Chat with Mechelle Voepel
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, 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 Thursday at 2 p.m. ET!
Mechelle Voepel (2:12 PM)
Good afternoon. Sorry for a late start ... let's get going.
kevin (macon ga)
I find it rather sad that Tangela Smith slipped quietly out of the league. Will we see her on the floor again or is she done?
Mechelle Voepel (2:14 PM)
She was a consummate professional, wasn't she? A player I really admired and enjoyed talking to. I don't know if we will see her play again, but considering the veteran presence she can bring, perhaps there is a chance someone may need her.
based on just one game, is Delle Donne the frontrunner for rookie of the year, or is Griner's name already on the trophy??
Mechelle Voepel (2:18 PM)
I don't think anybody should have made a decision on ANY award one week into the season. :) They both will be strong candidates.
Sofia (Durham, NC)
As a team, Phoenix looked poor in their season opener. I know it is early but the defensive schemes were way off & their shots were not falling. Will Gaines be on the hot seat if the team does not show dramatic improvement soon?
Mechelle Voepel (2:23 PM)
It's really way too soon to be talking about hot seats. :) Obviously, the Mercury got a wake-up call from that game, so let's see how that impacts the rest of the early part of the season.
Ailene Voisin recently stated that she expects the WNBA to return to Sacramento under the new Kings' ownership once the new arena is built. How possible is this or is it just a pipe dream?? Will we see the Warriors' with a WNBA team before the Kings' group?? Can the WNBA support two northern California teams??
Mechelle Voepel (2:30 PM)
I think it's possible in Sacto, considering there was a consistent and loyal fan base there. The problem wasn't a lack of interest in the team, relative to what a franchise would need to survive. As for two teams in Northern California ... it always comes down to whether there is ownership support. I still don't think any kind of expansion is imminent, as in the next couple of years.
Barry (Phoenix, AZ)
What do you make of the Griner-Mulkey situation, in terms of no contact since the Louisville loss? Also, how much of this going to be a PR nightmare for Baylor...or perhaps it could be an agent of change with respect to the student code of conduct policy?
Mechelle Voepel (2:38 PM)
It already has been a difficult PR thing for Baylor. There was a lot of emotion after Baylor's loss to Louisville. Falling far short of a title with this team of mostly senior starters (and junior Odyssey Sims) - not even making it to the Final Four in Mulkey's home state of Louisiana - was emotionally devastating for Kim. I think sometimes teams that go through such epic losses end up fracturing, at least in the days and weeks after it happens. Some of those relationships then mend, and others just don't. In regard to Brittney then being much more open about being "out," maybe Mulkey feels that she is being portrayed as homophobic and doesn't think that's fair. I think Mulkey is like a lot of coaches - they would just as soon their players not publicize much of anything about their private lives because they see it as a potential distraction. That said, clearly I don't think a coach should ever tell a player she can't be "open" about who she is. However, I think Mulkey is likely being viewed - at least by some - in a harsher light than is entirely accurate. As for Baylor's policy ... maybe Brittney's situation adds to a gradual movement for the school to examine that. But we're talking about a religious institution, and we all know change doesn't come easily or quickly.
I must say even though it was only one game I was very impressed with Chicago. They basically controlled the whole game. Sure griner was in foul trouble but Chicago's defensive game changer in Fowles was as well. Fowles, delle donne and prince who is very underrated, make a great trio. My question is can you see a scenario in which Chicago comes out of the East come playoff time. I think they can compete for a title this year.
Mechelle Voepel (2:42 PM)
I don't mean to disparage Chicago by saying we shouldn't judge Phoenix too harshly. You are right: the Sky looked very good. Some of the other coaches I talked to in the East before the season thought that Chicago certainly had a chance to win the conference. So, yes, if they stay healthy, I think it is conceivable that they could do that. But again ... we have just started the season. :)
kevin (macon ga)
The Collective Bargaining Agreement is up after this season. Will the negotiations towards a new one go smoothly or will we be spending the winter stressing over a strike/lockout?
