Sunday, August 3, 2008
It's time to start firing up the grill.
With only seven games left in the season and the Dream pretty much mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, everyone turns in different directions. For the players on the Dream, it's about establishing personal marks. For the coaches, it's about evaluating the talent. And for fans, it's thinking about next year and fashioning the 2009 Dream Team in one's mind.
So here's my take on the Dream for next year, including which players by all rights should be a part of next year's team ("KEEP") and which players should think about life with the next WNBA expansion team. ("PASS")
Alison Bales - KEEP. The Alison Bales for Kristen Mann trade was Atlanta's best trade of the year. Both players have gone in opposite directions, with Mann becoming one component out of several in Indiana. Bales is getting more minutes than ever in her second year, is ranked seventh in blocks per game and third in defensive rebounds per 40 minutes. She might not be the player you'd build a franchise around, but Coach Marynell Meadors will have one fewer center to look for next year.
Ivory Latta - KEEP. Betty Lennox might be the playmaker, but Latta is the face of the franchise. It's a no brainer. Granted, Latta has not been a top ten player (except in three point goals and attempts) but this is Latta's first full-time year and her game can only get better. Furthermore, her ebullient personality makes her the Dream's spokesperson on and off the court.
Betty Lennox - KEEP. It's hard to be a leader, and Betty Lennox has learned that this year by enduring a 17 game losing streak. The downsides about Betty are her turnovers and her moodiness. Her comments about her relationship with Coach Meadors are cause for concern, but Lennox has to know that the team will be better next year than it is this year. As for the turnovers, a better Dream team means that Lennox won't see as many double (or triple) teams in 2009.
Katie Feenstra - KEEP. I'm sure a lot of posters at the Atlanta Dream Message Board have now fallen off their chairs - Kit has been a recepient of abuse all year. However, much of it is undeserving. Does she deserve to be starting center? The answer is no; having Bales has almost made us forget about Feenstra's perpetual struggles. Is Kit a better than average player? Yes. Can she play a role in backing up Bales? Yes. Feenstra will never be your starter, but she's too good to throw away. (And please, Coach Meadors, give up that dream of the "Twin Towers" and stop putting Kit and Alison on the floor at the same time.)
Kristin Haynie - KEEP. Haynie's career has been one of hot and cold. She's good for a few points per game, plays decent defense, but she turns the ball over too much to be a starting guard - we already have Lennox in the "turnover" slot. Latta took the starting role away from Haynie and it's not coming back any time soon. However, Lennox and Latta need someone who can back them up during a game. Haynie can give you a decent 14 minutes.
Erika de Souza - KEEP. If we were grading on a report card, we'd have to give De Souza a ladies' "C". She's simply not participated enough due to health issues. However, she's coming into her prime as a player, and the flashes of brilliance while Erika has been healthy reveal a player simply too gifted to toss on the discard pile.
Tamera Young - KEEP. Some rookies are instant stars. Others are long term projects, and it looks like Young is going to be the latter. Her 32.5 percent field goal percentage is ice cold, and that has to change if she's going to have any kind of future in the WNBA. She should consider herself lucky that she's playing on such a bad team; she'd be buried in the background on any decent team. However, she's revealed both endurance and the ability to get the offensive rebound.
Kasha Terry - PASS. Kasha Terry was a free agent acquisition, and now we know why she was left on the discard pile by Indiana. Too many turnovers and personal fouls might doom Terry to be one of those "have-height-will-travel" kind of players. She only shoots 55 percent from the free throw line, limiting Kasha's usefulness to the first three quarters of a game.
Ann Strother - PASS. Why do I suspect that Ann Strother will be wearing someone else's uniform in 2009? Fans have decried Strother's limited use, but I suspect they just like the cute blond player. She shoots 35 percent from the field, 71 percent from the free throw line, and generally averages more personal fouls than assists or steals in a game. Hasn't broken the 10 point mark this year. If there was any time for Strother to have a break-out year, this was it. It didn't happen.
Jennifer Lacy - PASS. Yes, we all like Jennifer Lacy, but Lacy has the power to inexplicably...disappear during games. When Betty Lennox scores one point in 20 minutes, that's a very bad day for Lennox. But when Jennifer Lacy scores one point in 20 minutes, it seems to be par for the course. Lacy is another abysmal free throw shooter (66 percent) and picks up an average of three personal fouls in the two quarters she plays during a game. She might be a leader in the locker room, but "transcendent talent" and "Jennifer Lacy" will never be used in a sentence together while Lacy is in the WNBA.
Iziane Castro Marques - PASS. It's been an awful year for Izi. She's been thrown off the Brazilian Olympic team, and she's lost her shooting touch. With the Storm, she was a great shooter but in Atlanta she's completely lost her confidence. Yes, Coach Marynell Meadors likes Izi a lot, but Meadors liked Kit a lot too -- and you don't see Kit starting many games right now, do you? Yet Izi inexplicably starts. Coach, Izi ain't coming out of the slump and between Betty and Izi, the team only needs one playmaker. Trade Izi.
Chioma Nnamaka - PASS. If you ain't gonna play her, send her someplace else. But if she can't get on with a team as limited as the Dream, we might be seeing Nnamaka's final year in the WNBA.
Marynell Meadors - KEEP. By now, the more rabid fans are heading for the pitchforks and burning torches. But frankly, this is not a very good team. I agree with Josh Bagriansky at Score Atlanta: if I were giving out grades, no one on this team, not even Latta or Lennox deserve an "A". This, sadly enough, is exactly the kind of team that goes 3-24. Meadors gets big points in acquiring Bales; loses points in hanging with Kit and Izi too long.
As they say, "You can't shine manure." And WNBA watchers and Dream fans blame Meadors for not rubbing vigorously enough, it seems. Meadors tried to get us Ann Wauters, but that was a chimeric hope. Yelena Leuchanka never showed up, Erika got hurt, and Meadors just had to make do and try to squeeze lemons into lemonade. Camille Little and Stacey Lovelace performing disappearing acts on the Dream sure didn't help Meadors any. When you're 3-24, no one is your friend.
Let's wait until the offseason, and see what Trader Meadors does in turns of drafting and acquisitions. If there are a lot of mistakes, bad trades, etc., then we can began firing up "Old Sparky" and look for a coach who wants a real challenge. But until that day comes, I'll stick with Meadors.