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 (2:00 PM)
Good afternoon, everybody. Let's get under way!
vickster (The Mecca-- NYC -- Door's open Lebron- there's room fo
Hi Mechelle!Love your work, please keep doing what you do!! What do you make of the crazy East& West W-L Records in the W so far?!! Seems like the teams that have had the least amount of changes to the roster since last season and untimely injuries are now in first place. ATL and SEA. Is the 11 player roster here to stay or will it be judged a real handicap for teams over a whole season?Thanks!vickster
Mechelle Voepel (2:03 PM)
Yes, it does seem that continuity has helped teams this season, not that it's particularly unusual. Certainly, the coaching changes and the Tulsa relocation have impacted the West, along with Phoenix's dynamic changing with the Pondexter trade. And the Monarchs, who despite last year's struggles were really a very consistent West team, no longer exist. As for the roster size, it hurts player development because that's one less young person a team could have to learn the ropes. But I don't see it changing unless there is enough of an economic upswing to make that happen.
I realize that the Sparks are struggling without Candace and Betty Lennox. However, even if Candace was still playing, don't you think they can seriously use some heavy muscle in the paint? It seems that Atlanta's Erika De Souza and the Sun's Tina Charles don't have too much trouble pushing Tina Thompson around in the paint.I know Courtney Paris is still out there, although I would much prefer that she commits to a solid reconditioning program so she can take full advantage of her prodigious skills. I also know there are a few blue chip (or near blue chip) post players due next draft. The Sparks just seem to give up too many points in the paint these days.
Mechelle Voepel (2:07 PM)
I agree ... I think when you lose a Lisa Leslie, you're going to take at least a season to figure out if you have enough to not "replace" her but at least fill the gap as well as possible. The Sparks don't seem to have the right personnel, even if Candace Parker was playing. As for Courtney Paris, yes, she will to be in better condition than she was in college to be a really effective WNBA post player. I think everyone would agree on that.
Of the 11 players named to the US National Team, 6 are from UConn. Given the limited amount of practice time available, and since they know Geno Auriemma's approach so well and he knows their abilites so well, do you think he'll spend a disproportionate amount of time relying on his former players to carry the day? I admire Auriemma's accomplishments, and I love watching his players play, but I dont think the national team should just be the UConn All-Stars. It might be good for his ego to look out on an Olympic court and see five of his players there, but is that really good for team solidarity?
Mechelle Voepel (2:11 PM)
I think Geno Auriemma is actually very sensitive to the idea that this is a "UConn" team ... he doesn't want it to have that identity. He wants it to be the United States team. And he doesn't "pick" the team, so it's not like he's pulling all these strings to get former Huskies on the squad. I think USA Basketball has to go with the best collection of players, and if that means six are from UConn, that's just the way it is. And I don't think Auriemma will just tell his players, "You run the show." I really don't. I think he'll be very cognizant of communicating with the ones he doesn't know as well. He is approaching this as Team USA coach, not UConn's coach.
kevin (macon ga)
There was an article in Athletic Business this week talking about the lack of training and understanding about Title IX among coaches (men's and women's) and ADs. What's the best way to ensure that they become properly informed about it?
Mechelle Voepel (2:17 PM)
There are times when I've done stories on Title IX, and I just shake my head at how little many of the coaches, administrators and players seem to *really* know about it. I actually think colleges and high schools should have mandatory seminars for all their coaches on the history of Title IX and how it's been enforced (or not enforced). The lack of even basic knowledge about it is prevalent among so many people who SHOULD know, ands that is frustrating to me. And I also think it's dangerous, because there is a LOT about Title IX that is actually arcane and complicated. And it takes study to really understand it and the history. To reduce it to "oh, it's a quota system" is utterly false, but shockingly common.
Do you think that Nolan Richardson's "40 Minutes of Hell" can be successful in the WNBA?
Mechelle Voepel (2:20 PM)
If you have players who can successfully run that system defensively and are skilled enough offensively to translate the defense into points, it can work. But this is not a dynamic offensive team, to say the least, and the defense isn't good enough to balance that. To me, the problems in Tulsa are not enough talent and a coach who's still trying to figure out the women's game. These were both expected to be issues this season, so I hope Tulsa fans are patient - and the Shock looks different next summer.
