Chat with Mechelle Voepel
Welcome to SportsNation! On Friday, 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 Friday at 2 p.m. ET!
Mechelle Voepel (2:03 PM)
Good afternoon. Thanks for joining me on a Friday; I was traveling back from Washington yesterday, having seen Pat Summitt receive the Medal of Freedom and the Lynx pull a victory out of the fire against the Mystics in D.C. Let's get started.
Erica (Boise, Idaho)
I know they haven't won yet, but I'd feeling oddly better about the Shock. They are definitely competative and it feels like if they just get that first one, several more might be around the corner. I know they aren't going to make the playoffs or anything, but am I wrong for feeling like they might have turned a corner?
Mechelle Voepel (2:06 PM)
No, you're not wrong. They've been competitive and really pushed foes to the very end. As for making the playoffs ... probably not. And yet ... with injury issues at Phoenix and various problems at San Antonio and Seattle, who knows? At least so far, only Minnesota and Los Angeles look like sure things for the postseason in the Western Conference.
kevin (macon ga)
The Taurasi-less Merc are Griner bait. Would the Merc rather have Diana hurry back or will they be happy taking their chances in the lottery?
Mechelle Voepel (2:11 PM)
I don't think Taurasi should necessarily hurry back regardless of whether it affects the draft or not. In fact, I talked with her about that when I saw Phoenix in Minnesota in their season opener. I asked her if it wouldn't be more prudent to just take the time to really feel better. She indicated she'd still like to return as soon as she can. That's her mentality. But to some degree, she's got to think big picture, especially in an Olympic year. Now it seems really open-ended when she'll return. I guess everyone will be wondering all season if teams are tanking it because of the draft. I don't know how you can be a pro sports franchise and think that way, though. It's dangerous to not give an honest effort regardless of what circumstances might arise from potential failure.
Kayla Pedersen. I remember you singing her praises as a multi-talented, versatile player. I certainly thought that of her. Any idea where her game's *gone* to?
Mechelle Voepel (2:15 PM)
She's still finding her place at the pro level. And just into her second WNBA season, she has already played for three coaches. So that hasn't helped. I don't anticipate we'll see KP being a huge scorer in this league. I think she can get to the point where she's a reliable starter who rebounds well and helps facilitate things with the offense.
Devin K (Tulsa)
Coach Klop made so many poor decisions against LA. He took all these unnecesary timeouts towards the end giving the Sparks an opprtunity to come back and he forgot to tell the team to play tight defense for 6 seconds. Really??
Mechelle Voepel (2:18 PM)
The positives? We're talking about end-of-game decisions that you're questioning in terms of the Shock almost beating LA. As opposed to the game being long over by then. Give Kristi Toliver some credit for making a big play at the end, and let's see how well Coach Klop and the Shock learn from their close calls.
Mechelle, what do you think of Toliver's chances of winning MIP? The game against Tulsa saw her at her absolute worst and best; turning over the ball like crazy and then hitting the game winning shot. Despite that struggle, she has made great strides on the defensive end thanks to Carol Ross and her decision making has improved, notwithstanding the Shock game.
Mechelle Voepel (2:22 PM)
To the degree that we can predict most-improved player this early in the season, she's certainly a strong candidate. Ross is a very good defensive coach, and is helping her in that regard. Obviously, KT's points and assists are up, and likely will stay up (although maybe not this high for scoring). The number she really needs to go down, as you mentioned, is turnovers. You'd think she played at UNC for Sylvia Hatchell the way she's slinging the ball around at times. Little ACC rivalry humor there. :)
Andrew S. (Pasadena, CA)
What adjustments do the New York Liberty need to make in order to get that first win?
Mechelle Voepel (2:26 PM)
The Liberty simply has to be a *lot* better defensively than what they have been. They're allowing over 87 points a game and allowing foes to shoot about 46 percent from the field ... unless you have an offensive like Phoenix at its very best (not this year, obviously) you don't win games with that kind of defense.
kevin (macon ga)
I have been a Dominique Canty fan for a long time. This year, like last year, she looks old and slow. Is she just about done?
