Douglas Finds Her Comfort Zone in Indiana

Back on June 9, the Indiana Fever were 0-2 and battling the talented Seattle Storm in a nationally televised game on ESPN2. Near the end of the third quarter Indiana guard Katie Douglas banged heads with Seattle�s Janell Burse going after a loose ball. The result for Douglas was a black eye that seemed to get worse and worse as the game went on.

That�s right, Douglas kept playing despite the scary collision. Knowing just how important staving off an 0-3 start to the season was, Douglas re-entered the contest after a brief stint on the bench and propelled the Fever to their first victory of the season. Douglas finished with a team-high 21 points on 6-of-12 shooting (3-of-5 from three), and scored five of the team�s final six points.

�The eye is feeling so much better,� Douglas said recently. �I�ve got a little blood still left in there. I was black and blue and purple for a few weeks, but I�m definitely feeling so much better. I was thankful that I was able to continue playing and not miss any action.�

While the Seattle victory may have been important because it prevented a demoralizing 0-3 start and showed the team had grit, the game that put Indiana in serious contender territory had to be its improbable overtime victory at New York on June 26.

In that affair, Douglas encountered more adversity as she missed all nine of her field-goal attempts in the first half and Indiana fell behind by a sizable margin. Such a dreadful start may have caused another player not to look for her offense in the second half. But not Douglas. She kept shooting and soon caught fire, nailing a string of jumpers from the wing to help Indiana evaporate what was once a seemingly comfortable lead for New York. And Douglas also showed some fire, whether it was getting into a brief altercation with New York�s Shameka Christon when the Fever were mounting their comeback or pumping her fist as the Liberty called a timeout to cool her off.

Douglas� inspired play got a rise out of her teammates on the court and on the sidelines -- much like it has all season � and catapulted Indiana to an 82-81 OT win. After not scoring in the first half, Douglas finished with a game-high 28 points. The Fever would complete a home-and-home sweep of the Liberty the following night in Indianapolis.

�Katie is doing really well for us,� said Indiana forward Tamika Catchings. �The things she�s doing well are just being focused and being in a position where she can score. She�s doing a great job of knocking down open shots and getting good looks so we have to continue to get her the ball and keep on riding that wave.�

Douglas� torrid start may not be surprising considering she�s been one of the most talented shooting guards in the league for years now, but the Fever�s is anything but expected. Indiana has reeled off a franchise-record six straight victories to take over sole possession of first place in the competitive Eastern Conference.

Douglas, who is taking part in her second season with Indiana after coming over in a trade from Connecticut prior to 2008 campaign, cites one main reason for the team�s success.

�I attribute it to this group being together the previous year,� said Douglas. �Probably last year we wouldn�t have been able to rebound like that and the wheels maybe would have fallen off after those two losses. With a year under our belts together there wasn�t a sense of panic, but definitely a sense of urgency.�

By itself the six-game winning streak is impressive, but it�s the way Douglas and the Fever have been doing it that has made the rest of the league take notice. All of the six wins have come after center Yolanda Griffith went down with season-ending injury, and all have been versus teams that made the playoffs last season, including two each against Detroit and New York � the teams that competed in last year�s Eastern Conference Finals. And twice the Fever have rallied from 17-point deficits in the second half.

Fever teammates come to the aid of Katie Douglas after she collided heads with Seattle's Janell Burse.
Ron Hoskins/NBAE/Getty Images
When looking at the Fever this year one has to wonder why this didn�t happen last season since the roster was virtually the same. Prior to returning to her home state of Indiana, Douglas had experienced a ton of individual and team success with Connecticut, even though the Sun were never able to win a WNBA title. Putting her together with Catchings, one of the best all-around players in the league, seemed like a recipe for a deep postseason run from Day One.

Well, Catchings and Douglas never quite clicked in their first season playing alongside each other as many expected them to. But there were reasons for that. Catchings was coming off a torn Achilles, which she suffered in the previous year�s playoffs, and missed nine of the team�s regular season games and started only 17.

�The thing that happened last year is that they never got to practice together because Tamika was coming back from an Achilles (injury) and they wouldn�t let her practice. She could only play,� said Fever coach Lin Dunn, who debuted as the Fever�s head coach last season.

Of course, that meant Catchings missed out on training camp, but she wasn�t the only one. Douglas returned from playing in Europe to join her new teammates just one day prior to the regular season opener.

�It was just extremely hectic,� said Douglas. �There was so much transition going through our team.�

Unable to get into a flow all season, the Fever went just 17-17 in 2008 and were fortunate to even make the playoffs. They eventually lost in the opening round to Detroit.

This year with a later start to the WNBA season, Douglas was able to take part in training camp for the first time in a long time along with Catchings and her other Fever teammates. And even though Douglas admits players typically don�t enjoy training camp, she sees it as having a big impact on the early-season success.

�Having that experience and having that time to build team chemistry helped me to get in a rhythm and find my niche and my role,� said Douglas.

Douglas� role in the Fever�s hot start can�t be understated. Through eight games she is averaging a team-best 18.1 points, which puts her on pace to set a personal best for a season. And she�s also hitting buckets at a blistering rate, making 46 percent of her field goal attempts, including 39 percent from beyond the arc.

�I told my teammates I�m just trying to go out and produce and be steady with them and not be erratic and inconsistent,� said Douglas. �We need a level of consistency on this team, and it starts with Catch and me.�

And with Catchings now healthy and also back playing at a high level, she and Douglas have finally formed that lethal tandem everyone envisioned when the duo was first paired up.

�Playing on the wing with her, she draws a lot of defenses to her,� said Douglas. �Hopefully it does the same for her and allows our individual skills to flourish. If one of us gets hot the defense has to kind of change and shift and it allows the other person to get some open looks whereas in the past all the focus has been on her.�

So far this season the focus has been on Douglas, and that's worked out just fine for the Fever.