Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Surprise: Another Seven-Day Deal for O'Neill

Tuesday was expected to bring a decision on Kristen O'Neill's future with the Seattle Storm. Would O'Neill be re-signed for the remainder of the season or leave the team with the expiration of her second seven-day contract? The answer, as it turned out, was neither. After a conversation with the WNBA league office, the Storm found out that teams are not limited to two seven-day contracts for a given player but can sign them to as many seven-day deals as they want. With that knowledge, the Storm opted to give O'Neill another seven-day contract, keeping her on the roster but maintaining flexibility for the future.

"It has nothing really to do with anything negative towards Kristen," said Storm Head Coach Brian Agler, explaining why the team would continue with seven-day contracts instead of signing Agler for the remainder of the season. "Everything's real positive. We like her on our team. Just in case something could happen where we would need to go out and get a specific type of player, it gives us that insurance policy."

Both the Storm and the media had been working under the assumption that players were limited to two seven-day contracts. Last year, the team signed Doneeka Lewis for the remainder of the season after her second seven-day contract came to an end. While the NBA specifically places a limit on 10-day contracts, their equivalent of the WNBA's seven-day contracts, neither the previous WNBA Collective Bargaining Agreement nor the current one that took effect this season contains such language.

The way the rules were previously interpreted, O'Neill would have gotten a decision on her long-term fate today. She admitted some nervousness about the news last night, before she found out about the possibility of further seven-day contracts.

"To feel like I was finally going to have an answer either way was of course on my mind," she said. "But I came in here today and had a good talk with coach and the staff and I'm here to help the team. I'm happy to still be here."

Even had O'Neill gotten a guarantee for the remainder of the season, she surely would have continued the hard work that has made her so valuable to the Storm's coaching staff. Still, the short-term nature of her status only reinforces the importance of that work.

"It has been a challenge," O'Neil said, "but it has been making me stronger because every day you have to bring it. Every day you have to come ready to compete as hard as you can and you can't let up."

During her two weeks with the Storm, O'Neill has played 13 minutes over four games, three of them at KeyArena. Her every move during home games has drawn huge applause from fans who fell in love with O'Neill during her time at the University of Washington or even before that at Edmonds High School.

"It's been a pretty incredible feeling," said O'Neill. "There's nothing like playing in front of your home crowd, but I've been so moved by the way that the community has supported my dream. This is what I've wanted for so long and a lot of people have helped me achieve that, whether through coaching or by being a fan and really getting behind me. That's meant so much, so to see the support from the community has been incredible."


Sheila said...

I'm glad Kristen is getting more time, but it's got to be tough on her. She's saying all the right things, but I'm sure she's probably wishing she had a more concrete view of her future between now and September. I understand the need to stay flexible with only enough salary cap room to carry 11, but Kristen can play from 1-3 and could play the 4 if needed. She is an outstanding defender, she held Agustus to under ten points in the first half of an NCAA game a few years ago. Anyway, best of luck to her for however long she has left as a paid player vs a practice player.

Patrick said...

I didn't really see much of O'Neil prior to this season, but I find the idea of the hometown girl getting a chance to play for her local pro team uplifting and inspiring which is the main reason I cheer for her.