WNBA offers 'matchup second to none'; Liberty's Weatherspoon defends Comets' Cooper in championship series


NEW YORK -- Comets coach Van Chancellor gets in free tonight, but he would pay to see Houston's Cynthia Cooper take on the New York Liberty's Teresa Weatherspoon in the opener of the WNBA championship series.

"This is the ultimate offensive player and the ultimate defender, and both are inspirational leaders of their teams," he said. "It's a matchup second to none."

New York was the surprise winner in the East, getting a rematch of the 1997 championship against Houston, the only champion the three-year-old league has known.

Cooper, 36, is the only scoring champion the league has known, and Weatherspoon, 33, who has twice led the league in steals, draws the challenge.

"Cynthia is a great offensive player because she's very smart, in the same sense Michael Jordan was so smart in the men's game," Weatherspoon said yesterday. "And she's most dangerous when you've got her and she hasn't taken her dribble yet. You can't read her at all -- she doesn't tip you off at all."

Weatherspoon had more steals than anyone else in the league this summer, 78, but had a fractionally lower average than the Monarchs' Yolanda Griffith, the leader.

Cooper has three consecutive scoring titles, 22.1 points this season, 22.7 last summer and 22.2 in 1997.

"Teresa is very strong, very physical and she loves to play defense -- that's her heart and soul," Cooper said.

When these teams played a one-game championship final in 1997, the Comets won at Houston, 65-51. Houston (26-6) and New York (18-14) split their two meetings this season.

When the Comets routed the Liberty at Houston in July, 65-50, Weatherspoon held Cooper to 13 points (4-for-17 from the field) and forced six turnovers. When New York won in August at Madison Square Garden, 74-71, Cooper had 26 points (9-for-17).

(Schedule, 10D)

Pub Date: 9/02/99

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