WNBA free agency starts with 23 unrestricted free agents

NEW YORK (AP) WNBA free agency kicked off Thursday with stars such as Tamika Catchings available. Yet like in most other years, don’t expect many major moves.

Catchings will re-sign with the Fever once she is able to on Feb. 1.

”We have plans to re-sign her, she’ll finish her career in a Fever uniform,” said Indiana Fever president and general manager Kelly Krauskopf of the franchise’s star who said she’ll retire after the 2016 season.

”She’s a household name here in Indy. We’ve always talked about three iconic athletes in the city of Indianapolis known by their first name, Peyton, Tamika and Reggie. She’s been an ambassador for all that is good in sports and all that is good in winning, she’s been a huge part of everything.”

Catchings later confirmed to The Associated Press that she’ll stay with the Fever.

”I’m really excited about finishing my career here in Indy with the Fever franchise,” Catchings wrote in an email. ”I’ve had a great career thus far and am anxious for many more great years with this franchise – on and off the court. The Pacers and Fever organization has been great to me, my family, my fans and my Catch the Stars Foundation. I’m proud to be an `adopted’ Hoosier.”

While Catchings will play her final two years in Indiana, there are 22 other unrestricted free agents out there for teams to try and sign.

Penny Taylor and Erin Phillips, who helped the Phoenix Mercury win the WNBA title this past season are available as well as Allie Quigley – the league’s sixth person of the year who was instrumental in getting the Chicago Sky to the finals.

They too most likely will end up staying where they are. Unlike the NBA which saw teams court LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony this past offseason, top WNBA players don’t change teams very often through free agency.

Other unrestricted free agents who can sign with new teams starting Feb. 1, include Swin Cash, Monique Currie, Ebony Hoffman, DeLisha Milton-Jones and Candice Wiggins.

”Free agency is more about trying to find the Allie Quigleys of the world,” said new Los Angeles Sparks coach Brian Agler. ”We drafted her out of college and brought her back once or twice (in Seattle). It’s a lot tougher to get superstars in free agency with the way the system is structured.”

Over the past few years only a handful of major players have changed teams in free agency. WNBA greats Tina Thompson and Katie Smith did, both ended up moving a few times late in their careers.

However, each saw their original franchise either fold or move. Had that not happened, odds are they would have stayed put. Agler had both of them play for him when he was coach of the Storm.

”We were fortunate to get those two, but this league is more about building through draft picks and trades,” he said.

Part of the lack of movement is due to financial constraints so there never really can be a bidding war for a player’s service. The league knows a more active free agency period could draw more interest from the casual fan.

”Everyone agrees that if there was more player movement it would create more excitement in the offseason,” Connecticut Sun CEO Mitchell Etess said.

”It gives people things to look forward to in the new season. There was a lot of discussion at the board of governors’ level. It’s very complicated legally, but I think the reality is everyone is focused on that.”

Besides the financial constraints, teams also tend to designate a franchise player for a year. Candace Parker, Sylvia Fowles, Erika de Souza and DeWanna Bonner were given that designation for this upcoming year.

”Big-named players typical get cored which in some degree is helpful for a lot of franchises as a growing league to have that continuity in your market,” Krauskopf said. ”You can tag a player you can build your team around. The downside of that is that there isn’t that major player movement that might draw in the casual fan.”

Follow Doug on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/dougfeinberg