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 1 p.m. ET!
Mechelle Voepel (1:03 PM)
Good afternoon. We're down to the "Final Four" for the WNBA, and get started on the conference finals tomorrow in Phoenix. We'll get the chat started now.
kevin (macon ga)
How embarrassing will it be for the W to have a team with a losing record in the finals?
Mechelle Voepel (1:08 PM)
I guess I don't think of it that way. So much about the league's set-up - the short season, having just 12 teams, somewhat exhausting travel, the fact that most of the player compete nearly year-round - contributes to parity or sort of general mediocre records. We had three teams - two in particular - who were able to set themselves apart record-wise during the regular season, but there wasn't necessarily a lot of difference between the other nine. And you have to figure if Elena Delle Donne and Tamika Catchings had been healthy all season, there's a chance neither Chicago nor Indiana would have finished under .500.
The Dream and the Sparks started the season with high expectations. Now both teams get eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. What changes should both teams make moving forward to make the championship quality teams?
Mechelle Voepel (1:16 PM)
We know one thing's for sure: The Sparks will have a new coach. And you have wonder if it might be the Dream's coach that the Sparks get. Considering Magic Johnson's ties to Michael Cooper, Coop's extensive past with the Sparks, and the fact that Candace Parker had such nice things to say about Coop when the Dream-Sparks played each other this year. I mean, I just have to wonder about the possibility of that. In terms of personnel, I think the Sparks have to decide on a better answer at point guard, and then figure out if they are truly "all-in" with Parker (which it sounds like) or have another plan. It seems like the Dream may need to commit on who their point guard will be, too, rather than the rotating system that worked with mixed results. Both these teams have an extraordinarily talented player as their centerpiece, but in both cases that player is not the easiest to necessarily find the right teammates and coaches for. Angel McCoughtry and Candace Parker are more "complicated" personality-wise than some other stars. I'm not ripping them, I'm just being frank. The key is when you commit to having that player as your centerpiece, you just have to work to make sure everything else around her is the right fit.
Joe Foss (Athens OH)
Do you think one of the younger guards (Simms, Diggins, Robinson) will get a shot with the US national team at the Worlds, or will it be too tempting to stick with the old reliables?
Mechelle Voepel (1:21 PM)
That's going to be one of the biggest questions that USA Basketball has to answer. Geno Auriemma and Carol Callan had a conference call earlier this week and were asked about that. You can tell this is worrying them. They have 10 of the 2012 Olympians back and wanting to be on the team. So do they bring them all back and then just add two newcomers? If so, who will the newcomers be? Will they bring back Sue Bird, for instance, or is this where they have make a really, really tough call and bring in one of the guards you mentioned? The loyalty that the players have shown over the years makes it more complicated.
S [via mobile]
Does Ivory Latta want to stay with the Mystics?
Mechelle Voepel (1:24 PM)
It sure seems like it, because she has such a good relationship with Mike Thibault.
Glenn (Fresh Meadows)
Enjoyed Fagan's take on Laimbeer tho I still think that if there's a way to keep him as GM and put in Spoon as Coach you do it for a few reasons namely dealing with motivation and ball distribution. What is your take on the Libs, what step do they take to get back in the playoffs next year. (And I don't think Tanking for stewart will be well received and they have enough money to recoup thanks to the Newark Move)
Mechelle Voepel (1:30 PM)
I know you've been advocating for Teresa Weatherspoon taking over as head coach - or at least it seems like it - for the last few chats. :) Unless that's something Bill Laimbeer *wants* to do, I guess I don't see that happening. But I think New York is building around Tina Charles, so there is a lot else to try to figure out. We've discussed Cappie Pondexter's health, and whether NY can count on her longterm. I would think Bill Laimbeer is going to have to make some significant moves during the off-season. As for the tanking issue, Breanna Stewart is the level of talent that makes me wonder - seriously - if more than one team might "take it easy" down the stretch next season if they aren't playing particularly well.
kevin (macon ga)
Joe Ciampi's lawyer claims he was under contract for $100,000 per year. Do WNBA assistants really make as much as the top players?
Mechelle Voepel (1:31 PM)
I have to admit, when I saw that, that number kind of surprised me. I'll be interested to see how this plays out.
Shades (Minneapolis) [via mobile]
Can you reflect on the career of Lin Dunn and tell us how her presence has impacted the WNBA?
Mechelle Voepel (1:38 PM)
One of the things that Lin Dunn did was she fully made the transition from being one of the "old guard" college coaches to being a pro coach. And we know those are really different jobs ... you can't coach and deal with pros the same way you do with college kids. Obvious, Dunn's career at Purdue ended in a difficult way - I won't get into all that here - and that changed her career path. But she ended up really embracing the pro game. Plus, she showed the resilience you need to have to be a pro coach ... sometimes you get fired. Sometimes you realize a player is worth more to the franchise than you are. It doesn't mean you're a bad coach. You move on. You keep learning, even as you age. You become a better coach through some of your failures, as well as your successes. Lin Dunn has done all of that, and I think she's also plotted an "exit strategy" that is to be admired. She helped groom a successor who she's given a lot of responsibility to. Plus, she's brought a fun personality that has never changed: She is who she is, and she'll tell you what she thinks all the time. I admire that.
