Friday, June 12, 2009

StormTracker is on the Move

Today, we're pleased to unveil a brand new StormTracker blog. We're moving to the WordPress platform, which offers improved functionality, a cleaner look and easier navigation. Please update your bookmarks and links to Thanks for reading!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Seattle Storm Day

Aaron Last/Storm Photos

As you may have read in Live From Press Row, before last night's game Seattle City Councilmembers Bruce Harrell and Jan Drago presented Storm CEO Karen Bryant with a proclamation declaring June 7, 2009 Seattle Storm Day in the city of Seattle.

The timing was right for the Council to honor the Storm, as yesterday was both Opening Night for the Storm and the 10th anniversary of the city of Seattle being awarded an expansion WNBA franchise on June 7, 1999. See the proclamation in its entirety below.

The Storm organization is grateful to the City Council not only for proclaiming June 7, 2009 as Seattle Storm Day but also for its enthusiastic support over the past decade.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

In Case You Missed It ...

The busy week leading up to Opening Night can make it hard to keep up with everything, so I wanted to highlight some important content here at and elsewhere.

If anything was vulnerable to getting overshadowed, I think it was Thursday's event where the Storm reopened the First A.M.E. Child and Family Center in Seattle with a Reading and Learning Center renovated thanks to the Storm winning the 2008 Fast Break to Reading Program presented by Pitney Bowes. Our staff photographer Aaron Last was there and put together a photo slideshow/video looking at both the work done by Storm employees over the weekend and the culmination on Thursday, and it is very good.

Here are a couple more photos from the event, also by Last:

The big ribbon cutting, with Alfie Charles from Pitney Bowes and Carey Anderson from First A.M.E. doing the honors.

Storm players Janell Burse and Tanisha Wright read to children in their new space with new books.

WNBA legend Jennifer Azzi was on hand to emcee the event and represent WNBA Cares. She wrote about the experience on her blog.

In terms of basketball, our preview coverage included features on how Swin Cash is feeling better on and off the court after back surgery, how Shannon Johnson's addition has completed a versatile Storm backcourt and the team's impressive depth in the post with Janell Burse and Lauren Jackson reuniting as likely starters. It culminated with yesterday's general season preview highlighting how the Storm hopes to get back to the level at which the team played during a dominant six-game winning streak last July before Jackson's departure and subsequent injury.

I was surprised to check out the Seattle Times' preview yesterday and see Jayda Evans chose a similar angle for her centerpiece story. I intentionally don't read other stories until after I've written mine so I'm not influenced subconsciously, and I hadn't guessed we'd both focus on the July 12 win over Los Angeles that was a highpoint of the Storm's season. Of course, from there the articles diverge quite a bit, so there's plenty to be gained from both.

In addition to that, Evans has bio capsules on each player and checks in with members of the inaugural 2000 Storm team to see what they are up to now. Steve Kelley completed the coverage with his column on why Lauren Jackson decided to return to Seattle, which tugs at the heartstrings.

More on LiveAccess

One of the big developments you'll see this season on and sites throughout the WNBA is the ability to watch many webcasts of many games live through LiveAccess. With this feature debuting across the league today, I wanted to explain things a little more clearly. During Storm games, you can go to our LiveAccess page (which will also be linked on the homepage in the top story) to get to LiveAccess. You will need a user name, which is completely free and easy to register.

For a handful of games, live video will not be available through LiveAccess. The five Storm games that are on FSN (including Opening Night tomorrow) will be blacked out locally, so look for your TV and not your computer in those games. The two Storm games that are televised nationally on ESPN2 will also not be available on LiveAccess, though they can be streamed through if your cable provider gets you access to that site.

Lastly, any game that is in a national broadcast window, including today's season opener at Sacramento, will not be available live, though you can watch an archived version of the game after it has been played. So for today, your options are listening to the game on Alternative Talk KKNW 1150 AM or hearing that radio broadcast live on You can also chat live with me during the game here on

I hate to spend so much time focusing on the exceptions because either a webcast or TV coverage will be available for virtually every game this season, which is a terrific development that should enhance the fan experience. I do want to make sure everyone is clear on the parameters, so let me know if you still have any questions.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Approaching Opener, Storm Making Decisions

With less than 48 hours remaining until the Seattle Storm opens the 2009 season Saturday in Sacramento (1:00 p.m., Alternative Talk 1150 AM), the Storm is beginning to close in on some important decisions. The first of those came after Thursday's practice, when the Storm waived guard A'Quonesia Franklin and wing Aja Parham to get down to its 11-player roster (which will actually be 10 for the opener because center Suzy Batkovic-Brown will be arriving from Australia Sunday).

Storm Head Coach Brian Agler also said after the practice that he's got a likely starting lineup in mind to face the Monarchs.

"We'll probably go with Lauren (Jackson) and Camille (Little) and Sue (Bird), T (Tanisha Wright) and Shannon (Johnson) starting the game," said Agler.

Center Janell Burse will likely come off the bench after experiencing a subluxation of her left shoulder that limited her in practice yesterday. Burse was back on the court today.

"I haven't had a chance to talk to her since practice was over to see how she feels and how she responds," said Agler. "She's going to play, I know that. She was in practice the whole day. We went into practice thinking it might be in and out - she was pretty much in the whole time."

Burse felt good about her practice effort. She wore a sleeve on her left shoulder, something she has not done in the past because she hates the sleeve, which slightly limits the mobility of her shoulder.

"Before, I never wore it even when it was more serious," Burse explained. "Now I'm trying it because I really want to be out there and hopefully not reinjure it. When you're out there playing and you're 'in the zone,' I guess, you don't think about it."

Forward Swin Cash was also out on the floor.

"I envision her playing this weekend," said Agler, though her minutes will likely be limited. "I think it will all depend on her. I'm sure we will (limit her). She has practiced sparingly."

How much Cash can play may impact the rest of the rotation and how Agler uses his other three active reserves - Katie Gearlds, Ashley Robinson and rookie Ashley Walker. He anticipates the Storm's first-round pick being in the rotation, though finding time for her could be difficult.

"It's not easy to get everybody in here who we feel like can help us," Agler explained. "We're still sort of evaluating how things are going to go. I think she's going to be in the rotation. How much? I don't know."

As other teams have been cutting down to their final rosters, experienced players have been hitting the waiver wires. In the short term, Agler has no plans to bring anyone in. He wants to see his team at full strength, with Batkovic-Brown in the mix, before seriously considering adding a player who has come available.

"I like a lot of them," said Agler, "but to make that decision ... I don't think we can really do a whole lot before we fully understand what Suzy's going to bring."

GM Survey Results

Yesterday, released the results of its annual GM Survey. While not every GM apparently takes the voting seriously, based on some of the (ahem) unusual choices, it's still an interesting snapshot of the league as a whole.

Noteworthy Storm results:
- Lauren Jackson finished second in both most likely to win MVP and player you would pick if you were starting a team (tying there with Tamika Catchings and Diana Taurasi). Because Jackson split votes between forward and center, she also was second in terms of top power forwards in the league behind L.A.'s Tina Thompson.

- Sue Bird did in fact garner 58.3 percent of the vote to outpace Lindsay Whalen in voting for the league's best point guard.

- Jackson was an overwelming winner as the WNBA's best international player. San Antonio's Ann Wauters was the only other foreigner to get a vote.

- Bird is one of three players, along with Detroit's Katie Smith and Sacramento's Kara Lawson, considered most likely to coach after their playing career.

- Jackson's turnaround jumper tied with Seimone Augustus' runner and Cappie Pondexter's crossover as the single most effective offensive move in the game.

