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Indiana signed veteran center Tangela Smith, who won two titles in Phoenix. The Fever lost to the Liberty in the first round of the playoffs, a year after reaching the WNBA finals.

“We want to do what we did in the ‘09 season,” Indiana star Tamika Catchings said. “We definitely have the talent and its all about putting things together.”

Sheryl Swoopes, one of the league’s original players, is back this season after sitting out two years. Swoopes signed with Tulsa in March after being recruited by Shock assistant coach Teresa Edwards to bring veteran leadership to a team that finished 6-28 in its first season after moving from Detroit.

“I didn’t pick the team, the team picked me,” the 40-year-old Swoopes said. “I really wasn’t looking to come back to the WNBA. I took the time to think about if it was something that I really wanted to do.”

Swoopes is one of two players left from the WNBA’s first season in 1997, joining former Houston Comets teammate Tina Thompson. However, Thompson _ beginning her third year with Los Angeles _ is the only player to have appeared in every season.

In the West, Los Angeles and Phoenix could challenge the Storm. The Sparks have a healthy Parker, who was limited to just 10 games due to a shoulder injury, and the Mercury have a rested Diana Taurasi.

Taurasi, who talked last year about missing a WNBA season to recharge, hasn’t played competitively since December, when she was told she had tested positive for the banned stimulant modafanil and was subsequentlly suspended by the Turkish League. The four-time scoring champion was vindicated two months later when the lab that conducted the test retracted its report.

Minnesota has also generated a lot of buzz with its core of young players and could be a strong postseason contender after adding Moore with the first pick in the WNBA draft.

Whisenant is one of four new coaches this season. Hughes is also back after a year away in San Antonio, and the other newcomers are Washington’s Trudi Lacey and former LSU coach Pokey Chatman in Chicago. Whisenant, Lacey and Chatman were also hired as general managers, joining Hughes, Meadors, Tulsa’s Nolan Richardson and Minnesota’s Cheryl Reeve in holding coach-GM titles.

The league office wasn’t immune to change, either, as Donna Orender stepped down as WNBA president in December and was replaced by Laurel Richie, most recently the senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Girl Scouts of the USA.

Richie was hired with one mandate: to help the league and its teams increase revenue.

“I want to find ways for the broader public to get to know the players,” said Richie, who is finishing her third week on the job. “I want to see how we can get more people to come to games, because every time someone comes to a game they fall in love with the league and they want to come back.”


AP Sports Writers Tim Booth in Seattle and Charles Odum in Atlanta contributed.