Chat with Mechelle Voepel
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, 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 (2:03 PM)
Good afternoon, everybody. Ready to tackle some questions.
Blake (Washington, DC)
Can you talk a little bit about the job Angela Taylor and Julie Plank are doing with the Mystics? The franchise finally seems to have some stability, and for them to be 10-5 without Beard seems really impressive.
Mechelle Voepel (2:06 PM)
This seems to be a good example of a coach and a GM in sync, enough so that even with such a big loss in a player, the Mystics seem to have adapted well. I already liked the personnel on this team, and then adding Katie Smith really was a smart move. Games like she had Tuesday against the Fever show what a valuable player she still is.
kevin (macon ga)
The All Star Games in the NFL, NBA, and baseball existed for decades before they instituted fan voting. Why does the WNBA insist on using a system that provides such consistently awful results?
Mechelle Voepel (2:10 PM)
I think you keep going back to the question of who is the All-Star Game for? Is it a "reward" for players, more than anything, or is it mostly just for the fans? Not everybody has the same-level fan interest as the people who are usually asking the questions in chats like these, obviously. But does that mean there *should* be some certain level of expertise to pick these teams? Should fan voting be eliminated entirely? I just don't see that happening.
big fever fan here,but has our window closed?Seems like last year was the best chance,are we not the oldest or one of the oldest teams in the wnba?
Mechelle Voepel (2:14 PM)
I don't know that the window is "closed," although it was a hard thing for the franchise not to be able to come away with the championship last season. By my calculation done about a month ago, the Fever are the third-oldest team, in terms of average age: 27.4. The Silver Stars were at 28.0 and the Sparks at 28.5. The Fever (four), SASS (six) and Sparks (five) also had the most players 30 or over. Still ... with players such as Catchings and Douglas still at or near their peaks, I think the Fever still has a chance at a championship with them.
Lindsey Densing (Houston, TX)
Jennifer Gillom has done nothing with the Sparks. If you have all that talent (with or without Parker) and you can only produce 3 wins halfway through the season, that's a coaching problem. I'm a little surprised she still has her job. What are your thoughts on her, the team and Gillom's future with the Sparks?
Mechelle Voepel (2:19 PM)
Now to that "oldest" team, the Sparks. I think if you're going to pull the plug on a coach after essentially two months, it's a little counterproductive. Kathy Goodman, in particular, is a pretty hands-on owner who has, as best I can tell, pretty keen insight into her team. If she thinks Gillom is the real problem, then maybe she'll lose her job during or after this season. But ... now that we've actually seen this team on the floor, minus Parker, I'm not so sure they are really that talented or cohesive, especially compared to some other teams this season. And sometimes that is not as easy to see until you actually get the players on the floor together.
kevin (macon ga)
The International Olympic Committee is pressuring Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei to send female athletes to the 2012 Olympic games for the first time. Do you think nations with strong patriarchal traditions should be forced to participate in women's sports at the Olympics?
Mechelle Voepel (2:23 PM)
If they don't want to treat half of their population as if they're real human beings, they have no business being in the Olympics. Patriarchal "tradition" is no different than having a "tradition" of racism and apartheid. Yes, they should be mandated to have women participate, or they should be banned from the Olympics.
Now that we don't have the UConn-Tennessee games anymore, unless they should happen to meet in a tournament somewhere, who would you say is the new best rivalry in women's college basketball?
Mechelle Voepel (2:30 PM)
I don't think that nationally, there is one right at the moment. More so some conference rivalries, such as Baylor-Oklahoma, Duke-UNC. Nobody has been UConn's rival the past two seasons, obviously. Maybe this Baylor-UConn series that is starting could be something pretty neat ... it has the North vs. South element and two charismatic coaches, lots of talent on both sides, too. I'd also really like to see the development of Louisville-Kentucky as a big women's hoops rivalry, with the success of those two programs in recent years.
What is Sheryl Swoopes doing these days?
Mechelle Voepel (2:32 PM)
She interviewed for an assistant's job at Colorado, but that was not really the right fit for her or for them. I would not be surprised if she did find a good fit in coaching, though, somewhere if she learns the ropes of successful recruiting. It's a pretty consuming job, though, if done right.
