Guru's WNBA Report: Player Personnel Issues Remind That Fan-Friendly League Is Also A Business
Though some tweets from the fan base indicate displeasure over the events at two WNBA franchises this week in Atlanta and Tulsa, perhaps its because they were caught in the crosshairs of the women's pro league marketing community togetherness with local rosters while at the same time trying to operate as a big time business.
In Tulsa, a vastly improved club that is still struggling at the bottom of the Western Conference, the Shock were caught by surprise concerning second-year pro Elizabeth Cambage, last season's second overall pick out of Australia, announcing she was going to miss the rest of the schedule following the Olympics.
Cambage, who became the first female Olympian to dunk when she slammed one down during the games in London, had also missed the front part of the Shock schedule to prepare for the international competition.
Though she will soon be playing in China, Cambage more or less proclaimed burnout of sorts and at the last minute busted up Tulsa's welcome back to your home-away-from-home party.
In some ways, the move is not as disruptive as it would appear because the Shock have picked up some wins, including a first road triumph of the year at Atlanta's expense on Tuesday, and are showing signs of cohesion.
However, after causing a stir with her play in London that included a first-half explosion that put USA on its heels before Geno Auriemma unleashed part of his defensive dogs, er Huskies, the final phase of the Shock schedule would serve as a proving ground that would put her on display.
Since Tulsa is virtually bound for the draft lottery, depending on who the Shock lands, if they get a 1-3 pick, it would be nice to figure how she might fit with either Baylor's Brittney Griner, Delaware's Elena Delle Donne, or Notre Dame's Skylar Diggins.
And, if the answer is in the negative, then perhaps a deal would be out there to be made that could bring in a nice bounty in return.
Speaking of bounty, that brings the other piece of news where the L'Affair de Angel McCoughtry has sort of brought a remake of Mutiny on the Bounty mixed in with drama featuring a female star not seen in the Atlanta since Scarlet O'Hara was in the starting lineup of Gone With the Wind.
Following an Olympics performance that had Dream fans, well, dreaming of another attempted dash to at least the finals, McCoughtry got into an internal tiff resulting the firing of coach/general manager Marynell Meadors, who was an assistant on Auriemma's staff in London.
While Auriemma broke the news indicating his displeasure via tweet that would lead one to believe was aimed at McCoughtry, through use of the word "inmate", the Guru hears it was the other inmates who actually sought to restore sanity and were rebuffed, it seems, via Meadors' dismissal, which occurred on her 69th birthday.
Assistant Fred Williams was promoted to the dual vacancy and former Auburn coach Joe Ciampi was retained as an assistant on the staff but Sue Panek was let go.
Williams' first order of business was to try to restore order, suspending McCoughtry, indefinitely, though it took a short while to finally admit the move, according to reports in Atlanta.
If things aren't resolved going forward, McCoughtry on the trading block could only add to the postseason off-the-court action that will include dominos out of the lottery.
For example, if Chicago falls short, is a swap to the Sky for Chicago's pick, if it is in the top three, fair value?
Or, is a Cambage-McCoughtry trade out there to be had?
There have been surprises, elsewhere, this season on the player front such as in New York, which will host Indiana, Thursday night. Just before the draft in April the Liberty learned forward Quanitra Hollingsworth, a former Virginia Commonwealth star, was not coming back from the Olympics at all besides missing the front part to train with the Turkish national team.
That caused a major problem in the post attack and resulted in what has not been much help at all when New York picked with overall choice No. 7 former Tennessee player Kelly Cain, who made an exit from the Lady Vols in college to the chagrin of virtually no one in Knoville.
"Things are different today, no question about it," said former Georgia star Katrina McClain, who will be inducted next weekend into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
Back in McClain's time, love of the game was a grand romance embraced by such other notables as former Olympic great and Virginia Star Dawn Staley, who after the onset of pro leagues took hold in the United States bemoaned the sport turning into a business.
"Everyone was in it for the cause until money was introduced," Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman was once heard to utter from the sidelines in the early days of the WNBA when she was coach-general manager in Detroit.
The Guru remembers the short-lived start of the American Basketball League as well as the early days of the WNBA when after a tough loss, the visiting players would join the home players at tables signing autographs, no matter how long it took.
Indeed, the Guru heard a tale from one WNBA team executive this week saying a player was considering not coming back next season because the money was quite good in the country involved and they don't have to go out and promote.
"Can you believe it?" the executive said. "How many hours do these people work a day and they're complaining about an extra hour to do a promotional event."