Elsewhere on the Web today, Mechelle Voepel of has a great feature story on Jackson's return to the Storm. Many terrific quotes in here, including:

"You know, it's fun being good at what you do," Jackson said. "I can't imagine my life without playing in America or Russia, as well as Australia. It's a nice feeling that people are so happy to have you there. And it's given me the opportunity to travel, to see so many things."
You can also take a listen to Jackson's interview with Elise Woodward on KJR 950 AM last evening.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Burse Participates in Non-Contact Practice

Storm center Janell Burse participated in the non-contact portion of practice Wednesday after leaving Tuesday's session early when she experienced a subluxation of her left shoulder. For Burse, the injury was a surprise because it was the first time since May 2007 her shoulder has subluxed, or slipped out of the socket.

"It was more shocking that it actually happened again," said Burse, "because it hadn't happened in so long."

While a partial tear of her shoulder labrum has left Burse vulnerable to subluxations, she has been able to control them by strengthening the surrounding muscles. She did not experience any trouble with the shoulder during the 2007 regular season or in either of her last two overseas campaigns.

Burse underwent X-rays that showed no bone bruising in the area, and is currently day-to-day.

"They just wanted to X-ray it to get a look at everything and make sure everything was still intact because my range of motion was bad yesterday," she said. "Today it's much, much better. Hopefully I'll be fine much faster because I've kept strengthening it all this time. I think I'll come back fast because of that."

"I think we're moving forward," Storm Head Coach Brian Agler said of his team's health. "The only thing I can say is we've got two more days to move forward here and we're going to move forward."

Forward Swin Cash participated with contact after being sidelined the last two days by an allergic reaction that caused swelling in her left knee.

With two practices left before Saturday's season opener in Sacramento (1:00 p.m., Alternative Talk 1150 AM), Agler feels good about his team's progress, though he won't really know whether the Storm is ready until the game is played.

"I think when you're in a situation like this, you never know if you're prepared or not," he said. "You try to do your best and you go into the game and see how things play out. You try to prepare your team. Do you underprepare? Do you overprepare? I don't know. I guess you can answer that question after the game. That's the only time you really know."

- The WNBA waiver wire continues to be busy as teams cut down prior to Friday's deadline for final rosters for the start of the season. However, Agler doesn't anticipate at this point bringing in a player cut by another team.

"I think, to this point, unless we really get a chance to study it, our 11 I think we have here (in camp)," he said. "Well, our 11 isn't here because Suzy (Batkovic)'s not here. Once Suzy gets here, I think we'll get a better evaluation."

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Storm Makes Second Round of Cuts

- While taking Sunday off, the Seattle Storm made the decision to waive training-camp invitees La'Tangela Atkinson and Kasha Terry, bringing the roster to 13 players. 12 are now in camp, with Suzy Batkovic-Brown (spending this week on her honeymoon after her marriage last weekend) the only player remaining overseas. Amongst that group, the Storm has two invitees remaining - guard A'Quonesia Franklin and guard Aja Parham.


"I think it's a tribute to them that they're still here if you look around the league at who's getting waived and who's released right now," said Storm Head Coach Brian Agler. "They've worked hard and they're good players. They can play in this league, and that's why they're here."

The deadline for finalizing rosters is Thursday, and Agler indicated the working assumption is the Storm will not make its final cuts to reach an 11-player roster until then.

Having a slightly smaller group will help the Storm's regulars spend more time on the court, an important consideration after Agler said the team appeared to wear down in the fourth quarter of Saturday's preseason loss at Phoenix.

"I think reps is the most critical thing right now," he said. "We've got a few days to prepare. Hopefully we'll make use of them."

- For the first time all training camp, the Storm had a couple of players on the sidelines during Monday's practice, though neither injury is considered serious.

Forward Swin Cash was watching her teammates, but not because of anything relating to her back surgery. Cash has experienced some swelling in her left knee.

"That's the extent of it," explained Agler. "She's going to get back out, hopefully tomorrow, doing some things."

Rookie Ashley Walker was also sidelined due to her calf.

"She's fine - she'll be back out tomorrow," said Agler. "In the past, she's had some issues with her calf. After that game the other night where she played extremely well, she had some tenderness there and we wanted to get it checked out."

Monday, June 1, 2009

Stormin' The Community This Week

Leading up to Opening Night on Sunday against the Sacramento Monarchs (6:00 p.m., TICKETS), the Storm will be involved in a number of community events this week. A rundown:

Lauren Jackson will throw out the first pitch before the Mariners face the Baltimore Orioles tonight at 7:10 p.m. Visit for tickets.

The Storm and Forecasters Pub will present a special Storm Trivia Night at the Redhook Ale Brewery in Woodinville starting at 8 p.m. Storm players Sue Bird, Camille Little and Katie Gearlds will act as co-hosts for the event. No reservations are accepted on Tuesday nights, so guests should arrive early to secure a table. All ages are welcome.

In honor of the Storm’s 10th Anniversary, Pagliacci is renaming its most popular pizza the ‘Storm Primo’ at its Queen Anne location. Plus, from 5-6 p.m. that day at the Queen Anne location, customers can buy one slice for regular price and get a second slice of equal or lesser value for $1.50 – and meet Storm players Janell Burse, Shannon Johnson, Ashley Robinson!

Storm players will be on hand for the reopening of the First A.M.E. Child and Family Center in Seattle, renovated with support from Pitney Bowes. Last year, the Storm won a learning and reading center renovation as part of the Fast Break to Reading Competition Presented by Pitney Bowes. Storm employees contributed their time to help complete the renovation.

This event is not open to the public.

The Storm is “Stormin’ for the Cure” to celebrate survivors of breast cancer and to raise funds for breast cancer research. Join Doppler and the Storm Dance Troupe for this year’s Komen Puget Sound Race for the Cure on Sunday, June 7 at Qwest Field. What a great way to get warmed up for Opening Night! Registration is $25. Click here to sign up.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Batkovic-Brown Wedding

The Sydney Telegraph reports on Storm center Suzy Batkovic's wedding to Matt Brown on Saturday (which is already yesterday in Australia). Check out a photo of Batkovic and her wedding party, all of them Opals players (Lauren Jackson, Penny Taylor and former WNBAer Trish Fallon). The wedding took place in Cronulla, just south of Sydney.

Jackson is due back in Seattle tomorrow, while the latest on Batkovic (who will henceforth be known as Suzy Batkovic-Brown) is that she will be in town for the Storm's Opening Night matchup with Sacramento on June 7. Whether she is in uniform will depend upon whether she arrives in time to undergo a physical and complete the necessary paperwork prior to the game, though either way she would not be part of the rotation having just flown nearly 18 hours.

Storm Wraps Up Preseason

Aaron Last/Storm Photos

The Seattle Storm's preseason finale will be Saturday night in Phoenix against the Mercury, and Head Coach Brian Agler has indicated he sees the game as a dress rehearsal of sorts for the start of the regular season just over a week away. After the Storm practiced Friday in the Valley of the Sun, Agler said he'll draw his starting lineup from the group of Sue Bird, Shannon Johnson, Tanisha Wright, Camille Little, Ashley Robinson and Janell Burse. The players likely to be in the Storm's rotation will get the bulk of the playing time.

"Obviously we need to keep improving in our defense," said Agler of his focus for the game. "That and playing together, trying to get our people acclimated to playing together and go from there."

Though Swin Cash got in her first work with contact during Friday's practice, Agler does not necessarily expect her to see any action against the Mercury as part of her rehab process.

"I don't know if we'll get that far," he said. "I have no idea, but we'll see. I envision her, though, getting back in the swing of things here next week. She didn't necessarily play herself out today, so that was a good thing."

As for evaluating the players fighting for roster spots, that was done in part during Thursday's series of scrimmages between the Storm, the Mercury and the Sacramento Monarchs. "They got plenty of time," said Agler, who enjoyed the format and singled out Robinson as playing well in the scrimmage setting.

