February 27, 2023
Indiana Fever notebook: Erica Wheeler talks free agency, Victoria Vivians and Emma Cannon return
The Indiana Fever made several moves to maintain continuity as free agency progressed.
Erica Wheeler broke down into tears as she was being introduced to the media after signing with the Indiana Fever. Being back in Indiana is emotional for her, and she was detailing a touching moment that she had with the franchise since being signed.
“When Lin asked me, what do I want? It was never about the money. The first thing I told her is that I love doing camps. I love being able to get out into the community and give back. Because as a kid growing up, I wish I had that,” Wheeler said. “So for me, I want to be able to give these kids in Indiana and also in Miami, the living proof that you can go through anything and come out on the other side.”
Wheeler was asked — by Fever general manager Lin Dunn, nonetheless — about her camp and giving back to the community. She explained that her camp, based in Miami, is a reflection of herself … so it’s intense. It’s also completely free and provides kids with free shoes and six hours of training. When Dunn heard about Wheeler’s camp, she said, “Let’s do two of them!” — and now, there will be more than one.
“It’s Lin’s fault, because she knew what she was doing,” Wheeler said of crying during the press conference.
That’s the type of person Wheeler is. She’s emotional in the best ways and passionate. And it bleeds into her on-court style, which is exactly why the Fever wanted to bring her in in the first place. She will add a fire to the younger group and be a leader on the court.
“Indiana had to show me that they really wanted me and they blew the roof off with that,” Wheeler said. “The first thing they talked about was leadership. I’m pretty high on the pedestal when it comes to that, so I’ve gotta make sure I do my job here.”
There will be some struggles. Wheeler and Kelsey Mitchell will have to remember how to coexist, and any new point guard will have chemistry hurdles to overcome. But Wheeler’s skillset will add another strong threat to the Indiana Fever’s offense, and that’s just what the team needs after finishing last in offensive rating last season.
Not every interaction Wheeler has on the 2023 Fever will be new and exploratory, though. She’s played with Mitchell before, and she and Victoria Vivians were teammates for two seasons as well. The latter is noteworthy because Vivians re-signed with Indiana earlier this month as a free agent.
Vivians, a 28-year old wing, has been with the Fever for her entire career. She was drafted by the franchise with the eighth overall pick in 2018, and she has grown with the red and blue since. Injuries have held Vivians back from being the player it looked like she could be early in her career, but last year, her best play was extremely bright. She ended up averaging nearly 10 points per game, and she can fit in well on the wing, where the Fever desperately needed depth.
“I’ve always been a Tori Vivians fan,” Dunn said of the signing. “I just think her best days are ahead. And I think she’s going to flourish with [Wheeler] at the point. So wanted to get her back, and we did.”
Dunn noted that it was unlikely both Tiffany Mitchell and Vivians would return, especially with the addition of Kristy Wallace. In the end, it was Vivians who was retained. It’s a two-year agreement, per Her Hoop Stats.
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Not long after bringing Vivians back, the Indiana Fever agreed to keep another player that they’ve had for the last few seasons in veteran forward Emma Cannon. The 33-year old spent part of the 2021 and 2022 seasons with Indiana.
“Veteran leadership,” Dunn said of having Cannon and Vivians on the roster. With so many young players on the team and potentially numerous draft picks coming in, experience is of great value to Dunn and the Fever’s decision makers.
Cannon averaged 7.0 points and 3.2 rebounds per game for the Indiana Fever last season. Her shot making down the stretch of the campaign was impressive, though she will likely be a depth piece in the frontcourt. Per Her Hoop Stats, it’s a one-year deal.
Bernadett Határ signed a training camp deal with the Fever on February 15, per the league’s transaction log. The Hungarian big spent part of the 2021 season with the Fever and signed another deal with the franchise last year, but a knee injury caused the 6-foot-10 center to miss the 2022 campaign.
The Indiana Fever have 11 players signed to standard contracts and four players inked to training camp deals. Once players are drafted, it will become clear who will have the best chance at making the final roster, but the early indicators are that a roster battle could be looming in camp in Indiana.
One other Indiana Fever team update
After missing the final five games of the 2022 season with a partial plantar fascia tear in her left foot, Kelsey Mithcell is healthy again. She is playing in Athletes Unlimited and played in multiple games this week.
“I feel a lot better about where I’m at,” Mitchell told The Next of the injury late last year. She noted at the time that pain management was the key to her recovery at that stage and she didn’t want to overextend herself. She should be totally ready for the 2023 campaign.
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