Monday, April 30, 2007

Wright Has Pulled Groin

What Anne Donovan calls "by far the strangest camp I've ever had" got, in her mind, the worst-case scenario when Tanisha Wright suffered a pulled groin during Saturday's practice. Wright had been expected to almost all the reps at point guard after the Storm waived Yolanda Paige earlier Saturday.

"It's a pulled groin, so it's going to take some time to heal her," said Storm Coach Anne Donovan. "She's doing what she can do - she's in the pool, she's on the bike. But I'm committed - as I hope T is - to make sure this thing is healed before we put her back out there. T is such a worker and so antsy that that's my biggest concern, is that she tries to come back too soon."

"Right now, it feels good and I'll take it as slow as I need to take it to get back," said Wright, who is admittedly frustrated to have to miss time following a productive first week of training camp.

Without Wright, the Storm's options at the point are limited.

"Fortunately, we have a good practice player (Jason) that's a smart player and knows our system, so we're continuing to use him with our perimeter players rotating in," said Donovan. "We're getting great reps, so these players are getting great preparation right now. They're going to be very ready come time for Lauren and JB and Betty and Sue to come back."

Rookie Katie Gearlds has also worked at the point for the Storm.

"Katie's done great at the point," said Donovan. "We really haven't put her in too much full-court. She did some today. It's really about her getting comfortable there, but she's doing a great job."

Updated Returns

The Storm is getting its regulars back slowly. A second starter, center Janell Burse, will arrive tonight. Burse will practice tomorrow, with that session moved back to 1-4 p.m. to allow her to complete a physical prior to the session.

The hope is that Betty Lennox will be back by the end of the week, before the Storm travels to Indiana for the preseason.

The news is not good on Barbara Turner, whose team, Fenerbahce, is playing in the Turkish TBBL Finals. That series will start later this week, which could push Turner's return to the middle of next week. Meanwhile, Shyra Ely is in camp and gaining on Turner with every practice she completes.

"I temper that," explained Donovan, "with we know Barbara well - she's been with us for a year. We've invested a lot in Barb. But I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed she's not here. We're just going to play the scenario out and see when it is she shows up."

Practice Observations

10-minute scrimmage right now. The Storm starts out with one of the practice squadders at the point joined by Katie Gearlds, Iziane Castro Marques, Wendy Palmer and Ashley Robinson. Brooke Queenan and Tye'sha Fluker are available as reserves, while Tanisha Wright is working the exercise bike. Shyra Ely went to the training room after, I'm told, apparently getting popped in the nose.

Shyra is back from the training room and ready to check in to the scrimmage.

Johan Petro is watching the action from a room upstairs looking out on the floor.

Great offensive rebound by Brooke Queenan, who joined camp late last week. Her putback attempt rolls around the rim and cruelly bounds out. Anne Donovan was not happy with her team's attention to the glass beyond Queenan, reminding them, "Our first job is to rebound."

Oh, and Mickaƫl Gelabale - the other half of the Sonics French Connection - is up there watching as well. Gelabale is wearing his game shorts. I'm really not sure why that is.

Anne takes timeout with a little less than four minutes left in the scrimmage and the practice squad just having taken a 12-11 lead. Penetration has been a problem for the Storm on defense during this scrimmage, and Anne wants to get that shored up.

Quick release from Katie Gearlds to beat the shot clock. It doesn't fall, but the Storm scores on the putback. Gearlds' form is so pure. She's running the point now.

Wendy Palmer with a pair of elbow jumpers. It doesn't appear her touch has suffered for her time off the court.

The Storm holds on for a 22-18 victory, with a Shyra Ely three-pointer in the final minute giving them the lead for good.

10 minutes on the clock as we start a second scrimmage. Katie opens up at the point once again.

Very pretty play in transition as Katie Gearlds draws the defense, then kicks to Izi Castro Marques for the three-pointer.

