Chat with Mechelle Voepel
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, women's basketball writer Mechelle Voepel will stop by to chat about the 2011 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. A lot has been going on in the sports world in the past week for me, including following the Women's World Cup, the U.S. Open Women's golf and the WNBA. Also, if you're interested in this topic, check out espn.com's "Pay-for-Play" series about that question facing college athletics. I did a couple of stories for the series, including one about Title IX. So ... let's get started.
What do you think about the NCAA's reprimanding Kim Mulkey and Jeff Walz?
Mechelle Voepel (2:08 PM)
Don't really agree with reprimand on Mulkey, as I think she had a right to question being put in the same quarter of the bracket that would match up her Baylor team with Texas A
Judith (Wash DC)
Is the Mystics' front office tone deaf? Following up the off-season debacle, and with the team now at 2-9, they've just invited fans to PAY MONEY to attend a pre-game panel with Sheila Johnson, Ted Leonsis, and Laurel Richie. Forty dollars for season ticketholders, 60 bucks in advance for those who aren't, $70 at the door. The price includes a game ticket and "food & beverage (cash bar)." CASH BAR for those prices? Really? I will gladly pay $70 for your ticket, Mechelle, if you'll go and ask questions.Seriously though, now the fans have to pay for a little pre-game chat with the owners?
Mechelle Voepel (2:12 PM)
When I first saw this, I thought, "Every time we think the Mystics have outdone themselves in PR gaffes, they come up with something new to surprise us." I wouldn't pay a nickel for this "opportunity," and neither should anybody else. It's insulting.
Matt (Sandusky, OH)
San Antonio and Seattle both enter tonight's nationally televised Western Conference match-up with injuries and identical records. Will the home court advantage factor in enough to allow the Silver Stars to rise above the the Storm in the standings?
Mechelle Voepel (2:16 PM)
If I were a Silver Stars fan, I might be just a tad worried now. They're on a skid, and have two games against Seattle (home and road) and one against Los Angeles (road) before the All-Star break. Withe the enthusiasm the team has built up this season, you'd hope that it doesn't evaporate before the big All-Star shindig in San Antonio on July 23. So ... the SASS should be very pumped up for tonight's game because it's very important to win this one.
Blake Whitney (Washington, DC)
What are your thoughts about longtime WNBA players getting their first (or at least their first major) coaching jobs as head coaches of WNBA teams. Everyone wants to see people like Cynthia Cooper, Jennifer Gillom and Teresa Edwards do well, but the results are kind of a mixed bag.
Mechelle Voepel (2:21 PM)
I think Edwards' time as player/coach in the ABL and her brief time so far in charge of Tulsa has not give us much indication of her ability as a sideline coach. Jury still out. Cooper's departure from the Mercury was weird and seemed to have some dynamic of complications in her life outside of hoops. She has had some success, of course, in college, but not at a "major" program. Gillom ... it didn't necessarily seems she was respected by all her players, which is tough when you have as many vets as LA does. I think coaching at the pro level, with the short season and a lot of parity, is rather difficult. So getting a "mixed bag" in terms of results should probably be expected.
What would the WNBA do if a player ever spoke out against the league and their teammates like James Harrison did? That could be the new Prez's worst nightmare!
Mechelle Voepel (2:25 PM)
Because it was the WNBA, it obviously wouldn't get nearly as much attention as Harrison has. :) I don't know many WNBA players that would feel like they wanted to torch teammates/the league/officials quite like that. If one of the Mystics players wanted to do it, though, maybe she could pay $70 to go drop a verbal bomb on them in the "meet-and-greet." :)
Troy (Gilbert, AZ)
Is Phoenix legit? Their four losses are: Seattle (with Lauren Jackson), Los Angeles (with Candace Parker), San Antonio (by two), and Indiana (by five), and out of their 13 games so far, only five have been at home. After their thrilling win over Minnesota yesterday, are they considered the favorites now? How do you like their chances of winning it all?
Mechelle Voepel (2:29 PM)
That was a thrilling game yesterday, although that's not the word that Lynx fans would probably use for it. They would pick "frustrating" ... or at least that would be the G-rated version. Yes, the Mercury look for real to me. I think the early part of their season was more the aberration, and now you're seeing more the team as it's capable of playing. If the Mercury continue to play like this, I don't know that anyone would doubt they have the potential to win another title.
The NBA star players are now talking about going overseas, do you think it is a ploy to get the owners worried?
Mechelle Voepel (2:32 PM)
I think they're trying to get any leveraging power they can, which is what always happens in labor vs. management. It's fascinating to think of star NBA players making that overseas migration the way almost all women's players have been doing for so long. I don't know how many of the NBA players will really decide to try to do this if the lockout lasts through the season, but it might be REALLY interesting covering European men's hoops this winter.
