Chat with Mechelle Voepel
Welcome to SportsNation! On Friday, 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 Friday at 3 p.m. ET!
Mechelle Voepel (3:00 PM)
Good afternoon from Atlanta, where it seems like it might actually be just a *tad* cooler than it was in Minneapolis the other day. Isn't that amusing? Thanks for joining me on Friday this week.
Matt (Sandusky, OH)
Has a team ever come back from being down by two in a 5-game series, or has this season's WNBA Championship team already been decided?
Mechelle Voepel (3:03 PM)
No team has done that yet ... since the league went to a best-of-5 format in 2005, the Finals have gone the distance in 2006, 2007 and 2009. Each time, the teams split the first two games. So the Dream will have to accomplish something no team has. Is the title decided already? I wouldn't go that far. I have a feeling Atlanta is going to win tonight and get two games here at home. I predicted a five-game series, but I thought they'd split the first two.
Can we all agree that the refs were terrible last night? The fact that the lynx shot more ft's than made baskets in the 4th qtr is not cool.
Hi. I love these chats--thanks for doing them. Now to my question. If you look up "inconsistent" in the dictionary you'll see a WNBA ref. Touch fouls called then hacks not called. The moving screen is fine, except when it isn't. And so forth.
From TV, the officiating in last night's game looked bad. How bad was it?
Mechelle Voepel (3:08 PM)
I'm guessing some folks put their questions up on Thursday, of course, because that's when the chat normally is. Had to change it to Friday because of travel issues yesterday. Anyway, as for Wednesday's officiating ... I don't much like for the whistles to be blown so often, but I also think at some point the Dream probably just had to adjust. All the dirty looks and eye-rolling and hands in the air didn't seem to faze the officials, and the Dream probably needed to just figure out a way to deal with it better. I'm not saying the officials are blameless; they have bad games like players do. But in this case, you're on the road and really need to get this win, you have to make some adjustments even if you are angry and feel you are just getting hosed. Now, I know it's pretty darn hard to guard Augustus if you feel every time she comes near you, the foul is called on you. That's how the Dream felt. But Atlanta also rushed shots and lost some of its offensive cohesion in the fourth quarter. So they have to recognize that and address it, too.
kevin (macon ga)
The same officiating crew (Blauch, Simpson, Walker) that did Wednesday's whistle-fest also did Game 3 of last year's finals, where we got a relatively paltry 46 fouls and 56 free throws. Given that experience, why couldn't Marynell Meadors and staff get the Dream to adjust to how the game was being called before the fouls and free throws reached the record levels achieved in the 4th quarter?
Mechelle Voepel (3:11 PM)
I think sometimes coaches and teams get so into the mindset "We're getting hosed!" that they almost can't think of anything else. It was all the Dream talked about after the game. At some point in games, you really do have to say, "We have to figure out a way around this." Which I know is easier said than done.
Matt (Sandusky, OH)
How big of a factor could home court advantage be for the Dream now that the Finals have moved to Atlanta?
Mechelle Voepel (3:14 PM)
One of the things I wrote about this morning is that the Dream has started every one of its postseason series - one in 2009, three in 2010 and three this year - on the road. And I do think that may have an accumulated affect on Atlanta. For the second year in a row, they come home for the Finals and it's an elimination game. So for the Dream's sake, they better hope they can play a complete 40 minutes - not to fall into coachspeak - and give themselves and their fans two games here to get some mojo back.
Not to take anything away from Lindsay Whalen's achievements this year, but didn't she do pretty much what Sue Bird did for the Sorm last year? But when she does it, she's first team worthy & when Bird does it, it's only good enough for the second team? What gives?
Mechelle Voepel (3:16 PM)
I wrote about being irritated last year that Bird wasn't on the first team after having such a great season for the best WNBA team in 2010. I had Bird on the first team last year and Whalen on the first team this year, both for the same reasons. http://espn.go.com/ncw/blog/_/name/ncwexperts/id/5570554/sue-bird-deserved-first-team-honor
rd (lexington ky)
Do you think that Angel McCoughtry tries to do too much at times? In other words, does she force low percentage shots and overdo it by trying to take games over? I understand that she's a competitor and a leader, but at times, her team seems to stand around watching her.
