2022 Atlanta Dream and WNBA Previews


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No more of the Same Old, Same Old!

Losing may feel like the Same Old Song for our Atlanta Dream, who have failed to break ten wins in the three WNBA campaigns since reaching the league semifinals in the last hurrah season of 2018 (2020's season had just 22 games, when they went 7-15; 2021's 8-24 record managed to be an uptick over 2019's 8-26). But if you’ve been tuning in closely of late, you’ll sense there is a different beat. It’s a long time in coming.

Go back in time, grab some new fans from 2008’s inaugural season, tell them that Atlanta will have played in three WNBA Finals before the franchise’s 15th season (this one) kicks in, and soak in their glee. Do the same thing with supporters of the then-Eastern Conference’s first place Dream, in 2014, and take note of their gloom.

2014’s playoff collapse to upstart Elena Delle Donne and what was then her Chicago Sky was really the beginning of the end for the regime starring Angel McCoughtry and coached by Marynell Meadors. It has just been a slow, lingering conclusion, lowlighted by internal player strife (sometimes with coaches, other times among players) and marked by unserious approaches to roster management and club stewardship.

Having 2009’s #1 overall pick allowed the Dream to acquire McCoughtry from Louisville and granted the team a youthful spark to get off the ground quickly. They hadn’t been back to the top spot in the draft since. They weren’t gifted 2008’s first pick, Candace Parker, as an expansion team, and while the Dream continued their years-long stretch of floundering, Atlanta got to watch CP3 win it all for her hometown team in Chicago last season.

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Previous Dream regimes would watch as competitor teams strategized to be in position to acquire a game-changing talent with first dibs, be it Tina Charles, Maya Moore, Brittney Griner, Breanna Stewart, or A’ja Wilson. Dan Padover was with Las Vegas when the Aces won three consecutive draft lotteries, and was able to help craft a title contender from the ground up. Now Padover is seeking a new challenge as the Dream’s new General Manager. He wasn’t willing to wait for Lady Lottery Luck to pay him another visit.

The move to swap with Washington and acquire the Mystics’ surprise #1 draft slot is unlike anything we have seen from leaders in Atlanta’s organizational past. Padover is proving to be a go-getter, and he hopes the Dream have acquired a go-getter, the next collegian from the Bluegrass State to chart the team’s path toward future glories.

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Rhyne Howard speaks softly, but she carries a big game, already a gold medalist and MVP for Team USA in the FIBA Women’s AmeriCup tourney last year. The headlining college star from SEC champion Kentucky scores in bushels and, much like McCoughtry, has shown defensive aptitude and versatility that allows her to capably guard from the point guard to the power forward positions.

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Acclaimed largely for her own defensive prowess during her 14 years as a lead guard in the W, Tanisha Wright won’t put too much on Howard’s plate, not in her first full-time WNBA head coaching foray. Wright shouldn’t have to, not with former All-Star Tiffany Hayes, essentially an everyday starter for Atlanta and the final holdover since 2014, and a host of veterans that includes former All-Star guard Erica Wheeler and forwards Monique Billings, Nia Coffey and Cheyenne Parker.

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Hayes will return from overseas duties in the coming week or so, but she will return to a team that will no longer, since the long farewell from Angel, rely on her to be The Show. Virtually every veteran, including Hayes, will be unrestricted in 2023, so if they would like to be a part of Atlanta’s rebuild, they will spend a lot of this season demonstrating to Wright and Padover that they can be worthy complements as Rhyne grasps the reins.

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Wright also has inherited 2021 All-Rookie Team member Aari McDonald (32.2 FG%, 4.3 assists per-36, four starts in 30 games), who no longer has an embittered Chennedy Carter in her path but must make strides in 2022 to secure floortime and usage that can easily be distributed among Wheeler, Howard, and eventually Hayes. If Aari cannot find her niche within Wright’s rotations by midseason, inclusive of 2020 WNBA 1st-rounder Megan Walker and 2018 draft-and-stash wing Kristy Wallace, she won’t have to fall out with the team to find herself on the move.

