Chat with Mechelle Voepel
Welcome to SportsNation! On Tuesday, 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 Tuesday at 5 p.m. ET!
Mechelle Voepel (5:02 PM)
Good afternoon. Sorry for the time change ... will be traveling on Thursday, and no chat that day. Just got off a players and coaches teleconference looking ahead to the WNBA playoffs. Nobody revealed any state secrets. :)
carroll (America the BEAUTIFUL)
Big Syl played well at the end of the game against the Storm...does she deserve to win MVP?
Mechelle Voepel (5:04 PM)
She had a great season, but with so many other players also putting up MVP-type seasons and the Sky not making the postseason, this is not going to be her year to win MVP. At least, I don't think so.
Sue (Durham, NC)
Regarding the WNBA All*Rookie Team: who is your pick for the 5th spot on that team, assuming that Maya, DRob, Danielle Adams and Lizzie are already on the team?
Mechelle Voepel (5:08 PM)
The media doesn't vote on the all-rookie or all-defensive teams. That's done by coaches. If I was voting, even though her production dropped off over the latter part of the season, I would give Tulsa's Kayla Pedersen the fifth spot with those players you listed.
Matt (Sandusky, OH)
Does Minnesota already have San Antonio's number for the playoffs, or is the Lynx's 4-0 mark versus the Silver Stars this season deceiving?
Mechelle Voepel (5:10 PM)
Of course, two of those games came down to last-second shots by the Lynx, but I still think this series heavily favors Minnesota. I respect how well the SASS are coached and the fighting spirit of the team, led by Becky Hammon, but I just don't think the individual matchups bode that well for San Antonio. And the Lynx look good heading into the postseason, like they are still on the ascent.
kevin (macon ga)
Tennis fans publicly long for edginess in the style of Connors and McEnroe, but when they get it from Serena Williams they're up in arms. Will this double standard ever be eliminated?
Mechelle Voepel (5:20 PM)
I'm not sure double standards will ever be eliminated. :) Obviously, there were people who couldn't stand McEnroe and Connors, either, but a lot of folks tended to give them a "pass" on their rude -and particularly in Connors' case, often quite vulgar - attacks on lines people/chair umpires. They were just considered hyper-competitive. I had to crack up just a little at Chris Evert's criticism of Serena, when Chris herself was once engaged to Connors, who said about the grossest things you could imagine to tennis officials. That said, their engagement was a *long* time ago and she didn't actually marry him. :) And Chris herself never said anything to lines people/chair umpires. OK ... sorry, I'm getting off track. On one hand, I cringe when Serena says things because I want her to not freak out over one point. I feel that way about tennis players in general: Don't let one point distract you that much, even if it's a very big point. Knuckle down, focus on the next point. And I know that Serena's outbursts will distract from the match itself, which is too bad. But ... sometimes I think people do go over the top with criticism for her that they wouldn't give in the same degree to a white man. OK, there. I said it. I know that will seem like I'm excusing Serena's behavior, but I think a little too much was made of this last one. I really do. Serena said some dumb stuff, really, but big deal. People are probably making more of it because of the incident from the Clijsters' match in 2009.
Gina (Seguin, Tx)
Who decides the player of the week? Just wondering how Becky Hammon can score 37 in a crucial game vs. LA and follow that with 15 points and 12 assists vs. Washington and not win. Heck, Sheryl Swoopes had the winning basket vs. LA to snap a 20-game losing streak and 22 points vs. Connecticut, losses that helped keep LA out of the playoffs and Connecticut from being the top seed in the East, and she doesn't win. It's like the person who picks the winner just looks at the stats and not the impact players are making on games.
Mechelle Voepel (5:23 PM)
The player of the week voting is done by folks in the WNBA office. I think they try to do the best job possible of reflecting impact players, but there are always going to be disagreements on such things, no matter who you get to do the voting.
Am I crazy, or does this look like some of the most interesting playoffs we've had in a while -- especially with people being healthy.
Mechelle Voepel (5:25 PM)
I don't think you're crazy. Remember when Bill Murray said that to Sigourney Weaver in "Ghostbusters" and she sarcastically replied, "That makes me feel SO much better." :) No, seriously, you're not. I agree with you, which is how I tried to frame my Monday piece for ESPN.com: That a lot of teams have the chance to win. But I wonder if all this "wide-open" talk will fire up Minnesota, which had the season's best record.
