Some Goals Reached, More Goals To Meet
By: Jameelah Johnson
As the Atlanta Dream wrapped up the 2023 season with exit interviews, there was plenty for the organization to be proud of upon reflection. Atlanta finished as the fifth seed, making the playoffs for the first time since 2018. They had three players become All-Stars, two of whom made the team for the first time in their careers (Allisha Gray – 1st time, Rhyne Howard – 2nd time, and Cheyenne Parker – 1st time). They broke their own record for sell-outs at Gateway Center Arena with 12, also leading the WNBA in that category.
“Our goal coming into this season was to make the postseason, and we were fortunate enough to do so,” the Dream general manager Dan Padover said regarding the start of the season. “What we wanted to have happen through that was our players go through an experience that makes them hungry for more and makes them go through something with each other that they want to get back next year and get even further.”
Both Gray and Howard mentioned making the playoffs as one of the most memorable parts of their season together, emphasizing the camaraderie built. “I know at one point in this season we went on, like, a little losing streak but we stayed together the whole time. Everybody was positive. Even though losing sucks, it was still fun to be around the team,” Gray remarked on how impactful it was that the team remained together.
Many of the players had individual accolades they achieved as well as setting/breaking franchise and league-wide records. Danielle Robinson entered the top 10 in WNBA All-Time assists, head coach Tanisha Wright was named Coach of the Month for July, Monique Billings scored her 1000th career point and grabbed her 1000th career rebound, Haley Jones was named to the WNBA All-Rookie First Team by the Associated Press, and the three All-Stars became the first trio of players in franchise history to score at least 600 points each in a single season.
“I’d probably say the 40-point game was my favorite just because all of my teammates they knew that I was about to make something happen and they didn’t keep me from doing that,” Howard commented on what was one of her favorite personal moments of the season. She scored 43 points against the Los Angeles Sparks in July, cementing her as second in franchise history in points scored in a game during the regular season and first in points scored in regulation. “…Especially after not being named to All-Star originally, they wanted me to go out and show exactly what they’re (the All-Star selection) missing, exactly what I can do and everybody was just super happy and I loved being around it. Especially doing it on our home court because you know the fans are already into it.”
“I think Rhyne stepped up and showed she can be a facilitator, she can be a defender, she can go grab a board, and that complete part of her game. To see that was special,” Padover pointed out as Howard not only set numerous records this past season but also set the tone and settled in as a leader for the team.
“Being able to be on the forefront of the reason that we made [the playoffs], you know that’s a responsibility but I’m willing to take it…For me to have done it in only my second year, just shows how much more we can do in the upcoming years,” Howard reflected on leading the team to a playoff berth. \
“I thought we did a great job of accomplishing some of those big goals as well as some of those smaller goals that we really wanted to look at,” Wright praised the season-long effort from the team. “No season is without ups and without downs. So we’ve had our share but the fight, the camaraderie that this team showed, the staying together…it made me proud to say I was able to coach this Atlanta Dream team.”
Howard, Padover, and Wright have all completed their second season at the helm of this Atlanta team, showing improvement from last year to the present. They each have the utmost goal to make this team better, and they are willing to grow to do just that.
Watch the full player interview here: https://t.co/U1QahNPYg4
Watch the full Coaches interview here: https://x.com/AtlantaDream/status/1707150944176075060?s=20