Complacency Not An Option
INDIANAPOLIS -- When Indiana Fever Coach Lin Dunn welcomes the reigning WNBA champions to training camp this weekend, she'll deliver a simple opening statement. Dunn said she wants her 2013 players “being in the moment, not living in the past.” In other words, feeling too content isn't an option.
Not that Dunn is overly concerned.
She knows that Fever star Tamika Catchings will echo every word. Then Catchings will take the floor and lead by example.
“You could describe Tamika Catchings in a million different ways, but you would never use the word complacent,” Dunn said this week after finishing a camp planning meeting with her coaching staff. “Catch is going to set the tone. There's not any doubt about that. (Complacency) will not be allowed. It's one thing for me to talk about it. But it's another thing for your leader to set that tone.”
Looking ahead -- and not dwelling on past achievements -- is the rule for Catchings, the 2012 WNBA Finals MVP.
“Catch is highly motivated, as always,” Dunn said. “That's just who she is. When your leader and your best player out-works everybody, out-practices everybody, out-prepares everybody, then you're in a good place to begin with.”
Not since 2001-02 has there been a repeat champion in the WNBA. The Fever's quest for another league title begins Sunday when 10 to 12 players report for work at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
A full camp roster is 15, but at least three Indiana veterans won't be on the floor for the opening practice. Australia native Erin Phillips and Katie Douglas, who's completing her stint in the Russian League, have permission to arrive later. Jeanette Pohlen is still rehabilitating from off-season knee surgery.
That won't keep Dunn and her staff from getting a quick start. “By the end of the practice on Sunday,” Dunn said, “we will be scrimmaging.”
Ten of 11 players from the Fever's championship roster return for 2013. Only Tammy Sutton-Brown, who's an unsigned free agent, won't be back.
That, according to Dunn, signals “a real, real battle” for any newcomer who expects to carve out a spot on this year's final 11-player roster.
One of those new faces will be first-round draft pick Layshia Clarendon, a guard from California- Berkeley. The Fever coaches expect her to make an immediate impact because of her versatility, shooting ability and know-how in the pick-and-roll. Those skills could garner for Clarendon some minutes that Pohlen will likely miss as she continues rehab.
As for dramatic changes to Indiana's offensive and defensive schemes, there will be few. And the changes that do surface likely will involve two positions -- with Catchings at power forward and Erlana Larkins at center.
“One of the things we've continued to do is grow our offensive system,” Dunn said. “When we moved Catch to the 4 (power forward in 2012), we created some new sets that we'd never used before because of her ability to play outside. She has guard skills while most of the other 4s we've had in the past didn't have those skills. We created sets that enhanced what she could do out there and we're continuing to grow that system.”
Larkins' development in 2012 proved to be one of the WNBA's biggest stories. She collected 48 rebounds in four Finals games as the Fever defeated Minnesota. At 6-foot-1, she became one of the league's most feared and consistent rebounders after Indiana inserted her as the starting center.
Now Dunn is looking to help Larkins become a more prolific scorer after she averaged 4.1 points during the regular season and 9.9 in the playoffs.
“You will probably see us try to do more to create ways to get Larkins the ball in the paint,” Dunn said. “In a lot of the situations, she got the ball as the second or third or fourth option. We need to make sure we have a couple of ways to get her some first-option looks. We'll focus on that, and how to use her, because she's so aggressive down in the paint.”
WNBA players will be dealing with two rules changes in 2013. The league has adopted a defensive three-second rule similar to the one used by the NBA. The rule is designed to open up the lane and encourage more offensive production.
“(Defensive players) can't camp in the lane forever,” said Dunn, whose clubs have long been known for their stout defenses. “It encourages you to have more mobile, more active players there. We're not going to change our defensive system, but we have to have an awareness that you can't stand still as much as you have in the past.”
Also, the WNBA is stretching the 3-point line to 22 feet, 1 ¾ inches from 20-6 ¼. The new distance is the international standard.
Indiana ranked among the WNBA leaders on 3-pointers for virtually the entire season in 2012, and Dunn expects more of the same.
“How many teams will have X number of 3-point shooters from this new line?” Dunn said. “I think we're fortunate. I think we have as many as anybody, maybe more. Erin Phillips, Katie Douglas, Jeanette Pohlen -- I know those three will feel comfortable with the new line. It's not going to faze them.”
Indiana will travel to San Antonio for a preseason game on May 11. The Fever will play its lone home preseason game at noon on May 15. Indiana opens the regular season at San Antonio on May 24.