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 (2:04 PM)
Good afternoon. We're in the closing days of the WNBA regular season, and know the eight teams that will move on. We had what might become a signature Elena Delle Donne moment in the Sky-Mercury game last night. The Lynx and Sparks meet tonight. I got a kick out that picture on WNBA.com this week in which Kara Braxton's hair alone almost looks taller than David Stern. :) OK, let's get started.
There only seems to be on clear choice for rookie of the year but what do you think about the other end of the season awards - MVP, MIP, Coach of the year, sixth woman?
Mechelle Voepel (2:09 PM)
We did our picks for ESPN.com this week, and there were some things I really had to wrestle with. These are the players I ended up picking: MVP: Maya Moore, Most Improved: Shavonte Zellous, Sixth Woman: Riquna Williams, Coach of the Year: Brian Agler. The WNBA first team is VERY hard to pick, too, especially if you stick to as close as possible to GGFFC, without fudging *too* much on positions (which I have been guilty of in the past). No matter what first team I went with, I felt I was leaving a couple of very deserving people out, and would get some criticism. I think that's overall good, though, because it means there are a lot of very talented players in the league. The first team I went with: G Diana Taurasi, G/F Angel McCoughtry, F Maya Moore, F/C Candace Parker, C Sylvia Fowles. I know .... no Whalen or Delle Donne or Catchings on first team. Very hard to do.
As a long suffering Liberty fan, I have watched year after year, their inability to reach consistency, and think there is more wrong than just their missing shot.
Mechelle Voepel (2:13 PM)
I don't dispute the long-sufferingness of Liberty fans. But ... consider that New York has made the playoffs seven of the last 10 years. And from 2009-2013, the Libs had four different coaches - all with VERY different personalities and styles of play. And the Liberty has spent the last few years in Newark, instead of in the Garden. I think it's not surprising that A) Lib fans are kind despondent and unsure of the future, and B) the Liberty as a franchise doesn't quite have a hold on their identity. I know that some folks are down on Bill Laimbeer, because they think he's held onto the "past" with some players and they're not happy with his comments on "hurting" Maya Moore. But I think he needs this off-season to really evaluate who he has, what he needs, and how the Liberty can get it. It may be asking a lot to tell a Liberty fan, "Be patient for another year or so," but I think that's reality.
Which team do you think has the most momentum going into the playoffs?
Mechelle Voepel (2:15 PM)
Minnesota. And I think that will be the case even *if* the Lynx lose their last two games, at Los Angeles and at home vs. Chicago. But I don't think they will lose those two.
jbb1985 (eastern hinterlands)
Do anticipate Breanna Stewart to be much more consistent this season after her ending last season and her play for the USA team this summer, or might there be a few lulls or inconsistent stretches akin to her frosh year's ups & downs? Will it matter with UConn's depth, presuming healthier 2013-2014?
Mechelle Voepel (2:18 PM)
I would be surprised if Breanna Stewart has the kind of bumps in the road this year that she did last year. I think her confidence took some hits, but it had to be completely restored by how she played in the NCAA tournament. But depth-wise, you are right: She does not have to "carry" the Huskies in 2013-14.
What do you think about Mercury's playoff chance this year?
Mechelle Voepel (2:21 PM)
The interesting thing about the Merc is that I think they *can* beat anybody, but that is not the same as thinking they *will* do that. Last night was a strange game to try to take stock of the Merc, because Taurasi was out. That changes everything. She's been playing exceptionally well. Overall, I think you could say the coaching change did help Phoenix's defense, but that may be damning by faint praise. The Mercury probably will still need to outscore people to beat them, and it just seems unlikely to me that they will do that enough to win the Western Conference. But ... maybe they have saved the best for last.
Jonathan (New York)
What are your reasons for choosing Maya Moore over Candace Parker as MVP?
Mechelle Voepel (2:23 PM)
For me it came down to, game-by-game for the entire season, Moore was a little more consistent without any stretches where she seemed off her game. We're almost talking about splitting hairs, though, when you look at the top candidates for MVP, which I think include Sylvia Fowles and EDD, Taurasi, Whalen, Catchings. It really was difficult to make that decision.
jbb1985 (eastern hinterlands)
Which three teams, besides the likely pre-season overall #1 UConn, would be your pick for pre-season #1 seeds for the FF in Nashville?
Mechelle Voepel (2:26 PM)
I know it's September, but with WNBA, golf and volleyball, I still haven't sat down and really mapped out my thoughts on the WCB season. That honestly probably won't happen until later this month. But off the top of my head, I'll go with Duke, Tennessee, and Stanford. Not going out of the box here, I know.
What are your thoughts on Rebecca Lobo's suggestion during the game last night for suspended players?
Will you be traveling to any of the games in the first round of the playoffs?
stever (RebKell Reader)
Do you expect either Penny Taylor or Katie Douglas to see much playoff action?
jbb1985 (eastern hinterlands)
Do you expect the WNBA season length to change in the near- to mid-term, whether by shortening it or by lengthening it?
Mechelle Voepel (2:29 PM)
I have not heard anything to that effect, but with a new collective bargaining agreement coming, maybe that is one of the things that may be discussed. Will have more of a chance to talk with the players and Laurel Richie during the playoffs about what's coming up in that regard.
kevin (macon ga)
How much do Diana Taurasi's suspensions hurt her in the MVP race?
Mechelle Voepel (2:31 PM)
I don't know about anybody else, but that wasn't something that really came into my mind much in regard to her MVP candidacy.
Mechelle Voepel (2:34 PM)
OK, there was a hiccup with the chat, where it wouldn't post some questions and I re-booted it, and the questions are there. So you will see three unanswered questions above, now I will answer them. :)
Mechelle Voepel (2:36 PM)
In regard to Rebecca Lobo's suggestion that a suspended player should come to the arena and sign autographs all game instead of just being told she can't be present at all ... brilliant. That way, the player is still "working" for the league, but she is not allowed to actually help her team on court. It makes perfect sense. One of the many reasons I think Rebecca could make a great WNBA president some day. :)
Mechelle Voepel (2:38 PM)
Will I be traveling to WNBA first-round playoff games? Yes, I'll be with the Chicago series in the first round. Michelle Smith will be in the West.
Mechelle Voepel (2:40 PM)
As for Penny Taylor and Katie Douglas, I guess I would be surprised to see much of them in the playoffs. I know Douglas has said she is ready, or close to it, but the Fever have been without her for a long time now, and they have to weigh what impact she could have vs. the risk factor.
kevin (macon ga)
The Newark experience is now complete. Would you consider it a success?
Mechelle Voepel (2:42 PM)
I suppose from the standpoint that the Liberty and their fans survived it. :) I would imagine everyone is glad it's over. The Liberty need to be back in the Garden.
Mechelle Voepel (2:43 PM)
Thanks for all the questions. I think the chat next week will be Wednesday, before the playoffs begin. But will update you via Twitter.