Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Swoopes the Analyst

Tune in to tonight's FSN local broadcast of the UW women against the Kansas State Wildcats to hear Sheryl Swoopes offering color commentary. Swoopes and Brad Adam will be calling the game for FSN Northwest from Hec Edmundson Pavilion starting at 5:00 p.m.

Monday, December 29, 2008

LJ Update

We're a week away from teams being able to sign free agents to contracts, but don't expect a decision from Lauren Jackson on her future so quickly. That was the message from Jackson in an interview with the Daily Telegraph of Sydney.

"I think at the moment I have to decide on both (options), yeah both - whether to play in the WNBA and if so, with which team," Jackson told the paper. "I don't want to jump into anything that I can't fulfil right now. I don't know how I might feel in a couple of months' time.

"I have to make a decision and it's going to be a big one. It could impact on the rest of my career."
In the rest of the story, Jackson talks about her love for the city of Seattle and her happiness with the Storm. It's a must-read.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Holiday Traditions

On behalf of the entire Storm organization, a Happy Holidays to you and yours. Hopefully everyone in the Seattle area has made it safely through our atypically snowy holiday season.

Storm players shared with us a few of their traditions as well as what Sue Bird has learned about Christmas in Russia during her time spent playing overseas. Also see WNBA.com's look at how WNBA players, including the Storm's Swin Cash, are celebrating.

Ashley Robinson:
"My family is pretty normal. We just go over to someone's house to eat and exchange gifts. If there is a Cowboy game on we are usually shouting at the TV. That's about it. Get together, give gifts, and STUFF OUR FACES!"

Camille Little:
"At home in North Carolina, I have lots of fun memories. As a young girl, I always woke up really early on Xmas morning and my parents would be upset, so they told us one year we couldn't get up earlier than 8 a.m. To make sure I stayed in my room until then, my Mom hung a bell on the door knob of my bedroom so she could hear if I opened the door.

"On Xmas morning we put on Christmas music, and start opening presents. After all the presents are opened, we start cooking breakfast. We always have a big breakfast and all our family & friends are invited. We have pancakes, bacon, grits, eggs, sausage, biscuits, orange juice, coffee, the works! One year there were so many people we had to rent a room at a recreation center to fit us all."

"Christmas is different here. They open gifts at the strike of midnight on New Year's Day. Their santa is blue and they call him "Grandpa Claus." And with their religion and calendar, Christmas is on Jan. 7."

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Robinson Diary: Mavs Fans Remind Me of Storm Fans

Hey y'all! I have been so busy this month. I finally have time to sit down and get everyone caught up on what has been going on in Dallas. I know all of y'all are Seahawks fans, but “HOW BOUT THEM COWBOYS!!??” I think the Terrell Owens and the Cowboys receivers vs. Tony Romo and Jason Witten bickering is over. I didn't know whose side to take on this one. TO is a huge Lady Vol Fan, but Witten is a Vol! I stayed neutral throughout all that drama. I think the media made something out of nothing. TO has been on his very best behavior since he became a Cowboy. So please leave my BOYS alone. It's looking like the Cowboys are not going to make the playoffs anyways. BUMMER!

STORM FANS! I have said it before and I'll say it again - Storm fans are the best fans in the WNBA! I think your only competition might be the Mavs fans! They are terrific. They have the longest sellout streak going in the NBA right now. How incredible is that? My challenge to my faithful Storm Fans is to start our own sellout streak. The energy the Mavs fans bring reminds me so much of Storm fans. The Mavs just had a seven-game homestand. It was amazing how the team fed off of the energy. The only downfall was that the other teams that aren't used to playing in a packed arena fed off that same energy. Every home game ended up being a nailbiter. The Mavs came out on top, going 6-1 during that homestand. The only loss was a double-overtime game against a healthy San Antonio Spurs squad. In 2009 we need to get KeyArena rocking on another level! Let's further prove that Storm fans aren't just the best in the WNBA but the best in all sports!

I still have more bragging to do about these Mavs Fans. Mavs season ticket holder Neal Hawks came up with this brilliant idea to give up his courtside seats to military personnel on a special day called “Seats for Soldiers.” This year American Airlines flew in 150 soldiers that are currently rehabbing injuries suffered while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. They took a 45-minute flight from San Antonio to DFW. I was lucky enough to get tag along with Mavs Sideline Reporter Emily Jones on this special day. We greeted the soldiers at the airport and rode on the charter buses with them en route to dinner.

I was supposed to be interviewing different soldiers and just hearing their stories to assist Emily in finding a good story for the game broadcast. I don't know how well I did interviewing, but I did have great conversations with a few of the men and women on the bus. From the airport we went to Abacus. Abacus is one of the top restaurants in Dallas. Abacus Chef Kent Rathbun is BIG TIME! He's been Iron Chef, on the CBS Morning Show and he has been featured in multiple magazines. Chef Rathbun put it down for the Soldiers. I normally don't eat at high-end restaurants like Abacus, but I was not going to pass up free food from Chef Rathbun. As we say down south, “He put his foot in it.” I wasn't even hungry but ate anyways. Glad I did. So we get to the game and guess who the Mavs were playing? The team formally known as the Seattle Super Sonics! I was excited to see some of the guys, but I have to say I do wish they were still in Seattle. The team formally known as the Seattle Super Sonics played hard, but the Mavs came out on top.

From talking with the soldiers I learned that I have no idea what the word "war" really means. The men and women in our military are truly a group of unselfish Americans. I felt so proud to be in their presence. What heart it must take to go fight and protect people you don't even know. They just know they love our beautiful country and plan on keeping us safe. Seats for Soldiers was one of those experiences that I will never forget. I left at the end of the day feeling so blessed. Thank you to all of our men and women serving in the U.S. Military.

Courtesy Mavs.com

I finally heard from Kristen and Swin. Kristen was so sweet. She told me the best part about Ireland is she gets to work out whenever she wants. LOL! I used to try to get Kristen to leave the gym. I never could talk her into leaving early. She was consistently the first person in the gym and the last person to leave. I told her a lot of her needs to rub off on me and just a little of me needs to rub off on her. She seems so happy and I'm guessing she might be home by now. There might be some Kristen O'Neill sightings in the area. Swin and I are never online at the same time. One morning I woke up to a cute little message from Swin. Swin's nickname is grandma. Her message was, "Very wise like a granny." LOL! Love you, Swin!

So many people have asked me if the Storm is OK since the Comets folded. I want to make sure everyone saw this quote from Karen Bryant, the Storm's CEO, on the Storm's future. She said, “It's definitely a loss, there's no doubt about that. But as it relates to our future here, our future continues to be bright. We're focused on our 10th anniversary of playing in Seattle and have a lot of momentum already.”

I think that answers all question about the Storm. OUR FUTURE IS BRIGHT!!!

Being home has been a great time. I've started to miss playing so bad. I don't miss being in Europe, but I do miss being on the court with my Storm teammates. Everybody should be on their way home for the holidays. I wish all my lovely teammates safe travels back home. Happy Holidays to you from me! 2009 is going to be a blast!

Levinson on KPLU

Force 10 Hoops L.L.C. Chairperson Anne Levinson appeared yesterday on KPLU with Gary Davis. Take a listen online to the archived audio of the interview. (HT: RebKell and Stever)

Force 10 also pops up in Seattleite Jim Caple's piece for ESPN.com Outside the Lines on the year that was in Seattle sports, with the Storm singled out as a bright spot: "Before (Clayton) Bennett moved the Sonics to Oklahoma, he sold the Storm to local businesswomen who are committed to keeping the team here."

Caple tells the city's story using Lorin "Big Lo" Sandritzky, aka Seattle's Biggest Sports Fan, who describes the Storm as behind only the Seahawks in his heart with the departure of the Sonics. It's a must-read, even if the year's events aren't something we want to rehash, and it ends on an optimistic note.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Storm's Players Moving On

The last week before the European leagues break for the holidays was a critical one. In EuroCup, teams completed their two-game aggregate 16th-final playoff series, while the Euroleague played the last week of group action. In every case, the results were positive ones for teams with Storm ties.

Let's start in the EuroCup, where K.V. Imperial AEL faced the toughest challenge. As the lower-seeded team, Imperial had to go on the road for the conclusion of the series, needing to win or lose by three points or fewer. Indeed, Imperial pulled off the 79-70 win to take the series 141-128. Shyra Ely, who had to leave the first game just after halftime because she suffered whiplash, led the way with 15 points and 14 boards.

"It's a big win for our team and our country (Cyprus)," said Imperial coach Linos Gavriel. "It was a great collective win. We congratulate Rivas for their participation and now we want to continue making history against Galatasaray."

