A new city, new expectations, and a new look on the court defined the 2015 offseason for the Dallas Wings franchise.
In summer of 2015, the WNBA announced the Tulsa Shock would move to Arlington, TX and become the Dallas Wings, the first WNBA team to play in the nation’s fourth-largest metropolitan area. The Wings also announced they would play at College Park Center in the middle of the UT-Arlington campus starting in 2016.
The team brought new excitement to the basketball scene in Dallas, with a roster of core veterans, young superstars, and a fan base ready to make some noise.
THE NEW HOME TEAM
DFW would welcome superstars Skylar Diggins, Glory Johnson, and Plenette Pierson, as well as hometown standout Odyssey Sims in the following months after the team’s announcement, along with veterans Karima Christmas, Courtney Paris, Jordan Hooper, and Theresa Plaisance.
Newly appointed general manager Greg Bibb made the first splash of the offseason by trading all-star guard Riquna Williams and the team’s 2016 first round draft pick to the Los Angeles Sparks for guard Erin Phillips, the fifth pick of the 2016 WNBA Draft, and its 2017 first round draft pick.
Bibb made headlines again two weeks later by signing Diggins to an extension that would keep her in a Wings uniform through 2019.
Bibb and head coach Fred Williams solidified the roster in April by selecting Michigan State forward Aerial Powers with LA’s pick in the draft and adding center Ruth Hamblin from Oregon State in the second round.
The team finally took to the court one month later, beating the Indiana Fever on the road in the season opener. In a strong second half, the Wings outscored the Fever by 14 to win 90-79. Plenette Pierson would set the tone with a 17-point performance, the first of seven times this season that the 14-year veteran forward would lead the team in scoring. Pierson, a year removed from her first career All-Star appearance in 2015, moved to 28th all-time in WNBA scoring and surpassed the 4,000 career point mark during an August matchup with Phoenix.
Dallas continued its strong start to the season by winning three of its first four games, including two on the road. The run was highlighted by an 82-77 win over the San Antonio Stars in front of a sellout crowd in the Wings’ inaugural home opener, led by Irving-native Odyssey Sims’ 23-point night. Sims finished the season as the team’s leading scorer, averaging 14 points per game.
The Wings would finish the season playing in front of over 90,000 basketball fans at College Park Center. Wings fans provided an electrifying atmosphere throughout the year, including a 100-90 win over the Phoenix Mercury in a national television broadcast, and an 84-81 win over the New York Liberty in the final home game of the season.
In a year plagued by injuries, the Wings played only 12 games (out of 34) with a full roster available. Three players- Karima Christmas, Odyssey Sims, and Courtney Paris- appeared in all 34 games, and Christmas was the only player to start all 34.
In her fourth year with the franchise, Christmas turned in the best season of her career, averaging 12.4 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game. After recording only one double-double in her first five seasons, Christmas reached that mark in four games this year.
The Wings hit their stride midway through June with a four-game win streak, highlighted by an 117-111 triple-overtime victory over the Phoenix Mercury. In her first major appearance since returning from a knee injury that sidelined her for most of 2015, Skylar Diggins scored 27 in the win, along with 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and a perfect 8-8 from the free throw line.
Dallas wrapped up the first half of the season with a 77-74 win over the Phoenix Mercury at College Park Center on July 5. With 23 points and 22 rebounds in the win, forward Glory Johnson became the 11th player to record a ’20-20’ game in WNBA history. In limited action this season, Johnson led the team with 8.9 rebounds per game.
Due to the injuries throughout the year, the Wings took on a ‘next man up’ mentality as the season wore on. Midseason addition Tiffany Bias provided a scoring spark off the bench in 10 appearances, as did forward and three-point threat Jordan Hooper. No one exemplified this mindset more than forward Theresa Plaisance. Plaisance missed five games this season with an ankle injury but worked her way into the starting lineup in the final weekend of the season where she scored a career-high 22 points in a loss at Connecticut.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
The Wings had much to celebrate in 2016- an inaugural season in DFW, exciting highlights on the court, and Coach Fred Williams’ 100th career
win-but Dallas will look to the offseason to bounce back from this year’s 11-23 record. Dallas has two picks in the first round of the upcoming 2017 WNBA Draft, one of which is guaranteed to be in the top four.
With their returning superstars, developing young talent, and a healthy roster, the Wings have the opportunity to fly high next season in the competitive WNBA.