The New Angel McCoughtry

UNCASVILLE, CONN. - Atlanta Dream guard Angel McCoughtry's growth this season has been almost night and day. Last year, she was unfairly characterized in the press as a selfish ball handler that got her coach fired.

"It was so unfair to me being the young woman that I am," McCoughtry said while perched on the scorer's table during an All-Star game practice session. "But it was a learning experience. I've learned from it, I've moved on. I've became better and now we're having a great season and I'm a better player from it."

McCoughtry has helped lead the Atlanta Dream to the best start in the history of its franchise that includes a pristine 8-0 record at home. She's also leading the league in steals and is a player that makes her teammates better. Joining McCoughtry on the Eastern Conference All-Stars this year was teammate Erika deSouza. McCoughtry said it's good that her teammates like deSouza are finally getting the attention they deserve.

"It's great because I'm glad to have some company here that I've been playing with all season to have some fun," McCoughtry said. "She's played well this season and she deserves to be here."

The Dream soared to a 10-1 record this season before the team lost four games straight - around the same time McCoughtry's other key teammates Sancho Lyttle and Tiffany Hayes were sidelined with injuries.

"We've had some ups and downs but we still have a good team," McCoughtry said. "We've had a couple of injuries, but they'll be back. We'll be all right."

The Dream have been to the WNBA Finals two times in the last three years. When asked about the biggest improvements the team has made this season - McCoughtry said it's been teammwork.

"We have such good team chemistry this year. I've been working out figuring out the game mentally. In order to win championships, you've got to get your teammates involved and get their confidence going. When you do that, you can do anything."

With McCoughtry's growth in her game, she could very well win the Most Valuable Player award if she continues on her trajectory, but she said it's something she doesn't have on her mind.

"I don't want to focus on that because it's a distraction," she said. "The hard work and everything will pay off. Recognition will come with the hard work. I just want to stay focused as a team and would rather just keep myself there."

Her number one priority right now, she said, is helping the team regain its early season momentum.

"When someone gets injured, they get injured," she said. "There's nothing you can do about that. We have to come back strong as a group. It doesn't hurt when one of your teammates gets injured, but at the same time, you want to go out there and win for them."

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