Katie Gearlds and Athinaikos were in comfortable shape coming home up 11 points, but still in danger of being knocked out. Any worry was short-lived, as Athinaikos defeated SK Cesis 90-72 to advance. Gearlds' 23 points led all scorers, and she knocked down five three-pointers while shooting 9-of-14 from the field.

Dynamo Moscow, the top seed, cruised to a 164-115 aggregate win, taking Thursday's matchup with the Solna Vikings 89-57. Janell Burse had 12 points and six boards, adding three steals and a pair of blocks on defense. Teammate Oxana Zakalyuzhnaya deserves a tip of the cap for her 26-point, 14-rebound effort.

Lastly, for some scheduling reason, Tarbes finished up its series a week early, beating Baschet ICIM 96-52 in the home leg. The final 206-110 margin was easily the largest in any of the aggregate series. With advancement well in hand, Tanisha Wright played a quiet 13 minutes in game two, finishing with two points and two assists.

EuroCup will resume play with the Eighth-finals on Jan. 29 and Feb. 5.

Nothing was on the line for Spartak Moscow Region this week, the team having already assured itself the top spot in Group D. Still, in a matchup of the best and worst the group had to offer, Spartak clocked Lattes Montpellier 103-48 at home. Ho hum. Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson were two of the five Spartak players to score double-figures, Bird posting 11 points and five assists and Jackson scoring 13 points.

The bigger matchup was in Prague, where ZVVZ USK Praha was hopoing to secure a spot in the postseason with a chance to move up to third in Group C. USK Praha's 69-64 win over Lotos Gdynia was enough to achieve the first goal, but not the second. Lotos still took third place in the group because of point differential, as USK Praha would have needed a win of 14 points or more to move past Lotos. Swin Cash had eight points and six rebounds in the win as part of a balanced scoring attack.

So the good news is that USK Praha plays on. The bad news is that a fourth-place finish in Group C means drawing the winner of Group D ... which, as you read a moment ago, is the Spartak juggernaut. USK Praha will face a tall order trying to pull off the upset when the Euroleague playoffs commence Jan. 27 and Storm teammates collide overseas.

Barnes Headed to Israel

Storm color analyst Adia Barnes is headed to Israel to play for Ramla, reports Safsal.co.il. Barnes previously played two seasons in Israel. I apologize for completely missing this, but apparently she has been playing in Italy, where she spent last season, before deciding to make the move. (HT: RebKell)

Another good read is Jayda Evans talking to Ashley Robinson about her internship with the Dallas Mavericks.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

2009 Schedule Observations/Analysis

Alright, you've seen the release announcing the Storm's schedule and you've checked out our breakdown of the season's 10 biggest games. Still want a little more? Here's some additional analysis and observations.

First off, I'm not sure if we've mentioned it on the site, but the season is moving back a bit in 2009. The regular season will tip off the first weekend of June and play will run through the middle of September. Expect this kind of schedule to be the norm, at least through 2012, when the Olympics will be an obstacle. When the WNBA has pushed the schedule back, primarily because of past Olympics, it has been successful.

The upside at the front end is obvious. Teams should have virtually their entire roster throughout training camp, which will help build continuity and should create better play in the early part of the season. It also gives players a bit of a break instead of forcing many of them to go directly from championship series overseas to the grind of the WNBA season.

- Here's the Storm's month-by-month breakdown:

Month  H  A Tot
June 3 6 9
July 6 3 9
August 7 4 11
Sept. 1 4 5
At least in terms of home and road games, the schedule is soft in the middle but challenging at both the beginning and the end. The Storm will look to make up a lot of ground in July and August. After playing at Phoenix on July 1, 13 of the team's next 19 games will be in the friendly confines of KeyArena. It will be important to build up some margin for error going into the month of September.

- The Storm has just one back-to-back all year, and it comes during the first two days of the season as part of a home-and-home series with Sacramento. Presumably fatigue shouldn't be a big factor there, especially since both teams have the same schedule.

- With the Houston Comets suspending operations, the Western Conference is at 6 teams for the first time in the Storm's existence (while the league has had 13 teams off and on, the smaller conference had always been the East). As a result, the Storm will play all five other West foes four times apiece, a change from last year when each West team played four teams three times and two teams four times.

- There are no real long road trips on the schedule, with a trio of three-gamers the longest of the season. Those are split up, with one in June, one in August and the last in September. The Storm will have a pair of extended four-game homestands, the first in mid-July and the other at the end of August. The team leaves Seattle just once (for the relatively short trip to Sacramento) between July 1 and July 28.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Follow A Leader: Bryant


Karen Bryant is a huge inspiration to me and would be a great leader to follow with all the things she has accomplished.”

Kent, Wash., 8th-grader Breanna Leonard wrote those words about Bryant, the Storm’s CEO, for Macy’s Follow A Leader essay contest. The 15-year-old mentoring program matches youth with Pacific Northwest leaders who have careers in arts, science, medicine, sports, education, law, business, industry, technology and government.

Breanna, who attends Cedar Heights Middle School in Kent, met Bryant for the first time in November during a luncheon honoring students selected for the Follow A Leader program. In early 2009, Breanna will spend a day “on the job” with Bryant, and will also return to attend a Storm game during the upcoming season.

Macy’s Follow A Leader mentor program, co-sponsored by the Seattle Times and KING 5 Television, is designed to encourage children to develop their writing and communication skills, and to think and learn about various career options. Breanna was one of 20 student honorees selected from over 600 entrants in grades 4-12, after submitting an essay explaining why they would like to meet and spend a day with one of 20 local community leaders and how education can help them achieve their dreams. All winners also receive a $1,000 U.S. Savings Bond.


From reading about Karen Bryant, I learned that she’s the leader I would want to follow for a day because she’s a role model to me. I have loved basketball for as long as I can remember and have played ever since 4th grade. I remember watching basketball when I was a little kid and always asking who was winning and what team had which color jersey.

Karen Bryant was an amazing athlete and could’ve played professionally if she wanted to, but instead became the CEO for the Seattle Storm. Now she can still enjoy basketball and is responsible for finances, marketing, and community relations for the team, which is something I’m interested in. Karen Bryant helped women’s sports begin and that is why she’s the leader I would want to follow. She shows us that if you work hard and stay committed you can have your dreams come true. Karen Bryant is a huge inspiration to me and would be a great leader to follow with all the things she has accomplished.

If I could spend the day with Karen Bryant, that would be absolutely wonderful. I would ask her what she does as the CEO of the Storm, to see exactly what she does and if I would want to go into that profession. Also, she seems like she has fun at her job and I would want to know how she really feels and if at times it gets stressful.

Education can help me achieve my dreams just like it did for Karen Bryant. Karen Bryant was a former basketball player in High School and College. She then went into project management instead of playing professional basketball. She’s now the CEO of the Seattle Storm which involves basketball and management. Here is what Karen Bryant says about her job, “… it’s exciting, and there’s never a day that I don’t smile and treasure the privilege that I have to work for the Storm.” Karen Bryant’s dreams came true and so can mine with education. Now you know why I would want to follow the leader, Karen Bryant.

Season Reviews/Wallpapers

For those of you who tend to check the blog and not the storm.wnba.com homepage (and have missed the latest news RSS feed we've added in the sidebar), I wanted to make sure everyone saw our series of 2008 Season in Review articles, which wrapped up last week and covered all 13 Storm players.

Also part of each article was a new 2008 wallpaper, and these are now up on the Storm Desktop Wallpaper page along with two others featuring Doppler and Head Coach Brian Agler.

For the record, I'm sporting the Kristen O'Neill wallpaper on my computer. UW represent!

Ely Healthy

Good news on Shyra Ely. The Storm's basketball staff got in touch with Ely from Cyprus, and it appears her injury sounded worse in translation than it really was.

Ely reports colliding with a teammate in last week's game and suffering whiplash. She's been cleared to play and is already back at practice for her K.V. Imperial AEL team in preparation for Thursday's completion of the aggregate series with Rivasecopolis.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Ely Link

The Actionled blog has a translation of a local article indicating Storm forward Shyra Ely may have been injured in last week's EuroCup playoff win over Rivasecopolis. Ely played just 17 minutes and apparently suffered an injury just after halftime.

I've asked around but haven't gotten any more information. I'll pass it along if I do.

Friday, December 12, 2008

EuroCup Playoffs Under Way

Wednesday and Thursday marked the start of the EuroCup's postseason with the Round of 32 or 16th-finals. Under the EuroCup format, teams play a home-and-home series with the winner determined by total differential. That's not uncommon in soccer, but I'm not sure any other basketball league in the world uses aggregate scoring. Anyways, this week sent the higher-seeded teams on the road to start things off.

