Chat with Mechelle Voepel
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, women's basketball writer Mechelle Voepel will stop by to chat some hoops.
Voepel has covered women's college and pro basketball for ESPN.com since 1996. Read her blog at www.mechellevoepelblog.com.
Send your questions now and join Voepel Thursday at 2 p.m. ET!
Mechelle Voepel (2:02 PM)
Greetings on the day before WNBA season! Have been working, like others, on a lot of preview stuff. Let's get started.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
Who do you think will be the Best WNBA Team in 2012?
Mechelle Voepel (2:04 PM)
Probably Minnesota. But even so, the Lynx may not win the championship again. So many things could happen injury-wise and with how teams respond to the break in the season for the Olympics.
Glory Johnson of the Tulsa Shock played most of her career at Tennessee in the paint. With her work ethic, what are your thoughts about her entering the league and perhaps now playing away from the basket?
Mechelle Voepel (2:06 PM)
When I spoke to Glory at the draft, she was excited about the chance to play away from the basket and in the "3" position to whatever degree Tulsa needs her to. She said she had been working on expanding her game throughout college and wanted to be thought of as someone who could face up comfortably, shoot the 15-footer and put the ball on the floor. She's ambitious in all she hopes to do to improve as a pro.
Before we leave behind this past college season ... who would you say was this year's Most Valuable Husky?
Mechelle Voepel (2:11 PM)
I have debated that in my mind ... part of the nature of this year's Huskies, of course, is that they didn't have the go-to star like Maya Moore. Every piece of the puzzle was valuable this year almost equally, because there wasn't any one person who could carry the team game in and game out if it was needed the way Maya could. All that said, ultimately I actually think I'd go with Kelly Faris. She was playing out of position, realistically, for most of the year. She had to play bigger than she is physically and be the person who did all the so-called "dirty work." She was an exceptional passer and made up for a lot of potential problems on defense. Dolson also deserves credit for how she held her own inside and how reliable she was, but if I had to pick one most valuable, I'll go with Faris.
Mike L. (Los Angeles)
Hi Mechelle, do you think Jantel Lavender and Nneka Ogwumike will be able to coexist down low for the Sparks? Got tickets for the home opener. Can't wait to see Nneka in action!
Mechelle Voepel (2:14 PM)
I do think they can co-exist, because they are both good people who really just want to win and will be reliable teammates. They both have always been team-first players. Candace Parker spoke this week about being pleased to find out how willing to learn and listen Nneka is. I think the post situation will work itself out OK in LA.
Tanner S. (Bethlehem, PA)
Mechelle, what kind of intangibles do you think Tina Thompson bring to the Storm? I think that was a great signing for Seattle.
Mechelle Voepel (2:16 PM)
I know there are some folks who figured Tina was out of gas last year and it was time that she retired. And at 37, she is near the end. But ... Seattle needs some vets that it can rely on to just get things done while Lauren Jackson is away with the Aussie Olympic team. Tina can still get the job done, and she's said she's OK with a limited role. In fact, that she actually prefers that at her age. We'll see if it works out on a chemistry/playing time front. I think it can.
Will Deanna Nolan or Cheryl Ford ever return to the W?
Mechelle Voepel (2:21 PM)
I actually thought it might happen this year for one or the other, possibly, for a variety of reasons. But I don't know if there's still a chance in the second half of the season. I don't mean this to sound bad or dismissive, but the longer they are away from the league, the less I really think about their potential return.
From a personal opinion, do any wnba franchises make money yearly? i would consider la one of the classiest most respected wnba teams but does their team ever turn a profit? or does the team that wins the championship generally only make money?
Mechelle Voepel (2:23 PM)
Yes, some of them do. What I've been told by several coaches/GMs is that the key to getting over the hump financially in any given season is making it to at least the conference finals. It's not like that's the exact blueprint to turn a profit, but it's pretty hard to do it without advancing at least that far.
I heard a rumor that you were awesome on this week's Dishin & Swishin podcast. Is this true and can I find that after 3 pm today on Hoopfeed.com? And that you can't bake a cake while talking about the WNBA?
Mechelle Voepel (2:28 PM)
It is true that I was on ... but I rambled quite a bit on the "D
Any transactions/players being waived that have surprised you so far?
Mechelle Voepel (2:34 PM)
I was a little surprised at Coco Miller being waived in Atlanta, but I recognize the Dream is trying to get more of a 3-point threat. They are giving former K-State Wildcat Laurie Koehn a try. In general, though, I would say that not a lot really surprised me. One other thing ... when you consider that Phoenix traded Temeka Johnson for Andrea Riley in January and then just cut Riley, that seems like it was a wasted trade for the Merc. Some may have felt that Phoenix was ready to move on from TJ, but she did start the last three seasons for them and they essentially got nothing for her.
Jordan S (Las Vegas)
Not really a question, but more a comment. Don't sleep on the Tulsa Shock this year!
