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Diggins-Smith, Williams dish on Wings’ revamped roster, youth movement

A new season is on the horizon for the Dallas Wings.

Players, coaches and staff members returned to the College Park Center in Arlington for the team’s media day. The Wings are gearing to begin their preseason  at 4 p.m. on Monday against the New York Liberty.

The franchise offered a sample of its postseason potential in 2017. Unfortunately the result, an 86-76 loss to the Washington Mystics, left much to be desired.

Despite the early exit, Dallas led all WNBA franchises in scoring throughout the regular season, averaging 86.2 points per game in 34 contests. The Wings attempted the second-most field goals (71) per game last season and also got to the charity stripe more than any other team, averaging 26.6 free-throw attempts per game.

Defensively, however, the Wings struggled to  find the balance necessary to back their up-tempo approach.

Dallas allowed a league-high 88.8 points per game last season along with 19.7 assists — third-highest among WNBA teams.

So what exactly do the Wings expect from this season?

“Well, for us to get better defensively for one,” said head coach Fred Williams. “[And] continue to be a high-scoring offensive team like we’ve always done and just play exciting basketball for fans and kind of still generate more energy for the WNBA League and I think we have the right tools right now to make that big push for that trophy.”

How does Dallas accomplish this goal?

The Wings revamped their roster through the draft and free agency. Dallas added a dynamic frontcourt presence with the signing of 6-foot-8 center Liz Cambage. 

“Well, she’s a rim-protector,” Williams said of Cambage. “Anytime you have somebody with her size, who can move inside the paint, she’s going to help our perimeter players to gamble a little more around the perimeter and if players start to drive against Liz, I know that she’s either going to alter the shot, block it or get the rebound.”

Not only did the Wings add talent, they also welcome back a roster highlighted by a trio of WNBA All-Stars in Skylar Diggins-Smith, Karima Christmas-Kelly and Glory Johnson.

Expect for reigning WNBA Rookie of the Year, Allisha Gray, to round out the starting rotation according to Williams.

“Around the perimeter pretty much [will be] set the same,” said Williams of the Wings’ starting rotation. “Skylar [Diggins-Smith], [Allisha] Gray and [Karima] Christmas there and then the frontline with [Glory] Johnson and with the addition with Cambage in the middle, I think that solidifies our starting five.

“We play quite a few games early, probably about two or three games in a week. So I’m going to need everyone to be in that mindset of being a starting role.”

The first rotation off the bench looks to be just as integral, if not more, in maintaining energy established by the first rotation.

Kaela Davis, Aerial Powers, Theresa Plaisance and rookie forward Azura Stevens highlight the second unit with 6-foot-7 center Ruth Hamblin adding another rim-protector to the well-stocked roster.

Stevens’ 6-foot-6 frame paired with her potential as a multi-dimensional frontcourt talent creates optimism for many, including Williams.

“She’s a Kevin Durant for me. My ‘Iceman’ back in the day with George Gervin,” Williams said. “So I told her to go look at a lot of footage of them.”

“She has that type of structure to be that type of player. [We] worked with her a little bit more ball-handling wise, she’s one who can play three-dimensionally as a five, four and three player out there. So I look for some great things from her.”

Though Stevens hasn’t been with the team long, her stints at Duke and Connecticut instilled lofty yet honorable expectations for the first-year player.

“I’m expecting for us to win,” Stevens said. “We have a great team and we have a lot of momentum and I’m just excited for what’s to come.”

Stevens’ sentiments were echoed by Diggins-Smith.

After thanking Las Vegas, Chicago, Indiana and Seattle for not selecting Stevens — thus allowing her to fall to Dallas — Diggins had high praise for the young talent before reiterating Stevens’ ultimate goal of success.

“She gets in the gym and she works,” said Diggins of Stevens. “I’ve never had a rookie just come in and tell me, ‘this is what I’m going to do: I’m going to work hard for you.’

“She’s a winner and it’s in her pedigree. It’s just the pedigree and where she comes from. So I think that’s what we all want to do. We’re all competing for a championship, that’s what it is.”

Podcast host and credentialed media member covering Dallas Mavericks and Dallas Wings | Roamed the rapidly growing area of Arlington Texas for the last 25 years. I graduated Texas Tech in 2014 with my Bachelor's degree in Media and Communications and currently obsess over basketball full-time. In my free time, I'm a substitute teacher and also an Uber driver. I've been following the Mavs since Jason, Jimmy and Jamal were young up-and-comers. If you need their last names, please don't ask me.

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