Dynamo Moscow enters the playoffs as the top seed and did nothing yesterday to lose that distinction, defeating Solna Vikings 75-58 to take a commanding aggregate lead. Nonetheless, Janell Burse said, "We hope to play better at home in Moscow. It was important to win this first game." Burse scored 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting and pulled down seven boards.

Tanisha Wright's Tarbes Bigorre Elite squad picked up the week's most decisive victory, crushing Baschet ICIM by 52 points, 110-58. Something tells me Tarbes will be moving on. The game was so lopsided Wright was barely needed. She played 16 minutes, scoring three points and handing out four assists.

As Katie Gearlds blogged about, her Athanaikos squad started solidly with an 11-point road win by a 68-57 final at SK Cesis. Gearlds knocked down three triples en route to 11 points, adding four rebounds. She went the distance, playing all 40 minutes.

The only team with Storm ties to host the opening leg was Shyra Ely and K.V. Imperial AEL. For some reason, Ely was limited to 17 minutes, scoring six points and grabbing five boards in that span. Despite Ely's short night, Imperial held off Rivasecopolis 62-58 and can advance by winning the next leg or even playing within three points.

Over in the Euroleague, pool play is just wrapping up. This was round nine out of 10, with playoff play starting when the league resumes after the holidays. On Wednesday, Spartak assured itself the top spot in Group D by doubling up an overmatched Broker Kosice squad 100-50. Lauren Jackson remains locked in, scoring 23 points in 18 minutes and needing just nine shots (eight of them makes, four from three-point range) to do so. That's uber-efficiency.

Sue Bird delivered nine assists in 23 minutes (presumably at least a couple to Jackson), scoring 12 points without a turnover. Not too shabby, I dare say.

The results were not as good for ZVVZ USK Praha. Facing a difficult matchup at UMMC Ekaterinburg, USK Praha got blown out 103-57. It didn't help that an already short-handed squad was without leader Lindsay Whalen. Swin Cash had 13 points and eight boards, but it was not nearly enough. Michaela Ferancikov√° was the only other USK Praha player to score double-figures as the team shot 30.2 percent.

Going into the final round, USK Praha is tied for the fourth and final spot in Group D with Union Hainaut Basket. Union will play Ekaterinburg in the finale, so USK Praha will almost certainly advance with a win over Lotos Gdynia and would tie Lotos for third.

Swoopes, Doppler Ring Bells for Salvation Army

Storm Photos

Seattle Storm star Sheryl Swoopes and mascot Doppler donned Santa hats and headed to the downtown Nordstorm Tuesday afternoon for a good cause. Swoopes and Doppler joined other Seattle sports figures, media members and local celebrities as part of the Salvation Army's Celebrity Bell Ringing Day.

Working alongside the Mariner Moose, Doppler offered hugs to kids and plenty of smiles besides exhorting passers-by to donate. Swoopes was a hit even with the other bell-ringers when she arrived shortly later, chatting with Seahawks Head Coach Mike Holmgren and Hall of Famer Warren Moon (at right), amongst others, in addition with fans who wanted an autograph or just a chance to talk to the three-time WNBA MVP.

Despite the persistent seasonal Seattle rain, the event was a major success. Doppler, Swoopes and company raised a grand total of nearly $20,000 for the Salvation Army's Red Kettle holiday campaign. While it's too late to donate to Doppler and Swoopes, you can still do so at local retailers throughout the holiday season.

Storm Photos

Gearlds Blog: I'm Safe from Riots

Let me start this off by first saying that I am safe! The riots that are going down here in Athens are not too close from where I live, but they aren't really that far away either. I could probably drive and be there in less than 10 minutes - part of me wants to go to get a first-hand look, but the smarter part of me is saying to stay away!!!! I haven't seen any riots in person, only those that have been on CNN. Everything is taking place mostly in the center of Athens, but it has began to spread to other parts of the city and country as well.

You all probably know that the riots started because of the 15 year old being shot and killed last week. Well, here, my teammates tell me that the boy being shot was kind of like the tip of the iceberg that set everything off. The rioting is actually rather normal here, but never has it gotten this out of control. It's unbelievable what these people are doing - shops being burned down, cars set on fire ... it really is crazy here!

The basketball side of being here is going great! We are undefeated in the Greek league - our next tough games will be in January. In EuroCup, we advanced with the 11th seed in the Round of 32 and we played Cesis in Latvia on Wednesday. We were able to sneak out of there with a win by 11 points, so hopefully we can take care of business next week at home and advance again. This is my team's first experience at playing in Europe and we are doing pretty well (knock on wood)!!!!

But when we travel as a team on the plane, we have to wear these three-piece suits - yep, the pants, the jacket, and a scarf! We get a million looks wherever we go - we look straight up like British Airways flight attendants (pictured at right) and the things are so uncomfortable! During our last trip, we were in Frankfurt and a woman asked Toya Davis (Texas Tech '06) if she worked there because she needed help finding her flight!

Outside of basketball and riots, everything is pretty cool here. But I did get a parking ticket here and I have no idea how!!!! If you have ever been to Athens, you know there are no parking rules! People just park wherever they want. As long as you aren't blocking someone in, it's a good parking spot! I drive a little smart car (it's funny to watch people's faces when three 6-feet-tall girls get out of this tiny thing!) and usually it's relatively easy to find a spot or make my own spot like the Greeks. This one time, I thought I had a done a great job of making my own spot and the next morning I come out to find an 80 Euro ticket on the windshield! 80 Euros!?!? For a parking ticket?!?! In this country?!?! Oh well, I still park in that very same spot almost every day and nothing since - I guess cops have bad days here, too!

I wish everyone Happy Holidays and may your New Year be all that you want it to be!


Storm in the News

The story of Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson in Russia playing for Spartak and (eccentric?) owner Shabtai von Kalmanovic has been relatively well-trod over the last couple of years, but Alexander Wolff's feature in the current issue of Sports Illustrated (with Florida QB Tim Tebow on the cover) reveals some further details while making von Kalmanovic the center of a look at sports in Russia and why the country's oligarchs have invested so much money in sports.

With von Kalmanovic in particular, that translates into care for his players that goes above and beyond the norm.

"Don't ever sneeze around him," says Bird. "He'll pull out five different medications. The way he treats us, it really makes you want to play hard."

While the article is available online, the magazine itself offers photos, including one of Bird, Jackson and Diana Taurasi with von Kalmanovic and part of his art collection.

What is interesting about Wolff's feature is that it largely glosses over the impact of the financial crisis, which put CSKA Moscow's future in jeopardy within the past month. A much more pessimistic perspective is offered by the International Herald Tribune.

The global financial crisis has forced many of Russia's professional sports teams to trim costs, bringing to a halt a spending spree that was fuelled by soaring oil and gas prices over the past few years.

Many of the country's top clubs in soccer, ice hockey and basketball are owned or sponsored by individuals or companies which have made their money from producing raw material such as oil and gas.

The crisis has forced big clubs to cut their budgets next year and threatened smaller ones with extinction unless they find other sources of income in the changing financial climate.

I suspect the reality of the situation, as it usually does, falls somewhere in between those two extremes.

Closer to home, Eric Williams of The News Tribune chatted with Karen Bryant about the Storm's future in the wake of last week's news about the Houston Comets, getting updates on offseason developments on and off the court. I think I was remiss last week with the Houston news not mentioning how lucky the Storm is to have a committed local ownership group that has made the transition to being an indepent organization as smooth as possible.

Also, Seattle Times sports columnist Jerry Brewer points out that when people say 2008 has been a terrible year for Seattle sports, that's largely only true of the men's teams. The women, including the Storm, have shined throughout the year.

Lastly, exciting news from Australia. Former Storm assistant Carrie Graf has been named head coach of the Opals National Team through the 2012 London Olympics, a dream job for her. Graf will attempt to guide the Aussies to an upset of the U.S. and a breakthrough after three consecutive losses to the Americans in the finals.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Go East, Young Women

The WNBA held its annual draft lottery this afternoon via conference call and the results, for the first time in recent memory, held completely to form. The Atlanta Dream earned the first overall pick in its second season of existence, the Washington Mystics will pick second in the 2009 WNBA Draft and the Chicago Sky third.

From the Storm's perspective, it is good news to see the top picks all going to Eastern Conference teams. The West has historically done very well in the lottery, both thanks to a little luck (see Phoenix getting the No. 2 pick and Cappie Pondexter in 2006) and because traditionally the West has featured the league's very best and very worst teams. This year, there was far more parity in the West and that meant lower odds of a top-three pick for the two West teams in the lottery, Minnesota (which will pick fourth) and Phoenix (fifth).

