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 (2:01 PM)
Good afternoon. The Lynx are again the WNBA champs, and if you were taking predictions right now for 2014, they'd be a good bet. Let's get started!
Would you be in favor of the WNBA making the playoffs seeds 1-8 for the best eight teams no matter what conference they are in? In this case, Atlanta would have played Minnesota in the semifinals with the possibility of a better final. I feel with the exception of Sac-Det, and Pho-Ind when it went to five games most finals have been duds. Although 2012 had some good moments in that series too. I just feel the finals would be of more quality if seeding went to the overall teams. The east was awful weak across the board this year with Atlanta coming out of a weak field. In a different seeded format, I am afraid Atlanta would have not made the finals.
Mechelle Voepel (2:05 PM)
I think with a 12-team league, this idea potentially could make sense ... but I don't know that it has any traction in upper management of the league or with team owners. I think it is concerning that the 2010, 2011 and 2013 Finals were sweeps ... but I also understand that leagues go through cycles, and perhaps it would be an over-reaction to restructure the playoffs.
Who will the Shock hire? Can they utilize the talent they have on the team?
Mechelle Voepel (2:11 PM)
At this point, I'm not sure what the Shock owners think they are going to get. There are some assistants in the WNBA who are ready/capable of being head coaches now ... but I think they look at the Shock organization with trepidation and may feel they're better off staying put. Who among the former WNBA head coaches who are currently jobless want to move to Tulsa and try to get a playoff spot in the conference that includes Lynx, Sparks, Merc, Storm and SASS? It's a tall order, which is why I think they were on the right track with Gary Kloppenburg. I thought he deserved at least another season. Tulsa has talent, but realistically compared to much of the rest of the West, they are simply not as talented or experienced. I hope the Shock management has a very firm idea of who they can bring in, and didn't just fire Gary in the* hope* that they can find someone better.
jbb1985 (21st century)
The NCAA just awarded the Regionals to locations such as Palo Alto, South Bend, and Louisville. This should boost attendance and could bolster media coverage, both plusses for WCBB. You've noted that UConn is and should be highly favored to repeat. Huskies tend to be very good Road Warriors. But could you see a substantially better chance for any of those 3 home teams to upset UConn, given what they did to Stanford last season in CA or their 4-0 record at Cameron, suggesting daunting places don't seem to overly concern them?
Mechelle Voepel (2:14 PM)
If Connecticut avoids major injuries and plays to its potential, I have a very hard time seeing the Huskies not winning the title. Sure, it may make it more difficult for them if they're playing on someone else's home court in a regional final. But as you pointed out, historically they have tended to do very well regardless of the site of the game. They aren't intimidated by anything.
Craig (Braintree, MA)
What do you think of the Lynx ownership? Where does it rate in the league?
Mechelle Voepel (2:21 PM)
I have to give them credit: They stuck with this, and did so through some very dry seasons. The Lynx were mired in mediocrity for a long time. They tried different coaches, and nothing really seemed to change a lot. But they didn't give up. I've been critical of Roger Griffith in the past, simply because I think he made some decisions that didn't advance the franchise. But by hiring Cheryl Reeve and giving her so much input into the make-up of the team, he's made two great calls. I like the way the team is treated. There's a feeling when you're at Target Center that the Lynx matter ... yes, the Timberwolves are the "big" franchise, but the Lynx are not just an afterthought. May sound like a small thing, but the large portraits of every team member/coach that hang on the wall in the hallway where the locker rooms are ... that stuff is small, but it matters. And I have to say, I really don't get complaints from Lynx fans about how they are treated in terms of seating, season tickets, a feeling of inclusion/appreciation. So I think they are doing a lot right.
Any additional thoughts or interesting quotes from the WNBA Finals? I know some fans thought it was a boring series. But I thoroughly enjoyed how the Lynx played together and how they were at an even higher level than the regular season.
Mechelle Voepel (2:27 PM)
One thing that will stick with me was how funny/happy Lindsay Whalen was after Game 3. We in the media and the fans always joke about her poker face, and how unflappable she is on court or in interviews. Which is totally true. But she is really, really hilarious. I can't give a specific one-liner, because her humor isn't like that. But you might have seen how she perfectly mimicked the Usain Bolt pose with the WNBA trophy? That's what I mean. Also, I think you can't over-state how much of a winner that Maya Moore has been everywhere she's gone. And I think a lot of that is she's very good at being a "star" player without ever having a "star" attitude. You could say the same thing about Seimone Augustus. And while I totally understand the "boring" aspect to the Finals from fans' point of view, I enjoyed watched how well the Lynx played together. It is fun seeing that kind of basketball.
Griner is playing overseas in China, where Cambage, Syl, and Lauren will be playing also. Do you think this will help her in her learning process?
Mechelle Voepel (2:30 PM)
Yes, because Griner is someone who really does *want* to learn. She has always had that attitude, and I think she is always open to listening. Also, BG is very open to meeting new people and being in different circumstances. She's just got that kind of personality. I think it will be a good experience for her.
Jonathan (New York)
If Laurel Richie and other key WNBA stakeholders asked you to write a white paper to improve the WNBA, what recommendations would you make?
