WNBA president Donna Orender didn’t want to talk about poker in her brief visit to KeyArena on Thursday, handing out the MVP and Coach of the Year trophies before jet-setting back home. Despite a recent report stating ESPN2 has done well with its viewership for WNBA games, declining for other programming, the entertainment network still opts to air NFL exhibition games or poker instead of the WNBA postseason.
Although the league is making improvements in its playoff format and competition, broadcasts on the Web or NBA-TV aren’t what many expected for the postseason. Especially since ESPN bought the WNBA’s broadcasting rights and the 2009 Finals were so thrilling.
Sunday’s Game 2 between No. 1 seed Seattle (3-0) and No. 2 seed Phoenix (2-1) will air nationally on ABC at noon PST. But Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals between No. 1 seed New York (2-1) and No. 4 seed Atlanta (2-0) will be on NBA-TV, which normally is a high-premium sports package through most cable companies.
Orender said there’s a chance it could all go big-time in 2011.
“They do a wonderful job on their broadcast. The game is speaking and more and more basketball fans are just flocking to it,” said Orender of the ESPN2 ratings increase. “We’re looking at a plan for next year that would enable us to do that (air all postseason games on the ESPN networks). We agree (they all need to be aired) and I think they agree, too, so we’re looking at scheduling for next year right now.”
Storm players were indifferent about how their games are aired, however.
All-Star Sue Bird said her family was unable to get NBA-TV in the past because the cable company didn’t offer it, so they couldn’t enjoy teammate Camille Little’s Game 2 winner against Los Angeles last year. Tanisha Wright said the Web is everywhere (thanks for that insight), so her family and friends often follow her via the WNBA’s free LiveAccess.
“Obviously you want it to be on that national spotlight,” Wright said. “But you can’t be greedy; you take what you can get. And be fortunate for what you get. If it’s played on NBA-TV and people are willing to go out and buy a package for NBA-TV, then you’ll take that.”
The WNBA plans to move back to its late-May, early June start-date for 2011, too. That will help scheduling conflicts with all levels of football and fringe sports. The league started late this season due to the World Championships beginning in September.
American players are already gathering for training, but the official team most likely won’t be announced until after the last possible date of the WNBA Finals on Sept. 21.
PLAYING TIME: Storm coach Brian Agler said he’s going to find minutes for reserve Jana Vesela in Game 2. Phoenix and Seattle only played seven players, the Storm’s bench outscoring the Mercury 26-18. Bench stars Le’coe Willingham and Svetlana Abrosimova also outrebounded the Mercury’s Kara Braxton and DeWanna Bonner 10-5 — Willingham getting four offensive boards to help slow Phoenix’s signature run-and-gun game.
“I anticipate Jana playing,” said Agler of Vesela, who had three three-pointers in the Game 1 win against Los Angeles in the opening round. “It wasn’t the intention of not playing her; it was just sort of how the thing played out. Not getting caught up in the heat of the game, just sort of going with what your gut tells you at the time.
“If we don’t get her in there early, sometimes it’s unfair to get somebody in there cold when you’re in the heat of the battle. We just went with what we had at that time.”
TAURASI SPEAKS: The Arizona Republic spoke to Phoenix G Diana Taurasi about the eight-point loss in Game 1 — By Jeff Metcalfe.
RALLY TIME: The Storm helped organize a trip for about 50 fans to attend Game 2 at US Airways Center. The group, including team staff and mascot Doppler, will meet for a rally breakfast at Majerle’s Sports Grill in downtown Phoenix prior to heading over to the game. Festivities start at 10:30 a.m. and all are welcomed.
FUN STUFF: Speaking of Doppler, did you see his latest video? Enjoy!