A sidelined star aches to return
ATLANTA – As Angel McCoughtry left State Farm Arena following Atlanta Dream’s 89-73 loss to the Washington Mystics Sunday afternoon, she told High Post Hoops the team wanted to trade her in January.
McCoughtry was the Dream’s No. 1 draft pick in 2009, has played for the team her entire WNBA career and has led the team to two WNBA finals. The two-time Olympian says the team wanted to trade her because she sat out of the 2017 season and suffered a season-ending injury toward the end of the 2018 season.
McCoughtry’s been at each of the Dream’s home games, on the bench, occasionally coaching up her teammates during timeouts. But as she approached one of the arena’s exits, walking and talking while on her way to the parking garage, the star detailed her current frustrations.
“You’ve given your blood sweat and tears, and it’s like when you get hurt, you want them to have patience with you,” McCoughtry said. “I’ve had patience with playing all these years, wanting to have a championship team. I’ve had patience with scoring 30, 40 points to help us win. I’ve had patience missing funerals with family members to play because I love the franchise. So this is where you would think the franchise would have patience with you. But sometimes it’s just a business.”
General Manager Chris Sienko declined to comment. Head coach Nicki Collen said, when asked about McCoughtry’s comments following the game, that there was no attempt to trade McCoughtry in January, adding that free agency wasn’t open at that time.
“During free agency, teams talk. There’s no doubt. And people are gonna ask about Angel, people are gonna ask about Tiffany Hayes. We didn’t trade her,” Collen said. “We’re always gonna listen. That’s part of this business. Everybody knew the rumors going around. Maya Moore (had) the same rumors. That’s what they are until they are anything else.”
McCoughtry will undergo another strength test this week, as she has every six weeks to two months during the recovery process. The results will determine the strength of her knee and quad and track her recovery progress.
“Everything you do in ACL rehab is getting your quad strength up,” Collen said. “You hit a certain marker and you’re allowed to do certain basketball activities. You hit a certain marker and you’re allowed to start practicing with the team and start playing, to return to action mode. It’s a marker for us to see where she’s at. We know where we are two months ago, how much strength has she built in the last two months?”
Collen said back at the team’s media day in May that the Dream planned to play the season without McCoughtry and that they didn’t want to rush her recovery process. An early return from McCoughtry, ahead of schedule, would seem like both a win for the team’s medical staff and a clear indication that the team values her presence on the court.
“We’re supportive of Angel, regardless of whether she can return to play this year or she can’t. We’ve been that way from the beginning. We want what’s best for Angel McCoughtry,” Collen said. “She’s earned the right to come back when she’s ready and we would never push that. We want her to be healthy. We want her to be healthy for now, we want her to be healthy for her future. We went into this season hoping she’d be back, but assuming she wouldn’t play a single game and looking at it like it was icing on the cake, while providing all the proper rehabilitation services that she needed to get back to 100 percent.”
Before she made it to the parking garage, McCoughtry said she trusts her body more than a strength test. And even though she’s watched the Dream start the season with a 2-7 record, fall to the bottom of the league standings and struggle offensively, that’s not adding pressure to returning sooner.
“I would have had a sense of urgency whether they’re winning or losing because I love the game of basketball,” McCoughtry said. “But at the same time, I do want to stay healthy for the longevity of my career. But at the same time, I want to get back and help.”
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