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One rookie won’t be a victim of the numbers game in Atlanta, something many recent WNBA draftees on stacked, constrained 11-player rosters cannot say. A co-star with Howard on Team USA’s AmeriCup winners, Naz Hillmon was an All-American revelation at Michigan, and she will be worth keeping around if she can aid Cheyenne (returning to the league following midseason maternal leave in 2021) Billings and Kia Vaughn in improving last year’s woeful defensive rebound rate. AJC’s Brandon Sudge reports the team intends to use their 12th and final spot soon, to further bolster frontcourt depth. Moving on from Elizabeth Williams, the longtime undersized starting center now in Washington, was a clear signal from Dream management that while in-season struggles may at times feel the Same, they are by no means Old.

Chances are good that Atlanta will find ten victories this season, as a floor, and not simply because of the boost in rookie talent. There are two extra games (36, up from 34) in the WNBA schedule, for starters. Further, several teams are resorting to hardship players at the outset as holdovers for players, like Hayes, who remain under contract with playoff teams overseas. Following the season opener on Saturday night in Dallas, seven of the Dream’s next ten games are at home, in College Park’s Gateway Center Arena, where players, staff and fans alike will have time to get acclimated.

If Coach Wright can use this early phase to instill some sound principles on both ends of the floor, in the process catching unaware opponents off-guard, double-digit wins will be a cinch. 15 victories, or its equivalent, has been enough in recent years to sew up a playoff spot. In any case, a lottery-bound team won’t carry the same scales of dour disappointment that were attached to recent seasons.

Whether it is through free agency or the draft, Padover and the staff running the show for the new ownership understands the work isn’t done with the acquisition of this year’s top draft pick, not if they learned much from the aftermath of drafting McCoughtry.  Going all out to acquire a potential franchise icon sounds great. Looking ahead, it’s crucial to avoid the subsequent strategic own-goal and bad-gamble mistakes that, to longtime Atlanta Sports fans, can ring an unpleasant bell.

 

Let’s Go Dream!

~lw3

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If it seems a bit early to kick off the WNBA season today, it’s not because of fans’ longtime advocacy to pair the season openers with Mother’s Day Weekend.

Last summer’s AmeriCup, won by Rhyne Howard and Naz Hillmon for Team USA, was a qualifier for the 2022 FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup, to be played in Kristy Wallace’s Australia in the back end of September. The WNBA backed up the schedule to accommodate not just two more regular season games but what is, for other nations, the pre-Olympic qualifier. But it wasn’t set far back enough to avoid cramming most games two or three days apart. Rest management will be essential for all 12 WNBA clubs.

Conferences are gone, but the league continue to promote regional rivalry through the designation of early-season matchups as Commissioner’s Cup games. The teams in the former Eastern and Western Conferences with the best “Cup” records would play for the trophy in July.

Angel Gray, LaChina Robinson and Tabitha Turner are back for what should be as full a TV coverage for the Dream as we have seen in its history. But I do mean it when I remind you to Check Your Local Listings before every game.

31 of the team’s 36 games will be aired locally on either Bally Sports South or Bally Sports Southeast (a handful of other games will be available via “Bally Sports Southeast Extra”, which I presume is their streaming platform). Navigating between the regional channels is a product of accommodating both the Bravos and the Five Stripes through the summer.

The WNBA continues expanding its avenues of media and social media access, with select games being presented via Twitter, Facebook and Amazon Prime Video. CBS Sports Network, CBS TV, NBATV, and ESPN3 will also expand some games, including Atlanta's, to reach a more universal audience.

 

ATLANTA DREAM SCHEDULE

(All Times Eastern) (**Commissioner's Cup game)

Saturday, May 7 – at Dallas Wings (8 PM, CBS Sports Network, Bally Sports Southeast Extra)

Wednesday, May 11 – vs. Los Angeles Sparks (7 PM, Bally Sports South)

Friday, May 13 – vs. Las Vegas Aces (7:30 PM, Bally Sports Southeast)

Sunday, May 15 – at Indiana Fever** (3 PM, Amazon Prime Video, BSSE)

Tuesday, May 17 – at Indiana (7 PM, BSSE)

Friday, May 20 – vs. Washington Mystics** (7:30 PM, BSSO)

Tuesday, May 24 – at Washington** (7 PM, BSSEx)

Sunday, May 29 – vs. Phoenix Mercury (12 Noon, CBS TV)

Wednesday, June 1 – vs. Minnesota Lynx (7 PM, BSSE)

Friday, June 3 – vs. Chicago Sky** (7:30 PM, BSSE)

