WNBA Expansion for League, Players is hot Topic of Discussion
WNBA expansion seems to always be a topic of discussion around the league.
It happens during the offseason, around the preseason and the draft, and it always comes up at Commissioner Cathy Engelbert's state of the league news conference at the All-Star Game.
This past weekend was no different. As the WNBA tips off the second half of its season, add expansion to the list of topics on the minds of players and the league.
For several years, Engelbert has said the league would expand when the time was right and the 12 current teams were in good standing financially. The league hasn't had an expansion franchise since Atlanta in 2008. Both Las Vegas and Dallas were existing franchises that relocated.
Engelbert says it’s not just picking the right cities. What's more important is finding ownership groups that would be a good fit for the league. Las Vegas owner Mark Davis has been a welcome addition, investing in the defending champion Aces, including building a new state-of-the-art practice facility.
During All-Star weekend, Engelbert said the league should have some expansion news later this season.
“Our conversations with potential ownership groups are headed in the right direction," the commissioner said.
While no specific cities have been named as possible expansion locations, Engelbert mentioned the success of the preseason game in Toronto between Chicago and Minnesota that drew nearly 20,000 fans.
“We were thrilled with the outcome there,” she said. “We’re still talking about it. There’s still a lot of buzz, and we appreciate our counterparts in Canada making it so successful.”
While the league is looking for the right ownership groups, players aren't so quick to want expansion, feeling there are other things that the league should be focused on such as travel and salary benefits.
“I feel like we have some holes that we can work on currently,” said Aces guard Kelsey Plum, who is the first vice president of the WNBA Players Association. “We can do a better job of figuring out ways to fix some of the current issues we have coming up.”
Plum knows the league needs to expand its footprint, but believes players need to be treated better first.
“I understand expansion is important, I understand growing the league, I understand growing in cities, and I do think that’s something to come,” Plum said. “I don’t think that should take precedence over charter flights. I don’t think that should take precedence over salary benefits.”
AP WNBA POLL
Las Vegas, New York and Connecticut remained the top three teams in the rankings. Dallas and Washington were next, followed by Atlanta and Minnesota. Chicago was eighth and Los Angeles ninth. Indiana, Phoenix and Seattle rounded out the poll.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
A'ja Wilson had another impressive week before the All-Star break, averaging 22.5 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks to help the Aces win both their games. Las Vegas enters the second half of the season on a record pace at 19-2. Other players receiving votes included Sabrina Ionescu of New York and Arike Ogunbowale of Dallas.
INVESTING IN THE WNBA
Three-time NBA champion Dwyane Wade is joining the ownership group of the Chicago Sky once he gets approved by the WNBA board of governors.
“It’s an incredible feeling being on this side of history. To see growth, on the business side, for something that I’ve been passionate about my whole life is an amazing feeling. There are amazing things happening in the WNBA It’s official! This is for the home team– literally,” Wade wrote on Twitter.
Wade, who is from Chicago and retired from the NBA in 2019, has also joined ownership groups for the Utah Jazz and Real Salt Lake of Major League Soccer.
VISITING THE PRESIDENT
The Las Vegas Aces will make a trip to the White House on Aug. 25 to be honored by President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden for winning the WNBA title last season. The Aces play the Washington Mystics the next day.
The WNBA All-Star Game was in prime time for the first time and had its strongest ratings in 16 years with 850,000 viewers. That's up 16% from last year. The skills competition and 3-point shootout had a 43% increase over last season.
Brittney Griner had a triumphant return to the WNBA All-Star Game one year after she was an honorary member of the contest while she was stuck in a Russian jail. Griner scored 18 points, including two dunks, as her team won the exhibition game. The Mercury play two games at home before a four-game road trip.
GAMES OF THE WEEK
Connecticut vs Atlanta. The Sun and Dream play a home-and-home set this week. Atlanta is one of the hottest teams in the league, winning six straight before the All-Star break.