On Tuesday, the WNBA held a media pre-playoff conference call with coaches and players. Participants included:
- Lin Dunn (Head Coach, Indiana Fever)
- Ann Meyers-Drysdale (President/GM, Phoenix Mercury)
- Anne Donovan (Head Coach, New York Liberty)
- Sandy Brondello (Head Coach, San Antonio Silver Stars)
- Cappie Pondexter (Guard, New York Liberty)
- Katie Smith (Guard, Washington Mystics)
- Sue Bird (Guard, Seattle Storm)
- Temeka Johnson (Guard, Phoenix Mercury)
Call Transcript (source: WNBA.com):
Q. Lin, how much tougher was it going this year as the defending conference champions as opposed to a year ago when you guys were sort of honored going after it?
LIN DUNN: Well, I don’t think the challenge was so much being the defending champion as being in the Eastern Conference and the Eastern Conference being so much better this year, I thought. So much more competitive from top to bottom, and I thought of all the issues that was the most challenging versus being the defending champion. I think knowing that everybody, in my opinion, got better was the biggest challenge.
Q. Back in the winter when Cappie came to New York, that was a tricky deal to get long. How long did it take when you first heard about it? And did you think they could get it done? Did you think you could get the deal done?
Q. I’ll put it a different way about a local player, a local graduate. Ann, can you talk about Candice Dupree and what she brought to Phoenix this year?
ANN MEYERS DRYSDALE: Candice has been fantastic for us. Her numbers have gone up. She’s leading the league in field goal percentage and giving us an inside presence. You know, we’ve just been very fortunate that she’s been able to step in and learn the offense as quickly as she has. Seems to be doing well for us.
Q. Seattle’s had such a dominant season in the league, and just your teammates, are you thinking the Western Conference can unseed Seattle after all the work they’ve done this year?
ANN MEYERS DRYSDALE: Well, there’s no question that they had an incredible year. They dominated everybody. But I would think Sandy, and Jennifer and Corey all feel we have a chance. We’re there. It all starts new as the Eastern Conference coaches will tell you the same thing. We’re 0 5 against them in the regular season, and that’s very difficult to overcome. We can’t look at Seattle for us. We’ve got to look at San Antonio. It’s going to be a very difficult series, and we’ve pretty much played even all year long. So we’ve got to think about that before we can even think about Seattle.
Q. As a follow up, can you just talk about your team’s experience? You know, most of these players have been to the finals. How much do you hope that helps you in this part of the year now?
ANN MEYERS DRYSDALE: I think it does help. You know, having veteran players that have been at that level and no question last year’s championship against Indiana was remarkable. When you play at that level it really changes. When you have players that have been at that level, you hope they can bring the same energy to the new players on the team because the majority of teams do have new faces. You try to keep as many players as you can from the year before when you’ve had success. You kind of have to feed off that energy and that knowledge of what it takes to get to the next level.
Q. For Anne Donovan, I wonder if she would kind of comment on how much the Liberty have dominated Indiana the last two games and a little bit about the problems that the Fever have had in guarding Cappie Pondexter, as everyone has such problems.
ANNE DONOVAN: I think Cappie and Temeka are two of the best players in the league. As MVP candidates, they are both difficult guards, so I think that’s a highlight of this match up between the Fever and the Liberty. You look at our four game series with Indiana and I think you’ve got two great team that’s match up extremely well together, so we’ve looked at all four games and will continue to look at video and make sure we’re prepared. Indiana is a great defensive team, and we have to make sure that we execute well offensively and not give up open shots. That was the key in our last two wins is that we were able to knockdown shots.
Q. There is a theory that the three pointer comes and goes for teams and those that rely on it always put themselves in peril. But it seems that’s been a fairly, fairly level area for the Liberty, and that you’ve shot the three pretty consistently well, and it’s not something that just comes and goes?
ANNE DONOVAN: We have three great three point shooters in Mitchell, Pondexter, and Powell, and all of them are capable at any time. We have had games where it hasn’t been our best friend at the three point line, but that’s been in particular Cappie and Leilani have done things rather than just the three point shot, and Nicole Powell has become such a great rebounder for us that we’re at our best when we are hitting the three. But I think we can survive when we are not as well, and we’ve had to do that at different times during the season.
Q. Anne Donovan, how do you help Nicole Powell, because she has had some kind of bleak shooting games this season, and she’s come back and played well. But it seemed even when she wasn’t shooting well, she was trying to find ways to help you guys and how you sort of helped her through the slumps that shooters go through?
