The ‘E’ word — expansion — again was heard. It was asked at the All-Star Game a couple of weekends ago, and again last weekend when WNBA President Laurel Richie spoke to the tiny Minnesota press corps prior to the August 2 Minnesota-San Antonio contest.
Too bad the quizzical reporter, as well as others who keep bringing it up, hasn’t gotten it yet. A dozen teams — six in each conference — is fine right now. This reporter, who has covered all 17 WNBA seasons, has seen the league expand too fast during its formative period, only to see teams like Cleveland and Charlotte later close shop after a couple of years.
“I get it a lot,” admits Madame President of the expansion questions. “I view the question about expansion as an expression of interest and a desire to see more.” She promised, however, that if any league expansion does occur, “a real” vetting process will be conducted by her office.
Instead of adding more teams, I would rather see again in place a 12-man roster — currently each WNBA team can’t carry more than 11 players. Therefore, to add a player, the club must cut a player. That explains why teams such as Indiana and San Antonio, two clubs ravaged at times this season by injuries, were often forced to play games with as few as eight players.
Last Friday San Antonio, for example, had only nine healthy players in uniform in their game against the Lynx. Coach Dan Hughes told the MSR afterwards, “We are in a situation where we got to play by what the rules are this year.”
“I support that conversation [on expanding rosters] will continue on,” says Richie. “Those are the kinds of discussions you have when you are 17 years young.”
Another oft-asked topic is when the All-Star Game will leave the friendly confines of the East — the contest has been played elsewhere in the country only twice.
“Every year there is serious discussion” about hosting it, claims Richie. “There is a process that we follow that teams submit bids. It is a sizable number of teams that put in [bids].” (When a local reporter asked if Minnesota ever submitted a bid, the WNBA president admitted that she didn’t know.)
“There are many things that go into making it happen,” says Richie on deciding the All-Star Game site, which usually isn’t announced until sometime in the fall after the draft lottery. “We will go through that same process again and see where we end up.”
Lastly, when asked to assess this season’s “3 To See” marketing campaign that features the three top draft picks of 2013, Richie declares that it has done nothing but help draw people’s attention to the league.
“When I think of our younger players and our rookies, that’s for me the ‘3’ to see and beyond. It’s not at the expense of [the veteran players]; it is the added-to,” concludes Madame President.
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