Veteran presence helping newcomers adjust to Dream

By Bailey Johnson

With 10 players returning to the Atlanta Dream from their 2018 playoff-semifinal squad, the team’s five newcomers have quite a bit of veteran guidance to lean on as training camp gets underway.

In the second practice of camp on Monday, Renee Montgomery — in her second season with the Dream and her 11th year in the WNBA — made her presence known all over the court, whether she was hitting 3-pointers, encouraging her teammates or telling other players where they needed to be.

Marie Gülich, who the Dream acquired in a trade during the 2019 WNBA Draft, credits Montgomery with maintaining the positive atmosphere that permeates the team’s practices.

“She’s awesome,” Gülich said. “She knows what she’s talking about. She’s always happy, always wanting to do stuff, always bringing the positive energy, which I think is really important for a team.”

As one of the Dream’s newcomers, Gülich was understandably nervous before camp began. But after seeing the welcoming environment in Atlanta, those nerves faded away.

“Everyone was super welcoming,” Gülich said. “Everyone’s just so energetic and positive, even in practice, so it was a lot of fun coming in and it took off the nervousness, for sure.”

While newcomers like Gülich, Maite Cazorla, Nia Coffey, Lynetta Kizer and Meme Jackson find their footing on the Dream’s veteran squad, coach Nicki Collen is pleased with how the team is meshing. Only two players — Cazorla and Jackson — are rookies.

“I think they’re finding their way,” Collen said. “I think they’re learning where our vets want the ball and vice versa, kind of good scoring areas for them. A lot of it’s just communication. I think there’s no doubt that we don’t have a bunch of rookies and you can tell. They know how to play. They’re pros, so they’re picking up stuff quickly.”

With three preseason games looming next week, the Dream’s coaches don’t have much time to install the playbook. But thanks to the number of returning players and amount of experience the team has, Collen is expecting the Dream to be ready to go next week in Connecticut.

“We just want enough in our playbook to be able to go play three games next week,” Collen said. “Kind of a baseline offensively and defensively that we can run up and down with. We’ll get more and more specific as we narrow down who our personnel is going to be on that final roster and strengthen weaknesses from there.”