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Calls grow for WNBA expansion, but Engelbert says not yet

WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said the league will eventually expand, but not until the economic model is further alongNBAE/GETTY IMAGES

Many people inside and outside the WNBA believe now is the "time to expand team rosters or teams in the league, or both," according to Erica Ayala of the N.Y. TIMES. With only 12 teams and 12 roster spots on each team, the WNBA is "harder to get in, and stay in, than the NBA," especially with most players’ contracts "not being guaranteed." WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said that "expanding the league is 'part of a transitional plan,' but not now." Engelbert: "If you want to broaden your exposure, probably need to be more than 12 cities in a country with 330 million people. We’re going to absolutely expand down the road, but we don’t just expand for expansion’s sake until we get the economic model further along." Ayala notes the relatively low salaries push players to "make tough choices about when and where to play." Most of the highest-paid WNBA players "go abroad to compete for European clubs and national teams during the off-season, and sometimes instead of playing in the WNBA." WNBPA President and Sparks F Nneka Ogwumike is "among those striving for more." Ogwumike led the players’ union as it reached a "landmark collective bargaining agreement" that took effect in the '20 season, introducing a team salary cap of $1.3M, an increase of 30%. Many saw it as a "step in the right direction regarding pay equity." But it also "illuminated another concern." Lynx GM & coach Cheryl Reeve said, "The $300,000 increase in the salary cap was not significant" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/10).

COULD VEGAS SUCCESS LAND HAMMON NBA JOB? In Boston, Gary Washburn wondered if new WNBA Las Vegas Aces coach Becky Hammon will "become a more serious NBA coaching candidate if she flourishes in Las Vegas," or is the NBA "still years or even decades away from taking a chance on a woman?" Hammon insists that she "isn’t settling for Las Vegas." The WNBA is an "emerging league with several high-level coaches and standout players," but the question remains whether NBA teams are "ready to open their league to a female head coach." Hammon is still "fighting the perception that women cannot be capable head coaches in men’s sports." There are no female head coaches in NCAA D-I men’s basketball, and it is an issue that "needs to be addressed" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/9).

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