ORLANDO, Fla. — On the eve of his league's second all-star game, American Basketball League chief executive Gary Cavalli threw down a challenge to the rival Women's National Basketball Assn. on Saturday.
He challenged the NBA-backed WNBA to an ABL-WNBA all-star game, to be played immediately after the WNBA playoffs (early September), which falls during the ABL preseason training camp period.
The proposed game would be the first meeting between the leagues.
WNBA president Val Ackerman was unavailable for comment Saturday.
"I think such a game would be a wonderful way to promote women's basketball," Cavalli said.
"We could do it so all proceeds go to a women's charity, such as the Women's Sports Foundation. We've talked to our players, and there's wide acceptance to the idea."
Asked if he was using the proposed game as a vehicle to start merger talks between the two leagues, he said: "I knew someone would bring up the 'M' word. No, this is not intended to have anything to do with a merger."
In the meantime, the ABL prepared to showcase its best players, its best dunker and three-point shooter.
The West team seemed to be the favorite over the East on Saturday, after practice sessions for each. The West has two of the pro game's premier rebounders, Yolanda Griffith of Long Beach and Natalie Williams of Portland.
"We want to do a good job on the boards and keep their breakaways to a minimum," said West coach Maura McHugh, who coaches the Long Beach StingRays.
East coach Brian Agler, of the Columbus Quest, said he would coach a players' game for three quarters.
"Our game plan is to give everyone equal minutes through three quarters, then try to win the game in the fourth quarter," said Agler, who has four of his own players here--Katie Smith, Valerie Still, Tonya Edwards and Shannon Johnson.
Sylvia Crawley, as expected, outclassed four competitors in the dunk contest preliminaries Saturday. Crawley, Seattle's Linda Godby and New England's Kara Wolters all dunked, Crawley doing so twice with ease.
Philadelphia's Dawn Staley wiped out her competition in the three-point preliminaries. Shooting 25 shots from beyond the arc from five stations, she scored 52 points. Columbus' Katie Smith was second at 38. They topped 10 other shooters. Staley and Smith shoot it out at halftime today.
Portland, down to seven injury-free players, is rumored to be trying to trade for Long Beach guard Dana Wilkerson, a talented reserve averaging only nine minutes per game.