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 (2:02 PM)
Good afternoon. I was off in Scotland in the golf world all last week, and trying to catch some WNBA games in the late night/early morning hours. Admire the European fans who can keep up with the league. Well, the Mercury are now moving on with a new coach. What affect will that have on the team? Let's get started.
Sofia (Durham, NC)
In a year where Seattle could be excused for ending up in the lottery, they're fighting hard for the playoffs. Will that end up hurting them in the long run if they miss out on one of the uber elite 2014 picks?
Mechelle Voepel (2:06 PM)
I think you play to win, period. Because when you start trying to not try as hard because of something that might be coming down the road, that's a bad habit to get into that is harder to get out of than people may think. So kudos to the Storm for how they've been competing.
Chris (Dinkytown, MN)
The league awarded Candace Parker "Player of the Month" for the western conference. So, how badly was Lindsay Whalen robbed? She led her team to a better record for the month, and played consistently great basketball. While Parker can put up gaudy numbers, she does so inconsistently. Playing lights out one night and then disappearing the next. Shouldn't there be more to the awards than just sexy looking per-game scoring and rebounding averages? Give some love to the point!
Mechelle Voepel (2:08 PM)
I don't know what criteria goes into the league's awards, or how many people in the league office vote on them. Point guards generally get shafted when it comes to basketball awards, because a lot of what they do so well is make other people look good. I don't think CP is a bad choice, but there is a good case to be made for Whalen. What's interesting - if LW's play continues this way the rest of the season - is how it will impact MVP voting.
In little more than a year's time, Sammy Prahalis goes from first round draft pick to player without a team. Is this a case of talent not matching hype, bad landing within the league, or _________ ?
Mechelle Voepel (2:13 PM)
I don't know, honestly, how much "hype" she really had ... there was a lot of criticism of her flaws even when she was drafted. Phoenix was a good fit for her last year, because of the injuries and the playing time she got, but a terrible fit this year. I always say it's hard for guards to get/keep jobs in this league, and it takes a tough mindset to keep improving, to roll with the punches, and to not get discouraged. Watching players through college doesn't necessarily help you predict who has that mindset to persevere in the pros, and who doesn't. Because I've been surprised _ both ways _ by how various players dealt with adversity in the pros.
Brittney Griner didn't have issues with injuries in college, but seems to have been hit by the injury bug in her rookie season. Any reasons why?
Mechelle Voepel (2:16 PM)
BG did deal with some leg injuries in college, and of course she had the broken wrist that was a skateboard injury, not a basketball injury. Part of it may well be that she's had her summers to heal before, and now she's competing during the time that previously was more her recovery period.
Any thoughts about the melt down in Phoenix....I was surprised they waited so long to make a coaching change.
Mechelle Voepel (2:21 PM)
Initially, I thought that the Mercury had worked their way through some rough patches and things were going to be OK. But then, as time went on, that proved not to be the case. I think they didn't want to over-react, but then it became more clear that issues were lingering, not getting better. And when you have the talent that Phoenix has, there have to be high expectations to get it done now. I think they probably felt they had to do something, and they'd given it as much chance to get better as they could.
Tom (Chandler, AZ)
What are your thoughts on Corey Gaines being let go Thursday? It seemed like he was struggling to integrate Griner into the offense and defense. Is Pennell a possibility for the long -term, or just someone who is credible and was available locally?
Mechelle Voepel (2:27 PM)
When I was asked about Gaines earlier in the year, I was inclined to think he deserved the benefit of the doubt. I am surprised, actually, that they struggled as much as they seemed to in regard to really being comfortable with utilizing Griner. It's not like there wasn't ample time to think about how she would fit in. I think they probably had to make this coaching change because Corey Gaines was losing the team. As for Pennell ... seems like a short-term solution, but maybe he'll really click with the Mercury, and vice versa. We've seen coaches come into the WNBA with little/no experience with women's basketball and adjust pretty well. We've also seen some train wrecks that set franchises back.
Lindsey (Houston, TX)
What are your thoughts on the head coach and GM being the same person?
Mechelle Voepel (2:29 PM)
It just depends on the organization, the person, and the exact duties of the GM. Not everybody structures all that the same. In general, I think the WNBA coaches need to - and usually do - have a huge say in personnel moves, regardless of if they have a GM title or not.
Which of the defending champ UConn games should be the toughest for the Huskies -- at Duke (even if they're 4-0 there), at Maryland, at PSU, at Louisville or home with Stanford minus Kokenis?
Mechelle Voepel (2:31 PM)
I will say at Maryland, but I think another unbeaten season is likely on the horizon for the Huskies.
When do you start seriously thinking about the upcoming WCBB season each year? August or September? If it has entered the Voepel zone, what would be your 3 most intriguing questions for this season ahead of us?
Mechelle Voepel (2:37 PM)
Seriously, probably September. WNBA, golf and volleyball take more immediate attention now. I also just did a story on the "Nine for IX" series on Mary Decker Slaney, who will be the focus of next week's documentary. So I haven't really poured over the college season yet in great detail. I guess a few things that are lingering in my mind .... How different will Baylor be, both strategically and personality-wise? Is Tennessee a Final Four contender? Can Maryland have a "healthy" season? More locally, how will Kellie Jolly do at Missouri State? There is an over-riding sense that this is UConn's title to win, of course, so I'm also wondering how this group of Huskies compares to how past UConn teams dealt with title defenses.
Sofia (Durham, NC)
Is Camille Little the most underrated player--especially defender -- in the WNBA?
