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 (2:04 PM)
Good afternoon. We haven't washed away (yet) here in the Midwest, so let's get to chatting.
After signing some big name free agents, LA has gotten off to a not so sparkling start. ;) How hot is Ross and Toler's seats out there?
Mechelle Voepel (2:07 PM)
I don't think their seats are hot. I mean, it's still early, and there are two other teams in the West struggling even more than the Sparks so far. That said, LA has been disappointing so far. I would think the Sparks themselves feel that way, too.
jbb1985 (savoring, but anticipating)
What has been the explanation for Epiphany Prince's delay in playing for the Sky? Was it burnout?
Mechelle Voepel (2:09 PM)
Burnout ... personal reasons ... fatigue. Is there something more going on, especially since she hasn't played yet? That's what everybody seems to be wondering right now.
Tyler (Laramie, WY)
Your impressions of Shoni Shimmel...
Mechelle Voepel (2:11 PM)
So far, it seems like she's really fitting in well for what her role is on that team. It's early, but it appears she taking to the pro game with a lot of enthusiasm and success. She doesn't have to do it all for the Dream - not even close - but what she does contribute can be very important to that squad. I really liked the way they played Tuesday against LA - even when Angel McCoughtry wasn't on the court, they executed well. And the big women - de Souza and Lyttle - were exceptional.
Just how good are the Mystics right now?
Mechelle Voepel (2:15 PM)
Well, other than a couple of teams at the top, we can ask that question of everybody. :) I thought that win over LA was important because even though neither team played very well, the Mystics really showed some scrappiness from both veterans and younger players. There are still questions, of course, about how well the Mystics' offense is going to hold up, and it does need to improve. But overall, I've seen some good things from D.C.
Jonathan (New York)
Which current point guard in the WNBA do you see as the best understudy to Bird and Whalen on the U.S. team?
Mechelle Voepel (2:19 PM)
Great question that I've been wondering about for quite a few years now. There is no young player out there who - right now - measures up to be in quite the same league as Bird and Whalen, because that's Hall of Fame-caliber. But I am becoming more and more intrigued by Courtney Vandersloot and Danielle Robinson in that role. They're both 25 now, and I like the way they've progressed as professionals.
Glenn (Fresh Meadows)
So was the whole Cash thing a shrewd Sell High by the Sky, or is she being Misused or otherwise hasn't clicked in Atlanta?
Mechelle Voepel (2:23 PM)
I wasn't expecting Cash to have very big numbers in Atlanta _ I doubt anyone was _ but certainly more than what she's done so far. She's just not seeing very much court time. Part of it is how well others have played, but you'd think the Dream would rotate her in more. Maybe it's going to take a little longer for Michael Cooper to figure out ways to give her more minutes without it disrupting what he's trying to do.
With the underwhelming start to this year and the disappointing last year, Bill has yet to regain his magic from the Detroit years. Has the game grown past him or is he still making adjustments? If the latter, how much longer should we be expecting?
Mechelle Voepel (2:30 PM)
I don't think the game has grown past him; he's still a shrewd coach. But I think the Liberty could still used better point-guard play, and their chemistry is not what it needs to be. And that's a difficult thing to evaluate from the outside. I look at the Liberty as an outsider and wonder who is the real "leader" on court for that group. I see several players who tend to be rather insular, or at least that's how they come across. I don't think it's time to be panicking or anything, but I understand why Liberty fans are a little frustrated.
Glenn (Fresh Meadows)
Minnesota and Chicago have taken off without key players, will the returns or players like Fowles and Peters just make things more unstoppable or will it end up with the apple cart getting overturned (especially with chicago)
Mechelle Voepel (2:33 PM)
I don't think those players coming back will hurt their respective teams' chemistry at all.
Tulsa hired Klopp, citing that wins weren't good enough, and I think the constantly losing of close games effected it. Fred Williams is getting the same results, so far. How long before they realize it probably isn't the coach?
