Dime Q&A: Cappie Pondexter Talks Knicks, Fashion & Michael Jordan

You may know Cappie Pondexter as the sweet-shooting New York Liberty guard – the one who has posted an 18.4 scoring average through the first third of the 2011 WNBA season. But that’s just her summer job. In the winter, you can find Pondexter in Russia hooping in the EuroLeague for UMMC Ekaterinburg. Or you can find her working for 4 Season Style Management, the image consulting company she co-founded.

Needless to say, Pondexter is pretty busy. But in the midst of her second season with the Liberty, the three-time WNBA All-Star caught up with Dime to share her thoughts on the WNBA season, the lockout, and the possibility of a woman joining the NBA, and much more.

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Dime: You guys are a couple games into the season. How do you think it’s gone so far?
Cappie Pondexter: I mean to be perfectly honest, it is a new system that we are involved in this year and we have a new coaching staff. The adjustment has been pretty easy for the most part. But I think we’re solid. We’re third in the East. We’re looking to climb even higher and hopefully get to the Finals and take it all.

Dime: I imagine it takes a toll playing for two different teams during the year. How do you keep yourself fresh and healthy for the WNBA season?
CP: Well I have the luxury of playing for one of the best clubs in Europe. We charter everywhere. We have the best medical staff in Russia, and we have a lot of great players. I play limited minutes compared to when I play in the WNBA so it’s definitely helped me in terms of putting a lot of mileage on my body. So I think that’s one of the plusses of playing for a really great team in Europe.

Dime: What’s the preparation like for you leading up to the WNBA season? What’s your routine to get ready?
CP: We are playing all-year round. There’s no in-between time to kind of get ready. But this year I took a two-week break because there were two weeks in between the season from the European and the WNBA season so I had the opportunity to go on a vacation. I pretty much just relaxed, got my mind clear, and did some running on the beach and worked out on the treadmill and did stuff like that.

Dime: I imagine there are a lot, but what are the biggest differences between playing in New York and playing in Russia?
CP: New York is a great city. There’s a lot of variety of places to eat, number one. Also a lot of places to go shopping. For me those are the plus things. In Russia…it’s just really expensive cause of the import/export. But they have some great places to eat as well. In terms of playing, of course, Europe is definitely more finesse than playing in the WNBA. I think they’re more skilled in terms of the overall ability. And here in the States, in the WNBA, we just kind of play off athleticism and just play.

Dime: If one league is more skill and one is more athleticism, which do you think you’re best suited for?
CP: I have a lot of experience playing international basketball, so it hasn’t affected me this late in my career. I actually enjoy playing in Europe because it allows me to develop my game so when I come home I’m doing a lot of things that I learned in Europe. It’s definitely taken my game to a whole ‘nother level here when I play in the WNBA.

Dime: Now that there’s an NBA lockout going on and you’ve had a lot of experience playing overseas, do you think it would be smart for NBA guys to try out international basketball and go overseas?
CP: I can’t really comment on the lockout but I think if you want to have the opportunity to get to know a different culture…I think you should do it.

Dime: If there were a lockout in the WNBA, what would you do with your free time if you didn’t have to play basketball all the time?
CP: I’ve actually started a company. It’s an image consulting business. It allows me to get into my second love, fashion. That’s something I would definitely be doing as well as vacationing.

Dime: How did you start getting interested in fashion?
CP: I’ve always been interested in the way I look and the things that I buy since I was a kid. It was just something that naturally came to me. As I got older and I experienced more cultures and learned about more designers, my love for it kind of grew. Me and my business partner, we’ve known each other for seven or eight years, probably more than that, and she’s a celebrity stylist. And we both came up with the idea of starting this company because, as athletes, especially females in particular as well as males, with our body types and sizes, it’s hard for us to kind of find fashionable clothes, so helping athlete’s develop their image is something we take pride in. We do website designing; we do logo designing; we do red carpet events. We even do personal shopping or wardrobe styling if you have a hard time trying to get your wardrobe together for work that week. We actually have somebody that can come out and organize your closet. It’s something I definitely wanted to prepare for in the early stages of my career so when basketball is done I can just walk right into it.

Dime: What has the transition from Madison Square Garden to the Prudential Center been like?
CP: Playing wise, just getting comfortable with the arena. Getting familiar with it. It’s something we have to commit to doing because we’re going to be playing there for the next three summers because of the renovation at the Garden. We got to make it our home.

Dime: Where are some of your favorite spots to hit up in New York City?
CP: One of my favorite spots is definitely SoHo. I love to people watch and go eat outside, especially in the summertime. As well as shopping. I like the Meatpacking District, Flatiron District. Those are some of the places I enjoy being around.

Dime: What do you think the Knicks need to do this offseason to become a championship contender?
CP: The good thing is that the Big Three that they have will start out at training camp, which is the most vital thing. I think once that happens and they get to know each other a little bit more than they did last year, and of course add some key pieces around those guys, I definitely think they’re gonna be contenders this year in the East. ‘Melo and Stoudemire – no better two than those guys. They’re definitely top of the top in their positions. So I think New York has definitely got the talent as well as the coaching so I’m excited for those guys.

Dime: As a guard yourself, who are some of your favorite backcourt players to watch these days?
CP: I love Chris Paul; I love Rondo; I love D-Wade; I love Seimone Augustus, Diana Taurasi, Maya Moore, Lindsay Whalen. I mean I could go on and on. I just enjoy great players. I just enjoy watching them and seeing what they’re craft is and taking stuff from it.

Dime: Back in 2009, David Stern said he thought a woman might be in the NBA in the next 10 years. Do you think you or any other WNBA players could compete in the NBA right now?
CP: (laughs) I mean, of course. Skill wise, definitely. But I think the fact that those guys are so much bigger than we are, it’s kind of hard to say. But you never know with Sylvia Fowles and [Liz] Cambridge. Those are some pretty big girls, and I think physically they can kind of keep up.

Dime: There was a lot of buzz during the NBA playoffs surrounding the MJ vs. LeBron debate sparked by Scottie Pippen. Who do you like and why?
CP: I grew up watching Michael Jordan and I’m sure LeBron did as well. That’s the reason why he wore the No. 23 and even retired it because of him. To get compared is definitely an honor, but to say that he’s better than him right now is kind of hard to say. Michael Jordan is definitely in a class of his own in terms of the way he attacked the game and made basketball a fun sport to watch globally. It’s kind of hard to say. Potential wise, I think LeBron has the ability to be the best LeBron. Look at those two players, they are totally different. LeBron, to me, reminds me more of a Magic Johnson… LeBron is a great player. He’s young, and he has so much ahead of him.

Dime: I read that you were close friends with Dee Brown growing up. How did you guys become friends?
CP: We’re kinda in the same age group, and we grew up in the same neighborhood. We were always playing at the YMCA together. They had a men’s AAU team and a women’s AAU team, and we both were on those teams. That’s kinda how we got started. We were like elementary school boyfriend and girlfriend.

Dime: Who would win in one-on-one?
CP: It would go back and forth, but I think he would get the best of me because he was so quick. But he made better. He made me a better player, that’s for sure.

Dime: You won a gold medal with the US in 2008 at the Beijing Olympics. Are you planning on suiting up next summer in London?
CP: Oh definitely. If I make this Olympics, I think it will be my last one. I’m definitely rooting hard for it and hopefully I can make the final list and help represent the USA to the best of my ability.

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