ANNE DONOVAN: It really wasn’t difficult. Nicole knows that she’s a very good shooter and it was just a matter of time for her to find her comfort level within our system with our new teammates. So nobody lost confidence or faith in her, and I think that was the key. If I had wavered to several people who asked me if I was going to change my lineup, I think making sure Nicole knew that I never wavered in my confidence of her. And her emergence as a shooter definitely was the same time that our winning streak happened in August. So her comfort level just took a while to come around. You’re absolutely right, Michelle, she did other things for us meantime. She’s been a great rebounder for us and a big guard that’s helped us in that fashion, and defensively it’s helped us as well. I think just seeing her as a total player and not just a three point shooter was key for our team and our staff.
Q. Anne, the ten game win streak that you all went on and spoke of in August, can you talk about how the team is just raring to go in terms of acing the playoffs right now? How do you refocus that or do you need to refocus them as you approach Indiana?
ANNE DONOVAN: Thank you, we have really focused all season, even back when we were 4 and 7 on one day of work at a time. Whether it was coming to work, at practice, or in games and just getting better. Even in the middle of that streak, we were never looking past a Western Conference team to the next Eastern Conference opponent. We truly were able to look at every game situation as an opportunity to get better and get our chemistry better every night. I think our ability to stay focused on the present and not look into the future or worry about what the past has helped us get where we are and move forward in the playoffs.
Q. Lin, can you talk about the east? You were talking about how competitive it’s been this season, and the Washington Mystics were picked last the East and ended up first. Can you just speak about how unpredictable the east has been this year ?
LIN DUNN: Well, I’d like to know first who picked Washington last because it certainly wasn’t me. Once we saw that Washington had picked up Katie Smith, it was obvious to me that they were going to be a strong competitor the East as they were, especially coming off of a playoff season that they had last year. Yes, the East has been very challenging. But I think at the same time it tends to make you better. It tends to make you tougher. But every night the East you’re going to have a war. You know, they’ve got two great teams, Connecticut and Chicago who didn’t get into the playoffs. Both of them have a win over Seattle who has already earned home court throughout the whole playoff season. So I think that gives you another indication how tough the East is. But at the end of the day it has the potential to make you better.
Q. Anne, normally in a series you would look at it as home court advantage, but yet as I look with one exception, every team of the four the East has gone against the other with one exception. How important do you think home court is going to be throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs?
ANNE DONOVAN: We are thrilled to have home court advantage. I think there is no clear cut advantage to playing anywhere when you’re playing a team the East. I think the reality of our conference has been it’s been a fight every night no matter where you play. But the comfort of being in your own comfort zone, your own bed at night with your own room for one or two games is an advantage that I like to have, and I wish I was Seattle and I had it throughout the playoffs. But we’re certainly glad to have it for the first round.
LIN DUNN: I think the home court advantage is a huge advantage. I think you earn that by your play through the season. I often think it puts additional pressure on the home court team. They really need to win that first game, because the next games it’s someone else’s gym. So I think it’s a plus, but it could also add some extra pressure.
Q. Coach Dunn, Fever lost three games, the last three games at the end of the season. How tough is it for you guys to turn the focus of that around and focus back on the playoffs and turning it around?
LIN DUNN: Well, I can tell you this about this team. Last year we lost 7 of our last 10, and we lost 5 of our last 7, and we were playing for a championship with two minutes left in the fifth game. So with the veteran players that we have, and the experience that we have, I really don’t think losing two or three games here at the end is going to bother them at all.
Q. What are your thoughts on the Silver Stars and just coming into the playoffs this year?
SANDY BRONDELLO: Well, obviously it’s been a battle in the West this season. I mean, the east has just been dominating us. But Phoenix had 15 wins, we had 14, so we had to battle all the way to the end just to get that playoff spot. So we just consider it. It’s a new season, basically. You know, we’ve had an inconsistent season, but we have to put that all behind us and take one game at a time approach. We have to go into Phoenix and play our best basketball, because we’re playing a very good team
Q. I wanted to get your thoughts on your feeling of the new format of the first and second round?
LIN DUNN: I think it’s great. I think you earn that right to open at home. It’s great for your fans. It’s great for your community. You should have the right to host it first. But I do think that in some ways put additional pressure to win that first game at home no matter what. I know last year we lost our first game on the road and then came home knowing we had two home games. And that in a little way was reassuring. So I can see the positives, but I can also see the additional pressure.
