We're through Game 1 of the 2008 Finals already, Game 2 is set for Friday night and WNBA President Donna Orender sat down on Friday to talk about the Shock and Silver Stars and anything else on the minds of WNBA fans.
Among the topics discussed were the WNBA's postseason awards, her thoughts on Sophia Young's miraculous shot in the Western Conference Finals and her expectations for the rest of the Finals.
Donna Orender: Hello All, There is excitement overflowing here in San Antonio as the Silver Stars make their first Finals appearance in a city that has gotten used to winning thanks to the Spurs.
Big announcements tonight about some of the league's best performances this year... and happy to answer some of your questions this morning.
Ron, Newington CT:
Do you see anything being done for next year concerning the playoff schedule? What I mean by that is will the first rounds of the playoffs be increased to a 5 game series. The WNBA is now over 12 years old. As you say attendance and interest is increasing. Don't you think it's about time that the team with the better record gets a 'real' home court advantage? I think that increasing the series to 5 games would enhance the legitmacy of the league, the fans would appreciate a bit more basketball and would allow a team a better opportunity to come back from an 'off night'. A three game series is just too short!!
We are actively engaged in discussing how to maximize the wnba playoffs. While I don't see the first round going to best of 5, we have discussed how to address the home court situation. This will be a busy "off_season" as we look to continue to grow the league on behalf of our fans.
Bill Bolen, Atlanta GA:
I hear all of this talk about MVP...but what about MVM (Most Valuable Mascot)??? Don't you think Star down in Atlanta had a great season firing up the crowd and should get the trophy?
The Star had a solid debut year,, but being here right now with the FOX, the competition is steep.... tell the star to shine up it's act, perhaps we have a mascot showdown in 2009
Tess, Sacramento, CA :
How proud of are you of Lisa Leslie, winning defensive player of the year and of course winning the gold medal in beijing? Do see her coming back for next season?
Lisa has been such a great player and ambassador for the WNBA since its inception. It's wonderful to see how she connects with people al over the world. YES, we are proud of her accomplishments and mostly for the great woman that she is.
HFH San Antonio Texas:
Hi Donna...The Hammonites say hi and have an official membership card for you.
I have a question about the start time. While 7:30 eastern works great for the east coast it's killer for those if us in San Antonio that want to go the games. I had to take time off work to make tip off and I know others were in the same situation. Worse was I knew people wanting to go but could not because they could not leave work that early. What can be done so this doesn't happen in future games. It's a real diservice to the team and the fans to not be able to make games because the start times cater to the east coast.
Clearly we are in hammonite country now. You raise a good issue re start times for games, however we are not singled out as a league here. TV does have a big say and you can look at the baseball playoffs and even the NFL re start times, the east coast window does drive a lot of what happens. We can continue to raise with our partner and see if we can get any movement in the years to come. thanks for your support and perhaps i should personally invite your bosses so you can all get out in time to make tipoff. eso
JP (Sydney, Australia):
What are your thoughts about Sue Bird stepping up her game intensity this season with Lauren Jackson sidelined for half of the season?
She was so awesome and a real joy to watch play. I saw her game in Chicago in person and i made sure to see everyone that I could after that. Always been a fan and so pleased that she showcased a new level of performance.
Jia (Sydney, Australia):
What do you think is the most important in an MVP winner? Is it their stats? Is it how well their jerseys sell? Is it how large their fan base is? Thanks
Great question and one that i have posed as well. As you know I, nor the league get a vote in this. For me, i look at the impact of a player and her impact on the team's success. There are a lot of intangibles that go into this selection and that's why its always so interesting.
What is particularly pleasing is how many worthy candidates there are this season. Speaks to the strength of the talent in the league.
