Dream welcomes Tianna Hawkins to Atlanta

Tianna Hawkins of the Washington Mystics handles the ball against the Las Vegas Aces on August 5, 2020 at Feld Entertainment Center in Palmetto, Florida.
Tianna Hawkins of the Washington Mystics handles the ball against the Las Vegas Aces on August 5, 2020 at Feld Entertainment Center in Palmetto, Florida.

Credit: Photo courtesy Atlanta Dream

Credit: Photo courtesy Atlanta Dream

Tianna Hawkins’ 5-year-old son, Emanuel, just started school last year. A Washington, D.C. native, Hawkins just finished her sixth WNBA season playing for her hometown Washington Mystics, with whom she won a WNBA championship in 2019. Hawkins is close with her family, and many of them live in the D.C. area.

To put it simply, Hawkins wasn’t looking to leave the Mystics in free agency.

But as she thought more about it, she realized she felt like Emanuel was old enough that he could handle a move and decided to see what options she had. The Seattle Storm reached out first, and Hawkins was struck by the coincidence — the Storm drafted her into the WNBA with the No. 6 overall pick in 2013.

“The first team I heard about was Seattle, and Sue Bird actually ended up texting me and letting me know they were very interested,” Hawkins said Friday. “I was like, ‘Wow, what a coincidence, the first team I was drafted to called and said they’re interested.’ We talked a little bit back and forth, and then a few days later, my agent mentioned Atlanta.”

It didn’t take Hawkins long to realize that while a reunion with Seattle was intriguing, she has close family in Atlanta, and it would be a little closer to home.

“My agent was like, ‘What do you think? Could that be a place you go to?’ Without a question, I said yes. I’m very close with my family, and I have close family in Atlanta, so I was like, ‘Yeah, I would go down there. I’d be willing to play.’ It seems like a fun team, it seems like a great organization, and the city is awesome.”

On Thursday, Hawkins signed a two-year deal with the Dream that will pay her $140,000 in the first year, per Her Hoop Stats — a nearly 100% raise over the $71,400 she made in 2020 with the Mystics.

At 6-foot-3, Hawkins can play any of the forward positions, but she said that from what she’s heard from Dream coach Nicki Collen, the plan is for her to play power forward with the Dream. Much like Cheyenne Parker, who the Dream signed earlier this week, Hawkins can score in the post as well as stretch the floor with perimeter shooting ability — exactly what Collen was looking for in this year’s free-agent class.

“We are thrilled to welcome Tianna, her fiancé Jarrod, and her son Emanuel to the Dream family,” Collen said in a statement. “Tianna brings a championship mentality from Washington and a desire to do whatever it takes for her team to win. She has shown her versatility as both a rim runner and 3-point shooter and will add depth to our front court.”

Collen’s comment about Hawkins adding depth indicates the plan as of now likely will be to have Parker start at the ‘4’ and have Hawkins come off the bench. Hawkins largely has done that in her WNBA career, with only 12 starts in her 231 total games, and Mystics coach Mike Thibault said last season that Hawkins prefers to come off the bench so she can get a strong feel of the game’s flow before taking the court.

Hawkins averaged a career-high 19.4 minutes per game for Washington last season, despite being used in a reserve role, and she said Friday that she sees her role continuing to expand with the Dream — whether that’s off the bench or as an occasional starter.

And with seven years of WNBA experience, Hawkins immediately becomes the second-oldest player with the Dream, so that veteran presence will be called upon heavily, regardless of how many minutes she plays.

“I think my biggest role, I would say both on and off the court, is just bringing veteran leadership in a positive way,” Hawkins said. “Just knowing that each night (and) every day in practice, too, our job is to compete.”

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