The big-picture takeaway is that the Dream is going to add a lot of talent to its roster between getting Sancho Lyttle in yesterday's Houston Comets Dispersal Draft and whoever they take first in the amateur draft. The last time a team got the No. 1 pick in both drafts, the Phoenix Mercury added Penny Taylor and Diana Taurasi and went from 8-26 to 17-17. While that turnaround will be tough to match - there's good talent in the draft, but not a Taurasi-esque superstar - Atlanta should be much, much, much improved in 2009.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Showdown in France

Tarbes Bigorre Elite and Bourges Basket have established themselves as France's top two teams, and they met for the first time Saturday. Tanisha Wright's Tarbes squad built a 16-point halftime lead and fought off a Bourges comeback attempt for a 64-56 victory. Wright's 17 points tied her for game high honors, and she added six rebounds and three assists. The win means Tabes and Bourges are now tied atop the French LFB at 12-1 apiece.

After a couple weeks off in Russia, Spartak resumed Superleague play yesterday with an 83-62 win over Vologda-Chevakata. The visitors were able to keep things reasonably close in the first half before Spartak outscored them 28-13 in the third quarter to blow the game open. Lauren Jackson continued her hot shooting, scoring 19 points on 6-of-11 from the field in fewer than 18 minutes of action. Sue Bird, with 15, was Spartak's second-leading scorer. She knocked down all three of her attempts from long distance and added four rebounds and three assists.

Earlier in the week, Vologda-Chevakata also took on Dynamo Moscow. It was a closer matchup, but Dynamo ultimately prevailed 78-73 on the strength of a 21-9 fourth-quarter advantage. Janell Burse paced Dynamo with 16 points and eight rebounds.

Kelly Santos had one of her best games of the season Saturday, scoring 24 points on 8-of-10 shooting (with a matching 8-of-10 effort at the free-throw line). Alas, it wasn't enough as Cadi La Seu fell 79-73 to a Joventut Mariana squad which got 22 points from Armintie Price.

Similarly, TED Kayseri Koleji saw Camille Little's high-scoring effort go for naught. Little scored 27 and Lisa Willis added 18, but their teammates combined for just 21 points in an 81-66 loss to Mersin. By contrast, Mersin's balanced scoring saw five players score at least nine points, led by 17 from new Chicago Sky post Mistie Williams. Little shot 11-of-22 from the field and added seven rebounds.

ZVVZ USK Praha played extremely short-handed over the weekend, with Swin Cash one of four regulars sitting out. As a result, a game against second-division squad Karlovy Vary was more exciting than anticipated, with USK Praha hanging on for the 82-74 win behind 22 points from Lindsay Whalen.

In Greece, Athinaikos cruised to 9-0 in league play, crushing Ano Liosia 100-65. Katie Gearlds was one of five Athinaikos players to score double-figures, finishing with 11 points on 5-of-11 shooting. She added three rebounds.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Bird: A Reason for Hope in 2009

In the wake of a year in Seattle sports that - despite the Storm's success - has undoubtedly been a long one, Sports Northwest Magazine attempted to resurrect hope in its December issue, naming 20 players and/or coaches who will make 2009 better. Included on the list: Storm guard Sue Bird, as written by your humble blogger. A taste:

For years, coaches tried to get Bird to subdue her natural desire to set up her teammates and look more frequently for her own offense. Turns out all they needed to do was bench Lauren Jackson. With her superstar teammate missing the last month of the season after ankle surgery, Bird adapted her game to pick up the scoring slack, averaging 17.5 points while improving her shooting percentages during an 11-game stretch that saw the Storm go 7-4 without Jackson. The late push propelled Bird to a third-place finish in MVP voting.

You can find Sports Northwest Magazine at local newstands or bars, or you can read the whole thing (including a recap of the year in sports perfect for those with a high tolerance for pain) online here.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Overdue Overseas Update

It's been a week and a half since our last look overseas, first delayed by the holiday and then a number of other stories that required our attention. In that span, there have been two rounds of Euroleague play and one of EuroCup (strangely, Europe doesn't break for our Thanksgiving) and a weekend of play in the national leagues.

During that span, Spartak has strengthened its position at the top of Group D in Euroleague. With an 85-41 win over TEO Vilnius and a 100-76 victory Wednesday at Fenerbahce, Spartak has improved to 7-1 and a two-game lead in Group D over Vilnius, Fenerbahce and Maxima Broker Kosice. With two games left in group play, that means Spartak can do no worse than tie for first place.

The win over Vilnius avenged Spartak's only loss of the season, and Spartak clearly took out its disappointment in that loss, taking a 52-18 lead by halftime. Vilnius was held to 20.6 shooting from the field and 2-of-21 from beyond the arc. Lauren Jackson scored 13 points in 15 minutes and Sue Bird had six and five assists. It was all Jackson against Fenerbahce. She scored 33 points on 12-of-19 shooting - including five three-pointers - and eight rebounds. Bird set her teammate up with 11 assists, adding 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting herself.

Yesterday also saw ZVVZ USK Praha come up with a needed 102-78 home win over Jolly JBS Sibenik. Swin Cash scored 10 points and eight rebounds, but it was Evanthia Maltsi who stole the show. Maltsi finished an assist shy of a triple-double, posting 29 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. The win lifted USK Praha a game ahead of Sibenik in the standings and into a three-way tie for third place in Group C. The top four teams from each group advance to the elimination round. The victory also helped remove the bad taste of an 88-69 loss to Ros Casares the previous week despite 18 points and six boards from Cash.

In between, USK Praha remained undefeated in Czech play by beating Valosun Brno 98-71 in a game where Cash sat out.

Group play is complete in the EuroCup, where all four teams with Storm players advanced to the Sixteenth-Finals round (made up of 32 teams).

Dynamo Moscow (with Janell Burse) and Tanisha Wright's Tarbes Bigorre Elite team both finished atop their group and undefeated at 6-0. Dynamo will face the Solna Vikings in the EuroCup's soccer-style home-and-home aggregate playoff series. Solna features Sacramento guard A'Quonesia Franklin. Tarbes takes on Baschet ICIM.

Athinaikos suffered its first loss of the year in the group finale at CB Feve San Jose by a 90-67 final, with Katie Gearlds scoring 12 points in the loss. San Jose won the tiebreaker and thus the group. Athinaikos will go up against SK Cesis, which has one-time Storm player Wilnett Crockett. (Crockett never got in a game and spent just a day on the roster, but she still goes down as a former Storm player officially.)

Lastly, K.V. Imperial AEL qualified for the Sixteenth-Finals as one of the top third-place teams. That means a difficult first-round matchup for Shyra Ely and company - Rivasecopolis and Cathy Joens, which was 4-2 in Group C.

Elsewhere, UL Aughnish suffered its second loss in Irish Superleague play by a 60-56 final to Tolka Rivers BC. Tolka Rivers was able to hold Kristen O'Neill to 18 points on 8-of-22 shooting, and the rest of the squad was unable to pick up the slack. O'Neill added seven rebounds and four steals.

Storm News and Notes

Val Whiting, a former WNBA player and standout at Stanford, writes a monthly column in the Delaware News Journal on the female athlete. This month, her topic was how playing sports prepares women for the business world, and she chose a familiar subject - Storm co-owner Lisa Brummel, who is the senior vice president for human resources at Microsoft.

"The single biggest asset I have is not my education, not my experience, but my athletic background," Brummel said in a phone interview.

"If you look, you will find people doing well in business and who were also athletes. You need stamina and pacing in corporate America, having the stamina to be able to perform."

Beyond the athletic background of members of Force 10 Hoops L.L.C. (in addition to Brummel, an Ivy League Hall of Famer who played both basketball and softball at Yale, Ginny Gilder won a silver medal in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games as a rower [EDIT: I also completely blanked that Chairperson Anne Levinson played field hockey at the University of Kansas]), there's plenty of evidence of the value of sports experience here at the Storm. Our CEO Karen Bryant played basketball at UW, and I was counting this last week - around a third of our staff played some sport in college.

Needless to say, I am the odd man out in that regard. Those who can't ... blog.

- The Storm will be participating in next Tuesday's Salvation Army Celebrity Bell Ringing Day, to be held in front of the Downtown Nordstrom (500 Pine St.) from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sheryl Swoopes and the WNBA's best mascot, Doppler, will join other local celebrities (including Blake Lewis, Warren Moon and Lorenzo Romar, amongst many others) ringing bells and collecting for the Salvation Army's holiday drive.

