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!
kevin (macon ga)
The Sky are very light on playoff experience (52 games, 47 of them from Swin Cash) while the Fever have a ton (224 games, including 56 from Katie Douglas). Will that be a factor in the series?
Mechelle Voepel (2:02 PM)
That's ultimately what I went with in picking the Fever to win the series. It can be a crap shoot in sports, of course, as to whether experience will make a big difference in any matchup. But I think in this case, it might be. And it seems like the Fever are somewhat healthier overall than they have been for large stretches of the season.
Matt (South Bass Island)
Which lower seeded team has the best chance of upsetting a higher seeded team during the first round of the playoffs?
Mechelle Voepel (2:04 PM)
I predicted "upsets" in both Eastern Conferences series, No. 4 Fever over No. 1 Sky, and No. 3 Mystics over No. 2 Dream. In the first case because of the experience factor, and in the second because the Dream hasn't been very good/consistent the last few weeks of the regular season. But ... we've also seen the Dream come into the playoffs not seeming all that strong, and still make it to the Finals.
So, who's your pick for MVP?? Does Candace Parker or Maya Moore even make the All WNBA First Team considering how tight the MVP race is?? I have Whalen & Taurasi as the guards
Mechelle Voepel (2:09 PM)
I voted for Maya Moore first, followed by Candace Parker, Angel McCoughtry, Diana Taurasi, and Sylvia Fowles. My first team was G Taurasi, G/F McCoughtry, F Moore, F/C Parker, C Fowles. Whalen and Delle Donne were on the second team, and they were very hard to leave off first team. I think you could make an excellent case for different choices than I made. It was a difficult year to vote.
kevin (macon ga)
Any word on whether Sancho Lyttle will be back during the playoffs? Initial report was 6-8 weeks from July 15th, which was 9 1/2 weeks ago.
Mechelle Voepel (2:12 PM)
When I talked to the Dream folks recently, it didn't seem like Lyttle would be in the picture. But ... it may be something they are holding back on? There was a postseason injury situation a few years ago with the Dream where I was told by the staff and the player the exact opposite of what really was the case. There's always that factor of gamesmanship. :)
Matt (South Bass Island)
Is the Connecticut Sun now kicking themselves for firing head coach Mike Thibault?
Mechelle Voepel (2:14 PM)
It didn't make sense to me at the time, still doesn't. I would understand it more if management thought the Sun players themselves needed a new voice to get them to that next step to the finals/championship. But it didn't appear the players wanted Thibault to go. Just the opposite.
Brett S. (Las Vegas)
Who is your Coach of the Year? Thibault and Agler had such amazing runs this season. Then again, it is hard to ignore the unprecedented success of Chatman's Sky. And Dunn dealing with her own issues. And oh yeah, the coach that led her to team to the best record in the league (again)- Reeve. How does one decide? I think in a lot of ways, the COY race is extremely similar to the MVP race this year.
Mechelle Voepel (2:18 PM)
You just wrapped it up very well. I went with Agler, because I really didn't think the Storm were going to be a playoff team. Credit goes to the players, of course, because they concentrated on who they had, not who they did not have. But Agler definitely coached with that mindset, too. He wasn't spending all season lamenting who was missing. Again, I could easily have picked Thibault, Dunn, Chatman or Reeve, because they all did very good jobs this season, all with different circumstances.
What do you think of some of the rookies decision not to play abroad this winter?
Mechelle Voepel (2:23 PM)
It's really such an individual decision. In the case of rookies, maybe they need some time to rest after making the adjustment from college kids to pro athletes in such a short turnaround time. Several players have made marked improvements by going overseas, and I think most of them do benefit from that. But ... there are also some very good players who rarely went overseas. The primary reason people go overseas, though, is to make money. If you don't need that income and can keep your job in the WNBA, I understand choosing not to go. It's truly a case-by-case basis.
What is the process by which the Kim Perrott award winner is chosen? I know each team nominates one player, but I have no idea about the details.
Mechelle Voepel (2:27 PM)
Good question. It's called the Kim Perrott sportsmanship award, and I think it's always a hard thing to pick because the vast majority of players are very good at citizenship and sportsmanship. I think the WNBA needs to give out more information on each candidate, relative to what the individual teams think makes them worthy of the award.
kevin (macon ga)
Is Katie Smith a lock for the Hall of Fame (WBHOF and/or Naismith)?
Mechelle Voepel (2:28 PM)
If I'm voting, yes to both.
Steve Rice (RebKell Reader)
Jayda Evans has Wright & Thompson on her All-WNBA first team...too much Starbucks?
Mechelle Voepel (2:32 PM)
Actually, I can understand this. Tanisha Wright is one of those players who probably never has/never will get as much credit as she deserves. And Tina Thompson - speaking of future Hall of Famers _ had a terrific final season, which is still going. Is this a homer vote ... well, yes, basically, but it's not ridiculous. Part of the reason the league has multiple voters spread across the country, including national voters who aren't affiliated with any specific team, is that we're all supposed to balance out any possible biases. Jayda likely felt that Thompson and Wright deserved at least one voter to recognize them in this way.
