INDIANAPOLIS -- Even with just four players back from the last year's team that reached the Eastern Conference finals, the retooled Indiana Fever are feeling confident.
Newcomers Tamika Whitmore, Anna DeForge and Charlotte Smith have meshed well with returning starters Tamika Catchings and Tully Bevilaqua as the Fever won both of their preseason games.
"There'll be some growing pains, I'm sure,'' Fever coach Brian Winters said. "For the most part, I like what I've seen. We did bring in quite a few new players, but most of them are veteran WNBA players, so they've seen a lot of what we do, either by playing against it or doing it themselves.''
Indiana hosts Detroit on Saturday night on opening day of the league's 10th season.
The Fever beat Charlotte 85-66 and Los Angeles 89-84 in the preseason. Though they were happy with their offensive output, they're trying to keep it in perspective.
"I don't put a ton of faith in what you do in exhibition,'' Winters said. "We didn't play our starters the whole time in the exhibitions and neither did the other teams. Exhibition games, you're probably going to score a few more points and defense isn't quite as good as it's going to be.
But Winters said the team can afford to be more aggressive offensively this season.
"I think there's a few more bullets in the gun as far as getting baskets,'' he said.
DeForge, a shooting guard, averaged 13.1 points a game for the Phoenix Mercury last season. She's a career 37 percent 3-point shooter who is fearless about hoisting shots, something new for a team that traditionally has focused on defense.
"I'm very excited about the move, I'm very excited to be here,'' DeForge said. "I'm excited that Indiana wants me to be a part of what they're trying to do, and that's to win a WNBA championship. I'm just trying to contribute and help this team over that final hump.''
Catchings likes that DeForge is such an accomplished offensive threat who can take pressure off her. With key newcomer Olympia Scott, second-year sparkplug Tan White and a slimmed-down Ebony Hoffman, the Fever boast more quality depth than last year's team. Four players averaged double figures in the preseason games.
"We have more of a balanced offensive attack with this team,'' Catchings said. "Now, instead of one or two people, you've got five people scoring. And our bench is so deep. You can look at every player single player on our bench and they could realistically start for any other teams in the league.''
DeForge also is glad that Catchings is her teammate and not an opponent anymore.
"I remember trying to guard her and just being so beat up after the game,'' DeForge said. "She's amazing to play with. I've played with a lot of great players in my career. Tamika is the most complete player I've played with.''
The Fever will find out whether they've meshed when they play Detroit, a team that starts five All-Stars from last season.
"They're one of the best teams in the league,'' Winters said. "It'll be an interesting test of where we're at and where they're at.''
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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