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 (2:03 PM)
Good afternoon. A little more than a week remains in the WNBA regular season, and plenty is still to be decided. Let's get started.
kevin (macon ga)
Becky Hammon's hire is wonderful for her and for women in general, of course. Will it be damaging to the WNBA, as qualified women will now seek NBA coaching jobs instead of positions in the W?
Mechelle Voepel (2:10 PM)
Oh, gosh, no. I don't think that will be a problem. It's not like the floodgates are going to be opened for women going to the NBA. But it will at least start to crack that ceiling, I hope. But a lot had to happen for this to take place: Becky had to have the ability and desire, she had to cultivate relationships with an NBA team over several years, and it had to be an NBA franchise that was innovative and smart enough to be open to this.
Is Coach Brondello a leading contender for COY? Some say she has too many Good Pieces that just make her look good, but isn't their nicely improved record (over last year) a genuine credit to her skill?
Mechelle Voepel (2:16 PM)
There's always that debate on COY ... how do you weigh how much of a team's success is based on its talent, and how much on coaching? I think Phoenix's Sandy Brondello has done a lot to maximize the considerable talent she has. Is she a leading candidate? Absolutely. I'm still not sure who I will vote for, though.
Todd R. (NJ)
any chance Odyssey Sims sneaks up and wins Rookie of the Year over Ogwumike??
Mechelle Voepel (2:20 PM)
You know, that's turned out to be a closer race than I thought it would be a few weeks ago. I thought Chiney Ogwumike had the award pretty well wrapped up. Now, I'm less sure. Sims has really come on strong, and it's for been several games. She has been a very good scorer but also more efficient than she was early in her rookie season. So, yes, I think it's still possible that Sims could win this award.
Kirk [via mobile]
What do you think of the Mystics chances in the playoffs?
Mechelle Voepel (2:23 PM)
I just wrote about Ivory Latta; a story will be on ESPN.com/ESPNW later today. She is optimistic that the Mystics have put things together at the right time. I think a lot with Washington has to do with consistency on defense. We know they are not going to be a great offensive club this season, but they are good enough if they defend well. They still have five games left, all against other East teams, so that might give us a pretty good indication of how ready they are to maybe make a playoff run.
Devin (Detroit, Michigan)
Do you think the WNBA will consider expansion in the future? If so, what are your ideal locations for franchises? (And will us Detroiters ever get a replacement franchise since our beloved Shock are now playing in Tulsa?)
Mechelle Voepel (2:27 PM)
Every time we ask Laurel Richie about expansion, she seems optimistic but offers few details. But I think it may be a good sign that she spoke with a few more specifics about Golden State when we asked the expansion question at the All-Star game. Having a team in the Bay area would make a lot of sense, and I hope it would be supported. I don't have a lot of optimism for Detroit, unfortunately, at least not in the forseeable future. I'd like to be wrong.
Cappie Pondexter: what's your take on her comparatively lackluster season? Is she playing through some nagging physical problems? She seems to be a shadow of her old self.
Mechelle Voepel (2:32 PM)
Clearly, she is not the player we've seen in the past, and she definitely seems bothered by physical issues. She is 31 now, and like with most other players that age, we may be seeing the effects of the wear-and-tear of playing nearly year-round with so much travel. It will be interesting to see if the Liberty has a strong push to conclude this season - last week, I thought they did. This week, I'm a lot less sure.
Arlana [via mobile]
Do you think the Mystics will re-sign Ivory Latta this offseason?
Mechelle Voepel (2:35 PM)
I would if I were them ... she's been a consistent positive for the franchise both her seasons there. She will be 30 in September, but she isn't going overseas to play. She's returning to North Carolina to be an assistant coach, a job she started last season. I can see some real benefits to that ... a player still makes money in the WNBA off-season, but isn't playing full time. Obviously, she has to work out and keep in good shape, but she may be less worn down physically by not going overseas.
Most Improved Player: if you had to pick between Jess Breland or Courtney Paris, whom would you pick, and why?
Mechelle Voepel (2:44 PM)
Wow, that's tough. They are having similarly good seasons statistically, and both have finally found the right opportunity in the league. I might lean more toward Breland because I think she's had to adapt to a lot of changing circumstances around her, based on Chicago's injury situation. But I don't know if that's really the right criteria to be a tiebreaker between them. "Most improved" is usually another controversial thing to pick in the WNBA, because often a second-year player gets the award - one who makes a very dramatic improvement. And some people feel that improvement should be more expected because they are not rookies anymore. As opposed to a player who's been around a while, but then makes some changes to her game/physique/mentality and noticeably gets better.
so, do the Tulsa Shock sneak in and make the play-offs??
Mechelle Voepel (2:51 PM)
The victory at Los Angeles on Tuesday gave the Shock a jolt of hope for the playoffs, didn't it? However, three of their final four games are on the road, including at Atlanta and Minnesota. That's tough. But San Antonio and Los Angeles also face challenges in their remaining schedules, too. All three teams have had so many ups and downs, it's pretty impossible to predict how well they'll play down the stretch. It would be huge for Tulsa, obviously, to get a playoff spot. They need that boost for their franchise and fan base.
Mechelle who do you like coming out of the Western Conference this year?
Mechelle Voepel (2:53 PM)
Sticking with Minnesota. Especially if they are fully healthy.
Peggy (Austin, Texas)
What's up with the San Antonio Stars? One game they look like they finally put things together. Then they get beat by Connecticut and Seattle, the last-place teams in the East and West, respectively.
Mechelle Voepel (2:56 PM)
San Antonio is so guard-dependant that they can really get burned inside, and that happened against both Connecticut and Seattle. I think that is too big a potential weakness, frankly, for the Stars to last very long in the playoffs if they make the postseason.
Farrah [via mobile]
What are your East playoff predictions?
Mechelle Voepel (2:59 PM)
Hah, I might as well predict lottery numbers. But, here goes. As long as Elena Delle Donne is on the floor - even at less than 100 percent - Chicago is a very different team. So, provided she can play the rest of the season ... I'll say the playoff teams are Atlanta, Washington, Indiana, Chicago. Atlanta will still prevail and make another trip to the Finals, where the Dream will try to win a game for the first time.
Glenn (Fresh Meadows)
New CEO, Agler likely gone, LJ not showing any indication of returning, Bird showing her age....is it time for the storm to break out the TNT and start fresh next season and develop a new corps of stars?
Mechelle Voepel (3:06 PM)
I don't know that the Storm has to blow the whole thing up, but they do need to be really preparing for the post-Bird/Jackson era, and what that's going to look like. Tanisha Wright has been so valuable to them for many years, but she'll be 31 later this year. Crystal Langhorne is 27, and she is still a very good player, but can she be a centerpiece player? Her stats have been in decline the last three years. Shekinna Stricklen has those moments when she looks really good, but she's not consistent and I don't know that she ever will be - certainly not enough to rely on her as a franchise centerpiece. So ... the Storm has real work to do, especially since fellow West teams like Minnesota and Phoenix look to be very strong for a while.
kevin (macon ga)
Is Sue Bird still the best choice at PG for Team USA?
Mechelle Voepel (3:10 PM)
Right now, I think the edge to start at point guard for Team USA goes to Lindsay Whalen. But as you know, the PGs for Team USA don't have to put up big numbers. They need to direct things well, and both Bird and Whalen can do that. The interesting thing to see is what other USA PG might get time at the World Championship.
Mechelle Voepel (3:11 PM)
Thanks for all the questions. This last stretch could be pretty crazy in terms of who grabs a playoff spot and who is left out.