Chat with Mechelle Voepel
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, women's basketball writer Mechelle Voepel will stop by to chat about the 2011 WNBA season.
Voepel is a regular contributor to ESPN.com's women's basketball coverage.
Send your questions now and join Voepel Thursday at 2 p.m. ET!
Mechelle Voepel (2:05 PM)
Good afternoon, everybody. Just a heads' up, I will have to limit the chat to about 50 minutes or so today. Will try to answer more quickly. :) Heading out to San Antonio tomorrow morning for the All-Star Game.
Hoping 4 the best (America)
The Mystics showed that they are a good team coming back from 24 down to beat LA...have they finally decided that they can compete?
Mechelle Voepel (2:08 PM)
Well, this is one of the ways it's hell being a Mystics fan. They make that great comeback at Los Angeles as you mentioned, then lose at home yesterday to the apparently resurgent Dream. Washington hasn't won back-to-back games since last August, I believe, so momentum clearly has been very hard to come by.
Courtney Vandersloot seems to be finding her niche, Epiphanny Prince is having a breakout season, all while you can't deny the presence of Big Syl down low. I know you were skeptical at the start of the season, but do you think this is Chicago's year for the playoffs, and not just that, but do they have a chance to make a run in the playoffs?
Mechelle Voepel (2:12 PM)
I talked to Sylvia Fowles over the weekend and continue to be impressed at how she matures as a competitor every year. She is not satisfied with the Sky's record, and thinks they need to compete better. I wrote about Big Syl and the Sky for Monday, and did not jinx them against Seattle, a game in which all of the players you mentioned played key roles. So, yes, I do think the Sky can make a run, but Atlanta does look like maybe it has things together again. Meanwhile, I did apparently jinx Indy after writing about them for Saturday.
Incredibly sad news coming out of Connecticut about the death of Ruth Ann Lobo, Rebecca's mom. What are your memories of her?
Mechelle Voepel (2:16 PM)
Rebecca is a very important figure in women's basketball history because she was not just the right player, but the right person to be the star when Huskies' mania really went into full flower in the mid-1990s. Her mom, a school counselor who I'm sure helped thousands of kids in her career, was clearly a great role model for Rebecca. I also remember something Rebecca wrote about her father ... she said the best way a man can be a great father is if he truly loves his children's mother. That is so true, and it's honestly the first thing I thought of when I heard of Ruth Ann's passing. She was a very well-loved, well-respected person. RIP, and condolences to Rebecca and her family.
Luke (Santa Barbara, CA)
Sometimes I feel the college game of womens basketball gets more respect than the WNBA. I tell friends that the W is much harder to make than the college game, but people still sometimes have a disrespect for the league. Especially more than the college womens game. Could lack of respect for the W be from the way the W advertises itself? It seems many of its commercials are family and/or female oriented, with female songs playing in its many commercials. What does the WNBA need to do to gain more respect?
Mechelle Voepel (2:23 PM)
It's funny you say this, because I was just telling one of my friends _ who is not anti-WNBA at all but just hasn't taken the time to get into it _ that the level of play is so much fun for me to watch, and I'm not sure a lot of women's college basketball fans realize that. I've gotten to where I enjoy watching the WNBA every bit as much as college basketball, and in fact, sometimes even more. One of the problems, though, is that there are only 12 teams, and big parts of the country - I live in one, in fact - that has no real affiliation to any WNBA team and thus aren't interested in the league. (Tulsa is four hours from KC, which seems close to me considering my previous closest franchise was Minnesota.) I don't know that the league is in line to expand anytime soon, so one of the goals has to be to get more people who like women's college hoops invested in the WNBA through their alumni players, even if there is no franchise close by. In speaking to Laurel Richie yesterday about the whole concept of synergy with other women's sports, stronger links to the college game is one avenue she is very interested in.
What are your thoughts on the Kathy-Mcconnell Miller hiring at Tulsa? And the hardest prediction for the year: if the Shock get that 2nd win, who would the win be against?
