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This Week in Women’s Basketball: Candace Parker considers WNBA future as expansion issues persist

Candace Parker provides clarity about her WNBA future, while confusion persists about a second WNBA expansion team. Questions also are raised about the NCAA’s release of an independent review of the officiating of the 2023 national championship game.

2023 WNBA Finals - Game Two
In an appearance on “Good Morning America,” Candace Parker provided insight into her WNBA future.
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

In the midst of an exciting opening week of women’s college hoops action, catch up on the latest news and notes from around women’s basketball:

Parker ponders retirement (or not)

Send out the fax? If she’s healthy, she’s back!

On Thursday morning, Candace Parker shared that her health will determine whether or not she will suit up for a 17th WNBA season in 2024. Appearing on “Good Morning America” to promote her upcoming ESPN documentary Candace Parker: Unapologetic, Parker said, “If I’m healthy, I’m gonna play. But I’m not gonna play in pain anymore. It’s too important—the trick-or-treating, the crossing over my kids, it’s too important. If I’m healthy I’m gonna play.”

She elaborated, “I’ll weigh my options. If I feel really, really good then I’ll play. That’s a big if. I’ve got to get my foot right. My foot was really bad last year. I don’t want to cheat the game or cheat myself.”

Parker also considered closing the book on her legendary career last offseason before signing a one-year contract with the Las Vegas Aces, serving as a positive contributor for the eventual champs before her severe foot ended her season. She again will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason.

More on WNBA expansion confusion

At The Next, Howard Megdal reports on WNBA’s stakeholders’—members of front offices and ownership groups—reactions to the now-paused Portland expansion bid. According to Megdal:

In conversations with front office members, including those in ownership groups, a mixture of bewilderment, anger and concern permeated the discussions about what happened next, even as numerous sources in the room told me that commissioner Cathy Engelbert projected an air of business-as-usual in the league meetings last week, which immediately followed the Portland news.

Megdal also suggests that an increasing number of WNBA owners are beginning to “wonder about the direction of the league” under Engelbert’s leadership.

While a lack of clarity about whether one or two expansion teams will join the league in 2025 prevents organizations from effectively planning for future roster decisions, existing franchises also are concerned that welcoming one expansion team could disrupt competitive balance, as the wealthy WNBA Golden State franchise immediately could emerge as a title contender through the 2025 expansion draft, 2025 free agency and the 2025 WNBA draft.

Megdal also notes that Denver and Charlotte remain “serious bidders” for a second expansion team.

NCAA reveals results of national championship game ref review

Somewhat bizarrely, the NCAA chose to release expedited results of an independent review of the officiating during last spring’s national championship game.

The review determined that the game’s refereeing did not meet expectations. According to Lynn Holzman, the NCAA vice president for women’s basketball, “In the championship game itself, for example, we typically have a performance that, I think, is 91 percent historically. In that game, the percentage of correct calls was below that, around 88 percent.”

It’s worth questioning the purpose of sharing this information with the public. As a new season begins, the rather misleading review—as the 88 percent correct call performance in the national championship game was on par with the tournament average—only will foster fan frustration with officiating. The information also serves to single out the national championship game refs, who, as noted by South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley, all were women of color.

While the performances of referees certainly are not above critique, providing them with the kind of support that could help them improve—namely higher pay for an absolutely thankless job—would seem like a more productive, positive approach.

WNBA-ION partnership sees success

The first season of “WNBA Friday Night Spotlight on ION” helped to grow the league’s television audience by 24 percent. The Friday night double-headers reached 12.3 million viewers over 15 weeks. In a press release, Commissioner Cathy Engelbert expressed her satisfaction, stating:

When we partnered with Scripps Sports for the 2023 season, we were hoping their reach would drive WNBA viewership to higher heights, and Scripps overwhelmingly delivered. New fans found us. Faithful fans embraced the appointment viewing. This success is only going to grow in the future.