Heather (Little Rock, AR):
I am a huge fan of the WNBA...I was a season ticket holder in NY for years, and now even though I don't live in a market with a WNBA team, I try to follow the league (and the Liberty still!) as much as I can through televised games on ESPN, NBATV, and webcasts. I was frustrated this year when sometimes games that were supposed to be nationally televised on ABC were NOT shown here...and not even for other programming: they showed INFO-MERCIALS! Because it was supposed to be nationally televised, these games did not have webcasts either. I really hope as the league grows you can get more games on TV and at least get all the affiliates to show the national games!!! I also was frustrated to find that often NBATV both on their TV schedules available through cable and on their website would not list WNBA games even when the WNBA website had games being shown. This happened with all of the playoff games. I can't imagine NBA playoff games failing to be noted on their TV schedules...I really hope NBATV will start giving WNBA games the respect they deserve by getting them on their published schedules!!! Sorry for the complaints...but the complaints are just because I want MORE WNBA games, and for WNBA games to get the respect and treatment they deserve!!! Thanks!
Thanks for the helpful insight and also for your support of the league. We were not aware of affiliates not carrying nationa games... we'll do a better job monitoirng clearances. With respect to the rest of the coverage, we are diligently working on how to et more games to more of our fans regularly. We are putting together a task force to handle and do expect that we will make progress for next year.
That said, we need bigger ratings, so the best way to demonstrate the need for more and broader coverage is bigger ratings numbers.
We are hard at it.. thanks
Vince - Monterey, California:
I have a couple of things. First off, why do commentators on tv constantly say that Katie Smith is underated or doesn't get the recognition she deserves? Tell me one opposing team's coach in the WNBA that will make a game plan to leave her open and dare her to take shots. Enough with the underated thing - they're not fooling anyone. Katie Smith is the real deal... we've know it all along.
Next thing I have to get off my chest. I don't think the Sparks under achieved at all this year. A team that starts two rookies in a league as talented as the WNBA shouldn't be expected to win it all. Especially when your point guard is a rookie.Perhaps this could have happened eight years ago but no way it is happening now. To me, on paper Seattle was the team to beat with three former MVP's and the top rated point guard (who may be this years MVP). This has been the best season yet.
Like your read on the talent situation... katie is not underrated. She is highly respected as a talented player and one of the toughest competitors.
Re Los Angeles.. agree with you again. Tons of talent and they are here to stay..
Why were fans given the chance to vote for MVP this year if it's not a popularity contest?
Judging by the emails that i get regarding talent,,, see vince's analysis, i think we have fans who have strong opinions and good analysis of player's abilities and contributions. In a day and age when the conversation can easily be extended to those who participate as passionately as our fans do, it was thought that they would be a worthy contributor to the MVP selection process.'
Margaret, Brooklyn NY:
Any chance ESPN or ABC will webcast their games next year?
We are looking at a webcast strategy as partr of our overall tv analysis.. standby
Are you bias when it comes to NY and LA? You agreed with Vince about LA but nothing about Seattle?
When it comes to my kids Sarah, absolutely bias... re WNBA teams, i am as objective as possible. Vince raised the issue of a young team coming together and being expected to win. When an older team comes together, they have an experience advantage of individual players knowing how to win, but they still have to learn how to win together. I think that Coach Agler did a remarkable job this year and looking ahead they will still be strong contenders
Justine (Detroit, Michigan):
Why doesn't throwing someone over your shoulder and slamming them to the ground earn you at the very least a 1 game suspension? If not, will that apply to all future "unintentional untanglings"? Or was it a one time thing because it was Plenette Pierson who was attacked?
I am taking a deep breath, but happy to answer this question and glad that you raised it. Let's be very clear, Plenette Pierson is a very talented player and is highy valued by her team and the league. She is subject to the same rules and the interpretation of those rules as any other player.
Re the incident with Indiana - it was reviewed by several experts in the league office and the flagrant 2 was deemed the appropriate penalty.
JLL Houston, Texas:
What can you tell us about the situation with saving our Comets? Just looking for something positive that we can build on.
Dear JLL and the many of you who have submitted questions about the Comets.
The Comets are a flagship franchise of the WNBA and we are doing everything that we can to identify new ownership that would enable us to keep the Comets in Houston and build on their legacy of success. Yes, there are interested parties but nothing to announce at this time.
