Attendance at WNBA games is averaging 9,733 this season, a 10.4 percent drop from an average of 10,869 last season, according to the league's latest figures.
For the second season in a row, the Washington Mystics (11-17) lead the league in attendance, averaging 14,591 fans a game. However, that is about seven percent less than the 15,718 fans at this time last season. The New York Liberty, with an average of 13,579 fans, is in second place. The Charlotte Sting, with 6,649 fans a game, has the league's lowest attendance.
Only one team, the Sacramento Monarchs, has drawn more fans this season. The Monarchs are averaging 7,921, compared to 6,608 last season.
WNBA President Val Ackerman said the drop in attendance had been anticipated.
"We did expect some stabilization of our attendance figures over the first couple of years," she said. "Clearly early on, we attracted people to the games because it was something new. . . . There was curiosity. . . . But, now we're separating the curious from the concerned and learning about who our true fans are. . . . And yet, long-term, we want to see the attendance continue to grow.
"After the season ends, the league's operating committee will evaluate each team and "make some decisions about what we need to do as a league to make sure that we are maximizing the opportunity in every market, that every team is doing everything possible to attract fans," she said.
The league, which is in its third season, will add four new teams next season in Seattle, Miami, Indianapolis and Portland, Ore.
When Dan Hughes took over as interim coach of the Sting July 11, Hughes told his players that they would have to work on their defensive intensity and rebounding if they were to improve their 5-7 record and make a run for the playoffs.
They did. Today, the team is 15-13, having won seven of its last 10 games, and only half a game behind the New York Liberty, which leads the Eastern Conference.
"We have become a much more aggressive, effective rebounding team," Hughes said. "In the games that we have been successful, that has clearly been the difference. . . . I think rebounding has a lot to do with desire, with your effort to do things. I think defensively we have shown the ability to reach back and make a stop when we needed one, especially in late-game situations."
Charlotte is outrebounding opponents by four and holding them to 3.9 points a game fewer since Hughes took over after general manager and coach Marynell Meadors was fired. The Sting is allowing 66.6 points a game, third lowest in the league.
Although the team isn't an offensive power, Hughes said the team has added structure to its offense.
"We felt we needed to create screening situations," he said. "Our post players are not necessarily big. But we thought if we could use them in different ways and attack them on ball reversals, rather than just throwing it to them, that they could be effective, and they have."
He said he has been pleased with the play of his veterans -- guards Dawn Staley and Andrea Stinson and forward Vicky Bullett and center Rhonda Mapp. Stinson leads the Sting with 13.8 points a game.
Mapp, who was traded to Houston earlier in the season in a deal that eventually fell through, is averaging 9.3 points a game and 6.3 rebounds, up from 6.5 points and four rebounds at the start of the season.
In addition, Hughes said forwards Sharon Manning and Charlotte Smith and guards Stephanie McCarty and Niesa Johnson are making significant contributions as reserves.
Perrot's Cancer Treatment
Houston Comets point guard Kim Perrot, who last February had cancer diagnosed that began in her lungs and spread to her brain, is undergoing alternative treatment in Mexico, team spokeswoman Megan Bonifas said. This is Perrot's second trip to Mexico for treatment, after spending two weeks there in June, Bonifas said.
Last Feb. 24, Perrot underwent surgery at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center to remove a large tumor in the brain, followed by several days of radiation treatment to attack smaller tumors that remained in the brain, Bonifas said.
Perrot, 32, who is on the team's injured list, has attended three or four games this season, Bonifas said. "She usually comes to the second half of the game and sits on the bench with the team," Bonifas said.
Perrot, who averaged 8.5 points and 3.1 rebounds last season, is a favorite of Houston fans, who give her a standing ovation when she attends games.
CAPTION: WNBA AVERAGE ATTENDANCE (This chart was not available)