May 26, 2023 

Locked on Women’s Basketball: What Gabby Williams and Marine Johannès tell us about prioritization

What we've learned about prioritization and what the future of the rule may hold

With questions surrounding prioritization and the availability of Gabby Williams and Marine Johannès, host Jackie Powell is joined by’s Kevin Pelton to discuss the international sagas that impact both players and their respective teams in the Seattle Storm and New York Liberty. Will both play in the WNBA? Who will play in FIBA’s EuroBasket Championships? Who is impacted by WNBA prioritization and who isn’t? Why has there been such a controversy in the past few weeks surrounding both players?

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Jackie and Kevin tackle it all in addition to examining what we’ve learned about prioritization and what players like Williams and Johannès tell us about the future of the rule. The pair first discuss Williams, her status as a free agent and about the concussion she suffered during the French LFB semifinals.

Kevin said, “So the loophole, so to speak here, because one of the things that came up originally, Breanna Stewart last year, signed a one-year deal with the Storm. [She] attributed that to the uncertainty over prioritization. And that sent everyone scrambling to figure out, well wait, if you’re a free agent, does that mean the rules don’t apply to you? And they still do apply. But there is one technical difference if you’re under contract, you had to be in market with your team, by the start of the regular season.

As a free agent, Gabby Williams merely had to have completed her offseason services by the start of the WNBA regular season last Friday. And so that created the opportunity for her contract to be suspended after she played in Game 1 of the French Finals but still didn’t feel right. It seems very clear now that she would have been unable to play in games two or three of that series anyway. So ASVEL wasn’t really losing her services by suspending that contract. But it created the benefit of making her eligible for the WNBA this season.”

On the other side of the situation, Jackie and Kevin try to figure out what is going on with France and Johannès, who signed with the Liberty in March. “I can report that Marine Johannès and the French Federation have been in talks for months about this,” Jackie said.

She went on to say, “She has made it clear that one of her priorities is to play on the New York Liberty superteam. That is very appealing to her. And I would understand why. I mean, I’m sure other international players would want to play on a team like that. So, it’s just you bring up such a great point, the fact that does France really need this? I mean, the thing that I think about is I think of Basketball Australia. Where they are competing in the AsiaCup … And you look at Basketball Australia’s roster list, no WNBA players, none of them. You’ve got a lot of the younger players in their system that are playing in this. And it just begs the question: why doesn’t that type of thing happen in France?”

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