May 10, 2024 - News

Caitlin Clark makes her home debut with the Fever

A basketball player on a court.

13,000 fans came out for Clark's home debut at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Photo: Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images

Caitlin Clark made her home debut with the Indiana Fever in front of a packed crowd at Gainbridge Fieldhouse on Thursday night.

Why it matters: The WNBA is entering a new era of skyrocketing interest driven in large part by Clark, whose record-setting college career has made her one of the biggest stars in sports right now.

  • Clark had 12 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists in her 32 minutes.

Yes, but: Her homecourt debut had to be rescheduled to accommodate the NBA's playoff schedule.

What happened: The Fever's lone home preseason game was originally scheduled for Friday night.

  • Then, the Pacers advanced to the second round of the playoffs for a series against the Knicks and Game 3, the first game in Indianapolis, was also scheduled for Friday night.
  • "We just had to adjust," Fever head coach Christie Sides said. "That's what basketball and coaching is."

Reality check: The Fever game was a preseason matchup, while the Pacers are in the second round of the playoffs, but it still exemplifies the questions around parity and equity for female athletes.

  • Plus: It could happen again if the Pacers make it to the Conference Finals, which will coincide with the WNBA regular season.

The big picture: The WNBA is still figuring out how to answer those questions, while seeing a surge in popularity through ticket sales and prices.

What's next: The WNBA is in the process of negotiating a new media deal, just as those droves of new fans will be tuning in, and the league will need to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement with players by 2027.

  • Many new fans were shocked to learn that the No. 1 draft pick in the WNBA this year is guaranteed a $76,000 salary in their first year while the No. 1 draft pick in the NBA gets $10 million.

The bottom line: This scheduling snafu is just the latest, but far from the greatest, example of uncomfortable issues that the NBA and WNBA need to figure out.

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