Dream Usher in New Identity & Franchise Cornerstone


It should be safe to say that the Atlanta Dream receive an A on their 2022 WNBA Draft report card. Taking Rhyne Howard at number one and Naz Hillmon at pick 15, with four games under their belts, this Dream team can make a push for playoff contention. Welcoming head coach Tanisha Wright coupled with eight new players for the roster has done nothing short of create a new identity for the Dream, as they push to break some glass ceilings, this season.

Home Court Advantage

Gateway Center Arena is a special and intimate environment for the Atlanta Dream.  The home team was welcomed to a sold out crowd on last Wednesday’s home opener against the Los Angeles Sparks, as well as Friday’s matchup with the Las Vegas Aces. Following the announcement of last Wednesday’s sellout opener, Coach Wright reflects on the importance of maintaining the culture and relationships with fans.

She acknowledges that in order to increase momentum with fans, “you have to win the home games… protect home court.” Even after going .500 at home, following the loss to the Aces, coach knows the importance of continuing to build the supportive rapport with fans.

Vice President of the Dream, Renee Montgomery, should coin the phrase, “We have something special here… we are building something special here.” What makes this team resonate with fans is the attitude present in the culture of Atlanta. It permeates through the players in their on-court and off-court performances. This rebuild, specifically rebrand, for the Dream is working to their advantage.

Everyone is learning at the same pace. Rookies, newly acquired players, and coaching staff are all acclimating to a new system. Clearly, the leadership paired with the skillset of the players may be what is needed to turn this franchise 180 degrees.

All the Moving Parts

Every engine has multiple parts that attribute to how it runs. So, what is working in Atlanta? The re-signing of Monique Billings and Cheyenne Parker has kept runners on the floor. Sunday’s matchup against the Indiana Fever, Billings and Parker got back on defense and finished on the offensive glass to get second-chance buckets.

Billings is not afraid to put her body on the line, push through lane traffic, and get to the free throw line. When the offense is not as efficient, the best option is get players to the charity stripe. Also, Parker is a fierce competitor, who fights through every possession. Recapping the opener against the Dallas Wings, Parker received a flagrant 2 in the fourth quarter. You do not want to see a player ejected, but she did leave the game with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Equally important, look at the acquisition of Nia Coffey and rookie Kristy Wallace. In 2021, with the Sparks, Coffey averaged 41.7% from beyond the arc. Now, she brings the ability to move the floor, create space, and her 3-point shot.

Although referred to as a rookie, Wallace brings overseas dominance after her stint of playing with the Australian Southside Flyers. Alongside these stars, Kia Vaughn is a great post player, acquired from the Phoenix Mercury. Coach Wright remarked in the Indiana pregame conference that, “she is a good defender who can knock down 15 and 17-footers… is a big strong post presence and I look for her to get touches.”

It is crazy to imagine that this team has accomplished such without the presence of Tiffany Hayes. She will be back in the lineup soon, as she has completed her overseas commitments. This well-oiled machine Dream team is well on its way.

Leading The Pack

It’s officially now over a week into the 2022 season and Howard is making a strong case for Rookie of the Year. It is never too early to begin campaigning for that hardware and right now it’s hers to lose. In an impressive win on Sunday, Howard posted 33 points, three rebounds, and three steals in just her fourth game. Sunday’s win was a reflection of Howard’s internal confidence, as well as her teammates’ confidence in her to get the job done.

What is the criteria for Rookie of the Year? Is it to score the most points, deliver a lights out performance, or be an elite facilitator? Howard has shown she excels in those areas. Poise, selflessness, and shooter are the best words to describe the number one pick’s persona.

When open, Howard is a “catch and shoot” player. She finds comfort in her position and role with this team. If there were any concerns about momentum or motor, those narratives have been put to rest.

About Caylen Johnson

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