Is it time WNBA brings back injury list or expands rosters?
NEW YORK (AP) When the WNBA's collective bargaining agreement runs out in a few years, an injury list or roster expansion will be one of the issues that the union discusses with the league.
As it stands now, teams are hamstrung with what they can do with players who are hurt during the season. If a player is injured for an extended period of time, the team can either keep them on the roster - forcing the franchise to play with one less player - or they could cut them, which would cost the organization the player's rights.
Neither is a great choice.
''Teams shouldn't have to make that choice,'' said Connecticut Sun forward Chiney Ogwumike, who is sidelined for the season with an Achilles injury she suffered while playing overseas this past winter.
It's the second time that Ogwumike has missed a season because of an injury. She sat out in 2015 after having microfracture surgery on her knee. That season, the Sun kept her on the roster all year, costing them a spot. Although Ogwumike couldn't play, she was still the face of the franchise while making appearances.
''There are other ways that players can help out even if they are injured,'' Ogwumike added.
This time around, the team suspended her for the year, freeing up the roster spot and not having to pay her.
''That was brutal,'' Connecticut coach and general manager Curt Miller said of the decision whether to suspend or keep his franchise player. ''Months and months of conversation where we would swing from one side to the other.''
Ogwumike is relegated to showing up at games by getting a media credential and sitting press row since she works for ESPN. Since she's suspended, she can't make appearances for the team.
The union is definitely up for some kind of change, whether it's in the form of an injured reserve list or a roster expansion.
''That's definitely something that would help the league grow,'' said Los Angeles Sparks star Nneka Ogwumike, who is the president of the players' union. ''It's all about resources and talking about the logistics of everything. Looking forward, we'd like to spark that type of change.''
It wasn't always this way. The league had an injury list from 1997-2005. Players had to sit out a minimum of three games from the date they were placed on the list. Then, the WNBA had a two-person inactive list from 2006-08 before rosters were reduced to 11 in 2009. Rosters are back up to 12 now. There is a clause in the current CBA that if a team gets below 10 healthy players they can sign a replacement player until they get back above 10.
Miller and many other coaches would be in favor of adding either a 13th player or going back to the injured/inactive list.
''It's still a cost issue for the league,'' New York Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer said. ''There's enough good solid players out there that each team could carry 13 players and have one inactive. It used to be that way, but they wanted to save costs.''
New York has Brittany Boyd on the roster for the remainder of the season despite the fact she won't be able to play because of an injury to her left Achilles tendon. Dallas will be missing Courtney Paris for at least another five weeks with a knee injury.
Adding a player, assuming they are around the minimum contract, would cost a team roughly $115,000 between housing, benefits and salary. More teams are making money or close to making money than in 2014 when the current CBA was ratified. ESPN increased the television deal last season, giving the league between $20-25 million a season.
''I think it's not anything we haven't talked about before,'' Sparks coach Brian Agler said. ''It's the idea of coming up with a system that works. Hopefully we'll keep thinking about it and it will be put on the table and collectively we'll find a way to get it done.''
Agler remembers when there were 13 players on a roster.
''There were advantages, there were disadvantages, it was taxing on the budget,'' he said. ''There's an argument for both sides. To me, when you have an argument and have both sides with good points, that's when it becomes what's the priority. Right now, the priority is to manage the budget. Figure out a way to work with the system we have right now. That could change in a few years.''
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