Caitlin Clark will be great in WNBA – many Iowa fans and media personalities need to relax

Photo Credit: Lamar Carter

Three. It is a number right in the middle between two and four.

Three is the number of times a referee’s hand has to hit the mat during a pin cover in professional wrestling for a match to conclude. 

Three is the number of national championships won by South Carolina since Dawn Staley assumed the reins as head coach – the most recent of which occurred this past season for the Gamecocks. 

A tricycle has three wheels. 

A triangle has three sides. 

Most people associate Destiny’s Child with having had three primary members. 

And the No. 3 was most made famous by the recently retired Candace Parker. 

As of this writing three also applies to the number of regular season games played by Caitlin Clark in her WNBA career – two of which were against the same team in the New York Liberty. 

The other was her WNBA debut on the road at Mohegan Sun Arena as the Indiana Fever faced off against the Connecticut Sun. The Sun won by a final score of 92-71 in what was a mixed bag for No. 22. 

Clark did score 20 points – but she also turned the ball over on 10 occasions – a testament to the tough defense Connecticut presents game in and game out. 

Then came her home debut against the Liberty – a contest where the Lib drubbed the Fever with the final result being 102-66 in large part thanks to a 31-point, 10-rebound, four-assist, three-steal, two-block performance from Breanna Stewart. Clark was held to nine points. 

Then came Indiana’s most recent test – the second of their home-and-home with the Liberty as the scene shifted from Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis to Barclays Center in Brooklyn. It was also a nationally-televised matchup on ABC where the Liberty drew over 17,000 fans to the Clays (funny how that happens when the upper bowl is open – hint, hint). 

New York won by a final of 91-80 to go 3-0 on the season (and the game was not that close) – the Liberty’s first 3-0 start since 2021. As for the Fever, their record dropped to 0-3 despite a 22-point outing from No. 22 – by far the best of the three games she has played so far. 

Indiana’s next matchup will be back at Gainbridge Fieldhouse against the same Sun who they saw a few days ago in Connecticut. 

But judging from some of the equatorially hot takes that have come from a few folks, one would think the Fever have already gone 0-for the season and might as well look forward to the lottery again after three games. 

Some of these hot takes have ranged from hiring former Iowa coach Lisa Bluder (who recently retired from coaching) in place of Christie Sides. Others have even suggested that the Fever trade Aliyah Boston (who is on a three-year rookie contract). 

But the one that really takes the cake is the suggestion that the WNBA should have given Indiana an easier schedule so Clark could win at the same rate that she did when she wore Hawkeyes black and gold. 

First of all, the “easier schedule” thing is complete nonsense. The Fever were in a position to win the lottery and select Clark with the No. 1 overall pick because of their struggles from the previous season. Last time we checked, going 13-27 (last in the Eastern Conference) will have one looking at ping pong balls come the following winter.

Second of all, the Liberty and Sun are arguably the two top teams in the WNBA not named the Las Vegas Aces (for many of those just now watching the W like many of these talking heads on our television screens, they are the back-to-back defending champions). 

And third – if Clark is still putting up 20-point performances in two of her first three games, it suggests she is doing something correct. 

Ask almost anyone who either is or was a great player in the W (or in sports as a whole) about their rookie season and they will tell you they went through it. 

And this is not only in terms of the win-loss record, but also with finding chemistry with a new group of teammates. The focal points for the Fever are supposed to Clark and Boston (along with Erica Wheeler and NaLyssa Smith providing noteworthy veteran presences). 

If anything, the Fever need to develop a more effective pick and roll game that allows Clark to take advantage of the attention she draws to get the rock to Boston in the paint. Having a veteran point guard like Wheeler also on the team will help Clark’s transition to WNBA play be a bit smoother. 

But what also needs to happen is the realization that playing in the WNBA is not the same is playing in college. W teams have the personnel to game plan and guard against a potentially effective Clark-to-Boston pick and roll game. As Clark becomes more acclimated to WNBA play, that pick and roll will become more effective and it will lead to more victories for Indiana. 

