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Renee Montgomery wants to build the Atlanta Dream ‘the right way’

Renee Montgomery represents the Dream during the WNBA Draft Lottery in December. (Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE via Getty Images)

Atlanta Dream co-owner Renee Montgomery has adopted a vision for the revamped Dream that transcends the WNBA and even the gym.

While mingling with hundreds of Atlanta-based youth athletes for a day of drills, games and giveaways at Gateway Arena on Saturday, Montgomery had a moment of clarity for her long-term approach to the Dream’s rebuild inside and outside of competition.

“We don’t want to just only excel on the court — we want to excel in the community, we want to excel as an organization,” Montgomery told Just Women’s Sports during The DICK’S Sporting Goods Foundation’s Sports Matter Giving Truck #SportsMatterDay. “I love what DICK’s is doing getting in at the ground level, ages six through 18 are here, so that’s a large range of teenagers, kids, people that are trying to stay in sports, people that are trying to figure out if they want to be in sports.”

That ground-up approach has become familiar within the Dream organization.

A year after real estate developer Larry Gottesdiener bought the Dream from former owners Kelly Loeffler and Mary Brock, forming an ownership group with Montgomery and Suzanne Abair, the team overhauled its front office and roster this offseason.

“Everything’s new, literally everything is new, but that’s how you start over and that’s how you build,” said Montgomery, the first former WNBA player to become part owner of a franchise. “We wanted to build from the ground up and build a foundation, and so that was our whole intention this offseason.”

Atlanta finished second-to-last in the WNBA last season with an 8-24 record and missed the playoffs for the third consecutive season. It didn’t take long for Montgomery and the ownership group to start making their mark on the team’s direction.

In September, the Dream hired former NFL executive Morgan Shaw Parker as their President and COO. The next month, they named former WNBA player and Las Vegas Aces assistant coach Tanisha Wright as head coach. A couple of weeks later, they made arguably the biggest coup of all, hiring two-time WNBA Executive of the Year Dan Padover away from the Las Vegas Aces to serve as the team’s general manager.

“When we got the team last year, it was about 45 days before the season started, and we couldn’t really put our imprint on the team how we wanted to,” Montgomery said. “But now, a year later, we are really starting to see the Atlanta Dream we wanted to be.”

A critical element in the Dream’s rebuild this season is rookie Rhyne Howard, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2022 draft. Long considered to be one of the most pro-ready players in this year’s draft class, Howard led Kentucky to new heights and is already showing what she can bring to Atlanta, scoring 15 points on 50 percent shooting in her preseason debut.

The Dream also nabbed Michigan star forward Naz Hillmon with the 15th pick on draft night after she unexpectedly fell to the second round.

“We started out with the No. 1 pick with Rhyne Howard, and then we got the steal of the draft with Naz Hillmon, who has a motor, is a workhorse,” Montgomery said. “We were ecstatic. As it was getting closer and closer to our pick, we were holding our breath, and so really excited to get who we wanted to get.”

Montgomery believes Howard and Hillmon will be good fits on the court and in the locker room, where the Dream also have some rebuilding to do after a tumultuous 2021.

Last July, the Dream indefinitely suspended former No. 4 draft pick Chennedy Carter after an incident during a game against the Aces, which was later reported to be a verbal argument between Carter and Courtney Williams. As the episode hung over the team, Williams was at the center of a video that surfaced in October showing her and teammate Crystal Bradford throwing punches outside of an Atlanta club. The WNBA later suspended Williams and Bradford for their role in the fight, and all three players have since left the Dream.

With many new faces and more time to build, Montgomery is eager for Wright to make her mark on the team’s culture.

“Our goal was just to build a culture here with the Atlanta Dream, so we want great players, but we want great players that are also going to be aligning with our same views and values,” she said.

Atlanta hopes a fresh philosophy will lead to a better finish this season. Montgomery, however, isn’t letting the immediate results cause her to lose sight of the long-term mission.

“Of course we want to win, but for me, it’s how we are playing, how we are building this thing. Is there growth every week? Are we staying in the same spot? Those are the kind of things that I am looking to see from our team,” she said. “The wins and losses are going to take care of themselves at a certain point, but right now, we have to build this thing the right way.”

The Dream will play their final preseason game on Sunday against the Connecticut Sun before kicking off their regular season against the Wings in Dallas on May 7.

“I want people to understand that this is going to be a completely different experience than people have experienced before with the Atlanta Dream,” Montgomery said. “We really just expect people to visibly see the difference in what we are trying to build here with the Atlanta Dream.”

Clare Brennan is an Associate Editor at Just Women’s Sports.

Esme Morgan Signs With Washington Spirit

Esme Morgan of England inspects the pitch prior to the UEFA Women's EURO 2025 qualifying match between England and France
The England national will join the Spirit in DC on July 15th. (Naomi Baker - The FA/The FA via Getty Images)

English defender Esme Morgan has signed with the Washington Spirit, the club announced Thursday. 

Morgan had been with WSL side Manchester City since 2017, with one year remaining on her contract. She’ll now make a move to the NWSL, with City receiving a fee for the move. 

"I wanted to join the Spirit because they have the ambition and tools to be the best team in the NWSL, and trying to achieve that will be a great but enjoyable challenge," Morgan said in a club statement.

"On an individual level too, the opportunity to work under Jonatan [Giráldez], one of the world's best coaches, is really exciting and I look forward to learning from him and pushing myself to become the best player I can be, hopefully helping the team to success."

According to ESPN, Morgan’s lack of playing time under City manager Gareth Taylor played a key role in her decision to leave the league championship runners-up. She’ll join the Spirit in Washington, DC on July 15th, but won’t be able to begin play until August. 

