Thursday, May 29, 2008

Bird on KJR

Tune in to hear Storm guard Sue Bird on KJR 950 AM at 5:05 p.m. this evening with host Mike Gastineau whoops, Dave Grosby was filling in for the Gasman this evening. Here's a link to the interview.

Milestone Watching

Here at Storm HQ, we're keeping an eye on several milestones that could be within reach for Storm players in the near future. Here's what you should be watching.

- Sheryl Swoopes is battling Ticha Penicheiro to become the first player in WNBA history to 600 career steals. Currently, Swoopes has 596 in her career, Penicheiro 594. One of them should reach the mark in the next couple of weeks.

- Speaking of steals, Yolanda Griffith has 490 in her career, leaving her 10 shy of joining Swoopes and Penicheiro as the only players in league history with 500 steals.

- The race is also on for Sue Bird and Swin Cash, both headed toward 2,500 career points. Cash has 2,433 in her career, Bird 2,428. 35 players in league history have at least 2,500 points, and the next-closest player to the milestone is Indiana's Tammy Sutton-Brown, with 2,270.

- Ashley Robinson has 86 blocks and is on her way toward joining a surprisingly elite group with 100 career blocks (39 players entering this season).

- Lauren Jackson isn't really close to any nice round numbers, but she has an opportunity to move up the WNBA's career rebounding leaderboard this season. Currently, Jackson ranks ninth in WNBA history with 1,765 total boards. However, she could move up as high as sixth by season's end:

5. Taj McWilliams-Franklin - 2,021 (active)
6. Chamique Holdsclaw - 1,862
7. Natalie Williams - 1,832
8. Wendy Palmer - 1,825
9. Lauren Jackson - 1,765 (active)
10. Tangela Smith - 1,701 (active)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A First Look at WNBA Numbers

Though the Storm is more than a tenth of the way through the 2008 season, it's still very early. Nothing shows that more than the fact that 10 days into the season the Minnesota Lynx is still sitting on one game played. Still, it's never too early to at least glance at the advanced statistics.

In terms of Offensive Rating, the surprising 3-0 Connecticut Sun laps the rest of the league.

Team       ORating
Connecticut 114.8
Los Angeles 109.4
Minnesota 106.6
Phoenix 102.1
San Antonio 101.1
Chicago 100.3
Detroit 99.0
Seattle 98.8
Sacramento 90.6
New York 90.2
Indiana 89.7
Houston 85.2
Atlanta 84.0
Washington 83.8
Talk about a disparity between the haves and the have-nots - look at that gap between the Storm and the Monarchs, bridged only by league average. That San Antonio's offense has played so well early despite some subpar shooting from Becky Hammon and two games without Ann Wauters should make the rest of the WNBA afraid. Very afraid.

Team       DRating
Indiana 83.8
Connecticut 84.9
Minnesota 86.7
Los Angeles 90.5
Detroit 91.3
New York 93.7
Chicago 94.3
Washington 95.0
San Antonio 95.9
Seattle 98.2
Houston 100.9
Sacramento 102.9
Phoenix 107.0
Atlanta 114.3
Definitely a skewed distribution in terms of Defensive Rating; nine of the 14 teams in the league are above-average, in no small part because the Dream's defense has been a nightmare. (Sorry, bad pun.) Phoenix's defense also has to be a major concern - weren't the Mercury supposed to be better at that end with traditional post players? Don't look for Connecticut and Minnesota to maintain their lofty defensive perches, but the Fever might easily lead the league in Defensive Rating wire to wire.

Too early for Pythagorean records, at least as long as the Sun is projected to win more than 34 games and Atlanta to lose more than 34. Moving ahead, here are your early leaders in PER, including some surprising names.

Player              Tm   PER
Charde Houston MIN 43.1
Sidney Spencer LAS 37.7
Katie Douglas IND 34.7
Sophia Young SAS 34.4
Lisa Leslie LAS 33.9
Candace Parker LAS 32.9
Lindsay Whalen CON 31.2
Nicky Anosike MIN 30.9
Candice Dupree CHI 30.2
Plenette Pierson DET 29.2
I don't count on Houston, Spencer and Anosike staying up there with more minutes, but Pierson's fast start might not be a fluke. Bill Laimbeer ought to get her more time so the Shock gets off to better starts.

Friday, May 23, 2008

More Love

I can't imagine is going to continue featuring the Storm at quite the same pace after the team's two early-season national TV appearances are past, but right now I could probably just coast and let the .com do my work for me.

The latest feature catches up with the Storm's holdover stars, Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson.

Here's Sue and Lauren on the news that Force 10 Hoops L.L.C. would purchase the team and ensure its future in Seattle.

LJ: "I was so happy. Seattle has a wonderful fan base and it would have been a shame to see everything that we have worked for and achieved be thrown away. Seattle is an amazing city and I'm so proud to play for the Storm. The new ownership also offers another wave of excitement. Having a group of women who are passionate about our sport taking the lead is inspirational."

SB: "I was very excited when I heard the Storm would be staying in Seattle. Our new owners are very passionate about women's basketball and I truly believe this team belongs here. Our fan base is amazing and deserves to see this franchise continue to grow. On a more personal level, I really like living and playing in Seattle so I really couldn't be happier."

And there's plenty more like that. also has up a video feature previewing the Storm's season with some great behind-the-scenes footage from a practice at KeyArena last week.

Catching Up with Chelle

I hope you listened to last night's Storm broadcast on 1150 AM KKNW or via the online webcast right here at for many reasons, most notably to hear the Storm's comeback. Beyond that, if you missed the broadcast, you missed a halftime interview with Alicia "Chelle" Thompson, who played a key role off the bench for the Storm's 2004 championship team and is now living in Phoenix.

Here's the interview.

Thompson told Dick Fain and former teammate Adia Barnes that she's now playing football for the Phoenix Prowlers of the National Women's Football Association. Thompson said she played defensive end and is also listed on the Prowlers' roster as a tight end.

That got me thinking about where Storm players might play were they to cross over. Naturally, Sue Bird has to be the quarterback, right? Swin Cash's partner, former Penn State star and NFL player Chafie Fields, could probably give her a few pointers about being a fleet-footed wideout. Sheryl Swoopes would have to be a shutdown corner who specialized in interceptions, given she's the WNBA's all-time leading stealer.

Something tells me Tanisha Wright has the mentality of a power running back who runs between the tackles with no fear. And you could put Yolanda Griffith on either line - she's no stranger to physical play.

I struggle a little bit with Lauren Jackson. Maybe tight end? Given her size and ability to catch lobbed entry passes, Jackson could cross over like Antonio Gates.

What do you think?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Notes From A(nother) Comeback

There are some nights where there's just so many things going on it's tough to organize everything. So, while I mentioned some of them in our Game at a Glance feature and others made into the Postgame Notes, here's a look at what stuck out to me from the Storm's win tonight in Phoenix.

- The Storm is 3-0 for the first time in franchise history. Last season, three teams started as well or better, all from the East: Detroit (7-0), Indiana (4-0), New York (5-0)

- The Storm pulled off the second-largest comeback in franchise history tonight. The largest, you might recall, came a year ago on Opening Night, when the Storm trailed by 22 against Houston. The only other comeback of 15 or more in Storm history came July 17, 2004 vs. Washington, when the Storm trailed by 16 but won in OT.

- With this win, the Storm now has more victories by single-digits (two) than in all of 2007 (one). I was stunned again by that weird stat when I was looking at some 2007 notes this morning and noticed the Storm had more double-digit wins last year (16) than any other WNBA team. This year, the Storm is winning some close ones, though the opener was really more lopsided than the final score indicated.

- How do you come back from a 21-point deficit? Well, it helps to start by not committing a single turnover in the entire second half. The Storm has just 35 turnovers in three games, which is remarkable given the team is learning a new offense and integrating three new starters into the lineup.

- The Storm scored 87 points tonight despite going 6:47 without a bucket in the first half (a stretch that seemed even longer listening at home). That means over the other 33:13 of the game, they scored at a pace that was equivalent to 105 points over a full 40-minute game.

- Sue Bird's 10 three-point attempts tied a career high.

- I hope Tanisha Wright's defensive effort in the second half (not to mention a couple of big, big buckets early in the fourth quarter) doesn't get overlooked.

- When you're playing the Mercury, per-possession numbers take on added importance because Phoenix's fast pace skews everything. The Mercury scored 87 points on 83 possessions, a 103.8 Offensive Rating. That's pretty good work overall defensively for the Storm, consisting of one bad half and one terrific one.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Notebook: Light Workday for Storm

With a trip to Phoenix scheduled for the afternoon and only one day in between games, the Seattle Storm held a relatively light practice session Wednesday morning at The Furtado Center. During the portion of practice open to the media, the Storm's starters were on the sidelines watching reserves and players from the practice squad play 5-on-5.

