2008 in Review: Tanisha Wright
Kevin Pelton, storm.wnba.com | Dec. 14, 2008
For Tanisha Wright, 2008 was a critical season in her development as a WNBA player. In her first three years, Wright's development was stifled to some extent because her easiest path to playing time was as a backup to Sue Bird at the point, not her natural position. Entering the final season of her rookie contract, Wright got a fresh start under new Storm Head Coach Brian Agler, who quickly made it clear that while Wright would play the point, she would also see extensive action at her more familiar shooting-guard spot.
Wright joined the Storm midway through training camp after an outstanding season in Israel that saw her win MVP honors. From the early going, Agler referred to Wright as a sixth starter for the Storm and a key part of the team's rotation. After a couple of quiet games, Wright justified that position with her play. That started May 22 in Phoenix, when she successfully quieted Mercury star Cappie Pondexter down the stretch and helped key the Storm's comeback. Wright would follow that up by scoring double-figures in wins over San Antonio and Houston at home.
During the month of June, Wright primarily played the role of sixth woman, stepping into the starting lineup when the Storm went small to replace injured center Yolanda Griffith. The team's versatility gave Agler the luxury of being able to sub Wright for any member of the starting lineup while continuing to field a competitive lineup.
It was in July that Wright really began to come into her own. On July 8 at Sacramento, she started at shooting guard in place of an ailing Sheryl Swoopes and put up 11 points, six assists and five rebounds in a key road victory. That was the second of three straight double-figure scoring outings for Wright, who would repeat that stretch over the last three games before the Olympic break. On July 25 at Phoenix, with Swoopes sitting out, she scored 14 points and pulled down a season-high eight rebounds.
After the break, Agler made a crucial adjustment. To help replace the scoring lost in Lauren Jackson's absence, the Storm moved Bird largely off the ball and had Wright assume many of the ballhandling duties of a point guard - albeit with Bird there to offer assistance against pressure defenses. With Swoopes bothered by a variety of injuries, Wright's role was critical. She played at least 30 minutes in every post-break Storm game until the largely meaningless season finale at Los Angeles, and stepped up her play to match the added responsibility.
Wright's best game of the regular season might have been Sept. 6 against Minnesota, when she put together a balanced stat line of 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting, six rebounds and six assists. The following game, Wright got off to a great start and matched her season-high totals of 17 points and eight rebounds. However, several late turnovers helped Sacramento rally for the win. Wright bounced right back two nights later in the home finale against Atlanta, scoring 14 points in the Storm's win.
As the postseason rolled around, Wright continued to play a critical role for the Storm. In the first half of Game 1, Wright struggled with turnovers, but she played through the tough stretch to finish with 13 points. In the Storm's Game 2 victory, Wright had eight points, seven rebounds and four assists. She would save her best performance for the decisive Game 3 against Los Angeles. With the Sparks taking away several other Storm weapons, Wright's ability to score off the dribble took on paramount importance. Her 20 points were a season high, and Wright shot 8-of-15 from the field and added six rebounds in what proved to be a losing cause.
All in all, Wright's fourth season in the WNBA and with the Storm was an unqualified success. She nearly doubled her career highs in scoring and rebounding while playing a much more controlled game that allowed her to harness her ability to get to the basket. Though she ended up starting 14 games, Wright earned two votes to finish third in balloting for the league's Sixth Woman Award. When free agency begins on Monday, Wright will be a restricted free agent and Agler has made it clear that only re-signing Jackson (an unrestricted free agent) takes precedence over a new deal for Wright.
2008 Photo Gallery
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