Michael Cooper: Back in the Driver’s Seat

By Adrienne Goodson

There are quite a few things that have transpired since I last wrote about the WNBA; actually too many things to keep up with all by myself so I figured I’d give you a lil’
of dis and a lil’ of dat. The top stories certainly have been the new CBA negotiations (Collective Bargaining Agreement), the new expansion team in “Hotlanta” scheduled
to kickoff next season, and the Draft Lottery 2008.

First up at bat are the CBA negotiations. It was recently stated that the CBA needed to be renewed by October 23rd in order for the draft lottery to go according to plan. Well, as you can see, the draft went fine but still no news about the CBA. Speaking from experience with David Stern during the last contract, I can fairly say that the October 23rd projection was way over the top. Donna Orender, President of the league held meetings with teams and their staff in an effort to create different ways to customize season ticket packages, bring in new fans, new business as well as ways to get players out there on the sports pages. I just wonder if Pam Wheeler, President of the Players Association was in the room while all of this took place.

A few changes have been made since I’ve retired and they have all been minimal. The 24 second shot clock, a new style of uniform, Adidas as the official sponsor, and  younger players gave the league a little more flare this season. I can honestly say there has been progress but not enough especially as far as the players are concerned, attendance, and the overall marketing of the league. The women simply cannot be marketed the same way as the men. We have our own style of play and a different target market all together. There is certainly room for growth in various areas but the task will be in getting all of those innovative ideas beyond the room and onto the paper that will put it into action for the next 5 years. The league must bridge the gaps especially over those gray areas.

On the bright side of things, the WNBA will feature 14 teams in 2008. Including Atlanta, six teams are owned and operated independently. The Connecticut Sun, Chicago Sky, Washington Mystics, Los Angeles Sparks, and Houston Comets can all claim this status. Businessman Ronald Terwillger will independently operate the new Atlanta franchise.

Atlanta already has a huge fan base and it just goes to show that the league is reaching into other markets outside of the NBA. Atlanta has the Braves, Falcons, and Thrashers not to mention the now defunct Atlanta Glory from back in the American Basketball League days. All of these teams have been successful so it should be easy to imagine the same for this new franchise. The franchise is a plus for two reasons. First of all, it creates new jobs in the community and second, it will allow for some players to come back into the league especially those veterans who were cast out due to this years salary cap.

The last thing I have to talk about is the Draft Lottery in which the Los Angeles Sparks (10-24) won and they should have considering they had 341 chances out of 1,000 to receive the first overall selection in 2008. The Chicago Sky (14-20) will have the second pick in the draft followed by the Minnesota Lynx (10-24), Atlanta, Houston Comets (13-21), and Washington Mystics (16-18). The remaining order for the first round are: New York (16-18), Seattle (17-17), Connecticut (18-16), Sacramento (19-15), Detroit (20-14), Indiana (21-13), Phoenix (23-11), and New York again due to the Becky Hammon trade last season with San Antonio.

Micheal Cooper, head coach of the Sparks has had a smile plastered on his face since draft day. He was confident and reassured the fans that the Sparks would take their time and make the best decision possible for the organization. The hot ticket is Candace Parker. It’s possible that Parker who averaged 19.6 points and 9.8 rebounds, won’t leave Tennessee to be in next years draft. She has another year of eligibility due to a knee injury suffered early in her college career so I guess it would be in the Sparks best interest to exercise patience and see what happens. There are several exciting college stars in the mix. LSU forward Sylvia Fowles will create positive results for any team not to mention Candace Wiggins (Stanford) and Tasha Humphrey (Georgia) but they forgot to include 5’8’’ Guard Matee Ajavon from Rutgers as a commodity to any potential investor. Not only did Matee almost single-handedly carry the Scarlet Knights to the 2007 NCAA Title, she also carried the USA Junior National team to the Gold Medal this past summer. Keep watching for this kid who is a product of Malcolm X. Shabazz High School in Newark NJ. I like her chances in the draft because it all starts at the point and Atlanta as well as Houston can surely use one.

A ray of hope is all anyone can ask for and this year has been one of the most successful years since the inaugural season. The future growth of the league depends solely on the decisions made right here and right now. Let’s see what 2008 has in store.