ANNE DONOVAN: The positives are much better than they were before. You go back to the very first year even though it was a one game final, most of the coaches from my understanding were unhappy about a one two going on the road. Ask Van Chancellor that. But I think this makes it easier for the coaches and the team, as Anne Donovan said. Being in your home, and your bed. That’s what teams work for to get home court advantage. It is pressure, but I’d rather have the home court advantage and opening up at home than going on the road for that first game.
Q. You’ve done a pretty good job, and you’ve had to do this before compartmentalizing because you’re going to be immediately leaving the WNBA season and going to college. But is there any bittersweet feeling as you become pretty attached to this team and especially the way that they’ve played? Or were you prepared that it was going to have to be that way?
ANNE DONOVAN: You know, when I had to make the decision of Seton Hall or Liberty, at that point knowing Cappie was coming, that was a really hard decision. Just knowing about Taj, my feelings on Janel, yeah, I was excited to come back and work with this team. That was a tough decision back then. The hardest thing for me would have been if we hadn’t turned it around. I was a kid that grew upcoming to Madison Square Garden and watching the Knicks play. So for me the Garden is really reverent. It’s a place that I had the highest level of respect for. For a time there the thought of not contributing to some history in the Garden was very discouraging. So for me I’m just so thrilled that this team came together, and it’s such a great group of women, and we’re going to leave our mark in the Garden. We’ve already done that with the regular season that we’ve had. We’re hoping to add to that with the postseason. I’m not fast forwarding to the next season. I am just really happy that I’ve been part of the special season that we’ve had.
Q. Coach Dunn, I don’t want to say there was one turning point in the Liberty season, but certainly a big thing is when they traded for Plenette Pierson just the experience she’s had in the postseason and how valuable she is off the bench. As a competitor, did you see that as a major move upgrade that they made and that it did make a big difference for them?
LIN DUNN: Well, of course, the addition of Cappie was a huge, major move. But I did think when they were able to get Pierson from Tulsa it added a toughness to that team. All of those former Detroit players have a toughness and experience about them. You can get one of those players on your team, especially someone like Pierson, it’s really an advantage
Q. Can you kind of just talk about the West a little more? The East we were looking at these records and just an anomaly of only one team with a winning record. You guys are in the playoffs again. And you’ve traditionally been high level. What was it that changed the West this year?
SANDY BRONDELLO: Well, I think number one, the East got so much better, everyone’s talking about Cappie going to New York, and big time players moving to the East. Talking about how in the end it’s always been a solid team. But I think in the West none of us thought it would be like this. We had to battle, and I know for us we only won three games against the east, but we were still able to make the playoffs. I think you see some teams, the ones with the continuity, it was easier for them to get their chemistry together. It’s more about how quickly you can get your chemistry. I think the teams just get stronger every year basically. You know, the West made some changes. I know they’ve made a lot of changes trying to find that chemistry. That’s why, obviously, Phoenix, and L.A. have losing records.
Q. When you’re going to become a head coach, is it much easier moving up inside as opposed to if you had come from some other organization?
SANDY BRONDELLO: Yes, and no. I mean, I think we’ve changed a lot of players. We lost a lot of players from last year, really we felt like a new team, but it is comforting when you have your experienced players around. I mean, they know what you’re about, but that makes it a little easier because obviously they’re the leaders of your team. But you have a lot of new players coming in and just trying to get them and implement them into the way you want to play the game.
Q. Cappie, I wanted to ask about the Liberty game against Phoenix, and then the game against Indiana. Those games, the team was extremely dominant. And finishing out the season it seems like more of a fight. You know, you have one point loss against Washington and then the final one point win against Connecticut. I was wondering if you could talk about the difference between those games?
CAPPIE PONDEXTER: Every game, no matter if it’s a West Coast game or East Coast game, of course, East Coast has been competitive . From the first game to the last game, every game is different. Everybody’s trying to win a championship, pulling for their opportunities, so this has been a dog fight.
Q. In reviewing those games with the team and preparing for the playoffs, is there anything that you could share with me that you might have discussed to consider how the team was so dominant and playing so together. You know, the passing was so together against Phoenix and so dominant in those two games against Phoenix and Indiana, that I was wondering how that was it just to finish out the season, there were a lot of games in a short period of time, you know, how you might look over those games and prepare for the first round?
CAPPIE PONDEXTER: Of course, we’re playing against Indiana who is a great team, number one. Number two, sometimes it’s good to look back on the regular season, but it’s a new season now. It’s a totally different ballgame. Everybody’s going to be playing their absolute best. It’s going to be just a level of intensity. And what happened in the regular season doesn’t matter anymore. I’m sure Anne Donovan’s going to play to the best of her ability, and try to get past the first round against Indiana.
