The IX: Basketball Wednesday with Howard Megdal, September 11,2019

One voter's awards rundown — Tamika Catchings talks to the press — Must-click women's basketball links

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And the winner is…

Well, lots of victories are about to be revealed. The playoffs start tonight, as I don’t need to tell you, and even without Diana Taurasi, I’m looking forward to things like Diamond DeShields’ first playoff game (she finds another level when the lights are brightest) and Cheryl Reeve’s traveling band of wings who shoot threes around Sylvia Fowles.

But the league has begun announcing its postseason awards already — usually a process based around when the award winners have home games — and in the interest of transparency, I wanted to share my ballot.

Briefly, MVP: it’s Elena Delle Donne. That was the easiest pick I ever made for MVP. Brittney Griner is having a sensational year. So is Nneka Ogwumike, Jonquel Jones and Sylvia Fowles, my 2-5. And this didn’t take more than a second for me.

Rookie of the Year, though, I labored over. I spoke to everyone I could from all the teams involved — a three-person race between Teaira McCowan, Arike Ogunbowale and my ultimate pick, Napheesa Collier. All three are so different! All three posted different campaigns in playing time, role, strengths, you name it. Collier ultimately got it from me because she played a key role for the lone team that made the playoffs of these three, and improved from three-point range in-season, showing growth. But I don’t take issue with anyone who voted for McCowan or Ogunbowale.

My Coach of the Year was similarly difficult. I went with eventual winner James Wade, because there was no guarantee that Sky team would find the formula to success, and he led them to a home playoff game. Cheryl Reeve was high on my list as well, considering all they weathered, and it is an unfortunate thing that Mike Thibault and Curt Miller had limited ceilings to win the award, given their talent-laden rosters.

I went with Nneka Ogwumike at Defensive Player of the Year, and my two candidates were Nneka and Natasha Howard, who won. It was very close, from my eye test, and so I relied on the defensive metrics, which ever-so-slightly favored Nneka. But this one was tough, too.

Most Improved Player? Alysha Clark, she of the 48% mark from three and continued elite defense. Sixth Woman of the Year is Dearica Hamby, the Natasha Howard of tomorrow.

And here’s my first-team and second-team all-WNBA:

I welcome dissent! Let me know what I missed.

And I’m taking Chicago and Minnesota in tonight’s games. Diamond DeShields will go off, and I think there are too many pathways for Minnesota to prevail over Seattle, whose offense has struggled of late.

Announcing The IX’s Civil Boost!

We’re extremely honored that Civil chose us for its first Boost, a fundraising pathway to help fund vital newsroom projects. This one is straightforward: travel costs to send me to the WNBA Finals. You’ll get daily podcasts, behind-the-scenes extras and both original reporting and the amplifying of others doing the good work on the scene. More details, and how to give, are available by clicking on this drawing of me here:

This week in women’s basketball

Here’s Madeline Kenney, a great reporter all year on the Sky beat, on James Wade.

Also, here’s Kenney on the Katie Lou Samuelson’s mom imbroglio.

Mirjam Swanson wrote about Chelsea Gray’s workload.

PJ Brown gives us a Joan Bonvicini look back and Adia Barnes’ view of her, too.

Ramona Shelburne on Liz Cambage.

God bless this Alex Coffey story on #BanhamBombs.

Looked at the foul data through a Sylvia Fowles lens (and got Sue Blauch on the record).

Speaking of Syl, Neil Olstad had her on the Lynx Dynasty podcast!

Speaking of podcasts, Her Hoop Stats had Lauren Cox on!

This Nice Kicks look at the Inspirational Women sneakers the Mercury wore is just beautiful.

Vintage Mike DiMauro here on Shekinna Stricklen and the color orange.

Bria Felicien looks at the future of the Atlanta Dream.

Terrific Kristina Rutherford piece on Tina Charles.

Loved Kellen Becoats on Dan Hughes.

You like close Rookie of the Year votes? Kurtis Zimmerman looks at the WNBA’s closest from the past.

Erica Ayala was in Springfield for T-Spoon’s big moment.

Matt Ellentuck played NBA2K20 with Aerial Powers.

Huw Hopkins and Ben Dull gave out their postseason awards.

