it might have been a short leash on him,"Twins first-base coach Jerry White told me. His facial expression quickly told me that he was a bit disturbed with the news of Randolph's firing., especially on how it all went down. He felt the Mets management could've treated their now former manager a little better than that.

"There's an obligation there," adds White. "The season still is young and it looks like (New York) is giving up."

New York is a tough place, and you got to win or else, notes Twins DH Craig Monroe. "They put a lot of money into one team, and when you aren't getting it done, you got to find a scapegoat."

Exit Randolph, the 2008 baseball season's first scapegoat.

"Sometimes you can't control the things that goes on (but) you know that he cared every day at that ball park, trying to figure out what he could do to help that ball club," says Gardenhire of Randolph.

Will Randolph get another chance at managing?

"He should (get another job)," says White. "It is who is willing to give him another shot."

"He deserves another opportunity," concurs Gardenhire. "He is a very classy and good baseball man. He's very well respected among all the managers. "

But given reality, and the last hired, first fired set of rules that usually is unfairly applied to Blacks, the question isn't will he, but rather when will he get another shot?

"Don't put me on the spot because I can talk a lot of crap about that," says White, the Twins' only Black on its coaching staff.

Adds Monroe, one of only two Black players on the Twins' 2008 roster, "You don't want to get me talking about that." Instead, he went another route and offered this brief bit of common sense: "I think the players got to take some cupability (for Randolph's firing). They got to go out and win games. I don't think it's the manager's fault -- it's a collective group of the team you put together."

It's a shame Minaya didn't see this as well. Let's hope that when the day comes, Minaya won't get the ax as coldly as he swung it on Randolph.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Back to Earth

Sacramento came in Thursday night on a second half of a back-to-back and knocked off Minnesota 82-78, a score that isn't indicative of how the hosts played.

The Lynx bust out to a 13-3 lead at the start of the game, but by the end of one quarter, Sacramento had a one-point lead, and eventually stretched it to a 15-point halftime advantage.

"We dug ourselves in a hole," says center Vanessa Hayden-Johnson.

Minnesota came to within 69-68 with six and a half minutes left to play but never came any closer. Three straight possessions later and the Lynx couldn't capitalize, and the visitors never let them get any closer.

"We probably were getting rubbery legs by then," recalls Minnesota Coach Don Zierden, who added that he didn't want to use one of his few remaining timeouts at this point.

Anna DeForge was fouled, attempting a three-pointer with eight seconds left, with a last chance to pull Minnesota to within one. DeForge hit her first two free throws but missed the third, and Sacramento correled the rebound. Ticha Penicheiro got fouled and swished her final two attempts from the line -- she earlier went one of two, and iced the game.

Perhaps for the first time this season, especially in front of the home crowd, the Lynx's youthful and inexperience was clearly evident.

"Things were easy the first few minutes, then (Sacramento) turned up the defensive pressure and the physical game," Minnesota Coach Don Zierden pointed out afterwards. "They know that Minnesota is not supposed to be ahead of them in the standings."

In this season's first weeks, it looked like things were easy for Minnesota, winning their first three home games, and six of their first seven contests.

Now the Lynx (6-3) is back to Earth, losers of their last two games.

"People already are saying, 'Oh, see, told you --they are not that good (because) they lost two in a row," notes Hayden-Johnson afterwards.

Coach Z was asked during his post-game comments by one beat reporter has Minnesota reached hoops reality.

"With this young team, this is a work in progress," he notes. "Just because they came out and got a couple of wins early, and people got excited. As a coaching staff, we understand our weaknesses and what we need to work on."

"It's nothing to hang our heads about," adds forward Charde Houston. "We have to come out from the start of the game with a lot of energy, and be the more aggressive team from start to finish."

"Luckily we got a lot of young girls who are upset about (losing)," says Hayden-Johnson.

More importantly, the Lynx must realized that the 2008 season is after all, only nine games old, with 25 games and over two months remaining. At times like these, this is where locker room leadership is crucial. I don't think it's coming from the veterans such as DeForge and Kristen Rasmussen, who have a combined 14 years experience between them.

Maybe the players should listen to Hayden-Johnson, who after missing a season due to the birth of her first child, has been around since 2004.

"This is the WNBA, an up-and-down league and season," Hayden-Johnson reminds us.

