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WNBA: JUN 01 Chicago Sky at Indiana Fever

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The WNBA has seen a massive increase in interest since Caitlin Clark was drafted by the Indiana Fever following her historic career at Iowa. 

While the Fever haven’t racked up many wins, they have drawn a lot of eyes, both in-person and on T.V, as curious fans tune in to see if Clark is worth the hype. So far, it’s been a mixed bag. Clark is the fastest rookie to reach 100 points and 50 assists, but she has been turnover prone, and at times ineffective. More than that, she has been taking a beating on the court, and in some respects off it, as expectations of her immediate dominance have not panned out.  

All of this seemingly came to a head in the Fever’s game against #2-overall pick Angel Reese and the Chicago Sky, when Clark took a hard off-ball foul on the inbound from Chennedy Carter, who shoulder checked Clark to the floor after seemingly calling her an expletive. While a foul was called, it wasn’t a technical and Carter wasn’t ejected. The league would later change the call to a technical the next day, but it doesn’t change the fact that Clark took a cheap, unnecessary shot and the officials blew the call. 

Physical basketball isn’t a bad thing. I don’t think fans mind letting the players play, and not having a game devolve into flops and frequent trips to the free-throw line. WNBA players are also just as competitive as their male counterparts. It would be silly to expect them to coddle Clark, to not try and “welcome her to the league” in a way rookies in every sport are.  

It could also be understandably frustrating for veteran WNBA players to see a rookie enter the league, draw more attention to the product, and earn far more money than they are, when there’s no guarantee she’ll be the star people are anointing her as. Clark was without a doubt a transcendent player in college; in the pros, she has yet to really prove anything.  

But a non-basketball foul like that is uncalled for. It’s a bad look for Carter, since it makes her look petty and jealous. It’s a bad look for the WNBA, as their officials missed an obvious foul against the player that the league has clearly hitched its wagon to. And it’s an especially bad look for Clark’s Fever teammates, who had almost no reaction to the foul. 

Where was the outrage? Where was the standing up for their teammate? If Tyrese Haliburton took a hit like that, it’s hard to imagine Myles Turner, James Johnson and company standing idlily by. No one’s suggesting Malice at the Palace 2.0, but to have no reaction is unacceptable. 

It’s worth noting that Clark herself has not waded into the discourse surrounding her, nor should she. It would do her no favors to focus on anything but basketball, and she has handled all the attention and questions with grace. It would be nice, however, to see her teammates stick up for her, both on the court and off it. Otherwise, open season will continue on the star rookie.  

During Monday’s edition of The Ride With JMV, John spoke to James Boyd of The Athletic and Pat Boylan, voice of the Fever. Listen to those discussions down below, and tune into The Ride With JMV weekdays from 3-6pm on 93.5/107.5 The Fan! 

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