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Friday, July 19, 2019

What’s Not Happening in Women’s Pro Ball

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Photo Credit: Original Artwork Courtesy istockphoto.com©

By Clay Kallam

There’s been a lot of hype lately about things that aren’t likely to happen on the women’s professional basketball scene. First, the Monarchs folded, and the league began a hurried pursuit of an investor willing to relocate the team in the Bay Area. While that still theoretically could happen, the clock’s ticking down on the time to nail down next summer’s schedule, and a meeting of the league’s Board of Governors came and went without an announcement.

Then we learned that convicted felon Marion Jones is working out with the coaching staff of the San Antonio Silver Stars with an eye to relaunching the sports career she lost when busted for taking designer steroids and lying about it. Quite apart from the issue of appearances in a league that has thus far managed to steer clear of cheating scandals, the fact that Jones is considering beginning her WNBA career at an age when many others are thinking about wrapping theirs up wasn’t lost on many, Visions of Nancy Lieberman’s publicity stunt with the Detroit Shock springs to mind.

Finally, NBA commissioner David Stern stretched credulity to its outer limits by attesting that there would be a woman playing in the WNBA within the next 10 years. Really? And is that, or should it be, the standard by which we measure the quality of women’s athletics?

The demise of the Sacramento Monarchs has more to do with the Sacramento Kings and the Maloof family than it does with the WNBA – though obviously were the WNBA healthier, it would be easier for the Maloofs to hang on to the team.

First, there’s no doubt the Monarchs lost money last year, as their actual attendance looked to be about 4,500 on most nights, a couple thousand or more below the announced figure. That will happen when you have a bad team in a bad economy, but it’s hard to see the Maloofs losing more than $1 million in 2009, and most likely less than that. So $1 million isn’t exactly pocket change, but considering the value of the Kings and the Maloof holdings in Las Vegas, it’s also not a deal-breaker.

What was a deal-breaker is that the Maloofs have given up on getting a new arena in Sacramento, which means they’ve given up on the Kings. Why now? The Kings, despite their recent winning streak, aren’t very good, and even though they are winning, they aren’t drawing. (If the announced crowd is 10,000, there are probably 7,000 in the building, and that’s not going to cut it with an NBA payroll.) On top of that, the Maloofs’ Las Vegas holdings are awash in red ink, and there are persistent rumors they had invested with Bernie Madoff.

All of this may not have been insurmountable, but the Maloofs absolutely needed a new arena in Sacramento to compete in today’s NBA, which meant they needed voter approval. That was going to be no simple task, given California’s economy, so the Maloofs needed every ounce of support. By shutting down the Monarchs, they alienated a significant percentage of the electorate – which means they’ve given up on a new arena, and given up on the Kings.

So were the Monarchs and their $1 million loss the real problem? No, and neither is the WNBA. This was collateral damage, and this time a women’s basketball franchise was the casualty.

At least the league managed to deflect attention from the loss of yet another of its cornerstone teams by pretending that Marion Jones could play in the WNBA.

To imagine that a 34-year-old who hasn’t played competitively for more than a decade could suddenly go head-to-head with the best in the world is simply a fantasy. Sure, Jones is a great athlete, but when was the last time someone tried to stop her from running as fast as she could? And when was the last time she took a jumper with a hand in her face? Or had someone like Deanna Nolan try to take the ball from her?

The other issue, of course, is whether a confessed steroid user, and convicted felon, should be allowed in the league. Though the issue is 99 percent likely to be moot (unless someone sticks Jones at the end of the bench to do interviews all summer), Jones has done the time for her crime, and shouldn’t be punished any further—as long as she’s currently clean. If she can make some money in the WNBA, why not? Just like everyone else, she’s got to make a living, and it hardly seems fair to restrict her ability to do that, given the prison time and humiliation she has already endured.

And speaking of things that aren’t going to happen, David Stern clearly had been partaking of some Arkansas polio weed when he claimed that a woman would play in the NBA within 10 years.

