Chat with Mechelle Voepel
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, women's basketball writer Mechelle Voepel will stop by to chat women's basketball.
Voepel, a regular contributor to ESPN.com's women's basketball coverage, will join the chat just as Team USA finishes its game against Greece in the Women's Basketball World Championship.
Send your questions now and join Voepel Thursday at 2:30 p.m. ET!
Mechelle Voepel (2:33 PM)
Good afternoon ... just watched Team USA beat Greece, nice job on boards, but I'm sure Geno Auriemma will point out some flaws on defense. That's his job! :)
Any quick impressions from the US/Greece game? (Gosh, it's nice to get another chance to see Maltsi play)
Mechelle Voepel (2:37 PM)
This is what coaches of Team USA are talking about when they mention the difficulties of facing teams that stay together. People will say, "Oh, USA has so much talent," and they do. It's breathtaking to me to see the top USA players together - and knowing this group doesn't even include Candace Parker or Cappie Pondexter. But watching the teamwork and ball movement of Greece, you can see how hard that team has worked and how well they know each other. Ultimately, I was impressed with Greece's progress but also with how well, all things considered, Team USA played. Everybody had something positive to contribute.
How good do you think, Angel McCoughtry can/will be?
Mechelle Voepel (2:40 PM)
She's on track to being one of the great - and I mean great - players in the WNBA. She's often been called a player much like Sheryl Swoopes ... and that is an apt comparison. There are times on court when she will get a Swoopes-like steal, expertly reading the passing lanes, and it's like, "Wow, where have we seen this before." I love the energy Angel brings, too. I particularly enjoyed watching McCoughtry's play, today, along with that of Swin Cash.
Mel has been writing about Blaze's removal from NY as a firing. Why now, after the success they had this year? Who do you replace her with?
Mechelle Voepel (2:46 PM)
Yes, that is how I would refer to it, too: a firing. In my conversations with Liberty folks - I have not talked to Blaze herself - there was a sense that with coach Anne Donovan leaving, it was time to go for a full change in leadership. Nobody there has indicated to me - not that they're tipping their hand - that there is already somebody firmly in place to take over the GM job, or that the coach/GM job will be combined ... but they also indicated the latter is a possibility they are open to. Supposedly, this decision is not something that will come down in the next week or so. But they know there is a lot to get settled, so it can't be drawn out too long. MSG Inc.'s Scott O'Neil may already have his mind made up and we don't know it, but I was told that wasn't the case. Make of that what you will.
That was some ugly defense by Team USA; at least Geno has something to talk about right?
Mechelle Voepel (2:47 PM)
Yeah, I would guess that's exactly the focus of what he's going to talk about. But that's also what you would expect would be the main issue in the early games ... especially because a team like Greece does have a lot of time on the court together.
RP (United States)
The Sparks have several unrestricted free agents -- Ferdinand-Harris, Penicheiro, Lennox -- Noelle Quinn, who's a restricted free agent, and couple of rookies who played sparingly in Mokango and Riley. Tina Thompson has also hinted towards retirement. What are the chances that the 2011 L.A. Sparks look drastically different?
Mechelle Voepel (2:50 PM)
I think it could be a very different-looking team. If it's like in years past, Tina Thompson won't decide until January or February (or later?) about whether she's returning. She's certainly still a very effective player, and maybe she'd like one more season with a healthy (the Sparks hope) Candace Parker. Considering that the Sparks went three games with eventual champ Phoenix last year in the Western Conference finals - admittedly with Lisa Leslie - and then made the playoffs this year despite all the injury issues, the team has to think with Parker healthy and some changes, they can contend again next season. But there are a lot of questions to be answered. Ticha Penicheiro told me she didn't expect to know her future with the Sparks until Jan. or Feb., either.
What do you say to the UConn-haters that think Geno stuffed the team with Huskies?