Friday, May 29, 2009 Season Preview's season preview series checked in with the Storm yesterday. Check it out:

With the departures of Griffith and Swoopes, the Storm have two open slots in their starting lineup to fill and a new rotation to get used to with a number of new players on board for 2009. Health will once again be a concern, but if Jackson and Cash can return to their pre-injury form, the Storm will have a legitimate Big Three to build around in hopes of an another championship run.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Road Trip

Kasha Terry and Janell Burse battle for a rebound in practice. Aaron Last/Storm Photos

After spending the first week and a half of training camp in Seattle, the Storm is ready to head out on the road for the first time. The team flew to Las Vegas this afternoon and will join the host Sacramento Monarchs as well as the Phoenix Mercury for a three-team controlled scrimmage tomorrow. Friday, it's on to Phoenix for Satuday's exhibition finale against the Mercury. Since the Storm hosted Sacramento in its home preseason game, the WNBA's three westernmost teams will know each other intimately by the start of the regular season.

The Storm has now had eight days of practice, having taken Tuesday afternoon off before returning to the floor at The Furtado Center for a session Wednesday morning.

"I think we're improving," Head Coach Brian Agler said afterward. "I think that's a better question to ask after we play, how we stand. We've really been proactive on trying to get a lot of things in. When you do that in a short period of time, you don't get the reps that you want on certain things. I like how we're advancing, but how sharp we are trying to do those things, that's another question."

Agler explained that the coaching staff will use the two settings for different purposes. On Thursday, the focus will be on evaluating talent. The teams will alternate playing quarters against each other - two teams on, one team watching.

"I think tomorrow will be a good (test)," said Agler. "Tomorrow we'll get a chance to watch people in more of a controlled situation, up close. I think it will be a good evaluator."

Saturday, the focus changes to what Agler calls "our last dress rehearsal." Rotations will be more "game-like" as the Storm prepares for the regular season. The lineups will be different from the ones Agler used in the Storm's previous preseason game.

"We have Tanisha (Wright) now and we see Tanisha playing big minutes for us this year. She'll get some quality time. Obviously Sue (Bird) will be on the court. Sue didn't play the last game."

Then there could be a wild card on Saturday - the potential availability of Swin Cash, who is making progress in returning from her back surgery and continues to feel good.

"I sort of envision Swin trying to get in the swing of things sometime either Saturday or early next week," Agler said. "Everything's based on her. Knowing Swin and knowing how well she's feeling, I would guess she'll get on the court more in practice as time goes on. If she feels like she can go, then we'll give her some minutes."

Storm in the News

In case you've yet to see it, I wanted to make sure everyone is aware of a resource we're providing on - our new "In the News" page, which collects links from local sources and around the country covering your Seattle Storm. It's a great archive for past article as well as a chance to see what's being said each day.

While on the subject, I wanted to point you in the direction of a few news stories and blog posts, in case you hadn't seen them.

- This morning, the WNBA released its leaderboard in terms of jersey sales. Storm guard Sue Bird ranked fourth on the list, which counted from last October through this April. The Storm ranks fourth in terms of most popular merchandise.

- The Seattle Times continues to deliver excellent daily Storm coverage. Last week, columnist Jerry Brewer wrote about how life is different for the Storm now as an independent franchise and the opportunities this has provided. I also enjoyed beat writer Jayda Evans' look at the long-running rivalry between Storm rookie Ashley Walker and Sacramento center Courtney Paris (and Paris' twin sister Ashley, who plays for L.A.).

- You should know Patrick Sheehy from his Chasing the Title Storm blog. He's writing this season for, and at media day decided to focus on the newcomers to the Storm and learn a little bit more about them.

- No WNBA blog is more thought-provoking than Rethinking Basketball, which is back in our blogroll after an offseason hiatus. Author Q was at the Key for last week's preseason titlt against Sacramento and has a detailed take on the action on the floor as well as the atmosphere.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Charmin Smith on Ashley Walker

Courtesy University of California/Mollie McClure Photo

Last week, we began our season-long Where Are They Now? series with former Storm guard Charmin Smith, now an assistant coach at Cal. That gave Smith unique insight into the Storm's first-round pick, Cal forward Ashley Walker, which she shared with the coaching staff before the draft. When I interviewed Smith, I made a point of asking her to offer some observations on Walker. What can you tell us about Ashley Walker?
Smith: Ashley is really a phenomenal player. She basically carried this program the past year; she did so much for us. She's, I guess you'd say, a versatile four player. I just describe her as a beast. She thinks every rebound is hers; she's extended her game to shoot threes now. She just battles every single possession and kind of wills herself to be successful. It was definitely a pleasure to have the opportunity to be able to coach her here at Cal, and I'm expecting big things for her at the next level.

How much did you see Walker develop over the course of her career?
If you look at her statistics, she just got better and better every year. She came in with a very talented recruiting class, that freshman class, but she was the one that no one really had very high expectations for. People weren't talking about Ashley Walker when she walked through the door, and very quickly in her freshman year she established herself as a significant presence on the team. I know that having had to scout against her when I was at Stanford her freshman and sophomore years. She really decided to assert herself and really took over. She spent a couple of years being kind of the Robin to Devanei Hampton and Alexis Gray-Lawson, who was the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year. Devanei Hampton was the Pac-10 Player of the Year in 2006-07, their sophomore year. Then the last couple of years, Ashley has pretty much asserted herself as the 'Batman' of the team and has really taken over. In terms of specifics of her game, she's always had a rebounding desire and gets after the board. She's had good moves in the paint, but since her freshman and sophomore year, she's extended it to be able to hit the high post shot her junior year and her senior year stepping out and knocking down threes. She was one of the best three-point shooters on the team. You saw her hit some of those in the UConn game. She shoots it with confidence. Being able to do a lot more defensively as well - guard a little bit more on the perimeter, things like that. She's had to guard people like Noelle Quinn when she was at UCLA. She's pretty versatile.

What did you tell Walker about what to expect after she was drafted by the Storm?
I told her that it's a great city. There's a lot to do in Seattle, but I told her she won't have time to do any of it as a rookie because she'll be working so hard. I just told her how much I love it there, that they're great fans. I've had people e-mailing me and saying, 'We're getting one of your players. Let her know if she needs anything, we're here.' That's been really special. The first thing I did when I saw Ashley was coming to Seattle was I got online and hit up Sue (Bird) on AOL Messenger and let her know she was getting a Cal Bear. Just things like that. I want it to be her experience. I'm obviously really happy that she's going somewhere I'm familiar with and a place I really like, but this is all about Ashley Walker. I just want her to do the best that she can and go out and earn a roster spot and enjoy Seattle. I know the fans will really, really enjoy how hard she plays and her passion for the game.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Wright Joins Storm for Practice

Aaron Last/Storm Photos

A week after finishing her season in France, Tanisha Wright joined her Seattle Storm teammates for practice Sunday. In between, Wright went to her hometown of Pittsburgh and her offseason home in Charlotte, where she spent some time wrapping up details on her purchase of a home.

"It was good, but it was busy," Wright said after practice. "It was a busy couple of days. I went home to get stuff together for my house, and that's not an easy task. I'm glad to be back. It's bittersweet because I'd love to be back in my house, but I'm glad to be back as well and getting ready to start."

Wright's team played in what was apparently the final game played anywhere in Europe during the 2008-09 season, contesting the Coupe de France after playing in the French LFB Finals.

"It felt like a really long season - it was a long season," she said. "The good thing about it was it was a long season, but it was broken up. There were plenty of times where we would have four or five or six days off throughout the season. I think three or four times where we had that situation where we didn't play for several days. That helps."

In her first practice back, Wright felt the effect of the long season as well as her travel over the last week.

"I was tired - I'm not going to lie," she said. "Usually I'm not like exhausted exhausted, but I was exhausted today."

Still, Head Coach Brian Agler didn't notice much fatigue and lliked what he saw from Wright, who played primarily at shooting guard alongside either Sue Bird and Shannon Johnson, joining them in a versatile three-guard lineup at times.

