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Ann Meyers Drysdale | VP Phoenix Suns, Mercury; Basketball Hall of Famer

Amy Lawrence Show / Amy Lawrence
The Truth Network Radio
May 11, 2023 6:12 am

Ann Meyers Drysdale | VP Phoenix Suns, Mercury; Basketball Hall of Famer

Amy Lawrence Show / Amy Lawrence

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May 11, 2023 6:12 am

Basketball Hall of Famer & Vice President of the Phoenix Suns & Phoenix Mercury Ann Meyers Drysdale joins the show to talk playoffs, Chris Paul, the return of Brittney Griner, & the growth of the WNBA.


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That's slash positive. Basketball Hall of Famer, Vice President of the Suns and Mercury, also broadcaster for both teams. She's been on the show before. She's a previous game partner of mine. Did color analysis for my play-by-play on Westwood One.

It was an amazing opportunity to work with her and to talk to her. And Myers Drysdale. We know, know Chris Paul and so what changes with the Suns when they don't have CP3 on the court? Just his leadership. I mean, he's been around and has been in every situation. He just brings a calmness and understands how to get guys the ball. Defensively, he is not given enough credit. I mean, he's still one of the top guards in steals.

I think he either led the league or he's second last year. And he continues to be very effective on the defensive end. He's not as far as playing one-on-one quick guys, you know, younger guys that he's going to get by, but he's so savvy and just understands where the ball needs to be and when to get the ball to somebody since Kevin Durant's been on the team. He and Chris Paul and Devin Booker. So in sync with each other and you know, people will say, well, he doesn't push the ball.

He can push the ball, but majority of the time he brings it up a little bit slower and gets, you know, it takes a little bit longer to get in the half court game. But you know, I just think he's such a veteran player and understands every situation. With a lot of athletes, the later they get in their career, they do have to find a way to make up for what is maybe the explosiveness or the speed that they're missing, right?

The power that's maybe not there anymore. Plus it's a young man's game, a young woman's game at every level. So how do older athletes adapt to whether it's Chris or whether it's even Steph Curry, who's now in his mid thirties. How do you see older athletes remain relevant even when maybe they've lost some of the athleticism? Well, the money's so good.

Why are they going to retire? I mean, look at LeBron James. Look at Steph Curry. Look at Kevin Durant. Look at, I mean, you just go down the list. There's a bunch of mid 30 year olds and they're going older, especially in the WNBA and the NBA.

Right. And in baseball, you see it in baseball, too. Football, probably not as much unless it's certain positions. But you know, the money is just too good. I remember Julia Servin saying, you know, if I was playing today, I'd be playing in my 40s because the money. I mean, Vince Carter played in his 40s.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar played in his 40s. I think that you're going to see that more and more. Yes, you say it's a young man's game and a young woman's game. But in essence, when they come in, a lot of them don't pick up the speed, the quickness, and most of them that are getting high picks, they're not going to a top notch team and understanding how to defend in this league. You know, it's so physical and the veterans understand what they can get away with. And the young young players are still trying to figure that out on the women's side, the speed and the quickness and the strength and the physicality is so much different than college and playing an 82 game schedule. Right.

Then you talk about load management and so forth. I mean, and especially the young player, they get on a team that they're sitting, you know, and they don't get a chance to play or they're with a coach that's not going to play them or they just don't seem to fit in. Sometimes it takes a player three to five teams before they really gel. You bring up Kevin Durant and man, that was a blockbuster trade around the deadline. What was the attitude, the anticipation like inside your building when that trade was finally made? Well, there was a lot of talk about it this summer. Everybody was talking about it then.

And so when our new owner came in, Matt Ishby, he and his brother, Justin, they just pulled the trigger. I mean, you've got to make trade sometimes. And sometimes the best discussion on trades that aren't made are that your best trade. But, you know, this one in the sense of he's one of the best players to play this game.

You know, we had to give up some really young, good talent, too. But, you know, he just changes things that just he's so smooth. He's effortless. And he's he's had a couple of games where he struggled with his shots not falling, but is efficiently.

But that's just it. He's efficient. He wants to win.

He's not about himself. He's about the team. He knows how to be a leader on the team, too, even though he gives leadership to Devin Booker and Chris Paul. And, you know, they played Olympics together and just having that knowledge and understanding of what it takes to win. He's he's a champion with the Warriors.

You know, he's played at the highest level his whole career. We're so excited to welcome back to the show in Meyers Drysdale, who's the vice president of both the Suns and the Mercury. Actually, the Mercury about to start their regular season. She's also a broadcaster for both teams.

So it's great to be able to pick her brain. It's after hours here on CBS Sports Radio. You mentioned the change in ownership as well. How would you describe the culture with your team now?

Well, it's so positive. It's about both teams. And Matt Ishby has made it very clear that he wants to bring more championships to both organizations. The WNBA with the Phoenix Mercury. We've won three titles already in 0-7, 0-9 and 14.

