WNBA's Maya Moore takes a break ... but for how long?
There is huge buzz among fans and followers of the WNBA that superstar Maya Moore, a forward with the Minnesota Lynx, may not participate in the upcoming 2019 season.
What's the fuss?
Give the woman a break.
She needs one, quite literally ... hence the ambiguity of her availability for next season.
Every year I am amazed by what WNBA players put their bodies through.
How do they sustain it?
The WNBA season runs all summer, and with only 12 teams and 144 players in the league, the talent pool is lean and the competition, game in and game out, is fierce.
The season is a mental and physical meat grinder.
Then, with barely a hiccup in their schedule, most WNBA players head directly to Europe or Asia and play a full traditional basketball season, from fall until early spring. And usually, WNBA players are counted on to be the best players on those teams, and they are paid that way, which is why they go in the first place so that they can supplement their WNBA incomes.
Some of the WNBA's most elite players, who have been selected for the U.S. National teams, also squeeze in practices and games with that organization when they can.
So it's basketball and basketball and basketball, literally year-round.
Taxing to say the least.
And 2018 was particularly taxing for Moore, whose off-season team in Russia made a long playoff run and won the EuroLeague title. She then returned to Minnesota to lead the Lynx to another playoff berth. Over her eight-year career, the Lynx have been in the playoffs every season, winning four WNBA titles.
Oh yeah, she also was named Most Valuable Player of the 2018 WNBA All-Star Game midway through the season.
That's quite a run.
Not surprisingly, Moore elected to stay home this off-season, and forgo another stint with her team in Russia. Had she gone, she would have had to leave just days after the Lynx were eliminated from the playoffs.
And so the exhaustive cycle would have begun again.
With so little down time, with so little recovery time, it is somewhat remarkable we don't see more WNBA players breaking down from burnout, or just simply breaking down physically.
There are plenty of injuries in the WNBA. Would there be fewer if these players actually had a suitable off-season to rest, recover and rejuvenate?
The best salary a WNBA player can make is around $100,000, which is not chump change for about four months of work.
But there is more money out there. And the overseas leagues are typically very generous to the tune of upper six figures and sometimes more than $1 million per season for the top WNBA players.
So to fully maximize their earning potential while physically able, most WNBA players will go overseas and forgo that important rest time.
Yes, it's a choice, but most WNBA players will tell you it's a prudent financial choice for their futures.
Yet at some point, the hamster wheel can't keep spinning at lightning speed. Even for fit and capable elite athletes in their 20s and 30s.
Too much is too much ... for anyone.
Moore, who turns 30 in April and has been a franchise player here and abroad as well as a Team USA player for her entire career, needed to hop off that wheel for awhile.
She did so by skipping Russia this winter. Minnesota Lynx fans are freaking out that her hiatus will continue into the summer.
And sure, she would be missed in Minneapolis and throughout the league. She is a draw.
But if Moore doesn't play the 2019 WNBA season, it's easy to understand why. She is a competitor and loves to play. But she also needs a break, both mentally and physically.
Other top-tier players -- such as Diana Taurasi and Candace Parker -- have done it, and they have come back stronger and more engaged.
Fans have suggested that the WNBA needs to pay its players more in order to avoid all of these problems, in order to keep their players home in the off-season and fresh for the summer season.
That's not going to happen, at least not any time soon. The attendance and sponsorships aren't there.
So the only thing these athletes can do is just listen to their bodies, and protect their most important commodity.
A year off here and there seems to be an acceptable compromise. It usually pays off for the players and the WNBA in the long run anyway.
• Twitter: @babcockmcgraw