Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Tonight's Game and Radio

We're just a couple of hours away from the Storm opening the 2008 preseason in Chicago against the Sky. Alas, coverage options will be limited for tonight's game. The Storm will broadcast the preseason finale against Indiana on radio, but not either of this week's road games. Chicago isn't broadcasting preseason games, so there will be no radio. Fortunately, because the game is played in a WNBA arena, you should be able to follow along on's gamecast.

The Chicago Tribune had an article on tonight's game, and here's a release from the Sky. No. 2 overall pick Sylvia Fowles and defending Rookie of the Year Armintie Price both arrived in Chicago this week, but both will apparently see at least some time tonight. Candice Dupree, Dominique Canty and Jia Perkins are amongst the Sky players who remain overseas.

On Friday, the Monarchs will be broadcasting the game on local radio and it should be available via, though there are sometimes kinks in the technology to be worked out during the preseason.

As for Storm radio, a reader e-mailed to ask when Adia Barnes would be arriving in Seattle. Most teams, like the Storm, have to worry about players arriving late to camp, but we might be the only one with a color analyst playing overseas. Adia's team, Phard Napoli, is in the Italian A1 League Finals, and trails 1-0. Thanks to the all-knowing Paul Swanson at the RebKell boards, here's the rest of the schedule:

Game 2 -- Thursday, May 1 at Schio
Game 3 -- Saturday, May 3 at Schio
Game 4 -- Tuesday, May 6 at Napoli (if necessary)
Game 5 -- Friday, May 9 at Schio (if necessary)

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Russian Finals Set

Spartak swept its way into the Russian Superleague Finals Tuesday, beating Vologda-Chevakata 82-56 in Game 2 of their best-of-three series. Lauren Jackson led the way with 17 points and seven rebounds in 22 minutes of action. Sue Bird handed out four assists and hit a three for her only score.

CSKA Moscow will meet Spartak in the Finals coming off of a very impressive sweep of a tough UMMC Ekaterinburg squad. CSKA won 93-70 in Ekaterinburg Tuesday, with Amaya Valdemoro's 21 points leading five CSKA players with 13 or more.

CSKA has WNBA star Becky Hammon and new Silver Stars teammate Ann Wauters as well as another recent San Antonio signee, former Storm guard Edwige Lawson-Wade. Valdemoro and Maria Stepanova, two of the world's best players who have opted to pass on the WNBA in recent seasons, are joined by Russian Ilona Korstin amongst the six key CSKA players. This is an outstanding team that took Spartak to five games in the Finals a year ago.

The Finals schedule:
Game 1 - May 5 at Spartak
Game 2 - May 6 at Spartak
Game 3 - May 9 at CSKA
Game 4 - May 10 at CSKA (if necessary)
Game 5 - May 13 at Spartak (if necessary)

From the Storm's perspective, the big question is whether this series goes four games or five games. That's a three-day difference. Last year, it took two days for Bird and Jackson to get back to Seattle. That could put them back here as soon as Sunday, May 11, for a full week of practice before the opener. However, a five-game series would put them back Thursday, May 15 - just two days before the Storm plays Chicago on Opening Night.

Storm Ready to Face Sky

After his team practiced Tuesday morning at The Furtado Center before flying to Chicago to take on the Sky in the preseason opener for both teams, Seattle Storm Head Coach Brian Agler confirmed his starting lineup for the game. Rookie Kimberly Beck will start with Sheryl Swoopes in the backcourt, Shyra Ely will get the nod alongside Katie Gearlds at forward and veteran Yolanda Griffith will anchor the middle. That group worked together during the Storm's practice, but expect a number of different lineups to see time against the Sky.

"That's a starting point," said Agler. "We'll rotate people in. We're going to get people quality minutes. Sheryl and Yolanda, I doubt will play in the second half. We want to use this opportunity to take a look at some different people and some different combinations.

"Obviously want to get Ashley (Robinson) in with that first group. We're going to experiment with people running the point. Other than that, I think we'll probably sort of go on the fly a little bit. We'll probably talk tomorrow and organize some different groups of five that we want to play together."

With the veterans playing limited minutes, tomorrow will be an important opportunity for the young players on the Storm's roster, including five rookies who will see their first WNBA game action. While they have learned a lot about the youngsters in practice, Agler and the coaching staff will also rely on preseason action in making roster decisions going forward.

"You evaluate in practice - some of those things you can see in practice," Agler said, "but you can't simulate live game action until you get into those exhibition games."

What will they be looking for from the young players?

"Obviously you want to see a carryover of the execution in the offense," he added. "You want to see how competitive they are defensively, see if some of the things we've worked on defensively carry over. Then just to see if they're going to be able to compete and play at the next level."

The Storm will not get forward Swin Cash back in time for Wednesday's game because Cash traveled back home after suffering a minor injury while playing for USA Basketball in the Good Luck Beijing tournament last week.

"She bruised her knee over in China, although she played - it's nothing major," said Agler. "She wanted to get it looked at in Miami, so she's going to meet us in Sacramento."

- Agler on Doneeka Lewis, who practiced with the Storm for the first time yesterday: "You never know how long it's going to take them to adjust to the time change and things like that, but she's done well. She'll get a lot of action over the next couple of days."

Agler Audio After Practice

Live From Practice 4/29

Good morning from The Furtado Center. With a flight to Chicago scheduled for this afternoon, the Storm is getting its work in early today. There is, I would say, a little added urgency in the air with the first preseason game scheduled for tomorrow.

A couple of practice guys are here, so they may have been on the floor earlier, but for now we've split into two squads. After some drilling in the half-court, we're into a five-minute scrimmage keeping score. On the court wearing white are your likely starters tomorrow - Kimberly Beck, Sheryl Swoopes, Katie Gearlds, Shyra Ely and Yolanda Griffith. In black are Dee Davis, Allie Quigley, Kristen O'Neill, Leah Rush and Ashley Robinson. The rest of the roster rotated in and out.

Coach Agler is clearly trying to get the players thinking like a game situation, explaining that because he's calling out the plays, it is like when they have an opposing team's playcall scouted and need to adjust accordingly. And, working against their teammates, they should already have the scout in terms of skills.

After splitting up to shoot free throws, we're finished and players are coaches are ready to get going for the bus to the airport and on to Chicago.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Wednesday's Lineup

Two days away from opening the preseason against the Sky in Chicago on Wednesday, Seattle Storm Head Coach Brian Agler said Monday he's close to a lineup for that game.

"Probably Shyra (Ely) or Ashley (Robinson) at the other post with Yolanda (Griffith)," he said. "Katie (Gearlds) and Sheryl (Swoopes) and we'll probably start Kim (Beck) at the point on Wednesday. That's probably how we'll go - unless things change tomorrow."