"Real light day today," said Head Coach Brian Agler afterwards. "Want to keep them as fresh as possible. We've got two games coming up in three days and we're traveling on top of it. It was a very competitive game last night; some of these people put up big minutes. It would really defeat the purpose if we wore them out in practice. We've got a long season ahead of us."

Included in the group doing limited work was guard Sheryl Swoopes, who tweaked her ankle late in Tuesday's win over Sacramento. Agler said after the game that Swoopes asked to go back in after having the ankle retaped, but with the game in hand she stayed on the bench.

"She's doing fine," Agler said Wednesday. "She was out there moving around. I don't know if we had gone live if she'd have been able to go, but I think she's doing better."

The starting lineup Thursday in Phoenix will include forward Swin Cash, who came off the bench against the Monarchs but still played 28 minutes and tied for the team lead with 17 points. Agler reiterated after the game that he started Tanisha Wright in Cash's place simply because the team had been unable to prepare with Cash, who was not with the team for Monday's practice because of a death in her family.

- Reigning MVP Lauren Jackson offered some thoughts on the slow starts that have affected her (and the team as a whole) in the Storm's first two wins. Jackson has gotten going in the second half of both games, but is still shooting an atypical 37.5% from the field for the young season.

"For me at the moment, I'm just trying to get used to the play and figure out where I'm wanted or needed or whatever," she explained. "I think everybody's going to get opportunities to score and make shots and things like that. It's just a matter of thinking about when it's going to be. Maybe I'm overthinking it. It's a very, very good offensive system."

Agler Audio After Practice Checks in on the Storm

Lots of great content featuring the Storm coming from the last couple of days. We start with today's updated WNBA Power Rankings, which feature the Storm checking in at No. 2.

New coach Brian Agler must be simply delighted at the speed
with which his roster of stars is coming together.
Lauren Jackson took center stage in the "This or That" feature, forced to choose between two similar pop-culture or personal items. Lauren picked Sonics rookie Kevin Durant, while admitting she liked Greg Oden too, but what's with the answer on Don Johnson vs. Philip Michael Thomas?

"I don't know who either of them is, but I'll say Don Johnson."

Did Miami Vice not make it all the way to Australia, Lauren? We'll have to get you a DVD for next winter in Russia.

Last but surely not least, WNBA President Donna Orender blogged about her busy opening day, which saw her attend L.A.'s win at Phoenix before coming to Seattle to watch the Storm beat Chicago.

There was even a special moment at the end of the game when the Storm
brought their new owners into their winning postgame huddle. It was a fantastic
crowd and there was an outpouring of affection for Force 10 which parlayed its
force into keeping the Emerald City's beloved Storm.

UPDATE: Even more Storm content. Brian Martin takes a look at the team's pair of comebacks in the first two games of the season. If the Storm keeps it up, perhaps "Comeback Kids of the Cascades" will catch on.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The WNBA Tips Off

If the future of the WNBA looks anything like today's nationally-televised opener between the Los Angeles Sparks and the Phoenix Mercury, it will be one heck of a fun ride.

Historically, early-season WNBA games are often hard to watch. Even NBA teams take a while to begin clicking, and WNBA head coaches don't have the luxury of having their entire team together for the full month of training camp. The Mercury got Diana Taurasi back only yesterday and Cappie Pondexter, as we were often reminded by ESPN on ABC broadcasters Dave Pasch and Carolyn Peck, slept but three hours last night. Imagine what Pondexter, who finished with 32 points, four three-pointers, seven assists and nary a turnover, might have done with a full night's sleep!

Instead of a sloppy mess controlled by defense, the Sparks and Mercury treated us to a highly-entertaining game that wasn't decided until Pondexter missed a potential tying three in the closing seconds.

Naturally, the big story was the play of Sparks rookie Candace Parker, who fell two assists shy of a triple-double in her WNBA debut. All Parker did was score 34 points, grab 12 rebounds and hand out eight assists. She was even better than advertised. Lisa Leslie returned from her year-long absence to post a double-double of her own with 17 points, 12 boards and four blocks.

Of course, we already knew Leslie and Parker would be great; the real question was the L.A. backcourt, and that wasn't entirely answered in the opener. Starting guards Temeka Johnson and Marie Ferdinand-Harris combined to shoot 3-for-12 from the field and turn the ball over five times. The Sparks got effective play down the stretch from Murriel Page, but Page isn't naturally a guard and doesn't shoot the ball like one. Sidney Spencer had 14 points off the bench in the first half, includinf our threes, before sitting out the second half. Spencer will feast on the open looks created by Leslie and Parker, but isn't quick enough to defend opposing guards.

The Mercury has to feel awfully good about putting up 94 points despite the limited practice time. To turn the ball over just 12 times in a fast-paced opener given those conditions is remarkable. Starter Wilnett Crockett (12 points, seven boards) and backup Le'Coe Willingham (four rebounds and strong defense) gave Phoenix solid play in Penny Taylor's spot, but we also saw what could be problematic about using traditional posts in the Paulball system; Crockett and Willingham were stuck on the perimeter taking long jumpers at times, and that's surely not their forte.

Besides Parker, the revelation of the game was Phoenix rookie Yugo OhaYuko Oga. Just the second Japanese player in league history, Oha is a jolt of energy off the bench who will continue pushing the pace when she's in the game at the point.

Officially, the Sparks won the game, but the real winner was the league. It's hard to imagine new fans tuning in to see Parker and not coming away impressed with the quality of play. The WNBA's 2008 slogan is "Expect Great." In the opener, we got just that.

Quick Preview Note

For those readers who frequent the blog but not always the homepage (something I've done myself with other Seattle sports teams), I hope you haven't missed our extensive preview coverage this week. The local papers devote one day to a preview section. Online, that doesn't make as much sense, so we spread out the same content over the last week. In sum, it's quite a bit.

Storm Preview:
Fresh Start: Cash Begins Anew in Seattle
Bird Returns to Revamped Storm
The Centerpiece: Storm Looks to Relieve Pressure on Jackson
The Veterans: Griffith and Swoopes Hoping for Familiar Outcome with New Team
Is This "The Perfect Storm?"

WNBA Preview:
League-wide picks/analysis
Western Conference Preview
Eastern Conference Preview

If you've read all that, and tonight's Insider Preview, I think you're about ready for the season to start. I know I am.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Notebook: After Waiving Lewis, Storm has its Roster

The Seattle Storm got down to its final 12-player roster to start the 2008 season on Friday, releasing guard Doneeka Lewis. Cutting Lewis meant newly-arrived center Florina Pascalau and third-round pick Kimberly Beck earned the last two spots on the Storm's roster as the team went with an extra post player in favor of an extra guard.

"Florina got in here late in training camp," said Storm Head Coach and Director of Player Personnel Brian Agler, "but we thought so much of her and thought so much of her potential that we thought it would be best to keep someone like that that's starting to coming into her own a little bit. Kim's a true point guard and we need that on this team - a good backup for Sue (Bird) and someone who can give her some rest."

"It's a dream come true," Beck said after practice and getting the official word from Agler. "This is what you dream about when you're in seventh grade playing pickup with your friends, saying, 'I'm going to be a professional ballplayer.' Now you can actually say that and mean it. It's definitely a dream come true for me."

Earlier in the week, Beck and second-year forward Katie Gearlds had joked with Assistant Coach Shelley Patterson that they were willing to pay to ensure spots on the roster. After practice ended Friday, Agler called Beck and Gearlds over to playfully tease the rookie.

"He told Katie that she was already a lock," Beck related, "and for me to get my $10 ready to give to Shelley."

Agler's other message was more serious. He told Beck and Gearlds to keep working. Beck has shown enough potential that the coaching staff sees her splitting time as Bird's backup with veteran Tanisha Wright, a role that Agler sees possibly changing game to game depending on matchups.

"We'll play Tanisha there some too," Agler said, "but we'll start grooming (Beck) to play some of those minutes."

Early in the Storm's training camp, Beck emerged as the leader of the young point guards competing for roster spots. She worked with the Storm's first unit regularly before veterans Lewis and Wright arrived in camp and even started the Storm's first preseason game. Still, Beck knew nothing was guaranteed to her as a third-round pick.

"You always want to be confident, but you never know," she said. "You never know when they're making cuts, how many people they're going to cut. A lot of people had good camps. I know it was a tough decision for him because Doneeka had a great camp. Dee (Davis) had a great camp. You just really never know."

As a result, when she talked to the media after practice, Beck had yet to share the good news with her family.

"I haven't really told them yet because I wasn't really sure," she said. "I knew they had one more cut to make today. I'm sure my mom will be elated and sending out mass e-mails and stuff like that."

