05/24 14:48 CDT WNBA teams set to make tough decisions on roster cuts
WNBA teams set to make tough decisions on roster cuts
By DOUG FEINBERG
AP Basketball Writer
NEW YORK (AP) --- New York Liberty general manager Jonathan Kolb knew that he
and first-year coach Walt Hopkins would have to make some tough decisions on
the team's roster this year.
He just didn't think they'd have to do it so quickly and without seeing players
compete in training camp. The WNBA and the players' union decided that teams
would have to get their rosters under the salary cap by Tuesday so that players
could start getting paid on June 1.
It's left many teams with tough decisions on who they will cut and little time
to figure it out.
"It is the worst part of this job," Kolb said in a phone interview. "These are
dreams that are suddenly altered and you're a large part of that. These are
human beings, not just basketball players."
Connecticut Sun coach and general manager Curt Miller had set up his training
camp roster so a few position battles would determine the final spots on the
team. Now he'll have to make choices a different way.
"Ultimately we have to decide, because we can't do it all together, what skill
set strength of theirs makes most sense to round out our roster," Miller said.
Teams usually have to cut their rosters to get under the salary cap before the
regular season begins, which would have been on May 14. The WNBA postponed the
start of the season in early April because of the coronavirus pandemic and is
still focusing on a handful of scenarios that would allow it to play this year.
Teams typically would be able to evaluate players by their on-the-court
actions. Now it's more based on how quickly they pick things up on Zoom
conference calls or how well they understand plays online.
"The league office didn't foresee a pandemic," Kolb said in a phone interview.
"They are doing the best they can do. It doesn't take away from how difficult
this was for us. We wish we could keep everybody or have some contingencies in
The Liberty have six rookies on the roster, including No. 1 draft pick Sabrina
Ionescu. They also have five international players, which has made life a
little more difficult for Kolb and Hopkins than for some other teams because of
the logistics involving travel.
"It's definitely impacting us the most," he said. "We have the most
international players and with so much uncertainty and lack of answers at the
moment, it puts us in a position to have to make decisions."
Kolb said he's been in constant contact with the international players, who are
in China, Sweden, Australia, France and Canada.
"We're taking everything into consideration including things we never
anticipated before like long flights," he said. "Now it's a big deal. How do
they feel about that? Is our country going to allow these players into the
United States? There's still so many unknowns."
Kolb said the team has been working with the league and its own immigration
lawyers to try to figure things out for the foreign players. There is a chance
one or more of the Liberty's international players could decide she wants to
stay abroad. The team could then suspend her for the season, which would open
up another roster spot.
While players who are cut won't get paid, they will be offered health insurance
until the end of June. There also is a chance that being let go won't mean the
end of their WNBA dreams.
Miller noted that the Sun cut Natisha Hiedeman in training camp last year and
she came back to Connecticut when Layshia Clarendon got hurt late in the
season. Hiedeman wound up playing in the semifinals and WNBA Finals.
"You try to lead with compassion and empathy," Miller said. "I don't know any
other way to lead in this decision with them. These are the cards that we're
all dealt and it doesn't mean it's fair. I'll them the story about Natisha and
not to let a temporary set back define you."
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