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Archive for July 18, 2019

July 18, 2019 — What’s missing in the WNBA?

Last night, at a takeout place near home, I actually got to sit down and watch part of a WNBA game on an NBA TV simulcast.

The item that led the news of the day in one of the world’s most high-profile women’s pro basketball leagues? The news that Riquina Williams of the Los Angeles Sparks was being suspended for 10 games for her part in a domestic violence incident.

This follows on allegations over the weekend involving the Seattle Storm’s All-Star forward Natasha Howard and her spouse.

The 2019 WNBA season has been more about disappearances, rather than a maturing league bringing the game of women’s basketball to the fore. Sue Bird, with a knee injury, is lost for the season. So is her teammate Breanna Stewart, who tore her Achilles tendon.

Maya Moore has not reported to the Minnesota Lynx, expressing a desire to do ministry work. Skylar Diggins is missing the season to have a baby.

And two other high-profile players, Angel McCoughtry and Diana Taurasi, couldn’t start the season because of major injuries.

Now, I recognize a lot of these player disappearances are out of the control of the various teams and owners. But the Moore situation came just after the Lynx put its franchise tag on her, which puts less freedom of movement on her for her next round of contract negotiations.

Aside from player disappearances, some WNBA teams have made befuddling moves from large arenas in the middle of their territories to out-of-the-way buildings barely better than high-school arenas. The New York Liberty, having played parts of most of its last few seasons either at the Prudential Center in Newark or in Madison Square Garden, has been relegated to playing at the 5,000-seat Westchester County Center in White Plains. The team barely took in an average of 2,000 fans a game last year.

The Washington Mystics, having filled the current Capital One Center on several occasions in the 1990s, is relegated to playing its home games at the practice gym of the Washington Wizards, a place that barely seats 4,500 people and is located far from the center of town.

It’s as if though the WNBA has been complicit in hiding its most valuable asset — its teams — under a bowl, to borrow a Biblical parable.

I can’t see this as being terribly sustainable over the long haul.