The Storm's decision on a roster wasn't made until the final day, with the league requiring teams to get down to their rosters by Noon Pacific Friday. It was a tough decision, and Agler praised Lewis' great training camp. Ultimately, however, the potential of Pascalau to be a contributor in the frontcourt once she adjusts to the U.S. and the WNBA game won out.

Friday's practice wasn't all about the final roster. There's also a game to prepare for, as the Storm is just a day away from taking on the Chicago Sky at KeyArena on Opening Night (7:00 p.m., 1150 AM KKNW, TIX). Agler and the staff have been so busy with all the decisions late in camp and running practice there's been little time to think about the opener as anything more than another game in the schedule.

"People have asked me a lot about it, but when you're dealing with roster moves and practice and players coming in and leaving ... besides watching film on Chicago and preparing for them, I haven't really thought about tomorrow night as Opening Night," said Agler. "I know it's a game and a big game for us, like all opening nights are, but am I thinking about the atmosphere here and things like that? I really haven't. I anticipate there being a lot of energy, I do think that, because I think we'll have a good crowd, but just trying to stay focused on what we have to do."

The players, for their part, seemed to play a little differently Friday with Opening Night looming ahead of them.

"I can tell they're anxious because of how they're playing," Agler said. "They were rushing and forcing things because they want to do so well. If we come out and focus defensively and if we come out and play with poise, I can guarantee we'll play with energy. I'd be shocked if we come out and don't play with a lot of energy. I think we'll play well."

Coming off of a good, healthy week of practice, Sheryl Swoopes will start for the team at shooting guard. As for a rotation, Agler said he expects Wright on the perimeter and Ashley Robinson in the frontcourt to be the first two players off the bench in their respective spots. Gearlds and Shyra Ely also will be in the rotation, while Agler would like to get new post Kelly Santos some minutes if possible.

Audio: Agler

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Notebook: Storm Wants to Keep O'Neill Around

The Seattle Storm waived wing Kristen O'Neill Thursday morning, but there was O'Neill on the floor at KeyArena during the Storm's practice later in the day. It was the start of what could be a new role for O'Neill as a practice player this summer, continuing her relationship with the organization. Despite having to make the difficult decision to cut O'Neill, Head Coach Brian Agler would love to have her around.

"We just want her to stay involved in case there's an opportunity that could come about sometime during the course of the year and she's ready to go," Agler explained after practice. "That's why we're going to encourage her to stay here and be a practice player for us. I know that our organization is looking for her to possibly have some other responsibilities, which would be great.

"It's nice to have somebody that's real familiar with what you're doing that can be there in a moment."

Agler noted that O'Neill does have to make a living, which could force her to give up the role of practice player. After practice, however, O'Neill sounded like she was planning to stick around.

"I'm very grateful for the opportunity that the coaches and the organization presented to me to continue training and working with the team," she said. "I was obviously delighted to take that opportunity. I'm going to be here and continue to keep working to get better and make this team better."

According to Agler, it was a numbers situation that forced the Storm's decision with O'Neill. During her time in camp, she had impressed the coaching staff with her play and especially off the floor.

"The quality of person that she is, those types of people are few and far between coming into your life," said Agler. "She's one of those."

Having received the news from Agler Wednesday, O'Neill remained upbeat. Her former college coach at UW, current Washington State Head Coach June Daugherty, was at Thursday's practice and chatted with O'Neill afterwards. For her part, O'Neill enjoyed with her experience with the Storm during training camp.

"The experience has been incredible," she said. I truly have enjoyed every day. I'm just so thankful for the opportunity from the coaching staff, my teammates and the organization. It's been an incredible opportunity.

"I feel like I've grown so much as a player throughout this experience. Having a strong work ethic and trying to push myself to work as hard as I can every day but also having the element of playing with the best makes the situation that much more competitive. Just playing with such a high level, that's what makes you better. Through being around these incredible women, I've learned so much about professional basketball, the way they carry themselves on and off the court. It's been a great learning experience."

- After cutting O'Neill and guard Roneeka Hodges, the Storm's roster now sits at 13 players less than 24 hours away from the WNBA's Noon Pacific deadline for setting final rosters for the season. The Storm still must make one more cut, and because of the early time on the West Coast, must do so before practicing tomorrow.

"I think there's two or three ways we could go," Agler said. "If we go a couple ways, though, it might handicap us in terms of depth at certain positions. That's what we're going to sort of talk about as a staff here after practice today, what way we're going to go. We've got to make it basically before practice tomorrow because the deadline is 3:00 Eastern time and that sits right in the middle of our practice. For whatever reason, they don't want to work with us. We'll probably have a decision sometime tonight or tomorrow morning."

Without having studied the updated transaction wire during practice, Agler said he does not anticipate the Storm bringing in anyone from outside, but instead for the roster to, "probably be a combination of this group we have right now."

The early deadline means the Storm will have to make a decision on newcomer Florina Pascalau after just two practices in Seattle. Agler felt the staff got a good look at Pascalau during today's session.

"She's a good player," he said. "She's got a lot of potential. We'll see. We haven't come to a conclusion yet on that."

Storm Waives O'Neill

Aaron Last/Storm Photos

Roster decisions are never easy this time of year, but in the case of Edmonds native and UW product Kristen O'Neill, it's definitely personal. The Storm waived O'Neill this morning, ending her bid to make the team as a training-camp invitee.

"Making some of the final cuts is always difficult, but letting Kristen go was an incredibly tough decision," Storm Head Coach Brian Agler said in the press release.

Everyone who worked with Kristen during training camp came away impressed with her as a player and a person and there was certainly a strong contingent rooting for her to make the team. I know there's going to be a lot of disappointed fans out there who have watched O'Neill play at UW and even before that at Meadowdale High School.

The good news is this isn't necessarily a goodbye.

"We were all very impressed by her," Storm CEO Karen Bryant said in the release, "and have expressed a desire to keep her involved in the Storm organization this summer.”

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Barnes' Scouting Report on Pascalau

Storm Head Coach Brian Agler mentioned Wednesday that some of the scouting the Storm had on newly-signed center Florina Pascalau came from 1150 AM KKNW color analyst Adia Barnes, who has played against Pascalau in Italy, most recently this past winter and spring. I e-mailed Adia for the full scouting report.

"She is a talented player. She has good size, nice post moves around the basket, finishes well, doesn't jump out of the gym but rebounds well, good hands and has a nice 15-foot jumper. Overseas, her team runs a lot of "pick and pop" offense and she consistently makes the shots. She can play in the WNBA."

Notebook: Storm Adds Pascalau

The Seattle Storm added another player for Wednesday's practice. No, not that one. While Lauren Jackson made her 2008 debut, the Storm also brought in a true newcomer, signing 6-4 Romanian center Florina Pascalau as a free agent. Friday's Noon deadline to set final rosters is looming, but the Storm will take a look at Pascalau, whose performance in the Italian League has intrigued the coaching staff. Securing a visa delayed Pascalau's arrival in camp, but she's here now and the Storm is glad to have her.

"We've followed her over in Europe," explained Storm Head Coach Brian Agler. "We've heard good things about her from (Storm color analyst) Adia Barnes and Doneeka (Lewis), who's played against her, and other people over there. It took us a while to get her visa. If it was going to take too long to get it, we felt like we wouldn't bring her over, but we felt like we just had enough time to take a look.

"We didn't really get a great chance to see her play today, but we'll see her more the next two days."

The Storm wasn't the only team interested in Pascalau. The Minnesota Lynx listed her on their initial 2008 training-camp roster, but Pascalau ultimately wasn't interested in the long-term contract Minnesota was offering. She signed a training-camp deal with the Storm.

Adding Pascalau leaves the Storm with three cuts to make before Friday.

"We've got to make some decisions here in the next 48 hours," said Agler. "That's what we have to do."

UPDATE: The Storm waived guard Roneeka Hodges Wednesday evening, meaning two more players must be cut.

- Asked for the first time about his starting lineup for Saturday's Opening Night against Chicago (7:00 p.m., 1150 AM KKNW, TIX), said the presumptive lineup of Sue Bird, Sheryl Swoopes, Swin Cash, Jackson and Yolanda Griffith was "what we project." Swoopes' status still leaves a little uncertainty there. While she has practiced all week, Swoopes said yesterday she wasn't sure she is ready to play 25, 30 minutes of game action just yet. Agler strongly hinted those extra minutes could go to Tanisha Wright.

"We're going to see how Sheryl comes along," he said. "She's working real hard. I also feel real comfortable with Tanisha. Tanisha's had a great few days here. She gives us a little bit different flavor there in terms of how she can attack the basket and what kind of defender she is. She's sort of a secondary ballhandler with Sue on the floor. I like what she brings to the table, to be honest with you. I see her really playing within that tight rotation."