Q. Katie, how are you feeling, and how are you set to play? Would you like to comment about that game against the Liberty?
KATIE SMITH: I feel fine. Healthy, able to play in the playoffs this year after I was hurt. I’m ready to go, and as Cappie said, all the series, only thing it proves is that you know each other and know each other’s personnel and plays that you’re going to be competing. But going against New York, they’ve been playing the hottest team in the league. Going down the stretch they’ve found their groove. For us we’re trying to give ourselves a chance to be able to stay at home and home court advantage in the playoffs. That’s what we’re fighting for. It was really just a playoff game. A lead here for them, a lead for us, and it just came down to the wire. We played pretty well, but we are really excited for ourselves to get a chance to play against Atlanta.
Q. Katie, a lot of people didn’t necessarily expect Washington to win the Eastern Conference this year. I was wondering, you guys were doing so well this season with so many players improving, what was the feeling in the locker room about how well you guys got?
KATIE SMITH: I don’t think you ever know exactly how it’s all going to play out, one, two, three, four, whatever. But I thought we understood that we could play with anybody and compete with anybody. It’s really the thing that’s we all needed to do. Each team has their own identity and their own way. But we really found our way and figured out how to go about business and believe in ourselves and know what we were doing. We just wanted to go out and compete, and it’s just one game at a time. I think inside the locker room in our organization we knew we could play with people, and that’s all.
Q. For someone who has been to most championships, is there anything you think this team has in particular that they’ll have a deep playoff run?
KATIE SMITH: I think we have a nice mix of different players and different mentalities. Our experiences are at all different levels. We’re players who understand our role and the value of other players who are going to go out there and be aggressive and put up numbers. We have a nice mix of people who understand what their job is, I think that’s important to everything in having those roles and flourishing in that. And at the end of the day, we’re getting it together.
Q. Your team played unexpectedly great this year. What have you seen from Currie that’s allowed her to flourish this year?
KATIE SMITH: I think she just came in with the mentality of attacking and being aggressive. And that’s her. She’s been shooting the ball really well, but her constant pressure on the defense of putting the ball on the floor and attacking the rim, she’s been able to convert and attacking it a lot. We enjoy that. That’s something that she adds to our team, and the rest of us were able to feed off that and get into situations that she can produce. So very glad she’s had a chance to step up and do great things this year. It’s been a lot of fun. I hope it continues.
Q. Cappie, what are you noticing that you’re learning from this season?
CAPPIE PONDEXTER: Just total confidence coming into the season that we need to run our team. Leilani Mitchell, since our run, she’s been great. She’s contributed in a huge way. She’s one of the most improved and best three point shooters in the league. Without that we wouldn’t be where we are right now.
Q. A lot of people are saying that they believe her improvement would be you. How would you respond to those people?
CAPPIE PONDEXTER: You know, I’m sure she has opportunities, because a lot of the focus is on me. So she’s opening up this year. I enjoy playing with her. She’s a great team player and she’s not going to shut down. I’m happy for her.
Q. Katie Smith, a lot of people say that you’re the X factor, kind of the glue for the Washington Mystics team this season with Alana Beard being out. What have you offered this team in terms of your experiences, gold medal winner, three times, two time WNBA champ? Can you just talk about what you say you were talking about being in the locker room but what do you say to this team to implore them to get over that next step?
KATIE SMITH: I don’t know that I say anything in particular. It’s just I think your demeanor, just like any of us that have been in championships and a big game, it’s just that I think that they have trust in myself, and I have trust in them. It’s just their confidence that you give them because you’ve been there, you’ve had success. You’re not going to get too high or too low. You’re going to go about business because it is just another game. Yes, you lose a couple out. But you don’t put anymore weight on it, you just go out there and try to play the best basketball you can. So I don’t know if I’m really preparing for them to go somewhere, but I try to challenge, just like we always do. We challenge each other in practice and understand that the level of play. It’s going to be even harder to execute your offense. It’s going to be even harder to get good work at the basket because people know you so well. So my thing is the intensity, the physicalness of that would be just at another level, and we’d have to execute and be even more mentally tough as we go through the playoffs?
Q. With Alana Beard being out, and she’s had tremendous WNBA career, but with her not being able to play, her demeanor off the court is always I’m great, I’m doing great. But behind the scenes is she still right with the team? And I know as a competitor, you know how competitive of a player she is, is it tough for her to be sitting with the Mystics in the number one spot?
