Commentary

Douglas fights way back to Fever

Originally Published: May 2, 2013
By Mechelle Voepel | espnW.com

Katie DouglasRon Hoskins/NBAE/Getty ImagesKatie Douglas and defending champ Indiana tip the season May 24 at San Antonio.

You might wonder whether Katie Douglas perhaps had just a brief moment of regret after Indiana won the WNBA championship last season. After all her years of durability through high school, college and pro ball, how could she have suffered a debilitating ankle injury just before the WNBA Finals that the Fever won? What are the odds of that rotten luck and bad timing?

Then again … if you know much about Douglas, it won't surprise you that, actually, not a single second of angst crossed her mind in that regard.

"At no point was I sad at all; I was really at peace that I was finally part of a WNBA championship team," Douglas said Wednesday, looking ahead to the start of the Fever's 2013 season May 24. "I helped get them there, and my teammates finished it off. They were great.

[+] EnlargeKatie Douglas, Tamika Catchings
AP Photo/Michael ConroyFive seasons after becoming teammates in 2008, Indiana's Katie Douglas and Tamika Catchings finally won their first WNBA title last season.

"I know how to put things in perspective, especially being young and having lost my parents. So in the scheme of things, me not being able to play [in the Finals] is probably not such a big thing. I would have loved to be out there, but I still got to celebrate a championship and enjoy it."

As most fans of women's hoops know, Douglas' parents both died of cancer before she was out of college. She also lost a teammate at Purdue, Tiffany Young, who was killed by a drunk driver. Perspective is, indeed, a strong character trait for Douglas.

So is the ability to find silver linings. The painful injury to her left ankle in October ended her season in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals at Connecticut. It also kept her from being able to play in Poland this winter. But that ended up being perhaps not such a bad thing after all.

"I can say in hindsight, that, when I saw how much swelling and bruising there was, I knew I'd never experienced anything like that in my career," Douglas said, looking back on her mindset after being hurt. "I knew I'd done something significant and it would be totally different, recoverywise, than I'd ever been through.

"I was confident when the doctors were telling me, at first, that I could make a recovery without surgery. But they also said there was a chance I'd need surgery if the rehabilitation didn't go as well, and that's what happened."

Douglas was under contract with Wisla in Poland, but they had to part ways.

We have what it takes to win another championship. It's just going to be tougher, being the hunted. But I look forward to being with my teammates again and getting back to work.

-- Katie Douglas

"I needed more time, and they needed somebody to play, which I understood," she said. "So I came home, did some more rehab, but I hit a plateau. I kept having pain and swelling. It was obvious it wasn't going to be right without surgery.

"I've been very fortunate to play year in and year out. Collegiately, I'd had an ankle surgery, but I did that in the offseason and never missed any playing time. So I really had never been in this situation before. I was out about six months with this ankle."

Douglas had the surgery in late December. Then she did end up playing briefly overseas, in Russia near the end of Dynamo Kursk's season. That was actually a needed confidence-builder in regard to trusting her ankle.

"It was good to get back into the practice mode and game mode," said Douglas, who returned to the United States this week. "And to know that my ankle can withstand the rigors of 5-on-5, and me getting comfortable cutting and doing everything I need to do."

As we've seen with several pro women's hoops players now in their 30s, the years of combining WNBA summer play with fall/winter overseas play have taken a toll. This isn't any surprise; the players themselves predicted it would happen.

Thus, Douglas -- who will celebrate her 34th birthday Tuesday -- sees the "bright side" to her injury this way: She was forced to take time off, and she really needed to do just that.

[+] EnlargeKatie Douglas
Mark L. Baer/US PRESSWIREIndiana's Katie Douglas averaged 16.5 points last season.

"If I didn't have that time, I would have just kept playing and playing and playing," Douglas said. "And I might not be able to play now this [WNBA] season."

Instead, she will indeed be back, and so will all the other key players from the Fever's title team, led by Tamika Catchings. Indiana general manager Kelly Krauskopf had a lot of work to do in the offseason to put all the pieces in place again.

"She understood how important chemistry is," said Douglas, who averaged 16.5 points last season. "We played to one another's strengths, and really had a bond. Kelly recognized that and did a great job of bringing everybody back that was integral.

"We're going to have to renew that bond and chemistry. We have what it takes to win another championship. It's just going to be tougher, being the hunted. But I look forward to being with my teammates again and getting back to work."

Mechelle Voepel joined ESPN.com in 1996 and covers women's college hoops, the WNBA, the LPGA, and additional collegiate sports for espnW.

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