Wright is also still in the competition to serve as backup point guard. The outcome of that battle is "Yet to be seen," said Agler. "Still evaluating that."

Post-Practice Audio: Agler Jackson

Live From Practice - 5/14

At last, the Storm is complete. Lauren Jackson is out on the floor and if she's jetlagged, it's not really apparent from her play. She's been having a fierce battle with Matt from the practice squad, a 6-8 center who also doubles as a marketing intern for the Sonics and Storm.

As you may have read already, the Storm has added Romanian center Florina Pascalau to the training-camp roster, bringing the team back to 15 players after waiving Daphanie Kennedy yesterday. We've yet to see her on the court since the media was let in.

Brian Agler has an interesting lineup on the floor right now. Subbing in for the starting lineup, he went to a three-guard set with Sue Bird, Doneeka Lewis and Tanisha Wright on the floor together.

- We've seen some good passing today. Swin Cash had a great look in transition for Sheryl Swoopes for a layup. On the last play of scrimmaging, Wright got trapped on a pick-and-roll and found Yolanda Griffith rolling to the bucket for a layup.

- The team is now walking through a new inbounds play.

Stormin' McDonalds

The Storm will be back out greeting fans and spreading the word about the 2008 season on Thursday, teaming up with new WNBA partner McDonald's.

Five Storm players - Sue Bird, Swin Cash, Katie Gearlds, Yolanda Griffith and Sheryl Swoopes - will be at the McDonald's on the corner of 5th and Broad across the street from the EMP tomorrow afternoon from 4:30 through 5:30 p.m. The players will greet customers, sign autographs and distribute orders behind the counter.

Stop by and see some of your favorite Storm players!

2008 WNBA GM Survey

Yesterday, published the results of the league's annual GM survey. Give it a full look, but here are some Storm-related highlights.

- 17% of GMs (2 of 12, presumably) picked the Storm to win the championship. That ties the Storm for second with Phoenix. The GMs placed Los Angeles as the favorite.

- Lauren Jackson, with 27%, finished second behind Lisa Leslie in the projected MVP vote.

- The Storm received a solid 46% of the votes to lead all teams in terms of best off-season moves.

- Sue Bird got 42% of the votes and ranked as the league's best point guard in the eyes of GMs. Jackson was the winner at power forward (54%) and also ranked second at center (17%). She's a power forward, folks. And Sancho Lyttle somehow got a vote at center. Even if that's a homer vote from Houston, wouldn't you think starter Michelle Snow instead of her backup? Funny.

- Bird (17%) and Jackson (8%) both got votes as the player with the best court smarts.

- Jackson (17%) and Griffith (8%) got votes as the league's toughest player.

- Brian Agler (17%) finished second in terms of best Xs & Os coach.

- Bird got 17% of the votes as the active player who would make the best head coach someday.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Notebook: LJ Due in Tonight

After getting Sue Bird back today, the Storm will at last be at full strength tomorrow, when forward Lauren Jackson is scheduled to be a part of practice.

"Lauren arrives tonight," Storm Head Coach Brian Agler said Tuesday. "She's between London and L.A. right now. She'll get in here tonight, get her physical tomorrow. We'll be practicing tomorrow at 2:00, back it up so she can be a part of that."


After practice, Agler was asked about the possibility of making some roster moves.

"We've got to make some decisions this week, obviously by Friday at Noon," he said. "That could happen at any time. We're going to go into a meeting here after this and talk some more about it. We've got to make some decisions on certain individuals."

That discussion resulted in the decision to waive rookie guard Daphanie Kennedy Tuesday afternoon. After releasing Kennedy, the Storm is left with 14 players on the roster, needing to get down to 12 by Friday. Two of those spots remain in play, with the coaching staff likely deciding between guards Kimberly Beck, Roneeka Hodges and Doneeka Lewis and wing Kristen O'Neill for those spots.

That decision won't be an easy one.

"Everybody out here on our team at this point is a quality player, a great person and has a great work ethic," Agler said. "It's just part of the business. It's too bad that we can't keep a deeper roster, but we've got to play within our parameters."

Some coaches prefer to have their roster set well before the deadline to focus on the 12 players who will be part of the team all season long. Agler sees the value in that approach, but isn't in a hurry to make the final moves.

"There's some incentive to do that, but I want to make sure I make the right decision too," he explained. "I want to make sure that we feel strong enough in one direction to make that decision. I don't want to do it just to get the numbers down. We can adjust practice to make sure that we keep the focus on a main group."

- During her chat with the media, Storm veteran Sheryl Swoopes offered some unsolicited praise for Shyra Ely's performance during camp, singling her out.

"I feel like Shyra's probably had the best training camp of anybody here," Swoopes said.

Post-Practice Audio: Coach Agler Sue Bird

Live From Practice - 5/13

Welcome back, Sue Bird. The Storm's All-Star point guard is back on the floor for her first day of practice in 2008. Lauren Jackson is not out here today. The latest I'd heard was Jackson was scheduled to get in last night and undergo her physical this morning, allowing her to begin practicing tomorrow.

The Storm started out going against the practice guys, but they are now on the sidelines. On the floor in Black are Sue, Sheryl Swoopes, Swin Cash, Shyra Ely and Yolanda Griffith. Kimberly Beck, Daphanie Kennedy, Katie Gearlds, Ashley Robinson and Kelly Santos are in White with Tanisha Wright and Doneeka Lewis rotating in with the first unit and Roneeka Hodges and Kristen O'Neill also on the White team.

- The practice squad is back on in a 2-3 zone, giving the Storm's starters a chance to work on their zone offense.

- Great look by Cash against the zone, drawing two defenders to her on the baseline and bounce passing underneath to an open Ely for a layup.

UPDATE: Jackson is still en route to Seattle. Coach Agler said after practice that she's on a flight from London to L.A. and will be here tonight. The Storm will get her a physical tomorrow morning and move tomorrow's practice back to 2:00 p.m. to accommodate that and get Jackson on the floor.

Morning Reading

Great story this morning in an unusual source for Storm news. The Everett Herald profiles Storm CEO Karen Bryant, who hails from up north in Edmonds. Veteran writer Rich Mhyre looks at Bryant's journey to her current position and a busy off-season on and off the court. Force 10 L.L.C. Chairperson Anne Levinson talks about Bryant's role in the Storm's growth.

"The Storm is a beloved community asset, and that is in no small part due to
Karen," Levinson said. "She understands the game intuitively from having
played it, but she's also got a strong business sense. She's a thoughtful and
caring individual as well as being a top-notch executive, and that comes across
to the people in our organization. the sponsors and businesses with whom we have
relationships, and to the fans."

Another good story today comes from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, which looks at the state of the U.S. Women's Senior National Team heading into this summer's Olympics in Beijing. Here's what Head Coach Anne Donovan has to say.
"We're struggling," Donovan said. "We've never seen this in women's basketball.
Because the rest of the world is catching up, we're going to have to change what
we do in terms of carving out time for training camps."

USA Basketball has yet to name a roster for the Olympics, but Storm players Sue Bird and Swin Cash will almost certainly be on it. Sheryl Swoopes was, at last check, still deciding whether she wants to go for a fourth gold medal.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Venti Baristas

You can get coffee from some of your favorite Storm players tomorrow as they help serve drinks at three Seattle-area Starbucks locations from 8:30 through 9:30 a.m.

Swin Cash and Katie Gearlds will be at the Westlake Center Kiosk (400 Pine Street), Tanisha Wright and Kristen O'Neill will be at University Village (4634 26th Ave. N.E.), and Ashley Robinson and Shyra Ely will be at the Upper Queen Anne (2135 Queen Anne Ave. N.) location.

A couple of other notes:
- A couple of people have asked about yesterday's joint practice between the Storm and the Fever. It was closed to the media, so I was unable to watch (which was good from my mom's perspective on Mother's Day).

- Brian Agler mentioned when the Storm cut Allie Quigley that he thought Quigley might get another shot in the WNBA this season. That's just what happened, as the Phoenix Mercury signed Quigley and she scored seven points Sunday against Atlanta (going under the alias Sam Clancey in the box score).

- You can hear Coach Agler tomorrow morning at 8:15 a.m. on 710 KIRO AM.

Storm Radio Spots

The new Storm radio spots made their debut during the 1150 AM KKNW broadcast of Saturday's preseason game and will begin hitting the Seattle airwaves this week. Here's what you can look forward to hearing.

- "Competition"
Yolanda Griffith and Sheryl Swoopes talk about the difficulty learning to play with their new Storm teammates instead of against them.

- "Game Moments" - Cash
Swin Cash describes the feeling of hitting a big shot at KeyArena.

