Saturday, June 30, 2007

Wild, Wacky, W

Last Friday, it was noted that five of the six WNBA games were won by the team that entered with the weaker record. Well, tonight's WNBA schedule did that one better - all five games were, strictly in terms of record, upsets.

In Connecticut, the Sun got 22 points from Katie Douglas to beat the Indiana Fever for the second straight Friday. The Sun has handed Indiana two of its four losses. Think that's a team the Fever doesn't want to see in the playoffs?

Seimone Augustus put up 29 points and nine rebounds in San Antonio as the Silver Stars lost their second straight against a sub-.500 team, falling 77-66 to the Lynx. Minnesota has now won four of its last five after a 1-9 start.

Speaking of surging teams, the Washington Mystics earned their fourth win in their last five games in miraculous fashion. The Mystics outscored Detroit 27-12 in the fourth quarter and scored the final nine points of the game. It was Alana Beard's three-point play with 13 seconds left that gave Washington the lead. DeLisha Milton-Jones then blocked Deanna Nolan's shot just before the buzzer to seal the win. Nolan (with 26) was the only Shock player to score more than 10 points. Detroit misses Cheryl Ford, quite clearly.

How about Jia Perkins? Filling in for a second night for injured Sky starter Dominique Canty, Perkins scored a WNBA season-high 39 points (needless to say, that's a career high) on 17-of-24 shooting with five three-pointers. Perkins added a career-high 10 assists and Chicago outlasted Sacramento in double-overtime, 92-84. I told you this Sky team wasn't as bad as it looked on Tuesday at KeyArena. On the Sacramento side, Ticha Penicheiro, Rebekkah Brunson and Kara Lawson sunk my fantasy team's field-goal percentage by combining to shoot 10-of-40 from the field.

We wrap up our WNBA scoreboard check in L.A., where the Storm's next opponent (New York) got a nice win over the Sparks, who only seem to be able to beat Sacramento. How about his line for Loree Moore? 20 points, five three-pointers, six steals, five assist and just one turnover in 35 minutes of action. Now those are numbers that make me a proud fantasy owner.

A check of the WNBA standings reveals that only two teams at .500 or better are currently carrying winning streaks (the Liberty and idle Phoenix, both 8-7). Meanwhile, every sub-.500 team in the league is on a winning streak. As of June 10, Houston, Minnesota and Washington were a combined 1-22. Since then, they are 13-8.

Only in the wild, wacky WNBA.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Sue Blogs

Hope you're keeping up with Sue Bird's co-authored blog (with former UConn teammate and close friend Diana Taurasi) on

In addition to talking about Taurasi's two-game suspension, her bowling skills and her new video-game fave, Sue also comments on the state of the Storm (as of Monday):

"I think we've gotten back on the right path. We lost a tough one in Minnesota, but the way we played was great, then we got a big win in L.A. and L.J. dropped 35 points. We have eight games before All-Star, a crazy schedule, and if we can pull this together, then last week was just a bump in the road."

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Simone the Coach

Congrats are in order for retired Storm center Simone Edwards. Radford University announced this morning the hiring of Edwards as an assistant coach for their women's basketball team.

“She has competed with and against the best in the world and has also had the benefit of learning from one of the best post players of all time in Anne Donovan,” said Porter. “Along with that, she opens the door to international recruiting with her connections to the Caribbean countries and specifically to her native country of Jamaica. I believe that her expertise will enable us to take our recruiting and our inside presence to an entirely new level. We are extremely excited that she has decided to join our basketball family and we welcome her to Radford University.”

Since retiring as the last original Storm player last May, Edwards has been working with her foundation, Simone4Children, to help Jamaican youngsters.

UPDATE: Here's the official release on Edwards' hiring.

Monday, June 25, 2007

New Source for WNBA Historical Stats, the best source for NBA stats, has added a WNBA section. That's great news if, like me, you're curious who has the best True Shooting Percentage in league history. (Through 2006, it's Cynthia Cooper, by the way.)

