Dunn’s Mid-Season Assessment

By Tom Rietmann | July 26, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS -- At the halfway mark of the WNBA regular season, Indiana Fever coach Lin Dunn points to balance and depth as the most important factors in her team's ascension to the top of the Eastern Conference standings.

“We've scored inside and we've scored outside, and we've had so many different people making contributions. That is such a key for where we are right now,” the Fever coach said Monday as she prepared to welcome her team back from its All-Star break.

“I have to go back to the contributions we've had. One night it's (Shavonte) Zellous off the bench. The next night it's Shyra Ely coming off the bench. Then it's Tan Smith making a key contribution. Or Shannon Bobbitt comes off the bench and does something great for us. 

“This is the deepest team I've coached by far,” Dunn said.

The Fever (11-6) begin the second half of the 2011 season Thursday with a road game against second-place Connecticut (9-5). Indiana plays at Washington on Friday and returns home Sunday to meet Los Angeles in Conseco Fieldhouse.

Through the first 17 games, 10 of 11 players on the Indiana roster scored in double digits at least once. That kind of contribution will grow in importance as the season progresses, Dunn said.

“Our depth is going to be a factor when fatigue comes into play,” said Dunn, whose team plays 10 of its last 17 games on the road. “We're not a young team. We've got four players over 30. That bench has to really help us out. We're an energy team. Our energy is related to our defense”

Indiana's players have stated their 2011 goal numerous times: repeat 2009's trip to the WNBA Finals and win it this time. Improvement in the team's rebounding numbers would make it easier to succeed in that plan. Indiana is averaging 31.4 rebounds a game; opponents are at 33.3.

“We have to continue to try to become a better rebounding team,” said Dunn, whose club outrebounded Chicago by nine in winning its last game before the break. “It's something we talk about all the time. It's one thing to talk about it; it's another thing to make sure we're drilling it all the time.”

The Fever team lists plenty of positives at midseason after a seven-game winning streak in late June and early July boosted Indiana atop the league. Dunn is especially happy to see her team hitting 44.1 percent on field goals, which is fifth in the league, and 38.4 percent on 3-pointers, which is third. Both marks are improvements over the 2010 season.

Individually, center Jessica Davenport, who is averaging a career-high 12.7 points and 4.9 rebounds, is one of the headline stories for the first half. Her scoring ranks behind only Tamika Catchings (14.6) and Katie Douglas (14.5) among the Fever.

Davenport, a leading candidate for the league's Most Improved Player award, is coming off a Chicago game in which she collected 20 points, five rebounds and three assists in just 24 ˝ minutes. Much of her playing time came against Chicago star Sylvia Fowles.

“(Davenport) continues to grow not only as an offensive player but as a defender and rebounder,” Dunn said. “We still think she hasn't nearly come close to maximizing her potential. … When you look at her performance (against Chicago), I think that's a good sign for her that she's not intimidated by Sylvia Fowles. She's not intimidated by playing the best in our league. That's good news for us.”

Jeanette Pohlen, the Fever's lone rookie, has been a strong addition at such an early stage in her career. Indiana's first-round draftee was an offensive standout at Stanford, so her average of 4.9 points a game and her 52.8 percent mark on 3-pointers are not surprises. But Pohlen has provided sound defense as well as some timely rebounding and passing.

“She has not really missed a step in adapting to the WNBA,” Dunn said.

“I think she's a very good athlete. I think she's got size and speed. Her foot speed is better than you think. When I watch her defend a Maya Moore or get switched off and defend a Seimone Augustus, I'm impressed with her ability to do that. She definitely has the strength.

“We knew she was a good shooter. She's an excellent passer; she might be our best post-entry passer. She sees the floor extremely well. We already knew, too, that she can shoot the 3. But she can shoot the ball off the dribble and take the ball to the rim.”

The Fever suffered a difficult loss when point guard Briann January went down with a season-ending knee injury in late June. However, Erin Phillips stepped in as the starter and is contributing 7.3 points and 2.3 assists per game. Shannon Bobbitt, who's called the “Energizer Bunny” by her teammates, has provided quality minutes off the bench.

“I think we have dealt with adversity pretty well,” Dunn said. “Losing Bri was a huge blow. And now we're using two people at the point who, at this time last year, weren't even here and are still learning our system offensively and defensively.

“We've kind of weathered that storm and we're dealing with it as best we can and moving forward. I give Erin and Shannon a lot of credit. They've jumped in there and done everything we can ask. The other players have really surrounded them and supported them. We're still a work in progress, but our ability to persevere through that has been a real plus.”