- "Game Moments" - Swoopes
Swoopes delivers the play-by-play of making a key defensive stop in front of the home crowd.

UPDATE: Here's the last Storm spot, which features Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson inviting fans to help the new Storm stars feel at home in Seattle.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day

On behalf of the Storm organization, a Happy Mother's Day to all of our mothers out there. The Chicago Tribune did a feature today on motherhood in the WNBA, and the Storm now has two of the league's most prominent mothers in Yolanda Griffith and Sheryl Swoopes.

Naturally, mothers have played a key role in the lives of the Storm players, but maybe none more so than for Swin Cash and her mother Cynthia. Cynthia was just 17 when she gave birth to Swin, and raised her as a single mother (with help from her family) before later marrying.

Inspired by her mother, through her "Cash for Kids" foundation she partnered with the Shock to open a resource center at the Ferguson Academy for Young Women in Detroit. The Ferguson Academy is an alternative high school that caters to the unique needs of teenage mothers. This NBA TV video explains the complete story of Cash's involvement with the Ferguson Academy.

The other day, I asked Swin about what Mother's Day and her family mean to her.

"It's always a special time for me when Mother's Day rolls around," Cash said. "I celebrate my mom probably 365 days of the year, but I really try to make sure that the weekend of mother's day is special for her. I always send flowers, I always get her a nice gift, nice card, and let her know what she's meant to me. My mom has been my rock my whole life. I like to show her appreciation the whole weekend."

Is it hard to not be able to spend the weekend with her out on the West Coast?
I would spend as many as I could with my mom. It's going to be tough to be away because my family, they're all coming in from out of state to have a big cookout for my grandmother. My grandmother is 89. My family is really a close-knit family. It's going to be hard to be away from them this weekend, but at the same time they're very supportive of me being out here in Seattle and they're happy I'm happy. It will be OK - there will be lots of pictures.

How much influence have your family and your mother in particular had on your charitable work?
They've had a big influence. They're part of the reason why I started my charity. I always grew up from humble beginnings and my mom used to stress to me that you always have to give back. It doesn't matter what stage you get to in your life, it doesn't matter how much you have, you'll never feel fulfilled until you help another person. That's what I've always tried to do in every walk of my life, from high school to college to being a pro. Once I was able to start Cash for Kids and have the recognition and people to follow initiatives that I wanted to go after, it's been a blessing. It's one of the most fulfilling things in my life.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Sue and LJ, Champs Again

Congratulations to Sue Bird, Lauren Jackson and their Spartak teammates and coaches. With a remarkable Game 4 performance on the road, Spartak claimed its second straight Russian Superleague Championship, defeating CSKA Moscow 101-63 in a game that was all but decided by halftime.

As you might expect, Jackson powered the Spartak offense, scoring 30 points on 11-of-14 shooting and grabbing five rebounds. Bird was uber-efficient, making all six of her shot attempts in adding 13 points. Diana Taurasi was 2-of-10 from the field but took on playmaker duty, handing out nine assists. And Spartak got great production from its bench, Tatiana Schegoleva scoring 20 points and Tina Thompson 19.

The disparity in the final numbers between these two great teams is striking and reveals the tremendous defense Spartak put together. CSKA was limited to 31.3% shooting, while Spartak shot 53.5% - 60% from downtown. Becky Hammon was held to six points on 2-of-9 shooting, Maria Stepanova was 1-of-11 from the field in scoring five points and even leading CSKA scorer Ann Wauters needed 13 shots to score 14 points.

The victory caps a second straight double-championship season for Spartak, winners of both the Russian Superleague and the Euroleague.

The best news is that Bird and Jackson are ready to return to Seattle. We should know more about their itinerary by tonight's game, but they should be back in time to get a few days of practice before Opening Night next Saturday.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Notebook: Two Roster Spots on the Line for Storm

The Seattle Storm wraps up the preseason tomorrow, hosting the Indiana Fever at KeyArena (7:00 p.m., 1150 AM KKNW, ), and Storm Head Coach Brian Agler will be keeping an eye on the competition for the final couple of spots on the roster. Agler indicated after Friday's practice at the Key that the Storm will be able to go with a 12-player roster now that Janell Burse is sitting out the season, giving the team more salary-cap flexibility. The coaching staff has a good idea who 10 of those players will be, leaving the other five players in camp vying for a pair of spots.

"We'd like to come out, obviously, and play well," said Agler. "That's important, but we do have to evaluate some people still.

"I think we're getting down to five or six people for two sports. They all have their strengths. We need to evaluate it, hopefully, in a live situation - also with our practice Monday against Indiana."

Burse's decision helped clear things up for the Storm. In particular, it helped out post Kelly Santos, whom Agler said has slid into the group of players that is expected to make the roster. Not only is the Storm in need of depth up front without Burse, but Santos has impressed the coaching staff during her first week in camp. Without Burse's salary, the Storm also has more room to keep veteran players on the roster despite their higher salaries.

Now, the competition appears to be on the perimeter. According to Agler, salaries shouldn't be a factor, with any combination of two players amongst that group leaving the Storm under the cap. What will be a factor is how players' skills fit together.

"It's hard," said Agler, "because there's a lot of different scenarios, different combinations. Of those five or six people, there's some combinations better than others. It's more than just evaluating that single person in that spot. It's how it all fits together. Versatility matters. Getting comfortable with who's going to be that backup point guard. Is it going to be Tanisha (Wright) or is it going to be someone like Kim (Beck)? That's what we're evaluating. Tomorrow will be a big test for that, and Sunday will be a test, and then early next week."

During tomorrow's preseason game, Agler wants to balance the evaluation process with getting playing time for the Storm's rotation players. The starters - including Wright at the point and Shyra Ely at power forward - should see 20-25 minutes apiece, around the same playing time starters got last Friday in Sacramento.

The one question mark with the starting lineup is Sheryl Swoopes, who did not practice Friday after tweaking her left ankle yesterday. The Storm may not know whether Swoopes will play until just before tomorrow's game.

"It's just awful sore right now and stiff," said Agler. "But it's not severe. It's not something that's going to keep her out for a week. It's just a day-to-day-type thing."

If Swoopes is unable to go, Katie Gearlds would step into the starting lineup at shooting guard.


While the Storm awaits the return of stars Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson from overseas, Indiana still has four players overseas, including starters Katie Douglas and Tammy Sutton-Brown. Meanwhile, starters Tully Bevilaqua and Tamika Catchings did not travel with the Storm. Bevilaqua is resting up after arriving in to Indianapolis late last week, while Catchings is still in the rehab process after tearing her

In his blog, Indiana's Director of Media Relations, Kevin Messenger, discusses the makeshift Fever lineup.

Saturday's matchup with the Storm will prove interesting. Seattle is playing a
lineup that includes longtime WNBA vets Swin Cash, Yolanda Griffith and Sheryl Swoopes - though does not include Sue Bird or Lauren Jackson. Indiana,
meanwhile, will counter with perhaps the youngest and most inexperienced team in
the league at this point with its band of rookies and free agents joining
(Alison) Bales, (Kasha) Terry, (Tan) White -- and (Allison) Feaster.

Agler Audio After Practice

Spartak Takes 2-1 Series Lead

Reclaiming home-court advantage and moving within a game of victory in the Russian Superleague Finals, Spartak earned a 95-81 victory Friday at CSKA Moscow. Spartak blew the game open with a 31-20 advantage in the third quarter and held on for the win.

CSKA's powerful frontcourt limited Lauren Jackson to nine points and four boards, but her teammates took advantage of the defensive attention paid to the MVP. Jackson handed out four assists and Spartak shot 10-of-18 from three-point range.

Leading the charge was Storm point guard Sue Bird, who made all five of her three-pointers and scored a team-high 20 points. Bird also handed out five assists and had five steals as she continued an excellent series and postseason. Bird paced a Spartak attack that turned the ball over but six times while forcing 13 CSKA miscues. Diana Taurasi added 18 points for the winners, while Ann Wauters had 21 points and nine boards for CSKA.

The all-important Game 4 will be played tomorrow, again at CSKA. If Spartak can win, Bird and Jackson (and their teammates and opponents) will be home in time to get in nearly a full week of practice before May 17 Opening Night. If CSKA wins and forces a deciding Game 5, players on both sides won't likely be back until late Wednesday or early Thursday. So go Spartak, go!

Randall Named Head Coach at Ohio

Big news from the Storm Coaching Network today, as Semeka Randall has been named the head coach at Ohio University.

Randall, who hails from Cleveland, had been an assistant at Cleveland State during her playing career and later moved on to Michigan State and most recently one season at West Virginia. This is her first head-coaching position and she becomes the first member of the Storm Coaching Network to be a DI head coach.