The new section augments existing stats available at and through the Detroit Shock's Web site.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Title IX Anniversary

Speaking of Mechelle Voepel ... she also has an excellent column today on the 35th anniversary of Title IX, the legislation mandating equal opportunities for women that is, ultimately, responsible for me writing about the WNBA and you reading about it.

"For me, there was a very clear example," Storm Head Coach Anne Donovan told Voepel of Title IX's impact. "I was the youngest of the five girls in my family, and my older sisters were all good basketball players. But I was the only one who benefited from it.

"It is our responsibility to continue to talk about Title IX, and make sure our younger players are aware of it."

Slow Starters No More

On Thursday,'s Mechelle Voepel - the best there is when it comes to covering the WNBA from a league-wide perspective - celebrated the 10th anniversary of the very first WNBA game by pointing out that, 10 years later, we're a good third of the way into the season by late June, which has created some serious complications in terms of players arriving late from their overseas responsibilities.

Voepel ties this to worse play at the start of the season:

As a result, the WNBA preseason became more a "weeding out" process to get down to the required roster size than real preparation for the season. It really isn't until about now, a month into the season, when teams have taken their true form as a unit.

Meaning that in some ways, spectators might feel in the early part of the season they are seeing more like a dress rehearsal than the actual play itself. As with a good Broadway production, a good team in any sport prepares, debuts, works out kinks that come up, improves and eventually hits a consistent stride through its run.
For five of the six years I've followed the WNBA, this has been true almost unequivocally. In particular, it has often seemed like nationally-televised games early in the season have been especially sloppy (I'm thinking here of the Storm's opener on ABC against L.A. in 2005, for example, much as I prefer not to think about that game).

For whatever reason, however, that doesn't seem to have been the case this year, either subjectively or objectively. The games I watched early in the season, including the Storm's home wins over Houston and Phoenix and nationally-televised games like Detroit-Sacramento and Connecticut-Los Angeles were generally crisply played.

The numbers confirm this suspicion. I observed a week and a half into the season "how strong offense has been in the early going." Since that time, in fact, the league-wide Offensive Rating has in fact fallen from 99.4 to 98.6.

For the fantasy league I run in the office, I've saved player totals week by week since the start of the season, which offers another perspective. Here are some key league-wide stats:
Wk   FG%   3P%   TS%   TO%
1 .413 - .512 .173
2 .418 .363 .515 .178
3 .417 .352 .513 .173
4 .421 .344 .514 .176
5 .421 .336 .514 .179
To make sure it's clear, these are the league numbers through the conclusion of each week, which means they also include all weeks before the week in question.

These numbers are pretty interesting. Three-point percentage has been falling since week two (I don't have complete numbers from the first week), offsetting an improvement on shooting inside the arc reflected by field-goal percentage going up. True Shooting Percentage, an overall measure of shooting efficiency, has stayed about the same all year.

Most surprising is the progression in TO%, the percentage of players' possessions that have ended in turnovers. While this does not include team turnovers (shot clock violations and the occasional eight-second backcourt violation, mostly), it is very surprising that players have actually gotten slightly sloppier with the basketball as the season has gone on.

I don't know that one year of a fast-starting WNBA means the league has kicked its early-season issues, but it's worth noting this phenomenon is hardly unique to the W. An analysis of the NBA's Offensive Rating over the course of the season shows a similar trend. This is despite the fact that, in the NBA, (virtually) everyone reports to training camps on time and there are eight preseason games to the three played by the WNBA.

Why isn't the slow start a story in the NBA? In part because, during a long season, a slow start won't stick out as much. One month is a sixth of the season in the NBA, a third of it in the WNBA. I'd also point out that, to be totally frank, the NBA has more room for sloppiness because the game features more scoring overall.

While everyone certainly agrees that getting players in camp on time would be preferable, I'm not sure it would ultimately make a noticeable difference in the play on the floor early in the season.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Locke on the Call

Alan Horton will miss tonight's game due to a family situation, so David Locke will return to the broadcast booth tonight to team with Adia Barnes. Catch all the action on 1150 AM KKNW starting at 7:00 p.m.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Live-blogging H-O-R-S-E

Okay, the meeting is over and both Sue Bird and Jim Moore are on the floor completing their final warmups. We have three beat writers and a handful of Storm staffers in attendance.

