By Dorothy J. Gentry
WNBA free agency negotiations – when teams can negotiate contracts with free agents – begins today.
Look for the Dallas Wings to be active as they gear up for the new season with a new head coach and a revamped roster – possibly minus not just one, but two All-Stars.
“We have some decisions to make with our roster,” said new Head Coach Brian Agler less than a month ago when he was introduced. He planned on contacting all the players, hiring the staff “and then it goes into the process of putting your team together thru free agency. There are some quality people out there in free agency that we want to contact.”
Just who those ‘quality people’ are, remains to be seen as the free agency process gets underway.
But one spot the Wings are looking to shore up is at the point guard position.
“In terms of our priorities,” President and CEO Greg Bibb said last week, “an additional point guard is at the top of the list.”
Neither Bibb nor Agler would offer insight into exactly whom the franchise is eyeing in free agency and what talks, if any, they have had with members of the current roster, but suffice it to say they have quite a bit to work through before Feb. 1 when actual free agency begins, the April draft and the May 24th start to the season.
Well-known is the uncertain status of All-Star Skylar Diggins-Smith – most certainly the face of the Wings franchise – who is pregnant with her first child. Diggins-Smith carried a heavy load last year finishing at or near the top in many categories including 10th in the League in points (avg. 17.9 ppg); 3rd in assists (6.2 per game) and 7th in steals (1.4 per game). She also led the league with minutes played at 34.1 minutes per game. The Wings must get her help at this position if and when she returns.
“There are a lot of things out of anybody’s control right now,” Agler said. “So the main thing is letting her focus on having the baby and letting her get established and decisions will be made after that. If everything goes fine there, then we’ll have a sit down with Skylar and talk about the future.”
In addition to questions surrounding Diggins-Smith, there’s Australian center Liz Cambage who – after taking the W by storm last year, setting several League records and nearly walking away with the MVP Award – stunned many by saying she didn’t know if she would return.
“We would love to have her back. She’s a big part of this organization, one of the great players in our League,” Agler said. “Without question, she’s one of a few in our League who would be MVP. It’s a huge value for our team if she’s here so we’ll go into some dialogue and see where that goes.”
Diggins-Smith and Cambage aren’t the only Wings’ question marks as free agency begins. Two fan favorites, veterans Karima Christmas-Kelly and 2x All-Star Glory Johnson (Cored ) will hit the open market. Christmas-Kelly played the first six games of the season before being sidelined by season-ending knee surgery. She returned and spent the remainder of the season on the sidelines serving as unofficial coach and cheerleader.
Around the League, notable unrestricted free agents include 2x WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year Award winner Chicago Sky guard Allie Quigley and teammate guard Courtney Vandersloot(Cored). Either would be ideal for the Wings at the guard position. Another big name free-agent is Tina Charles(Cored) of the New York Liberty. The starting center finished 7th in points scored at 19.7 per game along with 7 rebounds per game. Not Cambage numbers but quite serviceable and could soften the blow if she (Cambage) doesn’t return.
The Wings are also looking to add a spark to their roster with their #5 pick in this year’s draft – a pick that they may need to rely on right away. And they still need to add an assistant coach to the team alongside the returning Erin Phillips.
As the W gears up for another season, the two-time champion coach Agler methodically plans and plots to bring that same success to his new franchise.
“All 12 teams want to win a WNBA championship; that’s the goal. But there’s a process they have to go through,” he said. “For any team to have or achieve a high level of success, they have to go through a process and that process for me in regard to our team is to create an identity than to create a culture that will cultivate that identity.
“That s the foundation you have to have. That will be established, then it will be up to us,” he said. “There are a lot of good teams in this league. A lot of good champions in this League. There are teams in this league that have not won a championship that have the ability to do that.”
There’s no doubt the Wings hope they are next in line.