“Keep your head up. We still cheer for you and will be here to support you. You’re going to figure it out.” That is what one comforting fan said as members of the Atlanta Dream headed to the tunnel. The Dream had just lost to the New York Liberty on Sunday, June 30th. The loss dropped them to 2-8 through their first 10 games of the season. Consequently, Atlanta finds itself in last place in league standings.
Maite Cazorla contributing
The Dream are still trying to find what works. They have tried a few different starting lineups, which led to Maite Cazorla earning her first career start. Cazorla has seen an influx of minutes with Alex Bentley away for EuroBasket. In those opportunities, she’s provided solid production for the team. “I think she’s been fantastic. She gives us size whether she’s on or off the ball. She [has]kept us really organized,” said Coach Nikki Collen when asked about Cazorla and her contributions.
In the four games that Benley missed, Cazorla’s minutes increased almost two-fold from 10 minutes per game to 20.5. In turn, She boosted her scoring numbers by almost double with Bentley away. She scored 4.5 points per game as opposed to 2.7ppg previously.
With Bentley back from Europe, the Dream announced the release of Natisha Hiedeman. Signed as a replacement option while Bentley fulfilled her EuroBasket obligations, Hiedeman saw no playing time in her limited stint with the team.
Will Alex’s return provide a much-needed boost?
Averaging 7.5ppg before her absence, Bentley provides an additional spark off the bench. She’s a high-level and energetic player that’s not afraid to go after loose balls and can score in bunches. Tallying a couple rebounds and assists is an added bonus, especially from a playmaking perspective. The Dream are currently 11th in scoring at 70.1 points per game.
In her first game on Tuesday night, Bentley showed a little bit of what she could add to the offense. She put up 10 points, 4 rebounds, and 5 assists in 27 minutes of play. However, she did not shoot well in the 17-point loss to Minnesota. Bentley was just 5-15 from the field and 0-5 from 3. If Atlanta’s offense is going to improve, Bentley (and the rest of the team, frankly) need to shoot better.
After advancing to the semifinals in 2018, many thought Atlanta would be poised to build off of last season’s success and contend for a WNBA Championship. It would be easy to think that was quite possible. Outside of franchise player Angel McCoughtry and a couple of new additions, much of that team was back in a Dream uniform this season. But obviously, it has not worked out thus far.
However, it is still July so no need to hit the panic button just yet. Before the start of the season, predictions suggested that Angel McCoughtry’s return was expected to come around the 2nd month of the season. Could it be before or after the WNBA All-Star break? Only time will tell with that. In the midst of her rehab, Angel has been a presence on the bench at home games being that veteran voice and cheering on her team.
This week Atlanta travels for a three-game road stretch against some star-heavy opponents. The Dream already dropped the first one against Minnesota. So they will need to get refocused to travel to Seattle and Phoenix.
Whether through viral videos of interactions with their favorite players or jumping and dancing in the stands to the house dj, the fans are there each game cheering for their team and hoping for a win. Even in a losing effort, they’re still there to offer words of encouragement.
While I know the players are grateful to have the support of their dedicated fans meeting them at the tunnel, I can only imagine they’d prefer a win instead.