Sue's first comment on arriving on the floor: "Is that sweat?" Yes, it is. Jim's worked up a pretty good-sized sweat while preparing. Later, Sue asks if I'm live-blogging. As a long-time reader, Sue knows all too well I am.

"Do you think she's intimidated by all the shots I'm making," Jim asks. No, it doesn't appear so, but Jim is having some success from outside, especially from the corners.

We're underway and Jim misses his first shot. Sue knocks down a set shot from the elbow and Jim matches. Sue to the other elbow. Jim misses - after talking some trash.


Sue's mostly shooting gimmes to try to retain control. Jim misses a six-foot banker.


... then another shot from the elbow.


"Can you do something that's not nickel and dime," asks Jim? "You've got H-O-R nickel-dime," retorts Sue, but she does eventually relent and retreat beyond the three-point line.

"You know what they called me in high school?" asks Jim. "All money."

That would sound so much better if he hadn't badly missed from the corner immediately afterwards. He was correct - the shots he was making in warmup aren't going down now.

Jim misses a three-pointer from the left wing.


Sue makes and Jim misses a three at the top of the key and his chances are on life support, but he hits the next attempt to "prove it" and stays alive.

"Any guy who shoots long range, their mid-range is wack," observes Sue, but Jim hits an 18-footer to disprove him.

"I can make these in my sleep," says Jim of a banker from the left wing (the Tim Duncan shot), and he rattles it home.

Sue hits a left-wing three and Jim misses. Could this be it? Way long for an airball and that's it.

E and game over.

"He Couged it," hollers a UW alum in the rooting section (not me).

"I was worried," admits Sue. "You had me nervous."

When it counted, however, Sue never ever got a letter.


Jim's a good sport about the defeat - mostly - but does say he honestly thought he was going to win. Instead, he'll be donating $200 to the Sonics & Storm Foundation (naturally, Sue's choice for charity) and attending a game with his kids.

UPDATE: Here's Jim's take on the contest from Wednesday's P-I.

"Bird was not only better but smarter," he wrote. "She knows that guys who like to throw up threes have a tendency to short-arm shots from close range. An assortment of 10- to 15-footers put me in an H-O-R hole in a hurry.

"I can't remember how she got S on me, but E was a killer, coming from the left wing, a 20-footer that I usually make in my sleep; the problem being, I was awake, missed it twice and that was that."

Storm Prepares for Detroit, H-O-R-S-E

The Storm took two of the last three days off with their first extended break from action in the last couple of weeks. The team was back on the court today, preparing to take on the league-leading Detroit Shock tomorrow night at KeyArena.

Donovan is expecting Detroit to have Cheryl Ford back in the lineup after she's missed two games - including the Shock's only loss - with a sprained left knee.

With the defending champs bringing almost everyone back (losing only center Ruth Riley, and adding Katie Feenstra and Pee Wee Johnson), nobody in the Storm camp was surprised Detroit was off to an 8-1 start.

For Storm guards Sue Bird and Betty Lennox, it was their first practice since Friday's win over Houston. They sat out on Sunday to rest. Bird is still dealing with swelling in her left knee, which is not serious enough to limit her during games but still needs occasional rest from practice. Lennox has nagging soreness in her right Achilles, but looked shocked when it was suggested that might have affect her availability for tomorrow's game. She's looking at changing her shoes to help alleviate any pain.

The real story today is the game of H-O-R-S-E scheduled for later today between Jim Moore of the Seattle P-I and Sue Bird. The Storm is currently in a meeting, allowing Jim a chance to warm up. He just missed an over-the-backboard attempt such that it landed on top of the backboard. Jim has actually made three of those attempts, however.

"I don't worry about Jim," said a confident Bird, while Coach Donovan said she "will absolutely watch."

Monday, June 18, 2007

It's On ...

After swelling in Sue Bird's knee forced her game of H-O-R-S-E against Post-Intelligencer columnist Jim Moore to be postponed a couple of weeks, it's back on for tomorrow.