Spirit president Mark Krikorian called Morgan an "exceptional talent" and added that the club is "thrilled" to add her to the roster.

"I think she’s pretty talented," Giraldez told reporters on Friday. "A young player with a great future, but with experience already in a great league and with the national team. She’s been surrounded by great players and also great coaches, so she can give us experience."

Ledecky Goes for 4 at Olympic Swimming Trials

Swimmer katie ledecky swimming at Toyota US Open
Decorated swimmer Katie Ledecky is aiming to make her fourth-straight Olympic squad. (Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)

The US Olympic Swimming Trials begin this weekend, running from June 15th through June 23rd in Indianapolis, with Katie Ledecky eyeing her fourth-straight Summer Games.

While traditionally held in Omaha, Indiana's Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the NFL's Indianapolis Colts, has been fitted with a 50-meter pool to host the meet that will determine the 2024 Paris Olympics roster.

All eyes will be on seven-time Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledecky, who will be competing in the 200-meter, 400-meter, 800-meter, and 1500-meter freestyle — all events in which she’s been an Olympic champion. 

Rival Ariarne Titmus had her trials last week, breaking the world record in the 200-meter freestyle. Ledecky’s 200 is intended to qualify her for the Olympic relay. Meanwhile stateside, Katie Grimes stands to be a challenger in the 1500-meter freestyle has already qualified for the Paris Olympics in the 10km open water event.

Other competitors of note include 47-year-old Gabrielle Rose, who stands to become the oldest US Swimming Olympic qualifier in the 100-meter and 200-meter breaststroke.

Additionally, Kate Douglass — an NCAA and World Champion — is a favorite to make her first Olympic team in the 200-meter IM and 200-meter breaststroke. Simone Manuel, an Olympic champion in the 100-meter freestyle, is also looking to make her third-straight Olympics.

Where to watch: The Trials will be streaming all week on Peacock, with later qualifying heats airing live on USA Network and event finals airing in primetime on NBC.

Orlando and Kansas City Shoot for 13 in NWSL Weekend Action

NWSL's T. Chawinga #6 of the Kansas City Current passes the ball during the first half of their game against the Utah Royals FC
The Kansas City Current hopes to extend its NWSL unbeaten streak to 13 with a win over Chicago. (Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

The 13th match weekend is fast approaching in the NWSL, with two season-long unbeaten streaks on the line.

League-leaders Kansas City and Orlando will attempt to survive the weekend with their unbeaten runs intact, as the Current host Chicago on Friday and the Pride travel to North Carolina for Saturday's match.

But while Kansas City and Orlando have been the gold standard this year, they're still a number of wins away from tying Washington's record for longest unbeaten streak in a single NWSL season. In 2021, the Spirit went 20 games without a loss en route to the club's first NWSL championship.

Both Gotham and Louisville are carrying momentum into their matchup on Saturday. Louisville is unbeaten in three games, and they’re looking to finally leapfrog Chicago and claim sixth place in the league standings. Gotham, on a seven-game unbeaten run, is into fifth place.

Portland and Seattle will face off in the Cascadia Clash this weekend, with Golden Boot contender Sophia Smith absent, as the decorated forward was shown a red card last weekend for time-wasting on the bench.

The Reign could use a win against their long-time rivals, as a difficult start has 13th-place Seattle registering only two wins amid nine losses so far this season.

Elsewhere in the league, 2024 expansion teams Bay FC and Utah meet for the first time this weekend, as both look to rise from the bottom half of the standings. And Washington will ride a four-game winning streak into Saturday's game against a San Diego side that's earned two hard-fought draws in recent weeks.

Watch more: "Sophia Smith is INNOCENT!" on The Late Sub with Claire Watkins

WNBA All-Star Voting Starts on June 13th

Phoenix Mercury mascot Scorch waving a 2024 WNBA All-Star flag at a 2023 home game.
Phoenix Mercury will host the 20th-annual All-Star Game on July 20th, 2024. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Voting for the 2024 AT&T WNBA All-Star Game opened at 2 PM ET today and runs through June 29th.

All active WNBA players are eligible to make the All-Star Game, set for July 20th in Phoenix. Unlike previous formats that featured two voted-in All-Star squads, this year’s contest pits a single All-Star team against the already-decided Olympic-bound USA Women’s National Team.

Fans can submit a daily ballot nominating up to 10 athletes via or the WNBA App.

Fan-submitted ballots account for 50% of vote, with the other 50% split equally between current WNBA players and members of the media. The top 10 athletes will automatically make the All-Star Game, with league coaches then voting from a pool of the next 36 to complete Team WNBA’s 12-player roster. The final lineup will be announced on July 2nd.

This year's All-Star Game format presents an opportunity for fans to vote for players they might consider Olympic snubs. Indiana rookie Caitlin Clark and Dallas’s Arike Ogunbawole seem like shoo-ins given the discussion surrounding their Olympic omissions, while Connecticut stars Brionna Jones and DeWanna Bonner are also expected to snag All-Star nods.

And after a career-high 20-point, 10-rebound double-double in last night’s 83-75 loss to the Sun, Chicago rookie Angel Reese could also secure a spot.

Regardless, it won't necessarily be smooth sailing for Team USA, as history has tended to favor the underdog. 

The first USA vs. All-Stars matchup took place in 2021, with the league’s squad humbling the Tokyo Olympians 93-85. With 26 points, Ogunbawole was named All-Star Game MVP after barely missing the Olympic cut. Could she and Clark turn the tables on Team USA this year?

Watch more: "Were Caitlin Clark and Arike Ogunbowale snubbed?" by Expert Adjacent

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