(3rd in East)
Winners & Honorees
Once again, All-Planet superstar Tamika Catchings led the way for Indiana, but the Fever got tremendous production out of the supporting cast as well. Catchings and Tully Bevilaqua became the first teammates to both average over 2.0 steals in the same season (which landed the Fever in the top spot in the league for steals per game). Forward Tamika Whitmore averaged a career-best 15.5 ppg and was named to the Eastern Conference All-Star Team for the first time in her career.
Yet it was still Catchings who again led the Fever in the major statistical categories. She finished in the top 10 in the league for points per game (16.3), assists per game (3.7), blocks per game (1.1), steals per game (2.9), free throws (165) and rebounds per game (7.5). Catchings' honors included Defensive Player of the Year, All-WNBA First Team, All-Defensive Team and All-Decade Team. The fans also recognized her accomplishments as she received the most votes for an Eastern starting spot at the All-Star Game (though she sat out due to a knee injury).
Apparently Catchings' success was not contagious. The Fever fell into the bottom five in the league for points scored, defensive rebounds per game, field goal percentage, assists and turnovers. Despite the emergence of Whitmore and the 10.2 ppg and 3-point shooting of Anna DeForge, the Fever still depend too much on one person.
Despite 21 wins in the regular season, they were swept out in the first round of the playoffs by the Detroit Shock. Catchings was forced to miss much of the second game after incurring an injury while fighting for a loose ball. The Fever actually led 64-43 in the second half, but center Ebony Hoffman joined Catchings on the bench due to foul trouble and the game went south for Indiana. Although Tamika Whitmore scored a record 41 points, the losses of key players in the second half did them in.
2006 Starting Lineup
-G- Tully Bevilaqua
-G- Anna DeForge
-F- Tamika Catchings
-F- Tamika Whitmore
-C- Ebony Hoffman
Key 2006 Reserves
-Charlotte Smith (retired)
The Fever have made great strides in the past three seasons and have a nucleus in place, but they are not content to rest on their recent improvements. The first priority was to re-sign its backcourt tandem of point guard Tully Bevilaqua, who makes the Fever go, and Anna DeForge, who gives the Fever a credible scoring threat from outside.
"For the past two seasons, she has had an impact on our franchise both on and off the playing floor. She is a veteran leader and a winner," General Manager Kelly Krauskopf expressed.
Just before the Draft, they also pulled off one of the major free agent signings of the offseason, inking center Tammy Sutton-Brown to a new deal. Sutton-Brown has been a consistent performer on both ends since joining the WNBA in 2001. With the Sting last season, she averaged 11.2 ppg and 5.9 rpg. She is a former All-Star and a regular on the Canadian National Team.
In the Charlotte Dispersal Draft, Indiana picked up guard Sheri Sam. Averaging 11.4 ppg over her distinguished career, Sam will give the Fever an additional scoring option. She also will make the Fever a better defensive team as she finished 11th in the league with 1.6 steals per game in 2006. The team also traded LaTangela Atkinson to Sacramento for a future pick (to make room for Sutton-Brown) as well as veteran Olympia Scott for youngster Ann Strother, who has yet to prove what she is capable of doing at this level.
Indiana has the ninth pick in the draft and will likely be looking for another "team" player. They already have a superstar and look to complement her with players who do specific things well.
So with another offseason full of player movement, the only question is whether or not all of the roster changes can finally get Indiana past Detroit and Connecticut. The team will retain all five starters for the first time in franchise history, plus add Sam and Sutton Brown... thatís pretty significant. So the Fever will compete in the East again, but need to get consistent scoring and rebounding in the postseason if they want to advance to the ultimate level as a franchise.