The IX: Basketball Wednesday with Howard Megdal, March 18, 2020

Nobody knows anything — Napheesa Collier explains how to help — Must-click women's basketball links

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Nobody knows anything

Here’s my advice to you as you figure out what’s likely to happen with the 2020 WNBA season: the more certain someone is about how it all plays out, the less likely you should be to trust that person.

The WNBA cannot, and will not, make contingency plans yet. How can the league possibly do so?

The New York Liberty and the Los Angeles Sparks, the Phoenix Mercury and the Minnesota Lynx play in NBA arenas, and the NBA doesn’t know yet what it’s doing, whether it can even consider resuming play anytime soon, for both the safety of its players and based around ever-evolving guidelines by federal, state and local officials.

And we’re not even talking about the Olympics, which will be knocked sidewise if even a single participant from a single nation still has the coronavirus.

So coaches and general managers are cleaning closets. They’re watching film while family members are enrolled in virtual school. They’re taking spouses out for walks to keep everyone sane, themselves included.

But try and picture the universe of information a week ago, what decisions could be made, and compare it to the current moment.

Now you start to understand why the deep uncertainty of what we’re all facing makes any definitive statements from the league impossible.

And in that same way, we must be cognizant of the fact that any individual class of people’s inconvenience or worse, which would typically demand a specific remedy, will be part of a massive remaking of the current moment, on the fly.

For instance, fixing Sabrina Ionescu’s experience, which for now looks like it will not include the chance to play for an NCAA championship as a senior: there’s no real way to address that. Time marches on, and by the time, hopefully, we are all capable of gathering en masse to watch two dozen people pass a ball filled with germs from one to another, there will be other seasons to start, more moments not to miss. All the efforts to compress time cannot do it. Think about the playing careers in MLB that were sidetracked by World War II. This is the useful guideline, in all likelihood. Moments lost, not delayed.

Just knowing whether the worst of this comes in June or August isn’t nearly enough information to plan around. Just knowing whether this is a pandemic that kills tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands or millions is not enough.

So I get it. I know there’s a previously instilled frustration that the WNBA hasn’t provided basic, useful information it had at its disposal for reasons that were never clear to anyone. Guarding the date of the WNBA draft in previous years? No one gets why that happened. Not media, not fans, not players, not coaches.

This year? There’s something comforting about the fact that the draft is still on schedule to happen April 17. It gives players an April 7 deadline to declare, and it is a rare event that can happen without putting anyone in mortal danger. All you need is a speakerphone in 12 places, along with someone to record the picks (and, here’s hoping, a plan to get those players on a conference call for us in the media).

After that? In the pre-coronavirus world, it would have been a month until I got to cover Sabrina Ionescu at Barclays Center, maybe less, depending on the preseason schedule.

When will it happen now?

No one knows. And anyone who pretends to know, knows even less.


This Week in Women’s Basketball

Really good video on how Becky Hammon was denied a WNBA title.

Loved this catchup with Morgan William by Natalie Weiner.

A lot of college careers ended suddenly. Molly Bent, for instance.

Here’s Geno Auriemma on the big picture.

Christine Hopkins spoke to IUPUI’s coach.

Mark Medina took a look at the impact of coronavirus on WNBA players overseas.

Esther Wallace, t-shirt entrepreneur, was dominant at Fairleigh Dickinson.

Kim Doss looks at what Arizona’s rotation could look like in 2020-21.

Hear Kelly Graves and Dawn Staley discuss the sudden season end.

More from Dawn here, via Mike Jensen.

PJ Brown gets that perspective from Adia Barnes of Arizona.

Mike Anthony doesn’t think Megan Walker is WNBA-ready.

Maria Taylor’s cover story is on Sabrina Ionescu.

Brenda Frese talked recruiting freeze with Ava Wallace.

Loved this Matt Blitz story on the first televised women’s basketball game.

Chennedy Carter is still deciding about the WNBA.

Jenn Hatfield broke down the huge gift to the Vermont women’s basketball program.

