Chat with Mechelle Voepel
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, women's basketball writer Mechelle Voepel will stop by to chat about the upcoming 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 (2:05 PM)
Good afternoon. Obviously, we have a new WNBA president, announced this morning. Let's get started.
If it already hasn't been asked...what do you think of the new WNBA President? Should they have picked someone with some ties to basketball ? Im not sure if she has any?
Mechelle Voepel (2:09 PM)
It's hard to really know what to think. They announced Laurel J. Richie this morning. There was no mention of any sports-playing background in the WNBA's release. She will not have a teleconference with the media until next Tuesday. I really don't understand why the league made the announcement today and did not have her available to speak today. The WNBA's release included her basic business background - she's most recently been with Girl Scouts of the USA - and very little personal/life background. Maybe they want us to go try to dig up her life story in the next week.
Judith (Capital of the Free World)
Thin Mints or Samoas?
Mechelle Voepel (2:15 PM)
I think I overdosed on too many Girl Scout cookies as a child and now pretty much avoid them. I hope that's not an un-American thing to say. I was in Brownies in first/second grade, which included "great" activities such as spelling out the Brownie pledge with macaroni letters (used for alphabet soup) and gluing them to a small piece of paneling as a plaque. I still pretty much remember the pledge ... which we didn't really live up to, as we were all fighting each other because they didn't have enough vowels for us and had to go buy more macaroni. I dropped out before I graduated to official Girl Scouts and the green uniform.
kevin (macon ga)
Are you surprised that the WNBA chose a president with no sports background?
Mechelle Voepel (2:21 PM)
Not necessarily, because when I spoke with the NBA's Adam Silver in early March, he really stressed that business and marketing were going to be the principle things they were looking for from the new WNBA president. I did think there were some people on the NBA side who might have fit the bill and made the move, and those were the names I heard from some of the WNBA GMs. I don't think having a specific background in playing basketball or any sport is a requirement for this job ... but having a particular passion for women's sports would be an important quality. And I don't know whether or not Laurel Richie has that, since we haven't spoken with her. I also don't understand why the NBA would wait a week after the WNBA draft (and two weeks after a Women's Final Four held in a WNBA arena) to hire someone as president. It would make more sense to have had a timeline to get the person hired before those events in order to use them to get the new president maximum exposure to the audience that really cares about her product.
What if anything did Chris Granger accomplish during his tenure as interim league commissioner? Was he expected to accomplish anything while he was there, or was he essentially just keepig the chair warm?
Mechelle Voepel (2:24 PM)
I guess the big thing was keeping up with whatever day-to-day business had to be done. And making arrangements with ESPN to hold the draft there, plus getting the All-Star Game set for San Antonio. At least from a public standpoint, he was essentially invisible, which I suppose was what the NBA/WNBA wanted.
Scenario Jones (Charlotte)
What type of impact you think Maya Moore will have on the over all game and increasing attendance.
Mechelle Voepel (2:28 PM)
I think she will help increase attendance in Minnesota, so long as her play helps translate into victories. Moore is a really good spokeswoman and community-advocacy person, and that combined with her basketball skills should make her locally very marketable ... at least by women's basketball standards. If the Lynx can be interesting to fans - i.e. make the postseason _ they will draw better. People latch on to winners, and Moore always has been that.
kevin (macon ga)
Will Maya Moore be in Minnesota's starting lineup on opening day?
Mechelle Voepel (2:29 PM)
I'll predict yes, but Cheryl Reeve will not consult me on this. :) It's hard envisioning Moore not being a major-impact player for this franchise.
Any more news on Katie Smith. How could Seattle afford her? Would they have to deal one of their salaries to make it work? Rumors about Phillips but why would she agree to this trade? Seems like Smith would be a great pick-up for Agler, but I'm not sure they should be willing to pay the price.
Mechelle Voepel (2:33 PM)
All the questions you raise are still unanswered. Storm GM Brian Agler, as late as last night, said he wants her there and is trying to work it out. But it's not easy to make the numbers and personnel fit. It will take some more work and flexibility and cooperation. At this point, not sure you could even put a percentage on the odds that she will go to Seattle. But it could make for a great story if she does.
Matt (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
The more I look at the Perkins/Snow trade, the less sense it makes. What was Chicago thinking?
Mechelle Voepel (2:39 PM)
On the face of it, I did not really understand this trade. Maybe Chicago coach Pokey Chatman thinks she's got enough guards, and that dealing Jia Perkins could bring her the most in return. She may feel Michelle Snow is someone who can help Chicago more. Jia is from Texas, maybe she was eager to go back? Some trades, you just can't - from the outside - know all the reasons. But I admit I was rather surprised by this.