- The WNBA announced today that the 2009 WNBA Draft Lottery will be held next Tuesday, the day after the Houston Comets Dispersal Draft. With the Comets ceasing operations, five teams are participating - Atlanta, Washington, Chicago, Minnesota and Phoenix.

The Storm will now pick 12th in the first round and also holds the 38th pick in the third round, having dealt its second-round pick to the Dream for Camille Little.

WNBA.com also has an interesting Dispersal Draft preview from Adam Hirshfield.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Dispersal Draft Set for Dec. 8

There are several layers to today's news that the Houston Comets are suspending operations. I covered the history angle in an article, while Sheryl Swoopes' statement also touches on the emotional aspect. However, the realist angle that cannot be ignored is that this sets up a Dispersal Draft next Monday, Dec. 8.

Teams will draft former Comets players in inverse order of 2008 record. Because of tiebreakers, the Storm will select 12th. By that point, it is possible the Dispersal Draft will already have concluded.

As unrestricted free agents, Latasha Byears, Mwadi Mabika, Hamchetou Maiga-Ba, Michelle Snow and Tina Thompson are ineligble. That leaves eight holdover players available:

Matee Ajavon
Tamecka Dixon
Roneeka Hodges (a restricted free agent)
Sequoia Holmes
Shannon Johnson
Sancho Lyttle
Erica White
Mistie Williams

Teams can also draft players whose rights the Comets hold. According to Paul Swanson at the RebKell board, three such players are eligible:

- Renae Camino, an Australian drafted by Houston in the second round in 2006 who has yet to come to the WNBA
- Lucienne Berthieu, originally a second-round pick by the Storm in 2002 who last played in the WNBA in 2004
- Polina Tzekova, a 1998 first-round pick of the Comets who played in Houston during the 1999 season and has not been seen stateside since

With 11 players available and the Storm drafting 12th, it will take a team passing (which has happened in the past) for the Storm to have the option to make a pick.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Stormin' Macy's Holiday Parade

Sheryl Swoopes and son Jordan talk with KING 5's John Curley. /Storm Photos

The Storm had a major presence at last Friday's annual Macy's Holiday Parade in downtown Seattle. Laura Sgrecci from the Storm Marketing department was there and offers a recap.

Storm guard and WNBA superstar Sheryl Swoopes is used to entertaining thousands of cheering fans on any given night throughout her illustrious career. Yet it was a different stage when she joined the colorful cast of characters in the annual Macy's Holiday Parade last Friday morning.

Joined by her son Jordan, mascot Doppler and the Storm Dance Troupe, all in festive holiday hats, Sheryl led the way as the Storm contingent traveled the parade route in a bright red convertible courtesy of corporate partner Carter Volkswagen. The Dance Troupe pranced to holiday tunes and the beat of marching bands and tossed T-shirts to the hordes of parade-watchers lined up along the streets. During breaks in the action, Sheryl and Doppler hopped out of the car to greet fans and spread some holiday cheer.

Welcoming the Storm car at the end of the parade route was none other than John Curley, who reported for KING 5's live coverage of the parade. Curley welcomed Sheryl to Seattle as a full-time resident and offered testimony as a six-year Storm season ticket holder, saying, "If you have not been to a Storm game, you don't know what you are missing. There is such energy at the Key when the Storm plays."

The Storm Dance Troupe in action. /Storm Photos

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

CSKA Moscow Out of Euroleague

The big story in women's basketball right now - at least beyond the spate of upsets in the first couple of weeks of the NCAA season - is the impact the worldwide financial crisis is beginning to have in Russia. As has been rumored, the end has apparently come for Russian power CSKA Moscow, which is no longer in Euroleague, leaving Group B a team short.

There is no direct tie to the Storm, but CSKA was the main rival of Sue Bird's and Lauren Jackson's Spartak squad, so this totally changes the dynamic of the Russian Superleague as well as Euroleague. It's also unclear how much more fallout may still be coming.

To the games of the weekend. Spartak actually played Monday at Ekaterinburg, and as Paul Swanson notes there was an excellent crowd of a listed 5,000 in the house for the showdown between two of Russia's three undefeated teams (CSKA, for now, being the other). UMMC Ekaterinburg led 46-35 at the half only to see Spartak turn it on in the third quarter. Spartak outscored Ekaterinburg 26-8 in the 10-minute period, taking the lead and holding on for a 79-75 win.

Bird had 10 points, five boards and four assists in the win. It was a forgettable night for Jackson, limited to five points on 1-of-5 shooting and five boards in 18 minutes of action. Spartak got 24 points, nine rebounds and seven assists from Diana Taurasi to overcome a strong Ekaterinburg team.

In France, Tarbes Bigorre Elite's undefeated start to the season is over after 15 combined wins in EuroCup and LBF play. This time, Tarbes was unable to win a close game, falling 64-62 to Union Hainaut after being outscored 23-11 in the fourth quarter. In the loss, Tanisha Wright had 14 points, eight assists and five rebounds.

The other Storm team that was undefeated in both domestic and international play stayed that way narrowly over the weekend, Athinaikos holding off Apollon Ptolemaidas 75-74 despite a late scare. Gearlds pulled down eight rebounds, contributing on a night where she could not find her shot (1-of-12 from the field). Four other Athinaikos players scored double-figures.

UL Aughnish worked overtime to outlast DCU Mercury in the Irish Superleague, 68-67. Kristen O'Neill played the full 45 minutes and had a game-high 28 points on 9-of-19 shooting, including four three-pointers. She added 11 rebounds and three steals.

ZVVZ USK Praha is still unbeaten in the Czech Basketball League following another blowout win on Sunday over Basket Slovanka, 110-69. The game was bizarrely close in the first half, with USK Praha leading 47-46. In the second half, Praha outscored Slovanka 63-23. Yikes. Praha needed just 17 minutes from Swin Cash, who had 12 points and eight boards during that time. Six players scored at least 12 points.

Camille Little had her best game in Turkey as TED Kayseri Koleji handled Burhaniye 83-62 on Saturday to improve to 3-2. Little finished with 23 points on 9-of-17 shooting to go along with 11 rebounds.

Cadi La Seu dropped a 71-62 final to Hondarribia-Irun. I'm not quite sure what to make of the boxscore, which shows two stat lines for Kelly Santos. Alas, the one I suspect is correct shows Santos having a very tough night, missing 11 of her 13 shot attempts. She did apparently grab eight rebounds in 29 minutes of action. (This seems more likely than Santos getting shut out on the boards in 35 minutes, which is the other possibility.)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Robinson Diary: Interning in Dallas

Hey y'all! Sorry it has taken me so long to write. I have been pretty busy this offseason. So, let me get you all caught up on what I’ve been up to. …

I decided to stay in the U.S. of A. and not go play in Europe this offseason. I am home in Grand Prairie, Texas. This is my first time being home for longer than two months since I left to go to college in 2000. I am taking advantage of this time to just be here. My little sister, Katrina, and I hang out at least three days a week. I think that’s my favorite part about being home. We have a blast together. I think she needs to move to Seattle this summer with me. I don’t how she will feel about leaving the South for the Northwest! I’ll try to talk her into it.

Other than hanging with Trina, I’ve been doing an internship with the Dallas Mavs Broadcasting Department. I am having a ball. I cannot believe all that goes into having professional basketball games broadcast on TV. When you are playing you don’t really think about it. I just come to the gym, get dressed, warm up, listen to coach and then go play. So, thank you Seattle Storm Broadcast Team! :) My boss lady with the Mavs is Anita Green, AG for short. I heard rumors that she used to be a scary boss! She has been quite lovely! Love, love, love AG! (A little brown nosing never hurt anybody!) LOL!

My favorite days to work are game nights. Every game I work I get to observe and learn from different people doing their job. Y'all know I have no problem meeting new people, so this is right up my alley. Last week I observed the NBA Loggers. I had great teachers in Damien and Darryl. I logged the fourth quarter of the Cavaliers game and the second half of the Spurs game.

This week, I had to work the Lakers game, but not for the Mavs. I was a runner for the Lakers' Broadcast team. A runner means that I do all the leg work in the arena for that particular team - make copies, get water, bring stats and whatever else the producer needs. I kind of felt like their secretary for the day. HA! LUCKY ME, THOUGH! I got to meet the Lakers announcers, also. I got way excited when I shook the hands of Stu Lantz and Joel Meyers! EXCITING! That was a fun day on the job. I went and peeked in on the interview with Phil Jackson also. Could not miss that! If you didn’t know already, he is so tall! I’m always amazed when someone can make me feel short.

