Friday, August 31, 2007

Odds and Ends

A game apiece into the Conference Finals, nothing has happened to change my picks.

Of course, the San Antonio Silver Stars would argue that might not be true were it not for the controversial (to put it mildly) call that went against them in the final seconds. That said, at worst Phoenix played even on the road and probably should have put the game away before that call. Becky Hammon is terrific and Dan Hughes has San Antonio playing very well, but the Mercury is the better team in this series.

Detroit and Indiana, in my mind, played to form Friday night. Indiana should have had the narrow advantage at home. Now it's up to the Fever to try to steal a game at The Palace of Auburn Hills. By the way, what's up with the Shock's free-throw shooting? 8-of-17 (47.1%) tonight and barely above 50% for the postseason. Bizarre.

- Congrats to former Storm guard Tully Bevilaqua on winning the WNBA's Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award. Tully's easy smile and great attitude will never be forgotten by those who worked with her when she was in Seattle (or elsewhere in the league, for that matter).

- I came across the Shock's 10th Anniversary Team on Nice feature, and look for something similar in a few years on There's several Storm tie-ins on the second team, which includes Storm posts Astou Ndiaye-Diatta and Wendy Palmer as well as former Storm guard Sandy Brondello.

Shock Basketball Information Specialist Eddie Rivero calls Palmer "probably the first true all-star on the team."

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Wild Game 3s

Hey, at least I predicted something right.

I said Sunday I expected some very competitive Game 3s after the mismatches that marked the first four days of WNBA Playoff action. That turned out to be a vast understatement, with two of the games going into overtime and the third decided with 0.5 seconds left. The last two days have been WNBA action at its finest.

While waiting for players to complete their exit interviews tomorrow at The Furtado Center, I'll be working on my preview of the two Conference Finals series, which I hope to have posted by day's end. Then again, after I correctly picked only one of the three First Round series - that being Detroit-New York, which, ahem, I did not see going three games and an extra five minutes before being decided - I'm not sure said preview will hold much value.

By the way ... if you're into semi-random WNBA stats (you know I am), Paul Swanson has some great numbers on his blog. Former Storm guard Tully Bevilaqua finished third in the WNBA, drawing 20 offensive fouls. In 2004 I made it my mission to track how many charges Tully drew, but I don't recall getting very far. Storm center Janell Burse drawing 16 offensive fouls in 29 games was more surprising and impressive.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

2007 Season Ends for Storm

PHOENIX - We really believed. When the Storm rallied to tie the game at 85-all, it looked like a miraculous comeback was well within the team's reach. Alas, Diana Taurasi and company destroyed that vision. Taurasi's three-pointer seemed to be worth even more points, it was such a shocking turn of momentum and came from so deep. The Storm never recovered.

The nature of the WNBA Playoffs is that a defeat comes very suddenly; two games, in this case, and the season is over. It's hard to process right away. There were so many highlights to the seson, including Lauren Jackson's play all year long, but the ultimate result was the Storm falling short of what it set out to do.

The next couple of days, including exit interviews, should allow us to put the season in better perspective.

When the Storm blew out Phoenix on May 23, my big question was whether the Mercury had enough grit after losing Kristen Rasmussen and Kamila Vodichkova. I would say that over the last two games Phoenix has conclusively answered that question. Turns out Kelly Miller has more than enough scrappiness to cover the entire team.

It's more than Miller, however. The Mercury may not be physically tough, but there is a mental resiliency provided by Taurasi and Cappie Pondexter, amongst others. Phoenix answered every Storm run over the two games in this series and wasn't rattled even when the Storm rallied from 22 down to tie the game.

Based on this series, the Mercury has to be considered the clear favorite in the Western Conference Finals against either Sacramento or San Antonio. How far could Phoenix go? There's no reason to believe the Mercury can't win this whole thing.

Can the Storm Add Another Game 3?

PHOENIX - Since the WNBA went to its current eight-team Playoff system in 2000, there have never been a full four Game 3s in the First Round. Just last year, the Seattle Storm participated in the only Game 3 of the four series. This afternoon, however, the Storm has a chance to make four Game 3s in two days by beating the Phoenix Mercury.

