Indiana Tuning Up

by September 17, 2008

by Stephen Litel

The Indiana Fever will enter the 2008 WNBA Playoffs with a record not fitting of a playoff team. Throughout the season, they have faced injuries and adversity, but due to the weak Eastern Conference, were able to garner a postseason berth. Yet, the Fever have every reason for hope. As a “defense first” team, their ability to shut down opponents can keep them in games. Hopefully, they can find a consistent offensive production to team with their defensive dominance.

With only a couple games left to tune up before the playoffs begin, Indiana’s two stars, Tamika Catchings and Katie Douglas, sat down briefly with Stephen Litel for a chat.

Stephen Litel: How great has Ebony Hoffman been this season?

Tamika Catchings: Oh my god, Ebony has been awesome. With losing Tamika Whitmore to Connecticut, one of the things as a coaching staff and as a team we asked her to do was step up. She came into the season and worked so hard every night. Before practice and after practice she’s out there, trying to get better and it’s great for me to see. I’ve been here for her whole career and just to see how she’s grown as a player, on the court and off the court, it makes me proud of her. I’m like her Mom, but not quite.

Katie Douglas: She’s been phenomenal. It starts with opportunity and she had a great opportunity to step in as a starting four player for us. She’s definitely gotten better, but I think the talent has always been there. She got the opportunity and definitely thrived in the role and has been a huge factor for us all season long.

Litel: In these last few games before the playoffs begin, in what area does this team need the most work?

Catchings: I think the biggest area we definitely need to clean up is our defense and our rebounding. Coming in, we thought one of our staples was going to be our defense and rebounding. When we play our defense and rebound as a team, we do really well and when we don’t, it shows in our record obviously. The next few games we want to find consistency on the defensive end and if we can get that working for us, hopefully we’ll be able to build off of that.

Douglas: Having some close games and having our backs against the wall, we just need to play with a certain toughness, a certain playoff mentality. All the X’s and O’s we talk about are fine, but at the end of the day, this team has been missing something, something intangible. Hopefully, these last couple games we can really hone in on it and be at our peak going into the playoffs.

Litel: When this team plays defense up to it’s capabilities, you’re one of the best teams in the league. What makes you so good on the defensive end?

Catchings: The athleticism we have and when we play defense, when we’re moving and clicking together, everything is on. That confidence is there, that trust is there and all that is working in our favor. When we play our best defense as a team, there are not many people who can hang with us.

Douglas: It didn’t start this year. This franchise has taken a lot of pride in having a defensive identity, making that work and making that be the most important factor in each and every game. Offense has come and gone throughout the season, but you can always play defense. It’s a fine balance we have to have. We have to be able to get stops and we also have to be able to find ways to put the ball in the basket. When we do get our defense going, offense comes a whole lot easier. It’s a pretty simple game and, hopefully, these last couple games and throughout the playoffs we can hone in on our identity on the defensive end.

Litel: With expectations of this team coming into the season, is a playoff berth good enough?

Catchings: I think for right now it is. Obviously, we came into the season wanting to win a championship and the way our record looks right now, it’s very disappointing with the talent we have on this team. The good thing is we did make the playoffs and when we get done with the next few games, we go right into the playoffs and it’ll be a new season.

Douglas: Well, I think anytime you give yourself an opportunity to go for a championship, you can set yourself up for a lot of things. Obviously, there have been a lot of challenges for us this year, not what we anticipated or worked for, but a new season begins once the regular season ends. Anything is possible and we’re going in knowing we didn’t do what he had hoped for and set goals for, but it is a new season. We’ll set new goals, try to refocus and accomplish those goals.