WNBA players' conundrum: Keep playing and cash those checks or rest the body
Lady Liberty: "Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free."
New York Liberty (and the rest of the WNBA): Give us your (over) tired, your (not so) poor and your huddled lasses yearning for more fees."
Yes, this is the problem du jour with women's basketball. It's not going away. And Diana Taurasi finally said it publicly during a conference call earlier this week.
The women's game, between lucrative overseas salaries to the close-to-home WNBA, is a 12-month enterprise. The players say they're pooped.
"There is no way your body is going to be able to function at that level for that long without getting it some time to rest. You are doing your career a disservice in the long run by continuing to play if you are hurt and tired," said Taurasi, who will be live and in color tonight before a full house at Mohegan Sun Arena.
"And right now, I can't see myself taking three or four months off from Europe. Not at this point of my career. … (But) I'm going to have to sit down, look at the calendar and really take some time off to heal myself.
"It's always easier for the European players to take time off (before the WNBA season). But we're the hometown ones, you know. If we did that we'd get crucified for it. But you have to understand how (the schedule) begins to take its toll on you. You need to rest."
A more cynical fellow could argue that were the Mercury 10-2 (not 5-7) and were Taurasi still playing with Cappie Pondexter, perhaps her aches wouldn't be as pronounced. Still, there is veritable unanimity among the players that they have a conundrum: How do they give up overseas money, which Sun forward Asjha Jones said Thursday is "up to four and five times" the top WNBA salary? How do they forsake playing before their fans, family and friends in the WNBA? But then how do they rest their bodies?
The players also know that Yalta II, otherwise known as a worldwide summit of women's basketball poohbahs from various countries, isn't practical. That means there's no way to coordinate schedules that would allow for a rest period, even if brief.
"We have to make money to take care of our families," Sun forward DeMya Walker said. "But as you get old, your body gets old whether you want it to or not. So we all have to make individual decisions."
So I ask: Would it be disastrous if Taurasi took a year off? Would it? Really?
What, the people who mock the league already are going to mock it more?
The people who proclaim impending doom are going to proclaim more?
The better question, after talking to some Sun players on Thursday, is how many WNBA players can honestly forego the money they make in the summer, which isn't so bad for four months' work?
My guess is that anybody reading this would accept making, say, somewhere between $60,000 and $100,000 for four months' work.
Approach me with that offer and you'll hear, "Where do I sign?"
"I could be wrong," Sun guard Kara Lawson said, "but I feel like it's such a small percentage of players - players like Diana - who make so much money over there that they could (afford to) do that. The lion's share still benefit from this income, especially with the way salaries have dropped over there."
Taurasi decided to leave Spartak Moscow, the reigning EuroLeague champions, because of the franchise's reported 50 percent reduction in salary. Salaries are shrinking overseas (far more than in the WNBA, by the way) because of the global economy's malaise, among other reasons.
Taurasi, as is the case with most professional athletes, probably believes that her window to make money is finite, so she's got to make the most money she can in a limited period of time. Nobody, however, is forcing her to play in Turkey next season.
If a player, even in Taurasi's rarified air, needs to take time off to heal, she should take time off to heal. Candace Parker has been forced to do that this season. And the league goes on. No, really. Mohegan Sun Arena will be rocking tonight. The game will be televised throughout New England.
"They've been talking about this since I graduated college," Jones said. "And it hasn't happened yet. Everybody is looking for a break. But you suck it up and keep playing."
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.
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