The Rundown: Connecticut Sun

News and notes ahead of the Atlanta Dream's season opener.

Atlanta Dream forwards Monique Billings and Kalani Brown interact during a May 1 exhibition vs. Minnesota. (Photo courtesy of Dale Zanine — NBAE via Getty Images)

COLLEGE PARK, Ga. (virtually) — The season is finally here. The Atlanta Dream are tipping off against the Connecticut Sun in a matter of moments.

Welcome to The Rundown.

Location: Gateway Center Arena

Time: 7:30 p.m.

How to watch: Twitter

Starting lineup: Chennedy Carter (1), Courtney Williams (2), Odyssey Sims (3), Tianna Hawkins (4) and Elizabeth Williams (5)

Announcers: Tabitha Turner (PxP), Autumn Johnson (Color)

Odds: Connecticut -3

Dream uniforms: Heroine (White)

1. Filling Cheyenne Parker’s absence

The Atlanta Dream will be without one of its starters Friday night after forward Cheyenne Parker tested positive without symptoms for Covid-19. Parker admitted to be the only Dream player who chose not to receive a vaccination.

“She’s a really good player and is a part of our size,” Atlanta interim head coach Mike Petersen said at 6:15 p.m. ahead of the game. “It’s not ideal. She was going to start at one of the post spots. We’ll adjust.”

Tianna Hawkins, another new addition to the franchise, will start in Parker’s place. Petersen said Atlanta will miss Parker’s size and defensive presence against the Sun — notably against Jonquel Jones and other post players.

“It’s part of the deal,” Petersen said.

2. The importance of having Tiffany Hayes on the radar

Along with Parker, Atlanta opens its season without franchise veteran guard Tiffany Hayes. She returned to the team at the end of training camp after winning a championship in Spain with Perfumerías Avenida.

Hayes has been cleared to return to the team and watched a recent practice, Petersen said. He did not discern whether Hayes would be in attendance on Friday night, but a source said earlier in the week that Hayes could do so.

“It’s gonna be awesome when she gets cleared and can practice,” Petersen said. “Tiff is a special player, and adding her to this group will make us that much better. It’ll come together pretty quickly.”

Hayes averaged 14.7 points per game in 2019 before opting out of the 2020 season.

3. Keys to the game

Petersen called it the “cliché of the week.” He said if Atlanta plays well it can be a problem, but can have a lot of problems if it doesn’t. At the opening tip against Connecticut, his mantra comes into play.

“If we don’t create pace, we have no chance,” Petersen said. “If Connecticut can settle in, it’s a problem for us.”

Petersen said that he wants his team to focus on the scoreboard this season, after the Dream finished 7-15 a season ago in the Bradenton, Fla. bubble.

“Scoreboard matters,” Petersen said. “If it didn’t, God wouldn’t have invented numbers or scoreboards.”

In the opening stretch of the season, however, Petersen is taking a page from the Philadelphia 76ers by indicating it’s about “the process” for the Dream. Atlanta features a lot of new and youthful pieces.

He asks the following questions when laying out said process: “Are we playing the right way? Are we focused? Is there attention to detail?”

Petersen is hopeful that Atlanta can come out with an important victory, but the routine remains the same regardless of the result.