Barry (Phoenix, AZ)
If Serena wins #13 this weekend, where does that put her on the list of all-time greats?
Mechelle Voepel (2:37 PM)
There's different ways to look at this, of course ... whether you rank people based on how dominant they were in their own eras, or whether you rank them on how each would have fared against the others in their primes. The latter is more subjective, of course, and it's naturally going to favor modern-day players because of evolution in humans, technology, etc ... but all that said, I think Serena is No. 3 on my list behind Steffi and Martina.
Dale (South Dakota)
Mechelle, do you think the trends of Native Americans playing women's basketball will ever catch on? It seems like the few who have gone on, had success. Jenni Lingor, Nadia Begay, Jaci McCormack, Jenna Plumley, Tahnee Robinson, Angel Goodrich, Mystee Dale, are a few names that come to mind. With the exception of Goodrich, none of the above mentioned were nationally ranked players. With Shoni Schimmel at Louisville, I think more Division I coaches will give more than a glancing look at reservation schools. What do you think?
Mechelle Voepel (2:41 PM)
Honestly, if coaches know there is talent out there, they will usually find it. They miss sometimes, for sure, but I guess what I'm saying is that I don't think coaches are intentionally avoiding players from any certain areas ... there would just be no logic at all to that. A bigger factor may be that when Native American players are successful, they inspires others to work to be at their level. And that is something I do see happening.
Any theories as to why the East has five or six decent teams this season and the West is essentially stuck at one?
Mechelle Voepel (2:46 PM)
I guess eventually it was bound to happen, right? When teams struggle, they get better draft picks and theoretically improve ... the pendulum is always supposed to swing back and forth that way, at least ideally. Of course, there are other factors, always, including injuries and team-chemistry issues.
Matt (Ann Arbor, MI)
The 11-player roster is causing havoc on teams this year, especially with players like Wiggins, Beard and Parker taking up spaces without playing. I know that money needs to be saved by all teams, but is there any chance this limit is changed next year?
Mechelle Voepel (2:48 PM)
Not unless there is some significant upturn economically. I just don't see it happening in 2011.
Glenn (Fresh Medows, NY)
Hello, Mechelle are you surprised at the lack of league or team outrage over DT's comments about skipping next season and would her leaving be the last straw for the W?
Mechelle Voepel (2:53 PM)
I don't know what's been said to DT privately by anyone in the league or with Phoenix ... but I'm certainly not surprised she wasn't publicly called out. That would be a terrible PR blunder by the WNBA and Phoenix management. Why would they want to draw attention to the fact that this league pays less than overseas does? I think we also have to realize that maybe the American players are a bit frustrated that it seems OK for a foreign player to take some time off from the WNBA and then is welcomed back eagerly whenever she returns, but if a prominent American player (DT, Bird, Catchings, for instance) did it, she would likely be criticized.
The East is so jumbled, again, this year. Who do you like coming out on top when its all said and done?
Mechelle Voepel (2:59 PM)
I don't know how anybody could really predict this with any kind of confidence. There is just too much similarity in talent level with a lot of these teams to know. I would say at the moment, I'm pretty impressed with the Mystics ... that could change next week, of course.
Matt (Ann Arbor, MI)
San Antonio dominated the All-Star voting, including the barely playing Jayne Appel. Is this a sign that the fans should have less of a say?
Mechelle Voepel (3:03 PM)
At least according to most of you folks asking questions, the fans are ruining the All-Star Game. :) That seems to be a dominant theme on the questions today (there are several I have not posted.) This is more my question to you guys: How do you want the All-Stars picked?
Ellen (Minneapolis, MN )
Can you talk a little bit about how you decide the topics to cover for your column? I am guessing a lot is the result of what is happening with a particular team or player.
Mechelle Voepel (3:33 PM)
Some of it is just in response to whatever is going on. I also sometimes target games that are going to be on national television and write something in advance on one of the teams. And a little of it is based on when I get a chance to talk to players in person. And I also just try to write about what I hope is interesting, and I definitely also consider readers' feedback.
Buzzmaster (3:33 PM)
Sorry folks, we ran into some technical difficulties toward the end of Mechelle's chat.