February 4, 2021
Fever ink Jantel Lavender to a multi-year contract and sign Danielle Robinson
Indiana retains last year's midseason acquisition from the Sky and adds veteran point guard
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As the free agency is well underway in the WNBA, the Indiana Fever have begun making moves for themselves. The team announced this week that they’ve signed two veterans, forward Jantel Lavender and guard Danielle Robinson.
Lavender was acquired by Indiana in a trade with the Chicago Sky midway through the 2020 season, though she didn’t play at all after undergoing surgery on the fifth metatarsal in her left foot. The Fever evidently made the move for the long term, signing Lavender to a multi-year deal.
“I just want to say thank you to the entire Indiana Fever organization … for just believing in me,” Lavender said. “You have to imagine a player in my position, being injured, not knowing what my future held because I was going to be a free agent. The way my mind was working, and how I was thinking, is I didn’t feel like I was finished in this league. Just to have somebody who saw me in moments where I feel like I’ve had opportunities to show greatness … just fills my heart with gratitude and extreme humility.”
Indiana will be Lavender’s third team during her time in the WNBA. The Cleveland native spent the first eight years of her career with the Los Angeles Sparks before playing the 2019 season for the Chicago Sky. She owns career averages of 8.7 points, 4.8 rebounds while shooting 50.7% from the field.
“I just can’t wait to get there and start building on the culture that [general manager] Tamika [Catchings] believes in, Coach Stanley believes in, and the entire Indiana Fever.”
Lavender indicated that she’d been interested in joining the Fever since 2014, primarily due to her admiration for Catchings’ work ethic. That year, Lavender also expressed her desire to play for the Fever to former Los Angeles Sparks GM Penny Toler, saying she wanted to play for a team free of “attitudes” and “outside noise.”
“I said, ‘Hey, I’m gonna go to Indiana, I’m ready to go and be with positive people, people who want to win,’” Lavender said. “We had all this tugging and this pulling and having to deal with attitudes here and there, that’s distractions outside already what you got to deal with so much on the court.”
Lavender was particularly impressed with how the 2020 Fever — just 4-7 at the time — upset the eventual champions Seattle Storm, a result that halted the Storm’s nine-game winning streak.
“To me, that was so promising to see how hard they fought, how hard they worked to get that win,” Lavender said. “They took that moment for what it was, it wasn’t about tomorrow’s game, it wasn’t about that. I liked the fact that they celebrated that they were working hard.”
The Fever already lost Natalie Achonwa and Candice Dupree to free agency, so Lavender’s versatility and ability to shoot from long range makes her an optimal replacement for the short term. She’ll join Indiana’s youthful post tandem of Teaira McCowan and Lauren Cox.
Catchings has spoken at length about building a “championship culture,” centered around her “three C’s” — commit, compete and contribute. Retaining a veteran with both the postseason experience and enthusiasm for the franchise that Lavender possesses is undoubtedly a step in the right direction.
“I think it was huge, and it is huge, to have Jantel on our team,” Catchings said. “With Lauren, specifically, and Teaira being young, and being able to have someone like Jantel to show like, this is how you carry yourself … I think the big picture is being professional.”
Danielle Robinson comes to the Fever after spending her past four seasons with three different teams, most recently the Las Vegas Aces in 2020. Over her nine-year WNBA career, she averages 9.2 points, 4.3 assists, and 2.7 rebounds per game.
“I am super excited to make my way to the Hoosier state to join a community I know is just as obsessed with basketball as I am and I can’t wait to get to work,” Robinson said in a release. “I am privileged to have the opportunity to play with a group of immensely talented, dynamic, and invested women. Saying that I’m grateful for this opportunity doesn’t do this feeling justice.”
The Robinson pickup was much-needed after losing all-star free agent Erica Wheeler — who missed the entire 2020 season due to COVID-19 protocols — to the Los Angeles Sparks.
“As a player with multiple All-Star games and playoff appearances, [Robinson] is exactly what we are looking to add as a positive asset to blend with our current roster,” said Catchings.
The primary question remains how Coach Marianne Stanley will handle the point guard rotation between Robinson and Julie Allemand. Allemand slid into the starting role for the Fever in the Bradenton “wubble” and surpassed expectations, finishing second in the league in assists per game (5.8) and three-point percentage (47.8).
Free-agent signing may have just begun on Feb. 1, but teams have wasted no time restructuring their rosters in preparation for the 2021 season. With the acquisitions of two veterans to lessen its losses, the Fever have clearly taken strides towards their goal of returning to the postseason for the first time since 2016.