Fever thriving behind rookie coach Stephanie White

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Tamika Catchings looks around Bankers Life Fieldhouse these days and sees a completely different world.

The 2011 league MVP is surrounded by new teammates, younger players and a familiar face playing an unfamiliar role. Yes, Stephanie White is calling the shots from the bench.

At times, the thought of playing for an ex-teammate makes Catchings chuckle, but the seamless transition White has made from WNBA player to broadcaster to assistant coach and now to successful head coach also has the 13-year veteran taking notes.

“It’s fun to see her put her own twist on this team and the expectations she has,” Catchings said. “I don’t want to coach, but the steps she has taken to put herself in position to be successful, those are the things you take away from it and try to make your own.”

White has surprised many by turning what was expected to be a rebuilding team into a playoff-bound team for a WNBA-record 11th consecutive season.

Sure, there were reasons to doubt White & Co.

Four key players opened the season battling injuries. Longtime stalwarts such as Catchings and point guard Briann January tried to get acclimated to playing with newcomers such as Shenise Johnson and Natalie Achonwa. The 36-year-old Catchings had to accept spending more time on the bench, and everyone had to buy into White’s revamped up-tempo style.

Even during a rugged start, White stayed true to her principles. The woman who left high school as the highest-scoring girl in Indiana history and who left Purdue with a national championship stuck to her plan. Now, she’s in contention for the coach of the year award, but not yet satisfied.

“I think we can get better, be more efficient at both ends of the floor,” she said. “We’ve put together a stretch that’s pretty good because of our sheer will. But there are areas we can be better in and we want to be better in.”

White also realizes she’s still growing as a coach.

She constantly seeks advice from her predecessor, Hall of Famer Lin Dunn, Pacers coach Frank Vogel or even outsiders. She often breaks down game tape to see where she can improve.

White brings a different perspective to the game. After four seasons as a college assistant, four years on the staff of the WNBA’s Chicago Sky and five years as a broadcaster, she returned to her home state as one of Dunn’s assistants in time to celebrate the Fever’s 2012 championship run. So when Dunn announced she would retire at the end of last season, White was the obvious replacement and players – including a certain former teammate – quickly jumped on board.

“As a player, she was always like `I’m tired of her (the coach) harping on me about this stuff.’ Now, it’s like `I’m tired of telling you about this stuff,” Catchings said, laughing. “But when you look at our team and a lot of teams that have coaching changes, drastic changes like we have, a lot of people didn’t think we’d be very good. I think a lot of people dismissed her and dismissed us, as a team.”

Opponents that dared to discount White and the Fever in May now realize they made a big mistake. Indiana turned around its season with a six-game winning streak in August, a span that included a franchise record four straight wins on the road.

Those in the locker room aren’t surprised.

“She’s a total player’s coach. She wants everyone to be successful and she does a great job of holding us accountable,” January said. “She understands because she’s been on both sides of it and she wants to communicate.”

Catchings is not about to disagree.

“I think she’s the best coach in the league right now,” Catchings said.

AP source: Liz Cambage traded from Dallas to Las Vegas

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The Liz Cambage trade saga is finally over.

The 6-foot-8 Australian has been traded from Dallas to Las Vegas for Moriah Jefferson, Isabelle Harrison and the Aces’ first two picks in 2020, according to a person familiar with the situation. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Thursday because the deal hasn’t been announced.

Cambage, who finished second behind Breanna Stewart in WNBA MVP balloting last year, said in January she no longer wanted to play in Dallas. Potential deals the past few weeks that never materialized had weighed on Cambage, who took to social media with emotional posts this week. Cambage is in Australia and is expected to get to Las Vegas this weekend.

The 27-year-old center set a league record last season by scoring 53 points against New York. She averaged 23 points and 9.7 rebounds last year.

The move gives the Aces a formidable frontcourt by pairing Cambage with rookie of the year A’ja Wilson.

Dallas receives a point guard in Jefferson and a talented post player in Harrison. Jefferson was the No. 2 pick in the 2016 draft by the franchise when it was in San Antonio. She averaged 13.9 points as a rookie but injured her knee in 2017.

