Chat with Mechelle Voepel
Welcome to SportsNation! On Friday, women's basketball writer Mechelle Voepel will stop by to chat some hoops.
Voepel has covered women's college and pro basketball for ESPN.com since 1996. Read her blog at www.mechellevoepelblog.com.
Send your questions now and join Voepel Friday at 3:30 p.m. ET!
Mechelle Voepel (3:34 PM)
Good afternoon. Just arrived home from Tulsa, slightly detained by a strange substance falling in copious amounts from the sky. Something in my distant memory tells me it is called "rain." We haven't see much of that lately in the Midwest. So ... not much to chat about, huh? Just another ho-hum past week or so in the WNBA. :)
What with Liz Cambage's dumping Tulsa, maybe it's time the WNBA reconsider its eligibility age rule for non-Americans?D. She is an international player (meaning a player who was born and resides outside of the United States) who has had (or will have) her 20th birthday during the calendar year in which the draft is held. If Americans have to be 22 (or have graduated from a four-year college), why do foreign players get to sign at 20?
Mechelle Voepel (3:36 PM)
Let's get right to the Liz Cambage debate. :) I guess my impulse is to say that her decision is about her own situation and how she feels about her career. Rather than see her as representative of all youthful foreign players. Financially, it's hard to argue with Liz's decision. She just needed to not make it at the last-minute.
Do you think if Angel McCoughtry had been suspended for a game or two here and there along the way, this current debacle could have been avoided?
Mechelle Voepel (3:40 PM)
That's hard to say. Angel is, we all know, supremely talented. But she has had issues "getting along" at times. Depending on whom you ask - and I've asked several folks, some of whom know her very well - you may hear that the "best" way to deal with Angel is to have a really firm hand. But ... that doesn't always work, either. In the end, it's up to her to avoid episodes like what has gone on. I'm sure people will say we don't know the whole story, nor have we heard Angel's "side" of it in any detail (if at all.) But when you're the best player on your team - and one of the best in the world - you find ways to deal with difficulties that don't include missing games/getting suspended.
My daugthers really like the Atlanta WNBA team but I fear that the league is going to fold within 2 yrs...what are your thoughts about the financial viability of the WNBA in this economy and the battle to gain entertainment dollar share
Mechelle Voepel (3:44 PM)
Here's the deal: People have been saying the WNBA is going to fold "in the next year or two" for 15 years now. Kids who were in kindergarten when the league started are in college now. There have been hard losses in terms of franchises folding, but the league is still here. I think at some point, we stop worrying about the "Chicken Little" syndrome and just work on the assumption that the league is here to stay. It doesn't mean every franchise is safe for good, because that isn't the case in most pro sports. But overall, I think the league is not going anywhere.
Iziane Castro-Marques got bumped from her Olympic team this year and last year. Why does she have such a cavalier attitude to playing for her national team? There are athletes out there who would love to have the opportunity she's thrown away, twice. Still, do you think all will be forgiven for the 2016 Olympics, especially since it's being played in Rio?
Mechelle Voepel (3:47 PM)
Izi can be an amazingly charming, intelligent, engaging person ... but she's also a bit of challenge to get along with at times for teammates/coaches. I think that is a fair way to describe her, and it explains part of what her issues with her national team have been. Again, if it means enough to her to bury all hatchets and try to be in the best shape possible (physically and emotionally) to play for Brazil in the 2016 Olympics, then that's what she will have to dedicate herself to doing. Like all of us, she's not getting any younger.
Seth (Los Angeles)
Who do you think will be in the WNBA Finals? I think the Sparks and Fever will go at it. Both are looking great this season. Your thoughts?
Mechelle Voepel (3:49 PM)
I am starting to get more and more bullish on the Fever, who have played very well since the break. Obviously, LA - last night's loss to Tulsa notwithstanding - has the tools to get to the Finals, too. They'll need a fully healthy and engaged Candace Parker to do that, though. If I *had* to predict now, I'd still say the Lynx will go back to the Finals this year from the West.
Jonathan (New York)
Who do you see as point guard understudies to Sue Bird and Lindsay Whalen for future USA teams?
