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Officially, Criticism Doesn’t Discriminate

Does the WNBA discriminate against women?

That’s one not-so-serious spin in the aftermath of the Sparks’ game at Phoenix on July 17. Both coaches--the Mercury’s Cheryl Miller and the Sparks’ Orlando Woolridge--ripped the officials afterward.

Miller, ejected after her second technical foul in the game, was fined $5,000 for making a delayed exit after being tossed, for later calling the officiating crew “rent-a-refs,” and for implying the league office has a vendetta against her.

Woolridge, who was not ejected, called it “the worst-officiated game in my 19 years of professional basketball,” and “the only time in my career my team wasn’t in the penalty in either half.”

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Woolridge’s fine? Zero. He got off with a warning, further infuriating Miller.

Isn’t a fine for knocking officials automatic? No, said league President Val Ackerman.

“No, it’s a case-by-case basis,” she said.

So does that mean she agreed with Woolridge’s comments?

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“No,” she said, declining further comment.

In the game, the crew of Melissa Barlow, Sally Bell and Jason Phillips called 30 fouls on the Sparks, 13 on Phoenix. The Mercury shot 41 free throws, the Sparks eight.

“That is impossible,” said one WNBA coach. “As physical as every team in this league is, one team can’t get 30 [33 in this case] more free throws than another. Every year, they tell us how hard they’re working to make the officiating better and instead it gets worse.”

PAYCHECK CHECK

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Washington rookie Chamique Holdsclaw, who makes her first Southland appearance tonight at the Great Western Forum, is the league’s highest-paid player, agents say.

Her playing salary is believed to be $50,000 a year, and she has an NBA personal-services contract paying her an additional $150,000. Also, her shoe deal is estimated to pay her $500,000 annually.

When the league began in 1997, NBA personal-services deals were given to Lisa Leslie, Sheryl Swoopes and Rebecca Lobo. Now, six more have them: Holdsclaw, Cynthia Cooper, Dawn Staley, Nikki McCray, Teresa Weatherspoon and Andrea Stinson.

All but Holdsclaw make between $125,000 and $150,000 for playing and their personal-services deals, sources say.

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COACHING WATCH

Seattle was the first of next year’s four WNBA expansion teams to hire a coach.

Lin Dunn, one of the more successful ABL coaches at Portland, will be the franchise’s coach and general manager. She coached two Sparks, point guard Ukari Figgs at Purdue and forward DeLisha Milton at Portland.

She is known for her scouting acumen. Houston’s Van Chancellor hired her as his consultant for the May 4 draft.

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Portland, Indiana and Miami are still interviewing. In the mix are former Long Beach StingRay coach Maura McHugh and two other former ABL coaches, K.C. Jones and Anne Donovan.

Reports have Indiana offering its job to U.S. national team Coach Nell Fortner and Miami pursuing a reluctant Geno Auriemma of Connecticut.

AUSSIE POWER

Existing WNBA franchises could take two major hits next season.

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Everyone knows the four-team expansion draft will cut deep into existing rosters, particularly if current teams can protect only five players.

Now comes word the league’s eight Australians are under pressure by that nation’s Olympic basketball federation to stay home next summer and prepare as a unit for the Sydney Olympics, Sept. 16-Oct. 1.

Phoenix and Detroit, with three Australians each, would be hardest hit. The players, according to Michelle Griffiths of Phoenix, are fighting such a move.


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