11:05 p.m. | Final thoughts: Things are winding down in the back halls of Philips. Players are heading out and reporters are quietly filing their stories. Meadors, in a prepared statement just handed out by the team, summed up the evening this way: “We are making progress as a team. We were aggressive and defensive tonight. On offense, we just didn’t hit some shots we should make. We will get better. Players felt some success tonight that will carry over to tomorrow’s workout and Sunday’s game against L.A.”
Despite the 12-point loss, the Dream should feel like a success. It was just seven months ago that the WNBA awarded the franchise to a city that tonight showed how hungry it is for women’s basketball. It was only weeks ago that the Dream even assembled its roster. They took a critical step tonight and while the box score doesn’t reflect it, success is all over this franchise. What an amazing night.
That’s all from Philips. Time to find some late-night eats. Photos from the evening to come tomorrow.
10:58 p.m. | Where the NBA happens: Meadors and the team picked up on the NBA stars in the crowd: “That’s awesome. We were cheering for them. To me, [the Hawks playoff run] helped us, it helped us sell tickets because it brought new energy for basketball, men or women it doesn’t matter. It brought new energy for us. It helped everybody stay involved in basketball.”
10:39 p.m. | Meadors reacts: Snippets from the post-game with the media:
Meadors on the game: “We played defense like we were capable of playing defense and I thought offensively we just didn’t hit our shots in the second half and that affected our defense and our offense. We look forward to playing L.A. on Sunday afternoon. We will get better between now and then. But I think the success that our players felt tonight when they were on the floor will carry over into tomorrow’s workout and also for Sunday afternoon for L.A.”
Lennox on the game: “We’ve got to take one step at a time. We are young. We played so well and that’s why this loss was so hard. We were in the driver’s seat.”
Meadors on strategy: “Our game plan was for them to shoot over us and we primarily did that. When they started running, it was pretty hard to keep up.”
Meadors on the team: “One thing I’ve found with this team is that they always try to do what we ask of them and they’ve been great to coach and we’re not done yet. This is going to be a pretty good team. Just give us a chance. I learned a lot tonight just watching out team play. I learn every day watching our team play. It is my job to put it all together and I really like.”
Meadors on the future: “We are not all there yet, but we will be.”
Latta on the crowd: “The crowd was amazing. That gave me a lot more passion for the game.”
10:30 p.m. | Post game: Meadors just finished the post-game, with Ivory Latta and Betty Lennox. To sum it up: the Dream tasted victory but lost it in the second half. Meadors said welcome to the WNBA — time to regroup, move on and prepare for Sunday’s game again the Sparks. It doesn’t get easier when Candace Parker comes to town.
10:13 p.m. | Numbers game: A few stats while waiting for the post-game media gaggle. Dream shot 35.7 percent (25 of 70) for the game, compared to the Shock’s 45.1 percent (32 of 71). Shock also out-rebounded the Dream, 42 to 37. Big difference came from behind the three-point line, with the Dream going 2 for 16 with the Shock scoring 6 of 13. Dream dominated the first half (24-21 in the first quarter, 21-11 in the second) but stumbled greatly in the second half. The Shock outscored the Dream 31-18 in the third and 25-13 in the fourth.
9:59 p.m. | Dream stumble: Shock win by 12, 88-76, no doubt utilizing the depth and late-game smarts of a veteran team to knock off the upstarts. Got close to Smith and Howard after the game to snap more pics. Never realized just how big thoe guys really are until I was standing a few feet from them.
9:53 p.m. | It’s over: Shock up by 12, 85-73 with 1:03 to play. We’ll see what Meadors has to say in the post-game press conference.
9:48 p.m. | NBA in the house: Yup, it is Howard, sitting next to Smith. What a duo those two would make for the Hawks. Shock up 11 with 2:34 left to play.
9:44 p.m. | Superman: Is that former Atlantan and current Orlando Magic star Dwight Howard two rows back, under the Dream basket?
9:42 p.m. | Tick tock: The clock keeps running down and the Shock lead keeps going up. Dream time out with 4:02 left. Shock up by seven, 77-70.
9:38 p.m. | T’em up: With 4:59 left, Elaine Powell of the Shock picks up her second tech. She’s out of the game. She got two before Laimbeer picked up even one?
9:35 p.m. | Laimbeer bellows: Close enough now to actually hear some of what Laimbeer has to say to the refs. It’s not nice. Surprised? And I can catch the fans aiming their taunts at Laimbeer. Shock up by five, 70-65 with 5:49 left.
9:32 p.m. | Time out: With 7:57 left in the fourth quarter, the Shock pull ahead by two, 67-65. There’s a time out on the floor and I’ve got the laptop and gone courtside, grabbinng an empty seat just off the Shock bench. Being this close is a much better spot to feel the action than the media station above the first section.
9:27 p.m. | Tie game: Shock pull even to tie the game at 63 at the end of the third quarter.
9:14 p.m. | Courtside: I went courtside to snap photos and get some close ups of Laimbeer and Meadors and see if I could spot any other celebrities out for a night of women’s bsaketball. Dream’s lead has dropped to eight, 57-49 with 3:36 to go in the third.
8:58 p.m. | Star sightings: Just spotted former Hawks star Dominique Wilkins as I roamed the sidelines. I also got stuck between two tall and muscular guys saying hi; they have to be pro players, but I can’t place them. Third quarter about to start.