Mechelle Voepel (2:40 PM)
I wasn't in favor of them firing Klopp, but I also don't think Fred Williams should be judged too harshly just yet despite the Shock being 0-5. As you said, losing close games - which Tulsa has done four times this year - gets really old for a fan base that has been patient without much in the way of results. The Shock has had some really bad luck (draft lottery), and then also made some front-office decisions that have hurt. And they're in the Western Conference, where climbing the ladder is tougher. Should they have cut ties with Liz Cambage a while ago and tried to maximize her trade value? Yes, but maybe they just didn't feel like they could get a deal that was good enough. She's been a big disappointment for Tulsa, no way to sugar-coat that. Ultimately, Tulsa's management has made some decisions that took the franchise down wrong paths for too long, and that's hard to recover from.
jbb1985 (east, semi-mobile)
Which of the two young Carolina teams will be more fascinating next season to see how they have matured after one season (plus off season moves) -- UNC or U of SC?
Mechelle Voepel (2:45 PM)
They are both going to be very interesting, but South Carolina is - in my view - going to be the most intriguing team in the country. This isn't to short-change UConn, of course. It's just that we know that product very well, even though some names change. South Carolina had a big jump this past season as a program, but ultimately didn't play well in the postseason. They bring back all key players, and add in A'ja Wilson. Will they be really motivated to make up for not performing well in March this past season? Will they take that next step as a program? As for North Carolina, obviously that will be interesting, too, as we see how they play without Diamond DeShields. There is still a ton of talent there, of course.
jbb1985 (east, semi-mobile)
Would you rather see UConn in the Big 10 or ACC?
Mechelle Voepel (2:47 PM)
The ACC makes more sense, geographically and returning some of the old Big East rivalries. But I don't know that either one of these conferences is going to want UConn football, and we all know that's really what it's all about.
jairnessness (dc) [via mobile]
Hi Mechelle, do you think the Sparks should trade Nneka? I thought they should have made a move on draft day for McBride or Thomas but now I can't really think of a good trade proposal, but I'm sure they need better "fits" to pair w/ Parker because they both are natural 4s. Would you make a move in LA if you were the gm?
Mechelle Voepel (2:52 PM)
I don't think that I would pull the trigger on that deal. Nneka is too valuable. Also, I don't think that LA has a personnel problem. Maybe I'm wrong. But it's more that they are dealing with some issues, including Kristi Toliver's overseas adventures, and those things have to impact chemistry. Ultimately, by the end of the season, I still think LA is going to be all right.
What are your thoughts on PHX possibly dethroning MIN in the West this year? They are playing very well and I think that they may cause a few problems out West for MIN.........
Mechelle Voepel (2:56 PM)
So far, the Mercury have been impressive and actually kind of Lynx-like in that there's been such good balance among the superstars. I still feel, though, that head-to-head Minnesota has an edge on both ends of the court. Will the Mercury cause the Lynx problems? Sure, but the Lynx cause more problems for foes than anyone.
Although its WNBA season, do you see any teams that can potentially beat UCONN in the upcoming years?
Mechelle Voepel (2:59 PM)
Potentially? Yes. Realistically? That's a smaller list. It's a long time until next college season, but South Carolina would top my list of challengers to the defending champs next year.
Who has been the most surprising team in a good way and the most disappointing team, thus far?
Mechelle Voepel (3:02 PM)
To me, Chicago has been the most surprising in a good way, considering how well the Sky have played without players who were previously stars. The most disappointing team so far is Los Angeles, considering the Sparks' talent.
How would you rate the state of the WNBA, you think it's reached its capacity in terms of new audiences/range? How can we grow the game?
Mechelle Voepel (3:05 PM)
I don't think it's reached its capacity, and part of growing the game is for the talent pool to keep expanding. Which is is. I think there is a lot to be said for the fact that the league has faced some difficult challenges, but is still in business and looking to the future.
Mechelle Voepel (3:06 PM)
Thanks for the questions. Sorry for ones I did not get to. Will chat again next week.