Despite Agler's caution, that group has worked as the Storm's first unit in several recent practices. In most of the positions, the Storm's most experienced players are getting the nod. The exception is point guard, where several young players are competing. So far, Beck appears to have a slight advantage on the other players. When it comes to the team's crowded backcourt, Agler said, "This week will tell a lot."

The Storm will continue the road trip Friday in Sacramento and have two of the team's three preseason games in the books by this weekend.

On Saturday, the Storm made its first roster move of training camp, waiving guard Brandie Hoskins. The 2007 third-round pick from Ohio State had been behind, something Agler hinted might have had to do with her comeback from a torn Achilles suffered last Spring.

"I just think the other people passed her by," Agler explained. "She worked hard; she just wasn't quite ready physically."

Agler said the team plans no more cuts and expects to take the current group of 13 players to Chicago. Tomorrow is a mandatory WNBA roster cutdown to 15 players, but that number includes only those in camp, so the Storm will not need to make any moves.

During this week, players will continue to join the team, starting with Swin Cash. The All-Star forward wrapped up her work in China with USA Basketball on Saturday and will meet the team on the road.

"It's either going to be in Chicago or Sacramento, one of those two spots," said Agler, "but it will be over the trip."

Due next in are guard Roneeka Hodges and center Kelly Santos, whose season in Spain ended yesterday. According to Agler, they should be in Seattle for physicals by Wednesday or Thursday. Depending on how early they get in, they could fly to Sacramento for Friday's game. Otherwise, they will join the Storm in Seattle.

While it will be a busy week for the Storm in terms of travel, Agler can't afford to skimp on practices. ("This is training camp," he explained. "We've got to practice.") The Storm will go early tomorrow before flying to Chicago, and practice Thursday in Sacramento after making that trip (with time zones in the Storm's favor that time). Game-day shootarounds before both games will also likely play more of a teaching role than during the regular season. The team will take Saturday off before Sunday's Fan Fest and open practice at KeyArena.


The defensive-minded Agler isn't happy with where his team is at that end of the floor.

"We've got a ways to go with our defense right now," he said, "so we spent a lot of time on that today.

"We need to get better at everything, but we're going to spend a lot of time with our defense here in the next couple of days."

Griffith, who anchored some of the league's best defenses while in Sacramento and is a former WNBA Defensive Player of the Year, believes part of the problem is that the team is too quiet right now.

"The most important thing is talking," she said. "We don't talk enough."

Agler Audio after Practice

Wright's Team Falls Behind

Raanana Hertzeliya dropped Game 3 of the Israeli D1 Finals 81-69 to Elizur Ramla on Monday, giving Ramla a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series.

By her MVP standards, Storm guard Tanisha Wright had an off night for Raanana, needing 19 shots to get her 20 points. Wright also handed out six assists and grabbed five boards but committed seven turnovers. Wright was the most consistent scoring threat for her team, which shot but 4-of-18 from three-point range. Meanwhile, Sherill Baker, Shay Doron and Michelle Snow combined for 60 points for Ramla.

Game 4 will be played Thursday at Ramla, and there is no margin for error for Raanana.

"Our backs are against the wall, lose and we go home," Wright told Safsal. "We’ve been in this situation before [Raanana trailed 2-0 in the semifinals], so the only thing that we can ask from ourselves is to go out and play the hardest that we can play. We’ve won there before so we know that we can win there. We gotta believe that."

If Raanana extends the series, Game 5 would be played next Monday. That's the latest Wright could wrap up her season and begin the process of getting back to Storm camp.

Live From Monday's Practice

Welcome to The Furtado Center, where the Storm is back on the court after taking yesterday off. Doneeka Lewis is in the house, practicing for the first time since returning from Italy.

The Storm has split up into two groups, the veterans on one end and the young players (rookies and Dee Davis) at the other end. Brian Agler and Shelley Patterson are working with the vets, Nancy Darsch with the young group. Both ends are playing on-3 against players from the practice squad, and it appears the focus is on defending the pick-and-roll.

- The young players were working at the end of the court nearest to us, and Kristen O'Neill's determination at the defensive end of the court really stood out.

- Sheryl Swoopes' son, Jordan, and Alisa Scott are back at practice today.

- Now the Storm is drilling on transition defense using a common drill. Five players on each side, with the Storm going against the practice squad. The practice guys stand on the endline and the Storm players at the free-throw line extended. At the same time as the practice squad gets the ball, one or two Storm players are called out and have to run back to the endline before getting back in the play. This produces a natural 5-on-4 or 5-on-3 break at the other end. Communication is very important to identify the uncovered player.

The Storm has done a good job of getting stops on the defensive end, but Coach Agler has been a little frustrated with turnovers when they go back to offense going the other direction. He pointed out that when the team has worked so hard on defense, a turnover is a waste of that effort.

On the floor right now is what seems to have emerged as the first unit - Kimberly Beck and Swoopes in the backcourt, Katie Gearlds and Shyra Ely as the forwards and Yolanda Griffith in the middle.

- Great play by the Storm in transition. Swoopes found point guard Dee Davis in the middle of the floor. Davis looked off the defense and found Ashley Robinson all alone in the paint for the left-hand layup. Davis had another nice assist on the secondary break to Leah Rush, doing a good job of being patient and letting the play develop.

- Next up for the Storm is some 5-on-5 action in the halfcourt with a focus on post defense.

- The Storm has moved on to half-court offense, first against the practice squad and now with two different units. On the sidelines, Lewis and Patterson have the clipboard out to go over the team's offense.

- Now we've got the younger players running through the offense against the practice squad. I've been impressed with their job of execution without a lot of natural shot creators (at this level) on the floor. O'Neill and Natalie Doma have both been hitting from the perimeter. At the risk of redundancy, it is amazing how frequently O'Neill comes up with loose balls.

I like the way the veteran players are supporting the younger players from the sidelines. It's evident that there is a genuine appreciation for the kind of people and hard workers the young group has.

- Rush hits a free throw (Anne Donovan made players hit two) and that wraps us up.

Storm Offspring

You may remember reading that former Storm center Kamila Vodichkova missed the 2007 WNBA season due to pregnancy. Well, our old Storm friend gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, Martin, Jr., in October.

Always a favorite in Seattle, Kamila sent along some photos for Storm fans.

Check out the future Sonics player in his baby outfit as well as with mom.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Doma Update

One of our comments the other day asked for an update on invitee Natalie Doma, the undrafted rookie center out of Idaho State University. When I went to talk to Doma on Friday, I wasn't alone, with Tim Flagstad of the Idaho State Journal coming out to do an update on the ISU legend. Here's his story that discusses how Doma is enjoying camp.