"She looks in real good shape," he said. "We had her in and out - we didn't try to overdo it. She's still tired from traveling and a long season. She did a good job. It's great to have her back out here."

For Wright, the start of this training camp is very different from a year ago, when she came in late and was trying to pick up a new offense and adjust to a number of new teammates. She was also trying to establish a position then, having shifted between both guard spots. Now, she is solidly at shooting guard, though with the ability to swing to small forward in small lineups or play the point if needed.

"I think the difference this year is being more comfortable now - knowing the situation, knowing his system and knowing (Coach Agler) and the rest of the coaching staff as well as the players, because we have a lot of returning players," Wright explained. "This year, I think I'm more comfortable in my skin and can just play. I don't have to learn a lot on the run. You know what he expects, you know exactly what he wants and it's a matter of going out and doing it.

"There's some new stuff. The more I get out there the more it will be like the rest - I won't have to think about it."

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Cash Practices

Aaron Last/Storm Photos

Saturday was Swin Cash's first practice with the Seattle Storm since her back surgery, and it went well. Cash, who is still restricted from contact action, went through shooting drills before practice and joined her teammates when they dummied through the offense (going through the motions of plays without any defenders). She also rotated in and out on one defensive drill the Storm did before the training staff shut her down for the rest of the day.

"I felt good," said Cash after practice. "I was kind of getting annoyed with myself because I missed a couple shots and fumbled the ball a few times, but it's to be expected. All in all, I thought it was a good practice. I felt like I shot the ball well in our warmups, but it's just about the timing. That's going to come because I'm not all the way go just yet."

"She looks good," echoed Storm Head Coach Brian Agler. "I was impressed by how live she was. She looked live and looked real active and quick. She was no contact today, but she got into a couple of live drills, looked good running up and down the floor. It's going to take her getting back into contact and getting the ball in her hands and in the flow of things."

Agler said Cash will visit a rehab specialist later in the day as the team continues to plot her course back to full action. That will depend on how Cash responds to this limited work, and what her doctor and the Storm's medical staff feel she is capable of doing.

- The Storm expects to get another player in town tonight when Tanisha Wright returns. The plan is for Wright to get her physical done before tomorrow's afternoon practice so Wright can be out on the floor. "We're anxious to get her in here," said Agler.

- During yesterday's day off, the Storm made its first two cuts of training camp, with Kimberly Beck and rookie Mara Freshour being waived. Agler called making cuts "the toughest thing about this position or any position."

He reiterated his position after the Storm's preseason opener on Thursday that the pace of training camp required the team to cut down its numbers, and the decisions had little to do with what Beck and Freshour had done or not done in camp.

"They'll do well," Agler said. "They'll have opportunities overseas to play and hopefully they'll get another opportunity here this year with another team or maybe something next year."

- Agler closed practice by having the players run the length of the court and back with a 10-second countdown. Guard Sue Bird was the apparent winner from this vantage point, using a veteran move. She ran through an open door off the practice gym to keep from having to slow down as quickly.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Storm Makes First Cuts

As promised, the Storm made a couple of roster decisions this morning, waiving guards Kimberly Beck and Mara Freshour. I can't say I was surprised. Beck seemed to have fallen behind A'Quonesia Franklin at point guard, where the Storm had four players and will add Tanisha Wright this weekend. Meanwhile, La'Tangela Atkinson and Aja Parham led Freshour on the wing, another spot that will get more crowded with the arrival of Swin Cash.

While he was discussing making moves last night, Storm Head Coach Brian Agler made a point to note that they were really about managing the size of the roster in camp.

"In all honesty, it has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of people they are and the quality of players they are," Agler said. "It comes down to a short training camp. It's a numbers game and we've got to get some of our key players reps and get them ready for the regular season."

Thursday, May 21, 2009

My All-Decade Team Picks

You're getting your first look at voting for the Seattle Storm All-Decade Team today, but this has been in the works for months. As part of the process, all of us in the Storm offices have been putting together our own personal All-Decade teams, and I wanted to share mine today. Since we're asking fans to share why they voted the way they did, it's only fair I do the same.

Adia Barnes - There's no question I have a soft spot for Adia, and did long before we began working together with Storm radio broadcasts. Barnes played a key role as a starter for the first Storm playoff team and her defense off the bench was invaluable during the championship season.

Tully Bevilaqua - As I wrote in the text on her page, the Storm might well not have won a championship without Bevilaqua backing up Sue Bird. She's set an impossibly high standard for backup point guards ever since. And there's a reason she had the nickname "Loveable Pitbull" when she was here.

Sue Bird - Call me crazy, but I think Sue belongs on this team. No, obviously she's a no-brainer.

Janell Burse - I think people sometimes overlook Burse's key place in Storm history. She ranks in the franchise's all-time top five in points, rebounds and blocks, and will only add to those totals this season. Also, isn't it nice to see the so-called "Killer Bs" reunited again?

Iziane Castro Marques - During three years as a starter in Seatle, Izi really came into her own, developing into a dangerous streaky scorer who also defended the opposition's top perimeter scory.

Simone Edwards - Certainly, no Storm All-Decade Team would be complete without the Shakin' Jamaican. In addition to ranking third in franchise history in games played and being the last player left from the inaugural Storm team, Edwards' contributions in the community were immense.

Lauren Jackson - A good rule of thumb: If you make the WNBA's All-Decade Team (as Bird did also), you're a pretty good bet for the Storm All-Decade Team.

Betty Lennox - Who amongst us can forget Betty's emotional reaction to being named Finals MVP in 2004? Even had Lennox left after that first season in Seattle, she'd still be an easy pick because of her enormous role in bringing home the Storm's WNBA championship.

Alicia Thompson - This was the toughest pick for me, as I considered players like Michelle Marciniak, Edna Campbell and Swin Cash. You could make an argument for any of the 24 nominees. Still, my bias toward the championship team is evident (nine of the 10 players on my All-Decade Team were part of the 2004 squad), and that pushes Thompson into this spot. She came up with plenty of clutch three-pointers during the 2004 playoffs.

Kamila Vodichkova - The Storm's first-ever draft pick is both a strong emotional choice because of her endearing personality as well as a solidly rational one, still ranking amongst the franchise's all-time top five in points, rebounds, blocks, games and minutes.

Be on the lookout down the road for "Celebrity" picks from current or former Storm players and broadcasters, etc. as voting for the All-Decade Team continues through July 3.

Storm the Lake This Saturday!

Terrence Vaccaro/NBAE/Getty Images

One of my favorite Storm events is back this season. Join us for “Stormin’ the Lake” this Saturday from 2–4 p.m. at Green Lake Community Center. Meet the 2009 players and coaches, get your face painted, make locker room signs, learn moves from the Storm Dance Troupe, shoot hoops on the Storm court, plus much more!

Because Stormin' the Lake is a little later this season (along with training camp), we should get some great weather. For a taste of what Stormin' the Lake is like, check out our photo gallery from the last event in 2007.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Wednesday Practice Notes

Not a lot noteworthy from Wednesday's practice, as most of our attention was focused on today's feature story looking at tomorrow's preseason game and the fight to make the roster. One thing that is notable for not producing notes: The Storm's health, which right now gets a clean bill.

"So far, so good," said Head Coach Brian Agler. "Knock on wood. We're doing pretty well."

- Storm forward Swin Cash is not yet back in Seattle, having been delayed in her travel. She's now expected in Thursday. "Storm fans, I'm trying to get to Seattle, trust me," Cash said via her Twitter account. The current plan is for Cash to get her physical either Thursday night or Friday, when the Storm will have the day off, and then begin working her way into practice.

"She won't be full-go when she gets here," said Agler. "We're going to ease her in and sort of let her be the barometer of those things."

- As for guard Tanisha Wright, her expected arrival is now on Saturday night, which would allow her to get on the practice court for Sunday's session.

