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May 20, 2:00 PM ET
Chat with Mechelle Voepel

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:02 PM)

Good afternoon, folks. This is my new regularly scheduled time to chat each week this season, but I'm sorry to be doing it during the Silver Stars-Shock game today. Alas, here we go.

UConn Steve (Plano, TX)

Will any team take a chance on Chamique Holdsclaw? Will she accept a reserve role? Jackson, Cash, Bird, and Wright have played 33+ minutes in each of Seattle's first 2 games. Do you think Holdsclaw would be good for the Storm? Thanks for your columns and today's chat. :)

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:04 PM)

I have a column on Chamique that should be posted soon either on ESPN.com or my blog. The thing is, if Holdclaw is healthy enough and committed to playing through this season, then yes maybe she can help a team like Seattle. But the issues with her knees and her leaving teams in season ... is she worth the risk for anybody?

Mo (MS)

I know its early but what's with LA? I know Leslie is gone and its hard to replace a legend, but I thought they had enough talent to succeed. Do they have too much talent or am I underrating the importance of thelegend Lisa Leslie.?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:07 PM)

It seems more to me a lot of it is just having to start the season on the road against two teams the caliber of Phoenix and Seattle. Of course, maybe some alarm bells go off if they lose Saturday at San Antonio, but it's still too early to be really worried about anything. I do think they have the talent to win a championship without Leslie, but it's very hard to replicate her presence, not just her production.

Glenn (NYC)

OK I hope someone gives me an honest answer on this and Mechelle Voepel is as good a pick as anyone...MECHELLE, Which is heavier, the stigma Marion Jones' PED use puts against the W or her past track glory helping the Ws image?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:11 PM)

I'm not sure Marion Jones helps the WNBA's "image" in any way, honestly. I think she brings in publicity, at least early on, because of her name and past fame. But I don't see that as being beneficial to the "image" of the league. As for the PEDs use, that is a bigger concern than I think the league really adequately addressed. I guess the thought is she was punished for that and it's in her past.

kevin (macon ga)

What do you think about the Mystics taking down the attendance banners?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:13 PM)

Just as well. I don't see how they were a "positive" ... mostly, they were just mocked. Everyone knew there was some degree of ticket giveaways for a while with the franchise, and that warped the attendance. The Mystics need to focus on getting a WNBA championship banner in there.

Marissa (Michigan)

Who should former Detroit Shock fans cheer for and why, if they can't bring themselves to cheer for Tulsa

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:17 PM)

For what it's worth, when the St. Louis football Cardinals left for Arizona in 1987, I didn't really cheer *for* them anymore but didn't cheer *against* them, either. I lost rooting interest in the NFL and just watched games. Which is not necessarily a "bad" thing, but it made the league less enjoyable for me. So I hope that doesn't happen with a lot of Shock fans in regard to the WNBA. One thing I would say is if you liked the Shock players, they certainly didn't want to leave Detroit. So maybe still root for them for the players' sake? (Deep down, I wanted the Arizona Cardinals to win the Super Bowl because they were still a little bit *my* Cardinals even after all these years.) If not, I'd say watch some WNBA games this season and just see what team appeals to you. You can consider yourself a "free-agent" fan. :)

Nick (Wisconsin)

Will UK get to a final four and win national title with Mitchell as coach within 5 years

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:20 PM)

A little non-WNBA stuff ... cool. I would not be surprised to see Kentucky make the Final Four because Matt Mitchell will keep bringing in talent and has that style that is hard for teams to face, as we saw with what the 'Cats did this year to the Huskers. Actually winning the title? We'll see ... reaching that last step of winning the final has been hard for a lot of programs that did make the breakthrough of getting to the Final Four.

Brett (KS)

Minnesota seems to be doing pretty well without Augustus, Wiggins, & Brunson, but how good can that team be with all three of those players healthy and playing?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:24 PM)

I thought the same thing when seeing them in Tulsa over the weekend ... how good they will be with those three competing. I liked what I saw of the Lynx, especially with Whalen running the show. I like how confident Monica Wright looked, too, as a rookie.