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Tweet of the week


Five at The IX: Napheesa Collier, Minnesota Lynx

(Napheesa hopped on the phone with me Tuesday to discuss her efforts to help with coronavirus fallout, which includes giving away a signed pair of her shoes. Go to AthletesRelief.org to see this, along with items from A’ja Wilson, Elena Delle Donne and many other players.)

HOWARD MEGDAL: The place I want to start is, this has been anything but a typical period of time in everybody's lives, but for you, what was this going to be like and what has this turned into? You take me through just what your life has been like over the last week plus as, everything has been shutting down.

NAPHEESA COLLIER: Yeah, it's been pretty crazy. Well what my life would have been like was pretty much, two workouts a day plus lifting, trying to get ready for the season, just get as strong as I can and working on the things that I need to before the season starts. And so what I'm doing now is pretty much the same since, we haven't gotten any really, we don't know what's going on with the season. So I'm practicing just the same as I would just trying to get ready for any circumstance. And then, just trying to follow the health guidelines, staying inside, staying away from groups of people, things like that.

HOWARD MEGDAL: So you're back home. But, there are Minnesota Lynx players who typically would come together in the offseason. Did you have plans to have group get togethers, or were you looking to just train on your own and so things were able to stay pretty much the same?

NAPHEESA COLLIER: Well for this year, I was actually supposed to be playing in China, so I wasn't even supposed to be here right now. And then of course, it started there so, I got back about two and a half months ago. And so, I had planned to go about a week early to training camp, but other than that, I wasn't really planning on going to Minnesota. But I know that Coach [Reeve] has been working out a bunch of players, like Rachel [Banham]'s up there. Jess Shepard and Karima [Christmas-Kelly] are up there. So, definitely some of the players have been getting together to do that.

HOWARD MEGDAL: What has the experience been like just with other players and just even friends of yours in terms of sharing information? How were you getting information about this from a day-to-day experience and how are you sharing it with other people as well?

NAPHEESA COLLIER: Getting information, league-wise and basketball-wise, USA Basketball and the league have done a great job of filling us in on pretty much what they know. No one really knows what's going to happen, we're kind of in limbo. But I think everyone's been doing a great job sharing the information that they do have, which is, pretty much what everyone knows. Stay away from crowds. Wash your hands, things like that. And then, just try and stay safe and do what you can to help stop the spread of this.

HOWARD MEGDAL: As far as going beyond just the question of the game, you're in the midst of wedding planning as well I know. I guess I wonder, how are you handling dealing with that? What, if anything, has changed on that end as of now? How do you even do it? I can't even imagine.

NAPHEESA COLLIER: Yeah, it is kind of stressful, but it's not planned to be until November so, I'm hoping that this doesn't affect all the way until then. But, just going on with plans and taking it day by day. Things have been progressing, especially in the past week, and so I have no idea what November is going to look like. So I guess we cross that bridge when we come to it and I'll just be prepared to have the wedding in November if we can. And if not, I guess we'll have to make some adjustments later.

HOWARD MEGDAL: I'm hoping you to tell me a little bit about the auction that you are participating in.

NAPHEESA COLLIER: Yeah, so it's just help relief for the COVID-19, helps with funds trying to raise money for it. So I was just approached to do it and I thought it was a great thing to do. Super-easy on my part. I didn't have to do much. I'm signing a pair of shoes to auction off and I just want to do anything I can to help with this thing. There's so many people who need help and people who on the front lines of this thing and all I have to do is stay home. So, I just want to help do my part.

HOWARD MEGDAL: Have you ever won a contest? I don't think I've ever won a contest, but there'd always be a first time. Have you ever won? Not a game of skill. You've won lots of contests of skill, but something of luck where you were drawing?

NAPHEESA COLLIER: I have never won one. And my family, we always laugh about that, because none of us had ever won that. So I don't know.

HOWARD MEGDAL: There's always a first time for us all.

NAPHEESA COLLIER: I must not be very good in that department. Exactly.


Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson AP Women's Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon  Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal High Post Hoops
Thursdays: Golf
By Carly Grenfell, @Carlygren PGA.com
Fridays: Hockey
By: Erica Ayala, @ELindsay08 NWHL Broadcaster