- The Washington Times - Monday, July 28, 2008

Women fight, too. At least the ones in the WNBA do.

They received encouragement from Rick Mahorn, one of the aging “Bad Boys” who sits on the bench of the Shock next to Bill Laimbeer, perhaps the most annoying NBA player of the last generation.

Mahorn, as peacemaker, shoved Lisa Leslie in an attempt to restore order, which is an unusual way to bring calm to a volatile situation that started after Plenette Pierson and Candace Parker became entangled while jostling for rebound position.

The benches soon cleared, and the WNBA soon was attracting national attention.

The benefit is that a larger segment of the sports public now knows there is a professional women’s basketball league.

Not that the WNBA necessarily covets that kind of publicity unless you believe in the tenet that all publicity is good publicity.

Guys dig chick fights, just like women dig the steroid-fueled long ball.

Once the deportment czar of the WNBA was finished handing out the suspensions, the Detroit team was down to Nancy Lieberman, who is the Minnie Minoso of women’s basketball.

She comes out of retirement once a decade to show that female athletes of a certain age are able to move at the speed of slow and slower.

She claims to be 50 years old and, to her credit, does not look one day older than it.

She played nine scoreless minutes in the Shock’s loss to the Comets last week and was able to come out of it without having a cardiac event.

That made it “historic,” as Lieberman put it.

And it changed the focus from women having a pillow fight to an AARP-eligible woman competing at the highest level of women’s basketball and pretending it was legitimate.

The suspension-decimated Shock needed bodies, and Lieberman’s apparently was one of the few available out of a nation of 300 million, not counting the rest of the world.

“In a crazy way, the timing is good,” Lieberman said. “Bill never looked at this like a circus or an opportunity for a novelty.”

It would have been taken as a threat to the WNBA’s credibility if credibility were part of the WNBA’s agenda.

With the outcome of the contest no longer in doubt, both the Shock and Comets did their best to help Lieberman along. They wanted her to score. She might as well have been the career benchwarmer who finally gets into a game and is implored by the crowd and teammates to shoot the ball.

Lieberman did take one shot and missed.

But it was no novelty act - wink, wink - even if it will be Lieberman’s only appearance with the Shock until 2018.

The WNBA wound up suspending 11 culprits, Mahorn included, because of the melee in Auburn Hills, Mich., a star-crossed venue no doubt.

It is where Ron Artest had his most public meltdown, which resulted in the dissolution of the Pacers as a championship-contending team.

Laimbeer was upset by Mahorn’s two-game suspension.

“He was trying to be a peacemaker, and now he’s being thrown under the bus,” Laimbeer said of the increasingly famous vehicle that has an ever-growing number of persons under it.

You rarely can get through the 24/7 news cycle without learning of another person being thrown under that darn bus, with both Barack Obama and John McCain adept at dispatching political liabilities there.

Mahorn said he was “trying to protect the whole game, the integrity of the game,” with his push that sent Leslie tumbling to the floor.

If not for the push comes to shove of Mahorn, the integrity of the WNBA would have been forever in doubt.

To bolster its integrity even further, the WNBA then allowed Lieberman to dribble the ball out of bounds off her walker.

Score one for the WNBA.

It set tongues wagging with a fight and a fossil last week.

That is incremental progress.



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