Mechelle Voepel (3:53 PM)
I have been wondering that for a while, especially since some of the other best PGs in the league are older like Whalen and Bird. Some will roll their eyes at the mention of LA's Kristi Toliver, since so many doubt her "true" nature as a PG. But ... she is passionate about making the Oly team some day and she's having a hell of a season. What do folks think about rookie Sammy Prahalis or also-young Danielle Robinson? And from the college game, Skylar Diggins and Odyssey Sims? Other ideas?
kevin (macon ga)
Is Kristi Toliver a legitimate MVP candidate?
Mechelle Voepel (3:55 PM)
A candidate? Yeah, I think she deserves a look.
I did not think Tamika Catchings had a chance to repeat as MVP. Now she is playing as well as anyone in WNBA. Your thoughts?
Mechelle Voepel (3:57 PM)
You're absolutely right. She has come back from the Olympics actually looking refreshed. It's funny that a lot of us were talking a couple of years ago about the Catchings/Douglas-led Fever possibly being "too old" to compete for a title. Here they still are playing great. They are extending their athletic "golden years" rather well. :)
darryl p (indianapolis)
please tell me this is the year indiana fever year to win the championship?
Mechelle Voepel (3:59 PM)
Sure would be nice for Catch, Douglas, Lin Dunn and the faithful Fever fans. Just not sure any of the East contenders will prevail in a 5-game series against whomever wins the West
Tulsa and Atlanta have both won without their high-maintenance marquee players. If that continues, do you think both McCoughtry and Cambage should stop thinking of themselves as essential and start realizing that they would make good trade bait?
Mechelle Voepel (4:03 PM)
Well, despite the "pleasant" things Cambage told me the other day about Tulsa, I get the feeling she wouldn't care if she was traded. In fact, there are a few places to which she likely would be ecstatic to move to. As for Angel ... yes, I've been critical of her, as have others, but I don't think I'd even consider trading her unless she was absolutely demanding that and/or I got a windfall in a deal for her. Otherwise, I'd try to work things out with her. I wouldn't give up on her yet. She did lead the Dream to the WNBA Finals the last two years and she's just turning 26 in September. She's completely in her prime. And maybe she's learning some lessons now.
Late in the Australia/USA game, the two male on-line announcers said that Liz Cambage punched Tameka Catchings in the abdomen. The officials did call a foul on Cambage, but apparently missed the blow. The punch sure looked intentional on the replay. I think Slambage needs to grow up.
Mechelle Voepel (4:05 PM)
Maybe I'm being a Liz apologist, but I watched that play over a few times, and I don't think that I would call it a punch. An emphatic screen with some "English" on it, perhaps. By the same token, it's not as if Ms. Catchings is above reproach on giving as good as she gets on the court. :) Meaning I think this was one of those incidents where the players police themselves.
kevin (macon ga)
Is Seattle's playoff spot secure? They are now closer to 6th place (5.5 games up) than 3rd place (six games back).
Mechelle Voepel (4:09 PM)
You are the numbers man, and you know technically it's still possible for the Storm to get caught from behind. But - despite last night's Merc victory over Seattle and the Shock's win over LA - I think Sue Bird and Co. will find a way to drag themselves over the finish line to make the playoffs. Right now, though, they are going through some post-Olympic pains, clearly.
Roneeka Hodges seems to be the acquistion of the year on terms of trades....do you agree? I have been very impressed and believe she will be with the Shock for yrs to come. I think she finally came into her own at the Olympic Break and has learned the system well. Latta, Williams, Lacy, and Hodges are deadly 3 pt shooters as evidenced last night. I feel this was the loudest I heard the BOK this year.
Mechelle Voepel (4:12 PM)
Roneeka really does fit this system well. As you saw last night, the Shock played with a lot of speed and defensive tenacity, but then matched that with sharp-shooting from the perimeter. Can you imagine what they might be like with a really good center who can run the court? LA coach Carol Ross acknowledged the Shock's speed really did make them a tough matchup for LA. As for the fans, I keep telling people that it is amazing how loyal the core group that comes to every game in Tulsa continues to be. They haven't given up on the team.
I'd be curious to hear your take on the Liberty and the consistency issues they've had this season. Any thoughts on why they can't seem to put together multiple good games in a row?
Mechelle Voepel (4:14 PM)
They've dealt with injury issues, of course, and I still feel like they are finding themselves. I know it's late in the season and they had the Olympic break to do that. But it still doesn't necessarily seem like the Liberty is as cohesive as the better teams in the WNBA are.
kevin (macon ga)
What can the WNBA do to prevent the appearance of tanking (or actual tanking)? Should the lottery odds be based on an average of the last two or three year's records?