''Right now, I'm just gaining experience with being in training camp, getting a
foot in the door,'' she said. ''The coaches have seen what I can do, and I just
gotta go out and work hard and put the extra time in and learn. As a rookie,
that's what you've gotta do unless you're a first-round draft pick who's
guaranteed a spot.''
It didn't make the article(Actually, Swoopes' comment was in there on second reading), but both Head Coach Brian Agler and Sheryl Swoopes talked about Doma's ability to stretch the floor as a post player. She's competed despite facing an immense leap in competition and athleticism from playing in the Big Sky to competing against Yolanda Griffith in practice.

Doma is from nearby Victoria, B.C. and said there wasn't much in the way of WNBA coverage north of the border growing up. (Maybe that would change with a franchise in Toronto?)

"I went to Seattle once and watched a Storm game when I was in elementary school," she said, "but that was it."

Another B.C. native who made the WNBA, Sacramento's Kim Smith, was something of a role model for Doma, as was Phoenix Suns star Steve Nash.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Saturday Potpourri

First off, you've probably already seen that the Storm made a roster move today, waiving rookie guard Brandie Hoskins. The move didn't really surprise me. While Hoskins is fully recovered from the torn Achilles that kept her out last summer and was able to play overseas, she hasn't yet returned to the kind of shape she was in before the injury. I suspect she'll make a much better run at a roster next spring another year removed from her torn Achilles.

Elsewhere, the U.S. Senior Women's National Team fell to host China in the gold-medal game of the Good Luck Beijing Tournament Saturday. The U.S. trailed by seven, 79-72, with a little less than four minutes to play. They rallied back as close as two, with Storm forward Swin Cash playing a key role in the run. They had a chance to send the game to overtime in the closing seconds, but Lisa Leslie missed a potential tying three at the buzzer and China prevailed 84-81.

Cash had 13 points, four rebounds and three steals, shooting 6-of-10 from the field, as four of the five USA starters scored double-figures. However, China overcame the Americans' interior advantage by shooting 50.3% from the field.

On Friday, the U.S. players had a chance to tour some of the sites around China, including the Great Wall and Tian'anmen Square. Check out the gallery on USA Courtesy USA Basketball, here's a photo of Cash and her partner, Chafie Fields.

In Russia, Spartak got off to a 1-0 lead in its best-of-three semifinals series with against Vologda-Сhevakata with an easy 100-70 win Saturday. Sue Bird led the way with 16 points, hitting four three-pointers and handing out five assists. Lauren Jackson had 17 points, seven boards and four assists. Spartak will go for the sweep Tuesday.

- Lastly, I wanted to draw everyone's attention to a comment from Jim Quigg, a long-time member of the Storm's practice squad, on a recent entry. Quigg likes what he's seen so far playing against the Storm.

"Hello fellow Storm fans. I'm one of the practice guys. I gotta tell you that you have a lot to be excited about this season. Yo is so strong and such a powerful scorer. KG and Allie shoot the ball VERY well (Katie hit three 3s with me in her face today). A-Rob is a force. Sheryl is incredibly smart, sneaky, and positive. Kristen plays hard, and so do Shyra, Kim and Leah. Brian could throw darts and still have an outstanding team."

Notebook: Roster Moves Forthcoming

The seven rookies in Seattle Storm training camp have gotten a good look during the first week of camp. The time is soon coming for Brian Agler and the coaching staff to trim the roster based on what they've seen. Agler reiterated after Friday's practice that the team's first cuts will likely be made this weekend.

"I think any time now we can probably start making some decisions," said Agler. "A lot of it has to do not necessarily with what people are doing or not doing on the floor. It's just a matter that we don't want to get huge players in camp. As we get players coming in, we've got to try to free up some spots so we don't get 16, 17 players in at one time."

Guard Doneeka Lewis is due into camp on Sunday, while forward Swin Cash will join the team in Chicago before Wednesday's exhibition opener against the Sky. Guard Roneeka Hodges and center Kelly Santos will be with the team not long thereafter.

Further evaluation could come during Saturday's practice.

"We'll do a lot of scrimmaging tomorrow," Agler said. "We'll use Saturday to do that, both against the guys and against ourselves."

The most hotly-contested position in camp thus far has been point guard, where the Storm is looking for a backup behind Sue Bird. With Bird and incumbent backup Tanisha Wright still playing overseas, younger players have gotten extended opportunities, but Agler and company remain uncertain about their direction with the position.

"We're still searching for that person that can play the backup point guard," he said, "whether it's somebody that's here or we'll keep an eye out. Somebody we have that's not here yet? We don't know yet. We'll keep experimenting, keep evaluating and see if we can come up with the right person."

On Thursday, the experiment yielded another candidate at the point: University of Washington product Kristen O'Neill, who had previously played strictly on the wings. At 6-1, O'Neill could create matchup problems at the point with her size but is also vulnerable to pressure from smaller, quicker players.

"We threw her in there today a little bit just to see what she can do and she didn't do bad," said Agler. "She hung right in there. I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing. The good thing is she got an opportunity and she didn't do badly. The bad thing is we haven't come up with a solution yet."

One young point guard who has helped herself lately is third-round pick Kimberly Beck, who ran the first unit during the second half of Wednesday's practice and much of Thursday's session. The slight George Washington product showed her toughness by playing on after reopening a cut on her chin that she originally suffered during the NCAA Tournament. Beck had the chin bandaged during practice and will get stitches again to close the cut.


The Storm will take Sunday off after six days of practice (and a walkthrough the previous Sunday) to start camp. Already, the team is looking forward to the day off - even the coaching staff.

"I think I'm tired," said Agler. "I know they're tired. I'm tired this week. We've got to get a day off on Sunday."

Meanwhile, veteran Sheryl Swoopes pumped her fist when asked about Agler's strategy of making sure she and Yolanda Griffith get a day off every three or four days.

"I'm already looking forward to Sunday," she joked.

Griffith and Swoopes had Wednesday's practice off, doing cardio work and watching their teammates from the sidelines. Swoopes said she felt good after the day off. She likes Agler's philosophy for keeping his vets fresh.

"That was one thing that really drew me to wanting to come here in talking to Brian and me telling him what my concerns were and him telling me the same thing," she said. "What he wanted me to understand was, 'I'm looking at the big picture.' I'm not interested in you coming out every single day of practice and practicing three, four hours a day and busting your butt out here in practice. Obviously I'm going to do that when I'm practicing, but he said, the bigger picture is we've got to save you and you've got to be ready for when the time really counts."

Swoopes also got a lift Friday from the arrival in Seattle of her son Jordan and partner Alisa Scott, who watched practice at The Furtado Center.

