As any WNBA coach knows, sometimes winning a game isn't as much about X's and O's as it is having a master's degree in health science and resource management.
With only eleven players on the roster, having healthy players can be just as important as having good ones. After the Atlanta Dream's 81-65 win last night, I had the opportunity to speak to head coach Marynell Meadors of the Atlanta Dream and head coach Corey Gaines of the Phoenix Mercury about injury issues.
"I usually don't like to talk about about health," Marynell Meadors said, "because it jinxes you. Right now, everyone is on the floor, and I love it. As you know, we started last year with a lot of injuries and we went 3-9. So hopefully, we can overcome any kind of tweaks that go on."
Given the fatigue levels associated with pro players playing all year, the beginning of the season is a sensitive time. Atlanta beat Phoenix last night, but Meadors didn't lean on her starters. "This time of year, they're returning from Europe so you've got to try to rest them. That might be one of the reason we rested Angel [McCoughtry] and Sancho [Lyttle] in the last half."
Angel McCoughtry: McCoughtry injured her left leg with 8:07 left in the second quarter and went to the bench. She really wasn't needed for the Dream's victory over the Mercury and only returned briefly, finishing the game with 10 points over 18 minutes of play. Doug Robertson of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that McCoughtry had a left leg muscle strain during the previous game against the Indiana Fever. McCoughtry returned to the game with a wrapped left knee, but Meadors said, "She's okay. It was just a little flat pad in there. She's all right."
Was there a temptation to play McCoughtry? "I didn't play her," Meadors said. "We were up. We've got a big physical game [against Chicago] coming up on Saturday. If we don't need them, I'm going to rest them."
Tiffany Hayes: Hayes had a stat line similar to McCoughtry's. She scored eight points in 21 minutes of play, and added four rebounds and three assists to the Dream's box score. Over the course of the season she's been playing with a clear face mask.
"I think Tiffany should leave that mask on," Meadors said, "because she's going to break her nose again the way she plays."
Again? "She's broken it twice in ten days. Once without the mask and the other time she had the mask on. The girl plays with reckless abandon. You've got to love it, because she just goes after the basketball. She wants it."
As for Corey Gaines, he has to contend with the loss of two marquee players. Penny Taylor is out for the season after suffering a torn left ACL on March 29th while playing overseas. Diana Taurasi has a strained left hip injury that was reported as "indefinite" to the press before game time. Kristopher Habbas of SB Nation Arizona reported that the Mercury have the option of adding a player to the roster if Taurasi's injury is expected to be at least four games.
Diana Taurasi: Would Taurasi be available for tonight's game against San Antonio? "I have no idea," Gaines said. "It's a day-to-day thing but I doubt her for [Friday], because she's not with us. It's her leg, and I'm not a doctor, so a doctor has to okay that."
Penny Taylor: Even though Taylor is out for the season, the Phoenix Mercury reported that her surgery in Melbourne, Australia was successful and Gaines confirmed that Taylor has now returned to Phoenix, even though she will not play.