Dream general manager Angela Taylor has a simple goal for Atlanta’s WNBA team: win multiple championships.
And Taylor, who has been on the job since mid-January, has a blueprint for doing so. She believes in personnel development and keeping the players healthy.
“We want to build a championship culture,” she said. “From ownership to coaching staff to support staff to players, we want to evoke a culture of accountability and contagious enthusiasm.”
The Dream haven’t had much trouble reaching the WNBA finals. Though the franchise will open its seventh season May 16 against San Antonio, the Dream have played in three championship series. However, they have been swept each time, leaving an ugly 0-9 stain.
Last year’s losses to Minnesota were particularly ugly, with an average margin of defeat of 19.6 points.
Dream coach Fred Williams was let go during the offseason. In came Lakers legend Michael Cooper as coach and Taylor as general manager.
Both have been busy. The team re-signed center Erika de Souza, who averaged a career-high 12.9 points and 9.9 rebounds per game last season. Taylor said she considers de Souza, Angel McCoughtry and Sancho Lyttle to be the core of the team.
To complement them, Taylor is looking for a perimeter shooter who can play guard or forward and a young post who can play power forward or center. The need for a point guard likely was solved with the acquisition of Celine Dumerc of France on Thursday.
The WNBA draft will be held April 14, and the Dream have three picks, the eighth in the first round and at sixth and eighth in the second round. One of those second-round picks was acquired as part of a trade for guard Matee Ajavon, formerly of Washington.
Once all of the pieces are put together, the focus on player development and fitness will begin in earnest. Taylor said the injuries suffered last season were the main reason why the team couldn’t win its first championship.
Lyttle, whom Taylor called one of the better post players in the world, missed all but six games last season after sustaining a broken bone in her left foot that required surgery. She has never averaged less than 10 points per game in her five seasons with the Dream. Taylor said Lyttle is healthy.
Additionally, Tiffany Hayes, who plays with a lot of energy, missed 11 games after tearing the meniscus in her left knee during the season. McCoughtry, who led the league in scoring last season (21.5 points per game), fought through an Achilles injury that hindered her though the last portion of the season.
Taylor said the club is elevating its emphasis on preventive health in an attempt to relieve some of the injury issues. Offseason programs were designed for each player to improve her chances of showing up for training camp in her best condition.
Data analysis will be used so that trainers have baselines they can use to monitor each player. Portions of team budgets have been reallocated to cover the additional costs of this emphasis on health.
“We have to make sure our players are in peak health and condition,” Taylor said.