Chat with Mechelle Voepel
Welcome to SportsNation! On Wednesday, women's basketball writer Mechelle Voepel will stop by to chat about the WNBA season.
Voepel is a regular contributor to ESPN.com's women's basketball coverage.
Send your questions now and join Voepel Thursday at 2 p.m. ET!
Mechelle Voepel (2:00 PM)
Good afternoon, folks. I hope to do this chat at 2 p.m. Central weekly on ESPN.com throughout the WNBA season. So let's get under way!
Will the liberty remain in the Wnba basement?
Mechelle Voepel (2:02 PM)
Good place to start: New York. I spoke for quite a while yesterday to coach Anne Donovan ... who is very excited about this team. She's in the same situation as Michael Cooper last year, though ... already has a college job lined up (Seton Hall) and will leave the WNBA after the season. I think with the addition of Cappie Pondexter, Nicole Powell and Taj McWilliams this will, at the very least, a playoff team. No basement this year ... or so I'm predicting, for what that's worth.
Becky C. (GA)
Atlanta Dream season ticket holders got the news that Chamique Holdsclaw has requested a trade. What team do you think should try to acquire her?
Mechelle Voepel (2:07 PM)
At some point, I think it's fair to say that it seems hard for Chamique Holdsclaw to be very happy with anything for very long. At least as far as the WNBA is concerned. I would say if there's a team that feels it could incorporate her for one season and that could make the difference in being a championship contender - and she wants to go here *and* the Dream gets what it needs in a deal - then OK. But I wouldn't be surprised if many teams would say she's more potential headache than help. Just based on her history of injuries and discontent.
Do you think candace parker will be player of the year again?
Mechelle Voepel (2:08 PM)
I spoke with Candace yesterday as well ... she feels very much back to where she was physically before she had her daughter a year ago. With Lisa Leslie gone, Candace becomes even more the centerpiece player for the Sparks. Seems like she has a excellent chance, if healthy, to be MVP as she was in her rookie season.
Mike (Washington, DC)
Mechelle,Some fans were surprised at your selection of the Sun to win the East. With Gruda out till June and Jones status up in the air, how optimistic are you being choosing them to finish first? I think Thibault is the best coach in the league right now but it would take all his powers to win the East.
Mechelle Voepel (2:10 PM)
I've developed a theory with making these preseason predictions: Just go with a gut instinct, because the more I think about them the more uncertain I get. I think I'm crediting Thibault's coaching, Kara Lawson's leadership and Tina Charles being able to step right in and be an excellent pro. But, honestly, I'm not going to be surprised if I'm wrong about this one.
I was really disappointed to hear some reported stories of a few Shock players who weren't happy about the move to Tulsa. A friend of mine stated "if the WNBA players don't take the WNBA seriously, why should anyone else?". I thought he was on point with that statement. Do you feel that today's WNBA players are already losing sight of the fact that it's should be considered an HONOR to play in this league & are forgetting just how fragile their employment really is in the big scope of things in our country (economy, unemployment)?? And a big THANK YOU to those Shock players that are really playing for the love of the game!! Best of luck to the team, the staff, the fans
Mechelle Voepel (2:14 PM)
In the case of the players who opted not to come to Tulsa ... they are veterans at the point in their careers where maybe they just didn't want to go somewhere they thought they wouldn't be "happy." Personally, I was disappointed by some of the decisions, but not surprised. There is a balance between looking out for yourself and looking out for the greater good. I'm not sure that, at least with some of the Shock players, the "greater good" has ever entered into their thought process. With others, I think they just wanted to finish on their terms, in a place they wanted to be.
kevin (macon ga)
Are you surprised at Courtney Paris getting waived by the Sky?
Mechelle Voepel (2:18 PM)
Not necessarily, although yesterday was a rough day for the Paris twins wasn't it, as both were waived. It's just a hard numbers game now with 12 teams and 11 spots. You have to fit in where you are and give the team something nobody else does. Considering Courtney's ties to the Sky were so tenuous anyway ... coming in the Monarchs' expansion draft and just recently arriving from overseas ... I would have to wonder how much "real" chance she had to make the team, all things considered. And, of course, they are still more difficult cuts for teams to make.
Any idea on how healthy Katie Smith is? What will she bring to the Mystics this season?
Mechelle Voepel (2:20 PM)
From all indications, Katie is in good health. She'll be 36 in June, though, so she's in that stage of her career where things can break down quickly and suddenly, of course. However, she's kept herself in excellent physical condition and the Mystics need her even more than we might have anticipated, with Alana Beard out. This is a team that needed another true veteran, somebody who just knows how to be a pro. And that's Katie.
Just curious...how do you entertain yourself during the time between the Final Four and the start of the WNBA season?
Mechelle Voepel (2:23 PM)
It's my least favorite month. I'm usually pretty restless, frankly. I haven't quite learned how to enjoy time off as well as one is supposed to be able to. I am doing an on-line radio show here in KC with broadcaster Brenda VanLengen, and I try to keep my blog updated every few days ... and mow the lawn. But I'm *really* glad the WNBA season is starting.
Will you be able to travel to see some games in person this season?
Mechelle Voepel (2:24 PM)
I will be able to do some traveling ... some of the Shock players didn't want to go to Tulsa, of course, but for me it was great news. Not that Detroit lost a team, but that Tulsa was going to have one. It's just under a 4-hour drive from my home to Tulsa, and in the Midwest, we call that a short trip. So I'll be at the Shock's opener Saturday.
Will the Lynx make the playoffs this year especially after the big trade earlier this year? And how will Connecticut do this year as well?
