The Dream’s Clean-Slate Strategy Made Space for a Star: Rhyne Howard

The Dream’s Clean-Slate Strategy Made Space for a Star: Rhyne Howard

The Atlanta Dream have been trying to begin over.

After a couple of rocky seasons – participant suspensions, a lot of losses, a revolt in opposition to a staff proprietor – it was time to strive one thing new.

Nothing says clear slate like constructing a new roster.

Atlanta stored solely a few gamers from final 12 months’s staff: Monique Billings, Aari McDonald, Tiffany Hayes and Cheyenne Parker.

Another piece fell into place when the Dream traded up for the primary choose on this 12 months’s draft and chosen guard Rhyne Howard from the University of Kentucky. Howard made historical past as the one former Wildcat to be chosen first total by a WNBA franchise. Despite the facility strikes Atlanta made to make sure Howard was a a part of their rebuild, she is not feeling any stress to atone for the failings of previous Atlanta groups.

“I used to be conscious of what has been occurring, however we did not discuss that,” Howard mentioned in a telephone interview earlier this month. “We have not, and we did not even earlier than the draft as a result of it is like, it is previously now. Everyone right here is principally new, so we’re simply trying to rebuild, which now we have finished to this point. “

The Atlanta Dream are in playoff rivalry because the WNBA nears the All-Star break, however simply barely. They are 8-8 after beating the Dallas Wings on Tuesday. Their 6-4 begin underneath first-time coach Tanisha Wright was promising for a franchise with fewer than 16 wins over the past two seasons.

Promising, sure, however not satisfying.

The Dream have not made it to postseason play since 2018, when Nicki Collen led Atlanta to a 23-11 file en path to successful the Coach of the Year Award. It appeared as if the heyday of Dream basketball may need returned.

After successful solely 4 video games as an growth membership in 2008, the Dream earned six consecutive postseason berths, together with three journeys to the WNBA finals.

However, by 2019 the Dream have been scraping once more on the backside of the standings and wouldn’t win greater than eight video games in three straight seasons. There was turmoil off the courtroom as properly.

In 2020, the Dream caught the eye of the sports activities and political worlds when the staff’s gamers publicly supported the Rev. Raphael Warnock, a Democrat in Georgia who was operating for a Senate seat in opposition to the Republican incumbent Kelly Loeffler, who co-owned the Dream.

Then final season, the Dream suspended guard Chennedy Carter after 11 video games for “conduct detrimental to the staff.” That May, guards Courtney Williams and Crystal Bradford have been concerned in a combat exterior of a membership in Atlanta. It wasn’t till after the season, when the video of the combat surfaced, that the WNBA suspended them. None are with Atlanta now.

Neither is Loeffler, who bought the staff in February 2021 after shedding to Warnock. There are a lot of new faces, together with Wright, Howard and General Manager Dan Padover, who was employed away from the Las Vegas Aces in October. A month earlier, the Dream employed a new staff president, Morgan Shaw Parker. With each transfer, the Atlanta Dream have made it clear that there isn’t a trying again, solely trying ahead.

“It actually was a method to come into one thing on the floor flooring that I’ve by no means been capable of do,” Padover mentioned. He added: “I considered it as a problem, and I additionally knew I used to be going to be with actually good individuals, and we have been going to usher in actually good gamers.”

Howard had averaged 20.5 factors per recreation within the 2021-22 season at Kentucky and left as a two-time SEC participant of the 12 months. She was named to the Associated Press first staff three of her 4 years in Lexington.

Her transition to the skilled ranks has been easy. Through 16 video games, Howard is averaging 16.3 factors, 4.3 rebounds and a pair of.7 assists per recreation. She was named the WNBA rookie of the month for May.

She leads the Dream in factors and minutes (31) per recreation and is a high candidate for the league’s Rookie of the Year Award. So far, she has validated all that it took for Atlanta to get her.

Five days earlier than the draft, Atlanta traded its first-round (third total) and second-round (14th total) picks to the Washington Mystics for the No. 1 total choose. Additionally, the Mystics can swap their 2023 first-round choose for the 2023 first-round choose the Dream acquired in a commerce with the Los Angeles Sparks.

“When we appeared on the commerce, we have identified within the W that it is actually, actually exhausting to get elite-level gamers,” Padover mentioned. “And while you get a possibility to get one, you must actually take into account it.”

He continued: “For us to get a participant of Rhyne’s caliber to begin this rebuilding course of, we did not assume we may go it up. And I believe the opposite factor that we checked out was not simply the 2022 draft – we appeared on the draft from 2020 to 2023, and there weren’t a lot of gamers that we may evaluate to Rhyne. “

Although there’s a lot of pleasure for the trail forward, Padover is underneath no illusions that it is going to be a straightforward highway. No one on the staff has gained a championship besides for Wright, who gained in 2010 with the Seattle Storm.

“We must get to the place we wish to get from a aggressive standpoint,” he mentioned. “We wish to be a constant playoff staff for years to return. We’ll see what occurs this 12 months, however I’m undecided we’re there but. “

Atlanta had dropped 4 straight video games earlier than beating Dallas on Tuesday. Opponents scored at the very least 90 factors in three of the 4 losses. In the earlier 11 video games, solely the top-seeded Las Vegas Aces had scored greater than 80 factors in opposition to the Dream.

“Defensively, we have to get again to ourselves,” Wright mentioned after a 105-92 loss to the Connecticut Sun final week. Atlanta averages a league-leading 17.7 turnovers per recreation. The Dream has conceded 15.1 factors per recreation due to turnovers and one other 9.3 factors per recreation on quick breaks. But the defensive numbers aren’t all dangerous: Atlanta is simply behind the Connecticut Sun with the third-fewest second-chance factors allowed (9.2) per recreation.

Nia Coffey leads the staff with 5 defensive rebounds per recreation, however Parker and Billings are proper behind her with 4.8 per recreation. Parker additionally leads the staff with 1.3 blocks per recreation, and averages 11.8 factors per recreation.

“What we have been lifeless set on was that we would have liked to verify we introduced in professionals who have been going to be respectful of each other and in addition make the town and this franchise proud,” Padover mentioned.

What will that appear to be on the finish of the common season? Will a playoff berth or main league award present that Atlanta is shifting in the precise course?

“A purpose of mine is to be rookie of the 12 months,” Howard mentioned, “however simply with the ability to have an effect on this staff repeatedly and constantly and simply main us to the place everybody desires to go is sufficient for me. I’m not going to get any accomplishments with out my staff. “

The Dream must combat to stay in playoff rivalry, however Howard leads all rookies in per-game averages for minutes, factors, steals, and 3-pointers and area targets made. Early returns say she might be the elite participant Padover and the Dream thought she could be.

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