Izi is on fire from three-point range today, hitting at least three of them and maybe four between the two scrimmages. Still, it's Katie who has opened eyes with her shooting. Darren Fessenden of the P-I and I are shaking our heads at how cleanly her threes have a tendency to rip through the net. Double-teaming LJ and Sue has gotten a whole lot harder.

The second scrimmage is all Storm - final score 29-11. Really impressive shooting against the zone Coach Donovan asked the practice squad to play.

After splitting into posts and perimeter players (just three of them - Castro Marques, Ely and Gearlds) for shooting drills, we're done. Check back for an update after media availablity.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

UMMC Defeated

Adia Barnes' UMMC Ekaterinburg squad fell 80-64 to CSKA Samara Sunday in the winner-take-all Game 3 of their Russian Superleague semifinal series. CSKA, which led by 28 after three quarters, avances to the finals to take on Sue Bird, Lauren Jackson, Francesca Zara and Spartak.

Ann Wauters had 19 points and eight rebounds to power Samara. Barnes had five points and four rebounds off the bench.

UMMC will play Moscow Dynamo in the matchup for third and fourth place.

Here's the schedule for the finals:

Game 1 at CSKA - Wednesday, May 2
Game 2 at CSKA - Thursday, May 3
Game 3 at Spartak - Sunday, May 6
Game 4 at Spartak - Monday, May 7
Game 5 at CSKA - Thursday, May 10

And watch for an update in the near future from Adia in her blog for

Happy Belated Birthday

While posting the Storm's training camp roster, I discovered I share a birthday - April 10 - with newcomer Brooke Queenan (though not the same year).

Since then, I've been planning a post on others who share our birthday. That project took on somber overtones last week, when one person on that list - journalist David Halberstam - passed away in a car accident at age 73. Halberstam, a Pulitzer Prize winner, wrote a pair of terrific books about the NBA, The Breaks of the Game and Playing for Keeps. I've read both of those books and four Halberstam works in total and always greatly admired his work.

Besides Halberstam, here are some other notable April 10 births (with the help of Wikipedia):

1847 - Joseph Pulitzer, American journalist and publisher
1921 - Chuck Connors, American actor
1936 - John Madden, American football coach and broadcaster
1938 - Don Meredith, American football player and broadcaster
1950 - Ken Griffey, Sr., American baseball player
1951 - Steven Seagal, American actor
1958 - Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, American music producer, musician, and film producer
1959 - Brian Setzer, American musician (Stray Cats)
1970 - Q-Tip, American rapper and actor
1980 - Kasey Kahne, American race-car driver
1984 - Mandy Moore, American singer/actress
1988 - Haley Joel Osment, American actor

Friday, April 27, 2007

Surprising Speed

I mentioned at the end of my live blog that the team ran lines four times down and back. There was something of a surprise in the outcome, as Tanisha Wright hung right with the team's acknowledged fastest player, Iziane Castro Marques.

"She was a little tired today," downplayed Wright, "so she said, 'Go ahead, take it.' No one can run with Izi. She's faster with the ball than most people are without it."

After practice, Coach Anne Donovan indicated her happiness with what she is seeing on the court right now.

"I think we're really coming together," Donovan said. "I'm really pleased. They're working so hard with limited substitutions and not a lot of rest time and yet they continue to come back every day and just really bust it and work through it, so I'm really pleased with the progression."

Donovan is still looking for Tye'sha Fluker, who has gone through only two full practices, to find her place with the Storm.

"She's got work to do," said Donovan. "She's trying to get comfortable here. Our expectations in the post are probably a little bit different than what she's seen in the past. I'm sure she'll get better as it goes."

The news is positive with regards to Yolanda Paige's knee.

"MRI was clear, which is great," Donovan said. "She's still got swelling in it, so we'll be slow in bringing her back."

Practice Observations

Yolanda Paige's MRI turned up negative. Paige has been able to practice today without contact. The rest of the time, she's riding an exercise bike on the sidelines to stay warm.

