WNBA president sees advancements

WNBA President Laurel Richie has seen significant progress in the league’s advancement this past year:

With the new TV contract come some intriguing innovations. As the WNBA and ESPN moved into their discussions, fertile imaginations went to work and devised plans to better depict the league’s action and provide a close-up look for viewers.

Enter “Referee Cam.”

The WNBA plans to put mini-cameras on its refs during selected games. It’s thought to be the first time such a telecasting idea has been used in a United States professional league. Fans will see on-court action, and hear players’ and coaches’ interactions, from the same angle that a game official does.

“I like it when the WNBA leads the way,” Richie said. “I think this is an example.”

ESPN and its affiliated networks also will expand their coverage of WNBA players and their backgrounds, showing their lives away from basketball. That’s already begun, in part, with the network’s focus on the league’s top 2013 draftees — Phoenix’s Brittney Griner, Chicago’s Elena Delle Donne and Tulsa’s Skylar Diggins.

“I think we are seeing a draft class that is really game-changing in its depth and breadth,” Richie said. “This is 40 years after Title IX, 17 years after the league. Young women … are entering the league stronger, better, faster, more disciplined, well trained and well coached. The game, I think, is at a new level.”

With the WNBA on an upswing, Richie was asked about the possibility of league expansion. There are currently 12 teams. Six are aligned with NBA teams, including the Fever, which is part of the Pacers Sports & Entertainment organization. The Connecticut Sun, Tulsa Shock, Atlanta Dream, Seattle Storm, Chicago Sky and Los Angeles Sparks are not partners with NBA clubs.

Richie envisions expansion but didn’t put a timetable on it.

Other WNBA news:

Lynx….Janel McCarville didn’t need to score last night to make her presence felt.

Minnesota appears micast as the WNBA’s after thought.

With three Olympians, fans can expect them to show they are still the best.

This week’s uncontested shot column.

Mystics….coach Mike Thibault is aiming to turn the franchise around.

Crystal Langhorne demonstrates a flair for decoration at her townhouse.

Shock….rookie Skylar Diggins and the Shock are off to a slow start.

Diggins is using multi-tasking to survive.

Mercury….Brittney Griner is changing the game.