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


Anonymous said...

OK, someone blow the whisle let's get this season started!!!

Online ZenDoc said...

Yea, it's time to get excited - but not overly anxious like some of the players were today when they started pressing (on offense instead of on defense). I think they made the right choice on the roster move - the one they had to make to be able to fully evaluate a potentially very good big post player, who's either 6'4" or 6'5". Kevin, have you seen her standing next to L.J. to see if she's really 6'4" or might be 6'5"?

Florina, who goes by Lina, pronounced Leena, will get a good long look now and may play the entire season here. If it doesn't work out, I know a really good G/F named Kristen who's hanging out in Seattle, waiting for her opportunity. :-)