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Dream hope new roster, chemistry come together quickly

2/7/2008 - WNBA

It's a relatively short season in the WNBA, which means two things are at a premium: avoiding injuries and maintaining chemistry.

It's difficult to do a whole lot about the first one; you hope you're lucky. And coaches just have to do the best they can on the second one. To that end, Atlanta Dream coach and general manager Marynell Meadors talked about what was in her mind during the preparation for the team's expansion draft -- and subsequent trades -- on Wednesday.

"We've done an extensive background check on everybody," Meadors said, sounding a little like she was in the FBI. "You know, as far as being good in the locker room, being good teammates, working hard, being coachable.

"It's sort of like what you do when you recruit in college -- you try to find out as much as you can about them, good points and bad points, and then you weigh everything together."

So did the Dream achieve what they wanted to? There's no way to be sure until the season begins and we see how the new Atlantans play together. But Meadors said she was pretty happy to hear how excited several of her new players sounded when she talked to them Wednesday.

Take Ivory Latta, the former North Carolina Tar Heels guard who was on Detroit's bench last season. Latta is from South Carolina and is pleased with the relocation. She wasn't picked in the expansion draft but is coming via a trade. The Dream selected LaToya Thomas in the draft from Los Angeles, then traded her and the 18th pick in the regular draft to Detroit for Latta.

"I talked to Ivory, and I've never heard someone who was so excited about coming into Atlanta," Meadors said. "She's coming back closer to home. Sylvia Hatchell also called me and told me how excited Ivory was.

"Ivory is a very coachable player and very accomplished. She can help us. She's got a lot of things she needs to work on at this level, but I don't think there will be anybody who will work any harder at that position. Working with Kristin Haynie will help her. I think they complement each other."

Meadors thinks Haynie (drafted from Sacramento) and Latta can expand their production as young guards with Atlanta.

"I wanted to be sure that we were very secure in our point guards and their leadership qualities and how they make people around them better," she said. "I think the two we selected certainly do that, and they can take over games if they need to."

We'll see. Haynie averaged 16 minutes a game last season for the Monarchs, while Latta averaged just more than seven minutes for the Shock. And in Ann Strother (Fever), the Dream hope they have another good shooter. But she averaged just 5.8 minutes a game last season in Indiana.

The proven, veteran guards the Dream got were Betty Lennox (13.4 ppg last season for Seattle) and Iziane Castro Marques (12.3 ppg for the Storm last season).

Lennox can be terrific … but this is her fifth WNBA team. Admittedly, two of the franchises she played for previously are now defunct -- Miami and Cleveland. Meadors thinks Lennox is ready to make the most of another new start after four seasons in Seattle.

The Dream got Castro Marques via a trade. Meadors drafted Roneeka Hodges from Houston, then sent her and the No. 4 pick in the 2008 regular draft to Seattle for Castro Marques and the No. 8 selection in April.

Now, are these good gambles? The Dream were likely to get a very good player at No. 4 … but might still at No. 8. And Meadors is very high on Castro Marques. Provided in this Olympic year she does play for the Dream.

"She's another veteran; I look at her to be one of our leaders, also," Meadors said. "Very talented; she's like the Roadrunner, she's so fast. Just a tremendous player. With Betty Lennox, Izi and Ann Wauters -- if she decides to come back and play this summer -- we've got a pretty good nucleus of veterans. And I think they'll come together pretty fast."

Wauters? She has been "with" the New York Liberty -- kind of -- since 2004. According to the WNBA's Web site, Wauters has played 41 games for New York since 2004. So who really knows if she plans on actually making an appearance in Atlanta.

She was the league's top draft pick back in 2000, and certainly has the capacity to be an important player for the Dream. But she's another "wait-and-see."

More certain in the big-woman department is Katie Feenstra, the 6-foot-8 post taken in the draft from Detroit. She has averaged 7.3 points in her career, and Meadors thinks she's ready to really step forward.

"We wanted to have some size -- I know how it is to play without that or without very much of it," Meadors said. "Katie Feenstra has turned into one of the better post players in the league, and her work ethic is just so good.

"She's been working out with Bill Laimbeer and Rick Mahorn in the off-season, rather than going overseas and playing. She thought it was better to stay there and work on her skills and do some community work for them.

"She has a very strong passion for the game and a very good knowledge of the game. Katie wants to be a dominant player in the league, and she's certainly working in that direction."

Other post players Meadors picked up were Carla Thomas from the Sky, Erika DeSouza (Sun), Kristen Mann (Lynx), Jennifer Lacy (Mercury) and Yelena Leuchanka (Mystics).

"We're pretty stacked up with post players and we have three [wings]," Meadors said. "And we should have a chance to get better in April."

Mechelle Voepel of The Kansas City Star is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. She can be reached at mvoepel123@yahoo.com.