Credit: Antonio Morano / Special to Kens5.com
Silver Stars guard Jia Perkins, driving to the basket against Minnesota's Seimone Augustus in last Friday night's 87-71 loss to the Lynx, is in her ninth WNBA season and third in S.A.
Tuesday, Jul 23 at 2:38 PM
If you like basketball and you're looking for some entertainment in the dog days of summer, do yourself a favor and go watch a Silver Stars game at the AT&T Center.
Although the Silver Stars are struggling through a season in which they've been decimated by injuries, they are still a gritty team that is better than its 5-12 record indicates.
If you're a fan of team basketball, I guarantee you'll be impressed with the quality of play in the WNBA. Touted as the best women's professional basketball league in the world, the WNBA has come a long way since its first season in 1997.
"What I would love people to do is give themselves a chance to appreciate the WNBA," Silver Stars coach and general manager Dan Hughes said after a recent game. "I think the game of basketball is the greatest game in the world, obviously.
"What you see in the WNBA is players playing in way that's unique, but at the same time, together. They have a little niche. They don't necessarily have to be the NBA. They have their own beauty and identity."
The WNBA has its share of stars, including Diana Taurasi, Tamika Catchings, Elena Delle Donne, Brittney Griner and Candace Parker, all of whom will play in the league's all-star game Saturday in Connecticut.
But what makes the WNBA fun to watch is the players' commitment to fundamentals and team ball. That combination makes for a crisp game that appeals to fans who favor ball movement and watching players in constant motion.
"The WNBA is for the true fan," said Silver Stars forward Delisha Milton-Jones, who is playing her 15th season in the league. "It's not for the fair-weather fan. If you really enjoy the game and want to see it played in its purest form, then come to a WNBA game because you're going to see plays develop from start to finish.
"Usually, what I've found from playing in this league all these years is that we have males come to a game for the first time and they're almost hooked because they can appreciate the value that we bring to basketball."
Silver Stars have played in San Antonio since 2003
Legendary coach John Wooden was a big fan of women's basketball, saying on several occasions that he enjoyed its "purity."
Unlike NBA players, who often give fundamentals short shrift and take shortcuts with their explosive athletic ability, the women have to rely more on their passing to score.
"I think sometimes it (WNBA) makes you appreciate the game of basketball because it's played in ways that the players kind of depend on each other," Hughes said. "In the 14, 15 years I've coached in the league, I've watched the athleticism grow, but still as it grows, the defense continues to grow. The beauty of the game, to me, is when they play well together.
"It's fun to watch. It's a team aspect of ball movement, rotation defensively and things like that. There's a certain beauty, I think, when people play together with talents that are athletic and are skilled. I have appreciated that a great deal."
The Silver Stars were formerly the Utah Starzz, one of the WNBA's original eight teams. The Starzz played in Utah for six seasons before moving to San Antonio in 2003, when Spurs owner Peter Holt bought the franchise.
Hughes, who has been a college men's basketball coach, is in his eighth season as the Silver Stars' coach. He has coached in the WNBA since 1999, and is the only coach in league history to guide three different franchises to the playoffs.
Hughes, 58, relishes the opportunity to help WNBA players develop.
"Another thing that's great about the players in the WNBA is that they're very competitive and they want to get better," he said. "They're very coachable and skill development is important to them. They want to get better. I've coached Sophia Young and every year I saw her get better.
"They're artful in trying to develop their game a little bit. I've appreciated that. They're very coachable. They want player development. They want you to coach them, by and large, and that's a wonderful thing."
Hughes thanked fans after Silver Stars' win Saturday
With All-Stars Young and Becky Hammon out for the season with knee injuries, the Silver Stars have languished near the bottom of the WNBA's Western Conference after making the playoffs each of the previous six years.
The Silver Stars had lost 11 of their last 13 games before they beat Connecticut 60-52 on Saturday night at the AT&T Center. The victory snapped a four-game losing streak.
Hughes was so moved by the fans' support during the game that he thanked them afterward.
The WNBA is just that kind of league.
Midway through the 34-game WNBA regular season, the Silver Stars are a team still trying to find its identity after losing its two top players.
"We have to have the mentality that we've got to roll up our sleeves every night and we're going to gut it out," Milton-Jones said. "And it's not going to be two people that take us to the promised land. It's going to be everyone contributing in some facet in order for us to be victorious."
The Silver Stars play the New York Liberty at 11:30 a.m. Thursday at the AT&T Center, and then are off for the All-Star break.