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May 24, 4:00 PM ET
Chat with Mechelle Voepel

Mechelle Voepel
  (4:23 PM)

Good afternoon. Sorry for the confusion, technical issues. I think the chat is live now.

Monica (San Antonio)

With Sophia Young out for the year and Becky Hammon sidelined for at least a month, do you think the Silver Stars can still make the playoffs?

Mechelle Voepel
  (4:27 PM)

You never know how injuries are going to play out with other teams during the course of the season, or how well the Silver Stars will adjust to the ones they already know they are dealing with. So right now, if you have to make a pre-season prediction, it seems like it's going to be a hard road for San Antonio. But once the season starts, we may get some surprises. We usually do.

Scamp (Seattle)

"In a series of interviews ... for an ESPN The Magazine and story set to hit newsstands later this month, Griner said her silence during college was because Mulkey and her staff were concerned about the program's image."When will ESPN publish the rest of the interviews?

Mechelle Voepel
  (4:28 PM)

I believe that is all to be published next week.

Matt (Chicago)

What is your opinion on players skipping games to attend their college graduation? With such a short season, it is a big deal to miss even one game.

Mechelle Voepel
  (4:29 PM)

I think it's in keeping with the idea that the WNBA understands the value and importance of education, and how much it helps the league that is is comprised mostly of college graduates. So I don't have any problem with it.

DAMIAN (Brooklyn N.Y.)

Which team will make the Eastern Conference Finals?

Mechelle Voepel
  (4:30 PM)

Well, of course, I can see flawlessly into the future. :) Are we really talking about the conference finals before the season has even tipped off? OK... I'll say Indiana and New York. Which means it will be Connecticut and Atlanta. :)

Dream fan (Atlanta)

Why do you predict that the Dream will come in last in the East?

Mechelle Voepel
  (4:32 PM)

There's some concern - I think - about how the team will run with the change in point guard. But, heck, picks are all subjective based on what you think might be going on or might happen. The Dream might win the East. It's not like I think there are any bad teams in the East ... everybody has talent, and we haven't seen yet how each team's chemistry is going. We don't know how healthy everyone will stay. And the schedule sometimes impacts teams in unexpected ways.

Shades (Minneapolis)

The latest from the Lynx camp seems to be that Monica Wright will attempt to take over the Wiggins backup PG role this season, showing that Reeve thinks the Moore is not yet up to the task. If the home exhibition game is any indication, Wright has shown no improvement in the ball-handling area. This could loom very badly for the Lynx, especially if Whalen gets hurt. Any comments?

Mechelle Voepel
  (4:35 PM)

Pretty much every team runs into trouble if their starting PG gets hurt, I think. Lindsey Moore is a rookie, obviously, and it's going to take her a little time to adjust to the speed of the pro game. Monica Wright may not be the idea back-up PG, but maybe that's the best situation for now.

Ryan (Sacramento)

Besides the 3 to see, which rookie are you looking forward to watching this season?

Mechelle Voepel
  (4:38 PM)

The "next" three to see: Picks No. 4-6: Tayler Hill, Kelsey Bone and Tianna Hawkins. I would think all of them should get a decent amount of playing time.

Chris (Dinkytown, MN)

What are your thoughts on the slimmed-down Maya Moore? She seems hungrier than ever after last year's this year going to be her's to dominate?

Mechelle Voepel
  (4:41 PM)

Slimmed down and hungrier? That could be a fierce combo. :) Seriously, I think she's going to have a great, MVP-caliber season. But I don't sense that she even needed the motivation of losing in the Finals last year. That stung her, for sure, but she is really always focused on the next task, and she knows she is just entering her peak years as a pro athlete and can continue to improve. I think it's hard, though, for any one player to "dominate" in a league with this much talent.

Matt (South Bass Island)

Would it be accurate to describe the Mystics' roster as being similar to that of an expansion team?

Mechelle Voepel
  (4:44 PM)

No, that seems harsh. They have back four players from last year who all should be good contributors in Mike Thibault's system; I think Crystal Langhorne is a premier player in this league. And the people Thibault brought in should be good fits. I may be higher on the Mystics than I should be (when will I ever learn), but Thibault has been a pretty consistent success as a WNBA coach.

Ryan (Sacramento)

Do you think Cambage will play and/or start in Tulsa's season opener?

Mechelle Voepel
  (4:47 PM)

Start? I'd think not. But play? That depends on just how healthy she actually is. I actually have not seen for sure that she is making the trip to Atlanta.

