Caitlin Clark had her ‘welcome to the league’ moment: Adam Silver

The hard foul against Caitlin Clark last weekend and the physical play she has faced in the WNBA has been at the center of the basketball conversation in recent days, and now NBA commissioner Adam Silver is now giving his two cents.

Not only does he think Clark has the ability to handle herself on the court, but he believes that the ongoing discussion about the women’s game is ultimately a big net positive for the WNBA.

Silver spoke to reporters before the start of Game 1 of the NBA Finals between the Celtics and Mavericks on Thursday about a number of topics, and he was eventually asked about how he felt about the flagrant foul from the Sky’s Chennedy Carter that Clark took on Saturday.

Caitlin Clark reacts after scoring against the Storm during a game last May. AP

The NBA commissioner didn’t speak so much about the shove in question, but he did say Clark was a “tough player.”

“As a fan, obviously, it’s nothing new in basketball that there’s sort of welcome-to-the-league moments, especially for heralded rookies,” Silver said. “But of course, I want to see Caitlin treated fairly and appropriately in the league. I would say, seems like she can take care of herself. She’s a tough player.”

In that game between the Fever and Sky, Clark appeared to be jawing with Carter throughout the contest before the latter body-checked the No. 1 overall draft pick in the third quarter on an inbound pass.

Clark, during an interview with ESPN during the game, said it was “not a basketball play” while Carter initially refused to answer questions about the foul, later saying this week she had no regrets about the play but that things are “all love” outside of the game.

Chennedy Carter is seen checking Caitlin Clark to the ground.

It’s led to plenty of pundits, talking heads and even a U.S. congressman to talk about the play, and UConn coach Geno Auriemma was the latest to weigh in, saying Clark isn’t yet ready for the physical side of the game.

“I think she’s handling [it] great,” Auriemma said on “The Dan Patrick Show” on Thursday. “I think she talks a lot of s–t and she gets a lot of s–t back, so she deserves everything she gets because she gives it as good as she gets it. She’s just not built for the physicality of this league. And she’s not quick enough to get away from the physicality. 

Commissioner Adam Silver speaks to the media before the Celtics’ 107-89 win over the Mavericks in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

“So there’s a lot of learning curve, like Diana [Taurasi] said. And when she gets it, she has elite skills that are gonna really help her. But she needs to be on a better team and she needs to be more experienced.And that will come.”

Clark and the talented rookie class have brought a tangible increase in eyeballs this year, including a record 2.446 million viewers who watched the WNBA draft.

“I think ultimately this is very healthy for women’s basketball and the WNBA,” Silver added. “It’s generating tremendous additional interest. In fairness to the other players and in fairness to Commissioner [Cathy] Engelbert, this didn’t just start this year. Certainly we’re seeing an acceleration of it with Caitlin, but many individual stars who came in this league in the last several years.”

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