- The Storm's broadcast team of Dick Fain and Adia Barnes were both in attendance, and Fain participated with the Storm's practice squad. Barnes just returned after a stopover in San Diego, having spent the offseason playing in Italy.

This is actually from yesterday, but check out (amateur) video of a couple of plays from the Storm's practice resulting in threes for Sue Bird and Katie Gearlds:

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Notebook: Cash On Her Way

The Storm is anticipating the arrival of forward Swin Cash on Wednesday after Cash's 10-week checkup with her doctor went well on Monday. Cash will undergo her physical tomorrow and then could begin working her way back into practice.

"She had a good report from the doctor and I think we're going to move forward," said Storm Head Coach Brian Agler. "There's no red flags. We anticipate her gradually getting back in the practice situation."

The Storm should also have Tanisha Wright back in camp by this weekend. Wright, whose final game in France was on Sunday, is traveling from Paris to her hometown of Pittsburgh and then to her offseason home in Charlotte. She's got some details to attend to there after purchasing a home. From there, Wright will make her way to Seattle. Because Wright is experienced in the Storm's system and coming off a long season in France, Agler doesn't mind her getting an extra couple of days off.

The players who are in camp focused on the defensive end during Tuesday's practice, the third of four the team will have before Thursday's preseason finale. They wrapped things up by going 5-on-5 against the male practice squad during the portion of practice open to the media, primarily working on offense but also testing their transition defense.

"By the end, when you guys get in," explained Agler, "that's trying to get some conditioning - get up and down the floor, incorporate the things that we've worked on."

Generally, Agler has split the team up into two squads - a black unit made up of veterans Sue Bird, Shannon Johnson, Katie Gearlds, Camille Little, Ashley Robinson and Janell Burse and a white team of rookies Mara Freshour, Aja Parham and Ashley Walker; newcomers La'Tangela Atkinson, A'Quonesia Franklin and Kasha Terry; and Kimberly Beck. Today, a variety of players from both teams worked together against the practice squad.

The format does make it a challenge to work everyone in.

"It's hard the way we like to run practice against the guys to keep everybody on the floor and those types of things," Agler said. "I like playing against the guys. As we move forward and our roster shrinks, we'll get a lot more reps for our key people and get more cardio."

- The starting lineup for the preseason opener figures to come from the group of veterans. Bird will not play in that game to rest and give other players Agler needs to evaluate more time on the court.

- Next week, the Storm will spend a day in Las Vegas scrimmaging behind closed doors with the Sacramento Monarchs and the Phoenix Mercury. The Monarchs, whose owners (the Maloof family) own the Palms where the teams will stay, have organized the event. For Agler, it's a chance to work against an unfamiliar opponent in a controlled setting - more than a typical practice, but less formal than a preseason game.

A'Quonesia Franklin attacks from a pick-and-roll. Aaron Last/Storm Photos

Sonics legend and Storm fan Slick Watts stopped by practice, chatting with Coach Agler after its conclusion. Aaron Last/Storm Photos

Monday, May 18, 2009

Wright's Season Finished

Guard Tanisha Wright is one of four Storm players who is not here for today's Media Day, as Wright had the longest overseas schedule of any player (period, not just on the Storm). Her Tarbes team, which lost to Bourges last week in the French LFB Championships, got a rematch with the Coupe de France on the line. Alas, Bourges emerged victorious again by a 68-63 final.

Wright had a huge effort in the loss, scoring 27 points with eight rebounds and three assists. Tarbes took advantage of its superior depth, with six players scoring at least eight points.

Wright now heads home and will be in camp later this week. We'll pass it along when we hear a more exact date.

It's Media Day

The Storm kicked things off with yesterday's practice, but today's Media Day really begins things from our perspective. The Storm will be holding Media Day from 10 a.m.-1 p.m., and will (of course) have things covered from all angles. To get live updates during Media Day, your best bet will be to follow the Storm's Twitter feed (@seattlestorm), as I'll be texting from my phone. Then afterward, we'll have all the great content you've come to expect from, as well as coverage of this afternoon's first practice.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Introducing LiveAccess

The WNBA today announced the debut of WNBA LiveAccess for the 2009 season, which will dramatically expand the league’s live webcast offerings. Fans around the world will be able to watch most Storm games live right here at using TriCaster technology that will combine the radio broadcast with in-house video feeds. This same technology has previously been used to produce webcasts for D-League games.

We’ll have more details on which games will be available shortly along with the release of the Storm’s TV broadcast schedule, so stay tuned and remember to check out during games all season long for another great way to enjoy Storm basketball.

Fair Play Bill Signed Into Law

Washington Governor Chris Gregoire signed into law the "Fair Play" bill ((SB 5967) yesterday with Anne Levinson from the Storm's ownership group, Force 10 Hoops, in attendance. The ACLU of Washington and the Women's Sports Foundation supported the bill, which ensures equal treatment for women's sports at the recreational level.

Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, who spoke to about the importance of women's athletics as part of National Girls and Women in Sports Day, invited Levinson to take place in yesterday's signing. Sen. Kohl-Welles was a co-sponsor of the bill along with Rep. Christine Rolfes.

Photos courtesy of the Washington State Senate:

Gov. Gregoire celebrates signing the bill. Levinson is fourth from left.

Gov. Gregoire poses with Sen. Kohl-Welles, far right, and young supporters of the Fair Play Bill, from left to right, Julie Fradkin, Catherine Rolfes, Elizabeth Rolfes, Gabriel Fradkin, Grace Trautman and Francis Gellert. Catherine and Elizabeth are the daughters of Sen. Rolfes, the bill’s co-sponsor.

Sen. Kohl-Welles and her daughter, Terra Cooper, with Gov. Gregoire.

Young athletes take a moment to celebrate with the Governor.

Wright's Team Falls in Final

Tanisha Wright and Tarbes fell short in their bid to win the French LFB, losing today's deciding Game 3 72-49 at Bourges. As in Game 2, Tarbes fell behind early. It was 18-8 Bourges after one quarter and 43-19 at the half. Tarbes had a tough time generating offense, shooting 36.4 percent from the field. Wright scored 12 points as one of three Tarbes players in double-figures.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Bryant's Job Shadow

Last December, we blogged about Breanna Leonard, the eighth-grader from Kent, Wash. who wrote an essay about why Storm CEO Karen Bryant was a role model to her as part of the Macy’s Follow A Leader essay contest. Amongst other prizes, Leonard won the chance to spend a day with Bryant learning more about her job. She was in the Storm offices last month just prior to the WNBA Draft, and wrote about the experience:

To start off the day, we went to Karen Bryant’s office and talked about each of the job positions within the organization. We also talked about the draft and other things pertaining to her position at the Seattle Storm Headquarters. Then, we went into the meeting room. While we were there, Ms. Bryant had meetings with two of her staff members. I learned that she has meetings every day with different people from her staff and one meeting with all of her staff once a week.

The meetings during the week are set up by the staff and they come to Ms. Bryant to check in and show what they are working on. I thought that was really interesting that the staff sets up the meetings. Also, during the meetings I learned about Lauren Jackson and got to see the video they sent to her, trying to convince her to come back to the Seattle Storm. I thought the video was a really good way of telling Lauren Jackson that she is special and means a lot to the team.

After the staff meetings, we went to the Interbay Neighborhood Association meeting to hear different businesses talk about how they can help each other. While we were at this meeting, Ms. Bryant gave a 15-minute speech about the Seattle Storm. During this meeting, she surprised me with my very own Seattle Storm jersey. This by far was the best part of the day because I had no idea she was going to do this, and I thought it was really kind of her to make me a part of her team.

Finally, to end the day we went to eat lunch at Red Mill Burgers and it was delicious! Overall, I learned a lot about how things work at the Storm and I’m glad I had the chance to job shadow Ms. Bryant.

Go Seattle Storm! :)

- Breanna Leonard
For more on Breanna's day with Karen Bryant, check out this article in the Kent Reporter newspaper.

