Cored: Tamika Catchings
Unrestricted Free Agents: Shyra Ely
Restricted Free Agents: Erin Phillips
Reserved: Shannon Bobbitt
Taking no risks whatsoever, the Fever cored Tamika Catchings again. Here it gets a little complicated. In the current collective bargaining agreement (CBA) they introduced a five-time limit for coring. Once a player has played under the core designation for five seasons, teams are no longer allowed to core her. By my count, Catchings has played the last four years as Indiana’s cored player, making this the last time the Fever (or anyone else in the WNBA) would be allowed to core her. Under one reading of the CBA, that also means she’s only allowed to sign a one-year deal (because any longer would take her past the five-time limit). That’s not how I read it, but if she does sign a one-year deal – either through choice or because that’s how the league interprets the rule – 12 months from now could be a scary time for Fever fans. For the first time, the player their team revolves around would be a true unrestricted free agent with open choice about who to play for. Anyway, unless they decide to trade her before potentially losing her for nothing, Catch should be in Indiana for at least the 2012 season.
Shyra Ely might be back, but didn’t exactly set the World on fire in her first season with the Fever. Shannon Bobbitt might get another chance at the minimum while they wait to see how healthy Briann January is after her serious knee injury. Erin Phillips is a more important piece than either Ely or Bobbitt, but might not be around for the first half of the season anyway thanks to Australia’s Olympic preparations. Once she is available, there might be teams willing to pay her more than Indiana would be entirely comfortable with (Washington? LA? Tulsa?). Considering January is meant to be their starter once she’s back in one piece, the Fever probably wouldn’t want to commit too much money to a backup. However, after settling pretty well with the Fever and playing heavy minutes once January went down, I’d expect them to come to an agreement and Phillips to stick around.
Reinforcements would be nice for a team that has so often been very good but not quite good enough to go all the way. With the deals they gave to the likes of Tangela Smith, Tammy Sutton-Brown and Jessica Davenport, they don’t have as much money to throw around in free agency as some others, but there’s still some space available. After Smith’s ugly first year in Indy, a power forward who could save them from constantly going small with Catchings at the 4 might be nice. For example, she’d be a departure from their defensive ethos, but they could use the scoring burst that Charde Houston might provide. Beyond that or a big trade that would blow up part of their roster, it’s hard to see what they’d do that would have much impact. They’ve got two centers in Davenport and Sutton-Brown, presumptive starters at all three perimeter spots who’d be hard to upgrade (January/Phillips, Katie Douglas, Catchings), and a bunch of backups that they’ll be hoping to see improvement from. So it’s likely to be just one meaningful free agent move at most from the Fever, with maybe some filler pickups around the edges.