Their WNBA season has yet to tip off, but the Atlanta Dream have already made plenty of news.
While the coronavirus and social justice issues have centered around the club during the preseason, the Dream finally take to the court Sunday against the Dallas Wings at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
To say Atlanta has endured an interesting offseason would be quite the understatement. Longtime star Angel McCoughtry is now playing for Las Vegas while key contributors Tiffany Hayes, Renee Montgomery and Maite Cazorla have all opted out of the 2020 season.
More recently, it was announced veteran Glory Johnson and teammate Kalani Brown will miss the start of the season after testing positive for the coronavirus.
But perhaps the biggest headlines drawn by the franchise came when co-owner and republican Georgia senator Kelly Loeffler said the WNBA's vocal and prominent support of the Black Lives Matter movement would cause some fans to feel excluded. Loeffler wrote a letter to WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert regarding her concerns, and suggested teams wear American flags on their uniforms instead of going out of their way to promote BLM in the wake of George Floyd's death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.
Needless to say, Loeffler faced serious heat for her comments and some called for her to give up her stake in the team. She has no plans to do so. Instead, the league moves forward, with "Black Lives Matter" painted on the courts at the IMG Academy.
On the court for the Dream, though, the task still remains tough.
They went a league-worst 8-26 last season, were the lowest-scoring team in the league at 71.2 points per contest and are without some of their better players. Still, the team won't throw in the towel just yet.
"Every season is a new season, you can't just rest on your accolades for the season before," coach Nicki Collen told the Dream's official website.
"We're really focusing on the day to day. Focusing on getting better, and how to win one game at a time."
Collen and Dream fans do have one reason to be excited about the season: rookie guard Chennedy Carter. The 5-foot-7, yet feisty, Carter was the No. 4 overall pick in the draft after she averaged 22.5 points last season for Texas A&M.
The addition of Courtney Williams (13.2 ppg, 5.6 rebounds per game, 3.8 assists per game) from Connecticut is also welcomed. As well as her former Sun teammate Shekinna Stricklen.Two of Atlanta's eight wins last season came against Dallas, which went 10-24, better only than the Dream. The Wings also lost star Skylar Diggins-Smith to the Los Angeles Sparks, but return Arike Ogunbowale.
The runner-up for WNBA Rookie of the Year in 2019, Ogunbowale averaged 19.1 points, including 25 per game following the All-Star break. Dallas, which averaged just 71.6 points in 2019, should also be excited about rookie forward Satou Sabally - the second-overall pick in the 2020 draft, who averaged 14.4 points and 5.6 rebounds at Oregon last season.
"We do have a young team," veteran forward Kayla Thornton, who averaged career highs of 10.4 points and 5.3 boards last season, told the Wings' official website.
"My focus is trying to leading this team to where we want to be."