Mechelle Voepel (2:55 PM)
I say, "Stop being a hater." It's pretty silly. Watch the players and tell me you wouldn't want them on your team. I'd also say that Auriemma doesn't get who he wants, carte blanche, as there is a committee involved. And even if he DID make all the personnel decisions with no committee, he respects this job too much to make it about just "his" former players. He wants the team to win a gold medal. UConn has been extremely good in not just succeeding in college, but producing terrific pros. Besides that, I think we have to remember that these were top prep players before they got to UConn ... so if you trace this back to their real beginning, they are the best players from all over the country who did happen to go to UConn. Where they got better.
HoopsMom (Upstate NY)
I watched Jayne Appel play for San Antonio a few times this summer, and I got the impression that the coaching staff had no idea what to do with her to maximize her impact. Do you think we will see a very different performance from WNBA Jayne with Geno's coaching?
Mechelle Voepel (2:58 PM)
Nobody is better at finding the ways to maximize what a player does well than Auriemma. It's a consistent part of what has made UConn great. But I'd guess we're also seeing the impact of Jayne Appel playing with the best players in the world on this team, and the fact that she is feeling healthier. This experience can't help but aid her toward having a better second season in the WNBA, so long as she can stay healthy.
Barry (Phoenix, AZ)
Some Tennessee fans claim that Kara Lawson was left off the Team USA final roster because Geno Auriemma wanted more UConn players or because of the rift with Pat Summitt. Could you comment about Lawson and the selection process?
Mechelle Voepel (3:03 PM)
I don't believe that at all ... that Kara's Tennessee background had anything to do with her not makin the team. It never crossed my mind, in fact. Auriemma seemed very genuinely upset about Team USA having to cut Kara Lawson and Seimone Augustus ... just as upset as he was about Renee Montgomery. As much as I respect Lawson and Augustus, those two being the final cuts made sense to me. Sue Bird is an iron woman at point guard, Lindsay Whalen earned a spot at backup, and I think Team USA needed the extra depth in the post more than they did at guard. As for the selection, yes, the coach has huge imput, but he doesn't just say, "This is what I want, period." The committee does have to come to a consensus, and there have been times in the past where coaches didn't get exactly what they wanted in every case.
UConn Steve (TX)
Thank You for all your articles on these amazing athletes and wonderful people! If you know anyone at NBA TV, please pass along my gratitude. Looking ahead to the 2012 Olympics, the roster for USA Basketball will be different from this 2010 FIBA WC roster. Tamika Catchings and Swin Cash were born in 1979. Sue Bird and Asjha Jones were born in 1980. They certainly are *not* old. But, as you know, they have played year round basketball for a while. Some members of the present Team USA player pool *might* have goals other than the 2012 Olympics. New members of the player pool *might* be Brittney Griner, Elena Delle Donne, and one or two players who burst onto the scene. I realize you are not in the prediction business. :) But do you have thoughts on this subject? Thank you for today's chat! Enjoy the FIBA WC games on NBA TV.
Mechelle Voepel (3:07 PM)
I seriously doubt Elena Delle Donne is going to be in the 2012 Olympic pool. I think she's a fine player, but it's going to take some time in the WNBA and/or overseas for her to develop into the kind of tough, capable defender that Team USA would require. There are too many people ahead of her. Now, depending on how she develops and if she chooses to keep pursuing hoops, maybe 2016 is more in line for her. As for Griner ... we will wait to see if she wants to play for Team USA and how her development goes, too. But in general, if this group of World Championship players stays healthy, many of them will be going to the London Games, I'd expect.
I'm curious about some names NOT on the USA roster (no, not Pondexter or Langhorn!). Any idea why Griner or Deanna Nolan haven't been invited?
Mechelle Voepel (3:12 PM)
Brittney Griner did not choose to be part of the player pool for this event ... and maybe as a college sophomore it's just as well ... for now. She may be more comfortable focusing on her Baylor career at the moment. She's got time. As for Deanna Nolan, she never would make the time commitment to USA Basketball. I don't believe she was snubbed. I think she would have been happy to play for USA Basketball, but only on the terms that it didn't take up too much of her time. It wasn't a priority for her. Her first commitment was her overseas play. And all players are free to make that decision, of course.
kevin (macon ga)
Belarus is wearing skirt-style unis at the World Championships. Will that catch on elsewhere?
