Just when it appeared that the walking wounded known as the defending WNBA Champion Indiana Fever couldn’t get any worse, it did.
Saturday afternoon it was determined that Tamika Catchings would be unavailable for that night’s home game against the Chicago Sky. A lower back strain sidelined the popular former Olympian who is the heart of the Fever franchise.
So she joined a list of four other Fever players who will be out until at least mid-July. Catchings’ is a day-to-day absence, and she could play in the Fever’s next game on Tuesday.
Not so fortunate are Jessica Davenport, who will miss the entire season with a left tibia stress fracture, Katie Douglas, Erin Phillips and Jeanette Pohlen. Douglas has a bulging disc in her lower back, Phillips a torn right meniscus and Pohlen a torn left ACL.
Add to that a fifth player, rookie top draft pick Layshia Clarendon, who missed the team’s last game with a sprained ankle, and you have a team that would appear to have less talent to start Saturday’s game than most teams put on the floor for preseason games.
So the team has started looking like anything but a squad capable of defending anything, even the basket. Going into the game Saturday, the Fever had won just one of its first six games.
During this stretch, at least until Catchings comes back, the burden of carrying the team falls to Eriana Larkins, Shavonte Zeilous and Briann January.
For the others on the bench, this stretch is an opportunity to step forward and show head coach Lin Dunn and the rest of the staff that perhaps they deserve playing time even after some of the injuries heal. Which ones and how many of those players step forward may also be the key to exactly how deep a hole the Fever will need to dig out of once the top-tier talent returns.