Sunday, June 5 – vs. Indiana** (3 PM, BSSO)

Tuesday, June 7 – at Seattle Storm (10 PM, CBSSN, BSSE)

Friday, June 10 – at Phoenix (10 PM, CBSSN, BSSO)

Wednesday, June 15 – at Connecticut Sun** (7 PM, BSSE)

Friday, June 17 – at Chicago** (8 PM, Facebook, BSSO)

Tuesday, June 21 – vs. Dallas (7 PM, NBATV, BSSE)

Friday, June 24 – vs. New York Liberty** (7:30 PM, CBSSN, BSSO)

Sunday, June 26 – vs. Connecticut** (3 PM, Prime Video, BSSO)

Tuesday, June 28 – at Washington (7 PM, ESPN3, BSSE)

Thursday, June 30 – at New York** (7 PM, Twitter, BSSEx)

Sunday, July 3 – vs. Seattle (3 PM, NBATV, BSSEx)

Wednesday, July 6 – vs. Washington (8 PM, CBSSN, BSSO)

[ALL-STAR WEEKEND, CHICAGO, JULY 9-10]

Tuesday, July 12 – at Chicago (8 PM, BSSE)

Friday, July 15 – vs. Connecticut (7:30 PM, BSSO)

Sunday, July 17 – at Phoenix (6 PM, Prime Video, BSSE)

Tuesday, July 19 – at Las Vegas (10 PM, NBATV, BSSE)

Thursday, July 21 – at Los Angeles (3:30 PM, NBATV, BSSE)

Sunday, July 24 – at Seattle (6 PM, NBATV, BSSE)

[WNBA COMMISSIONER’S CUP GAME – JULY 26]

Thursday, July 28 – vs. Minnesota (7 PM, BSSO)

Saturday, July 30 – vs. Dallas (7:30 PM, NBATV, BSSO)

Wednesday, August 3 – vs. Indiana (7 PM, NBATV, BSSE)

Friday, August 5 – vs. Los Angeles (7:30 PM, CBSSN, BSSO)

Sunday, August 7 – at Minnesota (7 PM, Prime Video, BSSE)

Tuesday, August 9 – at Las Vegas (10 PM, CBSSN, BSSE)

Friday, August 12 – vs. New York (7:30 PM, CBSSN, BSSO)

Sunday, August 14 – at New York (2 PM, ESPN3, BSSO)

 

 

~lw3

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21 minutes ago, lethalweapon3 said:

Thursday, July 21 – at Los Angeles (3:30 PM, NBATV, BSSE)

I may go to this to support the Dream. Never been to a WNBA game before but these ladies got skills. I wanna catch the game speed from up close. 
 

@lethalweapon3 thanks for the previews you’ve really gotten me into this, you and Gramps keep me involved. 

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5 minutes ago, Spud2nique said:

@lethalweapon3 have you been to a game? I’m guessing the prices are less expensive than the NBA? If so, I’m moving on up! :dance: 

I'm still pandemic-averse to crowds, so my itch to get back to my old stomping grounds in College Park will continue scratching at me all summer! Usually I'm good for about 8-10 home games per season during the years at Philips/Georgia Tech. I look forward to picking up where I left off eventually.

I mean it in the nicest way about our dear Dream, but it is very possible to socially distance by yards, once you arrive at any Dream game in Atlanta. So I wouldn't discourage any fans who are eager to go, especially any new ones!

~lw3

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First Things First: Bring Home Brittney!

Next order of business... it’s WNBA Power Poll time!

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Chicago SkyCandace Parker bestowed a championship pedigree on teammates in her hometown. With Kahleah “KFC” Copper and the veteran shooters including WNBA returnee Emma Meesseman (2019’s Finals MVP with Washington), coach James Wade’s charges will contend for as long as Parker can contribute.

 

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Seattle Storm – While they’ll miss Jordin Canada, the supporting cast is more solid than what coach Noelle Quinn had at her disposal last season, when the Commissioner’s Cup winners withered during the second half. If Breanna Stewart has enough frontcourt support, and if Jewell Loyd can bounce back at playoff time, this team will be far tougher to push out, in what might be Sue Bird's last ride.

