June 27, 2024 

Indiana Fever notebook: Damiris Dantas and Temi Fagbenle are back

The team has made a few roster moves and is getting healthy, vital steps ahead of its road trip

INDIANAPOLIS — It’s been a busy time for the Indiana Fever, who are not only tied for the most games played in the WNBA but also just went through a string of transactions. After this short break for the Commissioner’s Cup title game, the Fever will look different on the court.

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They’ll embark on a road trip starting Thursday and won’t play a home game until July 6. During that time, they will try to keep stacking wins; after starting 1-8, Indiana has won six of its last nine games. The team’s best players are jelling and will hope to pick up a signature victory on their trek away from Indianapolis.

They’ll have reinforcements. Two players are set to return from injury soon, and they’ve been seeing improved play from a young wing of late. Here’s a dive into the Fever notebook this week.

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Damiris Dantas is back from injury

Dantas, a 31-year-old Brazilian forward/center who has been dealing with a knee injury, was activated from the suspended list earlier this week. Her last game in the WNBA was in July 2022.

Her shooting ability is strong for a frontcourt player, so spacing could be coming to Indiana if Dantas is in the rotation right away. She is not listed on the injury report for the team right now.

“She’s a presence in the post. She also can shoot the ball really well from outside the 3[-point line],” Fever head coach Christie Sides said of what Dantas could add. “She can stretch the floor or she can go to work in the post,” the coach added, noting that Dantas could work at the four or five.

Dantas said that she felt good after her first practice Wednesday but was sore. She did five-on-five for the first time in that session and explained that it was an MCL ailment that kept her out for the first month and a half of the season.

“I’m so excited,” Dantas said of being back. She said the team’s energy stood out to her while she was watching from the sidelines. “I bring everything. More energy. I have experience. I’ve played in this league for [eight] years.”

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Lexie Hull in a groove

Hull’s defense has gotten her on the floor for Indiana during her career, and she is finally starting to knock down some shots. Her accuracy from various spots on the floor has flipped from past seasons, but the Fever should be happy to see the Stanford product knocking down 3s.

In her last five games, Hull has scored 37.5% of her outside shots. That percentage holds over the last 10 games, too. Inside the arc, she has struggled, but Hull is still shooting a career-best percentage from the field.

“This season has been so interesting, just trying to stay ready and trying to do whatever is asked of me,” Hull said last week. “I think for me, I’m getting extra reps and staying ready. Whenever I get those minutes, I’m just trying to make the most out of them.”

Hull said that she and Sides have been watching film and trying to focus on cutting down on defensive gambles. The young wing is one of the best defenders on the roster, especially on the perimeter, and that, combined with shooting, has made her a more impactful player of late.

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Celeste Taylor has been waived

Taylor, who the Fever selected 15th in the 2024 WNBA Draft, was waived this week. Indiana had to let someone go to clear a roster spot for Dantas to be activated.

Indiana Fever guard Celeste Taylor shoots the ball
Indiana Fever guard Celeste Taylor (6) during the WNBA game between the Indiana Fever and the Connecticut Sun at Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, Connecticut, USA, on June 10, 2024. (Photo credit: Chris Poss | The Next)

The rookie guard from Ohio State played 16 total minutes across five games for the Fever this season. She scored three points and had one assist and one rebound in her chances. Her defense impressed during a game in Connecticut.

Taylor and Victaria Saxton were the only two players on the Fever roster who averaged under 10 minutes per game. They are both at under 20 minutes total this season. Taylor was waived Tuesday.

“That was a really tough choice,” Sides said. “Celeste did everything we asked her. She was a great teammate. … It was really hard to let her go. It was just a business decision.”

During Indiana’s practice Wednesday, the starting five was their usual group from recent games. The second unit featured Hull, Erica Wheeler, Dantas, Temi Fegbenle, and Katie Lou Samuelson. The only two players not among the top two units were Grace Berger and Saxton. With that possible rotation in mind, perhaps the Fever wanted to keep a depth frontcourt player and backcourt player.

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Temi Fegbenle has recovered

Fagbenle has been out with a left foot injury and hasn’t played in a game since May 28. But she has been upgraded to questionable ahead of the Fever-Storm duel Thursday.

The veteran forward has been ramping up in recent days and practiced the last two days. “It’s been cool,” Fagbenle said of coming back to full health. It was tough for her to sit and watch. “Just trying to keep high energy for myself as well as my team,” she said of her role while being out.

Fagbenle averaged 9.1 points and 5.6 rebounds per game before her injury. She was excellent for Indiana early in the season, and her return could prove to be vital.

Written by Tony East

Indiana Fever reporter based in Indianapolis. Enjoy a good statistical-based argument.

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