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 4 p.m. ET!
Mechelle Voepel (4:03 PM)
Good afternoon, folks. It's a bit warmer here in Atlanta than it was in Seattle. Figure the Dream could use a very warm reception from their fans tonight after walking the gauntlet at KeyArena twice. Let's get started.
Greg (Sacramento, CA)
How do you see the rest of the series playing out? Do the Dream and their fans still "believe" at this point?
Mechelle Voepel (4:05 PM)
I do think the Dream believes ... I don't know just how the fans feel, but I'd guess the most seasoned WNBA watchers are not overly optimistic. The chance of the Storm losing three games in a row is pretty remote. That said, as they say, right now all the Dream want to do is keep this series going to Game 4. I think that's a realistic goal.
kevin (macon ga)
Cal is apparently preparing to cut some sports. Don't you get tired of the media bashing of Title IX every time something like this happens?
Mechelle Voepel (4:10 PM)
Yes, I do get tired of it, but more than that, I find it one of the embarrassments of sports journalism that so many in the media are as uneducated as they are about the reality of Title IX, how much money really is spent on women's sports and the issues that women athletes and the men and women who coach them still face. What fuels this is the belief that it doesn't matter if you do your homework or not on "opinions" - which is ridiculous - and the baseline belief by too many people, still, that sports are inherently more important to men, and that men's opportunities are more important. I am always willing to have discussions about the economic issues in college sports and how that probably at times should mean cuts across the board. But that's rarely how those discussions go. It's usually - "look at what Title IX is "forcing" us to do to men's sports." And that's a load of crap.
Doesn't losing Parker to injury and still hanging on the health of Fowles leave things looking oddly reminiscent of the last World Championships in 2006? Everyone's - rightly - saying that the US should still have more than enough talent anyway, but they could be going into the tournament lacking any real experienced size. Just like when Leslie and Griffith were missing last time around...
Mechelle Voepel (4:16 PM)
You know, that's a really good observation. I guess I look at it like this: The USA talent and experience is still overall so good that even with these absences or potential absence in Fowles' case, I think the Americans can overcome it. Bird, as good of a leader as she was in 2006, is now even better - she's now like Staley and T Edwards, and that's as big a compliment as you can give a point guard. And you have Geno Auriemma. And whatever the final roster ends up being, it's still loaded. So I believe they are going to be OK. Would Geno love to have a healthy Candace Parker just for good measure? Well, sure. But he's been preparing quite a while knowing he won't have her. Fowles ... we'll see.
Helen (NY, NY)
Some USA BBall midst the W questions: What's your take on Cappie and Kia being MIA? Also, great news re: the games being on NBAtv -- was that going to happen all along or was there a helpful "outcry" from fans?
Mechelle Voepel (4:22 PM)
I think it's disappointing on their part. I mentioned Staley and Edwards ... they would have swam through a crocodile-infested lake to get to USA practice. Same with Lisa Leslie. The only thing Leslie missed in more than a decade was the 2006 Worlds after her uncle had been paralyzed in a car accident. People like Edwards, Staley and Leslie carried on that do-whatever-you-have-to mentality about commitment to the national team that started even before them. I recall talking to Leslie about this before the Beijing Olympics, and she said, "I hope the mentality about how important the national team is never changes with the next generation ... but we'll see." As for TV ... I heard a few days ago that NBA TV was going to pick it up, and I don't know if fan outcry was part of it ... but I'm sure that it never hurts to let networks/organizations know that you are watching. So kudos to those folks who keep sending e-mails and posting on message boards and letting your voice be heard. Keep it up.
kevin (macon ga)
Federer and Nadal have won 21 of the last 23 Grand Slam events. Even Evert and Navratilova never did that. Why don't the men get accused of a lack of depth in the field like the women do when there's any streak at all?
Mechelle Voepel (4:29 PM)
Look who pushes the "dialogue" in the media world - and that's how you find your answer about why if there's a negative way to look at ANYTHING in regard to women's sports, that's what usually happens. And what I mean is, the sports media world is still incredibly non-diverse. There is a group-think that's been going on a long, long time. And when there is a challenge to it, the instinct is not, "Gee, maybe we should re-think our views about this." Instead, it's to scream the same old positions louder and louder. The thing is, there are alternatives now to "the media" ... people find message boards and discussion groups and go there more often for better, more informed conversation. I don't know when/if the so-called mainstream media will really make significant progress in regard to coverage of and discussion of women's sports. I don't mean to be cynical, I just haven't exactly seen a ton of progress in my 25 years as a sports writer. Or at least compared to progress in other areas, it's been very slow to change.
kevin (macon ga)
Cappie Pondexter doesn't seem to be having any "physical issues" strutting around on heels at fashion week, nor did she in the Eastern Conference Finals. Why did Geno Auriemma feel compelled to say her absence from Team USA was such an issue?
