A few weeks ago, I chatted with Atlanta guard Nikki Teasley about coming back to the WNBA after missing last season on maternity leave.
One of the things we discussed was how surprised she was that fellow North Carolina graduate Ivory Latta had been cut from the team before the season began.
“When I received that phone call, I stopped everything. I was in total shock that happened,” Teasley said of hearing the news then about Latta. “She’s done so much for the city and the organization. But at the same time, I have faith in the organization that they made the right decision and they are going to do what’s best for the team.
“Ivory is a great player and an even better person. I really think she’s going to continue to be a great player in this league. She’s going to get her opportunity. Sometimes when things happen in life, it’s not always like we want, but it’s going to work out the way it’s supposed to. I encourage her to stay focused and continue to work out, and she’ll be picked up somewhere, I’m sure.”
How weird is it to read all that now? It’s downright creepy. Because on Friday, Latta did indeed get another chance to play in the WNBA – at the expense of Teasley. The Dream opted to waive Teasley, who turned 30 in March, and bring back Latta, who doesn’t turn 25 until September. Considering the wear and tear on players’ bodies, especially those who play overseas, five or six years can make a difference.
Teasley had started all 10 of the Dream’s games this season prior to Friday, averaging 3.9 points and a team-best 3.5 assists. Then after she was waived, Coco Miller started Friday night’s 72-65 victory against Washington. Latta played just over a minute against the Mystics and didn’t score.
So how does someone go from a starter to being cut from the team? It’s definitely odd, but consider that it happened to both Latta (starting almost all last season and being cut at the start of this year) and Teasley.
At what point this season did Atlanta coach/GM Marynell Meadors start worrying she had made a big mistake about her backcourt? Did it take a while before she could bring herself to admit it? Or is she now pulling the plug on Teasley too soon?
Teasley went through some rough times when she at North Carolina, redshirting one season to deal with depression and anxiety. But she came back to finish her career for the Tar Heels, then was an important part of the Los Angeles Sparks’ 2002 WNBA title team during her rookie season.
When I spoke with Teasley last month, she talked about how her 1-year-old daughter had helped her become a better person, and how much she’d enjoyed playing in Spain this past winter – in part because the little girl was with her.
She also mentioned how appreciative she was to be back in the WNBA, because the 11-player roster size forced some very tough decisions.
“It’s unfortunate that so many good players are going to be left out,” she said. “And I feel so bad for them. But it makes it more competitive for each team and puts a lot of pressure on the veterans to do well.”
Again, it’s unsettling to revisit this interview because of how different things are now for Teasley. However, regardless of whatever health/quickness problems she may be dealing with, Teasley could still be of interest to some team that needs point-guard help. Maybe the advice she gave to Latta, she will take to heart herself.
Meanwhile, Latta will be with the Dream at 6 Eastern time as Atlanta visits Indianapolis on Sunday (aka, the day Candace Parker returns for LA.)
The Fever has won a franchise-record seven games in a row and leads the Eastern Conference at 7-2. So is Latta fully ready to jump back into the fire and play multiple minutes against the Fever? Maybe we’ll find out.