The Mavs have great analysts as well. I’m looking forward to shadowing as many of them as they will let me. Rolando Blackman is one of the Fox analysts for the Mavs. I am super excited to learn from him. Seattle fans that do not know Ro Blackman, please go look him up. I’ve always been a Mavs Fan and he is one of our legends! I was also thinking … since the Sonics are gone, I say all Seattle bball fans just become Storm and Mavs Fans! LOL! Still can wear green!

The most exciting thing I’ve done while being home was going to the Mayor’s Gala. I was so happy to be able to dress up. I went with some of my infamous guy friends from grade school - BJ, Marcus, Brent and Doc. We had a great time. I got to meet the Mayor of Dallas, Tom Leppert. With all the election hoopla this year I’ve been feeling all political. LOL. I came in contact with people that I normally wouldn’t brush shoulders with. It was so inspiring being around a group of successful people. I felt so grown up.

All the Storms (hehe) that I have spoken with are doing well. Balling! Every time I talk to one of them they had 20+ points and 10+ boards. I probably talk to Shyra and T the most. Shyra’s team beat someone by 103 without her. Her coach told her to rest that game. Ha! 103 POINTS! WOW! I haven’t spoken with Kelly, Kristen or Swin! I’m sure they are doing just as well as the rest of my teammates.

To all the girls, Lola (my toy fox terrier) is doing just fine. She gets treated like my mom’s first grandchild. It’s hilarious. If it was up to my mom we would carry Lola everywhere we went. She has taken over my whole family, pretty much. She’s had some sleepover requests; I wasn’t invited. LOL! She is one of the cutest dogs I’ve ever been around so I can’t blame them. She gets it from her Mama!

Well y'all, that’s all I have for now. I’m going to go enjoy this warm Texas weather and make my way to 24-Hour Fitness so I can get a membership. I have to work off these home-cooked meals Kathleen Robinson, my mama, has been whipping up!


Storm Honored at Heroes of Health Gala

The Storm's Sheryl Swoopes with Alicia Vasquez and Veronica Sosa, representing Quincy High School.

Inspiring young basketball players to work on their jump shot may help their team win, but the Seattle Storm recognizes that also encouraging kids to exercise and eat a well-balanced diet will lead to long and healthy lives. That’s why the Storm was honored to accept the Heroes of Health Healthy Living Award, recognizing the team’s work to promote youth fitness.

During the 2008 season, the Storm partnered with PCC Natural Markets, Seattle Children’s Hospital, the Washington State Nurses Association and the Washington Health Foundation to host a series of clinics aimed at educating children about the value of leading a healthy lifestyle.
Anne Levinson, chair of the Force 10 Hoops LLC ownership group, and WNBA legend and Storm star Sheryl Swoopes accepted the award during the Washington Health Foundation’s Heroes of Health Gala Nov. 15. Swoopes also announced that she will be participating in the Storm’s new youth-focused offseason Be Fit initiative, launching in early 2009.

During the Gala, Swoopes joined nearly two dozen Washington state athletes from past Olympics competitions who were recognized as healthy role models. She also signed autographs and posed for photographs with Quincy High School students honored for their work with Promotores de Salud, which breaks down cultural and language barriers between Grant County migrant workers and health care service providers.

Since its first WNBA tip-off nearly 10 years ago, the Storm and its players have focused on youth fitness and nutrition, an effort aimed at turning around sobering recent statistics that indicate more than 16 percent of U.S. kids are obese and another 16 percent are overweight.
- Eileen Norton and Teresa Wippel from the Storm staff

Lupe Cortes of Quincy High School was particularly thrilled to meet Swoopes because she was her No. 22 as a basketball player.

Swoopes poses with Cortes and Karina Valadez.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Spartak Wins; Dunk Steals Show

Spartak's 70-62 win over Famila Schio Wednesday isn't one the team will look back on as a highlight, not after struggling to put away a Schio team with just a single Euroleague win and scored but eight points in the fourth quarter. However, there was a highlight. The big story from the game was Spartak center Sylvia Fowles dunking in transition during the second quarter, her first dunk as a professional (and a likely portent of what's to come stateside). WNBA.com has the grainy, Zapruder-esque video:

From the Storm's perspective, the bigger news is that Lauren Jackson got her first start since ankle surgery (I can't remember her starting previously) and played a robust 28 minutes, scoring 14 points and grabbing eight boards. Sue Bird nearly went the distance, playing 39 minutes, and scored five points with seven rebounds (how about Sue scrapping in the paint?) and three assists.

Spartak also got good news when TEO Vilnius lost at Fenerbahce, meaning at 5-1 Spartak is now all alone atop Group 2.

In the Storm's other Euroleague game, ZVVZ USK Praha broke out in a big way by blowing out Union Hainaut Basket 83-58. The victory improves USK Praha to 2-4 and moves the team into a four-way tie for third place in Group C. Swin Cash led USK Praha with a huge game, scoring 27 points on 12-of-21 shooting and pulling down eight rebounds with four steals as well. Cash played the full 40 minutes. Lindsay Whalen chipped in 20 points and eight boards, making all eight of her two-point attempts.

Turning our attention to the EuroCup, I think Dynamo Moscow is about ready to move on from group play. There's simply no compeition for Dynamo in Group A. Earlier today, they defeated MBK 88-41, outscoring the opposition 25-3 in the fourth quarter. Janell Burse, with 10 points and six boards, was one of six Dynamo players to score double-figures.

Athinaikos hasn't had quite an easy time of it, but the Greek side too is 5-0 in group play after defeating Ragusa 81-61 yesterday. Our resident overseas blogger Katie Gearlds led the way in this victory by shooting the lights out, scoring 18 points on 6-of-8 shooting, including a pair of threes. A commenter asked about Gearlds' season stats, and she's now averaging 15.6 points in EuroCup group play while shooting 54.7 percent from the field and a cool 51.9 percent from beyond the arc. While looking at her stats, I also noticed that Gearlds is listed as a forward/center by the FIBA Europe Web site. Can this possibly be true? We'll have to find out in the next blog.

In Group F, K.V. Imperial AEL improved to 3-2 with a 71-59 home win over Gran Canaria. As usual, Shyra Ely dominated the paint for Imperial, making 10 free throws in 12 attempts. She finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds in 30 minutes.

Lastly, Tarbes Bigorre Elite continues to master the art of wriggling off the hook. The latest Tarbes win, by a 56-51 final over Extrugasa, saw the team score just eight points in the fourth quarter and overcome 23 turnovers. I don't know that I've ever seen a team win so consistently by so few points. Anyways, Tanisha Wright was held in check by the Extrugasa defense, a big reason the game was so close. Wright got off just six shot attempts, scoring nine points with four assists. Still, Tarbes remains unbeaten in both league and EuroCup play.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Gearlds Blog: Hello From Athens

Hey Storm fans! I hope this blog finds everyone doing well and getting ready for the holidays. I can't believe it's almost that time of the year again. Before we all know it, we'll be back in KeyArena ready to start another season. Since the end of the season, things have been kind of crazy on this end. I had about four days to get packed up in Seattle, head home to see my family and friends, and then head over to Athens. Needless to say, I didn't quite get the amount of time I wanted with all the people I love. But, the job calls and this is what pays the bills, so ... .

My team is currently undefeated in the Greek league and in our EuroCup pool. We've got a pretty solid team and I like our chances in the Greek championship. We've kind of lucked out because our pool in EuroCup isn't the greatest, but we are gladly taking advantage of it and hoping to move on to the next round. We've been pretty lucky because all of our games have been here in Athens; next week starts the traveling, so I'll have more stories later on the countries we visit! I get along very well with everyone on my team, but it would surely take a lot for me not to get along with anyone because I am pretty easy going, as if you didn't know that!

Outside of basketball, life is okay here. Almost everyone speaks English here, so the communication barrier is not a problem. I know a few Greek words - mostly the bad ones, of course! :) The pace of Europe is just so much slower than the USA. I went three weeks with no Internet and no phone line!!!! I was miserable. It just seemed like the people who were supposed to take care of that for me were in no hurry to get it done. Thank God I had my PlayStation with me to pass the time, but my cell phone bill was getting ridiculous.

On top of all that, I couldn't even take a shower in my own apartment because it was shocking the you-know-what out of me. Something was wrong with the water heater and the wires, so after about two weeks of showering in other places, besides my own home, it got fixed and now I can shower at my own place without any fear. Things like that just irritate me because I know in the States something as serious as those issues would be taken care of the next day!

