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Rebuilds don't happen overnight (even with Caitlin Clark). WNBA champs Aces proved that.

INDIANAPOLIS — It’s obvious: the Indiana Fever are struggling.

They’re 1-8 through nine games, second-worst in the league to start the season (Washington remains winless, 0-7).

Fans didn’t expect their favorite players to struggle this much — especially with 2023 No. 1 pick Aliyah Boston and 2024 No. 1 pick Caitlin Clark coming from such successful college programs. But Indiana, a team that hasn’t seen the playoffs since 2016, got No. 1 picks in back-to-back seasons for a reason.

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Christie Sides, too, is still a young coach. She is in the second year as a first-time head coach, and she had the seemingly impossible task of taking a beaten-down Fever team and changing the culture entirely.

There has been improvement under Sides — the Fever went from five wins in 2022 to 13 in 2023, and the culture became more positive all-around.

“I took this job last year and they won five games,” Sides said Thursday night. “And we built a strong culture here that I'm so proud of. And you have to keep getting better, right, we don't want to settle for 13 wins. … We're going to keep fighting. We're going to keep fighting, and it's going to click, and it's going to get there. We're gonna get there. But it doesn't happen overnight.”

Some of the 1-8 start is the product of the Fever's schedule, some is a product of their youth, and some is a product of other mistakes.

According to Rebecca Lobo, the Fever starting the season with 11 games in 20 days has been an unprecedented load since 2007. The only other team with that schedule in the past 15+ years was the Mystics in 2011, and they went 1-10 in that stretch.

“I don’t think we're really showing our full product yet,” Clark said. “We’re just a work in progress. We’re young, we’re inexperienced — I know I sound like a broken record saying that, but it's true.”

Let’s take a look at the Aces’ rise from a team that underwent a move from San Antonio to Las Vegas and eventually became back-to-back WNBA champions — a feat that has only happened three times in history.

The rebuild started in 2017 after three years of the San Antonio Stars missing the playoffs. The Stars picked Kelsey Plum (former NCAA women’s basketball scoring leader before Caitlin Clark) with the No. 1 pick in the 2017 draft.

The franchise went 8-26 in Plum’s first year in San Antonio, and it was awarded the No. 1 pick for the second straight year as MGM Resorts International bought the team from Spurs Sports & Entertainment.

With the No. 1 pick as the Las Vegas Aces, they selected A’ja Wilson. But that still wasn’t good enough. Even with both Plum and Wilson on the team, the Aces went 14-19 in their first season in Las Vegas, winning the top pick for the third consecutive time.

Then, they picked Indiana high school's all-time leading scorer Jackie Young with the top pick in the 2019 draft, and everything started to fall in place. The Aces made the playoffs for the first time in four years in 2019, advancing to the semifinals. In 2020, they advanced to the finals, and 2021 saw another semifinal berth.

Then, former Aces coach Bill Laimbeer retired following the 2021 season. The Aces hired Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon, and she raised the Aces to new heights — their first WNBA championship in 2022. Then, their second in 2023.

Las Vegas’ rise to dominance shows these rebuilds take time — five years stretched in-between Plum being drafted in 2017 and the Aces winning the championship in 2022.

Think of Plum as Boston, and Wilson as Clark. Neither Plum nor Wilson had winning records in their first seasons with the Aces, and it was the same for Boston. It could be too early to tell for Clark, but it’s trending that way, too.

Now, not everything is going to be the same with the Fever rebuild — for one, it’s unlikely Pacers Sports and Entertainment would sell the team. It’s also not guaranteed if the Fever miss the playoffs this season, they will receive a third-straight No. 1 pick. Indiana could have the best odds of 44.2% again, but the lottery system has gone away from the top-odds team before (Fever included).

But the Fever are only in the infancy of their rebuild. It took the Aces five years. Lin Dunn became the Fever’s general manager in 2022 with a rebuild plan in mind, and she has consistently said she thinks her team is ahead of schedule.

“We’re right where I wanted us to be, probably a little bit ahead with Clark and Boston,” Dunn said at media day ahead of the season. “I didn’t anticipate getting two back-to-back (No. 1) picks, that doesn’t happen very often.”

Follow IndyStar Fever Insider Chloe Peterson on X at @chloepeterson67.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Indiana Fever rebuild with Caitlin Clark may require patience