Discard this theory with the rubbish
It is a compliment to the women's basketball revolution, really, that a major metropolitan daily newspaper, on the verge of dispatching reporters and columnists to cover the NBA playoffs, would lead its weekly NBA notes column with Brittney Griner.
This was last Sunday's Boston Globe. The two-minute drill version: If Ann Meyers signed a contract with the Indiana Pacers in 1979 and Cheryl Miller was drafted by the United States Basketball League, would it stand to reason that Griner, Baylor's 6-foot 8-inch center, could be taken in the 2013 NBA Draft when she's eligible?
The Globe also posed the question, "would an NBA team be tempted to try to develop her as a power forward?"
A reader in, say, Dubuque, Iowa, might be amused by the question. Maybe another reader in Savannah might view it as innocuous. But here in our corner of the world, where newspapers run poll questions about whether the UConn women could beat the UConn men, the premise of the Globe's column should make us pull a Peter Finch in "Network," where he goes over to the window and advises us to yell that we're mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.
OK. I understand that we are sophisticates of the women's game here. I understand that we watch it differently than folks in other outposts of the good ol' U.S. of A. But do you really need a background in the women's game to recognize a stupid question?
Brittney Griner ... in the NBA?
For one thing, why would she have to go to the NBA to legitimize her place in basketball? For another, she couldn't guard anybody.
The cleanup hitters of the women's game, the coaching staff and many of the players who will play for the 2012 U.S. Olympic team, are at Gampel Pavilion this week for workouts. So we decided to ask them the same question about Griner to the NBA.
A sampling of opinions:
Sun guard Renee Montgomery: "A very strange concept."
Assistant U.S. coach and longtime DePaul coach Doug Bruno: "That's the classic example of a male evaluation of the women's game."
UConn coach (and 2012 U.S. Olympic coach) Geno Auriemma: "How could she possibly compete with the physicality of the NBA? How? How?"
Geno was almost yelling. There's not an iota off his fastball between last week's championship and this week's dances with the stars.
It should be noted that the Globe interviewed former L.A. Lakers and L.A. Sparks coach Michael Cooper and current Celtic (and Candace Parker's husband) Shelden Williams, both of whom essentially said the same thing Auriemma did. Maybe that should have been a clue that the premise was faulty.
When Meyers and Miller had the opportunity to play in the NBA, there was no WNBA and far fewer professional opportunities in Europe. Women's basketball players have options now. Good players can make about $100,000 here and more than that in Europe. They don't need the NBA. Which is fine, because they couldn't survive there.
This is a recording.
"You can look forward to the WNBA now because there are a lot of good players," Montgomery said. "(Griner) won't come into the WNBA and dominate to the point where she thinks, "This is boring.' I'm not taking anything away from her. Maybe she would one day. But until that happens, how about we all just stick with the WNBA. How about that? It's a question that shouldn't even be raised."
Bruno said it's part of the fight to educate people on the women's game as a stand-alone product. It's hard to accomplish that, he said, because all evaluations are predicated on the men's game. But what if the rules changed?
"If the guys played with an 11-foot rim, their game would look like the women's game does now," he said. "Or if we played with a nine-foot rim, our game would look like theirs. I've experienced it. I've seen how a nine-foot rim affects women. They wouldn't just dunk. They'd play differently around the rim."
Look at it this way: If the male cognoscenti can wonder if Griner can make the NBA, why can't the women's savants consider varying rim heights?
Meanwhile, Auriemma just kept shaking his head at the whole conversation. He was finished with practice Wednesday and was eating some chili, wondering when the dumbing down of America would stop, exactly.
"I guess this means that Annika Sorenstam could only be judged on what she did if she won on the PGA Tour, because what she did in the LPGA didn't count," he said. "And that Serena Williams. She's no good until she beats Roger Federer. Is that what they're saying?"
Bruno agreed with Kara Lawson, Rebecca Lobo and Doris Burke, all of whom said at the Final Four that the increased exposure for women's basketball is a sign of progress, even if the opinions aren't particularly insightful.
"All publicity is good publicity," Bruno said.
Not to Geno.
"Put it this way," he said. "Is it good that the world of politics has people on cable and is the media able to offer so many opinions that may be informed or not? We should be disgusted at the ridiculous things some of these people say. Any time people are allowed to weigh in there are going to be some bizarre weigh-ins. People just have to be able to discard the trash from the ones that make sense.
"But that's not what we as a nation want," he said. "We want to be told what's insightful and what's trash. We don't want to think for ourselves."
Let's think for ourselves once and for all. Women can't play in the men's game. And there's nothing wrong with that. The women's game gets better and better all by itself.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.
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