The Lynx lost a home game to the Mercury because Maya Moore played like the fourth best player on her team. And more significantly, the Lynx bench of three offensively skilled lottery picks (Wiggins, Wright, and Harris) all got smoked by DeWanna Bonner. On paper Minnie has plenty of offensive firepower but they seem to be unable to max their offensive talents on the floor. What do you see as the Lynx's greatest challenges moving forward?
Mechelle Voepel (2:39 PM)
Actually, you summed it up pretty well ... they have a lot of good parts, but they aren't fitting together as seamlessly as the Lynx ultimately hope they do. I think there are some concerns about that in regard to how it might trip up the team in the postseason. Also, one or two players need to become really more consistent 3-point threats. And I suspect Minnesota needs the true "alpha dog" on the roster to really emerge, and the rest of the pack will fall in line. I'm sorry for using such a tired analogy, but I can't think of a better one right at the moment.
So much has happened in such a short time...your thoughts on Wimbledon Women's final? I loved both winner and runner up were extremely gracious. Can Americans rule US Women's Golf? How 'bout Wambach and company?
Mechelle Voepel (2:46 PM)
Favorite moment in Wimbledon was watching the reaction of the father of women's winner Petra Kvitova ... he looked almost like weepy-proud Paul Sorvino when daughter Mira Sorvino won an Academy Award several years back. That was sweet. There are some good young Americans on the LPGA tour, but this tournament came down to two young Korean stars who played the best during a storm-ruined event. Great as Abby Wambach's goal was against Brazil, I'm still even more in amazement over Megan Rapinoe's perfect feed to her. :) And maybe I'm in the minority, but I do feel a little bad for Brazil ... they are drama queens on the field at times, but they have had a lot of heartbreak in coming close but not winning a major soccer championship (Olympics or World Cup).
Matt (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
Fever haven't missed much of a beat since January went down. Are you surprised?
Mechelle Voepel (2:48 PM)
Maybe a little that they have been *so* strong since the injury, but I did think they had a really good chance to win the Eastern Conference this season. It's really a testament to the veteran leadership and skill on that team.
TJ James (Vestavia Hills, Ala)
Do you think that the LA Sparks made the right decision to fire Jen Gillom and hiring Joe "Jellybean" Bryant & Do you think LA has a chance to get to the Western Conference Finals And Possibly The WNBA Finals With A Healthy Candace Parker
Mechelle Voepel (2:52 PM)
I do think that it was a good move by the Sparks. And if Candace Parker returns at full strength, then LA very well could be a contender. Maybe with the Sparks at 5-6 now, that seems ridiculous, but I think there could be a lot of hope for that franchise this season if the injury situation goes more in their favor.
Who do you think has been the best rookie so far this year? I've been pretty impressed with Kayla Pedersen.
Mechelle Voepel (2:57 PM)
Kayla Pedersen has been very good and consistent in what's had to have felt to her like going from a basically smooth-sailing elite program at Stanford to a leaky rowboat of a franchise in Tulsa. I knew, though, that if any rookie could handle that without it changing her demeanor or resolve, it was Pedersen. But I've also been impressed by Danielle Adams, who needed someone to give her a chance to prove herself. SASS have to be glad they did.
Any ideas on what's wrong with the Dream? Sancho has been out, but I thought we had enough talent we should be doing better.
Mechelle Voepel (3:01 PM)
Last week, I mentioned that Dream were kind of hard to figure, but "chat warrior" Kevin did accurately point out the affect of inconsistencies they've had in their starting lineup because of injuries and Sancho Lyttle's participation in the European championships. I think it's kind of still the same thing a week later. The Dream are still a little hard to figure even if you take into account those good explanations for their up-and-down (more down) play. If you start out a season not in much of a rhythm, it can be really hard to get it back.
Any special events on deck 4 All-Star weekend?
Mechelle Voepel (3:04 PM)
OK, about all I do at these things is write. I'm not sure exactly what fun stuff may be going on around the game for those who can enjoy that. So if anyone on the chat now knows of some things, please send it in and I'll post it.
Matt (Sandusky, OH)
Is recently signed Shock guard Doneeka Lewis related to Silver Stars guard Roneeka Hodges?
Mechelle Voepel (3:05 PM)
Yes, they are twin sisters.
James (San Antonio)
Jayne Appel has been a huge disappointment in San Antonio. There is a collective groan of NOOO from the crowd when ever she checks in. It's well past injury excuse time. Do you think this is a case of over hyped successful college player that just isn't WNBA material or is she just in the wrong system?
Mechelle Voepel (3:09 PM)
James actually had a little (lot) more to say about his lack of belief in Jayne Appel as a legitimate WNBA player right now. I edited a bit out so as to not seem we were dropping a ton of bricks on Ms. Appel. :) So do any of the SASS fans who might be on the chat feel that same way? I tend to think it's not the system, but that she is still struggling with the speed and athleticism in the league.
Penny Taylor's game is rolling, do you think she has a chance to win MVP?