The first four days of the WNBA postseason have been competitive to the extent that all three series thus far have gone the distance, but the individual games have been surprisingly uncompetitive. Thursday's triple-OT clash between Indiana and Connecticut was an instant classic and Detroit and New York went down to the wire today, but every other game has been lopsided. That's a surprising outcome, and one I don't think that will continue with the Game 3s starting tomorrow.

The other surprise - one the Storm hopes does not continue today - has been the dominance of home teams, which are 6-1 so far, with Phoenix earning the lone road victory to date.

The Storm traveled to Phoenix yesterday afternoon after practicing in Seattle, then held a shootaround at the US Airways Center this morning. I got in about 11 a.m. this morning and, after a quick lunch with some co-workers, now it's killing time until we head to the arena. Once again, make sure to check out our inaugural road Live From Press Row.

You can pass the time by reading about this series, starting with our Insider Preview. Diana Taurasi blogged about Game 1 in her blog with Sue Bird, while the Mercury Web site has behind-the-scenes video from Game 1, including Bill Russell's visit to the Phoenix locker room after the game.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Storm Ready to Go

After taking Wednesday off, the Storm went through its final practice in preparation for taking on the Mercury starting tomorrow. During the portion of practice open to the media, the Storm was again working against Phoenix's 3-2 zone with Adia Barnes playing the Diana Taurasi role of rover. Talking to Adia afterwards, she's been very impressed with how the Storm has played this week in practice.

Storm Head Coach Anne Donovan cited the "good focus" in practice this week and praised the practice unit for playing as close to Phoenix's style as possible.

Most of the discussion after practice centered on the relationships on both sides. Speaking of that, I need to work on my feature on that topic.

Update: As I transcribe, I want to make sure I find a place for this quote from Sue Bird on comparing the Storm with the Mercury:

"Their inside game is not as tall, not as Lauren Jackson as ours is."

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Storm Preparations Continue

Day two of the Storm's prep work in practice for the Phoenix Mercury focused more on working against the Mercury's junk defenses - a triangle-and-two and, notably, the box-and-one against Lauren Jackson I wrote about yesterday.

"We put somebody on Lauren to frustrate her today," explained Storm Head Coach Anne Donovan, "so hopefully she can get that frustration out in practice and not be so frustrated when she sees Diana (Taurasi) on Friday."

Storm color analyst and former player Adia Barnes has been part of the practice squad the last few days, and today - at least during the portion of practice open to the media - she was assigned the task of filling Taurasi's role in the Mercury's zone.

There was a brief moment of shock when we walked into the practice court and saw Sue Bird on the sidelines having her foot worked on, but it turned out to be precautionary. Bird has a fourth metatarsal contusion, which means she's got a bruised toe on her right foot. She sat out the end of practice, but the injury isn't a serious concern.

I was interested to hear Wendy Carpenter of The News Tribune use the same word I did yesterday - "loose" - to describe the Storm's attitude.

"I think we feel good about having enough time to rest, so nobody's overworked - and it's a mental and a physical rest - and yet when they've come here, they've come to work," responded Donovan. "I would say loose, because we know our opponent and we know what we need to do. We're in a good place. I guess that's how I'd say it."

Lastly, Izi Castro Marques delivered a perfect line one day late - I would have loved to use it in yesterday's story on what a good matchup this is from the perspective of fans and the media.

"It's a fun game," she said. "I think everybody likes to watch that game, everybody likes to play that game because it's a high-scoring game - the best offensive teams in the league. It's going to be a fun game, but we know we can't keep up running with them, so we've got to limit our turnovers and defend as much as we can because that's what they do: Shoot and run, shoot and run."

Also ... if you haven't checked out Taurasi's latest entry in her blog with Sue Bird, be sure to do so. Apparently, she doesn't talk much trash on the court. We'll have to double-check with LJ on that one.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Back at Practice

After taking the weekend off, the Storm returned to the practice court Monday and had a very successful effort. During the scrimmage against the practice squad open to the media, the Storm earned a 39-23 victory with some hot shooting.

