Tiffany Hayes opens up on her lingering ankle injury

An update with the Dream’s best two-way player

ATLANTA – Tiffany Hayes’ right ankle has been injured since two days before the Atlanta Dream’s season opener.

She fell during practice two days before the Dream (1-2) played host to the Wings, and notably hasn’t played like herself through the first three games of the season.

Hayes is expected to start tonight as the Dream host the Las Vegas Aces at 7 p.m. But she’s still working her way back to being the Tiffany Hayes WNBA fans are used to seeing.

“I’m almost there, I just feel like I need to get in a rhythm and stop being scared that it’s a little weak,” Hayes told High Post Hoops Thursday before the game. “Normally when I do something like this, I’m used to it going away, so fast. Just the fact that this isn’t going away as fast as I want it to is annoying. It just sucks.”

Hayes’ nagging injury is even more notable – and concerning if long-lasting – for Atlanta for multiple reasons.

She was a member of the 2018 All-WNBA first team. She led the She led the Dream in scoring during the last two seasons. And not having Hayes not at full capacity is even more impactful, given there is no timetable for Angel McCoughtry’s return from a late 2018 knee injury.

The team as a whole has looked “out of sync” through its first few games, struggling offensively through its first three and both on offense and defense in its last two.

“I know my team need me, we starting off kinda sluggish right now,” Hayes said. “But I’m just working to get 100 percent and get back to where my team is winning games. So that’s gonna be my next goal.”

When not in practice or in games, Hayes seems to be wearing a boot on her right foot for protection, according to her Instagram stories.

In the season opener, Hayes was listed as “questionable,” but started the game, played 29 minutes and shot 2-for-8 and scored five points. Her biggest contributions came late, during the team’s defense stops en route to a win, effectively shutting down Arike Ogunbowale, who finished with 12 points.

“I mean yeah, it was hurting,” Hayes said in practice following about the season opener. “And I’m not using that as an excuse, I missed open shots, all that stuff.

“But if I’m hurting more than I’m helping, I’m gonna sit. And she’s always like, ‘Nicki wants you out there, it doesn’t matter. You do more good out there hurt than you do…’ So I’m just like, I’m gonna do that. I know we have two days (until the game), we can get it right after. And I feel like I did help, being out there the last minutes of that game, so she was right.”

Against the Storm and the Mystics, Hayes played 20 minutes, though against Washington, she showed glimpses of her normal self and finished with 11 points on 5-for-7 shooting.

During the Dream’s Memorial Day practice, at least for the last hour open to the media, Hayes did exercises and healing activities in the sidelines. Following practice, she received needle treatment to loosen up the tight muscles in her legs.

“I always try to get back fast, I try to suck it up,” Hayes said. “If they need me in the game, of course I’m gonna play.”

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