"We played hard in the second half, and we played hard to start the game, but you got to play hard for 40 minutes," says Zierden. "You learn from this."

Improving shooting (the Lynx have shot 33 and 44 percent the last two games), and better ball protection (21 turnovers against Sacramento) also are must's as Minnesota takes to the road for their next two contests, at New York, whom have beaten Minnesota five straight times since 2005, and at Detroit.

"All three of our losses have come down to the last three minutes of the basketball game, and that's when you have to be at your best," explains Coach Z.

Simply put, it's the little things that must be improved, he says. "Making free throws, defensive assignments -- we would keep cutting the lead down, then we lose somebody for a layup. We have to tighten those things up."

Both games, as was Sacramento (5-4) on Thursday, are early challenges to this year's Lynx.

"We got to go out there and kick butt," concludes Hayden-Johnson.


Candice Wiggins recorded her second DQ (fouled out) of the season Thursday. She leads the Lynx in this category. She finished with 17 points, and despite haven't started a game this season, the rookie guard is second on the team in scoring (16 points a game), and got to the free throw line over 10 times (9-for-11) for the third time this summer.

Nicky Anosike leads Minnesota in rebounds -- she pulled down 11 against the Monarchs, her second double-digit effort of the season.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

That look

Besides bouncing back from a loss, a good telling sign of a good team is how they look after that loss.

"If you can see the looks on these ladies' faces when you came into the locker room after the game," notes Minnesota Lynx guard Navonda Moore, "you look in their eyes and see that (we) don't want that to happen again."

In years past, after a defeat, most of the women didn't have that look. Oh, they did not like losing, but they weren't that brokenhearted over it either.

Not anymore.

It was the look after again losing again to Connecticut Tuesday night, 75-66, at home, the Lynx's second loss of the season -- both defeats at the hands of the Sun.

This time, it was Connecticut's Barbara Turner, who scored 16 of her 18 points in the second half, who helped produce that look in the hosts' faces, as the veteran guard-forward helped her Sun outscore the hosts 47-29, and overcame a nine-point halftime deficit.

"Barbara Turner got hot for them," explained Lynx Coach Don Zierden afterwards. "She picked them up and carry them."

Minnesota's evening-long cold shooting (25-for-75, 33 percent), including a 28-percent second half performance, also greatly contributed to that look as well.

"We couldn't throw it in the ocean," says Zierden.

Tuesday's defeat overshadowed perhaps Moore's best performance of the year: 7 points, 4 rebounds and a blocked shot.

"She was aggressive and got to the free throw line (5-of-7), and did some nice things for us," notes her coach. "That was an encouraging sign for us."

However, afterwards Moore couldn't accept this reporter's praise for her on-court work.

"I'm not thinking about that now," she admits. "I wanted that 'W' really bad. We all wanted that 'W' so bad. I am just thinking about focusing on tomorrow, and focusing on Sacramento (Minnesota's next opponent)."

She had that look, which lend credence to what Zierden has been saying since last season -- a change of culture is being created in Lynxland.

"It's hurt to have a decent game," continues Moore, "and you still look at that 'L.' What good feeling you can have out of that?"

Instead, the Lynx players left with that empty feeling, coming up short in their first home loss of the 2008 season.

Instead, they are kicking themselves because they didn't bring their usual energy, especially in the deciding second half.

"We didn't match their intensity in the second half," admits Lynx forward Nicole Ohlde.

Says Moore, "We had some spurts where we had a lot of energy, then we had three to five minutes where we were searching for it. That's not the way that we are."

Despite going up against a veteran, seasoned Connecticut squad, Moore refuses to blame their hit-and-miss energy on being young.

"We are a lot of second-year players and rookies," says Moore, "but when it comes down to it, it is really just playing basketball. This is the game we have been doing all of our lives.

"Intensity is something you can't teach," she adds.

Afterwards, reporters asked Zierden can the Lynx bounce back from Tuesday's defeat to play Sacramento on Thursday.

"They did a nice job responding after the first Connecticut loss (June 6)," he pointed out. "Now we'll see how we will come out Thursday night."

Bouncing back is something Moore and her teammates don't want to do too much more this season.