Rich (London)

Does Nolan Richardson actually know what he's doing?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:28 PM)

I think that's a fair question. He does understand how to implement his system, and he did a lot of work in the off-season to familiarize himself with the players in the WNBA. But that's a lot of people and their tendencies to have to learn and adjust to. And it's not as if the Shock doesn't present some issues just managing that group of players. Will there be any growing resentment about Marion Jones being on the team if she doesn't really contribute. Will Pierson keep her moods in check all season? I think Richardson knows what he is "doing" for the most part, but may not entirely know what he's in for. But we'll find out how strong his commitment is to the WNBA by how he deals with this season.

Mia (Montesacradesto, Ca)

Do you think the Tenn vs UConn rivialry will be back after Maya Moore is gone?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:32 PM)

I really don't know, because so much damage has been done to what was already a tenuous and strained relationship between Geno Auriemma and Pat Summitt. If she decides, "OK, I'll do it now," will he say, "Oh, yeah? Well, forget it. I won't." Or will Geno end up looking like a "saint" by agreeing to do it? Because this whole thing is really resting on the personal rivalry of two powerful people, I think it's very hard to predict how they will deal with this - or not deal with it, as the case may be - for the next several years. If this were more an "institutional" conflict, then maybe it would be resolved more easily. But it's really personal between these two people.

Rick (NY)

You do a great job of describing the entertaining Liberty fans who post on message boards in our columns. Have you ever been able to talk to Blaze about them?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:35 PM)

Actually, whenever I've talked to Carol Blazejowski - and this may not surprise you - she's been very formal and the idea of joking around with her about how the fans give her hell has never seemed like it would be received well. Blaze may have a great sense of humor ... but it's not something I've actually witnessed. I'm sure it's easier for me to find the Lib fans hilarious, though - which I must admit, I do - than it is for her.

kevin (macon ga)

Do you think the Sparks' age (they start three 35 year olds) will hurt them over the long haul?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:38 PM)

You know, that really is something I was wondering about before the season, especially because Tina Thompson has been pretty outspoken about feeling she played too much last season. She, Delisha Milton-Jones and Ticha Penicheiro are all in great shape, but sometimes a player doesn't realize age has crept up on her. In fact, a lot of times that happens in all sports. So we'll see if that does end up being a factor by season's end. Meanwhile, you look at a team like Minnesota, and see a lot of younger players, for instance.

Glenn (NYC)

Does the core of the Shock bailing either out of the league or out of tulsa hurt the W's prospects of getting new markets?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:42 PM)

Great question, Glenn. This worries me, actually, as an overall observer of the league. And, frankly, as a Midwesterner, I was kind of bugged by it. Like, "Oh, we're not going to Oklahoma! Who wants to live there?" I mean, nobody actually *said* that publicly, but it was just the attitude I perceived. I think the league and the league's players should be happy if a community reaches out and wants them, and Tulsa did. For heaven's sake, if the NBA folks can adjust to OKC, the WNBA can adjust to Tulsa. It's not like these are "backwater" towns. They are cities not that much different than most anywhere else. I don't know ... maybe the Shock players who didn't come were afraid of tornadoes?

Elizabeth (MN)

Did you get a chance to talk to any of the Lynx players or coaches at the Shock home opener?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:45 PM)

Yes, actually I was in the Lynx locker room for quite a while. They seem like they get along pretty well. I think they will all be excited to have Augustus, in particular, back in action. I also have to note how involved Candice Wiggins stays in things even though she's not playing right now. She's very supportive of her teammates and especially gave a lot of advice and support to rookie Monica Wright.

Alex (MN)

What are your thoughts on how a game should be called on TV? Crystal Robinson used "we" a lot when working the game on Saturday and it was a little annoying.

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:48 PM)

I don't comment a lot on broadcasting mostly because I think people's tastes are so different that what one person really likes, another doesn't. I will say one thing with the broadcasts is that the announcers should be cognizant of how many people might tune in who are not fans of the specific teams playing, but rather overall fans of the league. To that end, perhaps they should consider making broadcasts just a little more "universal" in their appeal to viewers.

