List gymnastics. This is the new term The Sparks of Los Angeles Head coach Curt Miller expects to assert himself in the WNBA as teams work under a strict salary cap, limited roster spots and inevitable injuries to build a competitive team inside and out. the exterior.
This constant backhand hop, air and shimmy is also the reason why the investigation into the The Aces of Las Vegas goes much further than the subjects concerned. The investigation launched by Dearica Hamby, who was traded from the Aces to the Sparks in the offseason, is a complicated situation that will arise regularly if the WNBA and WNBA Players’ Association don’t come up with a detailed answer to a larger conundrum about how to managing pregnancy in professional sport. And this is by no means easy to solve.
The league announced Tuesday that Aces second-year head coach Becky Hammon was suspended the first two games of the season without pay for “violating league and team respectful workplace policies.” The investigation, which the WNBA told Yahoo Sports was being led by a prosecutor from the Southern District of New York and another from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, stemmed from from an Instagram post from Hamby in January after the trade news.
Hamby said “disgusting comments” were made towards her regarding her pregnancy, which she announced during the Aces championship parade, and that she was treated in an “unprofessional and unethical manner “. She said she was told she was a “question mark”, that there were concerns about her commitment and that she “didn’t hold up her end of the bargain”. She did not name anyone at that time or in subsequent interviews. Hammon’s name was only attached in the WNBA release, and even then with limited details.
“I handled Dearica with care from day one when she told me (about her pregnancy). And she knows it,” Hammon told reporters Wednesday morning during a pre-scheduled Zoom call held for each coach before the season. “And, like I said, once I called and said the decision was made to move her, that’s when it all fell apart.”
Hammon said the accusations were “absolutely false” and regarding the conversation with Hamby, she said that was “not how I remember the conversation going.” The violation is “the fact that I asked her about her pregnancy in a private conversation with Dearica, that’s what they said,” Hammon said.
“It is true that the violation of workplace respect included inappropriate questions Becky asked Dearica about her pregnancy,” a WNBA spokesperson told Yahoo Sports. “We do not believe it would be appropriate to comment beyond that.”
Without any type of publicly shared concrete investigative results mentioned in this statement, this is a case of two parties viewing a conversation and situation differently. And Hammon made it clear before leaving the video chat that she validates Hamby’s feelings and understands. This can’t be easy for anyone, especially for a team as tight-knit as the Aces.
The fundamental problem is somewhat the same as when a player is out for the season due to injury. There is a commercial aspect to this, like it or not. The WNBA’s salary cap is $1.4 million this season and teams are already having a hard enough time fitting rosters that can hold a minimum of 11 players. The maximum is 12, a small number for a professional basketball team that means a revolving door of hardship and seven-day contracts.
The Aces, who now have a goal after winning the title, had an incredible starting five, but a less productive bench. They extended Jackie Young on his rookie contract, more than doubling his salary and eating into their remaining cap space for 2023. They recently did the same for A’ja Wilson. After moving Hamby, who was set to make $169,000, the Aces added the two-time champion Candace Parker ($100,000) and double champion Alysha Clark ($115,000). They also signed Cayla Georges ($74,000), a star of the Australian Basketball League.
“That was never the reason we made the decision to move Hamby,” Hammon said of the star’s second pregnancy. “We made the decision to move Hamby because we could get three bodies in one deal. And we wanted to recruit three additional people. I think it’s very obvious who we signed and why we made that decision. But that was never an issue and was never the reason she was traded. That simply wasn’t the case. It came down to math and business. That’s all it was. Nothing personal.”
The Aces improved their roster with these moves, even though Hamby was not pregnant and questionable to play before the season. She participated in the Sparks preseason game and is likely to play Friday night in the season opener against the Mercury. Miller said he was impressed with her work at camp after her pregnancy.
For the sake of argument, let’s assume she wasn’t ready. Let’s say she chose, like Napheesa Collier did this last season, to take a full six weeks or more for her maternity leave. And she has every right to do so and should be encouraged to do so. From now on, the Aces would be in a serious bind. It’s a situation the WNBA could see more of as players use the maternity protections put in place in the 2020 collective bargaining agreement. Lynx Onward Natalie Achonwa is currently on maternity leave and Sky Before Ruthy Hébard I just gave birth last month.
Skylar Diggins Smith, the Mercury guard who gave birth during the offseason, is also absent. Vanessa Nygaard, the Mercury’s second-year head coach, was the third interview of the day behind Miller and Hammon. She reiterated that the franchise supports Diggins-Smith’s maternity leave and that there are no details on a return.
But Phoenix still has games to play and, on paper, it sits in the middle of the standings in pursuit of the franchise’s fourth title with Diana TaurasiRobert’s career appears to be coming to an end. Nygaard indicated Wednesday that they were allowed to replace Diggins-Smith in the lineup, but had to do so with a veteran player paid the minimum salary of $74,305. They can’t replace her at her salary level, which is only $500 off the player’s supermax of $234,350, a rule Nygaard called “strange.”
This means that competitively, the Mercury are at a disadvantage. Diggins-Smith represents one-sixth of the salary cap even if she is unable to play. Even in the free agency window, the Mercury couldn’t take steps to improve their team, knowing they wouldn’t have it available because that money was tied up. Now they will add a player once the season starts who might not have played or practiced regularly before the season and was not in their camp.
The biggest complication is that Mercury reportedly explored his trade in July. There have been public discontents between Diggins-Smith and Nygaard, including the goalkeeper using a clown emoji to describe his new coach. Midseason trades in the WNBA are incredibly rare due to salary cap challenges. It has to be almost a perfect salary exchange to stay. But it’s doable. Diggins-Smith’s contract expires after this season.
What constitutes beyond questioning when these discussions arise, if they arise? Would Diggins-Smith be upset and think her pregnancy was the reason for the exchange? What about players who were held out of training camps after having their children? How should and can coaches, who are intimately involved with their players and often say they consider them family, ask a player about her pregnancy? Even in the friendliest and most family-friendly tones?
“I think there definitely needs to be some changes, some structure put in place,” Hammon said. “Because right now, the rule that they have regarding pregnant players and what that looks like within an organization is very gray. And I think for us as an organization, this decision had everything to do with it. to do with freeing up money to sign free agents. That’s all it was, pregnant or not. This trade had to happen for the Las Vegas Aces to improve.
This is not an easy issue to address, but it requires more clarity from all parties involved. Because it doesn’t matter what specifically happened Las Vegas This is bound to happen at some level in any other WNBA market, whether disgusting comments were made or not.