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Inside The W with Michelle Smith: Dupree in Year 16

For the fourth time since she was drafted into the WNBA back in 2006, Candice Dupree is transitioning – to a new team, a new culture, a new role, to new expectations.

At 36 years old, one of the league’s steadiest veteran players – a seven-time All-Star who won a title in Phoenix in 2014 – is starting fresh with the defending league champions. Dupree is looking to find her place on a team that doesn’t need her to be the only veteran voice – not with Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd on the roster.

It is a much different place to be than where she was in her previous stop in Indiana, which was a roster full of young players and it was Dupree’s role to teach and mentor and model.

“I know for me that I think it’s easier as you get older (to transition), to be able to play with smart players who think the game, it’s easier with a team like this,” Dupree said. “A team like this, they play smart basketball and they make reads and pass and cut and they are veteran players. You don’t have to learn too much, you can work on building chemistry. So I wouldn’t says that it’s hard to jump on to a new team at this point.”

The Storm, who signed Dupree to a one-year deal, are getting one of the most consistent players in league history. Dupree enters her 16th season as the league’s fifth all-time scorer and sixth all-time rebounder. She is one of three players in league history – in good company with Tamika Catchings and Tina Thompson –  to average double-figure scoring in 14 or more consecutive seasons.

She has averaged 14.4 points and 6.6 rebounds over her long career, starting every playoff game she’s ever played in and averaging 14.8 points and shooting 56.9% in the postseason.

With Stewart and Loyd, the Storm don’t need her to be a go-to scorer. With Bird in her 20th season, they don’t need her to be their go-to leader.

Dupree said when she signed with Seattle that she wasn’t interested in carrying that load anymore at this point in her career after doing it for four rebuilding seasons in Indiana. She wanted to play for a team that had a chance to win now and to contribute in a meaningful way.

Seattle, which has seven returning players and 13 newcomers to its training camp roster, needs her to be what she’s always been – a reliable, efficient and experienced presence inside, filling the hole left by the exits of both Alysha Clark and Natasha Howard.

On the first day of Storm training camp on Sunday, head coach Dan Hughes said that assistant coach Gary Kloppenberg walked by and shared an observation about Dupree.

“He said to me, ‘Boy, is she going to fit into what we do well’,” Hughes said. And Hughes agrees.

“She’s a shot-maker,” Hughes said. “And if we can spread the floor, that’s right in her wheelhouse.”

Dupree said it’s too early for her to see how she will “fit” with Seattle, but she is happy to be on the floor with “high IQ basketball players”, knowing that many of the Storm’s key pieces have yet to arrive from overseas.

And Dupree knows that she will carry some of the defensive responsibility formerly shouldered by Clark and Howard inside, including defending some of the league’s top post players.

Bird said she is looking forward to playing with Dupree, someone she has only played with on a limited basis with USA Basketball, even through their long pro careers.

“When I look at Candice, we’ve only played together briefly with USA Basketball, but she’s always somebody who is pretty steady out there,” Bird said.

“She’s a confident player and she does the things she is good at. We have been a team that really relies on the post hitting outside shots – with Stewie and Natasha. And she does that. The other thing is that we run a ton of pick-and-roll and Candice naturally does that well, so I think that’s going to be a pretty seamless fit.”

Dupree and the Storm tip off the 2021 season against the Aces – a rematch of the 2020 WNBA Finals – on May 15 at 3pm/ET.