WNBA puts its hopes on three rookies


(Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

Professional basketball doesn’t have a season anymore. The National Basketball Association (NBA) starts playing in the fall, and regular-season games continue into April. After the playoffs finish in June, it’s time for the Women’s NBA. Let’s look at some stories from the WNBA.

The Mystics: Washington’s 2013 team is improved after two seasons in which it had a combined record of 11-57 (11 wins and 57 losses) and didn’t come close to making the playoffs.

The Mystics are now 9-9 after Wednesday’s 82-78 victory over the Chicago Sky. One reason for the improvement is new point guard Ivory Latta. The former Tulsa Shock standout has steadied the Mystics’ backcourt by scoring about 14 points and dealing out four assists a game.

If a team’s point guard is supposed to be the coach on the floor, Latta fills the bill. She will be an assistant coach at her old school, North Carolina, in the 2013-14 season.

Three to see: The WNBA is excited about the top three draft picks in 2013 — Brittney Griner, Elena Delle Donne and Skylar Diggins — promoting them as “3 to See.” But have the rookies lived up to the hype?

Griner is a 6-foot-8-inch force in the middle known for her thunderous dunks. Before spraining her knee, Griner was averaging about 15 points and six rebounds for the Phoenix Mercury. She also led the WNBA with 2.8 blocks a game. Griner looks like the real deal.

Delle Donne might be even better. The 6-foot-5 forward is pouring in more than 18 points a game for the first-place Sky. But the former University of Delaware star is not just a scorer. She is also grabbing rebounds and blocking shots. (Delle Donne suffered a concussion Wednesday during a scramble for a loose ball during the Mystics game.)

Diggins is struggling with the WNBA game, which is faster than college basketball. The 5-foot-9 guard from Notre Dame is making only 31 percent of her shots for the Tulsa Shock. Still, Diggins has the second-best-selling jersey in the league, behind only Griner’s.

Attendance: The WNBA needs new stars because the league is struggling to get fans to watch games. Even after the 2012 Summer Olympics showcased many WNBA players, the league had its worst year for attendance in 2012, averaging fewer than 7,500 fans a game. The WNBA averaged more than 10,000 fans a game in 1998 and 1999. The league’s television ratings are also poor.

Women’s basketball has improved a lot in the past 20 years. But I think the game is too rough, and that leads to turnovers and sloppy play. Maybe if the referees called more fouls, the WNBA would get more fans.

Fred Bowen writes the sports opinion column for KidsPost. He is the author of 19 sports books for kids. His latest basketball book is “Real Hoops.”

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