Mechelle Voepel (2:39 PM)
I'd reach out to the fans from every team who regularly e-mail me and/or ask questions on the chat. And I'd extensively interview them, because they know more about the fan experience than I do. They know how season-ticket holders are treated, how much interaction there is with players, what kind of communication there is. Then I would include my own observations of how important it is to have competent media relations people at every franchise. Because some franchises have that, and some still don't. You get what you pay for in that regard. And then I'd talk to a lot of players about their individual experiences. I think there are some things that absolutely could be fixed without any great expense - or any expense at all - that would help the league. I have actually told the WNBA brass before that there are "super" fans of this league that they ought to look into hiring, or at least consulting with.
glenn fresh meadows [via mobile]
Was atlantas finals attebdance in a smaller building hurtful to the league...seemed to reinforce every stereotype about league fanbase
Mechelle Voepel (2:43 PM)
I think it's unfortunate, but I don't know how much the league itself can do about that. That's more on the Dream franchise, but also some of it is that Atlanta is very spread-out metro area, traffic stinks, the game was at 8:30 p.m. local time on a school night, and the Dream was already down 0-2.
Craig (Braintree, MA)
What do you think of Maya winning MVP next year?
Mechelle Voepel (2:47 PM)
She was pretty close this season, which had so many great candidates. It likely will be a case where, like Tamika Catchings, Maya Moore is in the running for the award annually. I've voted for her as MVP the last two years, not because I'm the Maya Moore publicity machine, but because I genuinely felt that her impact is so far-ranging on the Lynx, and she's become a truly elite player on the team that's been the best, overall, the last three seasons in the WNBA. Even if they didn't win the championship one of those seasons.
Glenn (Fresh Meadows)
Of things that could use changing in the WNBA CBA Wise: Death of the 11 player roster, IR, Death of Core Desgination, Incentives to keep some players stateside should they wish to help promote the league in the off season. What would you say is the most likely to happen this year?
Mechelle Voepel (2:49 PM)
I think the rosters may expand to 12, and there will be an injured-reserve format that makes sense. Every coach and all players want this, of course, so we'll see if it happens.
Glenn (Fresh Meadows)
How nuts is tulsa for firing klop? He had been raising the talent level, had no cambage most of the year and a subpar diggins who he finally benched at the end of the year. Meanwhile he develops Williams and Goodrich into solid players. Is this a quick hook, politics or just another case of the Tulsa Braintrust not knowing jack cheese about the WNBA.
Mechelle Voepel (2:52 PM)
I think the owners were disappointed because they thought this year was their "window" into the playoffs because of the injury/personnel issues with Seattle and San Antonio. And then when that didn't happen, they decided to "go a different direction." I think it's a mistake to not realize that continuity and patience are really, really hard to maintain, but extremely necessary.
glenn fresh meadows [via mobile]
How much will the league as a whole benefit from the libs at msg...it seemed the team lacked energy and poor crowds will do that expect big turnaround by the libs
Mechelle Voepel (2:55 PM)
I always say the league is better off when New York is good and in playoffs/playoff contention. Having the Liberty back in the Garden is a big deal. It's a mecca; it's an experience just to be there. No offense, Newark but ... I think there will be a sense of energy that comes back into the franchise with the return to MSG.
What are the Sparks missing in order to get to the finals? Do you think it's a team chemistry issue, lack of mental toughness or leadership?
Mechelle Voepel (3:02 PM)
Sometimes I think franchises outwardly have a strong sense of confidence, but inwardly have doubts. You see that in all sports. And in the case of LA, they may be wondering - deep down - whether they can make the "big" plays when they most need them in the playoffs. Because they've fallen short in that the last couple of years. Teams/players will say, "Last year is done, it doesn't matter" and I think most of the time, that is real. But then they get into situations where it goes through their minds, "Uh-oh, not this again..." I could be wrong, but I think the Sparks have been a combination of unlucky and not able to execute at some crucial moments in the past few years, and it lingers. I'm not entirely sure how you exorcise that demon.
The Sky were so good this year against everyone except Indiana. What should the Sky do differently to beat Indiana?
Mechelle Voepel (3:05 PM)
The WNBA is very much a league of match-ups. The Sky struggled against Indy, and Indy struggled against Atlanta. That was the case all season, and then again in the playoffs. Specifically with the Sky-Fever, Chicago could not stop Indy from penetrating and getting high-percentage shots. They just couldn't defend the Fever very well, and they couldn't rely on their offense to outscore Indy. Among the keys for the Chicago for next year is to have "enforcer" type inside and upgrading perimeter defense.
Other than DelleDonne, the rookies didn't have as much impact this year as predicted. Any thoughts? Also who are the top draft prospects for next season?
Mechelle Voepel (3:10 PM)
I think it reflects just how much talent is in the league; unless you are a naturally extremely elite offensive player (Delle Donne), it's hard to come in right away and be a star. And EDD would be the first to tell you everything she did *not* do well this year, because she was very frank in the playoffs about saying she got kind of physically worn down and overpowered at times. Similarly, if you talk to Maya Moore, she will be very blunt about her deficiencies on defense the first couple of years in the WNBA and how - in her mind - she's only now becoming an adequate defender. The young players who succeed in the league are ones who not only have talent, but are able to honestly recognize the flaws in their game and work very specifically on those. Easier said than done, because none of us really like to work on what we're not that good at. But it's a must to succeed as a WNBA player, especially with the limited number of jobs available in the league.
Mechelle Voepel (3:15 PM)
Thanks for all the questions! Sorry for the ones I did not get to. No chat next week, but we'll return closer to the start of college hoops season.