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 (2:13 PM)
Sorry for the delay folks. Had a little trouble with the top-secret, CIA-level access code to start the chat. :) It got chilly last night/today in Minneapolis; the Sparks came in with the cold wind! Now will LA put a damper on the Lynx's repeat hopes?
Genny (Western MA)
Do you know how bad Lindsay Whalen's wrist injury is? Obviously it will be much harder for the Lynx to win if her play/playing time is limited, but would you say this will be make or break (no pun intended)?
Mechelle Voepel (2:17 PM)
Having seen some Lynx practice/shootaround yesterday and this morning, I would say she has some pain but she's playing through it. You know Whalen ... she'll never tell you if she's really hurting. Obviously, it's a concern because of how much her penetration means to the Lynx, and the hand issue may limit her some in changing directions and going in from the left side. LA knows this, and they also know how effective Seattle was in switching screens so that LW kept running into Lauren Jackson in the paint. With LA's length and quickness, they could make things tough for LW, too. But we know she's the ultimate "gamer," and just having her out there - even if not at 100 percent - is a help for Lynx.
Greg (La Crosse, WI)
Were you surprised that with her bad shooting night (and series) that Brian Agler went to Lauren Jackson for the last shot against Minnesota on Tuesday night? Also, Seatlle seemed to finally find their chemistry these last few games with everyone together; what do you think the chances of having the whole team back together next season are?
Mechelle Voepel (2:22 PM)
Not really, because the play was designed to give her one of her highest-percentage shots. Plus ... you know, it's Lauren Jackson, who when healthy is one of the very best women's basketball has ever had. I know, she's not healthy now. But still, with your season on the line, you know you have to go to her or Bird. Sue and Katie Smith were kind of kicking themselves for not calling a timeout earlier in that last sequence so as to give them a little more time to run that play. You probably saw Bird inadvertently impeded Jackson just a little as she was making her cut to the baseline to try to get open. Yet ... a shot a few more inches higher, I think, and the Storm is in the West finals. As for next year, LJ is staying home this winter (summer for her) in Australia and getting physical care while playing there. I think that is the best thing for her. Bird, among others, has to get some medical stuff done, too, before she goes to Russia. If next season, the Storm can play something like they did in Games 2 and 3 (with a healthier LJ), they can be pretty good. But the West will be murder again.
kevin (macon ga)
There seems to be a difference of opinion regarding the quality of Angel McCoughtry's defense. The media voted her 2nd in the Defensive Player of the Year award while the coaches left her off of the All Defense teams altogether, something that had never happened to the league steals leader. How much did the perception that McCoughtry got her coach fired affect the voting among coaches for this award?
Mechelle Voepel (2:24 PM)
I haven't asked any coaches specifically about this, but I assume they might have weighed the number of games she missed for various reasons and counted that against her. I don't know that there are any specific hard feeling toward Angel from anybody, or at least I honestly haven't heard that from coaches. They know she's super-talented, and that she also brings some baggage. But she's obviously not the first or the only WNBA player who has that combo. :)
In your opinion, what is the best solution for the Jennings case at Tennessee, how much will this hurt the program and are the fans entitled to know what happened with Coach Summitt?
Mechelle Voepel (2:37 PM)
Yes, they are entitled to know. Tennessee has a perception problem: that in the merging of the departments, they have turned it into, as Jennings' lawsuit insinuated, an "old-boys club." Whether that was done deliberately or it drifted that way, it looks like Tennessee's athletic department has tried to purge many of its powerful women. Dave Hart, with his demeanor with the media, reinforces the perception, frankly. He put on a bizarre show in the televised announcement that Pat was moving to the emeritus role, making himself the center of attention and acting as if he and Pat were the dearest of friends. The whole time, he'd been trying to get rid of one of her most loyal, long-term employees, Jennings, for months. He told the story in that announcement that Pat had come to him and talked about stepping down. That's not how she described it in the affidavit. Or how Jennings described it in her lawsuit. This is what Tennessee fans are faced with: Either you don't believe some people like Jennings (and Summitt, for that matter) who've worked there for 30-plus years, or you don't believe Hart. Everybody knew this merger would not be bloodless, but my view is that Hart took in a chainsaw even in places where he could have used a scalpel.
Doris (Knoxville, Tenn.)
Mechelle, I know the WNBA playoffs should be the focus of this chat but I wanted to see if you could examine the Tennessee situation. Do you think the AD is getting some undue heat? I'm a huge Lady Vol fan, but I didn't want to see Coach Summitt on the sidelines as a shell of herself or struggling, so if Hart insinuated that she should step down out of respect for her legacy, I have no problem with that. Most athletes and coaches stay around too long as it is and do more harm than good. As far as Ms. Jennings, from what I've read it seems like she overstepped the line. She was the sports information director for women's basketball, yet it comes across as if she was trying to tell the AD how to do his job. In most work environments, when an employee tries to tell the employer what to do, the employee usually loses his or her job.