KATIE SMITH: Anybody who has had an injury, and I think all of us have, when you’re sitting out, all you want to do is be out there and play. But she’s doing what’s best for her. I think she knows that. She’s working. Her challenge right now is to refocus in on what she’s doing and getting herself back so she’ll get a chance to be on the floor. Of course I think the competitive basketball player wants to be out there, but she’s truly supportive and really excited about all of us. She has a great relationship with all of us. She’s right there as a cheerleader and on the other end really taking care of her business with her foot.
Q. Sue, an amazing season for Seattle. I’m sure you’re not going in thinking that it’s going to be an easy task. You had huge win streaks throughout the season, but what is the focus of the Seattle Storm as you approach this playoff series and the home court advantage throughout the playoffs?
SUE BIRD: Well, it’s safe to say this is our branding season. Everyone pretty much put us on the cross. Going into the playoffs the only thing that will be huge for us is our defense. It’s what we thrive on, it’s what gets us going. And playoff basketball, Katie just said it, it’s very difficult. The intensity level is higher, and everyone’s giving their best shot, and you’re trying to give yours. It can be really difficult, so we’ve got to be able to hang your hat on the things that work for you, and for us, it’s our defense.
Q. Katie, can you talk about Crystal Langhorne’s development? Two years you played against her in the East, and then of course playing with her this year she really seems to have blossomed.
KATIE SMITH: I’ve enjoyed playing with her. She’s consistent. She works on her game. I think every year she tries to add something new and become better at it. She’s knocked down one three this year, so she’s trying to improve in that area. So I think one on one she could probably score on most people. She’s got a variety of moves and finishes well. She does put up numbers and creates disadvantages. The problem is she’s been consistent as she’s been, and we rely heavily on her and we go through a lot. Who wouldn’t want to have a chance to play with somebody like that who really wants and gives you the desire to be better all the time.
Q. As far as your opponents, I know the games are competitive, but you’re one of the teams with the won loss record that’s been able to really survive. I guess it’s a good word that your game’s against the line. What’s against Atlanta, what is the key and success against them.
SUE BIRD: I think they have the most athletic team in this league. They get up and down the floor as a track team. So the transition defense is huge. They have great rebounders and great post players. Not only post player rebounds, but guard rebounders. So I think their transition defense and rebounding are two key, key things to trying to slow them down. Another thing is not putting them to the free throw line too much. They attack, attack, attack, so you’re ultimately going to foul, but trying to limit your foul. So those are the big things we’ll try to focus on is boxing out and getting back. So I think if we can slow them down a little bit, they’ll still get some fouls on us and score points, but if we slow them down we’ll have a chance to score on them, and hopefully get a win. But it’s going to be a battle just like everybody.
Q. Sue, you played on some dominant UCONN teams, then of course you go on a dominant team this year. Is there any difference in handling the mentalities of what you guys were doing back in college? Can you compare the two experiences?
SUE BIRD: Yeah, I mean I know we had some success this year. I don’t know if dominant is the word I’d use only because there is some crazy stat, like half our games we were down going into the fourth quarter. So in terms of that compared to college, first of all, you can’t compare college to the WNBA. It’s two different ballgames. It’s way harder in the WNBA. Like I said, in college we were dominant because we were beating teams by 20 points every night. But this year we’ve been far from that. I think the one thing about our team’s ability to stay in games regardless of the score kind of speaks more towards we have a veteran team. So 20 points can go away like that. So we try to stay in every game, stay in the moment, and that’s what we’re doing and that’s worked for us?
Q. Sue, to ask you kind of a college question: Just your thoughts on Svetlana Abrosimova, obviously you played with her over a decade ago, and just the way she’s developed and how good of a fit she’s ended up being for Seattle?
SUE BIRD: Yeah, she’s been great. You know, for us it’s having a starter type player coming off the bench. And anybody who has played with her, they know she doesn’t really think much. What I mean by that is she’s just playing on pure instinct. She’s out there. If she wants to go double team somebody, she does it. It doesn’t even occur to her if it’s not the right play or not. For us it’s a really good changeup. So having somebody like that coming off the bench is a really good changeup for us because she does it on the defensive end as well as the offensive end. It can really change the pace of the game. Recently in our last game against L.A. she came in and got us going on both ends. It’s just been phenomenal to have that.
