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 3 p.m. ET!
Mechelle Voepel (3:05 PM)
Good afternoon. We're nearing the end of the regular season, and really starting to anticipate the playoffs. Let's get started.
kevin (macon ga)
LaChina Robinson said during the game last night that Chicago, when healthy, is the best team in the East on paper. Is that a reasonable assessment?
Mechelle Voepel (3:10 PM)
LaChina knows her stuff, and certainly has seen a lot of Eastern Conference teams in person this season. I still lean toward Atlanta, though, when the Dream are at their best. Sancho Lyttle is as good an interior defender as there is in the WNBA, Angel McCoughtry is a perennial MVP candidate, Erika de Souza is a high-quality center, and the Dream's bench can give them a boost. But I also think that when you have a healthy Elena Delle Donne, Sylvia Fowles and Courtney Vandersloot, you have a Sky team that has all the bases covered. I hope that we see all these players being pretty healthy throughout the playoffs.
TJ James (Alabama) [via mobile]
Since Penny Toler said she's not coaching the Sparks next season who did you think would be 3 great candidates for the job ?
Mechelle Voepel (3:18 PM)
I'll be interested to see if current assistant Gary Kloppenburg is given a chance as head coach. I'm not sure I know any top assistant now elsewhere who really would be a *good* fit for the Sparks. What I mean by that is there are good assistants, but I don't know that any of them are right for LA. That's a complicated job. There's a lot of talent, but they haven't played consistently or cohesively all season. I really think it was a mistake to fire Carol Ross. She was coach of the year two seasons ago, and the Sparks are in the playoffs now despite an inconsistent and frustrating season. I think that would be the case if Ross were still there. Letting her have a chance to work through the problems this season could have helped toward eliminating them next season. Now, the Sparks may have to start from scratch again next season, and I don't know that things will be any better.
Jan(Kentucky) [via mobile]
Are you surprised at Glory Johnson's early success in the WNBA? In college she seemed to fly a bit under the radar (unless you were a Tennessee fan) and was overshadowed by Nneka O's career at Stanford.
Mechelle Voepel (3:25 PM)
No, I'm not surprised. I can honestly say I thought Glory was one of those players who would really blossom as a professional. That's not saying anything bad about her Tennessee career, but Glory was growing into her athleticism while she was in college. She was already a great athlete who was becoming a top-notch basketball player. And you're seeing her become that in the WNBA. I thought Glory should have been the No. 2 pick in 2012, frankly.
Do you think the Lynx will pick resting key players over trying to regain momentum heading into the playoffs? And if you were a coach, how would you choose between the two?
Mechelle Voepel (3:32 PM)
Cheryl Reeve knows how her players are feeling physically, so she can make a good decision on how much to play them the next two games. She had been talking recently about them not playing well defensively, and I think Tuesday's loss to LA had to get their attention. With Dantas out the rest of the regular season, they're limited a bit in how much they can rest people anyway. I think Minnesota can strike a balance in the remaining games about giving the starters a little break without necessarily going overboard and potentially affecting the team's momentum. The players know they are in the stretch run now anyway, and this is where all the fitness training and mental toughness have to carry them through.
Glenn (Fresh Meadows)
Will the recent Autonomy granted to the big 5 conferences, what will the impact be on the WBB front, will this help or hurt WBB...and given that they're now even MORE on the outside looking in...how will this effect UConn?
Mechelle Voepel (3:40 PM)
I had a couple of Division I coaches e-mail me about that last week. I feel like nobody knows exactly how this is going to affect college sports in general, and women's sports specifically. The fear is that this autonomy move in a lot of ways caters to and enhances what's already the "semi-professional" nature of football and men's basketball. I don't know that's going to be good for any of the other sports, men's or women's. As for UConn, it has to be a concern that even with the incredible coaching staff, fan base, and legacy they have, that the athletic department may have a hard time keeping up financially with the schools in the Big Five (plus Notre Dame). As long as Geno Auriemma and Chris Dailey are there, the program can sell itself as, "We have a proven, long-term track record of winning titles and preparing players for the WNBA." But if Big Five schools can offer player more scholarship money or other perks - I mean, who the heck knows what "autonomy" will mean - does it become difficult for UConn to keep up with the Jones?
Jonathan (New York)
What do you think has kept Lindsay Whalen from expanding her game to include a 3-point shot? She might've displaced Bird as the top point guard if she had.
Mechelle Voepel (3:47 PM)
In her pro career - first in Connecticut and now in Minnesota - Whalen has played with some really premiere 3-point shooters. What she's excelled at is getting them the ball in spots where they can be successful, as well as how she's been able to penetrate and score, get to the line a good amount, and hurt teams who can't really "cheat" on her defensively even though she doesn't shoot the 3 much. Especially in the last three years, she's realized that the 3-pointer is just not her shot on this team, and she's pragmatic about that. And considering she has two WNBA titles in that stretch, I think she's made a smart decision.
Do you think O Sims can take the ROY over Chiney? Also what do you think are Diana's chance for MVP over Maya?
Mechelle Voepel (3:55 PM)
I think if Tulsa had been able to clinch a playoff berth, it might have pushed Odyssey Sims past Chiney Ogwumike for rookie of the year. But since that didn't happen - even though the Sun won't be in the playoffs, either, I think the edge will go to Ogwumike for her consistency all season. However, they both have a good case for the award. As for MVP, I just think with what Maya Moore has done statistically - especially when she didn't have as much help because of Lynx injuries - will prevail and she'll win the award. But it probably will be a close vote.
Do you believe that the Sky will be the Eastern Conference champion and make it to the WNBA finals?
Mechelle Voepel (3:59 PM)
Well, things have changed with the Sky getting Elena Delle Donne back. She's a huge difference-maker. And Atlanta has just not seemed that sharp over the last few weeks. The thing is, we've seen the Dream "limp" into the playoffs before, and turn it on then. At this point I think it's one of those two teams that will be in the Finals for the East.
I would like to see the American players stay in the United States to play basketball. The mental strain on the players to play year around is taken a toll on the players. Do you see this happening soon?
Mechelle Voepel (4:03 PM)
No. I don't see any dramatic increase in WNBA salaries in the foreseeable future, and that's what it will take to keep players from going overseas. I don't know that it's a mental strain, actually, as much as it is a physical one. It does wear down players, and we see that especially as they get into their early 30s, if not before.
TJ James (Alabama) [via mobile]
If you were a college coach would you make the jump to the wnba ?
Mechelle Voepel (4:10 PM)
It's hard for me to answer, actually, because I can't imagine ever wanting to be a college coach and dealing with recruiting. That would drive me nuts. But ... for those who like to recruit, or at least don't mind it, there is still more financial security and job security in the college game. And there are just not *that* many jobs in the WNBA. Plus, you do have to have a different mindset with pro players. You can't be as controlling and dictatorial over them as you are with college kids. And a lot of college coaches would have difficulty adjusting to that.
Do you still favor Minnesota over Phoenix? If so, what's the main reason - more talent, experience, etc?
Mechelle Voepel (4:13 PM)
I keep hanging on and saying, yes, in regard to Minnesota. In part because it would seem kind of flaky to change now ... and in part because I think the Lynx may be a bit better a defensive team at their best, which could make the difference in a series between the two. I think in games that are more physical, the Lynx have an advantage.
Mechelle Voepel (4:14 PM)
Thanks for all the questions. We may chat a little earlier in the week next week. Will let you know via Twitter.