I was pleased to say hello to 3 Comets fans who came to San Antonio the other night wearing their red SAVE THE COMETS t-shirts. What can be the most helpful is that you continue the grass roots activities that are underway. Write letters to the paper and get them published, any local city websites, the mayor, the judge who leads harris county, stage a rally.
Your city leaders and your business leaders need to hear you and your neighbors' passion for the COMETS. Every voice is an important one to motiviate folks to step up and help us all keep this team in the city of Houston.
Let's sell out the arena and show a new owner the kind of support that they can expect and encourage the old and new sponsors to continue their partnership efforts with the team.
Let's continue to work together -time is of the essence to situate the COMETs for a new decade of success.
Richard - New York City:
As you know this year many fans were upset when the League decided not provide Roster Cards for games. Since there are so many new fans that are not familiar with some players and also those that were not familiar with rookies these were really missed...are there plans to bring the cards next season?
You are right.. we do need some form of roster cards to aid in our fans experience. We are addressing how to best handle in 2009.,
Cory: Moundridge, Kansas:
Hello Donna, I was wondering if there would be any expansion in the 2009 season? And also congratulationas on another great year!
No expansion for 2009
Philippe (Brooklyn, NY):
Hi Donna, Congratulations with the aewsome job you have done with the league since taking over for Val. I have things on my mind. What regions or cities do you see as "fertile ground" for WNBA expansion? As a hardcore Liberty fan, I noticed the WNBA is mostly supported by men and by families. What do you plan to do to make the league more attractive to women in general, especially single women.
We think that the southeast, the southwest, the midwest and the west all present potential expansion opportunities. Discussions will continue as we constantly consider the best way to grow this league.
kevin (macon ga):
Two years ago when the Sparks and Shock were forced out of their regular venues for home playoff games, you said "We think there was some wiggle room in there that I think allowed this to happen that we won't let happen again". Obviously it's happened again, and with the same teams. What steps are you taking to keep this from becoming a regular occurrence?
This year we had the Olympics and candidly that created issues that we had to deal with. We have policies and procedures re arena dates in place and of course our collective goal is to keep teams in their arenas . We will proceed with that philosphy moving forward.
San Antonio, TX:
I just want to say thank you as a woman athlete and a WNBA fan. You have done a fantastic job in getting some focus on the WNBA and the terrific athletes we have..
God Speed.. Kelley Hernandez
thanks for the kind words... we have come far but still have a lot to accomplish. We need broader reach and recognition for our athletes and our league. We want our fans to have the opportunity to see more games, be in more cities, etc....
That said, progress is being made and we look to continue to build on the momentum that is being created by the increasing level of play and athleticism in the league.
Donna...I know you're aggrevated with some of the questions, but welcome to the life of a Shock fan. Watching your 6th man get her shoulder torn apart because Hoffman went WWF on her was annoying as well.
Never aggravated... glad for your involvement... and all our fans who have strong points of views.
What are your thoughts on how Jenny Boucek turned her team around this year and was wisely re-signed by Sacramento?
Jenny did a great job!. Sacramento is a strong organization and they have a strong philosophy on how they run their business and their team. I always enjoy my visits there and watching jenny work.
Ariel Morales. Trumbull, CT:
Do you have plans of promoting the WNBA outside of the US as what Stern did with the NBA? Also, how would you assess the impact of Candace Parker in the league this season?
We are beginning to look at opportunities that are presenting themselves. The WNBA is seen in 192 countries during the season and with our players playing overseas, there is a significant international interest.
If Detroit wins the championship this season, are they a dynasty? 3 titles, 4 finals, 3 consecutive Finals in 6 seasons including worst to first in 2003?
What is your dream WNBA Finals match up?
The dream is here in San Antonio watching the Silver Stars and the Shock. The teams with the 2 best records this year are on center court!!
SO ALL TUNE-IN TONIGHT 7:30 Eastern on ESPN 2.
Good talking with you all..