What's up with Catchings' knee?
Mechelle Voepel (5:27 PM)
According to Lin Dunn on the teleconference today, it's something she's been nursing for a while, which is why they rested her in the season finale. By the same token, let's face it: There was no advantage to Indy in winning that game, so it was a good one in which to rest Catch. Dunn also said Erin Phillips has practiced. Dunn sounded cautiously optimistic about the Fever overall health-wise entering the postseason.
Do the Lynx have enough post season experience (with players like Brunson, Whalen and McWilliams-Franklin) to succed in the playoffs?
Mechelle Voepel (5:29 PM)
I think so. As a franchise, getting in the playoffs is a rare thing, but not for those players you mentioned. And Maya Moore is used to playing for championships both in college and USA Basketball. And Cheryl Reeve has won titles as an assistant coach. I don't see the Lynx franchise's playoff inexperience as being a huge factor, really.
Will you be at any of the first round games in person?
Mechelle Voepel (5:30 PM)
I will be at Minnesota's opener on Friday.
kevin (macon ga)
The NJ Devils may be bankrupt and have to close the Prudential Center. Where else can the Liberty play?
Mechelle Voepel (5:35 PM)
Any time you are talking about pro teams' or leagues' finances, you have to wonder how close you are to reality. Based on subsequent stories, including by ESPN New York, the Devils are saying the NY Post story of their impending bankruptcy is false. We know there is a dispute between the Devils' owners, so that has to be resolved. I have a feeling, though, that the Devils will stay put at The Rock and the Libs will finish out their next two seasons there before going back to MSG. If not and the Libs would like to play their "home" games next summer here in Kansas City's beautiful Sprint Center, I'm sure the New Yorkers wouldn't mind such a commute, right? I'd get to see a lot of the Libs that way.
The men of the NBA will have to head over seas to make a living...sounds familiar?
Mechelle Voepel (5:39 PM)
Let's wait and see just how many of them actually do go overseas to play. If so, it won't be to "make a living," but to try to make a point in their labor dispute with the NBA that they do have options. But do they, really? In conversations I've had with folks who cover the NBA in depth, they don't think many players are actually going to do this, or that the overseas leagues will want to get involved with these guys who aren't really committed to those teams but just want to use them as a bargaining chip.
Mo Buzz (GA)
The Dream are the comeback team...last year and this year charging from the back of the pack, beating all the teams in the EAST that are in the playoffs, can they take it all this year?
Mechelle Voepel (5:41 PM)
Considering the talent on that team, led by Angel McCoughtry, I will not rule them out as potential champions. I think Indiana is glad they don't have to play the Dream in the first round.
Jamsoup (Born in the USA)
Do you play fantasy football?
Mechelle Voepel (5:43 PM)
I don't play fantasy anything. I used to watch "Fantasy Island," but that was when we only had five TV stations.
Matt (Sandusky, OH)
After a regular season where small-market teams won conference crowns, from a marketing standpoint, which two teams would the league prefer to see face off in the WNBA Finals?
Mechelle Voepel (5:46 PM)
I would just be speculating on what the folks in Gotham think ... but you can always guess that they'd love New York in the finals. As for the West team ... I'm sure they wouldn't mind seeing Maya Moore in the finals with Minnesota. But ... honestly, I've *never* heard anybody in the league office say, "Oh, I hope this or that team wins." At least nobody has ever said anything like that around me, even in a casual comment.
Hi Mechelle, who are your All-WNBA picks this year? Do you think the league will get rid of the ridiculous 2 guards, 2 forwards, 1 Center criteria for selecting each team? It's a shame since Folwes and Charles were 2 of the best five players this year, but only one of them will be named to the first team.
Mechelle Voepel (5:48 PM)
I don't really like that set-up, either, although I understand the argument for it. I think you should be able to put on two guards and three post players ... or ... three guards and two post players. Some combo that could conceivably be on the floor together. This was a tough year to do a lot of the voting.
Ummm... Edwards not lobbying for the Shock position? What should we glean from that?
Mechelle Voepel (5:50 PM)
I think Teresa Edwards is being very protective of herself in that way. She doesn't want to publicly say, "I really want this job," and then not get it. Of course, all of this is what she is saying *publicly,* as quoted from the Tulsa World newspaper. Maybe she is being more pro-active in private conversations with the Shock brass.