"This was actually not supposed to happen this weekend," Swoopes explained. "I was in the apartment fixing things up and unpacking and I was in Jordan's room, so I took a picture of myself in his room and I sent it to him. He called me and I said, 'Did you like the picture?' He said, 'Mom, I did, I love the picture but I'm sad because I want to be there.'"

Thanks to frequent-flyer players, Swoopes brought her family up for the weekend. They'll be back next weekend and again for Opening Night before moving to Seattle for the summer after Jordan finishes school for the year.

Agler Post-Practice Audio

Friday, April 25, 2008

Live From Practice 4/24

We're into practice for the day and the Storm is going 5-on-5 against the practice squad. On the court right now are Kimberly Beck and Katie Gearlds in the backcourt, Sheryl Swoopes and Shyra Ely at forward and Yolanda Griffith in the middle.

- One of the things we've stressed during camp is Coach Agler's tendency to teach during the course of scrimmages and drills. A lot of that is about the way to read screens, which is a key to Agler's motion offense. That will be something to watch over the course of the season.

- For the first time that we've seen in camp, Kristen O'Neill is running the point right now. At 6-1, she offers a very different look at the position. However, there is an adjustment to be made to the kind of defensive pressure point guards face in the WNBA.

- The team just spent some time going over a play which ends with Swoopes posting up. When she's at shooting guard and working against smaller defenders, that could be a very productive play for the Storm. After showing some rust on her shot in Tuesday's practice, Swoopes has looked very good the last two days we've seen.

- Swoopes' son Jordan is in town and watching practice. Well, sort of. Jordan said he was headed to watch TV before deciding to shoot hoops on the far court.

That wraps us up for the day.

Injury Issues in the East

A couple of high-profile players in the East on the presumptive favorites in the conference are dealing with injuries early in camp. Fever forward Tamika Catchings tore her right Achilles in last year's Eastern Conference Finals and has yet to be cleared to return to practice, the AP reported yesterday. It doesn't look like she'll be in the lineup for the start of the season.

"On the front end, we're kind of taking our time," Catchings said. "I want to get back and get back to the team and get back into playing shape and hope to be playing 100 percent by the Olympics. Hopefully, before that."

Until yesterday, I had missed the news that Detroit's Cheryl Ford underwent a type of microfracture procedure on her problematic left knee. Ford talked about the procedure in an audio feature by the New York Times. Ford says she's been told she might be back to 100 percent by July, though reported recently that she could be in the lineup by opening night.

Only two WNBA players are known to have undergone microfracture knee surgery - the Storm's Sue Bird and Los Angeles point guard Temeka Johnson.

By the postseason, both Catchings and Ford may be beyond their injuries, but for now they are question marks in an Eastern Conference that seems to be behind the West this season.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Notebook: Day Off for Storm's Veterans

By design, Storm veterans Yolanda Griffith and Sheryl Swoopes took Thursday's practice off, doing some cardio work but otherwise not participating with the other players in camp.

"We're not playing this week, we're not playing this weekend," explained Storm Head Coach Brian Agler. "We're building this thing up. It's not like a small picture we're looking at. We're sort of looking with them at the big picture - making sure that they're ready and fresh."

The goal for the Storm is having Griffith and Swoopes be able to go hard when they return to practice tomorrow and Saturday.

"To me, it would defeat the purpose if we came in and practiced them six straight days," Agler said. "We have the ability now to let them go three, take a day off and now they get refreshed and they can go the next two or three hard."

The rest of the Storm's players focused on defense during an intense session of work.

"Good practice," said Agler. "Trying to get a little bit of flow up and down the floor getting ready for next week. Really focused a lot defensively. Trying to get Katie (Gearlds) caught up - she's a very intelligent player and she picks things up quickly. And continually evaluating personnel."

It's early, but Agler has already installed "quite a bit" of the team's schemes on offense and defense. Moving quickly makes sense for the team because of the accelerated pace of camp (the Storm is just six days away from opening the preseason next Wednesday at Chicago) as well as, somewhat counterintuitively, the late arrivals to camp.

"It's easier for people to come in when things are already taught because they can be plugged in with four other people who know and it's easier to pick up," Agler explained. "Secondly, our training camp's so short that you can't sit back and just wait until seven days before you start to put the majority of stuff in. So getting a lot of it in early is good and then going back, reviewing it, getting more reps in, that's sort of how we approach it."

Even though Sue Bird remains half a world away, playing in Russia, the point guard is already working on learning Agler's system after being sent a playbook earlier this week.

"She wanted it and she requested it," he said. "I didn't want to send it if it wasn't going to be used, but she requested it, so we got it right to her. It's a good thing."


Asked again about how young players have performed, Agler mentioned some different names.

"I thought Kimberly Beck had a good practice today," he said. "She did a good job at the point. Leah Rush has had a good training camp. Those two right there stood out. Allie (Quigley)'s progressing real well, Daphanie (Kennedy)'s competing hard."

The Storm is getting a good look at several players thanks in large part to the rules change which allows teams to invite players to camp without taking the risk that they are injured and the team is forced to count their salary against the cap all year long.

"It's benefited teams and players this year," said Agler, "because it's created more opportunities for some of the players to get a tryout."

Agler cautioned that while many of the young players have played well, there are limited roster spots available and many competitors for them.

"You get players that play well and play hard," he said. "That's good, but that doesn't guarantee them they'll make the team. There's so few teams and so many good players that there's just not a spot for everybody. It's a tough deal, but that's why we do this, to evaluate and see what we think is going to be the right fit."

U.S. Women to Gold-Medal Game

It's not the gold medal the U.S. Senior Women's National Team has as a goal in 2008, but they will play for gold in the Good Luck Beijing Tournament.

On Thursday, the U.S. defeated host China 86-61. China had been the last undefeated team at 4-0. Both the U.S. and China finished at 4-1 and they will play each other again on Saturday for the gold medal. China was within four at 43-39 early in the second half, but the U.S. women followed with an 11-2 run and were never threatened thereafter.

The U.S. used its advantage in the paint, starting Sylvia Fowles and Lisa Leslie together up front and getting 46 points and 23 rebounds from the two players. Storm forward Swin Cash contributed five points and five boards, making two of her three shot attempts.

"We were just really excited to come into this game today and have the opportunity to play a China team that we know has improved so much over the years," Cash said. "I felt that coming out in the first quarter our team really set the tempo. We were trying to be aggressive and establish our post players."

One downside to the win: Lynx guard Lindsey Harding left early with a strained left knee at the end of the third quarter. Harding is coming back from a torn left ACL, so any trouble with the knee is a bit worrisome.

Here's what I don't get about this tournament. After beating the U.S. in their opener, the Australian Opals lost to China and then were upset by Oceanic rivals New Zealand Thursday to finish round-robin play at 3-2. That's some inconsistency.