Here's what Moore had to say in today's column:

No one thinks I've got any shot at all, including WNBA commissioner Donna
Orender or even P-I publisher Roger Oglesby, who said if he was forced to bet
$100 on me, he'd have to hedge his wager by putting $200 on Bird. Some boss he

Putting money where the big mouth is, I plan to bet Bird $200, with
the loser donating to the winner's favorite charity.

Word on the street has it Moore isn't that confident either and was nervously awaiting his fate before the previous date was rescheduled. will, of course, have complete coverage.

Check of the Numbers

We're almost a third of the way through the WNBA season, hard as that may be to believe, with most teams having played about 10 games. That makes this a good time for a check of the numbers. As always, check out the Statistical Analysis Primer for more on how they're calculated and what they mean.


Team          ORating
Indiana 106.7
Los Angeles 104.6
Seattle 104.3
Phoenix 102.8
Sacramento 98.9
Connecticut 97.7
New York 97.4
Chicago 97.1
Minnesota 96.8
Detroit 96.5
San Antonio 95.8
Washington 92.8
Houston 88.7
The Fever continues to lead the league in offense, a big surprise from a team that ranked near the bottom last season. Last year's leading offense, Phoenix, has not been as strong this year, while Connecticut has fallen way off with the loss of Taj McWilliams-Franklin and slow starts from holdover players. New York has slid as the three-pointers that went in at an unsustainable clip early in the season have started going out. I was surprised to see San Antonio's offense so low given how well Becky Hammon has played this season.


Team          DRating
Detroit 89.7
Sacramento 89.9
Indiana 91.7
New York 96.2
San Antonio 96.3
Phoenix 98.2
Connecticut 98.8
Chicago 98.8
Seattle 101.3
Los Angeles 101.8
Minnesota 105.5
Houston 107.9
Detroit and Sacramento have had dominant defenses for years, and nothing has changed. Connecticut has taken an even bigger hit on defense after ranking No. 2 a year ago. That's not a surprise - Margo Dydek has struggled this year with her back and is never mobile in the best of circumstances, and Erika De Souza hasn't been able to pick up for Dydek after a fast start.

Bet you're suprised to see how good Phoenix is on defense.

If you're looking for the reason the Storm has been inconsistent, you probably need to start at the defensive end of the floor, where Seattle is significantly below average. Here's how the Storm defense has rated compared to league average under Anne Donovan:

2003: +0.3 (6/14)
2004: +2.2 (2/13)
2005: +0.1 (5/13)
2006: -0.9 (8/14)
2007: -2.9 (10/13)

The championship season was easily the best the Storm has been on defense, and the loss of players like Tully Bevilaqua, Adia Barnes, Sheri Sam and Kamila Vodichkova was felt the next season. Last year saw another slide, but this year the defense has been much worse in the early going.


If you go by point differential and expected wins, here's what the standings would look like in each conference (wins projected to 34 games):

WEST          ExpW   EAST          ExpW
------------------ ------------------
Sacramento 25.1 Indiana 28.8
Phoenix 20.0 Detroit 23.5
Los Angeles 18.6 New York 17.6
Seattle 17.9 Chicago 15.5
San Antonio 16.3 Connecticut 15.4
Minnesota 11.6 Washington 9.9
Houston 1.9
While the East has, at worst, two of the best three teams in the league, there isn't a lot of depth to the conference until or unless the Sun gets going. Barring that, it looks like an Indy-Detroit showdown in the Eastern Conference Finals. The West is significantly more interesting.

At the individual level, I also took a quick look at the PER leaders in the league:

Player      Tm   PER
Jackson SEA 35.9
Catchings IND 31.9
Taurasi PHO 27.6
Brunson SAC 26.1
Augustus MIN 25.9
Yeah, LJ is awesome. Rebekkah Brunson is off to a great start and should be an All-Star reserve if there's any justice.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Turner Returns With Comets

Barbara Turner is back in Seattle as a member of the Houston Comets. Released by the Storm in the team's final cut, Turner joined the Comets at the start of June and has gotten an opportunity to start two games in the absence of injured WNBA legend Sheryl Swoopes, averaging 7.2 points and 2.8 rebounds per game.

