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San Antonio eager for healthy season after last year marred by injuries

The San Antonio Stars are healthy. For a team that was not healthy at any point last season, that's big news.

Crushed by season-ending knee injuries to All-Stars Becky Hammon and Sophia Young-Malcolm as well as various ailments to many key players, San Antonio missed the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons.

San Antonio shorted its name from "Silver Stars" to "Stars" in the offseason for a "cleaner" look. Beyond aesthetics, the name change seems fitting as the team embarks on a fresh start following one of its worst seasons since relocating from Utah in 2003.

The silver lining to the multitude of injuries was the development of the Stars' young talent, especially Danielle Adams, Jayne Appel and Danielle Robinson.

"Obviously we would rather not have injuries, but we took advantage of the opportunity for young people to play," Appel said. "I think a lot of them grew in confidence and leadership, things that with everyone else healthy this year is only going to make us better. It really is a new beginning for us."

San Antonio turned its offense over to Robinson and the speedy, 5-foot-9 guard responded by earning her first All-Star appearance while averaging 11.2 points and 6.7 assists.

Hammon's return is critical to the team's fortunes. Entering her 16th season, she has career averages of 13.3 points and 3.8 assists.

"Becky makes things work," coach Dan Hughes said. "She's veteran enough to understand not only her position, but the totality of what we're doing. She can communicate it on the floor in a way that provides understanding and that's what your great players do."

Here are five things to know about this year's team:

WELCOME BACK, TOO: Young-Malcolm, who was married in the offseason, suffered a knee injury after averaging 16.3 points and 7.2 rebounds in 2013. Her mid-range jumper and post moves complement Hammon's game and gives the team another solid option at the close of games.

GREEN PLAYER: The Stars added Notre Dame guard Kayla McBride with the third pick in the draft. The likely heir apparent to Hammon in the backcourt, the 5-foot-9 McBride averaged 17.6 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.8 assists in leading the Fighting Irish to the national championship game.

TOO DEEP: In addition to Robinson, Adams and Appel, the Stars received strong contributions last season from forward Shameka Christon, post Kayla Alexander and guards Jia Perkins, Shenise Johnson and Davellyn Whyte. How will the minutes be divided with such depth?

"As excited as we are to have everyone back, it's not the easiest situation to bring people back from injury when they've been away from the game for a period of time," Hughes said. "So, I think we're working really hard on going through the different stages where I think learning takes place, where chemistry takes place, where confidence in your body and your team's system take place."

COACH HAMMON: Long regarded as a coach on the floor, Hammon enhanced her knowledge by working with San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and his staff in the offseason. Hammon attended practices and sat in during film sessions with the four-time NBA champions.

DOUBLE-THREAT DANIELLE: Adams emerged as a threat in the post and from long-range, averaging 14.4 points and 4.7 rebounds. She had a franchise-record 39 points in the Stars' season-finale victory against the Atlanta Dream. At 6-foot-3, Adams proved a difficult guard for opposing frontcourts as she powered past opponents in the lane and also shot 33 percent on 3-pointers.