The IX: Basketball Wednesday with Howard Megdal, December 23, 2020

2019 predictions revisited — Derek Fisher's the new GM in Los Angeles — Must-click women's basketball links

Howard Megdal here. Just a note on our schedule: we’ll have newsletters through Friday, December 25, and then we’ll be off next week, resuming Monday, January 4.

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2019 predictions revisited

Yes, let’s look at how wrong I was. But first: let’s talk Derek Fisher, new GM.

The head coach/GM model is talked about like some binary thing — a good idea or a bad one — when it’s nothing of the sort. It just means you need someone capable of doing two very different things. One is figuring out how to put together a roster, which is about asset usage, about navigating the draft, about, in this expanded world of free agency, about recruiting. Coaching is about motivating, Xs and Os, managing personalities and workloads. Very different things.

Some people can do both well! Cheryl Reeve was the first model cited by Fisher in Wednesday’s presser. Mike Thibault is certainly an argument for an ability to do both, as is Curt Miller. What strikes me as well, though, is that in both the Reeve and Thibault cases, those two live and breathe the league and have for decades. Miller was in women’s basketball, then had time as an assistant, then a head coach in the W. Fisher has been learning for two years after an NBA career in playing and coaching.

This doesn’t mean he won’t succeed, or that he can’t. And he is not, by accounts of all I’ve spoken with, a model of NBA-to-WNBA crossover who is marking time in the league. Thibault, let’s not forget, has NBA roots, too. So does Bill Laimbeer.

He’ll be tested immediately, with virtually every major 2020 contributor to the Sparks in the free agent pool. It will be fascinating to see how he does. He’s clearly, to my mind, all-in on this project.

Now: to the stuff I got right and wrong in 2019 predictions, my last newsletter of last year.

Let’s call that a win. Arike certainly took a massive leap forward in 2020. She’s a bright light in this league.

Stewart and Bird back, with Taurasi very much herself, helped ease the pain of a truncated, remote season. I wouldn’t call 2020 a “welcome change”, though, let’s call this a draw.

As long as Vickie Johnson plays her. A push.

Well. Tina showed us her greatness in 2020, just not on the court. Here’s hoping she’s back in 2021.

She showed it, plenty, with Phoenix, and another year with Taurasi is going to be, I predict, magical. This one’s a win for me.

Wait for it…

Still true but, man, we didn’t get this AGAIN in 2020. And I hate that. Please, 2021, it’s time for the Finals matchup with both Stewart and Delle Donne healthy (no, EDD wasn’t herself in 2018). A loss, for all of us.

Yep, she’s here, and she’s spectacular.

HUGE. Can you imagine if we’d had COVID-19 and labor strife????


I think this is true? Are there people who don’t know Graves? That’s hard to believe.

Okay, so I think I have a winning record. Tell me if I’m wrong.

Let’s make 2021 even better, and fulfilling many of these missed 2020 wishes, okay? Yes? Okay, it’s agreed.

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This week in women’s basketball

Really enjoyed this from Maitreyi Anantharaman on Tara VanDerveer.

Imani McGee-Stafford shares her inner journey.

HerHoopStats put together a WNBA Mock Free Agency podcast.

Emma Meesseman wins Belgian Female Athlete of the Year.

Great Katie Barnes Q&A with Diana Taurasi.

Brandon Sudge keeps killing it on the Georgia beat.

Enjoyed Kareem Copeland on Katie Benzan.

Terrific on up-and-coming assistants, from Chantel Jennings.

After a totally predictable 2020, I figured, why not predict 2021?

Justin Carter is taking names and giving gifts, and he’s all out of names.

Sam Thomas is delightful, PJ Brown captures her here.

Always read Lindsay Gibbs. She’s coming back even stronger in 2021. We’ll all be better for it. I treasure her work and her friendship.

Good to see Tina Charles joining the ranks of WNBA writers.

Ellie Lieberman went in-depth on how MVC coaches have worked to make the world a better, fairer place in this year of the racial justice progress.

Should they be playing? Alexa Philippou has the numbers, and they are sobering.

Maddy Siegrist is for real, you guys.

Always learn something when I read Jacqueline LeBlanc.

Matt Ellentuck looks at Leilani Mitchell’s overseas dominance.

Pepper Persley’s latest She Got Next is a conversation with Natalie Achonwa.

And Nia Symone has a wonderful video breakdown of Crystal Dangerfield’s game.

Five at The IX: Derek Fisher, GM and head coach of the Los Angeles Sparks

Click on Derek’s face to hear his full media session from today.

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 The Next
Thursdays: Golf
By Sarah Kellam @sarahkellam, The IX
Fridays: Hockey
By: Erica Ayala, @ELindsay08 NWHL Broadcaster

Written by Howard Megdal

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