The 2012 WNBA schedule has been released and the season is slated to start on Friday, May 18 as the LA Sparks visit the Seattle Storm for a 10 p.m. ET game. A full range of games is scheduled for the opening weekend of action with seven games in the following two days to begin the year.
The 2011 Finals rematch of the Atlanta Dream and Minnesota Lynx will be replayed in Atlanta on Aug. 25 and at Minnesota on Sept. 7.
But the biggest news regarding this season's schedule might be the month-long hiatus for the Olympics.
Olympic break from July 14 - August 15
Due to the 2012 Olympic schedule, the WNBA season will be on a hiatus from July 14 through Aug. 15, with three games on the books for Aug. 16. Along with just affecting the WNBA schedule, many WNBA teams will be playing shorthanded in the opening months of the season.
Some non-U.S. players - such as Lauren Jackson and Liz Cambage - will be competing in the Games for their homeland and have opted to sit out the beginning months of the season, returning to the WNBA after the Olympics are completed.
End of season overlaps with the NFL
Despite the mid-May start, the regular season schedule reaches its culmination on Sunday, Sept. 23 - 12 days later than last season - due to the extended mid-season break. The playoffs will then extend the WNBA season into October, posing quite a conundrum for all-sports fans.
This late finish will conflict heavily with both college and NFL football. The first regular season game of the NFL is scheduled for Sept. 6, well before the WNBA regular season is completed. There will also be conflicts with preseason contests which are planned to start the first week of August. The college football schedules are being released incrementally, but the SEC will begin their conference play on Aug. 30 when South Carolina visits Vanderbilt.
Overlaps with the NBA: Non-stop pro basketball
The NBA conflicts have the potential to come full circle and coincide with both the men's 2011-12 playoffs and the 2012-13 preseason. The NBA's 2011-12 regular season finishes on Thursday, April 26. The playoffs would then push well into May and even June, overlapping with the beginning of the 2012 WNBA season. In fact, the last possible NBA Finals date, if every series were to go its full length, is June 26 - over a month into the WNBA season.
Though there was a ... shortened ... preseason in 2011-12 for the NBA, the 2012-13 preseason should rumble on in full. If that is the case, there could be overlap with the WNBA Playoffs. In 2010-11, the NBA began its preseason in the first week of October, which would be just one week after the WNBA regular season concludes. Particularly for teams that share arenas, these conflicts could pose real scheduling problems in both the opening and closing months of the WNBA season.
A few key dates (all times EDT)
- May 18, 10 p.m. - L.A. at Seattle: The lone game scheduled for opening night, which would feature the #1 and #2 picks in the 2012 WNBA Draft as things stand right now after Seattle's trade with the the Chicago Sky. It will also be new Sparks coach Carol Ross' first game coaching.
- May 20, 12:30 p.m. - Phoenix Mercury at Minnesota Lynx: The Lynx and Mercury will be the last two teams to open their seasons a couple of days in at the Target Center. We hope Lil' Wayne will be present.
- August 16, 10 p.m. - Phoenix at Seattle: This would be the first game after the Olympics for the Storm and Mercury, meaning a potential return from the Olympics for Storm star Lauren Jackson going up against fellow Australian Penny Taylor.
- August 17, 8 p.m. - San Antonio Silver Stars at Tulsa Shock: As the first Shock game after the Olympic break, this could mark the return to WNBA action for 2011 #2 draft pick Elizabeth Cambage.
- August 25, 7 p.m. - Minnesota Lynx at Atlanta Dream: This would be the first WNBA finals rematch, picking up where the series left off back in October.
- September 18, 10 p.m. - Chicago Sky at Seattle Storm: Swin Cash will play her first game at KeyArena in a Sky blue uniform.