Ready, Willing, and ABL

The women's pro league looks to fill the B-ball void

The ABL has also worked hard to place players on teams in regions where they grew up or went to college, and the league's current consideration of expanding into the New York area might help woo University of Tennessee superstar and Queens native Chamique Holdsclaw next year. Since the WNBA's Washington, D.C., team has the first draft choice for the upcoming season, if Holdsclaw goes with the glitzier league, she's unlikely to end up near home, unless the WNBA changes its rules to allow for multiplayer trades. The Arizona Republichas already rumored that the Liberty might consider trading Rebecca Lobo, Sophia Witherspoon, and Kym Hampton for Holdsclaw.

In any event, Cavalli says there's a point at which he'll bow out of a bidding war for Holdsclaw to avoid widening the salary split between star players and the bench. A fair salary scale is another of those grassroots principles he simply vows not to violate. (ABL minimum salaries are $40,000 nowadays and they average $80,000, compared to a minimum of $15,000 in the WNBA and an average of $35,000.)

With commitments like that, it remains to be seen whether the mom-and-pop league can survive in a megastore landscape. Some days, the ABL seems like a socialist country barely keeping afloat in a sea of global capitalism. Yet Cavalli hasn't dropped his optimism. Season-ticket sales are already up 30 percent from last year, he notes. And he expects to come close to breaking even this year— a fine performance for a start-up company, he says, noting that the WNBA also finished its second season in the hole. Sure, Cavalli admits, the ABL has to hustle this year for more national TV and sponsorship. But one thing remains as certain as Teresa Edwards's bounce pass: "We're not going to change our philosophy." —Alisa Solomon

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