Krauskopf Q&A: What’s Next?
Chief Operating Officer/General Manager Kelly Krauskopf took time to assess the Chicago Expansion Draft for the Fever website. She addressed questions pertaining to Deanna Jackson, the Fever's offseason approach to free agency, some of Chicago's picks, and the contrast between expansion drafts - then and now.
A veteran of the league whose career has been tied to the WNBA since its first season in 1997, Krauskopf underwent her own expansion draft in 2000 when the Fever joined the league with franchises from Miami, Portland and Seattle.
Fever Website: What are your thoughts on losing Deanna Jackson?
Kelly Krauskopf: "First off, I am really sad to see her go. This group of players was really special. All season long I knew were going to be facing an expansion draft in the offseason and that someone from our group was potentially going to end up in Chicago. DJ has been a solid contributer to our team the past few seasons. She settled into her role as a backup this year and really helped us down the stretch of the season. She has a great personality and added to the positive chemistry of our team. I think she has a tremendous future ahead of her. We will need to replace the energy she brought off the bench.”
FW: What was the thought process as you prepared your player protection list?
KK: "With us losing one starting post player next season to retirement (Natalie Williams) and potentially another to her national team (Jurgita Streimikyte is still undecided), it was important not to leave our franchise exposed in the frontcourt. Hoffman and Schumacher are both big, strong, versatile post players who have been developing their game and getting better every year. When you have the depth like we had last year, with our mix of guards and posts, I knew it would be hard to hang on to given the pending circumstances. I tried to make a deal with Chicago in order to keep Deanna but ulitimately they decided to stay with her as their selection.”
FW: How does the Fever address its losses?
KK: "I will be very aggressive with free agency. Our coaches would like to continue the identity that we have created as a tough hard-nosed defensive team who played smart and took care of the basketball. Also, this group always found a way to score when we needed it and they believed in each other and the system. We will continue to look at running the floor and making defensive stops. We won 21 games with defense and rebounding and a never-quit style of play. We will look to fill in with players who have this type of mind set and who also are versatile and athletic. We must also address our shooting percentage and overall scoring.”
FW: What opportunities are there for the returning players?
KK: "Well, I think anytime you lose a player or two, it just gives someone else an opportunity to step up and step in. I look for Tan White and Ebony Hoffman to improve their game this offseason and play a bigger role. I know that Schu is playing very well right now in Spain and has been in communication with our coaches about her offseason development plan. Offseason player development is emphasized to our players every year. It is difficult because in terms of skill work, our coaches would like to work with them more. But, I think they all understand that this is a critical time to get better as players. Tamika is a great example of this as she approaches every offseason with specific goals and areas that she wants to improve upon.
FW: Any surprises in the expansion draft?
KK: "I'm not surprised to see Stacey Dales-Schuman playing basketball again. I always felt that she had a lot of game left in her, and I had a conversation with her at the Final Four in Indy last year. She's a good player. I give Chicago credit for really seeking that out. I think she'll be tremendous to have back in the league. They obviously did their homework.
“As far as the other players who were left available, I can only assume that every team went through the same type of analysis that we did. With free agency and the shortage of experienced post players and point guards, you can see that the depth of the players selected seemed to be on the perimeter.”
FW: Compare the Chicago Expansion Draft with Indiana's in 2000.
KK: "What they get to start with compared to what we started with, purely in terms of just the level of WNBA-experienced players, is really like night and day. They've got (Brooke) Wyckoff who's been in the Finals twice, they've got (Chelsea) Newton who just won a championship and is still young, they've got Elaine Powell who's won a championship and is very experienced. They get the benefit of starting with a pretty solid group of WNBA players with experience, and who have been on good teams."
FW: What were the differences between the drafts?
KK: "First of all, in 2000, there were four teams and we were all fighting for players. And there was no free agency. The league was still relatively young - so even the players that were signed didn't have the levels of experience that these players have, in terms of playoff situations and playing in the heat of the battle. We've said it before that the WNBA gets stronger every year because the player pool gets better and more experienced. But Chicago really is the beneficiary of how much this league has grown in terms of talent level. The product is so much better, and to expand one team at a time is really a benefit for them."
FW: Having sat in the same chair, do you have any advice for the Chicago franchise?
KK: "Naw ... I have my own franchise to worry about and figure out how to get better! Besides, from what I can tell, they seem to be doing pretty well so far.
“The truth is that they are really starting from a different point than we did, mostly because of the salary cap, free agency and the experience of the players. Other than that, I look forward to an I-65 rivalry.”
FW: How is the schedule going to change this year, with the addition of Chicago and considering the World Championships in September?
KK: "Well, besides not playing everyone in the East four times anymore, the schedule will be condensed a little bit more as the league is trying to get back to a more consistent schedule. Part of the thought process is to get back to a consistent window between Memorial Day and Labor Day. It's important for our fan base and for the continued growth of a consistent following. I like having Chicago up the road from us and I think it will be fun for our fans.”
FW: Any thoughts on future expansion, when or where?
KK: "I think the league needs to go wherever we are wanted. I think it is important that there is a demonstration of solid backing and interest level from the local community. We have a good mix of large media market teams and mid-level market teams. I believe we need to grow to the areas where there is a firm commitment from the ownership and the city where the franchise will be placed. The opportunity for growth is unlimited as the sport of women's basketball takes big steps every year.”
FW: What’s next?
KK: “Free Agency begins Jan. 15th with signings on Feb.1. I can promise the Fever fans that we are working everyday to become a better team. Our coaches will be out scouting for the 2006 college draft and preparing for next season. Also, our players are spread out all over Europe and are working on their individual games so that when they return to Indy, we will be a better team! We were not satisfied with simply getting to the Eastern Conference Finals. This group got a taste of how close we were to bringing home the hardware! So stay tuned for more updates on our players and the 2006 team.”