Randall spent a season and a half with the Storm and for some time held the franchise's all-time scoring record with her 28 points on June 12, 2001 at Orlando.

She replaces former WNBA player Sylvia Crawley at Ohio after Crawley took the head job at Boston College.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Notebook: Storm Waives Two

After Thursday's practice at KeyArena, Head Coach Brian Agler and the rest of the coaching staff were presented with a difficult task. They had to inform rookies Natalie Doma and Allie Quigley that they were being waived after spending two and a half weeks in training camp with the Storm.

"This is probably the toughest thing about our job is to go through decisions like that, because those two ladies have come in and really worked hard," Agler said. "They both have a chance to do something in this league and I think they both will go over and play in Europe next year. It's a numbers game. You start bringing people in and you've got to find room for them. We've got some more to go. We've got some more decisions to make that aren't going to be easy, but I just want to compliment those two on their efforts and how good of players and teammates they were when they were here."

Quigley, the Storm's second-round pick in last month's WNBA Draft, started off camp strong but seemed to fall behind as more experienced wing players arrived in camp. Quigley played extensively in the Storm's preseason opener and contributed five rebounds and four assists, but shot 0-for-6 from the field. Still, Agler is confident that Quigley has the ability to play in the WNBA at some point.

"She may have lost some confidence, a little bit," he said. "She didn't have a great showing there in Chicago - she had a lot of family and friends there; that might have got her down. I wouldn't be surprised if she doesn't get another opportunity in this league this year and definitely she'll get another one next year or down the road."

Doma impressed during camp with her touch from the perimeter for a post player, but the leap in athleticism and physical play from the Big Sky Conference to the WNBA proved too much to overcome.

The cuts leave the Storm with just three rookies left in camp: third-round pick Kimberly Beck and invitees Daphanie Kennedy and Kristen O'Neill. Agler doesn't anticipate making any more move until next week, by which point the Storm will have wrapped up its preseason with Saturday's game against Indiana and a joint practice/scrimmage with the Fever on Sunday. The joint practice gives the Storm another opportunity to gauge its progress against another opponent. Teams are allowed such practices if they have fewer than four preseason games scheduled, and the Storm has three this season.

"Since they were in town," explained Agler, "they were going to spend another day anyways, we decided to do that."

Kristen O'Neill
Aaron Last/Storm Photos

As Agler spoke to the media nearly an hour after the Storm concluded its practice, O'Neill remained on the KeyArena court, shooting free throws all by herself at the far basket. That work ethic has become O'Neill's trademark during training camp.

"If you wouldn't have made me turn around and you would have asked me who's back there shooting," said Agler, "I would have said, 'It's Kristen.' She was shooting for an hour and a half after practice yesterday. She's had a great training camp. She's a workaholic. She's a great teammate. She's worked hard and she's still on our team."

Going through her first WNBA training camp two years after she was undrafted out of the University of Washington, O'Neill has outlasted more heralded players, including a pair of former second-round picks.

"How much is she going to play Saturday?" Agler said. "I have no idea, but she's still here and we enjoy her here and she's making us better. She's got her opportunity and she's one that I think she plans on taking full advantage of it."

- Storm wing Sheryl Swoopes injured her left ankle late in Thursday's practice and received treatment from the team's training staff, but Agler wasn't worried about her status.

"She tweaked it," he said. "She was down there smiling though, afterwards, so I think she'll back out here tomorrow playing."

- Agler Audio After Practice Preview is going team-by-team on a daily basis to preview the upcoming 2008 season, and today it is the Storm's turn.

With the amount of turnover that has taken place, there will be a very
different Storm team on the KeyArena floor this season. Seattle has tagged this
team as "The Perfect Storm," boasting the team's combined 25 WNBA All-Star
appearances, nine Olympic Medals and 10 WNBA championship rings. With the
veteran team that has been put together, the time to win is now for

Live From Practice 5/8

The Storm has returned to KeyArena for the last two days of practice before Saturday's preseason finale here against the Indiana Fever. Tanisha Wright has arrived in camp to rejoin the team.

After playing against the practice squad, now the Storm is scrimmaging against each other. Wright, Doneeka Lewis, Katie Gearlds, Shyra Ely and Yolanda Griffith are playing for the Black team. Kimberly Beck, Daphanie Kennedy, Roneeka Hodges, Ashley Robinson and Kelly Santos are in white. Coach Agler made a point of noting that Wright would play the point, with Lewis off the ball.

Transition defense seems to be a focus for the Storm today.

- With Sheryl Swoopes stepping in for Ely, suddenly we've got two very different Storm squads on the floor - one big with Robinson at power forward, one small with Gearlds at the four. Gearlds did a good job of fighting Robinson for position in the post, then showed why she can be dangerous as a power forward by sticking a three-pointer off of a pick-and-pop. Robinson did a nice job of denying Gearlds the ball and stealing an entry pass.

- Nice sequence for Hodges, who nailed a three-pointer, stole a crosscourt pass and took it the distance for a layup through contact.

- The practice guys are back on the court with the Storm working on its zone offense in the halfcourt. On the floor for the Storm are Lewis, Swoopes, Swin Cash, Ely and Griffith - the de-facto first unit of late. We'll see how that evolves as Wright gets comfortable with Agler's system.

- We haven't seen the young players together much since early in camp, but Kennedy, Allie Quigley, Kristen O'Neill, Natalie Doma and Santos have been teamed up as the zone offense drill continues.

- Now it's zone defense work, with the Storm playing a 2-3 (as the guys were earlier). Wright is in with the rest of the presumptive first unit.

- The Storm is now working on its offense against a man-to-man defense. Veterans Griffith and Swoopes both took hard tumbles. Griffith was able to bounce back up but Swoopes has required some attention from the training staff.

- Swoopes had her left ankle wrapped and elevated after practice. No official word yet.

UPDATE: Agler said Swoopes tweaked the ankle, but he wouldn't be surprised to see her back at practice tomorrow, so nothing too serious.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Roster Thoughts

First off, I hope everybody is enjoying the relaunched, with a new look that extends to this blog. A lot of hard work went on behind the scenes to refresh the Web site. Our Web Producer, Tony Nhoksayakham, deserves a lot of credit for his hard work to make the redesign happen.

Alright, let's talk roster, since that seems to be the main topic of discussion recently on the Internets. As you may have read, the Storm's 2008 Media Guide came out yesterday, and it doesn't include everyone still in training camp. This isn't unusual, however. Printing deadlines force the Storm and every team around the league to choose whom to include before knowing the final roster. Last year, Barbara Turner was prominently featured in the guide. This year, it includes the returning Storm players, the newcomers who were not signed to training-camp contracts and the Storm's two draft picks. That doesn't guarantee those players anything, nor does it mean anything to the players who are not in the guide.

There are nine days until final rosters are due at Noon Pacific a week from Friday. I suspect, having listened to Storm Head Coach Brian Agler in recent interviews, the coaching staff won't make its final decisions until shortly before the deadline. We could see some more cuts coming up, and the Storm will have to waive two players by the time Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson arrive in Seattle because teams are limited to 15 players physically in camp. Agler has indicated there's no real timetable for cuts besides that; the team will make a move when it becomes apparent a player doesn't have a chance to make the team.

We're used to thinking of roster competitions in terms of point guards and centers battling each other, but with the WNBA's hard salary caps, it's at least as important to look at veteran players and young players. Players on their rookie contracts and those with two or fewer years of experience give the Storm more flexibility. The Storm could potentially keep 12 players if enough of those younger players are in the final mix. However, it's not necessarily as simple as keeping the 12 best players in camp, because not all combinations will work.

While we're on the subject, one of the questions I get most frequently is along the lines of how a player is doing in camp, or asking to break down the competitors at a position. I sometimes fail to offer what should be an obligatory note of caution. Even two and a half weeks into camp, I've seen a total of about six hours of practice - some of that not even live action. That's not a lot of time to use to evaluate players. By comparison, the coaching staff has probably seen a total of at least 30 hours.

Of course, that six hours is more than fans have gotten - so far only about an hour for those who attended the open practice at Fan Fest. But the danger of preseason is reading too much into what really isn't enough information to be important - one good or bad practice, one preseason game.

I guess the bottom line is take everything you read here with a sizeable grain of salt.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Live From Practice 5/6

Aaron Last/Storm Photos

As we've been let into practice, the Storm is going 5-on-5 against the practice squad. On the floor are Doneeka Lewis, Sheryl Swoopes, Swin Cash, Shyra Ely and Ashley Robinson. Yolanda Griffith is on the sidelines and the Storm's training staff was working with her.

Coach Agler is a bit frustrated about the team's execution on offense early in this session following some early turnovers.

