7:00 PM ET, May 19, 2012
Tamika Catchings won league MVP honors last season, but it was bittersweet after an injury limited her when the Indiana Fever needed her most.Catchings and the Fever aren't the only ones lamenting missed opportunities.So are the Atlanta Dream, who will visit Indiana on Saturday night in a rematch of the 2011 Eastern Conference finals.The Fever tied for the best record in the East last season at 21-13, beat New York in the opening round of the playoffs and took a 1-0 lead over Atlanta in the conference finals. Catchings, though, injured her foot in the next game and would combine for just 14 points in Games 2 and 3 as the Fever lost both to get ousted from the postseason.Catchings, who averaged 15.5 points and 7.1 rebounds in 2011, is healthy and eager to get Indiana back to the WNBA finals for the first time since 2009. The four-time defensive player of the year will switch from small to power forward this season."Whatever the team needs me to do, I'm going to do," Catchings said. "It's a good transition. If I can learn and get comfortable there, and I'm already comfortable playing on the wing, it just adds to the all-around game."Catchings isn't the only player Indiana is happy to have back at full strength, with point guard Briann January returning after suffering a season-ending ACL injury last June. Erin Phillips filled in during her absence and could start in the backcourt with January.The Fever will get an early test against Atlanta, which has made consecutive WNBA finals appearances. The Dream were swept both times, by Minnesota last year and by Seattle in 2010.Angel McCoughtry is hoping to get Atlanta (20-14) over the hump, and a return to Conseco Fieldhouse may provide her with extra motivation in the opener. The forward drew ire from Indiana fans during last year's playoffs for taunting them, at one point throwing a towel toward the crowd.While McCoughtry is back after finishing second in the league with 21.6 points per game last season, there are some big changes to the Dream.Izi Castro Marques did not re-sign while Shalee Lehning and Allison Bales retired. Erika DeSouza will be unavailable until after the London Olympics because of a commitment to the Brazilian national team.Although those losses could impact the team offensively -- DeSouza averaged 11.8 points in 2011, Castro Marques 7.6 and Bales 5.0 -- Atlanta is looking at it as an opportunity to improve in other aspects."We're going to concentrate on improving defensively this year," coach Marynell Meadors told the WNBA's official website. "It's been a great accomplishment, reaching two WNBA finals, but we want to take that next step and win it."The coaching staff also experienced turnover with assistant Carol Ross leaving for the Los Angeles Sparks' head coaching job.While depth may be a concern, Atlanta does have scoring options besides McCoughtry. Lindsey Harding averaged 10.5 points last season and the Dream signed free agent forward Cathrine Kraayeveld, who provides a needed outside threat after connecting on 52 of 127 3-pointers for Chicago in 2011.Atlanta didn't have a first-round draft pick in April but chose Tiffany Hayes out of Connecticut in the second round. She was part of two national championship teams and averaged 14.7 points and 5.8 rebounds with the Huskies last season.