Mechelle Voepel (3:22 PM)
She probably does, and it's interesting that Taj McWilliams-Franklin mentioned that after Game 2. Not as a criticism of Angel, just in explaining that she thinks there are times the Dream get caught up in watching Angel. Taj said, "Which I understand, because sometimes I get caught up in watching her, too." It's hard when you're that talented a player _ and you've carried a big scoring load going back to college _ to always know when to say, "OK, maybe I'm over-doing it here and pushing too hard." I think that's where another season of playing with PG Lindsey Harding maybe will help? They seem to have a good bond. That said, it's not like I want to criticize someone for trying to carry her team when she feels like she needs to. It's a fine line that is difficult to walk.
kevin (macon ga)
The WNBA seems very inconsistent in how it classifies positions for awards. Angel McCoughtry was All Defense as a guard and All WNBA as a forward, for example. Is it time for the league to abandon by-position voting for awards?
Mechelle Voepel (3:24 PM)
I would be fine with that. A lot of players don't necessarily fit into those boxes, and Angel is a good example.
I'm curious about your rationale for placing the 2010 Storm so far down on your list of past WNBA Champions. Is it because you don't think they'd beat the teams you rated ahead of them (despite acknowledgement of how more competitive the WNBA is these days), or just because the other teams play more entertaining basketball?Despite not putting much stock in online fan voting myself, it's clear that a majority of voting fans disagree with you, but poll numbers are less fun than a discussion.
Mechelle Voepel (3:30 PM)
I think I could do that list about 10 different ways (I just arbitrarily picked that number) and make a legitimate argument for each order. I did that list a while ago - well before it actually ran on the Web site - and maybe if I did it again in a year, I might change my mind. Part of it is that teams tend to grow in esteem sometimes as more time passes. Meaning that since the Storm was just last year, I haven't had as much time to reflect on them as I have even the 2009 Mercury team that I had third. But I had the 2010 Storm at No. 4, so they weren't *that* far down.
Barry (Phoenix, AZ)
Did you happen to catch ESPN's 30-for-30 film "Renee," about Renee Richards? Really interesting piece.
Mechelle Voepel (3:35 PM)
I recorded it on the DVR and haven't had a chance to watch it yet with the travel between Minneapolis and Atlanta. I remember the whole situation very well when Renee Richards and women's tennis were "at odds," if you will. I have read a lot about it, too. Even as a kid I was very interested in the whole topic of the "spectrum" of gender. It's a topic that we, as a society, are coming to terms with better, which is a very necessary thing. Good for our growth as human beings. And these films are good examples of sports journalism that is interesting well beyond the just the "sports" angle.
How does a yearly TAMU-Tennessee in-conference rivalry sound?
Mechelle Voepel (3:39 PM)
OK, I guess. But I wish this TAMU move had not happened. I've enjoyed watching how the Big 12 has been a positive force in attendance for women's basketball, and TAMU has been a big part of that in recent years. There are conference rivalries that TAMU is giving up that I'm sorry to see go in sports such as women's basketball. But the "war" with Texas made them decide to throw away a lot of years of tradition and geographic rivalries to go elsewhere. Women's basketball, of course, was never even in the conversation.
kevin (macon ga)
The IAAF ruled that road racing records set by women in mixed gender races would not count as world records. Is it really a competitive advantage to run a marathon that has men also running?
Mechelle Voepel (3:43 PM)
I think the IAAF and the U.S. track and field association over-regulate and miss the big picture probably more than any sport's governing bodies. If the presence of men in the race really does somehow psychologically/competitively effect the female runners and allow them to push themselves harder, I don't see how that's a *bad* thing. It's like how male practice teams in basketball have made this sport better. I understand what their concerns are, I just feel in this case it probably does more harm than good to regulate in this way.
kevin (macon ga)
Team USA lost to Ros Casares. Should we be concerned?