I was wondering if you would share your feelings on the LPGA leaving the Rochester, NY area. Rochester has hosted an LPGA event every year since 1977 and they have always had one the largest and most enthusiastic galleries on tour. I can't believe that there will not be a tournament next year. Does the LPGA really believe that Rochester is now too small to host a Championship? To ignore such a faithful fan base is a big mistake.
Mechelle Voepel (1:43 PM)
I do want to take this golf question, because I think it's important. The LPGA found itself in a bit of difficult position, because it got the opportunity to change the LPGA Championship and add in a partnership with the PGA of America, plus KMPG stepped in as a sponsor. I think it was just too good a deal for the LPGA to pass up ... but it meant hurting a community that had been with them for a long time. Part of the problem in Rochester was - to my knowledge - that Wegmanns was the only "big-money" sponsor. And to keep the tournament a major there, it was hard to make it work long-term. Especially when KMPG stepped in. So ... it seems like what Mike Whan and the tour need to do is figure out a way to come back to Rochester as a "regular" tour event, the way it used to be. I know the players feel very strongly about wanting to do that ... but it comes down to sponsorships and how it would fit on the LPGA calendar, especially now that there are so many international events.
Shades (Minneapolis) [via mobile]
How does the All Star MVP and easily the most exciting rookie to enter the WNBA not earn All Rookie team honors?
Mechelle Voepel (1:46 PM)
The all-rookie team is one that the coaches vote on, not the media, so I can't say for sure what they were all thinking in regard to not having Shoni Schimmel on that team. Other than, I guess, they saw her season as being somewhat less consistent than the other five players who were named to the team. I have a feeling that Shoni gets motivation from everything that may feel like a "slight" so maybe this is something that will just add a little fuel for her.
Money mark Bronx ny [via mobile]
Who wins sky or fever?
Mechelle Voepel (1:47 PM)
I have to give the edge to the Fever, with their experience in the postseason and the fact that they have home-court advantage in the series.
What players in the WNBA to you are underrated?
Mechelle Voepel (1:53 PM)
I think sometimes people are considered "underrated" because they may be on a team with a player or players who are great or have big personalities or both, and so they just seem to get less attention. Or they're kind of quiet and maybe don't seek attention. So there's that ... and then there are some players who do a lot of "little things" that don't necessarily get a lot of notice except by their coaches or fans who are particularly observant. So ... to that end, I'll just name two off the top of my head who are still in the playoffs and are underrated, I think, in terms of what they do. One is Tamera Young for Chicago ... as much as Elena Delle Donne took the Sky on her back the other night, you have to credit Young for not backing down defensively and also being able to score some big points for Chicago. And other is Candice Dupree, who has had a very good and consistent career in terms of her production, but tends to be overshadowed in Phoenix.
Shades (Minneapolis) [via mobile]
Don't you believe any quality coach should be able to protect a 17 pt lead going into the 4th quarter? How many Cooper missteps did you count down the stretch in ATL's last game?
Mechelle Voepel (1:57 PM)
I do think it's fair to say that Michael Cooper did not have a great second half as a coach in that game. I think he made some substitutions and didn't make others that, frankly, seemed to hurt the Dream. I don't want to take away from what the Sky/EDD did, because it was remarkable. But I think if Cooper and the Dream objectively watched tape of the fourth quarter, they would see several things that hurt them. I tend not to second-guess coaches a lot, because they all know a hell of a lot more about basketball than I do. But in this case, it almost felt like the Dream bench had been lulled to sleep by the big lead, and then didn't react quickly enough or well enough to stop the collapse/Sky surge.
Do you think that Elena Della Donne will be guarding Tamika Catchings in the Eastern Conference Finals?
Mechelle Voepel (1:58 PM)
I think that will be a team defensive assignment, and the Sky does have the advanantage of having good size to go against Catch.
kevin (macon ga)
Swin Cash has taken a sports talk show gig with CBS. Is her playing career over?
Mechelle Voepel (2:00 PM)
I saw in Jayda Evan's story that Swin said she had no intention of retiring on a "down note" in her career. So it doesn't sound like she plans on stepping away yet. I think the show sounds like a great idea, and I hope it is successful.
Mechelle Voepel (2:02 PM)
Thanks for all the questions. I am headed to Phoenix for the Western Conference finals. Will chat again next week (and I will try to take some college questions soon, I promise.)