July 7, 2021
How Chennedy Carter earned a suspension from the Atlanta Dream
Charting the complicated path both Carter and Atlanta now face
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During the first quarter of Sunday’s contest between the Atlanta Dream and the Las Vegas Aces, Atlanta guard Courtney Williams approached Chennedy Carter on the bench. Williams, who saw that Carter looked disengaged as other teammates cheered, went over to Carter and emphatically told her to improve her attitude. The two had an argument, and after checking out at the end of the first quarter, Carter did not play in the second quarter and remained in the locker room for the second half.
After the game, Carter, who was upset about her playing time and the team’s success, approached Williams. After Williams told Carter that she wasn’t interested in hearing about playing time, Carter made noises about wanting to fight her teammate. Williams made it clear to the locker room that she had zero interest in fighting anyone, and immediately after Carter confronted her, she backed away and left the situation.
Williams voiced her thoughts about not wanting to fight in part because that’s been a knock on her in the past. Williams did get into a fight with a teammate while she played for the Connecticut Sun.
Though several players came over to check on the situation, a physical altercation did not occur. On Monday night, the team’s coaching staff and ownership suspended Carter until further notice.
“She’s working through stuff with ownership to try to get a process where she can return,” Petersen told assembled media Wednesday afternoon.
Carter, through her agent, declined to comment for this article.
Most teams would not suspend a player if this was an isolated incident, and sources tell The Next it is not the first time Carter has snapped at her teammates or made noises about fighting a teammate, which extends back to last season when she squared up with a player during a practice.
Several sources familiar with the team said that she does not make the same effort as other leaders to encourage her teammates. Though it is not uncommon for players to disagree and hold each other accountable, Carter has a reputation for taking it further than her teammates.
“I’m going to count on our players being adults, and I’m going to count on our players to be ready to practice be ready to play because they’re professionals,” Petersen told the media.
There are concerns, multiple sources told The Next, that Carter does not have a long-term future in Atlanta because of her negative effect on the locker room, though there is time to mend relationships. As such, the team is not planning to move Carter quickly, if it chooses to move her at all.
The front office has not tried to trade Carter, nor has it made calls to other teams about her status as it is actively working to keep her in Atlanta. A source elaborated that the players and the organization are extremely hopeful that she becomes a more amicable teammate and that the situation is fixed.
Plenty of public social media posts show that she is generally friendly with her teammates, and the players are usually comfortable around one another.
Multiple players have spoken out on social media. Courtney and Elizabeth Williams posted several tweets addressing the situation, while Carter liked several tweets in tandem.
Dream co-owner Renee Montgomery also addressed the situation on Twitter after Carter’s suspension.
The front office
The Dream are in a tricky spot. They do not have a general manager, which means that, unlike most franchises, ownership takes the lead at the moment on final personnel decisions. Petersen has also publicly indicated that he does not plan to be the team’s long-term head coach. Most of the players on the team have a positive opinion of their coach, sources told The Next, though they are obviously displeased with the team’s 2-9 skid.
The team will play two more games until the Olympic break and will return to practice in late July before the schedule resumes on Aug. 15.
Since the team waived Kalani Brown in late May, it has not made a personnel change. Per Kurtis Zimmerman’s Across the Timeline, Atlanta is the only organization not to make a personnel change since May 29, the day Brown was waived.
If the team does wish to move Carter, the WNBA trade deadline is Aug. 21. While the WNBA CBA does not explicitly say when trades may resume, activity in recent years indicates that Jan. 1 or 15 are likely dates that the team could resume trade negotiations.
No team in the WNBA is set to have more decisions to make at the end of the season than the Dream. Atlanta will have $836,241 in cap room after this season, the third-most in the WNBA, and will have to choose whether it is keeping Carter. The following players are either leaving or set to re-sign on a new contract:
The organization has the space to re-sign Hayes and Courtney Williams while keeping Carter’s team-friendly contract, and sources tell The Next that the current locker room dynamic is unlikely to affect the decisions of Hayes and Williams.
The Dream selected Carter with the fourth pick in the 2020 WNBA Draft. Losing a talent of her caliber would obviously reshape the floor and ceiling of what the organization is capable of. Carter is an explosive offensive talent and is one of the best young guards to enter the WNBA in the past decade.
Atlanta has a lot to fix. The team is on track to have one of the worst defensive ratings in WNBA history and is in danger of missing the playoffs for the third consecutive season. Now the team needs to figure out if the point guard most saw as the team’s future star can fit on this roster at all.