Tanisha Wright's Raanana Hertzeliya team fell 86-65 to Elizur Ramla Thursday, tying the Israeli D1 Finals at one game apiece. Both teams have held home court so far in a 1-1-1-1-1 Finals format. Ramla was hot on offense, putting five players in double-figures and shooting 54.2% from the field.

Ramla focused its defensive attention on Wright, who attempted just seven shots. She still had 14 points, five rebounds and four assists but her teammates were unable to take full advantage of the attention paid to Wright.

Game 3 in the series will be played Monday with Raanana playing host. The series will go at least through Game 4 next Thursday.

Quick Update After Practice

A little bit of miscommunication today meant we didn't see any of practice, so no live blogging. Coach Agler said today's focus was primarily on the defensive end of the floor and, from what we could tell, the intensity was turned up slightly from the last couple of days.

Veterans Yolanda Griffith and Sheryl Swoopes got the day off just to get them some rest. Agler noted that during the season the team will have a day off because of travel or schedule every three or four days and it makes sense to have Griffith and Swoopes on a similar schedule during camp with an eye toward having them go hard the days they practice.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Notebook: Practice Squad Debuts

On Wednesday, the Storm's third practice of 2008 training camp, the team used its male practice squad for the first time. During the portion of practice open to the media, a number of different Storm units went 5-on-5 full-court against the practice squad.

Like predecessor Anne Donovan and most WNBA coaches, new Storm Head Coach Brian Agler likes using a practice squad.

"They're big and strong, have quickness and they don't know what we're doing," he said. "When we play against ourselves, we know what we're going to do to each other. It just gives us someone different to play against."

Having different bodies on the opposing team is especially valuable during training camp, with days of practice in a row uninterrupted by games. Agler expects to keep using the guys through the remainder of camp and potentially beyond.

"Training camp, definitely," Agler said. "Through the season really will depend on our schedule. If we have the time to practice, then we can use them. A lot of times you don't have time to practice very much."

With 13 players in camp, the Storm has a good-sized group to work with. However, eight of the 13 are perimeter players, which has meant some small lineups at times. 6-1 Leah Rush and 6-2 Shyra Ely made up the Storm's post duo for long stretches of practice.

"I wanted to give everybody a chance to play a little bit," explained Agler, "so we have to mix and match."

- So far, the Storm has had a clean bill of health during camp. "I think we're in pretty good shape," said Agler.

- Asked about rookies who have impressed him, Agler made note of second-round pick Allie Quigley, who played both point guard and small forward at times during the practice, demonstrating her versatility. The other player whose name came up for a second straight day was undrafted rookie guard Daphanie Kennedy.

Live From Wednesday's Practice

1:20 Update: Welcome back, Katie Gearlds. The second-year Storm wing wrapped up her season in Greece on Sunday and has made the long trip back to Seattle in time to practice this morning. She's on the floor right now with Daphanie Kennedy, Sheryl Swoopes, Leah Rush and Yolanda Griffith as the Storm goes full-court against the male practice squad the team is using for the first time in camp.

1:25 Update: A couple of substitutions have Allie Quigley handling the point now for the Storm. A moment ago, Griffith got a wide-open layup off of a pick-and-roll. She was so open she heard cries of "dunk it" from the sidelines. I don't think that's on Yo's mind at age 38.

1:35 Update: When we watched yesterday, the Storm was simply using one play in the half court. Today, the whole playbook is open and it's clear the team is still getting it down. Players are thinking the plays instead of simply playing, which leads to some mistakes.

When she was at the point, Dee Davis knocked down a couple of jumpers, which is encouraging. Shooting with range is a question about Davis.

That wraps up the action on the court today.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Live From Practice 4/22

Alright, enough of the talk from yesterday's media day. It's time to get down to basketball. The Storm held its first practice last evening and is back at The Furtado Center today for the second practice and first open to the media.

Players were shooting free throws in twos when we were let in to practice and now Brian Agler is walking the team through a set. It is already evident how thorough Coach Agler is in terms of explaining the options and the mentality for each player on the floor.

1:10 Update: Now the Storm is going through this set and into live action playing 4-on-4. That's the natural number because there are 12 players in camp.

Dee Davis, Allie Quigley, Sheryl Swoopes and Yolanda Griffith make up the white team. Kimberly Beck, Kristen O'Neill, Shyra Ely and Ashley Robinson are wearing black. The gold team has Daphanie Kennedy, Brandie Hoskins, Leah Rush and Natalie Doma.

Great learning opportunity for Quigley playing with the veterans right now. After the white team left the floor a moment ago, Griffith took her aside to share some wisdom on how to space the floor.

The gold team is the youngest group; only Rush has attended a WNBA training camp before. However, they had a very nice run on offense and drew praise from the players and coaches on the sidelines.

1:20 Update: File this under unexpected developments: Coach Agler encouraging Swoopes to be sure to shoot the ball when the defense goes under a screen on the pick-and-roll.

A couple of things that have stood out to me so far - Quigley's ability to shoot the ball from distance (as adverstised) and Kennedy's toughness. At 5-7, she is one of the smallest players on the court, but Kennedy is fearless in the paint, whether it is driving to the hoop or looking for a rebound.

Sparks Stunner

On the second day of practice for most teams around the WNBA, an interruption in the form of a major trade. After three years in Washington, DeLisha Milton-Jones is headed back to the Los Angeles Sparks. The Sparks sent the Mystics Taj McWilliams-Franklin and a 2009 first-round pick.

It was no secret that Milton-Jones had requested a trade and wanted out of Washington. That gave the Sparks an opportunity to bring her back to where she started her WNBA career and won two championships.

Is this an upgrade for the Sparks? On paper, no doubt. Milton-Jones was an All-Star a year ago and still has some miles left at age 33. McWilliams-Franklin remains effective, but at 37 her days are numbered.

However, a look at the numbers raises some red flags. Before pulling out my spreadsheet, I had forgotten how much Milton-Jones struggled last year. She shot just 34.9% from the field and 23.5% from downtown. Add in 3.6 turnovers per game and Milton-Jones was one of the least efficient offensive players in the WNBA. A simple method I use to evaluate efficiency is a player's points divided by their possessions used (using the formula FGA + (.44*FTA) + TO). Milton-Jones averaged just 70.7 points per 100 individual possessions. Amongst players in similar roles in their teams' offenses, only young guards Sherill Baker and Ashley Shields were less efficient.

Now, that could have just been a fluke. The year before, Milton-Jones' individual offensive rating was a fine 93.1 points per 100 possessions. Overall, she projects as an upgrade on McWilliams-Franklin, but maybe not to the extent you'd imagine.

