With the fifth WNBA All-Star Game coming up on Saturday, July 12 at Madison Square Garden (4 p.m. ET, ABC), Ackerman joined WNBA.com on Wednesday, July 9 to talk all things WNBA and All-Star, from the stories of the season so far to what's in store over All-Star and a look ahead to the rest of 2003.

A lot has changed since the first WNBA All-Star Game, held in New York City in 1999, but a few things remain the same -- like Tina Thompson and Teresa Weatherspoon in the starting lineup. Find out Ackerman's take on the first-time All-Stars and the returning veterans as the countdown to All-Star continues.

Val Ackerman: Hi everybody, and thanks for logging in. I hope you are as excited as we are about the upcoming WNBA All-Star Game on Saturday at Madison Square Garden. The game will be on network television for the first time, so be sure to tune in to ABC at 4 p.m. ET to catch all the action (including the pregame show beginning at 3:30 p.m. on ESPN2).

Ashley (Indianapolis): As far as the competition goes, do you think the East is now gaining on the West, and do you think an Eastern conference team will win the WNBA title this year?

Val Ackerman: I think that without question this is our most competitive season ever! For the first time since 1998, the Eastern Conference teams have a winning record in head-to-head competition against the West, so the "balance of power" is clearly shifting. I couldn't begin to predict who will win it all this year, although I am certain that Los Angeles will make it very difficult for any other team to take away its crown.

Danny (Hollywood,FL): How do you feel about Swoopes leading the WNBA ALL STAR voting?

Val Ackerman: Sheryl has been one of our top players from the very beginning, and it's wonderful to see how much our fans appreciate all she's done for the Comets and the league. It's also exciting to see the All-Star debut of some of our rising stars, including Swin Cash, Cheryl Ford and Deanna Nolan from Detroit, Adrian Williams from Phoenix and Becky Hammon from New York -- who was having an extraordinary season before her ACL tear and whom we know will come back strong next year.

Michele: What are you going to do about the Olympics next season?

Val Ackerman: While we are still finalizing the details, our goal for next season is to allow players who have the opportunity to participate in the Athens Olympics to do so, and to continue our season while they're gone, likely with fewer games played during that time period. The good news is that our playoffs will be conducted after the Olympics are over, so we'll have the benefit of having the Olympians back for the most important part of the season.

Stacey Terrien: Hi Val! Congrats on another outstanding season. My question is regarding Golden State...are the plans to expand there next year or to move a team? Best for this year's All Star Game, it's always GREAT to have the Big Game in the Big Apple. Kudos to you for another great season!

Val Ackerman: Always nice to hear from an alum! We're still working on our plans to place teams in new markets in the future, and while I don't have an update on the Bay Area, I think it would be a terrific place for the WNBA and feel confident we'll have a team there within the next few years.

Tori (Dover,DE): How do you think the incoming college players (ie: Diana Taurasi and Alana Beard) will help the WNBA??

Val Ackerman: The beauty of our sport is that we can count on great new talent coming in to the WNBA every year from women's college basketball. This season, a number of rookies have made immediate contributions, including Cheryl Ford, Gwen Jackson, LaToya Thomas, Coretta Brown and Kara Lawson. And I know our teams are already excited about the players who will join us next year, players like Diana Taurasi, Alana Beard, Nicole Powell, and many others, whom I'm sure will all turn out to be very successful at the pro level.

Lior: From looking at the AllStar ballot this season it was very clear that you guys had to prepare it long before the season got underway, resulting in the absence of players like Becky Hammon and Deanna Nolan. Do you think there's a way for the league to wait a bit longer before deciding on the ballots in the future?

Val Ackerman: The players named on the All-Star ballot are chosen by a panel of media representatives who regularly cover the WNBA and who are very knowledgeable about the players in the league. We do have deadlines for the production of the ballot that do not allow us to take into account a strong performance by a player at the start of the season. The good news is that we do offer a write-in option on the ballot so that fans can vote for any player in the league, and we select the reserve players by vote of our coaches, who have the benefit of seeing which players have had exceptionally good first halves of the season.

Jeroen (Holland) Rick Brunson rules!!!!!: Hi Val! What was the most exciting season so far for you as president? Thanks! And keep up the good work!

Val Ackerman: Every season has been exciting in its own way! But if I had to list some of the high points over the years, I would include the opening games during our inaugural season, our first All-Star Game in New York, Teresa Weatherspoon's half-court shot in Game Two of the 1999 WNBA Finals, Lisa Leslie's dunk last year and the atmosphere in the Compaq Center when Houston won the first WNBA Championship!

Charlotte -Brockville, Ontario Canada: How has the WNBA grown over the 5 years that it has been around?

Val Ackerman: The league has grown substantially since our first season in 1997, and it seems in more ways than one that women's pro basketball has begun to find its place on the sports scene. In fact, the interest in the WNBA extends outside of the U.S. -- the All-Star Game will be televised in 183 countries and provinces this year. I don't think there's any question that women's sports will continue to grow, with Title IX continuing to help make opportunities available to girls and young women. We certainly wouldn't be where we are today without the support of our fans, and so I want to thank all of you who are logged on today for your interest in the league, our players and our teams. Enjoy the All-Star Game this weekend and get ready for a great second half of the season.