"If we play the way we practiced today, I don't think we're going to have a problem against Phoenix at all," said Lauren Jackson afterwards. "We had a great session."

LJ was in a jovial mood after practice, reacting with a grin to news that she'd won another Player of the Week - her record-setting fifth. As a result, I asked her if there was a looseness around the team, and Jackson adamantly disagreed.

"Definitely not," she said. "I think there's definitely a sense of urgency, but it's a really good feeling. I'm glad that we're here. It's a new season for us and everything that has happened has now been tossed out the window. It feels good."

I agree that "Loose" was in fact the wrong word. However, I do sense a calming confidence in the team going into the playoffs with a three-game winning streak and a 2-1 record against the Mercury. That's not disrespectful to Phoenix whatsoever, but there's been a vocalized agreement most of the season that game outcomes are not about what the opponent does, they're about what the Storm does. When this team plays its game, it can beat anyone in the league.

Final WNBA Stats

Ah, there's nothing quite like the day after the end of the season for the statistical analyst. All the numbers are final and in the books. Let's take a look, shall we?

League Level

The final WNBA Offensive Rating of 98.5 points per 100 possessions was essentially unchanged from last year's 98.6 mark. However, the league pace went up from 75.9 possessions per game to 77.8, which meant average scoring was up from 74.9 to 76.6 points per game.

One thing I never touched on here was the stunning improvement in league-wide free-throw shooting. The WNBA's FT% went from 74.3% to 77.5%. Three-point percentage was also up from 33.5% to 34.8%, while two-point percentage was down from 45.0% to 44.3% (more physical play in the paint).

Turnover percentage went up from 17.6% to 18.2%; I bet if you had the numbers tracked like this, you'd find the entire difference was attributable to an increase in traveling/palming violations.

UPDATE: Paul Swanson contributes these numbers and confirms my suspicion. Traveling/Dribbling turnovers increased from 1.4% of possessions in 2006 to 2.4% in 2007.

Offensive Rating

Team          ORtg
Phoenix 106.5
Seattle 104.9
Detroit 100.7
Connecticut 100.1
San Antonio 98.4
Minnesota 97.5
Sacramento 97.5
Washington 97.0
Chicago 96.6
Indiana 96.2
Houston 95.9
Los Angeles 94.4
New York 94.2
The two best offenses in the WNBA square off at KeyArena on Friday. Think this is going to be a fun series? ... It's hard to believe Indiana was third in the WNBA in offense at the time Tamika Catchings was injured; the Fever's offense was already sliding a little, but went off a cliff without Catchings. Indiana's defense, as we'll see, was not as affected by the injury. ... Usually when the worst offensive team in the league makes the playoffs, it's on the strength of defense, but the Liberty isn't that good on D.

Defensive Rating

Team          ORtg
Indiana 91.4
Detroit 94.6
Sacramento 95.2
San Antonio 97.1
Connecticut 97.2
New York 97.2
Washington 99.4
Houston 100.2
Chicago 100.3
Seattle 100.6
Phoenix 101.1
Los Angeles 101.8
Minnesota 104.2
Places where you will be hearing the phrase "defense wins championships": Indiana, Detroit, Sacramento and San Antonio (though the Silver Stars are more good than great defensively). Places where you will not be hearing the phrase "defense wins championships": Seattle, Phoenix. Whoever wins the Storm-Mercury series will have point differential on their side (as you'll see in a moment), but a substantial defensive disadvantage.

Pythagorean Standings

Again, the standings based on expected wins (as calculated from point differential):

WEST          ExpW   EAST          ExpW
------------------ ------------------
Phoenix 21.0 Detroit 22.2
Seattle 19.9 Indiana 20.6
Sacramento 18.5 Connecticut 19.7
San Antonio 18.1 Washington 15.2
Minnesota 13.2 Chicago 14.2
Houston 13.1 New York 14.1
Los Angeles 11.2
Based on point differential, the Phoenix-Storm series should be the Western Conference Finals, not an opening-round series. The Silver Stars saw their differential take a hit playing reserves in yesterday's 26-point blowout loss at Minnesota, but even if we take out that game San Antonio only improves to 18.9 expected wins.

