Mercury Snubbed In Preseason Voting

By Norm Frauenheim
Updated: May 14, 2008

PHOENIX — The Mercury were a surprise last year. It looks as if they will have to be one again. The Mercury will get all of the 2007 championship rings, but not enough of the 2008 votes.

WNBA general managers are picking Los Angeles to win the title in a season that begins Saturday with — ring, ring — the favored Sparks at U.S. Airways Center

With Lisa Leslie and Candace Parker — the most-talked about rookie since the 2004 arrival of the Mercury’s Diana Taurasi — on the Los Angeles roster, the Sparks got 46 percent of the GM votes.

The Mercury and Seattle are tied for second with 17 percent. Preseason polls are about as accurate as a half-court shot. But that doesn’t mean that they can’t be used.

“I voted for us,” Mercury General Manager Ann Meyers Drysdale said Tuesday at the team’s formal media day. But that doesn’t mean Meyers Drysdale was unhappy at the result.

In part, the poll shifts the target, which moved at such a fast-break pace last year that the rest of the WNBA never did catch up to what the Mercury accomplished.

It’s an open-ended question as to whether the WNBA will catch up, or perhaps catch on, this year, especially since the Mercury will be without All-Star forward Penny Taylor, an Australian Olympian, until at least after the Beijing Games.

Nonetheless, the poll seems to say that the Mercury will come, go and vanish as fast as they stormed to the title in late August and early September.

If there’s some motivation in that, Meyers Drysdale and first-year Mercury coach Corey Gaines should send the GMs a thank-you note. Nobody is arguing with the vote. The Sparks are legitimate.

“No doubt about it,” Gaines said of a poll that also included Parker as the favorite for Rookie for the Year with 75 percent of the vote and Leslie as the leading contender for Most Valuable Player at 36 percent.

In the MVP derby, Taurasi finished in a tie for third with Becky Hammon of San Antonio with 18 percent of the votes. Seattle center Lauren Jackson, another Australian Olympian who decided to play in the WNBA despite Beijing, is second at 27 percent.

There was no category for proving pollsters wrong.

“We’re a little bit of an underdog,” said Meyers Drysdale, who said Taurasi, starting playmaker Kelly Miller and All-Star Cappie Pondexter have finished pro seasons in other countries and are expected to arrive in Phoenix Thursday and Friday. “It’ll be interesting to see the kind of attitude our players have. We might have a little chip on our shoulder.

“That’s always a great motivator. But we also are the champion, and that means people will come after us every game. When I was a player, that’s what I wanted.

“I know Corey has talked to them about that, told them: ‘Yeah, you are the underdog, but you’re also the champion.’ “

There was no category for proving pollsters wrong. But there was one that asked the GM to pick the team that would be the most fun to watch. The Mercury won with 42 percent of the votes.

If the GMs are right about that one and wrong about picking them second instead of first, the Mercury will have most of the fun and all of the last laughs.