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Orender confident WNBA will have 13 teams in 2010By Vin A.

Cherwoo (CP) â€" 2 hours agoUNCASVILLE, Conn.

— WNBA president Donna Orender is confident the league will have at least 13 teams next season."The league works very closely with each and every market, tracking every one of our businesses, and we have a pretty good understanding of where they are," Orender said Saturday before the all-star game.The WNBA is a 13-team league this season, but two teams have folded in the previous three years.

The Houston franchise, that won the league's first four championships, shut down last December.An expansion team was added in Atlanta before last season, and a group in Tulsa went public earlier this week about efforts to bring a team there."The investors there have worked very hard with the WNBA over the past years, felt they were ready to bring it public," Orender said.

"Have strong support from the city, have some strong corporate support, now bringing it to the fan base to see if they can put the whole package together."Orender wouldn't say if a team in Tulsa would be an expansion franchise or one moved from its current location."Right now it's about finding out if Tulsa is viable," she said.

"Then the next question will be answered when we find out."The Tulsa group has a Sept.

1 deadline to have its plans put together if it wants to begin play in 2010."We have a league to run, we've got schedules to put out," Orender said.

"We're in the process of trying to get ahead on our scheduling to continue to build this business.

They want to know where we're going, the city wants to know where they're going, and the league wants to know where they're going."Orender also said she expected the league's roster reduction to 11 active players to remain next season.

Previously teams were allowed to carry up to 13 players, with inactives declared before each game.MISSING LISA: Players were disappointed that Lisa Leslie couldn't make it to the all-star game in her final WNBA season.

Leslie, voted a starter by fans, has been sidelined for a month because of a sprained right knee."It definitely has been sad without her being here," West starter Sue Bird said.

"She's meant so much to the league, and I know we missed her twice when Los Angeles came to play in Seattle."Leslie is in Los Angeles rehabbing her knee and hopes to be back in action soon.The whole season was supposed to be a farewell tour after she announced her retirement.

Tributes to Leslie had been planned in every city to honour one of the game's greats."It's disappointing not to have Lisa here," WNBA president Donna Orender said.

"It was disappointing not to have Lisa in New York (when the Sparks played the Liberty on July 9).

It's disappointing not to give her her fair due."I'm sure she's the most disappointed out of all of us, having to be home and being in rehab to get her knee back to where it needs to be so she can complete her final season."BOMBS AWAY: Becky Hammon won the three-point contest in the all-star skills competition before Saturday's game, scoring 14 points in the finals.Hammon, who also captured the Euroleague three-point contest this season, was the leader after the first round when she scored 14 points.

She advanced to the finals along with Katie Smith and Sue Bird.

Smith and Bird each scored 12 points in the final round.Shameka Christon (Liberty), Katie Douglas (Fever), and Diana Taurasi (Mercury) were eliminated in the first round.Cappie Pondexter, Sophia Young and Charde Houston took the skills challenge finishing the course in 34.8 seconds.The team of Alana Beard, Asjha Jones, and Sylvia Fowles did their best to knock them off, but Fowles missed a dunk just before time would have expired."It was chilly in here, I couldn't get loose," said a smiling Fowles.FIRST-TIMERS: This year's game featured eight players selected for the first time.The East had five first-timers: Chicago's Sylvia Fowles and Jia Perkins; Atlanta's Erika DeSouza and Sancho Lyttle; and New York's Shameka Christon."Feels just like every other game, I guess," Lyttle said before the game.

"When I get out there it'll probably change because the show is on."Fowles, who was on the United States' gold medal-winning team at the Beijing Olympics during her rookie season last year, didn't expect to feel nervous."No, because this is more of a fun game," she said.

"You just go out there and have fun and roll with the flow."Minnesota's Nicky Anosike and Charde Houston made their debuts for the West, along with Sacramento's Nicole Powell, who replaced the injured Lisa Leslie."I'm excited that it's so close to home and my whole family gets to come," said Anosike, who grew up in New York's Staten Island.The former Tennessee star was glad to share the first-time experience with Houston, who played at nearby UConn."We came in (to the league) together," Anosike said.

"To be in our second year and be two of the three players from our class that made it to the All-Star game is huge."HUSKIES REUNION: There was definitely a UConn flavour with five Huskies alumni playing in the all-star game - including three from one of the best recruiting classes in women's basketball history.In 2002, UConn had three of the top four players taken in the WNBA draft.

Sue Bird, the national player of the year, was first.

Swin Cash was taken second, and Asjha Jones was selected with the fourth pick.Bird and Cash started for the West.

Jones - the lone representative of the host Sun - was an East reserve."It's pretty great that the three of us are here," Bird said.That class, which also featured Tamika Williams and Keirsten Walters, led the Huskies to two national championships, including a 39-0 record in 2000.The three all-stars were joined by Diana Taurasi - the top pick a year later - and Charde Houston.The five received a loud ovation from the crowd when they took a photo together before the game.AP Sports Writer Doug Feinberg contributed to this report.Copyright © 2009 The Canadian Press.

All rights reserved.



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