Indiana Fever arrive in Florida for WNBA season
After the Fever delayed travel amid two positive COVID-19 tests, most of the team landed in Bradenton, Florida on Saturday.
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The Indiana Fever, well, nearly all of the Fever, arrived in Bradenton, Florida, on Saturday after delaying their travel to the WNBA bubble following positive COVID-19 tests.
Indiana postponed travel after learning two of the seven coronavirus cases throughout the league were linked back to the team. However, of their 12-player roster, 2019 WNBA All-Star MVP Erica Wheeler did not make the trip.
Wheeler has to follow another round of the WNBA’s new COVID-19 protocol, which includes testing and isolation until being cleared by a physician, before heading to Florida.
Teams have already begun training camp and preparation for the start of the season, which is scheduled to begin Saturday, July 25. It gives the Fever just under two weeks to practice together and get game-ready after months off, or at least months without fast-paced team activities; getting acclimated to the court is just one of the hurdles facing the Fever and remaining 11 teams in the bubble.
Indiana Fever guard Erica Wheeler warms up before the WNBA game between the Fever and the Connecticut Sun at Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, Connecticut, USA, on May 28, 2019. (Chris Poss)
Players will have unparalleled access to each other and competitors as they get acquainted with the bubble. Players on the Fever’s roster were not available to speak with media Saturday, but as teams opened up Zoom lines, many players and coaches expressed it was similar to playing overseas and living out of hotels abroad.
Fifth-year center Natalie Achonwa was one of the first on the team to land at IMG Academy, where the players and team staff are housed in either fully furnished apartment-style villas or hotels.
The Fever will be led by nine returning players from the 2019 season, where they finished 13-21 and fourth in the Eastern Conference; it was the team’s best record since finishing 17-17 in 2016, the last season of its 12-year playoff streak.
“We went straight to our leaders, Candace Dupree, Erica Wheeler, Natalie Achonwa, and asked, ‘Look, what are you guys planning on doing?’” Fever general manager and vice president of basketball operations Tamika Catchings told media the last week of June. “They want to play.”
The Fever will be available for media access via Zoom next week.