Chennedy Carter’s return would add piece to Dream’s ‘puzzle’

Dream guard Chennedy Carter (3) reacts during a game against the Chicago Sky, Wednesday, May 19, 2021, in College Park. The Chicago Sky won 85-77. (AP Photo/Danny Karnik)
Dream guard Chennedy Carter (3) reacts during a game against the Chicago Sky, Wednesday, May 19, 2021, in College Park. The Chicago Sky won 85-77. (AP Photo/Danny Karnik)

Credit: AP

The six-minute mark of the fourth quarter hit when Crystal Bradford sank a driving layup at Capital One Arena. The Dream’s lead swelled to six, and they could smell consecutive victories over the Washington Mystics — the latest coming away from home.

The Dream had slaughtered the Mystics, only four days earlier, with a 101-73 victory. That day the Dream shot lights out, carried their defensive momentum to a win and snapped a skid to regain some vigor in the tough midsummer’s stretch. Along with recent familiarity with Washington, the Dream was benefiting from an opponent that went into Thursday evening’s game without star Tina Charles, frontcourt presence Erica McCall and Myisha Hynes-Allen left early with a knee ailment.

Those factors gave the Dream every reason to believe they would leave the nation’s capital after adding a notch to the win column. Two minutes elapsed, and those hopes faded. A depleted Washington team went on a 9-0 run, reclaimed the lead and defeated the Dream (5-7) with a 96-93 score.

“I thought we got very undisciplined defensively,” interim coach Mike Petersen said. “They got us all spread out, and we didn’t do a very good job (adjusting). We didn’t stay connected. You score 93, and you should be able to win the game.”

“We got a little stagnant. We didn’t move the ball as well as we did to start the game,” said veteran guard Odyssey Sims, who paced the Dream with 22 points and seven assists. “We were missing the extra pass, and the ball stayed on one side of the floor.”

The Dream fell to 1-5 in June, which included four consecutive defeats to Minnesota and Seattle. The Dream remained competitive in those contests, but there’s an evident missing piece as second-year guard Chennedy Carter continues to recover from an elbow injury sustained May 27 against the New York Liberty.

The jolt to the Dream’s rotation is near, though. Carter has been listed as doubtful for a number of games, but is progressing closer to return.

“It’s a bit of a work in progress because this is the first significant injury to my arm,” Carter said June 8 in her lone meeting with reporters since the injury. “I had a lot of swelling, but now that’s going down. I should be back soon. Sooner than I thought, honestly.”

Carter’s arm has gradually improved with numerous treatment sessions and increased involvement in practice. She does daily range-of-motion exercises, uses stimulation to reduce swelling and works with the training staff frequently to accelerate her return to the court.

Petersen said that Carter is doing numerous shooting drills and 5-on-0 work during sessions. Carter also receives live work with dribbling and quicker movements to maintain the shifty guard’s change of direction.

Carter also has seen improvement by watching games from a different perspective. Tianna Hawkins applauded Carter for continuing to serve as a valuable asset to the Dream with contagious energy and willingness to communicate.

“She’s been doing what she needs to do in terms of getting healthy and back on the court,” Hawkins said. “We will be a lot quicker with her back. She allows us to run in transition and move the ball a little bit better.”

Carter averaged 15.7 points per game through the team’s first six contests, which ranks 18th best in the WNBA despite missing six games, according to Her Hoop Stats.

Petersen called it a “silver lining” to Carter’s injury, but the Dream have been able to take advantage of their deep backcourt. Sims has rebounded from a slow start to the season and stepped into the starting role, Tiffany Hayes has remained a consistent do-it-all piece, and Courtney Williams has continued to be a 3-point threat despite a colder shooting performance against the Mystics.

Then again, each of the guards have contrasting styles. Carter’s return gives the Dream another dangerous weapon and allows them to further embrace a fast-paced style of play.

“Chenn gives us some more downhill and helps us get to the rim,” Petersen said. “It will give us another piece to the puzzle that we’re trying to put together when she comes back.”

The WNBA season creeps toward the midway mark, and the Dream have remained in a playoff position despite playing half of the season without a premier player. The Dream have patched it together, but hope that Carter’s return revives the group’s winning ways.

It might come soon, but the adjustments without No. 3 in the fold continue.

“It’s one of those deals where you’re out until you’re not,” Petersen said.