WNBA News: Amanda Zahui B. back in town & more

The Minnesota Lynx spoiled Amanda Zahui B.’s first time back in her basketball “hometown.”

The number two overall pick Amanda Zahui B of the Tulsa Shock poses for a portrait during the 2015 WNBA Draft Presented By State Farm..
The number two overall pick Amanda Zahui B of the Tulsa Shock poses for a portrait during the 2015 WNBA Draft Presented By State Farm..

Prior to Friday’s game, the 6-5 Zahui B. admitted that it would feel “weird” but she was excited to play in Minnesota again. Her return comes just a few months after she finished her second and final season as a Gopher, averaging 18 points and 12 rebounds and being named first team All-America.

“I have a couple of people coming,” said Zahui B. “Hopefully, the football guys will be keeping their promise and [come]…cheer me on.” Among the 9,020 in attendance Friday night included her former coach Pam Borton, former teammate Rachel Banham and other well-wishers.

The Swedish-born Zahui B. played just under five minutes and missed her only shot attempt Friday in the 2015 season opener for both her Tulsa Shock and host the​ MN Lynx. “It’s [a] nervous time coming back,” said Shock Coach Greg Williams, on the 2015 second overall pick after his team’s eight-point loss. He told reporters, including the MSR, during his post-game comments: “It’s going to take four or five games for her to develop.”

Tulsa’s coach, general manager, and longtime WNBA coach, duly noted that he plans to bring the former Minnesota player along slowly. He doesn’t plan to throw her to the Wolves, eh Lynx quite yet.

“She got a taste of it tonight,” said Williams.  “She’s a player who is going to learn a lot, not only from the players on our team but also the opposition she plays against,” he said.

Lesson number one came Friday night — college physical and pro physical is vastly different: “I need to be more aggressive,” admitted Zahui B. afterwards.  “It’s a new level. I have a lot to learn.”

Read more on Amanda’s first month as a pro in the MSR column Sports Odds and Ends.

Lynx, WNBA lines 

Uncasville, CT - April 16, 2015 - Mohegan Sun Arena: The draftees on the stage during the WNBA Draft 2015 presented by State Farm
WNBA draftees on the stage during the WNBA Draft 2015 presented by State Farm

Minnesota was picked in the 13th annual WNBA.com GM Survey to win the title this season with over 66 percent of the votes. 2014 MVP Maya Moore was selected to repeat as the league’s top player (66 percent) and the first player picked if GMs were starting a new franchise (66 percent).

Also the MN Lynx won the best home court advantage category for the first time in the survey, dethroning five-time winner Seattle. Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen and Indiana’s Tamika Catchings finished tied (33 percent each) as the player who’s best at making her teammates better.  Minnesota’s Seimone Augustus’ “crossover” (41 percent) was voted the single most effective offensive move.

Tulsa was voted most improved club: the Shock returns a solid backcourt in Skylar Diggins and Odyssey Sims — the two combined for 32 points, 11 assists and 8 rebounds Friday at Minnesota.

Center Courtney Paris led her club with 10 rebounds, and 12-year veteran forward Plenette Pierson, who signed as a free agent this off-season — she played with Shock when the club was in Detroit (2005-09) —netted 18 points to round out the Shock scoring.

Coach Fred Williams, after his season opener Friday, told the MSR that he’s confident that the Shock can “make that playoff push” because of the veteran addition of Pierson, who played with the team when it was in Detroit (2005-09), and the second season of Diggins and Sims as backcourt partners.

Finally ​—​ ESPN still treats its so-called partner like a stepsister. The WNBA television schedule starts on June 14, almost a week after the regular season began with a doubleheader “league championship showcase” — Indiana (2012 champs) vs. Chicago (2014 finalist) at 12 noon CDT, then Minnesota (2013 champions) vs. Phoenix (2014 champs), almost a week after the regular season began.

You think the four-letter sports network would do this with the W’s male counterparts? Hardly.

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.