By Dorothy J Gentry
On Monday morning the Dallas Wings were back home at College Park Center on the campus of the University of Texas at Arlington.
They were running through plays, practicing jump shots, free throws, 3-pointers, defending and blocking shots. Basically, they were doing all the nuances and details that make for winning basketball.
The All-Star break is over. The game – in which teammates Liz Cambage and Skylar Diggins-Smith both played – is over.
With nine games left in the season, it’s back to business for the Wings; one of the league’s most talented and exciting franchises.
The team pieced together a franchise-record five-game winning streak in the first half of July and with a 14-11 record ,currently sit at No. 6 in the WNBA standings. It’s star center, Cambage, set two WNBA records in as many days and was named an All-Star along with Diggins-Smith.
Since moving to Arlington in 2016, the Wings have been one of the WNBA’s top performing teams on offense. The 2018 team has brought it to another level with the addition of Cambage and the play of Diggins-Smith.
To put it in perspective, the Wings have scored at least 100 points in five of the first 22 games in 2018. The previous franchise record for 100-point games in a season was two. At the All-Star break, the team leads the league in scoring with 87.9 points per game while averaging 96.8 in an eight-game stretch over the month of July.
Add to all of this a bench that can score at will and you realize the time is now for the Wings.
And no one knows that better than head coach Fred Williams although he’s careful not to look too far ahead to the postseason.
“We’ve got to take one game at a time and focus on the upcoming opponent – Chicago is the next opponent for us – and after that you have to gauge it. If you start looking ahead, and trying to figure things out ahead of time … you can’t,” he explained.
“You have to take one game at a time, one possession at a time during the game. And just play well.”
Williams, looking relaxed after a few days off for the break, spoke candidly with WNBAInsdr.com about the end of the season, lineup changes, postseason expectations, new addition Tayler Hill and more.
On changes in rotation/lineup: You’ll see (Kaela) Davis play more at the point behind Skylar. I just like size in that position, he said when asked about Leticia Romero who was brought in earlier this summer as a potential backup to Skylar. “I’m not afraid to put her out there when I do and give her minutes. I wish I could give every player on the team, eight minutes equally and there you go but it doesn’t happen that way.
Right now my game plan is to have Davis in that slot as a backup point guard. Leticia – she’ll get some point spot minutes here and there. It’s hard to play 12, 11 players and get a lot of minutes. I’ll just be looking at the flow of the game, depending upon who’s out there. Any player can get off the bench for me. The next game it could be a different scenario.
On the talented Wings and the remainder of the season: It’s good to have talent. A lot of teams have talent. But the whole league is bunched up now where you can go either way (in the standings). It’s all about the mindset of the talent that you have to get it done. For me personally, it’s all about being a champion. Getting a championship. I know this team could give our fans a home venture here in the playoffs. We deserve to have an atmosphere like that. It will take a lot of work to get there. There’s other teams that’s in those slots, it just goes either way. Lucky bounce here. Lucky bounce there.
The main thing is taking care of business at home. For us, our goal is long-term; the championship., That’s the main thing. Realistically for us to get to a different level than we did last year. With the talent that we have…to keep the culture we have together and lets have fun for our fans and build on it. But we want to get a home stand going for our fans for the playoffs. (The Wings lost in the first round of playoffs last year.)
On his frequent technicals: I’m done. (He laughs but is sincere). That’s it for me. I told the team the other day… a lot of people in the past called me more of a quiet type of coach. But I’m fighting for my team. My team gets tech, it’s the emotions of the game.
But I’m done getting technicals. It’s just emotions. First half of the season you get those, second half you say, okay you know what they’re going to call, what they’re not going to call, let’s move on. Now I know, unless it’s something really out of the norm or really wild … but other than that, I’m done for the year as far as techs.
On Cambage: What she has brought back to the league – and especially with our team first because that is where it started with getting her back and signed – has been great. She’s really felt relaxed playing here and playing her game. She’s just a proven factor Working hard and helping her teammates also get better. She’s just a phenomenal person who’s really enjoying playing basketball.
On Diggins-Smith: I think the main thing right now is she has developed herself more as a triple -threat player. On any given night she can get a double-double or even a triple-double as we almost saw in the All-Star Game. shoot. She’s capable of getting 18, 10 at any time.
On Tayler Hill: Tayler – she will gradually fit in. We will gradually put her into the system with the things we are doing. It‘s going to take about two or three games. She’s a good veteran who understands the game. She brings her culture, personality things she’s done in the past year. I know she is coming off an (ACL) injury. I think she can help us from long, outside range shooting and the ability to read defenses and penetrate the paint. She has shown signs this season of hard work, gradually getting back in there and I think she’s at a point of health where she can go full board.
On Azura: It’s a process for her coming off a strong college season and coming right into the pros, fitting in and being relaxed. For her, she‘s our player that comes in and gives us a spark. From blocking shots to shooting from the outside. She’s going to be a player who gets better and better. She’s really a college senior playing in the pros now. She had another year of college and chose to come out early.”