May 24, 2021 

On Tamika Catchings Day, a win for Fever

Indiana rewarded the franchise icon in suitable fashion

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On a day of appreciation for the 15 years of hard work, soul and grit that franchise great and current GM Tamika Catchings poured into the Indiana Fever, it was only appropriate for the current team to return the favor on the legend’s special day. 

The Fever (1-4) snapped its losing streak to begin the season by picking up its first victory, 89-77, against the Washington Mystics (1-3). The Fever shot 52% from the field — including 7-for-15 from three — and dished out 26 assists, by far the team’s best offensive output of the year. Five players reached double-figure scoring, led by Kelsey Mitchell’s 18.

It was a stark contrast from the team’s first three games, when they shot a combined 86-for-231 from the field (37.2%). 

“We know, in our locker room, that we’re a better shooting team than what we’ve displayed [for] a couple of games and today, you saw it,” said Head Coach Marianne Stanley. “I’m really happy for our team, they earned the win, they worked hard for it, they stayed together.”

“I think a true testament to a team that understands the process is to just stay with doing the things you know you’ve gotta do. You’ve just gotta keep trying to improve every day, and that’s really all we’ve tried to do.”

Last Saturday, Catchings was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame as a member of the 2020 class, which included basketball legends such as Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan. On Sunday, the Fever retired her Hall of Fame jersey number as a banner in the rafters of Banker’s Life Fieldhouse.

A ferocious competitor as a player, Catchings admitted that it had been “hard” for her to watch the team stumble out of the gates this year, particularly lamenting the way the Fever closed out Friday’s 83-79 setback against the Atlanta Dream.

The Fever had tied the game at 68 with 4:18 remaining on Friday, only to watch Courtney Williams and Crystal Bradford connect on consecutive threes to effectively put the game out of reach. 

“We just have to be better,” Catchings said prior to Sunday’s game. “We have to be better in moments down the stretch, we have to be willing and ready to win games. You see some teams where they’re afraid to lose rather than playing to win, and I think that was the case for Friday’s game. It’s almost like a fear of the what-if.” 

The Fever’s offense looked much more fluid and in rhythm on Sunday, and they were able to limit all of Washington’s players not named Tina Charles to a combined 17-for-48 shooting. They staved off several attempts by the Mystics to cut into its double-digit lead in the fourth quarter. 

Catchings has discussed on numerous occasions her desire to instill the Fever with a “championship culture,” so badly wanting to return the franchise to the winning ways that it experienced for so many years. Mitchell, the team’s leading scorer, was happy to give Catchings a glimpse of how that vision could eventually play out.

“It’s weird because Catch does whatever she can to make sure we’re at our best, and it’s tough when we let her down and we lose,” said Mitchell. “Especially coming from a basketball standpoint and how she played the game, then she watches us and she just wants the best for us, so it’s really good to have a successful day.”

Jessica Breland, one of Catchings’ free agency acquisitions from this offseason, added a season-high 17 points and 10 rebounds. Teaira McCowan also scored 17, while Danielle Robinson tied a season-high with 13.

“We have a really good team, we have great players,” said Catchings. “I think from a culture standpoint, we put together the right players in the locker room.”

Breland, the only player on the current Fever roster to have played with Catchings in her career, said she was inspired by the banner-raising ceremony. She compared it to interning for Duke Head Coach Kara Lawson, admiring both former teammates’ achievements after their basketball careers.

“I feel the same way with Catch,” Breland said. “Being here, and seeing all of her accomplishments… it gives you energy, it just gives you passion, it gives you drive. Even with off-court stuff, the things that she’s doing now… she has her own business as well as being the GM here. I look up to that, I admire that. I just hope some of it will rub off on me.”

While Sunday was a satisfying all-around day for the former champion, MVP, and 10-time All Star, she also took the time to reflect on the prior weekend at the Hall of Fame. She claimed it was worth waiting the extra year after the 2020 Hall of Fame ceremony was cancelled due to COVID-19, particularly because of the opportunity to be with her family.

“Being able to finally celebrate the Hall of Fame after waiting for the whole year, and my Dad — who last year probably wouldn’t have been able to attend — with him being able to come and put the jacket on me. The whole weekend overall, just an inspiration.”

The Fever will hope that Catchings’ ceremony and the energy of the day propels them to greater fortunes and helps them out of their early-season hole. They play next at home on Tuesday, completing their mini two-game series with the Mystics on Tuesday in Indiana.

Written by Ben Rosof

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