I wrote about Teaira McCowan’s 2019 campaign.

FiveThirtyEight wisely turned to Jenn Hatfield to handicap the playoffs.

Lovely Jordan Ligons look at Napheesa Collier.

Katie Barnes followed around Diamond DeShields for a year!

Stat of the week

Let’s not lose sight, in light of all the other areas Elena Delle Donne dominates, that she is the very best in WNBA history at not turning the ball over.

Five at The IX: Tamika Catchings, Indiana Fever

(We in the media spoke to Tamika by conference call after she made the decision to fire Pokey Chatman as head coach and GM of the Fever. The old-school picture is because I miss watching her play.)

QUESTION: How tough was this decision today and at what point was the decision made?

TAMIKA CATCHINGS: Tamika: Thank you for your question. I’ll start off just saying like first off we want to thank Pokey for her commitment and dedication to the Indiana Fever. I think when you look at our franchise, and when Dr. Barber and I came in, it was really about building a premier and continuing to build a premier franchise in the WNBA and that’s what we’re committed to do. So I think for me, when knowing this and knowing my role it’s really been about evaluating not just the players but evaluating the coaching staff. Which, is something that we’ve been doing all season long. And you know that’s how we talk, when you look at the personal side and being able to build friendships and relationships from that standpoint. It’s tough, but looking at from the business side you know we felt like this was the direction that we needed to go in.

QUESTION: I’m curious when you think about the next steps here and coach and GM was obviously the role that Pokey had but I’m wondering how the flow chart is going to look, whether you’re going to be the ultimate voice on personnel decisions or if you’re looking for someone to occupy the same space in your organization that Pokey did?

TAMIKA CATCHINGS: The first step is to try to find a head coach, and to find the best candidate for our team to come in and fill that role. And like you said, we’re looking for a coach and a GM. And depending on who we get in that position that will be something we will evaluate at that point, but I think, the first thing is trying to find somebody to lead the charge.

QUESTION: But ultimately are you hopeful or are you looking to be a voice in the room, the final decision maker on best of all personnel? Or just how do you see your role within that?

TAMIKA CATCHINGS: Well yeah, right now, I’m the VP of basketball operations and so I’ll be making sure that not only myself, but working with Dr. Barber, and trying to find… figure out who that next person is to come in and lead the charge.

QUESTION: There’s different paths… or I guess different philosophies in terms of hiring a head coach that we’ve seen, whether it be somebody who has already has experience in the league, somebody who is an assistant or even a former player. Right now do you have an idea of where you’re leaning in terms of who might be near the top of the list or replacing her?

TAMIKA CATCHINGS: I’ll be honest with you right now, it’s been a rough day today overall. I mean we… going into yesterday’s game, we didn’t have an opportunity to make playoffs, come out today and it’s been a long day, so I think for us, my first priority when I look at it is, there’s… we want to find the best candidate. And that might be a coach that’s in the league, that might be a former player that for me, that might be a college coach. I think right now, we’re just kind of getting through today and then we’ll shift focus and really, as of this morning at 10:15 AM, the announcement came out that we’re in search of a coach. And so we’ll start looking at who gets coming in and let’s make that come in and we’ll take it one day at a time.

QUESTION: Well, I was just going to follow up real quickly. Tamika, can you, just sort of give up an idea of where you think the franchise is and I ask because obviously, you know, Pokey came in after you retired… it was… you were sort of in rebuilding mode. You’ve got some young talent now, you’re going to be in the lottery. Can you give us an idea of… just where you think the Fever are personnel wise?

TAMIKA CATCHINGS: I’m excited. I mean I think we did a great job this year, Kelsey Mitchell, McCowan and you look at what she’s been able to do this year. We’ll continue to build on her down low. Tiffany Mitchell, you know her game last night and just the kind of scorer that she is. Erica Wheeler, and what she was able to do this year. Candice Dupree, I mean, I feel like we have a lot of great pieces. And we have a lot of great players and we’ll be able to build around along with having our core group of players. So, when you look at just the future of our franchise, we’ll have a pick in the lottery this year and I’m just excited about the direction of the players that we currently have and then being able to add to that mix.

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By Lindsay Gibbs, @Linzsports QUEEN OF ALL MEDIA
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.