Mechelle Voepel (3:22 PM)
I doubt it. I know there is a big discussion about this, but I think the reasoning behind wearing this uniform is suspect. I just don't believe it's about "comfort" or allowing players to express their "feminine side" - whatever the hell that is supposed to mean. As if you can't choose to wear dresses every other second of your life beside on the court? I think this is yet another of the attempts to play to a segment of the male audience that couldn't care less anyhow. I know people could go round and round and round about this ... and point out tennis dresses and field hockey and all this other stuff. Yada, yada, yada. Ultimately, I think most female basketball players would say of the hoops dress, "I think that looks stupid. I'm not wearing that." And I'd whole-heartedly agree with them.
Helen (NY, NY)
Will anyone get to the bottom of Blaze's "non-return"? And who would you like to see as a coach? As a GM?
Mechelle Voepel (3:34 PM)
I don't know if we'll ever hear the whole story ... MSG has no interest in going into it, and Blaze may figure it's best to cut her losses and move forward. I don't have a specific person in mind for that job ... I just don't think as a journalist, I can really say, "Oh, hire this person." However, I would have a generalized set of personality traits I think would be good for someone if they take that job - especially if it's a coach-GM combo. They have to build and maintain a good relationship with Cappie Pondexter, they have to really reach out to the fan base, and they need to shore up the Liberty's post play. All that said, I don't really know what the MSG upper management is like to work for/with and how likely it is to have them be truly engaged in the Liberty's day-to-day operations. Maybe that's what we will see more of, though.
Svetlana Abrosimova would be a starter on a lot of teams, but at Seattle she comes off the bench. Do you anticipate her going somewhere else any time soon, or can she be content at Seattle?
Mechelle Voepel (3:38 PM)
When I talked to her at different times during the season, she indicated that the atmosphere in Seattle had been really good for her, and she was very grateful to have come there. So with a championship now, will she still be happy in a back-up role? Honestly, I'm not sure. Abrosimova can be a little hard to read ... sometimes she can seem distant and you are not sure what she is thinking, but then she smiles and everything seems fine again. She is Russian, after all. :) I think we will have to wait to see ... but Seattle seemed pretty pleased with what she did for the team.
What do you think about Australia's Liz Cambage? Will she enter the 2011 draft?
Mechelle Voepel (3:46 PM)
Lot of questions about Liz Cambage ... I don't know her specific plans, but it appears a lot of folks think she will be up for the 2011 draft. She is still young, lot of raw talent. She is not Lauren Jackson the second coming, though. Different type of player, and it's never fair to compare anyone to LJ, really. Cambage has, as the cliche goes, a lot of upside. But, frankly, it would be insane for anyone beside Maya Moore to be the No.1 draft pick in 2011.
How did Greece keep getting off so many outside shots? I noticed one player was 6-7 from 3-pt land. Were they running a lot of ball screens out high that we were not defending well (switching)? Or were they working the ball in/out?
Mechelle Voepel (3:48 PM)
I though Greece's ball movement was really crisp, and they have some terrific shooters. Give them credit - they know they can't bang inside with USA, so they had to focus on trying to win the game from the outside. Also, Team USA did use all its players and looked at different combinations ... that can make it a little harder to avoid having some lapses on defense.
Helen (NY, NY)
What's more important: The right coaching decision in Chicago or New York?
Mechelle Voepel (3:52 PM)
Uh, can I cheat and say both? I think everyone is a little concerned about whether Chicago will get through these early years of fully establishing itself, and it needs a playoff appearance to help with that. I think we're also wondering how good a leader the Liberty will get to help keep the franchise strong through the changes with the team being in Jersey. Someone who'll be respected not just as as a coach/GM - you can see that's what I'm expecting NY to get - but also who builds a good relationship with Liberty fans.
If given the choice, which two would you have kept out of the final six with regards to Team USA? and why? Whalen, Lawson, Augustus, Dupree, Jones, Appel
Mechelle Voepel (3:55 PM)
Of those six, I really did agree with the choices made. Augustus is not quite her regular self yet, and I hope she's back to 100 percent by the 2012 Olympics. Well, by next year, of course, too. And I think the size inside of Jones, Appel and Dupree was important to keep. So that, to me, made it a choice between Whalen or Lawson, and as much as I respect Kara, I would have given the edge to Whalen. All that said, these were difficult cuts to make, no doubt.
kevin (macon ga)
The WNBA is apparently going to change uniforms to the Adidas Revolution style, similar to the new NBA unis. Is that a good change?