There is no way – let me repeat, no way – that a woman can compete in the NBA. For all the same reasons discussed in my most recent column, Men’s or Women’s College Basketball—Who’s Better? Athleticism, Quality Play Do Not Go Hand-In-Hand, the difference in explosive athleticism is far, far too great for a woman, no matter how gifted, to overcome. Diana Taurasi, at 6-1, would be a tiny guard in the NBA, which means she would have be blazingly quick – and though Taurasi is a wonderful player, skilled and intelligent, the thought of her guarding Chris Paul is simply laughable. And how about the 6-4 Candace Parker? She’s a small two guard in the NBA, which means she’s guarding, oh, Dwayne Wade. How do you think that’s going to go?

Let me put it another way: I coach a girls’ high school team, and we won 22 games last year. We have a player who’s getting a scholarship to Southern Utah and probably three other borderline Division I players. If we played our boys’ varsity team – which is pretty good but not great – they could win a 32-minute game by 70 or 80 if they pressed the entire time. If we played the junior varsity, and we played really well, we could probably stay within 30; most likely, if the boys try the whole time, they win by 50. Now the frosh we could probably hang with for a while, but in the end they’d grind us down and win by anywhere from 15 to 30.

The best player in our league last year was a 5-6 guard; she would struggle to start on a boys’ freshman team. The best girls’ player this year is a 6-4 post who’s going to Gonzaga; she might make a JV roster, but would seldom play.

No, even the best woman isn’t ready to come close to the NBA – or Division III college men, for that matter. But if the Maloofs need some more money, they might want to look into marketing whatever Stern had ingested before he said that a woman could take the ball to the rim against Dwight Howard.

Originally published Sun, December 06, 2009

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Week: February 7, 2012
1 Baylor (31) 24-0 1 1 1 775
2 Notre Dame 23-1 2 2 2 743
3 Connecticut 21-2 3 4 3 710
4 Stanford 20-1 4 5 4 685
5 Duke 19-3 6 8 5 650
6 Miami (FL) 20-3 7 7 6 604
7 Kentucky 21-3 5 15 7 584
8 Maryland 20-3 10 10 8 534
9 Wisconsin-Green Bay 20-0 9 24 9 530
10 Ohio State 21-2 11 NR-RV
10 483
11 Tennessee 17-6 8 3 11 476
12 Delaware 20-1 13 NR 12 434
13 Georgetown 18-5 15 11 14 379
14 Texas A&M 16-5 16 6 15 378
15 Nebraska 19-3 18 NR 13 309
16 Rutgers 17-4 14 12 17 372
17 Louisville 17-6 12 9 20 276
18 Gonzaga 21-3 19 NR-RV
19 234
19 Purdue 19-5 17 21 16 222
20 Georgia 18-6 20 12 21 202
21 Penn State 18-5 21 14 18 176
22 DePaul 17-7 23 18 NR-RV
23 Georgia Tech 16-6 22 NR-RV
22 104
24 South Carolina 18-5 NR-RV
NR 24 46
25 Vanderbilt 18-5 NR-RV
NR 45
Dropped Out: No. 24 North Carolina, No. 25 Kansas.
First-place votes: Total first-place votes received (if any) are indicated in parentheses following school name.
Others receiving votes: St. Bonaventure (22-2) 34; North Carolina (17-6) 19; California (17-6) 18; Florida Gulf Coast (21-2) 16; Middle Tennessee (19-5) 15; Texas-El Paso (20-2) 8; Texas Tech (16-6) 5; Brigham Young (21-4) 4; Fresno State (19-4) 4; St. John's (15-8) 4; Princeton (15-4) 3; Oklahoma (15-7) 2; West Virginia (17-6) 2; Kansas State (15-7) 1.
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Credit: Courtesy Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA). The weekly Division I Top 25 Coaches' Poll, sponsored by USA Today and ESPN, is based on voting by a Board of Coaches made up of 31 head coaches at Division I institutions all of whom are WBCA members.