Mechelle Voepel (4:32 PM)
Because part of an event like the Worlds is team bonding, getting used to players you don't play with that often. That's always been a challenge for Team USA, and that's why every day they can spend together matters. I realize there are some folks who are fine with Cappie's decision, and they have a right to that opinion. I happen to agree with Auriemma on this one, though. And I would bet the greatest women's players we've had in this country's history would agree with him, too. That said, I would be very disappointed if Cappie weren't on the team ... I do think she totally, absolutely should be on the roster and play a ton. I just am disappointed she didn't report ASAP because that's how much I think of the chance to compete in event like this. I think it's a major privilege.
In the womens college game last season the ref's put a big emphasis on traveling, especially the spin move. I noticed that the spin move is not called in WNBA. Do you think this will change?
Mechelle Voepel (4:40 PM)
Do you mean will it change so that the college refs stop calling it so much? I hope so. :) I talked to one prominent ref not too long ago who wasn't pleased that it was a point of emphasis in the college game. I realize there are some folks out there who don't think traveling is called enough. I'm not one of them. I say give the player the benefit of the doubt unless it's a REALLY obvious walk. What can I say? I love spin moves. :)
The Stanford women's volleyball team was able to break the Penn State winning streak. Do you think the Stanford women's basketball team will be able to break the UConn winning streak? (Especially if they have home court advantage?)
Mechelle Voepel (4:45 PM)
You know what? Yes. The Cardinal have a great team coming back, they have incoming impact and they're at home. Yes, Stanford should win this game. But I think Baylor will break the UConn winning streak first, when they meet in November. Might as well go ahead and rile up the UConn fans, huh? :) But Baylor went to a Final Four, has virtually the whole team back and Kim Mulkey is not afraid of these challenges. She lives for them.
Will Becky Hammon be playing for Russia in the Worlds?
Mechelle Voepel (4:47 PM)
Becky is on Russia's roster, but I am not sure if she is playing. I think she was in Seattle last week, actually, but I didn't see her. I have been so laser-focused on the WNBA playoffs that I haven't really looked into the rosters of the other countries. If some SASS fan is on this chat and knows for sure, let me know.
It is great ESPN is having you cover the Finals in person. Is it more challenging to write when you are watching games from home?
Mechelle Voepel (4:52 PM)
It's never the same as being there, but the good thing about having covered the women's game for such a long time is that I can always come up with something to write while watching on TV. During the first round, I actually don't mind so much because it's sometimes just as well because then I just watch all the series and don't get too focused on one in particular. I'd prefer to go to one of the conference finals and the finals every year. But ... it's a resources thing, which all journalists deal with. The biggest thing is that you don't get the interaction with players before and after games when you're not there, and that is not just a source of quotes but also gives you ideas and inspiration for columns and features. Obviously, I love being at games more than anything. But I can make do OK when I'm not.
Mechelle Voepel (4:53 PM)
And I won't be at the World Championship, so I'll make do watching on TV and communicating with folks in the Czech Republic.
I'm wandering off the reservation slightly and asking a football question: What are your thoughts about the Ines Sainz-New York Jets incident?
Mechelle Voepel (5:00 PM)
Honestly, I haven't read much at all about this, other than to know some basics about what happened. Players know that when locker rooms are open to media, there is a standard of behavior they need to follow. Leagues want publicity, it feeds the machine, and these are their rules - that locker rooms are open. It's just completely knuckle-headed behavior to not maintain professionalism when the media is around. Fortunately, I think the Jets brass and the NFL acted very quickly and decisively to send the message that there is no excuse for players doing anything like this. But I imagine periodically we will always have these issues flare up, and have to be dealt with. Incidentally, apparently there was some question about whether men were allowed in WNBA locker rooms, and the answer is yes, of course they are. All credentialed media are allowed in during the open periods.
Barry (Phoenix, AZ)
There are some who question whether Gail Goestenkors is a good Xs and Os coach? She led Duke from obscurity to a national powerhouse. But she did not win a national title, despite 4 appearances in the Final Four? Is her success mostly a byproduct of recruiting? Or is she really a great game strategist and coach? What are your thoughts?
Mechelle Voepel (5:08 PM)
Having watched Goestenkors during practices, having picked her brain about countless game situations, there is ZERO doubt in my mind that she's an excellent X's and O's coach. I was in ACC territory when she came to Duke in 1992. I watched her build that program from the ground up, fighting for respect, battling to overtake traditional powers, and going from an afterthought in her own conference to being one of the national powers. So when I hear this revisionist- history BS that some people - who WEREN'T there and WEREN'T watching then - spew now "Oh, Duke was always an easy sell ..." nope. I'm not letting that nonsense go unanswered. I also get irritated with this talk of, "Oh, she hasn't won a national championship." Heck, she went to the Final Four one year with an eight-kid team that nobody else but a SMALL handful of coaches might have had the same success with. GG is a terrific coach. Andy Landers is a terrific coach. They haven't won a national championship, but those are hard to come by. That isn't the sole arbiter to me of who is a great coach. Look how you got me wound up again, Barry. :)
Who would you remove from the All WNBA first team in order to make room for Sue Bird?