 

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Phoenix Mercury – They wouldn't know why, at the time, but thank goodness 2021 league-leading scorer Tina Charles arrived in a blockbuster free agency deal. Can the reigning WNBA Finalists contend under a rookie coach (Arizona native Vanessa Nygaard), with a less efficient Diana Taurasi, and with, or without, the currently unavailable Brittney Griner?

 

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Las Vegas Aces – Pushing A’ja Wilson into more of a full-time center role may serve to the team's benefit long term. But adjustments abound for the starters and first-year coach Becky Hammon. Wilson’s fellow former first-overall picks, Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young, must continue making strides.

 

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Connecticut Sun – A solid array of starters from 2021's top-seed, including MVP Jonquel Jones and Most Improved winner Brionna Jones, reinforced by the return of Courtney Williams, can advance into The Finals if Alyssa Thomas and the younger backups gain traction under coach Curt Miller’s watch. Thanks for the pickles, Jonquel.

 

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Los Angeles Sparks – Still here despite missing out on 2021’s playoffs, coach Derek Fisher is ready to wage a resurgence toward contention, with reinvigorated free agent pickup Liz Cambage on defense and a re-enlivened Chennedy Carter on offense. Canada and Carter will be a boost in the backcourt and a balance for the bigs-heavy offense.

 

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Dallas Wings – Adding defensive tower Teaira McCowan to the emerging talent around super-scorer Arike Ogunbowale gives this club a reasonable shot at breaking into the upper echelon, after sneaking into the playoffs on the final day last season. Especially possible if 2021's top two picks, Charli Collier and Awak Kuier step up for coach Vickie Johnson.

 

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Washington Mystics – Coach Mike Thibault missed out on the possibility of having Elena Delle Donne and Tina (and Emma) together in 2021. Delle Donne is back and healthy, yet a return to the postseason may require a swift emergence from rookie Shakira Austin, moving ahead of former Dream center Elizabeth Williams, and backup answers for the backcourt.

 

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Minnesota Lynx – It’s Big Syl's final season! Sadly, the esteemed Sylvia Fowles is about the healthiest star around, as Napheesa Collier, new veteran arrival Angel McCoughtry, Damiris Dantas and Kayla McBride are all missing time to start the season. Can coach Cheryl Reeve hold things together and keep this team competitive, until Collier returns to support this experienced cast?

 

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New York Liberty – Lock ATL-area native and COVID long-hauler Asia Durr (playing for the first time since 2019) in as the Comeback Player of the Year. With longtime Mercury coach Sandy Brondello in tow, can they help Sabrina Ionescu steady the offensive flow, and can Stefanie Dolson and Georgia Tech rookie Lorela Cubaj help Natasha Howard provide defensive balance?

 

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ATLANTA DREAMRhyne will be a diamond of a stone soon enough. In the meantime, as Howard acclimates, the undersized roster and ball movement under rookie coach Tanisha Wright will be the main facets of this rebuilding season.

 

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Indiana Fever – Sticking with Hall of Famer Marianne Stanley as head coach, for now, allows for a slow transition. Former Fever coach and new GM Lin Dunn can build around rookie NaLyssa Smith instead of the Mitchells, Kelsey and Tiffany. Inexperience upfront is sure to be their nightly undoing, but also the point for a team fielding five drafted rookies.

 

~lw3

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Great game!  Dream win!!  Bally didn't cover on my feed.  Instead, they had the soccer team and the Braves.  Dallas coverage available and I watched there on Hula.

🥰

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17 hours ago, lethalweapon3 said:

Connecticut Sun – A solid array of starters from 2021's top-seed, including MVP Jonquel Jones

:laugh1: love that commercial. Thanks Jonquel thanks Boban :laugh1:. Nice work lw3! 

1 hour ago, Gray Mule said:

Great game!  Dream win!!  Bally didn't cover on my feed.  Instead, they had the soccer team and the Braves.  Dallas coverage available and I watched there on Hula.

🥰

:applause:

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Onward and Upward... and Howard!

I dunno about anomalies but...

...sounds to me like coach Tanisha Wright is focusing on ending the days of calling this club the Atlanta Ream. She's got Rhyne Howard (4 blocks, 2 steals) already bought in, and they'll need more of that intensity, and better shooting, in their home opener tonight against Chennedy Carter's Los Angeles Sparks (7 PM Eastern, Bally Sports South in ATL, Spectrum SportsNet in LA).