"Seimone (Augustus) told us that she is getting tired of hearing "bounce back," discloses the second-year guard. "We don't want to keep bouncing back."

Instead, the Lynx players had no choice but to leave the arena, to go into that good, good night Tuesday:

With that look.

Lynx Bits - - -

Augustus's 10 assists Tuesday was both a career and season high: she also kept alive her current double-figure scoring streak alive, now at 66 games, when the third-year guard hit a 22-footer trey with 29 seconds left in the game, to give her 11 points for the game . . .

Nicky Anosike went 2-for-11 against the Sun, her worst shooting game in her young rookie career. She perhaps is dwelling too much on her misses, Zierden believes. "She gets down on herself and is harder on herself as anybody," he says. His advice: "If you focus on what's happened in the past, it will affect your next shot."

Anytime Connecticut comes to town, which is only once a season, it brings people who usually don't want to be seen at any women's hoops game: the Twin Cities' "Mount Rockhead" -- columnists Patrick Reusse (Star Tribune), Tom Powers and Charley Walters (both of the St. Paul Pioneer Press) made their usual annual appearance Tuesday. All of them made a beehive to the Sun's locker room afterwards to again fawn over former U-M player Lindsay Whalen.

This reporter usually avoids such nonsense -- I covered Whalen all four years in college, meanwhile the Rockheads didn't know she existed until her junior year when the Gophers began winning, and broke the bandwagon in covering her.

Former Lynx Tamika (Williams) Raymond did not score in her five minutes of action, going 0-for-2, with one rebound, in her first trip back to Minnesota after being traded to the Sun this spring for Kristen Rasmussen. "We appreciate what she gave us last year in leadership," says Coach Z of Raymond, Minnesota's 2002 first round draft pick. "We had to make the trade, and she was very gracious about it."

"They could've traded me off to boo-boo land, but they put me in a situation (in Connecticut)where I can be successful," Raymond told me prior to Tuesday's game. "I loved every moment at Minnesota. The fans were great and very loyal, and the (Lynx) franchise was loyal to me. I just think it was time for me to move on."

No repeats here

Tuesday's nationally televised contest (ESPN2, 7:00 pm EDT) between the host Minnesota Lynx (6-1)and the visiting Connecticut Sun (7-1) is being billed locally as a clash between conference leaders -- the Sun is atop the East, and the surprising, youthful Lynx is in front in the West.

Also, the local papers as a rematch of the two teams that just played four days previously, a 78-77 Connecticut win.

However, for Minnesota Coach Don Zierden, he doesn't want to see a repeat of that last meeting.

It was the first time in this young season that Zierden was totally disappointed in his club's effort. "I thought they (the Sun) were quicker to the ball than we were," he recalls. "I thought we were slow in our (defensive) rotations. Offensively, I thought the stopped moving."

The Lynx finished with only 17 assists -- six from Seimone Augustus, who led her team with 22 points. "We can't have that with the makeup of our ball club," notes Zierden, who rather see his players get those set-up passes in the 20s.

Ashja Jones had a game-high 25 points for Connecticut, including the winning basket with 19 seconds left, which erased a five-point deficit in the last minute and a half.

Instead of seeing tonight's game as a clash of the so-called titans, "I'm worried about can we beat a team that beat us the other night, and beat us pretty handedly until we made a late run," says Coach Z.

No repeats here, thank you.

Lynx Bits --

Tuesday's night contest wraps up the season series between the two clubs: Connecticut holds a one-game edge (9-8) in the all-time series . . .

Minnesota leads the WNBA in shooting (46 percent), second in free throw attempts (around 25 a game) and third in free throw shooting (nearly 78 percent) . . .

The Lynx, however, is near the bottom in scoring defense (78.8 ppg, currently 12th in WNBA) -- last season, they were last in this category . . .

Monday, June 9, 2008

Coming of age moment

It was early Sunday evening in the fourth quarter -- "winning time," the pros call it, and the San Antonio Silver Stars had cut a deficit that reached as high as 13 points in the third quarter to just one on Becky Hammon's three-pointer.

But Minnesota, the WNBA's perennial youngest team, the 10th anniversity Lynx, immediately came back down and scored: rookie Charde Houston's driving lay-up from an Anna DeForge assist, to give her team a three-point cushion. Then Nicole Ohlde blocked a shot sparked a DeForge fast break layup from a feed by Seimone Augustus.