In the East, the last team in differential made the playoffs, but New York wasn't significantly behind Washington and Chicago.

Worth noting: the league-wide parity by differential. Detroit isn't nearly as dominant in terms of differential, not anywhere near some of the league's best teams of all times, while even the league's second (or third) division was competitive.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Bird as Barista

Sue Bird served as a Celebrity Barista at the packed Pike Place Starbucks yesterday as part of the Market's Centennial Celebration and Storm Photographer Terrence Vaccaro got some great shots:

By the way, I think everyone should know that "The A Team" - Storm broadcasters Adia Barnes and Alan Horton - was unfamiliar with the term "barista" before Tuesday's game. Just before reading a promo, Alan asked me if it was pronounced BARE-is-tuh.

The Rest of the MVP Ballot

Hopefully, by now you've seen our Lauren Jackson for MVP page, which makes the case for Jackson to win the WNBA's highest individual honor for the second time in her career. You might accurately guess that Jackson is at the top of my (strictly mythical) MVP ballot. How about the rest?

Tamika Catchings has key numbers - PER and net plus-minus, notably - that are not far behind LJ's. Had Catchings stayed healthy, it would have been hard to begrudge MVP voters for rewarding Catchings for her years of excellence. As it is, she ends up second on my ballot.

The other player who comes out looking very good in the stat table that anchors the LJ for MVP page is Penny Taylor. The Phoenix forward has been as good on offense as anyone in the WNBA this season, and it's translated into the Mercury's success with her on and off the court in a way Diana Taurasi's play has not. Taylor carried Phoenix during the middle of the year, including dominating performances in the two games Taurasi missed due to league suspension. She gets my third-place vote.

My fourth-place vote goes to Becky Hammon. Hammon might be getting more credit for San Antonio's turnaround than her performance would justify - especially keeping in mind the Silver Stars going 4-1 without her and a relatively low net plus-minus rating - but she has still had a brilliant season, one of the best for a point guard in league history.

To round out my (again, mythical) ballot, I'm going with something of an oddball pick: Lindsay Whalen. The Sun is campaigning for Whalen's backcourt-mate, Katie Douglas, for MVP, but it's Whalen who has keyed the team's run in the second half of the season. I broke Whalen's performance down into her first 16 games of the season and her second 16 and her PER skyrocketed from 17.0 to 27.3 over those two spans. Whalen was rebounding and passing the ball well, but she's been on fire with her shooting since the end of June, shooting 55.4% from the field over the last 16 games. Add it up and Whalen has been as valuable as anyone in the league over the last month and a half.

Storm on

A couple of very good reads today on featuring the Storm. First, Sue Bird has updated her blog with Diana Taurasi, writing about a get-together at her house last night with Mama Palmer (that's Wendy's mother, not Wendy herself) cooking:

I was the host, Wendy's mom was the chef and we had pretty much everyone over. A couple of people couldn't make it but it was fun. We had the New York-Washington game on NBA TV and everyone was eating their "soul food." We had mac-and-cheese, pork chops, ribs, chicken casserole, pound cake for dessert and some banana pudding. We tore it up.

And then, of course, we finished off the night with a little Guitar Hero. Some of the older crowd left, but I have to admit, Izi was killing it. For her first time, the Brazilian has some moves on the guitar. It was fun to just hang out and we have a team that really likes each other and gets along so it was good to come together...
Also, has a Q&A with Storm Assistant Coach Heidi VanDerveer.

Q. What are your specific duties with the team?
VanDerveer: We split the scouting between Shelley and myself and I work primarily with the perimeter players and Shelley works with the post people and I watch our offense quite a bit and Shelley watches our defense quite a bit.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

No Shoulder Surgery for Burse

Storm center Janell Burse was back at practice for the first time since having surgery on her left wrist on Monday. She'll be in a soft cast for five weeks before beginning rehabilitation.

Burse isn't planning, however, to have surgery on her partially torn left shoulder labrum. That had at one point been in the plans, but because Burse suffered no subluxations - incidents where the shoulder comes out of the socket - after training camp, she doesn't believe surgery is necessary.