"Things definitely worked out for the best," Turner said before the Comets practiced Thursday afternoon. "I'm happy with my new team. They've welcomed me with open arms. I feel very comfortable."

"It's great," said Storm Head Coach Anne Donovan. "I think Barbara landed in the perfect spot. Barbara's one who looks to play minutes, and in Houston she's a most-time starter. She's doing a great job for them, so it will be good to see her out there."

The decision to cut Turner and keep Shyra Ely as the backup small forward remains something of a contentious one. While she feels it worked out for the best, Turner expressed regret about skipping Game 7 of her Turkish team's Finals series to return to Storm camp, feeling it was too late by that point for her to beat out Ely. Donovan, for her part, wasn't surprised that Turner got picked elsewhere.

"I was surprised it didn't come sooner, to be honest," she said.

Turner was a fan favorite during her rookie season with the Storm, so it will be interesting to see how she is received by KeyArena tomorrow.

"I'm sure they're going to be very supportive and I'm going to be excited to be in that atmosphere," said Turner, "but once the ball goes up I'm going to be concerned with the game and trying to get a win."

On the Storm side, the big storyline at Thursday's practice was rookie Katie Gearlds, who had a whirlwind trip back to the Midwest. It started with a career game - 17 points and six boards - Tuesday at Chicago. Wednesday, with the Storm visiting Indianapolis, Gearlds had a street named "Katie Gearlds Way" in her honor in her native Beech Grove. Later that day, she played her first regular-season WNBA game at Conseco Fieldhouse but struggled, shooting 1-for-8 from the field.

"She had a great game at Chicago," said Donovan. "We saw the Katie that played throughout most of training camp play in Chicago - very comfortable and confident. Then we go to Indiana and, very much like a rookie, up and down a little bit. You saw a little bit more of her rookie side in the Indiana game."

Gearlds dismissed the notion that her return home had anything to do with the game.

"If anything, there was no pressure," she said. "I was playing in front of people I love in a gym I've played countless number of games in. I've knocked down countless numbers of shots in that gym. It's ten minutes from home, so there was no pressure."

In the context of the discussion about the Storm's zone offense, I asked whether Gearlds felt she missed shots she should have made or whether she could have gotten better looks.

"Some of the shots I took were definitely shots I felt like I should have made," she answered. "We watched the first half and I missed four threes in the first half. Maybe one was kind of sketchy if I should have shot it. Those are shots that I'm going to knock down. I still feel very confident with it."

Gearlds called yesterday's street renaming "nice. There were some people there, some friends and family, some of my old teachers - community members who are high up in Beech Grove, so to speak. It was nice. I got to climb the ladder and cut the ribbon off the street sign. It's definitely something that not a lot of people can say they have."

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

First All-Star Voting Returns

The first returns are in from the WNBA's All-Star voting, and Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson are both leading at their respective positions.

Sue has an advantage of just 17 votes on Becky Hammon, but she's got nearly twice the votes of the third guard in the voting, so she's looking very good for a starting spot. That third guard is, at the moment, Betty Lennox, but it looks like she'll have the cold comfort of being first runner-up.

At forward, Jackson (20,464 votes) and Diana Taurasi (18,584) have an enormous advantage over Sheryl Swoopes (9,232) and the rest of the pack.

The most interesting race is at center, where Ruth Riley of the Silver Stars has 12,240 votes to the 12,126 of the Storm's Janell Burse, with Sacramento's Yolanda Griffith also in quintuple digits.

The moral of that story: vote, vote, vote! Vote now! The Storm has a real chance of having three All-Star starters.

One slightly disappointing bit of news: Iziane Castro Marques doesn't appear on the first returns, nor do any other write-in candidates. Call me a cynic, but I'd be very surprised if Izi hadn't gotten at least 732 write-in votes (the total for Minnesota's Tamika Raymond, last amongst forwards on the ballot) from intrepid Storm fans.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Holdsclaw Retires

I'm still reeling from coming home tonight after playing basketball, opening up Women's Hoops Blog and seeing the news that Chamique Holdsclaw has retired from the WNBA at the age of 30.