Mechelle Voepel (3:45 PM)
I don't think Americans fans need to be worried about their U.S. women's hoops Olympic team, whatever its final composition. Not everybody is there in Italy, of course, and Geno Auriemma needs to see different people and combinations more than he needs to "win" exhibition games.
What can the Tulsa Shock learn from the Atlanta Dream about coming from an historically low start to title contenders in such a short time? What lessons can be learned from the Dream's swift, sharp and steep trajectory?
Mechelle Voepel (3:52 PM)
People can quarrel with Atlanta's Marynell Meadors on various things, but she has spent her career in women's basketball, was specifically experienced in the WNBA, too, and has hired very good assistant coaches for the Dream that have strengths she allows them to use without trying to micro-manage them. MM has not let her ego get in the way of building/coaching this team, which has been an important factor for the Dream. Yes, it was helpful that the Dream got the No. 1 overall pick (2009, McCoughtry) before their second season, which Tulsa did not this year. But quite a lot of people were concerned about the Nolan Richardson "experiment" in Tulsa, and it was a costly mistake.
Team chemistry = the most UNquantifiable-but-real intangible factor in a team's success. Have you noticed observable differences between the Lynx and the Dream in this series?
Mechelle Voepel (4:01 PM)
The Lynx and the Dream have different kinds of chemistry, if you will. The personalities are not the same. The Lynx's best player, Augustus, is about as laid-back as a great player could be. The Dream's best player, McCoughtry, is not laid-back ... she has moods, an "alternate" personality, etc. The Lynx sort of radiate "humility," and frankly, the Dream don't. That's NOT an insult. I'm not criticizing the Dream. It's just how the two teams come across. The personalities on Atlanta actually seem to get along well. I guess what I'm saying is, the more standard definition of chemistry is what you see with the Lynx, and I do think that's helped them. The Dream have more the type of chemistry seen with the old Comets and Sparks teams, where the "characters" were more vivid, for lack of a better word. Whether the Dream can this year - or in future years, if this cast stays similar - win a championship with their kind of chemistry is something we will see.
Do any of the following players seem likely to ever play WNBA ball again, in your opinion? Nolan, Ford, or JMac.,
Mechelle Voepel (4:05 PM)
I am not going to be surprised if all three do return at some point to the WNBA because money has gotten tighter overseas. Whether that will actually be next year, I don't know, nor where exactly they would play. Not in Tulsa, though. I just don't think any of the three would play there.
Taylor (Minneapolis, MN)
How would you attribute seattle's failure to defend their title this season other than Lauren Jackson's injury ? I see that Brian Agler didn't build his team for the future: it was all short-term insight. They lost Jana Vesela and Svetlana Abrosimova which could be a little bit offset by Alison lacey and Abby Bishop if Agler spent some time developing them last season.
Mechelle Voepel (4:09 PM)
A completely healthy Jackson makes a tremendous difference with the Storm. Not trying to say other elements don't figure into it, but as Bird explained during the course of the season, every other player's role is altered by LJ's absence. I know that a lot of Storm fans are concerned about player development, but Agler probably felt last season he needed to rely heavily on the best players to ensure they won the title. It's one of the tough things about 40-minute games in a 34-game season - it's not a great set-up to allow for putting a lot into player development.
Do you think the Dream's poor shooting in the 2nd half of Game 2 was due to them being "off" or good MN defense?
Mechelle Voepel (4:14 PM)
Almost always, I think it's a combination of both. Minnesota did play more energetically on defense, and the Dream was rushing shots and not working their offense as well as they did in the first half. Incidentally, teams will almost *never* say, "Oh, their defense was just too tough for us," because most good players/teams don't believe they can be stopped. They'll usually say, "We were just missing shots. It was us, not them." This is true for men or women, college or pro. They say that because they want to talk about it like it's something they - not their opponents - are in control of. :)
Mechelle Voepel (4:17 PM)
Thanks for all the questions. If the series extends back to Minneapolis, we'll do a chat before Game 5, either on Tuesday or Wednesday. Otherwise, it will be back to the normal time on Thursday. Sorry, I did not take many college questions today as I wanted to get in more WNBA. Enjoy tonight's game!