Mechelle Voepel (3:57 PM)
If the players like these new unis, it's good. If they don't, it's bad. They have to wear them, so the only thing that matters to me is if they think they are comfortable. And ... yes, I am extremely glad they aren't dresses. :) Sheesh. Not that I could see that ever happening, obviously. But I hope that "trend" just dies in Belarus.
kevin (macon ga)
You didn't want to entertain the question when they were 22-2, but now that the season's over I have to ask again: Are the 2010 Storm the best WNBA team of All Time?
Mechelle Voepel (4:02 PM)
I avoid these questions mostly because I don't tend to "decide" these things - even just for myself, privately - until I have some years of perspective. For instance, it took me awhile to start referring to UConn 2002 as the best team in college history, because in retrospect, now I really believe it was. That's weighing how other teams have done since, and how the players on that team have faired as they continued their careers. Should that be the way that these things are measured? I don't know ... it's just how I think. I know a lot of people are already deciding Seattle's place in WNBA history ... I just am not ready to do it. I am curious what you guys think, actually.
Helen (NY, NY)
Wondering if there's any more light to be shed on Cappie's decision since your article.
Mechelle Voepel (4:09 PM)
I will write more about Cappie if she wants to talk to me. I have reached out to her and the Liberty. I don't have any desire to rip her, but I am curious about the process of this decision to not play for Team USA. I have asked to hear her side of things. If she just wants to post her thoughts on Twitter instead, that's how it is. I've covered her career a long time, and I think she's a great, great player. I'm sorry she's not at the World Championships because I enjoy watching her. I think the whole thing could have been handled much better. But who at the Liberty is giving her advice now about anything? There's no coach or GM. I'd like to think a strong leader for a franchise might have communicated with her that there was a better way for all this to have been handled.
How do you explain a team as talented as Brazil getting knocked off like that? Izi only 15 minutes played?
Mechelle Voepel (4:13 PM)
Brazil, without Izi Castro Marques and Erika de Souza, did very poorly in the last Olympics. There's a new coach since then. Maybe they are still trying to figure a lot of things out. But I have to say that result stood out to me, too.
Looking ahead to next season, what WNBA teams do you think might be making the most roster changes?As a Lynx fan, I am hoping for some relative stability.
Mechelle Voepel (4:15 PM)
I think you're hoping for the right thing ... the Lynx should have most of the pieces in place. I know, I know ... I said that this year, too. Off the top of my head, I think San Antonio might need to shake up some things, and Washington needs help inside. A lot about LA depends on Tina Thompson and Ticha Penicheiro coming back, and if Candace Parker is very healthy.
Lynx will win a title in 2087...Is that an accurate prediction, or is that too soon for them to develop a winning team up in MN?
Mechelle Voepel (4:17 PM)
Ouch! I am sure Lynx fans sometimes feel this way, though. It shouldn't take that long. But ... by the same token, you wonder how much more talent the Lynx can acquire without it leading to a playoff berth, let alone for them to be competing for a championship.
Barry (Phoenix, AZ)
Does Wozniacki possess the game to win a GS title? Or is she going to join Dementieva and others in the debate as to which player is the best not to win a Grand Slam title?
Mechelle Voepel (4:19 PM)
Actually, I think she does have the game to do it. Definitely. Does she have the mental toughness? I don't know ... that's one thing Mary Carillo talks about a lot, and I'm sure several of the "old-school" folks notice it, too. But there are a lot of good tennis players now ... not really many "great" ones.
UConn-Baylor Nov. 16. Will BG and the Lady Bears stop the streak? If not Baylor, then who?
Mechelle Voepel (4:22 PM)
I genuinely do think Baylor has a chance to do this ... I've thought that since this matchup was announced. Baylor faced UConn at the Final Four, so they at least have been up against the mystique. And they have most of their players coming back. some new infusion of talent, and a coach who is not afraid to challenge her team to think big. And if Baylor doesn't do it ... can I just say that Stanford has no excuses not to end the streak? Not meant to sound harsh, but that is a game the Cardinal need to win for program pride.
