WNBA

Liberty-Dream Preview

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The Atlanta Dream reached the WNBA finals for the first time last season, and feel they are much improved with the addition of point guard Lindsey Harding.

Along the way they eliminated the New York Liberty, who have a new coach as they remain in search of their first title in the league's 15th season.

The Dream and Liberty open their seasons Sunday with a rematch of the 2010 Eastern Conference finals, as both teams look to begin taking the next step.

Atlanta's third season was its most successful as it won 19 games and swept Washington and New York before being swept by Seattle in the WNBA finals. The Dream realize that past success doesn't guarantee anything a year later.

"It's a lot harder to repeat what you did last year," coach Marynell Meadors said.

The Dream have created a dynamic backcourt with the addition of Harding alongside superstar Angel McCoughtry. Harding was acquired from Washington in a draft-day trade that sent guard Kelly Miller and Atlanta's first-round pick, Ta'Shia Phillips, to the Mystics.

"Lindsey brings speed and quickness to that position, plus she can score," Meadors said. "I think one of the things we really needed to address was our point guard position needed to be able to score."

The Liberty, meanwhile, went 22-12 last season to finish tied for first in the East. They beat Indiana to begin the playoffs before being eliminated by Atlanta.

New York hired a proven winner in John Whisenant to replace departed coach Anne Donovan. He led Sacramento to a WNBA championship in 2005, coaching current Liberty forward Nicole Powell during his tenure with the Monarchs.

"It'll take the entire season to develop the cohesiveness, our defensive philosophy, the team playing to be a champion," Whisenant said. "As we go on each and every week we'll see improvement, and by the time we get to the end of August we'll be making the playoffs."

Cappie Pondexter turned in an outstanding first season in New York, averaging a team-high 21.4 points after coming over from Phoenix. She realizes the team has unfinished business left in 2011.

"We definitely need to pick up where we left off," Pondexter said. "We lost in the conference finals. It left a taste that wasn't really satisfying, so this summer we want to come out and bring great energy."

The Liberty frontcourt is in flux. Veteran center Taj McWilliams-Franklin joined Minnesota in the offseason and Janel McCarville has been suspended for the season because she didn't join the team for training camp.

That could be an issue Sunday since the Liberty were outrebounded in both playoff losses to Atlanta while having major problems containing McCoughtry. McCoughtry averaged 31.5 points in the series, including a spectacular 42-point effort in Game 2.

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