Brooke Queenan is taking her physical and due to practice tonight, giving the Storm nine bodies.

I'll leave most of the play-by-play to Alan's blog, but here are some observations ...

I was really surprised to see how well built Tye'sha Fluker is. She started against the Storm in Seattle last August, and I remember her playing well in that game, but not how powerful she can be in the paint. Fluker is not afraid of contact, as her run-in yesterday with a member of the practice squad evidenced, and she's tough enough that she wanted to return after spraining her ankle in a separate incident.

Fluker's size gives her a different presence than the other posts in camp right now.

Shyra Ely hit a three-pointer early on and has, apparently, been shooting the ball well from the perimeter.

I really like the way Katie Gearlds operates within an offense. She's always smooth and under control and is a solid ballhandler. Her airball early after we were let in to watch the action was the early stunning surprise of camp.

On defense, I was impressed with Gearlds' ability to stay in front of the ballhandler on the break. She'll likely never be a great defender, but her size and length are assets, particularly when she works as a shooting guard.

During interviews after practice, Katie has been making an effort to memorize the names of all of the reporters. I can't say I've ever seen that before.

Free throws or lines at the end of practice. Wendy Palmer missed the first shot and could not believe it. Anne Donovan gave the option of double or nothing for Izi, who made the first but missed the second, meaning four times down and back for the entire roster.

Katie Gearlds sinks two free throws and we're done.

More after interviews.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Spartak Advances

Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson helped Spartak to an easy 85-65 victory over Moscow Dynamo Thursday. Spartak swept the best-of-three series to advance to the Russian Superleague Finals. Lauren Jackson had 16 points and nine rebounds in 22 minutes. Sue Bird had four points and two assists.

The other Superleague semifinal matches UMMC Ekaterinburg, Adia Barnes' squad, against CSKA. Adia blogged about this game being a must-win, and Ekaterinburg took care of business with an 89-77 victory behind 23 points from Cheryl Ford and 20 from former Storm forwar Suzy Batkovic.

The winner-take-all Game 3 will take place on Sunday. Game 1 of the Superleague Finals will be played on Wednesday.

Gearlds on KIRO

Tune in to KIRO 710 AM at 7:15 this evening to hear Storm rookie Katie Gearlds with New York Vinnie.

New Faces

Another day, another new group at Storm practice. Shyra Ely and Tye'sha Fluker joined the group last night, while Sarah McKay and Aya Traore were waived this morning.

"We felt like Shyra came in had a nod over Aya in the three spot, so that's why we let Aya go," said Storm Coach Anne Donovan. "Sarah - same thing. We just felt like Tye, in the short period of time we were able to look at Tye, and Ashley continues to improve, that her shot at making the team was going to be a longshot."

Donovan mentioned yesterday that she's looking at some of the players invited to camp as future prospects should the Storm need a player midseason. Donovan said McKay would definitely be a part of that group, as a 6-7 post who has room to develop.

I was a little surprised when Donovan said that 2006 first-round pick Barbara Turner, solid as a rookie last season, will have to play for her job during camp.

"For a while, we had to evaluate, did we think Aya could outplay Barb? Without Barb being here, it's tough to really get a handle on that. When Shyra came in, it became clear that Shyra was better than Aya, so we now we have to evaluate Barb and Shyra, probably."

Katie Gearlds, however, is a lock in Donovan's mind.

By the end of today's practice, the Storm was down to six players. Fluker rolled an ankle and showed her toughness by trying to get back on the floor, but the staff wanted her to rest. With no evening session today, Fluker should be available tomorrow. Yolanda Paige's injury could be more serious, as she has a sore left knee.

"We're going to get an MRI," Donovan said. "She tweaked it in the morning, I guess, and played through it last night. Woke up this morning with a lot of stiffness."

