Shortly after a Dallas Wings practice at their home stadium in Arlington, Texas, Natasha Howard sits in the stands, reflecting and absorbing the atmosphere before the madness of the playoffs. As an accomplished 10-year WNBA veteran, Howard felt her new team was on the cusp of something special.
“I have a feeling, deep in my soul,” Howard said when asked if this is the year the Wings finally get past the first round. “I think we can go far in the playoffs. I see us as a team that, together, no one can beat us. We have so many weapons. “We have so many people who can play any position on the team.”
Howard played and won three WNBA championships. The Wings have never advanced beyond the first round of the playoffs since moving to the city in 2016. But their veteran status has been essential as the Wings head into Tuesday’s game against the Atlanta Dream with a chance to close out the series.
Howard, 32, is gaining ground in many ways in Dallas despite his extensive resume. She is among the league’s statistical leaders in several categories and will also star in the VH1 reality show “Basketball Wives” as part of the first LGBTQ couple.
She’s starting to think about her legacy, but is quick to point out that she’s not ready to hang up her playing cleats just yet. She still wants to win the MVP award before she’s done. She has signed through 2024 with the Wings and has shared that she would love to finish her career in Dallas.
“I am happy here. I’m blooming like a flower even more since I got here. Sure I’m thinking about my legacy but I still have goals. MVP is the main thing,” she said. “I want to win the MVP. I have everything else, the only thing I haven’t gotten since I’ve been in the league so it will always be on my list. But in the end, my legacy will speak loudly and for itself.”
HOW ABOUT NATASHA HOWARD!!!!! pic.twitter.com/0cz7gUNmJX
– Dallas Wings (@DallasWings) July 26, 2023
An unfortunate injury to her teammate opened an opportunity for Howard that changed the course of her WNBA career.
Fresh off winning the 2018 championship with the Seattle Storm in her second season, Howard was thrust into the spotlight after teammate Breanna Stewart tore her Achilles tendon playing overseas and missed the entire season. of 2019.
“I had to step forward. He had an important role to play,” Howard says. “I knew I was capable of doing that, and it was just the moment I needed to prove it to everyone. “I made the most of that time.”
She had a great season that year, being named to her first All-Star Game, landing on the All-Defensive first team for the second time and winning the Defensive Player of the Year award.
Howard, a 6-foot-2 forward selected fifth overall in 2014 by the Indiana Fever, had yet to achieve legitimate recognition or stardom despite having been to three WNBA Finals and won a championship. An unfortunate injury of hers allowed her to spread her wings and show the basketball world who Natasha Howard was.
“I wasn’t afraid at all,” he said. “I knew I was capable of doing this. I took control of that moment and just ran with it and that was the moment to spread my wings and I did. I spread them wide and large.
“If I hadn’t had that moment there, I wouldn’t be here.”
“Here” acts as a mentor and veteran leader to the young Wings. “Here” he is taking advantage of another opportunity and another challenge, one that is especially suited for this moment in his career.
Since being acquired by the Wings earlier this year in an offseason trade from the New York Liberty, Howard has become the voice the Wings needed. She brings a wealth of experience, including three WNBA titles, with the Minnesota Lynx (2017) and Storm (2018, 2020), and plenty of playoff experience. She has been to the playoffs nine of her 10 years in the league and has played in 49 postseason games. When the Wings opened Game 1 of their first-round series against the Dream, Howard became the second player in league history to play at least one postseason game with five different franchises.
His physicality, defense, interior scoring and versatility suited the Wings well and helped propel them to fourth place. The Wings finished the regular season as the third-highest scoring team (87.9 points per game) in the W. Dallas ranks first in the WNBA in rebounds (38.7 per game) and is the only team to average two digits in offensive rebounds (11.8). . The Wings also lead the league in second-chance points (14.8), fast break points (13.1) and points in the paint (42.3).
“Being a veteran, using my voice, showing them the ropes and that this is what it takes to become a top-four seed has helped,” Howard said. “Just the experience of being in these situations, winning three championships… I know what it takes.
Howard, known around the league as “Flash,” logged a career-high 33 minutes and 2.6 assists per game. He posted his second-highest average in points (16.5) and rebounds (eight). Howard finished with 12 double-doubles, eighth most in the league, and ranked 13th in rebounds per game.
He recorded his first career triple-double (28 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists) against the Chicago Sky last month. Howard (28 points), Satou Sabally (26 points) and Arike Ogunbowale (25 points) became the second trio of teammates in WNBA history to score at least 25 points in the same game in July against the Los Angeles Sparks.
“The championship mentality she brings is huge and the way Dallas uses her on both ends of the floor,” said Andraya Carter, ESPN basketball analyst. “Her leadership role in terms of setting the example of playing the right way, and it’s that veteran piece that certainly makes the difference. … Natasha has played with some of the best (players) we have ever met. When you think about how versatile Stewie is and that Natasha was able to play with Stewie for so many years in Seattle, I think that also helps her playing with Satou.”
Howard’s role as a mentor to the Wings’ younger players has also been invaluable. “I think having a vet as seasoned, experienced and good as Natasha is huge and I’m very lucky,” teammate Maddy Siegrist said.
Howard takes her role as a veteran voice and mentor in the locker room seriously. She calls Siegrist “Flash 2.0.”
“I’m passing the torch,” Howard said. “Well, not yet, but I’m getting to that point and I’m just trying to help the next generation the best way I can.”
“It’s definitely a compliment to be called that. He has really taken me under his wing,” Siegrist said. “She gives me advice and she tells me to be more aggressive on the court. “That has really helped my confidence and definitely my adjustment.”
Howard says she’s been successful by staying true to herself through hills and valleys.
“Even though I didn’t get a lot of playing time when I came (to the league), I was very patient. “I was always the first one in the gym, the last one out of the gym, working out, lifting weights, to be in those positions and try to get that starting spot and it paid off when I went to Seattle,” she said. “My game was elevated a lot and having the right people in my circle, development coaches to guide me and push me to be the person and player I am today.”
Although Howard has shown the world who she is on the court, many will finally get the chance to see a more personal side of Howard when she and her fiancé Jac’Eil Duckworth join the cast of “Basketball Wives,” which traditionally focuses in NBA players. ‘Wives and girlfriends.
To be honest, being a pioneer feels good,” she said. “You would never expect that to happen; in fact, I’m putting the spotlight on the WNBA and the LGBTQ community.”
Howard also spends her time as stepmom to 13-year-old Prince and enjoys playing video games, writing beats, and cooking in her spare time. She even makes S’mores and cooks lasagna for the Wings.
She said she is motivated by living in a daily state of gratitude and positivity. She is known on social media for sharing and tweeting Bible verses that her stepmother sends her every morning. “You never know, someone might need to see it,” she says.
On the court, Howard is determined to make believe the WNBA fans who have long watched the Wings fail to get over the playoff hurdle.
“I’m very excited about what we’ve accomplished as a team,” she said. “Many people doubted us. But we accepted the system, we stuck together through adversity and that’s a good thing. “We are all very excited.”
Ten things you should know before watching ‘The Saint of Second Chances’ on Netflix
(Natasha Howard Photo: Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images)
#brink #historic #WNBA #playoffs #reality #show #debut #Wings #star #Natasha #Howard #thriving #Dallas