Connor (18) (Guatemala)
Do you think certain players of teams that gained a lot more depth and talent this year (Washington, Minnesota, Atlanta, and San Antonio) will deflate with not AS much playing time? (Anosike, Houston, Lawson-Wade, and Castro-Marques for example)
Mechelle Voepel (2:41 PM)
That is always a possibility in the league, because on several teams, talent does fluctuate. The key then, is having players who understand the greater good outweighs personal stats ... but that can be a contentious issue in all professional sports, where players are looking out for their livelihoods. There are certain players who have more of a reputation for not dealing with it well when they aren't getting the minutes/production they think they should be.
Was it me or did Brittney Griner's supporting cast not play up to their potential last season (excluding Jones and Sims)? Am I the only one who thought that Pope and Williams would have a bigger impact and that Hayden and Madden can be out of control at times?
Mechelle Voepel (2:47 PM)
For the most part, Destiny Williams did a very good job of fulfilling her role. She had a rough final game against Texas A
Bev (San Antonio, Texas)
Mechelle, the Silver Stars traded what was their best post presence in Michelle Snow for Jia Perkins, giving them 2 or 3 post players depending on if Danielle Adams make the team, and six guards. What did you think of the trade? And do you think this is the beginning of more wheeling and dealing by Dan Hughes? Certainly the Silver Stars won't carry six guards, will they?
Mechelle Voepel (2:53 PM)
Yes, now the follow-up from San Antonio's side of the equation. Again, I think you're right. On the face of it, it doesn't seem like this deal necessarily made lots of sense - strictly personnel-wise - for San Antonio. So were personalities part of it? Was there a feeling on both coaches' parts that these players would fit better elsewhere? It would appear to help rookie Danielle Adams' case to make the Silver Stars squad with Snow not there.
I know it is early but who is your top pick in the 2012 wnba draft based on talent? NNeka Ogwumike?
Mechelle Voepel (2:56 PM)
I can't say the 2012 draft has much crossed my mind yet. :) But you would have to figure with her scoring and rebounding ability, Stanford's Nneka Ogwumike is going to flourish in the WNBA. So right now, I'd say she'd be the front-runner.
Hey Mechelle. Will there be any USA Basketball training this spring or even the summer? And have you heard any word if Brittney Griner will be invited again (I would love to see her in a USA uniform)?
Mechelle Voepel (3:00 PM)
There is a senior national team training camp in Las Vegas May 10-12. Brittney Griner is not on the list of 24 athletes currently part of the national team roster. I don't know what her availability for or interest in USA Basketball is at this time.
Snow's gone, Claw's probably gone, Sophia Young, for all her qualities, is one of the worst rebounding power forwards in the WNBA - who exactly is going to grab any boards for San Antonio in 2011?
Mechelle Voepel (3:03 PM)
Better hope the guards are good rebounders, huh? :) Maybe there's another trade coming from the Silver Stars? It would appear to be a concern.
Northside Chip (Connecticut)
What are you thoughts on former UCSB standout and Florida State assistant Cori Close as she takes over at UCLA? Also New Mexico has been rather aggressive in their search involving a number of top mid-major candidates and a key assistant. If I'm a UNM womens basketball supporter am I smiling or concerned?
Mechelle Voepel (3:09 PM)
In regard to Cori Close, I think it was very smart to hire a California native who played and coached collegiately in that state for the UCLA job. It's her home state, and I felt that was an important qualification, frankly, for the Bruins' new hire. At least give the chance to somebody you know loves the area and wants to be there. I would think she'd see this as a destination job, which is what UCLA *should* be. As for New Mexico, I think if this is the successful mid-major coaches we've been hearing about or Vic Schaefer, Texas AM assistant, there is reason to smile. I think these candidates all can connect with the community and understand the passion for women's basketball there.
What do you think Brittney Griner can improve on in her junior season? Getting stronger? And why is it that she isn't always getting so many rebounds for her size?
Mechelle Voepel (3:13 PM)
Continuing to get stronger is probably a long-range plan for Griner that will extend into her professional career. That will help in the rebounding department, but I think that's also a instinct issue - great rebounders are to a degree born, not made - and about her wanting to be cautious about staying out of foul trouble. She needs to stay on the floor for Baylor, and that likely has hindered a little of her aggressiveness in going after rebounds. As she gains more strength and experience, I think her rebounding numbers will increase, at least some.
