by Ben York / @bjyork

SAN ANTONIO, TX — The WNBA season lasts only 34 games and stretches from (roughly) June through September. On the surface, it seems relatively short and much less hectic than the NBA’s 82-game season by comparison.

But as you know, appearances can be deceiving.

Nearly 10 WNBA All-Stars had a game with their respective teams Thursday night, just 18 hours before they were scheduled to arrive in San Antonio to fulfill All-Star responsibilities (WNBA Cares events, practice, receptions, etc.). Remember, players in the WNBA don’t just hop on a comfortable, chartered flight when it’s convenient like players in the NBA and NFL do; they travel just like you and I. Some fly Southwest, others Delta; you get my point. They check their own bags, go through ridiculous security lines, and wait inside the terminal like the rest of us as our flight is inevitably delayed.

For example, after the Storm beat the Silver Stars in Seattle Thursday night, Swin Cash and Sue Bird didn’t arrive in San Antonio until after ten in the morning on Friday. They got to the hotel, slept for about an hour or so, and then had to catch the bus to the AT&T Center for practice and media availability.

Why am I telling you this? Simple. If I didn’t, maybe you’d never know.

After all, based on the smiles, laughter, eager participation in multiple community events, and selfless interaction with fans there’s no way anyone would think these players were mentally or physically exhausted.

That, is the consummate definition of a professional.

In speaking to multiple players, they all said (in their own, unique way) that All-Star weekend is rejuvenating for their spirit. The life of a WNBA player is in constant motion. Fluid. Repetitive. Because they compete at the highest of levels for 11 out of 12 months of the year, they don’t have the luxury of seeing their friends or families on a consistent basis.

But it became increasingly apparent to me that All-Star Weekend is special in that they get to let loose a little bit. Have some fun. See their loved ones.

I was in the midst of talking to first-time All-Star Courtney Vandersloot on the AT&T Center floor when she looked up and saw her parents who came in from Washington to see her play. Tamika Catchings made a point to greet a multitude of family and friends in the stands before practice. Other players mentioned they were just looking forward to grabbing a bite to eat with their family.

Nothing extraordinary, just quality time. The WNBA All-Star game is less about the play on the court as it is celebrating their collective accomplishment.

That’s why little breaks like this (even for those not in the All-Star game) are so critical for WNBA players (who, you may or may not know, play professional basketball year-round). You can tell that this weekend, and not necessarily the basketball portion, means something to these women.

They’re grateful to represent their respective teams and thankful to even have the opportunity to play in an All-Star game.

Respect.

Random Observations and Things of Note

- It is freaking humid in San Antonio. But the cab drivers are friendly.

- SLAM was a big hit. I had numerous people come up and tell me they’ve been subscribers for years. Pretty cool.

- Swin Cash is a machine. Lucky for us, she has been holding it down for SLAM all weekend long. She took some great flip-cam video we’ll be sharing it soon.

- After the East’s head coach Marynell Meadors (Atlanta Dream) spent time having her squad “run” through “offensive sets” (we can barely call them that), West coach Brian Agler (Seattle Storm) told a couple of us in the media that he’d be doing things a bit differently during the West’s practice. Indeed, he did; the bulk of the time was spent trying to see how many shots the players could hit from half-court in 60 seconds. This was MUCH more entertaining.

- In case you were wondering, Sue Bird made three granny-shots in a row (four total in 60 SECONDS) from HALF-COURT! I’ve never seen that before.

- Diana Taurasi said my shoes were fly even though they were adidas.

- Speaking of shoes, Maya Moore wore a SICK pair of customized Jordan’s and will debut them in the All-Star game today (see her tweet below).

- Liz Cambage dunked (easily) in the West’s practice.

- Becky Hammon and Danielle Adams, from the hometown San Antonio Silver Stars, received the loudest applause as they stepped onto the court.

- The University of Connecticut exports some pretty amazing players to the WNBA (see picture to the right of Renee Montgomery, Diana Taurasi, Tina Charles, Swin Cash, Sue Bird’s left arm, and Maya Moore).

- Tamika Catchings could very well be the nicest human being on the planet.

- Epiphanny Prince, Katie Douglas, and Angel McCoughtry spent the most time signing autographs to fans.

- I talked to Penny Taylor about the weather along the Australian coast. It sounds like heaven. Literally.

- Media availability occurred after the East’s practice which ended at 4:00 and prior to the West’s practice at 4:30. Needless to say, having all media and players on the court at the same time was…interesting. I did my best not to ask a player a question they’ve already been asked, which is likely why Penny Taylor and I ended up chatting about the weather in Australia…

- Taj McWilliams-Franklin and Marie Ferdinand-Harris held a basketball clinic for an hour after the East and West practice ended. Over 100 kids from local Boys & Girls Club participated and had a blast.

All-Star Tweets of the Day

- Maya Moore (@MooreMaya): “Getting xcited to showcase the All-Star J’s I’ll be rockin tomorrow!! Wore these @ practice today.http://lockerz.com/s/122681316

- Swin Cash (@SwinCash): “UConn Fam in the building! @tinacharles31@Da20one@MooreMaya Sue & Dee http://lockerz.com/s/122711882″

- Renee Montgomery (@Da20one): “Oh and @piphdagreat10 is NOT the best dressed here but she’s also NOT the worst. @swincash is the Best dressed.”

- Cappie Pondexter (@cappa23): “Had an amazing time with kids n @nbafit at Fort Sam Houston! Made my day a true blessing!!! #wnba#allstar weekend”

- Rebekkah Brunson (@twin1532): “I’m in love #Nike

- Elizabeth Cambage (@ecambage): “Having so much fun with all the wonderful ladies here at @wnba all star weekend!! Such an honor to be here”

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Check back at 3:30 ET for our live blog of the 2011 WNBA All-Star game.