Diana Taurasi hasn’t stepped on a court in a WNBA game since May 26 when she played 26 minutes against the Los Angeles Sparks.
By now she has sat out 17 games with a hip flexor and ankle injury, but has confirmed she’s 100% healthy and ready to play for the USA in Olympics. So that would mean she’ll return to the WNBA courts after the Olympic games, right? Not so fast. Asked in a press conference she was pretty candid about prospects of her playing in the second part.
“I really don’t know. I don’t know where we are going to do with that, “she said.
“Probably health … and for the future of the team,” she said.
Fun thing about that quote, as many have pointed out, is that the WNBA has cut it out from the video of that press conference available on the WNBA.com.
“For the future of the team” is probably as candid as anyone on a pro team would talk about the so called tanking. The way their players were recovering from injuries suggested to some people following the league, that Phoenix had given up on the season pretty early though. If Taurasi is 100% healthy now she could have certainly played in at least two, if not more, Mercury games before the break. Same goes for Candice Dupree, who after saying to a fellow player after a game, that her ankle sprain wasn’t serious has played 9 minutes in the month since spraining her ankle.
Phoenix currently are 4-15 this season, 5 wins behind Seattle Storm who occupy the last playoff spot in the West and 1 win ahead of Tulsa Shock. Making up 5 wins with 13 games remaining might be hard to do, but Phoenix has 3 games with Seattle in which they can erase most of the deficit. But even if they catch up with Seattle prospects of them going deep in the playoffs are really bleak. Minnesota and San Antonio have been class of the West and are probably the top two title candidates of the league so far.
On the flip side there’s the lottery. 2013 WNBA draft has some very hyped players coming up – Brittney Griner, who by many is considered a future hall of famer, Elena Delle Donne and Skylar Diggins, who both could end up as all-star level players in the league. Mercury are currently ranked second to last in the league, meaning, that chances for them to win the lottery would be 27.6%, chances to get the second pick would be 31.04%, third – 26.98%, fourth – 14.38%. That combines for a combined 85% chances of getting to draft one of the big three with the way things are going now.
While it is everyone’s right to not put the best possible product on the floor, by doing which they are risking of alienating fans, it is not completely fair towards teams that are bad and need all the help they can get. Let’s be honest, none of the other three current lottery teams – Tulsa, Washington and New York – have a trio of players the level of Taurasi, Taylor and Dupree and then when you add DeWanna Bonner and Samantha Prahalis, other team fans have all the rights to be disturbed and angry about what Phoenix is doing this summer.
Unfortunately it’s all they can do about it – be angry and hope Phoenix doesn’t win the draft lottery.
With Phoenix considering tanking this openly you can expect the other three lottery teams not doing their best to win games in the second part of season either. Which will hurt the WNBA even more. Even the most hardcore fans are admitting that the current season can’t keep them interested in the league any more. The second part of the season doesn’t look like it will be any better in that regard with 4 teams potentially concentrating on draft lottery and the other eight slowly gearing up for the playoffs. Atlanta Dream have shown that even there the seeding doesn’t matter, by advancing to the WNBA finals twice without a home court advantage. So you can’t even expect teams to be playing hard for playoff positions.
A potential solution for all of this could be basing lottery odds on team records in a period of two or three seasons, not just the current one, to favor the teams that have been bad for a while instead of the ones who “accidentally” end with a one awful season, but then out of nowhere go back to being a contender.
But then the league would be showing it cares about what’s going on, which would contradict everything they have or have not done in the past couple of seasons.