June 23, 2020 

Tiffany Hayes opts out of 2020 season

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Analyzing what this move means for the Atlanta Dream

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Atlanta Dream guard Tiffany Hayes (15) during the WNBA game between the Atlanta Dream and the Connecticut Sun at Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, Connecticut, USA on June 21, 2019. Photo Credit: Chris Poss

Veteran Atlanta Dream guard Tiffany Hayes has elected not to participate in the 2020 WNBA season, she announced on her Instagram on Tuesday afternoon.

“After much thought and consideration, I have decided to opt of the out of the 2020 season,” Hayes said in the caption of her post. “This was not an easy decision but I believe it is in my best interest with everything that is going on right now. Although I love playing this game, I believe there are much more important things to be thinking about in this moment.”

Hayes’ announcement follows Renee Montgomery’s announcement last week, making her the second Dream player to opt out of this season. Both players’ decisions have been met with support from coach Nicki Collen.

“[Hayes] has been a centerpiece for the Dream in my time in Atlanta and we are certainly going to miss her on and off the court,” Collen said in a statement. “We are living and working with a unique set of circumstances right now and I support her decision to do what she feels is best for her and her family.  I can’t wait to see [Hayes] and her infectious energy and smile back on the court in 2021 and wish her nothing but health and prosperity until that time.”

Hayes did not explicitly state if she’s sitting out to focus on social justice reform, as Montgomery did, but she closed her Instagram post with the hashtag #WeCan’tBreathe, which suggests her reasoning was at least partially motivated by the ongoing protests and conversations around racial inequality in America.

From a basketball standpoint, with Hayes and Montgomery both opting out, what was already a young, new-look Atlanta Dream gets even younger and newer. There are now only two players returning to the roster from 2019. The Dream also lose a combined 19 years of WNBA experience without Hayes and Montgomery on the roster.

It is also the first year since the team’s first season in 2008 that Atlanta will play without one of Tiffany Hayes or Angel McCoughtry — who signed with Las Vegas in free agency — on its roster.

Last season, Hayes carried a lot of the load for an Atlanta team that struggled mightily. She started every game she appeared in and averaged almost 15 points per game on her way to reach the milestone of 3,000 career points. Hayes was the go-to scorer in nearly every situation, especially as the team struggled offensively around her.

Still, the offseason provided most of the answers for how the Dream will adapt. Top pick Chennedy Carter and the former Connecticut Sun duo Courtney Williams and Shekinna Stricklen will make a formidable 1-3 in the 2020 lineup.

It’s likely that the Dream will look to sign a player or two to fill Hayes’ and Montgomery’s spots now that their roster is down to just 10 players. However, at this point, it remains unclear who they might be targeting — and if they’ll be able to find anyone who can bring some veteran experience.

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