Mechelle Voepel (5:10 PM)
My first team was Catchings, Taurasi, Bird, Pondexter and Jackson. I realize people will say I was breaking the "rules" by having three guards and two post players ... but that was my ballot.
kevin (macon ga)
Why would a team credential someone like Ines Sainz for the lockerroom? Shouldn't that be left for serious reporters, regardless of gender?
Mechelle Voepel (5:15 PM)
A follow-up on this situation ... I think this is one of the challenges that media relations people deal with. There is more media and pseudo-media than ever before, and they have to make decisions about excluding people. This even happens in the WNBA, and it's not always an easy thing to distinguish who is "real" working media and who is just along for the ride and probably should not be in the locker rooms or have much, if any, access to players. Also, WNBA media relations people do have to deal with those who sort of "declare" themselves media because they start doing things for an Internet site or they create their own site. Again, some of these folks have very legitimate things to offer in covering the league ... but some of them don't. So it's something the media-relations people in any sport must weigh.
kevin (macon ga)
How close is Lauren Jackson to being the best WNBA player of All Time?
Mechelle Voepel (5:19 PM)
There is a difference, of course, in that title and just "best women's player of all time" _ since the league didn't begin until 1997, thus excluding great players who preceded it. But ... even if you were talking about greatest players of all time, she is STILL very high on that list. Right now, I think she's close to being best in WNBA history, but let's give her just a little more time to nail that down. And I say that with all due respect to Cynthia Cooper, Sheryl Swoopes, Lisa Leslie. I'll also say this ... there has been nobody who impacts every second she's on the floor any more than Jackson has. Her talents are so varied, she demands so much attention, she's so skilled for her size ... she's an amazing and special player.
kevin (macon ga)
Athlon has Maryland in their preseason Top 10 while Lindy's has them unranked. Which is closer to reality for the Terps?
Mechelle Voepel (5:21 PM)
College 2010-11 questions already? Yeesh. I haven't even begun to form a top 10, let alone a top 25. But my off-the-top-of-my-head answer is unranked is closer to reality for Maryland than top 10. I'll revisit in a month or so. :)
kevin (macon ga)
If Bruce Pearl gets fired or suspended, should Pat Summitt be the choice to replace him? Would she take on that challenge?
Mechelle Voepel (5:22 PM)
I've never heard her express any interest in coaching men's basketball. People ask her about it, but her answer has always been that she prefers her focus stay where it's always been.
Kara (South Bend)
Angel McCoughtry said after Game 2 that the Storm's defense had nothing to do with her not hitting her shots... but the numbers they've held her too over the season have consistently been below her averages and surely the Storm deserve some credit for that? Why won't she acknowledge any impact the Storm's defense - one of the best in the league - may have had on her shooting?
Mechelle Voepel (5:25 PM)
It's funny ... players very rarely give the other team's defense credit for them missing shots. Seriously, they don't. They usually say, "I just wasn't hitting my shots, I had looks." Sometimes they are less dismissive of the other team, but rarely do they say, "Wow, their defense was just so tough." I think players always want to believe things are in their control, and so to acknowledge they were "shut down" suggests things weren't in their control. I don't actually think Angel means this in a disrespectful way to the Storm ... it's just the way most players are. The Storm's record and defensive stats, though, speak for themselves.
How do you see Armintie Price's ankle injury potentially affecting the Dream's game tonight? Or how Seattle are able to exploit either her absence or her not playing at 100%?
Mechelle Voepel (5:26 PM)
That could be a factor, because she is of great value for her speed and on-the-ball defense. But Atlanta used Coco Miller mostly on Sue Bird in Game 2.
Okay. Sue Bird's last minute shot in Game 2 against Phoenix vs. Sue Bird's last minute shot in Game 1 against Atlanta. How do think these measure up against each other? And should we be looking for another one tonight?
Mechelle Voepel (5:28 PM)
Both great examples of a player who has supreme confidence to take shots at the most crucial time in the game. That is her personality, and she's worked on her game very hard to be able to have that confidence. Both were pretty huge, and both will be remembered as key moments in this 2010 season. And I would never be surprised to see any game end with a Sue Bird basket.
Is it time for Meadors and Ross to give up on the small starting lineup?
Mechelle Voepel (5:30 PM)
Maybe so ... especially with how well Sancho Lyttle and Erika de Souza have played. I guess we will see soon. Thanks for all the questions, sorry I didn't get to more. But I better be headed over to Philips Arena soon.