Injuries Creating Opportunities
By Madison Warfel
If there’s any team in the WNBA that understands the concept of dealing with injuries, it’s the Indiana Fever.
Seven different Fever players have been forced to miss playing time due to injury. A total of 51 ½ games have been missed by those seven players.
Last season, the Fever won their first-ever WNBA championship. This season, however, began with the Fever losing seven of their first eight games, the worst eight-game start ever for a defending WNBA champion.
There is no doubt that injuries played a role in how badly the Fever season began. Key players have missed time for this Indiana squad. Katie Douglas was the second-leading scorer on the team last season; she’s missed all but two of 13 possible games this season. Tamika Catchings is the heart and soul of the Fever and the team’s leading scorer; she was forced to sit out two games earlier in the season due to back injury. Erin Phillips, Jessica Davenport, and Jeanette Pohlen have played a combined two games this season. They all played at least 15 minutes per game last season.
Since that dismal 1-7 start, the Fever has since won four of their last five games and now rest only a half game back from the New York Liberty for the fourth and final playoff spot in the East.
The many injuries the Fever has incurred have forced some players to take on larger and more important roles for the team. Shavonte Zellous, Karima Christmas, and Erlana Larkins have all seen a significant increase in playing time this year. And all have responded to the opportunity with elevated play and increased production. Every single player has increased their scoring by at least 3.5 points per game.
As these players have adjusted to their larger roles and have become more comfortable contributing at a higher level each and every day, the Fever have been playing much better and their winning percentage has reflected that trend.
“Last year I was kind of timid when I came to this team midseason. Now I am more comfortable and confident with myself and I want to make an impact whenever I come into the game,” Christmas said.
Larkins has scored in double figures the last two Fever games, including a season-high 15 points last game in New York. She is averaging a career high 7.5 points per game.
“I’ve been attacking the basket more. I try to focus more on, when I get the ball, attacking the basket and seeing what happens,” said Larkins.
More Fever players now have increased playing experience and when the injured players do make their returns, we could be looking at a very deep roster. Now the question is, dare it be asked: Have all these injuries actually better prepared the Fever for a deep playoff run?
“The injuries have the potential to make you better at the end because players are getting quality coaching, quality minutes, quality repetitions that perhaps they wouldn’t get if they were the 10th or 11th player,” Dunn said. “They’re in the rotation now, they’re counted on. So the injury situation has the potential to help you, but you’ve got to get in the playoffs.”
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