The group that's in camp is expected to swell tomorrow, when invitee Brooke Queenan arrives from overseas. Queenan should be available for tomorrow's evening session. Janell Burse and Betty Lennox will likely be back early next week, probably at practice on Tuesday.

Donovan doesn't expect to add any free agents after signing Ely yesterday.

"Right now, we have no other plans, but we are looking at the waiver (wire) every day," said Donovan. "I feel really good with what we've got. I think we've got some really hard decisions just with the players we have here and the ones coming in, so I don't anticipate any additions, but we'll see. I might regret saying that if people free up."

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Good News From Sacramento

A bit of a scare in Sacramento, where new Monarchs Head Coach Jenny Boucek, who spent three seasons as an assistant with the Storm, was briefly hospitalized as doctors sought to figure out what was ailing her.

Boucek is feeling better and was back at practice Wednesday.

"I am feeling better," she told "I hadn’t been feeling well for a couple days, so I went to the hospital to figure out what was wrong. The doctors prescribed some new antibiotics for me and now I am feeling better. Luckily, they were able to rule out some bad things it could have been. So, now I am just focused on camp and getting us ready for the season. I’m not 100 percent yet, but I should be soon."

Boucek will return to Seattle May 11, when the Monarchs visit KeyArena for the Storm's only home preseason game.

Volunteer Reunion

Tennessee alumnae Shyra Ely (newly-signed, press release to come) and Tye'sha Fluker will join the Storm for tonight's practice, giving the team 10 players in camp. Ely, Fluker and Ashley Robinson all played together for two seasons under Pat Summitt.

Ely is a 6-2 forward who has a somewhat similar story to the Storm's Barbara Turner - undersized power forward for an NCAA power asked to move out to the perimeter in the WNBA. Turner's a better athlete, so the transition was a little easier for her.

However, Ely contributed as a rookie in San Antonio after Kendra Wecker was lost for the season with a torn ACL, averaging 4.5 points per game and ranking fifth amongst 2005 rookies in minutes per game. Her role was smaller last year after the Silver Stars got Wecker healthy and added Agnieszka Bibrzycka, plus Ely missed 18 games with a broken left foot.

"If you come from Tennessee, you're a very fundamentally sound player," said Storm Coach Anne Donovan. "I like the fact that she's had more experience since college and more experience playing the perimeter, because we'll use her in both spots."

Ely's best shot to make the roster is probably up front. With Turner, Iziane Castro Marques and Katie Gearlds able to play small forward, the Storm is already well-stocked at that position. We'll see how that develops.

Ely and Fluker went through their physicals this morning and Donovan was hoping to have them for the morning session, but they were held up in traffic after a broken water main flooded some of the South Lake Union area this morning. The Storm was left with seven players, as Wendy Palmer will practice in tonight's evening session (she's currently limited to one practice a day).

Center Sarah McKay, who sprained her ankle yesterday, was able to practice normally.

Donovan continued to indicate that the veterans in camp have been the stars - a group that might include the rookie Gearlds.

"Katie looks like a returning player," said Donovan. "She's fit in that easily."

Donovan also singled out Tanisha Wright, who has had a great camp in the eyes of her coach.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Odds and Ends

  • After Tuesday's cuts, the Storm is left with just eight players who practiced Tuesday morning, which could make practice light for a while. (This is when the team's practice squad, mostly made up of male players, becomes useful.) Reinforcements should be on the way, with invitees Kerri Gardin and Brooke Queenan due in before too long. Tye'sha Fluker is also expected to arrive fairly soon.

    The timetable is longer for the Storm's key players. Coach Donovan said Tuesday that she anticipates Janell Burse and Betty Lennox returning around May 2, Barbara Turner around May 5 and Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson (and Francesca Zara, playing with them in Russia) around May 10.

    Speaking of Sue and LJ, their Spartak team defeated Dynamo Moscow 81-70 Monday in Game 1 of their best-of-three series. Jackson had 26 points on 9-of-11 shooting, Bird six assists. Game 2 is Thursday.