Alex (St. Paul)
With a few exceptions, the reader comments on the Lynx in both the Mpls and St. Paul papers have been positive. This is quite a change from seasons past that ridiculed women's basketball. I am guessing like the increase in attendance for the team, winning sure helps (especially when the other teams in the market are struggling).
Mechelle Voepel (5:54 PM)
That's good to hear. The Lynx are so likable a team - with the way they play and their personalities/involvement in the community - that's sure to have helped, too. And Lindsay Whalen being a home-state hero. You'll never get rid of all the blockheads, but they are slowly but surely becoming more irrelevant.
I can't make up my mind on who I think should win the MVP. There are so many worthy candidates. Does the league provide voters any guidelines or definitions for any of the awards?
Mechelle Voepel (5:56 PM)
No, not really. It's up to everyone to make up their minds on how they want to define "valuable," or if they just think of it as "best" player, or some combination of that. As I mentioned last time, I went with Tamika Catchings, but totally understand the decisions by others to vote for other players as MVP. There are a lot of very legitimate choices.
Unlike 2008, I don't think Sue Bird should be MVP this year. But she sure does deserve some love. Not only did LJ miss 20 games, but both Camille Little and Swin Cash struggled in her absence. Still, the Storm won 21 games this year and finished 2nd to Minnesota in the West.
Mechelle Voepel (5:59 PM)
Very valid point. I voted for Bird as MVP in 2008, when Candace Parker won. I wouldn't argue with anyone who voted for Bird for that award this year. Or anyone who voted for Tina Charles, Angel McCoughtry, Seimone Augustus, Lindsay Whalen or Sylvia Fowles. (Or Catchings, of course, since that's who I voted for. Although I do sometimes argue with myself.)
Jimmy (Southern Cal)
What changes should LA make heading into next season as far as players or coach? It seems they have fallen off a bit the last few years with Seattle, Phoenix, and maybe now Minnesota being overall better and more consistent teams in the western conference. thoughts?
Mechelle Voepel (6:04 PM)
Mucho, mucho questions about the Sparks. Some things probably *do* have to change. Obviously, you've got older players who may be on the verge of retirement. You've got a star who has struggled with injuries the last two years. The first thing the Sparks need to do is decide if Joe Bryant is the right person as head coach, and if he's coming back next season. The Sparks also have to listen to what Candace Parker has to say. That doesn't mean she gets to dictate what goes on. But if she's your franchise player, she needs to feel like she's being surrounded by the best people.
Hey mechelle! we all know how hard the mvp award is to give this year, who do you see making the all-wnba 1st and second teams?
Mechelle Voepel (6:08 PM)
Here is who I voted for, and again, you may disagree with these choices and I understand that. First team: McCoughtry, Catchings, Charles, Taurasi, Whalen. Second team: Taylor, Augustus, Fowles, Bird, Pondexter. Honestly, you could switch those around and make a good case for that. This is where you kind of wish we could "cheat" and have a 10-player first team. :)
So, who do you see in the finals this season?
Mechelle Voepel (6:11 PM)
I keep coming back to the "all-polis" Finals in my head: Minnesota vs. Indiana. We had to "pick" the conference semis for ESPN.com, but not beyond that. For those, I picked Indy, Connecticut, Minnesota and Seattle. I think so anyway. Whatever. I don't care for picking, but I do it because I have to. :)
Sue (Durham, NC)
No Langhorne on the first OR the second team? How can that be justified?
Mechelle Voepel (6:11 PM)
Who do you want me to kick off?
Blake Whitney (Washington, DC)
So, what do you think the Mystics' offseason will be like? :-)
Mechelle Voepel (6:14 PM)
Well, it probably can't get any worse than last off-season, right? Maybe I shouldn't tempt fate like that. I think of myself as an optimistic person, but the Mystics' history doesn't suggest they'll suddenly surprise us in a good way.
Are you excited about the playoffs?
Mechelle Voepel (6:18 PM)
Oh, yes, I really am. Should be a blast. It would be fun if every series went the distance. That would be a fitting postseason for the kind of regular season that we've had. Thanks for all the questions. Will let you know date of next chat via Twitter. We'll have to see how the schedule goes. Enjoy the games!