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Michael Cooper taking medical leave from Atlanta Dream

Atlanta Dream head coach Michael Cooper has been diagnosed with early stage tongue cancer and will take a short medical leave from the team as he seeks treatment.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

When the Atlanta Dream emerge from the All-Star Break they will be without head coach Michael Cooper who is taking a short medical leave from the team after being diagnosed with early stage tongue cancer. Cooper is scheduled for surgery later this week and a full recovery is expected.

"The doctors and staff at Emory have been tremendous, and I know I'm in good hands," said Cooper. "I'm fortunate that my condition was diagnosed early, and this episode illustrates the importance of screening and early detection. I know the team will be in good hands with Coach Thompson at the helm during my absence, and I look forward to returning to the court soon."

Assistant coach Karleen Thompson will assume head coaching duties in Cooper's absence.

Cooper is in his first season as the Dream's head coach and has helped guide them to a 15-6 record. The Dream entered the All-Star break with a five game lead over second place Indiana. Despite appearing in the WNBA Finals three out of the last four seasons, Atlanta has never finished as the top seed in the East.

The Dream return to action on Tuesday when they will take on the defending WNBA Champion Minnesota Lynx.