"The thing was, after the season, if it was a big problem, get it fixed, but it hasn't been a problem at all," Burse said. "I don't know if it's healed itself or just went away. I'm not going to get operated on just because two months ago I had this injury. It's not bothering me at all."

That decision means Burse will have the ability to play overseas this off-season. Rehab from shoulder surgery would last approximately six months, essentially taking up Burse's entire off-season.

Some other notes:

- Storm Head Coach Anne Donovan is thrilled her team finishes the season tomorrow against L.A., while other teams are in action up to Sunday.

"This whole schedule's been good (lately)," said Donovan. "We've been able to take several days off here, rest and then practice hard in between games. It's been a good thing."

- Katie Gearlds has moved ahead of Shyra Ely in the rotation, something which probably should have been apparent from the last few games. Ely has slumped a little on offense, while Gearlds has been shooting the ball well and aggressively giving the Storm a dangerous element off the bench. Donovan also cited Gearlds' improvement on D.

- Donovan was "thrilled" with the way Ashley Robinson executed on Tuesday as the post opposite Lauren Jackson. The Lynx played way off of Robinson, using her defender to give help on Jackson's cuts, and Robinson did a good job of diving to the basket. Robinson scored a season-high seven points.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Hear the Storm

Lauren Jackson will be on KJR 950 AM tonight at 8:30 p.m.

Betty Lennox will be on Northwest Sports Tonight at 9:30 and 11:30 on Northwest Cable News (generally channel 2) and at 10:30 on KONG 6/16.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Handicapping the Race for No. 1

We know the Storm is IN. We know the Storm will be the fourth seed in the West. But who will finish with the top spot in the conference and opposte the Storm in the first round of the playoffs? With six days left in the WNBA season, that is very much still up in the air.

Phoenix holds a one-game lead right now over San Antonio for first. That lead is bigger than it sounds because the Mercury holds the tie-breaker between the two teams, having won the season series 3-1. However, it's also smaller than it sounds because the teams remain tied in the all-important loss column.

Phoenix's advantage stems from having played two more games than San Antonio. If the Silver Stars win out, that advantage disappears (though, again, the Mercury would still win the tie).

So how about the schedules?

Phoenix has only one opponent left on the docket: A home-and-home with Sacramento that could be difficult.

One loss by the Mercury would leave the door open for the Silver Stars if they can go undefeated. San Antonio too has the Monarchs left to play, at ARCO on Wednesday while Phoenix is resting.

Obviously, the Mercury hopes Sacramento wins that game, but that would also give the Monarchs more to play for in the season-ending home-and-home series. Sacramento can't finish in first - Phoenix would hold the tie-breaker because of conference record - but still could finish second, an effort that would be greatly advanced by beating the Silver Stars. So keep a close eye on that game tomorrow.

I think Phoenix will probably hold on for first, but this last week could get very interesting.

By the way: If you haven't checked it lately, the NBA Access with Ahmad Rashad page has now posted video of the episode featuring Sue Bird and Jackson. Click on "Season 2 Episodes" to watch.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Day One of the Rest of the Season

With a playoff spot secured, the Storm got back to work Monday at The Furtado Center, practicing in preparation for tomorrow's game with Minnesota.

Saturday had a palpable effect on the mood at Furtado. It would have been one thing to clinch, as the Storm did, with Houston's loss at San Antonio and then go out and play poorly. Instead, the Storm had a complete game in dismantling the Washington Mystics 91-68 at the Key.

On top of that, the team will be at home the rest of the week for the final two regular-season games against the Lynx and the Los Angeles Sparks on Friday before preparing to host Game 1 of a first-round series either Aug. 23 or Aug. 24 at the Key.

"The schedule right now works out in our favor," said Anne Donovan, who resisted the temptation to add "at last."

Ashley Robinson's performance filling in at center for Janell Burse has given the team a lot of confidence about its new starting lineup. Robinson has 24 rebounds and five blocks over the last two games. Donovan gave Robinson a lot of credit for what she termed, "Defensively, one of our best games by far" against the Mystics. She also cited Robinson's excellent communication as the anchor of the team's defense.

