A local sportswriter said about this Sharks-Oilers series that the crowds in the San Jose and Edmonton arenas have "the effect of adding an extra gear to the players' transmissions". That is the best metaphor I've read, and it applies well to the Sacramento Monarchs' and Kings' fans, who are commemorated in the Arco Arena rafters with Mitch Richmond.
I have visited the Oakland Arena several times over the years as a Phoenix Suns fan, and have imagined in some cases that I made more noise than the 10,000 Warriors "supporters". Visiting Arco Arena in Sacramento while wearing Phoenix purple or New York Liberty blue has been an entirely different experience. The Arco home crowds are nuts. They whip themselves into a frenzy during the pregame introductions, and they find no reason to let up -- they cheer when the Kings and Monarchs successfully inbound the ball after enemy baskets, get louder as the ball crosses the halfline, and imagine how it goes when the Monarchs score themselves.
The 2005 WNBA champions led the league with fewest points allowed, points differential, and whatever intangible that comes with insanely appreciative fans.
Ticha Penicheiro is the WNBA all-time leader in assists -- the whole team seems to pass well -- and led the 2005 Monarchs in steals. Kara Lawson probably inherited the starting offguard role after Chelsea Newton went to Chicago in the expansion draft; she'll space the floor for the slick Penicheiro by shooting 40 percent from the three-point arc. Hamchetou Maiga-Ba has earned a larger backup role by leading the team in scoring this preseason, while Kristin Haynie seems to be the heir to Penicheiro's job at point.
None of the Monarchs rookie guards -- Scholanda Dorrell, Chameka Scott, and Anne O'Neil -- looks like a sure bet to survive the final cut (they started Dorrell Saturday, however). Dorrell was a good three-point shooter for LSU; Scott was an outstanding rebounder for Baylor; it's O'Neil's second tryout with Sacramento -- an ankle injury ended the first for the ESPN three-point shooting contest winner.
In terms of talent, Sacramento's frontcourt is second to Detroit's three All-Stars.
Leading scorer DeMya Walker shot 53 percent; she's on maternity leave, but Rebekkah Brunson, who shared the starting power forward role, has increased her scoring and rebounding in the preseason. Four-time All-Star and 1999 MVP Yolanda Griffith is one of the leading rebounders in league history -- she led the Monarchs in rebounding in 2005 and was second in scoring, and saved her best games for the championship series, where she was named MVP. Nicole Powell, who was the all-time leading rebounder at Stanford, finds far fewer rebounds coming her way in Sacramento, but she adds 10 points and a couple of assists.
Center/forward Erin Buescher shot an unearthly 70 percent in short backup minutes last season, though her preseason numbers have been more believable. Rookie Kim Smith seems to be playing the same type of small forward role as Powell -- she's shooting some, rebounding some, passing more. The agile Brittany Wilkins has an edge over Cisti Greenwalt for the third center spot behind Griffith and Buescher.
NWBL connection: Greenwalt led the San Jose Spiders in scoring and rebounding, and blocked as many shots as the rest of the Spiders combined. She's also the career leader in blocks at Texas Tech. It seems weird that a defender who blocks so many shots has been told that she'll have to get meaner to make it at the WNBA level.
Outlook: If it isn't broken, don't fix it. The Monarchs and the Seattle Storm are the best teams in the west, and neither made any big moves in the offseason. Strictly for the purposes of good narrative, a repeat of last season's Connecticut-Sacramento final isn't a bad bet.