As Hoops Go, Rage Is Only Game In Town Out To Gain By Nba Lockout

Posted: November 05, 1998

If anybody is salivating over the NBA lockout, it is the Rage.

For a team that finished a dismal 13-33 last season and couldn't fill the stands even before the departure of local star player Dawn Staley, what better news could there be for the American Basketball League franchise than that the 76ers won't be playing any time soon?

``I'd like to think that people who love basketball want to see it played at the best level and that would be us,'' Rage coach Anne Donovan said. ``We're hoping to draw some interest off of [the NBA lockout] and the fact that we have a good brand of basketball going at the Apollo.''

So, when the Rage opens its home season Saturday night against against the expansion Chicago Condors at the Apollo of Temple, it will do so with its best offcourt opportunity since spring, when it gutted its front office and roster. Only forward La'Keshia Frett, center Taj McWilliams and guard Beth Morgan remain from last season. Additions include four-time Olympian Teresa Edwards and rookie Chasity Melvin, who starred at Louisiana Tech.

``I don't now how well the team was supported last year,'' said Donovan, who was named coach June 18. ``The team didn't play very well and I don't think anyone could have saved them from that.''

Donovan said that while Staley's leap to the rival Women's NBA will hurt the team's marketing efforts, the Rage will have an opportunity to generate attention with the NBA not working and a new, improved team on the court.

``I think Dawn Staley was known very well locally and her name brought the team recognition,'' Donovan said. ``The hard part will be to get people out to see you play, and see that there is life after Staley.''

The ABL's third season opens at 8 o'clock tonight when the Rage visits the New England Blizzard. The game will air locally on Comcast SportsNet.

According to Gary Cavalli, the league's co-founder, the ABL will begin a multimillion-dollar television and print advertising campaign to generate interest while the lockout continues.

One commercial will feature Debbie Black, of the Colorado Xplosion, the 5-3 guard from St. Joseph's University who is one of five pro players to achieve a quadruple double (the others are NBA stars Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, Nate Thurmond and Alvin Robertson).

Cavalli said the ABL also is negotiating with Fox Sports Net to increase ABL coverage during the lockout. The cable network carries NBA regional games in six of nine ABL cities - Philadelphia, Chicago, Seattle, Portland, Denver and the Bay area.

And the ABL needs the additional exposure. Only 14 games are scheduled to be televised on Fox Sports Net and two on CBS, half as many as last season. The WNBA, which plays a 30-game schedule during the summer, has contracts with NBC, ESPN and Lifetime.

``I think this is a great opportunity,'' Cavalli said. ``We've got the professional basketball landscape to ourselves, and we'll do everything possible to take advantage of it.

``For us, I think the NBA lockout will translate into bigger crowds and more media coverage. [The television networks] have a lot of air time to fill right now.''

Send e-mail to morane@phillynews.com.

RAGE SCHEDULE

Home Games, in CAPS,

At Temple University's Apollo Center

Tonight: at New England, 8

Saturday: CHICAGO, 7

Wednesday, Nov. 11: COLORADO, 7

Sunday, Nov. 15: at New England, 1

Friday, Nov. 20: at Nashville, 7

Saturday, Nov. 21: CHICAGO, 7

Thursday, Nov. 26: COLUMBUS, 2

Saturday, Nov. 28: NASHVILLE, 7

Saturday, Dec. 5: at Colorado, 9

Sunday, Dec. 6: at Seattle, 9

Wednesday, Dec. 9: at Portland, 10

Friday, Dec. 11: at San Jose, 10:30

Friday, Dec. 18: at Chicago, 8

Sunday, Dec. 20: COLUMBUS, 4

Saturday, Dec. 26: at Chicago, 8

Sunday, Dec. 27: CHICAGO, 4

Tuesday, Dec. 29: NEW ENGLAND, 7

Saturday, Jan. 2: at Nashville, 7

Friday, Jan. 8: at Columbus, 7

Saturday, Jan. 9: COLUMBUS, 7

Tuesday, Jan. 12: PORTLAND, 7

Friday, Jan. 15: NEW ENGLAND, 7

Sunday, Jan. 17: at Chicago, 5

Wednesday, Jan. 27: SAN JOSE, 7

Friday, Jan. 29: NASHVILLE, 7

Wednesday, Feb. 3: SEATTLE, 7

Friday, Feb. 5: at Nashville, 7

Saturday, Feb. 6: COLUMBUS, 7

Tuesday, Feb. 9: at Seattle, 10

Friday, Feb. 12: at Portland, 10

Sunday, Feb. 14: at Colorado, 4

Monday, Feb. 15: at San Jose, 7

Saturday, Feb. 20: NEW ENGLAND, 7

Sunday, Feb. 21: at New England, 4

Tuesday, Feb. 23: SAN JOSE, 7

Tuesday, Mar. 2: NEW ENGLAND, 7

Friday, Mar. 5: COLORADO, 7

Sunday, Mar. 7: PORTLAND, 4

Thursday, Mar. 11: at Columbus, 7

Friday, Mar. 12: at Chicago, 8

Sunday, Mar. 14: SEATTLE, 4

Friday, Mar. 19: NASHVILLE, 7

Saturday, Mar. 20: at Nashville, 7

Wednesday, Mar. 24: at Columbus, 7

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