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Under new CBA, could WNBA players skip season to just play overseas?

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The tea is back and it’s piping hot.

WNBA All-Stars A’ja Wilson and Napheesa Collier kicked off the latest round of Tea with A & Phee on Thursday, spilling the tea on everything from their favorite rookies to the possibility of players committing to overseas play once a clause in the new CBA kicks in.

At roughly eight minutes into the episode, the two begin to discuss overseas play, piggybacking off Collier’s recent stint abroad. For Collier, going straight from a season in France to playing for the Lynx in the WNBA was less than ideal, especially given additional COVID-19 protocols.

Collier was just one of 55 WNBA players who were late arrivals to training camp this year. The sheer number of players coming from overseas meant most WNBA teams weren’t able to practice as full squads during training camp.

Under the league’s new CBA, that could change starting in 2023, as players will be penalized for not joining their teams on time. The clause referencing this rule in the CBA says teams shall fine any player 1 percent of their base salary for every day they miss of training camp and suspend them for the season without pay if they do not report to training camp at the time and place designated by the team.

“I feel like that was a bad move,” Collier tells Wilson. “If I’m not making that much in the league, if it’s not enough for me to survive on during the year, I’m going overseas and having the summer off.”

Overseas seasons typically run from late fall to early summer. Some teams compete into late June and overlap with the start of the WNBA season, which typically runs from mid-summer to late-fall.

Most players can make more money overseas. And, as Collier points out, they could have the summer off if they choose to skip the WNBA season.

Star players have opted out of the season before, like Diana Taurasi back in 2015, when her Russian team wanted her to rest. It was a no-brainer for Taurasi, as her $1.5 million UMMC contract was more than 10 times the $107,000 she made in 2014 in the WNBA.

Currently, the average league salary is $120,648. With the new CBA, that number will also improve each year in another effort to keep players home.

“I feel like they’re forcing a hand doing that, making you choose,” Collier says of the league’s new rules around training camp attendance. “I’m going to be interested to see what happens with that.”

“All it takes is one person,” Wilson adds. “If we have one person do it, everyone’s going to start thinking, ‘hmmm, maybe I could do this too.’”

“That could be something I think that could shake the table a little bit, if people were just like, ‘eh, I’m gonna go play overseas.’” 

To hear everything Collier and Wilson have to say regarding the new CBA and more, check out the full episode of Tea with A & Phee here. And be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss out on the next conversation between the two All-Stars.