With changes all around, the Indiana Fever enters a new era and a new season with a historic WNBA playoff streak on the line.
Record last season: 17-17
Third in the Eastern Conference, lost in the first round
The term “Beginning of a new era” is one that is thrown around a lot in sports. Anytime a change is made, no matter how minor, a team will call it a new era and use it to try to get fans excited. The times where the phrase is actually appropriate are really few and far between.
But in the case of the Indiana Fever and the changes they have undergone, it speaks volumes about this franchise and the upcoming season.
Last year the Fever went 17-17 and were a solid, if unremarkable, team last season. They went to the playoffs once again, continuing a 12-year consecutive streak, but lost in the first round to the Phoenix Mercury.
Once the final buzzer went off and the Fever’s season was over, the changes began.
Head coach Stephanie White left after two seasons to take over the Vanderbilt women’s basketball team. But the bigger change was that forward Tamika Catchings, who had been the face of the franchise since 2002, had decided to retire after 16 glorious years.
Catchings averaged 16.1 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game and finished her career as the WNBA league leader in rebounds with 3,316 and second in points with 7,380.
Trying to replace that kind of production would be next to impossible.
But the Fever are sure going to try.
When a team loses a player as important as Catchings, the usual course of action is a rebuild. You jettison all the veterans, bring in lots of youth and start thinking about the next WNBA Draft. To their credit, the Fever decided to try to replace Catchings by trading for five-time All-Star Candice Dupree.
In addition, the Fever brought in Pokey Chatman to lead the team into their new era. Chatman comes to Indiana with a record of 106-98 and four straight trips to the postseason. She knows how to win and wants to put the focus squarely on defense, something the Fever have struggled with at times.
Going into 2017 the Fever have eight returning players from last season, but half of the roster has less than three years experience at the professional level. Which mean that the bulk of the team will be learning a new system under Chatman while also learning the basics of the WNBA.
So while that places the Indiana Fever in a great position for the future, it doesn’t bode very well for the current season.
Yes, the Fever will automatically have some chemistry, but experience will be hard to come by. Which when playing against teams like the Minnesota Lynx and Washington Mystics could prove to be an issue.
More WNBA: Chicago Sky 2017 Season Preview
So how will the Fever do this season? Given the revamped playoff format odds are they could make a record-setting thirteenth playoff appearance, but a return to the WNBA Finals seems unlikely.
And with such a deep draft coming in 2018, that would be the worst thing in the world for a Fever franchise that is rebuilding even if they don’t think they’re rebuilding.