And we've been to the finals. So we've got one of the greatest players to play this game and Diana Trossie, who will be 40 in June. And still, again, she just knows how to win. She knows how to get other players involved and great players make players around them better. She comes to work every day. One of the first to get there.

One of the last to leave. Always working on her shot. Always working on her conditioning. Knows how to take care of her body. Other players come in and they just follow her lead. And I mean, she's just special.

She's always been special and her ability to shoot the ball and understand how to get to the foul line and understanding how to win. With that type of leadership, a great shift, I guess, in culture to have owners that that's what they care about. They care about winning. Well, they do.

And they want to have fun. You know, he's got the largest mortgage company in the country. There's no question. When he came in and he talked to each employee in different groups and so forth. The players and the coaches and administrators and the employees all the way down to the people that work within the arena. And just talked about what we were going to accomplish as an organization. And he said, I'm owning the Phoenix Suns and Mercury for life. I love this.

I love this. And, you know, he played at Michigan State for Tom Izzo. He was a walk on plate, basically a bench player. But Izzo had him come on and was an assistant coach one year. So, I mean, he knows the game. He's been around it and he's passionate. And then it's exciting to be around him, too, because he has such great energy and he's so positive. What was your reaction to the exchange, we'll call it, with Nikola Jokic the other night?

If Matt hadn't been sitting there, it would have been somebody else, you know. And then the big thing before the game last night, the Joker came over and shook hands with him and gave him a basketball. So you get caught up in the emotions of the game. And I really think, and I may be wrong, but basketball is probably the most emotional game because it happens so quick.

You can be on such a high after one basket and one second later somebody makes a defensive play or knocks the shot down. And no other sport that I can think of where fans literally are sitting next to the court as close as they are, so close to the players that they can touch them and also sitting behind the benches. You don't see that in football or baseball. I know that hockey, you've got the glass, so they can't touch the players.

But court side sees, I mean, they're so close. The game changes so quick. You know, as far as runs, you can go on a 17 to 2 run and then all of a sudden the other team goes on a 10 to 0 run or whatever.

So emotionally, it's a game that is so draining. And I think Chick Hearn said one time, it's the only game that really the rules justify disqualifying you from the game with your foul. And I know people like Pete Newell and so forth have talked about, you know, no foul out rule. I mean, I know they do it in the summer league, in the NBA summer league, where they have 10 fouls.

Whoa. But you could have, you know, after your sixth foul, you could have you pick up a seventh foul, then, you know, you get the free throw in the ball out of bounds or something like that. I mean, people want to come see their stars play. And if the Joker were to pick up three fouls in the first quarter, he's sitting. People want to see him play. Or Devin Booker and or Steph Curry to see them sit. Or LeBron James or Jimmy Butler and Jalen Brunson and so forth, guys that are playing so great in these playoffs. And then all of a sudden they get in foul trouble.

They got to sit. People want to see them play. Sure. Absolutely. From a player's perspective, because you played at the highest level. How do you feel about having fans right there on the court where literally they're close enough to touch you when you're near the sidelines?

Yeah, we've always had that, you know, even in high school, middle school, you know, I mean, you got parents standing on the wall right there and so forth and club ball and so forth. But, you know, it's just too much money. I mean, those people are paying a lot of money. Somebody said, I guess the Lakers the other night in L.A., there was a seat on the floor for like almost thirty five thousand. What? I read that somewhere. No, no, that couldn't be. Do you think it's dangerous for the fans, for the fans or the players to be that close for the players?

For sure. I mean, especially when they're sitting so close and they're the court on the out of bounds is not that wide. And if you get people spilling food or drink and so forth, you've got to wipe that up or where their foot is sticking out. It's close enough to go out onto the court when players are taking the ball out of bounds. I mean, they're just right up against the fans. You know, when Shaq was playing, he dove for balls and he's diving into people. And that's a lot of weight to be laying on.

Yes, it's after hours with Amy Lawrence on CBS Sports Radio. Considering that Brittany has not played since the twenty one season, there's a lot that's going to go into her getting back on the court. The Mercury have expectations. They want to be a championship contender right now.

Maybe that's secondary. But and what's it like to have Brittany back with the team? Just a joy. I mean, I'm just in awe of her, honestly. She's just she's always been one of the kindest and free spirited people that I've met at such a young age. And, you know, she's 30 now. But to think of what she's gone through, going to and into a country like the Soviet Union, Russia, being in prison like that, I'm sure it's still emotionally and mentally that there's some things. But she's just been so gracious and grateful to be back in this country. And and I'm fascinated.

I've been in during the summer, was involved with a lot of different where I would go do appearances and so forth and would talk to different people. And they said, well, that Brittany Greiner and she's a drug addict and doesn't love the country. And I'm thinking she's played for a country for two Olympics. She loves this country. So she is a gay black woman.