Mechelle Voepel (2:48 PM)
Why did Dave Hart feel the need to have this meeting with Summitt right before the NCAA tournament started? That couldn't have waited until after Tennessee's season was over? I think that was thoughtless timing on his part. I can't see any possible reason that meeting had to be then. And if Jennings' suit is correct, he asked her to quit three months before they had the dispute over his meeting with Summitt. Also I asked Hart if there had *ever* been a discussion of phasing out the "Lady Vols" logo. He claimed it was *never* mentioned. Pat Summitt said it was by him. Is she not correct about that? The media's opinion on topics is not worth much to a lot of people, and I understand that. But when you're talking about the performance and reputation of a media-relations person, I think our opinion is at least worth noting, because so much of their job is dealing with us. Debby Jennings was not just the consummate pro, she set the standard in her industry. Ask anybody who covered women's hoops for the last 30 years. I don't think she deserved to get hounded out of her job, which is what she claims happened.
kevin (macon ga)
Brian Agler showed an uncharacteristic lack of faith in his players by calling a timeout with 3.3 seconds remaining in Game 3. Sue Bird was visibly unhappy that he called it. Would the Storm have had a better chance if he had let them go with Bird having the ball in her hands instead of running the out of bounds play where she never touched it?
Mechelle Voepel (2:51 PM)
I talked to Bird right after the game, and she wasn't "upset" with Agler or anybody, really. But she and Smith, who had the ball in her hands coming up the court, both said they should have recognized the situation better and called timeout earlier. These are two vets, and sometimes it happens even to them. I don't think you can blame Agler, because the players looked uncertain to me.
Marcell (San Francisco bay area)
There has been a lot of back and forth talk about who the number 2 pick will be in the 2013 wnba draft, who do you see the Sky taking and Why?
Mechelle Voepel (2:55 PM)
Well ... last week I said Diggins. Since then, I've talked to some more folks and now I kind of lean more toward Delle Donne. The Sky needs more immediate help at position(s) that EDD could fill well. That's if Pokey Chatman really feels comfortable that Vandersloot is going to fill the PG slot as well as she wants. I may change my mind again, of course, which is irrelevant since I have nothing to do with whom the Sky picks. :) But right now I give more odds to EDD.
Tamika Catchings has had such a stellar career but has never won a championship. Do you think the Fever can make it to the Finals and do you feel folks overlook her accomplishments because of the championship issue?
Mechelle Voepel (2:57 PM)
Can the Fever make it to the Finals? Yes, although I still favor Connecticut to win that series. But I don't think Catch is overlooked. She was MVP last year, she's always in the running for that award and Defensive POY and first-team all-league. I think *she* really stresses about not having a title, though.
Doris (Knoxville, Tenn.)
Not sure there was going to be a good time to have that meeting. ... Mechelle, are you seriously going to try and act like the Lady Vols logo staying or going is a big deal? Just reading your comment, it's obvious you are bias in favor of Jennings. Also, did you get bent out of shape when Phillip Fulmer was fired as football coach? He played at Tennessee, was an assistant coach and the head coach. He spent a lot time at the school before getting fired ... just like Jennings.
Mechelle Voepel (3:03 PM)
I don't care what logo the school uses. But the AD told me that he never considered changing it, and Pat Summitt says he talked to her about it. Phillip Fulmer got fired because it was perceived he was underperfoming. That happens to coaches. Some people think it's unfair, some don't. But was Jennings doing a bad job as SID? Well, not from the media's perspective. But I'm not in Tennessee's offices to see everyday interaction. If Dave Hart wanted to fire her, he can fire her. But now he's facing a lawsuit, so we'll see what happens. If you don't like my opinion, that's OK. But I think Jennings was treated poorly. It's up to the legal system, though, to decide if she really has a case against the school. My opinion on that is not going to matter.
Diane (San Antonio, Tx)
The Silver Stars have lost in the first round the past four years. Did this season suggest they are close to breaking through in 2013? And is there anyway they can get a center who can make a difference?
Mechelle Voepel (3:08 PM)
Well, you do at some point have to start worrying about age with certain players like Hammon. But she's still in really good shape, and the SASS do have some exciting younger players. I would guess center still has to be a spot that Dan Hughes will try to do more about for next season. But great ones are hard to come by.
If the Mercury draft Griner and everyone comes back healthy next year, where do they rank among title favorites?
Mechelle Voepel (3:11 PM)
Right at the top, I'd think. The Merc will be loaded with options and Griner is going to make an immediate impact. Of course, a lot of fans are mad as hell at the Merc, so it will be an interesting season in that respect, too. :)
Do you anticipate any friction between Diana Taurasi and Brittney Griner? Taurasi has spent probably her whole life being the alpha girl on every time she's ever played on. What do you think will happen when people stop saying "We have Diana and you don't" and the concept shifts to "We have Brittney Griner and you don't"?
Mechelle Voepel (3:14 PM)
I don't think there will be any friction. Taurasi actually is a really good teammate - I've heard that from many, many different players who have played with her over the years. And Brittney is not "dominating" personality. She has a goofy, fun-loving side that is a big part of her personality. She wants to get along with everybody. Her teammates really like her. So I wouldn't anticipate any problems with her and DT, or with Griner and anybody else in Phoenix.
