Commentary

Hammon, Russia top Latvia in opener

Updated: August 9, 2008, 8:05 PM ET
By Mechelle Voepel | ESPN.com

BEIJING -- Becky Hammon is busting her tail at the Olympic hoops tournament, enduring things like full-body checks from Latvians and talking to sports reporters unfamiliar with the concept of deodorant.

[+] EnlargeBecky Hammon
AP Photo/ Elizabeth DalzielBecky Hammon had 11 points and shot 4-for-8 from the field as Russia opened with a 62-57 win over Latvia.

(OK, she didn't mention that second part, um, but trust me, it's true.)

Anyway, while she's doing that, she figures her Silver Stars teammates are back home lounging by the pool at her new house in San Antonio. And she couldn't be happier.

"You know the girls on that team, so you can see why it's so easy to get attached to them," she said Saturday of the strong bond she has with them after just a season and a half in San Antonio. "It's easy to see why our chemistry comes so quickly. Everyone is so unselfish, they just want to win. And everybody shares the ball.

"Sophia Young has been a stud. She just keeps getting better. They are the easiest group in the world to play with. I love coming to practice there. I miss them."

That said, she has gotten along well with her Russian teammates, too.

"They've really reached out; it's been a smooth transition," she said. "When I got in, they were just ecstatic. They were like, 'We've waited so long. What took you so long to get here?'"

Yes, Becky is wearing the red and white of Russia, not the red, white and blue of Team USA. That's old news -- "I've been in the Russian gear for a while; that was over a few weeks ago" -- but she knows she'll be asked a lot about being "Hammon" on a team with players whose names end with "ova" or "iva" or "eva."

After Saturday's 62-57 victory over Latvia -- which came right after the United States beat the Czech Republic, 97-57 -- Hammon heard the questions she has been asked a lot since she opted to play for Russia. She answered as she has all along, that this is about taking advantage of a competitive opportunity.

No need to rehash all that. She's here and didn't look out of place with the Russian team. She acknowledges she doesn't know the words to the Russian anthem, but to her credit she did try to learn them. Her teammates told her it was a little too complicated and they didn't understand the lyrics all that well themselves. So she fits in perfectly.

Just like she did when she came to San Antonio last year after eight seasons in New York. Hammon led the Silver Stars to the Western Conference finals in 2007, and hopes to get further in 2008.

That's the business she'll return to when the Beijing Olympics are over, as San Antonio leads the Western Conference. Now, she's making the adjustment back to more of an international style game.

"It's a little bit different than the American style that we play," she said. "It's a lot of penetrate and kick. They take those big European steps. I think they'd get called for traveling in the United States, but here it's perfectly legal. So I like that. Because I take the big steps, too."

Mechelle Voepel of The Kansas City Star is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. She can be reached at mvoepel123@yahoo.com.

Mechelle Voepel joined ESPN.com in 1996 and covers women's college hoops, the WNBA, the LPGA, and additional collegiate sports for espnW.

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