The first half of the season has come to a close and the post All-Star break period has begun. Dallas still has many questions to answer on this final stretch as they continue to learn themselves and dig to find out what this team is really made of.
Keeping that same energy on the road
Dallas failed to come out after the All-Star break with aggressive energy to start the game in Vegas. Instead the game was filled with poor decision making and less than quality defense. The Wings let Vegas begin the game on a 12-2 run.
In a way, it is not a shock considering the Wings’ 0-9 record on the road in the first half of the season. They just do not have that same energy on the road that they do at home, which you can say about most teams. Though you have to give credit to the Aces for coming out and dominating on both ends of the floor.
It’s always tough on the road because of the environment, but in my opinion it’s just mental with Dallas. They are letting it effect them more than the average team. It’s a common mistake with extremely young teams like Dallas. But something has got to give. At some point you have to decide to make a change in mentality.
It’s obvious that the losing is taking a toll on the team. Frustrations are mounting more than they have all season. Coach Agler has used a bevy of different lineups just to try to create a spark but it has not worked.
The only real plus side to the 86-54 loss in Vegas was that Dallas snapped Liz Cambage’s 50-game streak of 10 or more points. But that’s about it. It’s understood that a road game is a hostile environment. But if the Wings want to do any kind of winning to finish out the year and gain some confidence, they have to win on the road. Home crowds are an advantage? Yes. Though, only two teams currently in the WNBA are above .500 on the road: the Las Vegas Aces and the Washington Mystics. Two of the leagues best teams and the top two title favorites.
So Dallas isn’t the only team having road woes, it’s league wide. With fourteen games left in the season for the Wings, they are already just four losses shy of matching the loss total of the 2018 season when they went 15-19. Time to put up or shut up.
Learning To Win Without Stars
It can’t be put any simpler than these few words…It. Is. Hard. Though I’ll try to explain it anyway. When you’re missing a franchise player and multi-time All-Star like Skylar, it’s hard to garnish wins without at least one other all-star. But to also have a new head coach who is mostly defensive minded, as opposed to the offensive minded one you had the previous year where you excelled on offense and defense wasn’t the strong suit, is no easy feat. Completely flipping that philosophy and trying to become a defensive team isn’t going to come overnight. Heck it may not even come in the first year together, as we can all see as the team continues to struggle.
Can Skylar help them on offense? Well yeah. She can get her own buckets and she is great at making plays for others. Is Skylar by any means a dominant defensive player who is just going to fix the issues on defense? Nope. Her leadership will help and she can be vocal, but that’s not enough.
Each player has to take the initiative to work on their own game themselves and hold themselves accountable. The only players on this team who are above average defensive players are Glory Johnson and Kayla Thornton. For the others, it’s kind of new.
Though this team has bigger fish to fry than just that defense. They have to get out of their own heads. That ties back into the youth of this team that I mentioned earlier. The youngest team in the league is trying to change culture, play style, has added two new coaches to the staff. They went from two all-stars to zero. All this takes a toll on a young team.
“Stay up, stay positive, and stay confident because if you don’t, it’ll get worse,” said Glory Johnson on battling through the current slump. “We have to stay together, and when things go wrong, we have to pick each other up. If someone is having an off night, pick up that person and all the positive reinforcement and communication will actually help yourself. We have to stay up and stay positive for each other, and make sure our confidence doesn’t go. Once our confidence goes, it’s going to be tough to get back.”
It’s a lot to overcome on the fly. Dallas is a team that expects to win and Brian Agler is one who expects you to compete each time for the full game no matter the score. From what I can see, this team never gives up.
“I thought Vegas played a good game,” said Agler on tonight’s loss. “They outplayed us from start to finish, that was the tale of the game. We didn’t play well, we turned it over, we didn’t shoot well, and we didn’t compete as I would’ve liked.”
The Wings have made the playoffs two of their three seasons in Dallas and are on the verge of missing the playoff for the first time since their first year in Dallas in 2016.
“I’ve been really optimistic with our team throughout,” said Agler on possible roster changes. “Right now, it’s a little bit difficult. We have some changes we have to make; it was obvious tonight. We have to make changes from line-ups, to roster, and a lot of other things. There is a funk through this, and it’s hard to get out from under. We have to make adjustments, and changes.”
Dallas still has time to made moves before the trade deadline if that’s the direction that they want to go. The deadline is August 6 at 8pm ET. The team is still waiting on the possible returns of both Skylar Diggins-Smith and Moriah Jefferson, so we’ll see if anything shakes up in Dallas with the deadline approaching.