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Monday, September 17, 2012
Douglas, Indiana ready for playoffs

By Mechelle Voepel
espnW

Katie Douglas
Katie Douglas and the Fever have already locked up a spot in the playoffs.

During her time playing for the Connecticut Sun, Katie Douglas caught some of the spirit of New England. She added Red Sox fandom to the lifetime of devotion to the Cubs, Colts and Pacers that she'd developed as an Indianapolis native.

Oh, but she also appreciates the Miami Heat, too … which is comforting to her considering the current state of some of her other favorites.

"I have a team that brought me up this year," Douglas said in regard to the NBA champion Heat. "Although definitely the Cubs and the Red Sox are dragging me down."

The thing is, if you're a Katie Douglas fan, you really haven't had much in the way of "down years." Douglas has mostly had success -- and a lot of it. In college at Purdue, she won one national championship and went to another Final Four.

Orlando didn't go to the WNBA playoffs in her first two seasons in the league. But since that franchise moved to Connecticut, it has been nothing but trips to the postseason for Douglas.

Tamika Catchings
Tamika Catchings is the reigning WNBA MVP and won a gold medal this summer with Team USA.

She went to the playoffs five seasons with the Sun, and this year will be her fifth consecutive trip with her hometown Indiana Fever.

Ten years in a row of at least being in the hunt for a WNBA championship. That's quite a career, and Douglas isn't close to being done. She turned 33 in May and seems to be playing as well as ever this season.

Douglas is averaging 16.4 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.2 assists. But when you ask her about being an MVP candidate, all she talks about is the player she'd pick for that award: her teammate Tamika Catchings, who won the honor last season.

"She'd be first on my ballot, but I don't have a ballot," Douglas said. "She does everything for us offensively, defensively, leadershipwise. She's our MVP. She was well overdue for that award last year, and I'd love for her to repeat that this year."

Indeed, Catchings -- who also turned 33 this summer -- has splendid stats: 17.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. But now in their fifth season together, Catchings and Douglas are even more a combined "institution" in the league.

You can't get WNBA fans to agree completely on anything. However, you'd surely get a strong majority if you asked most neutral fans which veterans they'd most like to see win a championship. It would be Catch and KT.

"It does weigh heavily on me, but at the same time I put it in perspective," Douglas said of not getting a WNBA title so far. "You don't want it to be your only focus, because then you kind of lose sight of every day.

"But it is a lot of pressure I put on myself, and that we as a team have, to win a championship. Our goal isn't just to make the playoffs here in Indiana. I'm not getting any younger, and Catch isn't getting any younger. But we're playing good basketball, and I definitely feel like we're in the mix."

The Fever have made the playoffs now for eight seasons in a row. Over in the Western Conference, Seattle has been in the postseason for nine consecutive years. But the Storm's dynamic duo of Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird has two WNBA titles. It doesn't make them less hungry to win another championship, but they can't quite feel as ravenous as Catchings and Douglas.

You can say this is a worn-out storyline. Yet the only reason it feels that way is because Indiana keeps giving itself these chances each year. Give the Fever credit: Maybe they haven't walked through the door yet, but they continue to knock on it.

I feel like I'm extremely comfortable with this team. I see some similarities to last year, and now that we've made the playoffs, anything can happen.

-- Indiana's Katie Douglas

And especially in a 2012 season with several situations around the WNBA that appear somewhat unpleasant and/or overwrought with drama, the Fever's calm consistency is important to appreciate.

"I feel like I'm extremely comfortable with this team," Douglas said. "I see some similarities to last year, and now that we've made the playoffs, anything can happen."

Indiana was the top seed in the East last year, which is something the Fever are still trying to eke out this season. Indy is two games back of first-place Connecticut but has four games left to the Sun's two.

One of those is a head-to-head matchup, as the Fever meet the Sun in Connecticut on Wednesday. Before that, though, Indy travels to Minnesota on Monday night. The Fever's other games are at Washington, the East's last-place team, and at home against Tulsa, which is no longer in the West's basement now that Phoenix has gone belly-up to close out the season.

After playing the Fever, Connecticut closes out the regular season Sunday at home against Atlanta. So the odds would favor the Sun finishing first in the East. But Douglas says the most important thing is that the Fever at least have a chance to win it all again.

She thinks Indiana and coach Lin Dunn took good advantage of the Olympic break, when Catchings was away winning gold with the U.S. team.

"I think everyone came out of the break refreshed," Douglas said. "The WNBA can be a grind on you mentally, and the break helped us clear our minds."

Guard Briann January, who played just 10 games in 2011 before suffering a season-ending knee injury, has started all but five games this year. She's the only Fever player besides Catchings and Douglas who is scoring in double digits (10.2 ppg).

The Fever are getting contributions off the bench, too, including from interior players such as Jessica Davenport and Erlana Larkins. Their numbers might be small, but they're doing what Indiana needs.

Ultimately, a lot still comes down to -- as always -- Catchings and Douglas. They have a little different dynamic, though, because Catchings has played the power forward (or 4) position so much this season.

"I didn't know what to expect or how we were going to play off each other," Douglas said. "But I've found it really easy. We had worked so well together on the wings at the 2 and 3 spots. But this year, I feel like we're doing even better, creating different mismatches.

"Certainly by now, after playing together so long, we don't have to say too much, just look at each other. But we can run a lot of pick-and-roll stuff now, her and I. She's able to create more, and I like the situations that we're in. We're able to be in the two-man game a lot more together now."

When Douglas says "anything can happen" in the playoffs, she knows that isn't always good. Take last year, when Catchings was injured in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals against Atlanta and was hobbled for the deciding third game.

"It was devastating," Douglas said. "There was no way we were able to play at full strength without her. We didn't have anybody to fill her shoes."

You could say the same about Douglas, though. She has always defied labels and generally just is whatever type of player her team needs her to be.

Once again in 2012, she and the Fever are headed to the postseason.

And as for the Cubs and Red Sox … well, there's only so much even Douglas can do.