I miss my family and friends more and more each day, but I think I have talked a few people into coming over to visit - I mean, it is Athens! Back home, just this past Thursday, we had to put my golden retriever, Peyton, down. She would have turned two years old this Christmas day, but in September she was diagnosed with Stage 5 cancer. We were going through chemo with her and she had been in remission. She was the same free-spirited dog we came to know and love, but over the past weekend, the cancer took over her whole body and there was nothing more we could do besides let her go peacefully and remember all the good times we had with her. We were only able to have her for a short amount of time, but she gave my family and me some wonderful memories and she's someone we will never forget - she was definitely our little Peyty-Pie!!!!

Until next time, KG

Monday, November 17, 2008

Happy Birthday Simone!

Happy Birthday to our favorite Shakin' Jamaican, Simone Edwards, who is 35 years young today. (Hat tip: Storm Fans.) That's a good excuse to bring everyone up to date on the latest on Simone.

After spending last season as an assistant coach at Radford University, Edwards has moved on to George Mason University this year, joining former Radford Head Coach Jeri Porter. The new staff is hoping to build a program to match the success the George Mason men have enjoyed in recent years, including the surprising run to the Final Four in 2006.

It sounds like Simone is already winning over another community. A few weeks ago, I received an e-mail from Lucy in Virginia, who plays for a 65+ basketball team and met Edwards at a local community center.

"We are proud to have her as an assistant coach for George Mason University," she wrote. "We hope to work with her to help her sent shoes, clothing, etc. to support the Jamaican children. She does have a beautiful smile and personality."

In other news ...
- Voting continues in WNBA.com's "Snap Judgment" photo competition, and a couple of Storm players are featured in the miscellaneous photos.

- With the college season tipping off, Patrick Sheehy at the Chasing the Title blog is taking a look at the top prospects for the 2009 WNBA Draft by the numbers.

- While you're thinking offseason, we're now less than a month away from teams and players being able to negotiate with each other on Dec. 15 (contracts can't be signed until Jan. 5, 2009). WNBA.com has a list of the available free agents, and this year that list is a little more complete since many teams (including the Storm) have already used their core designations.

Last Unbeatens in Greece

With Apollon Ptolemaidas falling over the weekend, Athinaikos has emerged as the last unbeaten team in the Greek A1 lead. Athinaikos remained unblemished with a 72-59 victory over Apollon Kal. Katie Gearlds scored four points and grabbed six rebounds, content to watch LaToya Davis do damage in the paint. The former Texas Tech star scored 28 points, grabbed 12 rebounds, shot 9-of-16 from the field and made 10 free throws in 11 attempts.

In the Czech Republic, where USK Praha reasserted its Czech Basketball League superiority by beating third-place Kara Trutnov 91-66. Swin Cash had an excellent game, scoring 22 points on 9-of-17 shooting and grabbing nine rebounds. If I'm reading the box score correctly, Cash drew nine fouls over the course of the game.

The Russian Superleague largely took the weekend off and Spartak did not play. Dynamo Moscow was in action, using a big fourth-quarter comeback to win 92-74. Dynamo actually trailed heading to the fourth before holding a commanding 29-8 edge in the final period. Janell Burse saw relatively limited action, 16 minutes, scoring eight points and grabbing two rebounds.

In the French LFB, Tarbes Bigorre Elite continues to stay undefeated in rather unconvincing fashion, escapting unscathed from a series of close games. This time, a Tanisha Wright three-pointer lifted Tarbes over Aix en Provence, 57-56, in a game that saw both teams shoot below 40 percent from the field. Wright's triple capped a night where she had 21 points, eight rebounds and six assists. She didn't shoot the ball particularly well, but then again neither did anyone else.

A weird game in Spain between Cadi La Seu and Rivas Ecopolis. La Seu's linescore by quarter: 17-29-9-10. Rivas went 26-10-12-19. The lead swung wildly in the first half, but the outcome ultimately favored Rivas by a 67-65 final. Kelly Santos was in foul trouble much of the night, playing 21 minutes with five points and four rebounds.

Another weird game in Turkey featuring Camille Little's TED Kayseri Koleji squad. Kayseri Koleji won 77-68, overcoming a combined 61 points from Lindsay Bowen (24), Seda Erdrogran (20) and Bojana Vulic (17, 16 rebounds). The other eight Cankaya University players who saw action totaled seven points on 2-of-16 shooting in 90 minutes of action. Wow. As for Little, she had 14 points and six rebounds.

The Cyprus Women's Basketball League has started play and Shyra Ely's K.V. Imperial AEL squad is predictably 2-0 with a pair of blowout wins. No boxscores available, but presumably Ely is putting up big numbers. Lastly, the Irish Superleague took the weekend off, so no result for Kristen O'Neill.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Costly Loss for USK Praha

ZVVZ USK Praha was badly in need of a win Thursday against Lotos PKO BP in a matchup of 1-3 teams in Euroleague's Group C. Falling behind 23-11, USK Praha was unable to rally and lost 71-57 to drop to last place in the group. Lindsay Whalen had 21 points and six rebounds for USK Praha, but Lotos BP was able to keep her teammates in check, including Swin Cash. Cash had six points and five rebounds in 27 minutes of action.

In EuroCup play, it wasn't pretty but Dynamo Moscow defeated Municipal Targoviste 58-50 to improve to 4-0 and assure a spot in the round of 32. Dynamo missed Janell Burse, who did not play. Still, its defense held Targoviste to sub-30 percent shooting and 19 points in the second half to allow for a Dynamo comeback.

The news was not as good for K.V. Imperial AEL, which dropped a 77-60 decision at Cras Basket Taranto to slip to .500 in EuroCup play at 2-2. Shyra Ely had a relatively quiet game by her standards, scoring 12 points on 3-of-6 shooting and adding three rebounds and three steals. Megan Mahoney had a huge night for Taranto, scoring 23 points on 9-of-14 shooting.

Tuba Man Memorial

The late Jim Valvano once famously said that you've had a full day if you laugh, you cry and you think. That being the case, those of us in attendance packed a full day into the hour of Wednesday's public memorial to the life of Ed "The Tuba Man" McMichael.

We were moved to sadness trying to understand the tragic way McMichael was taken from us. But we also laughed hearing several speakers share the anecdotes that endeared the Tuba Man to an entire city. And we thought about how we could use our own tuba and funny hats, as Seahawks PA Announcer Randy Rowland explained metaphorically, to bring the same joy to others that McMichael brought to all of us.

What most struck me over the course of the memorial was the breadth of people who were touched by the Tuba Man and the many different ways they related to him. My connection, naturally, was through sporting events, particularly those at KeyArena. Certainly, Seattle's sports community played a prominent role in the service, with Seahawks CEO Tod Leiweke and Mariners President Chuck Armstrong speaking, as well as Art Thiel from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Also, attendees signed a Seahawks 12th Man flag that Leiweke announced would be flown at team headquarters the remainder of the season, while jerseys from several local sports teams including the Storm (at right) honoring the Tuba Man stood in front of the stage.

What I never realized was that McMichael was so well known through his connections to other speakers, including de facto emcee John Maynard of the long-running Robin and Maynard radio show, which largely organized the event, as well as KOMO's Ken Schram. John Tangeman, manager of audience services for Pacific Northwest Ballet, spoke to the Tuba Man's ubiqutous presence outside of McCaw Hall.

The emotional centerpiece of the evening came when McMichael's brother Kelsey took the microphone, clearly overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from the Seattle community and amazed at the response. His speech concluded with a communal thumbs up from the crowd, imitating Tuba Man's trademark gesture.

Even if you couldn't make Wednesday's memorial, you can still watch the video that concluded the evening (embedded below) or donate to a couple of memorial funds. Donations can be made to the Edward "Tuba Man" McMichael Memorial Fund in person at any Bank of America branch, or by sending a check to the fund at P.O. Box 4985, Federal Way, WA 98063. Also, the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestas has set up a scholarship fund in McMichael's name. Donations can be made via their Web site.

Other recaps come from the Seattle P-I (featuring video and photos), the P-I at McMichael's private funeral, The New York Times and Seattle Sports Online.

My other thought during the memorial related to our routines at sporting events. It occurred to me that in recent years I never really consciously took notice of Tuba Man outside the occasional Sehawks and Mariners games I attended, but the memories came flooding back over the last few days.

I've been thinking about routines because, with the departure of the Sonics, I've started going to a handful of Blazers games at the Rose Garden. I know KeyArena inside and out, having covered about 60 games a year there since joining the Sonics and Storm. The Rose Garden is a completely new experience, and it's weird feeling like a newcomer again. At the same time, I appreciate things in a different way. We take fixtures like the Tuba Guy for granted as people who attend games regularly, and it might be worth trying to pay attention to all those little things and appreciate them before they are taken away.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Storm on KONG Thursday Morning

Storm CEO Karen Bryant and star Sheryl Swoopes will be on King 5 Morning News on KONG 6/16 tomorrow morning around 8:20 a.m. to talk about an honor for the Storm organization as well as staying involved in the community during the offseason. Make sure to tune in.