Like Chennedy, Omerettà the Great knows how to stir the pot. The Southside rapper had The Internets squawking a couple months ago with her video for "Sorry, Not Sorry," helpfully delineating for ATLiens everywhere what is, and certainly ain't, "Atlanta." She'll be the halftime entertainment from Gateway Center Arena in College Park, which, I trust she'll have you know, "Is NOT Atlanta. Nope!"

Neither, as the gameday T-shirts will say, is L.A., and it's hoped the intimidation factor by the sold-out crowd will be enough for the Dream to steal one versus a hot Sparks club (2-0, wins @ Chicago and @ Indiana) coached by Derek Fisher and reinvigorated with Carter and center Liz Cambage. Having Nneka and ESPN commentator-sis Chiney has helped the Sparks buttress the frontline.

Perimeter shooting will need to be on-point. Atlanta will have to find capable shooters -- perhaps former Spark Erica Wheeler, for starters -- to take some of the attention from ex-Dream wing Brittney Sykes off of Howard (4-for-12 3FGs @ DAL, Dreammates 3-for-15; 4 of ATL's 11 assists, 1 TO). If the Dream are at long last D'ing up, too, this could be a good one down in Notlanta!

 

Let's Go Dream!

~lw3

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Home of the Skyhawks (D League) and the Atlanta Dream was sold out for the home opener.  Great, all round, game by the home team.  

🥰

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4 hours ago, Gray Mule said:

Home of the Skyhawks (D League) and the Atlanta Dream was sold out for the home opener.  Great, all round, game by the home team.  

🥰

That's awesome!   I'm going to try to get down there soon.  Saw the SkyHawks a couple times and it's a great place to watch a game. 

 

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Quick turnarounds abound for our Atlanta Dream and for the rest of the WNBA in this congealed schedule. Atlanta hosts the Las Vegas Aces today (7:30 PM Eastern, Bally Sports Southeast), coming off squeaking by Liz Cambage's L.A. Sparks here at Gateway Center on Wednesday. By the end of next Friday, the Dream will have played five games in nine nights (or afternoons, as Sunday's first-of-two-games in Indy is scheduled for a 3 PM tip).

Fortunately for both the Dream and Aces, they are running 10-deep with no hardship pickups, which is more than a lot of rosters can say at this time (Minnesota, what are you doing?). With Cambage gone and Kiah Stokes still overseas, former ATL prep star and two-time league Sixth Woman of the Year Dearica Hamby has moved to the top line to aid A'ja Wilson.

A full-time starter for the first time since 2016, Hamby has excelled in the early going, right behind Wilson (11.0) for the league-lead with 9.3 defensive RPG. Atlanta can match Vegas' effort on the glass if Nia Coffey can continue sealing off the paint along with starters Mo Billings and Cheyenne Parker.

Defense and fastbreak opportunities have made all the difference for an Atlanta gang that can't shoot straight (33.3 team FG%, incl. 32.0 2FG%). Rhyne Howard has confidently carried the load on offense with big three-point shots, but the rookie has made just two of 11 field goal attempts inside the 3-point arc.

As the Aces' interior line continues making it tough on the Dream to score inside, Atlanta's ballhandlers need to do a better job moving the rock off drives, maneuvering around Chelsea Gray, Jackie Young and Kelsey Plum to create better catch-and-shoot and spot-up opportunities for Dreammates, including former Ace Nia Coffey and Megan Walker.

If the Dream are driving and kicking well, cutting down on turnovers in the process, then they could once again find themselves alive and kicking during the 40th minute of this one.

 

Let's Go Dream!

~lw3

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Top two rookies are living up to their billings, and facing off for the first of two straight meetings in Naptown today (3 PM Eastern, Bally Sports Southeast, Amazon Prime Video).

Rookies Quuen Egbo and Destanni Henderson are according themselves well in the early going, too, for a Fever squad that, like the Dream (2-1), already has a pair of Ws in the books. Despite the blowout loss at home to Vegas, might a WNBA sophomore, Atlanta's Aari McDonald, be starting to find her sea legs?

 

Let's Go Dream!

~lw3

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DREAM WINS!  Record is now 3-1 and Atlanta is tied for first place.  Rookie Howard scored over 30 points in the win.  She's the real deal.

Second meeting coming tomorrow night.

GO ATL DREAM !!

🥰

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