Basketball: Caitlin Clark’s eventful start to the season

NEW YORK – Poor skill, a mess of ball losses, non-selection for the Olympic Games, the new star of women’s basketball Caitlin Clark is struggling for her debut in the WNBA, also weakened by a series of controversies over her status.

Barely more than two months ago, the American shook up the world of basketball, all sexes combined, and well beyond, under the jersey of the University of Iowa, with baskets from ten meters away and dazzling passes.

Having moved to the professionals with the Indiana Fever, she was slow to find the target and very much leads the WNBA in the number of lost balls (5.5 per game).

“She doesn’t have the body to withstand the physical dimension of the league and she’s not fast enough to escape it,” said in the radio show “The Dan Patrick Show», University of Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma.

“The WNBA is a demanding league,” women’s basketball legend Nancy Lieberman told AFP. “There is a lot of talent. »

The fact that the championship only has 12 teams, compared to 30 in the NBA, raises the general level of the league, in general opinion.

“There aren’t a lot of places,” added Caitlin Clark. “So any player who comes on the pitch is very, very strong. You can’t relax, even for one possession, on offense or defense. »

Amidst the grayness, there are nevertheless some bright spots, like Sunday’s match against Chicago, perhaps its most successful since the start of the season.

The leader begins to tame the tempo of the WNBA, better calibrate her passes and use her teammates to find space.

“You have to learn a new dance. And once you master the steps, the rhythm and you have qualities superior to others, everything will fall into place,” explained to the daily USA Today, the best scorer in the history of the WNBA, Diana Taurasi.

Take a step back

But the level of play is not the only obstacle facing number 22.

Before even stepping onto a WNBA floor, Caitlin Clark had already reached an unprecedented status in the history of women’s team sports.

A locomotive for audiences at the university, to the point of overtaking men’s basketball, a shoe in his name and a $28 million contract with Nike, an explosion in ticket sales in the WNBA, the Clark phenomenon has propelled an entire sport into unknown territory .

To the point of arousing, according to former NBA center Shaquille O’Neal, “jealousy” in the ranks of the professional league.

The impression was accentuated by the non-selection of the player for the American Olympic team.

Several fouls committed on Caitlin Clark during her first matches caused controversy, in particular a strong contact from Chicago fullback Chennedy Carter, while the ball was not in play.

“We didn’t hit her like in a street fight. It’s just basketball,” Carter then pleaded.

In the process, the latter was attacked on social networks, called a “bully”, and attacked, according to her teammates, by an individual during a trip. Some saw it as an expression of latent racism.

“Caitlin Clark is a straight white woman in a black lesbian league, and they resent her and are jealous of the attention she gets and her shoe deal,” he said, on Fox Newsthe ultra-conservative polemicist Clay Travis.

Clark has tried to avoid controversy, but his neutrality has been denounced by observers, including Connecticut Sun outsider DiJonai Carrington.

“How anyone can not be bothered by the use of their name to justify racism, bigotry, misogyny, xenophobia and homophobia is crazy,” she commented, on X (ex-Twitter).

“People should not use my name to promote their racist or misogynistic ideas,” the person finally reacted.

The media whirlwind currently stunning the WNBA “is not Caitlin Clark’s fault,” says Marie Ferdinand-Harris, a former major league player.

“I didn’t hear her say that it was she who made this league what it is,” she says.

“People are finally starting to talk about the WNBA. This has always been our fight,” underlines the woman who today heads the BeLikeCJ foundation. “Let’s take a step back. The WNBA finally matters. »

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