Mechelle Voepel (2:44 PM)
Again, talking to some of the GMs and coaches in the league, they are optimistic that it won't be an arduous process to reach agreement on the CBA. That doesn't mean there won't be points of contention, but they don't see it going down to a last-minute issue or having the threat of a strike/lockout. Again, that's the view now, in May. I hope they are right.
Tom (San Francisco, CA)
Ohio State hires Duke's Joy Cheek. McCallie loses another young, rising assistant coach to another program again (Williams to Louisville, Stafford-Odom to UNC) timed to some tweets that clearly display displeaure. What's going on with the leadership in Durham?
Mechelle Voepel (2:49 PM)
I think some head coaches burn through assistants more quickly than others. They may just have personalities that are more difficult for others to work with, and that's just the way it is. Duke's administration has supported McCallie through everything, and I see no signs of that changing. I think it might be good on her part to really examine what went wrong - if things did go wrong - in the relationships she had with assistants she left. One of the defining characteristics of winning programs is consistency with a head coach's staff. I'm not saying all winning programs have that or that there should be no turnover, but having a core of the same people can be a big benefit. Look at UConn as a great example.
If the WNBA really is David Stern's pet project and he's been keeping it afloat even though most teams seem to lose money, what will happen when he retires? Do you think Adam Silver will have the same affinity for a league that really hasn't gained any traction over the past 15 years?
Mechelle Voepel (2:54 PM)
I don't agree that the league hasn't gained any traction since 1997. If that were the case, it wouldn't still be in business. The finances of the WNBA have always been murky, especially with teams still affiliated with NBA teams. But the idea that this has been Stern's project alone is not true; Adam Silver has been quite involved with the league. During the hiring process of Laurel Richie, Silver was the person I spoke with. I think his commitment will stay much the same as Stern's. They do want to see continued growth, but they are in it for the long haul.
DAMIAN (Brooklyn N.Y.)
New York lost to Conn, how can they rebound from the loss and does Cappie needs time to fit in with Laimbeer's system?
Mechelle Voepel (2:56 PM)
Yes, they can rebound from that. And yes, it will take some time for Cappie and Laimbeer to mesh. Things are still going to revolve around Cappie. That is not going to change with Bill.
Sofia (Durham, NC)
Multiple WNBA teams started the season with multiple players injured. The current hardship rule only kicks in when a team can only dress 8. If the WNBA isn't going to expand rosters to 12, what will it take to at least get the hardship rule adjusted so teams that can only dress 9 can sign a player short-term? Tulsa in particular needed another body in their OT game vs the Mystics.
Mechelle Voepel (3:01 PM)
It is a bit complicated, and I may phrase it wrong on this chat. But what happened with Tulsa is that they could have signed another player for the Mystics game on a hardship waiver, but they had nobody "nearby" who they could have signed who they thought would have been a help for the team. They couldn't sign Courtney Paris at that point because they had just cut her, and I believe the rule is that she would have to be 10 days past when she had been cut to be re-signed again, if only for a day. I may be a bit off in the specifics, but that's essentially what Shock president Steve Swetoha told me Monday. He is hopeful that under the next CBA, there are some changes. He would like 12 roster spots and a more "reasonable" injured-reserve policy.
I thought ESPN, The Magazine did a great job of covering Griner's story of how she was always judged for who she is growing up. So I find it incredible that even in a forum of hardcore women's basketball fans, people can't seem to stop judging Griner. "Should she dunk when her team's down 20+ pts?", "Should she celebrate her dunks?", "Margo could have dunked in a game,but never did...it's unlady-like". Even in a forum of intelligent people who SHOULD know better, they can't stop judging Brittney Griner. How do expect the more ignorant crowd to behave better, when the hardcore women's fans can't even get a grasp of it. Your comments?