Batkovic's Team Takes Title

Congrats to Suzy Batkovic and her Cras Basket Taranto teammates. With a 56-52 victory yesterday, Taranto defeated Umana Venezia 3-1 in the Italian LegA Basket Femminile finals to win the top Italian league.

Taranto win on the road to take the deciding game, outscoring Venezia 28-19 in the second half and holding the hosts to seven points in the final period of another slow-paced, low-scoring affair. Batkovic was one of three players, along with series MVP Emile Godin and Megan Mahoney, to pace Taranto with 12 points, shooting 6-for-12 from the field.

According to the incomparable Paul Swanson, this is Taranto's second Italian championship, having previously won in 2003.

The finals series in France is heading to a deciding Game 3 after Tanisha Wright's Tarbes squad was blown out 78-37 on the road in Game 2. Host Bourges led 30-5 following a dominant first quarter, and things got little better for Tarbes the rest of the way. The previous games between the two teams have been close, so a lopsided outcome was a definite surprise. Tarbes will get a chance to bounce back and take the series on Wednesday, the final game also to be played in Bourges.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day Reading Material

Hope all our mothers out there had a good day. The Storm does not have any mothers on the roster this year, but of course every player is a daughter, and Percy Allen of the Seattle Times interviewed Janell Burse's mother Esther on raising Burse. Sue Bird and Swin Cash also spoke about their mothers. also has a photo gallery featuring players' best Mother's Day gifts that includes several WNBA players, most notably Lauren Jackson - who picked the gift she gave her mum, Maree, this year.

Lastly, a year ago I interviewed Cash about her mother, Cynthia, and their special relationship. Then, Cash was in Seattle during the midst of training camp and missing her mom. Moving the start of camp back means many players are at home with their families, and Cash shared on Twitter that she spent the day with her mother and grandmother.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Talking Training Camp

Would you believe that we're nine days away from the Storm and the rest of the WNBA opening training camp? With yesterday's three signings, the Storm is pretty close to set for May 17. There are 17 players on the roster, and while just 15 are allowed in camp, the Storm will have some players in to camp late.

- Suzy Batkovic will not be participating as she prepares for her wedding on May 30, as she is still in action overseas.
- Lauren Jackson's status is not yet resolved. Jackson will be in Batkovic's wedding party, and it may not make sense for her to make the arduous trip from Australia to Seattle only to go back again shortly thereafter.
- Swin Cash is awaiting clearance to begin practicing. According to Brian Agler's interview with earlier this week, Cash has a doctor's appointment scheduled for Tuesday, May 19 - 10 weeks from her back surgery.

So the Storm will be going over 15 players on the roster to have a full complement around for the first week of practices and the preseason opener at KeyArena on May 21 against Sacramento.

"We have a good idea who our core group is going to be, but we have a couple of spots up in the air," Agler said earlier this week. "We'll just let that play out on the training-camp floor."

The Storm now has 11 players under contract, but has the flexibility for competition should one of the training-camp invitees or third-round pick Mara Freshour play their way onto the roster.

Between now and then, the coaching staff is preparing, said Agler: "Right now, we're sort of focusing on getting our practices and our training camp organized and just getting excited for the 17th."

I hope you're getting excited for the start of camp as well. The countdown is officially on.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Latest from Overseas

Having returned home for Games 2 and 3, Cras Basket Taranto and Suzy Batkovic have taken a 2-1 lead in their best-of-five series against Umana Venezia.

Game 2, played Tuesday, saw Taranto overcome an off night from Batkovic, who spent time in foul trouble and scored but three points on 1-of-6 shooting. She contributed six rebounds, and Taranto emerged victorious by a 56-52 final in a defensive battle where both teams hit fewer than 40 percent of their shots. Karen David came off the bench to score a game-high 14 points, and Elodie Godin had 10 points and 14 rebounds for Taranto. No Venezia players reached double-figures.

Today's Game 3 was scarcely more offensive, but Taranto's stars got back on track in the 57-50 win. Megan Mahoney led the way with 19 points, while Batkovic scored 10 and pulled down five rebounds. Michelle Greco also scored 10 points.

The series shifts back to Venezia for Game 4 on Sunday for an elimination game for the hosts.

In France, the finals series is through just one game. On Wednesday, Tarbes earned the 56-50 victory over Bourges on the strength of a 22-9 third-quarter advantage and now goes on the road needing one win to claim the championship of France. Again, the game was defensive in nature, Bourges shooting 33.3 percent from the field. Bourges clamped down on Tanisha Wright defensively, holding her to seven points with five assists and four rebounds. Isabelle Yacoubou stepped up for the victors with 23 points and 12 rebounds.

Game 2 will be played on Saturday.

Monday, May 4, 2009

LJ Reaction

Lauren Jackson's free agency and her decision between staying with the Storm or signing in Phoenix has been emotional for Storm fans, and I'm sure you have strong reactions to today's news that Jackson has re-signed with the Storm. Please share them in this thread.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Storm Players Into Finals

As we head into May and approach WNBA training camps, overseas play is winding down. Just two Storm players are still in action, and both of their teams are currently playing for national league championships in finals series.

In the Italian Lega Basket Femminile, Game 1 of the finals was today. Suzy Batkovic's Cras Basket Taranto team went on the road under the 1-2-1-1 format used by the LBF and fell 74-62 to Umana Venezia. Taranto led through much of the first half, but was outscored 19-8 in the third quarter as Venezia took command of the game.

Batkovic scored 14 points for Taranto, making four of her five shot attempts and all six of her tries from the free-throw line. The rest of Batkovic's teammates had a tough time finishing, as Taranto shot 35.9 percent on two-point shots. Megan Mahoney scored 15 and Michelle Greco 11 for Taranto.

Venezia features WNBA players Essence Carson and Vanessa Hayden-Johnson as well as WNBA vet Mery Andrade, but it was Italian vet Simona Ballardini - one of the team's go-to players - who led Venezia with 24 points on 7-of-11 shooting.

The series now shifts to Taranto for games Tuesday and Thursday.

Tanisha Wright's Tarbes Bigorre Elite team won its way to the French LFB Finals last Wednesday, sweeping a semifinals matchup against Villeneuve d'Ascq with a 74-56 victory. Wright had 12 points and seven assists and five Tarbes players scored double-figures. Bourges also swept into the finals, setting up a showdown between the two top teams in France.

The best-of-three series opens Wednesday, with a last possible date of the following Tuesday, May 12.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Essay Contest Winners

The Storm announced today the winners of the 2009 Seattle Storm National Girls and Women in Sports Day Essay Contest. Mikayla LaRosa of Marysville was chosen by judges including Assistant Coach Shelley Patterson and co-owner Ginny Gilder as the overall winner, and will be recognized before a Storm game this season while also getting a personalized Storm jersey and a $150 gift card.

Check out our Essay Contest page for the runners-up in all three age categories, as well as to read the essays of all the winners.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Twitter and Jersey Numbers

In today's Seattle Times Storm beat writer Jayda Evans has a look at the growing popularity of Twitter in the sports world. Evans features Storm forward Swin Cash (@SwinCash), with whom we conducted the league's first "Twitterview" earlier this month. The other Storm player on Twitter is training-camp invitee Kasha Terry (@Nicarra35).

Of course, you can follow the Storm's Twitter (@seattlestorm) to get the latest news as well as tidbits that don't fit into this blog. Look for us to continue to find creative ways to use Twitter as a source for real-time updates as we enter training camp and the season.

The WNBA (@WNBA) liked the Twitterview concept and has instituted Twitterview Thursdays, starting tomorrow with Atlanta's Chamique Holdsclaw at 10 a.m. Pacific.

On a tangentially-related note, checking out the Seahawks' Twitter feed (@seahawksSpin) reminded me to update everyone on jersey numbers for the Storm's newcomers.

