The Atlanta dream was looking forward to starting over.
After two difficult seasons – player outages, lots of losses, rebellion against the team owner – it’s time to try something new.
Nothing says a clean slate like building a new slate.
Atlanta retained a few players from last year’s squad: Monique Billings, Ari MacDonald, Tiffany Hayes and Shayan Parker.
Another piece fell into place when Dream was traded as the first pick in this year’s draft and the chosen goalkeeper Ryan Howard from the University of Kentucky. Howard made history as the only former Wildcat to be picked first overall by the WNBA franchise. Despite Atlanta’s force moves to make sure Howard was a part of rebuilding it, she feels no pressure to atone for the Atlanta teams’ previous failures.
“I was aware of what was going on, but we didn’t talk about it,” Howard said in a phone interview earlier this month. “We didn’t, and we weren’t even before the draft because it’s like it’s in the past now. Everyone here is brand new, so we’re just looking to rebuild, which we’ve done so far.”
The Atlanta Dream is in the midst of a playoff as the WNBA came close to cracking an All-Star, but just barely. They are 8-8 after beating the Dallas Wings on Tuesday. Their 6-4 start under first-time coach Tanesha Wright has been promising with under-16 wins over the past two seasons.
Promising, yes, but unsatisfactory.
The dream hasn’t reached the post-season stage since 2018, when Nikki Colin drove Atlanta to a record 23-11 en route to winning the Coach of the Year award. It looked as if the peak of Dream Basketball had returned.
After winning just four games as an expansion club in 2008, Dream earned six consecutive post-season berths, including three trips to the WNBA Finals.
However, by 2019, Dream was once again slipping to the bottom of the standings and won’t win more than eight games in three consecutive seasons. There were disturbances off the field as well.
In 2020, the dream has captured the attention of athletes and the political world of team players Publicly supported Reverend Raphael Warnocka Georgia Democrat who was running for a Senate seat against incumbent Republican Kelly Loeffler, who co-owns the dream.
Then last season, he stopped the goalkeeper Shenedy Carter After 11 matches due to “harmful behavior to the team”. In May of that year, guards Courtney Williams and Crystal Bradford got into a fight outside a club in Atlanta. It wasn’t until after the season, when the fight video came out, that the WNBA put them on hold. Nothing with Atlanta now.
Nor Loeffler who Sold the team in February 2021 After losing to Warnock. There are plenty of new faces, including Wright, Howard and general manager Dan Badover, who was hired away from the Las Vegas Aces in October. A month earlier, Dream had appointed a new team president, Morgan Shaw Parker. With each step, the Atlanta Dream made clear that there is no looking back, just looking forward.
“It was really a way to get to something on the ground floor that I never could have done,” Badover said. “I looked at it as a challenge, and I also knew that I would be with really good people, and we would use really good players,” he added.
Howard had averaged 20.5 points per game in the 2021-22 season in Kentucky and left as a SEC player twice a year. She was named to the Associated Press’s senior team for three of her four years at Lexington.
Her transition to the professional ranks was smooth. Through 16 games, Howard averages 16.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game. She was named the WNBA New Player of the Month for May.
She leads the dream in points and minutes (31) per game and is a lead candidate for the League’s Rookie of the Year award. So far, I’ve validated everything it took Atlanta to get it.
five days before the draft, Atlanta trading In Round One (third overall) and Round Two (14th overall) the Washington Mystics pick #1 overall. Additionally, the Mystics can switch their 2023 first-round selection to a 2023 first-round pick that Dream acquired in a deal with Los Angeles Sparks.
“When we looked at the trade, we knew at W that it was really hard to get elite level players,” Badover said. “And when you get a chance to get one, you have to really think about it.”
He continued, “For us to get a player of Rhein’s caliber to start this rebuilding we didn’t think we could miss it. And I think the other thing we looked at wasn’t just the 2022 draft – we looked at the draft from 2020 to 2023, and it wasn’t a lot One of the guys we can compare to Rhyne.”
Although there is plenty of excitement for the path ahead, Padover is under no illusion that it will be an easy route. No one on the team has won any championships except for Wright, who won in 2010 with the Seattle Storm.
“We need to get to where we want to get from a competitive standpoint,” he said. “We want to be a consistent supplement team for years to come. We will see what happens this year, but I am not sure we are there yet.”
Atlanta lost four games in a row before beating Dallas on Tuesday. The opponents scored at least 90 points in three of the four losses. In the previous 11 games, only the highest-ranked Las Vegas players scored more than 80 points against Dream.
“Defensively, we need to get back to ourselves,” Wright said after losing 105-92 to the Connecticut Sun last week. Atlanta averages 17.7 league points per game. I gave up on the dream 15.1 points For every game because of one turn and another 9.3 points For each game in quick breaks. But defensive numbers aren’t all bad: Atlanta is right behind the Connecticut Sun with minimal second-chance points allowed (9.2) for each game.
Nia Coffey leads the team with five defensive rebounds per game, but Parker and Billings are directly behind her with 4.8 per game. Parker also leads the team with 1.3 pieces per game, averaging 11.8 points per game.
“What we had started was we needed to make sure we brought in professionals who were going to respect each other and also make the city and this franchise proud,” Padover said.
What will that look like at the end of the regular season? Will a playoff or major league prize show that Atlanta is heading in the right direction?
Howard said: “My goal is to be a rookie for this year, but just being able to impact this team on a consistent and consistent basis and lead us to where everyone wants to go is enough for me. I wouldn’t have any achievements without my team.”
The Dream will have to fight to survive in supplemental rivalry, but Howard leads all the novices in each game’s averages for minutes, points, steals, triple tokens and field goals. Early returns say she could be an elite Padover player and the dream thought she would be.