Mechelle Voepel (2:34 PM)
I will be happy if the Shock surprises us all. :)
Mike Levin (LA)
I'm excited to see the Silver Stars in action this year. Do you think they can surprise some people?
Mechelle Voepel (2:35 PM)
I see the SASS as a playoff team, but I'm not sure they will get very far unless their post play develops more than it looks like it will.
Scamp (aka Carol Anne) (Seattle)
Would you believe it? Kim Mulkey is fifty (50!) years old today. The NCAA Rules Committee "gave" her--and other demonstrative coaches--more bench decorum rules. When will the powers that be realize that Kim's jacket-tossing ways are good for the game?
Mechelle Voepel (2:44 PM)
I think that's overkill by the rules committee. I know some people who tune in to women's basketball just to watch Mulkey on the sidelines. :)
Tanner Steidel (Bethlehem, PA)
How do you think the Fever will fare this year?
Mechelle Voepel (2:46 PM)
Indy will be a good team, but there's a concern about who backs up Tamika Catchings at power forward. Depth in general could hurt the Fever if there are any key injuries.
The $5 Live Access charge. It's not enough to make big money, but enough to discourage potential new fans of the WNBA (especially kids). Your view?
Mechelle Voepel (2:49 PM)
I kind of think if $5 stops people, they weren't too serious about watching the games. Maybe if the league offered the first week or so free, and then charged $5 for the rest of the season, that would be better. I guess we'll see how it goes. I hope they work out all the bugs with Live Access, especially since they are charging for it. Even with such a small fee.
Bailey (Pittsburgh, PA)
I'm really looking forward to a big year from Sue Bird this season. Maybe even an MVP. What do you think, Mechelle?
Mechelle Voepel (2:52 PM)
Bird has had MVP-caliber seasons before - I voted for her for that award n 2008, for example - but it's hard for point guards to win that honor in the WNBA. Bird tends to be energized by the Olympic experience rather than drained by it. I think she'll have a very good year. The MVP is not important to her personally, but winning another title in Seattle is extremely important.
Do you think anybody will pick up Wade Trophy finalist Julie Wojta from the waiver wire before the season starts?
Mechelle Voepel (2:54 PM)
Green Bay just released info that Wojta has signed with a team in Belgium - Dexia Namur Capitale. She will head there in September. She said in the release that she would like to play in the WNBA but does not expect to be picked up by a WNBA team for this season.
Mike L. (Los Angeles)
Do you think teams that are out of the race will "tank" to help land the #1 pick and Brittany Griner? Thanks for answering my question!
Mechelle Voepel (2:57 PM)
I don't know that anyone will tank intentionally for any length of time. But ... if teams are at the bottom of their conference and it comes down to losing in the the last week to have the worst record, I could see them not trying too hard to win. Let's put it that way.
kevin (macon ga)
Seimone Augustus, fresh off winning finals MVP, is out of the closet. There's an article about her in the Advocate this week. This has, for whatever reason, generated far less fanfare than Sheryl Swoopes coming out did in 2005. Is that progress?
Mechelle Voepel (3:03 PM)
I think it really is progress. Obviously, there has been a lot of forward movement - with some accompanying backlash - in regard to gay rights and the marriage equality issue since 2005. Also, there was the dichotomy of Swoopes having once appeared on the cover of "Sports Illustrated for Women" very pregnant in 1997 before the WNBA season started. She was married then, and let's be frank - there was some degree of "surprise" factor when she came out as being in a lesbian relationship in '05. People who knew her and followed the league weren't surprised, but others were. So it got more attention for that reason, too. And, of course, Swoopes got less attention last year when she essentially said she'd gone back to a heterosexual relationship again. Frankly, I wish Swoopes well regardless of her personal-life situation. And good for Seimone ... glad she is happy and living her life openly. It's so important for people to do that.
What's up with Corey Gaines' wishy washiness as far as naming a starting point guard? If the contest is really that close, just give it to Prahalis and show her a vote of confidence.
Mechelle Voepel (3:06 PM)
I tend to think Corey Gaines just likes to be obtuse at times with the media and fans. That's his style.
Debby Jennings, longtime SID for Lady Vols, retired this week. What are your thoughts on all the changes in the UT athletic department and will those changes hurt the women's programs at UT?
Mechelle Voepel (3:12 PM)
I have a story up on that now at ESPN.com. Debby did not comment yesterday, but I have no doubt that she did NOT want to retire. I don't think this should happen to someone with 35 years of excellent service to her alma mater. Admittedly, it's a painful time for the two athletic departments at Tennessee as they merge. The worry for Tennessee women's sports followers is that Jennings is essentially being cut loose at the same time that Pat Summitt and women's AD Joan Cronan go into background roles. AD Dave Hart told me last week that women's athletics will remain the same at UT; but I think the fans need to keep an eye on it.
Alex (St. Paul)
Will you be in MN for the home opener this weekend?
Mechelle Voepel (3:14 PM)
Yes, I will be there. Looking forward to seeing the Lynx open up with the Mercury. Thanks for all the questions! Chat with you next week!