- Shannon Johnson will wear #14 (previously worn by Astou Ndiaye-Diatta and Kate Paye)
- Ashley Walker will wear #44 (previously worn by Tully Bevilaqua and Michelle Edwards)
- Mara Freshour will wear #23 (previously worn by Angela Aycock, Katy Steding and Rita Williams)
- and Terry, in case you couldn't guess from her user name, will wear #35, which has not been worn by any Storm player during the regular season.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Donovan Joins Liberty as Assistant

Former Storm Head Coach Anne Donovan is returning to the WNBA, this time as an assistant coach. The New York Liberty announced this morning that Donovan, who grew up across the river in New Jersey as a fan of the New York Knicks, will join Pat Coyle's coaching staff for the 2009 season.

"It is very exciting to have the opportunity to return to the east coast and join the Liberty family," Donovan said in the team's release. "Since the league’s inception, I have been impressed with how well this organization has been run and I look forward to assisting Pat in putting the most prepared and competitive team on the floor each night."

Donovan will make her return to Seattle with the Liberty on Aug. 8.

Spartak Falls Short

Since signing Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi before the 2006-07 European season (and adding Lauren Jackson in time for the Russian Superleague Playoffs), Spartak Moscow Region had won basically every critical game the franchise played en route to three Euroleague championships and back-to-back Superleague titles. That streak finally came to an end Tuesday, when UMMC Ekaterinburg defeated Spartak 70-68 in the deciding Game 3 of their series with the Superleague championship on the line.

Predictably, it wasn't easy for Ekaterinburg despite home-court advantage. UMMC built up a 19-point halftime lead only to give it almost all back in the third quarter. Spartak took the lead early in the fourth period, and from there a defensive battle was on. For more than five minutes, neither team made a field goal, with Sylvia Fowles' free throw with 1:40 left tying the score. The teams traded three straight turnovers, followed by a Bird miss, to remain level.

Ekaterinburg finally broke through with less than a second to play. Sandrine Gruda rebounded an Agnieszka Bibrzycka miss from beyond the three-point line and fed Biba, who scored with 0.9 seconds on the clock. Bird's desperation pass was intercepted by Svetlana Abrosimova, and Ekaterinburg had the crown.

In a game marked by strong defense, Jackson was the only player to shoot the ball well from the perimeter. Four of her five field goals were three-pointers, and she finished with 14 points. Taurasi's 17 led Spartak, which missed its leader when she fouled out with 4:25 to play. Bird scored nine points, grabbed six rebounds and handed out four assists.

Maria Stepanova powered Ekaterinburg with 18 points and 12 rebounds, shooting 8-for-14 from the field. Spartak's defense kept Cappie Pondexter (10 points on 3-of-13 shooting) quiet, but Bibrzycka stepped up to score 17 points and shoot 8-of-14.

With the season over, Bird will be headed back to the U.S. for some quick time off before reporting to the Storm's training camp. Jackson gets to head home to Australia, having indicated her plans to discuss where to play the 2009 season with her parents before making a final decision.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Spartak Squares Russian Finals

The Russian Superleague Finals are headed to a deciding Game 3 after Spartak evened the series at one game apiece with a commanding 86-67 home victory in Saturday's Game 2. Powered by hot shooting, Spartak jumped out to a 26-11 lead after one quarter, had a 21-point advantage at the half and cruised from there.

Sue Bird was the ringleader of an offense that saw Spartak knock down 11 three-pointers at a 45.8-percent clip. Bird was 4-of-7 from three herself, scoring 18 points and handing out five assists. Diana Taurasi, bouncing back from a rough Game 1, had 20 points, six boards and four assists. Lauren Jackson added 15 more points.

The contrast was especially obvious beyond the arc, where UMMC Ekaterinburg came up empty in 13 tries. Spartak shut down Ekaterinburg's guards. Cappie Pondexter missed six of seven shot attempts, Deanna Nolan eight of 10. They combined for 11 points. Asjha Jones, who scored 16 off the bench on 11 shots, was the only UMMC player to get anything going.

The series returns to Ekaterinburg for the rubber match not only of this series but also for major competitions. UMMC won the Cup of Russia single-game tournament, while Spartak toppled Ekaterinburg en route to winning the Euroleague Final Four. Game 3 promises another thriller.

The Russian Superleague featured three dominant teams, and that was demonstrated in the consolation series, where Dynamo Moscow was outclassed by a resurgent CSKA Moscow squad. CSKA earned the sweep today with a 112-69 win. Janell Burse aquitted herself nicely with 17 points and five rebounds, making 13 free throws in 16 attempts. However, CSKA simply had too much depth.

In Italy, semifinals are underway. Game 1 saw Club Atletico Faenza pull off a 67-65 upset win over Cras Basket Taranto. Taranto scored well, including 14 points for Suzy Batkovic, but could not get enough stops. Faenza shot a sizzling 72.2 percent on two-point shots. Game 2 - a must-win for Taranto - will be played later today.

The Spanish 5th-8th place series culminated in an Ibiza-PDV sweep of Joventut Mariana. Ibiza relied on another dominant performance from Sancho Lyttle to earn a spot in EuroCup for next season. Lyttle scored 40 points on 17-of-20 shooting, grabbing 11 rebounds. The Storm's Shannon Johnson added 16 points on 7-for-14 shooting.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

O'Neill to Miss Camp: Your Reaction

Aaron Last/Storm Photos

It's a sad day in the Storm offices, with the news that Kristen O'Neill will not be attending training camp after suffering a knee injury overseas which would prevent her from being 100 percent in camp. If you haven't already, check out my feature where O'Neill explains the reasoning behind her decision, primarily based in giving another player the opportunity she had last year to come to training camp and try to make the roster.

Naturally, as a Seattle-area native and a product of the University of Washington, O'Neill has been a big-time fan favorite dating back to last year's training camp. If you'd like to share your thoughts on having O'Neill on the roster and your encouragement going forward, please do so in the comments here.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

UMMC Takes Game 1

A thrilling finish to Game 1 of the Russian Superleague Finals this morning in Ekaterinburg. Down seven going to the fourth after Spartak won the third period 24-8, the hosts rallied to take the lead on an Asjha Jones score with 1:43 to play. Sylvia Fowles tied it with 13 seconds left, setting up Cappie Pondexter's heroics. The UMMC Ekaterinburg guard knocked down the go-ahead jumper with four ticks on the clock, and it proved the game-winner when her WNBA teammate Diana Taurasi missed a three at the buzzer. Ekaterinburg took a 1-0 lead in the series with the 61-59 victory.

The game was slow-paced and defensive-oriented. Spartak shot just 39.0 percent from the field. Taurasi missed all nine of her three-point attempts and was 3-of-18 from the field. Sue Bird (five points, 2-of-8 shooting) and Lauren Jackson (seven points, 3-of-8) were both also held in check by Ekaterinburg's defense. The lone Spartak star to come through on offense was Fowles, who scored 18 points and pulled down eight rebounds.

UMMC relied heavily on the duo of Pondexter, who scored 18 points, and Sandrine Gruda. The Connecticut Sun post had 22 points, shooting 10-of-16 from the field.

The series now shifts to Vidnoe for Game 2 on Saturday. Spartak needs a win to keep its hopes of a third straight Russian Superleague Championship alive, while Ekaterinburg will be going for the sweep.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Spartak Reaches Russian Finals

Saturday's deciding Game 3 of the Russian Superleague Semifinal series between Spartak and CSKA Moscow proved anticlimactic. Spartak finished the first half on a 16-3 run to take a 13-point advantage to the break and was never threatened thereafter in a comfortable 74-58 victory.

Spartak shined at the defensive end, holding CSKA to 36.1 percent shooting. Becky Hammon was held to five points on 2-for-8 shooting, while Ilona Korstin was 2-of-10 from the field. Lauren Jackson and Tatiana Schegoleva scored 16 points apiece to pace Spartak, Jackson shooting 6-of-7 from the field and Schegovela 6-for-9. Jackson added six rebounds in a strong 24-minute effort. Sue Bird had five points and five assists.

