Posted at 7:07 PM on June 11, 2008
by David Zingler
Note: We've been contemplating making "Bleacher Bums" an all-sports blog; just to test the waters I've decided to place an occasional random non-baseball related entry. Any feedback you have on this idea would be greatly appreciated.
Lynx center Vanessa Hayden-Johnson returned to action this year after missing all of the 2007 season to give birth to her first child - a girl, Zyon Brianna. Now, the 6-4, 239 lb former 1st round pick is getting re-acclimated to life in the WNBA.
Conditioning and focus have been struggle for the 26-year-old since she began her career in 2004, but she seems committed to realizing her potential in 2008. I caught up the candid, enigmatic and talented Hayden-Johnson following some extra work after today's practice.
DZ: I imagine you are getting back into the swing of things after the year off. How are you feeling right now?
HAYDEN: I am feeling good. I am confident in my abilities and I feel like when my name is called I am going to be ready to go out there and show 'em I am a better player and better person and I should be on the court.
DZ: Coming back, you are still on the Lynx - the same team - but most of the players and the coach are different. What has that adjustment been like?
HAYDEN: It's been an adjustment knowing only Nicole (Ohlde) and Seimone (Augustus), but the new girls are new also, so it's like we are all new. (There's) new coaches, a new system, everything, so I think it was good to come into a new program instead of the same old program.
DZ: What is the hardest thing about coming back after a year off?
HAYDEN: Conditioning (laughs). No, the hardest thing is getting readjusted. You don't know what coaches are looking for now. You are going out there and working on this, but maybe coach wants you to work on that. I think it's learning what the coaches expect out of you. I think that's the most difficult thing.
DZ: Did you bring your family up here (from Florida) with you?
HAYDEN: Yeah. They are at home waiting for me to come home and cook and clean after a long day of work (laughs).
DZ: Being gone last year, how closely were you able to follow the team?
HAYDEN: I followed the team a little bit, but I'll tell you this: I am not going to take anything away from my pregnancy. It was one of the greatest joys in the world and I focused a lot on myself and my baby. I did follow the Lynx early on, but once Lindsey (Harding) got hurt, I stopped watching.
DZ: You had the baby a little over a year ago (June 3, 2007), how long did it take you to get into playing shape after that?
HAYDEN: About 6 or 7 months because...everybody knows I wasn't in great shape, I was in bad shape (before the pregnancy). So after I had the baby, I had the baby shape and the shape before, so it was a double whammy.
DZ: I noticed you've been working with (assistant coach and former player) Jennifer Gillom, has she been a mentor for you?
HAYDEN: Oh yeah. Coach Gillom has stayed on me and made sure I stayed focused. Today she got in there with me and we were working, doing a lot of extra things just to keep my conditioning up because when my name is called I am going to be ready.
DZ: What part of your game do you think you need to work on the most?
HAYDEN: I think the biggest thing is getting down and playing the quicker post players. A lot of teams feel I am at a disadvantage because of my size, (but) I feel like "Hey, you can't guard me" just like they feel like I can't guard them...So, I think it's a negative and a positive.
DZ: Are you still trying to find your role right now, get in the rotation?
HAYDEN: I am trying to get in the rotation more. I think (Coach Don Zierden) calls on me when he feels like he needs a banger in there and that's some games and the two Connecticut games - no. I feel like when he does call on me to get in the game, I am going to be ready no matter what.
(photo by David Zingler)
You ask whether to expand the blog more often to cover more sports. Yes: more Lynx, please. (Let's see an interview with Candice Wiggins!)
Yes, I think the bleachers are big enough for other sports coverage. Why not?
I find it unlikely that all baseball fans are interested in all other local sports. I, for example, wouldn't mind some football talk, but I'd probably stop reading if I had to filter out posts related to Hockey, NBA, Soccer, or WNBA. Start a Lynx blog if you must.
This dave Zingler guy is a very talented writer. I have read many articles he's written and all of them have been very interesting. Can we have more of DZ's articles posted on this site.