Did you catch the news out of UNC-W? In this case there seems to have been physical abuse, but toss in IUPUI and Oregon St., women's basketball coaches don't seem to be covering themselves in glory this off-season...
Mechelle Voepel (4:30 PM)
Cynthia Cooper has apologized for what went on with player Julia Finlay - being forced to "log-roll" for a half-hour on the court _ under the "supervision" of assistant coach Johnetta Hayes. But that isn't really good enough. This is not just embarrassing for Cooper, who wasn't there, but also the university and its athletic department. It's a terrible thing to have done to this player. I don't know how Hayes can keep her job after being involved with this ... it was a dangerous, degrading thing to do to someone. That's not instilling discipline ... that's sadistic. Sometimes, you truly wonder what is going on in some coaches' minds ... I realize they have pressure-filled jobs, but this was ridiculous. Not a very good start for Cooper at UNCW, to say the least.
Do you think the WNBA could do a better job at marketing stars like Sue Bird, Lauren Jackson, Candace Parker, etc.
Mechelle Voepel (4:37 PM)
Actually, yes, I do. I'm not a marketing expert, by any means, but these are great players who are very well-spoken, popular ... there's just a *lot* there to sell. And you don't have to "glam" them up to do it ... each woman is very appealing for exactly who she is, naturally. And they certainly aren't the only ones in the WNBA I think could and should have more mainstream name recognition than they do.
So if you're a good coaching candidate, which job do you choose: Cappie and NY or Syl and Chicago?
Mechelle Voepel (4:42 PM)
To me it would not be about choosing between these two star players, but what kind of a feel I had for the long-term commitment of the management of both organizations. I think New York, for all the legitimate criticism we might have of some of the things done there over the years, seems more committed to doing what's necessary to compete. I think Chicago has yet to prove that. Admittedly, it's a much younger franchise. But either you really believe this is worth the commitment, or you have a franchise that's kind of limbo between really competing or not. And that's where Chicago has been, in my view.
Hi Mechelle, do you know if the game stats will be posted?
Mechelle Voepel (4:44 PM)
I guess I'm never supposed to drive traffic away from ESPN.com, right? :) But, I have to say that FIBA's site, of course, is blanket-coverage of the World Championship, which is great. And there is also coverage on WNBA.com. And we will have stories and features on ESPN.com.
Will Sue Bird ever win an MVP award? I know her stats are never jumping off of the page like some others' are, but honestly who is more important to her team and women's basketball than her? She's the only household name I know who is insanely underrated.
Mechelle Voepel (4:56 PM)
Several questions today about Bird and the season MVP. I voted for her for that award in 2008. This year, I seriously considered both her and Swin Cash for Finals MVP, although I did go with Lauren Jackson. (Who I also voted for as season MVP). It is always hard for point guards to get these major awards, because, as you say, their stats, per se, don't leap out at you. But if you watch the best point guards, you think they're worth their weight in gold. And Bird is. I don't know if she'll win the season MVP award, ever. I do know that when I went to lunch with a good friend the other day, we ended up spending virtually the entire time talking about how terrific a player Sue Bird is, the value of point guards, and how much I appreciate and respect what she's done for women's basketball. She will go down as a historically important figure in this sport. Plus, I admire the person she is. I think I have a ton of company in those sentiments. That might not be the same as an MVP award ... but maybe it means even more.
UConn Steve (TX)
Mechelle Voepel (4:58 PM)
Yes, that is Fiba's web site. We'll all be there constantly.
Mechelle Voepel (5:00 PM)
Thanks for all the questions. Once again, didn't get to them all, but we'll keep this going as the World Championships continue.
Mechelle Voepel (5:02 PM)
Oh, and yes, I know that I did refer to Team USA beating Spain at the very beginning of this chat, and I have no idea why I said that. Obviously, it was Greece - and I already went back to fix it. My geography isn't that bad, so I have no explanation for that. Maybe need a nap. :)