  • Wanted to highlight this from today's Katie Gearlds feature:

    "Obviously I've got the stereotype of being a typical slow white girl," said
    Gearlds. "I try to make up for that with my size and my length. That's something
    we've been working on a little bit - getting me to use my hands. I think I'll be
    alright. I'm pretty smart and I'll get quicker one of these days."
    Let there be no doubt she's quick-witted.
  • In addition to talking about her long-lost brother Leandro Barbosa, Iziane Castro Marques also talked for the first time about deciding to re-sign with the Storm as a free agent during the off-season. According to Izi, there was never much doubt:
  • "I always wanted to come back to Seattle because I'm settled here. I had a good year here last year. This is my place. I know everybody. I have friends here outside the court, so it's a known place for me. I'm not used to it, because I'm always changing teams, but I'm kinda getting tired of that. I think it was a good decision for me to come back and keep going what I had done in the two years."

    Donovan: Storm Will Keep 11

    Interesting conversation with Anne Donovan after practice today. She cleared up speculation on a couple of fronts. The most important, in the long term, was her confirmation that the Storm will likely only have room for 11 players on the final roster because of the WNBA's hard salary cap. That means spots will be very scarce.

    Also, Donovan shed some light on the roster moves that saw the Storm waive Shaun Gortman, Debbie Merrill and Shereka Wright the last two days. Merrill elected not to come to camp, while injuries were the reason in the cases of Gortman and Wright. Gortman will be out another couple of weeks, relating to her torn ACL, and that would have made it tough for her to compete for a spot on the roster - especially, Donovan pointed out, because she jumped from the minimum salary for players with three years of experience or less to the higher minimum for veteran players with at least four years of experience. Wright apparently was still not 100% going back to the torn Achilles she suffered last year during Phoenix's training camp.

    It was great to see Iziane Castro Marques after practice. Always known for her upbeat attitude, Izi greeted Mark Rosenberg from PR with a hug and had a big smile on her face as she talked to us. Izi was asked about Leandro Barbosa, her Brazilian countryman expected to win the NBA's Sixth Man Award who won the NBA's Sixth Man Award Tuesday, and said people think she and Barbosa are brother and sister all the time. I'd believe that.

    Brother and sister?

    Wendy Palmer is limited to one practice a day right now in her comeback from Achilles surgery, but is coming along well.

    Practice Notes

    Welcome to The Furtado Center, where we've got the world's first dueling Storm live blogs going between Alan Horton and myself. We've been let into practice just in time for a drill with two squads working in the half-court against each other 5-on-5, then working on starting the break (but not finishing it) with a stop.

    The team wearing white features Tanisha Wright, Victoria Lucas-Perry, Chameka Scott, Katie Gearlds, Ashley Robinson and Sarah McKay. Alexis Kendrick, Yolanda Paige, Cameo Hicks, Iziane Castro Marques, Wendy Palmer, Andrea Bills and Aya Traore make up the Black team.

    Man, is it great to see Wendy Palmer on the court. Wendy played so well during training camp and the first couple of weeks of last season before her Achilles injury ended her campaign. Wendy's veteran savvy is immediately apparent. She is wily. I don't think the impact of a healthy Wendy Palmer can be overstated.

    It just isn't Storm training camp until you hear a point guard yelling "motion," Anne Donovan's standard offense of choice. It will be fun to hear Francesca Zara uttering it in her Italian accent again when she joins the team later in training camp.

    Center Sarah McKay, a 6-7 rookie out of Indiana, has left the practice court after coming down awkwardly on her right ankle.

    It is really strange seeing Cameo Hicks in a Storm practice jersey after four years in the purple and gold at UW.