Jonathan (New York)
Why did Maya Moore's offensive game fade in the third and fourth quarters (and overtime) of the Lynx-Storm series?
Mechelle Voepel (3:17 PM)
Great point ... and I'm the one who voted her season MVP, right? Seriously, this was something I was chatting with the ESPN TV analysts about today. Both Moore and Seimone Augustus have faded offensively in the fourth quarter and OTs of the last two games. The Lynx knew that the area where the Storm was going to "give" a little was with jumpers for Rebekkah Brunson, and she took advantage. But Maya (and Seimone) are going to need to be more assertive in crunch time against LA, I think.
Would Marynell Meadors be a good fit at Washington? She has played the dual role of GM-coach before at Atlanta, correct? And she took them from expansion team to championship contender in only two years (granted, with the considerable contributions of a number one draft pick, which the 'Stics will not have, but still ....) Or is Meadors hanging up her whistle for good now?
Mechelle Voepel (3:19 PM)
If the Mystics decide to hire two people - a coach and a GM - then I think MM could be a consideration for GM. I'm not sure, especially with as much work as there is to do there, that she would be a good fit for both roles. She has indicated to me that she still wants to work in the league.
Do you think the Mystics will fold before the 2013 season? If not, what do you see as their best path forward to save the franchise?
Mechelle Voepel (3:25 PM)
I sure hope the Mystics stay around. Rebecca Lobo was just saying today that Washington used to be the most fun place to play or cover a WNBA game, because the fans were so loud and passionate. It's a shame how that has eroded. What's the best path? Sheila Johnson needs to make one or two really good hires. And that coach/GM or coach and GM has to work all winter to re-connect with the fans. There's a lot of burnt bridges that somehow have to be reconstructed. Meanwhile, Sheila really needs to then stay way out of the spotlight and as far behind the scenes as possible. I know some people think I pick on her excessively, but Mystics fans need a fresh, dynamic presence who can convince them they *are* going to rebuild. And then the 2014 draft should bring at least one more *very* good player to D.C.
Apologies if you voted for her, but what were the media on when they voted Renee Montgomery as the Sixth Woman of the Year? She was awful for much of the season, seemed to be pouting about her demotion from the starting lineup, and finished the season shooting 36% with a barely 1:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. That still leaves her ahead of Perkins, Adams, Wright, Larkins, Mims, Murphy, Thompson, Williams...? And don't even get me started (again) on the coaches putting Candace Parker on the All-Defensive 2nd team...
Mechelle Voepel (3:31 PM)
Yes, I voted for Montgomery. No, I wasn't "on" anything that I know of. I strongly considered Perkins, Adams, Wright. Especially Perkins and Wright. For all of Monty's flaws, I think "awful" is a bit extreme. You're right that she's demonstrably not happy coming off the bench, because that's her personality. But it's going to maker her work all the harder in the off-season. As for Parker, it's interesting what coaches say about her defense. They say at times, when she's really concentrating on it, she is quite a good defensive player. But ... she isn't locked in on defense all the time, and she "free-lances" a lot. There are some really brainy X's and O's coaches in the league now (which wasn't always the case) and they definitely notice and understand Parker's flaws defensively, but they also admire what she is capable of.
I know that we are in the thick of the WNBA playoffs which is holding most of the attention in the women's basketball world at this current time, but looking forward I can't help but get more than excited for this upcoming college basketball season. With a slew of talented teams and monster faces of the game, what are you most excited about for this upcoming season? Who do you think will be primed to challenge Baylor as National Title Contenders from the get go? I can't help but think that teams like Duke, Maryland, and Connecticut have to be in that discussion with some very talented young (and for Duke and Maryland) now veteran teams.
Mechelle Voepel (3:34 PM)
Yes, I'm sure a lot of folks are already thinking a lot about the college season. The teams you mentioned will all be in the mix to challenge Baylor. I'd guess Kentucky and Louisville will be talked about a lot, too. Stanford, despite the loss of Nneka, will be strong in the West again. And UCLA. I haven't transitioned yet into college mode thinking, though. :) Doing that more gradually as the WNBA season winds down.
How do you see the sparks/lynx series playing out ? (prediction wise) and does LA have a chance of stealing one tonight?
Mechelle Voepel (3:37 PM)
Well, going into the playoffs, I still pretty strongly thought Minnesota was going to repeat. But there are some things to be concerned about for Lynx fans. How will Whalen play? Will Augustus and Moore have more offensive contribution at crunch time? Can the Lynx defend well enough against a really good LA starting five? To me, the series hinges on tonight. If LA wins here in Minny tonight, then it may be really though for the Lynx to win in three.
Mechelle Voepel (3:39 PM)
Thanks for all the questions. Sorry for the ones I did not get to. West Game 1 tonight a 8 p.m. Eastern time on ESPN2. Chat again next week!