Indiana Fever re-sign trio of players

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Shenise Johnson #42 of the Indiana Fever and Anna Cruz #51 of the Minnesota Lynx chase down a loose ball at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on October 11, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Hickey/ Getty Images)

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NEW YORK — The Indiana Fever are keeping their core together.

Natalie Achonwa, Shenise Johnson and Erica Wheeler re-signed with the Fever on Friday, the first day that WNBA teams could announce free agent signings.

“We are thrilled to have three key veterans returning to the roster,” said third-year Fever coach and general manager Pokey Chatman. “It says a lot about their commitment to the process and their teammates, as well as to our franchise.”

Indiana, 6-28 a year ago while playing without Johnson due to left ACL rehabilitation, got half its wins in the final two weeks of the season as its youth began to mature. The Fever also hold the No. 3 overall draft selection in the WNBA draft in April, adding to a pair of rookie first-round picks in 2018.

Phoenix also re-signed Briann January to a multiyear deal. January, an assistant coach with the Arizona State Sun Devils in the winter, came to the Mercury last season. She started 33 games and averaged 7.0 points and 3.3 assists.

“Outside of superstars, the most important player in basketball today is the ‘3-and-D’ player, and Briann January is as good as it gets in that regard,” Mercury General Manager Jim Pitman said. “She demonstrated last season that she is the best individual perimeter defender in the WNBA, and on the offensive end led the league in three-point percentage as a perfect complement to our big three of Taurasi, Griner and Bonner. All Bri wants to do is win and she is exactly the type of player we want in Phoenix.”

The Mercury also made an offer to Odyssey Sims of the Los Angeles Sparks. Sims is a restricted free agent, and the Sparks have four days to match the Mercury’s offer.

Minnesota signed free agent Karima Christmas-Kelly is headed to Minnesota in the first day of WNBA free agency. She played in only six games for Dallas last season before sustaining a knee injury in June. She’s played for the Wings, the Fever and the Mystics during her WNBA career.

Other unrestricted free agents include Allie Quigley (Chicago), LaToya Sanders (Washington), Rebekkah Brunson and Seimone Augustus (Minnesota) and Alana Beard (Los Angeles). All five are expected to resign with their current teams.

Friday was the first day that free agent deals could be finalized. Financial constraints tend to limit bidding wars — and thus player movement — in the WNBA.

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