    I'm pleasantly surprised by Katie Gearlds' quick hands on defense. She's had a couple of deflections so far. We know all about Katie's ability to shoot the basketball, but we're still learning about her defense. Alan has a little more on the topic.

    Izi hits two free throws and we're done. More after we speak with Anne and the players.

    Monday, April 23, 2007

    Wright Stuff

    In today's story on the newcomers to Storm training camp, I mentioned that Shereka Wright had one of the best ratios of free-throw attempts to field-goal attempts in the WNBA. Well, one of the things I can do in this blog is maybe get a little more in-depth and, yes, a little geekier with the numbers.

    Here are the 2005 WNBA leaders in this ratio, minimum 250 minutes:

    Player        Team  FTA/FGA
    Nakia Sanford WAS 1.033
    Shereka Wright PHO .881
    Barbara Farris DET .740
    Jen Derevjanik CON .727
    Helen Darling CHA .659

    Wright attempted nearly as many free throws as shots from the field. She's always been very good at getting to the charity stripe. What makes her unusual statistically is she also takes a bunch of threes - her ratio of threes to field-goal attempts in 2005 (her last healthy season) was also in the league's top five.

    Threes and free throws happen to be the two most efficient shots in basketball. So, while Wright's field-goal percentage was low (40.7%), her True Shooting Percentage was amongst the league's best.

    4-24 Update: It appears Wright was somewhat behind early in camp. She was waived this morning.

    Camp Rosters

    Presumably you've already seen the Storm's training camp roster. Other rosters are slowly but surely trickling in, and it's always fun to see the players who have been invited to camp.

    How about some Storm ties? You already know the big names - 2004 Champs Tully Bevilaqua and Sheri Sam are both in Indiana. Amanda Lassiter is back for another season in Chicago. Ashley Battle emerged as a rotation player last year in New York, where she teams with Lake Washington product Cathrine Kraayeveld.

    There are plenty of players with Storm ties who have been invited to camps, however. In Chicago, Cisti Greenwalt - traded to the Sky for Ashley Robinson, but immediately cut - gets a chance to make the roster this time around. Mandisa Stevenson, who was with the Storm briefly in 2005, is back in Phoenix, where she played two games last season. Rita Williams is in camp in Washington. Williams, a reserve guard for the Storm in 2003, was cut by the Mystics after attending camp last spring.

    From the believe it or not file, rumor in Houston has it Edna Campbell is in Comets camp. Campbell retired after the 2005 season and spent part of last year as a color analyst on San Antonio TV broadcasts.

    As far as other Seattle ties, Sheila Lambert, the Chief Sealth product who was out of the league last year, is trying to hook on with the Sparks.

    Whither Media Day?

    If you've followed the Storm for a while, you're probably used to a familiar routine - media day kicks off the season on the first day of training camp. However, that won't be the case this year. With so many key players still overseas, media day has been pushed back to May 14.

    The Storm will hold its first practice tonight, per custom, but that will not be open to the media. So today is much quieter than the craziness media day usually brings. The first chance for us beat writers to get a look at the roster will come tomorrow - expect plenty of observations.

    Welcome to StormTracker

    Hello and welcome to StormTracker, the official blog of the Seattle Storm. There's a running joke in the Sonics & Storm business offices that whenever anyone sees me with a computer - and even sometimes without one - they ask me if I'm blogging. The answer is almost always no. Other than live in-game blogs, I haven't ever really truly blogged.

    That's changing now. Big thanks to Nathan Affolter, our web producer, for getting this blog up and running.

    What can you expect from the StormTracker blog? Well, I'm not really sure yet. That will be defined as the season goes on. However, I definitely plan to use the blog for quick updates after practices at The Furtado Center wrap up. I'll definitely follow news from around the league. I also hope to be able to provide more interactivity with fans by responding to comments.

    So thanks for coming. I hope you bookmark the page and visit often.

    (By the way, the RSS feed for this blog still does not appear to be working. I'll update you as soon as we've figured it out.)