On Monday, we learned from the Washington Mystics that they re-signed Emma Meesseman. This is good news. Meesseman even made that clear on her own Twitter account, which is still lacking a blue checkmark...
However, the “devil is in the details.”
Ava Wallace of The Washington Post also reported that the contract was for just one year. Howard Megdal of High Post Hoops added that she will earn the veteran max salary of $215,000.
There was no surprise that Meesseman was going to re-sign with the Mystics. But it’s surprising that she signed for just one year. In a phone interview with Wallace, Mystics General Manager and Head Coach Mike Thibault said that she wanted to “see where her life is at the end of this year with Olympics and us, everything else, and just kind of sort it out.”
That’s...really...bad news for the longer term.
There is no doubt that the Mystics will have a shot to repeat with Meesseman, who’s almost definitely getting a bigger role in Washington this season since she won’t miss much time.
However, Meesseman’s part of Belgium’s Golden Age of women’s basketball, and the national team there is clearly her first love.
Furthermore, the WNBA schedule is ALWAYS going to clash heads with the Belgian Cats because the new CBA doesn’t create breaks for European tournaments like Women’s EuroBasket. Since she would miss time during odd-numbered years, Meesseman could be suspended for future EuroBasket appearances, though the new CBA language makes it possible that she won’t — and I don’t think the league will since Europe has a WNBA Finals MVP, namely her. It’s just bad PR now.
The new CBA also takes a more adversarial stance against the Russian, Turkish and Czech powers with language about WNBA prioritization when the season begins. Meesseman plays for UMMC in Russia.
Now, I get that Russia isn’t Belgium, but both countries operate under a European model of basketball seasons that Meesseman is more familiar with, and the FIBA Europe system works in sync with the Belgian Cats’ schedule. And finally, UMMC will probably still pay Meesseman more money than the WNBA ever will.
In short, Meesseman definitely has a lot on her plate. If she continues playing in the WNBA after 2020, can she negotiate with the Belgian national team so she doesn’t have to report to every practice (which puts her at risk of lengthy WNBA suspensions)? Does playing for the Mystics hinder Belgium from a potential European championship?
There is also a professional team tug of war at play between the Mystics and UMMC. Does she want to be a mercenary between the states and Europe? And if Meesseman theoretically quit UMMC to focus solely on the Mystics as a professional, could she get more exposure that compensates her accordingly?
My feeling is that Meesseman is weighing her options, including whether to retire from the WNBA after the 2020 season — since that was something in between the lines of Wallace’s article. Yes, it’s possible the Mystics can core Meesseman, but it’s not going to mean much if she won’t return.
The 2020 Mystics season will be interesting but ominous. Washington is going to have to thread the needle between trying to convince Meesseman to stay in the WNBA from 2021 on. But they must also develop more young talent or find a free agent post, just in case she doesn’t.