LOUISVILLE, KY. (WDRB) -- The WNBA's Atlanta franchise is nicknamed the Dream. Maybe they should call it the Magic. Somehow, it has made the league's leading scorer disappear.
Angel McCoughtry has been suspended indefinitely by the Dream. No explanations have been offered by her or the team. The Dream fired coach and general manager Marynell Meadors and promoted assistant Fred Williams this week.
Williams promptly handed down the suspension after a face-to-face meeting with McCoughtry in which he said he gave the former University of Louisville All-American a list of requirements for her to agree to and sign before she could return to the team.
No big deal, right? This stuff happens with the NBA's leading scorer all the time. Oh, wait. It never happens with NBA marquee players. They get suspended if they get arrested. They get benched if they have a substance issue. They miss games for going after refs or fighting on the court (or in the stands). You might see the occasional coach flap.
But in general, you're not seeing Kobe Bryant suspended for this kind of non-specific thing. A gay slur? Served a game. Various elbows? Sure.
And that's significant, because McCoughtry is the Kobe Bryant of the WNBA. Or pick the analogous men's star of your choice.
Here's the problem. McCoughtry probably deserves whatever sanction she's being given. Teams and coaches don't just suspend their best players for no reason. We have no idea what McCoughtry has done, but we've seen evidence of what she can do. She can be a brooding presence on the court. She sometimes lacks respect for authority or coaching.
Last week, Meadors let McCoughtry skip two games for "personal reasons." Again, we don't know why. But this isn't exactly professional. (Though again, without knowing the reason, we can't say for sure). Certainly, her public criticism of Meadors coaching wasn't professional.
So none of this is to say McCoughtry is being wronged.
But let's be honest. If you believe she's being given the same treatment a man in her professional basketball position would be given, I'd beg to differ. The season after he won Rookie of the Year, Allen Iverson got a one-game league suspension for an offseason weapons charge. Rajon Rondo got a one-game suspension for bumping a ref in a playoff game this past season.
If McCoughtry misses a Dream game on Friday, her suspension will have been double the length of those.
I'm not sure what the deal is, but I think it's incumbent on Atlanta to straighten it out. Frankly, McCoughtry's the type who would just sit out, let the Dream flame out, as they will with her on the sidelines, then head off to Fenerbache for the pro season in Turkey.
That, too, would be a mistake.
It's incumbent on McCoughtry to realize what's at stake here. Whatever point she may be proving by not agreeing to the coach's conditions is not a point worth winning.
McCoughtry just finished the biggest basketball experience of her life and one of the best image-building moments of her career in the Olympic games.
Her Olympic coach, Geno Auriemma, criticized the Dream for firing Meadors, said the franchise "caved" and is allowing an "inmate" to run things. But Auriemma surely realizes this: Between the lines, McCoughtry delivers.
McCoughtry ranked NINTH on the U.S. Olympic team in minutes played. She ranked second on the team in scoring. And in just 14.9 minutes per game, her 20 steals led the Olympics. Only one other player in the Games had more than 12. She shot 62 percent from the field, the best percentage on the team, and in the entire Olympic games.
Having done all that, now is the time for McCoughtry to realize that she should be building on that golden foundation, not changing the narrative with a negative storyline.
She needs to get back to work.
Word around the NBA is that Meadors and the Dream have put up with a lot from McCoughtry over the past couple of years. They've also benefited a lot -- with back-to-back trips to the WNBA Finals. The franchise needs to realize, in the pro game, the stars are what it's about, so long as they deliver without breaking league rules between the lines, and aren't breaking laws outside of them.
I know, it's a low behavioral standard. I'm all for coaches like Williams holding players to a higher standard. But at the moment, when it comes to the WNBA's leading scorer, it also give the appearance of a double-standard.
There's no winning side in this mysterious standoff.
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