Do you think the WNBA will expand back into OH? We lost Cleveland Rockers early, just lost the Shock. There is massive support for WBB in Ohio, MI, and even PA. Would WNBA consider a perhaps smaller media market, w/$, but w/ample fan support as they would find in this part of MidWest, which provides so many of top WBB players in US?
Mechelle Voepel (2:26 PM)
Tulsa, of course, is a small media market. The WNBA is trying to solidify what it has ... unless there is an owner/ownership group who is rock-solid and very well-funded, there is no reason for the league to risk going into something that has a high possibility to fail. I really can't agree there is "massive" support for women's hoops anywhere, although I wish that were the case. And even if a lot of good players come out of an area, that doesn't necessarily mean there is going to be anyone in that area with the funds and desire to own a WNBA team. It really all comes down to a relatively few people who have significant funds wanting to invest in this particular product.
Jeff (NY, NY)
Regarding the 6 players from UConn, I don't think anyone can argue that they don't all belong.
Mechelle Voepel (2:29 PM)
I agree. I just think you go with the best people, and this is a program that's been at or near the top of the sport very solidly for 15 years. It would be pretty hard to avoid having a lot of former Huskies on the squad, no matter who was coaching it.
There's been an uproar over the concussions suffered by LJ and Sancho this week. What responsibility and what can the league do about keeping their stars on the court?
Mechelle Voepel (2:37 PM)
Several questions about this, especially about the situation with Lauren Jackson and Delisha Milton-Jones. I think when you have big, strong people playing a fast, physical game, you are going to have "accidents" no matter how hard you try to prevent them. What *can* be prevented is people who play recklessly. That is up to the officials and the league to really police, and I think the league is generally not been very good about this. To be frank, I've probably been asked about Delisha Milton-Jones' style of play being overly rough more than almost any other player in the WNBA. But I think it's very hard as an outsider to always judge these things, because there is a lot of give-and-take we just don't see. We can't keep up with it all. So I think if there is a consensus among players about what's "OK" and what isn't, then they kind of police themselves. But it's also, ultimately, the league's job to step in. I think they tend to avoid doing it.
Ryan F. (Tiburon, Ca)
From your recent article that compared the relationship of Taurasi and Bird to Newman and Redford in the movie 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid', who would you say is Cassidy and who would you say is Sundance?
Mechelle Voepel (2:41 PM)
Well, admittedly, both Butch and Sundance were ultimately screw-ups in life, so Sue and Diana don't fit that bill at all. I intended the comparison to be more to the actual actors, Paul Newman and Robert Redford. But ... for the fun of it, as movie characters, I think Sue would be Butch Cassidy and Diana would be the Sundance Kid. There's a particularly dry line at the movie's end that Butch delivers when they are surrounded and doomed _ "For a minute there, I thought we were in trouble" - that I could imagine Bird nailing with just the right inflection.
kevin (macon ga)
How did Natasha Lacy go from All Rookie Team shoo-in to being released?
Mechelle Voepel (2:44 PM)
Makes about as much sense as everything else that's happened in Tulsa, doesn't it? I saw Natasha Lacy play several times, and she had great energy, the kind of thing needed for whatever number of minutes of "hell" the Shock think they can throw at people defensively. But was she a strong enough offensive player? Was she better than Shavonte Zellous? I feel like what we're seeing this season in Tulsa is the kind of floundering that seemed, unfortunately, pretty predictable.
Stewart (Alexandria, VA)
Mechelle, LOVE your articles on the WNBA! Keep up the good work! What is it going to take to get rid of all the negative, blatantly sexist comments that find their way in the comments section of your articles? I think the WNBA is a GREAT alternative to the men's game and the ladies seem to care more about the game and reaching out to their fans than their male counterparts. I'm proud to be a male WNBA fan! Thanks.
