Print and Go Back ESPN: SportsNation

June 7, 3:00 PM ET
Chat with Mechelle Voepel

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:11 PM)

Good afternoon. Sorry to get off to a late start. I was just listening to golfer Se Ri Pak talk about winning the U.S. Women's Open in 1998, which I was covering. It sounds corny, but I honestly get goosebumps thinking about watching her and Jenny Chuasiriporn in an 18-hole playoff that year, both 20-year-olds then. It was a magical thing to cover.

Shades (Minneapolis)

The Seattle Storm...salvagable this year or look towards next season?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:13 PM)

I'd say the season can be salvaged, but I understand why there is considerable concern. However, there are enough question marks in the West beyond Minnesota and LA that the Storm does have time to get it together. To the extent that Seattle is going to do that this year, that is.

jackson (USA)

Can anyone stop the Lynx?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:14 PM)

Stop them as in beat them during this season? Yes, they will probably lose a few games. Stop them from winning the WNBA title again? I doubt it.

Levi (Oklahoma)

Although there are positives that the Shock are getting closer in losing margin, there is a sense of frustration from fans on the Shock player roatation (though Shock fans stay dedicated). So far there seems to be the top 5 players of Temeka and Glory Johnson, Williams, Jennifer Lacy, and Ivory Latta who have scored consistently. Karima Christmas has done well too. After that it seems a lull in the bench. I think Coach Klopp has done well with the defense, but the offense still seems to struggle. What do you take of the sub patterns of the coach? Is it adjusting to the head coaching role for the first time?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:18 PM)

Head coaches are always juggling more information than either fans or media know. They know who is having a good or bad day or who has been practicing at a better level. They know which combinations have been clicking the best. But then they have to mix that knowledge in with how everyone is performing at game time and how the other team is playing. So all that said, I think sub patterns are easy to criticize when they don't work and sometimes not noticed enough when they do. For most teams, offense is going to be the thing that comes around the last ... unless you're the Lynx and can essentially pick up where you left off from last year.

kevin (macon ga)

Have we seen the last of Courtney Paris in the WNBA?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:20 PM)

Maybe not, because she could still be a pick-up for some team that needs some size inside. But I think we've seen that she's not going to be an impact player in the league.

Shades (Minneapolis)

Biggest WNBA surprise for you so far in this season?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:21 PM)

Seattle ... I figured the Storm would have some struggles, but I didn't anticipate they'd be off to this poor of a start.

Sofia (Durham, NC)

How concerned should fans (especially Olympic fans) be about injuries to the USA Olympic players? Taurasi is out "indefinitely," Augustus missed night's game, and I'm sure others are carrying "minor" injuries after a long overseas season and this WNBA one.

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:26 PM)

If these and other injuries to the Olympians are lingering into mid-July, then it will be a concern for sure. That said, this is something that really can't be "fixed," at least not in the near future. Maybe not even in the far future. The economics of women's hoops are not going to radically improve any time soon. The WNBA needs the American stars playing. Those players need to supplement their incomes by being overseas. Lots of wear and tear on bodies. Little time to rest. The Americans have to rely on their much bigger talent pool as a country to win the Olympics, since they can't come close to being the team that prepares together the longest.

Stu (Laurel , MD)

I was confused by Mystics moves in off season and I see they are losing again. What is up with this franchise?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:29 PM)

That is really way too much to try to answer in a chat, I'm afraid. :) The Mystics seemed to have turned the corner as a franchise with Angela Taylor and Julie Plank. Then, they torpedoed that combo for reasons I'll never grasp. What's happened since then is they're trying to rebuild something they blew up in the first place.

Charlotte (US)

Maya Moore has been a very good pro, obviously, but will we see her become an All-WNBA level player in Minnesota?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:29 PM)

Absolutely. It's only a matter of time.

Shades (Minneapolis)

You knew this question was coming...what do you think of Prahalis's progress as a PG in the last couple of games?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:33 PM)

Phoenix coach Corey Gaines said that she will improve game to game, but also make some rookie mistakes every game. I am a believer in Prahalis; I think she really wants to learn and wants to be known as a lot more than a hothead. There will be some degree of trial-by-fire for her this year, but I believe she'll come out the better for it.

Evie (San Antonio)

Do you think Silver Stars fans will give Jayne Appel a break. She had a good game vs. Phoenix but struggled vs. Minnesota (like the rest of the starters), but many fans are blasting her but not the others.

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:35 PM)

I don't know. Seems like every week last year and so far this year of WNBA season, some readers are on the chat who really don't believe Jayne Appel will ever pan out. I don't know what current debates are going on with SASS fans, but most of the ones I hear from just don't know if it's going to click for her, and they are not inclined to be patient.

Genny (Western MA)

Obviously Tulsa has had some huge bad breaks (players not relocating, a not ready for prime time coach, bad roster decisions, failing to win the draft lottery, etc.). But at what point should people admit that the move to Tulsa (only the 46th largest city) was a bad decision? After they (presumably) land one of the big three next year and still are a mess?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:39 PM)

Well, when the Pistons ownership was done with the Shock, it's not like there were all kinds of cities lining up to take them. I think we have to be realistic about the fact that Tulsa may not have been the league's first, second, third, etc. choice, but it was a city/ownership group that stepped forward and wanted a team. The Shock organization got off on the wrong foot and went the wrong direction coaching-wise when they moved, so they're still trying to get back to the starting line in some ways. I don't know that I'd call them a mess now. I'd say they are trying hard to gain traction in the right direction. I don't want to give up on them. Of course, I'm a Midwesterner, so maybe I believe in Tulsa more than people on the coasts would. That's understandable.

kevin (macon ga)

What would be the significance of Sharapova completing the career Grand Slam?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:41 PM)

I think it would put her on a higher tier in terms of how her career will be viewed historically. And it would mean she's come closer to fulfilling the vast potential we believed she had when she broke on the scene in tennis. I also think Sharapova has more of a sense of history and appreciation for it than some of the players in her generation and younger, just based on her comments over the years.

