ATLANTA — On Tuesday night in Indiana, the Atlanta Dream will have a chance to reach a significant milestone - with a victory, they'd be halfway toward equaling their win total from last season. In five games.
It's a stark illustration of just how grim things got last year for the Dream, and how swiftly they're turning around now this season.
Atlanta has started the year 3-1 (they went 8-24 last year) with wins over the Dallas Wings, LA Sparks and Indiana Fever. Tuesday night they'll be rematched with the Fever, after beating them on Sunday 85-79.
Fueling the Dream's resurgence is Rhyne Howard, the No. 1 pick in the 2022 WNBA Draft.
The 22-year-old University of Kentucky product has led the Dream in scoring in all three of their wins - including with 33 points in the Sunday victory over Indiana.
She's averaging just under 21 points per game (20.8) - fourth-best in the league - and shooting a Stephen Curry-esque 43.8% from three, with the second-most three-pointers per game in the WNBA.
And she was just named Eastern Conference Player of the Week, the first time the honor was given to a rookie in the first week of her career since Tamika Catchings received it in 2002.
"With 83 points through her first four games, Howard is just the 6th rookie in WNBA history to score 80 in such a span," a WNBA release noted.
The Dream underwent a dramatic overhaul in the offseason following the disappointment of 2021.
The team appointed Tanisha Wright head coach in October, and several of their most significant players from the last few seasons - including center Elizabeth Williams and guard Courtney Williams - are now with other teams. Chennedy Carter, once billed as the future of the franchise, was traded in February after a tumultuous year in Atlanta that saw her suspended for most of the season.
A deep rotation with players including Aari McDonald, last year's No. 3 overall pick, Cheyenne Parker, Erica Wheeler (picked up in the Carter trade), Monique Billings and Nia Coffey have provided solid contributions behind Howard in a formula that's working well so far.