Really, the news probably should not be that surprising, as Holdsclaw talked openly about retirement in the past. Still, this sudden of a mid-season decision did come as something of a shock. I'll leave it to others to analyze the decision and Holdsclaw's too-brief WNBA career.

My interest lies primarily with how this affects the Sparks, who now find themselves without their leading scorer. Holdsclaw had been playing shooting guard in a big L.A. lineup; with Temeka Johnson still sidelined by microfracture knee surgery, Marta Fernandez and Lisa Willis are the only natural guards on the Sparks roster. Mwadi Mabika will probably see plenty of minutes at two guard, and you'd have to figure L.A. will sign a point guard to fill Holdsclaw's roster spot.

I think Willis might be the big beneficiary in the short term. She's averaged only 8.5 minutes per game this season, but has the talent to break out with more action.

The Sparks, who have six players besides Holdsclaw averaging at least five points per game, have the depth to survive her loss. Where it will really be felt, however, is in terms of creating offense. Until or unless Lisa Leslie returns after giving birth, L.A. doesn't have a lot of players that can get shots for themselves and their teammates. Taj McWilliams-Franklin has been inconsistent this season, while Mwadi Mabika is really better suited as a complementary player. The person who might have to step up is, of all people, rookie guard Marta Fernandez. Fernandez is averaging 11.8 points and 5.2 assists per game. Is the Spaniard capable of more? We'll find out soon enough.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Good Night and Goodbye

The photo above currently graces the frontpage of, but I thought it was worth a quick comment as well. Is there anybody who enjoys a good win better than Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson? Seemingly every time the Storm puts away an opponent early, there is a photo of the two All-Stars and good friends yukking it up on the bench or cheering on their teammates. For Storm fans, there is no better image, no clearer sign that a game has gone well.
The story of tonight's game can probably be told pretty well with two players, Jackson and Minnesota's Seimone Augustus. They came into tonight 1-2 in the league in scoring, with Augustus narrowly in the lead. Jackson, back after missing Thursday's game with an illness, had 30 points on 12-of-15 shooting, nine rebounds and two blocks. Augustus scored only five points after the first quarter and was held to 5-for-17 shooting by the Storm (credit goes to Iziane Castro Marques and very effective help defense). As a result, Jackson and Augustus are still 1-2 in scoring, but now it's the Storm's Aussie that has the advantage.
Both teams had balanced scoring, with five players in double-figures a side, but Jackson's advantage over Augustus was a big reason Bird and Jackson were on the bench for the final five minutes or so.
I also want to spotlight the performance of the bench in the first half. The bench never lost any ground and in fact made up some late in the first quarter and early in the second. That allowed the starters the chance to spurt ahead with a 14-0 run midway through the second period. From there on out, the Storm was never threatened.
Tonight's game had a tinge of sadness because it was the last for Jennifer Carroll with the Storm after four-plus seasons, including the 2004 WNBA Championship campaign. In multiple different roles in the PR Department, working with the Sonics but focused on the Storm, JC has been a big reason why Seattle is the best market in the WNBA in terms of media coverage. Unfortunately, she's moving on to a new position in corporate PR. Goodbye and good luck, Jennifer. We'll miss ya.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Jackson Practices, Plans to Play Saturday

The media got a surprise at Friday's Storm practice. After being out all week due to illness, including missing last night's loss at Sacramento, Lauren Jackson returned to the court for practice and it looks like she will play tomorrow when the Storm hosts the Minnesota Lynx (7:00 p.m., 1150 AM KKNW, ).

"Honestly, I feel good," said Jackson. When asked if she'll start, Jackson emphatically responded, "Heck yeah - I better."

Storm Coach Anne Donovan was, typically, a bit more reserved in that regard, saying "it looks good" for Jackson to play against the Lynx.

"We'll still watch her, and if she goes backwards at all, we would change that, but she looks good."

Jackson is looking for privacy with regards to her health, but called the last week "a bit of a scare" and indicated that tests came up negative.

Sue Bird went through practice (skipping only shooting drills) despite a little inevitable swelling in her left knee after the flight. Bird said she was worried about how much she would be able to play during shootaround, but the knee felt better after a lengthy warm-up and some treatement prior to the game.

