2004 Storm Takes Shape

Yesterday's Dispersal Draft marked approximately the halfway mark of the WNBA's offseason. Yes, Storm fans, there are less than four months until the team arrives for 2004 training camp. While the Storm added one more piece to the 2004 puzzle yesterday, selecting guard Betty Lennox from the Cleveland Rockers in the Dispersal Draft, there remains much work to be done.

Getting players like MVP Jackson under contract will be important for the Storm in the coming months.
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The next main task for the Storm will be getting its existing roster under contract. Though the Storm holds exclusive negotiating rights to every player on its roster, it must still come to terms with them. Only guard Sandy Brondello and forward Jung Sun-Min are under contract for next season amongst Storm holdovers (Lennox is also under contract). Teams can begin re-signing their own players on Feb. 1.

The Storm may also have a chance to look at free agents from other teams. Players with six years of WNBA experience not designated core players by their teams (each team is allowed two) will be the league's first unrestricted free agents this winter, while players with five years experience are restricted free agents. With the leagueís lowest payroll last season, the Storm could have the salary-cap space necessary to pursue an impact free agent.

Naturally, there is also the draft. Following last month's Draft Lottery, the Storm holds the sixth pick. With one of the deepest draft classes in recent memory, that should provide a fine player. What remains to be seen is how Lennox's selection affects the expectation that the Storm would take a shooting guard in the draft.

"The coaches are obviously looking at the talent pools in both of those, all of those arenas Ė free agency market, the college draft, and the dispersal draft," Storm Chief Operating Officer Karen Bryant said after the lottery. "With the dispersal draft being first, that may potentially dictate what we do in April, no question."

That decision will also depend on the Storm's ongoing efforts to scour the country for potential picks. In town last month, Coach Anne Donovan was effusive about the quality players that could be available to the Storm.

"Trying to narrow it down to the top six, it's more difficult than in years past, which is a good thing," Donovan said. "It tells you that the size of the pool, the strength of the pool and the depth of it is much stronger than before.

"We're working on that to make sure that we're ready, and when the number six comes up in the college draft, we're ready with the right name."

It has already been a busy off-season for Donovan, who refuses to even use that term because of the time she has spent scouting players, including an October trip to Europe for USA Basketball.

Itís only January, but itís already been a busy off-season for Coach Donovan.
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On Nov. 5, Donovan added the title of Director of Player Personnel to her duties. Last month, she emphasized that the change was more in title than anything else.

"To be honest, it hasn't changed," Donovan explained about her role, "because Billy gave me a lot of liberty last year to seek players out, to talk with agents, to talk with other teams about possible trades, so it is something that I've wanted to make sure that I had some of that control when I came to Seattle, and I did. Now it's more of a title than anything."

At the same time as Donovan added the new role, Billy McKinney resigned as the Storm's General Manager and Bryant was promoted from vice president to Chief Operating Officer. Donovan praised both of them.

"I've always had such great respect for her and what she did in the ABL before the WNBA, what she's done here in Seattle before I was part of this organization," Donovan said about Bryant. "Now, since I've been here, my respect has just grown every year. Very knowledgeable and passionate about what she does, which matches my personality to a T."

As far as McKinney, Donovan said, "I knew I could learn a lot from Billy, and that's what I did my first year. He helped me, he groomed me, so to speak, for the Director of Player Personnel title, and I really felt like I worked hand-in-hand with him last year, so I feel very ready for this and excited about it."

Bryant returned the compliment, saying, "To have Anne Donovan as a partner in (trying to bring a championship to Seattle) is a really exciting opportunity for me, and I just want to do whatever I can to help."

Donovan got further good news on both a team and personal level later in November, when the WNBA announced that it would break for the Olympics this August. The move not only means that the Storm won't have to play without several of their top players, including MVP Lauren Jackson, it also means that Donovan will have the opportunity to serve as an assistant on the U.S. Olympic team.

"Oh, so relieved on that," she explained. "Iíve put in a lot of time with USA Basketball, and red, white and blue and the Olympic games mean a great deal to me as a player first, and now as a coach. Having worked with the World Championships last summer, it seems like a natural progression to work with the Olympic team, and yet, had there not been a stoppage of the WNBA, I don't know if I would have been able to take any capacity in the Olympics at all. I don't think I would have felt comfortable leaving Seattle as long as the team was still playing."