From the perspective of the Mystics, this deal isn't ideal. They'd surely have preferred to get a younger player instead of McWilliams-Franklin, and the first-round pick, while handy, will probably be late in the round. Milton-Jones put the Mystics in a tough spot, and this was probably the best the team could have done.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Media Day Multimedia

Have a listen to some of the audio from Monday's Storm media day.

- Head Coach Brian Agler talks about the state of the team going into training camp.
- Newcomer Yolanda Griffith on what went into her decision to sign with the Storm.
- Sheryl Swoopes talks about getting out on the floor for some pickup action last week while in Seattle.

I didn't have much time to do video, but I wanted to give a little bit of a behind-the-scenes feel. Here's a look at the photo booth (check out the new longer 'do for Ashley Robinson):

And here's a quick look around the various booths the players had to visit on the court at The Furtado Center. I didn't get to the video room, which is often the craziest area.

Lastly, here's a look at what I was doing most of the time - joining the media in Q&A sessions with various members of the Storm. Here's (left to right) Ginny Gilder, Anne Levinson and Dawn Trudeau from the Storm's ownership group, Force 10 Hoops L.L.C. If your volume is high enough, you can hear Dawn talk about how excited the owners are for the upcoming season.

Live From Media Day

Hello from The Furtado Center, where Storm media day is about to get underway. I'll try to check in with some observations throughout and after the event.

My first thought, having seen her walk out here, is that Kimberly Beck is very skinny. 5-8, 125 should have been a tip-off, but it's always more striking in person.

2:57: Just got done chatting with Yolanda Griffith and it was very entertaining. Asked whether she was excited about the starting training camp, she said yeah and then asked if the writer (Darren Fessenden of the Seattle P-I) was too.

Later, Griffith expounded on playing against men, saying she gets beat up in pickup games at the Sacramento 24-Hour Fitness but enjoys the experience. According to Griffith, the guys she plays against rely on athleticism but are, ahem, a little low on basketball IQ and fall victim to her old-school game.

3:44: This media day has been chock full of big interviews, so not a lot of time to blog. After meeting rookie Allie Quigley, we had a chance to talk to three of the four members of Force 10 Hoops L.L.C. (Ginny Gilder, Anne Levinson and Dawn Trudeau). Their excitement about owning this team was palpable, and they promised to be "visibly active" at games this season.

4:24: Finally time to wrap up from Furtado. Sheryl Swoopes noted you're only as old as you feel - and she feels like she's 25. Lastly, Ashley Robinson and Kristen O'Neill spoke together. Robinson said that she had a hard time leaving Seattle - especially after seeing the roster the Storm had put together for this season. O'Neill got a birthday surprise a couple of weeks ago when she got to meet Swoopes on her birthday. Unbeknownst to O'Neill, word had spread that it was her birthday, and Swoopes and Brian Agler helped celebrate.

Linda asked who is in camp today and it's probably easier to explain who isn't here. Nine players will be late to camp: Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson (Russia), Swin Cash (U.S. National Team), Katie Gearlds (Greece, due in later in the week), Roneeka Hodges (Spain), Doneeka Lewis (Italy, should be in soon), Kelly Santos (I believe she's in France) and Tanisha Wright (Israel).

Now, time to get to work posting audio and video and working on stories for

The Newcomers

The Storm's official training-camp roster includes three players added to the roster today on training-camp contracts. Here's a little background.

Natalie Doma
Doma dominated the Big Sky Conference in four years at Idaho State University, finishing her career as the Big Sky's all-time leader in both points (2,295) and rebounds (1,175). A native of Victoria, British Columbia, Doma quickly demonstrated her potential as the Big Sky's Freshman of the Year. She would be named All-Big Sky First Team each of the next three years and the conference's Player of the Year as a senior, averaging 24.7 points and 12.4 rebounds per game, both averages ranking her in the top three nationally.

Daphanie Kennedy
Some future players at Pepperdine University will, in part, have Kennedy to thank for their scholarship. After Kennedy finished her career at Pepperdine, boosters Jim and Judy Zierick established the Daphanie Kennedy Scholarship for women's basketball to honor their friend and favorite player. Kennedy played a key role throughout her time with the Waves but really stepped forward as a senior, leading the West Coast Conference in scoring at 22 points per game and earning All-WCC First Team honors. The quick Kennedy also finished her career as Pepperdine's all-time leader with 197 steals.

Kelly Santos
Six years after she last played in the WNBA with the Detroit Shock, Santos looks to return with the Storm in 2008. Just 21 when she made the Shock as a fourth-round pick, Santos contributed off the bench for two seasons but has since opted to play overseas. A physical post player, Santos is also a fixture on the Brazilian National Team, playing in the 2000 and 2004 Olympics.

Media Day is Here

Eight months after the Storm lost to the Phoenix Mercury in the first round of last year's WNBA Playoffs, it's time to get going again. This afternoon's media day will kick off our coverage of Storm training camp. Look for a full-on multimedia assault from starting not long after media day wraps up at 4:00 p.m.

I know everybody's anxious to hear more on Ashley Robinson's status, so we'll update that as soon as we see her in camp or don't. (UPDATE: It's official. Robinson will be back with the Storm.)

While we wait for that, let's quickly head overseas.

In Russia, Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson had to work harder in Game 2 but Spartak downed a pesky Kursk Dynamo squad 80-74 to sweep their quarterfinal playoff series and advance to a matchup with either Vologda-Chevakata or BC Moscow in the semifinals. Bird, who has picked up her scoring lately, led Spartak with 15 points and handed out five assists. Jackson added 12 boards. The other series is going to a decisive Game 3 on Tuesday before Superleague action continues with the semifinals.

Katie Gearlds' Athinaikos squad dropped its finale to Paghiakos 79-67 yesterday despite 12 points from Gearlds, but I don't think anything was on the line in that game. Athinaikos had no ability to move up into second place and still won a three-way tie for third in the league at 17-9. There is no playoff play in the Greek League, so Gearlds is headed back to Seattle and should be practicing with the team later this week.

Lastly, let's go to China for more action in the Good Luck Beijing Tournament. On Sunday, the U.S. beat Cuba 92-60. Swin Cash was one of five U.S. players in double-figures in that game, scoring 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting and adding five rebounds. Sylvia Fowles paced the USA with 25 points and 18 rebounds (look out, WNBA!).

Early this morning our time, the U.S. got its second straight win by a 92-56 margin over South Korea. Cash, who started her third straight game, had a balanced line of six points, four boards, four assists and two blocks. One-time Storm forward Jung Sun-Min scored 13 points for Korea.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Storm Players Busy All Over the Globe

Apologies in advance for the bad pun, but this weekend is the calm before the Storm, so to speak. Training camp officially begins tomorrow, but that traditionally means a team meeting/dinner before Monday's media day and first practice, which is not open to the media. (Traditionally, the weekend before training camp does not include hail, but I guess all the better for the Storm.)