According to the RebKell reports, Jackson was so hot she literally shot the lights out. With the game already decided and the lights unwilling to return, the final moments of the game were apparently played in darkness.

Spartak, looking for a third straight Russian championship, will be the underdog in the best-of-three final series against UMMC Ekaterinburg. Game 1 will be played tomorrow in Ekaterinburg, with Spartak hosting Game 2 Saturday. If necessary, Game 2 will take place next Tuesday back in Ekaterinburg.

In Spain, the 5th-8th Playoffs kicked off over the weekend, with Ibiza-PDV earning an 89-71 Game 1 victory at Joventut Mariana. Shannon Johnson scored 27 points, but ended up overshadowed by a monster effort from Sancho Lyttle - 29 points and 21 rebounds. Ibiza outscored Joventut 24-10 in the fourth quarter to break open a tight game. Ibiza returns home to go for the sweep in Thursday's Game 2.

Before the French LFB moves into the postseason, Sunday marked the semifinals of the Coupe de France tournament. Tarbes reached the championship game with a 68-57 win over Aix-en-Provence (.pdf). Tanisha Wright had 16 points and five assists, while Isabelle Yacoubou scored 22 and had 19 boards.

Lastly this weekend, handed out 2008-09 EuroCup awards and honored Storm centers Janell Burse and Suzy Batkovic. Batkovic was picked to the All-EuroCup First Team at center, narrowly beating out Burse, who earned Second Team honors. Batkovic also made the "All-Import Team" for her work leading Cras Basket Taranto to the EuroCup Finals. (HT: StormFans from RebKell)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Taranto Sweeps Onward

Suzy Batkovic's Cras Basket Taranto squad completed a two-game sweep of its LegA Femminile quarterfinal series with Thursday's 68-57 win over Pool Comense. Foul trouble limited Batkovic to 20 minutes, though she still packed 11 points and seven boards into that span. Megan Mahoney added 14 as a balanced Taranto scoring attack overcame 17 points from Comense's Brooke Smith.

Meanwhile, they're just wrapping up the regular season in France. On Wednesday, Tarbes and Tanisha Wright met Bourges to decide the regular-season title. With the benefit of home-court advantage, Bourges pulled out the narrow 63-60 win. (.pdf) Wright can say she did everything she could to get her team the win. She scored 31 points on 13-of-26 shooting, grabbed 11 rebounds and handed out three assists. However, three players combined for 53 of Tarbes' 60 points as the rest of the team struggled. Seven Bourges players scored at least five points, and the superior depth made the slight difference.

Cash at the White House

During Tuesday's Twitterview, Storm forward Swin Cash described her experience at the White House for Monday's annual Easter Egg Roll. "I also had a wonderful time reading a story to the kids," Cash wrote. Now that video is online thanks to the YouTube channel:

(HT: WNBA Twitter feed)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Storm Aids Women's Basketball in Niger

Storm Director of Communications and Community Relations Teresa Wippel explains how the Storm connected with the Peace Corps to help out a budding group of female basketball players in the country of Niger.

The letter came to Storm headquarters from Peace Corps volunteer and Oregon native Mariah Cosand: Would the Storm be willing to donate basketballs and practice uniforms or T-shirts to two dozen young women between the ages of 15-24 playing basketball in the town of Maradi, in the West African nation of Niger?

Cosand explained that she was assisting a Peace Corps employee named Ado, who had established a high school girls’ basketball team in Maradi. "Niger is a predominately Muslim country and due to the religious and cultural norms that currently exist in this part of the world, as well as the extreme poverty, girls' sports are virtually nonexistent," Cosand wrote. "These girls practice every day after school and raise money to travel every few months to one of the handful of other cities in Niger that also have girls’ basketball teams."

The Storm put together two large boxes of clothing and basketballs, and sent it to Niger earlier this year. Since Cosand had just ended her Peace Corps service, the project was taken over by another volunteer - Sarah Turner of Kansas City, Mo. A former high school basketball player and an avid WNBA fan, Turner used the Storm donations for a basketball camp that the older players ran for younger girls in Maradi.

“The girls that came were a bit younger (13,14,15) and had never played before, so we did a lot of basic shooting, dribbling, and passing drills,” said Turner, whose volunteer service when she is not coaching basketball focuses on animal husbandry, including work with women's groups who buy and sell animals as an income-generating activity. “The older girls taught and ran the drills. They spoke to the girls about the importance of continuing education beyond high school and what they expected their role to be as an educated female in the society of a city. They also talked about AIDS prevention.”

The older players have “the skill level of an average high school team,” Turner said. They have finished high school and are in professional school, studying to be nurses and teachers, plus one who is taking the police exam.

“As female Peace Corps volunteers from a country that has an entirely different view of women, we sometimes find that ways to connect with women here are hard to find as our life experiences and expectations are very different,” Turner noted. “I was not expecting, for that reason, for a way to connect with them to occur via sports, but the fact that it happened speaks to worldwide presence and importance of sports for women.

“Women who play basketball in Maradi all see the benefits of the opportunity and have parents who support them,” Turner continued. “They have seen mostly games on television, whether live or taped, and really enjoy them. The only indoor gym, like the ones they see on television, is in the capital city of Niamey and so they always hope to play there rather than on our outdoor court in Maradi.

“Twice a year, there is a country-wide tournament in Niamey that draws about six girls’ teams,” Turner said. “The championship game is played in that indoor area so that is something that they play hard to achieve, besides wanting to get bragging rights.”

“During the past week, we have been trying to teach the girls about the role of sports in women’s lives,” she added. “It is not really applicable to talk to them about considering sports as a career option because they are no professional sports for women here. We can teach and remind them, however, about the physical and mental health benefits as well as the life skills that can be learned and honed such as cooperation, sportsmanship, leadership and self-confidence.”

Turner concluded: “We thank you, Seattle Storm, for your contribution to our young girls of Maradi and for your cooperation with Peace Corps. “We appreciate it very much and good luck in your upcoming season!!”

Members of the team hold up signs thanking the Storm in English, French and native language Hausa. (All photos courtesy Sarah Turner)

Turner poses with members of the team in their new Storm gear.

Coach Ado takes everything in from the sidelines.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Spartak Forces Game 3

Staring down potential early elimination from the Russian Superleague Playoffs, Spartak came through with a sizzling offensive performance Wednesday to force a deciding Game 3 on Saturday. Spartak shot 57.4 percent from the field in a 101-80 road win over CSKA Moscow. The game was tight at halftime, with Spartak leading by one point, but they owned the second half 55-35.

Diana Taurasi powered the offensive explosion with 29 points on 11-of-18 shooting. Lauren Jackson added 20 while hitting nine of 15 shots, and Tatiana Schegoleva chipped in 18. Sue Bird finished with 11 points, five rebounds and four assists. Ann Wauters, who scored 26 and grabbed 12 rebounds, was the primary offensive threat for CSKA.

The teams will be back in Vidnoe for a winner-take-all Game 3 on Saturday. The victor will face UMMC Ekaterinburg, which completed a two-game sweep of Dynamo Moscow with Wednesday's 71-62 road triumph. Dynamo led by as many as 14 in the first half after holding Ekaterinburg to seven first-quarter points, but again the game turned after halftime, Ekaterinburg outscoring Dynamo 45-27 to win going away.

Janell Burse had 11 points and seven rebounds for Dynamo in the loss. She and go-to players Anete Jekabsone-Zogota, Marina Kuzina and Belinda Snell combined for 53 of Dynamo's 62 points as the supporting cast failed to offer much scoring. By contrast, Ekaterinburg had seven players score at least six points, led by 16 and 12 boards from Sandrine Gruda.