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May 4, 2:00 PM ET
Chat with Mechelle Voepel

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:03 PM)

Good afternoon on this week before the week before the WNBA starts. Let's got going!

Mary (USA)

Read on a blog that Nneka Ogwumike is leaning towards pursuing a Stanford MBA versus playing Euro ball in the WNBA offseason. Sounds like a solid longterm career choice. How do you see the pros and cons? Will sitting out Euro slow her ability to take her game to the next level or will the physical rest benefits balance the equation?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:06 PM)

To some degree, playing overseas is about improving your game ... but it's also about making a living. Nneka is preparing for life after basketball already, which is really wise. Too many players get to the end of their playing careers and really don't have a solid gameplan about what to do next. She still has plenty of time to play overseas if she opts not to this coming season. And she's preparing to make money after hoops is over.

JP (LA)

What wnba team are you most curious to watch and follow this summer? Which team is the dark horse and may exceed expectations some?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:10 PM)

The one I'm most curious about is Chicago ... Pokey Chatman made moves that all seem to make sense, so let's see how the Sky plays this season. Will it finally be a playoff team? The so-called darkhorse? I don't know if one in particular comes to mind ... but I do wonder if all the doom and gloom around Phoenix will motivate the Merc. The loss of Penny Taylor is huge, but maybe this is where some other folks really step forward.

Jan (Kentucky)

How do you think Baylor's situation with recruiting violations will affect the 2012-2013 women's collegiate season?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:11 PM)

I'm not sure they will affect it, really. It didn't seem to me that, based on the punishment, the NCAA was overly concerned about what happened. It doesn't seem like those penalties will hurt Baylor.

Kevin (Florida)

Why do you have the Indiana fever so low on your list for this season?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:13 PM)

I had them making the playoffs, so I don't think that's too low. There's so much kind of "unknown" about how teams are going to jell chemistry-wise. I never think those pre-season picks are to be taken that seriously. Or any picks, for that matter.

Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)

Who do you think will be the Best Rookie inthe 2012 WNBA Season?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:14 PM)

Nneka Ogwumike.

kevin (macon ga)

With Nneka Ogwumike going to the post heavy Sparks and players like Sammy Prahalis & Glory Johnson in position to play substantial minutes, is this the year we break the streak of #1 picks winning Rookie of the Year?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:15 PM)

It will be interesting to see how that plays out. But I still lean toward Nneka playing enough and having enough impact to be ROY.

Joe (California)

DO you think the wnba will expand this season? A team in the bay area???

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:18 PM)

I would be pretty surprised to see the WNBA expand in the next few years. They are still solidifying what they have. The Bay Area seems like it would make sense, but would enough fans actually go? I know some Stanford fans who are diehards for the Cardinal but don't even watch the WNBA on TV. Would the Bay Area really support a team? It seems like the right area for a lot of reasons, but that may only be in theory. Having seen the WNBA expand too quickly before, I'd be in favor of being extra cautious and certain before there's any more expansion. But I hope it does get back to 16 teams at some point in my life.

Scamp (Seattle)

What with male professional athletes suffering ACL tears at an astonishing rate, will women's basketball finally start a campaign to prevent and treat such knee injuries?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:23 PM)

It is notable that the ACL tear, which we see so often in women's hoops, has recently struck two hugely popular male athletes in different sports, with the Bulls' Derrick Rose and the Yankees' Mariano Rivera. Rivera's happened just last night while he was shagging fly balls in Kansas City before the game. I do think there should have been a more concerted national effort about ACL prevention in women's hoops in the last 10-15 years. I think such a thing could still be in the offing at some point. Sometimes the sport takes a while to implement good ideas.

Shades (Minneapolis)

Longterm, I think the Lynx dropped the ball by drafting Dev Peters over the versatile Shenise Johnson who has potential PG abilities. Here was their one legit chance to develop a PG in house and they blew it. After this year, I'm a bit nervous for the Lynx. Any comments on the Lynx situation?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:26 PM)

I agree that Shenise Johnson has some upside potential that could make the Lynx regret not picking her. At the same time, Cheryl Reeve has been in the game awhile and must have really felt that Peters was going to stay healthy and fit well into what the Lynx will need from her this year, and then grow into a more key player in the future. If I were a Lynx fan, I don't think that I'd be nervous, though. It's a pretty darn good team, I think.

Glenn (Fresh Meadows, NY)

Which is more important to the overall growth of Women's Sports, a popular, well Hyped athlete To draw Eyeballs to the games (Ex: Wie, Patrick, Parker) or massive talent that show the game has grown (Bird, DT, Griner etc)

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:32 PM)

You have to have both. I'd say it's not necessarily fair to put Parker in with Wie and Patrick, like they are all very equivalent. They're all three talented, but I'd say those other two got more hype for things outside of just their talent. Whereas Parker IS very talented and her hype is/was more about that. I'm not dissing Michelle Wie or Danica Patrick, but in both cases there were other circumstances - including that both were or still are competing against men - that created some of the hype. (I know you could say that Wie played against men but wasn't all that competitive. That's true.) At any rate, I can tell you that Griner moves the needle as far as TV. She gets a lot of negative attention as well as positive attention, but she does get people watching.