Lynn (NC)

The Sparks just signed Gail Goestenkors as a 'consultant' which I guess means scout? Anyway, is this a first step to GG moving to coach in the WNBA? She's a good coach and I think the game is better off with her on a bench somewhere.

Mechelle Voepel
  (4:50 PM)

The Sparks didn't specify the duties of "consultants" GG and Olaf Lange. But I would think it would include various duties that take advantage of both their strengths and vast experience. GG does want to get back into coaching, but I don't know if it will be in the WNBA or back in college. She has said she wants it to be the right fit, which she really understands now after her experience at Texas. She's in a position financially where she doesn't have to take a job she doesn't really want or is unsure of.

Lynn (NC)

I'm looking forward to the season with a bunch of former ACC players on rosters. Several WNBA teams are starting the season with injured players--some out for the season and others out for a month or so. Are WNBA teams able to sign an additional player to cover for injuries?

Mechelle Voepel
  (4:54 PM)

If a team is down to eight players, it can request a hardship waiver to add a player until one of the injured players can return. Indiana is in that situation with Jeanette Pohlen, Jessica Davenport, and Erin Phillips currently out with injury, and Layshia Clarendon at her college graduation. The Fever have re-signed rookie forward Jasmine Hassell as a replacement player for tonight's opener.

Matt (South Bass Island)

Were you surprised that veteran center Ruth Riley was waived by the Sky?

Mechelle Voepel
  (4:57 PM)

Not really. She's been somewhat a marginal player at the WNBA level the last couple of years. A great person to have on a team, but the Sky likely feels that she's nearing the end of her career, and they can fill her role better with younger players. She's had a very good career, and maybe another team will find a spot for her.

Mary (WV)

Has the Mark Cuban offer to Brittney Griner already gone the way of all gimmicks? Will we ever even hear him mention it again?

Mechelle Voepel
  (4:59 PM)

With Mark Cuban, you never know. But I would just as soon that topic go away. Let Brittney establish herself in the WNBA.

Levi (Oklahoma)

Your thoughts on the Courtney Paris cut?

Mechelle Voepel
  (5:02 PM)

I know it's a disappointment to Oklahoma folks, but I trust that Tulsa coach Gary Kloppenburg really weighed all his options and just felt that Courtney wasn't going to get a lot of court time with the Shock. She's a great kid and I would like to see her in the league. But her game does have its limitations at the WNBA level.

Nick (Denver)

Do you think the Lynx will struggle to guard the post-strong West with only 4 options available - Brunson, McCarville, Peters, Harris?

Mechelle Voepel
  (5:05 PM)

Not really, but clearly it depends on how good Peters is in her second season, whether Harris is healthy, motivated, improved, and how well McCarville re-adjusts to the WNBA after being away for a couple of years. Brunson is a proven commodity.

RavenDog (Austin, Texas)

How do you feel about the possibility of Elena Delle Donne winning both rookie or the year and MVP?

Mechelle Voepel
  (5:09 PM)

Wow! That's a lot. Of course, Candace Parker did it in 2008, so such a thing is possible. But there are so many MVP candidates with experience - Parker being a primary one - that I don't think this will happen. I do think EDD may have a chance at the rookie award just because she may be relied on even more by the Sky than Griner will be by Phoenix. The Mercury are so loaded with experience, they might not need as much from BG. But ... there is clearly every chance that BG will be the top rookie, too. And who knows ... maybe she'll be MVP as well. :)

Lindsey (Houston)

Does it bother you that all this time leading up to the start of the season the league has put all most all of it's marketing on the 3 rookies? It's almost like they've forgotten about all the other great players who are playing. I think it's all about the marketing but it really turns me off.

Mechelle Voepel
  (5:12 PM)

I think any business tends to trumpet what's new. These three have been so successful in college and so willing to do what they can to promote the league, it's natural they are getting a lot of attention. The league's new web site has a lot of stuff on a lot of players, though, so I wouldn't worry too much about what the preseason hype is. The season is about to start, and that's when actual results - not predictions - are the news of the day.

ccollin13 (Toledo, OH)

So Liz Cambage is back. We haven't seen her in the W since 2011, and now she has a new coach and an almost entirely new set of teammates. What do you think her impact will be with the Shock? And what do you think of the much-anticipated Cambage v. Griner match-up? These two will see a lot of each other in the coming years - WNBA, Chinese Basketball, and the Olympics!