Greg (Wisconsin)

Hi. I was wondering, do you think that if the #1 pick in next years draft goes to a team that already has a franchise center (Chicago or Connecticut for example), should they still take presumptive #1 pick Brittney Greiner because she could be so dominant or maybe take Diggins or Delle Donne to round out their roster better? Would trading/switching the pick with the team at #2 or #3 be an option to still get one of those other 2?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:43 PM)

Even if I had Sylvia Fowles or Tina Charles, I'd have a really hard time passing on Brittney Griner in the draft. In fact, I just wouldn't pass on it. That kind of size and talent is only going to come along very, very rarely.

Charlotte (US)

How many of the players in the US national team pool will be replaced after the Olympics?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:47 PM)

In terms of replaced for the 2016 Olympics ... I'd guess five or six will not be back for the Rio Games. As for the next World Championships, it might not be that many. Some of this, of course, just depends on their health.

Genny (Western MA)

Which happens first: Minnesota losing or Tulsa winning? Of course, both could happen at once if Tulsa beats Minnesota on Saturday, but then the world would have to end.

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:51 PM)

I hope it would take more than that for the world to end. :) Funny story: back in 2010, when Seattle was so dominant, I drove to Tulsa with my friend Joe Posnanski, who I believe to be the world's best sports writer. I kept telling him how dominant Seattle had been, and how they were going to win the WNBA title. And then that ends up being that weird game that Seattle lost in Tulsa. Of course, then Seattle did go on to win the title, so it didn't make any difference. As for which will happen this year, I'll go with Tulsa winning before the Lynx lose.

Wayne Paine (Madison Avenue)

Bigger marketing potential: Hope Solo or Alex Morgan?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:52 PM)

Hope Solo. She's already got the Q rating, or whatever that is. Her name is known.

Mr. Sue Bird (I wish) (Seattle)

Do you see anyone testing Team USA in London, or are we looking at another runaway towards the gold?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:56 PM)

We've been talking about injuries and lack of time together to prepare and all that ... but I still think this is going to go similar to how Beijing did for the U.S. women. I just don't think they're going to let the gold get away from them.

Shades (Minneapolis)

Who is the Lynx's MOST valuable bench player? No hedging here. You have to choose ONE.

Mechelle Voepel
  (4:00 PM)

You act like I frequently hedge or give wishy-washy answers or something. :) OK, are we still counting Monica Wright, since she started last night with Augustus out? If so, I'll go with Mo as the most valuable. I think she's an all-around better player this year than last, and I love watching that lightning-quick first step.

Ginger (NC)

(in response to the question about Solo vs Morgan's marketing potential). I would say Morgan has more potential because she's younger. Solo will be 31 this summer and I don't see her being around for the next Women's World Cup or Olympics. This summer is her last shot. Barring injury, Morgan will be building her game and brand for at least another 4-8 years.

Mechelle Voepel
  (4:03 PM)

I really hope they both end up being marketing superstars, if you will. That is great for women's sports. They're both beautiful - let's just go ahead and state the obvious, because that does play a part in marketing. They're both very talented, which is also obvious. They need a gold in London.

Doc Rivers (Celtics lockerroom, pacing nervously)

Mechelle, I'm thinking that IF I win another NBA championship with this aging team of mine, maybe I should take a hiatus from the NBA and try the WNBA. Think the players would respond to me? Would the refs be any kinder to me?

Mechelle Voepel
  (4:08 PM)

I don't see this ever happening, of course, but yes I do think the players would respond to Doc Rivers. Why wouldn't they? He's a pro coach who has had a lot of success and seems to be well-respected. As for the refs ... what coach is ever happy with them? :) I thought it was very moving to see how Doc Rivers paid tribute to Pat Summitt when she announced she was stepping aside to be coach emeritus. It clearly was an emotional thing for him, which shows the respect he has for her. That impressed me a lot.

Rich (London)

If there are no plans for expansion any time soon - and that seems to be the case - does the league need to come up with a different playoff format? Two-thirds of the league making the postseason, likely including at least a couple of pretty poor teams this year, continues to seem a little ridiculous.

Mechelle Voepel
  (4:11 PM)

Off the top of my head, I can't think of too many pro sports - at least here in the United States - that have scaled back their playoffs rather than keeping them status quo or expanding them, regardless of the makeup of the league changing. I can see your point, and we've had that situation in past years, too. But I would be surprised to see them scale it back.

Super Sonics? (USA)

The Thunder has a hell of a young team, can they win it all this year?

Mechelle Voepel
  (4:14 PM)

Even though I don't generally answer many NBA questions here, I will take this one because it's easy. :) Yes! They can definitely win it all, although I have to admit I was *so* sure the Spurs were going to just keep sweeping their way right to a title. If I'd have bet on the Western Conference finals before they started, I'd be out some cash for sure. Good thing I don't bet. :)

Mechelle Voepel
  (4:17 PM)

Thanks for all the questions ... sorry for the ones I did not get to. This weekend is the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame induction in Knoxville: Nancy Fahey, Nikki McCray, Pam McGee, Inge Nissen, Robin Roberts, Dawn Staley. What a fine class of great contributors to the women's game. I am currently at the LPGA Championship, so if you're of a mind to read up on that, I'll have stories on ESPNW. Chat again next week!