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the WNBA project will be a virtual event this year.
The league announced Thursday that its draft will still be held on April 17 as originally scheduled, but in the absence of players, fans or the media due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“The WNBA Draft is a time to celebrate the exceptional athletes whose hard work and dreams come true with their draft picks,” said WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert. “It is essential to protect the health and well-being of our prospects, players, employees and all those who are connected to our game as well as the general public.”
The logistics of the project are still being worked out with ESPN, although Engelbert has confirmed that she will announce the choices that evening on the league’s broadcast partner network. She just isn’t sure where she will do it; it could be his house, the league offices or some other place.
The New York Liberty has the No. 1 pick and is expected to draft Sabrina Ionescu of Oregon, who won the title of AP University basketball player of the year earlier this week.
“Everything is still the same as before when it comes to the excitement of having choice # 1,” said Liberty chief executive Jonathan Kolb in a telephone interview. “We are still awaiting directives from the league regarding the war room and things like that and how the project will work.”
The commissioner, who begins her first full season this year after starting work in the middle of last year, said the league would honor Alyssa Altobelli, Gianna Bryant and Payton Chester in the draft. The teens were among the nine people who died in the helicopter crash on January 26, including Kobe Bryant. Engelbert said the league also plans to honor the former NBA star in the draft and in the coming season.
The virtual draft is the only certainty that Engelbert has on the next season which should start on May 15.
She said the league has discussed a variety of scenarios that depend on the pandemic. Two WNBA cities are major hotspots for the virus: New York and Seattle. The Las Vegas casino where the Aces game is closed, as is the Connecticut Sun arena.
“There is a myriad of logistics involved from the start of training camp to the end of the season,” said Engelbert, who faced the financial crisis in the late 2000s when she worked for Deloitte, a accounting organization that works with Fortune 500 companies. “The main guiding principle is always the health of players, fans and employees. We do not remove any scenario from the table season, including the peak of the May 15 season. “
Although it seems unlikely at this time that the league would start on May 15 due to the virus, Engelbert said that the WNBA could start its season before the resumption of the NBA or other sports leagues.
“A league of our size and scale is smaller than the other big leagues,” she said. “We may be able to tip this season before other leagues because we only have 12 teams and 144 players.”
The postponement of the 2020 Olympics also gives the WNBA some flexibility with its schedule, if the season does not start on time. The league would take a month-long break from July 10 to allow players to participate in the Tokyo Games.
“We were already planning scenarios on what our season would look like if we were playing games during our month-long break,” she said. “We have an advantage here in using this time. We are already examining the availability of the arena and how to obtain broadcasts of our game during this period. “
Engelbert is also exploring a multitude of other possibilities.
“Every day brings new information, we don’t lock ourselves in, take nothing from the table,” said the commissioner. “It is premature to do so. We are following the direction of civil servants, the state, local authorities.”