- After some subs, we've started a new scrimmage with Kimberly Beck and Swoopes in the backcourt and Katie Gearlds, Robinson and Kelly Santos up front.

- Agler has turned up the urgency today, and this group is responding. Nice play by Beck to find Santos rolling to the hoop after a pick for a runner off glass.

- Players have paired off to shoot free throws, which should wrap us up for the day.

Spartak Evens Series

Game 2 of the Russian Superleague Finals was bizarro Game 1. Up was down, black was white, left was right ... and a blowout by CSKA Moscow in Game 1 turned into a Spartak blowout in Game 2. Spartak won 93-78 Tuesday to even the series at 1.

The other bizarro aspect was in Lauren Jackson's performance. Held to five points in a trying Game 1, Jackson exploded today for a game-high 34 points on 10-of-22 shooting, including six three-pointers. She also pulled down 13 rebounds. Diana Taurasi provided the rest of the offense Spartak needed, finishing with 23 points and eight assists. Sue Bird added 12 points, hitting a pair of three-pointers. As a team, Spartak was 11-of-26 from downtown.

Becky Hammon countered with a huge game for CSKA, hitting five threes and scoring 26 points with six assists, but the Russian power did not get the balanced scoring that marked its Game 1 victory; only three players scored double-figures.

The series now switches venues, and while there isn't arduous travel in this series, both teams playing in the Moscow area, there are still two off days before Game 3 is played at CSKA on Friday.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Notebook: Swoopes Back on the Court

Sheryl SwoopesWhen she went down to the ground with an injury early in Friday's Storm exhibition at Sacramento, Sheryl Swoopes probably could not have imagined that she would be back out on the practice court three days later. However, Monday marked her return to the court after being limited to conditioning work during Sunday's Storm practice. Swoopes went through all the team's drills during the portion of the practice open to the media and showed no sign of being limited.

"I think our main focus was not to try to push it and do too much," Swoopes said after practice. "The good thing is it's not my shoulder, so I felt much better about that. I have a little pain in my neck, but my focus right now is to come out and do as much as I can possibly do because I don't want to lose what I've gained the past three weeks. As practice went on, I started feeling much better. Overall, I would say I probably feel about 85 percent right now."

When Swoopes first was injured, doctors feared a possible dislocated shoulder.

"Initially when it happened I had a really bad pain in my shoulder," said Swoopes. "They initially had said that it was my shoulder and thought that it was my shoulder. Obviously, I was concerned with that.

"I was probably more frustrated than anything, because I felt like I was just getting to a point where I was close to 100 percent and I was comfortable and I was confident and my body was feeling good - didn't have any aches and pains - and then that happened."

Further examination revealed no damage to Swoopes' shoulder, and she woke up Saturday morning feeling much better. Ultimately, Swoopes was diagnosed with a strained neck, allowing her to accelerate her return to the court.

"I think as the day went on she loosened up, got moving up and down the floor," added Storm Head Coach Brian Agler. "She was looking real good Friday before she was injured, so I'm hoping we can get back to that point some time this week, which I think we will."

- Agler said the Storm is expecting guard Tanisha Wright to arrive in camp on Thursday. Wright wrapped up postseason play in Israel last week, but her team delayed her final payment.

Agler Audio After Practice

Live From Pratice 5/5

As we've been let into Monday's practice at The Furtado Cener, the Storm is working on breaking full-court pressure as applied by the pracice squad. The most notable observation is that Sheryl Swoopes is back on the floor after missing yesterday's practice with a strained neck.

- The Storm has moved into working on zone offense, with the guys playing a 2-3 zone defense. Doneeka Lewis, Sheryl Swoopes, Swin Cash, Shyra Ely and Yolanda Griffith are on the floor for the Storm.

- A variety of players got opportunities at multiple positions as the Storm worked on the zone offense for a good while. The team did a good job of getting shots in the pain, which is always the challenge against a zone - not merely settling for long jumpers. Ely has shown an ability to get good looks underneath, often with a reverse.

- The Storm has moved into working on an inbounds play from sideline out-of-bounds

Spartak Stunned in Game 1

Surprising news from Russia this morning, as CSKA crushed Spartak 90-71 in Game 1 of the best-of-five Russian Superleague Finals. That CSKA would win, even on the road, is hardly a surprise - these teams played a hard-fought five-game series a year ago and were separated by only one game in the standings - but the lopsided margin was unexpected.

It looks from the boxscore like CSKA used its size in the post (6-5 Ann Wauters and 6-8 Maria Stepanova) to neutralize Lauren Jackson, who suffered through a 2-for-11 shooting night and had five points in 24 minutes. Sue Bird scored 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting and Diana Taurasi scored 18, but Irina Osipova was the only other Spartak player in double-figures. Meanwhile, CSKA displayed its trademark balance, placing all five starters and two reserves in double-figures.

Spartak will have to try to recover quickly, with Game 2 of the series, also at home, scheduled for tomorrow.

Elsewhere overseas, the Italian A1 League Finals wrapped up Saturday. Unfortunately, Adia Barnes' Phard Napoli team got swept 3-0 in the Finals.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Burse's Status 'Up in the Air'

What figured to be a fairly uneventful media session with Storm Head Coach Brian Agler after today's open practice took a turn when Agler was asked about Janell Burse's timetable to return to training camp.

"Still up in the air on that," said Agler. "I think we're going to probably make an announcement coming up about her situation this season. We're still in dialogue with her and her agent. That's really all I can say right now."

Later, Agler was asked if injuries could be a factor in Burse's situation.

"Possibly," he said. "I think her health is a question right now, is probably the best way to put it. I know she's been out the last few games over there, hasn't played. We're just going through some dialogue with her and her agent and we'll probably come to some conclusion in the next couple of days."

Burse has dealt with multiple injuries in recent years, including a partially torn left shoulder labrum and torn ligaments in her left wrist that required surgery last August. But, according to Agler, the biggest issue might be an injury that I'd almost forgotten. In the winter of 2006, Burse sat out a couple of months with a stress fracture in her foot. (Burse blogged about it here.) Agler indicated that injury was a Jones fracture and that it remained problematic.

"I don't know if that's totally healed yet," he said. "I think that's been the issue here of late."

- The Storm got good news Saturday on veteran Sheryl Swoopes, who went down early in Friday's game at Sacramento with what doctor's initially feared was a dislocated shoulder. Further examination revealed no damage to her shoulder and Swoopes was diagnosed with a less-serious strained neck. Swoopes did conditioning work on the sidelines Sunday, but did not actively practice.

"She still has quite a bit of pain in her neck," said Agler. "She strained some nerves there, so she's day-to-day right now. She might be back more active tomorrow, but it might be again until Tuesday. But she'll be in there this week sometime, so that's the good news."

- Sunday was the first time Agler met the media following the Storm's first two preseason games. The early exhibitions helped give the coaching staff an idea of where the team is two weeks away from starting the season.

"We're probably like a lot of people in this league - we've got a ways to go offensively and defensively," Agler said. "Part of that ways to go is evaluation of individuals. In about two weeks, we've got to get down to our number, which will be 11 - probably. I thought after the first night that our defense was farther ahead than our offense. I thought we got much better offensively the second game, but then I saw that we needed to improve our defense. I think a lot of it has to do with our conditioning, both physically and mentally - being able to sustain possessions."

The Storm will have six days to practice before closing out the preseason Saturday against Indiana. It's an important stretch, Agler noted, because it's the last week the Storm will have without having to prepare for a specific team.

- Two Storm players, Roneeka Hodges and Kelly Santos, got in their first practice since joining the team in Sacramento. Agler was encouraged by what he saw from Santos, who last played in the WNBA with Detroit in 2002. Santos had little time to pick up the system before being thrown into practice, but showed good touch in the paint.

"I thought Kelly gave us some good things out there," said Agler. "I was sort of impressed. (Assistant Coach) Nancy (Darsch) worked with her a little in pre-practice today and gave me the thumbs up. First impressions have been real positive.

"Roneeka, she's right there with a number of people that are fighting for those last couple of shots, so we'll see."

- The next Storm player in camp will be guard Tanisha Wright, but her status remains up in the air even after her season concluded in Israel last Thursday.

"We're expecting her tomorrow, Tuesday, Wednesday, sometime," Agler said. "It's sort of been a struggle, honestly.

"We've talked quite a bit with her agent - he's had a hard time talking with her. They've delayed her payment. It's a number of issues that have come up here of late that have delayed her arrival in Seattle, which has been frustrating. But we'll just keep moving forward."

Live From Fan Fest

Welcome to KeyArena, where the Storm is practicing for the first time as part of today's Fan Fest festivities. Right now, fans are enjoying kid-themed activities on the East plaza. They'll be allowed in to watch practice in a couple of minutes.

