August 16, 2022 

Tiffany Hayes’ end-of-year absence, explained

'Not having Tip around definitely hurts'

On Aug. 11, the Atlanta Dream announced star guard Tiffany Hayes would be away from the team due to “overseas commitments.” To many, this came as a massive surprise, especially since she had missed the prior four games due to a right ankle injury.

Questions arose about why she had left, where she was, when she’d be back, and how long this had been planned.

Originally reported on Aug. 12 by Aneela Khan, Hayes was out of the country playing for the Azerbaijani 3×3 team in the Islamic Solidarity Games in Turkey. She became an Azerbaijani citizen in 2015.

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Before Atlanta’s Aug. 12 matchup against the New York Liberty , Head Coach Tanisha Wright said the team did not know Hayes would be away for these final games, but respected her decision. She did not provide any information on Hayes’ return.

“It wasn’t anything that we’ve known about for a while. Not having Tip around definitely hurts,” Wright told pregame media. “Being a former player myself, I understand the plight of women’s basketball, and understand that we’re in a different type of situation. And Tip me made a personal choice that I respect.”

However, after the game, Wright corrected her previous statement in an interview with The Next.

“I was aware that it was a possibility, but I didn’t know until recently that it was actually happening,” Wright said. “I respect Tip’s decision to make that choice.”

However, according to Hayes’ agent, Marcus Crenshaw, Hayes’ overseas commitments were laid out clearly during contract negotiations.

“We spoke about it during negotiations all the way back from what she negotiated. We spoke about that she would have to a prior commitment to get a European passport,” Crenshaw told The Next.

Direct dates were not set, but the Dream were made aware that she would need to leave for multiple days towards the end of the season.

Crenshaw confirmed reports of Hayes being in Turkey, where she is rostered on the Azerbijani team in order to renew her European passport and play overseas in following seasons, where opportunities are more lucrative.

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And according to Crenshaw, although Hayes is rostered on the Azerbaijani team, it is unclear if she’ll play in the games due to her injury. Her return to the U.S. will be soon.

Crenshaw also emphasized Hayes is very sad she cannot be with her team. Hayes was drafted to Atlanta in 2012 and has been with the organization for 10 years. The Next asked to speak to Hayes directly, but Crenshaw did not respond to this request.

The Dream were knocked out of the playoffs Sunday, thus ending their season, so although Hayes’ return is expected soon, it is moot for a playoff run.

Written by Gabriella Lewis

Gabriella is The Next's Atlanta Dream beat reporter and part of the breaking news team. She is a Bay Area native currently studying at Emory University.

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