Mechelle Voepel
  (5:16 PM)

Again, a big factor is how healthy Liz Cambage is. She is on team with a much different mindset, coaching staff, and outlook than the last time she was in the WNBA. As for Griner vs. Cambage, even though Liz has been a pro longer, it's worth noting that Brittney is actually older than Liz by about 10 months. I think everybody is looking forward to how they match up, because they both have athleticism to a greater degree than we traditionally have seen from women anywhere near their height. Brittney, especially, but Liz, too.

rz (cali)

Really excited to see Brittney Griner play against the best in the world. You think she'll dominate in the W as she did in college, or will it take a while for her to adjust to playing higher caliber opponent.

Mechelle Voepel
  (5:18 PM)

I think BG will be very, very good. But all rookies go through at least some adjustment, both with the physicality and speed of the WNBA level of play. Plus, you've got players who have so much pro experience, and that is one thing the rookies obviously don't have.

LBean (Columbus, OH)

Do you think Bill Laimbeer can turn the Liberty into legitimate title contenders? Have you heard if "Tweety" Nolan is actually going to play this year?

Mechelle Voepel
  (5:20 PM)

Yes, he can, but likely not this year. I do think they can make the playoffs, but - again - the East really appears to be pretty solid top-to-bottom. Laimbeer has said he does not expect Nolan to play this season. Maybe he has something up his sleeve - it is Bill, after all - but he has sounded pretty definitive when he's been asked about that.

Candace (NY)

What type of overturn do you expect to see on team USA? It seems like to me players like Vaughn, Hoffman, Appel, Christon, Montgomery, Harding, Vandersloot, Wiggins, etc., are a bit of their league. Also a lot of older players like Jones, Beard, Lawson, Cash.

Mechelle Voepel
  (5:23 PM)

I would think the U.S. team that plays in the next World Championship will look rather different than the one that played in the 2012 Olympics. But that will depend in part on how some of the younger players develop between now and then, and also how healthy the older players are. We've see that the near year-round play has begun to show on several of the 30-somethings, which is understandable.

rz (cali)

Overall talent level in the W keeps rising, which means a lot of capable players are being cut. Any chance we'll have expansion any time soon?

Mechelle Voepel
  (5:26 PM)

I wish expansion was directly linked to the amount of talent available. But it's really about finding viable ownership that wants to commit to this business. The league is never very specific about expansion other than to say that there are "on-going discussions." I'm not holding my breath for anything imminent. I'd love to be surprised.

Ryan (Sacramento)

How many games do the Mercury play before Griner gets her first dunk?

Mechelle Voepel
  (5:27 PM)

I think it will come in the first or second game.

Veronica (Seguin, Texas)

Why is it that all the so-called experts easily dismiss the Silver Stars? The team has made the playoffs every year since 2007 and still the team gets no love. Why?

Mechelle Voepel
  (5:33 PM)

I can't speak for all so-called experts, but I don't "dismiss" any team easily. There are only 12 teams, and they all have talented players. When you're doing pre-season picks, you have to pick *somebody* to be last. We are not allowed to pick a six-way tie for first. :) There is nothing personal about it, or that we don't "like" that team. The big thing with SASS is not having Sophia Young all season and Becky Hammon being out at the beginning of the season with the finger injury. And in the end, it doesn't matter who observers pick for preseason rankings or awards ... that's all just filler to get prepared for the start of the season. What matters is what the players and teams actually do. The "experts" don't have anything to do with the results.

Ellen (Illinois)

What kind of impact will Diggins make at Tulsa? Enough to win it all?

Mechelle Voepel
  (5:35 PM)

Tulsa is not going to win the WNBA title this year (says the person who hates making predictions), but Diggins can have a lot of impact if she's able to help the Shock make the playoffs. That would be such a big step for that franchise. And she is going to be an important sports figure in the city of Tulsa. Diggins has lot of "presence" and she understands marketing very well.

Dan (Chicago)

So Mechelle: The Sky finally makes the playoffs, right?

Mechelle Voepel
  (5:37 PM)

I think so. But I've been wrong once or twice before. :) Of course, it is so important to that franchise to at last have that breakthrough.

Mechelle Voepel
  (5:39 PM)

Sorry for the misunderstanding on the timing of this chat, and the technical problems that delayed it. We should be resuming the chat at the regular time of 2 p.m. Eastern on Thursdays starting next week. Have a safe Memorial Day weekend, and don't forget Monday's ESPN2 WNBA doubleheader starting at 3 p.m. Eastern with Washington at Tulsa and Chicago at Phoenix. Thanks for all your questions!