Storm Fills Two Needs With Trade

The ground for today's trade between the Seattle Storm and the Minnesota Lynx was laid minutes after the Storm completed their 2003 campaign. After a 70-57 victory over the Sacramento Monarchs, Storm Coach Anne Donovan was asked what she'd like to add during the off-season.

Sam fits the profile described by Donovan at the end of last season.
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"If I had my needs right now, I would pick an experienced, veteran, big perimeter player that is aggressive, confident and hungry," Donovan told the assembled media. "You can mail that off to Santa Claus."

Apparently Donovan's been very good. Santa usually doesn't make deliveries in April, but he made an exception to the rules to bring Donovan and the Storm Sheri Sam from Minnesota.

Experienced? Check. Veteran? Check. Big perimeter player? A 6-1 wing - check. Aggressive, confident, hungry? Check, check, check.

"She brings a lot to the table," Storm assistant coach Jenny Boucek, who coached Sam for three years in Miami, said today. "Experience, both in America as far as the ABL and the WNBA, and overseas. From a skill standpoint, she's 6-1, athletic, she can shoot the three. She's a scorer, who can create her own shot. She can defend bigger players at the three, is a defensive presence."

Given the knowledge that the Storm was looking to trade its pick for such a player, a deal with the Lynx for Sam was easily predictable. Not only was she somewhat expendable in Minnesota, but the Lynx was also known to be willing to give up a premium in a trade in its effort to keep Lindsay Whalen in-state for her WNBA career. (It is believed that Minnesota is attempting to package the sixth pick it acquired from the Storm along with its own seventh pick to move up to the third spot, currently held by Charlotte, to select Whalen.)

The Storm's connections with Sam, particularly her time with Boucek in Miami, also made the decision to acquire her much easier.

"Definitely, familiarity helps," Boucek said. "Not only do I know Sheri, but Anne knows her from her experience with USA Basketball (Sam participated in the 1995 and 1996 Women's R. William Jones Cups). Anne also knows her from playing against her in the Eastern Conference as an opposing coach. That gives you comfort."

Sam will likely come into training camp as the Storm's starter at small forward. That means the Storm won't have to rely on the rehabilitation of Adia Barnes, who held that role last year before tearing her ACL before the All-Star break. While Barnes' comeback is on schedule, there have been some concerns about her health. If she's ready to go, Barnes will be in the mix along with Dispersal Draft pickup Betty Lennox and incumbent Sandy Brondello at shooting guard, where Barnes started at the end of the 2002 season. The four players combined to average 98 minutes per game last season, meaning the Storm is flush with depth on the wings.

Working with Donovan, Burse could become one of the league's best centers.
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If Sam's acquisition was predictable, the inclusion of center Janell Burse in the deal was a pleasant surprise. While the Storm's primary goal going into the draft was believed to be adding a perimeter player, post depth was also a concern for the team after losing five of the last seven games of last season with starting center Kamila Vodichkova sidelined.

Burse is a better prospect than any player the Storm could have acquired in the draft, having averaged 11.9 points and 6.2 rebounds during 14 starts last season. She projected as a starter for the Lynx, but with MVP Lauren Jackson and Vodichkova in place, will likely be the league's top reserve post next season.

"On a lot of teams, she would be a starter," said Boucek. "She's 6-5, strong, not afraid to bang some inside. She's a defensive presence and another post player in the rotation."

Given Burse's potential - she's still just 25 - the Storm is excited about having her work with Donovan to develop her game. Last season, Donovan helped both Jackson and Vodichkova play some of the best basketball of their careers, and she is also credited with developing second-round pick Tammy Sutton-Brown into an All-Star in Charlotte.

"Anne is a great developer of all players, but she relates to post players particularly well," noted Boucek.

The most difficult aspect of this trade for the Storm might be giving up Amanda Lassiter, who started 40 games during her nearly two seasons in Seattle. Lassiter's defense had really blossomed with the Storm, as she shut down some of the league's best offensive wings last season after replacing the injured Barnes in the starting lineup. However, the Storm wanted more offensive firepower than Lassiter, who averaged 5.1 points per game last season, could provide.