Last season’s worst team, Dream score most of any team in opener

9:30 PM ET


CloseMechelle Voepel covers the WNBA, women’s college basketball, and other college sports for espnW. Voepel began covering women’s basketball in 1984, and has been with ESPN since 1996.

The Atlanta Dream finished last in the WNBA and had the league’s worst offense last season, but on Sunday, they scored the most points (105) of any WNBA team on opening weekend in Bradenton, Florida.

The Dream also had the weekend’s individual high scorer, forward Monique Billings (30), and the top rookie scorer, guard Chennedy Carter (18).

“We scored 105 points. That was almost, like, a two-game total for us a year ago,” Atlanta coach Nicki Collen said of the 105-95 victory over Dallas. “The reason we get shots is because of our pace. Chennedy puts pressure on the defense off the bounce.”

Carter was the No. 4 pick in April’s draft out of Texas A&M. Because she turns 22 this year, she was eligible to leave college after her junior season for the draft. The 21-year-old not only led all rookies in scoring this weekend but also led them in assists, with eight. Carter was most known for her scoring at Texas A&M, where she averaged 22.5 points in her three seasons, but she says she’s proud of her playmaking skills, too.

“I think I’m a little bit underrated in my passing ability,” said Carter, who averaged 4.1 assists for Texas A&M. “So for me to go out there and find my teammates and them finish and hit on all cylinders, it makes me look better as a point guard. And us look better as a group. We put in a lot of work in training camp, and I’m starting to really know them.”

Billings, a third-year pro out of UCLA, had a career-high scoring game after averaging 4.4 points in her first two seasons. Her previous WNBA best was 16 points. She also had 13 rebounds on Sunday. According to ESPN Stats & Info, she is the third player in WNBA history to open her season with a double-double that involved scoring 30 or more points.

“Mo put in the work,” Collen said of the 6-foot-4 Billings, who was a second-round pick, at No. 15 overall, by the Dream in 2018. “Nobody worked harder in the offseason, during quarantine. She’s always played with a ton of energy. Mentally, she was saying today, ‘I’m so ready for this moment.’ She is going to excel in a game that is high-tempo.”

The Dream remade much of their roster after finishing 8-26 in 2019 and being last in scoring (71.2 PPG), field-goal percentage (37.1) and 3-point percentage (29.0). Angel McCoughtry, the face of the franchise since 2009, left as a free agent in February. Two starters, Renee Montgomery and Tiffany Hayes, opted out of this WNBA season, leaving Atlanta with only two returners from 2019: Billings and fellow post player Elizabeth Williams, who had 17 points and seven rebounds Sunday.

Three newcomers to the Dream are not yet with the team: Forward Glory Johnson and center Kalani Brown tested positive for coronavirus when they arrived at IMG Academy in early July and have been in quarantine since. Guard Courtney Williams has not yet arrived because of personal reasons. Even so, the Dream looked strong Sunday, albeit against the team with the youngest average age in the WNBA this season, the Wings.

“This is a team that hasn’t played together for very long and has a lot of new pieces,” Collen said of the Dream. “They’re doing it with heart.”

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