Mechelle Voepel (2:41 PM)
I know Seattle coach Brian Agler appreciates her tremendously. And he's praised her - particularly on defense - so much when I've had conversations with him, that it doesn't seem to me she's under-rated. :) She may not put up huge scoring numbers like some forwards, but defensively, there aren't many players more versatile.
Who is the better post for Tulsa: Glory Johnson or Liz Cambage?
Mechelle Voepel (2:43 PM)
I'd give the edge to GloJo, because I think she's more consistent and a little more fierce a competitor. That said, Cambage is improving in both those areas.
Glenn (Fresh Meadows)
The Mystics were crashing to earth...then hit a big win on Minnesota...will they be able to make any kind of run...and is it just me or the rookies and vets almost 2 different squads out there.
Mechelle Voepel (2:49 PM)
Making a "run" is really hard in this league, which is why things like Minnesota's 10-game winning streak are so impressive. I think travel takes a toll on teams, they all know each other backward and forward, it's really difficult to hold onto an edge for a sustained period of time. It's almost like survival to the playoffs, and then you hope you have home-court advantage (although that doesn't guarantee a series win) and also hope that you're pitted against teams you match up best against.
Tulsa trails Phoenix by 3 in the win column, with three of their next four vs the Mercury...who now may be without Griner and Bonner along with Taylor. How big are these games for the Shock, and their continued growth?
Mechelle Voepel (2:51 PM)
The Shock really needs to make a move now. Tulsa has not played really "relevant" games late into a season before; they've only been spoilers at that point. Now, they have some chance at control of their own destiny, and playing well against the Mercury could be a key to weather they can make the playoffs.
Sofia (Durham, NC)
What is your view of the situation in CT with the Sun and Tina Charles? imo, Sun GM Chris Sienko and (presumably) ownership put Anne Donovan in a difficult spot. She didn't create the mess--they did by firing a popular coach--but now she's got to clean it up. What's the way forward?
Mechelle Voepel (2:58 PM)
Anne Donovan has been on all sides of the dynamics of a WNBA team - when the chemistry is good, when it's poor, when it's volatile, when it's stagnant. So she's in difficult position now in Connecticut, but not one that she doesn't have experience with. She had to know all of this when she took the job. It may be a case where Donovan has to slog through this season, and then hopefully be dealing with overall better attitudes/chemistry for 2014. I know that doesn't sound very palatable for Sun fans.
kevin (macon ga)
How is Janeth Arcain not in the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame?
Mechelle Voepel (2:59 PM)
I'm guessing perhaps she doesn't have someone pushing hard for her? But I don't know. You will hear people complain about the "politics" about HOF selections in all sports.
Jonathan (New York)
Do you think the Minnesota reserves will be a liability in the playoffs? Other than M Wright, the bench seems inconsistent and can disappear offensively.
Mechelle Voepel (3:02 PM)
I don't think so. I know we saw last year where Indiana's bench really stepped forward; pretty much because they had to with injuries. But in general, I think your best players carry the load in the playoffs, and as long as the starters are relatively healthy, the Lynx are fine.
Mechelle--your view on Skyler Diggins so far...the #s are not terribly impressive ( and certianly trail those of the other 2 heralded rookies) but what have you seen that you have liked and what areas need improvement...thanks for your insight.
Mechelle Voepel (3:06 PM)
She's got a lot on her plate on a team that's very young. What teammates can she look to for a lot of guidance? At ND, she had Niele Ivey and Muffett McGraw both looking out for her, guiding her, spending a lot of time with her. She's got to get higher-percentage shots, she has to grow as a defensive player (like most rookies), and she has to become a little different kind of leader than she was in college.
kevin (macon ga)
The Nine for IX films have gotten lower ratings than almost all of the 30 for 30 films. How much of that is because they are marketed as women's sports stories rather than just sports stories?
Mechelle Voepel (3:10 PM)
I haven't paid attention to the ratings, actually. I don't know if it would make any difference if they had been made as part of the "30 for 30" series and just sprinkled in periodically. It's kind of an exhausting and discouraging topic, frankly ... do things become "devalued" to a general sports audience because they are marketed as being about women? I wish I could say no, but evidence probably suggests so.
Glenn (Fresh Meadows)
With all the turmoil going on in the NCAA HOW can the NCAA balance the Demand to share the TV wealth in the Men's game vs the more Amatuer (but still having TV Money) women's game...or all non money sports for that matter.
Mechelle Voepel (3:16 PM)
It's such a complicated conundrum, because you have two sports that -at their highest level in college - are multimillion-dollar businesses, and as such bear little resemblance to all the other sports. So how do you govern them and fund them under one umbrella? And if you don't, how do you avoid Title IX lawsuits, among other things? I've thought and thought about it. We did a big "pay for play" series on ESPN.com in 2011. And I'm still not sure anyone has come up with comprehensive or satisfying answers. But as you point out, the turmoil about this subject is growing, not lessening. For instance, if college athletes can make money off their autographs, should they be able to do that?
Mechelle Voepel (3:21 PM)
Thanks for all the questions. Hope you all got a chance to see "The Diplomat" - the Nine for IX film this week on Katarina Witt, which was very interesting from a geo-political standpoint as well as a sports standpoint. Especially for younger people who might not remember those times, it really showed some of the things she dealt with as an athlete that her "Western" counterparts did not. Next Tuesday is Mary Decker Slaney, who was one of my idols in my teen years. It was interesting for me to revisit my thoughts about her career as I wrote about her.