The IX: Basketball Wednesday with Howard Megdal, December 1, 2021
WNBA Draft Lottery logo. (WNBA Media Central)
Welcome to December, the month we see the major conferences play basketball, the time of year there’s a game to go attend every night if you wish, and hundreds more on television or streaming (in theory, anyway). But my thoughts, despite this delightful feast, are on the WNBA, at least in part, in the lead-in to a January I’ve heard from many WNBA folks will be wilder than any in league history.
Let’s start with some news I’ve heard: the WNBA Draft Lottery will be held on December 19. It’s an event, frankly, I hope the league does more with in the coming years, and ESPN ought to do the same. It’s hard to overstate how much more understated the W approached this, an opportunity to get offseason publicity, than the NBA does, but just for example: the NBA announced in late March that the 2021 Draft Lottery would be held in late May. It’s December 1, and this still hasn’t been announced by the WNBA.
Again, this is the part where I want to stress that the league can only do as much as its television partner allows it to do. But perhaps this reinforces the limitations of that partnership.
Anyhow, it’s obviously a huge moment for the four teams with dreams of Rhyne Howard dancing in their heads — Indiana, Atlanta, Washington and Dallas. Strictly from a basketball perspective, seeing Howard next to Elena Delle Donne in a Mike Thibault offense is hard to top in terms of 2022 excitement. But there’s also this: getting stars to agree to go to Indiana is no easy task, and the chance to see another homegrown one flower under the tutelage of Marianne Stanley there, well, it feels like the best way to replicate the Tamika Catchings career arc at this point. Let’s be clear, I’m not slapping a Catchings comp on Howard or anyone, really — just that getting the kind of multi-talented star a contender needs in this league is harder for the Fever. I’d love to see how Howard and Stanley work together. (I’d imagine you would too, Coach.)
Anyhow, I’ll be glued to the lottery on some feed or another on December 19 while covering an epic doubleheader at Mohegan Sun, the existence of which will take a lot of the oxygen in the women’s basketball space. Should be a fun day, but man, ESPN could build a whole night of programming around the WNBA Draft Lottery, and I shouldn’t have to be pointing that out to them.
Okay fine, a little more: there’s no more one-and-done round in the playoffs, an especially cruel fate for the 3/4 seeds in the previous format. Yes, in a perfect world, the deciding Game 3 wouldn’t be on the road team’s home court, but do we really think the top seeds shouldn’t be able to take care of business at home in Games 1/2? Or go win a Game 3 on the road? And if a top seed isn’t capable of doing one of those two things, how much are we really worried about it being a truly elite team that gets knocked out of the playoffs?
Anyhow, there are more playoff games and no one is at the mercy of a one-game sample. Sold.