Mechelle Voepel (2:33 PM)
Is this a rhetorical question? :) She's 35 and her knees are about twice that age. Well, maybe that's an exaggeration, but with the tendinitis she has in them, every year gets a little worse. I just talked with her Wednesday. She is still a very upbeat, positive vet to have around. At this point, she's not playing a lot of minutes ... but it's also not certain that someone younger will confidently carry the bulk of the load at point guard. Jasmine Thomas is still learning on the job, for instance. Noelle Quinn has been around longer, but still has some issues as a point guard. This is really not the optimum situation for Canty or the Mystics, but maybe it will improve as other players improve as the season goes on. I'm trying to be optimistic today, I guess.
Brittney Griner, Sylvia Fowles, Candace Parker, Tina Charles, Lauren Jackson, Elizabeth Cambage. Rank the top 6 best post players in the world
Mechelle Voepel (2:36 PM)
If every single one is fully healthy? If that were the case, right now I'd say: 1. Jackson, 2. Fowles, 3. Charles, 4. Parker, 5. Griner, 6. Cambage.
Genny (Western MA)
What does Seattle have to do to win a few games and remain within sight of the 4th playoff spot until LJ gets back? As good as they have been, Katie Smith and Tina Thompson cannot be counted on, putting a lot of pressure on Bird. The good news for them is they just need to be better than Tulsa and the Taylor-less and, for now, DT-less Mercs.
Mechelle Voepel (2:39 PM)
They have to do just what you say ... be able to keep afloat among the four teams in the West behind Minny and LA. This is looking a little like the 2010 season, when Seattle was clearly out in front and at least one not-all-that-good team from the West was guaranteed to make the postseason just because four have to. It could be a similar scenario in 2012. With everyone still talking about whether teams should be tanking for the draft. :)
What Dylan songs were you singing to yourself during the medal ceremony?
Mechelle Voepel (2:41 PM)
Actually, I'm not a Bob Dylan fan. I was wondering if it would have killed him to show the slightest bit of enthusiasm or appreciation for receiving a medal from the President. I guess when you've been playing the role of put-upon genius all your life, it would. :)
Venus and Serena knocked out of the French Open early. Do you think it's more physical, or mental?
Mechelle Voepel (2:45 PM)
Well, the French Open Clay has never been their best surface. Both do have physical issues they've been dealing with, and like Dominique Canty, they are getting older. :) However, since last chat I was asked if I picked Serena to win _ and I said yes - I must say that pick went down in flames faster than I expected.
Great article on Pat's recent Medal of Freedom. Have you seen or heard anything to indicate if Pat's being affected at all by the current *drama* in the TN women's sports admin, or does she have no direct role in this?
Mechelle Voepel (2:50 PM)
Sure she's affected by it. Debby Jennings is a close friend and was Pat's colleague for more than three decades. The jockeying for power and the paranoid attitude toward the media are sadly not unexpected in regime changes, but are disappointing nonetheless. All that said, Pat's got a bigger battle to fight personally of course. The fans and the supporters of women's athletics within the athletic department who have the strongest backbones are the ones who have to stay vigilant about Tennessee remaining on the right path with women's sports.
I know how much you love prognosticating. :-) Who's gonna have the best record by August....New York, Washington, or Shock?
Mechelle Voepel (2:52 PM)
I'll say the Mystics and maybe regret it later. I just wrote about them for ESPN.com, so I've got to prop them up a little bit, right? :)
Mechelle Voepel (3:02 PM)
A few other thoughts on the Medal of Freedom ceremony. There were a lot of neat moments. The look on Dolores Huerta's face in regard to getting the medal - she was beaming with appreciation and couldn't stop smiling - was awesome. Also, seeing John Paul Stevens in person. And when former assistant attorney general John Doar - who was on the ground in Mississippi in the early 1960s in the middle of the Civil Rights violence and unrest - got his medal and shook hands with the President. What that moment symbolized about the changes over the last 50 years in particular in our country was so profound. I don't mean this as a political statement, just a human statement. That moment was the one thing all afternoon that really did make me tear up. Obviously, it was also very moving to see Coach Summitt be recognized with so many other amazing people. Sorry if I might have offended any Dylan fans earlier. :)
Mechelle Voepel (3:04 PM)
Hope everyone has a good weekend. By next week, we just might be talking about the Shock's first win, right? I will be in Rochester, N.Y., next week at the Wegmann's LPGA Championship, but expect to still do the chat next Thursday. Will update via Twitter if that changes. Thank for the questions!
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