Mechelle Voepel (2:28 PM)
I am going to be blunt: KMM did not do a very solid job in Colorado. You have to run a really tight ship and be on top of your game to coach in one of the major conferences like the Big 12, and that staff was not organized or disciplined enough consistently. That said, it's a different job in the WNBA - no recruiting or making sure people are progressing academically, for instance - and she's now an assistant so maybe her skill set as a coach will be better utilized at the pro level. Tulsa needs good teaching, patience, discipline and energy to get through the rest of what's going to remain an emotionally draining season. As for another win ... the Shock is done with the Mystics, so I'll go with the next-most-obvious and say the Sparks. LA visits on Aug. 21. Jinx.
kevin (macon ga)
Will we see Alana Beard on the court this season? Will we ever see her on the court again?
Mechelle Voepel (2:31 PM)
It's your second question that is scary. When I talked to Alana at the start of the year, I had this nagging feeling that she was trying to project things were better than they actually were. But she insisted she really did think she was going to be returning for this season. The more time goes by, the more we have to wonder. Her injury (and accumulation of damage) was quite severe, and so much of her game is about acceleration and movement. I am worried about her, I admit. The WNBA misses what she has to contribute, not just the Mystics.
UConn Steve (TX)
Do you have any comments on the following 2 statements from a sportswriter? (1) "If true equality means giving women's sports the same sort of analysis with which we scrutinize the men, then it shouldn't be considered crass, unknowledgeable or unpatriotic to suggest or think the USWNT choked." (2) "Elevating women's sports doesn't always mean being obligated to run amok with praise when women's teams are defeated."
Mechelle Voepel (2:40 PM)
Everyone is entitled to their opinion ... but I think this is overstating the idea that everyone was "running amok with praise" for the U.S. women's soccer team. I get a little tired of the suggestion that there is no professional, critical coverage of women's sports. But by the same token, I think it's overstating the case to think that Japan was some gigantic underdog and was supposed to lose. Germany and Brazil were the favorites in this tournament, and neither made it to the final. Germany had home country advantage. So did they "choke?" USA plays a style that should get the Americans more shots on goal against a squad like Japan. The suggestion that it seemed the Americans were "dominating" play was just a little misleading. USA in general played well in the final but made a couple of critical defensive mistakes - I'll call one of them absolutely boneheaded - and then the pressure got to them in the PKs. If someone wants to call the PKs a choke, I have no argument with that. If they want to say USA choked because it lost to Japan, I don't agree.
What do you think of Cambage replacing Parker on the All-Star team? I thought there were more deserving players, such as Sophia Young and Candice Dupree...
Mechelle Voepel (2:42 PM)
I am going to guess this was to get the rookie some more face time on national television. It's not that she's a terrible pick or anything, but I agree that both the players you mentioned likely merited an All-Star appearance more. I did think the nod would go to Sophia Young, especially with the game in San Antonio.
Do you think making Swoopes a coach in Tulsa would be wise?
Mechelle Voepel (2:44 PM)
I don't know that she wants to do that. She said she might. She definitely does want to stay involved with the Tulsa franchise if possible when she stops playing.
kevin (macon ga)
Teresa Edwards is the 7th former player to get a WNBA head coaching job. All of them have posted losing career records. Why haven't former WNBA players made good coaches?
Mechelle Voepel (2:48 PM)
I wanted to follow Howard's question with this one from Kevin. I think it is harder to step into the role of being a head coach than most people really understand until they do it. There is much to manage, a short season, some difficult travel situations, and a lot of parity to coach against. Maybe it will be a try and try again scenario for a lot of players who want to make that career move.
LA had a big game after Gilliom's firing, but since then down hill...where they playing on pure emotion that first game?
Mechelle Voepel (2:49 PM)
Maybe so ... Los Angeles seems to have some real chemistry issues to go along with the injury woes of losing Candace Parker. At this point, I think the Sparks have a lot to figure out about how they get through the rest of the summer and not lose hope about the playoffs.
