What we know so far ...

Originally Published: August 25, 2004
By Mechelle Voepel | Special to ESPN.com

While the biggest stars of the WNBA -- American and global -- are in Greece battling for gold, silver and bronze, the rest of the league's players are busy with PR stuff at home.

For instance, some of the Minnesota Lynx went to the zoo for a 2-year-old dolphin's birthday party. I don't know, for sure, what kind of presents dolphins like, but what young aquatic mammal doesn't enjoy a good birthday celebration? (Meaningless trivia: What was the name of the dolphin who portrayed "Flipper?")

There are also charity bowling tournaments, appearances at state fairs, ice cream socials, meet-and-greets, reading to kids, visiting grocery stores, back-to-school carnivals. And even practice. But the league is in a competitive holding pattern until the beginning of September.

What did we learn from the season thus far?

  • If someone asks you how (fill-in-the-blank-team) in the Eastern Conference is doing ... and you haven't checked the standings in a few days, don't worry. Just say, "They're at the top or close to it." Because that applies to everyone in the East, even the bizzaro Washington Mystics, who somehow aren't in last place. That's Indiana.

    Every team in the East has either 13 or 12 victories. Which one is going to assert itself as the ultimate leader of the pack? How could anyone even have a clue? Every team has looked both good and not-good.

  • Just when you think the Mystics' dysfunction couldn't get funkier, Chamique Holdsclaw practically turns into Marilyn Monroe on the set of "The Misfits." (Sometimes she showed up, sometimes she didn't.) There are lots of theories about Holdsclaw, the most popular being she no longer wants anything to do with the Mystics.

  • Some of the rookies have been impressive, led by Phoenix's Diana Taurasi and Minnesota's Nicole Ohlde. Those who had judged Ohlde predominantly on Kansas State's past two NCAA losses now have seen that she didn't get 2,241 points and 995 rebounds in college by accident.

    (Oh, back to the trivia question sparked by Minnesota's dolphin party ... "Flipper" was a "he" as a character but a "she" in real marine life, portrayed by a dolphin named Mitzi. Although a few sources claim Mitzi was only in the movie, but Susie did the TV show. After an extensive Internet search, we'll give the nod to Mitzi, who had great dramatic range but apparently couldn't do the "tail-walking" trick. For that, she had a stand-in stunt dolphin named Mr. Gipper.)

    Minnesota native Lindsay Whalen might at first have felt like a fish out of water (huge groan; Mitzi rolls over in her Florida grave) in Connecticut.

    But Whalen has gotten more comfortable and is having an excellent season, too. Her misstep was allowing her agent to talk her into charging for autographs at an appearance in Minnesota. Young players sometimes don't quite grasp who works for whom. Good rule: It's OK to charge for camps, not for signatures.

    Washington's top pick, Alana Beard, struggled early on, particularly with her shooting, but she has come around, too. Beard's numbers seemed to have gotten better as the Holdsclaw saga has grown stranger.

  • The Sparks are still on top. DeLisha Milton-Jones' massage-and-cheese-repaired knee did buckle, and she's out for the season. But L.A. remains the team to beat in the West and the league at large.

    The Sparks' double-overtime victory at Sacramento just before the Olympic break was a microcosm of why they are so good. They never give up on a game. You can throw anything at them, and they still think they are going to win.

  • L.A. is maintaining its place despite the departure of Michael Cooper, who left for the Denver Nuggets. In other coaching-carousel developments thus far, Dee Brown saw no light at the end of the tunnel in San Antonio and quit, while Richie Adubato was let go in New York. Will Michael Adams last in Washington? When your best player has made game appearances optional, you should be hearing evacuation sirens. Then again, with the Mystics organization, you never know.

  • Who's the MVP thus far? Leslie, who also gets a nod as the top defensive player. Leslie is a great player not just for her production -- although that is tremendous -- but also because she so rarely does anything that negatively impacts her team. Taurasi, as expected, has been the best rookie.

    So now we wait to see if those two and their 10 other USA teammates can continue the Americans' dominance in the Olympics. Then, we'll watch how the league does with a season that ends in October.

    Mechelle Voepel of the Kansas City Star is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. She can be reached at mvoepel@kcstar.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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