WNBA collective bargaining prompts more player movement

Courtesy of Wikipedia Kayla McBride

The current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) that the WNBA players signed last January has finally created a free-agency frenzy like never before. A quick comparison glance:

  • 2020 – 25 signings and 16 players changed teams
  • 2021 – 24 signings and 12 players changed teams

Candace Parker, who probably was the biggest name out there, signed a two-year deal with the Chicago Sky after spending her 13 pro seasons entirely in Los Angeles. “I gave everything I had to the Sparks organization for 13 years. I am not disgruntled or upset or demanding a trade,” the 6’-4” Parker told reporters, including the MSR during a media call last week.

Minnesota inked Kayla McBride, a three-time All-Star from Las Vegas, and Natalie Achonwa from Indiana. Both players left their original clubs for the Twin Cities. 

“I’m happy with the picks we have,” Lynx Center Sylvia Fowles told reporters during a Zoom call at the USA Basketball mini-camp in South Carolina last week. She later told the MSR, “I just want it all to come together and do the things we need to do. That’s what I am looking forward to.”

Minnesota Coach/GM Cheryl Reeve declared, “This has been a free-agency process exactly as you’d expect. Kayla was highly sought after, and we made it from the very beginning that Kayla should not be anywhere else than with the Minnesota Lynx.”

“I just want to get to know my teammates and the city,” admitted the 5’-11” McBride, a seven-year veteran guard.

Courtesy of Twitter Natalie Achonwa

Reeve added that the 6’-3” Achonwa was the team’s number-one frontcourt target. The six-year veteran forward, when asked, told the MSR that the Lynx’s longstanding work on racial and social justice issues “was a big plus in my decision [to leave the Fever] in making sure that I was coming to an organization that did more than put a ball in a hoop, and stood for more than just being basketball players. Hopefully I can use my individual platform to amplify that.”

In doing her due diligence, “Everyone I spoke to [about Achonwa said] she’s the smartest player [they]’ve been around,” said Reeve on the Canadian-born player, who also played college ball with McBride at Notre Dame. 

“When you’re undersized,” stated Achonwa, “You do what you got to do.”

But the stone cold reality is that despite the improved WNBA free agency and subsequent bigger contracts today’s players are signing, it pales in comparison to their NBA counterparts:  the NBA minimum salary for a player with zero pro experience is about $900,000, while the minimum WNBA salary for a player with two years’ experience is $57,000, and the highest salary is around $127,000.

Nonetheless, Chicago Coach/GM James Wade pointed out, “I think [free agent signings] is good for the WNBA. I think a player has the right to choose where they want to be.”

Parker, who grew up in the Chicago area, believes the CBA, now in its second year, “has played a huge role” in player movements. “Ultimately we are people and we want to do what makes us happy. 

“I have way more basketball behind me than I do in front of me, but I wanted to play it in Chicago,” said Parker.

Bits and pieces

Don’t look now, but the Minnesota Twins ball club is getting Whiter: With the team last week trading LaMonte Wade, Jr. to San Francisco, this leaves Byron Buxton as the Twins’ only American-born Black player on the roster. And the St. Paul Saints, Minnesota’s new AAA affiliate, announced last month its all-White coaching staff, proving again that talk of baseball on-field and management diversity is still only lip service.