Friday, August 22, 2008

Storm Stands Pat at Deadline, Looking at Free Agents

After taking the last two days off, the Storm returned to the practice court Friday. At the end of practice open to the media, the team was working on applying and playing against full-court pressure with a very interesting drill: Three offensive and defensive players on each side of the court, none of them allowed to change sides. It was sort of like the old 6-on-6 game that women used to play in many parts of the Midwest.

Following practice, Storm Head Coach Brian Agler offered an update on the team investigating potential options to help add depth in the frontcourt with Lauren Jackson out for the next 4-6 weeks after ankle surgery. Yesterday's trade deadline came and went without a move from the Storm (or any other WNBA team). Agler walked reporters through the team's thought process with regard to a potential deal.

Having dealt a second-round pick to Atlanta for Camille Little in June, the Storm still has its first-round pick available, but Agler emphasized that the big picture has to be taken into account, especially making a deal this late in the season.

"Obviously, everybody's always interested in first-round draft picks," he said, "but what you consider trading a first-round draft pick, you want somebody who can come in and make an immediate impact for you. Then you have to evaluate that person and what the status of their contract is. If we were going to trade a first-round pick for somebody who was an unrestricted free agent, we would basically have them for eight games and, if we're fortunate enough to get into the playoffs, the playoffs. Then you have no more rights. Now, you can get them and get them extended into a contract to keep them out of that free agency [as Detroit did with Taj McWilliams-Franklin last week].

"There's just a lot of things to consider and we didn't have a lot of time to put all those pieces into place."

The Storm still has the opportunity to add a free-agent post player to the roster, and Agler said the team continues to explore those options. Immediately, many fans considered the possibility of signing a player who is currently playing in the Olympics but will be freed up at their conclusion. The Storm has looked into that, but Agler noted (specifically in regards to the Russian team) that visa issues could make adding an international player difficult.

"Unless they've got great contacts in the U.S. embassy," he said, "to get something turned around to get a visa, it's going to take weeks."

Jackson's Aussie teammate and former Storm center Suzy Batkovic might be a good fit, but she is getting married this fall and is not available.

The name of Russian center Maria Stepanova entered the rumor mill when Phoenix Mercury GM Ann Meyers Drysdale, offering color commentary for the U.S.-Russia semifinal, said Stepanova could sign with San Antonio after the break. A standout internationally who has played for the Mercury in the WNBA, Stepanova is now a free agent. However, it doesn't appear she will be coming to the league.

"I know there were rumors out there of her going to San Antonio," Agler said. "That was sort of the talk over there (in Beijing). Her agent said that's not going to happen.

"It's been a stretch to get her to come over for a max salary. Now we're talking about a short period of time, getting a visa, people not having big dollars to throw at her to do it, because most people are stretching their cap as it is. I think that people looked into it, obviously, but when it's all said and done it would have been real hard to do that."

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