Also, WNBA.com has an "On the Road" feature with the Storm's Lauren Jackson in which she proclaims her love for the Emerald City.

Dot-com: What's the best WNBA city to shop in?
Jackson: "Seattle, of course. It's amazing! Seattle is the best city in the world! I shop, I enjoy the water, I have friends there, cafes, restaurants… I love it."

Read on for some of Jackson's other favorite cities.

Athinaikos Will Move On

With a win Wednesday over Greek rivals Panionios (their second head-to-head meeting this week), Athinaikos has assured itself a spot in the Round of 32 in EuroCup action. At 4-0, Athinaikos can finish no worse than second in Group E. Katie Gearlds scored 10 points in a 73-56 win that was a better offensive showing than it sounds, with Athinaikos scoring 73 in just 63 possessions, a very slow pace.

In the day's other EuroCup action, Tarbes defeated Olivais Coimbra 88-78 to stay undefeated on the season. Tarbes will finish no worse than tied for first in their group and is also assured of moving on. Tanisha Lovely Wright, as she's called on FIBAEurope.com, led the way, scoring 21 points on 8-of-13 shooting, handing out eight assists, grabbing five rebounds and pilfering four steals with one turnover in 31 minutes. Not a bad day at the office.

In the lone Euroleague game of the day involving Storm players (ZVVZ USK Praha does not play until tomorrow), Spartak stayed strong with a 93-70 win over Lattes Montpellier. Spartak led 27-14 after one quarter, and Lattes was never able to get much closer despite playing even in the second half.

Spartak was on fire from downtown, canning 15 triples in 29 attempts, while Lattes shot 3-of-16 from beyond the arc. Both Sue Bird (3-of-5 on threes) and Lauren Jackson (2-of-3) played a role, while Diana Taurasi knocked down five triples in nine attempts. Bird finished with nine points and eight assists, while Jackson had 12 points and nine rebounds in 20 minutes of action. Center Sylvia Fowles led Spartak inside, scoring 25 points and grabbing 17 rebounds, nine of them at the offensive end.

Elsewhere, TEO Vilnius - the one squad to knock off Spartak this year - won a showdown with Maxima Broker Kosice to remain tied with Spartak atop Group D at 4-1.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Spartak Defeats Dynamo

Saturday brought the first of two regular-season matchups between Storm teammates in Russia, as Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson led Spartak against Janell Burse and Dynamo Moscow. Spartak cruised to a 104-71 win to remain unbeaten in the Russian Superleague.

Bird was outstanding, hitting nine-of-13 from the field in scoring 25 points while handing out nine assists in 34 minutes of action. Jackson added firepower off the bench, scoring 16 points and grabbing seven rebounds in 19 minutes and shooting 6-of-10 from the field. Burse was solid for Dynamo, finishing with 12 points and seven boards, but her team simply lacked the firepower to keep up with the loaded Spartak squad, which won the third quarter 30-10.

Another game, another win for Tarbes Bigorre Elite. And another nailbiter, with Tarbes surviving a fourth-quarter run to beat Mondeville 73-69. Tanisha Wright was strong as always, scoring 22 points on 7-of-13 shooting, grabbing six rebounds and handing out four assists.

Kelly Santos' 20 points were not enough in Cadi La Seu's 77-57 loss to Mann Filter Zaragoza. Zaragoza boasted more balanced scoring, with LaToya Thomas (17) leading five players in double-figures. Meanwhile, just two other Cadi La Seu players topped four points. Cadi La Seu was also beaten badly on the glass, 39-14, with Santos (two rebounds) having a quiet night there.

In Turkey, TED Kayseri Koleji suffered a tough 78-74 loss to traditional power Fenerbahce. Camile Little contributed 10 points, seven rebounds and four assists. However, Matee Ajavon's 21 points proved the difference.

USK Praha got little competition Friday from Sparta Praha, winning 124-65 after outscoring Sparta 34-9 in the second quarter alone. With the lopsided score, Swin Cash finished her night early, having scored 15 points and grabbed eight boards in 20 minutes of action. Seven players scored 15 or more for USK Praha.

Athinaikos escaped a scare from Panionios, winning 58-56 to remain undefeated in Greek A1 play. Athinaikos led by 11 at the half before the game got tight. Katie Gearlds chipped in six rebounds on a night where she could not find her shot, finishing 1-of-9 from the field for three points. Athinaikos and Apollon Ptolemaidas are the lone undefeated teams remaining in Greece at 4-0.

Kristen O'Neill returned to action for her UL Aughnish squad in Ireland after missing three games and immediately helped lead a second-half comeback. Aughnish rallied after trailing by 14 in the third quarter for a 72-67 win over the Waterford Wildcats. O'Neill scored a team-high 22 points in the win.

Tribute for Tuba Man Wednesday

The Seattle Seahawks will be hosting a free public tribute to the life of the Tuba Man, Ed McMichael, this Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Qwest Field Event Center. Complete details are here, while Robert Jamieson of the Seattle P-I also has more on the event. I'm planning on being there.

Here's a recap of Saturday, when musicians gathered to play outside McCaw Hall and at some of Tuba Man's other former haunts on the Seattle Center campus. Photographer Rod Mar of the Seattle Times also has a moving tribute to someone he considered a friend.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Tragic News for Seattle Sports Fans

Like so many others in the Seattle sports scene, I was saddened and horrified to hear of the death of Ed McMichael, better known as "Tuba Man." McMichael passed away Monday from injuries suffered when he was beaten and mugged on Oct. 25. As he was at sports venues and other locations throughout the city, McMichael was a fixture outside KeyArena. When I was attending games as a fan, the night wasn't complete without seeing McMichael and hearing his repetotire of songs as well as a gravelly, "Go Sonics!"

Already, a memorial fund has been set up for McMichael. You can find details here. Also, one local musician plans to honor McMichael by playing outside McCaw Hall Saturday morning. Stay tuned for more, including how McMichael is honored at the Key.

Here's a pair of moving columns from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on what McMichael meant to local sports fans, one from Robert Jamieson and one from Art Thiel.

RIP Tuba Man. The Seattle sports scene won't be the same without you.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Spartak Ascends to First Place

In the wake of their surprising loss to TEO Vilnius two weeks ago, Spartak had been tied for second in Group D Euroleague play. Wednesday, Spartak got a chance to face previously undefeated Maxima Broker Kosice. The result? An 89-75 victory that created a three-way tie atop Group D.

It didn't come easy for Spartak, which trailed midway through the third quarter before taking the lead for good and outscoring Kosice 25-12 in the fourth quarter. 84 of Spartak's 89 points came from five players - Sue Bird (15), Sylvia Fowles (19 and 11 boards), Lauren Jackson (14 points, six rebounds in 21 minutes), Tatiana Shchegoleva (11) and Diana Taurasi (a game-high 25). Sidney Spencer paced Kosice with 22 points and 10 rebounds.

ZVVZ USK Praha was no match for UMMC Ekaterinburg in Group C, falling 94-64 after trailing by 18 at the half. Swin Cash played 27 minutes, but was unable to get into an offensive groove. She missed eight of her 10 shot attempts, scoring six points and grabbing five rebounds. With Ekaterinburg also holding Evanthia Maltsi to 2-for-10 shooting, USK Praha struggled on offense.

Turning our attention to EuroCup play, K.V. Imperial AEL suffered a heartbreaking 67-65 home loss to Gospic. Former UTEP guard Natasha Lacy, Shyra Ely's Imperial teammate, split two free throws with a chance to tie the game with five seconds left on the clock. A win would have put Imperial in great position to win Group F; instead, the two teams are tied atop the group. It was a strong night in defeat for Ely, who scored 22 points on 10-of-20 shooting with seven rebounds and four steals.

Lastly Wednesday, Janell Burse and her Dynamo Moscow squad cruised past KSSSE AZS-PWSZ Gorzow 93-64 in Poland. Burse anchored Dynamo in the paint with 14 points and 12 rebounds, dishing out an impressive five assists. Belinda Snell scored 23 points and dished out seven assists. Through three games, Burse is averaging 11.3 rebounds, good for sixth in the EuroCup rankings.

On Thursday, Katie Gearlds (Athinaikos) and Tanisha Wright (Tarbes) will be in action to wrap up international play for the week.