Leslie, Cooper headline WNBA's 15 best of all-time
SAN ANTONIO (AP)
Those picked were honored at halftime of the All-Star game on Saturday and also included: Seattle's Sue Bird, Lauren Jackson and Katie Smith; Los Angeles' Tina Thompson and Ticha Penicheiro; Indiana's Tamika Catchings; New York's Cappie Pondexter; San Antonio's Becky Hammon; Tulsa's Sheryl Swoopes; and retired greats Dawn Staley, Yolanda Griffith and Teresa Weatherspoon.
''You couldn't have picked 15 better players,'' Leslie said. ''It's been phenomenal to have the platform the WNBA has provided.''
Bird, Catchings, Cooper, Griffith, Jackson, Leslie, Smith, Staley, Swoopes and Thompson were also voted to the league's All-Decade team five years ago.
NO LOCKOUT HERE: WNBA president Laurel Richie again batted away questions Saturday over whether the ongoing NBA lockout bodes any uncertainty for her league or its five teams owned by NBA franchises.
''No,'' Richie said.
The issue is one Richie has confronted on a ''listening tour'' of all 12 WNBA markets during her first year as president. The longtime corporate executive, whose last job was Chief Marketing Officer for Girl Scouts of the USA, is the third president in the WNBA's 15-year history.
Richie said the WNBA is already making plans for next season.
''We are part of the same organization but we are a separate entity with that, just like the D-League,'' Richie said of the NBA's lockout. ''We have dedicated staff. We have a separate (collective bargaining agreement). Half of our teams are independently owned. Again, while we're part of this family and very proud to be part of this family, we are our own league.''
Richie said league-wide attendance is on track to be up for a fifth straight season. Average attendance is up 6 percent and gate receipts are up 3 percent. She expects to present a ''master plan'' for the league's future later this year.
''I hope that goes all well on the NBA side,'' Richie said. ''And I think if it does and when it does, that's good for basketball overall.''
OLYMPICS BREAK IN 2012?: League president Laurel Richie said the WNBA will plan its 2012 schedule to accommodate the summer Olympics, when many of the WNBA's best players will join the U.S. national team.
The league similarly adjusted during the 2008 Olympics and didn't hold any games for a month. There was also no All-Star game that season.
''We're still talking through our schedule, getting the Olympics set,'' Richie set.
TRAVEL TIPS: For any NBA players thinking of playing overseas like All-Star Deron Williams during the lockout, Diana Taurasi offered some advice: lower your expectations.
''They're getting back into the core of playing basketball, of traveling to cities and gyms where you didn't think they'd bounce a basketball,'' Taurasi said. ''So if you look at it as, `Oh, we're not staying at the Ritz,' you're going to be miserable.''
Taurasi is among many WNBA stars who play in Europe during the offseason to supplement their salaries. Williams, the New Jersey Nets star point guard, signed a contract this month to play with the Turkish team Besiktas.
''The atmosphere of basketball alone is a lot different in Europe. It's more of a soccer field,'' Taurasi said. ''It's volatile, it's violent, as far as the atmosphere. So it will be something they haven't seen very often.''
MORE MARION JONES?: On a day featuring this year's All-Stars and a ceremony honoring the top 15 players in WNBA history, one of the league's notable names was still missing: Marion Jones.
Jones was cut by the Tulsa Shock this week. The disgraced former Olympic gold-medal winner was averaging less than one point per game in her second WNBA season and saw her playing time increasingly diminish.
Nonetheless, Jones was still popular. Her jersey has been the sixth-best selling in the WNBA since October, ahead of even Taurasi. Richie said she couldn't recall seeing Jones play but welcomed her to maintain some role with the league.
''If she would like to continue to work with us in some way, I would love to have her do that,'' Richie said.
Jones gave back her medals from the 2000 Sydney Olympics and served about six months in prison after admitting she had lied to federal investigators about taking steroids.
AP Sports Writer Vin Cherwoo in New York contributed to this report.