Thursday marks the halfway point of the season for the Indiana Fever (1-14). They approach this benchmark with one win, firmly buried at the bottom of the WNBA standings. Although expectations were low for Indiana, they were not this low.
Thursday night at 7 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network, they host the Dallas Wings (6-8), a young team that is still learning to win and can be prone to subpar performances. However, the Fever’s body of work does not inspire confidence in their chances on Thursday, or moving forward.
Instead of chasing an elusive second win, it might be smarter for Indiana to fully pivot into developmental mode, giving their younger players more opportunities to take their lumps in hopes the struggles and lessons pay off in future seasons.
Fever general manager Tamika Catchings’s team building strategy — surrounding her squad’s young players with steady, reliable veteran role players — was not misguided. But, it has not worked, as proven by their lone win. Rather than continuing to devote significant playing time to vets Danielle Robinson, Jessica Breland, Jantel Lavendar and Lindsay Allen, Indy would be better served by giving extended time to Teaira McCowan, Victoria Vivians, Lauren Cox, Kysre Gondrezick, Chelsea Perry and Aaliyah Wilson. Allowing these players to develop chemistry with the Mitchells — Kelsey and Tiffany — would seem to better serve the organization in the long term.
No, head coach Marianne Stanley probably does not want to watch Arike Ogunbowale light up Gondrezick or Satou Sabally to go to work on Cox. But such growing pains need to become part of the Fever’s process.
Possibly, Indy is planning to make this shift after the Olympic break. Why wait? Giving their young players more court time before they can regroup and reset during their time off could result in stronger play down the stretch of the season. (And, hopefully, make Rhyne Howard more excited to don a Fever jersey next season.)
For the other teams in action on Thursday, the immediate is what matters.
After putting on a clinic in Brooklyn on Tuesday night, the streaking Chicago Sky (8-7) can win their seventh-consecutive game when they complete their set against the New York Liberty (7-7). Coming off a titanic Tina Charles performance that has them on a three-game winning streak, the still-depleted Washington Mystics (7-6) head to Southern California for a contest with Los Angeles Sparks (5-7).
Indiana Fever (1-14) vs. Dallas Wings (6-8)
When: Thursday, June 24 at 7 p.m. ET
Where: Indiana Farmers Coliseum in Indianapolis, IN
How to watch: CBS Sports Network or fever.wnba.com
Key to the matchup: It is hard to pinpoint something that the Fever do well. Compared to their performances in other facets of the game, offensive rebounding and second-chance points are two of their strengths. However, the Wings can nullify these areas of relative strength. The Wings are the top rebounding team in the league, with 38 boards per game. An average of 10.5 of these boards are offensive, a number better than the Fever’s nine offensive rebounds per game. Likewise, while Indy scores 11.5 second-chance points per game, the third-best mark in the league, Dallas tops them with 13.3 second-chance points. In short, even Indiana’s possible advantages aren’t advantageous against Dallas.
Fever injury report: Jantel Lavender (questionable; ankle)
Wings injury report: Marina Mabrey (probable; ankle), Bella Alarie (probable; head)
Highlight: This is what the Fever want to see from Teaira McCowan!
New York Liberty (7-7) vs. Chicago Sky (8-7)
When: Thursday, June 24 at 7 p.m. ET
Where: Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY
How to watch: Twitter, YES, The U or NBA TV Canada
Key to the matchup: Sensational 3-point shooting propelled the Liberty’s hot start to the season. In the month of May, they shot a scalding 43.2 percent from deep. In June, their percentage from behind the arc has fallen to 30.4 percent. After finishing May at 5-2, their record has been reversed, as they are 2-5 in June. In a WNBA increasingly dependent on 3-ball, New York is the most dependent. They need the 3-point gods to again bless them, as their offensive attack is organized around a willingness to take (and make) 3-pointers. Despite their struggles, the Liberty still are launching a league-leading 30.6 threes per game in June.
Liberty injury report: Natasha Howard (out; knee), Jocelyn Willoughby (out for season; Achilles)
Sky injury report: Astou Ndour-Fall (out; EuroBasket)
Highlight: The Liberty need more triples from Sabrina Ionescu
Los Angeles Sparks (5-7) vs. Washington Mystics (7-6)
When: Thursday, June 24 at 10:30 p.m. ET
Where: Los Angeles Convention Center in Los Angeles, CA
How to watch: Spectrum Sportsnet, Monumental, NBA TV Canada
Key to the matchup: Can anybody stop Tina Charles? Even as the Mystics have encountered a mounting injury report, they have inched over .500 for the first time this season, propelled by the motivated magnificence of Charles. The Sparks already have experienced her excellence this season. Charles tallied a 20-point and 10-rebound double-double in just under 23 minutes of play in the Mystics’ dominating home win over the Sparks. Again down to eight healthy players, Washington likely will need more from Charles to defeat LA on the road. At this point, there is no reason to doubt that Charles will not deliver.
Sparks injury report: Nneka Ogwumike (out; knee), Chiney Ogwumike (out; knee), Jasmine Walker (out for season; knee)
Mystics injury report: Natasha Cloud (questionable; ankle), Myisha Hines-Allen (questionable; knee), Kiara Leslie (questionable; concussion), Erica McCall (out; knee), Elena Delle Donne (out; back)