Still, plenty of Storm players are making news overseas. Let's start in Israel, where Tanisha Wright and Raanana Hertzliya completed a comeback from down 2-0 in their series with Maccabi Ramat Hen to win 3-2 and advance to the Israeli Finals. Wright played passer in Game 5, handing out 12 assists to go with 11 points and five steals in a 98-84 win. Wright's passing was contagious; Raanana had 29 assists on 35 baskets as a team.

In the Finals, Raanana will face Elizur Ramla. Game 1 is Monday. The series could end as soon as April 28 with a sweep. I believe the longest it could go would be the Monday after that, May 5. From the Storm's perspective, let's root for a Raanana sweep.

In Russia, Spartak has opened the Superleague Playoffs, defeating overmatched Kursk Dynamo 96-57 in Game 1 of their best-of-three series. With the outcome in no doubt, Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson played just seven minutes apiece. Jackson had eight points on 3-of-4 shooting in her brief run, while Bird handed out two assists.

Moving east to China, the U.S. Senior Women's National Team dropped its opener in the Good Luck Beijing Tournament, falling 74-60 to Australia. The U.S. led to the final quarter but was outscored 26-10 in the period. Swin Cash had seven points and four rebounds as a starter for the USA, which struggled to find a rhythm from downtown, shooting 2-of-19 on threes. Vets Lisa Leslie (17) and Katie Smith (14) were the only U.S. players to score double-figures. A couple of former Storm players, Tully Bevilaqua and Suzy Batkovic, started for the Opals.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Forcing Game 5 in Israel

Tanisha Wright and Raanana Hertzliya are headed to a Game 5 in their first-round playoff series with a convincing 75-64 win Monday over Ramat Hen. Raanana Hertzliya becomes the first team ever to force a fifth game after falling behind in the series 2-0.

"We feel the same way as we did before Game 3 and 4," Wright told Safsal. "We feel like our backs are against the wall and we have one chance to win and move on. Same approach, same focus, and same intensity. Obviously it doesn’t matter what happened in the last two games."

Wright had 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting and pulled down 11 rebounds. Houston's Mistie Williams led Raanana with 28 points, shooting 12-of-19.

Elsewhere ...

- The USA Basketball Senior Women's National Team - including Storm forward Swin Cash - gathered in Chicago yesterday for three days of training. Then it's off to China for the The April 19-26 Good Luck Beijing Tournament, held at Wukesong Arena, site of the 2008 Olympic basketball competition. The U.S. will face 2006 World Champion Australia, host China, Cuba, New Zealand and South Korea in the tournament. While neither Austrlia nor the U.S. will be at full strength because of international commitments, this should be a good tune-up for the Olympics.

- While googling, I found that Sheryl Swoopes gave a speech at Jackson State University's Oman Arena last Thursday. Here's an interview in the Jackson Sun and the paper's recap of the appearance. Swoopes' message was about the importance of education.

"Not very many people get the opportunity to go to the next level and be a professional athlete," she said. "The thing I'm most proud of is my degree. I don't just have to settle for the minimum wage. I have an education. I have a degree. I can go get a job with the best of them."

- Some follow-up on the Storm's selections in last week's WNBA Draft. The Joliet Herald News has Allie Quigley's reaction to coming to Seattle, while The GW Hatchet wrote about the Storm picking Kimberly Beck.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Spartak Repeats Atop Euroleague

Congratulations are in order for Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson. Their Spartak Moscow team won its second straight Euroleague Championship Sunday, defeating host Gambrinus Brno 75-60 in the culmination of the Euroleague Final Four. Spartak was never really challenged after opening the game with a 12-2 run, leading by 10 after one quarter and 16 at the half and after three quarters.

Bird and Jackson both played key roles in the win; Bird was on the court for nearly 39 minutes and Jackson went the full 40. Bird scored 14 points and grabbed seven rebounds, while Jackson had 18 points and 12 rebounds, both game highs. Ultimately, Spartak won this game with defense, limiting Brno to 31.3% shooting.

Bird now has two Euroleague titles, while Jackson won her first to go along with the WNBA championship they won together in 2004 and too many other titles to count.

UPDATE: Looks like I overstated how easy the win was for Spartak. Brno got as close as seven in the fourth quarter before Spartak finished the game on an 8-0 run. Jackson was named Final Four MVP.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Overseas Update 4-11

Lots to catch up on as we've been busy thinking draft here at Before we head overseas, congratulations are in order for former Storm Assistant Coach Heidi VanDeveer, who is the new head coach at Occidental College (HT: StormFans).

Moving to international play, the big story is the Euroleague Final Four, which got underway today in Brno, Czech Republic. Spartak advanced to the final this morning by defeating Russian rivals UMMC Ekaterinburg 78-68. Storm forward Lauren Jackson led the victory, scoring 35 points on 14-of-21 shooting and pulling down 12 rebounds. Teammate Sue Bird added four points, eight rebounds, four assists and three steals in 36 minutes. Tina Thompson also had 24 points for Spartak.

On Sunday, Spartak will take on the hosts, Gambrinus Brno, looking for a second consecutive Euroleague title. Brno beat Bourges Basket 90-81 in OT in the other semifinal matchup, getting 28 points from Zuzana Zirkova.

In Russian play, Spartak clinched a first-place regular-season finish in Superleague play with a dominant 86-63 win last Sunday over CSKA behind 25 points on 9-of-14 shooing from Bird. Jackson contributed 17 points and eight boards. Spartak takes on Kursk Dynamo in the best-of-three quarterfinals starting next Thursday.

I'm a little confused by the various postseason competitions in the Czech League, but they appear to be in their actual playoffs at the moment. Janell Burse's USK Praha squad swept its semifinal matchup with Hradec Králové in easy fashion, winning Game 1 100-63 and Game 2 128-53. Burse combined for 31 points and 21 rebounds in the two games. Up next, USK Praha will face the winner of the Valosun Brno-Sparta Praha matchup in the semifinals. That series won't wrap up until early next week, so it will be a while before USK Praha is back in action.

Polish postseason action saw Shyra Ely score 24 points on 8-of-11 shooting and pull down 10 rebounds in a 69-64 win by Finepharm AZS KK Jelenia Góra over MUKS Poznań.

In Greece, Katie Gearlds had a tough shooting night but her Athinaikos squad still defeated Aias Evosmou 77-67 last Sunday. Gearlds was just 1-of-8 from three-point range but contributed in other ways, pulling down six boards and handing out four assists. With two Sundays left in the regular season, Athinaikos is third in A1 play at 16-8.