Adam Shelton (Atlanta, Georiga )
For the Atlanta Dream vs. Washington Mystics Series, Who wins Game 1, Game 2 and Game 3.
Mechelle Voepel (2:36 PM)
I will say Dream wins Game 1, Mystics win Games 2 and 3. PLEASE do not put any money on this, not even a nickel. I would feel guilty. :) One could say I underestimated the Dream all season, so why stop now. But basically, I picked the Mystics because they've seemed a stronger, more consistent team over the last few weeks. Atlanta, as we all know, has really struggled on the road. But the Dream could win this series without having to win on the road.
LC (New York)
LA vs. PHX - What do you think is the key to this game? Honestly, do you think PHX can contain both Parker and Ogwumike?
Mechelle Voepel (2:40 PM)
I lean toward Nneka Ogwumike being key in this series. Parker takes a ton of defensive attention, and Ogwumike continues to improve. It is very hard for most teams to try to deal with both of them.
Moshak basically squeezed out of TN. Is this another undermining of The House that Pat built, or is it really 'just business'? It seems that with Pat's stepping down, TN doesn't seem to care quite as much about the legacy that is their women's program....or am I misreading that?
Mechelle Voepel (2:46 PM)
There has been a culture change at Tennessee. The merging of the men's/women's athletic departments cost a lot of people their jobs. That happens, unfortunately, but I think there is no question from any objective viewpoint that it impacted those who worked on the women's side much more. Pat Summitt's illness happened concurrently with women's AD Joan Cronan semi-retiring and taking more of a background role. So who was left in women's athletics who had the kind of power either of them had? Nobody. Does AD Dave Hart care that much about the legacy of women's athletics? Of course he will say he does. Certainly, he'd prefer the women's programs be successful. But his main focus in on football and fund-raising. The people who were the strongest voices for women's athletics at Tennessee for decades are now either ill, out of "power," or no longer employed at the school.
We see BG came out this year. So far, it hasn't hurt her popularity, and ppl seem quite impressed by her honestly. Consider bullying still goes on everyday, do you think LGBT athletes have an obligation to come out of the closet?
Mechelle Voepel (2:52 PM)
I don't think it's necessarily fair to say they have an "obligation," because not everybody can handle it. I would say LGBT adults in all professions - not just athletes - have to take stock of their lives and decide how they want to impact the world around them. Not everybody is going to want to come out. But the more people who do, the more progress we make toward a better society. Unfortunately, kids/teens get bullied for all kinds of reasons, and that is a broader topic than just LGBT visibility. But I think it's extremely important that someone like Brittney Griner has dedicated herself to speaking out against bullying. You'd really love to see that be a huge initiative from all the pro sports leagues and in college athletics, too. Athletes represent "strength" and I've always thought there are few more powerful messages than equating strength with kindness, and bullying with weakness.
With Candace Parker having a statistically better year in practically all categories over Maya Moore and it's clear that LA probably wouldn't even be a playoff team without Candace, why would Maya get your pick for MVP? Candace leads the league in efficiency per 40 mins. and no one else is close.
Mechelle Voepel (2:59 PM)
You can look at MVP in a lot of different ways. If we said, "Which playoff team would absolutely NOT be in the playoffs this season without this player?" I happen to think that's the Dream and Angel McCoughtry. So should she be MVP, because she's the *most* valuable to her team? Or do you say, "Who is the best player in the league this season?" Or is it, "Who is the best player on the best team this season?" I've flip-flopped and waffled on this topic my entire career when it comes to voting on this stuff. Not intentionally, I just have never been entirely sure what this award should be. Ultimately, in the last few years, I've tried to go with who I feel is the best player in the league that particular season, and then the "tie-break" if I can't decide on just one "best player" is who has been on the most successful team. Now, you can rip that criteria to shreds, but that's what I've tried to do. And I think the other factor this year is just consistency game-to-game, and I gave that edge to Moore.
AP reporting Parker is MVP edging out Maya Moore.
Mechelle Voepel (3:01 PM)
And if Candace Parker wins MVP, that's great! She deserves it. I don't have any stake in who wins these awards. It doesn't matter to me. I only vote because I'm asked to. Believe me, I'd just as soon not do it. I think a lot of media feel that way.
Doug Feinberg has just reported that Candace Parker has won the MVP. thoughts?
Mechelle Voepel (3:02 PM)
Great. She is a terrific player. She was No. 2 on my list. She deserves it. I would never argue against anyone who voted her No. 1 on their ballot.
Why do you think USA BB was so determined to convince Geno to sign up for another Olympics? He's a great coach but he's not the only one to win gold. Staley and others seem qualified and wanted the job.
Mechelle Voepel (3:07 PM)
I think USA Basketball sees the next World Championships and Olympics as coming during in a transitional period, where they are going to need to establish things like: A) a younger point guard as understudy to Bird/Whalen and B) prepare for the national team retirements of players like Catchings, etc. And so I believe they saw consistency in coaching as a helpful thing to establish some of the 20-somethings transitioning into leadership roles, so Team USA will be strong as ever for 2018 Worlds, 2020 Olympics.
Mechelle Voepel (3:08 PM)
Thanks for all the questions! Chat with you next week. Enjoy the playoffs!