Indianapolis, IN — The Indiana Fever went through arguably the most changes in the WNBA off-season. Not only did the Fever get a new head coach with Pokey Chatman, but the face of the franchise, Tamika Catchings went into retirement.
The departure of Catchings and head coach Stephanie White in the off-season, piled on top of the first round exit in the 2016 WNBA Playoffs, the Fever seem to have been on a losing streak. But, in a franchise that is known for winning, it will take a lot more than a few departures to break this team’s spirit.
It’s time to meet the NEW Fever.
This season marks the first time since 2002 that the Fever will take the court without No. 24. The Fever’s biggest off-season goal was to find someone who was as dynamic as Catchings to fill her role. While no one player will fill Catchings role completely, the Fever did pick up 11-year veteran, Candice Dupree. Dupree’s addition provides leadership in the locker room, along with spectacular play on the court.
Dupree’s statistics speak for themselves. The five-time All-Star has averaged 14.7 points per game and 6.9 rebounds per game in her career. Dupree has the mindset of a champion. In 2014, her Phoenix Mercury won the WNBA Finals. While she will not completely replace Catchings (nobody can), she can provide the leadership and guidance the Fever need this season.
Indiana will also look to nine-year vet, Briann January, to provide leadership on and off the court. January is Indiana’s longest-tenured player entering her ninth season with the Fever.
In an interview with WNBA.com last month, she asserted her dominance stating, “I do take ownership of the team.” She went on to say, “Even last year Catch (Tamika Catchings) was giving me more responsibility to step up as a leader, and I look to continue that.”
Last season, the point guard averaged 9.7 points per game and 4.7 assists per game.
Indiana has other veterans that will contribute in Catchings absence including Marissa Coleman, Erlana Larkins and Tiffany Mitchell.
The addition of head coach Pokey Chatman is not shabby either. Coach Chatman is known for her winning attitude. Chatman led the Chicago Sky to 106 victories in her tenure, taking the franchise to its first playoff appearance in 2013 and the WNBA Finals in 2014.
Though the Fever have dropped its two preseason games, there’s no reason to doubt Coach Chatman.
After Indiana’s first preseason game against the Washington Mystic, a game in which the Fever lost by 20 points (87-67), Coach Chatman outlined what her team needs to work on: transition defense, rebounding the ball and taking care of the basketball.
It’s worth noting, in the 20-point loss, Indiana was without veterans Marissa Coleman, Briann January, Erlana Larkins and Tiffany Mitchell.
“It’s tough for young players in a situation like this. We brought in a lot of young players who have a lot of talent. We kind of let them go today and it was an opportunity for us to grow.” Coach Chatman said after the double-digit loss to Washington.
She added, “We are slowly bringing back our veterans who will be able to guide those young players through the tough stretches that you saw today. Mixing a young talent with veterans will give them an opportunity to learn from each other and grow as a team as we head towards the regular season.”
In its preseason finale, the Fever narrowly fell to Skylar Diggins-Smith and the Dallas Wings, 80-75.
While the Fever are certainly a different team in the 2017 season, the main goals remain the same... Extending the playoff streak to 13-consecutive years and bringing home another WNBA Championship.
After a 20-14 season in 2015 in which the Fever reached the WNBA Finals, the 2016 Fever fell short. Indiana finished with a 17-17 (.500) record on the season, including a first round exit to Diana Taurasi and the Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA Playoffs.
The Fever return to the court to tip off the regular season on Sunday, May 14th at 7 PM. The “new” Fever will lace up to take on Sue Bird and the Seattle Storm at Seattle.