The gain by Spain has really caused a pain for the Dream.
The Dream (6-2) suffered a short-term loss to their lineup on Monday when veteran forward Sancho Lyttle left the team to try and help Spain qualify for the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Lyttle was first in the WNBA in steals (21) and third in rebounds (8.9) per game. The 6-foot-4 Lyttle is expected to miss the Dream’s next four games.
As Atlanta prepares to face WNBA-leading scorer and former Collins Hill High School standout Maya Moore and the rest of the Minnesota Lynx (8-0), the team must find a way to make up for Lyttle’s absence.
Dream coach Michael Cooper was unavailable to comment because of illness on Wednesday, but assistant coach Karleen Thompson explained the team likely will employ a rotation of players to fill the gap.
There was also talk about Atlanta adding a free agent, but WNBA rules constitute the player would be ineligible until Lyttle misses one game. In order for the new addition to play Friday, the Dream would be forced to waive a player in order to make room on the roster.
Chief among Atlanta’s in-house options at forward is second-year player Roshana Gray, who has appeared in six games this season. Gray has averaged fewer than four minutes per game.
Atlanta may also look at forwards Rachel Hollivay and Cierra Burdick.
“Each and every one of us has to bring something different to the table,” Gray said. “We have at least three people who can match what Sancho can bring to the table in her rebounding, her basketball IQ and her great decision-making. That’s what Coach Cooper has been telling us all year: Just be ready. He’s definitely prepped us for times like this.”
The reserve players aren’t the only ones who must pick up the slack.
Angel McCoughtry may be second in the WNBA in scoring per game (20.4), but she said she knows she and the rest of the Dream lineup have to produce even more with Lyttle gone.
McCoughtry pointed toward the Lynx’s height as a reason to improve their rebounding. With Lyttle on the court, Atlanta led the WNBA with 38.5 rebounds per contest. The problem is Minnesota isn’t far behind, averaging 33.1 boards per game. Lynx teammates Sylvia Fowles and Rebekkah Brunson both reside in the top 10 in rebounding so far this season.
“We’re going to have to be more aggressive,” McCoughtry said. “Everyone’s going to have to step up a notch because she’s missing and she brings so much to the table.”
Gray looks likely to be the one to make the starting lineup alongside McCoughtry. Although the new role has yet to be cemented, the former Lynx player said she is up to the challenge.
“I just take advantage of every minute and every opportunity I have out there,” Gray said.
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