Season Preview 2010: Indiana Fever

Tamika Catchings will be asked to lead Indiana once again in 2010
Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty Images

Season Outlook

Indiana may have finished as runner-ups in 2009, but they proved they could keep pace offensively with the best of them. Look no further than last year’s WNBA Finals matchup against the Phoenix Mercury. What was initially billed as a defense vs. offense series ultimately produced what wound up being the highest-scoring game in WNBA history; a 120-116 overtime barnburner in game one.

There is a stigma often tied to teams that place such emphasis on defense: If a team defends, then it can’t score. Indiana ranked 8th overall last season in points scored, averaging just over 76 points per game. While it may not be in the top 50-percent of the league, the hybrid balance between scoring and defending certainly found its stride early. The Fever went on to win 11 straight games and posted a 14-4 record by the time the All-Star break rolled around in July, finishing off the season first overall in the East at 22-12.

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Indiana heading into 2010 is the fact that, outside of Tamecka Dixon’s February 18th retirement and selecting Jene Morris in the draft, the team more or less remains intact from last season.

“We tried to keep everything pretty much the same,” said head coach Lin Dunn. “We feel like we got a really good draft pick (Jene Morris), so we knew the season was going to start early. We knew a lot of our key players were going to miss training camp so we felt it was important to keep the core together and have as few changes as possible.”

Between Tamika Catchings and Katie Douglas, the Fever is not short on talent. Douglas led all Fever scorers last season with 17.6 per game, while Catchings diversified her game a bit more, leading the team in rebounds (7.2), assists (3.1) and steals (2.9). The postseason was not kind to Douglas though, as evidenced by game four of the finals where she shot 2-of-14 from the field and finished with seven points. In 2010 she will have as good a chance as any to redeem herself. For a team that personifies a balance between offense and defense, Catchings and Douglas stands as the evident contributors on both sides of the ball.

Fatigue may be a factor for Catchings, Ebony Hoffman, Douglas and Tammy Sutton-Brown, as all four are coming back from overseas championships play in Turkey. Combine that extended season with an earlier start stateside and it would appear as if the opportunity for rest will be at a minimum. On the one hand this can potentially impact Indiana's start to the season. On the other hand, all players return to a roster that, as mentioned earlier, has barely been tampered with. In other words, the opportunity to pick up where they left off in '09 is promising.

“Every year going in the perception is that this is Tamika Catching’s team and she’s expected to be the leader on the floor and off the floor, but I think she’s going to get a lot of help,” said Dunn. “Jessica Davenport and Shay Murphy have the potential to really help us and we continue to grow Briann January. This will be her second year so we’re expecting big things this year as well.”

If January's performance in the 2009 playoffs is any indication of what the Fever can expect from her in 2010, then the team has nothing to worry about. Once the postseason tipped off, January's numbers escalated in all the right spots. Points per game increased from 6.9 during the regular season to 10.6 in the postseason, assists from 2.3 to 3.0 and rebounds from 1.9 to 2.4. Not to mention, her shot from beyond the arc improved dramatically from .287 to an impressive .414.

If Indiana wants to make a repeat run then they still have all the pieces in place to do just that. The chemistry is there and the will to win is likely stronger than ever. Last season Indiana got a taste of the Finals, but after five hard-fought games and a chance to seal the deal on home court, it proved to be bitter. Perhaps in 2010 the taste of success will be sweeter than they’d ever imagined.

Frank Della Femina

Player on the Spot

Tamika Catchings is perceived as the leader of this team – and rightfully so. Whether she’s setting up a teammate, pulling down the boards, scoring points or transitioning momentum the other way, Catchings is the do-everything player on the spot for Indiana. During the 2009 playoff run, Catchings averaged 10.4 rebounds per game and 17.2 points over 10 games. That’s a postseason double-double average no team will shy away from.

In the 2010 GM surveys, general managers voted Catchings the player who is most hungry for a championship. If her 2010 numbers resemble those posted in 2009, then the chances of Indiana returning to the Finals are better than some. Whether or not the same pieces around her can help along the way is what may ultimately seal the deal.

Frank Della Femina

Projected Lineup

G.Briann January
G.Katie Douglas
F.Tamika Catchings
F.Ebony Hoffman
C.Tammy Sutton-Brown

Players Added

G.Allie Quigley
G.Jene Morris

Players Lost

G.Tamecka Dixon

2008 Leaders

PPGKatie Douglas17.6
RPGTamika Catchings7.2
APGTamika Catchings3.1
SPGTamika Catchings2.9
BPGTammy Sutton-Brown 1.5

Team Stats

Points Scored76.6(8th)
Points Allowed73.6(11th)
Field-Goal Percentage.402(13th)
Opponents’ FG%.429(6th)
Rebounding Diff.-1.3(7th)