Q. Sue and Temeka, you always talk about in the NCAA Tournament, goal play is paramount. Is it similar in the WNBA in terms of the playoffs, how important guard play becomes? And if you could also address a player like Ticha Penicheiro who has been in the league so long and what she’s meant to how the point guard position is evaluated a lot of ways in the WNBA?
SUE BIRD: I can speak honestly, I’m biased, I think the guard position is more important. Stemming back to college, that was something that my coach, that’s all we talked about, post, post players are much needed. But when you’re on the court in an intense moment, it’s going to be the guard who’s are either calling the play, having the ball in their hands, making the play, making sure everybody else is doing the right thing. So I think it’s really important to have good guard play and not just in the playoffs but throughout the year. It can really change. As far as Ticha goes, of course people are going to talk about, you know, her not really looking to score, not wanting to do that. And yet the player who you know probably isn’t going to shoot, yet she can still do the things that she’s doing. Setting up her teammates, getting people in the right spot. We’ve played her five times this year, and I can tell she is coaching her team on the floor, and the value in that is tremendous. Like I said, her ability that people know what she’s going to do and that you still can’t stop her, I think that speaks volumes.
TEMEKA JOHNSON: I agree with Sue on just about everything. Her guard play is phenomenal and pretty much dominant. . But I agree with Sue 100%. And even with Ticha, she’s definitely coaching people. She may not score like people think she should, but it will be that one time when people think she’s not going to score, and she’s knocking down a great shot to help our team, and she’s definitely the floor leader and the general of that team over there.
Q. Cappie, can you talk about how this team gelled and came together. Was there any point in the season where you felt you turned the corner? We can look at the All Star break as a time after that that you guys have been so successful. But was there a certain game or maybe even half of a game where you said, okay, we’re going to be the team that I think we can be?
CAPPIE PONDEXTER: The first game in Chicago, everybody’s mindset was totally different from the first half of the season. To be honest, I think that’s when it really started was that first game against Chicago.
Q. Sue, can you talk about how much cautious optimism was there during the season when you guys were winning a lot of games and tallying up the win total? I talked to Brian at one point in the season and he said this is not the thing we want to get done. We want to win a title. But how much of that have you guys been mindful of since you’ve been winning all these games?
SUE BIRD: I’m not sure I fully understand your question. But winning is great. We’re happy to be winning. Like I said, kind of the beauty of our season is that a lot of our wins were not easy. I think we really had to grind out some games just to get the W. Having experienced that and seen that it really helped us. So the same way teams can learn from moving and after a loss, teams tend to refocus because she just lost and they’re ready to go for the next game, we felt that in our wins. Because some of our wins weren’t pretty and they weren’t easy. So we feel we learned a lot throughout the season, just like every other team, I’m sure. And moving into the playoffs we can use those experiences to our benefit.
Q. You have such an experienced group that’s played together for a long time. How does that help you right now?
SUE BIRD: I think it helps. When I was on the call earlier when Sandy Brondello was talking about teams jelling and for some it may take longer. For us we jelled pretty quickly, mainly because we had a core group that was coming back and other players that were familiar to the WNBA, and I think that’s why we had the success we did early on. But now at this point I bet every team has jelled. Every team has had their ups and downs. Every team probably has good chemistry right now. So I don’t view us as the head of the pack by any regard. So we’ll see what happens.
Q. How important was it that you were able to get rest down the stretch?
SUE BIRD: In some ways it was important. But you do want to stay on top of your game and you don’t want to get rusty and all that stuff. So it was definitely something as a team we talked about a lot and addressed. But in some ways it was good that we clinched the way we did, because there was like a three, four game stretch that we were able to rest. But the last two games of the season we also put ourselves back together and kept going again. So we’ll be back in that mindset of not just playing ten minutes here and eight minutes there, but really ready and ready for a playoff game.
Q. Again, the success that you guys had for this year, how coupled with the history that you guys have had with losing the last five years, is there any extra pressure that you guys feel going in?
SUE BIRD: No. There are some of us on this team that weren’t around when we got knocked out last year. Some weren’t around when we got knocked out three years ago, five years ago. Each year is new. Of course the Seattle Storm as a team, I was there for all those first round exits as was Lauren, but other than that it’s been a mix. This year’s team is focused on one thing. First we want home court advantage. It’s no secret we play better at home, and that was our goal. We accomplished that and now it’s on to getting out of the first round. Not only that, just winning Game 1. You have to take it one game at a time. Nobody’s worried about what happened in previous years, just taking it one game at a time.