Indiana Fever set for preseason opener Sunday

After going 6-16 a season ago, the Indiana Fever are determined for a much better season in 2021.

The new season is right around the corner with the first preseason games this weekend and the first regular season games in about a week.

It has been another strange offseason for the Fever, still limited due to some COVID-19 restrictions, and for head coach Marianne Stanley, who wants to play up-tempo this season, conditioning is everything.

“Every team is struggling right now with players who aren’t really in the type of shape they’d typically be in to start a training camp,” Stanley said Wednesday. “It’s because they haven’t been able to do things other than individual workouts.”

Stanley said even though players can condition and lift weights, nothing beats playing three-on-three or four-on-four in practice to get players into game shape.

“We want to get up and down the floor,” Stanley said. “I like our group, and I like the people that we have.”

Another big key for Stanley is the defense for the Fever.

“I think overall, our defense needs to improve, but number one is transition defense,” Stanley said. “We have to avoid those three-on-two or four-on-three situations on defense. The teams that are good in transition are usually good overall. We want to be one of those teams that doesn’t give up easy buckets.”

Number two for Stanley is the pick-and-roll defense, which again plays into the idea that team defense is much more important than individual defense.

Before the 2020 season, Stanley looked for Kelsey Mitchell to take step forward, and she did just that, averaging a career-high 17.9 points per game.

Now heading into the 2021 season, there are a couple of players Stanley looks to take the next step. Victoria Vivians, Tiffany Mitchell and Teaira McCowan were the names that came to mind.

Stanley believes McCowan can become unstoppable in the post, and she has been pleased with how McCowan has attacked the offseason so far. They hope McCowan continues to expand her face-up game, utilizing the ability knock down 16-foot jumpers to keep defenders honest.

As for Mitchell, a big advantage for her is that she went overseas in Israel and continued playing during the offseason.

“I’m coming fresh off another season of being in game shape,” Mitchell said Wednesday. “So I’m game-ready right now.”

What Mitchell wants to improve on the most is consistency on both sides of the ball. She wants to score at all three levels, too.

She thinks the Fever underachieved last season, and the group is ready to right the ship this summer.

“I think this is the year we can finally get over the hump, put things together and play the way that we know we can play,” she said.

The Fever will play their first preseason game Sunday against the Chicago Sky at 1 p.m. in Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. There will be one more preseason game after that before the regular season officially begins on May 14 against the New York Liberty.

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