But with all that said, the league is not going to smithereens. Most players still understand the mission. Rookies are subjected to an intense orientation session, though obviously some ears may be less atuned depending on how high the newcomer lands in the draft.
One executive speaking from a wish list said the best thing might be to get big salaries here, forget about working with FIBA -- foreign players who don't want to be here, then that's more opportunity for American players.
And play seven months with a longer schedule. If the money can found, then the (Diana) Taurasi, (Candace) Parker, and others might be quite happy to play here and not worry about also playing overseas.
The bottom line for those who follow the league and also focus on individual teams is that it is worth falling in love with members of the roster. Just don't get so involved to think a marriage has been busted when the time comes to do business with immediate and long-range welfare in mind.
Doing The Math -- How Connecticut Sun Clinched Playoffs
After beating the Chicago Sky in the Windy City suburbs Tuesday night, the Eastern Conference-leading Connecticut Sun clinched a playoff berth, though the Indiana Fever remains in hot pursuit of the top seed.
However, when one looks at the standings it might at first seem to be erronous reporting since no one bothered to explain exactly how the postseason was achieved for the second straight year.
At first glance, with 10 games remaining and the Sun at 18-6, while the fourth-place deadlock of Chicago and New York show common 9-15 records, one might deduce that if Connecticut lost all its games and New York and Chicago won theirs, the Sun would miss out by a game at the finish.
But that scenario cannot occur because New York and Chicago play each other one more time.
So in the worst case scenario, Connecticut would tie for fourth with either the Liberty or Sky team that would be the loser between them.
Now if it's New York, Connecticut wins the tiebreaker on a 4-1 season record while with Chicago, though the season series would be deadlocked at 2-2, the Sun's overwhelming 14-3 conference record is totally out of reach by Chicago, so, again, advantage Connecticut.
Speaking of Connecticut, add former Duke star Mistie Mims to the list of walking-but-not-playing-wounded after the media reports up North revealed she will miss at least a week with a quad injury.
Olympian and former UConn star Asjha Jones remains sidelined indefinitely as a precaution because of her nagging Achilles injury.
Last season Connecticut and Indiana tied for first but the top seed in the East went to the Fever on season series. The worst case for the Sun this time around would be a 2-2 finish with Indiana. So as long as Coach Mike Thibault's team stays no worse than tied with the Fever, staying ahead in conference wins -- it's a two-game lead now with five East games remaining for each team -- will do the trick.
And in the other tiebreaker scenario, the Guru is still waiting to hear from the league what would happen in a looming, but perhaps not likely, scenario that Washington, Tulsa and Phoenix each finish with the worst record.
The three-way deadlock would need to be broken backwards to produce the 1-2-3 order for best odds at the ping-pong balls that ultimately will decide the order of the four lottery picks.
Meyers Drysdale Keeps Breaking Barriers
Hall of Famer Ann Meyers Drysdale, an executive in the front office of the NBA Phoenix Suns and WNBA Phoenix Mercury, though she is no longer the Mercury GM, will be doing about 20 games of color commentary on Suns broadcasts this winter.
Incidentally, Mercury coach Corey Gaines has the GM title.
Though she did not last long in training camp, the former UCLA star was the first female to ink an NBA free-agent deal in 1979, signing with the Indiana Pacers and subsequently worked six games in Indiana after her release doing color commentary before playing with the Women's Professional Basketball League.
That made her the first women to do so and while the talented Doris Burke broadcasts men's pro and college games, that is in a network position while Meyers Drysdale may be the only woman doing so at NBA team level.
Meyers Drysdale recently worked in London as an analyst for 13 Olympic women's basketball games and said the broadcast chores will not interfer with her being at the NCAA tournament and Final Four in New Orleans.
At the end of the last collegiate basketball season, the United States Basketball Writers Association honored her longtime legacy to the women's game, announcing the top Division I women's player voted by the membership would here on out receive the USBWA's Ann Meyers Drysdale women's national player of the year award.
Her name will also be part of the weekly women's player of the week award started last season in the same way it is done with Oscar Robertson's name on the men's awards.
Commenting on the WNBA struggles of Phoenix this season, which has had a slew of injuries, Meyers Drysdale said, "It's been amazing. Everyone gets up to play Phoenix.
"Maybe it's because of Diana, with her personality, in fact the league needs more like her. All I know is teams have come in here as bad rebounders, poor three-point shooters, terrible ball handlers, and suddenly they all look great making shots and grabbing rebounds."
Until later, when tweeting at @womhoopsguru will occur from the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., and perhaps a game story, that's it for the moment.
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