Tina Thompson's min. and production down...what's up? Time finally caught up?
Mechelle Voepel (2:53 PM)
Again, that's part of the equation about what's going on in Los Angeles. It seems like she is frustrated with her playing time, so we'll have to see how that plays out.
Language signs? (NY)
I'm impressed with the fight in Minny... the player on that team want to win...can they take it all or will the second half of the season prove 2 much 4 them?
Mechelle Voepel (2:59 PM)
Sorry, we've had a bit of a power outage here in KC, which I really, really hope doesn't last too long as it's about 105 degrees now. Speaking of heat waves, they are feeling that in Minnesota, too, which I am sure is really strange. I think the Lynx look good for the long haul. The team has depth, seems to be playing well and should go into the second half of the season with momentum.
NFL lockout almost over, bad for the WNBA?
Mechelle Voepel (3:01 PM)
Don't think it makes any difference, really. The WNBA wasn't going to get any more attention media-wise, I don't think, whether the NFL was playing or not. They'd just give more attention to college football, major league baseball and anything else usually covered.
Dennis (Cerritos, CA)
can we end this failed experiment already? People could care less about professional women's basketball! Just look at the attendance of the games. Who actually attends these games are Boys & Girls clubs members who were handed down those tickets as some corporate gift. Only through politically correctness has this sport been force fed down our throats all the while we're ignoring the obvious. No on watches these games whether it be on TV or in person. Women's groups are extorting NBA owners to fund this failure or be called corporate sexist chauvenists. Who are they kidding when they bragged a few years ago about the WNBA making it 10 years. Fact is, it hasn't "made it," it was dragged to the finish line by the NBA owners and corporations held at gunpoint to sponsor this game. If someone out there reading this thinks I'm just being a hater and is anti-woman, please provide the ratings of a WNBA game. Now grab those ratings and compare it to what it costs to televise, operate and present a game and the ROI is simply not there. This lockout the NBA is having because the owners are claiming they're losing millions of dollars, I bet if you look at the books, plenty of those millions lost is in funding the WNBA, but you probably will never hear that in the media. I have an open mind so if you think I'm wrong, back it up with hard numbers and I'll change my mind. But something tells me that those numbers don't exist.
Mechelle Voepel (3:11 PM)
OK, I went ahead and posted this, even though I really don't have time to refute everything Dennis has in his rant. Much has been written about the fact that the average salary for one player in the NBA is far greater than the salary cap for a whole team in the WNBA. Anyone who thinks the WNBA's expenses have anything to do with this lockout must have flunked economics class worse than I did. But here's another thing I want to say to Dennis and others like him. First, don't go off on an angry, stereotypical rant about the WNBA, and political correctness and these nebulous "women's groups" that are forcing the sport down your throat ... and then end by saying you have an open mind. You don't in any way have an open mind. Women's sports threatens you, and you're ticked off over who knows what, so you come to a chat about women's basketball for people who DO care about it (who you claim don't exist) and bash it. Feel better? Also, can you please tell me where I can find one of these powerful "women's groups" who are controlling the NBA owners and scaring them to death by threatening to call them chauvinists? I'd love to interview the women in such a group and ask them why they are not using all their power over the NBA owners to even greater advantage. Because I'd like a team in Kansas City. Apparently all I have to do is scream about political correctness, and they'll be so afraid they'll do exactly what I want. Why haven't I tried that? Don't worry, Dennis, it's almost football season.
Judith (Sweltering capital of the nation)
There's enough time after the ASG for you to get to DC for Tuesday's panel with Sheila Johnson, Ted Leonsis, and Laurel Richie. We'll pay your $70 admission. You know you want to... :-)
Mechelle Voepel (3:14 PM)
Sorry, I am skipping the D.C. shindig. But I've got to go find a powerful women's group in the 14 hours before I leave for San Antonio. Maybe Dennis is on to something! Anyway, sorry to not get to all the questions, but we will be doing Cover it Live during the WNBA All-Star Game. Hope everyone stays cool. :)