Indiana Fever four-time All-Star Katie Douglas played the first two games of the season back in May, scoring 18 and 17 points. Douglas has not played since due to a bulging disc in her lower back. With just three games left in the regular season, Douglas is ready to play again. But the Fever say the team doctor has not cleared her to return to game action.
"My back feels great," said Douglas after practice Monday. "I've completed my medical rehab. I feel good. I'm ready to play. It's what's best for the team and what the team decides."
Douglas says doctors medically cleared her to play last week. She says she has been practicing for six weeks, the last three weeks with contact and no setbacks. But Fever Head Coach Lin Dunn gave a more guarded answer about Douglas returning to action this season.
"We're running out of time a little bit," said Dunn. "She is day-to-day. She has come a long way. She's had some contact and then we just see how she responds. But I think it's fair to say she's as healthy as she has been since the beginning of the season."
Douglas has averaged 15 points a game in her five seasons with the Fever. The Perry Meridian High School and Purdue University product helped the Fever reach the WNBA Finals last season. But she did not play in the Finals because of an ankle injury suffered in the Eastern Conference Finals. That makes her even more anxious to return for this year's playoffs.
"Having missed the Finals last year, that was devastating to me," said Douglas. "We won. That's amazing and great. But to not experience that was tough for me. As a competitor, that's why I rehabbed and fought to come back. I would love to be out there."
The Fever (15-16) have clinched a playoff spot for the 9th consecutive season, despite a rash of injuries that have forced nine players to miss 107 games. Indiana can clinch the 3rd playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with a win at home over the Washington Mystics Tuesday night at 7:00 p.m. Douglas believes she can still help the team on the court this season.
"I feel like I can," said Douglas. "I've only played two games this year. But I've played 12 other seasons. I think experience is critical in the playoffs. But it's not about me. It's about what's best for the team."
"Katie has meant so much to this franchise," said Fever teammate Tamika Catchings. "One thing I do know about Katie: whether she's on or off the court, she's 100 percent in. Whether she's dressed in street clothes or has a uniform on, she's going to be behind us and I think we all feel that."
"I'm just staying ready, staying positive," said Douglas. "It's up to them at this point. There's no conflict. I'm ready to go if they need me. If not, I'll be what I've been all season, just a voice and presence on the bench, in timeouts and in the locker room."