Betty Lennox is scheduled for an MRI this afternoon on her left wrist, termed as "precautionary" by all parties. She practiced today and is planning to keep playing through the injury barring something very surprising showing up on the MRI.

I caught the tail end of Lauren Jackson talking about where she is in the grieving process after her grandmother passed away last week.

"I have a lot of people supporting me," Jackson said. "I feel better each day."

Monday, August 6, 2007

Life Without Burse and Jackson

You've probably already seen that the Storm will be without starters Janell Burse and Lauren Jackson during the team's two-game road trip to Minnesota and Detroit. We're sending our best wishes out to Lauren and her family.

So what now for the Storm? Anne Donovan spoke last week when surgery on Burse's wrist was set for Aug. 14 about the possibility of adding a 12th player, and that now seems likely to provide some depth in the post.

Presumably, Wendy Palmer and Ashley Robinson will start up front on this trip, and they both have played well lately off the bench. Robinson stepped up in the second half of Saturday's win over Phoenix, grabbing eight rebounds in 20 minutes. Palmer got the lion's share of the minutes Friday when Jackson sustained a groin injury at Sacramento and finished with eight points and six boards.

Palmer and Robinson can replace a lot of what Burse and Jackson provide on defense and on the glass. Obviously, neither of them can match Jackson's scoring prowess and the Storm could use big games from Sue Bird and Betty Lennox in these games.

Another thing Donovan mentioned last week was that now would show why it was important to have a backup forward in Shyra Ely who could play in the post. Ely played some minutes at the four against the Mercury and should be able to match up with Kristen Mann in Minnesota and Swin Cash in Detroit. If Ely is playing the four, that might mean some more minutes on the perimeter for Katie Gearlds, hoping to build off Saturday's 13-point effort.

A couple other notes:
- Several people have been looking for a chance to see Saturday's feature on Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson from NBA Access with Ahmad Rashad. If you visit that homepage, you can see a brief preview. Past episodes have been archived under the "Season 2 Episodes" tab. The Bird/Jackson clip should be posted soon.

-'s Adam Hirshfield has a Q&A with Betty Lennox that is very well worth reading. I've been covering Lennox for four years and I still learned plenty from her answers about her path to this point in her WNBA career. Most notably, I was unaware the hip injury that cost Lennox nearly her entire second season in Minnesota was so serious.

I broke my hip my second year with Minnesota (2001), and I thought that
everything I had worked so hard for was coming to an end way too early for me.
The doctors told me that I wouldn't be able to run or walk again without a limp,
so I figured that my career was over. But I had surgery and I fought hard coming
back, and I ended up making my return way early because I was so determined to

- Led by season-ticket holder Jill Gallagher, members have been raising money for Simone Edwards' Simone4Children organization. Gallagher recently traveled to Jamaica to see the kids who are benefiting from these donations and help hand out school supplies. She chronicled the experience in several posts on the StormFans message boards.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Donovan Passes Adubato

Despite Anne Donovan's desire not to make a big deal of it, rightfully citing that wins are much more important this time of year, this milestone shouldn't go under the radar.

From the Sonics & Storm PR Department:

August 4, 2007

SEATTLE - The Storm’s victory over Phoenix tonight was the 135th of Head Coach Anne Donovan’s WNBA coaching career, moving her past former Liberty and Mystics Head Coach Richie Adubato and into second place on the WNBA’S all-time wins list. Donovan has recorded the most career wins of any active coach in the WNBA and now trails only former Comets Head Coach Van Chancellor (211) for the most victories in league history.

Donovan began her WNBA coaching career with the Indiana Fever in 2000 and spent the following two seasons with the Charlotte Sting before joining the Storm on Dec. 18, 2002. Now in her eighth season in the league, Donovan remains the only woman to surpass the 100-win mark as a coach and the only woman to coach her team to a WNBA Championship, guiding the Storm to the title in 2004.

“Coach Donovan continues to demonstrate that she’s one of the best coaches in the history of the league,” Storm Chief Operating Officer Karen Bryant said. “We’re thrilled to celebrate this milestone victory with her and look forward to many more memorable wins in the future.”

