Saturday, May 12, 2007

Welcome Back, Welcome Back, Welcome Back

Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson are happy to be back in Seattle. That much was evident when we chatted with them today after the conclusion of the "Meet Your Team" event for season ticket holders.

Jackson said she rediscovered her love for the game over the off-season, thanks largely to her stint in Korea. Because no one else on the team spoke English, she was able to clear her head and focus on basketball. Making things even better was the fact that Jackson is feeling better physically than she has in some time.

Jackson says her shins aren't giving her much trouble and she's clearly lost weight. Barring a surprising result from her evaluation by the Storm's doctors, it looks like Jackson probably will not have her minutes limited at all this year. They were not limited overseas and Jackson practiced every day in Korea and Russia. The impact of having Jackson playing a few more minutes per game cannot be overstated.

Jackson was the difference for Spartak in its Russian Superleague Finals win in Bird's mind. She emphasized the importance of Jackson's size against the CSKA Samara frontline of Maria Stepanova and Ann Wauters.

Bird obviously enjoyed her third season in Russia and first with Spartak. She spoke at length about getting Israeli citizenship and the possibility of playing in Israel down the road. Her father's cousins live there, having gone to Israel when Sue's dad emigrated to the U.S.

Bird signed a one-year deal to return to the Storm. You might have heard some (half-joking) rumors on the WNBA message boards about a trade, but the only reason for the delay was that Bird didn't entirely trust faxing her contract from Russia. She was to have re-signed at the NBA All-Star Game in Las Vegas, but that went out the window when her flight was cancelled because of inclement weather.

The one-year deal made sense for Bird because of uncertainty around the Storm's future. It's worth noting that several players, like Connecticut's Katie Douglas, signed one-year deals because the WNBA's Collective Bargaining Agreement expires at year's end, which could change the playing field for free agents.

Both Bird and Jackson thought it was beneficial for them to play together in Russia, taking away some of the feeling-out process that usually takes place when they join up for training camp. They also don't have to adjust to many new teammates with the Storm, as only three newcomers - Shyra Ely, Tye'sha Fluker and Katie Gearlds (who missed today's practice to return to Purdue for her graduation) - are left on the roster.

As far as non-Bird/Jackson news, Janell Burse is doing okay. Coach Anne Donovan compared her shoulder spasm last night to a stinger. Burse said she reached too far back, forgetting about the limitations she still has with the shoulder simply because she was feeling so good.

There is some concern about Iziane Castro Marques, who has a sore Achilles. Castro Marques tried to go today but was unable to do so. It didn't help that today's practice was early for the day after a game. The Storm has tomorrow off, which will give Castro Marques some rest.

We knew Bird was reading from Russia, and she confirmed it, mentioning that every morning - except one day when the Internet connection was out - she and Jackson would check out The Horton Report and the audio on


Anonymous said...

Hey Kevin,

You said that LJ has lost some weight. I noticed in the pictures that I've seen that Sue also has slimmed down. Am I right or are my eyes just not used to seeing her in the red and white Spartak colors?

Kevin Pelton said...

Thanks for the comment.

Can't say I have noticed that with Sue.