By David Siegel
Confusion, chaos, absences, replacements have marked the Atlanta Dream’s 2012 season. This is not the same team that won the Eastern Conference the last two years, despite the similarities of the starting lineup.
While Marynell Meadors opened the season as the team’s general manager and head coach since its inception, 2012 is only the second season under owners Kelly Loeffler and Mary Brock. The duo purchased the franchise in 2011, and rightfully expected big things going into the season, based on their late season success of last year.
At the end of last season assistant coach Carol Ross, who did a great deal of in-game management for Meadors left to become head coach of the Los Angeles Sparks. Her replacement, long time college coach Joe Ciampi, along with returning assistant coach Fred Williams, while outstanding in their own ways, were different from Ross if nothing else.
Then there are the roster changes. Iziane Castro Marques, Coco Miller, Alison Bales, Courtney Paris, Kelly Mazzante, and Sandora Irvin are gone, replaced by rookies Tiffany Hayes and Aneika Henry. Yelena Leuchanka returned, along with veterans Cathrine Kraayeveld, Ketia Swanier, and Laurie Koehn.
The Olympics led to All-Star center Erika de Souza sitting out the first part of the season. When you couple that with Bales, Paris and Irvin all leaving, the center position remained in the hands of Leuchanka and rookie Henry.
Angel McCoughtry, the league’s leading scorer, missed several games before the break with knee issues.
The result was an inconsistent pre-Olympic portion of the schedule; a 2-2 May was followed by a 5-5 June, and a 2-3 July. The team finished July with a 9-10 record.
The return of de Souza to the starting lineup alongside Sancho Lyttle, McCoughtry, point guard Lindsey Harding and defensive stopper Armintie Price brought optimism at the beginning of August post-Olympic break, but chaos erupted.
McCoughtry and Meadors, after both being a part of the USA Olympic team could not co-exist, leading to missed games for “personal reasons,” accusations and innuendo. With the team 3-2 post-break and at 12-12 overall, disappointed owners Brock and Loeffler instituted change replacing Meadors with Williams, hoping to spark another late season run. Williams suspended McCoughtry until she agreed to several rules.
After a loss to the surprising Tulsa Shock, the Dream have righted the ship, winning three in a row, the last two over Connecticut and Indiana, the two teams already locked into the playoffs in the East.
Through it all, Harding at the point guard spot has consistently led the team on the court. She has seen a lot in her WNBA career and recognized the need for a calm composure with the Dream. She leads by example. She is one of those point guards that may never lead the league in assists, but in her own words, tries to “make plays,” either by distributing or taking the ball to the basket herself.
Last night, Harding was the difference in the important victory over Indiana. Her twenty points included twelve in the fourth quarter, and the last ten scored by the Dream.
Harding joins Dishin & Swishin in an interview recorded prior to that game. She discusses the team and the way it has handled and reacted to the turmoil, McCoughtry, the change to coach Williams, the importance of de Souza’s return, the play of Lyttle, the emergence of Hayes and much more.
For a second perspective, LaChina Robinson, who is on the Dream broadcasts for Fox Sports, comes aboard to discuss the season. Robinson talks about her experiences with McCoughtry, Meadors and the Dream, the recent success and the remaining challenges, among other things.
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