Mechelle Voepel (4:19 PM)
I know that observers are discussing this a lot. I can see some merit to a multi-year-result lottery system that might also take into account where a team in the lottery had drafted the year before. Obviously, look at Tulsa: Worst record in the league the last two years, didn't get No. 1 either time. Now, they might *not* finish with the worst record, but as a franchise they are the most in need of more really elite talent. So, perhaps there's a more complex way to do the lottery that would lessen the tanking "question" and help ensure the teams that need the talent infusion - both for their own good and the benefit of the league's parity - actually get that.
If Tulsa gets Brittany Griner next year, which I hope they do, does that make Liz Cambage more likely to be traded? (Which probably wouldn't bother her much, since she made no bones about wishing she could play in a bigger city.)
Mechelle Voepel (4:24 PM)
I would guess it probably does. Again, it depends on what other teams would be willing to give up for Cambage, and how confident all involved feel about her coming back to the WNBA to play next year, and pretty regularly from there on out. Tulsa is not going to make any rash moves with her. And I'll say this: Unlike former Shock coach Teresa Edwards - a *great* player who doesn't have the most patience with younger players and got frustrated with them in her brief time running the show at Tulsa - Gary Kloppenburg is a pretty patient, encouraging coach. GK may be going to China to see Liz, in fact, in the off-season and establish more of relationship since they really don't know each other aside from one brief meeting last year while he was still with Indiana and a couple of Skype calls this year.
kevin (macon ga)
How many teams are kicking themselves for passing on Tiffany Hayes in the draft?
Mechelle Voepel (4:28 PM)
OK, you know how OFTEN I am wrong about things. I fully admit that. But ask anybody at this past WNBA draft if I ever shut up all day/night about the absurdity of Tiffany Hayes dropping to the 2nd round. :) Actually, I was not the only one. Several of us were baffled. This was, of course, not a stacked draft to say the least. And whatever your view on Tiff stepping up in big games while at UConn - and I know she had her detractors - she's still a superb athlete with the UConn pedigree. Based on how so many other former Huskies have faired in pro ball, I will always give them the benefit of the doubt in terms of picking them if they are available in the draft. I'm not being a UConn shill, I'm just stating the obvious. However, Geno Auriemma did point out that he thought it was for the best for Tiff from the standpoint that he felt she would fit in really well and play a fair amount in Atlanta.
Barry (Phoenix, AZ)
Is Serena Williams the greatest female athlete of the 21st century? And can the Duke Blue Devil get a shout out to my Jayhawk? :-)
Mechelle Voepel (4:31 PM)
She's going to be one of them, when all is said and done with this century. (I probably won't still be doing chats at that point). As of right now ... is she *the* best so far of the 21st? I don't know I would say that. But I wouldn't tell someone who did that they were wrong. As for the Jayhawk, let him know the rain has finally come to Kansas ... after everyone's lawn has long since died.
Washington is the first team to hit 20 losses this year. Will Trudi seriously have a job after this year?
Mechelle Voepel (4:34 PM)
Hmm ... why do I feel like people set up the Mystics on a tee for me to hit? ;) She'll have a job if the esteemed (cough) Mystics brass officially want it known that they don't give a bleep. Otherwise, I don't see how they can justify having her preside over another year of the Mystics making like the Titanic.
Nykesha Sales kind of left the door open when talking about a possible return, when she talked on Live Access the other. Do you think we will see her actually make a team?
Mechelle Voepel (4:39 PM)
I actually didn't hear that. Why would she return now? She's going to be 37 next year, right? Something like that. Despite my previous statement about the viability of UConn players, I'd have to be pretty darn sure the expiration date wasn't up before bringing Sales aboard. Not to mention I don't exactly think of her as the mentor-type with younger players.
kevin (macon ga)
Do you know how much you could have made in Vegas betting on Marynell Meadors to be the first W coach fired this year?
Mechelle Voepel (4:41 PM)
I can't top that line. And with that, we will bid farewell to this wacky week-plus of WNBA hijinks. Tune in next week when Angel McCoughtry announces she's becoming a pro wrestler, while Liz Cambage decides she really isn't too keen on flying to China, either. JUST KIDDING! (Probably).