The IX: Basketball Wednesday with Howard Megdal, June 24, 2020

Eye of the storm — Interview with Cheryl Reeve — Must-click women's basketball links

(Hi! Howard Megdal here. The IX helps build the necessary infrastructure for women’s sports media. In this moment, freelance budgets have been cut, reporters are losing their jobs. Women’s sports always bears the brunt of that first.

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Eye of the storm

Right now, as you read this, women’s basketball players the world over are coming to terms with a decision that could define their entire lives.

There’s a reason you’ve heard precious few answers about opting in or opting out, even as we stand a day away from the deadline for doing so among WNBA players.

Most of the players have some idea of what they’re going to do. Players play. There’s a reason that other than a handful of the national team players in women’s soccer, NWSL saw a nearly complete set of rosters agree to participate in the Challenge Cup this coming weekend (well, several reasons, needing money is another one).

But those decisions came a few weeks ago, largely before a growing realization that coronavirus in this country is absolutely not under control, it is spiking in the places where these bubbles are to take place, and no one can be sure that the bubble concept will work.

The Orlando Pride provided a great example of this. All it took was a handful of players to go to a bar — an entire team, ultimately, was excluded from competition from the resulting positive tests.

The players I have spoken to want to play. If safety could be guaranteed, there’d be almost no hesitation. No one who earns a living playing women’s basketball is a stranger to hardship, to long periods of time away from home, uncomfortable. That’s not the question the way it may be in the men’s leagues.

But the bubble is a hypothetical set of safety protocols. And the long-term effects from positive tests? Well, no one knows that.

It’s stressing everybody in the league out, I am here to report (though I assume you already could have deduced that). Entire teams remain unsure about who they can bring, how they can properly look after their players in the significant, typical medical sense that a full season of top-flight athletic competition requires. The media plan is in flux, on both sides.

On the plus side: the opt outs have allowed for some additional opportunities for those who deserve it. (Jaylyn Agnew, newly-added to the Atlanta Dream roster, could get her own top section of Basketball Wednesday in a more normal season.)

Again, no one is to blame here. Everyone, from Cathy Engelbert on down, acknowledges that this is a situation that calls for contingency plans and a willingness to change direction as the global pandemic dictates.

But as we see professional athletes head to Utah amid a spike in cases and test the concept of a bubble this weekend, I had one player express to me the frustration that by the time WNBA players see how that’s working, they will already be committed (or not) to the 2020 season in Bradenton.

Everyone wants more information about a future that’s hard enough to gameplan when it’s as simple as trying to win games in the WNBA.

But right now, everyone understands the stakes are a lot bigger than proper offensive spacing, or figuring out how to win on the road.

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This week in women’s basketball

Katie Barnes spent a LOT of time on this Maya Moore deep dive.

Cheryl Reeve spoke out about George Floyd on her latest podcast.

Sue Semrau joined the HerHoopStats podcast.

Fun Liberty rewatch here from Myles Ehrlich.

Renee Montgomery explains her decision to sit out.

Good look at WNBA draft and stash players from Ben Dull.

Madeline Kenney looks at the WNBA return through a Sky lens.

Take it from me: if you ever get a chance to meet Peps Neuman, DO IT.

Mechelle Voepel looks at the task ahead for Vic Schaefer at Texas.

Sean Hurd spoke to a trio of players about the opt-out decision.

Brendon Kleen has a lot more on the Penny Toler/Sparks battle.

Chiney Ogwumike spoke to Marcus Thompson about being a woman of color.

Christine M. Hopkins tracked down some one-and-done WNBA first round picks.

Kurtis Zimmerman looked at what a 22-game season would have meant in recent campaigns.

And my favorite story of the week: Dorothy Gentry on the six Black coaches in the SEC.

Tweet of the Week

Five at The IX: Cheryl Reeve, Minnesota Lynx

Click on Cheryl below to hear from the head coach and general manager on issues ranging from police misconduct in Minnesota to the production she hopes to get from Megan Huff.

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 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.