Brett (KS)

Is Bonnie Henrickson on the hot-seat already at KU? She ended up with no real accomplishments in her four years with McCray on the team, and just lost a great in-state recruit in Harden. How important is it for her to show some real results soon?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:51 PM)

I thought it (an NCAA tourney appearance) needed to happen this season, but then there were the injuries to Angel Goodrich and Danielle McCray. Kansas AD Lew Perkins hand-picked Henrickson, of course, for this job and has a lot of personal investment in her succeeding. There have been staff shakeups since the season's end, with two new assistants, so we'll see if that impacts next season. But I honestly wonder how many more seasons Kansas could go without making the NCAA tourney before the plug would be pulled. The Jayhawks haven't been in the field since 2000.

kevin (macon ga)

Will Cheryl Ford's knees ever be good enough for her to play again?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:53 PM)

Considering how many issues she's had, I think that question gets more difficult to answer affirmatively as she ages. That said, how much of her current non-playing status is really injury-related and how much is that she didn't want to play in Tulsa? Only Cheryl could say for sure.

Eileen (Washington, DC)

So what really happened with Courtney Paris? She went from setting all kinds of NCAA records, to dropping lower than some expected in the draft, to being waived this season by one of the least successful teams. To put it in a non-P.C. way: Is she just too overweight to play in the WNBA?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:56 PM)

I think Courtney's size was an issue the entire time at Oklahoma and, understandably, became more of an issue in the WNBA. That doesn't necessarily mean she won't find a place to play in the WNBA, but it may well take more personal changes on her part to make that happen.

Matt (Ann Arbor, MI)

Tulsa's roster is bad, even for an expansion team. What kind of chances do you give them of "beating" the Mystics old record for lowest winning percentage?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:00 PM)

Yeesh, I don't want to think about that, actually. Tulsa did have some moments against the Lynx on Saturday where the Shock didn't look that bad, really. But I would say a big problem could be if the Shock players get into a losing "frame of mind" and stop believing they can win games. When that happens, you beat yourself before the other team even has to do it.

Rich (London)

You having the same ridiculous 'Live Access' issues as all the rest of us, Mechelle? Any chance you could have a word in Donna's ear about the shambolic excuse for a webcasting system that this league keeps providing?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:01 PM)

I have heard of a lot of problems with Live Access. Will try to find out everything I can to see if it's being addressed. It's vitally important to the league that this works.

Matt (Ann Arbor, MI)

The salary structure seems to be moving a lot of lower-end vets out of the league in favor of cheaper younger players and rookies. Long-term, do you this is good or bad for league.

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:05 PM)

I think it depends on how those younger players develop. The reality is there is not much time to learn in the WNBA. You sink or swim. But then there are talented people who lose their spots because of salary issues and have to fight to get them back - if they ever do. I believe it's important for each franchise to realize how vital it is to develop a team that doesn't just win but connects with its fan base. So there has to be some balance in how you evaluate what a player brings on the floor and what she brings off the floor. Some franchises do this a lot better than others.

Glenn (NYC)

Are the Liberty now a one-player team?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:07 PM)

I really don't think so ... but Cappie Pondexter is now *the* go-to player, and maybe that's something she'll really enjoy. Although I have to say I don't think it's necessarily going to make her any "better" than she was in Phoenix. Heck, she was already MVP caliber there.

Brad (Minneapolis)

Should the Lynx have kept Kelsey Griffin for themselves?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:09 PM)

I would have been tempted to keep her if I were running the Lynx, because I think she's golden in every sense of what a player can bring to a team. But the Lynx probably felt they had enough strength at her position. The nice thing for Griffin is that she was really wanted by the Sun, and I think it's a good place for her.

3 4 and 13 (mercuryville)

Do you think the best-of-3 series really has the best team winning that series, or is a 5-game series a better indicator of the best team winning?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:11 PM)

Oh, definitely, the five-game series is the truest indicator of the best team. I think the potential for fluky things happening in a three-game series is so much greater. I am so glad the WNBA finals are now a five-game series.

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:13 PM)

Well, while we've been chatting you guys probably noticed the Silver Stars beat the Shock, 83-74, so Tulsa goes to 0-2. There were some great questions today, and I'm sorry I haven't gotten to nearly all of them. Please keep 'em coming each week. Thanks!