Sheryl Swoopes is on the sidelines after straining her neck in Friday's game at Sacramento. She's running the sidelines to get some conditioning work in while the team scrimmages against the practice squad.

When we first got in here, the lineup was Kristen O'Neill and Roneeka Hodges at guards, Swin Cash and Natalie Doma as the forwards and Yolanda Griffith in the middle. Now we've got what might be considered a first unit minus Swoopes - Kimberly Beck, Katie Gearlds, Cash, Shyra Ely and Griffith.

We're getting our first look at Hodges and Kelly Santos, recently in to camp. Santos got some playing time against the Monarchs. She looks a little more svelte than I expected looking at photos from her time with the Brazilian National Team, but is still a physical presence in the post.

Newly into camp herself, Cash is already showing some leadership. After a couple of turnovers, she called a huddle to talk it over with her teammates without the coaching staff needing to say anything.

- A little different for the players as fans have filtered in to sit on the East side of the arena. It's definitely different to have people cheering you at practice. For that matter, the Storm hasn't had fans cheering primarily for them all year, having played two road preseason games. Kristen O'Neill got a very nice hand after taking the ball to the rim for a layup.

While most fans know O'Neill from her time at UW, I hope today's limited chance allows them to get a look at the characteristics that have already endeared some of the other rookies in camp to those of us who have been watching - Daphanie Kennedy's fearlessness, Natalie Doma's competitiveness, Allie Quigley's shooting ability and unpredictability in the open floor, Kimberly Beck's steady leadership at the point. Everybody left in camp by this point has shown the ability to help the Storm this season.

- Storm Head Coach Brian Agler will be miked for the rest of practice so fans can hear everything that's going on in huddles.

- Forgot to mention that Swoopes' family is back in town. Son Jordan is watching from a perch atop the scorer's table.

- Ely is playing a nice brand of basketball today, finishing in the paint and making a really nice pass out of the post for an assist that caught my eye a moment ago. She had a very good game Friday in Sacramento, showing scoring punch she rarely displayed a year ago - in part because of her limited playing time.

- The guys are off the court and referees have come on for some full-court 5-on-5 scrimmaging. Beck, Quigley, Gearlds, Ely and Santos started out in black going against Doneeka Lewis, Kennedy, O'Neill, Doma and Ashley Robinson in white. After some rotation and a few minutes of play, the black squad is now going against the practice squad (as always in green).

For a while, we had hte first all-twin backcourt in WNBA history. Thank goodness Hodges and Lewis have different hairstyles so we can tell them apart.

Ely drew a big hand for a spinning layup off glass plus the foul - not only from the crowd in attendance but also from her teammates and coaches on the sidelines. Santos looked a little lost in the early going as she picks up the Storm schemes six years after her last WNBA experience, but she has gotten in rhythm and has displayed some terrific touch in the post.

- Agler's microphone caught Griffith yelling something to her teammates - not sure if she intended that to be so loud or not. Hodges has been providing some scoring punch during this scrimmage, taking the ball to the basket. Her mentality is to attack, and that served her very well overseas this off-season. She was the leading scorer in the Spanish Lega Feminina.

- Kennedy hits in the paint and I think that will wrap us up for practice. Fans got to see nearly a full hour, which was more than we were expecting. Now we'll move into Basketball 101 and ultimately autographs.

Here's some amateur video of Kennedy's shot:

- Director of Player Resources Rick DuPree introduced the Storm roster and coaching staff. Some players simply waved to the crowd; others took the opportunity to dance a little bit. Cash wanted to introduce herself to the Seattle crowd and took a lap around the court, high-fiving fans in the front row. Not to be outdone, Griffith and Swoopes did the same when they were introduced.

Take a look at Griffith's lap:

- As part of "Basketball 101," WNBA referee Penny Davis (who resides in Seattle) is helping give fans some tips on what she's looking for on the floor and common misconceptions about officiating.

- Out on the concourse, fans enjoyed a chance to interact with players and a variety of fun activities. The biggest lines, naturally, were for the player autograph stations. Check out Swoopes and Lewis signing for fans:

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Swoopes Update

After further examination, Storm forward Sheryl Swoopes has been diagnosed with a strained neck. She is listed as day-to-day.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Tonight: Griffith Back in Sacramento

Did you know? The Storm has played the Sacramento Monarchs far more often than any other preseason opponent. The two teams have played nine preseason games over the last eight years; next on the list is the now-defunct Utah Starzz, with four preseason meetings.

The 10th preseason matchup between these two teams is on tap for tonight at ARCO Arena. The game tips off at 7 p.m. and with Sacramento broadcasting on local radio, you should be able to get the feed online via However, technical difficulties are common early in the season, so be prepared for the possibility we might be limited to's live updates.

This game will have a little extra meeting because it is the first trip back to Sacramento for new Storm center Yolanda Griffith after nine years with the Monarchs, including an MVP and the 2005 WNBA championship.

Earlier this week, Griffith was focused on practice and the Storm's preseason opener in Chicago and wasn't really thinking ahead to tonight, other than looking forward to getting home and seeing her family. By the time the Storm practiced in Sacramento yesterday, she was ready to talk about the game with the Sacramento Bee.

"The hardest part is adjusting to the colors," she remarked of her new green and red uniform. "And I'm adjusting to a new city. I've lived in Sacramento for such a long time. My family has stayed here, so being away is hard. ... But (my daughter) Candace understands; Mama got to work."
Columnist Ailene Voisin also considered the incongrinuity of Griffith in a Storm uniform in a column that touches on how she came to Sacramento in the first place.

First, though, she was the sneaky-brilliant draft pick that former Monarchs general manager Jerry Reynolds plucked after Katie Smith and Shannon Johnson had been allocated in the ABL dispersal draft, Chamique Holdsclaw had been drafted by the Washington Mystics with the No. 1 pick, and while the higher-profile former UCLA star, Natalie Williams, remained on the board.

"I wanted 'Yo' because she had the slim body type that would last longer," Reynolds recalled, "and I thought she was the player you could build a franchise around."
The Monarchs may have bigger issues on their mind than Griffith, however. Yesterday, they learned that forward DeMya Walker will miss the season with a fractured right patella. Walker had been returning from tearing the patella tendon, which holds the patella in place, in the same knee. That injury forced her to miss the final 29 games of the season, but Sacramento may find it more difficult to overcome Walker's absence without Griffith. The Monarchs have options, including using Nicole Powell primarily at power forward or putting Rebekkah Brunson at the four alongside first-round pick Laura Harper, but those represent a step down from a Brunson-Walker frontcourt.

The Walker news came the same day as Minnesota announced that point guard Lindsey Harding has a stress fracture of her left patella that will sideline her indefinitely. Harding told reporters she expects to miss about a month with the injury. Like Walker, Harding was coming back from a torn ligament, in this case a torn ACL. Fortunately, the Lynx has depth at guard after signing Anna DeForge and drafting Candice Wiggins, but you want to see Harding get healthy and have a chance to make good on the potential that made her the top overall pick of the 2007 WNBA Draft.

Lastly, the Phoenix Mercury announced Wednesday that All-Star forward Penny Taylor will not join the team until after the Olympic break, if at all. The news was not unexpected but is still a major blow to the defending champs. Taylor was arguably Phoenix's most valuable player a year ago, and the Mercury doesn't have a great replacement for her either - though the Mercury was lucky to get LaToya Pringle late in the first round last month, and Pringle will see extra action filling in for Taylor.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Wright's Israel Season Over

Elizur Ramla beat Ranaana Hertzeliya 77-69 in Game 4 of the Israeli D1 Finals today, taking the series three games to one. Looking to force a deciding fifth game, Raanana was within 60-57 with six minutes left to play but saw Ramla score the next nine points to blow the game open and win.

"We always look to win, but down the stretch we got tired mentally and started making mistakes, and they capitalized on it," said Storm guard Tanisha Wright. "They scored on our mistakes, they got stops, they did a lot of things to help themselves win. It’s just disappointing"

Wright had 16 points and six rebounds, but Ramla kept her from beinga playmaker; she did not have an assist in the game. While her team fell short of the championship, Wright still had a terrific second season in Israel. She averaged 21.3 points, 6.4 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 3.2 steals during the regular season.

Her season over, Wright will head back to Seattle to rejoin the Storm in the near future.

In Italy, Famila Wuber Schio took a 2-0 series lead yesterday over Phard Napoli and Storm color analyst Adia Barnes. Schio is a win away from claiming the best-of-five series with Game 3 at Schio on Saturday.

While we're talking members of the Storm championship team, congrats to Trina Frierson, who has been promoted to associate head coach at Northwestern State University in Louisiana. Frierson has spent three years on the coaching staff at Northwestern State and will play a larger role as associate head coach. (HT: StormFans)