A member of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame and a three-time Olympic gold medalist as a player, Donovan is also the head coach of the USA Basketball Women’s Senior National Team.

WNBA All-Time Coaching Wins List
1. Van Chancellor – 211
2. Anne Donovan – 135*
3. Richie Adubato – 134
4. Michael Cooper – 128*
5. Dan Hughes – 112*
6. Bill Laimbeer – 112*
7. Mike Thibault – 103*
8. John Whisenant – 76

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Burse to Undergo Surgery

Just before the media was brought in to Thursday's Storm practice, a release was handed out indicating what you have probably already read: Storm center Janell Burse will be undergoing surgery to repair torn ligaments in her left wrist on Aug. 14.

As you may have noticed, today is not Aug. 14 - in fact the Storm has five games between now and then, when Dr. Carleton Keck is available to perform the surgery. Burse is planning to play in those games, though she remains day-to-day.

"I just think it depends on coach and how I'm performing when I'm out there," Burse told reporters before joining her teammates on a bus headed for the airport as the Storm travels to Sacramento. "I'm not going to ask for less minutes. I'm just going to try to play through it and see what happens."

Still, the Storm will definitely be without Burse for the last two games of the regular season and into a potential playoff run. Wendy Palmer and Ashley Robinson will share the center spot, though Storm Head Coach Anne Donovan said she hasn't yet thought about who will start and her eventual rotation.

Palmer and Robinson rotated at center at the end of the Storm's practice against its male practice squad after Burse was sidelined when she pushed off with the wrist and "felt it give."

Looking down the road, Shyra Ely's ability to play power forward - especially against smaller opponents like Phoenix - will come in handy to give the Storm depth up front. Donovan said the Storm could add a 12th player as a free agent.

In the short term, the Storm's big concern is Sacramento and trying to get a win against a Monarchs team that has won the first two matchups this season. Donovan led her team through a lengthy practice after taking Wednesday off and exhorted the practice squad to play with the same kind of defensive intensity the Storm will face in Sacramento.

"The good thing about playing them again," said Donovan, "is we get a chance to learn from the game, learn from the video, learn from practice today and then apply it."

The offensive rebounds which the Monarchs have piled up against the Storm - 33 in two games - were a natural topic of discussion.

(Though, as an aside, let me note that the Storm's performance on the offensive glass Tuesday, with just four offensive boards, was actually worse from the perspective of percentage of available rebounds than the team's defensive rebounding.)

Anyways, Donovan pointed out that the issues start with the Storm's perimeter players, who have to contain their opposing numbers. Too often Tuesday the Storm was beaten off the dribble and got out of position rotating defensively.

The Storm's post players did a good job of offering help - Lauren Jackson had seven of the team's 11 blocks - but the team struggled to "help the helper" - bring another player in to replace the one stepping up to help. That left Rebekkah Brunson, in particular, alone on the offensive glass. She grabbed nine offensive boards all by herself.

We'll see tomorrow if the Storm can learn from those mistakes and get a much-needed win.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Think Globally, Act Locally

At last night's game, the Storm gave out LJ for MVP rally cards which were featured on the ESPN Classic broadcast and prominent throughout the game. Now you can show your support for Jackson by downloading the collage of photos and LJ for MVP message as your desktop screen background:


LJ and Sue Off the Court

Don't miss your chance to get a peek into the lives of Storm All-Stars Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson. NBA Access with Ahmad Rashad features the duo this weekend. Here's the synopsis:

This week, NBA Access with Ahmad Rashad continues its unique coverage of the WNBA season. Cameras follow a pair of WNBA All-Decade performers who happen to be the best of friends: MVP front-runner Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird of the Seattle Storm. Jackson and Bird visit "Kangaroo and Kiwi", an Aussie pub in Seattle, where they shoot a game of pool and talk about their friendship, which included Bird visiting Jackson in her native Australia during the off-season. Behind the scenes coverage of the WNBA ... this Saturday, August 4th at 3:00 p.m. Pacific on KOMO TV.

Check your local listings if you're outside the Seattle area. Here, KOMO is channel 4.