She was limited to just 16 games last season. Harrison was the No. 12 pick in 2015 by Phoenix, but missed her rookie season with a knee injury. She had a breakout year in 2017, averaging 11.4 points and 6.4 rebounds. She sat out last season because of a medical issue.

Cambage was the No. 2 pick in the 2011 draft. She played that season and in 2013 for the Tulsa Shock but sat out in 2012 and again from 2014-2017. The franchise moved to Dallas in 2016. Cambage returned to the WNBA last season with Dallas and hit it off with Wings coach Fred Williams. Cambage took it hard when Williams was fired a few weeks before the end of the season. Williams is an assistant with the Sparks.

After last season, Cambage left the door open to not returning to the WNBA, citing the league’s low salaries. She excelled for Australia at last fall’s FIBA World Cup, helping the team earn a silver medal. Cambage told the AP at the World Cup she would take some time to decide whether she wanted to come back the WNBA.

Follow Doug Feinberg on Twitter at https://twitter.com/DougFeinberg

Lynx star Maya Moore to skip ’19 WNBA season

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota Lynx star Maya Moore has decided to skip the upcoming WNBA season, seeking more time to devote to her family and her faith.

Moore announced Tuesday on The Players’ Tribune website that she’ll sit out in 2019. She already had taken the fall and winter off from international competition. The five-time first-team All-WNBA honoree has helped the Lynx win four championships since her rookie year, 2011.

“The success that I’ve been a part of in basketball truly blows my mind every time I think about it,” Moore said in her post. “But the main way I measure success in life is something I don’t often get to emphasize explicitly through pro ball.”

Raised by a single mother with strong Christian beliefs, Moore has spoken often about her desire for a well-rounded life steered by biblical principles . She quoted from scripture in her brief essay and, without citing specifics, said she plans to invest time in “some ministry dreams that have been stirring in my heart for many years.”

Reforming the justice system has been a particular passion of hers , including a personal interest she has taken in the case of Jonathan Irons , who was imprisoned in Missouri in 1997 by what his supporters contend was a wrongful burglary conviction at age 16.

“I’m sure this year will be hard in ways that I don’t even know yet, but it will also be rewarding in ways I’ve yet to see, too,” Moore wrote. “I’m thankful to my Lynx family and others close to me who have been walking with me during this shift, and I’m excited to see what the future holds.”

Last season was only the second time since Moore was drafted first overall that the Lynx didn’t reach the WNBA Finals. Moore was eighth in the league in minutes and seventh in points in 2018. She has missed one game in eight seasons, with career averages of 18.4 points and 5.9 rebounds per game.

“We support her in this exploration and will continue to provide her the love and care she has always known from her Lynx family,” general manager and head coach Cheryl Reeve said in a statement distributed by the team.

Moore, who went to high school in the Atlanta area she now calls home, was given the franchise tag last month by the Lynx, preventing her from becoming a free agent. The 29-year-old, who won the WNBA Most Valuable Player award in 2014, expressed her fatigue — and her eagerness for some extended rest — near the end of the 2018 season, which saw the Lynx ousted in the first round of the playoffs. The league compressed the 34-game schedule by three weeks from the 2017 slate.

Moore was the top vote-getter for the All-Star game last summer in Minnesota, but she passed on the team captain responsibility that would have required her to draft from the 22-player pool. Candace Parker of the Los Angeles Sparks took her place, joining Elena Delle Donne of the Washington Mystics in assembling the sides. Moore had 18 points, eight rebounds and six assists in the exhibition to earn her third straight All-Star Game MVP award.

Moore also opted out of the Women’s Basketball World Cup, the first major event she wasn’t on the U.S. national team for since the 2008 Summer Olympics, which took place before the start of her sophomore season at powerhouse Connecticut.

The Lynx, too, are in flux following the retirement of five-time All-Star point guard Lindsay Whalen, who became coach at her alma mater, Minnesota. They start their season May 25 against Chicago.