NEW YORK—There are plenty of stories to be written about the Dallas Wings these days without even delving into the team’s 3-2 start entering Friday night, a 93-89 loss to the Liberty that suggested progress even in defeat.
The team is without Aerial Powers—a source familiar with her recovery estimated it will be at least another two weeks until she returns to action. And the Wings spent the week courting Liz Cambage, the ultra-talented 6’8 Australian center, who met with management this week ahead of a possible return as soon as this season.
But the absence of Powers has opened the wings to rookies Kaela Davis and Allisha Gray, not to mention the breakout of Karima Christmas-Kelly, whose field goal percentage, points per game and player efficiency rating are all at career-high levels, have given Dallas coach Fred Williams a sense of the future even as he navigates the present.
“In terms of Aerial, we were planning on her being back in the early stages, but it gave us a chance to see the rookies, Gray and Davis, to see what they can do,” Williams told The Summitt, sitting in a quiet road locker room at Madison Square Garden prior to Friday night’s game. “So it’s been a really good growing experience for them. And I think they’ve lived up to what has been expected of them, being drafted. And then Aerial being out, it’s like money in the bank. When she gets back, she’ll make us even stronger in the perimeter area.”
Even without Skylar Diggins-Smith returning yet to her pre-surgery levels, the Wings have found both success on the offensive end, sitting middle of the pack in efficiency, and improved on a defense that was last in the league in 2016.
And yet, Williams couldn’t help but imagine what his Wings would look like with the presence of Cambage, who’d provide that dominant rim protector the Wings sorely need, and a scorer who’d free up Dallas’ many three-point shooters.
“Having that mountain in the middle in the future obviously helps—you can plan big lineups, small lineups around her,” Williams said of Cambage. “We want to go out and compete now, but we know we have the big bonus of a couple of players coming back—Courtney Paris, too. So that’s three players who are a big key—Courtney Paris is one of the top rebounders in the league.”
It all led a strong undercurrent of optimism to color the week’s recruiting of Cambage, close friend of Dallas executive Erin Phillips, and someone capable of changing the complexion of the team, both now and moving forward.
Between the coming reinforcements and Williams’ new jazz album—title still undecided, but the coach estimated a July 1 release date—the music coming out of Dallas sounds far more festive than anybody imagined for a roster with five rookies.
“With Liz, we talked basketball some, probably like 30 percent,” Williams said of his conversation with the big Dallas target. “But mainly about life, me knowing her, her getting to know me… It’s like talking to one of my daughters. Hopefully, we have a good music connection, with her spinning her music. So I feel comfortable with it. Whatever management and the organization works out is great, but I’m really comfortable with her as a person. And the basketball would be great if it happens here with us.”