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WNBA

5/7/2008

WELCOME RAGGIN'
Those who know tell the WNBA's newest star what's in store.

By Laura Lane

She hasn't even played her first game yet, but Sparks rookie Candace Parker is already being hyped as the face of the WNBA. While most vets are taking a wait-and-see approach to the new girl, we asked five future opponents to size up the other CP3—and the challenges that lurk ahead.

KARA LAWSON, Monarchs
"You can't have off games in this league, and mentally that's tough. You're playing back-to-back, you're traveling, you're criss-crossing the country. And especially for her, coming off that long college season, that's a big adjustment—not only for her body but for her mind, too."

NOELLE QUINN, Lynx
"Forget about off-the-court initiations. On the court, she'll have to look out for herself. Veterans will threaten her and do all of the little things you don't see on your TV screen. Candace has to be ready, because everyone is going to go all out against her."

TICHA PENICHEIRO, Monarchs
"Playing at Tennessee prepared her so well for the league. But right now, she might be more prepared mentally than physically. Who knows what to expect from her bum shoulder?"

SHERYL SWOOPES, Storm
"There was so much hype when Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird and Seimone Augustus turned pro. And now it's Candace. I think a lot of players take her coming in as a personal challenge. Everybody's talking about the endorsements she has or will get, so they will be gunning for her. She's got a target on her back."

IVORY LATTA, Dream
"People are going to say whatever they want. If she's got the hops to dunk, then why not dunk? They might complain she dribbles too much or whatever, but she's got to do her thing. If she can dunk, then she should throw it down."


CASHED OUT
By Elena Bergeron

Former Bad Boy Bill Laimbeer has long been known for his confrontational style—and maybe even for crossing the line. Some Shock players think the Detroit coach did just that last season when he called out then-captain Swin Cash. Laimbeer and assistant Rick Mahorn gave Cash, who played all season with a herniated disk, the nickname Crackhead because they thought she was wandering through practice. Teammates say the 28-year-old forward tolerated it for a while before letting loose on Laimbeer in September. The ensuing sniping divided the team.

"He was really rude to her," says one ex-teammate. "She was a vet and a captain. He didn't do it to motivate her."

Laimbeer's late-season rotation juggling only widened the locker room crevice. Cash's PT was slashed to 21 mpg during the Finals, and she was mortified when the coach left her in to play the final seconds of her last home game as the other starters were pulled to applause. "Disrespecting her so publicly," says a current Shock player, "didn't sit well with a lot of us."

Cash has moved on, traded to Seattle for the No. 4 pick in the draft. (Detroit took Lady Vols SG Alexis Hornbuckle.) And Laimbeer claims the team dynamic is just fine. "We have three perennial All-Stars, a Sixth Woman of the Year and a former All-Star on board. So we had a couple of stiffs who were mad about playing time and are for the most part gone, saying there was tension."

Cheryl Ford, for one, supports her coach. "He hasn't lost my respect," says the All-Star forward. "If you can't deal with what Bill and Rick put out there, it will mess you up."

Or at least get you traded.