Is that what you're upset about? I mean, she's not a drug addict. Right. And she is then given prescriptions to help with her mental health. I just think she is so caring of other people. And I thought that before she went to Russia and even after she's been in prison. I mean, she started her own foundation, heart and soul, to go out in the community here in Phoenix to the homeless and give shoes and socks and and then teamed up with the Phoenix Rescue Mission and so forth.

And so we kind of carried that on this last summer for her while she was in Russia. But, you know, she continues to help others. And she is now teamed up with an organization that is involved with families that have their loved ones that are imprisoned in other countries. And she and her wife, Cheryl, who just passed the bar, is an attorney that they have both dedicated themselves to helping our government and helping others get out of countries that they're imprisoned. Even after everything she went through, not only is she really excited about playing basketball again and trying to get back into that shape, but also wants to make sure that the time that she was detained there was not in vain.

She wants to help other people who are in that same situation. How can the team, how can the administration help with that? Well, they've been amazing. And the ownership has been supportive 100 percent. The Mercury staff, Jim Pittman and Vince Kozar, they have been involved and Brittany's agents.

There's so many people that have worked behind the scenes. And Cheryl, her wife, has been amazing. Brittany knows it's a platform because of who she is and being able to use professional basketball to her advantage to help others. She understands her role. It certainly does seem like basketball would help in that situation, right? As she moves forward, that's something that she finds great joy in, is being able to play basketball again. Before I let you go, Anne, the WNBA season is about to tip off. And it seems as though there's a lot of growth, a lot of excitement around it.

How have you seen that kind of build up over the last few seasons? Oh, gosh, I've been involved with the league since 1997 and way even before that when the WBL, which was the first women's pro league back in 1978-79, being the number one pick then. But the players that came into the league in the beginning, back in 1997, they were players that had been superstars here in college and on the Olympic teams and went overseas and played in Italy and France.

And Poland and so forth. And so whether you had a Teresa Weatherspoon or Jennifer Gillum or Janice Lawrence and so forth, I mean, just great players. Cynthia Cooper that came back. And then you had the draft picks of a Tina Thompson and the Cheryl Swoopes and Yolanda Griffiths who came in. Players from the ABL and the Delicia Milton-Jones and just great players, great names that really made this league.

And still are great names that I think we need to continue to talk about. I get frustrated with TV people that are broadcasting the women's game and they still refer to comparing them to an NBA player. Our 27th year, we need to keep talking about the women that have played in this game.

But the way it has progressed, I mean, the game, the kids are so talented today. And you get an Asia Wilson or a Sabrina Inescu and, you know, Jean-Quel Jones and Branah Stewart, what she's done. You know, you go to BG and we got Sophia Cunningham and so forth. So there's so many great young players, Janae Agumikay and Neko Agumikay go down the list.

You know, my mind is just like going, okay, what team is it? Candace Parker and Chelsea Gray and so forth. But the game itself has risen and people love watching the game because they're so competitive. They work so hard.

To me, the women have been very out front of social issues in this country, especially during the bubble and COVID and Black Lives Matter and Roe v. Wade. Getting health care for maternity leave and so many other things that they're fighting now to try, which they have been trying for the last 10 to 12 years, probably trying to get charter flights. But now it's even more of an issue. And I think eventually it will come. They're talking about expansion.

The expansion will come. I personally would like to see this league become a seven to eight month league, not just a four month league. And so players don't have to go overseas and play. And I've always felt that way. I felt that we needed to be the league where players wanted to stay and play. And it's so tough for these kids to go over and play really 11, 12 months out of the year.

Their bodies just can't take it. But the game is changing. And I think we're much more ahead as a league than the NBA was before their 30 years.

It's amazing to think about the growth and also that it's been that long. I don't think people realize how established the WNBA is. And you're right, such a powerful voice and a unique product, one that should be celebrated for what it is. Awesome to catch up with Ann Meyers Drysdale again. She's a Hall of Famer herself.

She's won at every level and now vice president for the Suns, the Mercury, as well as a broadcaster for both teams. Always awesome. Our privilege to catch up with you. And thank you so much for a few minutes. Thank you, Amy. Anytime.

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Find out more at T-Mobile dot com slash C-Y. That's S-E-E-W-H-Y. This is Flea for This Little Lake, the podcast about falling in love with music. I started a nonprofit music school about 20 years ago called the Silver Lake Conservatory of Music. The reason that I started doing this podcast was music education. I'll be speaking with Rick Rubin, Thundercat, Stewart Copeland, Margo Price, Corey Henry, Cynthia Erivo, Sheila E, and Patti Smith. Please listen and follow This Little Light, a presentation of Cadence 13, on The Odyssey app or wherever you get your podcasts.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-11 08:44:14 / 2023-05-11 08:52:46 / 9

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