"I felt better in the game than I have any time in practice the last couple of days," Bird said.

Bird downplayed the role of Jackson's absence in her season-high 21 points, saying it was more about how the Monarchs defend on the perimeter ("equal opportunity" defense, she termed it to laughs, meaning Sacramento doesn't adjust much to opposing personnel). However, her teammate and friend Jackson called it a "good chance for Sue to really get her game going, which she did."

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Palmer Named to UK Coaching Staff

Storm veteran Wendy Palmer has a new off-season job. Palmer was named to the staff of the University of Kentucky women, moving over after two seasons as an assistant at Virginia Commonwealth.

New UK Coach Matthew Mitchell, a long-time SEC assistant, was happy to add Palmer.

“We are so excited that Wendy is joining our family,” Mitchell said. “Wendy is a WNBA pioneer and will bring so much experience to this staff. Her experience will prove to be invaluable to the success of this program.”

Mitchell and Assistant Coach Niya Butts were in Seattle during training camp to get to know Palmer.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Bird Practices; Jackson to Miss Thursday's Game

The Storm got good news and bad news on the injury front at Wednesday's practice.

Sue Bird, who had missed two days of practice because of a right quad contusion and swelling in her left knee, was able to practice. An MRI on Bird's left knee was negative, but she wore a thin white sleeve on the knee. Bird did not participate in the shooting drill that ended practice, instead icing the knee on the sideline.

Bird said afterwards that she first experienced swelling Sunday morning, and that it was something of a concern because she didn't have an explanation as to why. Also, this is the knee that Bird has had surgery on twice (she tore her left ACL in college and had microfracture surgery on the same knee after the 2003 WNBA season).

An MRI was negative and Bird is icing the knee nearly constantly to get any swelling out and reduce the discomfort. She hopes to play against the Monarchs, but will know more after this afternoon's flight to Sacramento.

Bird also said she'll have to have another MRI at some point when a game is not so near so that doctors can inject dye into the knee to get a better look at it.

Jackson is still not feeling well and is undergoing further evaluation. For precautionary reasons, she will not travel to Sacramento with the Storm and is out of tomorrow's game.

"We're just keeping her here with the doctors and trying to get her well," said Storm Head Coach Anne Donovan.

The Storm is in much better position to play without Jackson this season than last year, when the team went 1-3 when Jackson did not play. Two of those games came under similar circumstances, where Jackson was unexpectedly unavailable. Seattle won at Los Angeles last June when Jackson did not travel but lost to Sacramento on July 18 when plantar fasciitis kept her out (that was also the day of the sale of the Sonics & Storm).

Although Donovan was noncommittal, Wendy Palmer will likely step into Jackson's starting position, with Tye'sha Fluker and Ashley Robinson available as reserve posts. Shyra Ely could be an option as well. Sacramento, which just lost DeMya Walker to a season-ending knee injury, has been playing a lot of smallball under former Storm assistant Jenny Boucek. 6-3 Nicole Powell, usually a small forward, has seen extensive action at power forward.

Katie Gearlds really shot the ball well when the Storm worked against the practice squad. That will translate into a game sooner than later, and the couple of baskets Katie had at the end of last Saturday's loss might have helped that process.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

West Coach Up for Grabs

If you're anything like me - and I sincerely hope, for your sake, that you are not - you've been wondering how the WNBA would pick the coach of this year's Western Conference All-Star team. League rules dictate that it is the coach of the previous year's WNBA Finalist from the conference, but with Sacramento's John Whisenant stepping down to work solely as a GM, this year is different.

The WNBA announced today that this year's coach will be picked as the NBA does it - by best record in the conference at a date prior to the All-Star break, in this case July 1. So there's a little extra incentive for teams to get off to a good start.

Bird's MRI Negative

The results of the MRI on Sue Bird's left knee came back negative, and she's day-to-day. We'll know more Wednesday when the Storm returns to practice.