Mechelle Voepel (2:51 PM)
Yes, if we could just find a way to eliminate laughable insecurity in some people, we could get rid of these sexist comments. :) Seriously, reader comments are an interesting issue in journalism. When I was at a newspaper, we didn't print letters to the editor unless people include their names, addresses and a phone number with which the letter could be verified. But with the Internet, people can completely anonymously say whatever hateful, sexist, racist, homophobic things they want, and unless a comment moderator is informed and/or catches it himself or herself, it just stays up there. I personally think that allowing reader comments, while a great idea in theory, opens the door for essentially letting anyone spray graffiti on your work. If the comments are critical but on point, that's fine. But if they're just hateful rubbish, all we're doing is allowing a forum for the lowest common denominator. Just my view ... but it's not as if any web site is really going to stop reader comments because they want "clicks."
With the deal signed with ESPN, why are there not more games on television? Tuesday night is great but there are so many more games that could be shown during the weekend that we as fans miss out on.
Mechelle Voepel (2:54 PM)
It's all about ratings and what makes solid revenue. There are women's basketball advocates in positions of authority at ESPN, but they also have to look at the bottom line. I think, knowing this, the league has to work harder on the All-Access product being more reliable and efficient.
Should Cappie Pondexter have been suspended for at least one game?
Mechelle Voepel (2:55 PM)
I thought a one-game suspension would have be warranted, because of the combination of the flagrant foul on Penny Taylor and then the unnecessary shove to Diana Taurasi, who was not looking to confront Cappie until she did that. I hope that Cappie kind of "got it out of her system" as it were. Probably just a really emotional night that got out of hand.
Judith (Washington, DC)
In the event that your wonderful piece this week on the Mystics results in the usual Voepel "curse" of good publicity, do you have arrangements in place to hide out in a secret location (maybe with Dick Cheney), safe from DC fans seeking revenge?
Mechelle Voepel (2:57 PM)
Um, if that happens, I think I'll take my chances with the furious Mystics fans rather than the former VP. :)
If you had to guess, do you think there is a chance the Shock do not return to Tulsa next year. The announced attendance has been be dreadful all year (actual attendance probably much worse) and is trending downward. Is this a sinking ship or can it survive in Tulsa?
Mechelle Voepel (3:00 PM)
I'd say that if the owners weren't prepared to go through at least one tough season to get this product launched, they shouldn't have expanded. Do I think it can survive? Sure, if you give people a product that is fun to watch. But that may take a few years to build up.
Do you think we'll see very many coaching changes or roster changes around the All Star break?
Mechelle Voepel (3:03 PM)
My instinct is, "no" there won't be. The teams that are struggling for the most part all have coaches new to their jobs. Not sure that it would help their franchises to make in-season coaching changes, or that in some cases it would even be considered. Some teams may be looking to solidify a few things on their rosters, but I don't necessarily think you'll have any blockbuster moves.
kevin (macon ga)
Could Crystal Langhorne win MIP again? Would that make the league and/or the award look silly?
Mechelle Voepel (3:06 PM)
It's not like there are exact hard-and-fast "parameters" with this award ... it's up to individual voters to decide what constitutes "most-improved." That said, I think most people would not consider awarding it to the same player two years in a row ... although I don't know of anything that could prevent that. I'm more inclined to have Crystal Langhorne in the MVP pool and look elsewhere for MIP.
kevin (macon ga)
USA Today had a story this week about underground women's sports leagues in Saudi Arabia, where they are officially banned. Do you think they will be allowed to play openly any time soon?
Mechelle Voepel (3:12 PM)
Saudi Arabia is, of course, one of the most restrictive countries in the world for women. I really don't think most Americans even have any idea how hellish it is for women there. It's beyond belief, frankly. So there is a long way to go for even the most basic rights for women there. That said, sports sometimes breaks through barriers more quickly than other things. So while I have an overall pessimistic view of the situation, I would say that if there's any chance for things to change with more expediency, sports may be a key part of it.
kevin (macon ga)
Who is the biggest snub at the All Star Game?
Mechelle Voepel (3:14 PM)
It seems like now, with Lindsey Harding and Monique Currie on as replacement players for LJ and Sancho, everyone who "needs" to be there is pretty much there. I know people are still upset about the "success" of the San Antonio voting block, but I guess that is a message to all teams to "get out the vote" in the future.
Mechelle Voepel (3:15 PM)
Thanks again for all the questions. Chat with you next week!