Mechelle Voepel (3:08 PM)
I don't know what forum that this is being discussed in - ESPN message boards or RebKell or whatever. So I don't know what's being said other than what you are saying here. My view on Griner and dunks - or any player and dunks - is always the same: If it's in your arsenal as a legitimate weapon, then do it. The whole point of basketball is to get the highest-percentage shot. If you have the ability to dunk and a clear path to it like Griner did in both her dunks against the Sky, then why in the world shouldn't she dunk? I don't mean to sound harsh, but I think it's incredibly silly to debate whether BG should or shouldn't dunk.
ted (cape cod)
How do I go about becoming a WNBA fan? Which team(s) are the most exciting to watch?
Mechelle Voepel (3:13 PM)
There are different teams every season that are interesting to follow based on personnel and how they play. Right now, if a person had no specific affiliation and just wanted to follow a team to see how they liked watching the league, I think it would be fun to follow Chicago. They've never made the playoffs, but now with rookie Elena Delle Donne and some veterans, it could be their year. And that could be pretty exciting to "come on board" with the Sky if they can make the postseason this year. Or you could chose to follow whatever team is geographically closest - if there is one - to give you a chance to see a game in person.
What did think of Cambage's performances considering she looks to be a little out of shape. 31 mins in the 2nd game?!
Mechelle Voepel (3:17 PM)
I thought she looked pretty good, especially seeing her in person in Tulsa on Monday. We'd all like to see Liz shoot a higher percentage as this season goes on, and she was getting tired in that game. But, all in all, I thought she played better than most of us were probably expecting she would. Despite the loss, she seemed very positive and upbeat after the game, in terms of attitude.
The ratings for the WNBA games on ESPN2 this past Monday were decent and better than several playoff games from last season. Also better than the MLS opener on ESPN2. Only one game in but it bodes well, no?
Mechelle Voepel (3:24 PM)
I think it helped to have a narrative in Griner, EDD and Diggins to carry through from the college season to the draft to the ESPN2 openers. I know, as I've said, that some fans are tied of what they feel is the overemphasis on the 3 to see. But in a league that is always looking to establish itself more with the general public, that name recognition means a lot. In the last two weeks, I've had casual conversations - one in a dentist's office, one in a grocery store - with people who know I'm a sports writer, and said, "So what do you think about Brittney Griner in the pros?" Or "How is that Skylar Diggins going to do in Tulsa?" These folks weren't women's basketball fans, but just sports fans. However, they knew these players and were interested enough to bring them up in conversation. So I think the TV ratings, in part, reflected that interest.
Real Question! If women want to be treated as equals so badly then why do men and women have different sports leagues? There should just be a NBA and in college every sport should be both genders. And if woman cant make the team then they cant play just like the guys that couldnt. Same with the olympics, it should be both genders competing in every sport. So why isnt it like that?
Mechelle Voepel (3:37 PM)
I really debated taking this question, because I don't know if Andrew is seriously wanting an answer or just wanted to vent on this chat because he doesn't like women's sports. But, in the event he is seriously looking for an answer, here goes: Everyone is very well aware that male athletes, biologically, tend to have certain advantages physically over female athletes. No one is debating this. Sports requires that we have some stratification of all competitions. In most sports, we group competitors by gender, by age, and sometimes even by size. All deserve a chance to compete against like competitors, and all deserve respect. That doesn't mean that Diana Taurasi is going to make as much money playing basketball as LeBron James. That is decided by the free market. Just like anything else professional is. But it does mean that DT can be respected for what she does just as LeBron is. Under your logic, there would be no such thing as weight classes in boxing or wrestling, either, I presume? Does the 125-pound wrestler or the welterweight boxer not deserve to be respected because he isn't competing against heavyweights? Should there just be one competition for all sizes in those sports? And should there would be no such thing as the Champions Tour in golf, or age divisions in road races? I mean, think about what you are asking.
Mechelle Voepel (3:39 PM)
I appreciate all the questions. Next week, I will be covering the LPGA Championship, so the chat day/time may be adjusted. Will update on Twitter. Thanks!