By Wheat Hotchkiss | December 6, 2013
Height: 6-0 Position: Guard/Forward Age: 34 Years Pro: 13 College: Purdue Key Stats: Played in just four games due to a lower back injury. Averaged 15 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 1.8 steals per game.
Injuries were the defining storyline in the Indiana Fever’s 2013 season. Nearly every player on the roster missed games with an array of ailments from knee injuries to back injuries to even — much to Erin Phillips’ misfortune — an eye injury. Through it all, the Fever persevered, banded together and made a run all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals.
But there’s no question that all those injuries left a deep imprint on this season. And there’s no doubt that the player whose absence had the greatest impact on both the team and the individual was Katie Douglas.
For years, Douglas was one of the WNBA’s most durable players. After playing 22 games as a rookie in 2001, Douglas missed just 16 regular season games over the next 11 seasons. That durability enabled Douglas to develop into one of the premier players in the WNBA; from 2005-2011, Douglas was a four-time All-Star, four-time All-WNBA and five-time All-Defensive team selection.
Douglas again excelled in 2012, playing in 32 of 34 regular season games for the Fever and averaging 16.5 points per game, 10th best in the WNBA. But Douglas hurt her ankle in Game 3 of the conference finals, and was forced to watch from the sideline as her team captured the first championship in franchise history. It was a bittersweet moment for Douglas, who symbolically checked in for the last three seconds of the Finals to be a part of the on-court celebration.
PHOTO GALLERY: Katie Douglas Season Gallery »
In 2013, she returned to the court hungry to help her team pursue a second straight title. Unfortunately, the year didn’t go as planned. Douglas’ time on the court was brief enough to break down game-by-game.
The year got off to a good start. In Indiana’s season-opening win in San Antonio, Douglas scored 18 points to go along with four assists and four steals. A week later, the Fever got their championship rings in their home opener as Douglas scored 17 points and played 38 minutes. Though Indiana fell to Atlanta, Douglas had to feel good about the way she was playing.
But before the Fever’s next game, the 34-year-old experienced soreness in her lower back and was eventually diagnosed with a bulging disc. She missed Indiana’s next 30 games before returning to the court for the last two contests of the regular season. She scored 11 points in a home win over New York, then played 40 minutes two days later in an overtime loss at Connecticut, scoring 14. There were signs of rust — normally a sharpshooter, Douglas made just 2-of-14 3-pointers in the two games — but Douglas appeared back and ready to contribute in the playoffs.
But once again, her backed flared up days later in practice, causing her to miss the entire postseason. Her season totals: four games, 143 minutes, 60 points.
There is no doubt 2013 was a massive disappointment for Douglas. The former Perry Meridian and Purdue standout will be 35 before the start of next season, and despite displaying excellent durability for the vast majority of her career, Douglas’ recent string of injuries has led some to question whether she can continue to have an impact in the WNBA.
That skepticism seems quite harsh, given both Douglas’ previous health and her play on the court in recent years. Re-injuring her back after a few months of rehab does raise a red flag, but the offseason gives Douglas essentially nine months to rest and recover.
Douglas is ninth on the WNBA’s all-time scoring list and has showed little sign of slowing down when she has seen the court (Interesting side note: Of the five active players ahead of Douglas on the WNBA’s career scoring charts, two others missed almost all of 2013 due to injury. Seattle’s Lauren Jackson sat out the season with a hamstring injury, while San Antonio’s Becky Hammon played just 12 minutes due to a broken finger and torn ACL). Douglas’ scoring average in 2012 went up nearly three points per game from her averages in 2010-11, and she has demonstrated considerable consistency on the defensive end, averaging 1.6 steals per game in her career.
Douglas’ back problems did end up benefiting the Fever in one respect in 2013, as it forced other wing players into larger roles, and two of them flourished. Shavonte Zellous became an All-Star and won the league’s Most Improved Player award, while Karima Christmas developed from a seldom-used reserve into an integral component of the team’s starting lineup.
If Douglas is able to return to the Fever lineup, Indiana would suddenly possess considerable depth on the wing, which could allow Douglas to play slightly less minutes and potentially limit future injuries.
Although her impact on the hardwood was limited this season, Douglas remained active in the greater Indianapolis community. She was the August recipient of the WNBA Cares Community Assist Award — the second time she has received the honor — for her done considerable work on behalf of Breast Health Awareness and the Pancreatic Action Network. In the past month, Douglas helped served food to the less fortunate at Pacers Sports & Entertainment’s “Come to Our House” Thanksgiving Dinner and next week will represent the Fever at two events: a toy giveaway with the National Guard and JAKKS Pacific and a shoe giveaway at a local IPS school.
As an Indiana native, Douglas has left her mark on and off the court, from her high school and college days up to her time with the Fever. Despite a difficult 2013, she likely has a few more chapters left to write.
FeverBasketball.com is doing Player Reviews for each player on the 2013 Indiana Fever. Check out other stories from this series:
Player Review 2013: Shavonte Zellous Player Review 2013: Erlana Larkins Player Review 2013: Layshia Clarendon Player Review 2013: Karima Christmas Player Review 2013: Jasmine Hassell Player Review 2013: Erin Phillips Player Review 2013: Briann January Player Review 2013: Tamika Catchings Player Review 2013: Jeanette Pohlen