Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Guru's WNBA Report: Draft Lottery Results Will Be Announced Before Playoffs Begin

(Guru's note: The Guru would like to thank the folks at Tir na Nog, the Irish establishment, for allowing him to set up shop by the window overlooking 8th Avenue and Madison Square Garden, besides being able to charge his cell phone before heading to Penn Station, under the Garden, in a while to return back home, following a delightful round of snacks.)

By Mel Greenberg

Some things about the lucrative WNBA draft lottery will become clearful and some will become more filled with suspense but all of it is coming sooner rather than later in the fall.

As the annual WNBA Inspirational Women's Award luncheon got under way at Cheslea Piers along the Hudson Monday afternoon, ESPN's Cindy Brunson, who emceed the event, announced the draft lottery would be televised by the network and aired Sept. 26 just before the playoffs get under way.

"I didn't know about it until late and I decided to go with it and nobody objected," Brunson said afterwards.

The United States Women's Basketball Olympic Team was the main honoree, but other gold medalists from the London games were also in the room, including tennis great Venus Williams.

A large contingent of players from the New York Liberty and Los Angeles Sparks were also on hand, as was Princeton senior all-American candidate Niveen Rasheed, who is eager to help lead the Tigers to a fourth-straight Ivy title.

Rasheed may go somewhere high in the draft beyond the lottery picks.

There is more excitment than the usual this time around because of the quality of seniors at the high end of the talent pool available for the four teams in the lottery.

Baylor sensation Brittney Griner is considered the top prospect in most places, though Delaware's Elena Delle is drawing almost equal attention and right there in the mix is Notre Dame's Skylar Diggins.

Three teams are already in the pool: The Tulsa Shock, the Phoenix Mercury, and the Washington Mystics, while the fourth will be whichever doesn't make the Eastern playoffs between New York and the Chicago Sky.

The worst finisher, currently projected to be Washington, will have the best odds to land the No. 1 pick, follwed by the next three worst performers on the season.

All but New York or Washington are locked close together right now with two weeks remaining before the playoffs get under way.

Finishing worst doesn't guarantee anything. Just ask Tulsa, which last year won only three games but ended with the fourth pick. Los Angeles took Stanford star, Nneka Oguewmike, who was here and is the favorite to win the rookie of the year award.

Two years ago Minnesota did not have the worst record but won the top pick and grabbed UConn sensation Maya Moore. The rookie combined with other prized talent and a healthier bunch of veterans went on to win the Lynx's first title last summer, dominating the regular season and the playoffs.

Ironically, the Guru arrived at the event and during the reception on a whim chatted with a few people about what was worth more buzz -- the usual October-November date announcing the lottery before the NCAA season got under way or later to cause more discussion during the winter leading into the Women'sFinal Four..

"I like earlier," said WNBA second-year president Laurel Richie. "We get the storylines building earlier and some of the teams begin to be able to chart their futures."

After the luncheon the Guru quipped to Richie she forgot to say the announcement was coming in a few minutes and she responded, "I didn't know until after we talked that I was told they were going with it and I said, 'Ok.'

"That's why you do what you do," Richie said with a grin.

There are storylines to be sure already budding and WNBA people would love to see the water cooler conversation begin over the merits who to take.

In fact there is hope that the speculation will begin on ESPN's regular afternoon shows such as Pardon the Interuption following the revelation of the order.

Washington has indicated that if the Mystics land the No. 1 pick, barring some tremendous offer that would have to be just that, they will take Griner.

That would be interesting because with Baylor Heisman winner Robert Griffin III (RG3) having made a tremendous debut at quarterback for the Washington Redskins and as good friends as he and Griner are, one can envision him attending Washington games in the Verizon Center and vice versa from the collegiate basketball superstar.

If the Mystics get the second pick, it would be a discussion. Delle Donne fans would love to see her land within a two-hours drive from her home near Wilmington, Del., or, as a back up, in New York if the Liberty fall into the lottery.

Also, should President OBama win relection, one can also envision Vice President Biden stopping by often, considering his ties as a Delaware alum and fondness for Delle Donne, as well as Blue Hens coach Tina Martin and her staff.

However, the pick of Diggins would cause a reunion with this year's first-year first round pick, Natalie Novosel, who played on the last two Notre Dame teams that advanced to the NCAA title game.

Many in the Phoenix camp privately think Delle Donne might be a better fit for the fast-paced system run by the Mercury but the best of all worlds for them would be to get the No. 2 pick and not be accused of bypassing Griner.

However, if Phoenix got the number one pick, a Griner or Delle Donne debate would exist most of the winter, keeping the WNBA in the women's basketball conversation at a time the pro league is usually overshadowed by the NCAA title chase.

As for Tulsa's situation, if the Shock got the No. 1 pick, there's this to consider: Some observers think that Griner and second-year pro Elizabeth Cambage, last year's overall No. 2 pick, would not mesh in the same lineup.

But Camage is a second-year pro in name, only, having bypassed the front end of the season to train with the Australian Olympic team and then deciding at the last minute she did not have the stamina to return to Tulsa to finish out the final games before playing in China this winter.

This was perhaps a bit disappointing to the Shock, not because of not providing additional help. Rather, the final portion could have given them a chance to showcase Cambage and then perhaps make a mega-deal to land key parts to compliment Griner.

As it is, a deal could be yet made with teams willing to take Cambage on what was observed of her performance in London. Some say teams with other Australians might be the best place for a deal to be made -- Seattle, Phoenix, Indiana, or Los Angeles, once the draft lottery order is known.

Then, who knows what Atlanta may want to do regarding the recent controversy over Olympian Angel McCoughtry, which resulted in coach Marynell Meaders being fired also as general manager.

As for New York or Chicago -- for any of the top four picks is the opportunity to play in a major market.

For each team, not making the playoffs would be a gut-wrenching experience. But that dismay could be erased by great joy later this month if the ping pong balls fall the right way.

Just ask Minnesota, which suffered a tough loss in 2010 to Los Angeles the last week of the season to be ousted, only to win the pick that begat Maya Moore.

New York has had former Rutgers sensation Cappie Pondexter for star power, but the addition of a Griner, Delle Donne, or even, through a deal, maybe a three-team affair, Cambage would be a shot in the arm to the low attendance caused by the three-sunmers hiatus through 2013 across the river in the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., while Madison Square Garden undergoes renovation.

The pulsating last-minute win Sunday over Los Angeles was like old times, but it is still questionable whether the atmosphere can be sustained -- it certainly wasn't after last season's playoffs.

Chicago, meanwhile, has yet to make the playoffs in all six previous attempts since joining the league in 2006. This seemed like the season after a series of key deals but the Sky went into a deep dive and coupled with New York's healthier roster and a lighter schedule down the stretch, Chicago is in a desperate scramble.

There is a worry the franchise could be history if another pre-playoff collapse occurs. But think about what Griner might mean, the way Michael Jordan suddenly showed up available to the Chicago Bulls in the 1984 draft.

Delle Donne, added to the Sky roster, is also a major upgrade, while Diggins, in addition to an upgrade, also brings a player not far from her home in South Bend, Ind.

"It's all going to be very exciting no mater how it plays out," Richie said.

And it all begins in a few weeks with a curtain raiser to a great playoff competition and another curtain raiser that will certainly help keep the WNBA future making forward progress.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


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