Any speculation to where Cheryl Ford will be playing this Summer? Thoughts?
Mechelle Voepel (3:15 PM)
A ton of questions about Cheryl Ford. At this point, I don't have an answer for you. Have heard plenty of speculation. We'll see if there's an answer in the next week or so.
Stacey (austn, tx)
What on earth is going on in Manhattan, KS?
Mechelle Voepel (3:28 PM)
Players do transfer in college, and regularly. Because there is a history of some player unhappiness at Kansas State, the recent departure of three players - although one is staying in school there - naturally brings up the past. Especially when one of the players is a two-year starter at guard who is from the state of Kansas: Taelor Karr. Have I heard some rumblings from behind the scenes? Yes. But no one has gone on the record with me yet. When I wrote extensively about some Kansas State issues five years ago, many, many people talked to me off the record. One very key person, Kendra Wecker, did talk on the record. It took courage and strength for her to do that. I don't know if what's happening now has connections to some of the same issues as back then. Or, if so, whether the people who know that first-hand will come forward. There are people who've been happy with their experience at Kansas State, and others who've been very unhappy. Incidentally, when I wrote in 2006 about Kansas State, it was based on nearly 40 interviews, done over the course of about three months, with people who'd been involved with the program.
Do you think that the League (specifically Stern) will ever really understand that connecting with the fan is equally as important as talking points and ideas that rarely come to fruition?
Mechelle Voepel (3:37 PM)
That's exactly what I'm writing about in my story about the new president today. It's not like I can write about her reasons for wanting the job, her philosophy, any plans she might have, or even what I could glean from her personality over the phone ... since she won't be doing a media teleconference until next week. I think the league as an entity regularly makes the mistake of not really connecting to the grass-roots fan base that can be more counted on to buy tickets and show up. Some individual franchises do a better job of this than others or than the league as a whole does. I don't think you can look at the business, marketing and fan-connection tactics that work for the major men's pro sports and just apply them exactly the same for women's sports. The simple fact is, women's pro sports is a harder sell, and so there has to be a strong connection to the fans who are loyal. Don't take them for granted. And the people doing the selling have to believe whole-heartedly in their product: From the president down to every team's marketing people. If you're not passionate about what you're selling, do you really think you'll sell a lot? Now, Laurel Richie may be very passionate about this product. I sure hope she is. But I don't know that now. I was at the Women's Final Four and the WNBA draft, and so were several other media people who regularly cover women's basketball. So were loyal fans. Sure would have made sense to have the new WNBA president in those two places.
On draft day, we discussed people like Melissa Jones and Dawn Evans not getting drafted. Here we sit, and they are STILL not signed to training camps...what's going on?
Mechelle Voepel (3:39 PM)
It's hard to get a job as a guard in this league, and the health/injury issues with these two players may keep teams from pursuing them. Twelve teams, 11-player rosters ... it's just a small pool. Not telling you anything we all don't know, but sometimes we just have to reiterate that.
The Lynx now have 3 superstars in Maya Moore, Candice Wiggins, and Seimone Augustus. Do you think they'll be able to find enough minutes and points to accommodate them all? Or will someone be moved?
Mechelle Voepel (3:47 PM)
Wiggins and Augustus have both had health issues. And it's not as if either of them have carried the Lynx, individually or as a duo, to great success. At this point, I think all noses should be to the grindstone in Minnesota about just getting the job done and not worrying who gets how many minutes or who's going to be starting or who will be the leading scorer or any of that. I am reminded of when I was about 10 and went fishing for a weekend with my dad in my pre-vegetarian days. I wanted to know all about how big the fish had to be for us to keep them, and how many we were allowed to keep. I was wondering how many I would need to release, you see. I had to know all the details out of the regulations book. I then proceeded that weekend to not only NOT catch a fish, but not get a single bite. I lost plenty of hooks and lures to snags, though. I'm not sure if this analogy works for anyone else, but it makes sense to me. :) (And I stopped fishing a long time ago.)
Mechelle Voepel (3:50 PM)
OK, I've surely overdone it with childhood stories today. I know the two biggest things you want to know - and I don't know right now - are if Cheryl Ford and Deanna Nolan will play in the WNBA this year, and if so where. Will continue to try to find that out if possible. Clearly, I am not thrilled with the WNBA for not having the new president available to speak on the day she was announced. Hopefully, she'll have a lot to say next Tuesday when we get a chance to talk with her. As always, thanks for all the questions.