Debbie (Atlanta)

Do you think we see a team like the Atlanta Dream last year that starts really slow (for whatever reason), but ultimately is there come playoff time?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:34 PM)

I don't know if Atlanta will be the one, but yes, it's totally possible we'll see a team (or teams) get out of the gate slowly but rally for a playoff spot. Especially in an Olympic year, where a lot can happen. Some people get tired, some get re-energized.

Kerry (Midwest)

With Tiffany Jackson now gone for the season, and Liz Cambage in Australia, can this Tulsa team still be any worse? Should I feel encouraged by Gary K and the optimism of a new season?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:39 PM)

I like that Gary K is taking such an upbeat attitude toward what one might consider a ship that is three-fourths sunk before it even tries to leave the dock. It's hard to see this season as being anything but uphill for Tulsa, but you'd hope that with the right attitude from young players, the Shock will make progress toward next year even though the record might not indicate that.

Shades (Minneapolis)

Monica Wright has been a high-volume, low efficiency player for the Lynx, why do people still speak of her as a great young talent? And what are your thoughts on her?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:41 PM)

Watching her in college at Virginia, I thought she was going to be a really good WNBA player. She had great, smooth, exciting bursts of speed on court where she really reminded me of Swoopes. Seemed like good instincts, terrific athleticism. I don't know if Minnesota has not be a great fit for her or there are other factors that have slowed her development. She's still young, though, so there's time for her to blossom.

Debra (Stanford)

How far can the Sparks backcourt take them this season? Seems to be one of the questions separating LA from being really good to great?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:43 PM)

That's been an issue, as of course has Parker's health. If she's healthy and the Sparks' backcourt can at least be consistent - it doesn't have to be "great" - then LA can be a contender to win the West.

Rick (Charlottesville, Va)

Always interested in my former Lady Tigers...Do you think Seimone will continue the dominance she displayed in the post season, and can they make it back to the finals? How will point guard Temeka Johnson fit in at Tulsa (back with old teammate Scholonda!)?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:45 PM)

We've seen that repeating is very difficult, and then you add in that it's going to be a long, busy summer for Augustus, Whalen and Moore with their Olympic team responsibilities. The Lynx have what they need to make the finals again, for sure. I'm not sure they will do it, though. As for TJ ... hope she can stay positive during what may be a long season in Tulsa.

John Whisenant (New York)

I saw you picked us last in a previous chat. Can you give my team some bulletin board material heading into the season? :)

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:48 PM)

Ha-ha! But remember, I said I could still change my mind before I do my "official" (cough) picks for ESPN.com next week. What if I end up picking "your" Liberty to win the East? Just kidding, I'm not going to do that. But you might not be last. After all, I'm not sure I want to be burned by overestimating the Mystics.

Shades (Minneapolis)

Umm, that last "Shades" posting was not me. Somebody didn't have the guts to ask that question under their own name. Kevin, you're my top suspect!

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:49 PM)

If you guys are having some RebKell battles, you'll have to count me as clueless. :)

Glenn (Fresh Meadows, NY)

Let me see 2 consecutive Healthy seasons from Parker and I'll take her off that list ;) Right now she's Women's Sports version of Fred Lynn

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:50 PM)

OUCH!! What about those two NCAA titles at Tennessee and the MVP/ROY? Not enough, huh? I guess this could be CP3's bulletin-board material. :)

Kate (New Jersey)

Do you agree with the notion being floated on the internet that next year's draft only has one surefire, can't miss prospect (Griner) and that there is a drop-off after that (Delle Donne, Diggins)? I think Delle Donne belongs in the first category. She'll sell tickets, score 25 per night and change the fortunes of the franchise that drafts her. Please let that be the Liberty. :)

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:54 PM)

Really? I didn't know that was being floated. I think Delle Donne and Diggins are both really, really good. I'd go so far as to say they are all three can't-miss, although I agree Griner and Delle Donne are really able to be game-changers immediately. I'm sure Lib fans would be thrilled with EDD.

Carol Ross (LA)

What should my starting five be on opening night? Lots of options...

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:55 PM)

I'm hoping you are going to tell me that next week, Coach. :) Sounds to me like I need to do a Sparks update, based on questions.

liz (nyc)

in your preseason rankings you had us (the Lib) even below Washington. yikes! can it really be THAT bad?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:56 PM)

See previous response to "John Whisenant." I am reconsidering. :)

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:57 PM)

Thanks for all the questions ... hopefully I will have a few more answers next week and the week after that. Chat should return to Thursday next week.