Roneeka Hodges had 25 points on 10-of-21 shooting last Saturday, but saw her Gran Canaria team fall 74-65 to Rivas Futura in Spanisha Liga Femenina play. Gran Canaria is tied for eighth in the league at 9-14 with three weeks left to play. Hodges continues to lead the league in scoring at 19.9 points per game.

Sister Doneeka Lewis saw her Fiera di Roma Pomezia squad get swept 2-0 in Italian Serie A1 playout action. Lewis had 18 points on 6-of-12 shooting in Game 1 and 23 points (albeit on 8-of-24 shooting) in Game 2, but it was not enough against Italmoka Pozzuoli. Elsewhere, Phard Napoli, featuring Storm color analyst Adia Barnes, swept Lavezzini Parma to advance to the semis., the best source for coverage of the Israeli D1 league, named Tanisha Wright the league's MVP and penned a great feature on her leading into the playoffs. Wright's squad, Raanana Hertzeliya, fell behind 2-0 in the best-of-five semifinals series with Ramat Hen. However, they rallied to win Game 3 in blowout fashion, 95-69, on Thursday. Wright had 21 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in that game and has averaged 19.0 points and 9.0 rebounds in the three games so far. Game 4 is Monday at Ramat Hen.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Yolanda Griffith Notebook

Odds and ends from today's press conference introducing Yolanda Griffith as the newest member of the Storm ...

- Griffith has had a great WNBA career and is clearly one of the league's elite players, but I don't think her profile is as high amongst the casual WNBA fan as Sheryl Swoopes, for example. I've long thought that Griffith is one of the more underrated players in league history.

That said, I've got to admit even I didn't realize quite how impressive Griffith's career numbers were, especially given she missed the first two seasons of the WNBA while in the ABL. Check out Griffith's player page and her career ranks at the bottom of the page. If they don't impress you, I don't know what will.

- One big question: What number will Griffith wear? She's synonymous with No. 33, but that is Janell Burse's number in Seattle. As a result, Griffith will switch it up this season.

"This is a new beginning for me, this is a fresh start," she said. "I know I've been No. 33 my whole career, as long as I've been playing basketball, but JB, she's earned it. She can keep it. I'm not going to persuade her, I'm not going to pay here. She can keep the uniform."

- Another question: Who starts at center? Griffith said it isn't a big deal.

"Brian (Agler) is a good coach," she said. "He is going to put the players that need to be in the starting lineup in the starting lineup. I'm not worried about that. I'm here to help this team and whoever starts has got to do what they've got to do."

Agler implied the position will be open during camp.

"Competition is always good in training camp, whether it be in this specific situation or at some other spots," he said. "Yolanda's always found a way to get to the floor and play a lot of minutes, and I don't anticipate that to be any different."

Incidentally, Griffith will be in camp from day one. Burse will likely be a couple of weeks late.

- Agler delivered his funniest line as Storm head coach responding to the notion that the Storm is an old team.

"I hope everybody thinks that Sheryl and Yolanda are over the hill, but they're the only two players on our roster that are over 30," he said. "People think that we may have to be bringing the Geritol out or something, but Lauren (Jackson) and Sue (Bird) and Swin (Cash) are still 27, 28 years old." (For the record, Cash is 28, Bird is 27 and Jackson will turn 27 next month.)

- A little more on Ashley Robinson's situation. Agler said Robinson had turned down offers so far in hopes of staying in Seattle, but that could change as she continues to talk with teams and tomorrow's draft could affect their interest in her.

I had forgotten that Agler worked with Robinson during her rookie season in Phoenix, where he was an assistant coach.

"I've worked with Ashley when she was a rookie down in Phoenix and think the world of her," he said. "I know that she really came on down the stretch and played some good minutes for Seattle."

- Agler also talked about tomorrow morning's WNBA Draft.

"We feel good about our roster, but we'd like to try to help ourselves tomorrow also," he said. "I don't see us doing anything tomorrow. We've talked with teams about trying to move up a little bit, we've talked with teams about acquiring a draft pick. I don't envision anything happening."

And what will be the Storm's focus in the draft?

"We're going to try to give us some depth in the backcourt," said Agler.

- Remember that we'll be blogging live on during tomorrow's draft, so be sure to check in for league-wide analysis and the latest on the Storm. The first round will be on ESPN2 at 10:00 a.m. Pacific, while the second and third rounds move to NBA TV and ESPNU.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

New Campers

The Storm signed four players to training camp contracts Tuesday, guards Dee Davis and Doneeka Lewis and forwards Kristen O'Neill and Leah Rush.

Presumably, Lewis should need no real introduction, having spent the second half of last season in Seattle. If you need a refresher, here's the blog I wrote when she first joined the Storm on a seven-day contract.

O'Neill should also be a familiar name. She's an Edmonds native who played collegiately at the University of Washington, graduating in 2006. If you've lost track of O'Neill since then, she started this off-season in Spain before moving to Ireland in the New Year. Here's a blog from O'Neill talking about her experience in Ireland.

I'm not sure how reliable the statistics on the Irish Superleague Women site are, but they have O'Neill playing four games (this is what I question, not the stats themselves) and averaging 24.3 points and 12.5 rebounds per game, shooting 46.8% from the field. O'Neill's UL Aughnish team was apparently eliminated in the semifinals of the playoffs.

Davis and Rush were both in the 2007 Draft, and as I work on this year's profiles by position, it's interesting to go back and see what I wrote about them a year ago.

Here's Davis: "A mighty mite, Davis is as quick as anyone this side of (Ivory) Latta. Like (Lyndsey) Medders, she's more of a set-up point guard than a scoring type, peaking at 13.3 points per game as a sophomore (when Vanderbilt won two games at Hec Edmunson Pavilion to advance to the Sweet Sixteen). Davis handed out 6.8 assists per game as a junior and 5.5 per game as a senior. At this level, Davis' size and lack of three-point range will work against her, but Davis has shown the heart to overcome those weaknesses."

and Rush: "A budding star in the post as a sophomore, when she averaged 15.5 points and 6.3 rebounds per game, Rush had to adjust her game when Courtney Paris and twin sister Ashley arrived on campus before her junior season. Rush's averages (9.8 points, 4.0 rebounds) were relatively pedestrian as a senior, but she is comfortable in the supporting role she would likely be asked to play in the WNBA."

Davis was taken by the Comets with the first pick of the second round and played three games for Houston. Rush went to Phoenix early in round three and was one of the team's last cuts.

As for the off-season, Rush has played in Sweden with Lulea Basket alongside former Sacramento center Brittany Wilkins. Davis is with BC Zeljeznicar in Sarajevo, a squad which also competed in the Eurocup. In Eurocup play, Davis averaged 14.1 points, 5.0 assists (third in the league) and 3.3 rebounds per game.