2005 In Review:
What Went Right?
It's not easy to call a first-round playoff exit a success only one year removed from winning a WNBA Championship, but that's exactly what the Storm can do when looking back on 2005.
That experience early in the season paid off on the court when guard Betty Lennox was sidelined with a sprained left wrist. The Storm turned to Wright, who stepped up in her role as a starter and helped the Storm to a win over Houston in early August despite a rather pedestrian stat line. In the game's late stages, Wright hit a shot to give the Storm the lead for good and then drained two free throws with under two minutes to play. She save her best for last, however, when she got a hand up in the face of Tina Thompson, forcing the game-tying triple to sail long as the Storm held on for the 71-68 win.
Seattle would again meet the Comets in the playoffs, after splitting
the regular-season series at two games apiece. Traveling to Houston for the opening
game, the team rolled to victory on the back of All-Star Lauren Jackson. Suffering
from a sore back, Jackson scored 19 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in the win,
which would be the team's last of the year as Houston went on to win Games 2 and
3 in Seattle.
What Went Wrong?
Head coach Anne Donovan knew 2005 was going to be a difficult campaign from the outset. Veterans Tully Bevilaqua, Sheri Sam and Kamila Vodichkova departed in free agency and the team opted to replace them with younger players who provided Seattle with some salary cap flexibility.
"We had a lot of new talent this year," Donovan said when the season had concluded. "We had an infusion of new, young players who didn't have experience in the WNBA. When we changed our roster this season, there was a hope that we would be rebuilding towards a championship run. But when you lose two starters and your first sub off the bench, it's going to be difficult to repeat."
From the season opener, the Storm knew repeating would be no easy task. After looking strong in the early moments, the high of being presented with championship rings gave way to the weight of a title defense, as the Storm fell to the Sparks 68-50. In the contest, Seattle set a league record by hoisting 32 three-pointers, but those attempts likely contributed to the team's franchise-worst 23.7 percent accuracy from the field.
In the opening contest, it also was clear Jackson was not
in top shape after undergoing reconstructive surgery on her right ankle during
the offseason. For the first time in 84 games, Jackson failed to reach double-digit
scoring. Jackson would bounce back and by season's end rank second in the league
in points per game and rebounds per game.
Looking Ahead To 2006:
"Next year," Donovan said shortly after 2005 wrapped up, "the expectations go up. It's not just experience, it's not just fitting in. Now it's, 'You know your role, you understand what your role is and you've got to fulfill it.'"
Those roles are fairly well defined given the team is largely the same that took the floor in 2005. The turmoil and change seen in the offseason a year ago was nowhere to be found this year. Betty Lennox, the team's biggest unrestricted free agent, likes Storm green well enough and opted not to look for greener pastures.
The biggest change during the offseason,
however, is the addition Wendy Palmer, who was signed in late February to help
add depth to the post. Palmer averaged 10.1 points and 6.2 boards in 25 games
last season with San Antonio. She also provides the team with veteran experience
-- she's one of only eight players to take part in all nine WNBA seasons -- to
help get the young team out of the first round of this year's playoffs.