As for these talking heads like Colin Cowherd who subliminally feel other WNBA teams should throw games to the Fever, they are getting exposed piece by piece. In fact, in that above clip from Cowherd’s show, the Liberty logo that was used was the logo from their days under the Madison Square Garden umbrella (a logo they have not used since the conclusion of the 2018 season).

Cowherd and many others are not actually watching WNBA games. They simply check the stat sheets of Fever games and produce entire segments based on Clark’s stat line. Here is how one knows they are not truly watching the W. 

When the Cowherds and Pat McAfees of the world go on entire tangents about how the WNBA should intentionally give Clark an easy schedule, do they even mention other players? For example – DeWanna Bonner scored 20 points in that game for Connecticut and moved up to fifth on the WNBA’s all-time leading scorers list. Did Cowherd and McAfee even mention Bonner? 

Also – Stewie’s 31 points in the road win at the Fever (she tallied 24 in the home win this past Saturday). Was Stewie even mentioned by Cowherd? She is after all the (cover your eyes unless you’re driving, A’ja Hive) reigning league MVP. 

In addition, have any of these programs that only want to talk W to wax poetically about Clark even had an actual WNBA journalist (yes, they do exist) break down not only No. 22 but the entire league? 

If not, we will give them a good cheat sheet of who to invite courtesy of Slam Magazine. 

Twenty-four of them. Right here. All great creatives and even better people. Take your pick and have them on your programs. Oh…and unlike Cowherd, they actually watch and LOVE the WNBA.

As for McAfee, he also sent off a tweet following the 102-66 rout of the Fever asking if New York ever lost a game? Someone clearly did not watch last year’s Finals.

There are a few Iowa fans who also need to relax as well (and owe apologies to Diana Taurasi and Sheryl Swoopes). As a program, the Hawkeyes reached their peak during the Clark years, but as a university, the bread and butter of Iowa athletics has been football – not basketball. 

Prior to this decade, Iowa women’s hoops only had one retired number – Michelle Edwards in 1990. Now they have three – Clark, Edwards and Megan Gustafson. She and Kate Martin are both currently Las Vegas Aces. 

We have to understand that because Iowa does not have the history of other programs that their fanbase may not have historically watched the WNBA the way others have. 

UConn fans watch the W. 

Tennessee fans watch the W. 

South Carolina FAMs watch the W. 

They understand that the transition to the pros for a Breanna Stewart, Candace Parker or A’ja Wilson is not an easy one and Iowa fans need to give Clark the same grace. Thankfully, more players themselves are starting to call the media out as well. 

What is particularly galling about all of these excuses folks are making for Clark is the one person who is not making these excuses – to her credit – is Clark herself. 

Say what one wants about her reaction to a few referees’ calls she has received since crossing over into the pros, but Clark is not making excuses. She knew the transition would be a tough one. Even if the production is there, Clark wants to win. 

When one has won at the rate that Clark did as a collegiate superstar, going into the professional ranks where one can feel like a little fish in a more dangerous pond can be tough. Also, she is not begging to be the face of the W upon entering the league.

(Side note to some of these new “fans” – the face of the W is a Black woman from the South. We know that makes some of you uncomfortable, but deal with it.)

It was only last month when Iowa was in a grueling national championship game with South Carolina and the transition for Clark has been even more daunting with all of the media attention she dealt with as she transitioned from collegiate to professional. 

Clark wanted to be in the WNBA because she wanted to play against the best hoopers in the world. That is why she said thanks but no thanks to attention-grabbing money offers from the Big 3 and Barstool. 

And the WNBA is where Clark belongs. And as those above clips display, the sisterhood that is WNBA players wants Clark to succeed. 

But regardless of the walk of life one may be in, success is not a straight line, but a winding road with twists and turns up a hill. Clark is built for that hill – she knows it, her teammates and coaches know it and the rest of the W knows it. As for those on the outside, a simple realization needs to enter their minds. 

This ain’t Iowa…ain’t no college…