The home team now up by five points, and the visiting Silver Stars never got any closer.

That was a coming of age moment for Minnesota, who defeated San Antonio 90-78, to remain unbeaten at home this young season.

"Charles, you being an astute basketball guy -- you have been here through the process, when you got a lot of young players, there are two ways you could've done it," Lynx Head Coach Don Zierden disclosed afterwards. "You could've taken a time out and try to diagram a play, or you could've let them learn how to play basketball. I decided to let them learn how to play basketball."

Simply, this is called trust. This is called confidence. This is called a growing sign of maturity.

Minnesota is now 6-1. Each win brings about a little additional dose of confidence. Each time the players respond positively, as they did Sunday in that coming of age moment, returns the confidence and the trust the coach has in them.

"In previous years," explains Lynx center Vanessa Hayden-Johnson, a four-year veteran, "this team had lost and lost. Just like a fight, we get hit in the mouth and fall down. They (San Antonio) gave us their best shot, and we came back with it. I think now we have that."

"I think when we go through tough stretches," Coach Z continues, "sometimes the players need to figure it out. We have a bunch of young players, so now that is what we are going to do sometimes.

"We knew they (San Antonio) was in a zone, and we made the extra pass that time and got a layup, a good shot."

Minnesota's willingness to make those extra passes, to set up teammates for better shot opportunities, also is showing. The Lynx recorded 23 assists Sunday.

Unfortunately, stats aren't kept on 'extra passes' or 'passes that lead to passes that lead to assists.' "We need to get better, but we are making the extra pass," says Zierden. "You can hear the players on the bench, yelling it out. When one player finds success, it just breeds success on down the road. People want to make the extra pass."

Hayden-Johnson credits the youngsters for this. They arrived with the hungriness not seen in Lynxland for . . . frankly, I can't recall ever seeing it. They arrived not Mary Tyler Moore-type spunk, but with not-backing-down-from-anyone type spunk.

"We go at each other's throats at practice," she admits. "We are fighting. We are cussing each other out. But it is making us better."

That spunk carries over into games.

"Nicky Anosike, Charde (Houston) and the girls come in here so excited and they brought that," claims Hayden-Johnson. "That's addictive."

Zierden has been concerned about his team's play at late. They won a shootout last week at Atlanta, but struggled badly two days later at Connecticut, who handed the Lynx the only blemish on their season record.

"When you have such a young team," continues the coach, "you want to see where we are. I wanted to see how we would respond to a loss. When you have such a young team, you want to see where we are. I wanted to see how we would respond to a loss."

Coach Z liked what he saw. "I thought we came out and played hard. It was a good telling sign. Now we'll see what happens when we lose another game and come back and fight as hard as we did tonight."

A popular litmus test of a good team is how they bounced back from a crushing defeat. They did, but Coach Z won't take credit for this.

"It's about the players," he concludes. "It's always about the players."


Q-Tip: Second-year guard Noelle Quinn has been shooting 50 percent or better in her last four games, including a 4-for-6 performance, including hitting 3 of 4 three pointers Sunday. Quinn previously had gone 0-for4 from outside the arc. in her last five games. "Q was not playing as well as she thought she could in the first few games," says Zierden. "Instead of sulking about it, she got in the gym and worked extra hard. You see the dividends."

X-Files: A reporter Sunday asked Zierden about Charde Houston's X-factor role. "We have to have more than one X-factor for us to be successful," the coach quickly corrected the young man. "Charde has been great some games for us energy-wise. But Ras (forward Kristen Rasmussen) has stepped up some games. Vanessa had a great game against Phoenix (on May 31). There's a bunch of players who have been X-factors. You need that with a young ball club we have." Houston had 15 points (6-for-9 from the field) in 23 minutes in Sunday's win -- she's ranks 10th in the league in shooting (51 percent).

Still sitting: Shay Murphy spent her fifth game on the inactive list. She played a minute and a half against Atlanta June 3, misfiring on her only shot attempt but grabbed a rebound. It should be noted that the second-year player is not in any trouble -- she's using this time to improve her game under the coaches' tutelage.

