The IX: Basketball Wednesday with Howard Megdal, July 17, 2019

A Riquna resolution — Interview with new all star Erica Wheeler — Must-click women's basketball links

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A Riquna Resolution

Well, seven months after an incident that eventually led to Riquna Williams’ arrest, three months after that arrest, two months after the Los Angeles Sparks subsequently signed her anyway, the WNBA delivered a league verdict on what it all means in terms of league disciplinary action: 10 games.

After the decision came down, I spoke to folks throughout the league to get a sense of the reaction. Generally, it was: this is fine. Not too long, not too short, though some cautioned that without knowing the full material uncovered over the course of the league’s investigation, it is hard to say.

It is an unenviable position, a public-facing league needing to take a strong stand against domestic violence, without knowing precisely how much is correct. How does one convert the experience Alkeria Davis had on the night of December 6, 2018 into a number of WNBA games? Where does one begin to go to make that quantitative conversion?

The WNBPA registered a strong objection to the suspension, and that reinforces what all sides really need to figure out within the framework of ongoing CBA talks, which is a framework for domestic violence response. The league essentially needed to jury-rig their response to an overall conduct phrase in the current CBA, which is how it went about responding to the Brittney Griner-Glory Johnson incident back in 2015 as well. A full buy-in from both sides will matter when it comes to making sure there is real opportunity for teaching and growth out of future moments, not just a calibration to find a suspension that gives the league cover in the public sphere.

One thing the league might want to consider: Major League Baseball, for PED suspensions, includes a postseason ban that year. Oddly, it does not do this for any other suspension, including domestic violence. But it is easy to imagine a domestic violence suspension that doesn’t include a postseason ban leading to a WNBA playoff run by a player the league is not going to want front and center. Several people I spoke to in the league would like to see it.

But really, what everyone agrees upon is that simply going about this, incident-by-incident, is no way to conduct it. Sadly, there will be more such nights involving WNBA players, just as with any other league. It’s incumbent upon the new leadership team under Cathy Engelbert to proactively prepare.

This Week in Women’s Basketball

Happy first day of work, Cathy Engelbert! Here’s Mike Jensen on her Collingswood roots. And here’s Hannah Withiam on her family background.

Arike Ogunbowale is figuring it out.

Diana Taurasi briefly returned to action, in Connecticut!

Speaking of Taurasi, Huw Hopkins looks at what her return could do for the Mercury.

Great in-depth video interview of Amanda Zahui B. by DJ Sixsmith.

Not so fast on WNBA Toronto: here’s Doug Smith on reasons for skepticism, and the CBC on some financial issues in the bidder’s past.

Sure do love the next-level buy-in we’re seeing from SLAM on women’s basketball.

Typical Ava Wallace greatness on Shey Peddy.

Ditto Candace Buckner on women coaching in the NBA.

Dan Mizutani thinks Cheryl Reeve should be WNBA Coach of the Year. I think she owes a lot of her success this year to her GM, personally.

Sue Guevara is retiring, and Jenn Hatfield looks at why that’s a big deal.

At High Post Hoops, several team macro looks really stood out: here’s Jackie Powell on the Liberty, Bria Felicien on the Dream and the Lynx team of reporters on the Lynx.

One of those writers, Caissa Casarez, looked at the all star rosters for The Victory Press.

Kurtis Zimmerman looks at the biggest year-over-year drops for teams in WNBA history.

Jeff Metcalfe brings the data in this Mercury rebounding piece. I had not realized it was this extreme.

I’m always a sucker for a Stef Dolson piece.

And I have more on her below, but this Keith Geswein piece on Erica Wheeler, all star made me feel all the feelings.

Stat of the Week

We are extremely psyched to be partnering with Basketball-Reference, which has been a godsend for WNBA stats for years now, and has only increased its offerings in 2019. Accordingly, let’s start with a big one: win shares, career. Via WNBA Play Index, we can see the leader, and it’s Tamika Catchings, and it’s not close.

Tweets of the Week

Five at The IX: Erica Wheeler, All Star

1. Take me through how you found out about getting the all star nod–who told you, where you were, who you called first.

“I was in the locker room and I got a text message from Bethany Donaphin in the league office. She said I’m contacting you to say congrats and I thought it was about the 500 assists milestone – I didn’t know if I’d reached it, or not. When I called her she said ‘I’m calling to tell you congratulations that you’ve been selected as one of our All-Stars.’ At that moment, I just went blank. I had to sit down. I couldn’t believe it. It’s something I’ve worked for. It’s one thing to make it to the WNBA, but to be announced as an All-Star among some of the greats, it’s just amazing. When I got off the phone, I had to take a moment for myself and cry a little bit, but I had to keep it together because I couldn’t tell anybody.”

2. How does where your game has evolved to compare to what you thought you could become out of college?

“My game has switched from about 2 to 9 [on a 10-point scale] within a year of being a pro. I had a rough past in my last year of college because of my mom, but getting back to the basics of basketball, going overseas I had to get back to my old self. I’ve sped up my game and I look at it now as both a player and teacher to read things differently. In college, we just ran plays. Now, we watch more film and I see things differently, seeing things two plays ahead of time.

“I always thought I was good, but I never said it out loud because I’m super humble. My game just elevated. I knew I would always be good when I got the chance in this league, but I didn’t think I’d be an All-Star within five years. There are a lot of players that have been in this league for nine or 10 years and have never been an all-star. For me, I did it in five and I didn’t get drafted so, to me, that’s major.”

3. Your three-point efficiency is up sharply–how did that happen?

“Russia plays a part of that. They’re super aggressive over there, so you try not to drive too much, and that 3-point line becomes your best friend so you can take care of yourself, and don’t get beat up. That long stretch of EuroCup playoffs really elevated my game, playing some great teams. I think I’ve just carried that energy from winning that EuroCup and brought it back here.”

4. What do you see as the goal for this Fever team?

“It’s always to make the playoffs. I still think we have a real chance to get over that hump and get past six wins. I know we really can be a good team, but we have to get past some little things and get some momentum.”

5. Is there a next big level for you as an individual player to reach? 

“Man, I can’t think about anything else. I’m still trying to wrap my head around being a damn All-Star!”

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By Lindsay Gibbs, @Linzsports ThinkProgress
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal High Post Hoops
Thursdays: Golf
By Carly Grenfell, @Carlygren
Fridays: Hockey
By: Erica Ayala, @ELindsay08 NWHL Broadcaster

Written by Howard Megdal

Howard is the founder of The Next and editor-in-chief.