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Fever prep for WNBA title defense

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - The defending champion Indiana Fever feel like they are under the radar all over again heading into the WNBA season.

The team brings back 10 players from the 2012 roster and will be trying to become the first repeat champion since the Los Angeles Sparks in 2001-02.

They have exactly been the talk of the league so far.

``After we won, people were like, `Oh, they won.' Kind of shocked,'' Finals MVP Tamika Catchings said Monday at media day. ``Even going into this year, they're looking at Phoenix because Brittney Griner's there. . Chicago Sky because (Elena) Delle Donne's there. . Tulsa to be a lot better because Skylar's (Diggins) is down there. They're not really talking about the Fever, even though we won. I don't feel like we're the hunted team. I do like that.''

Those first three picks of the 2013 draft are already household names. The Minnesota Lynx still feature Maya Moore, Lindsay Whalen, Seimone Augustus and Rebekkah Brunson.

The Fever won't sneak up on anyone, but will still carry an underdog status. Again.

The Fever could have easily rolled over in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals when Katie Douglas tore a tendon in her ankle in the first five minutes. They went on to trounce the No. 1-seeded Connecticut Sun by 16 points. The defending champion Lynx were the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference and significant favorites in the finals, especially with Douglas out for the series. The Fever won in four games.

``It's all right,'' point guard Briann January said. ``We got our time. We got our moment. We worked hard for it and we really embraced it. We took it all in. We gave it that time and now we have to move on. Now we're here to prove ourselves again.''

Catchings now has just about every conceivable achievement - a title, the 2011 MVP award, three gold medals, five defensive MVPs, seven All-Star games and was named the finals MVP. Douglas, a four-time All WNBA selection, is not 100 percent back from ankle surgery, but expects to be in the next couple weeks.

The core group of January, Shavonte Zellous, Erlana Larkins, Jessica Davenport and Erin Phillips are championship tested. Coach Lin Dunne also expects contributions from the last three first-round picks in Layshia Clarendon, Sasha Goodlett and Jeanette Pohlen.

``Nobody really cares what you did last year. The question is what are you doing right now?'' Dunn said. ``What are you preparing to do for the future? We're trying to stay focused on the moment. I think the hunger's there, but you don't want it to be there too soon. You don't want to peak in training camp. It's a process. It's a journey where you get better every day.''

Later Monday, the Fever said forward Shyra Ely-Gash will miss the season after rupturing her right Achilles tendon - her third season-ending injury in four years. Ely-Gash, who missed last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, was signed to a training camp contract in February. In her last healthy season, Ely-Gash averaged 3.1 points and 2.2 rebounds in 33 games for the Fever in 2011.

The Fever open the regular season at San Antonio on May 24.

Copyright 2018 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.
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