Mechelle Voepel (2:27 PM)
I think the Lynx put everything into place to make it to the playoffs again. That said, there are still some concerns about just how healthy Seimone Augustus is. It's really important that she be back close to her usual self, I think. I also am interested to see how Cheryl Reeve handles this team ... she's had a lot of experience as a pro assistant, and now she's in charge. As for the Sun, I picked them to win the East, but as I mentioned earlier, a lot has to go right for that to happen. Then again, thing seem to go right in the state of Connecticut for women's hoops an awful lot, don't they?
Which teams will be in the running for Maya Moore next year?
Mechelle Voepel (2:31 PM)
Ah, isn't this an interesting question? I thought it would be great for the league for her to end up in New York. But I think the Liberty is going to be good enough this season that it's unlikely she'll end up there. It's so hard, really, to say how teams will go. There's so much parity and so little to separate teams, that something that happens in August - and injury, an upset - could end up meaning the difference with who gets a lottery pick. Tulsa should would love to see next year, though. Of course, any team would.
Helen (New York)
Recently, there's been discussion of "secrecy" and "censorship" in the WNBA vis a vis transactions etc. What's your take?
Mechelle Voepel (2:35 PM)
Actually, I think we never know everything that goes on in any pro sports league. Even in baseball, which has multiple reporters hanging around for hours every day on the field, in locker rooms and in the press box. So I do believe things happen in the WNBA that do have an element of secrecy. Is is necessary and does it accomplish anything? I have my doubts.
Emerson (Jersey City)
I personaly think Chamique Holdsclaw should come to NYC. We love her. I would love for her to close out her career here in NYC. Do you feel that NYC would be a good fit?
Mechelle Voepel (2:39 PM)
Well, one could guess as that's her hometown, she might be happy to go there. But Chamique has seemed to be happy other places and then, suddenly, wasn't happy. Maybe it wasn't so "sudden" but ... I am very sensitive to the depression issues that she has gone through and talked about. But by the same token, teams need to know someone is committed to what they are doing. If the Liberty was interested in Holdsclaw, it would have to believe she was going to give her all this season.
Mechelle, do you think Snow at this point is able to make the Silver Stars better, or is that just a desperate pick up by SA?
Mechelle Voepel (2:43 PM)
It's a matter of whether the Michelle Snow of 2009 in Atlanta was an aberration or an indication of the downward direction of her career. If Snow can again be the solid starter she was for about six seasons in Houston, then she can help the Silver Stars. If she's the player she was for the Dream, then she probably won't.
Ryan F. (Tiburon, CA)
About how many W games do you watch every week?
Mechelle Voepel (2:44 PM)
Oh, gosh ... as many as I can. I don't know that I've kept track. On-line, in-person or on TV, if there are teams in action on a given night, I'm watching.
Eileen (Washington, DC)
So Tamera Young just tweeted that Kristi Toliver will be wearing the purple & gold (Sparks). Assuming that this news is true, how do you think she'll fit with LA?
Mechelle Voepel (2:48 PM)
Well, it's interesting, because that already seemed like a guard-heavy team. Including some guards who, if I can be frank, are know to shoot first and ask questions later. Clearly, new addition Ticha Penicheiro isn't like that ... she's the consummate point guard. But I guess, the Sparks must see Toliver fitting in. I think folks might have been wondering if Toliver was on her way out, especially with the Sky drafting Epiphanny Prince.
Michelle...this "requesting a change" message is becoming more frequent in the WNBA. I personally feel that there is enough player movement that's impacting the league's fans (franchise relocation and franchise demise)...and now some marquee players are saying "trade me" (Holdsclaw and Whalen). I would love to see the WNBA for many, many years...but since its not exactly making all sorts of money...should the players kind of be happy they're able to play in the USA (and not saying "trade me")....at least until the league becomes stronger than it is today?
Mechelle Voepel (2:53 PM)
I get what you're saying ... I have worried for a few years now we are moving into a generation of players that is taking too much for granted. That said, I don't necessarily see the Whalen deal as one that was bad for anybody ... Minnesota really wanted her, Connecticut got Tina Charles and Renee Montgomery. So to me that strengthen the league and ties to fans. As for Holdsclaw, again, she has not really shown a history of being all that happy anywhere.
kevin (macon ga)
Who do you like for Rookie of the Year?
Mechelle Voepel (2:54 PM)
Doesn't seem any reason to me that Tina Charles' fantastic 2010 will not include a rookie of the year award and a medal in the World Championship. She has seemed pro-ready for a while to me.
kevin (macon ga)
Looks like there will be only four players in the WNBA this season who played in the ABL (McWilliams, Melvin, Milton, K Smith). What do you think is the legacy of the "other league"?
Mechelle Voepel (2:57 PM)
You could probably say perhaps it helped force the WNBA to commit to the 1997 start and to put more resources in from the beginning. Val Ackerman had been working on this for several years before the ABL launched, but I feel that the ABL gave her some more ammunition in that last push to "get it done." In that sense, the ABL's contribution was important, but I never thought the league really stood a chance of surviving once the WNBA was officially off the ground.
Tulsa has sold out for their first game. Do you think sell-outs will continue? How do you think Tulsa will fair this year?
Mechelle Voepel (3:00 PM)
It's like everything else ... it will probably do well if the product is good enough. It's easier to sell something when it's brand new and people are at least curious. And there's some degree of wanting to see the "new" thing. After that, though, they need to have a winning team to stay interested. I hope fans have the patience to realize that maybe this year will be rough, but ride it out and see what kind of team will develop. The fans in Oklahoma have proven that they will come out for good women's basketball on the college level. And there is a lot of community pride in Tulsa. I think it could be a very good market.
Mechelle Voepel (3:03 PM)
Well, I really appreciate all the questions today, and I hope you check out our coverage of the WNBA all season long on ESPN.com. Please come back to chat weekly with me ... your questions really make me think, and I greatly appreciate them! Thanks!