Last September, the Indiana Fever almost had a WNBA championship. After a long winter, Fever players and fans are ready to renew the hunt for gold. Little has changed for the team since they walked off the court in Phoenix. But despite maintaining the status quo, the Fever have five concerns heading into the 2010 season.
General Manager Kelly Krauskopf and head coach Lin Dunn sat still this summer as other teams grabbed free agents and swapped players. Keeping last year's team intact allows for a quick chemistry build when the Fever finally reassemble for the season opener. The rest of the Eastern Conference made some interesting moves. One of the biggest was the world champion Phoenix Mercury trading Cappie Pondexter to New York, meaning the Fever will get a lot of looks at a player who caused them trouble in the WNBA Finals. Other Eastern Conference transactions include Connecticut sending Lindsay Whalen home to Minnesota and bringing more University of Connecticut alumni to the team, playoff opponents the Washington Mystics grabbing Katie Smith, and the Atlanta Dream reuniting the Miller twins in their home state. The Fever remain favorites to repeat as conference champs but it's not going to be easy.
In the WNBA Finals, Tamika Catchings showed why she should have several WNBA MVP awards sitting around her home. While the majority of the team floundered in the deciding game, Catchings made needed baskets, grabbed important rebounds, and stole the ball whenever an opponent dribbled near her. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Katie Douglas slipped into a finals nightmare, her offensive game abandoning her when the Fever needed it most. How do these all-stars respond? Can Catchings maintain the level of play she showcased in the finals? Can Douglas rebound and be a consistent offensive weapon? And can both players avoid injury after a winter of overseas play?
Commentators greeted the Fever's first round draft pick, Jene Morris, with enthusiasm and speculated towards a high octane offense when Morris and Briann January team together at the guard slots. Morris is no stranger to defense though, winning back to back Mountain West Conference Defensive Player of the Year awards and grabbing a total of 201 steals during her junior and senior years at San Diego State. She also helped her team reach the Sweet 16 for the very first time this year. But the WNBA is a different story compared to MWC basketball. Can Morris adapt and become a valuable player off the bench in an area where the Fever lack depth?
Speaking of guards, is January ready to lead the team at the point position? Last year Dunn tried to make a transition at point guard during the beginning of the season. January, a rookie, was not ready and veteran Tully Bevilaqua reclaimed her spot as starter. One year later and a solid run through the playoffs, January could get plenty of time at the point, allowing Bevilaqua, the aging fan favorite, to save her body for crucial late game defensive stands.
Jessica Davenport is big and powerful. She dominated the Big Ten during her college days at Ohio State. You'd never think that looking at her WNBA career stat line. Davenport chose a grand stage to show she can play with the best, though: game five of the WNBA Finals. Davenport scored a career high 18 points. Will she build on that moment? Throw in Tammy Sutton-Brown and Jessica Moore, along with reliable play from Davenport, and the Fever could have the most feared center trio in the league.
Fever vs. Washington Mystics
Saturday, May 15, 7 p.m. tip-off
Tix: Conseco Fieldhouse box office or: http://www.wnba.com/fever/tickets/ticket_packages.html