Learning in progress: Top pick Candice Wiggins led Minnesota with 17 points. She only made two of eight shots from the field, but converted 13-of-14 from the line. "Candice is a very smart basketball player," notes her coach. "She's learning at this level that good teams like San Antonio will take away certain things. They were not going to let her shoot the three (Wiggins missed all four of her attempts). So she was able to turn the corner and get to the rim. She's learning how to play the game as the game is going on."

Proud parents: Charles and Alice Taylor came in from their home in Idaho to spend this week, visiting their daughter Angela Taylor, the Lynx business development vice-president. They watched and cheered their daughter's team to victory Sunday.

Congrats: Don and Anne Zierden celebrated their 23rd wedding anniversity Sunday.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Unfamiliar territory

Not in any time of its 10-year history the Minnesota Lynx have been in this position:

First place.

The team that finished tied last season with the league's worst record. The same team that only won a combined 20 games over the course of two summers, is the same team that is currently the WNBA's only unbeaten squad in less than a month of play.

"We are just here to win," says Lynx center Nicky Anosike.

One can excuse Anosike for her not dwelling on the past --- she wasn't around the last few years because she was winning consecutive championships at Tennessee.

The same for Candice Wiggins, who have spent the last four years compiling points on her way to becoming the Pac-10 and Stanford's all-time leading scorer. Ditto for Charde Houston, who spent her collegiate years at Connecticut.

Nonetheless, all three first-year players have played a huge role in the Lynx's early-season success: Anosike as a starter, and Wiggins and Houston providing strong bench support.

"It's fun to watch these players compete," Minnesota Coach Don Zierden marvels. "We knew (prior to drafting the three) that they were going to be high energy players. They have done everything we've asked of them, and exceeded expectations."

More importantly, Zierden is getting production from almost every Lynx player on this year's roster. "Every night a different player stepped up," he points out. "We are getting production from everybody in different ways."

Because of this, two-time All-Star Seimone Augustus' role has changed. She still is the team's marquee player, but she is no longer have to be its savior as well.

"I'm feeling great about the Lynx and what we are doing here," says Augustus. "I just hope that it continues throughout the season."

Zierden believes that it can: "Everybody has accepted their roles," he notes. "That's big right now."

And since the rookies have no knowledge of the past, they are putting it on.

"We know our roles," admits Anosike.

"I'm still learning," continues Wiggins, an early Rookie of the Year candidate, who has played some solid point guard since her arrival. The 5-11 rookie, who mostly played forward at Stanford, led all players with 12 assists in Minnesota's win over visiting Phoenix on the last day of May.

"I don't think people see me as a point guard," says Wiggins, "but I played a lot of point guard in college. I can do a lot better."

Houston, who was originally pegged as a defensive addition, has posted two double-double games thus far. "I have the ability to score," she remarked of her 18 point-13-rebound performance vs. Phoenix -- all in a reserve role.

While I am not calling for early downtown parade tickets, I do like Minnesota's start, and believe it eventually will lead the Lynx to its first playoff berth since 2004.

FURTHERMORE -- The U.S. Olympic women's basketball team is three-fourths set. Nine players, including Augustus and Phoenix's Cappie Pondexter, were selected May 31. The others include: Lisa Leslie, Katie Smith, Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, Tina Thompson, Sylvia Fowles and Candace Parker. The roster mixes internationally experienced youth and veteran leadership.

"I love the combination of players that we have," says U.S. Olympic head coach Anne Donovan. "We've really covered the gamut in terms of experience and we have a tremendous balance of perimeter and post play."

USA Basketball Vice-President Renee Brown, who also chaired the selection committee, adds, "We know it will not be an easy road to the gold medal in Beijing -- the rest of the world has gotten much better over the last four years. However, we feel that this group will continue to represent their country with pride and honor and compete at the highest level that is expected when representing USA Basketball."

For Augustus, Fowles, Parker and Pondexter, this will be their first Olympic Games.

"It is definitely one of my goals I had growing up (was) to be part of the Olympic team," admits Pondexter, who plays for Phoenix in the WNBA. "I'm excited and looking forward to it."

"I wanted to win a national championship in college, but I think the Olympics is (at) the top of the women's game," believes Augustus. "It is going to be a very competitive field, but hopefully we can pull out with the gold."

Three more players are expected to be added to the USA squad by July 1.