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May 24, 2:00 PM ET
Chat with Mechelle Voepel

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:03 PM)

Good afternoon. Here we are in the first week of WNBA season, and already a really heart-wrenching injury to LA point guard Sharnee Zoll. Finally gets a legit shot on a WNBA team, and then suffers a season-ending injury. Rough for her and for Sparks. Hope she mends well and is back for next season. OK, let's get started.

Mary (USA)

LA's Sharnee Zoll out for season with ACL. Best fit for sparks - Andrea Riley? Shannon Bobbitt? I believe that LaSondra Barrett was highest 2012 WNBA pick that did not make WNBA roster but I am guessing that Carol Ross would go with experience. Mechelle, your prediction and reasons.

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:08 PM)

If the choice is between Riley, Bobbitt and Barrett (who is not actually a PG as is typically defined, but actually played that spot at times this past season for injury-plagued LSU), then I'm not sure there is an answer for "best fit." Although Bobbitt and Riley have both spent time with the Sparks, so there is the familiarity factor. But maybe LA goes a different direction ... admittedly, the options are limited. Toliver will need to play a lot of minutes, but that actually seems to be better for her mentally anyway. It's just a terrible break for Zoll and LA.

Sofia (Durham, NC)

It is far too early in the season to get really worried, but how concerned should Seattle fans be after the 2 losses? The offense was slow and stagnant and many, many turnovers.

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:12 PM)

You're right, it is very early. But the Storm has to be more aggressive with the ball and try attack the rim more. Stagnant is the perfect word for how Seattle has looked so far. They will need to depend a lot on Tanisha Wright, and maybe hope that Stricklen grows up quickly. And that's only talking about offense ... Wright is just as crucial in perimeter defense (she can cover up a lot of flaws). Too early to get "really" worried, yes. But concern is understandable.

Eric (San Antonio)

The Silver Stars opened against Tulsa with 6'1 Danielle Adams at center. Do you think he stays with that or possibly is still searching/hoping the light bulb goes off for Appel? I don't see SASS getting many wins with no true size(height) in the post.

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:16 PM)

Dan Hughes was pretty frank in the preseason about how Adams needs to play her way into better shape so they can keep her on the floor longer. He also said it was a big year for Appel to step forward. Will either of these things happen and if they do, will it be quickly enough to really benefit the SASS? I know Adams is a terrific player if she can get even marginally fit. And we've seen her do that in college. As for Appel ... I really don't know how much is lingering injuries, fatigue, and/or just that she's not as good a fit in the WNBA as Hughes hoped. She's still young,though, and it's not time to give up on her. I don't think.

Robert (Laurel, MD)

Despite the Shock being 0-2 they have scored 79 and 89 points in their first two games of the season, do you think their high scoring offense will trouble teams this season?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:19 PM)

What you have to like about the Shock so far is that they seem to be developing an identity and are going to stick with it. Admittedly, it's a flawed identity - the post game is going to struggle, although we can expect Glory Johnson to keep giving a lot of effort and improving - but there is hope there. It looks like Tulsa is going to have to rely on its perimeter offense too much to win a lot of games, but at least the Shock has a plan to maximize the talent that it does have.

Barry (Phoenix, AZ)

Are you picking Serena to win the French Open?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:22 PM)

Sure, why not? :) It looks like she's healthy, she won on the blue clay recently in Madrid, and her serve looked awesome (even by her best standards) there. Of course, the red clay will be slower and the French has never been her best venue. But maybe she will get her second French Open title. Because at her best, she's still clearly the top player in women's tennis.

Ginger (NC)

LA and the Lynx have won their first games. Who do you think will win tonight? Parker came out on fire after a quite first game. The Lynx are rolling even if they appear to start slow.

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:25 PM)

I'll go with the Lynx at home. Really looking forward to this game, even though it's so early. All the parts are there for Minnesota, we know that. Even in the first game Sunday, when they clicked, it was really there for them. They're understandably more advanced in knowing who they are and what all their roles are than LA is. But it will be good to see Parker play well if that happens.

Damian (Brooklyn N.Y.)

Do you think New York are in desperate mode if they lose to Atlanta like it's a thing called "desperate times calls for desperate measures"?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:29 PM)

You feel for the Liberty and coach John Whisenant, whose wife is battling cancer. There's got to be a lot on his mind all the time, and it's just a difficult situation. I can't say I expected a lot from New York this season, though, and they lost to the teams that could possibly win the East (Connecticut) and likely will win the West (Minnesota). Teams have started off poorly before in past seasons and righted the ship. I don't know if the Liberty will be able to do that to a significant degree this summer.

John (NC)

Speaking of the Silver Stars and Danielle Adams, she seems to, um, have returned to her pre-senior year at TAMU shape. Will Hughes be able to keep her on the floor more and will she be able to avoid nagging injuries in her current, um, condition? She can ball, no doubt, but can she reach close to her ceiling w/o increased dedication in the gym?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:32 PM)

No, Hughes can't keep her on the floor as much as he'd like to. This is a hard thing to talk/write about, because I really like Adams a lot and think she has a world of talent. But as she herself has talked about - including during her time at TAMU - she has to make better food-choice decisions along with exercise. It's a battle that a lot of people face, but when you're a pro athlete it's potentially debilitating in regard to reaching your full potential. You hope for the best for her, because she's a player the league needs.

airjazzy (DC)

I saw the Sparks comeback game against Seattle. Just wondering why the Sparks featured Milton Jones so much, thats what got them down in the first half. In my opnion the starting five should be Parker, Toliver, Nneka, J. Lavender and Beard. Coleman doesn't play like a starter and Milton-Jones should see limited time split between her and Hoffman. what do you think? Does it seem like they are forcing the offense through Milton Jones too much?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:38 PM)

There is a familiarity factor with DMJ and her former college coach, Carol Ross. Ross is a savvy coach trying to figure out her combinations while also absorbing the loss of Zoll on the perimeter. Let's see what she comes up with against Minnesota.

Sofia (Durham, NC)

What is going on at UT? I saw your initial article on Jennings' retirement but the stories yesterday about the potential legal action based on how it went down? Something doesn't pass the smell test to me. There is more than just consolidating athletic departments with the way Hart has gone about his business and who/which folks have been retained. What's your perspective?

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:45 PM)

This has been brewing for several months. People did not want to talk on the record because they were afraid for their jobs and were also getting legal advice not to speak publicly. But the lid is starting to come off, as you have seen. The combination of the men's and women's athletic departments was going to have its pain, regardless of who was overseeing it and how it was done. But the way Debby Jennings, for one, was treated is inexcusable. Tennessee forced out an employee with a sterling national reputation with the media, and then I guess, thought that none of us would ask questions about it or criticize it. That's how badly certain people there undervalued what she meant to the school. There have been a lot of missteps by Tennessee/AD Dave Hart that frankly baffle me with how unaware they seem about public perception. My perspective is that it's a damn shame what's happened so far, and I can't see where it's benefited Tennessee whatsoever to make some of the decisions it has. And this mess is far from over.

Mechelle Voepel
  (2:48 PM)

Sorry for the relatively short chat today; thanks for all the questions. Will be chatting next week but likely on Wednesday or Friday, not Thursday. Will update via Twitter.