Mechelle Voepel (3:14 PM)
Folks will point out that Penny Taylor may always be overshadowed in Phoenix because of Diana Taurasi, but that might not necessarily be the case if the Mercury and Taylor continue to perform as they have this season. One thing that is for sure, though, is that Taylor isn't worried about this. She is as much a total team player as you'd want to find, and the last thing she's going to stress over is whether she ever wins MVP. I think that's a big part of why the Merc have been so successful for several years - her attitude in that regard.
Team USA World Cup, destiny?
Mechelle Voepel (3:17 PM)
Not so much sure I believe in "destiny" as I do that when you're part of a program/organization that is used to winning, it gets "handed" down to the next generation. You see that with pro and college teams, of course. Just that there's this mindset: "We *will* find a way to win." That the US team kept playing with such energy against Brazil even when it seemed like it would have been so easy to get discouraged and pack it in ... that's a "don't-quit" legacy that younger players have learned in part from older players.
Tammie (San Antonio, Texas)
Mechelle, some fans here just don't like Jayne, no matter what she does. She had 11 rebounds in a game this season, and some fans on message board dismissed it as the ball simply falling in her hands. She made 2 of 3 shots against New York last week, but the same fans ripped her for the one shot she missed. Nevermind, Becky Hammon was 2 for 14 against LA on Tuesday, yet the same fans come up with every excuse for when Becky has a bad game.
James (San Antonio)
Head over to silverstarsnation.com/forum if you want see how SASS fans feel about Appel. I am one of MANY who have ZERO faith in her abilities and her lack of contribution to the team.
Mechelle Voepel (3:18 PM)
So ... you see why I mostly avoid reading message boards. :) It gets dangerous on those things. :)
kevin (macon ga)
This is the first time since 2001 that the All Star Game has been past the Potomac. Should the W try to achieve a better geographic balance regarding the ASG location?
Mechelle Voepel (3:21 PM)
Sure, but it's always been a financial issue in regard to who wants to do it and how the league feels it will perform ticket-wise. From what I've heard from the league office, it is expected to do well in San Antonio. That should bode well for other Western franchises who are interested in hosting.
TJ James (Vestavia Hills, Ala)
Mechelle this is a women's college basketball question. There was a early per-season poll that came out on here and it had the Lady Vols of Tennessee at number 2 do you think they should be that high I'm a huge fan but number 2 even though we are losing Angie B to the wnba Kelly Cain to deciding to end her playing career and Kimko Willaims tearing her ACL!!
Mechelle Voepel (3:26 PM)
I have to acknowledge I'm not sure which preseason poll this is ... also that I have not thought too much about college hoops recently. A lot else going on. :) I was very sorry, of course, to hear of Kamiko Williams' injury. Although I will try to look on the bright side and say maybe she will benefit from a year of just studying basketball instead of trying to learn more as she plays it. I think it's just a testament to Tennessee's reputation and the fact that there are still a lot of really good players there, of course. If they were picked lower, some folks would be incensed that Tennessee wasn't getting the respect it deserved, you know?
John (Los Angeles)
Thank you for pointing out Rapinoe's pass in the Brazil game. Wambach is a great player and convenient focal point for attention, which is good for the cause, but it all doesn't happen without the incredible play by Rapinoe that led up to it.
Mechelle Voepel (3:30 PM)
Didn't you just love that entire play, start to finish, the length of the field? Every coach in America, regardless of which sport, should have that clip and play it for their teams and say, "Look: Here is execution when almost everybody is exhausted and time is slipping away from them. They didn't give up. They didn't get sloppy or just do something crazy and hope it worked. They executed as they were supposed to, and after a lot of frustration, it finally did work." Heck, that's a great lesson for all of life outside of sports, too.
Mechelle Voepel (3:35 PM)
Hmm ... lots more questions about the Mystics' ludicrous shindig and the entertainment value of the ESPYs ... are you guys just trying to get me in trouble? :) I don't think it would be, uh, journalistically ethical or prudent to pay my way into talking to the Mystics folks. And at this point, I no longer feel like there's much point in asking them many questions. That infamous Sheila Johnson teleconference last year about did me in. :) The ESPYs seem to be enjoyed by the participants, and there's not usually a lot else going on sports-wise on the day after baseball's All-Star Game. (Not everybody watches the WNBA like us). How's that for diplomacy? :)
I thought Monica Wright, playing for the Lynx, would take a step forward and be the most vital player off the bench for the Lynx this season. Instead she has just disappeared. Any thoughts?
Mechelle Voepel (3:38 PM)
I'm not sure this is a satisfactory answer, but it seems like maybe there are too many of the same "kind" of player on the Lynx, and perhaps one of them would be better traded elsewhere. And have more of an opportunity to play more. Seems like folks have been speculating about this since the season started, though.
Mechelle Voepel (3:41 PM)
Well, tune in tonight at 9 p.m. Eastern on ESPN2 to see if the Silver Stars can get their mojo back as they face Seattle. All-Star Game starters will also be announced tonight. And enjoy the Women's World Cup semis and final this weekend. Chat with you next week!