8:50 p.m. | Media retreat: I’ve retreated to the media room located somewhere in the inner depths of Philips in a hunt for food. No luck, so I think I’ll head out to the floor and catch a bit of Kingston singing. The buzz in the arena went up several notches as the lights went down and Kingston stepped onto the court.
8:39 p.m. | Half time: Dream end the half leading 45-32. Pretty amazing stuff. They’ve got to be getting a lift from the energetic crowd. So far, they are putting on quite an opening night show.
8:36 p.m. | Take us there: Pop singer Sean Kingston coming up at half. His hits include “Beautiful Girls,” “Me Love” and “Take You There.” I hope Borders has some more moves for this. 54.3 seconds to go with the Deam up 15, 43-28.
8:30 p.m. | Crowd gazing: Team President Bill Bolen in the first row opposite the scorer’s table. Two rows back is Borders, dressed in a gray paint suit. She’s up and cheering, waving her arms in the air and showing a few moves with the music. She’s definitely enjoying the moment. Dream up by 18. That’s right. 18.
8:23 p.m. | Hawks help: The Hawks Josh Smith is courtside. The crowd went wild when his image went up on the large video screens over the court. It was just a few weeks ago that he helped the Hawks take the Celtics to the full seven games in the opening round of the NBA playoffs.
8:16 p.m. | First quarter stats: Dream shot 57 percent for the quarter, better than the Shock’s 47 percent. Shock has more points in the paint, 12-8. One lead change and four ties.
Marynell Meadors, the Dream’s coach and general manager, also up and working the sideline. She’s dressed in a powder blue sports coat, picking up on the team colors.
Dream up by eight with 5:51 left in the second quarter. (WNBA quarters are 10 minutes, compared to 12 for the NBA.)
8:08 p.m. | First quarter ends: Dream scores at the buzzer, going up by three. Score stands at 24-21.
A note from my drive to Philips: It didn’t take long for me to spot the first gay sticker on a car. A Honda CR-V was in front of me on Decatur Street at Peachtree Center Avenue. It’s just one small sign of the lesbian crowd that is out in force for tonight’s game.
8:07 p.m. | T time?: Laimbeer up and grumbling again. This time he has come cause. A Shock player got bumped on the endline, forcing her out of bounds. The ref went with a no call and a turnover. Dream ball. Laimbeer has a few words as the ref — the same one he’s been working already — goes up court. My bet? He’ll pick up a technical foul before the evening’s over.
7:59 p.m. | Big Bill: Bill Laimbeer, the Shock coach and former Detroit Piston, looks bigger than ever. Clearly, he didn’t miss the pre-game meal like I did. He’s already up and working one of the refs, complaining about a no call on a layup. Dream score to tie the game at 18 with a chance for a three-point play. Got it. Dream up by one. Laimbeer not happy that his Eastern Conference defending champs are down by one to the upstarts.
7:50 p.m. | Time out: First time out, 4:52 on the clock in the first quarter. Shock up by 6, 12-6. Shot some photos of the tip, but having technical difficulties uploading them. We’ll have to see about that.
The game is a sellout, which means they’ve sold more than 10,000 tickets for tonight’s season opener. Philips is a bit reconfigured for the WNBA, with black curains sealing off some upper level seats and helping to shrink the arena’s usual basketball capacity of about 18,500. Still, the crowd looks a little thin. Guess fans are arriving a little late as they continue to trickle in.
The argument with the parking attendant cost me a swing through the buffet in the media room. Apparently, they clear the food out about a half-hour before tip, or about 10 minutes after I walked through the door.
7:32 p.m. | Owner speaks: Terwilliger is center court greeting the crowd with WNBA Commish Donna Orender and Lisa Borders, the Atlanta City Council President and a key figure in landing the franchise here.
“We’re hope you are excited about women’s professional basketball tonight,” Terwilliger says. “This is an exciting night for Atlanta, Ga. This is a hotbed of women’s basketball, as you know. We are looking forward to having great community support.”
Orender: “Thank you for being a city that proves a Dream really can come true. I can’t think of a better place to be for the opening of our 12th season. Let me officially say, welcome the 14th franchise, the Atlanta Dream.”
Borders, ever the cheerleader, adds, “Let’s get busy, Atlanta!”
Lights out for the player intros. The energy level is pretty high.
7:28 p.m. | Warm Ups: Five miles and 40 minutes later, I’m here. A little traffic from crowds heading to Philips and the Ted for the Braves, a portion of Marietta Street closed and a parking attendant that clearly wasn’t hired for his interpersonal skills. But we’re here. And it’s about two minutes to tip.
Team owner Ron Terwilliger is courtside with Mayor Shirley Franklin, who is probably happy to be in front of a friendly crowd, given the city’s budget troubles.
6:36 p.m. | Start up: Hi folks.
It’s time. The Atlanta Dream opens its home schedule in about an hour, taking on the Detroit Shock and marking the return of women’s professional basketball to Atlanta for the first time in a decade.
We’re going to try something new tonight – live blogging the game. I’m heading to Philips Arena now, with the hopes that rush hour traffic has dissipated. The laptop is packed, along with the camera and digital voice recorder.
With that, I’ll be back soon. Watch the game on CSS and track developments here, too.
In the meantime, you can read up on the Dream here.