Sky's debut, expanded TV coverage for WNBA in '06

NEW YORK -- The WNBA's 10th season will be one of growth.

The league tips off its 2006 season on Saturday, May 20, with the expansion Chicago Sky's inaugural game. The league's 14th franchise visits the Charlotte Sting at 6 p.m. ET in the second of four opening-day games.

But the WNBA's growth will not be reserved to the clubs in 2006. The league announced Wednesday that the upcoming season will be highlighted by consistent Tuesday night coverage on ESPN2 and an expanded national television presence.

ESPN2 will televise 14 games on Tuesdays, including five doubleheaders, beginning with the premier on May 23 when Lindsay Whalen and the Connecticut Sun visit the Minnesota Lynx in Game One at 9 p.m. ET. The second game pits 2005 WNBA MVP Sheryl Swoopes and the Houston Comets against Sue Bird and the Seattle Storm at 11 ET.

In addition, ABC will air six WNBA regular-season games, including national broadcasts on each of the first three Saturdays of the season. ABC will also air a pair of games on the final weekend of the regular season.

"The WNBA, ESPN2 and ABC are meeting the growing interest of our fans who desire to see the WNBA brand of basketball on national TV," WNBA president Donna Orender said in a statement. "In essence we're delivering appointment viewing for WNBA fans. This consistent package of Tuesday night games on ESPN2, in particular, makes us easily accessible to our fan base."

The 2005 WNBA champion Sacramento Monarchs will raise their title banner on May 20 prior to hosting All-Star guard Diana Taurasi and the Phoenix Mercury in one of ABC's broadcasts.

The 2006 WNBA season will also feature increased postseason coverage, with ESPN2 and ABC combining to televise five and, if necessary, six first-round games -- up from four in 2005. And every game of the 2006 WNBA finals will be shown on ESPN2.

NBA TV will also broadcast approximately 50 regular-season games.

In addition to the Sky and Monarchs games on May 20, the league's opening day will feature contests pitting the defending Eastern Conference champion Connecticut Sun against the New York Liberty, and the Detroit Shock against the Indiana Fever.

The 2006 season concludes Sunday, Aug. 13, with the playoffs scheduled to begin Thursday, Aug. 17.