Good reading material this morning: a New York Times profile of Bill Laimbeer and the Shock.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Walker Out

When Sacramento forward DeMya Walker was carried off the court in a stretcher on Saturday night, it was pretty clear her season was over. An MRI conducted today confirmed that, revealing a torn patella tendon and a sprained MCL in her right knee. Walker's season is over.

This latest setback has got to be tough for Walker, who sprained a ligament in the same knee in 2005, missing 12 games of an All-Star campaign. She returned to help Sacramento to the WNBA Championship. Walker missed the early part of 2006 after giving birth.

The Monarchs have learned to play without Walker over the last few years, but she certainly will be missed. Depth has always been key for Sacramento, and this cuts into it. The Monarchs still have Rebekkah Brunson and Yolanda Griffith up front, backed up by Adrian Williams. Sacramento signed Linda Frolich as a free agent after the news, and Nicole Powell has the ability to play power forward if the Monarchs go with a slightly smaller lineup.

Sacramento still has plenty of talent, but in the competitive Western Conference, a small drop-off could be the difference between the playoffs and the lottery.

In the extreme short term, Brunson has a strained right shoulder which kept her out of Saturday's game. If Brunson is unable to play on Thursday against the Storm, that would leave Sacramento with Griffith and Williams as their primary frontcourt players.

Bird, Jackson Miss Storm's Practice

The Storm practiced Monday without All-Stars Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson. Bird did go through some 5-on-0 dummy offense early in the practice, but was scheduled to sit out later. Instead, she went to the doctor when a spot opened up to have her left knee examined. She has experienced some swelling in the knee.

"She was limping," when she practiced, said Storm Head Coach Anne Donovan. Bird had previously sat out Sunday's practice because of a right quad contusion suffered late in Saturday's loss to San Antonio.

Jackson was at practice, but feeling under the weather.

"Don't know what it is, but she's not feeling well," said Donovan.

The Storm will have tomorrow off and will use Wednesday's practice to prepare for Thursday's game with Sacramento.

H-O-R-S-E Postponed

With Sue Bird still not 100% after leaving Saturday's game early with a right quad contusion, her H-O-R-S-E matchup with the P-I's Jim Moore, originally scheduled for today, has been postponed.

Friday, June 1, 2007

H-O-R-S-E Monday

In Thursday's column questioning coverage of the WNBA in Seattle, Seattle Post-Intelligencer columnist Jim Moore challenged Storm guard Sue Bird to a game of H-O-R-S-E. As Moore updates today, that matchup will take place after Monday's practice. will, of course, have complete coverage.

Also: Tune in to New York Vinnie on 710 KIRO at 7:35 p.m. tonight to hear Izi Castro Marques in her first-ever live radio interview in Seattle!

LJ Gets Another Look at the Three

A significant portion of the part of practice the media watched this morning featured, again, Lauren Jackson playing small forward in a big Storm lineup. Clearly, Anne Donovan is interested in putting this lineup on the floor at some point. She didn't know when that opportunity might come.

Jackson at small forward obviously creates mismatches in the post, and it was interesting to see Donovan emphasize the importance of hard cuts and good picks away from the ball when Jackson screens for another post player, which would force a different mismatch.

After four practices in five days, the Storm is ready to get back on the court against an opponent. This mini-training camp allowed Donovan to work on many different things.

"We'll actually find out how much we got accomplished," she saisd, "when we take the floor."

Plenty of news around the WNBA today. In Washington, Richie Audbato has resigned with the Mystics off to an 0-4 start. Kudos to Alan Horton for noticing this makes Donovan (123) the active career WNBA wins leader. She's just 11 wins back of Audabto (134) for the second-most wins in WNBA history, though Michael Cooper (121) is close in the rear-view mirror.

"Tree" Rollins, in his second season on Aduabto's staff, will take over on an interim basis. Earlier this week, forward Crystal Robinson retired to join the coaching staff.

In Houston, Sheryl Swoopes will miss the next 2-4 weeks with a bulging disc in her lower back. There was plenty of talk that Swoopes was hurting, but it's a bit of a surprise that Swoopes will be out for an extended period. This should mean plenty of action for newly-signed Barbara Turner. For the Comets, however, it's not a great way to work out of an 0-3 start in the competitive West.