Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Cash, Gearlds Looking to Shoot Way Out of Slumps

The Storm's two primary small forwards, Swin Cash and Katie Gearlds, are both vital parts of the team's offense - Cash with her ability to score in a variety of fashions and Gearlds in large part because of her perimeter shooting. Both have endured shooting slumps in the month of June, but Storm Head Coach Brian Agler believes they're ready to turn things around.

After starting the season playing some of the best basketball of her career, Cash has seen her shooting drop off. She shot 52.3 percent from the field over the Storm's first six games, five of them wins. Since then, she has seen her shooting percentage slump to 26.8 percent over the last seven games, five of those losses. Cash has scored double-figures just twice in that span.

"I have to really focus back in and hit some easy shots," said Cash. "I'm a perfectionist, and when I miss easy shots, sometimes I carry that with me."

Cash has experienced some trouble with her back, getting treatment on it last week before the Storm played Phoenix (the win over the Mercury was Cash's best game in the month of June, as she scored 17 points). While Cash's movement hasn't appeared to be inhibited and she has been active on defense, blocking a career-high five shots last Saturday in Houston, Agler feels the injury has had an impact in combining with the Storm's busy schedule to limit Cash's practice time.

"This is the first time she's practiced - of course, we haven't had many practices - since we played Detroit here (on June 7)," Agler said. "After we played Detroit here, then she had some things done with her back and she sat out the practice we had going into Phoenix. Then, after Phoenix, we never practiced until today. think that has a lot to do with her shooting more so than anything else. Shooting is a skill - you have to practice skills."

Cash's play has been a key indicator for the Storm. While she's played an identical 32 minutes per game in wins and losses, her scoring average leaps from 8.3 points per game in losses to 15.3 in wins. Cash has shot 45.2 percent in wins as compared to 29.2 percent in losses, and her rebounding average (6.6 rpg in wins vs. 4.2 in losses) is also much better.

Gearlds started off the season well, coming off the bench to knock down three triples in the fourth quarter of a come-from-behind win over Sacramento on May 20. She followed that with eight points at Phoenix in the Storm's next game, but since then her playing time and her shooting percentage have waned. Over the Storm's first five games in June, she totaled two points on 1-of-10 shooting. Gearlds has scored a field goal in the Storm's last three games, and hitting a crucial three-pointer in the fourth quarter Monday against Connecticut seemed to energize her. Moments later, Gearlds used the threat of her shot to drive the lane and find Lauren Jackson for a layup.

"I think Katie's sort of on a little upswing now," Agler said. "I think you'll see her start playing well. I thought she did some good things the other night. She played well in Houston and even in San Antonio, even though they weren't huge minutes, they were good minutes. I just sort of see her confidence coming back. We're going to give her some opportunities to play."

Before Monday's game, Agler took Gearlds aside and chatted with her courtside, encouraging her to stay with it by using an example from the NBA Finals.

"I sort of referred to Ray Allen," Agler related. "You remember in the playoffs, Ray Allen didn't have it going. He struggled for a period of time, but now you watch him play, it's like he never went through that back against Detroit."

Indeed, the former Sonics guard scored 26 points and made seven three-pointers as the Boston Celtics won the NBA Championship by beating the L.A. Lakers in yesterday's Game 6 of the Finals.

After Gearlds' early scoring spree, she found her name on opposing scouting reports, and that will force her and the Storm to adjust.

"Defenses understand what she can do, so they don't give her a lot of room," said Agler. "We have to work harder and she has to work harder to get her some looks."

- Storm center Yolanda Griffith remains day-to-day with a left knee sprain, but is making progress in her recovery.

"She did a little bit today," said Agler. "Tomorrow, she'll be very active in practice. As far as Friday? We'll see how we get through tomorrow."

Griffith participated as the Storm ran through its quarter-court offense early in practice, testing out a brace that she may use when she returns. Later, she rode an exercise bike to keep up her conditioning. The Storm hopes to have Griffith available Friday, when the Indiana Fever visits KeyArena (7:00 p.m., 1150 AM KKNW, TIX).


Anonymous said...

Hey Kevin,

As regards O'Neill as a practice player, does she see time with the 2nd unit in practice or does she strictly play as an opponent with the male practice players?

How has the Santos v. Pascalau battle for the 4th post spot looked since Santos returned from Oly. qualifying?

Kevin Pelton said...

Kristen has played both with the second unit and the practice squad. When the practice is preparing for a specific opponent, she's spent more time with the practice squad. In other practices, especially when the starters have been rested, she's worked with the Storm's players.

How has Santos vs. Pascalau looked? It's only been one practice, so tough to say, though I thought Florina was very active in practice yesterday. However, I'm not sure I would characterize that as a "battle." I think Kelly has fairly well established herself in the role of fourth post.

Anonymous said...

Why is Agler still holding on to 5 posts? I realize Lauren will be missing 5 games in July, but he's not even using Pascalau that much with Yo out, Ashley hurt, and Kelly gone. He's gone more to Shyra as a PF.

Given that, why doesn't he cut one of the posts and pick up O'Neill? She could shore up the perimeter defense, provide another 3 pt. shooter, and be used from PG to SF.

Anonymous said...

If Katie would shoot more when she's open maybe more would go in. Right now she's passing up the open looks and then panicing the next time she touches it and put up a bad look. I love her to death as a person and player. But she needs to be more confident. Sue wouldn't pass her the ball if she didn't believe in her.

Kevin Pelton said...

That may have been true last year, but I agree with Coach Agler. Those looks haven't been there for Katie so far this year, at least not since early in the season.